Middle School: New Challenges, New Solutions
Opportunities to learn keep coming whether we're ready for them or not. It can seem overwhelming. Time-management skills are needed if your student is going to be able to take advantage of the extra-credit assignments and extracurricular activities that school offers on top of homework, the ones that help make a student attractive to a college admissions committee.
In my workshops, I hand every student a day-planner notebook with a calendar and all kinds of helpful information, from tables for figuring percentages to the date of the next solar eclipse. Some of these kids have never seen an appointment book or a scheduler, so we start from the very basics.
Organization is key. When they have an assignment, they put it on the calendar, then go back and put in reminders of the assignment leading up to the date. They do the same for test dates and then go back and put in reminders to study for the test on the days leading up to the test date. Encourage them to write down all important events, even the ones they don't think they will forget (like church on Sunday and school on Monday). The point is to get them in the habit of checking their day planner in the morning so they know what's coming up that day and the next. Once they can keep track of the big events, we work on managing homework time and playtime effectively so that everything gets done, every time.
As adults, many of us take these businesslike plans for granted. We often have to be able to do this kind of time management in our jobs or we won't be able to keep them. By teaching our kids to do this in school, we are giving them a true life skill that they will use for their entire lives. Chris confessed to me after his first semester in law school that his time-management skills saved his butt. Without the ability to prioritize his tasks and keep track of tests and deadlines, he said he would have flunked out in no time.
Your student will be taking tests almost from the minute he enters school, such as state standardized tests that measure his progress through school and his ability to remember what he has been taught. In middle school, testing begins to take on a bigger importance. Not only are the standardized tests more difficult, but the class tests become more frequent and start counting more toward your student's final grade. Test-taking skills are a must.
Parents can do a great deal toward test-taking success. The first and possibly the largest is simply knowing that a test is coming and helping your student make a plan for studying. Cramming, the practice of staying up all night right before a test and trying to jam every test fact into your head, doesn't work. True studying takes time. So find out what the test will cover, make a schedule for what to study, and then help your student stick to it. If studying with friends helps, then let your student study with friends. Some students work well in groups, some turn any group into a party. You know your student, and you know whether to allow study groups.
Before any test, there's always going to be some stress. Did I study enough? Did I remember everything? What if I don't do well? A little stress is a positive thing, since it can motivate your student to want to do well. Too much stress, and your student will be unable to hold a pencil, much less be able to take a test, so relaxation techniques are in order. Remind your student to breathe deeply, to lower his shoulders, and to remind himself that he is well prepared for the test and that the aim is to do well, not to perform perfectly. All of these test-taking strategies will come in handy when the really big tests--the college entrance exams--come up in high school.
More on: Parental Involvement
From Say Yes To College: A Practical and Inspirational Guide to Raising College-Bound Kids by Sharon Chandler and Elizabeth Crane. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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