Helping students become better scholars, Part II

Now that the second semester has started for everyone, what can we do to have a good semester? Many students (and parents) start the semester with good intentions, but things tend to unravel anyway. Unfortunately, no one seems to notice until report cards (progress reports, Open House night, etc.) arrive, about 4-6 weeks into the semester. That’s when my phone rings. If parents start earlier, however, report cards won’t be such a surprise.

Most parents don’t realize that students need educational support from the beginning–even the “good” students. Educational support is everything from tutoring to providing the right environment for students to learn.

1) Figure out your student’s learning style. There are many fields of thought on what the categories of learning styles are, but the classic ones are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning. Work with your students to figure out their learning styles and what things you can do to help. Individual teachers can’t always teach in every learning style, but many schools now have particular study periods or special testing rooms for students. If a student is taught and studies in the correct learning style, the mind will become more engaged–and having a more-engaged mind benefits the student both during and after school.

2) Provide the right environment. Many students have a hard time concentrating. There are so many distractions nowadays! Students need an environment that is conducive to studying, just as adults need an environment conducive to working. In essence, going to school–and thus, studying–is your child’s job. Having a comfortable, well-lit, and quiet place to study is very crucial to a student’s learning. Now, quiet doesn’t necessarily mean devoid of sound; soft music or other background sound is fine. However, quiet does mean free from distracting sounds, such as family members running around the study area or having loud arguments.

3) Have a consistent study place. Students should study in the same place every time–preferably not the bed, where naps invariably happen. This provides consistency and subconsciously tells the brain that “this is the study place.” This is why the place should NOT be the bed, because “that is the sleeping place.” And please: there should always be supplies such as paper, pencils, and pens. It’s amazing how many students don’t have pencils or pens.

4) Foster learning. Part of providing the right environment is also fostering an environment of learning. Make learning exciting by encouraging questions and conversation. Children are naturally curious, so stimulate that curiosity by finding challenging (yet do-able!) projects to do together. Better yet, encourage your students to experiment on their own. You can find project ideas at Science Buddies, or for a really cool challenge, enter the Google Science Fair! Students can win prizes! There’s a helpful section for parents and teachers on both sites.

5) Encourage friendships.As adults, somehow we forget how important having a social support group (aka friends) is. This may seem counter-intuitive: how can having friends help improve grades? As great as parents are, having a peer you can commiserate with helps make the journey so much easier. Friends help students get through classes. They really can help each other learn. While hanging out with friends should not supercede learning, having the occasional break can recharge the brain.Your student doesn’t have to be a social butterfly, but having someone to talk to can make the journey seem less long.Participating in sports, service organizations, or after-school programs also builds the social support network, which will engage your student’s learning.

Happy learning!

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