November 2023

8 Easy Steps to Build Strong Study Skills

Now that students are back in school, let’s set them up to build strong study skills. I’m teaching these skills to students of all ages – even my high school seniors – to improve their grades and to reduce their stress.

To start, they’ll need to get organized so they don’t stress out when facing their long lists of things to do. By using Google Calendar (GCal), they’ll see how and when each homework, paper, or test prep will be done. I like GCal because it’s easy to use and it’s right on their cell phones so they have it with them all the time.

Here are the 8 steps to building strong study skills using GCal:

Set up GCal

Enter each class in GCal for the entire week, and make it repeat (recurring feature) for the school year. Some schools have the same class schedules Monday through Friday. Others have block days with longer classes. Refer to your school’s bell schedule to get the approximate times for each class. Then look at the school’s minimum days, teacher in-service days, and school holidays. Make sure that their GCals are accurate for the entire school year.

Enter Due Dates

Looking at each class’s syllabus or online homework reminders, enter homework, test dates, and other deadlines on the dates that they are due (not the days they are assigned). This will help your child prioritize what should be done first, and allow enough time to complete all necessary steps. If teachers don’t give students official due dates ahead of time, your child will need to adjust the study plan daily.

Add Extracurricular Activities

Next enter in all extracurricular activities and include time for transportation. They might block off 2 hours for practice plus 15 minutes of driving to and from the game. Remind them about sports, music lessons, doctors’ appointments, and social activities. Consider dinner time; do you have a set time for dinner each night? Block off time for all after-school activities including showering after games.

Plan When to do Homework

Now that you know when homework is due, your child could block off time to do each facet of the assignment. If they have to complete all math problems on page 8, have them block off one hour to complete it at a time that works for them. They could plan homework around commitments so they could see how they might juggle homework and baseball practice.

Steps for Test Preparation
(not cramming)

Test preparation will take a little more planning than homework. First, make a list of each step needed to prepare for the test. They may need to read a chapter, review lecture notes, make a study guide or flash cards, meet with a study group, and research other sources (Khan Academy, Google searches).

By blocking off time to do each of these tasks over a week in GCal, they’ll learn the concepts at a deeper level than cramming the night before a test. This also gives them time to ask the teacher for help if they don’t understand something before the test.

Organize Writing Papers

Writing a book report or research paper will take even more planning than for tests. They’ll need to select the topic, research the subject, write a thesis statement, make an outline, write a rough draft, edit the paper, add a bibliography, include other required materials, and submit it.

Some of these steps may take several hours over several days. Like preparing for a test, make a list of all of the steps they’ll need to take to complete the assignment a few days before it is due, and then block off time for each task in their GCal. This will reduce the stress and give them plenty of time to write their report or paper.

Reschedule for a Healthy Balance

Review the GCal to see how much time is dedicated to school and after-school activities. Some students create different calendars (school, extracurricular activities, friends, college prep) with different colors so they can quickly see how balanced their lives are.

If there isn’t enough time to relax and have fun with friends, then your child could move tasks to another day to ensure that there is a healthy balance of academics, exercise, and social activities. Just check deadlines and test dates and prioritize accordingly.

Prepare for Finals Now

Once a week, have your child review everything covered in classes to date. They can glance over previous quizzes and tests, flashcards, and lecture notes over the weekend.

Simply block off time to study “Alls”

each week. This will help build a deeper conceptual understanding of the material and improve long-term memory. That way, when they need to prepare for midterm or final exams later in the year, they won’t have to cram because they’ll already be prepared.

Highlight the Activity When it’s Done

After your child goes to class, does the task, or participates in an activity, they could highlight with their favorite color. That way, they’ll see what they’ve accomplished throughout the day. Success begets success.

If they didn’t go to class or do an assignment, they just need to move it to another time or day so they can still meet the deadline. If they know it’s going to be late, they could email the teacher to let them know ahead of time. This teaches responsibility and good etiquette.

Spend a weekend teaching your child these valuable skills. It’s easy to do and your child will appreciate knowing how they’re going to juggle school, extracurricular activities, and their social lives. This is a skill they’ll use in high school, college, career, and beyond.

Susan Tatsui-D’Arcy is the founder of Merit Academy (one-on-one classes)and Merit Educational Consultants (college and educational advisory). She has written books on projects, free child care, education, and parenting. Susan hosts TEDxMeritAcademy for students to present their innovative projects and solutions. In 2019, she was California Mother of the Year.

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