Recently two of our team members were able to give a free study skills seminar in conjunction with LearningRx of Raleigh. It was a great night. We had some good interaction with students and parents. And they had free cookies.
Isn’t “free cookies” the definition of a good night?
Toward the end of our session, we had a few questions from parents. One question specifically was fantastic: what’s the most important middle school study skill?
It’s a great question. Middle school study skills, while not different than high school study skills, do have a different focus. We teach both high school and middle school study skills courses, and the material isn’t really that different.
Middle school study skills
The amount of time and depth we give to various issues is the biggest difference.
Think about it this way: the brain works essentially the same way for middle school and high school students. Students of all ages can use the skills we teach. But the goal of study skills is slightly different for middle school students because their school work load is different.
Study skills in middle school should lay a foundation for future success.
This is the real goal. Middle school studies skills are foundation-laying skills. They need to give students a system that they can take with them for years. The goal is to leave middle school with skills that will make the major tasks students face in high school and beyond manageable.
Some study skills middle school students have time to develop later
Homework loads just aren’t as heavy in middle school. A number of the study skills we teach are designed to help students save time and balance heavy workloads with busy schedules. Busy schedules are the norm now. Students need to handle the pressures of both normal life and school.
But if a middle schooler hasn’t mastered all 19 scientifically-verified, retention-boosting, time-saving study skills we teach in our course, How to Study in Middle School, it’s OK. They can find some of those later on. Their workload won’t ramp up too much for a couple of years.
But one middle school study skill is vital for both current and future success
What study skill are we talking about? Middle school students need effective systems for organization and productivity.
Maybe a “system” isn’t exactly what you think about when you think “study skills.” You’d be right. This is really less a “skill” and more a particular set of study skills.
But they are skills that are so interrelated that you can’t remove one from the other. If you can’t stay organized enough to know when and what is coming due, you’re unlikely to spend your study time effectively. Likewise, if you don’t have a good approach to getting work done, you’re unlikely to stay super organized.
We need interrelated systems for both.
Every student gets homework regularly. And we all have some sort of system for dealing with it. And no, stuffing it in your backpack and hoping you’ll find it later doesn’t count as an effective system.
Here are a couple of questions to consider about your current middle school study skills of productivity and organization:
Is it a system?
Systems do things consistently in the same way. They work the same way day in and day out. They’re kind of mechanical almost. And they help you stay on top of your school load.
Does your system reduce or increase the number of decisions?
The fewer decisions you make the easier it is to remember what you did with something. You can probably get that; it’s common sense.
If you have 1 place you always keep your shoes, you don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for them (because you know they’ll always be in that one place).
But if you have fourteen places you keep shoes, you will likely have to spend a lot more time looking for those shoes. And you may have too many shoes.
Is it comprehensive enough to cover every situation you will face?
One of the most important aspects of this study skill for middle school students is making sure your system is comprehensive. Some students have systems for a few different aspects, but not others.
For example, some students can track new homework from math class, but don’t have an English homework tracking system. Others can track all their homework, but have no clue on how to stay organized for tests.
Whatever the case, if you’re currently in middle school (or a parent of a middle school student) work on your organization system. It will pay off in the long run.
Do you have any middle school study skills tips you’d be willing to share that could help other students?