No matter what the school semester brings, students are going to have to prepare for the beginning of a new academic year. In order for them to start strong, they need the right mindset to go in with a positive attitude. Here are eight simple actions your child can take to ensure academic success this school year, at any grade level.
1. Remain Active
Whether your student is in elementary, middle or high school, physical activity is key to helping them maintain focus and motivation. Try to make sure that they exercise a little bit each day. Walking, running, riding a bicycle or swimming will all help your student refresh their mind and boost their mood. Physical activity after class and before studying or homework staves off fatigue and mental exhaustion by giving them a break in between tasks.
Taking a break after each subject is also vital to make the most of their academic time. Have them get up to stretch or walk around every half an hour. This action relieves nervous energy and allows them to return to their work with fresh eyes and new focus. Likewise, if they are feeling frustrated by a confusing math problem or word they struggle to remember, encourage them to stand and move around briefly. Besides stretching, they can do jumping jacks, pushups, situps or jog in place to increase blood flow and stimulate their mind.
2. Manage Time Effectively
Have your student create a study plan and make specific goals. Help them create goals that are clear and easily attainable in the short term. Instead of a goal to “study for Biology 1,” choose to study notes from specific class days or chapters in the textbook. Making a word or page count goal for an essay will also be more effective than trying to finish the whole thing at once. If your student enjoys to-do lists, have them create a physical list or digital note. Actually checking the item off will bring them satisfaction, and the little victories add up to huge academic success.
Encourage your student to put their phone away during homework time and avoid multitasking. Pausing to check social media can lead to a larger and longer distraction than originally intended; one Tiktok may turn into 12, and 10 minutes of scrolling Twitter can easily become 30. Taking mental breaks is healthy and encouraged, but they should take care to ensure that a break does not become a distraction from the goals they want to achieve for the day.
Large goals are still encouraged; smaller daily goals can stack into these bigger tasks. For example, if your student is studying for the ACT with a practice book, their smaller goal could be to work on a practice test every other day with the ultimate intent of finishing the entire book. Crossing off the big goals will show your student the results of their hard work and daily diligence.
3. Ask for Help When Needed
There should be no shame in asking for help when your student is confused by a problem, assignment or concept. Encourage them to come to you with questions; if you are unsure of the answer, do not be afraid to acknowledge this fact. Being open and honest develops trust, and you have the opportunity to learn alongside your student as you work with them to answer their question.
College professors maintain office hours for the express purpose of working with students who have questions or otherwise require assistance, so the earlier your student gets in the habit of reaching out, the better. Reinforce the concept that asking for help is beneficial and does not reflect badly on the confused person; instead, it shows the student cares about the material and has a willingness to learn.
Discussing difficult concepts from a course with their peers will also help them, as it improves their communication and analytical skills. Creating small study groups may help your student, so long as the members of the group practice good time management and take care to avoid major distractions like a prolonged conversation on other topics. Such gatherings also improve your student’s ability to work as a team with others. Once the overall task is complete, a fun break with friends can prove a wonderful reward.
4. Hold Yourself Accountable
Accountability goes hand in hand with time management. Losing track of time or dropping focus every so often is normal, but your student can choose how they react to being distracted or experiencing setbacks. If they realize they have started daydreaming, they should take stock of what has been accomplished so far and their progress towards their goal for the day. Your student should then prioritize: What needs to happen most urgently? Do they need to rework their plans for the day to make those goals a reality? Would it be best for them to get up and refocus before returning to work? Maintaining a positive mindset is key to academic success, so if they appear frustrated, encourage them to take a small break and return to their task after a brief period of time, ideally 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Take Breaks
Working in large chunks is an easy way to lose focus. If your student sits down to write an eight-page paper in one sitting, they may find themselves struggling to maintain motivation after about 45 minutes. Every hour or so, or half an hour for younger students, they should take a break to refresh their minds with a different activity. This may easily be achieved with exercise, with the added benefit of engaging their muscles and improving their mood, but other activities well-suited to the individual student can also help. They might read a few chapters of a book, go outside for a little while, practice art or spend some time with family, friends or pets.
Remember that your student should hold themself accountable for returning to work when they need to, and they should keep an eye on their social media use during study time. Make sure they take time to have fun when the studying is over! Without downtime and an opportunity for their mind to relax, your student will have trouble focusing and feeling rested for the next day. Your student needs ample time to pursue recreational activities they love and take time for themselves to truly ensure academic success.
6. Write Things Down
Although it may seem counterproductive at first, your student should rewrite their notes after each class. The physical act of writing the notes again reinforces their memory of the content, especially for any diagrams or charts they may have created. They should star, highlight or otherwise denote material that confuses them during their rewriting process, so they can ask questions at their next opportunity.
Your student should also write down each assignment or important date they receive, even if they are confident that they will remember without reference. It is far better to have the information saved and never need it than to realize two days later that they are unsure whether their exam will be this or next Friday.
7. Organize Work Space
If your student’s workspace is cluttered, they will be less likely to focus. Make sure that the space they are working in provides them with enough room for all of their materials, and that they can sit comfortably without slouching. If your student has to lean over constantly, they will become unsettled and will probably experience neck or back pain after sitting.
Encourage your student to avoid sitting on their bed to do homework or studying if they are using their room as a workplace. They need a designated place to work so that their brain can focus and compartmentalize better. Sometimes, a change of scenery may also work wonders. If they feel stagnant after a while of working in one area, try moving them to a new spot, such as a coffee shop or table in the backyard. To subconsciously promote a positive mood, look for an environment that affords some form of natural light, like a large window.
8. Challenge and Test Outside of Class
In order to grow and learn, your student needs to challenge themself. If their homework is completed, they should try self-quizzing with flash cards to ensure they thoroughly understand the material. Especially when preparing for a test like the ACT or SAT, they should take advantage of outside study materials like online practice modules and mock tests. Flexing their mental muscles beyond the classroom will help them excel, but they should make sure to take time for fun, too! Leisure activities can also challenge your student’s mind and outlook: games like chess and checkers stimulate a student’s sense of logic, as do puzzles.
Ensure Academic Success with mAke the grAde
No matter what age your student is, following these eight actions will set them on the path towards academic success in their endeavors. Should you need further guidance, contact mAke the grAde. Remember that they should never be afraid to ask questions and request help. Their continued learning and improvement is the overall goal of education. More info http://www.makethegrade.net or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author. Dr Steven Greene Ed.D. is the lead educator at mAke the grAde, a full time, full service, academic support and tutoring service based in Philadephia, PA. mAke the grAde has supported students and their familes for over 25 years.