SCHOOL DAZE: Here’s How You CAN Get Your Kid Motivated

By Sheryl Seef

When speaking with my friends about our kids’ school issues, they often say, “I wish you could just MOVE IN with me and help my kids with their school work!”

As we head into the “homestretch” of the school year, we are all doing whatever we can to help our kids stay motivated and do their best work on these last few tests, quizzes, and projects that will count big-time toward their final grades.

As a parent, teacher and Executive Function Coach, I do have a lot of tools and strategies to share with my friends and they appreciate the tips because they really work! When our kids are completely overwhelmed and stressed out about studying for a test or quiz, we want to be able to help them.

Teaching our kids a strategy to approach an upcoming exam can provide immediate stress relief as well as help them build their “tool box” so the next time they are faced with a similar situation they feel prepared.

When your kid is faced with an upcoming test or quiz, one strategy most of my students (and my own children) find extremely useful is theDKDK” (in other words, you Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.) Hopefully, your kid’s teacher has provided them with a study guide that identifies all the information they need to know on the upcoming test or quiz (we LOVE those kinds of teachers). The DKDK provides a structure for you to help your student go through their study guide like THIS:

Step 1: Go through each section of the study guide and highlight in green all the items in which your knowledge is secure (This is the stuff you don’t need to spend time studying – you can say to yourself: “I know it so well I can teach it to someone else.”)

Step 2: Highlight in blue any item you are familiar with, but know you need to spend time studying. (You say to yourself,  “Umm, I kind of get this, but not totally. I definitely cannot teach it to someone else.”)

Step 3:  Use a pink highlighter for the things on the study guide that make you say to yourself: “I have no flipping idea what the teacher is even talking about!”

This whole exercise takes only minutes but is like magic when it reveals a visual, structured guide for what needs to be studied. There are usually two reactions:

1) “Wow, I know way more than I thought. This is manageable.”

2) “Holy Pink Highlighter, Batman — I seriously need to study more than the 5 minutes I had planned.” (By the way, the cool thing about using this strategy for studying is that just the exercise of doing a DKDK is actual studying!)

In both cases, the response provides a concrete measure for students to self-evaluate and reflect upon their own knowledge, and then plan their studying accordingly.

“But wait!” my friends shout. “Don’t move out yet! My kid has NO IDEA how to study!”

Yep – most of the time when I ask kids to tell me about how they prepare for a test they tell me they “read over their notes.” I really don’t know what this means, exactly, but almost all my students, when I first start working with them, identify THIS as their most effective way to study for a test. They will spend a good amount of time just “reading over their notes.” I guess they are hoping The Act itself will cause the information to jump off the page and get into their brain through osmosis. It is at this point that I am always happy to let kids know that without putting in too much extra time, there are several ways to more ACTIVELY study for a test (and it does involve their notes!)

First, decide WHEN to study:

– Break notes into small sections and study shorter sections over a longer period of time (I can tell you all the scientific reasons your brain works much more effectively this way, or you can just trust me!)

– Study just before bed – it actually works and helps the information to stick. (Kind of like the Osmosis Theory.)

– Secondly, consider HOW to study your notes:

– Actually, reading them over in small sections is okay, just read them OUT LOUD to yourself. That way, you are processing information through your eyes, ears and mouth, which makes it easier to remember information on a test.

– Highlight key words and phrases:

– Summarize points at the end of a section or from a lesson.

– Pretend you’re the teacher — what questions would you ask your students?

– Use mnemonics (acrostics, acronyms, word games, rhymes).

– Write your own study guide if one has not been provided to you (writing the study guide IS studying!)

– Use old assignments and quizzes to study for a test.

– Study with a classmate.

A last thought. I know it easy for me to tell you all these suggestions and it is another thing to get your kid to actually use a great suggestion. I find it is best when parents can take a step back. You can “notice aloud” that your child seems frustrated and let them know you read about a cool study tool that seemed like it might work. If they don’t eagerly ask you to share, have it printed out and “casually” leave it where they might find it.

It is also helpful if a cool older cousin, a grandparent or anyone OTHER than YOU offers up the advice.

(Note to kids who might be reading this … Don’t you think this might be a helpful way to study? You don’t have to admit it to your parents … just try it!)

Ultimately, know your child DOES want to succeed and do well. It just takes a lot of trial and error to help them find their way to the strategies and study habits that will help them get there.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare:  I am SO going to print this out for my girls … Sheryl Seef, Mom of 3 amazing kids, has her Master’s in Teaching and is the Director of Operations, Chicago and an Executive Function Coach for Thinking Outside the Classroom. TOC currently serves families in the Boston and Chicago areas. Here is a link to their website: http://thinkingoutsidetheclassroom.com/index.html
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