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3 Important Study Skills Kids Need That You Can Teach Now

By Lily Iatridis  March 23, 2021

study skills, study habits, homeschool“But I looked at my notes for an hour!”

That was my son’s complaint when he didn’t do too well on a test some time back.

He gave me his notes, and I asked him a few questions from them. He couldn’t answer any of my questions.

What did he actually do when he “looked at [his] notes” for an hour?

Did he stare at the page while his mind wandered elsewhere? Without actually reading his notes over? Or doing any review exercises to make sure he knew the material?

Yes, that’s what he did. For an entire hour. AND he called that studying.

Was he being lazy? Maybe. Did he NOT know how to study? Definitely.

My kid could spend all day with his books and notes open in front of him. He’d think he was preparing for a test and accomplish nothing.

He needed to learn some study skills.

How are your kids doing with that? Do they have strong study habits and skills? Is there a little room for improvement there?

Our kids need strong study habits to be successful in homeschool and beyond. Study habits are a combination of organization skills and study skills that are practiced and used regularly.

When your kids have strong study habits, they’ll feel less stressed. They’ll be less anxious and more confident. They’ll be ready for those big tests or assessments, and it won’t take them FOREVER to prepare for them.

We discussed organization skills in detail in our last post. Those come first.  Today, we’ll cover key skills your kids need to make study time productive and successful.

Study Skill 1: Note Taking

As they get older, your kids will have textbook reading assignments given to them. Textbooks are usually written in a factual style that isn’t interesting or engaging. This often makes them boring and hard for your kids to get through!

Your kids can easily find themselves spending a lot of time “reading” a chapter, only to realize they didn’t retain any information. Not good!

Another common problem with textbook reading is over highlighting. Your kid might want to use a highlighter to mark important statements in an assigned chapter. But they end up highlighting almost the entire text, because everything sounds important.

That’s not good either!!

When reading a non-fiction text, kids need to be able to understand what they read, pull out the key points, and make note of that information. That’s an important study skill. And it’s one your kids can learn with regular practice.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Divide and conquer. Help your kids divide their reading assignment by chapters or smaller chunks of pages to read through every day over several days or weeks.

2. When they sit down to read, have some notecards, a pad of paper, or a notebook and pen nearby. At the top of their page or notecard, write down the book title, chapter, or range of pages they’re reading that day.

3. After they read a section of their chapter, have them stop and reflect on what they read.

Ask them to summarize what that section was about in one or two sentences. Have them list the main ideas of that section. Get your kids to write that down in their own words. If writing is challenging for any reason, taking notes by dictation works well too.

There are two big benefits to this note taking process. First, to pull key information from a text and summarize the text is excellent critical thinking skills practice.

Second, writing down or repeating key information out loud helps your kids understand and remember it better. It reinforces their learning.

4. To highlight or not to highlight? Your kids may highlight key points in their book instead of writing them down if they wish to do so. But highlighting may not imprint the key information for them as well as writing it down.

Additionally, if you want to resell the book later, don’t let your kids highlight.

5. What about lectures, podcasts, documentaries and educational videos? Please have your kids follow the note taking process described above with these as well. True, the kids can listen to recordings again later. But why spend the time doing that? Teach them to take good notes the first listen through. They’ll thank you later.

6. Grab a copy of our free ebook to help your kids with their note taking! Our End Blank Page Terror Forever ebook is a collection of prewriting tools that your kids can for note taking too. Click here to access your copy. 

7. When it’s time to study for the test. At this point, your kids’ focus will be on memorizing the information from their notes. They won’t need to reread their textbook chapters or listen to their podcasts all over again. This will spare them a lot of time and test prep anxiety.

Study Skill 2: Memorization and Application 

Memorization is a study skill that your kids need to learn. There’s no way around that. But there are lots of approaches and tools that you and your kids can use to memorize information. I have no doubt you’ve used many of them in your homeschool. Flashcards, mnemonic devices like acronyms, or Quizlet are examples.

Application is a study skill where your kids apply the information they’ve memorized to new situations. In other words, they practice using the memorized facts or processes to solve a problem. Math word problems are an example. Using a new vocabulary word in a sentence is another. An essay question where they’re asked to make a future prediction based on a period of history they’ve studied is a more challenging example.

Application requires creativity and critical thinking. Your kids need to have their facts memorized to be able to that well.

Study Skill 3: Take A Look At The Big Picture 

The last study skill your kids need to take their work to an A+ level is what I call Take A Look At The Big Picture. This last study skill is for the high school and college level student. But feel free to introduce it to your kids whenever you think they’re ready!

What’s the overarching lesson of the course or unit of study? What’s the point of it all? How does it apply to life today? Those are the big picture questions.

During a semester length class, your kids may be given a number of readings, labs, videos, or podcasts to review. They could also have participated in group discussions with the homeschool co-op group. At the end, there’s always an overarching lesson or two that connects all of those sources of information together, like a thesis statement for a paper.

Sometimes the curriculum or instructor will tell the students what that is. The big picture will be given to your kids. But as they get older, teachers will expect your kids to determine that on their own. College and advanced high school level courses want students to discover that through their study. They want to see what creative new insights or connections they can make themselves.

Build your kids’ study skills over time. Start with simple note taking and memorization exercises, and work toward looking at the big picture as they get older. Your kids will develop the study skills they need for success in any setting!




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