3 Easy Study Habits for the New Year


There’s no better time than now to help your child establish great study habits for the rest of the school year. Just what are the top skills kids need for school success? Click here to listen to my interview with Sean Anderson and Hilary Howard from WTOP. For those whWTOP logoo’d rather read than listen, here’s a synopsis of the interview.

What can parents do to help in the New Year?

The first step is to establish habits. There’s a lot of new research on habit formation so when it comes to changing behavior, it’s less about willpower and more about setting up routines. For example, let’s say you want your child to be more organized this year. Try something called a Clean Sweep. A Clean Sweep is a 20-minute time to get organized for the coming week. For kids it might include filing papers in their binder or cleaning out their backpack. The key is to have this type of activity tied to something already part of your weekly routine, such as after a Sunday dinner. And remember, you have to be part of the Clean Sweep too, and that’s because kids are more likely to follow through when someone else helps to keep them accountable.

What about study habits, especially for the kids who are tightly scheduled and go straight from school to sports or another activity?

Many kids don’t know how to take advantage of very small chunks of time. In fact, research shows that studying in small chunks as opposed to long stretches is more beneficial to remembering. For example, if there’s a science test on Friday, your child has two choices for studying: one is to study the night before for an hour, which is what most kids will do, and the other is to take that same amount of time and break it up into small increments – 20 minutes on Tuesday, 20 on Wednesday, and 20 minutes on Thursday. This second choice is what translates into a better grade because you’re repeating the information and putting it into long-term memory by sleeping on it.

So, when kids have these small gaps of time between school and activities, this is really where their opportunity lies to develop a habit.

At this point, there are only about three weeks left in school before the end of the quarter. What do you do if your child is in a hole and needs to turn things around quickly?

This is the time of year when teachers tend to pile on end-of-quarter homework and projects and these projects can account for a big part of the report card grade. So first, you need to find out what’s big that’s due. Is there a large assignment such as a book report or research paper? Sit down with your child to make sure he has a game plan – if not, work with him to come up with one. So often, kids procrastinate because they’re overwhelmed and underprepared, not because they simply don’t want to do the work. They need a parent or another adult to help them backwards plan and this where you come in. Backwards planning is when you identify the big goal and date due and then all the little steps needed to get there.

So try this out now and then make it a habit for future projects until your child has the hang of it on his own.