Category Archives: English

Homework motivation

Thank you to everyone that replied to my post Back to school homework help One of the common problems that parents/carers have is to motivate their child to do their homework after school. Many found that their children complained of being too tired or just simply refused to do any at all. I know in our house, their is often evenings where my son decides that no matter what I do, he is certainly not doing his homework at all! I am going to try out some different ideas with him to get him more motivated. It is not guaranteed that all of them will work but as long as I find one or two that do, then I’ll be happy. As with a lot of things, I have discovered over the years that often an idea works but only for a limited amount of time. Changing tact ever so often is not a problem.

This week, we are going to try the ‘Points win prizes,’ idea. Basically, if my son does his homework for an evening, he wins a star to be written up on the chalk board. Alternatively, you could put stickers on a chart or piece of paper. To start with we will tolerate the odd bit of fuss as long as he does as much homework as I’ve asked him to during the evening for him to gain a star. As time goes on, we will gradually allow less and less disruption for him to gain a star. We have discussed which prizes he wants to win. We have split it up into three categories of prizes: five stars, ten stars and fifteen stars. He can collect after, for example, five stars if he likes but then his total will go back down to zero stars for him to build them up again.

Five stars: A trip to the park, a bag of sweets, £1 or a toy from the pound shop;
Ten stars: A swimming session, a trip to the local petting farm, £2 or a new book worth £2;
Fifteen stars: A full day out to the soft play area, a trip to the cinema, £4 or a day at the arcades.

We wrote each on separate pieces of coloured paper, red for five stars, blue for ten stars and yellow for fifteen stars and put them into a pot. My son also asked me to put a few ‘surprises’ in there, to make it more fun.

We are going to start slowly, with encouraging him to do the homework he enjoys the most, reading. We will give him lots of praise and put the star up where all can see it. If he earns a star, it stays there. If he misbehaves another day, we will not remove a star as punishment as I believe this will be undermining the whole idea and will de-motivate him. Once he has earned a star, it is there for him to be proud of.

We are going to try not to nag him. Ideally, we would like homework to be seen as a positive aspect and not a chore. My six year old is often exhausted after a full day at school, especially by the end of the week, so we will try to start the, ‘Points win prizes,’ star collecting at the beginning of the week. We will also remember that, after all, he is only six and he is meant to be gaining a love of learning that will last him for the rest of his life. We do not want to force him to do his homework but we do need to be supportive as well as talking to him about the importance of it all.

We will see how it all goes! I hope he gains a star tonight with his reading. If he doesn’t, we will persevere with this method by trying it again another day. It is sometimes more difficult for him to get back into the routine of doing homework after the holidays or if he’s been ill for a few days. We will try though. I’ll let you know what happens!

If you have tried this with your child/children, did you have any success with it? How could it be improved? What other methods have you tried to motivate your child/children to do their homework? I’d love to hear from you!

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Back to school homework help

The final couple of days of the Christmas holiday from school are upon us. It’s time to sort out the uniform, PE kit and book bag ready for Tuesday. We have really enjoyed our Christmas break but now it is time to start getting back into the school routine again. My son has only had reading homework over the holidays. I must admit that he has not done it though. He has been reading a lot, annuals, new story book as well as his books of facts and the occasional joke book but no school books have been read. We will hope to look at it on Monday. Possibly.

Soon we will be getting ready to start with the book reviews, spellings and times tables homework too. What type of homework do your children come home with? Do you find it difficult to get your children to actually do their homework? What homework help would be most useful to motivating your child to complete their tasks? I aim to write some future blog posts on ideas to help with homework so it would be great to write posts that would be most useful to my readers. I look forward to hearing from you!

Adjectives, nouns and verbs-do we need to know their names?

I spent years, as a child, finding grammar an extremely difficult concept to grasp.  I knew what a describing word was, I knew what a naming word was and I knew what a doing word was.  The difficulty I had was when I was asked to find the adjective/noun/verb in a sentence.  My mind somehow always went blank.  Linking the names of types of words with their meaning was often a stumbling block for me.  Fortunately, after being shown as well as considering each very carefully, I now feel confident in linking the words with their meanings.

I did have a worry that my children would have the same mental block as I had all those years ago.  I am glad that children are now taught these ‘technical’ words with their meanings at school.  I remember hearing many comments about this being a ‘bad’ thing as the children were ‘too young’ to know these particular words.  The purpose of this was questioned.

I believe that you should use the ‘proper’ names/words for as many concepts as you can.  At the same time, I think you need to re-phrase them in child-friendly talk.  Giving children the chance to hear these more technical words rather than dumbing them down shows the child that you have high expectations of them as well as allowing them access to become more familiar with these for them to use in the future.

My son comes home to tell me that he has added new adjectives in his stories.  I love that he is able to articulate his analysis of the types of words he uses every day in his speech and in his writing.  I am always impressed when he uses such vocabulary.  I am glad that he knows the technical names of these words as well as how to use them.  He does not get confused, like I used to.  I was taught the meanings first then the technical words for them years later.  I believe that being given access to techincal names as well as their meanings at the same time, can only be a good thing.

Five ways to make spelling homework more fun

Starting school was a big change for my son.  He loved (and still loves) going to school but after a long, tiring day, he did not feel very motivated to do his spelling homework.  Over the last few years, I have tried to find different ways to inspire him to learn the words he is given using a variety of approaches.  Lots of these ideas are already being used in schools.

  1. By making the time we look at spellings special.  It is a time when we can sit down together and spend some ‘quality’ time.  Even if it for only five minutes per day to read through them.
  2. By writing in rice, cous cous, sand, flour or anything else that you can think of!  We start off by writing using one finger then by using a dry paintbrush.
Writing in flour
Writing in flour

3.   By making words out of playdough, pipecleaners or rolled up tin foil.

Spelling with Playdough
Spelling with Playdough
Spelling using pipe cleaners
Spelling using pipe cleaners

4.    Writing spellings out on a chalk board.

Spellings on a chalkboard
Spellings on a chalkboard

5.   If the words relate to objects, make labels for them.

Labelling objects to help with spellings
Labelling objects to help with spellings
Spelling labels around the home
Spelling labels around the home

I think the most important thing to note is that we have not done these tasks all in one go.  None of these tasks were forced upon my son either.  When learning spellings, I have found that my son learns them better when we take a ‘little and often’ approach.  Even looking at one or two spellings per night, using them in made up sentences is a good start.  I display his work, take photos and he this helps him to become enthusiastic about looking back over what he has done.  As it is different to learning the spellings by reading and re-reading them in list form, it helps my son to remember how to spell his words.  For my son, this ‘doing’ by manipulating as well as designing his own versions of the words, helps him to keep the spellings in his head.

Every child is different.  These methods work for my son but we are continually trying out new ways to look at spellings to keep things new and fresh in his mind.  These are not the only activities we have tried, these are the ones we started with.  I will put more ideas on some of my following blogs.  Having a wide range of ideas will help you to choose which suits your child best.

It would be great to hear from anybody who has tried these alternative ways of learning spellings or any other ideas that we could add.