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Help Students Turn Around Poor Study Habits

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
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Are your students’ study habits causing you headaches? While it’s only part way through the school year for most of us, the poor habits that were only mildly concerning in early September are really beginning to become worrisome. Whether it’s procrastination, not writing down homework assignments, distractions, or “I did it, but I left it at home,” poor study habits consume way too much time and create way too many negative conversations.

I know. I kept count.

I decided that for one week, I would carry an index card and make an unobtrusive little hash mark whenever I felt that an interaction with a student was the result of poor study habits. For example, I made a little mark when I asked a student about sloppy work, gave another student with a missing planner a sheet of paper to record the assignment, insisted that everyone clip papers into binders instead of stuffing them in back packs, or held a conference with students who had not studied for a quiz. All the result of not-so-great study habits. All part of what teachers do all the time. All negative.

On day two of my action research plan, I stopped. My index card was covered with hash marks.

I wasn’t hateful or even stern with my students. But these interactions are not the way I want to talk with students. I like a positive classroom. I like to work with students, not confront them.

Like every other teacher, I don’t have spare time in class to waste on frivolous matters. I do know, however, that my student’ issues with their study skills are demanding time and energy—either in a negative way or in a more positive, productive, constructive way.

Like many teachers, I keep lists of study skills on hand. I post them electronically for my students, and I give them paper copies. Obviously, this tactic was not working. So, instead of a huge list, I narrowed it to the ones that are most crucial for students at this point the school year. Below is the list that I think will work with my students if I am ever going to move them toward taking responsibility for their own work.

Instead of confrontations, we have conversations. It’s a shared experience instead of another adult imposing tedious and unwelcome rules. While study skills are and will always be a work in progress for students, at least now we are working together in a positive way. Instead of being exasperated at their weaknesses, I can focus on what my students are doing correctly about managing their study skills.

Study Skill One: Make a list of your goals and the reasons you want to do well in school. This will help you stay on track when you are tempted not to give your best effort.

Study Skill Two: Be an active learner when you study your notes. Don’t just look them over; underline or circle key points.

Study Skill Three: Use your class time wisely. You won’t have to spend as much time later if you learn the material in class.

Study Skill Four:Take the time to do your work correctly the first time so that you don’t have to redo it.

Study Skill Five: Always label your work and your notes with the date, subject, and page number so that you can find information quickly when you need to review.

Study Skill Six: When you pack up at the end of a class, don’t just shove papers into your book bag or notebook. Spend thirty seconds stowing your work in an organized way so that you can find it quickly.

Study Skill Seven: Pack your book bag at night and leave it by the door so that all you have to do is grab it on your way out in the morning.

Study Skill Eight: When you find that your locker, book bag, or notebooks are getting messy, take a few minutes to clean them out. Staying organized is anvimportant part of being an efficient student.

Study Skill Nine: Adopt a positive attitude about homework. Homework isn’t something you should do when you have the time. It’s something you must do.

Study Skill Ten: Write down your homework assignments so that you won’t have to waste time phoning around to find out what they are or worrying about whether you did the right ones.

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Julia Thompson received her BA in English from Virginia Tech and spent the next forty years teaching in Arizona, North Carolina, and Virginia. Recently retired as a classroom teacher, Thompson works for the Bureau of Education and Research conducting seminars geared to help teachers support difficult and challenging students. She is also a contributor/blogger for the American Federation of Teacher's site, ShareMyLesson.com.


Author of several books for teachers, Thompson's most recent book, the fourth edition of The First-Year Teacher's Survival Guide, was published on Teacher Appreciation Day, May 8, 2018, a fitting date for a teacher who spent a lifetime learning from her colleagues both near and far.


Thompson offers advice for teachers on Twitter (@TeacherAdvice), on her blog (www.juliagthompson.blogspot.com) and on her web site (www.juliagthompson.com).

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Guest Friday, 17 August 2018