A new school year is the perfect opportunity to get kids off on the right foot with strategies to help them get organized and develop good study habits.
“One of the key ways parents can help their children improve their study skills is to first help them get organized,” said Geoffrey Putt, PsyD, director of Parenting and Family Support Services at Akron Children’s Hospital.
This is especially true for kids who are starting middle school and may be moving to different classrooms throughout the day or sharing a locker.
“Start by helping your child decide on a system to keep track of assignments, completed homework and any paperwork that needs to come home to you,” said Dr. Putt.
Possible options include an accordion file or binder that your child can use to keep important papers separated by subject or the type of action they require, such as whether it’s nightly homework, a completed assignment ready to be turned in, or a permission slip that needs your signature.
The most important consideration isn’t the type of organizational system, but if it’s something your child will use. Having a place for everything also applies to other items your child will need for a typical school day, such as gym clothes, his book bag or lunch money.
Cubbies, bins or hooks by the door can help keep track of important items so they’re less likely to be forgotten. Have a quick family meeting at breakfast to outline the day, so your child can think through everything she will need. A chart or checklist for each day can also be a useful tool.
While good organizational skills will help ensure that assignments aren’t missed and homework is turned in on time, good study habits are also essential to your child’s academic success.
“Most schools do not teach children how to study so it’s up to parents to help them build these skills,” said Erin Millard, PsyD, a pediatric psychologist who works with patients at Akron Children’s who are having learning difficulties.
- Designate a specific place for homework and studying that’s free from clutter and away from the TV and other distractions.
- Set aside study time each day. Encourage your child to stay at the desk or table for 30 minutes, even if the assignment is completed sooner, so there’s no advantage to rushing. This will make study time part of the daily routine and discourage attempts to skip it.
- Give your child a 30-minute break immediately after school to have a snack or play outside before beginning homework. Don’t let your child start a TV show or video game, because it will be difficult for him to break away and will likely turn into an argument. Save TV and video games as rewards when study time is over.
- Encourage your child to tackle the most difficult assignment first, when she has the most mental energy.
- Provide a 2 to 3 minute break every 15 to 20 minutes to keep your child going. This can be a time to get a drink, use the bathroom or empty her backpack. If a break lasts too long, it will be hard to get back to studying.
- If your child isn’t internally motivated to study and get good grades, use incentives to motivate him. Don’t think of incentives as monetary rewards or bribes. It could be as simple as being able to invite a friend over or getting an extra hour of TV time. Incentives that kids choose are often the most effective.
- Identify age-appropriate resources for learning. Most school textbooks have a website where you can download practice quizzes and games. There are also free apps such as A+ Flashcards that allow you to make your own flashcards.
- Help your child become a good note-taker. Encourage her to listen for the key points, rather than trying to write down everything. Headings and bullet points can help organize the information. Going back over notes when the lesson is still fresh can be a time to add an important point she missed. For some kids, neatly recopying their notes is a good way to help them remember the information.
- Acknowledge effort. Not every child will get straight As. If in the past, your child frequently turned homework in late, reward him for getting his assignments in on time.