(Photo | Courtesy of Sylvan Nation)
Every school year brings its new set of challenges. The curriculum is more intense, homework assignments become tougher, workloads get heavier and staying ahead of the curve becomes even harder.
As a parent, you are probably asking, “How will my child manage this new school year?” While having effective study skills may be overlooked on the academic journey, we’ve seen this be the tipping point in making good students into great students. We’ve compiled a list of ten good study habits to set kids up for a productive and successful school year!
1. Get Organized.
Between homework, tests and managing new schedules, it will be all too easy for things to slip through the cracks. A planner is going to be essential to keeping your child organized this year. Students should write down assignments, appointments and to-do lists, then review items in the planner at both the beginning and end of the day to stay on track. You’ll probably have to help with the first one-two weeks to ensure the schedule makes sense and that your child is logging in appropriately, but then it should really be on them to take ownership of the schedule.
2. Know the Expectations.
By middle school and high school, most teachers will provide a course outline or syllabus, which can serve as a guide for the semester. If expectations aren’t clear on how students should turn in their work or how they will be graded, don’t wait until a bad report card comes home. Your child should feel comfortable asking and/or emailing teachers with questions about grading and assignments at any time.
If this is not the case, it may be time for you as a parent to step in.
3. Designate a Study Area.
Help your child by setting up a quiet, well-lit, low-traffic workspace. Make sure they have the materials they need ready to go — pens, pencils, erasers, markers, calculators, etc. But most importantly, make sure there are no distractions. Take it one step further and institute a “communications blackout” policy with no cell phones or social media allowed until schoolwork is done.
4. Develop a Study Plan.
First things first: Students need to know when a test will take place, the types of questions that will be included and the topics that will be covered. From there, your student should create a study plan and allow ample time to prepare — there’s nothing worse than cramming the night before an exam. You can help by buying a wall calendar and asking him or her to assign topics and tasks for each day leading up to a due date or exam. Setting goals for each session is also key to success.
If your child needs some help developing a study plan, our Study Skills program is a great resource! Our tutors will work with your child to develop an individualized plan that fits his or her needs, while instilling effective time-management tips and organizational skills.
5. Think Positively.
Being in the right mindset can make all the difference. Encourage your child to think positively when studying or heading into an exam, and by all means, avoid catastrophic thinking. Help your child turn negative statements like, “I can’t believe we have to do this online thing again” or “I’ll never have enough time to get a good grade on this exam,” into positive ones like, “We’ve got this!” and “I’ve got more time to be proactive and put together a comprehensive study plan to get through the material prior to the exam.”
6. Create a Study Group.
Working in groups, even virtually, can help students when they’re struggling to understand a concept and can enable them to complete assignments more quickly than when working alone. Keep groups small and structured to ensure the maximum benefit to participants and reduce distractions.
7. Practice Active Listening.
It’s important for students to concentrate and avoid distractions when an instructor is presenting. Some tips to share with your child include: Try concentrating on the main points being made, think about what the speaker is saying and pay attention to how things are said (gestures, tone of voice, etc.). They should avoid talking or thinking about problems when listening. If a teacher says, “This is important” or “I’ll write this on the board,” there’s a good chance students will see the concept on an exam.
8. Review Test-Taking Strategies.
It is normal for your child to feel stressed when taking an exam. However, there are certain strategies that will help them manage the stress and do their best on the exam. First, make sure that your child arrives on time and tries to stay relaxed. Students should make sure to read all of the directions on the exam and pace themselves so as not to feel rushed.
9. Read Actively.
It’s all too easy for students to skim over an assigned book chapter and not know the main points of what they just read. Help your student to practice active reading by asking him or her to note the main idea of each passage and look up unfamiliar words or concepts. Make an outline of the chapter or create flow charts and diagrams that help map out the concept at hand.
After each section, have students write a summary in their own words and come up with possible exam questions.
10. Look to the Future.
For some students, college/university may seem like an intangible event in the very distant future, but in reality, it isn’t so far off. Starting early can be an immense help in navigating the college/ university admissions process. Be sure to get organized, set goals with your child and have regular check-ins to assess progress.
Beginning a new school year can be challenging at first, but getting into good habits from the start helps you and your child smoothly adjust to new expectations and routines!