Ask any teacher or parent and they will tell you: middle schoolers are terrible at studying. There are two main reasons for this. First, no one has ever taught them how to study. Second, their brains are not developed in a way that allows them to plan ahead.
Teaching study skills and habits explicitly is something I didn’t do until recently. My first years as a middle school teacher, I would assign something and become frustrated by the seeming lack of effort the students put into it. More recently, I’ve come to accept that they’re just kids; they are still learning and growing. I can and should support them along the way.
We aren’t born knowing how to study. Kids need to learn these lessons early rather than later. If they enter high school without having basic study and organization habits down, they will struggle.
What should I do?
Like with many topics, a good way to begin a study skills lesson is with a pre-assessment. Ask kids to be completely honest about what they know how to do and what they need help with. A good class discussion usually comes from this activity.
Next, I focus a lesson on several key topics: learning styles, improving focus, good habits, time management, and organization. These lessons are designed to be relatable and realistic. I ask students questions throughout, and usually get a lot of feedback from them as I teach. This leads to productive discussion and reflection.
A few of my favorite tips
- Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique? You focus for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break, and repeat that cycle 4 times. This has really helped me power through difficult tasks, even as an adult. My favorite timer to guide me is Bear Focus Timer, a cute productivity app for your phone. I recommend this to students and parents who tell me homework is a nightly struggle.
- Additionally, teachers can model time management during instruction. Using timers is a huge help in the classroom. I wrote about my favorite classroom timer here.
- Play to your strengths. If you know you’re a morning person, make time to review your lessons in the AM. Auditory learners can record themselves reading their notes, and then listen to then back. Visual learners can draw pictures and diagrams.
If you think my flipbook and activities pictured above would help your middle schoolers, you can find them here!
I also have a version for high schoolers here!
How do you teach and encourage good study habits with your middle schoolers? Let me know in the comments!