Why Kids Need a Study Strategy
An easy study strategy for kids – and one they will really use – seems like a dream come true. Most kids who I know only do the bare minimal in school work so they can get to whatever activity they deem to be more important. However, it is extremely important that all kids learn the basics of good study habits and this is why.
All through school, college, or trade school, kids have to take tests – even when getting their driver’s permit – yet, few know how to study for them. And fewer know how easy study strategies can be. Every time I ever asked kids how they study for a test, the answer is always, “I go over it with my Mom.” What does that really mean? I think it means that they just look over their notes or have their mothers quiz them from index cards.
However, in order to succeed in learning any subject, kids need to use specific study strategies that are proven to work. A strategy is a plan and it gives them the tools they need to be prepared and confident. And, because kids are busy and moms are busy, they also need to learn study strategies that are quick and easy to use or they won’t want to use them. The study strategy I am writing about here is, in fact, so easy that the kids will think they’re playing a game and not studying.
Who Can Use this Strategy?
Use this study strategy with all school-aged kids in every grade. Parents need to work together with young kids under grade 3 because they are just learning to read and write. Kids should not worry about forming letters correctly and spelling the words correctly. Their focus should be on thinking about the best words to use to describe the topic. I taught this study strategy in grades 1-12. While learning to use it, I did it with the young kids in grades 1 and 2. I did all the writing on large paper on an easel while they participated verbally.
In 20 years, every single student who ever did an A-Z study list with me filled in a word for each letter of the alphabet. It takes a lot of “thinking outside the box” to figure out words for the odd letters like Q, U, X, and Z. I let kids put one letter on the left of the X because it is such a tricky letter. For example, adding an “e,” creates words like excellent, exhausted, and exact.
After reading a short text of fiction or nonfiction, or listening to a picture book story I read aloud, we did this easy A-Z list. The 40 minute period flew by as kids in every grade were motivated with partners, alone, and with the whole group to get it finished.
What is it?
The best and easiest study strategy for kids is the A-Z list. This strategy is an alphabetically organized list of the most important words or concepts about a topic. Kids can use this strategy in every subject, including Math vocabulary. In preparation, your child writes the alphabet down the margin of a piece of notebook paper, leaving a line in between each letter. Write the topic on top, for example, Revolutionary War, Communities, or ELA Terms. This strategy works best with a study partner, preferably a parent.
The A-Z Study Strategy
- First, using class notes or review sheets put important words (1 or 2 words only, not sentences) next to the appropriate A-Z letter. Don’t spend more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time to avoid losing interest. Keep it easy.
- Next, kids think about what they know about every word on the list.
- Finally, they explain each word to their study partner.
It is the mental work of categorizing words alphabetically, thinking about their meaning, and then talking about them that helps the brain understand and remember.
Examples for Using this Easy Strategy
If your second grader is learning about Communities, some words might be:
If your 4th grader is studying about the American Revolution, words might include:
- George Washington
- King George
- Paul Revere
- Tea Party
If kids are learning parts of speech or grammar, words could be:
The next time your kids needs to study for an upcoming test, show or remind them of the A-Z Study Strategy. Help kids meet the 26-letter challenge. If they’re stuck, give clues to help them figure it out by themselves. Believe me, you will enjoy the challenge with the kids. You won’t believe how easy it is to use this study strategy that seems more like fun than work.
Another good time to use the A-Z list strategy is after reading each section of a textbook unit. Then, put all the lists together into one list to study for the big unit test.
For some additional Blog Posts about Comprehension Strategies, read Find the Main Idea in Under 12 Minutes. Learn how poor reading fluency affects comprehension by taking the 5-minute mini-course, Fixing Flimsy Fluency. You can also discover the many benefits of reading high-quality picture books about social studies and other subjects in Try a FREE Read-aloud Guide. For a list of books to motivate boys, check out my Post, Books for Boys I devote two sections with 20 picture books each about Social Studies themes to my Read-aloud Guide, Creating Smart-Thinking Readers. This article from Reading Rockets outlines 10 strategies to improve memory. http://www.readingrockets.org/article/10-strategies-enhance-students-memory
Be the Reading Hero your child deserves. “Happy Reading!”