Thursday, August 27, 2009

Developing a Study Plan

Meaghan Montrose from TutorFi has a great post about Study Tips and Learning Strategies for the New School Year. She compiled a list of links to previous posts that will help students be more successful. These are great suggestions and I started to wonder how I could teach students in the classroom how to create better study habits.

I think the most important thing is to teach them a routine. My students do better if I can actually post a regular routine for them to follow. This type of checklist helps them do things in order of priority. Since my students have disabilities, organization is one of the major obstacles in their life. Before they can even begin to study, they have to prepare for this. Many times I have heard teachers tell students, go home and study but the students have no clue what this means. Even after meeting with parents, they tell me that their child studies and they can’t understand why their child is not progressing. Further investigation shows that they don’t know what their child is doing when they say their child is “studying.”

Now, I could work out a routine with the parents, but I find a routine is more successful if the student has input and control of this routine. I like to discuss the routine with the whole class and then work individually with each student to fine tune the routine. After a routine is developed with the student, we agree to discuss this with the parent together and sign a contract. The parent is able to give input and make changes at this point if something in the student plan is not feasible. If the student has ownership of the plan, I find they are more likely to follow it and take responsibility for it. It is a lot like when I try to develop a new habit. I can read all the books and articles but until I make it my own plan, I usually am not successful with it. I want my students to be successful.

These are the points that I discuss with the students. I need to come up with a daily plan of what I need to do before I start studying.

1. Location: There needs to be one spot set aside for studying. It should be away from a lot of movement that can be distracting. This should be the same spot that is used every day. I think it is a way to train the brain that this is the time and place for studying and can help keep distractions at a minimum.

2. Time: I believe the same time every day should be set aside for studying. This needs to develop into a habit. I do this for my exercising so that I don’t come up with excuses why I can’t do it. If my brain knows that the same time every day is for this activity, I will be more likely to follow it.

3. Duration: I need to decide how long I will do this activity each day. I might study for 2 hours or I might break it up into 2 – one hour segments. If I break it up into two segments, I need to set a specific time and stick to it.

4. Materials: I need to have my materials there waiting for me. When I’m done studying for the evening, I will make sure my materials are there for me for the next day. I will have a couple of pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, calculator, dictionary etc. This is important so that I don’t have to interrupt my train of thought in the middle of studying to find these things. They are all there at my finger tips.

5. Breaks: I think taking a break every 15-20 minutes is reasonable. It is a good time to refill my water bottle, use the bathroom, or just stretch. I also think it is important to keep the breaks short and do not get involved in any other activity.

6. Obstacles: If there is something that is giving me a problem, I will put it aside and come back to it. Sometimes seeing it with a fresh mind helps it suddenly become clear to me. If I get too frustrated with it, I find it almost impossible to come up with an answer.
7. Support: Know who to go to if you need help. This might be parents, teacher, computer, peers. If I use peers, I need to make sure that it doesn’t turn out to be a social event and keep it to getting the help I need for this assignment. This should also be a last resort when nothing else works.

8. Assignments: I like to keep a list of assignments and when they are do. Then I prioritize which assignment is due the soonest and I know that is what I need to work on first. If all of them are due the same time, I like to get the hardest assignment out of the way first while I still feel fresh and energetic. After the hardest one is finished, it is easy to get the other ones out of the way.

After this discussion, I have students add any other things they think are important. Then I have them actually right out a personal plan that they can follow. They come up with the actual location, time, duration, list of materials, break time, and a list of support people including phone numbers if necessary. This is a great time for them to talk to their friends and agree to help each other.

I give them a sample list of assignments with assorted due dates and let them actually learn how to prioritize them. Then we discuss how each student did this and why they chose to do it this way. There may be more than one answer to how this is done. I also give them a sample list of assignments with no due date and ask them to prioritize these. Again we discuss the reasons. We might actually do this more than one time.

After the students feel comfortable with their plan, I encourage them to talk about it with their parents and then arrange a time for us to meet and discuss it. The parents are encouraged by an actual plan rather than just telling them that their child needs to study. The students feel proud because they came up with it rather than being told it is one more thing they have to follow. I just see it as a win-win situation for all that will help the student be more successful.

Would you add anything to the list? Do you have a way that you teach this? I’d love to hear about it if you do.

Original image: 'Oops' by: Francisco Martins


Meaghan said...

I am glad you like the study tips posts!

I like your idea of developing a study plan with the kids. By doing this students can get some ideas from their peers (which they prefer to adults) and they also take ownership of the plan because they have some choices to make such as time, location, when to take a break, etc...

Mike said...

Great job! This is so important for students. Not only for the practical info, but also so students will know that study skills are not being assumed by their teacher, and also that their teacher holds them accountable to use skills when they study. I think way too many teachers just tell kids to study and never let their students know what that means. Thanks for getting me all worked up!

Mike Teacher Food

Lisa said...

This is very useful information. As a parent of young children, I think it's important to learn what will help them succeed. As homework becomes an issue, this will come in very handy. Even the little I make them do that is not requested of the school will now have it's own plan.

dennisjoe said...

Once you know what you have to study, tailor your study plan to your exams. If you are studying for a history exam that’s all essay questions, work on knowing the general concepts well enough to write general answers.

Praxis II study

loonyhiker said...

@Meaghan I wish someone had told me about doing this when my children were little.

loonyhiker said...

@Mike I also feel this is a great habit to get into in order to prepare for college. Sometimes our students lose out when we assume it is someone else's repsonsibility.

loonyhiker said...

@Lisa I'm glad you found it useful.

loonyhiker said...

@dennisjoe Thanks for the suggestions.

child development stages said...

hi, i m glad to have all this, i remember the list but when it required i usually forgets... Well thanx a lot