A noisy classroom or chaotic household doesn’t exactly offer the best learning environment. Encouraging children to work on homework quietly in groups, though, doesn’t have to be a tall task. “Activities that provide opportunities for independent work along with collaborative work are excellent ways to encourage students to work quietly, even when they are in group settings,” says Arziki Phenyo, educator and founder of The Stimulus Effect, a personalized tutoring center in Inglewood, California. Motivate your students or children to get creative quietly while working together with innovative activities and assignments.
Educators and parents should make critical rules clear from the beginning of the homework period to ensure students are ready to work quietly from the start. Establish rules -- such as restricting talking to homework topics, or even setting time limits to particular parts of homework -- and also allow designated chatter periods when students can stretch and socialize. “It also helps to write these regulations down and place them somewhere that is visible to the students," says Phenyo, "so they're consistently reminded of appropriate conduct."
It’s tempting for a child to giggle and gossip when she's seated next to her best gal pal. Encourage quiet group work by creating a strategic seating chart at home or in the classroom. “Have students sit by acquaintances rather than best friends so they don’t have an incentive to spend the whole time talking rather than concentrating on their work,” suggests Phenyo. During breaks, encourage each child to get to know a little more about their acquaintances, too, to promote collaborative study environments.
When working on a group project, it’s often necessary for children to brainstorm together. Cut down on the chatter by dividing the tasks of each project in advance. “Make each student responsible for a particular aspect of the assignment, which can push them to concentrate,” says Phenyo. One child may be responsible for a particular reading while another works out an algebra problem. Once each child has completed his assigned task, gather the group together to share their results. Assigning an adult moderator to help the students collaborate will effectively reduce the noise level, too.
While mentoring and monitoring groups of students, consider adding reflective activities, such as journaling or short essays, that prompt students to take the time to think quietly about strategies and concepts, says Phenyo. For example, if students are required to write an essay together, ask them to journal about the topic individually (and quietly) first, so they can gather their thoughts. This not only keeps the room quiet, but also promotes individual critical thinking. “These strategies should help students work more productively during group homework activities, and maximize their learning,” says Phenyo.
Sometimes, students don’t know how to get started and are overwhelmed, as a group, by the tasks they need to complete. Distractions take over at this point. Alleviate the stress and keep your children focused by removing any and all distractions in the room, such as music, video games and electronics. “Have your children come up with a study space free of distractions and with the right tools, so they are not running all over the house finding this or that,” says Ana Homayoun, author and founder of Green Ivy Educational Consulting in Los Altos, California. “Come up with a regular study time in your house where the television is off and other distractions are away.”