10 Ways to Avoid the 4th Quarter Slump

shutterstock_209353861The 4th quarter is often a difficult time of year for students to maintain focus and motivation at school. Here are 10 easy ways to help your kids avoid the 4th quarter slump and finish out the school year strong:

  • Designated Homework Time: If following through with homework is becoming problematic, consider “Designated Homework Time,” a set amount of time that your child works on homework daily.   The standard for homework is about 10 minutes per grade level, so a third grader should have about 30 minutes of homework and a 5th grader should have roughly 50 minutes. Reserve this time in your child’s schedule whether they say they have homework or not.
  • Tie Privileges to the Process Not the Product: Rather than rewarding your child for grades, such as an A on a spelling test, reward them simply for studying. A good reward shouldn’t be a toy or game; it should be a privilege.  An extra 20 minutes of video game time or a slightly later bedtime often does the trick.
  • Factor in Exercise to Boost Attention: All kids are different. Some are more efficient when they start homework right after school, but others need some time to relax or run around beforehand. For those who need a break, consider exercise instead of TV or video games.  Studies have shown that aerobic exercise for 20 minutes before learning can have the same positive effect on focus as a stimulant medication designed to treat ADHD.
  • Resist Paying for Grades: Paying your child for good report card grades is not an effective means of motivation for two reasons. The first is that students cannot sustain motivation for an entire marking period – the payoff is too far away.  Secondly, students get the idea that they would only work hard in school to earn money, not for the love of learning.
  • Empathize with Your Child: A lot of times kids will say, “I wish I could play outside! It’s so nice!” As a parent, it’s important to empathize with them rather than devalue their comments. Try saying, “You’re right, it is nice outside and I completely understand why you’d like to be outside playing. Finish your work and you can go outside.”
  • Try Saying “Yes” More Often: A “yes” response to your child’s request will put her in a better mindset than if she hears “no” right off the bat.  For example, if your daughter asks to play at a friend’s house, but still has a book report to do, instead of replying, “No, you need to do your homework” try saying, “Yes, absolutely! When you finish your homework you can go to Debbie’s house to play.”
  • Use Sunday Nights for Planning for the Week: Sunday nights are a great time to map out upcoming tests and long-term projects. Break down the upcoming projects into small chunks spread out throughout the week. For example, if your daughter has a history test on Friday, encourage her to study small portions of the material each evening leading up to the test instead of cramming it in the night before.
  • Have a Public Calendar: With so many things going on in the spring – tests, spring sports, and extracurriculars – kids have a hard time remembering everything they have to do. I recommend purchasing the Wall Manager Magnetic Monthly Calendar from the Martha Stewart office collection which can be found at Staples. It’s an easy way to keep track of kids’ schedules and for them to know what’s coming up.
  • Visual Reminders Always Trump Verbal Reminders: If your student needs to schedule time to study for a spelling test and complete his book report, instead of nagging him with constant verbal reminders, simply jot down the words “spelling test” and “book report” on a post-it note. Place it in his study area as a visual reminder.  Students always respond more positively to visual reminders than verbal ones.
  • Use a Timer: At times, students procrastinate because they can’t muster the energy to get started. Tackle this problem by encouraging your child to set a timer for just 10 minutes.  Say to him, “Work and focus as hard as you can for just 10 minutes.  Then you can take a break or keep on going.”  Most times, kids can keep going, but they need a sense of urgency to get started.  I call this the “Tolerable Ten”.  The idea is that anyone can do anything for just 10 minutes.