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Simple Tools for Improving Your Child’s Study Skills

Helping your kids strengthen their study skills will pay off in the long run as their grades improve and they build self-confidence.

“Studying is boring.”

“I don’t need to study. My grades are fine.”

“I don’t remember anything anyway. What’s the point?”

Many kids hate studying because they equate it with wasted time and effort. But being able to study effectively will directly benefit them. Good study habits also can lead to additional success in school and life. Here are four tools your children can use to better develop their study skills.

Look Ahead

Have your kids read chapter titles, summaries and subheads in their textbooks before they begin reading the text. This will give them a bird’s-eye view of what they’re about to read and will aid with text comprehension.

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Encourage Active Reading

Active reading enhances learning and recall by engaging our brains in multiple ways. When your kids read class notes or handouts, teach them to underline, circle or highlight key words and phrases and then review those passages after finishing the chapter. They also can make notes in a textbook or novel if they own it. Encourage them to pause after each main section and ask themselves these key comprehension questions:

  • What is the main point?
  • What just happened?
  • Could any of this be on a test?
  • What do I need to remember?

Use Mnemonic Devices

To help your kids memorize longer lists, try the age-old mnemonics trick. Arrange the items in the desired order and then have your kids make up a silly sentence using the first letter of each word. For instance, “Clean cats pick up junk and french fries” is a fun mnemonic for remembering this list of trees: cedar, cypress, pine, juniper, fir.

Write it Down

If your kids want information to stick, writing it down is the way to go. Encourage them to write down main points, key words and important ideas on a separate sheet of paper. The more they can phrase these definitions and concepts in their own words, the better. If they think something might be important, make sure they include it. When they finish writing, they’ll have a ready-made review sheet they can study or have you quiz them on.

Your kids may never say, “Studying is my favorite thing.” But as the little ant in Proverbs 6 discovered when her hard work in the summer yielded an abundance of food at harvest time, helping your kids strengthen their study skills will pay off in the long run as their grades improve and they build self-confidence.

Kids often end up liking things they’re good at, so don’t be surprised if one day they stop complaining about having to study. You can always dream!

Five Ways to Optimize Your Child’s Study Skills

In addition to learning how to study, kids often need help figuring out the best times, places and strategies for optimizing their study time. Check out these five tips to strengthen your child’s study skills.

1. Establish an after-school routine.

When your children come home from school, make sure they have a simple routine to follow for the rest of the afternoon and evening. For example, let them take a 30-minute break for a snack and a little free-time activity before starting on homework. 

2. Find a good homework spot.

Hint: Lying on the bed or reclining on the couch is not conducive to studying. Help your child find a well-lit spot with an ergonomic table and chair. The area should also be free of distractions and electronic devices (no cellphones).

3. Review assignments and priorities together.

Some kids need help prioritizing tasks, at least initially. They’ll need their school notebooks or a list of daily assignments on their school tablets so they can review their required work. Help them plan out and prioritize what they need to accomplish each day, including completing homework, studying for upcoming tests and working on long-term projects.

4. Schedule breaks.

For some kids, scheduled breaks are a lifesaver when they’re studying. Using a timer, set a reasonable amount of time for your children to focus on their homework. When the timer rings, have them take a short break, say around five minutes. Then reset the timer, and it’s back to work!

5. Teach your kids to start studying for tests earlier.

As children advance to higher grades, they need to prepare earlier for tests rather than cramming the night before. Help your children get used to reviewing for a test or quiz two or three nights ahead of time.

This article first appeared in the June/July 2022 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Learn more and subscribe here.

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