by Gary E. Howard

Parents can have a tremendous impact on how a child handles school and takes tests. The goal is bringing the grades up to A’s and B’s, right? Here are some ways parents can help kids improve their study habits and make studying as enjoyable as it can be. That, in turn, will make all the difference at test time.

Let the student select the perfect pen. The right pen makes all the difference when taking notes or writing long essays on an exam.

Schedule study time and stick to it. Set up a weekly schedule for study time of two 40-minute sessions each day, with a 20-minute break between. Pick the times and stick to them.

Buy study guides for your student. There are all sorts of guides available for key subjects. For high school students, these guides cost just $5-$10 and are a quick and easy way to get information on a topic. In no way are they considered cheating. They are a wonderful way to tackle vital subjects.

Encourage participation in study groups. Help your student get a study group organized or find a study group your child can join. The group should discuss ideas, ask each other questions and research answers together. But the focus is on work –this is not a social gathering.

Hire a tutor. In sports you have a coach, at the health club there’s a trainer. So in academics, don’t hesitate to get a tutor. It’s not as expensive as you may think. Use the Internet and look for graduate students at local colleges who often offer their services and charge reasonable rates. A tutor can help get the student “over the hump” of a difficult subject and can make all the difference in the student either “getting” a subject or staying completely lost.

Get a good backpack. Your student should like his backpack. Essential items include: notebooks, two favorite pens, two pencils, text books (for the day only), a pack of tissues, energy bars, about two dollars in change, and extra clothing for the weather. Parents should inspect weekly or even daily. Write name, address and phone number in indelible ink on the pack in case it gets lost.

Have reading skills tested. Make sure your child is reading at the appropriate level and does not have eye problems. See an eye doctor if you have any doubts or concerns.

Define the home study location. Make sure your child has a good place to study with sufficient lighting, desk and comfortable chair. There should be few or no distractions such as TV, radio, music or games during study time.

Can your student take good notes? The best memory in the world cannot remember all that is learned in a classroom. Taking good notes is a learned skill that you want to help your student acquire. A student should use clean paper and favorite pens and a three-ring binder with paper and separators. The student needs to know how to create an outline when note-taking and how to identify the major points. Re-reading good notes is where learning really takes place. There are several types of note-taking methods students can learn.

Develop the memory with mnemonics. Using rhymes, telling stories or jokes, and memorizing four- to five-letter acronyms are all great ways to remember lists of details or essential rules.

– Gary E. Howard was a teacher and administrator at the high school and college levels for 35 years. He is the author of Help Your Kids Get Better Grades (Cambridge Learning Skills, $11.95).

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