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What to Do When Kids Have Trouble Studying

Vinny thinks studying means getting facts to stick in your brain, so he straps his math book to his head and waits forty-five minutes. When he gets an F on his test, he blames his teacher, his mother, and his cat. It never occurs to him to blame his methods.

You can help Vinny develop a personal plan for studying that goes beyond the outmoded methods he devised during elementary school. If you draw on his daily routines, learning style, and organizational habits, he will develop the sophisticated and productive personal resources he needs for middle school.

According to the US Department of Education, most teachers agree that two to two-and-a-half hours of homework is appropriate for kids in seventh grade and above. This can bring on a book-induced headache in kids who have strong reading and writing skills, let alone those who are struggling. But just like Vinny can learn more efficient ways to read, he can learn more fruitful ways to study.

The Root of Study Skills
To succeed in these years of constant and increasing academic demands, Vinny needs to think about how he's thinking. Educators call this "metacognition," and it's his bird's eye view on how he's reflecting, appraising, strategizing, monitoring, and evaluating himself while he studies. It's that elemental self-probing most adults do spontaneously when facing new experiences or challenges. Have I ever seen this before? Do I know anything about it? How do I do it? Do I need help to get it done?

Research studies show that learning increases when kids are taught metacognition skills. It's even being taught to college freshmen. Michele Sabino, visiting assistant professor at the University of Houston Downtown, requires all her freshmen developmental-reading students to develop a plan for how they will learn the required material for her course. She notes, "The ones who were able to develop their own plan for learning were the ones who learned."

"Study skills can't be taught in isolation; they're a bore. Underneath all these isolated study skills is the 'metacognition.' That is what has to take place. Study skills need to be incorporated into good teaching and reinforced repeatedly," says educational diagnostician Carol Springer of Wake, Kendall, Springer, Isenman, Schweickert, Weintraub & Associates of Washington, DC. "Kids need to be responsible for their own progress in school," Springer adds.

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From Teacher Says by Evelyn Porreca Vuko. Copyright © 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, visit amazon.com or click on the book cover.


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