13 May 2013 10:29 AM

Make Sure Your Kids Have the Right Study Skills

by rbavaria

Here’s something I’ve noticed with lots of students today, whether they’re young learners, middle schoolers getting their first taste of independence, or high schoolers who’ve had lots of time to develop bad habits – weak study skills.


It’s not that they’re unmotivated or unwilling to learn.  It’s not that they lack talent or are afraid to struggle a little.  It’s not that they’re “lazy,” as many of us adults claim.


I’ll tell you what it is.


It’s that we’ve never told them how to study.  How to take good notes, to listen strategically, to organize themselves and their notebooks, to manage their time, or to practice like champions.


Kids aren’t born with study skills.  They need us to teach them.  Telling them to “study more” doesn’t give them any direction, make learning more efficient, or excite them about all the successes they could be having. 


If anything, telling them to “try harder” – whatever that’s supposed to mean – just leaves them to their own devices, which is how we got in this predicament in the first place. “I don’t understand it,” I hear all the time.  “She used to get good grades in elementary school.  Now in middle school, her grades are suffering.  What’s going on, Dr. Rick?”


We used to teach kids how to study, but it’s been pushed aside for all the other skills and knowledge we expect schools to teach.  We won’t increase school time, so something’s got to give.


Doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our kids’ study skills, though.  Teachers can still teach these skills while keeping on track with curriculum.  Parents can support kids’ learning by insisting their study skills are improving along with their grades.


Here’s what I mean by “study skills.”


  1. Organization.  Notebooks, laptops, backpacks, projects – are they organized in some kind of logical order?  Can kids find what they need right away?  Are their supplies within reach, or do they spend half their homework time looking for their books and highlighters?
  2. Time management.  Managing time is a challenge for everyone; for kids it’s nearly impossible without our help.  Show them how to break big tasks into smaller ones.  How to schedule their own “mini-breaks” after a certain amount of study or homework.  And how to protect themselves from “time thieves” like TV, social media, and their own wandering minds.
  3. Planning.  If you don’t plan, you won’t know where you’re going.  Help your kids plan by agreeing on some school goals to aim for.  By showing them the importance of keeping even a simple planner to remind them of their responsibilities.  And by letting them see your methods of staying on track.
  4. Note-taking.  Good notes help kids keep 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. Studying for tests.  Show kids that studying for a test is more than cramming the night before.  The best way to do well on tests is to keep up in class and reviewing daily at home.  Working with study buddies is my favorite way to encourage learning – kids can challenge each other, put their teachers’ words in “kid language,” and have some fun in the process.  Nothing wrong with that.
  6. Doing homework.  Getting homework done completely, neatly, on time, and then turning it in (you may be amazed at how many kids do the work and then forget to turn it in) is one of the most fundamental of study skills. 
  7. Concentrating in class.  Staying focused is easier for some kids than others.  Insist that your kids are doing their best to avoid distractions and mischief in class.
  8. Following directions.  Another fundamental study skill .  Kids who listen carefully and follow directions will always have an easier path to success than kids who just meander through class.  Guaranteed.
  9. Getting help if you need it.  I can’t stress this enough.  If your children’s poor study skills are keeping them from school success, if they’re losing confidence, if they just can’t get those notebooks organized, get some help.  The company I work for, Sylvan Learning , has a great record of helping kids improve their study skills.
  10. Making it all fun.  I’ve already mentioned study buddies, 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.




5/16/2013 10:50:13 AM

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