How do you help your child become a better student? It’s one of the most common questions we hear from parents, whether they know things aren’t going well in school or they simply want to bolster their children’s success. It’s not always an easy question to answer, even though it seems simple.
The truth is, it takes work. Like becoming a better basketball player or musician, becoming a better student takes practice and requires mastering certain skills, often loosely called “study skills.” Here are some of the major study skills, along with how to know which of them to focus on. In future articles, we’ll dive deeper into each of them.
Reading is essential to learning. It’s study skill #1. If reading takes your child a lot longer than it seems to take others or your child struggles to remember the meaning of what they’ve read, reading skills should be a priority. The underlying challenges can be complex, so if you think this might be a concern for your child, be sure to talk to his or her teachers to develop a plan for identifying and addressing it.
EdTip: The best way to strengthen your child’s reading skills is to ensure they read a lot. Get into the habit of reading with your child every day. For more, check out our tips for raising a child who loves reading. These suggestions for improving reading comprehension may also be helpful.
Like reading, being able to write clearly and accurately is a critically important skill for success in school. If your child procrastinates writing essays, has difficulty organizing their thoughts and getting them on paper, or often runs into problems translating ideas into clear sentences, it could be a sign that they need to practice their writing skills.
EdTip: Ask your child to read what they write out loud. It will help them catch mistakes and improve the flow of their writing. Click here for more tips from GreatSchools on helping your child with writing assignments. And remember to read, read, read: The stronger the reader, the better the writer.
Does your child get easily distracted in class or zone out? Spend a long time completing homework? It may be because they’re struggling with focus and concentration. Improving these skills typically means practicing active listening, understanding one’s own learning needs, and reducing distractions.
EdTip: Set your child up for success! Turn off the TV or help them find a quiet place when they need to study or do homework. If that’s difficult, suggest that they use headphones and familiar music to tune out distractions. For more, read how one mom helped her daughter pay attention in class.
If your child’s notes from class don’t help them remember things or prepare for tests, they probably need to work on their note-taking skills. Often, that means focusing on the most important points, not trying to write down everything the teacher says, and making sure their notes are legible and well-organized, so they can find what they’re looking for later.
EdTip: Encourage your child to use a standard format for notes. For example, always write the date, class, and topic in the same place on a sheet of paper, and use the same numbering or bulleting system to keep their notes organized. Click here for more note-taking tips.
5) Time management
Do you often find your child cramming for tests the night before? Staying up late at night to finish a paper? Rushing to get homework done on the bus? If so, they need to work on managing their time. That involves understanding how long things will take, planning ahead to complete them, and (most importantly) sticking to the plan.
EdTip: Help your child begin using a calendar or weekly planner to track everything they need to do each day. Include space for adding and checking off daily homework assignments, and note when tests or major assignments are due. Break up those longer-term assignments into smaller daily tasks (like “create outline,” “write introduction,” and “revise draft” for a research paper). Click here for more time management tips for students, courtesy of the College Board.
6) Studying and test-taking
Knowing how to prepare for and take tests includes managing time well (in the days leading up to the test as well as during the test itself), in addition to the ability to recall information and focus on the task at hand. If your child has a hard time studying for tests or feels well prepared before a test but goes blank when they sit down to take it, this might be an issue for them.
Keep in mind that there’s a lot of overlap between all of these skills; a student who has trouble reading most likely will also have trouble writing and concentrating. A student struggling with time-management will probably struggle with test-tasking, too. Try to pin down the issue that seems to be the root problem and work on that first.
Also keep in mind that some of these challenges may reflect larger school issues. For example, it’s harder to concentrate in school if the environment is very chaotic or your child’s classes simply aren’t challenging enough to keep them interested. If you think that might be the case, schedule time to discuss the issue with school administrators or teachers.