At a glance
Teens often have to learn good study habits.
Making weekly and daily plans can help kids organize what they need to study.
Building in rewards for each task accomplished can help kids study more effectively.
Good study habits don’t always come easily or naturally. Most teens need to be taught how to develop them. And that can be hard when you’re not sure how much (or how little) to supervise or be involved with homework.
Learning effective study strategies can reduce your child’s stress about school and improve grades. And it may even help both of you avoid battles over homework. Here are two useful strategies to share with kids, based on suggestions in Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and ADHD (©2003 Brookes Publishing Co.).
Over “C” tests and assignments.
Studying isn’t just a matter of sitting down to review notes. It also involves knowing what you need to study when and keeping track of assignments and tests.
Many middle school and high school teachers use an online grading program. Many will list daily assignments and due dates, as well as grades. Kids can use this to plan their studying, using the following steps.
Create a calendar. Show kids how to use a large wall calendar and a set of markers to keep track of all the assignments. They can assign each class a different colored marker and write all of their assignments, activities, and appointments on the calendar. Or they can use an online calendar — and sync it with multiple devices, including their smartphone and laptop.
Create a weekly planner. Kids can break down information on the calendar to make a study plan for each week. Show them how to transfer obligations for each week from the big calendar to a weekly planner, making sure to include time to work on each assignment a few days before it’s due. Or have them print out a weekly list from their online calendar.
Create a daily checklist. It may seem like overkill, but breaking down the weekly plan into a daily checklist can also be very helpful. This to-do list helps kids keep track of their day and see how much progress they’re making. It’s a good idea for kids to list each day’s tasks in the order they should do them and to write down the specific time of each class or appointment.
“CHECK” in to studying.
Once teens have a handle on what to study, the next step is learning how to study. This can be broken into a CHECK list — with each letter in “check” standing for a step in the process of getting ready.
Consider location. Does your teen study better at school, at the library, or at home? Some teens work better away from distractions. Others like to have someone nearby in case they need help. Whatever kids choose, when it’s homework time, that’s the environment they should study in. (See some homework station ideas from the Understood Community.)
Have all materials on hand. It can be very distracting to have to look for a pencil or a calculator in the middle of studying. Help kids find a place where they can store all their homework materials so they’re ready to go.
Establish rewards. At first, you may need to help kids set up a reward system. For example, for every chapter they read, you might let them use the computer for 10 minutes. Eventually, though, they’ll learn to reward themselves, even if it’s just by having a snack between English and algebra homework.
Create a study checklist. This includes all the steps kids need to take to get ready to do homework and what they need to study that day. Having everything listed out can make it easier for them to get started and prioritize their time. It may also make their homework load seem less overwhelming.
Keep a worry pad. A worry pad is a tool for teens who are easily distracted by their own thoughts. Instead of trying to deal with all the distracting things that keep popping into their head, they can write them down on the pad. When they’re done studying, then they can deal with the things that distracted them.
Good study habits take time to develop. Discover what one set of parents wished they’d done sooner to support their daughter. Read a college student’s tips for studying when you have ADHD. If you’re considering hiring a tutor, get answers to common questions about tutoring.
If your teen struggles with organization and time management, you may also want to try:
Knowing what to study, organizing time and materials, and managing distractions are important homework skills.
If teens get distracted when studying, they can write their thoughts on a pad and return to them later.
If your child is having trouble developing good study skills, you may want to consult an academic coach.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.