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Strengthening Your Child’s Home Study skills

By — Center for Effective Parenting
Updated on Jan 2, 2009

Success in school requires children to use good study skills. Effective studying requires many different skills. While many study skills are taught and monitored at school, success in school will require the use of these skills outside of school hours, for example, when completing homework and studying for tests. Parents can play an important role in helping their children develop good study habits and skills. The ideas described below are specific strategies and techniques parents can use to strengthen their children’s home study skills. This handout focuses on three important aspects of effective studying: organization, study strategies, and motivation.

Organization

Study Environment

Find a Good Study Place: One of the most basic habits you can teach your child is to study in one place. Help your child choose a particular location that she can use each time she studies. An effective workplace is one that has adequate space to spread out, is well lit, has the needed supplies close at hand (see list to right), and is relatively free from distractions.

Limit Distractions: Observations and surveys of children and adolescents have shown that they frequently choose to study while listening to a radio or watching television. Should this practice be discouraged? Based on studies in this area, the answer appears to be “it depends.”

Audio and visual distractions will tend to interfere more with difficult assignments than with easy and routine assignments. In addition, meaningful background sounds, such as TV, speech, and vocal music, tend to be more distracting than instrumental music or other nonvocal background noise. As a general rule, you should try and control and limit meaningful distractions, such as telephone, TV, vocal music, and interruptions from others during study time, particularly during difficult tasks. Do not worry as much about nonvocal background noise during easy and routine assignments, if your child is completing his work.

Time Management

Monitor How Much Time Your Child Is Spending in Study:
Your child will need to study at home for two primary reasons: to complete homework assignments and to study for tests. The trend in education since the early 1980’s has been for schools to assign greater amounts of homework. This is due primarily to the declining test scores of American students and the research that shows that homework can improve learning.

National surveys of school districts, teachers, and students indicate that the majority of school districts and teachers assign homework, and the majority of students report doing it. Based on these surveys of students and teachers from across the country, you should expect your child to have some homework to do each week. You should expect the number of nights and the amount of homework to increase as your child progresses from elementary to high school (see table below). If your child is spending more or less time than is expected on homework, check with your child and the teacher to find out why.


Amount and Frequency of Homework by Grade Level

Level

Amount

Nights per week

3rd-6th grade

30 to 45 minutes

3

7th-9th grade

45-75 minutes

4

10th-12th grade

75-120 minutes

4 or more


In addition to homework, your child may need to study for tests at home, particularly if her test grades are not as high as they could be. Studying for tests may involve rereading, reviewing, outlining, making and reviewing study cards, and studying class notes. How much time your child should spend studying for tests will depend on how much material there is to learn. Studies in human learning indicate that as the units of information to learn increase, the amount of time needed to learn each unit also increases (see figure below). For example, if it takes a child 10 minutes to learn one section of a chapter, it may take the child 30 minutes to learn two sections of a chapter. As a general rule, the more material there is to learn, the more time it will take to learn each unit of that material.

Each child needs to determine how much time is typically needed to learn a section of material, plan enough time into her schedule, and use the study skills discussed below.

Help Your Child Develop a Daily and Weekly Schedule: One of the benefits of studying is that it can help children develop their skills in organizing and managing their time. In order for studying to not interfere with important social and recreational activities, your child will need to learn to plan ahead. Teach your child how to make both daily and weekly schedules for his activities (see figure below). On a daily basis, have your child decide what needs to be done that day and when to do it. This should include a listing of all homework assignments and other activities and responsibilities. It is often a good idea to decide ahead of time on the order of homework assignments, sandwiching the harder assignments in between the easier assignments. At the beginning of the week, it is helpful to list out all the activities for the coming week. This will help your child plan. For example, if your child has a Social Studies test on Wednesday and he needs three days to study for it, he can plan on bringing his Social Studies book home Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights.

Things To Do Today

Mon.

Tues.

Wed.

Thurs.

Fri.

Sat.

Sun.

3:00-3:30 Snack and watch TV
3:30-4:30 Homework:

  • Read
  • Math worksheet
  • Write out spelling words
 

Baseball game 7:30

SS Test!!!
Guitar lesson 5:00

Book report due

Spelling
test

 

Pool party 4:00

4:30-5:00 Eat supper

             
Daily and weekly schedule example
5:00-6:30 Baseball practice
             

6:30-7:30 Play outside

             

7:30-8:00 Practice instrument

             
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