As part of the end-of-school scramble, students will take a slew of year-end tests. Let’s hit pause on the sprint into summer and talk about how we can help our students build the study skills they need to ace these and other tests down the line.
It’s really important that as parents and educators, we remember that children aren’t born with study skills. Like most other skills, they are learned. Kids look to us to teach effective methods for studying: the techniques that will help them deeply understand and retain information, distill complex ideas and feel confident come test day.
Here are some simple tips to share with your child for building the good study skills that can lead to great grades.
1. Planners are a sanity saver. Time management is tricky for everyone, especially kids and teens. Having major deadlines, due dates, events and extracurriculars in one place helps kids visualize their week, manage their time and stay on track.
2. Breaking it down is a good thing. There is nothing worse than not even knowing where to start when it comes to schoolwork. Understanding how to break daunting projects into more manageable ones is a key skill. For example, make studying for a giant math final approachable by making a list of all the concepts included in the test, and review them one at a time.
3. Organization isn’t overrated. Keeping notes, projects and reading materials in logical order helps kids find what they need right away, cutting down on time spent tracking things down and upping time spent actually studying.
4. Taking good notes matters. Taking good notes helps keep kids’ grades up, especially in middle or high school. Practice with them in picking out the “main ideas” in conversations with you, in news reports, in church sermons or in magazine articles.
5. Study slow and steady. The most successful test-takers aren’t cramming the night before. The best way for kids to do well on tests is to review the information daily at home. Having children work with friends to study or in small groups outside of school is a great way to encourage this.
6. Harp on homework. This sounds straight-forward, but many kids struggle with completing homework. Getting homework done thoughtfully and on time is one of the most fundamental study skills.
7. Concentrating is critical. Staying focused is easier for some kids than others. Insist that your kids are doing their best to avoid distractions in class. This means making sure they’re keeping cellphones tucked away and being vocal if a chatty classmate is causing them to lose focus.
8. Directions aren’t always direct. Oftentimes students can get tripped up by homework or test instructions. Encouraging kids to listen carefully and spend plenty of time reading directions really helps. Also make sure they know it’s OK to speak up if they don’t understand testing directions.
9. Know you’ve got help. If prepping for tests is a tough ordeal and your child is losing confidence in his or her test-taking ability, a lack of study skills could be to blame. Luckily, there are places to go for help. The company I work for, Sylvan Learning, has a great record of helping kids improve their study skills.
10. It’s fine to have some fun. I’ve already mentioned study groups, but there are lots of ways to make studying fun. Come up with some cool “rewards” with your kids — extra time with you, a favorite treat, later curfew — to let them know you recognize their efforts. Support and encourage them. Keep your sense of humor. It all helps.
Want to improve your kids’ study skills? Work on these suggestions, and you’ll be well on the way.