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New Year, New Start: Five Vital Study Habits for Teens

By Allison Ford for DivineCaroline.com
12/1/2012 10:35:25 AM

Ah, the start of another school year: pencils and notebooks purchased, sensible shoes broken in, and backpacks pulled out from their summer hiding places under the bed. Young children may associate the allure and promise of a new school year with new supplies and a new seat assignment in homeroom, but older students face more pressing challenges. There are minimal consequences when a first-grader performs poorly on a spelling quiz, but for teenagers, school matters and grades matter. Failing a single test can drastically affect a student's grade in the class, thereby affecting his or her chance to get into college.

That's why it's so important for high school students to start the year right, not just with new textbooks and binders, but also with study habits that will help them do their best in class. Parents may no longer be able to assist with trigonometry homework or remember the plot of Great Expectations, but they can still help their kids develop study habits that will carry them through secondary school to their education beyond.

Develop Strategies for Better Writing

Writing has become a much more integral part of high school curricula, but effective strategies for writing papers and essays are too often not taught in middle school. Too many students put off papers until the night before they're due, thus never developing the skills required to be a clear, concise, and organized writer. If your child doesn't already, encourage him to start developing outlines for each paper, which will help him visualize the structure of the essays and stick to the important topics. No writing assignment should be poured onto paper at the last minute; help your child learn to start papers early so that he has time left over for multiple revisions. Learning how to edit his own work will help him develop into a more skilled and confident writer. Also, encourage your child to get into the habit of asking somebody else to look over each writing assignment before he turns it in-a friend or parent with good grammar, a trusted teacher, a tutor-to catch typos, grammatical errors, and punctuation mistakes.

Establish Good Study Skills

Being able to self-motivate and study on a schedule is an important skill that will serve any student far beyond high school. If your high schooler doesn't already have a set schedule for homework and studying, encourage her to identify her most alert and motivated time of day--whether it's immediately after school, after dinner, or in the early morning--and set aside that time for schoolwork. A study area should be separate from eating, sleeping, or lounging areas and should be organized, quiet, and free of distractions-- including cell phones and email.

Some students claim that music or television helps them concentrate, but a study published in the July issue of the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that information retention and memory recall were poorest when study participants listened to music or variable sounds; the best performance came from those who worked in quiet environments or in environments with steady, repetitive sounds. Help your child gather all necessary materials at the beginning of a study session, in order to avoid distractions later.

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