As we get into the groove of the second half of the school year, finals and other year-end exams begin to loom for our kids. Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D., director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, helps parents understand ways to help their children learn good study habits.
How do we know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to studying?
This is really about trial and error. We all study slightly differently and like things to be a certain way when studying. Try different tips and techniques and find what works best for your child!
What are some key tips and tricks to studying?
- Use a mnemonic device.
- Find out how you study best — note cards, redoing/rewriting notes (our brains actually encode information better if we handwrite it than type it!), quiz yourself, or quiz others, work in a group for studying, find what works best for you. Determining if recording lectures/classroom learning helps to reinforce learning is also a great technique.
- Take breaks. Give your child, and yourself, rewards for great studying, including my favorite — praise! Also, try not to “cram” everything at the last minute, studying every day, in small parts, is key to studying success.
- Planning your time is also key, allowing for you to set alarms to take a break, make a to do list and set time limits.
How should a child’s environment be set up?
Set up your environment for success. The study space should be quiet, comfortable and distraction free. Some kids want to listen to music when studying, and if that works for them, that is OK.
What do we do about electronics and “the phone” when studying?
Great question! The great thing about studying is that we want to do it in small chunks. So, you can place your phone (and maybe your watch) on silent, and move it across the room. Only get up and access it once your short studying session is complete, and take a 5-15 minute break with your phone. The phone time then becomes a reward for that great time studying. Using the options in our phone to deactivate some apps for a period of time is also a great resource when we need to remove distractions and really focus on studying.
What are ways to encourage my child to study and do his or her homework?
Specific praise is a great option.
Provide an environment that is amenable to studying.
Make sure kids are eating healthy meals, get great sleep and take breaks when doing a lot of study. Learning to take deep breaths and calming their bodies down if they are getting anxious is also key.
Check in with your child, but also be supportive, not nagging. Provide structure and praise, with increasing independence over time. Be available to answer questions, and determine if additional school or tutoring supports may be necessary, especially potentially using extra time with a teacher or supportive tutor.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D.