Last Updated on October 25, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
How can I teach study skills for middle school or high school students? Have you ever thought this? I certainly have. The teen years can present many challenges and we want to set our kids up for success!
Maybe you have a child that is very intelligent but also disorganized. Maybe you have a child that is unmotivated even though they have so much potential. Or maybe you have one with learning struggles that is trying to become more independent.
Do you hear yourself saying things like:
- “You need to study harder.”
- “Just do your work and get it done.”
- “Make sure you turn in your assignments.”
- “If you just FOCUS, you will get it done quickly.”
If you have a teenager that is struggling to get their work done or doesn’t know how to study, you are not alone.
Years ago when my older kids were hitting the teen years, I quickly realized we had a problem. Being homeschooled, they had many vague deadlines and had trouble managing their time to meet the deadlines they did have.
Even though they had plenty of time to get things done, they were often scrambling at the last minute to get things ready for their homeschool co-op classes that met once a week.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to help them. When I was growing up, I went to a private high school and there were lots of reminders and lots of pressure to perform. I wasn’t looking to create pressure for my kids, but I did want them to learn how to get their work done without procrastinating.
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Table of Contents
The Problem with Study Skills
Like so many other “skills,” people that have them don’t realize that not everyone does. I have found this with social skills. People with great social skills often assume that others will just pick them up the way they did.
However, many people need to learn the specific nuances of studying that will help them succeed. Instead of broad platitudes, they need to learn the very simple building blocks that add up to talking to people, making friends and working with people in groups.
Students that struggle with study skills often procrastinate, use time inefficiently, are disorganized, lack self-awareness and have poor notetaking skills.
Each one of these areas needs to be addressed in order to improve study skills…and usually grades by default.
What Are Study Skills
Study skills are a combination of techniques, strategies and actions that individuals improve to positively affect their learning and academics. These skills allow students to efficiently gather and process information through organization techniques. Study skills encompass various aspects of the learning process, including time management, organization, note-taking, active reading, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
Study Skills are Similar to Executive Function Skills
Sometimes when a student struggles with study skills, they are actually struggling with executive function skills. In other words, they lack the skills to effectively manage time and information to complete tasks efficiently.
Sometimes the problem is related to their working memory. Othertimes it is related to thinking processes or communication skills. Often it is a combination of these things.
Encouraging and fostering the development of these executive function skills…in a step by step way… can help middle school students become more independent, organized, and successful learners.
That is why I’m so excited to share the SOAR Study Skills course below.
But before I do, let’s look at 30…yes, THIRTY study skills for middle and high school students.
30 Study Skills for Middle School & High School
- Create a study schedule and stick to it consistently. – A study schedule can be broken down into manageable chunks of 30 minutes to an hour with breaks between sessions. SOAR Study Skills helps makes this concept simple!
- Set specific goals for each study session. (For example: I will get 20 math problems done or I will write 3 paragraphs of my paper.)
- Break tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. Instead of trying to do a whole project, paper or study for a test in one setting, break it up into smaller more manageable sections.
- Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Look at the list of work that needs done and pick the top tasks to focus your effort one. In the book Eat that Frog, Brian Tracy argues that getting those most difficult tasks done FIRST frees up a lot of mental energy to do other tasks more quickly.
- Use a planner or digital calendar to stay organized. Its ok to experiment here. Figure out whether you like a paper planner or digital tools better and find one you can use to write down upcoming work.
- Develop effective time management skills. One of my favorite tips is to make a list and then use a timer for 10 minutes at a time to work as fast a possible.
- Practice active reading by highlighting, summarizing, and asking questions. When you are reading a book, make notes, highlight or use paper post it notes on the pages to help you remember key points.
- Take thorough and organized notes during lectures and while reading. If the instructor puts notes on the board, write them down…or take pictures with your phone or computer if you can’t write fast enough!
- Review and revise your notes regularly. Before you take a test, make a habit of simply reading the notes every day leading up to the test. It keeps the information fresh!
- Create flashcards for vocabulary, key concepts, or formulas. You can use paper flash cards or tools like Quizlet to make your own quizzes and digital flashcards.
- Use online resources, educational websites, and interactive tools for additional learning. We like to use Youtube, Khan Academy and Wikipedia as well as other sites if our kids are trying to figure something out that doesn’t make sense.
- Utilize visual aids and diagrams to enhance understanding. If your child is a visual learner, they may remember information better if it is on a chart of in picture form. Practice different ways of taking notes that capture information graphically.
- Form study groups to discuss and review material with classmates. Study groups can be just one other person or it can actually be a group. Working in a group can help you focus on the most important information in a chapter and make studying more social than isolating.
- Teach others or explain concepts aloud to reinforce understanding. When you “teach” the concepts you are learning to others, it uses different thinking processes and makes it easier to remember the information. You can “teach” your mom and dad or do this in a study group.
- Practice problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
- Seek help and clarification from teachers, parents or classmates when needed. Asking for help is a key to success in many areas of life. No one expects us to know everything, so learn to ask for help!
- Minimize distractions by finding a quiet study space and turning off electronic devices. When you are trying to study, take notes or get a project done, turn off your cell phone and get off social media. Set a timer and work without distraction.
- Take short breaks during long study sessions to rest and recharge. Break a long study session up into smaller chunks. Study for 20-30 minutes and then take a 5-10 minute break. Get up and move around during those breaks!
- Do SOMETHING with the information you are learning. When you are trying to remember something, it can be very helpful to DO something with that information. You can take notes…or you can make something with your hands. Try uzsing clay or playdoh to create study objects to help you remember key information.
- Use mnemonic techniques like acronyms or visualization to memorize information. Similar to using active learning, a mnemonic device is a pattern of letters or words to remember other facts. A famous example is Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain to remember the colors Red, Orange, Yellow, Green Blue & Violet.
- Apply different learning styles, such as auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, to better understand and retain information. It can be very helpful to know your own learning style so you can use that more often when studying. For example, if you are an auditory learner, it might help you to listen to the information you are trying to study….while a kinesthetic learner might benefit by writing notes more.
- Practice self-reflection and evaluate your study methods regularly.
- As you use different study techniques, make note of what is working and what does not work so you can adjust.
- Use practice tests or quizzes to assess your understanding and identify areas for improvement. You can make your own practice tests and quizzes using Quizlet.
- Find a healthy balance between studying and other activities to avoid burnout. Remember that good grades are only a small part of life. Don’t give up all of your other activities so you can have good grades. Learning how to balance is far more important than having perfect grades.
- Develop good sleep habits to ensure proper rest and cognitive functioning. It can be tempting to pull an all-nighter to study. But sleep deprivation will actually make it much harder to recall information. Instead, get into the habit of going to bed around the same time every evening so you can get 7-8 hours of sleep consistently.
- Stay organized by keeping your study materials and workspace tidy. It can be hard to keep your work area tidy. I make a habit of cleaning up my work area about once a month…perfect? NO! But much better than never doing it at all!
- Take advantage of available resources, such as textbooks, library books, or online databases. Many libraries have relationships with course sites where you take take classes for free. Taking classes to work on one specific study skill or tool is a practical way to build up your knowledge.
- Practice active listening during class to absorb information effectively. Active listening involves removing distractions and staying engaged while someone is teaching. When I was in school, while someone was teaching, I would be taking notes and doodling in my notebook…sometimes drawing pictures to make sense of the lecture. Active listening means doing something with the information you are hearing.
- Practice self-care by eating well, exercising regularly, and managing stress. This can look different for everyone. Break up times of study with some kind of movement that you enjoy. Eat foods that you enjoy that also make you feel good and are good for you.
Obviously it isn’t necessary to be proficient at every study skill. The idea is to find what works for YOU or your student and gradually do more and more of those things that are reasonable for your situation.
Having a list of SHOULDS is great…but some of us really need to have our hand held on a task to see how it is done. Having an instructor speeds up the learning process and also gives us confidence that we are on the right path. That is why I LOVE the SOAR Study Skills Curriculum!!
SOAR Study Skills Curriculum
My bright homeschooled son was trying to figure out HOW to get good grades in a very difficult science course. The textbook was written at a college level but was being used for 9th and 10th graders. I would watch him study for hours and the see him take the test that would result in a “C” or a “D.” I knew he needed to figure out HOW to study.
However, I am also a mom…and I had 7 other kids at the time…plus we were foster parents with other kids in an out of our house. I was struggling to keep up with the regular school work. I didn’t have time to figure out study skills.
I distinctly remember the day another mom told me about the SOAR study skills curriculum. I went and looked at the site and looked through their materials and realized that inside this self-guided course, my teens could learn how to get themselves organized step by step.
It made studying simple and manageable for even busy or disorganized students.
My son used SOAR and immediately began to see improvement in his grades. He was learning where to focus his effort and how to use his time better.
How SOAR Study Skills Solves a Problem For Students (and Parents)
SOAR Study Skills takes this big scary topic of “how to study” and breaks it down into really bite size modules. They offer it in book form…or on the computer. We have always used the computer modules and LOVE it. The computer version also has all the virtual lessons which the book does not.
As your student works through the modules, they will learn:
- Lesson 1: How Are You Smart?
- Lesson 2: Establish Priorities
- Lesson 3: Identify Your Goals
- Lesson 4: Schedule Time to Take Action
- Lesson 5: Organize Your Papers
- Lesson 6: Organize Your Space
- Lesson 7: Organize Your Time
- Lesson 8: How to Speak & Listen Effectively
- Lesson 9: How to Work With Teachers & Peers -Part 1
- Lesson 10: How to Work With Teachers & Peers – Part 2
- Lesson 11: How to Read Textbooks & Non Fiction – Part 1
- Lesson 12: How to Read Textbooks & Non Fiction – Part 2
- Lesson 13: How to Take & Study Notes
- Lesson 14: How to Take Tests
- Lesson 15: How to Write Papers
- Lesson 16: How to Give a Presentation
- Lesson 17: How to Use Language Resources
- Lesson 18: Tracking Your Grades
- Lesson 19: Monitoring Your Goals
- Lesson 20: Recognize Your Achievements
If you have a teen that struggles with executive function, can you imagine how much more peaceful your life would be if you could spend a few dollars per skill for your childs to learn these fundamental academic life skills?
With SOAR Study Skills, Students Learn Important Virtual Learning Skills
This is so helpful as many college classes are virtual…even when classes are mostly in person. Here are the Virtual Learning Modules:
- How Virtual Learning Is Different
- Video: Software + Supplies for VL
- Checklist: Software + Supplies for VL
- Electronic Calendar Set Up
- How to Use an Electronic Calendar
- How to Organize Papers + Digital Files
- How to Organize + Mananage Email
- How to Organize Digital Space
- How to Manage Your Time
- How to Collaborate Virtually
- .How to Read Nonfiction
- How to Take Notes Electronically
- How to Write Papers
- How to Track Your Grades
Like many others, my teens were thrown into virtual learning during COVID. My oldest had take a few college classes online before COVID but suddenly almost everything was online. And I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a struggle. Some classes didnt even “meet” for discussions. They didn’t have the prompting of a face to face teacher (or mom ;).
The usual social ques and social pressures were missing in the virtual environment. One of my kids figured it out…and another one decided that college wasn’t for her if it was going to be online.
The reality is that learning online is actual a life skill that will serve our kids in a variety of capacities if they can learn to do it wellI!!
Advantages of Study Skills Education
Very often, our education system focuses on a narrow set of eduacation and skills to “prepare” our kids for life. It can happen to students in school and in homeschool environments. After all, most of us have so many things we are juggling that we are bound to drop a few plates.
For me personally, I really struggled with social skills…S.T.R.U.G.G.L.E.D.
But when I began to focus on it intentionally, read books about it, pay attention, and ask questions about social skills, THEN I learned actual strategies that made it so much easier!!
Study skills are like THAT. Study Skills can be LEARNED!
Who Can Benefit From SOAR Study Skills
You might think that only students who struggle academically can benefit from study skills. And they do. But students who are academically strong…but also stressed out can benefit by learning how to balance their life through better study skills.
You can expect your stduents to experience:
- Improved Learning Efficiency
- Enhanced Academic Performance
- Increased Confidence
- Improved Long-Term Retention
- Independent Learning
- Transferable Skills
- Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Overall, study skills empower students to become active and engaged learners. They provide students with the tools and strategies necessary to navigate the demands of their education, leading to improved academic performance, confidence, and long-term success.