As a parent of three and a teacher of hundreds I always find myself repeating the same piece of advice to my students and children at home.
“You need to build good study habits!”
The big question here is… How does one actually build study habits? I have been fortunate enough to teach middle school for the majority of my career. I find there are three kinds of students in all my classes, in all my years.
- The first type of student is the one that you never have to worry about them building study habits. Studying and hard work comes naturally. These children never miss an assignment, receive high scores on their assessments and hang onto your every word during every lesson.
- The second kind of student is the complete opposite. They rarely hand in their work, rarely study for assessments and are constantly inattentive during class. This by the way, seems to come naturally too.
- The third type of student, which is where the majority of students, including myself, seem to fit. These students are attentive during class most of the time, love hands on activities and would rather do something besides homework. They also have test scores that can look like the tracks of a roller coaster ride.
While I am not neglecting the other two types of students, it’s the ones in the middle of the “study habit” spectrum that I would like to focus on here. Us folks that tend to linger in the gray area caught in the present, not so focused on the future.
I see my oldest son doing things similar to myself when I was his age. He works very hard, then drops off the academic radar and pops back into his work when the mood hit him. There never seems to be a consistent approach to studying.
I have tried everything with my kids when it comes to building good study habits. We made a nice quiet space where the kids can come home from school and do their homework. That worked out well in the beginning, but eventually lost out to the kitchen table.
I gave them a half hour respite when they came home from school and then it was homework time. After that, they could play with friends or do their own things.
I have designated times where there would be no television, video games or hanging out with friends. The idea was that my children would be able to focus solely on homework. However, once their sporting activities changed from Saturdays to weeknights, this designated time just didn’t become practical.
As an educator, it was killing me trying to figure out why I couldn’t instill good study habits into my own children. What was I doing wrong? Then it hit me… They were just like me.
I began getting all super reflective as I searched deep within my own habits in hopes that I would be able to recall the things that turned me on to studying without being forced to do so. My answer was simple. How did I learn best? It wasn’t reading assigned pages from a text-book. It wasn’t completing a skill drill “ditto.” Remember those? Nothing like the fresh smell of purple ink. It certainly wasn’t completing a dumb old project I had to do because the teacher said so.
I discovered my best learning strategies were “self driven.” What did I want to learn? What did I care about? What mattered to me? I think this is the biggest problem we have with students today as well as our own children.
We are in an age where students are more “self driven” than ever before thanks to the technology that sits in their hands. However, at the same time, there is a curriculum looming overhead that they MUST learn. Foundations that need to be created.
As educators and especially parents we need to figure out how to connect the dots from what our kids “like” to learn to what they “need” to learn. I think once we come up with some strategies on linking these two factors, building study habits will turn into a natural thing like the students that fit the first type.
I am on a quest to find some of those links. Looking at the flipped classroom seems like a fresh new approach with my students, but what about my own children? I can’t change another educators’ homework assignment simply because they don’t fit the way my kids prefer to learn. There has to be a way to bridge this gap.
If you have any ideas as educators or parents, please share them. I would love to try new ideas here at home and in my class room.