If I had a dollar for every time a student told me their homework was
“study” or “math worksheet,” but then couldn’t figure out what to do, I could probably retire now. Students take out their planner in the last couple minutes of class, the teacher hands out a study guide or writes the numbers of the homework problems, or the name of the chapter, on the board and the student writes exactly that. Six hours later, sitting at her dining room table, she doesn’t know how to use that information. You need to write yourself homework directions that you can use! Here’s how:
Get the facts
Teachers may talk all through class, but they have a way of telling you what information is important. For some teachers, the most important things are the ones they write on the board. Others raise their voices or repeat details. They aren’t doing this out of boredom or by accident. The things they emphasize are the things you need to write down. Make sure you have these facts about every assignment.
- Who (All students? Everyone who hasn’t passed the test? The group presenting Monday?)
- What (What book? Which chapter? Odd problems or even? Write an outline or a draft? The whole packet or just the first page?)
- Where (Are the resources on the teacher’s website? Do you have to go to the library? Is it the paper he gave you last week? Which one?)
- When (When is it due? Will you be checking in about it tomorrow or turning it in all at once next week?)
- Why? (Is there a quiz coming up? Did you struggle with these problems in class? Will you need this draft for peer editing tomorrow?)
- How? (Write notes or full sentences? Type it or write it by hand? Submit it online or hand in a paper copy?)
Before you leave class, try to imagine yourself doing the assignment and write down a few specific details in your
or on top of the page.
- Today’s date
- The due date
- Which class it is for (use color coding to keep this simple)
- A verb – I’ll say more about this in a minute
- Any essential information – do you need your textbook for this? Are you meeting with your group?
Make a plan
Next to the date on your paper (or in your planner if you don’t have room), write down an action plan. This can be simple, like the single verb “study” or “solve” or it can be a multi-step plan if the teacher’s instructions are detailed.
Schedule the work
There’s a difference between the “due date” when you turn in the work and the “do date” when you sit down and make it happen. Record both in your planner. (Hint: For successful students, these are NOT the same date.) You might want to use different colors, like highlighting the due date in yellow and writing your do dates in regular pen. When you write your do date, take into account things like soccer practice and family plans. Are you really going to read that chapter after you get home from the birthday party Saturday night? Or do you need to schedule it for Friday afternoon to make sure it happens?
By thinking ahead when your teacher assigns homework, you can make sure you have everything you need to get the homework done quickly, do it right and get the grade you deserve!