From kindergarten through grad school, one common feature is always present: that after-school phenomenon called homework. To some, it is an inevitable part of school – sometimes useful, sometimes not – a nightly reminder that our job as a student is learning, however we can manage that chore. Many of us, though, are never really taught how to approach homework or, for that matter, how to approach studying in general.
Yes, we know that when ten math problems are assigned, we are expected to work them out. When a chapter is assigned, we are supposed to read it from beginning to end and not one word more or less. Yet there are some tips worth sharing on the subject of homework, many of which are so simple that we may not have thought of them. For example:
- Before beginning any assignment, examine BOTH the first and last pages. There must be a reason this specific bundle of information has been selected by the teacher. Figure out this theme first, then begin the assignment.
- Next, beginning on the first page of the homework assignment, jot down the headings and subheads that appear throughout the assignment on a page in your notebook. Mark this page with today’s date. If the assigned homework is from literature, note any enlarged type that separates sections of the chapter and make a written notation. These mileposts are important for understanding the author’s intentions, which is also your main goal.
- Now, you are ready to undertake the assignment, being careful to write down any questions that you encounter as you read the text.
- Take your notes with you to class, where you will probably discover that those notes provide a strong outline for your teacher’s lecture. (Taking notes first means that the lecture is a review!)
- When permitted by your school, take notes in pencil in the margins of your textbook. When using an e-reader, take advantage of all functions that allow you to record questions, seek definitions, or mark points of special interest. (Learning is enhanced when you make written notes.)
- As you prepare a notebook page for each homework assignment, you are creating a study guide for use when studying for a mid-term or final. Simply organize each day’s page of notes by date, and review every topic from your notes first. Refer to the textbook when your notes fail to clarify a point or a fact.
By following these basic homework guidelines, you will actually be taking no more time than just reading without understanding the context of the assignment.
CARTER P. REESE
Director, Informed Educational Solutions