A Scholastic Tuneup

Many teachers will tell you that it’s the middle of the school year when most learning takes place. So, let’s take a quick look at some old and some new ideas for helping young students get the most of their education right now in the heart of the school year.

Some Basics

Rest: Get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  The more consistent, the better.

Eat a large healthy breakfast, like oatmeal and eggs. Don’t skip a meal. And don’t eat high-sugar foods during the day.

Focus: Use any spare class time to work on homework, rather than socializing. If needed, ask to sit away from a friend who can’t stop talking.

Friends: Use recess, passing times, lunch, and before/after school time for socializing.

Drink water throughout the day. Take a water bottle to class.

Move. Don’t skip recess or PE. Exercise helps academic concentration.

Homework: Setup a spot in the home that is quiet and supplied for schoolwork.

Time: Set aside time every night for homework and have an adult available to help if needed. A little exercise right after school is helpful.

Daily Planner: Use a planner to keep track of assignments, tests, quizzes, and project due dates.  Use it in every class, everyday.

Locker: Keep it organized and tidy. Organized students learn more and get better grades.

Something New

Young people will tell you that they think best when they have music on and when they can access their friends with their digital devices. They will tell you that it helps them stay at it, or they will say that they are studying with their friends.  They will swear that they can study better if they multi-task and that their brains are far more alert for longer periods of time.  They will say that studying in a totally quiet, boring place is awful – a death sentence.  They will make you think that their brains are just wired differently.

They are wrong, even though they are convinced that they are right.  In brief, it is true that they are more alert and have more stamina to stay “at it” for hours on end; however, during all that time, they are NOT studying well.  In fact, they are studying very poorly for a really long time because they are constantly distracted.  If your son exclaims, “I studied for five hours last night” then it might be the equivalent of one hour because, first of all, he was only in his room for three hours, and more importantly, he was doing far more texting, surfing, listening to music, and using Facebook than anything academic.  If I sound cynical it is because, as a teacher, I deal with it every day. Sorry kids. You are all wrong on this one.

If you don’t believe that last paragraph, or you just want more on the topic, then go to PBS Frontline: Digital Nation for some excellent video excerpts on the topic.  Many experts say that nobody multitasks as well as they think they can. Perhaps distraction is the problem of the age. It certainly kills more people on the highways than anything else. Perhaps it is killing our academic progress as well.

Some New Tips for the Digital Age

No reading or studying with headphones on. If dead silence is just too awful, then some mellow, quiet instrumental music in the background is acceptable.

No Facebook, texting, or any sort of social media or phone usage during studying or reading time.  In fact, all cellphones, iPods, iPads, or laptops should be turned off and placed in another room, unless they are being used specifically for an assignment.

When studying, don’t just read over the material repeatedly. Retrieve the information. Quiz yourself.

Set a timer for a lengthy study session, and allow a break in between sessions. Maybe 30 minutes on, 5 minutes off. Or 60 minutes of reading, then 15 minutes of social media. The point is to focus on one thing at a time.

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