Friday, August 31, 2012

Back-to-School Study Tips For Parents *and* Kids

It's back-to-school time!

When most of us hear this phrase, we only think of children. However, they aren't the only ones who use this time of year as an opportunity to learn; each year, thousands of adults go back to school to either get a new degree or finish one they've already started. Doing schoolwork again can be difficult for all of us! Here are some back to school study tips for both you and your kids.

  1. Don't study for hours on end. Instead, study in short 'bursts' perhaps 20 minutes, before taking a break.. The reason I'm saying this is because people tend to remember the first thing and the last thing they see/hear better than what is 'in the middle'. This way, you have a lot more 'first things' and 'last things' to work with.
  1. If possible, involve someone else. This is where you as a parent can be a great help to your kids. It doesn't necessarily have to be a study partner, although that helps too. It can be as simple as someone to help you keep on task.
  1. Try something unconventional. By 'unconventional', I mean something other than flash cards or memorization. Those things have their place, but sometimes it's good to try something different. One thing I used to do in high school was line up my stuffed animals (yes, I still had stuffed animals in high school...) and pretend I was teaching the class. After all, you have to know the material yourself if you're going to teach it to someone else, even if it's only your stuffed cows. On the same tip, you can pretend you're in a one-on-one conversation with a five-year-old or someone equally unfamiliar with the material you're working with. The challenge then is to know it well enough to break it down into simpler terms. These methods are particularly effective on subjects with essay questions.

    Also, making up pneumonic devices can help when memorizing things in a group. For instance, 'My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles' was taught to us as a way of remembering the solar system-Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Pluto isn't a planet anymore depending on who you ask, but you get the point. It can be fun and helpful to make up phrases to help remember things like the days of the week, months of the year, and other ordered lists.
  1. Associate rewards with right answers. Your child's teacher probably already does this, so it's not much of a stretch to think it will work at home. Give them, say, a small sticker for each answer they get right and, when they get five or ten right in a row, they can trade the small stickers for a big one. It doesn't matter what the reward is, just something you know your child will like and want enough of to 'trade up'.
  1. Change it up. It's easy to become bored or distracted if you're studying the same way all the time. Sometimes you might need to vary your methods a little bit.
There, now you have a better idea of how to get back to learning after a summer-or longer!-away from school. Hopefully you can use these tips to make this school year as positive and productive as possible. Good luck!

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