As your child moves toward the end of primary school, learning how to study, complete homework projects and revision techniques is essential with SATs and secondary school looming around the corner.
In the latter stages of primary school, you will most likely see a shift from task-based homework towards more independent studying as students are encouraged to take more responsibility for their learning. This might be in the way of researching a topic or revising for tests. Enabling these vital skills, and encouraging your child to become an independent learner is important and is the gateway to achieving a sense of accomplishment. That said it is important to remember that this is a learning process. Therefore, it is as imperative that they know that we are still available to help should they need it.
So how can you help your child develop the study skills that will help them now and in the future?
1. Practise without pressure
Get your child used to taking responsibility for their workload. A good way is to get them involved in a project that taps into their interests. This could be football, dance, food whatever peaks their interest as it will give them a chance to practise the organisational process and become more effective whilst enjoying themselves, which heightens the chances of them enjoying this newly learnt process.
2. Break it down
Show your child how to break a task down into manageable sections. Instead of looking at the essay as a whole, separate it out into planning, researching, and then writing the introduction, middle and end, so it feels more manageable. I always tell my son, “if I asked you to eat this whole burger in one go, you would feel overwhelmed right?” Which he of course replies yes. “So take manageable bites and before you know it that burger that seemed impossible to eat will be in your stomach”.
3. Be goal-focused
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Can’t quite remember who said this but it’s very true, and getting your child to understand this from an early age is important. Encourage your child to plan and set goals before beginning a project, and to evaluate those goals afterwards: have they achieved them, or do they need more work? What could they do differently next time to make things easier?
4. Practise note taking with something familiar
One way to help your child understand the basics of note-taking is to practise with a familiar story or another piece of writing that they’ve enjoyed. Ask them questions about it which will help your child distinguish between the core messages and the peripheral information which is key to note taking.
5. Don’t write too much
If we were taught short hand this might be easier but trying to write down every word the teacher says not only makes it hard to keep up, but also leaves your child with too much information to retain. Encourage your child to note just the trigger words which will act as a reminder to the information.
6. Read it back
Research shows that reviewing something immediately afterwards helps retain information for longer. So that your child doesn’t forget what was said encourage them to review what they’ve written afterwards, and keep reviewing it regularly. This also allows your child to add any extra details that pop back into their mind.
7. Revising and preparing for exams – Make it manageable
See burger scenario from point 2. Help your child get used to chunking: breaking revision tasks down into small, manageable parts that he can focus on one at a time.
8. Look at past papers
Doing practice papers is the best form of exam prep. 2KickStartU can help you with this. Along with familiarising your child with the test format, it helps them to memorise the information through repeated practice.
9. Use visual aids
I’m a big fan of this myself. Filing cards, highlighters, mind-mapping, sticky notes around the house! Encourage your child to use visual aids to help the information stick in their mind.
10. Soothe stress and nerves
Anxiety, crumbling under pressure, forgetting things you know due to stress are all factors of fear. Fear of not doing well, of letting people down, of what will happen if they cannot perform. We are all faced with these feelings from time to time, and some people are affected by these feelings worse than others, so do your best to help your child keep these feelings at bay.
11. Develop research skills – don’t just go online
The internet is a great information source, but encourage your child to be resourceful by also using books (at home and in the library), encyclopaedias, surveys and interviews of friends and family members and visits to museums and other relevant places in their research.
12. Look for multiple sources
Help your child evaluate information to check if it’s accurate, for example by looking at multiple sources to see if they’re consistent. Encouraging your child to adopt this habit early on is a good way of instilling the importance of accuracy in life later on.
13. Find the counterargument
Encourage balance in point of view. You know that saying, ‘there’s two sides to a coin’? ‘A vastly underestimated research skill is to find your information, and then look for sources that offer the counterargument; this helps your child to present balanced, in-depth information.
14. Time management – Think task, not time
It’s easy for children to spend a long time appearing to work but actually doing very little. Encourage your child to set himself a task and finish it, rather than measuring success by how long they’re at their desk.
15. Draw up a timetable
To help ensure your child makes time for everything they need to do, get your child to timetable not just homework time, but also clubs and activities, chores, and include free time to watch TV, play on the computer or read – the important thing is that they commit some time to carry out their responsibilities whilst balancing it out with free time.
16. Don’t put it off
Teach your child about procrastination and the drawbacks involved with the habit. Incentivise them to be productive, because once it’s finished they can relax.
Other than that explain how learning is part of life and it never really ends, so bask in the many wonders of life and the lessons it has to offer.