It’s around this time of the season that the excitement of the new school year has waned and become replaced by feelings of monotony, and even stress for students and parents alike. As tests and assignments begin to pile up, it’s more important than ever that kids are armed with a variety of strategies to help them get the most out of homework time. Don’t discount your student’s feelings of school-related pressure no matter how old they are. Instead, use these study tips to help them achieve success.
1. Make a goal: Each time a child sits down to study, he or she should create a goal to achieve for the day. This helps focus study time and allows students to break down large amounts of material. Older students should write these goals down, while younger students might find it easier to verbalize goals to a parent or tutor.
2. Shake up your index cards: Most people know that index cards are a great way to memorize new vocabulary words. But, when it comes to more conceptual thinking, rote memorization can lull students into a false sense of security. Instead, have kids draw pictures or use Googled images on index cards to help create memory links between concepts and definitions. Some students may have an easier time associating colors with concepts. Use the same color marker for each index card of a corresponding concept. For example, locations might be written in blue, while important people are written in red. Finally, students should try to create a “link” or personal association with each concept. This link should be written on the index card. For example, if students are learning about immigration, their link might be that Grandpa Joe emigrated from Ireland.
3. Watch the clock: Younger students often have trouble gauging the appropriate amount of study time needed for adequate preparation. Set up an alarm clock or timer for a designated period. After the alarm goes off, the student can take a break. Some students like to study for extended periods of time, while others might have more success studying in thirty-minute increments with fifteen minute breaks. In general, every hour of studying should be followed by a fifteen to thirty minute break to allow the brain time to recover!
4. Sweeten the deal: Studies have shown that chocolate can actually aid in brain function (see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070221101326.htm). Give children a small piece of chocolate (dark chocolate has the least amount of added sugar) before they get to work to kick start learning. You can also set out a variety of healthy snacks during homework time if you think your child can multitask.
5. Don’t wipe the slate clean: Using large white boards can help kids to create concept maps that relate definitions to current and previous concepts. They can even draw pictures and arrows to get a better understanding of challenging material.
6. Embrace change: Sitting in the same spot every day during homework time can become dreary. Working in the library provides a change of scenery and also eliminates home distractions. Also remember that kids sit at a desk for hours every day. Some students may prefer lying on the floor with a comfortable pillow or standing upright during homework time. Softly playing classical music can also create a more productive work environment.
7. Listen while you work: Using a computer, or a microphone attached to an iPod, students can record their notes and thoughts as an MP3 file, load them onto an MP3 player, and then listen to them on a regular basis. Older students might even want to listen to their recordings before bedtime.
Remember that developing good study habits takes practice. Helping your student to stay motivated and being supportive of their efforts can be the best strategy of all!