Helping Your Child to Optimize Their Learning
By David R. Ellefson, High School Counselor
As we near the end of trimester 1 it gives us a great marker for students to reflect on their learning and assess what has worked well and where there is room for improvement. Parents may be a great resource in helping their student to think about their current studying routines by discussing and reflecting on the following questions:
1. What is your theory of action involving studying and learning (in simpler words, what is your thinking on the relationship of studying and learning)? Why?
2. How did you develop your current studying routines?
Discussing these questions with your student will help them to assess their study strategies, so that their learning can be optimized. Here are the key study strategies students need in their learning toolbox. This list comes from the University of Minnesota RAMP program.
1. Use a planner: Helps keep track of assignments and due dates so students can anticipate and plan or peak studying times (phone calendars can serve this purpose).
2. Set a consistent time to study: Studying at a set time helps make sure it gets done daily.
3. Find a good place to study: Consistent places are shown to help students focus better.
4. Avoid procrastination: It is never wise to wait until the last minute so study. Making it a habit to study builds persistence and organization.
5. Break big tasks into small steps: Tackling sizable tasks makes it manageable, and calendars and planners can help.
6. Avoid distractions (no phones, television, social media or videos): Distractions can lead to procrastination and divert concentration. Consider setting a timer so that you can have a break from studying as a reward.
7. Take good notes in class and while reading, or draw pictures of what you are learning: Taking notes or drawing what you learn helps cement the ideas in your head and will make it easier to recall the info.
8. Create flashcards: Helps when there are lots of facts or terms to learn.
9. Watch teaching videos (i.e., Khan Academy): There are many excellent, free, teaching tools available on the internet that can reinforce academic concepts. Be sure to use a reliable source.
10. Join a study group: Studying and learning with others through dialogue can be fun and it can extend your own thinking, causing learning to “stick.”
11. Complete all homework daily: Keep up with homework since it is one way to independently gauge how much you understand what is being presented.
12. Keep organized: Use electronic or paper folders to keep your materials and notes easily accessible.
Determine with your student their top 3 strategies, and 3 study strategies they would like to improve at doing. Then have your child set a goal to improve these strategies. After setting the goal, your student will need to brainstorm the things that may distract them from obtaining this goal. This could include things like cell phones, video games, friends, family members, loud music, etc.).
Finally, the students need to think of ideas which will neutralize the listed distractions.
Ideas may include:
• Silencing phones
• Turning off notifications on digital devices
• Study in places that are away from the TV, video games, etc.
• Create a neat, comfortable study space at home
• Study at a library or quiet coffee shop
• Create a study routine so others know when you should not be bothered
• Work in study groups when helpful
• Take short breaks from studying to attend to things that would otherwise distract you (i.e., a sibling who needs your help)
• Get plenty of rest and exercise to boost your mood and concentration to studying is easier
All students can learn good study skills and, by using them repeatedly, they will become habits. Students need to develop habits which will carry them to success in school and in their future career.