In Weekly Coach Communication

Identify Your Natural Rhythms for Homework/Study Rituals

Just2 Tutoring Week 8 Theme

Ritual is necessary for us to know anything. -Ken Kesey

A tenth grade boy spills his pack atop the dining room table to yet another evening of what he anticipates to be several hours of homework which, in reality, will result in about 25 minutes, or even less, of “real study”. Days later, sub-par quiz and test grades appear. Eligibility is at risk and attendance issues are on the rise.

A seventh-grade girl has friends who complain about suffering through the quantity of assigned homework. Meanwhile, enrolled in the same classes as her friends, she claims, once again, “no homework tonight.” Her potential does not match her performance. She is increasingly reactive and defensive.

These students may be much like your own. Although these kids might be very productive while working with us, parents often report that they don’t see their kids working on assignments or studying at home.

These students lack an awareness of their own natural rhythms and they may greatly benefit from the identification and creation of homework/study rituals.

Just 2 Tutoring Students Identify Natural Rhythms

The student can identify at which times, with consideration to class, athletic and community commitments, where he or she can confidently commit the appropriate time and focus to study and practice. These are part of what I refer to as Natural Rhythms: times of the day when we feel most focused and productive.

Procrastination can be reasoned with. Young people are especially sensitive to being told, directed or in some cases even gently reminded to do their work. They may then choose to direct their frustration about being nagged as a further excuse for not making use of available time for academic study.

Engaging students in a conversation regarding their natural rhythms can be an empowering experience for both parties. The subject sets a clear tone that consistent study must be a part of a student’s everyday practice. The student hears adult acknowledgment that what works in the adult mind may not be a fit for the way the teen sees their natural rhythm.

It is subject of one’s culture versus the creation of an oppressively rigid schedule. Just as the culture of a mason is masonry, the culture of a student is studying.

Just 2 Tutoring Students Practice Time Management

Within the context of natural rhythms, young people are gently welcomed into the realm of time management. They have the opportunity to describe the time of the day or week when, for example, sitting down to a lengthy reading assignment would work best when writing or doing a daily review of vocabulary. Consider the time of day that you feel your mind functions best for mathematics or more technical topics such as the sciences. When can it work to host or attend study groups, which feature a climate of study within a social setting?

J2 students get to consider inviting friends for an evening of films, which directly or loosely reflect current curricular topics. Perhaps a one-hour history channel documentary on the Roman Empire as a lead up to contrast an epic film or comedy. To take the concept further, students might gather to view a documentary on the twenties, make it a Gatsby party and follow with a viewing of The Great Gatsby.

Once a commitment has been made, many students may find that they are more productive than ever before.

However, it is more than appropriate to discuss the question, “Then what?”

I’ve worked with a student who knows when he is scheduled to study.  Perhaps an alarm or timer sounds to indicate the start of the student’s optimal time for reviewing vocabulary.

The question still remains:

“How do I begin?”

And here’s my answer:

“I don’t know.”

When I say that I don’t know, what I mean is that what will work for one individual may not be the same as what will work for the next.  However, Just2 Tutoring has guidelines to help get any student started in coming up with their optimal study ritual.

A Place for Study

To start off, the environment in which you are studying has to be free of any distractions.  Take a good look at your study space and really think about what might become a distraction there.

  • Will materials for a different assignment distract from the current one?
  • Is there excess technology around that will divert you from the main focus?  
  • Is it possible that a parent or sibling in the room can take your attention away from the goal, even when the best of intentions are there?
  • Are there thoughts on my mind that cause my focus to drift?

For some students, an optimal study space may be clean and tidy, with necessary materials in view. While others might prefer to have all materials in view ant at their fingertips. Additionally, having a fidget item, such as a stress ball or squishy toy, may be the perfect way to stay on track.

Removing excuses that interfere with sustained focus is essential.

Devices & Technology

Just2 Tutoring students are coached in the proper use of devices to support organization, time management, and study skills. Technology can be a helpful tool to enhance study and access materials. However, students must actively regulate the use of their devices during independent study and homework time. J2 coaches students to turn off their notifications, retreat from social media or, as necessary, remove themselves from their devices altogether. In light of this, J2 recommends that students use calculators, timers and study sites which are independent of their smartphones.

Food & Drink

Preparations of a study space with ample amounts of beverages and crunchy snacks can be an effective way to maintain focus. Using the bathroom prior to a study session will also be helpful. Studies have indicated a more prolonged focus with the use of crunchy, bite-sized snacks. While healthy, natural foods are always more beneficial, recent research indicates that the brain requires a jolt of glucose to assist a student in learning new material especially if the content is particularly challenging. Additionally, the introduction of the scent of citrus such as lemon has also been used effectively to prolong concentration.

Sound and Light

Another aspect to think about is the importance of proper lighting and music.

With this piece, it is important to find the right balance between a distraction and a study enhancer.

Proper study lighting can improve focus, without needing to squint to read your notes or straining your eyes to see your vocabulary words.  Look for a study space where you can create lighting that is both consistent, and without any shadows or glare.


While it might be obvious to most, J2 never recommends the practice of studying or completing assignments near or in front of the television, youtube or Netflix screens.


When it comes to the right music, or noise in a study environment, the first step it to learn more about yourself.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:

  •       How easily do you get distracted by outside music?
  •       Does some simple background noise help to stay focused?

When it comes to music, research shows that music that contains lyrics is more likely to distract you from the content you are working on.  Clifford Nass, a Professor at Stanford University, explains that the brain will listen to the lyrics to a song using the same part of the brain that is processing words as you study.  However instrumental music, such as classical music, that does not contain lyrics, is processed on the other side of the brain, and therefore not interfering with any word processing going on.  

So, discuss and make a plan for what study ritual that best supports initiation and sustained productivity for your students. As always, thanks for your good work with kids.


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