Study Skills & Strategies: Partnering With Your Child’s Teacher
(Parents seeking information)
This week we had parent-teacher interviews at our school.
Now I am not sure how parents feel as they enter our Grade 5 classroom to hear about their child’s experiences as seen through my eyes, but I am always just a little more than on edge. I set up the room so that it is welcoming. I have all my notes and samples of student work. I discuss strengths and needs, and well as goals and “next steps”. Still, I worry that I will forget to say something or that I will somehow put my foot in my mouth. That being said: So far so good! I guess my interview-jitters simply mean that I care … and I do. (Oh, I also have chocolate, water and tissues on the table. To date no one has used the tissues, I don’t like water (don’t ask … I know), and I am the only one who ever eats the chocolate … still … 😉
Anyway, if you had been a fly on my classroom wall last week you would have noted that there were some reoccurring themes. For parents seeking to partner with their child’s teacher (me) there were three questions that were asked over and over again. I have chosen to address “the-third-most-often-asked question” here:
“My child finds studying for tests really difficult, and I don’t know what to do. Is there anything that you can recommend?”
My answer — without hesitation? —> “Yes!”
Truth be told:
If I ever meet any of my students 2 or 3 years from now and they don’t seem to remember what the ancient Egyptians ate (now I am not really sure why the topic would arise in the first place … surely I am not giving them some kind of random pop quiz in the future) I really won’t be all that concerned. (“Shhhhhhh…” don’t tell them that now.) If however, I ever meet any of them 2 or 3 years from now and they don’t know how to study for or take a test …? Now THAT would make me sad.
Anyway, for those of you who may be interested, I shared the following suggestions and strategies with the parents. I already use most of them in the classroom so any reinforcement/mirroring at home would be great!
(A) Prior to studying:
1. Understand your goals. Make them as concrete as possible. e.g. “My goal is to study from 7PM to 7:45PM with one 7 minute break at 7:25PM”
2. Be organized. Have a study area all set up ahead of time. Make certain that you have everything you need (whatever that means to you) prior to starting.
3. Be Realistic, Accepting & Optimistic. Accept the fact that studying may in fact be “boring”. Oh well … So you’d rather be playing baseball, watching a movie or reading a good book? It makes no difference. At some point you need to study for that test … So make up your mind to do it and do your very best! Engage in the process with a positive attitude and an open mind. Believe in yourself! You’re great!
3. Know your strategy before starting, e.g. colour coding, flash cards, a buddy-system, etc.
4. Know what you know, and know what you don’t know … and know where to go to fill in any gaps (e.g. a friend, a parent, a sibling, a teacher … ).
1. Motion: For some children “motion” when learning is really important. It helps them to activate & stay focussed. Try chewing gum while studying. Try walking and reading your notes out loud.
2. Cue Cards: Make cues cards and play games with them. If you have a friend over take both sets and play “War” or “Concentration”.
3. Cue Cards: I realize that this is common sense but it bares repeating. If you are studying from cue cards make sure to focus on the cards that you are struggling with. Create 2 piles: The “I Know” pile and the “I Don’t Know Yet” pile. Ignore the “I Know” pile for now.
4. Colour: Make a photocopy of your cues cards or notes, and then colour them! Colour coding can be really helpful. Have a pattern or strategy in mind: e.g. all dates are blue, all names are red, all countries are yellow.
5. Draw/Doodle: Draw a picture on each card that relates directly to the concept/fact. If you don’t like drawing try cutting out pictures from magazines and gluing them on. The more effort you put in to making them interesting, clever, silly, &/or detailed the better
6. Mind maps & Webs: Try making webs, mind-maps or some sort of diagram to help you remember facts and concepts.
7. Be the Teacher: Design a test of your own. What questions would you put on the test? What are the answers? Consider giving the test to your parents for example. Let them have a go at it. Give them as much time and support as they need. Once they have returned the test grade it!
8. Know Thyself: If you start to lose your “edge” … that is if you start to get extremely frustrated, anxious, etc. stop. There’s no sense in continuing. Having said that, do not use this as “an out”. Remember, you will have to study at some point, so budget and use your time wisely.
Finally … here are some additional ideas for your consideration:
1. Some people believe that sucking on a peppermint while studying might help you focus. It tastes good, activates your sense and might even might help to clear passages. This means that more oxygen will travel to you brain.
2. Listen to music. Why not try a little Beethoven – both soothing and invigorating.
3. Some research shows that colour helps to boost memory. Bright yellow
& so there you have it!
All that really matters in the end is that you simply find out what works best for you. Mix that understanding with a lot of drive and determination, as well as a positive outlook and see where it takes you! Dive right in! You can do it!