Studying: Successful Study Habits

Not all kids are going to get A’s, but there are ways to promote more successful study habits.

  • Teach kids to eliminate what they already know. This is not as obvious to young kids as it is to adults, and a lot of study time is wasted reviewing known facts. Whatever it is that your child has to memorize, give her an oral “pretest” before any studying has been done. Immediately eliminate the items that she knows from the list. As she goes over the information, more and more will be eliminated, and your child will see the task getting smaller, shorter, and easier—all great self confidence builders. Then the night before the test, review everything one last time.
  • Have kids create folded study sheets. These tools are good for memorizing definitions or number facts, and once they know how, kids can easily create their own. Take a sheet of lined paper, and fold it in half lengthwise. Unfold the paper, and have your child list the number facts or glossary words down the left side of the paper and the answer or definition to the right of the fold. Then, refold the paper and have him test himself. These folded study sheets are especially good because kids don’t get a “split second” peek at the answer like they do when covering material with their hands. As your child reviews the list, have him put a dot or check next to any items he doesn’t know. At the end, he will know exactly which ones to eliminate and which to focus on. This “list system” promotes independent study habits and also gives you a ready-made review test to use when your child is done studying.
  • Provide colored index cards. They are sold in any large drug store, come in multicolor packs, and are great for visual learners and kids who have difficulty organizing and sorting ideas. I’ve had kids use them to mark different sections of text books—for example, yellow cards to mark chapter review question pages and purple cards for chapter summary pages. This simple method enables kids to flip back and forth to reference pages quickly—it’s amazing how much study time kids can waste finding the same pages over and over again. I have also used index cards to help kids who are comparing literature books or short stories—they give them an easy way to track each title’s characters, themes, and conflicts.
  • Show kids how to make test grids. Even the earliest tests require kids to memorize and compare information. The easiest way to study for these tests is by setting up a one-page grid. For example, say your child has an elementary social studies test on the 13 colonies—who founded them, who settled them, and what the settlers did for a living. Together, create a test grid with four columns: Colony Name, Founder, Settlers, Making a Living. In the first column, have your child list the names of the colonies. Then have her complete each row, filling in the information under the remaining headings. Not only are test grids a great way to organize notes for studying, they also condense the information onto a single page—making the task look less threatening.

Effective studying is a skill that evolves over time. Kids should use their test results as feedback for their methods: How well did I study? What didn’t work? What could I change for next time? Help your kids ponder these questions and come up with a “game plan” for next time. Strive, though, to create independent study times. Begin pushing independence as soon as your child starts to study, but do it gradually—you don’t want your child to feel like you’ve pulled the rug out from underneath him. Even if you begin with short increments, your message is still clear: Studying is something I expect you to do by yourself.

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