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Monday, February 26, 2007

Study Methods

Children are sometimes told to `study’. The words: “Go to your room and do some study now,” are used by parents on a regular basis. How will your child react to this? Is a ten year old expected to have good study techniques or do they need to be guided and helped?

First of all look at your child. There is no use sending him or her off to study if they look and feel tired. You will need to work out a routine where on study days your child is able to cope with some fierce mental agility.

Try to set up an environment where there are as few distractions as possible. It is very easy for the mind to wander when studying. For some children noise may distract them – other children could work through a hail storm and never look up.

Sometimes you and your child will agree that a particular topic needs to be learnt by heart. Rote learning is invaluable at times but try to make sure that there is real understanding. Good overall comprehension of the subject will lead to better retention of the material.

Some ten year olds will be able to make connections between what they are learning in different subjects. Others will need to have the connections pointed out to them.

So what you have to do is try to help your child to `get in the mood’ to study. Some children will thrive on starting with a clean and tidy desk or table. Other children will feel comforted by an apparent muddle of books and papers – but there may be some reason for their organisational skills.

Some children will try to pick a fight before settling down to work – on the grounds that this stimulates and excites their learning. Other children will drift off quietly without demur.

Many years ago I was a housemaster in a large boarding school. A large number of the boarders were taken out by family or friends. This left a number of children in the hostel. It was a tradition that children who stayed behind had to write a letter home. This took place after lunch on a Sunday. It was a miserable time for the children and the teachers on duty. The duty teacher had to read through the letters to make sure that the content represented a fair account of the previous week.

I had the bright idea of preparing ten different letters – one for each week of the term. The letters were pinned up around the prep room. The children ranged from seven to eleven years old. The sample letter provided the tools to be able to find something to say.

The system worked for a while. One Sunday morning a family arrived rather unexpectedly to pick up their son. The family lived miles away so the boy had to write frequent letters home. Dad had a pile of letters in his hand. Each letter, over the previous seven weeks, said exactly the same thing.

There were different staff on duty each Sunday to look after the children. The staff rota carried over five different teachers. What my bright idea had not taken into account was that this particular boy had selected the simplest letter and had laboriously copied the same letter out each week.

So the next time you utter the words: “Go to your room and settle down to some study,” try to make sure that you have done better preparation than I did.

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