'Plan and Prioritize'; Student Success Follows Learning Efficient Use of Study Time

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 25, 2003 | Go to article overview

'Plan and Prioritize'; Student Success Follows Learning Efficient Use of Study Time


Byline: Gabriella Boston, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Nikki Massoud, 13, of Bethesda is not too worried about the academic pressures of starting high school tomorrow because she has learned how to study efficiently.

"You have to plan and prioritize when it comes to homework," says Nikki, who will attend Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda. "In middle school, we had assignment books, which helped you keep track of assignments. When you're done with an assignment, you just check off what you've done."

Even if assignment books aren't required at Walt Whitman, Nikki, who attended Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, also in Bethesda, plans to keep one because it's the best way - along with planning and setting priorities - to be structured and organized.

Nikki has touched on some of the cornerstones of study strategies, says Jesse Nickelson, a social studies teacher at Banneker High School, a public school in Northwest.

"At Banneker, typically the biggest emphases, especially at the beginning of the school year, are time management and organization," Mr. Nickelson says.

The students receive a planner from the school that outlines the coming weeks and months. By jotting down long-term and short-term homework deadlines, students can better manage how they should divide their time among assignments.

But just giving the students the planner isn't good enough, Mr. Nickelson says. The teachers must teach the students how to actually use the planners efficiently; otherwise, they might end up with sporadic scribbles, no structure and no organization.

"Teaching kids how to use the planner is not a redundant activity," Mr. Nickelson says. "It really pays off."

The planner, if used correctly, allows students to calculate how much work they must do each day to complete a long-term assignment without having to work day and night at the last minute, Nikki says.

"It's so easy to procrastinate, but you just can't do that. It's so much better to do a little bit each day," she says.

* * *

Study strategies are important from elementary school through high school and beyond, says Bill Holliday, professor of education at the College of Education at the University of Maryland at College Park.

At the lower levels, he says, classroom work and teacher and parental involvement are much more important, while homework plays a less important role.

"The younger children need teachers to monitor and help them with their work," Mr. Holliday says. "I always encourage teachers to try to start doing some of the homework in the classroom."

Also important at all levels, but especially in elementary school and middle school, is for teachers to try to create an environment where students don't feel shy or embarrassed about asking questions, Mr. Holliday says.

"It's important to ask those questions because there is no other source for the students to find the information they need to do well on a test," he says.

Mr. Holliday also encourages teachers to go through the most difficult tasks and assignments in school, where students have a chance to ask for and get some help, rather than assigning that work as homework.

"It can be very demoralizing for the students to have to do the hard stuff at home," Mr. Holliday says. "It's better to get it done at school when the teacher is around."

Also, parents can help their children, starting at a young age, to give context and discuss school subjects and topics daily, Mr. Holliday says.

Taking children to museums and battlefields, for example, helps give them context when they are learning about a particular historical era in school, he says. …

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