Teaching Children Study Skills

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Students in school are given daily homework and often expected to memorize their weekly spelling words. As they grow, they are expected to take notes in class and to use study guides effectively to prepare for their tests. These expectations are high considering students are rarely taught how to study, take notes or use study guides to do these things.


Children who fail to turn in their assignments, do poorly on their tests, or don’t have complete notes are often referred to as lazy or not having “good study skills.” Yet, most children are never explicitly taught what are “good study skills.”


Teachers expect parents to teach these skills at home. Parents unknowingly believe these skills are taught in the classroom. The child is stuck between the two frustrated parties not understanding what is expected of him/her.


This situation usually arises in about third or fourth grade. But many times, the lack of study skills in a child’s routine doesn’t come to a head until later junior high or even high school. At this point, it is awfully late to begin teaching good skills. Bad habits are hard to change. (However, it can be done.)


Good study skills should be taught from the beginning of a child’s school career (Primary). This can begin in small ways:


  • Have the child put their backpack in the same place at home every day.
  • Set a time to begin and end homework. Be very consistent with this schedule.
  • Require the child to have his or her backpack packed with all completed homework before the child goes to bed.
  • Teach the child how to write down their assignments in an assignment notebook.
  • If a child continually fails to get the necessary assignments written down, parents should consider a system such as having the teacher sign the assignment notebook at the end of every day to assure the study has written the assignments down correctly.
  • Use lists to help the child remember the after school home routine. Encourage the child to go through their checklist before they can go outside and play.


As a child grows, parents tend to allow them more freedom to take ownership of their own learning process. This is wonderful. However, if study skills have not been explicitly taught and followed, parents can find themselves frustrated that their child is not meeting their expectations. Here are some ways to help with the transition to independent studying:


  • Give the child freedom dependent on good grades and good teacher feedback. If a child begins showing signs of poor teacher feedback and low grades, get more involved in their learning. Begin to look at where the child might be failing to utilize good study skills.
  • Talk to your child about study skills. Many students don’t understand what “good study skills” are or why they matter.
  • Teach the child to study smarter, not harder. Sit down and teach the variety of study methods such as using mnemonics, flashcards, taking good notes, making charts, etc. 
  • Be prepared to have a child fight your efforts to help them study. Children are notorious for wanting to find an easy way out. Good study habits can take more time upfront but save time and frustration on the back end. Expect that your child isn’t going to understand or even want to participate in your efforts to help them develop these skills.
  • Consider providing immediate feedback through a reward system for the child’s efforts to use good study skills. Children often don’t see the immediate feedback they need to want to continue using these lifetime skills. Providing extra privileges gives the child reason to continue to good habits, even when they feel it’s “a waste of time.”


While some children do pick up on the implicit teaching of study skills in the classroom, most students don’t. Therefore, parents must take the responsibility for teaching good study habits to their children even into high school.


Good study skills are necessary for students to succeed in school. If schools don’t teach these habits to children, parents must do so. Developing study skills is learning how to learn.

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