As the school year progresses, parents and teachers begin to see increasing struggle and frustration in some students. Academic road blocks come in the form of tests, projects, and longer assignments. Parents may have the tendency to rescue, and teachers may find themselves altering a lesson plan, or recognizing difficulties that may have previously been undetected, or finding holes in a child’s ability to study and execute academic tasks.
Parents often find themselves in the role of the school manager – checking online sources for homework, reminding kids to turn in big projects, and checking in on if a test or quiz was studied for. This can increase the frustration when, despite nagging and reminders, a student forgets to turn something in, or their studying was ineffective, leading to a poor grade. It can also feel disheartening for parents of older grades, when they feel that it might be too late to establish good study habits and skills.
The good news is it is never too late to establish new and better habits. Consistency is key, and for study skills, this can be established as early as kindergarten, of designating a time and place for study and homework completion. For those exciting days that have no homework, continuing to keep the habit of study can include a period of reading time, word search, math puzzles, or other learning tasks. This may not seem as important for a first grader, but is critical for a 10th or 11th grader, who will need to independently take these skills to college, a job, or trade school.
There are also tried and true learning and study techniques that may be helpful. Most of these techniques can be done independently by the learner, once they have mastered the technique. The time spent teaching a grade schooler or middle schooler the importance of practice tests or summarization will pay off as high school, and college classes expect increased time and effort on learning and study habits.
For other kids, who may have a learning difference or executive functioning difference such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), accommodations at school may be necessary. Some kids will be better served by a reduced workload, and once they have demonstrated mastery, they are able to move on to other tasks and activities. Other kids may need more frequent breaks, or may need longer to take tests or quizzes. For most of these accommodations, documentation of the need is combined with a school meeting to identify the specific supports that will be in place.
Prioritization and time management are key pieces to study skills. Many kids will put off the most taxing homework until the very end – when they are exhausted, pressed against the deadline of bedtime, and the furthest removed temporarily to the teaching of the assignment. It can pay off to talk through what assignments are due when, and to help prioritize with your child that tackling the hardest or most effort inducing activities can make the rest of homework feel easy breezy. However, it is also important for kids to feel that they have a choice, and have ownership over the work. Offer suggestions, but don’t make it a rigid rule. Kids also need to experience consequences when learning, and they likely don’t need the “I told you so” as they wake up hours early to complete what didn’t get done the night before.
Breaks may seem counter-intuitive, but may actually help with work output and task completion. Time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique means working for a set amount of time, distraction free, and then taking a break for a set amount of time. The psychological benefit of facing only 20 or 25 minutes of work versus three hours of work can mean that work is completed more efficiently – breaks can increase focus, help with retention of information, and reduce frustration. For more help with academic support and establishing good habits, contact us. We can help!