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study skills and attention


Study Skills and Attention

Homework – Preparing and doing

Being in school all day can be tiring and challenging for the child, and then subsequently for the parents. Thinking about having to sit down to do homework can be hard for everyone and cause stress for all the family.

In order to do homework effectively it is important to create the right conditions for the child to work in.  It is necessary to consider what is right for each individual.

Some of us like working in a quiet place with few sounds, others prefer to have music playing. Some young people like to listen to classical and others to rock music – it is a very individual thing!

Ideas to Help

Reduce the stress

When coming home from school, allow the child time to relax wind down before and have a snack before attempting their homework.

Have a regular time for homework so it becomes routine, try not to make it too late in the day. The same time each day is easier to get used to and the child will know what is happening and when.

Be around when the child is doing his/her homework to support and answer any queries he/she may have. That doesn’t mean you have to do the homework for them! You may need to sit by his/her side to begin with and read out the questions for him/her. You may need to take down the answers if he/she has difficulty with handwriting.

Decide with the child what he/she has to do each day, and how long it will take. If it is the same each week, make a timetable and put it up in the house. Check in the morning what he/she needs to bring home and check it in and out of a homework book. Make sure he/she puts his/her books back in his/her bag at the end of the session.

If the child is very tired, you could consider doing reading work in the morning with him/her if he/she is younger. If the child can’t attend at all, read to him/her and let him/her listen for five minutes. Praise him/her for listening.

Praise the child for their effort, not for their results if he/she has tried their best.

Consider the environment

Try to make a space for homework that is consistently used and so associated with this time. Make sure there is good lighting and ventilation in order to be able to focus on the work. Have the  right “tools” for the job available – better to keep a pencil case in a drawer with everything in it rather than hunting and running around every time they settle down to work. If working to time is a problem then use a timer with the child – some ring when the time has passed and others, like an egg timer, can show sand passing through a container. Some children can become so interested in the timer that they don’t do the work! So try out what works for the child. Make sure the child has a drink available so he/she does not have to get up again once they have settled at the table.

Where to study

Where possible set aside a specific place for homework. Talk with the child about a place or places where he/she can concentrate and study and try to build a habit of using this space for doing homework. This may be at home or at school. Suitable study places could include:

School – some children work better in a homework session in school or in the school library.



Lounge/dining room.

Kit/Equipment for studying

A desk/work surface which is not too high or low – arms should be in a comfortable position to write or type

A comfortable chair, but not too comfortable – the child’s feet should be flat on the floor.

An angle board for writing on may help to support wrists and forearms, or turning an A4 folder on its side and using this as a writing surface may also help.

A book rest that keeps the book at the right eye level.

A desk/table large enough to spread out materials.

A pencil case with kit that may be needed could be kept in a drawer. This could include items such as a spare ruler, protractor, rubber and a calculator. Other items that may be useful to keep in a desk drawer are lined paper, graph paper, Tippex, and post-it notes.

If using a laptop, the screen should be the correct height for the child; a laptop stand can be adjusted and will place the screen in the correct position (this can be obtained from most computer shops or from http://www.laptopstands.co.uk/).

The homework area should not have the following:

A distracting view of other activities that the child may want to be involved in. If the child is easily distracted by noise try giving them headphones to wear. Encourage the child to turn off or unplug phones as they could ring at any time and disrupt the child’s train of thought.


If the child finds it hard to study for a long period of time you may want to break the session up into 15-20 minute sessions with a quick stretch and drink. A timer may be used so the child can see that the break does not last forever!

Consider using a star chart or a token system to reward attention to work if this is a problem. For example, if he/she stays at the table and completes a short piece of homework they get a star. A certain number of stars results in a reward, for example. Make sure the goals you set are easily achievable to begin with otherwise they may see themselves as failures and not want to try again. With a younger child this may be as short as five minutes. Only move on when you are both seeing successes.

Additional help

If the child has additional learning needs such as a writing difficulty, could he/she dictate to you and then you record some of the work to allow the child the opportunity to be as creative as possible, or could he/she use a tape recorder to record their word.

If you see the child is struggling with work, try talking to the teacher rather than doing the work for him/her.