So far in this series of posts we have talked about the why, the when and the where of studying. Now we are going to talk about the how; how to actually implement the plan. First of all, a plan is no good if you don’t use it. We have already talked about the fact that habits are easy and discipline is hard, so the first step it to be habitual. Find a time and a location that work for your student and encourage them to form good study habits!
Exactly how are you supposed to help your student build good habits. First, it is important to realize that nobody gets up in the morning and says, “Today I am going to have a crummy day.” If your student is not doing their best, there is a reason. Find it! Here are some common roadblocks.
They are having trouble understanding the material.
Nobody likes to do things that they aren’t good at. If your student is putting the time in, but isn’t seeing any results, they are going to be less willing to spend the time in the future. Also, many students save face by saying, “I could have gotten an A if I studied but I just didn’t have time.” If your student is resistant to studying ask them if they need help with the material. I cannot stress enough that if your student needs subject area support, get them a tutor. You are their parent. They need to count on you to fill that role. My friend who is an educational psychologist gave me that advice with my kids and it reduced the stress in our house considerably. If you aren’t able to fit a tutoring bill into the budget, see if you have a friend that is willing to help your student in exchange for you helping his or hers.
The material is not challenging enough.
Nobody likes busy work. If your student isn’t challenged by their homework they will see it as a waste of time. If that is the case, try to find extensions to their assignments. If they are studying rocks, maybe provide them with material on a volcano. If they are doing math homework covering concepts they have mastered, help them think of a practical application for the skill. This is very important as students often have trouble relating what they study in school to their future, especially in math.
Maybe the assignment is the wrong learning style.
We aren’t all good at everything. I stink at art. I absolutely hated being given an assignment that required me to draw or create something. I wasn’t good at it and no matter how hard I worked my project never turned out as nice as many of the others, or at least I didn’t think it did. While it is important for your student to do their work themselves, it is also important to teach them that they don’t have to be perfect at everything! If they aren’t good at art, try to help them manage their expectations and make the project as painless as possible by providing materials that make it easier. If the project is a long report and your student has trouble with written assignments, make sure to break the project down into smaller more manageable pieces. Chart out a schedule so that things don’t creep up on you at the last minute.
Maybe your student is anxious about their performance.
I had a very good friend whose student was super anxious. They would become nauseous before tests, bit their nails until they bled, and actually rubbed the hair off of their arms because they were so afraid of a bad result. We implemented an “effort not outcome” approach and both the anxiety and the grades improved significantly. What is “effort not outcome”? Set up study expectations for your student that they can control: set a schedule of study times, bring home all necessary materials, and turn all assignments in on time. As long as the student is meeting these expectations, do not even look at their grades. They have done all they can and they need to know that you expect them to do their best, not be the best.
In summary, remember that students want to do well. Seriously, who do you know that wants to do a poor job! If they are not doing well, something is stopping them. Many times in order to find out what that something is, you have to let your student know that you will NOT be disappointed in them, that you know they are trying and that nobody is perfect at everything. Talk to your student. Tell them some things that are hard for you. Encourage them to let you know how you can help. Once those barriers to success come down, studying will be a lot less stressful.