Helping a Teen with Homework
My high school student really struggles with homework. I know it’s important to learn study skills now so she will be prepared for college. What advice could you give her on homework and preparing for tests?
They really ought to have a class on "How to Study" in every school. Here are some creative tricks for homework and memorization that every student should know.
1) Always tackle your toughest assignments first. Do them while your mind is freshest, and you'll get through it faster. Save the fun ones for last.
2) Separate homework into “What I can do on my own” and “What I need help with.” Do everything you can on your own first and then get help on the rest. This creates independence, responsibility and confidence.
3) Prepare for tests long before they happen. Use one of the following techniques and you will never have to study for a test again. You will have read the information so many times during the term, you will already know it.
Create flash cards: As you read each chapter, create a flash card for each concept or fact you come to. Review all your flash cards, for each class, every night.
Create your own tests: After you read each chapter, sit back and think of some test questions you might ask if you were the teacher. You will often choose the same questions your teacher will. Write down those test questions and the answers. Review all these practice tests every night.
Review your notes: This one got me through college: Every night, read through all your notes from every class. It shouldn’t take long to do a quick read over. After a few weeks, you will have all the info memorized.
4) Follow a few simple guidelines when taking a test. Read each question and all the directions very carefully before you put pencil to paper. Skip over questions you don’t know the answer to and come back to those at the end, if you have time. Take a deep breath and relax. Being tense and scared makes your brain stop working. It’s just a test, you’re going to do fine.
5) Develop tricks for memorizing information. Try the following:
Use your imagination: When you have a fact to remember (especially a name or date), create a picture in your mind using the name or numbers. To remember Bill Gates, you might imagine a guy standing in front of a gate holding a telephone bill. You get the idea.
Create fun acronyms or sentences using each letter of a word: When I was a child I learned to spell “arithmetic” by memorizing the following sentence, “A red Indian thought he might eat tobacco in church.” It was easy to remember, and the first letter of each word spells "arithmetic." You can also create acronyms to remember lists of information. To remember grapes, oranges, lemons and apples, you just remember "gola."
Anthropomorphize the concept: It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Anthropomorphizing is just giving an inanimate object human characteristics. Make each fact or concept into a funny person with strange name. It makes them stick in your brain.
Imagine a room to remember facts: Imagine a room you are familiar with and see all the things you know are in the room. Now link each fact to something in that room. Pillows go with pancreas, etc. During the test you just call up the memory of the room, and you will automatically remember what you linked with each object.
Write it: Writing the facts or words over and over cements them into your memory. This works best if you write the information in the same order every time. Then the picture of that list will pop up in your mind.
Record it: Record your voice repeating the facts and listen to the MP3 file over and over. You can study while exercising or doing other things.
6) Use special techniques for math. Here are some suggestions:
Don’t procrastinate: Get your math homework done while the concept is freshest in your mind. Try to get it done in class while the teacher is right there, or as soon as possible when you get home.
Ask questions in class if you don’t understand: Don’t be shy about asking for help. I guarantee you’re not the only one who is lost.
Do complicated problems over again: If you are struggling with a concept, photocopy a page from the textbook and re-solve the problems every day. Solving the same problems over and over cements the concept in your mind.
Work out pictures or diagrams or make up stories to go along with concepts: You can remember the steps for long division by rehearsing the family order, “Dad, Mom, Sister, Brother, Rover.” It helps you remember, “Divide, Multiply, Subtract, Bring down and Remainder.”
Break it up: If a complex formula has you stumped, break it down. Every formula is made of “little parts” you learned in the past. Then create a system or phrase that ties the little parts together.
Pass this article along to your student and see if some fresh study ideas make a difference this year.
Last but not least: Don't let your mind wander. It's too small to be out by itself.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.