Help Your Student Establish Good Study Habits
The best way to help your student study is to share some tips, help them get started on implementing them, and then let them take it from there. Resist the inclination to step in and handle it every day when they come home from school with assignments or they need to study for a test. In the long run, the more you take over and direct, the less your student will actually learn how to study and get organized.
Setting Up for Success
Regardless of age, here are some basics that will help any student with studying and completing homework assignments.
- Don’t try to jump right in to homework after school. Allow for a break and a snack first.
- Designate a specific place as the study/homework station. And make sure it’s not on their bed, or in the same room as a TV that is on, or where people gather to socialize.
- Institute a “no social media” policy during study time. Your student may need their phone, tablet, or computer to do their homework, so the temptation to check on social media will be harder to control, but it’s a huge time-waster and breaks concentration.
- Take breaks. Your student can set specific break times (like every 30 minutes or once an hour) or just take a break at a natural stopping point, but using a timer will help keep the break short. 5-10 minutes is long enough. Longer than that could make your student lose their place and forget what they were working on.
- Encourage some physical activity during break times, even if it’s just standing up and stretching.
Starting at about fourth or fifth grade, your student should have a day planner or assignment notebook they write in and keep track of every assignment, the date assigned, the due date, instructions and notes. Younger students may have handouts from the teacher with daily assignments or worksheets and don’t need the additional structure of keeping a calendar.
Train children at a young age to be sure to put all of their school papers, assignments, notes, worksheets, etc. in their backpack every day to bring home from school. Help them review and sort through these papers every day before starting homework. Don’t let the backpack become the Bermuda Triangle.
For schools that send homework, notices, schedules, etc. via email or posted online, be sure to check that right after school so you’re not surprised the next morning when your student says “I was supposed to do…” or “I’m supposed to bring…”
It might help (especially for older students) to have separate folders in different colors for each subject. And for note-taking, a matching spiral notebook for each subject. So if Math is blue, it’s easy to grab the blue folder and the blue spiral notebook to find all the info needed to complete assignments.
Another method of organizing would be a three-ring binder with pocket tabs for each subject, keeping everything in one notebook, organized by subject. This can get pretty big though, so your student might prefer the colored folder/notebook method.
Make sure that your student has all the necessary supplies in their backpack every day. Depending on age, pencils, pens, eraser, crayons, markers, highlighters, glue sticks, scissors, notebook, paper, index cards, calculator, tissues, wet wipes, hand sanitizer… you get the idea.
Success with homework and studying begins in school. It’s important that students learn early to pay attention, ask questions when they don’t understand something, take good notes, keep track of assignments and important dates, minimize distractions in class (like keeping their phones in their backpacks), and just take school seriously in general. This includes consistent attendance.
Goal setting –
Whether it’s a certain grade a student wants to achieve, or just mastering a single concept, it helps to have a goal to work toward. Maybe your third grader needs to memorize multiplication tables. Measure how long it takes to get one down, and then set goals accordingly. Breaking big goals into smaller, more easily achieved goals helps your student see how they are progressing.
Note taking –
It’s not possible (or recommended) to try to write down everything a teacher is saying. One way to help students learn how to jot down the important points, so they can review them later, is to have them watch a short video of someone lecturing on an interesting topic or explaining something or giving instructions. You watch the video with them and have them pick out the important things they might want to write down, while you take your own notes. Then you can compare notes and see if your student is on the right track. The best way to learn how to take good notes is to practice taking notes.
Demonstrating mastery –
A great way to help a student commit something to memory, and demonstrate that they have mastered a specific topic, or concept, is to have them teach/explain it to someone else. That could be you, or a sibling, or a classmate.
Study partner/study group –
Studying with a peer, or a group of peers, can be very useful as long as everyone takes it seriously. Of course, fun should also be had, but keep goals in mind when students work together. One way to help influence this is to host the studying at your house.
It’s okay to try different things to see what resonates with your student. And if you have more than one child you’re trying to help, keep in mind that everyone is different, and what works well for one child might not be helpful for another. Listen to your child and take their input into consideration when trying to help. Good study habits for students can last a lifetime, and translate into good work habits and help create responsible adults.