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How to build good study habits - four tips to help you (or your child) learn effectively

Whether your children are 5 or 15, inculcating good study habits will be essential for

their long-term success, in school and in life. Just like any skill takes learning and then practising, similarly building good study habits, ie. those that will help your child achieve their academic goals, is a process. With COVID having had a lasting impact on children’s learning, especially due to extended periods of virtual school, it is even more important to teach your children how to study effectively, and how they can incorporate these study habits into their daily life. So here are our top study skills which will help your child succeed.

1.Create a consistent environment to study

Creating a study environment that is conducive to focusing is vital to one’s study success. Consistency is key for studying, as it helps put your child in the “study mode”. While the exact features of the environment depend on person to person, research has shown that some of the components include having good lighting (especially blue enriched lighting) and a distraction-free zone (especially away from screens)

For primary school children, you may not require a full desk or study room but even creating a study zone in the kitchen or dining table, helps them put on their homework hat. Having easy access to stationery, so that they’re not running off at every moment to find what they need, would also help in providing focus.

For older students, it’s worth experimenting whether they are most productive in the school library, at home in their room, or other locations such as coffee shops. These also vary in terms of background noise and it could be complete silence, soft background music or an active atmosphere which could help them focus. A student can also build two separate study zones based on the task they are trying to accomplish. For example, creative tasks may require a different environment compared to creating notes for an exam. But the sooner they find the space that works best for them, the easier it is to train your brain to turn on study mode.

2.Set a goal for the study session

Going into a study session without planning what needs to be accomplished can seriously derail the focus, and leave your child feeling frustrated or ineffective. So from a young age teach them how to goal set and effectively understand what they are able to complete in a certain time frame.

For primary school students, creating a calendar where your child records their homework and activities is useful. As they go through the week completing their tasks, they can tick them off or scratch them off - which is one of the most satisfying feelings! It also helps for the parent to say something along the lines of, “Let's spend the next hour finishing your maths homework”. In this way, the child understands that they have a time frame under which to complete the task, after which they will be able to tick off something from their to-do list and will be free to pursue other activities. This quick completion of goals is a step to establishing good study habits.

As they grow older, students are able to take more ownership and set their own study session goals that support their overall academic goals. This can be something as simple as using a calendar to plan when they will focus on which task, rather than trying to multitask. A highly recommended way of studying is the Pomodoro Technique which asks students to set out a single task for 25 minutes and write down any distractions as they happen, after which they can take a short break. It is known for its effectiveness as it helps break down large, looming tasks into shorter, bite-sized periods, making it easier to start. It also combats distractions, as one is not allowed to do anything other than the task at hand until the 25 minutes are over!

3.Keep a diary or journal with your to-do list

Another vital study habit that helps students keep on top of their tasks and ensure they’re accomplished in time is recording assignments and due dates etc. If your child is forgetful or easily distracted, this classic piece of study advice truly does help build a habit that will be beneficial all their lives.

Most schools already require this from the student, with primary school students often having to show that they have written the homework down in their diaries. Teachers provide time during the class to take notes on their tasks. With the rise of virtual schooling during COVID, many teachers are now also sending virtual reminders, to students and parents, regarding homework, tasks, exams and assignments.

Older students of course can use to-do list apps or store the information online, but having a visual reminder of your tasks is a big benefit when planning study sessions. Your child can review their list of assignments before they start studying, deciding what they are going to focus on. Then, they can cross or check it off their list, reducing the likelihood of them forgetting their homework and study tasks.

4.Review and revise the day’s lessons as soon as possible

Most students have at some point or another felt stressed out trying to cram a semester’s worth of learning into a week to prepare for an exam. The reason that this is not an effective study method is not only that it’s hard to learn and remember everything in that short period, but also that they’ve lost their original learnings during class.

Research suggests that to reinforce your memory, it is important to practice retrieval. This can be something as easy as discussing your learning with a friend, without checking your notes, creating flash cards or taking a short quiz. This solidifies the information in your brain and you are able to recall the information much more easily. Similarly, just reading your notes, and connecting them to the larger academic goal and other concepts, can also help you effectively learn the materials.

For young children, this is an easy habit to train and will be beneficial in the long run. After school, asking your child what they learnt today will help them with retrieval and review. Act as if they’re teaching you something new, and they are sure to love being the teacher in that situation. If they can’t remember, go through the notebook or curriculum together, asking them questions as you discuss. Consistency is key, and as the child grows, they will know what good study habits look like and how to help themselves.

As an English as Second Language (ESL) learning specialist, with over 20 years of experience in both pedagogy and andragogy, I work with both students and parents to help them design an educational approach that will maximise each student's learning success. While these study tips and tricks are helpful, for a specific outcome or goal, such as mastering English for admissions, a specialized educational plan is required. Reach out to me to find out more!

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