It’s that time of year again – we’re trading beach days for school days. Much like the National PTA, we here at Sylvan Learning want to give parents the tools to help their children be successful students in the new school year but as teens and tweens progress through the upper grades, this can be easier said than done. As a mom of two, I know that as my kids have gotten older, their homework assignments have gotten tougher and their workloads have become heavier. This has made staying ahead of the curve much more of a challenge for them.
As the Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan, I’m often asked, “What is the ‘secret behind the A’?” My answer? Having strong study skills. Study skills and strategies are sometimes overlooked on the academic journey, but I’ve seen firsthand how having effective study skills can make good students into great students. Instilling good study skills can have a major impact not only on your child’s current academic success but also set him or her up for achievement in college and beyond to the workplace.
By middle school and high school, developing strong study skills is critical because they give students a consistent process to succeed with every academic challenge. Here are some ways you as a parent can help instill these skills and strategies in your student now:
1. Get Organized. With so much going on in the average student’s life, how can your child keep homework, tests and extracurricular activities all in check? A planner is an easy way to keep everything organized and your son or daughter on schedule. Students should write down assignments, appointments, to-do lists and anything else going on throughout the day. To stay on top of everything, ask your child to review items in the planner at both the beginning and end of the day.
2. Know the Expectations. Most teachers will provide a syllabus or course outline during the first few weeks of school. Students should keep this document handy as a roadmap for the year and also so there aren’t any surprises when it’s time for report cards to come in. Talk to your student about being proactive – if grading isn’t clear, he or she needs to be comfortable approaching his or her teacher with questions. As a parent, don’t be afraid to step in and work with your child and his or her teacher to make a plan of action if things still aren’t clear.
3. Make a Study Schedule. When your student first learns of an exam, ask him or her to sit down and map out a study schedule. Writing out the topics that will be covered and assigning a certain day and time to review each concept can help your student feel prepared and confident. Setting study goals and taking practice exams can help too. This is a great time to make use of that planner!
4. Practice Test-Taking Strategies. You may hear about this the most when it’s time to take the SATs or ACTs but practicing test-taking strategies can help students of all grade levels. To reduce test-taking stress and anxiety, make sure your son or daughter is rested and arrives for the exam on time. It’s helpful to put aside the materials he or she will need for the test – such as pens, pencils and calculators – the night before so there’s no scrambling in the morning. Students should take great care to read and understand the exam’s directions before beginning and pace throughout the test so as not to feel rushed. If the exam allows, it can often be helpful to skip around and start with the questions he or she knows the answers to. This can help him or her feel confident going through the rest of the exam.
5. Create a Study Area. Distractions can be detrimental to study time. While kids may want to study with all of their friends at the local coffee shop, this most likely won’t help them ace the exam. Work with your son or daughter to designate a study area within the house that reduces distractions and curbs procrastination. Keep the area well stocked with all of the supplies your son or daughter might need and make sure the area is well lit and quiet.
Are you ready to take instilling good study skills a step further? To help prepare students to go back to school this year, Sylvan Learning is offering a new Study Skills course focused on Organization and Time Management at the special price of $199 (a $200 savings) now through September 30, 2014. During the four-week program, which includes eight sessions, students will learn time management, strategic planning skills, better organization habits, how to use an academic planner and how to properly track grades.
It’s time for you and your child to bring your “A” Game this school year!
Julia Fitzgerald is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan Learning.