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Study Skills Courses Are Game-Changers for All Students—Struggling or Enriched

A study skills class could hold the key to better grades, more free time, and success at the college level. Who wouldn't want to get better grades and have more free time?

When I got home today, I told my kids "the bracation is over." Most people refer to it as the summer slump or summer slide. I call it a "bracation" because their brains have sought temporary residence on a game-filled island paradise for the past six weeks.

Trust me, I let them have a break. The boogie boarding on the staircase is certainly proof.  But, I can't afford to let them lose 20% of what they learned last year (which is a conservative estimate by the way). 

For better or worse, they also serve as my "test" students for any curriculum I consider adopting for my tutoring business. Don't bother telling them how lucky they are, they already know.

When I got home, I sliced open the box with my awesome Cutco scissors and proudly revealed my greatest find - Soar Study Skills.  Much to my kids' chagrin, Soar is a 6 week study skills course, or in their case, a jam packed week-long course with mom at the helm. 

Once the cacophony of strange verbal grunts subsided I told them, "Look, my mom did the same thing to me when I was your age. She signed me up for a study skills course that lasted all summer.  You're lucky yours is only a week." Fact:  It probably didn't last all summer, but it certainly felt like it, and as I recall the air conditioning was broken, and we were in New Jersey. 

Typically, when I want to win them over, I start with the bottom line. So, I asked them, "Would you like to know the secrets to getting better grades and spending less time on homework?" Alright, it had an attorney ring to it. But, it's ingrained and I can't help it.

It worked. But, if it didn't I was ready with a few statistics that Soar used to win me over. For example, in 2009, an Ohio State University Study demonstrated that there is a 600 percent increased likelihood that "average" high school students will graduate from college if they take a study skills class. 

There is little doubt in my mind that the Cornell note-taking method helped me breeze through high school and college and gave me the edge that I needed in law school. So, even though my kids may feel like I am academically hazing them, it really is for their own good and someday they'll thank me.

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Alexandra Wilcox September 11, 2011 at 03:14 PM
There are so many study skills I consider important but the main ones include: setting goals, prioritizing, organizing, knowing how to ask questions, how to read a textbook more efficiently and productively, tracking your progress, and celebrating your achievements. Out of all of those, if I had to choose just one: getting an agenda or planner. With a planner, a student can effectively track assignments, expectations from the teacher/professor, and monitor progress and achievements.
Alexandra Wilcox September 11, 2011 at 03:26 PM
We use our study skills curriculum for Upper Elementary through Graduate school. Whenever we tutor clients we introduce behaviors that will make their lives easier - study smarter not harder. For our adult learners, we focus more on goal-setting, communication skills and strategies, and time management. My most practical tip: set 5 goals for yourself, map your actions to achieve those goals, and then schedule time to achieve those actions in your planner. Track your progress monthly. When you accomplish a goal, celebrate.
M September 24, 2011 at 01:29 PM
What do you think of intervention classes at school to help struggling students? I hear our new super Mr. Farely does not like intervention classes and I am wondering what impact this may have on our kids down the road.
Alexandra Wilcox September 26, 2011 at 12:30 AM
M - great question. My short answer: I'm an advocate for anything that helps a student achieve his or her potential. If assistance comes in the form of intervention classes - or other support - before, during, or after school, then we should provide it. Unfortunately, it's not all that easy. We have budget concerns - and they are indeed, significant. However, if we truly believe that no child is left behind, then we must also acknowledge that each child/student is unique. There are children with learning challenges that we simply cannot accomodate in a one-size fits all classroom. I don't know what Dr. Farley believes with respect to intervention classes and can't comment on it. But, I do know our world is getting smaller. Therefore, if we intend to compete against other countries, we need to really look at our educational system and query whether we are providing our students with the resources they need to succeed on a global level. If we fail to provide our students with the tools they need to succeed, the impact is almost unfathomable, and we'll need more than "Superman" to fix it.

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