How to keep your kids focused as the school year winds down

WASHINGTON — The school year is in the homestretch. The last day of classes — and that last round of tests — are on the horizon.

It’s a crucial time for students, but it can be a hard time for focusing on the task at hand. Spring has sprung, after all, and a young student’s fancy might turn to thoughts of vacations, swimming and all that good stuff.

“This is a time when kids are more focused on counting the days until summer than they are studying,” said Ann Dolin, a former teacher and founder of Educational Connections Tutoring. “And you know, parents are losing steam as well.”

So how do parents keep their kids motivated during this crucial stretch? It begins by re-establishing routines that might have worked well back in the fall, Dolin told WTOP’s Shawn Anderson and Hillary Howard.

That means scheduled bedtime and scheduled time for homework. The latter, she said, requires some flexibility “because every day is a little bit different.” But in general, kids should be starting their homework before dinner if possible.

“Starting on the early side really reduces procrastination, and it gets kids to bed at a decent time,” Dolin said.

To keep kids engaged during homework time, she recommends “chunking” that time: break it up into multiple segments of 10 to 20 minutes, followed by two-minute breaks. To help with the process, she recommends a productivity device called the Time Timer, which illustrates elapsing minutes.

“That visual is what really helps kids,” Dolin said.

The educator also had a surprising take on social media. While a study confirms what you probably know — Instagram and Snapchat can be a distraction — it also found that kids who use social media to communicate about homework actually have slightly better grades.

“So social media, if used in the right way, can actually be beneficial during homework time,” she said.

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