At Partners for Learning in Winnipeg, we work to develop solid study habits with students and equip parents with tools to make sure their child is on the right track. Offering tutoring and individual programs geared towards your child, we focus on developing good habits. Take a look at some of our methods below.
Parents have often expressed their concerns about their Middle Years child's poor study skills. Ineffective learners tend to memorize the necessary information rather than ensure they have fully understood the contents. This tendency for rote learning prevents them from successfully applying what they know in a test, exam or assignment. It's like being stuck in a rut and not knowing how to deal with the problem other than to continue over and over again to steer in the same way. It didn't work before but the student has no other effective means of dealing with the problem. These students do not seem to have a logical plan of action for studying. They often do not recognize that there is a problem and even if they did, they don't know what to do about it. Since they cannot count on themselves when it comes to studying efficiently and effectively, they may over rely on parental supports or may simply lose interest, pretend the problem will just go away if they ignore it or develop behavioral problems related to school.
Why Does My Child Have Poor Study Skills?
There are several reasons why many students have such poor study skills. Some students have not been taught how to study more effectively. They are unaware of the steps required and the amount of time needed to prepare for a test. As a result, they tend to resort to rote learning such as reading the chapter over and over with the hope that the important information will somehow "stick". As well, these students do not realize that the way they study for a map test in Social Studies will not help them when having to write a paragraph answer in Science. The problem becomes much more complicated when a student is also a poor reader. Some students are currently unable to read at their current grade level and experience great difficulty understanding the various texts required for different subjects. It is hard to study for a test or complete an essay when you have ongoing difficulties making enough sense out of what has been read. These readers may struggle with pronouncing the words correctly and fluently and may also not easily see how the ideas behind the words are related. Higher level thinking skills then become a real obstacle even though teachers require such thinking on a daily basis.
Characteristics of Successful Students and Study Skills
Successful learners utilize a better plan of action. They are able to synthesize the information into their own words, thereby ensuring appropriate comprehension, before attempting to commit it to memory. They are able to recall the information read and can easily talk about key facts or write about it. They have a sense of the time required to be ready for a test and know various strategies to use, depending on the situation at hand. In particular, they approach learning with an engaged behavior and are able to take ownership of the situation because they are familiar with the necessary strategies.
What Can a Parent Do to Help?
Not all students intuitively know how to study effectively but it can be both taught and learned. An effective study skills program addresses these issues and provides the necessary modeling and guided practice so that weaker learners can begin to think and act like their peers who are able to attain good marks in class. Important strategies to learn include the following:
If your child lacks competence in any of these areas, seek instructional help either within or outside of school. Many children need both modeling and sufficient guided practice in order to feel comfortable with using these skills independently and successfully. This is often most successfully handled by a certified teacher. Grade 5 or 6 can be a good time to begin this process so that these skills and strategies are both mastered and automatic once they are at the Senior Years level and beyond.
Studying is more than memorizing. It involves the use of effective reading strategies that enable a student to process and to understand what is being read. When students are shown how to learn, they are able to become successful independent learners. Parents play an important role in their child's development of study skills. Keep in mind the following suggestions for parental involvement and supports:
Support the Development of Study Skills Early
This can be at a grade 5 or 6 level. A homework agenda book that includes daily reading is a great way for a younger child to learn how to keep track of responsibilities, deadlines and consequences.
Build Study and Homework Time
For some children, this is best done right after school while others prefer a break and a snack before they settle into working.
Ensure That Study Skills are Learned
If your child is a successful learner, he may need little more than the opportunity to participate in a suitable study skills program. If, however, your child is a weaker student, he may need extra follow-up supports from an experienced teacher to help him apply what he learned in the study skills program.
Developing Responsibility for Their Learning
Well-meaning parents may find that they have slipped into a pattern of rescuing their child by checking to see if the work has come home, editing the assignment for the child or not letting the child experience a failed grade because he did not study for the test. Help your child organize materials and time and also plan to release this responsibility to him appropriately. Demonstrating and offering supports are often needed initially but the ultimate goal should include a transfer of ownership of the skills and strategies to the child so he can eventually become an independent and successful learner.
Create a Suitable Learning Environment
This not only includes materials and a physical space but may also mean that the family turns off the TV for a set period of time each night. Help your child organize his time and walk him through the various stages of planning and organizing. Reflect back with him on what worked so he can identify successful strategies and use them again.
Become Aware of Key Times for Tests
This may involve adjusting priorities with other activities as well as ensuring your child eats well and gets the necessary rest. This also can be a time for a parent to be available for talks where one listens, encourages, offers suggestions and support. Help your child deal effectively with test anxiety. Become more informed about this issue and how you as a parent can help if necessary; seek help for your child.
Let Your Child Learn the Consequences
Now is the time to understand what happens when you fail to hand in an assignment or don't study for a test rather than as an adult who misses a key deadline or fails to attend an important meeting. In many ways study skills are life skills that when properly developed, can enable your child to experience success, fulfillment and happiness in all aspects of his adult life.