Parenting through the exam process

Skills for successful study: Parenting through the exam process

The exam classes of 2020 have had a rocky start to their exam year with Covid restrictions. In this blog, which accompanies the workshop Inspire 2020 “Parenting through the exam process” I outline some simple skills and strategies for successful study.

  1. Getting ready to Learn

Importance of sleep

Sleep is vital in helping students attend and concentrate. Sleep is food for the brain and if we skip sleep or don’t get enough sleep this has a negative influence on our energy, mood and performance. As a parent you can help students by encouraging and facilitating a relaxing wind down routine before bed. Discourage the use of fizzy drinks and coffee. Lead by example and model what a healthy bed time routine looks like. There is little point in asking your teen not to drink 3 cans of coke at 9pm and turn off his phone, when you fall asleep on sofa with phone in one hand and coffee cup in the other.

  • Learning to Learn

Organizing-Coloring coding books and school equipment. This simple strategy is an effective and visual way to help students organize their school stuff. 

  • Create a timetable using MSword or similar, or use highlighters.
  • Colour each subject so History may be green, maths could be red etc.
  • Then take the textbooks and workbooks associated with that subject and using coloured stickers, put the green stickers on the history book and copybook, red sticker on maths book and so on. It is useful to wrap the coloured sticker around the spine of the book so that it can be seen from front and back.

Organisational Skills

  1. Why do I need to be organized? –
    1. To know where things are
    2. To use time efficiently
    3. To be punctual
    4. To remember things
    5. To be prepared for school
  2. Use technology and set reminders for deadlines for assignments due, homework due, application dates
  3. Study environment- have a clearly defined space such as desk and dedicated shelf /box for storage
  4. Use a paper clip to mark the current page in workbooks/textbooks so no searching for ‘where was I’…
  5. SMART Learning Goals- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed e.g. I’m going to run a marathon next year is not as clear as I am going to run for 10 minutes this week, 20 minutes next week etc.
  6. Study environment- have a clearly defined space such as desk and dedicated shelf /box for storage
  7. Use a paper clip to mark the current page in workbooks/textbooks so no searching for ‘where was I’…
  8. SMART Learning Goals- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed e.g. I’m going to run a marathon next year is not as clear as I am going to run for 10 minutes this week, 20 minutes next week etc.

Time management.

Students need to be able to calculate how long a task will take and modify their plans accordingly. A simple exercise to practice this is to get your teen to set a goal time, such as the time they need to be in school for. Then work out the amount of time needed to complete all morning tasks – getting up, dressed, breakfasted, walk/drive to school. Subtract this total of amount of time needed from the goal arrival time and now you have the time needed to get up in the morning. So, this could be 7am for some, 8.15 am for others, it will be context dependent.  This exercise can be developed further by adding 8-10 hours’ sleep to the getting up time and now you have the time your teen should be falling asleep. This second half of the exercise usually generates some interesting conversations.

Getting the most from textbooks: Reading and re reading textbooks endlessly is not an efficient way to study. Actively engaging with the text using different study strategies helps your brain form new connections and embeds the knowledge.

321 is one way of annotating a page from a textbook. When finished reading, write 3 important facts, 2 interesting things and 1 question.

PQRST is another simple technique to actively engage with text

Preview the chapter or article- Check the table of contents and map out the organization of ideas, Read the summary and/or intro and conclusion, headings, pictures, charts, etc. If there are none of the above aids, read the first sentence of every 2nd or 3rd paragraph to get an overall view. This overall view can also be called ‘getting the gist’ of the information.

Question before you read- Ask questions: based on the title of the chapter or piece, based on each heading, based on your previous knowledge. Read to answer your question- Read in 3-5 minute “chunks”, Read to find the answer to your question, Summarize your answer after reading- Say the answer out loud in your own words, Highlight only the most important words and ideas, Write down key words and phrases for each chunk to jog your memory when you review. Test yourself immediately- At the end of the session, test yourself on what you just read, talk your way through the headings, explaining the main ideas ideally aloud.

Thinking Skills

Metacognition is the term used to describe thinking about thinking. It is useful to understand how the brain processes information.

Help your child understand HOW?  It is important that students get into the habit of recognizing how they arrived at a solution to a problem as this will help them apply this reasoning to new situations.

  • Can you tell me how you did that?
  • How else could you have done that?              
  • What do you think the problem is?

Clarify don’t criticize; Try to encourage clarification of incorrect answers rather than dismissing them as incorrect.

  • Yes but you could look at it another way
  • Can you think of a better way to do this?
  • When is another time you need to…?
  • How do you know that is right?

Motivate

  • Set realistic goals
  • Consider telling someone else about your goals as this may improve motivation
  • Ask yourself what will change if I do nothing?
  • Acknowledge and affirm all success- what have I achieved today, however small?
  • Acknowledge unhelpful thoughts but don’t dwell on them
  • Visualise success, imagine how it will feel to have achieved your goal, what will others see, how will you see yourself?
  • Take action, don’t over think JUST DO IT

SUCCESS IS NOT FINAL; FAILURE IS NOT FATAL: IT IS THE COURAGE TO CONTINUE THAT COUNTS.

Winston S. Churchill

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