As a high school counselor, I recently visited a nearby middle school to discuss the course selection process with the current eighth graders who will be attending our school next year. We discussed all of the fun classes to take, the cool clubs and activities in which to participate, and the competitive athletic opportunities. Then, I started the discussion of transitioning to high school and the differences between middle school and high school academics. I posed the following question to this group of eager eighth graders: “What is the difference between homework and studying?” Willing to impress, several students raised their hands and so I called on them one by one. “Homework is doing the problems that your teacher assigns you. Studying is reviewing your homework so you understand the concepts,” said one young man. A young lady stated, “Homework is for practice to help you understand and studying is memorizing the information for a test.” The last student I called on simply stated, “Homework is for tomorrow’s grade and studying is for your future grades.” I must admit, I was quite impressed with the awareness these students had regarding the differences between homework and studying so I decided to dig a little deeper. I followed with, “How many of you do your homework?” and the majority of the class had raised hands. I then asked, “How many of you take time to study?” and only a few hands went up. I proceeded to give them my best lecture about one of the predominant academic failure of high school freshmen . . . not knowing how to study.
Learning how to study is an important skill for high school and college success, but the habits of studying start when students begin receiving homework in elementary school. It is important to create a structured time each day to complete homework and check for understanding. While I don’t encourage parents to hover over the dinner table monitoring every homework assignment, I do encourage parents to check in with their students when they say they have completed their homework. In elementary school, it can be as easy as, “explain to me the worksheet you just completed” or “how did you figure out the answer to this question?” This can help students process the information and think critically about the concepts the teacher has assigned. In today’s world of instant answers, being able to process and analyze new information is far more important than simply memorizing and regurgitating it back on a test.
Students find “studying” time consuming and boring. It is difficult for young adults to understand the importance of delayed gratification and to take the time to prepare for “future grades,” as my eighth grade student so eloquently stated. A responsible student will complete a review packet for a test but an excellent student will then go through the packet, quiz herself, and then find a study buddy with whom to have conversations about the material to check for understanding. If a student can do this, her future grades will not disappoint.
WATCH: 5 Minutes to Spare with Your High Schooler