Passive v active study strategies for students

Do you as a parent really understand the difference between passive v active study strategies for students?  If you answered no to this question you are not alone.  Unfortunately many of our children also don’t understand the difference and this needs to change.

When I meet with students, both in a school and home environment, I am astounded at how many of them actually often only use passive study strategies.

So what is the difference?

Passive study strategies

Passive studying is what the majority of students do when it comes to studying information for a test, SAC or exam.  This usually involves a student adopting strategies of:

  • reading over their notespassive v active study strategies for students - image of a student highlighting notes
  • re-reading information in a text book
  • highlighting large chunks of information
  • listening to information
  • watching a demonstration or documentary

A student usually thinks that if they do these things over and over that is all they need to do.

A passive approach, like that described above, creates an illusion of knowing for a student which means that by reading over information it is familiar to them and therefore they believe they know it.  Unfortunately, as an academic life coach, I see this happen way to often.  What actually happens is that when a student has a test, SAC or exam and needs to recall information they think they know, it is NOT stored in their long term memory and they struggle to provide the answers required.  Naturally they then do not receive the marks they think they should have as a result.  Passive studying is not effective for long term retention of information in any way!

Active study strategies

Active studying is adopting an approach whereby a student actively tests their knowledge of material learnt.  While rereading notes still has a role to play those students who take it a step further by actually engaging with the information and adopting active strategies (noted below) are more likely to achieve better results.quote learning to study smarter not harder - and how it is about adopting Passive v active study strategies for students

Active strategies include:

  • rewriting and revising notes into their ‘own words’
  • making outlines
  • using flashcards
  • teaching the material to someone
  • answering practice problems

By adopting the above approaches, a student is more likely to gain a greater understanding of the information and material, whilst strengthening their long term memory, and be able to respond better in test, SAC or exam situations.

As I regularly tell the students I work with it is all about studying smarter not harder and by adopting active study strategies you are giving yourself a much better chance of receiving the marks you want.  The more active the study method you use the more prepared you are likely to be able to respond and do well in a test, SAC or exam situation.

For more information on how I can support your child with their learning/studying and ensure they have the necessary tools & strategies to succeed please get in touch.

Should a student listen to music while studying?

I often get asked by parents should a student listen to music while studying?  When answering this question I usually say that there are a variety of factors to consider before giving a simple YES or NO answer as all students are different in the way they learn and study – what works for one may or may not work for another.  For some students studying and listening to music can be a productive combination whilst for others they might think they are being productive when they are in fact likely to get distracted by the music, take longer to complete their work and find it isn’t up to the quality or standard that it should be.

The type of questions I often ask a parent and/or a student include:

  • does your child have any learning challenges ie ADHD?
  • what subjects are they working on when they typically want to listen to music?
  • how are they going in those subjects at school?
  • does it have any affect on the quality of work they are producing – do you know?
  • what type of music are they listening to?
  • are they still completing their best work?
  • do they get distracted by the music at all?
  • does studying with music help with their concentration?
  • what are their reasons for listening to music?
  • do they listen to music so as not to be bored with studying?

By asking these questions I am trying to ascertain if studying with music is actually likely to help or hinder a student.

In most cases listening to music while engaging in homework or study/revision is seeing a student multi-tasking.  We know that multi- tasking in general is not effective and can lead to slower mental processes and be distracting.  If a student isn’t able to focus on his or her homework while listening to music then it is probably not for them.

However for some students, particularly those with ADHD, music can be important as it helps to feed the brain.  Music is rhythm and rhythm is structure which can help a students brain to focus, attend, plan and initiate.  Mind you having said that it isn’t all types of music and research has shown that certain types of music are usually better than others ie classical or non lyrical.  These types of music can be soothing and relaxing and can assist students to beat stress and anxiety whilst studying.

If a student does feel they need to listen to music then it is best they choose music they like and are familiar with as it can be less distracting.  It is said they should image of music and books to convey should a student listen to music while studying?avoid music that is high intensity and loud sound.  Changes in volume can be distracting and take a students attention away from what they are doing.  In general research has found that usually instrumental music (with no lyrics) is the best form of music to listen to when studying and is less likely to be a distraction.  Students who listen to music with lyrics or that is loud, while completing reading or writing tasks, tend to be less efficient and don’t usually find as much information has been absorbed into their long term memory.

Unfortunately I haven’t given you the definitive answer that you may have been seeking.  At the end of the day it is really up to you and your child to make up your own minds in deciding whether it is good to study with music and whether it is productive or not.

For further support or ideas on how I can assist you and your child please get in touch or give me a call 0409 967 166.

Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher!

I tell all the students that I work with 1:1 and in my workshops, at both primary and secondary schools, to ‘Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher for help’!  Unfortunately for many it is not as simple as just telling them this, seeing them take this on board, following through and then actually asking the teacher for assistance when they need it.

image of hands in the air signailing they want to ask a questionIn recent discussions I have had with other Academic Life Coaches around the world they too are finding that seeking help from teachers is a bigger issue for students than it really ought to be.  It is time that this all changed and that students understand the importance of asking!

Why has this become an issue?

I cannot pinpoint when in time this started to become an issue but what I can do is give you some reasons why my fellow Academic Coaches and myself feel students don’t seek out help as often as they should.  These include:

  • that anyone that asks for help is a loser and it can be they feel a loss of face. Only the other day in a questionnaire, that I ask my students to complete before I start working with them, here’s a response from a Year 8 student – “I feel uncomfortable to ask anything because I feel like I will look stupid”.
  • students believe that they should be able to work this out on their own – this is something I regularly hear too.
  • feeling that as students they should be independent and strong and that seeking help can be a sign of weakness.
  • it can be seen as being shameful in many communities to admit you can’t do everything on your own without any assistance.
  • some high-achieving students feel like talking to the teacher is “cheating” because they are getting extra help.  They can sometimes feel that they got themselves into the problem and then need to get themselves out of it.

Rightly or wrongly it is such a shame that in this day and age that we still have this issue and it is time to start doing something about it – hence why I am highlighting this by writing this article.  In order to learn students need to be able to ask questions as they go which can assist to build their knowledge at the time.

What can we do about it?

In the coaching I do with students I regularly discuss this issue and explain why seeking help from a teacher is so important and that they are, in most instances, there to help and assist as students require it.

Only last week did I instruct several of my 1:1 student clients to seek more advice when they don’t understand something rather than leave it too late and they have then moved onto the next topic.  If they don’t seek help as they go this is not useful to their learning and is harder to do this as a test or exam approaches.

I actually had another student who struggles with identifying how long homework or assignment tasks should take him and he just tries to work this out himself.  Unfortunately this often sees him spend way too much time on a task and then he finds he has little time for others.  I explained to him that it would be useful to ask his teachers how long he should spend on particular tasks which will then allow him to use this as a guide for his time and allow him to get better at estimating this himself.  Not only a great learning tool for school but for life!

I also usually encourage students to seek help in a classroom environment by saying that they are most likely not the only ones who have a similar question or need to know something in particular.  However if students lack the confidence to seek help in the classroom environment then there are other options like making a time to see the teacher before or after class or even sending them an email.

Often one of the biggest problems for students in asking for help is that they often do not know what to say, how to approach a teacher or what to actually ask about.  When I work with my students I like to ensure they know how to do this rather than just assume they do which can often be part of the problem itself.  Not all children have these skills and they can take time to develop.  It might well be worth having a discussion with your child to ask them if they know what to do when they are stuck on something.  If you do have a child that might struggle, with the concept of seeking help, then there are some great ideas in this link as to how to ask their teacher for help.

I know many teachers actually regularly offer time for students to ask questions or remind them to seek help if they need it.  I encourage teachers to continue to do this and make themselves accessible to students so we can continue to break down the barriers of the perceptions I noted at the beginning of this article.  It would be great for teachers, time permitting of course, to have Q&A sessions during class to model and normalise this or let students know regularly that they are here to ‘check in with’.

If you are reading this article and agree with what I am talking about then I encourage you to share this where possible so we (parents, teachers, academic coaches and others) can tackle this issue head on and take away any stigmas that appear to be attached with seeking help.  If students need assistance then they should feel comfortable in doing so. 

If you would like to discuss this article or would like to have a chat about how I might be able to assist your child please get in touch – via email or give me a call on 0409 967 166.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why students should use a planner/diary/App

At this time every year many parents ask me what sort of planner, diary or App should their child use at school. It is great that parents are keen to assist their children with organisation and time management at the start of the school year.  I encourage you to keep reading to find out why students should use a planner/diary/App.

Some children will be keen to use something to manage themselves however many more these days actually don’t see the need or point. This unfortunately for many can lead to poor organisation, time management and in turn lower academic results. Time and time again I see students become anxious and overwhelmed as the year progresses and their workload increases and see that they are trying to manage without using any form of planner or online tool to assist.

With the increase in technology many school now provide tasks and deadlines on school portals. This is great for students to know what they have and when it is due. However this does not help them to actually manage their time and that is why planners, diaries or Apps still have a very important role to play. Many of the schools I work with and talk to, are continually grappling with how to solve this issue and go from having compulsory diaries to not having them for a year or so only to often reintroduce them again the following year.

In the workshops I conduct for Year 6 students I speak about the importance of using a diary and teach them the basics of howGoogle Calendar image for Why students should use a planner/diary/App to use it. From this stage on it is important they get used to using something to manage their time so that by the time they enter the senior years this becomes a daily habit. Recently I had one child explain to me how he uses a simple notebook to manage his time and he was asking if this was okay. Naturally I said yes if it is working for him and it doesn’t matter what students actually usually it’s just important they find the right tool or solution that suits their needs. This can be a simple notebook, a diary, a planner, a wall calendar, an electronic diary like google calendar, or one of the many Apps available such as My Homework. 

Usually I recommend that students use a paper dairy initially to get used to using it and often the act of writing also assists to commit tasks to the brain. Once they get the hang of it then I usually say just find the right tool that works for them.

To manage ones time, students actually need to ‘see time’ or in other words make time visual. Usually for a planner or diary it is important to have a week to a page so students can see ahead of time. There is nothing worse than using a day to a page diary and flipping the page only to see something is due the next day that they haven’t even started. As many parents would know students often live in the ‘now’ and not the ‘not now’ so the more they can see ahead of time the better.

Another useful tool can be to print off a monthly calendar on A3 paper and stick this on the wall.  I usually suggest to students who are keen to do this that they print the months for the term or semester at a time.  Here is one link to free printables though there are plenty of others available online.

If you have any further questions about what your child should use or how to get them to use it then please get in touch.

Why making time visible for students is so important

Making time visible for students is so important for their success at school and into the future.  For most students having time visible can make them feel less anxious, take away the worry about making sure they remember to complete everything and ensure they hand their work in on time.

Students often think that they don’t have much to do and that they can remember it all in their heads.  Yes this can be true for some but invariably they don’t have all their tasks as clearly in their head as they think they do.

Most students also live in the “now” and homework/assignments are seen as a future thing (“the not now“) that needs to be Image of a brain done.  The areas of the brain that are responsible for time management are not often developed fully in students until their mid 20’s.  Unfortunately this means that many students don’t often utilise their time very well and it is not until the last minute, sometimes a few days before or the day before, when they realise they actually have work to do and hand in.  When this happens it is often rushed and not necessarily their best work either.

I have come across this issue nearly everyday in the past few years when working with students and from discussions with parents.  Believe me it can take some convincing to get students to use planners, diaries, Apps, a notebook or even a simple weekly study chart but for those that do the difference is amazing.

It really doesn’t matter what a student chooses to use in order to make time visible – it is the fact that they make time visible that is important.  When a student actually uses a planner to plan out homework, an assignment or study/revision then they actually make the time visible to them.  This is much better to assist them than their heads and gives a clear indication of how much time is or isn’t available to complete a required task.

A student should map everything out – activities, homework due, finding the time to complete the work, time for study/revision (but more detailed than just using these words), their chores they need to complete.  When a student does this they usually feel much better, less overwhelmed and it reduces the chance of anxiety or stress taking over.  The struggle to remember anymore is also removed and if they see what they need to do the chances are they are more likely to do it as well.

Seeing and tracking time really help students and for many it is an important skill that will assist them to succeed at both school and in life.

Why not speak to them and see if they will give it a go – what have you got to lose!

If you are a student or you have a child that struggles with this please do get in touch to find out more about how I can support you or them.

For more information on the importance of time management and what it is click here.

Executive function and its importance for students

Executive function are a bit like buzz words that these days you often hear being discussed or mentioned when it comes to students.   In the work I do with students I regularly get asked about executive function and in particular what does it actually mean?

Understanding executive function and its importance for studentsimage of the brain - executive function and importance for students

A simple way of explaining executive functioning is that it is the parts of thinking, feeling and reasoning that help us to:

  • analyse situations,
  • plan,
  • take action,
  • focus & maintain attention, and
  • manage by ourselves to get things done.

Executive functions are controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain.  In those people who do not have executive functioning issues, the brain performs these tasks quickly and they are often done so in one’s subconscious and therefore people are usually unaware of them happening. 

One important point to note is that executive functions are not fully developed until an individual is in their mid 20s or later.  Sometimes students can be thought of as being lazy, unmotivated or even defiant when in fact often they don’t have the skills yet to do what it is they are required to do.  It is really important to know that it not because they don’t want to do something it is because their brains are’t there yet developmentally.

Unfortunately children with ADHD or Autism can typically have a 30% or 3-5 year delay or more in some or all of their executive function development which makes it even harder for these students to manage their academic lives as they get older and are expected to be able to manage them by themselves.  

Having said this executive functioning isn’t just something we grow into they are skill sets and ways of thinking that need to be taught and modelled to students by parents, teachers and other key influences in their lives.  Ultimately you want to encourage and support your child so you can empower and champion them to become independent and undertake the necessary skills and steps to manage by themselves.

For all students, whether they have ADHD or Autism or not, it is important to have executive functioning skills as it assists with learning independently at school and in life.

Key challenges

Some of the key challenges for many students today and in particular for those students who have executive function issues are that:

  1. it can be hard to perform even a simple task or behaviour – they can struggle to know the steps needed in order to complete a task.

  2.  they have a lack of future thinking – students tend to only focus on the now and this day only and no more than a few days ahead.

  3. seeing time can be a struggle for students – you can’t expect students to manage time if they can’t actually see it.  Students these days are surrounded by digital clocks and therefore only tend to see the present time rather than time having a beginning, middle and an end.

  4. they can easily become overwhelmed – students can become overwhelmed and frustrated by the enormity of a task or project that they will shut down completely and refuse to accomplish anything at all.

  5. some students focus too much on perfection – by doing this, and with a lack of executive function skills for some, this can be a real challenge for students to actually complete work and hand it in on time.  They are always waiting for it to be perfect and unfortunately perfect never comes.

  6. they struggle to prioritise – many students are not able to know what what to do first or in other words not be able to give something a level of importance.
  7. they procrastinate – this is typical of many students, often the figure suggested for students is that 70% procrastinate however this can be even higher for those with executive function issues.

  8. they can struggle to get started or launch – this can be a struggle for many students and therefore they never start something or if they do it is at the 11th hour with a deadline hanging over their heads which naturally creates more stress and pressure for them.

  9. they have trouble with focus – this can be a challenge in that not only do some students struggle to focus or give attention to what they are doing but can find it difficult to move focus easily to another task or activity as well.

  10. they lack organisational, planning and time management skills – these are often the ones that we see students struggle with ie the messy locker, always being late, not able to plan out homework and therefore can really affect their day to day academic lives.

The good news is that for each of these challenges there are tips and strategies that students can learn to implement and allow them to succeed both academically and in life.

For further information or to find out how I can assist you or your child and your challenges please get in touch.

15 common mistakes students make with exams

That time of year is fast approaching (in the Southern hemisphere anyway) when it will be time for exams.  Some students will be more prepared than others for what they are about to face.  It is however worth knowing what the 15 common mistakes students make with exams are so they can try to avoid making them.  I have split this BLOG up into those mistakes students make in the planning and preparation stage as well as those they make in exams themselves.

15 common mistakes students make with exams

In the planning and preparation stagestudent studying

  1. not starting early enough – many students think they have lots of time to prepare and study for exams. Unfortunately this can be a trap and students convince themselves that it will be okay to not start today only to find that they end up running out of time and cramming.  Studying for exams often takes more time than students anticipate, so make sure you get started early!
  2. reviewing information that you already know – students often spend time on studying or reviewing information that they already know.  The best use of their time is to identify what they don’t know and work on strategies to ensure they learn this information.
  3. studying passively and not actively – you ask what does this actually mean?  Studying passively is usually when students spend time just reading over their notes and textbooks until it is familiar.  Where as actively studying is when you actually incorporate the passive study as well as spend time testing and quizzing yourself to see what you actually do or don’t know.  Unfortunately most students actually spend more time studying passively than actively which really is not the best strategy. Click here for more information on this.
  4. not actually studying or preparing in the way you are testedclick here to learn more about this in a recent blog that I wrote just on this point.

In examschairs in an exam room

  1. not writing your name on the exam or test paper – I have seen this time and time again when working with students and this should be the first thing they do when they can actually start writing!
  2. not reading and understanding the question – this is vital and students need to ensure they use their reading time wisely to ensure they understand what the questions is actually asking them to do.  When doing this students really need to take notice in particular of the key/command/prompt words in the question ie analyse, compare, describe….  Basically those words that tell you how you need to respond.
  3. starting to answer questions without any planning – It is important, particularly for any writing tasks, to plan the structure of your response/essay first. This will then assist you to know what you are going to say and in the right order and keeps you on track.
  4. running out of time – some students can find themselves running out of time and in many cases this links back to lack of preparation and planning when they should have spent time practising this with past exam papers.  Ideally you want to have a plan of attack and strategy as to how you are going to break up and use your time before you enter an exam.  Spending time on this prior to exams is a really useful strategy.
  5. Ignoring the clock – when in an exam another trap for students is not keeping an eye on the clock or following any such plan so they run out of time in general.
  6. leaving questions blank – where possible students should avoid this and always try to ensure they gain some marks rather than just giving up and leaving a response blank.
  7. not matching up questions and answers with multiple choice – this is a common mistake and really one that should be avoided.  Students need to take care when responding to multiple choice questions.
  8. answering a question twice – this is common when answering multiple choice – make sure you have only selected one answer per question.
  9. ignoring a question because you don’t like it – when this happens and it does, students ignore the real question and write or respond with something else that often is unrelated to what is actually being asked of them.
  10. having enough supplies with you – students need to make sure they have additional pens or pencils with them as the last thing they want to happen is for the ink to run out and not have anything to write with.  This seems so logical but not always on a students mind when going to an exam.
  11. leaving the exam room early – even if you think you are finished use the extra time to read through your answers and make sure that you’ve answered them to the best of your abilities. You may find during this time that you’d like to include additional information or points.  You might also check over your spelling and grammar as well.

image of students in an exam

 

For more information to assist with exams the following blogs might also be of use:

  • how to create an exam study plan click here or
  • why being organised is the key to exams click here

 

If you would like further information about how I can support students please do get in touch.

 

 

 

Students need to practise the way they are tested

This is such a simple concept – ‘students need to practise the way they are tested’ yet in my experience it’s something that many students actually struggle with.

I regularly see and speak to students who don’t revise and study on a regular basis and often only do it prior to an upcoming test or exam.   The other issue I see is that when students do actually revise and study they are often not using the best methods.   Both of these are entwined and students need to practise the way they are to be tested.  It is vital that they learn how to do this in order to give tests and exams their best shot and in turn get the best marks they possibily can.

As I say to my students in my workshops or when working 1:1 with them that it is about ‘studying smarter not harder”!  You can often hear a bit of a sigh of relief when they think about what I am actually saying.quote learning to study smarter not harder

Regular Revision

Most students actually understand the importance of revision however seem to struggle to know how to know what steps to take and how often they should take them.  Research shows that students definitely benefit from revising on a more regular basis rather than only doing it only when preparing for upcoming tests or exams.  

Many students will also work hard at revising, however they don’t always work well at it.   As with any other aspect of their studies, they need to organise their time, plan their revision well in advance and know what strategies work best for them.

It is important that students do many regular reviews of their information and notes as this is more effective and likely to be retained in their memory over an extended period of time rather than doing just a few long cram sessions.   Ideally students should be reviewing their information and notes on the day they have written them to ensure they have understood the topic at the time and seek further assistance at that stage if they don’t.  It is much better for memory to do it at the time than weeks or months down the track.  From there they should then find a regular pattern of reviewing their notes and testing themselves.

Revision doesn’t have to be hard

Revision doesn’t have to be too hard and students need to put the effort into planning.  It is important to know the best way to revise for all their subjects and have a plan in place for each one.  If students are not sure about this they should seek assistance and guidance from their teachers who are more than willing to assist.  Sometimes this in itself can be hard step for students to do.

Unfortunately many students today are still of the belief that reading over notes or highlighting key text are good revision strategies.   However both of these are actually not the most effective as they don’t force students to think deeply or critically about the topics and they end up being done without much thought at all.  Reading and highlighting creates a sense of familiarity to students however in an exam situation they don’t get marks for things being familiar, they get marks for recalling relevant information and using it to answer the question.

Having said that students shouldn’t abandon these strategies completely as they still can have a role to play and be used alongside other effective revision methods and techniques.

Testing yourself and its importance

There is a lot of research on memory where they say that testing yourself is one of the most effective ways to improve your ability to recall information.  By testing themselves students also can easily identify any gaps in their knowledge.  Practise papers provide a good starting point, as well as quizzing themselves at the end of a revision session.  Another useful technique is to teach the material to someone else.  They could do this with a study partner and take turns and/or to someone who knows nothing about the topic.  This technique assists students to really think about the subject in a clear and structured way.   Another method could be for students to put all the information they know in a mind map or on paper before reviewing their notes to see where the gaps in their knowledge are.

image of a multiple choice exam paper

This then leads us to the next stage of revision where it is important for students to focus on the information that they don’t know rather than what they do know.  Naturally it is more satisfying to revise what they do know rather than focus on their weaknesses.  Revision isn’t about reassuring oneself on what they do know it needs to be all about identifying what they don’t.  Once they figure this out then they need to find the best revision strategies to learn that knowledge.

On top of this students need to really understand the format of the tests and exams so they can actually practise under test or exam like conditions.  By doing this they can work out the best strategies for them when it comes to reading time, working out which questions to tackle first and so on.  It is important that during the reading time they actually read and understand the questions before they begin and really know what is being asked of them.  For some students they like to focus on the hardest or most time consuming working down to the easiest where as for other students they like to get the easy marks out of the way first and do the harder ones later.  There is no right strategy and is very much up to individual students to find what suits their style the best.  Practise tests or exams are a great opportunity for students to really know what works best for them and to fine tune these prior to the important test or exam.

Most teachers are also more than happy to mark practise tests and exams which then also allows the students to work on the areas that they don’t know as well to keep learning and improving before the final exams arrive.

There is research that finds students who do practise tests after a period of revision do better on the final exam than those students who didn’t do the practise exams and had just spent the whole time revising.  At the end of the day its better for students who don’t do well in practise exams to have the time to do more work, change revision strategies and develop the right skills to perform well under pressure than it all falling apart and not working for them in the final exam!

If you’d like to know more or hear how I can assist you or your child further please get in touch.

 

 

 

The power of YET for students

I believe the power of YET for students is one of the most important words for them to meet their potential as learners.  It is a word that educators and parents should also be using on a regular basis as well!

One’s mindset determines how they behave, their outlook on life and attitude towards everything they do.  Mindset is a simple idea discovered by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck following years of research on achievement and success.  Her research found that brains and talent don’t bring success and sometimes even stand in the way of it.  On top of this, praising ones brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment and can actually even jeopardize them.  Where as teaching students about mindset and this simple idea can actually increase marks as well as their productivity.

Fixed v Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck’s research has found the following:

  • Fixed mindset – having a fixed mindset about yourself and your abilities means you think you are the way you are and that you can’t change anything.  Sometimes students with a fixed mindset believe that their talent alone can create success without putting in any effort which unfortunately is not true.
  • Growth mindset – means you believe your skills are not static and that you have the ability to change and learn.  This type of mindset can really assist one to succeed as this allows them to believe by working hard they can improve. With a growth mindset a student can know that whilst they may not be good at something it could either mean they haven’t learnt or practiced it YET.

At the end of the day all the tips and strategies given to students to assist them to study and improve their marks won’t work if they don’t have the right mindset in the first place – a growth mindset.

For further information about fixed v growth mindset you can click here to read another blog I have written about the importance of a growth mindset for students.

Use the word YET

Image of the word YET - The power of YET for students

By using the word YET it can really alter and improve a students’ motivation.  It can create the idea of learning over time.

So when they say “I can’t do this“, “I don’t have the skills needed” or “I’m not smart enough” by adding the word YET it can really change their motivation levels. With guidance and regular reminding and using the word YET it changes their fixed mindset statement they have made into a growth mindset one.

And it means that with your guidance they will continue on their learning trajectory and get there eventually. It puts their fixed mindset statement into a growth mindset context of learning overtime.

To begin the process of fostering a growth mindset, we need to catch ourselves when we are thinking with a fixed mindset and then revise those thinking patterns toward that of a growth mindset.  When we find ourselves thinking “I’m just not wired that way”, we need to make a mental note of the thought and revise our thinking patterns toward something along the lines of “I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’ll keep trying to learn.”  Doing this will not only assist us in being more resilient, but it will also help to keep us more motivated.

So the next time you hear your child saying they CAN’T do something remember to add the word YET to the end of the sentence.  It is amazing how powerful this change in the way you acknowledge can make a difference to their beliefs about themselves and their abilities.  You might even like to give it a go yourself if you find yourself ever saying I CAN’T too.

For further assistance on mindset or other areas on how I can assist you and your child please do get in touch.

8 tips for parents to avoid homework battles

Whether you agree with homework or not it seems to be part of most school’s current programs.  So how do parents avoid homework battles?

Homework is generally set to give children the opportunity to:

teenage boy doing homework

  • practice and consolidate skills;
  • practice creative thinking or problem solving; and
  • carry out long term projects.

Completing homework should not be about acquiring new skills.

The one thing I hear from many parents is that homework battles are very common and that they can be very painful to deal with.

As I outlined in another recent BLOG – ‘Who’s responsibility is it to ensure homework is completed?” – it is the child’s.  It is also an arrangement they have with their teacher and school and this needs to be kept front of mind too.  Having said that I do agree that parents also still play a role in monitoring, supporting, guiding, teaching and ensuring that children complete their homework themselves.

8 tips to try and avoid homework battles include:

  1. Send clear messages about homework – including that it is an important part of school; you will give your child support if they need it and that you will not be doing their homework for them.
  2. Have a plan – this really is key for students of all ages in tackling their homework. Depending upon what it boy not enjoying doing homeworkis they need to do a plan can be detailed or just written down on a scrap piece of paper.  The plan should include a rough outline of what they need to do and a guide as to how much time they need to spend on each aspect.  Then it is useful to work out what subject to start with first – for some children it could be the easiest or for others they like to tackle the hardest.  Ask them what they would like to start with.  By having a plan they are more likely to make a start as well as to get their homework done.One important point for parents is not to assume they know how to do this and you may need to teach them how to put a basic plan together first then be their to support until they can do it by themselves.
  3. Breaking into chunks – sometimes it is the homework task itself that can be overwhelming so it is useful to assist your child to know how to break tasks down into chunks that can be dealt with during the same homework session or on different days.  It is common to assume they have been taught how to do this and therefore we often just expect them to be able to know how to do this when the reality is they don’t necessarily understand.  If this is the case it is useful to work with them and explain how.
  4. Develop set homework times/routines – work with your child to develop times when they can get their homework done around their other activities.  Having set times tends to work for younger children where as older children might like more flexibility around taking responsibility for when to complete theirs.  One thing to be aware of is to determine the best times around children’s energy levels.  Often the best time can be after they get home from school and have had something to eat – usually within 30 minutes to an hour at most.
  5. Find the best place for them – have a discussion with your child, particularly older children, as to where they feel they work best and then help them to create the right space and environment ie does it need to be quiet, do they want to have music playing or maybe they work best in amongst it all in the kitchen space?  Be aware that they might also like different spaces depending upon what homework it is they are doing at the time.  I recently found out, by asking, that one of my students hated the desk space she worked in as she found it really dark so she avoided using it.  After speaking to her parents and with a coat of paint and more lighting she actually was happy to start working in there again.
  6. Minimise distractions – I could write a whole BLOG on this alone however I would like to highlight that girl using iphone when she should be doing homeworkparents can help children become aware of distractions and work with them to come up with the best solution that will work ie help them to turn notifications from social media off on devices they are working on or remove phones to another room whilst they are working.  Where possible get them to come up with the decisions on what to do rather than dictate them as they are more likely to stick to them then too.
  7. Help them to get started – often this can be the hardest part.  As we know many children like to procrastinate and never seem to have any trouble finding other things to do.  One way to help get them started is to set a time for 20 minutes and then allow them a 5 minute break before setting again.  Sometimes this is enough to anchor them to their desk to complete homework.  For some children using incentives can also assist them to get their homework done ie give them something they look forward to doing as soon as they finish homework.
  8. Make sure they have all the supplies – often this can be an issue as children complain they don’t havewhat they need.  Therefore parents can assist to make sure they have a variety of supplies at hand and close by to where the children complete their homework so there really are no excuses.  It might even be worth checking in with them from time to time on upcoming homework they need to complete if you need to make any specific purchases like poster paper or other supplies.

Homework battles can be very draining on everyone involved so the more planning and educating you can do to assist your children the easier they should become. Why not give some of these tips a go to see if you can avoid homework battles in your home making it much better for everyone!

If you would like to discuss the regular challenges you have or to know more about how I can assist you and your family please get in touch.