When it comes to homework, teachers have heard every excuse in the book, and for good reason; it’s hard to focus on your homework when there’s so much of it to do.
Students are devoting hours each evening to their take-home assignments, some say to the tune of 17.5 hours per week.
In a survey of 1,000 Brainly users comprised of students in middle and high school, 70% said they have trouble focusing on their homework. Brainly asked respondents to pick any of the following five options that distract them from their homework at least once a week. Here are the results:
- Social media (47% selected)
- Video/mobile games (39%)
- A noisy home environment (39%)
- Extracurricular activities (25%)
- Job or work (22%)
Changing habits like these takes repetition and dedication. Luckily, there are five actionable habits students can use to make homework more focused, more efficient, and eventually more successful. They can be easily remembered with this simple acronym:
SPARK: Space, Prioritize, Attack, Relax, and Keep at it.
1. SPACE yourself.
It’s essential to make after-school workspaces as clean, quiet, and distraction-free as possible. Clean means organized and clear of disturbing clutter. Check the writing surface and surrounding area. How much more likely would a student be to grab a device sitting at arm’s reach than if it’s put away?
Another crucial aspect of this process is noise. Separation from attention-grabbing sounds, like TVs and chatty family members, keeps a student’s mind following the pages their eyes are seeing. Another good tip is to put phones on silent (not vibrate) and place it face down, far away from the desk. This ensures students aren’t encouraged to check it habitually and can focus on the task at hand.
Try and keep the designated homework space as consistent as possible. Stick with a repetitive location whenever possible, which will allow a student’s brain to put on its thinking cap more quickly. And just say “no” to homework in bed!
2. PRIORITIZE a schedule.
Balance is critical to keeping a sane, realistic after-school schedule. If students are overloaded with extracurricular activities, they’ll struggle to find time for everything else. At the same time, if they spend too much time on homework they’ll start to lose quality in their answers.
Extracurricular activities proved to be detrimental to homework productivity for 24.5% of respondents. Jobs and work affected 12% of middle-school students, as opposed to 25% of high school students. Of the users Brainly surveyed, those in middle school said they have more time to finish their homework. 40% said “always/yes,” as opposed to 28% of high school students. Only 6% said “rarely/no,” as compared to 13% of high-schoolers.
If students have activities after work, they should make to also schedule in homework time. Furthermore, if a student is finding it hard to fit all their homework into their schedule, it might be time to reconsider chosen activities. The key to prioritizing success is to plan.
3. ATTACK homework problems.
A problem set or multi-page assignment can look insurmountable, especially if someone’s not feeling totally comfortable with the material from class. It’s easy to get lost in preparation.
Don’t waste time trying to understand everything; get hands-on and hit problems one issue at a time. Something started is one step closer to being finished! Break the questions down into what is already known, and use those parts to work towards the answer. Taking a step towards the solution makes a person more invested in getting there.
If a snag is hit while trying to answer the problem or question, that’s a great time to go back into the concepts to try and find the specific resource. Students can use a glossary, textbook, or notes from class for a reminder of what was taught.
4. RELAX and take breaks.
Here’s the good news: As long as they’re scheduled and not abused, taking breaks can actually help a student finish their homework! A quick pause can help to rejuvenate some of that motivation that got them started.
If stress sets in, take the opportunity to relax. Students can close their eyes and take a few deep breaths. If it helps, put on some relaxing music. Another way to take a proactive break is to do something active. Stand up and stretch to get more oxygen flowing to the brain. If this is a more extended break, do some quick physical exercises or walk around outside for a few minutes. Everyone gets through their work a lot faster when their minds are feeling alert!
Even a regulated screen break can help students refocus. Taking a minute to check news feeds, respond to messages, or play a quick game can enable the brain to decompress and ready itself for the challenge ahead.
Be careful to limit these breaks so as not to waste time. To start, keep it at 10 to 15 minutes and try to accomplish at least an hour of work before taking another one.
5. KEEP at it.
Whether it’s a tough question or just a seemingly endless assignment, it’s easy just to give up. But, when a student is equipped with everything they need and keeps their focus forward, they can get through it!
Start by getting equipped with everything needed. Finish by keeping the focus forward and knowing when to move on. Before starting, gather everything that can help with the homework. Textbooks, print-outs, and websites all qualify. This way, when a student gets stuck, they’ve got everything that could help right in front of them. If resources have ran out, it’s best for the student to take their best guess, make a note, and move on.
These are all critical steps to success. Use what is known to make the best possible educated guess, and remember to ask a teacher or mentor about it the next day. And move on quickly, so the brain stays motivated to attack what’s next.