The secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well. (John D. Rockefeller)
Both parents and teens think that there may be a special way to study, one that creates the success that they would like to see. I would have to say that the secret of achieving the academic success you want starts with developing a few habits and doing them consistently. The first thing I share with parents is that academic success must be what your teenager wants and is capable of achieving. Your teenager must be motivated to do the work and to have created SMART goals on achieving the academic success that they would like to have in their life. I know a parent wants their teen to create a goal where they have a 4.0 GPA, but is that realistic? Every teen has a talent, and that generally leads to your teen doing better in one area of academic growth than another. Not that your teen will not achieve success academically, but it needs to be the success that they are capable of. The academic goals must be theirs, and they must take responsibility and create accountability for achieving each of their academic goals. What does that mean? It may mean that a 2.6 GPA in Algebra 2 is well done, while a 3.8 is an acceptable goal in World History. It really is about what your teen is focused on and where their passion and talents are. I have to be honest. My strength was not math, and the only thing I remember from my year of calculus is that the integral symbol is fun to draw, and I mastered that. If only that was a larger portion of the grade! I encourage creating SMART academic goals that your teenager can achieve, which is important in building self-confidence, self-worth, and creating their success. With that in mind there are a few study habits/hacks that help as well.
The first study habit is just a simple reminder. Go to class and listen. Concentrate on what is going on in class. So no daydreaming, no snapchatting, and no chatting. Focus on what the teacher is talking about. What is a great way to listen and be engaged in the class? It is to take notes in class. Yes, be prepared to take notes in class and participate in the class. There are a number of ways to participate in class that help you to listen and learn. You can ask questions in class or you can add to the discussion. By adding to the discussion and asking questions you are engaged and able to clarify your understanding of the material and write notes that reflect your understanding. The first habit is to attend class, listen, and participate.
The second study habit focuses around the class notes. Become an expert at taking concise notes. Develop a method that allows for you to review and understand the material easily. With that in mind, after each class there are a few key things you can do to encourage retaining material. The first is to review your notes. Just read over them as soon as you can after class. Think about your notes in terms of what you were learning, adding in additional notes, comments, or any question you may need clarified. It is a quick habit to get into and really supports learning the material. Next, rewrite your notes. I know that seems counterproductive but rewriting notes helps with learning the material. It is also the opportunity to highlight important dates, terms, or ideas that were discussed in class. Rewriting notes helps retention of material and serves as a great review of the class.
The third study habit is to designate a place to study. Find a place where you can concentrate that is free from distraction. I encourage teens to put the phone in another room. It is easy to look at one snapchat, respond, and before you know it an hour has gone by and none of the studying you needed to do was accomplished. I also encourage teens who are easily distracted to have a laptop with no distractions on it. No Netflix, no IM, no Facebook. All of that creates a distraction that takes away your valuable study time, and you spend more time trying to accomplish the same amount of work. Removing distractions allows you to focus on homework, reviewing for tests, and rewriting notes. It is hard to remove all the social media from your laptop or iPad. However, today most teens have a laptop and a phone. The phone can be the tool that includes all of the social media and the fun stuff, and the laptop can be all about school and creating the success your teen wants.
The fourth study habit is taking the opportunity to go to review sessions. Many teachers offer review sessions or review packets before a big test. Be the person who takes advantage of that review material. The review material chosen by the teacher giving the test, will include the concepts you need to know. In a history class it will include the major dates or ideas your teacher wants you to focus on. I tell students, teachers want you to succeed. They want you to do well. With the mindset that your teacher is in your corner, cheering you on to success, go get help. Your teacher is one of the best resources to help you understand the material you are struggling with. It is easier to ask for help and learn the concept or understand the steps to completing a problem than scoring poorly on a test. It is a skill that you will use throughout your career. It is about finding the resource that can help you achieve your goals and academic success. Other resources are websites, tutors, and fellow students all valuable and able to provide instruction. I always encourage asking your teacher for help first. Your teacher may offer another explanation, a website, or extra problems that help you have that moment of clarity when you understand the material you are trying to learn.
The last habit is to write your assignments down. Write them in a planner. I prefer a huge desk top calendar where I can write and see everything. I encourage teens to write academic homework, social events, athletic events and to write down and plan their own down time. It is about having control of your time and a planner helps with time management so that you can organize and control all the parts of your life in one place. If you have some information on a google calendar, some notes on your phone, some other activities on a planner you will forget something. I find teens forget about a test or an assignment because they wrote in Notes on their phone since the assignment was not due that week, and they forgot about the assignment. Or they have a group project, and no one in the group takes responsibility for managing the group’s time and the project is done hastily or turned in late. By having everything on one big calendar eliminates the error of forgetting something. However, I will say that the calendar is only as good as the teen who creates the habit of updating it daily and revising it on a weekly basis.
I hope these study habits provide some points of discussion and a way to create effective study habits that develop time management skills.
If your teen is in a class that requires memorizing a substantial amount of material I recommend the book, Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything By Joshua Foer.