Taking Study Breaks Helps Improve Student Performance

Taking Study Breaks Helps Improve Student Performance

Brain Breaks Help Avoid Student Frustration

Students are feeling the pressure. Most have missed a lot of in-person school time and are very aware of being behind and needing to catch up. Parents, teachers, news media, social media, and other kids have been talking about “Covid learning loss” and how students’ test scores and grades have suffered. As a result, many students are feeling anxious and worried.

But has anxiety ever made anything better?

It’s important to remember that, though they may have ground to make up, kids also need a break. We as parents may be a little too focused on pushing our kids without allowing for the mental and physical fatigue that can result.

Taking Breaks Results in Better Performance

In “The Science of Taking a Break” researchers in various studies looked at the effectiveness of prolonged work or study periods without a break. One study had students perform the same repetitive, computerized task for 50 minutes. Not surprisingly, students who took breaks and had diversions from their studying actually fared better than students who didn’t take breaks.

Another study on “overlearning” showed that students who studied for a vocabulary test were divided into two groups. One group read the list five times. The other group read the list ten times. Students were given study breaks from five minutes to one month. Initially, students who took a one-day break had the best scores after 10 days. But after six months, the students who took a one-month study break performed best on the vocabulary test. And students who read the vocabulary list five times had the same results after six months as the ones who read the list ten times.

eLearning Inside presents four great reasons to take study breaks:

  1. To improve attention
  2. To improve productivity
  3. To retain information
  4. To reduce stress

The Right Way to Take Breaks

Whether it’s homework, online school, reading, or studying, it’s important for kids to take a break before frustration sets in. For grade-schoolers that is typically after 10 to 15 minutes of work. Middle schoolers and high schoolers can work for longer, 20 to 30 minutes without a break. This doesn’t mean it’s time to start playing and quit for the day.

  • A few minutes of stretching and deep breathing can help reset the brain and get students back on focus. Sometimes having kids listen to music or take a “dance break” is just the right reset button.
  • After longer periods of study, longer breaks are helpful. Given a choice, most students would spend their breaks on social media, or texting friends. And while it might be enjoyable, a recent survey by Huffington Post found that these activities can actually increase stress. And some really fun distractions online (like googling cat memes) end with kids being sidetracked for way too long and finding that study time has been wasted. Setting an alarm might be a good way to remind the student to get back to studying.
  • Exercising the body a bit during a break is a great alternative to getting (or staying) online. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation is another way to lower anxiety and boost personal health. And many students (not just the kindergarteners) can benefit from a 10- or 20-minute nap.
  • Having a healthy snack break is also a great way to improve concentration and help enhance brainpower. Fruits, nuts, lean proteins and other healthy options are better than soda, chips, and junk food which can actually cause a crash.
  • Even picking up a physical book or magazine or newspaper can provide a helpful break that not only refreshes the mind, but also give eyes a rest from staring at an electronic screen.

Every student is different, and the type and duration of break time depends on the student’s age and individual needs. But incorporating breaks is an important part of studying for all students.

The Big Shift to Homeschooling

The Big Shift to Homeschooling

More Than 11% of Students in the U.S. are Homeschooled

The U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey has found that the number of homeschoolers has increased sharply to 5 million students. In April of 2020, 5.4% of U.S. households with school-age children reported that they were homeschooling. By fall 2020, that number had jumped to 11.1%. This represents true homeschooling and does not include numbers for children who were at home enrolled in virtual school.

Homeschool Groups Growing Rapidly

Homeschool groups and co-ops are reporting increased interest in their programs and some are even reporting that there is a waitlist for families who want to join. Traditional homeschooling, which has used similar methods to those used in public or private schools, is being joined by a variety of new homeschooling philosophies. The pandemic has seen the creation of “learning pods” where families who live near each other have their children attend “classes” in one of the homes, where the instruction may come from one or multiple parents. Some families adopt a less structured, or “unschooled” child-led approach to homeschooling. Some choose a hybrid structure called the University Model, where students attend a private school for 2 or 3 days a week, and then complete schoolwork at home, under the supervision of their parents.

Many parents admit that they are “making it up as we go” in order to find the model that works best for their child. The goal is to keep the child engaged and learning, and measure success by their performance on state-required standardized tests.

A Response to the Pandemic Provides New Opportunities

Many of the families who have chosen to opt out of traditional schools and begin homeschooling have done so as a response to the pandemic, and the forced virtual school they were suddenly faced with. Parents were able to witness firsthand what their child’s school day was like, and many parents saw their children falling behind in academics they used to be able to master.

“Homeschooling became a viable alternative for many parents who had considered it in the past or who were curious but never prompted to change,” William Heuer and William Donovan, authors of a new study on the shift, said in a summary of the Census Bureau’s research.

Parents have been concerned about many issues, including exposure to COVID-19, the lack of social contact, the concern over what was being taught at their child’s school, and the new rules and restrictions being put in place in order to return to in-person school.

Even working parents are finding ways to homeschool. Parents who have the option to work from home find that it can fit pretty seamlessly into their day. Some parents who have flexible work hours spend a half day with homeschooling, and then go to work. And some parents who have the option, bring their child to work with them and provide learning activities throughout the day while also teaching their child about their work.

Now That In-Person School Has Resumed, Are Homeschoolers Going Back to School?

It seemed reasonable to assume that a percentage of homeschoolers would choose to send their kids back to school this fall when schools reopened for in-person classes. So far, it’s not clear that this is happening. In Los Angeles public schools, for example, have actually seen a larger public school enrollment drop this fall compared to last fall.

The controversial mandates regarding COVID-19 vaccinations are almost certainly going to affect enrollment numbers. The governor of California has announced that all students in the state would be required to get the vaccine, and homeschooling may be the option that parents will choose who are reluctant to vaccinate their children.

The Chicago public school districts are also reporting that enrollment is down this year and local Catholic schools and other private schools are seeing boosts in enrollment. Seattle and West Virginia are reporting enrollment declines as well.

A Side Effect of Dwindling Public School Enrollment

School districts receive funding based on how many students are enrolled and attending school, so the drop in enrollment means a drop in funding. Last year school funding was frozen at the 2019/2020 spending level, but this school year funding will be based on actual headcount. And while fewer students should mean that less funding is required, it’s always difficult to adjust to a reduced budget.

The exodus from public schools can mean a positive educational change for families who have expanded choices and learning opportunities. The increase in homeschooling is evidence of the desire for change.

Homeschooling Parents Need Support

In addition to joining groups, co-ops, pods and other support groups, homeschooling parents are increasingly turning to tutoring to help fill gaps. While it may not be necessary or desirable to enroll their child in a part-time private school to help bolster the homeschooling curriculum, a once-a-week or twice-a-week tutoring session with a certified teacher can be a viable option.

You can find some local homeschool support groups here:

Homeschool.com

Home School Legal Defense Association

Homeschool World

Search online for “homeschool support groups near me” and you’ll find many local resources.

How Paper and Pencil Can Help Your Child Study More Effectively

How Paper and Pencil Can Help Your Child Study More Effectively

Help improve memory and retention simply by writing things down

You already know how much time your child spends using electronics. It’s easy to depend on automated calendars, reminders, appointments, and notes. But did you know that the simple act of writing these things down on paper helps to reinforce them and make them easier to remember?

It seems easier and faster to type things into a laptop or tablet, or even a phone, but various studies have shown that when we write things down, something actually happens in our brains that reinforces what we’ve written, and we retain the information much better.

There was a side-by-side study done earlier this year using fMRI neuroimaging to identify specific brain activation differences when we use paper notebooks versus mobile digital devices. Interestingly, the participants who filled in a paper calendar did it more quickly than those who used a tablet or a smartphone. In addition, the accuracy was much higher in the group who wrote notes down manually.

One hour later, participants were asked a series of detailed questions related to the personal calendars they had created and their brains were imaged during this process. There was significantly more robust brain activation and better memory recall in the group who wrote things down on paper. The conclusion? ”Use paper notebooks for information we need to learn or memorize.”

Get your child a day planner

A simple day planner book with a calendar section and a notes section can help your child enter due dates for assignments and projects, reminders about class schedules and extracurricular activities, and any appointments they may have. To make it even more useful, they can include birthdays, holidays, vacation dates, and more. The act of writing these things down will help them remember, but it also produces a handy reference where everything they have going on in their lives can be viewed at a glance, in one place. It also becomes a great way to check things off of a to-do list and refer back to past events and accomplishments. What was I doing on March 13th this year? Oh, there it is on my calendar.

Are there apps that can help you do those things? Of course! And that’s the problem. It could require multiple apps, making it harder to find the thing you’re looking for, and science has already shown that you’ll remember it better if you write it down. Is your child already making notes and writing down assignments using pencil and paper? Great! A day planner will help keep all of that information organized and easy to access.

Letting your child choose the planner and pencil or pen they want to use with it helps them to be invested in the new process. Tip: using a pencil makes it easier to edit and update. Helping them get started, and offering suggestions and support will help it become a successful transition.

Dependence on electronic devices

If you need any more reason to encourage your child to learn to use handwritten calendars, planners, and notes, consider this information from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital: “We have become increasingly dependent on our devices, and now, more than ever, we are using our devices to communicate, get information and remain in contact 24/7. This lends itself to feeling anxious or stressed when we don’t have that source close by at all times.”

One of the negative outcomes of the pandemic has been the hugely increased amount of time children spend on video games, social media, and electronic devices in general. Many parents had to relax their rules about how much screen time their kids could have because suddenly everything was online, the kids couldn’t go to school and couldn’t get together with friends. Data shows that children’s screen time has doubled this year as compared to the year prior.

Returning to in-person school will be an important factor in weaning kids off of their addiction to electronic devices. Providing them the memory-enhancing tools of pencil and paper to incorporate into their daily habits will help retrain their brains and create a lifelong tool that will improve their lives.

Newsletter | October 2021

Newsletter | October 2021

Overcoming Learning Loss

Dad reading with kids

4 Ways Parents Can Improve Learning

  1. Parents who foster a love of reading in their children provide one of the most essential elements in their academic success.
  2. Keeping a positive perspective, even when kids are struggling or failing, is essential.
  3. Turning ordinary daily interactions into teachable moments is also helpful.
  4. And keeping in touch with your child’s teacher means that all of you are working as a team to help your child succeed.

Read more about Overcoming Learning Loss…

Did you know?
  • 6 additional minutes of reading per day can significantly improve kids’ reading performance
  • Children who read at least 20 minutes a day are exposed to almost 2 million words per year
  • Over 80% of teenagers don’t read for pleasure on a daily basis
  • Harvard Family Research Project: Parent involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement for children
  • University of Sussex scientists: Reading a book or newspaper for just 6 minutes lowered people’s stress levels by 68%
  • Yale University Study: People who read books for 30 minutes a day lived longer than those who read magazines or newspapers
  • University of California study: people with a 9th grade or higher literacy level are 4 to 5 times more likely to maintain mental capacity with age
  • The three most-read booksThe BibleQuotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, and Harry Potter
  • Love the way books smell? That’s called “bibliosma

Reading Books

More Interesting Facts About Reading

21 Captivating Reading Statistics and Facts for 2021

5 Benefits of Reading

6 Scientific Reasons You Should Be Reading More

60 Incredible Facts About Reading and Books

Books Build Brains

20 Not to be Missed Facts About Reading


TutorUp can provide the one-on-one academic support your child needs to make up for COVID learning loss.

Call 877-888-6787 for details!

Overcoming Learning Loss

Overcoming Learning Loss

How to Catch Up

Teachers are experienced in dealing with the annual learning loss that happens every year over summer break. When the new school year begins in the fall, it takes a while to get students back to the level they were at when summer break began, and teachers have methods to achieve that.

This school year, teachers and students are not only facing the normal slump after summer, but many students have fallen much further behind due to distance learning, school closures, technical challenges, and other disruptions due to the pandemic. The normal catch-up activity that most teachers use during the first few weeks of school is not going to bridge this gap and bring all students up to grade level.

What Researchers are Reporting

The Institute of Education Sciences Regional Educational Laboratory Program (IES/REL) recently published the results of research on K-12 learning loss during COVID-19. “Taking into account research on summer learning loss, Kuhfeld and Tarasawa (2020) project that as a result of recent school closures and an array of contributing stresses and trauma caused by the coronavirus pandemic, student academic achievement will decline in greater proportions than the average trajectory from summer learning loss. They also conclude that when some students return to in-person instruction, they will be particularly behind in mathematics. Among several recommendations, Kuhfeld and Tarasawa suggest providing resources and support to families and students, especially around mathematics, where the steepest declines often occur over summers and with interrupted school time.

Intensive Support and Multiple Years of Individualized Attention is Needed

A brief by Allensworth and Schwartz (2020) “is one in a series aimed at providing K-12 education decision makers and advocates with an evidence base to ground discussions about how to best serve students during and following the pandemic.” Allensworth and Schwartz stress the effectiveness of what is known as “high-dosage tutoring”, which is up to two hours daily, directly tied to classroom content.

When education was disrupted by Hurricane Katrina, school and academic leaders in New Orleans observed that losses in mathematics were the most dramatic. Students returned to school more than two years below grade level on average. They found that it often took multiple years of individualized attention to make up those learning losses.

It’s difficult to predict how long it will take for students to recover from pandemic-related learning loss, but it is certain that providing individualized support in the form of tutoring will be a major factor. Not every student needs that high-dosage tutoring for multiple hours every day. For many, a couple of sessions a week in a one-on-one environment with a teacher is sufficient to regain lost ground and reinforce new content.

What Can Parents Do?

One of the most effective learning activities parents can do at home with their children is to read. Reading aloud to your child, helping them read aloud, discussing what they read are all ways to help. Professor Gail Nelson from Cleveland State University points out that with younger students, the emphasis is on learning to read and with older students it’s reading to learn. She also points out that finding ways to engage your kids in activities in the home can help turn things like cooking or setting the table into teachable moments. Essential skills like measuring, counting, fractions, quantities, following instructions, and telling time are just some of the basic components that can be incorporated into home activities.

Staying positive and keeping in touch with your child’s teacher(s) is key in supporting their progress. While it’s become the popular description for how the pandemic has affected education, the term “learning loss” is itself a negative. Increasing your child’s confidence and helping them feel calm, safe, and secure helps them focus on academics. Some teachers recommend playing educational games as a break from additional schoolwork. What’s important is to help nurture the positive and fun aspects of school and learning, and not make it feel like punishment or somehow the child’s fault if they need some additional academic help.

TutorUp Provides 1-on-1 Online Tutoring with Certified Teachers

We believe that the best tutoring experience is one where a student and teacher spend time one-on-one, focused on the individual challenges and solutions that are specific to that student. For that reason, all of our tutoring sessions are individualized, and all of our tutors are certified, experienced classroom teachers. It’s not enough to be a subject matter expert to be a tutor. You also need to know how kids learn, and how to teach.

We can match your child with the right tutor today.