1 A Quick Guide to Learning and Study Skills Dawn K. Durkin MA Special Education MA Educational Leadership Mountain Lakes School District 2013
2 Introduction Learning Skills and Study Skills: What are they? Learning skills and study skills are learned abilities that a student uses to acquire knowledge and process information. To some people, these two terms, study skills and learning skills, have the same meaning. To others study skills are focused more on school learning, while learning skills include learning in any situation. In this guide, we will consider these terms to be the same. Some examples of learning and study skills are effective listening, understanding directions, note taking, time management, goal setting, problem-solving, and preparing for tests. All students need to develop learning and study skills because applying these skills will improve their learning and performance in school. The Value of Learning and Study Skills to Your Child: Understanding and using learning and study skills can help your youngster become an independent, competent learner. By developing and using these skills, your child will be in charge of his or her own learning. Your child will know how to handle challenges with increased success because he or she has the tools or skills necessary for succeeding.
3 Your child is receiving instruction in key learning and study skills at school. What you can do is to support and reinforce your child s learning and application of these crucial skills. How You Can Help: Your support can be crucial to your child s success in the learning of study skills. Teachers will provide instruction in learning and study skills and the need for these skills. Your job is to support your youngster s learning and use of the various study skills. By emphasizing the use of learning and study skills, you ll give your child practical advice on ways to improve. Students need and deserve specific help. Just try harder does not give that kind of advice. This packet will provide you with a number of specific ideas for helping your child become a more skilled learner. As you use these ideas, please remember that your child is an individual and that application of these suggestions will be subject to your personality and your child s personality. To be truly successful you ll need to work with your child, not force these suggestions upon him/her. Your child needs to know how study skills can help and to perceive this advice as non-threatening J.
4 Understanding Your Child s Learning Style Your learning style is the way in which you learn best. Each person has a personal learning style. Here are some basic differences in learning style: People are organized or not-so-organized. Some people prefer to learn in an orderly, structured way. Others prefer a less structured and more random method. People have different preferences for learning through their senses. Some people are visual in learning style; that is, they prefer to see what they are learning. Others are auditory learners; they prefer to hear what they are learning. Still others are kinesthetic, preferring to move their bodies as they learn. Some people use all their senses as they learn. People have different preferences for time of day. Some learn best in the morning. Others prefer the afternoon. Still others prefer the evening. Some people like to deal with many ideas and possibilities all at once. Others prefer to deal with only a few ideas. In addition, some people like to start with the big picture and then explore the details and parts. Others prefer to start with the parts and work towards the whole. A person s learning style seems to be a combination of both experience and personality.
5 It s important to understand that there is no best learning style. Every learning style can be effective if the person understands how she learns best. At the same time, that doesn t mean you can t improve in an area that is not your learning style strength. While your child s learning style may frustrate you at times, it is helpful for you to understand it and to understand that you will be more constructive if you work with his or her style rather than try to change it completely. What You Can Do: 1. Ask your child if he/she knows about learning style. If he/she does, have your child explain the concept to you. If he/she does not know about this concept, tell him/her about it. In either case, help your child identify his/her own learning style. You can use the characteristics described above to guide you in this discussion. One good way to organize this discussion is for you to identify your own learning style as your child identifies his/hers. 2. Help your child understand that any learning style includes both strengths and limitations. Involve your
6 child in identifying these strengths and limitations in his/her learning style. Do the same with your learning style. Then, talk about how these strengths and limitations affect both of you as you learn, work, relax, etc. 3. Talk to your child about how his/her learning style affects his/her schoolwork. Encourage your child to identify both ways in which his/her learning style helps in school and ways in which it might create problems. Then talk with your child about how he/she might solve these problems. For example, if your child is a visual learner and his/her history teacher rarely uses pictures, maps, or charts, discuss what your child can do to learn best in the morning but tries to do homework late at night, discuss that he/she might want to get up earlier and complete the homework in the morning before school. Setting and Achieving Goals Students may spend many days without any clear direction to follow or goal to achieve. Also, the goals that are set for them by adults are often so long-term or distant that the motivation to achieve a goal soon falters.
7 Young people need to learn how to set clear, realistic goals for themselves, particularly in school. Even more important than setting a goal is setting steps to achieving that goal and following through on those steps. Too often, students set goals without any idea how to accomplish them. Sometimes parents set goals for their child without helping that youngster see the steps needed to achieve the goals. As a parent, you can be of great help to your child in goal setting and following through. When you talk with your youngster about goals, be aware of the following ideas: Goals can be short-term or long-term. For example, a short-term goal might involve completing all one s homework for a night as well as babysitting for two hours. A long-term goal might involve sewing a quilt over a period of weeks or months. Some youngsters should not be encouraged to set long-term goals because they lack the maturity to follow through on them. Be sure to encourage your child to set the goals that he/she can accomplish. Such accomplishment will help your youngster develop a positive pattern of behavior and success. Success will lead to further success. Achieving short-term goals will eventually lead to
8 success in long-term goals, particularly as the young person becomes more mature. Place as much emphasis on the steps to achieve the goal as on its accomplishment. Whenever possible, encourage your child to set goals for which the motivation for achievement comes from within. If a child wants to accomplish the goal for his own reasons, he will work harder for it. Certainly a reward for achieving a goal is nice, but the most effective rewards are the achievements themselves. What You Can Do: The following suggestions and goal-setting model can help you help your child learn about setting and achieving goals. When the opportunity arises, help your child develop these skills. 1. Help your child set short-term goals. A short-term goal is one that can be achieved in a relatively short period of time. For a high school student, it might be up to one month. For a middle school student, it might be one week. A short-term goal could even be as short as one day. Vary the length to fit your child s maturity and needs. Shortening the length of time to achieve a goal may motivate your child to achieve because the success can be more immediate. Indeed nothing succeeds like success is the best
9 guideline for helping youngsters learn to set goals and then accomplish them. 2. Help your child set long-term goals. Goals such as making the honor roll, being first chair trombone, making the varsity tennis team, or being accepted by a college of your choice are all long-term goals. Students tend to set too many long-term goals and few short-term goals. Encourage your child to limit the number of long-term goals or at least break each long-term goal into a series of short-term goals so he/she remains focused. 3. Help your child set steps toward the accomplishments of each goal. Setting the goal is often easy for young people. Establishing the steps to achievement and sticking to it are hard. In talking with your child about goals, introduce the Goal Ladder. Talk to the child about goals and different parts of the ladder. Then, have your child set a short-range goal and fill in the rungs on the ladder with the goal at the top. Be sure he/she fills in each rung with a step to achieving the goal. 4. Check-in. Either in the middle of your child s efforts to achieve this goal, or at the end of the process-or on both occasions- check-in with him/her about how things are going. Be sure not to nag! Rather, ask your child questions that help him/her understand more clearly how well (or how poorly) he/she has accomplished the steps towards his goal.
10 Example of Goal Ladder: Goal: Improve my 3 rd quarter grades in all subjects 4. Use study hall time for homework, studying for tests, organizing. 3. Do all homework; get my homework done before I watch TV or talk on the phone. 2. Organize and keep all class handouts and notes. 1. Take notes in class.
11 Listening In many classrooms, from 50% to 80% of your child s time is devoted to listening to the teacher and other students. Given this focus on listening, it is absolutely critical that your youngster understand what listening really is. Many people think of listening as the experience of receiving sounds. But receiving sounds is hearing! Listening is the process of understanding and making sense of what has been heard. To be an effective listener, your child needs the ability to think actively about what he or she is hearing. What Your Child Needs To Know About Listening: Most people speak at a rate of about 125 words per minute, yet people are capable of listening to 400 words per minute. Since we re capable of listening to so much more than we hear, we tend to daydream or tune-out. To make listening active and to avoid daydreaming, your child needs to practice and use some of the following tips for listening described below.
12 What You Can Do: Talk with your child about how she listens in school, and share some of the following tips or skills. If possible, illustrate each tip with examples from your own experience as a listener. When you talk about the events of the day in your child s life, ask her how she is applying these listening tips. 1. While someone is speaking to you, ask yourself questions about what is being said. 2. When possible, establish eye contact with the speaker. 3. At times, try to picture in your mind s eye what the speaker is saying. 4. Listen first, evaluate later. 5. Take notes if you need to remember what the speaker is saying. Organization Being poorly organized is a problem for the majority of teenage students. Some young people are poorly organized because they are not yet mature enough to want to become organized. Others have problems with organization as a result of their learning style.
13 Regardless of the cause, young people need to learn that being organized is essential to success in school-and in work! Your child needs to learn to organize his assignments, notebooks, books, and time. There are some simple steps to organization. Most of these steps, however, require a change in the child s behavior. The Assignment Notebook: Being organized means knowing where things are and when various events will take place. Most students try to do this in their heads. An assignment notebook or student planner is essential to every student so he can keep track of things. In this assignment notebook, a student can record classroom events, homework assignments, test dates, and important announcements. Your youngster should take his assignment notebook to each class each day and record the events and assignment from the class. Once your child has learned how to use the assignment notebook, this notebook becomes a tool that you can use to keep in touch with your child s school life. The notebook can help you stay informed and help your child be responsible!
14 What You Can Do: 1. Many teachers will encourage or require students to get and use an assignment notebook. If so, then begin to ask your child to show you his notebook and to tell you about the information that he has recorded each day. 2. If your child does not have a teacher who requires the use of the assignment notebook, then you can introduce the tool to your child and help him learn to use it. Scheduling time: Time management is also so critical to your youngster s overall organizational effectiveness. A student must learn to schedule and use time wisely. Some students are always pressed for time, while others have time to spare. Whatever the case may be, your child can benefit from a time management plan or schedule. What You Can Do: Many teens resist or are hostile to the idea of scheduling, because they feel that creating a schedule will cause them to lose some of their freedom. If your child feels this way, you should approach the idea of time management very carefully.
15 1. Some teachers help students learn how to develop and use schedules. If your child s teacher will do this, then your role is to support your child by staying in touch with how things are going for him. 2. You may want to help your child learn this skill by having him do a time study for one week. Have your child keep track of all of his activities during the week (sleep, school, TV, work, play, etc.). With this, you and your child can begin to make a schedule. Plan for daily and weekly events. Put aside a block of time for schoolwork as well as other activities. Help your student see the blocks of time that are currently wasted. It is as important to plan for play time as it is for work time. While a schedule is designed to provide structure to your student s day, it must also be flexible to allow for things that come up. 3. When your child is satisfied with this schedule, have him try it out for a week. Then sit down together and talk about how it went. Help your child make any useful changes. Once the schedule is in final form, have your youngster post it on the refrigerator or some other central location where he will see it regularly.
16 Managing the paper blizzard! Your youngster faces a paper blizzard everyday! A part of the organizational process in school is managing all of the paper. You child needs to know that it takes a bit of time. At the end of each class he should take some time to store and file the papers in the proper sections. Taking a few minutes to file the papers when they are received will save hours of work and frustration later. Preparing For And Taking Tests Preparing for a test is crucial to a student s success. A student s preparation should begin at least three or more days prior to the test date. This allows the student an opportunity to spread out the preparation process and to target different topics for study. Here are some ways your youngster can prepare for the test. Some of these methods for studying work better for some individuals than others do. Find out what types of questions will be on the test. Then study these types of questions. Pay close attention to everything your teacher says about the test. Don t leave all of your studying to the night before the test. Inch by inch is a cinch, yard by yard is way too hard! Use your note to help guide your studying.
17 List questions that you may have for the teacher. See the teacher before the test to discuss them. Review all past homework, worksheets, and so on that relate to the test. What You Can Do As a parent, you can have a tremendous impact on your child s test taking and test success. 1. Develop a plan for studying for tests. 2. Carry out the plan for studying. 3. Explore and practice the test preparation skills described above for your child. Responsibility And Enabling This section focuses on how you use the ideas and suggestions in this booklet with your child. Enabling is a term that refers to helping or allowing a behavior to continue. On the surface, to enable someone seems like a good thing to do. How can giving help or assisting be harmful? If the giving of help keeps a young person from developing her own sense of responsibility, then it is harmful. Here are some examples of the negative outcomes of enabling a child s poor study skills.
18 Parents enable a child when they do their child s homework. Parents enable a child when they repeatedly bring things to school because the youngster forgets. Parents enable a child when they make comments like I was like that in school too, or I didn t like history either. In parents efforts to help their child succeed in school, they can help too much. Too much help removes responsibility from the student for her actions. The youngster gets used to such help and will learn to rely on that help rather than becoming responsible for him/herself. Both parents and teachers want to encourage young people to become responsible for their own actions. Of course, the way in which young people become responsible will vary from one individual to the next. But a student will not learn that sense of responsibility effectively if her tasks are performed for her or if excuses are made for poor performances. Instead of enabling the child, parents and teachers need to encourage her to become a skilled learner and to become increasingly responsible for her own learning, in school and elsewhere.
19 Conclusion As a parent you can have an enormous impact on your child s achievement in school by doing the following: 1. Stay involved with your child s school life. 2. Support and encourage your child s learning in school. 3. Work with your child s teachers. 4.Apply the suggestions from this booklet that make sense to you to help your child become a more competent and responsible learner. Remember: You Can Make A Difference!