Dear Dr. Linda,
In 8th grade we tested our son, because I, not my husband, thought he had a learning disability. I was told that he was fine. All he needed was to learn good study skills. Over the summer I signed him up for a study skills course. Well, that didn’t work. We got his 9th grade report card and he did worse than 8th grade. Now I’m stressed more than ever. These grades will be averaged into his GPA which will appear on his college applications in a few years. I would really appreciate some free advice. Thanks, Amanda P.S. My husband thinks that he’ll be fine because he was the same type of kid. He keeps telling me that I need to be patient. My argument is that if I’m patient, I’m not helping him. He won’t get into any college!
You’re both right. The GPA is one of the most important parts of the college application. If you have a 75 GPA with high SATs or ACTs, you’re not going to Harvard. On the other hand, some students are simply not ready to take advantage of study skills courses. “Good Study Skills” mean: Using effective strategies and techniques to review what you’ve learned so the information transfers into your long-term memory. It’s as simple as that.
However, the student needs to be motivated and mature enough to put the time in. That’s why many four year colleges accept students with lower GPAs. Once these students mature and are motivated to succeed, they can and do succeed. That’s also why there are two year schools and community colleges. You’d be amazed how many successful adults began their college careers following one of these paths. I personally have worked with many of them. Here’s just two examples, one began at a community college and eventually graduated from University of Pennsylvania and, the other went to a two year state school and eventually graduated from Cornell.
Therefore, don’t give up, but don’t push too much either if he’s not ready. As I’ve said in the past, you can’t give a baby steak and tell her to chew until she has teeth! If she’s not ready she’ll choke and cry. That’s what happens to children who are not ready to learn. Parents end up yelling and grounding and children end up angry and crying.
In the meantime, here’s some tips about the learning process:
1. Before you can learn anything, you need to have information in your long term memory so you can connect to what’s being taught. So much time and energy is wasted because students don’t understand the vocabulary or the concepts to which teachers refer.
2. It’s easier to memorize information by breaking it into small chunks. It’s called “chunking.” For example, telephone numbers, zip codes, credit cards and social security numbers are chunked. You’ve probably noticed that the numbers are grouped together, usually in threes, fours, or fives.
3. Graphic organizers and mind maps of words or pictures make information easier to understand.
4. Acronyms, that follow a word made up of the first letters of a list of words make learning easier. For example, to remember the names of the Great Lakes, just remember “HOMES.” H=Huron, O=Ontario, M=Michigan, E=Erie, S=Superior.
5. Using associations to connect or associate a word or concept with a person, place, thing, feeling, or situation makes learning easier.
6. Following your learning style is the most efficient style of learning. Auditory learners take in information best by hearing. Visual learners remember and understand best by seeing what they’re learning. Kinetic/tactile learners need to touch or manipulate to help them learn. Multi-sensory learners are kids who learn best using two or more senses at the same time.
7. Using rhyme to remember information facilitates learning. Remember “I before E, except after C, or when it sounds like ‘A’ as in neighbor and weigh”?
8. Talk, talk and talk to learn new material. Tell somebody about the information you have to learn. Even telling your dog or talking to yourself in a mirror helps.
9. Write sentences. Do you remember, “My very Earthy mom just served us nine pizzas?” to learn the planets in order from the sun? (Even though Pluto is now a dwarf planet.)
These easy-to-use study skills strategies help not only kids who want better grades, but also parents who have something they need to remember.
Co-author of Building Strong Students, Emotionally, Socially and Cognitively and director of Strong Learning Tutoring and Test Prep. If you have any questions you’d like to share with Dr. Linda, email her at Linda@stronglearning.com or stronglearninggames.com.