Study skills or study strategies are structured approaches to learning. Improving study skills will help many students get better grades, and can be useful in many areas of life outside of the classroom. Key study skills focus on how we organize and process information, how to memorize information more easily, and even specific test-taking tips. Time management and motivation/goal setting can also be considered study skills. Wikipedia has a very informative overview of the subject.
Though they’re taught more and more at the high school and college levels, it’s often left up to individual students to pick up study skills on their own – especially in grade school or middle school. Fortunately there are many places online where students of all ages can learn about study skills.
As a tutor, supporting your students to learn better study skills might be one of the best ways to improve their academic performance. Here are some tips to get you started:
Tip 1: Different study skill sets are important depending on the age of the learner.
For grade school and middle school students, study skills become increasingly important as classes and homework become more demanding. Kids have a better chance at excelling in high school and college if they learn study skills by middle school. Organizational and time management skills are especially vital. Greatschools.org offers a comprehensive summary of what skills to emphasize with tutees in this age group.
For high school and college age students, HowToStudy.org is among the better sites out there. It’s free and it covers everything from motivation and goal setting to time management to note-taking to dealing with test anxiety.
For kids with learning difficulties, explicit instruction in study strategies is even more important. Greatschools.org offers a summary of specific issues that’s well worth reading, as is this piece on . And here’s a brief but helpful piece for learners with ADHD.
Tip 2: You can use homework or other subject material as a foundation for study skills enhancement.
In many ways, the primary purpose of homework is to improve students’ work habits. Starting with they homework they have to do anyhow, you can help them get organized with binders or folders, start using a planner, break large tasks down into subtasks, deal with procrastination and much more. There are good overview of key issues on teachersandfamilies.com and kidshealth.org among many websites.
Tip 3: Test taking skills can make a big difference in test performance.
What students do before, during — and maybe eve after — an important exam can have a big impact on their academic success. There are all kinds of worthwhile tips online regarding every aspect of taking any type of test. For example, I enjoyed these tips on how to do better on essay test questions. Here’s one of many sources of guidance on how to do better solving math word problems. And I was especially impressed with studytips.org, which offers specific advice on taking dozens of standardized tests, from the ACT to the SAT to the MCAT. The site offers help (including help in the form of products for sale) on test taking, writing, math, science and a host of general areas as well.
Tip 4: Become familiar with visual organization skills.
Visual organization techniques, including so-called “mind maps,” (also sometimes called spidergrams or spidergraphs) are graphical methods of note-taking. The visual symbols in mind map type diagrams help students to distinguish, organize, relate and classify words, ideas and tasks.
While much more frequently used by college age students and people in the workforce, learners of any age can benefit from applying visual organization skills to studying, assignments (especially writing), problem solving and decision-making. There’s even a book called Mind Maps for Kids by mind map guru Tony Buzan. Here’s one page that explains to educators how to help kids with mind mapping and why you’d want to. This blog post further explains the value of mind mapping as a study skill for kids. And here’s a cool piece on how to use mind maps to take notes.
Tip 5: If all else fails, one can pay for an online study skills program.
There are a number of programs out there, with different approaches for students, parents and educators. Success4Students.com provides tools “in a creative and interesting format” to help equip students to maximize their study time. Videos start at $59. StudySkills.com likewise offers learning tools for improving study skills, most for $75 and up.
Featured image courtesy of madstreetz.
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