Study Skills to End the Year Strong

It’s not uncommon for kids to lose steam in the 4th quarter. The problem is that 4th quarter grades count just as much as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd ones do. So, how can you keep your child focused to ensure he or she finishes the year strong?

Here are a few tips to help kids stay focused and make that 4th quarter the best it can be.

Use Study Guides…the Right Way
Outside of taking notes on important concepts when reviewing for an upcoming test, good students will use a study guide, either one that they’ve created or one that their teacher has provided. Here’s how to go about both options:

Self-created study guides:
Research shows that creating your own study guide is one of the best ways to improve test grades. Try to predict what your teacher may have on the exam. Pull out old quizzes, find important parts of your notes, and ask others in your class what they think is important. Find the main ideas from these topics and turn them into questions. If you have a textbook, turn the chapter headings into questions and write them down. For example, “Election of 1860: Democrats Split” should be “Why did the democrats split in the election of 1860?”

Creating a study guide helps students figure out what they already know, allowing them to refocus their time on what they still have to learn. Knowing what you don’t know cuts down on time spent reviewing what you’ve already committed to memory.

Teacher-provided study guides:
The biggest mistake students make when they’re given a blank study guide is to complete it with their teacher, or independently, and then read it over many times to study. Again, rereading is passive learning, and it will not stick for long-term retention.

Instead, before you complete the study guide, make two additional copies of it.

Without looking at the completed version or your notes, fill out what you know. Now, look back at your book or notes to finish the rest. The third time, complete it from memory or better yet, so you’re not memorizing the order of the questions, cut them into strips and rearrange them. Now, complete it a third time on your own for maximum retention.

Distribute Your Practice
Procrastination can be one of the greatest hurdles when it comes to studying. So often, students believe that cramming before a test will have the same result as studying over time. The truth is that this method only results in knowing the material on a superficial level. To have a deeper understanding and to recall the information not just the next day, but the next month, take advantage of a concept called “distributed practice.”

“Distributed practice” involves spreading out study sessions over time and breaking up the material in smaller chunks. By setting aside time each day to review a portion of the material, you are able to remember the information for longer intervals of time. For example, instead of studying for an hour on Thursday night for a test, you’ll get a better exam grade by studying 20 minutes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Study Before Homework
It’s not uncommon for students to put off studying because it’s not really a task they have to do. It’s not graded, and there’s usually nothing to turn into the teacher. Homework is different because there’s more immediate accountability (i.e. it’s checked for completion by the teacher or they have to turn it in for a grade). So, it’s easy to see why studying is put off until after homework is done or not even attempted at all.

An easy fix to this all-too-common situation is to set a timer for 20 minutes, and to study before starting any homework. Simply reversing the order of tasks ensures that studying is at least started, and often completed prior to digging into the actual homework.

Make Yourself Accountable
Many who struggle with motivation have found that having an “appointment” to study with their peers via Skype or Facetime can provide much-needed accountability.

Just the other day, I walked by my high school son’s room because I heard a voice other than his. He and a friend from his history class were quizzing each other for an upcoming test. I heard questions like, “Do you think she’s going to ask about the causes of the revolution on the test? How did you create your Venn diagram showing cause and effect? This is how I did mine (holding up paper).”

Whether students study with one another online or in person, having a scheduled time to connect with someone else provides accountability they don’t get from studying alone.

In the end, there are many highly motivating study strategies that can make a world of difference to your child. These are just a few I suggest. Encourage your child to choose one and give it a whirl to see if productivity and grades improve.

Ann K. Dolin, M. Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections and is the author of Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework.