Study skills can have a lifelong, positive impact on learning new skills in college and beyond.
Like any life skill, a child needs guidance and practice when learning how they as individuals best retain new material. While teachers certainly try to instill study tactics in class, it is important for parents to take proactive steps at home to demonstrate to their children how they remember material. We have compiled a list of seven steps parents can take to teach study skills to their middle and high school students.
1. Help your child identify their learning preference
One of the most important skills your child can learn is to understand how they, as an individual, best process and retain new material. While learning styles themselves are not supported by research (Surprising, right? Rogowsky, B. (2022, August 23) ), each of us seems to have preferences for studying depending on the content and complexity of the material. It is important for young people to be aware of their learning strengths and preferences in order to be more efficient in studying.
As a parent, you may already have noticed that when you give directions verbally your child easily follows them, or perhaps they do best with a written checklist of chores. Or, have you noticed that they ask you to show them how to do something before starting a new activity? Or do they need movement instead of sitting still and are better able to remember what you say when moving? These are all important clues for guiding your child in how they best process and retain information.
You can help your child by suggesting study skills related to their learning styles when completing homework and observe which they connect with best. Or perhaps talk through these five learning styles with them and ask them to identify which they think is best for them.
Once you think your child has identified a personal learning preference, walk them through how their style can help them learn new material. We have a few examples below:
Visual - Highlighting notes; drawing concepts; completing graphic organizers
Auditory - Listening in class to the teacher; listening to audiobooks of the textbook or podcasts of material; reading material/textbooks aloud
Read/Write - Reading the textbook first then writing notes
Kinesthetic- Studying notes while walking or throwing a ball back and forth
2. Demonstrate how to plan time to study for tests and work on projects
Middle and high schoolers naturally live day-to-day with very little future planning. You can help them understand long-term planning strategies by having an agenda with a monthly calendar and helping them plan their next two weeks.
Look at the calendar together and write down any important events, birthdays, or activities. Next, write down upcoming tests and show them how to count back a few days to when they should begin studying for the tests. Small steps such as this help instill in them the understanding of how to break down a task into smaller steps.
For high schoolers, do this with them for a month then ask them to do it on their own moving forward. For middle school students, you may want to continue to do this together until high school or until they’ve established a habit. Check-in with them every two weeks to see how their study preparation is going.
3. Teach organizational skills
For students with dyslexia the executive function needed for organizational skills may be weak (Haft, S., & Hoeft, F., 2016; Reiter, Tucha,& Lange, 2005). Lack of organization can hinder class performance because notes, homework, or steps in a project may get overlooked or misplaced and affect grades. Parents can help their middle and high school students learn organizational skills needed in both the classroom and in their future job.
It is important that parents are consistent with routines and apply organizational skills in various aspects of their child’s life. However, when it comes to school, parents can remind their child how to walk through organizational tasks. For instance, if the young person is open to it, parents can do the following each night:
Sit down and have your middle or high schooler read their agenda and plan/prioritize tasks they need to do.
Teach children how to check off items once they are finished.
Demonstrate how to go back and check work before moving on to the next task.
Model how to file notes and completed assignments in appropriate notebooks or locations for easy retrieval and storage.
4. Create a routine
Similar to teaching organizational skills, it is important to develop a routine for your child when it comes both to schoolwork, chores, and household expectations. Routines are learned behaviors which can be useful for your child as they move to college and have to manage time on their own. A few at-home routines you can discuss with your child include:
Asking your child what setting they prefer to study and help them make that space special.
Setting a routine for what happens after school and schedule when homework is to be completed.
Sticking to a sleep schedule and discuss the importance of sleep
5. Teach your child how to cope with stress
A CDC survey revealed that 37% of U.S. high school students reported regular mental health struggles during COVID-19. These feelings tended to be higher in females than males. While the survey specifically asked about mental health during COVID, we should not assume that students’ mental health is better so soon after the pandemic.
Students are not able to learn and implement study skills if they are filled with stress or anxiety about school or their home situation. A lifelong skill, not only one used for studying, is teaching your child how to handle stress.
A few steps you can take to help manage stress for your child include:
Encourage your child.
Make yourself available to listen. And when your child does talk, listen and think before responding, especially negatively.
Teach them deep breathing techniques.
Help them cope by reminding them about the importance of physical exercise and taking mental breaks when necessary.
Help them find mentors or counselors as needed.
6. Ask questions
One of the best study skills that you can teach your child is how to get curious and ask questions! Asking questions is one of the best ways students can expand their knowledge, find different paths to explore, and learn about other cultures or ways of thinking that are different from the ones they know.
Parents can model this as they work on homework with their child. Just by asking questions encourages your child to think critically about what they know concerning a topic or prompt them to make connections with other content. Here are a few questions you can ask when discussing homework:
Why do you think this is important?
How could we use this in other areas of our life?
Why did that event take place? (Or: What caused that event to take place?)
What happened because of that event? (Or: Because that event took place, what was its effect?)
What are the steps you would take to solve this problem?
How has that invention been used today?
Can you summarize what we just read?
7. Demonstrate different ways of studying
The final study skill you can demonstrate are different ways of studying for tests. Studying for tests may seem overwhelming for students (especially if there are multiple tests in one week). Help your child learn how they best remember material by showing them different ways they can study. It will take a few months to demonstrate these study skills and help them plan how to study, but then they should be able to tell you which one they like best and which worked as they study material themselves. A few examples are:
Flashcards - either paper-based or electronic such as Quizlet
Read notes and summarize main points
Write an outline of the material
Have your child teach the concept back to you
Review past class assignments
Draw pictures to represent concepts
Just by implementing one or two of these study skills with your child each week, you will see improvement in their ability to manage their homework time and positively impact their grades. While it may seem overwhelming, the effort and patience you have when teaching these study skills will have great benefits not only now but also in the future as your child enters college and careers.
About Designed with a Purpose
Designed with a Purpose offers academic coaching, private tutoring, hybrid-homeschool, and educator resources to students with learning disabilities in the Upstate of South Carolina. Contact us today to discuss what services may best fit your child’s needs.
Haft, S., & Hoeft, F. (2016). What protective factors lead to resilience in students with dyslexia? International Dyslexia Association: Examiner. https://dyslexiaida.org/what-protective-factors-lead-to-resilience-in-students-with-dyslexia/
Learning styles: All students are created equally (and differently). (2022). Teach.Com: 2 U, Inc. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://teach.com/what/teachers-know/learning-styles/
Lewis, L. (2022, January 18). Why teens need more sleep, and how we can help them get it - The Washington Post. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/parenting/2022/01/18/kids-teens-more-sleep/
Reiter, A., Tucha, O., & Lange, K. W. (2005). Executive functions in children with dyslexia. In Dyslexia (Vol. 11, Issue 2, pp. 116–131). https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.289
Rogowsky, B. (2022, August 23). Research matters — Let learning styles go: Results from an empirical investigation with middle schoolers. Paper presented at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Retrieved October 2022, from the AERA Online Paper Repository. https://doi.org/10.3102/1427472
Schaeffer, K. (2022, April 25). 37% of U.S. high schoolers face mental health struggles amid COVID most or all the time, CDC finds | Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/04/25/in-cdc-survey-37-of-u-s-high-school-students-report-regular-mental-health-struggles-during-covid-19/