Joan Sedita, M.Ed.
Study Strategies: What They Are and Why They're Important
Everyone needs the right tools and training to do their job. A carpenter must bring hammers, saws, nails and drills, and an understanding of how to handle wood in order to construct a house or a skyscraper. A plumber needs the proper tools and experience to fix a kitchen sink. Similarly, study strategies are the basic "tools" and the "training" students need to excel in high school and college.
Homework and Organization
For many students, getting homework done can be very challenging and sometimes frustrating. One Reason for this is that some students are just not organized. There are as many reasons for being disorganized as there are students but some common reasons are over-scheduling, lack of planning, and not having all the information and materials needed to complete assignments. As you can see, organization applies to many aspects of academic life, which include time, homework, and materials. Here we will discuss specific study strategies to assist you in becoming better prepared to succeed.
Planning: School, Sports, Work, and Fun
In general, high school is a very exciting time filled with friends, fun, sports, proms, and oh yeah, classes. One of the most difficult challenges facing students is how to organize their time so that they can participate in many of these extracurricular activities and still succeed in school.
The most critical tool you can have is a daily/weekly organizer. If this seems "juvenile," just remember that successful professionals of all types rely on organizers as part of their daily routine—just ask. Organizers of this type can come in many forms, from calendars, to assignment notebooks, to palm pilots. Regardless of what an organizer looks like it must have a daily calendar that has enough lines to write in homework assignments for each subject, times to block off for sports, work, and homework, and a monthly calendar that allows you to plot out long term assignments.
Unfortunately, the assignment book doesn't fill itself in every day and it is up to you to record correct assignments for each class as well as after school activities. Writing down assignments can be a very challenging thing to do, especially when the bell is ringing and you're thinking of what you need to bring to next class. It can be helpful to keep your assignment book on your desk, as a reminder, until you actually write the homework in it. Don't forget to ask your teachers for help in remembering - they want you to have the right information as much as you do.
After deciding what specific times you have set aside for homework, it will be important to prioritize your assignments. Before beginning a homework session, number assignments in the order in which they are to be done. Start with one that's not too long or difficult but avoid saving the longest or hardest for last. Once you have completed an assignment, cross it off your list, put the finished homework in the right folder or binder, and put it in your backpack.
Also, it can be helpful to use a stopwatch to determine how long it takes you to finish an assignment and write it down in your assignment book. This way, you will know for sure how long it takes you to finish your homework in each subject. For example, if you see that you are always spending two hours on social studies while the other students only spend one hour you can go to your teacher for advice. Also, if you realize that you only have 45 minutes until you have to be at soccer camp you would want to tackle a subject that usually takes you no longer than a half an hour.
All students need to make sure they have a productive place to study. This means you should specifically choose a location where you won't get distracted by brothers or sisters, the radio or the television. Also, since you have set aside this time for homework it's a good idea to turn off cell phones and beepers. If you use a computer to complete homework, be sure there is enough room around the computer to spread your work out. Lastly, keep a supply of pens, pencils, highlighters, index cards, notebook paper, printer paper, and any other materials you'll need on hand. This will help you be prepared to complete your assignments efficiently and have time to relax.
Joan Sedita, M.Ed., an experienced educator, nationally recognized speaker, and author, is director of Sedita Learning Strategies, a consulting and teacher-training service.
This article is reprinted from the Student Newsletter for Success, Volume 1, January 2003, published by LDW® through a generous grant from Commonwealth Learning Center. The purpose of the Newsletter is for parents to share with their children, for teachers to distribute to their students, and for pediatricians to leave in their waiting