It’s not something we tend to think about after we graduate, but good study skills stay with us for life – the ability to knuckle down, construct an argument, show our reasoning and look for quality research are just a few examples.
But what is the best way to develop those skills, and how can we help our kids on the path to good study habits? Jenny Atkinson is the founder of Sparks Education, a resource that helps parents and students get prepped for high school. She says that, when it comes to effective study, preparation is key.
“Manage your time by working out what are the most important things you need to do that day, then get them done early before the time fillers we often get distracted by,” says Jenny.
Ensure your kids have a journal or diary that they record everything – and we mean everything – in. Whether it’s homework, school events, exams or activities, having one place that they write everything down won’t just help them stay on top of their responsibilities, but is also a key skill they can take with them through life.
When they get home from school, have them ‘empty’ out the contents of their diary into the relevant places. They should write an upcoming assessment in a planner or calendar, pass on information to you, and make a note of which equipment they’ll need for certain activities and which days. While this trick isn’t specifically study related, it will provide an important foundation for them to be able to focus on their homework without a million other things floating around in their head.
Similarly, teach your kids the art of the ‘To Do’ list. Invest in a cute notebook or pad that they can write their tasks on, and make sure they know not to add too many things at once – this is a sure-fire way to feel overwhelmed and unaccomplished very quickly.
“It’s important that your children have a good home study area, a quiet place where they can do their homework without distractions,” says Jenny. “Stock it with stationery items, computer, their books and have them get involved in adding some quotes or pictures that will make it an enjoyable place to study.”
Consider helping your children colour-code their school books, choosing one colour per subject and using coloured labels and name tags for the spines of their books. This will save them so much time when they sit down to study, and will help them quickly and easily gather their things when they head to school, or come home.
Perhaps Jenny’s most appealing study tip is this one: take breaks. We’re not talking hours-long Netflix binges or clocking off well before their work is done – Jenny emphasises breaking up long or difficult tasks with short breaks to clear their mind and take the pressure off. Encourage your kids to go for a walk, do a short workout in the backyard or meditate to switch off for a little bit. They will be amazed how much better their brain works when they return to their study.
Rubbish at remembering? These tips for memorising content will help your kids learn across a wide range of subjects.
Record what you’re memorising – whether it’s a page of notes or a speech, or even just something your teacher has said, record yourself reading it out loud and play it back. While this is most useful for auditory learners, it’s a great first step to get acquainted with the material and may help you recall it more easily later on.
Write everything down, just like you probably did with spelling words back in the day. Turns out, rote learning was taught for a reason! Also, write means physically write, not type – your hands move way too fast for your brain when you type, so slow it down by hand-writing what you need to remember.
Organise what you need to memories, whether it’s by physically highlighting relevant sections or cutting and pasting the material into groups. This will help you break down what you need to remember so that you don’t need to focus on learning an entire subject in one go. This will also help your brain relate the pieces of information to one another, making you more likely to remember it for longer.