Helping Children Study
As parents, there are several ways to help your child increase his ability to study and understand academic material. However, unlike teaching specific study techniques, increasing a child’s awareness of what it takes to be successful involves developing her ability to "think about thinking" (metacognition), while understanding that learning occurs both in and out of school and across the lifespan. Here are some steps to help children monitor their learning experience:
Develop the Value of Learning
• Help your child understand that the purpose of learning and studying is not only to please parents and teachers, earn a good grade, or fulfill requirements, but that learning is something that they will have to do throughout their lives, for school, work, and when exploring personal interests. Learning is not just for school!
Goal Setting and Study Planning
• A key aspect of self-regulation is helping children to learn how to set goals independently. Help your child to set goals related to what they have to study. For younger children, it may be necessary to provide more assistance in this process. However, it is important to let them provide extensive input. Goal setting can involve many things, but may include completing a series of math practice questions each day to prepare for a quiz or studying five vocabulary words per night for a test at the end of the week.
• Goal setting should involve breaking down what is required into manageable steps for completion. It should also involve deciding on specific techniques or strategies that will help them to master the material, including things such as finding a quiet place to work, memorizing materials, and connecting information to previous knowledge, among others. Children should ask themselves “what do I have to do, and what will help me do it?” By learning to set specific goals, such as practicing spelling words daily, children develop the ability to understand what it will take to achieve their goal, and are then able to plan accordingly.
• Help children to understand the importance of planning. Related to goal setting, developing a plan of attack to achieve their goals is necessary, and will help children set reasonable goals within a specific time frame. Examples of planning include arranging a study schedule or completing parts of a large project for an hour every other day. At this point, children should ask themselves “what is my goal (what do I want to do) and by when?” Planning can be both long term and short term, but ideally, should be done by the child, thereby building independent planning skills; the point of your efforts is to help your child set goals and plan on his own!
Apply Specific Strategies and Methods and Monitor their Usefulness
• Teach children to use specific study methods depending on the project at hand. If a child needs to read a great deal of material, a common sense way to increase focus would be to help find a quiet place for reading. If a child needs help with spelling words, you may be able to work with her in a drill and practice format, or, she may prefer to write spelling words repeatedly for mastery. Your can help your child understand what learning strategies work best for studying different types of materials.
• Help your child to understand which study techniques or strategies works best for him, and why. For example, encourage your child to compare whether or not studying with you or alone is most helpful. Does your daughter or son remember more after studying in the hectic family room, or quietly in their bed room? Is it helpful to associate new vocabulary words with those learned previously, or strictly memorize word definitions? Instilling in your child the importance of self-monitoring whether or not certain study techniques increase success, or decrease success, is an important component of self-regulating the learning process. By identifying what works best for them, children are able to abandon unsuccessful approaches and reformulate their study efforts to increase success.
Increase Awareness of What Helps, What Doesn’t, and Why
• Encourage your child to compare his progress when using different study strategies, and to his achievement before and after developing a study plan. Exploring progress and achievement will help your child understand what has helped them the most, and perhaps, what has helped the least. It is helpful to encourage your child to compare their academic performance to earlier efforts to help re-formulate study approaches. Experiencing successes, while understanding what needs to be done to increase success after a setback, will help motivate your child to continue her hard work.
• Help your child to understand that errors or improper strategy selection-things that they can improve on- are the cause of a poor performance, not their ability to understand a subject or achieve academic success. Children who understand that they can do it if they take the right steps are far more successful than children who believe that failure stems from lack of overall ability.
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