What is a habit? It’s something that you habitually do. It’s something that you are habituated to. Habit used to be the word for clothing, these days, we only see this meaning in the phrase a nun’s habit or a monk’s habit, but if clothes maketh the man, in modern times habits, and good ones at that, matter. So how do we help our students to create good study habits?
The first and most crucial factor is starting early. Children love routine, so if you want them to always have a pen with them, make them put one out on their desk at the beginning of EVERY day. Start small.
Clearly, organisation is an excellent habit to form and right from the start of school we should be encouraging families to help their children get organised. Although this may seem simple, to some families, it is not. Sending a list home, maybe via a parent group that you have set up in Showbie with a list of things that children could do each night before going to bed, is often really helpful for parents. It can also take the pressure off them and prevent conflict as they can say “Mrs Smith says that you have to pack your bag before bed”, and so on. Forming good, yet simple, habits early will help students when they get to their state or national exams later on in their school life.
If older teens are used to forming habits, thanks to some early groundwork from families and primary teachers, forming new and rigorous study habits will be much easier for them. Prior planning and preparation to prevent poor performance is a key phrase when it comes to exams!
Let’s look at how we can help our students perform well under the pressure of exams:
Get organised the night before. They should learn to plan their study sessions by getting their study materials ready on the desk at the end of the day. They are mentally saying tomorrow I’m going to study. You could turn this into a fun task by asking students to post photos of their study set up in the class discussions of your Showbie class.
Phones can be a helpful study tool. Many students use online study flashcards, and as a teacher, you can encourage them to use these tools in the ‘dead time’ of their day. For example, are they making a cup of tea? Rather than scroll through Instagram, why not spend 5 minutes flicking through some study flashcards? By and large, phones are a distraction when working, and teens must recognise this. It’s not enough to simply put your phone face down on the desk or put it on ‘do not disturb’. It needs to be in another room. Studies have shown that the phone’s mere presence in your study room reduces your cognitive capacity.
Create a study plan or timetable. Most students don’t know how to do this. A great way to show them how is to use the screen recording feature in Showbie whilst demonstrating how to create a reasonable revision timetable. You could plan a grid in Keynote or Pages and add that document to Showbie. Students could then try to make their timetables and share them with you for feedback. Don’t forget to share information with your students on interleaving, spaced practice, and Ebbinghaus’ curve of forgetting. Sometimes when they know the science, it helps them understand why planning is essential. You could even create a study skills group in Showbie for students and parents that house tips and information on good study habits.
Take breaks! All work and no play make our students dull… Taking breaks during a study session is essential, especially when we have been “in the zone” and forgotten to take a break. To avoid this, use a timer. I love the Pomodoro method because it is so easy to use. Simply choose a task and set a timer for 25 mins. Once the timer is up, take a 3-minute break. Repeat this 3-4 times and then take a longer break. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato because the timer that the creator of this method, Francesco Cirillo, used was a tomato-shaped kitchen timer!
Start small. Are you struggling to get going? Why not try the Kaizen method, which, in essence, is saying to yourself, “I’ll just study for 1 min”. Typically, that one minute becomes more, but if it doesn’t, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. As BJ Fogg says in his book “Tiny Habits”, create an emotion of success when you complete your tiny habit. Once you feel successful, you’ll continue with your routine, and hopefully, your practice will grow too. His mantra is ‘Keep it tiny’.
Never miss twice. So says James Clear. We can indeed all become distracted, and sometimes life just happens, but if we try to stick to James’ catchphrase, we should be able to create a consistent habit. It is important for students not to worry about missing a study session as it can breed anxiety, however, they should ensure that they do complete the next study session, this will make them feel like they are still on track and will instill a feeling of confidence.
Exam period is a stressful time for all students at all stages of their education but if they learn the basics from an early age and build on that over the course of their education they can approach exam season with a feeling of confidence. If you’re looking for other revision and learning strategies, check out our recent blog “Six Ways to Solidify Revision and Learning Strategies for Exam Season” right here.
Our team of Learning Specialists are experienced teachers and provide training for our Showbie customers on all aspects of educational practice, including things like study techniques and creating good habits using Showbie.