A Smart Restart for the Second Semester

A Smart Restart for the Second Semester

As the alarm clock rings for the start of the second half of the school year, children are packing their backpacks and preparing to return to the classroom. Starting school after a long, well-needed winter break is hard, and kids may struggle getting back into a routine. 

Getting re-organized for the second half of the school year encourages students to stay motivated and finish out the school year strong.

“We want them to start off on the right foot,” Corinne Gist, owner and director of Fit Learning Cleveland, says. “We want them to start in a positive environment. This really sets the tone for the rest of the school year.”

Gist offers seven ways parents can help their child reset for the second half of the school year.

1. Set Up a Workspace 

Whether your student is learning online or going to school in person, make sure your child has a space to do their homework at home.

“I think students come back to class recharged after break,” Gist says. “I also think their motivation is influenced by the environment we set up for them. Set up an environment for them to be successful in.” 

Make sure to set up a desk or table in this work environment, so students can sit up straight and stay focused rather than have their work sprawled out on their bed. Pencils, pens, erasers, paper, flashcards, scissors and a calculator, among other supplies, should be on the desk or table, so students are prepared for each assignment and do not have to scour the house looking for supplies. 

Have your child establish a homework routine in this space. Setting their backpack in the same spot and doing homework assignments in the same order each day will keep students motivated and establish a learning environment within the home.

2. Better Mornings with your Child

During winter break, most kids are going to bed late and waking up late. Since their regular routine is disrupted, it can hinder their ability to get back on track once school starts.

Gist recommends that students start going to bed earlier three to four days before school begins again. Next, set up a morning routine for your child, whether a schedule or a checklist, so they know exactly what to do before they head to school. 

She also suggests providing your child with a reward or reinforcer in the morning for having everything prepared at night, such as prepping their backpack and getting their clothes ready the night before. 

“Have something for them to look forward to in the morning,” Gist says. “If everything is all set the night before, then they can get 10 extra minutes of TV in the morning, or they get to pick the breakfast that they want.”

3. New Year, New Planner

As the new year approaches, buy a new calendar and mark all the days students have off, have big projects due, and other events. When students have everything they need to do written out, they can establish when they need to get everything done by.

If your child has a project due on Friday, for example, write on their calendar that they have to have their supplies bought and the topic decided by Wednesday. Setting reminders will keep your child on track. Consider buying Post-it Notes to keep around the house and in their backpack, so they can write quick reminders. 

“I would recommend keeping a planner as well to write down all due dates,” Gist says. “Some kids may want to keep reminders electronically, and there are many online resources and apps that allow for that. On top of having reminders, keep in contact with other parents, and have open communication with the school to keep track of all events and important information.”

4Clean Out Backpack and School Desk/Locker

Organizational skills are important year-round. Encourage your child to clean out their desk and locker at school and throw out anything they don’t need. During the school year, eraser shavings, crumpled-up pieces of paper and used-up pens can pile up in a student’s desk, so make sure those are all thrown away. Students should also clean out and reorganize their backpacks at home. To stay organized, use labels for notebooks and binders, so students are able to distinguish among subjects. 

“Let the student have some input in the way things are organized,” Gist says. “Once again, have a reward or reinforcer for your child for staying organized at the end of the week, or for little ones, at the end of the day. This will encourage them to stay organized.”

5Re-establish a Study and Homework Routine

Set up a routine for studying at school and at home. Break up studying into smaller sessions, so students can efficiently process the information. Have the child study for 20 or 30 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. If the parent is helping the child read, have the child read for five minutes, and then have the parent read for five minutes. Taking turns reading will encourage students to stay focused. 

“Students can study a little bit before dinner, and then study another 10 minutes after dinner,” Gist says. “Same thing with math homework, for example. Do 15 minutes of math homework, and then maybe do two minutes of addition and subtraction, take a break, do another minute, and then take a break. This is also how people learn by practicing and by repeated practice. It’s a good skill to have.”

Set a timer during homework. Most smart devices have a timer built in, so allowing your child to use it for this purpose is OK. Set the timer for 20 or 30 minutes, and once the timer goes off, students can take a quick break to check their device, or take some time to stand up and stretch. 

“The timer creates a clear distinction between work time and break time,” Gist says. “The timer is the one that’s deciding when it’s break time instead of Mom or Dad, so it hopefully takes away some nagging or arguing that can happen between kids and parents.”

The timer can also help during your child’s morning routine. Use the timer to track how long it takes your child to get ready. When your child is putting on their shoes or packing their backpack, they may get distracted by their phone or toys, so using the timer will help keep them on track. 

“I’ve used the timer where we tried to see how long it takes them to get ready,” Gist says. “Then, the next day, they try to beat that time. So, for example, if today’s time was nine minutes, tomorrow’s should be eight minutes. There should also be some sort of reinforcement for that as well.” 

6New Screen Time Rule

Gist says the student’s work space should be designated specifically for academic work and should be free of distractions. Turn off screens, do not talk on the phone in this room, and try keeping noise levels at a bare minimum throughout the home, so students can concentrate and work.

Phones and television can easily become a distraction while students do their homework. Make sure students do not have easy access to their phone or a TV remote. Keep the TV off and make sure phone notifications are off, so they are less tempted to check. Allow kids to have screen time after their homework is done. 

“I think the amount of screen time is up to the parent, but I would recommend that they receive screen time after homework,” Gist says. “Have a schedule set up. Maybe they have screen time for ten minutes when they come home, and then do homework, and then have screen time again. I would definitely say that screen time should be contingent on completing whatever work that they have.”

7. Re-Energize Communication with Your Child

Over break, students do not have as many responsibilities or obligations, so they may feel lazier and more sluggish. Before school starts again, make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising or playing with friends. Check up on your child’s mental health, and ask how they are feeling as the new semester begins. 

Tell your child to have a great day at school. Celebrate their successes. Tell them they are smart and will do great on their tests. Having a positive attitude will help your child feel motivated, and that motivation will translate at school. 

“It’s important to celebrate their successes all year round,” Gist says. “Bring attention to what they’re doing correctly. There’s research that shows for every negative comment or attention that you get, you want to give three positives to outweigh that. And then the ratio is actually even higher if you’re trying to change behavior. Positive praise is so important.”

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