As an adult, you most likely have that one friend who tells you that when he was in school, he never had to study to earn all As. While some people are naturally well-inclined toward conceptual understanding and easy memorization, many of us need to put in some study time to earn good grades. To succeed academically, most students need not only their daily academic lessons, but to learn the self-discipline and best practices that surround the process of studying itself. To help your students understand the importance of studying and the payoff, and how to do it right, leverage these best practices.

  1. Dedicate a Lesson to Study Skills. Study skills are just like algebra. They are a learned process. Whether you teach K-5, junior high, or high school students, dedicate a lesson early in the school year to study skills. Every student, even your most academically successful, will benefit from basic tips, tricks, and practices to help them maximize their overall comprehension of the subject matter and test prep time. Include a variety of study skills in your lessons, including taking notes, self or partner-based quizzing, flashcards, or re-working problems or assignments that previously posed a challenge.
  2. Encourage Students to Study for Shorter Amounts Of Time. When students attempt to “cram” the night before a test, they put themselves at risk of stress, not getting enough sleep the night before, and going into the exam feeling nervous and fatigued which may only hurt their performance. Encourage students to review the day’s lesson every night for 15 minutes, regardless of whether or not they have homework. Continual immersion in course work will help ensure final test prep is not overwhelming.
  3. Help Students Identify Their Best Study Location. Studying will be most effective when it is distraction-free, comfortable, and structured. Talk to students about finding a dedicated place where they can focus. For example, an office desk or library is likely to give a more focused and productive environment than a soft bed or the couch (especially if in front of the TV). Encourage students to study alone; otherwise a study session may easily turn into a gab-fest with friends, and plead with students to turn off their smartphones while studying to minimize distractions.
  4. Teach Students to Organize. To effectively study, students will need easy access to classroom materials. Help students learn to keep their classroom materials such as notebooks and folders organized. Encourage students to keep old tests so that they can reuse them as study tools. Review every student’s notebook and ensure they are writing down the critical notes from each class. If students have missed time from class due to a vacation or illness, help them get the notes that they missed. With classroom materials being organized and available, students can better review lessons and concepts.
  5. Encourage Students to Start with the Content that is the Toughest. Students may be tempted to breeze through concepts and problems that they understand and feel confident that they have studied and prepared. They may even be tempted to gloss over difficult concepts, telling themselves they will “never get it,” and hope that it won’t be included on the test. Students with this perspective need to understand the value of allocating the most time to the concepts they don’t understand. If self-study or peer tutoring does not help lend clarity to topics, if they are studying ahead of any exams, they will have plenty of time to seek you out for help.

Once students know how to study, they can focus on applying concepts, refining skills, and testing knowledge. Many students who are struggling to reach their academic potential are hindered by their need to build their confidence when it comes to classroom or standardized testing. By learning study skills—right from their trusted teacher—students will develop the confidence they need to master every new lesson, subject, and school year.

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