Good Study Habits in Teens
Cracking the books is not your teen’s most favorite pastime, but it is essential to their academic success. The habits and work skills they develop now will not only impact their high school career, but also their adult life as they will use these same skills in college and/or the workforce. Here are a few of the best ways to develop healthy, strong study skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Establish Good Follow-Through
Doing the homework is only the middle stage of the overall process. First, the teen must understand and write down every assignment given at school. Then, he must complete the assignment on time. And finally, he must actually remember to bring his homework to school. Getting through this entire process is essential to success. If he doesn’t write down an assignment and forgets to do it, or if he doesn’t understand the assignment because he didn’t ask the teacher clarifying questions, or if he doesn’t turn his homework in, then he cannot succeed. Get a planner or some other organizer for him to write down assignments, encourage him to ask questions if he doesn’t understand the format and scope of the homework, and insist he place his homework in a designated location as soon as he has finished it.
Establish a Study Zone at Home
Designate a specific area for homework and studying. This location should be comfortable and free of distractions, such as cell phones. Stock the study space with the appropriate school supplies your teen needs and a good dictionary, which is an essential study tool. Some teens need absolute quiet when doing homework, while others work better with soft music. Contrary to the opinions of many teens, studies consistently show that loud music and/or TV are highly distracting to students.
Establish a Regular Study Time
Determining a consistent and specific time to do homework has been shown to increase academic success. Consider your teen’s style and together decide if she works best cracking the books as soon as she gets home to get it out of the way, or taking a break and studying after dinner. Additionally, students should schedule study breaks. Every hour – or whenever she feels frustrated or angry – she should get up and walk around, get a snack and let her brain recover.
Establish Good Note Taking Skills
Explain to your teen that note taking is one of the best ways to keep her mind focused on what the teacher is saying and/or what she is reading in her textbook. Emphasize that she does not have to write down every word the teacher or book says, but rather develop some sort of outline that highlights key points or important facts.
Establish a Way to Stay Organized
Getting organized reduces stress levels and improves the chance for success. Devise a color-coding system to keep assignments organized by selecting a single color for each class (like science or history). Use that color for that subject’s folder, highlighters, sticky notes, etc. The colors will not only keep your teen organized but will also enhance his or her recall of the subject.
Establish Good Time Management Skills
Get a large wall calendar that allows space for jotting down things in the daily boxes to place in your designated study space. Have your teen use the same subject colors explained in the previous point to mark exam dates, reports, and other assignments for each subject. The calendar will also allow you, as the parent, to periodically review your teen’s assignments. Ask him to describe what each assignment requires, its current status and what’s needed for completion.
Teach your teen to build regular study time into his or her schedule. Most tests are scheduled well in advance, and 20 minutes of review each night will produce much better results on Thursday’s exam than pulling an all-nighter on Wednesday.
Help your teen recognize her time robbers. Sometimes we get easily distracted. She might sit down to research a topic on the computer only to find herself surfing the web. If she can identify the things that burn up her valuable time, she could finish her homework quicker and have more time to do other things.
Teens may also need help in identifying what study methods work best for them. Do they comprehend better when they can see it visually or when they hear it? Offer suggestions such as the use of glad cards for key terms and facts, highlighting their notes (use different colors to organize the information), developing acronyms to help them remembers things, etc.
Finally, every parent should take a hard look at a teen’s overall time commitments. You may have to help him reprioritize if he’s committed to a part-time job, extracurricular activities, and/or socializing before homework.
Establish Good Personal Habits
Remind your teen that taking care of himself – eating healthy (including breakfast!), getting enough sleep, and exercising – is just as essential to his ability to get good grades as any study habits he keeps.
There are lots of benefits to establishing a clear set of rules when it comes to homework. Developing some expectations between students and parents can reduce arguments and tension in the household. Some areas parents may want to discuss are how your child will keep you informed of due dates, under what circumstances the parent will assist with a project (yes to checking a math problem, no to writing complete paragraphs in their essay), and what time of night will be the homework deadline. Finally, parents, be supportive – you may not be able to help your child with their calculus homework, but you can provide encouragement and empathy.