From the Desk of Mr Ruiz-Mesa
The school year is now at cruising altitude. Students and parents know it’s time to get down to business. As the journey progresses from Grade 8, the homework assignments become tougher, academic and co-curricular workloads get heavier and staying ahead of the curve becomes more challenging.
As a parent you may ask “What is the ‘secret behind the A?’”. Whilst having effective study skills may be overlooked as ‘basic’ in the academic journey, this has proven to be the tipping point in transforming good students into great students.
In a recent conversation with a colleague, we discussed some of the good study habits that can set a pupil on the path to a successful academic year. Amidst homework, tests, and extracurricular activities, it’s all too easy to let things slip through the cracks. Having a diary or daily planner can help students keep everything organised. Write down assignments, appointments and to-do lists, then review items in the planner at both the beginning and end of the day to stay on track.
Finding a quiet, well-lit, low traffic space at school or at home is essential to an effective study session. I may not be very popular with our pupils for offering this next bit of advice, but take it one step further and institute a “communication blackout” time with no cell phones or social media allowed until schoolwork is done.
A positive mindset is another very important habit for a successful student. One of the most common questions asked by pupils on the day of an assessment is: “Is the test hard?”. I often reply with the question “How prepared do you feel?”. The level of preparation for an assessment offers the peace of mind and the confidence levels conducive to good marks.
My son has often told me that his favourite way to study was to explain the work to his friends. He still regularly offers to explain the work to his classmates as a way of learning and revising. Working in groups can help students when they’re struggling to understand a concept and can enable them to complete assignments faster than when working alone. Keep groups small and structured to ensure the maximum benefit to participants and to reduce distractions.
Active listening and reading are essential habits which are becoming extinct. It’s important for students to concentrate and avoid distractions when an instructor is presenting. Some tips to share with your child include: try concentrating on and noting down the main points being made, think about what the speaker is saying and pay attention to how things are said (gestures, tone of voice, etc.). They should avoid talking or thinking about other problems when listening. If a teacher says, “This is important” or “I’ll write this on the board,” there’s a good chance students will see the concept in an exam. As far as active listening is concerned, it is all too easy for students to skim over an assigned book chapter and not know the main points of what they just read. Help your child to practise active reading by asking him or her to note the main idea of each passage and look up unfamiliar words or concepts. Make an outline of the chapter or create flowcharts and diagrams that help map out the concept at hand. After each section, have them write a summary in their own words and come up with possible exam questions.
The list of good habits that could help our pupils achieve their academic goals is endless. Everyone has different approaches to studying and this blog is not a “one size fits all” solution. It merely serves to introduce the idea that practising the right study habits will yield much better results during any pupil’s academic journey. Find what works for you and go with it.