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4 Tips on Improving your Child's Study Habits

written by: Sandy Fleming • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 8/2/2012

How can your student get A’s on homework, then bomb the tests? The answer is in study habits. Help your child learn to study with these four simple strategies for academic success.

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    Does Your Child Know How to Study?

    Does it happen at your house?Parents often notice sometime between upper elementary school and middle school that their students’ grades do a slow but steady decline.The homework is getting done and scores are acceptable, but then at test time, the child seems to forget everything that’s been covered during the unit.How can they pass all of their homework assignments, then turn around and fail the tests?The answer is usually that the student has not yet learned effective study habits.

    If test grades are a concern in your household, Offer guidance about how to study.These skills often are not taught directly in schools, and some children simply do not figure them out on their own without guidance.Here’s how you can help.

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    Effective Study Habits: Check the Reading

    Effective study habits begin with effective reading. A frightening number of students actually are having difficulty reading grade-level text. You can find out if your child is reading adequately with a simple experiment. Choose a page from the center of the text book with lots of words and relatively few pictures. Have your child read aloud from that page. Keep a count of the number of words missed as he or she reads. After the reading is finished, ask a few simple recall questions over the material. If the child misread or stumbled badly over five or more words, or if s/he could not answer more than one of your questions, further evaluation is warranted. Your child may have a reading problem that is interfering with his or her ability to study and take tests. It's difficult for a child to learn how to study if he or she does not know how to read.

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    How to Study: Read with Purpose

    Simply reading or rereading material are not effective study habits. The mind must be actively engaged. One way to accomplish this is to give purpose to each reading. Have your student read to find answers to questions, to uncover specific information, or to find main ideas in the text. Try having a treasure hunt through the material, like reading to find names of four scientists or dates of five important events. Have him or her write down happenings to put onto a timeline or find out five traits of the main character. If you can give a new purpose to each reading, you will help your child get the most out of the effort.

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    Create Personal Study Guides

    Another activity that can be done while the student is reading or rereading a passage or chapter is to create a personalized study guide. Many families find that these can be created on the inside of file folders, and then use the folder to store papers, quizzes, and notes related to the topic. To create a personalized study guide, make up a standard list of components that seem to suit your child’s needs and the teacher’s tendencies on tests. Ideas include vocabulary words and their definitions, subheadings rephrased as questions with the answers written beneath them, lists of dates or other important information to recall, bullet points of characteristics or steps in a process, and so forth. You might even go so far as to create a standard layout for the study guide, like dividing the folder’s pages into sections for each type of information that the student needs to make notes about.

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    Outline the Material

    The old-fashioned task of creating headings, subheadings and details is often overlooked, but students can really benefit from studying in this way. It helps kids see relationships between facts and put everything into perspective. It also helps them separate trivia from important ideas and teaches them how to prioritize information.

    If an outline seems too structured or doesn’t work well for your student, try a graphic organizer. These tools are ideal for visual learners and can serve the same purpose as traditional outlines. If you need a quick introduction to graphic organizers, or need to see examples or want free printables, check out the collection at