3 Easy Tips for Improving Student Effort

Just as great athletes require hours in the gym, our students require hours developing their study skills. Recent studies have shown that the human brain is more like every other muscle in the body than we had previously thought; and just like every other muscle, the brain has muscle memory.

This means that while intelligence certainly plays a role in academic success, effective study skills, motivation, effort and goal-setting all actually play a larger role than a child’s intelligence. Here are our top 3 tips for coaching your student all the way to academic gold.

Tip 1: Focus on the process not the product:

In the same way that athletes have to attend practice on a daily basis, we have to encourage our children to focus on their academic skills daily. Rather than focusing on the grades they receive, focus on the process of putting adequate time into homework and studying. Break down a task into steps, plan it out, and offer praise for each step your student accomplishes. A fun strategy for younger children is taking a large tootsie roll, and cutting it into four equal parts that equate to the four steps needed to complete the long-term assignment (book reports, science projects, etc.). When your child has accomplished a step, reward him or her with a piece of tootsie roll. This helps the child visualize the task in front of them, as well as rewards them for the process of planning ahead.

For older students, pick one night a week to help your child plan ahead.  Sunday nights are often good evenings to help your child break down long-term assignments into manageable pieces.  These incremental steps should be written in your child’s assignment notebook or recorded in the calendar of their phone.  If your student is resistant to your overtures, but needs help with long-term planning and daily time management, consider an educational coach.

Tip 2: Remove ‘smart’ from your vocabulary:

This may seem like an odd tip for an educator to suggest. Obviously, we all want our children to be bright and successful; however, studies have shown that when students are praised for their effort, rather than their intelligence, their academic skills not only increase, but their grades, content knowledge, and understanding vastly improve. Rather than focusing on your child’s grades with comments such as, “Wow, you got an A! You are so smart!” try saying something along the lines of, “Wow, you worked really hard on that project. I noticed all of the time you put into it”. This reinforces study skills and the effort rather than the end result.

Tip 3: Carve out 30 Minutes to Read and Study as a Family:

Consider blocking off 30 minutes each evening when the entire family turns off all electronics (e-readers not included!) and spends the time reading or studying. If your children are younger, read a story with them. If they’re older, take family trips to the library or encourage them to download a book to their iPad or Kindle.  This 30 minutes of time will allow everyone to relax, read and study without the constant buzzing and beeping of technology.

All students have the capabilities to be all-star students. By taking the emphasis off grades (the product) and putting it on effort (the process) motivation and learning will increase.