Talking about the homework blues: workshop for parents 10th May 2014

Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


I was unusually nervous last week when asked to run a workshop for parents at the local comprehensive school. Not because I was nervous of the parents but because this was the first time the Friends of the school had organised such a venture and I rather felt that if I didn’t engage the audience I could put the whole programme in danger.

Originally I thought maybe half a dozen would turn up on a Saturday afternoon but then the week before I got an email to say 40 had registered, then another to say 70 and finally well over 80 turned out. I don’t think it was because they wanted to see me but rather because they wanted some tips on how to cope with their teenagers.

So I ran through the changing teenage brain and did a light-hearted quiz to demonstrate learning personalities. Then it was onto tips for homework based on how different teenagers prefer to work. Usual questions about having the T.V. on while working and music playing came up. Some parents were really short of space and didn’t really have room for study for their offspring. I suggested that the bedroom was not always the best place to work as parents could not judge whether their offspring were working or maybe playing games or using social media in the background. Nothing worse for the concentration than flitting back and forth between emails/texts/Facebook/games and work. The brain cannot reset itself easily between such tasks. For the lady with a daughter who was reluctant to work and didn’t have enough space I suggested the local Public Library which has computers and quiet working area but doesn’t have the distraction. The school library would be another alternative.

Some parents did not have the time to supervise their children and there is no simple solution to this problem. If 2 parents are working and don’t have the time it needs a more radical course of action starting with a family conference as there  were older teenagers  in the family who could possibly help with the problems the family team were experiencing.

Apart from problems with space and time, parents were most concerned about getting their children to work. Some were experiencing difficulties because a child had SLD while others just had children who suffered from chronic disinclination.

My aim for the afternoon was to send parents away with at least 1 strategy they could try or take away 1 fact that would help them work amicably with their teenage offspring.  One parent was obviously a woman of action as after the workshop she wrote:

After your session, I went and bought some large sheets of paper and multi-coloured post it notes – my daughter is a Piler and a bit of a procrastinator.

The daughter had GCSE’s starting the following week and parent was keen to see some revision taking place. I had explained about Mind Maps being an excellent way of making revision seem less onerous as with a big (A1) size post it note you can fit a whole topic to a sheet. The upshot was that the daughter spent the remainder of the weekend Mind Mapping topics for her first exam and felt the exam went well

I have used this technique, with all sorts of refinements dependent on the individual student’s inclination for many years. It makes revision fun and achievable. I have another laid back teenager who was not getting to grips with revision but via the giant post it notes, he’s found a way which helps. Obviously no student will use just 1 technique; any student I work with will have a variety of appropriate techniques devised after an assessment and a chat about what might work. Teenagers have to be engaged to learn and they are also quite wrapped up in themselves. Therefore, techniques that are worked out just for them appeal; they chose the colour of paper they will work with, the size, lined or unlined, Mind Maps or flow charts, coloured post it notes or flashcards or both. Will they work alone or with somebody, on the floor or at a table, in their room or in the living room etc?

So after 3 hours, yes they were stalwarts, these parents, they went home armed with a number of tips and some explanations as to why I think Year 9 is a most important year, why teenagers can’t make up their mind, why they can’t read emotions, why they are so emotional.

It was a most enjoyable session – for me and hopefully for the parents and I was so pleased for the organising team that it went so well.

For parent workshops on any or all of the following:

The teenage brain: a work in progress

Are you a Filer or a Piler?

Using the senses to tackle homework and revision

Your teenagers got attitude! Is it stopping them learning?

Concentration, motivation and procrastination – tips for getting back on track.

Year 9 – an important year. Why?

Learning style assessments for you teenager – understanding the report.