Updated: Oct 21, 2021
With school starting up again, and many teens starting High School or College, I am going to provide some study tips that you can share with your teen. Having good study habits can make or break performance in some cases, and the earlier that your teen learns good study habits, the better!
When I was a kid, my mom always had my sister and I do our homework as soon as we got home from school and had our after school snack. However, as I got into Middle School and High School, I didn't always maintain these habits. Sometimes, I think we think of our teens as able to do things on their own (which they are!), so we don't monitor them as closely as we do our smaller kids.
As my teen daughter got into Middle School and High School, I started off having her get a day planner to write down all of her assignments every day, then checking them off when finished. After a while, I saw that she was being responsible with things, and I would only ask to see her planner maybe once a week. Then, as she maintained high marks and got into National Honor Society, I backed off even more and just would ask her every few days if she had homework, and if she needed any help.
Once kids show themselves to be responsible and hard working, it is ok for us to let them manage their own tasks and schedule. But, if they aren't getting their work done, then it becomes our responsibility to ask why, and help them look for solutions to their school problems.
Basic Study Tips
There are several basic study tips that can help all kids learn their school materials better. These are roughly based on the Psychology of Learning (which I studied in college!) and my daughters and my own successful study habits in high school and college.
When I went to college for my undergrad, I was 21 and had a 1 year old, so I was really paranoid that I was going to do terrible in school, so I worked really hard on having good study habits. It helped that one of my first classes was Psychology 101, and that the book started by listing out good study tips. I took them to heart and always did well in school after that.
Here are some ideas of good study habits, based in psychology:
Read materials before class. Most teachers will give a syllabus or reading list so that students can be prepared. Reading the book chapters before class, and taking notes before going to class will help your student to be able to engage in class, and ask any clarifying questions during their class lecture.
Take notes during class lecture. Kids can take notes with pen and paper, with printed slides from the teacher, or on their laptops. In either case, it is important to note the most important points that the teacher presents in class. Also, taking notes while listening to the lecture helps the kids to learn better, because they are engaging and learning through two different methods at the same time. (Listening and writing.)
Review notes at home before completing homework. When your child re-reads their notes after class, it will help them to remember the important points from class better than if they just waited to review their notes right before the exam. If they like to go the extra mile, your child can even synthesize their class notes and the notes from their reading into one document, so that they can have a complete document for their studying.
Complete homework daily. This allows your student to keep up in class, and be able to be on track with the teacher's class lessons. When they are prepared for class, as with reading the material, it is easier and more timely to ask questions in class and to review feedback.
Create a study schedule. By scheduling time each day to work on assignments for one or more classes, either during study halls at school or at home, it allows your student to keep on task. When your student has a schedule, they don't need to waste time worrying about what assignment to complete first, it will be already planned out. This is good to do on a Friday or a Monday, so that the week will be organized.
Review weekly. Similar to reading notes every day, if your student reads back through their notes at the end of the week, it will help to remember better over the weekend if they are on other activities. It also helps to eliminate the need for cramming for exams, by keeping current on all their materials throughout the school year.
Use Study Aids. This can be power-point slides, an outline or flash cards. While your child is studying throughout the semester, writing down the most important points in a manner that is easy to review will make it easier to study for exams throughout the semester.
Study for Tests. It is good to start studying for a test about a week before so that there is more time to review the material and ask any questions. Many teachers will now give out a study guide, and if your student can complete this early on, then they can use these questions for their flash cards to make studying easier. They can also read through the whole of the notes for their class several times, so they will remember everything learned throughout the semester.
Go to office hours. Many teachers will have office hours for any questions. It is great if your student will go to these regularly if they have any questions, so that they can get them answered as soon as possible and be able to complete assignments timely and with a good score.
Get Tutoring early if needed. If your child is struggling in one of their classes, have them seek out peer tutoring as early as possible. If they can catch up on work at the beginning of a semester, it is more likely they will get up to speed than at the end.
If your child can make use of these tips at the beginning of the school year, it will help them to get off to a good start and allow them to make high marks! In Middle School and beyond, kids are getting into more difficult coursework, and having a different teacher for each class. This will mean that if they can be as organized as possible they will do better in their classes.
Here is a downloadable version of this list that you can give your student to refer to when studying, to remember all these tips easily!
Helpful Back to School Items
When going back to school, there are several items that will make it easier for kids to get organized. This will enable them to be more successful with their studies.
Index cards - these are great for making flash cards.
Post It Notes - these are useful to make notes in school books that will have to be returned.
Notebooks with folders - this will allow your student to keep all of the materials for each class in one place, including their notes, assignments and handouts. It also helps to have either a 5 subject notebook, or separate notebook for each class.
Different Colored Pens - these are great for taking notes, since kids can take notes in an outline format, and use a different color for each level of indent, which makes reviewing notes easier. Some pens are clickable and have 4 different colors.
Graphing Calculator - these are important for higher level math classes, since kids will be able to understand the graphing functions more easily.
Laptop or Tablet - some schools provide these now, and it makes things easier for kids to organize their assignments as well. My daughter used Google Drive to organize everything for school, since it was all in one place.
In addition to their school supplies, it is important to make sure that your child has a healthy breakfast and lunch. Being in their best health will help them to focus better during their class time. I also love to have my daughter take vitamins, and Emergen-C packets during the cold season. A water bottle is always great, so that they can keep hydrated during the day.
Creating a good study environment.
When kids are studying at home, being able to focus easily is important to get the most out of their study time. Having a desk or a table in a quiet area of the house will help them be able to study without having distractions. Also, if there is a shelf for them to keep their books and papers, that is helpful as well.
Keeping the study area clean and free from distractions will also be important, so that your child is able to focus completely on their work. I know that my daughter always used to sit in her bed watching Netflix when she was doing homework and I would cringe. Firstly, that is terrible for your back, and also it is not getting things into your memory as well as when multi-tasking.
Hopefully these tips will get your students off to a good start to the school year with their studying!
You will notice, several times I made a mention of reviewing notes regularly, and learning things in different ways (speaking, reading, writing, listening) and this is because both of these things will allow your kiddos to learn things better. Multiple repetitions, especially in different modalities, will help to encode things into memory better. The more often you repeat information, the more likely it will encode into your memory. Neural pathways strengthen the more that they are used, so the more repetitions the better!
As kids are getting back to school, in addition to studying, it is important to remember to look after their health and manage their stress levels.
Middle School, High School and College are exciting times, but stressful too! Kids are learning to fit in with new friends, and a new social structure. This can include getting involved with sports or clubs, trying to define themselves through their fashion choices, and figuring out where they 'fit.' As parents, it is good to keep a pulse on what is going on with our kids relationships, and keep the doors of communication open.
For tips on how to help kids love learning, check THIS out!
If you have a Gifted & Talented child you can also check out Gifted Kids & Perfectionism.
Let me know in the comments what you think about these study tips, and if there is anything else that you would like me to cover in a future article! I love hearing from all of you, and if there are topics you are needing help on I am happy to write about that next! If this article resonates with you, I hope you will share it on your socials!
If you want to find out more about the psychology of learning, check out this article from Very Well Mind, as well as the cited resources there!