5 Ways to Improve Your Middle School Child’s Study Skills

November 6, 2013
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If your middle school child is like most, his backpack is a mess, he tells you the night before a major project is due (when of course he had 3 weeks’ notice), and his notes (if they exist at all) look more like an extinct language than English. But fear not! Here are 5 proven tips from the experts at Club Z! to help your child improve his study skills:

Tip 1: Turn off the noisemakers.
As most parents can readily attest, children are drawn to the television like bees to honey! When it’s time to study or get homework done, it should be a no-brainer to turn off the television. It’s also wise to remove access to other possible distractions such as mp3 players, cell phones and the internet (unless of course the internet is required for the project at hand). You know your children best – if a little music helps them focus and stay on task, then moderation is the key. And of course it couldn’t hurt to invest in a set of headphones!

Tip 2: Pick a specific area of your home for studying and homework.
A really critical component to successful studying is to identify a space where your children can focus, free from distractions. This often means that the best place for them to study isn’t always the place of their choosing (i.e. on the couch in front of the television – see Tip 1). Ideal spaces may include your child’s bedroom or the dining room table. For whichever area you select, be sure to set the stage for success by ensuring that there is adequate desk space and lighting. Most desks for young people don’t really have sufficient space to spread out materials such as textbooks, workbooks, planners, scratch paper, resource materials, etc. A table that allows for all necessary supplies and other essentials can make a huge difference in your child’s study time!

Tip 3: Set a consistent schedule for homework and studying.
Balancing homework, extracurricular activities, and family life can sometimes seem harder than herding cats, as the saying goes! But as difficult as setting a consistent schedule may be, it can pay dividends for your child’s productivity and the family’s sanity. One simple step is to try to organize the household so that dinner is served at a standard time during the week. Once dinner is over, you can designate that time as study time. Of course homework can always be done before dinner if your schedule permits, but providing a predictable schedule for everyday activities like dinner and baths makes it much easier for your children to plan their day and meet expectations in the classroom and at home.

Speaking of expectations, it is important to consider your child’s developmental level and attention span when setting the amount of time for homework. While a high school student can generally remain focused on a single task for over an hour, a first grade student may struggle to last more than 15 minutes! Allow your child to take breaks as needed – you can even plan them as rewards for finishing a section of the work.

Tip 4: Organize homework and study projects.
Get a large calendar, one that allows space for jotting down things in the daily boxes. Rip it apart so that you and your child can sequentially mount the school months for the current semester. For example, you can tear off September, October, November, December and January and mount them from left to right across one wall. Have the child use a bold color highlighter or felt tip pen to mark exam dates in one color, reports that are coming due in a different color, etc. For older students with “smart” cell phones, there are several free calendar applications with multiple useful features that can also easily be used to highlight important dates and set reminders.

For younger children, consider placing a bulletin board in your child’s room so that he or she can post pertinent school items and keep them visible to ensure they are completed on time. Academic planners are strongly encouraged for older children. This can be a simple pad of paper or even a free application on your child’s phone or tablet (if applicable). This allows students to jot down assignments and set reminders for due dates.

Tip 5: Let your child do the work.
This one is often easier said than done. It can be difficult sometimes to watch your child struggle through an assignment, or to be patient enough to spend 45 minutes on a question that you could have answered in 5 minutes. Parents should definitely help if it’s clearly productive to do so, such as calling out spelling words or checking a math problem that won’t prove. If your child can easily handle the assignment or question, unnecessary support may inadvertently rob him/her of the opportunity to learn from the process!

Help and support should always be calmly and cheerfully given. Grudging help is worse than no help at all. Read directions, or check over math problems after your child has completed the work. Remember to make positive comments – you don’t want your child to associate homework with fights at home.

Learning proper study skills can change your child’s academic life! Developing proper habits can help even the most reluctant student turn into a lifelong learner. To download these 5 study tips and more, click here. Or to find out more about Club Z!’s proven study skills program, Learning Built to Last, call 866-44-TUTOR and find a location nearest you.

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