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Cracking the Books Without Cracking the Whip

Talking with Kids About Good Study Habits

FOR AGES: 6 and up

How can you help your kids improve their study skills? Start by asking them to define their study preferences: Do they study best when curled up on a comfy chair, or do they fall asleep? Do they like a bustling study environment, or are they easily distracted? When do they study best -- early morning, during the day, or late at night? All these factors are important in determining the best study routine for your child.

Strategies for Success
The following five strategies will help your kids determine the strengths and weaknesses of their study skills, and how they can get the most out of their study time.

How to Help Your Child Get Started
Is your child the type who dives right in, or is getting started the most difficult part of any task? Tell your child that an effective way of beginning an assignment is to break it into smaller parts. For example, if he has four chapters to read, tell him to start with only one or two chapters in the first session.

Immediately, he has decreased the initial task and will find it easier to begin. Then he should schedule as many sessions as necessary to complete the entire assignment; knowing that part of the assignment is already completed will make it easier for him overall.

The Keys to Time Management
Does your child use time well? The key to time management is planning. Help your daughter map out study sessions in writing, so that she'll see how much she needs to accomplish in the allotted time.

To manage her time successfully, your child must see the study plan -- much like a builder needs to see the blueprints for a building. Have her use a calendar or a day planner. In addition, have her schedule study sessions in a time slot that fits her study habits; for example, every day after school, or every evening after dinner.

Organize Assigments by Color
Is your child the organized type? If not, he could try using a color-coded folder for each area to be studied (e.g., a red folder for English, a green folder for social studies, etc.). All loose notes and materials related to that subject area should be placed in the folder regularly, so that when it's time to study, he'll be prepared.

Take Notes Using "Key Words"
Does your child have trouble taking notes? Trying to write word-for-word transcriptions is nearly impossible and infinitely frustrating. Instead, suggest that she pick out key words and phrases; she needs to learn to summarize thoughts. Each note-taking session establishes the skeleton or the frame of the area covered, but details must be added after each session to provide a full picture.

The Best Way to Review Material
Does your child avoid reviewing material until right before the test? Bad idea. No other study skill is more important than reviewing, which he should do at least three times.

First, have him review as soon as possible after initial contact with the subject matter -- immediately after class or after school, for example. This session will reinforce the material that is still fresh in his mind. At regular intervals afterward -- weekly, monthly, or whenever his schedule will permit -- tell him to review the material again. Then, immediately before a test, he should review the material once more. Repeated contact with the material will permit him to know it inside and out.

Knowing how to get the most out of a study session offers multiple rewards, not the least of which are increased time for other pursuits, greater confidence, and better grades. Answering the question "Who are you?" in relation to the study process will improve your child's skills and insure consistent success.

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