As Anne of Green Gables shares, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” As the new school year begins, the opportunity for a fresh start is available to each and every student. All you need is to consider a few methods and habits that will create positive study skills and build the foundation for a great year of learning and growth for all.
Strong study habits may be tied to three areas: place, system and method. Every student needs a place to study; a space that encourages concentration and is inviting and comfortable. Agree on a study space and get your child involved in planning and arranging this space. Work to remove external as well as internal distractions. If there are multiple children in the house, designate study time as quiet time. Turn off the electronics in the designated study space and allow for concentrated, uninterrupted time. Multitasking is not effective!
For success in school, children also need to find their personal system of organization. Three-ring binders for each subject with color-coded homework lists may work for mom, but Johnny may prefer a spiral notebook for all subjects and pocket folders for handouts. There is no one right way to get organized for school and studying. The vital piece is for the student to engage in finding a system that will work for him. The parent’s job is to offer suggestions and work to lower frustration when one system fails. Try another. Eventually all students will find a system that works!
Once students have established a place to study and a system to organize the work, students need a variety of methods in their learning toolbox. Consider:
- Song: When asked to share the alphabet with others, how many of us automatically hear the ABC song in our heads? Have you ever forgotten your ABCs? What may we learn from this? Music promotes memory! One of the simplest and most effective forms of study is attaching information to a simple melody. Encourage your children, students of all ages, to learn through song. This process may be applied to math facts, biology, world history, or a foreign language. Our brains remember music so help your student sing her way to learning new information.
- Habit: Humans are creatures of habit. Think about your morning routine. How often do you change the order of dressing, brushing your teeth, drinking your coffee, preparing for your day? This is because your morning routine has become a habit. Repetition works the same way for student learning. Instead of insisting on one hour of math fact practice once a week, try five minutes daily. The repetition will create a habit and the habit will result in learning that sticks!
- Ease: Most of us are overwhelmed when faced with a large project. To manage, we break the project down into smaller projects so that we may feel satisfaction as we make progress. Learning works the same way. When faced with a significant amount of information to learn, our minds will clear and hold onto the information more efficiently if we break the information into smaller parts. Have your child start with a small chunk of information. Once the first chunk is learned, add the next piece. Don’t forget the repetition! Review the first chunk daily as you continue to add the rest of the information.
Every child learns in different ways. It is vital that your child begin to identify how he learns best. Some students are able to read information and learn it. Others must explain it to someone to remember it. Others need to hear it to remember and learn. There is no right or wrong way to learn and study, but there is a right or wrong way for each child. Help your children try a variety of methods. Do a few experiments. One day, ask your child to read a list of things to do. The next day, ask her what was on the list. Another day, read the list to him and follow up in the same way. Finally, ask your child to read the list aloud to you. Keep track of how much your child remembers from these three methods. Use this information to help guide your child to her best study method. Remember, most likely it will not be the same as your learning method!
As we enter the new academic year, remember that we are all fresh with no mistakes. We are able to help our children find their best recipe for success: a place, a system and a method. Enjoy the journey of learning with your children and celebrate their uniqueness and potential.
Judy Vincent Kent is the director of curriculum and instruction at Academy at the Lakes, a PK3 – 12th grade independent school. To learn more, visit academyatthelakes.org.