The first time I studied effectively was for a Year 12 Biology exam I wanted to get an A in.
I re-read all of my notes for the whole unit, summarised the main ideas, condensed the main ideas into single words that ‘triggered’ other information, and tested myself using questions and answers from that list of single words.
For two weeks, I tested myself until I could recite the information verbatim.
The night before the test, I answered the panicked calls of my friends who were cramming and didn’t understand various concepts.
I worked my a** off for two whole weeks to prepare for this Biology exam. And it was the hardest I’d worked for any exam in my schooling career to date.
I got a B+. Frustration plus!
But as a teacher, I look back and think that by the last year of high school, I should have already developed effective study skills. I hadn’t – and I was a good student.
I turned up, I paid attention, and I knew that writing out definitions a million times wasn’t going to work. (Unlike some of my peers, whose hands ached for the entire of senior year).
If a good student doesn’t learn how to study effectively until by chance in their last year of school they figure it out, what chance does an average student have?
Unless teachers explicitly teach study skills…
But, I hear you ask, what study skills should I teach? Which skills are the most important? The curriculum is crowded, how can I do it quickly?
Scroll down to find out 9 essential study skills that every student should know (and every teacher should teach).
Teaching students how to take notes is one of the most important study skills to teach as it helps students avoid wasting time in class and at home.
Teaching students to take effective notes doesn’t take long, but students do need to practice the skill in order to improve. Easy ways to encourage students to practice taking notes include
- Brainstorm as a class and ask students to choose a specific number of notes to write down
- Prime students by telling them a specific number of notes to take while listening to or reading information
- Show students a specific structure or style of taking notes to practice (for example Cornell notes, brainstorming/mind mapping, outline, or visual notes)
- Give students a note-taking graphic organizer
- Show students how to set out their notes in different ways
- Have students work in pairs or small groups to take notes
- Get students to compare notes after a note-taking session
For more ideas about teaching students to study and take effective notes, see the following blog posts
- Easily teach your students to take effective Cornell Notes
- Quickly teach your students to take effective outline notes
- A tired teacher’s quick and easy guide to mind mapping
- 3 FREE mind mapping tools for middle and high school students
- A Tired Teacher’s Guide: What You Need To Know About Visual Note-taking
- Take vibrant visual notes with these 3 free easy videos
- 5 fantastic videos showing how to take Cornell notes
- 5 easy examples of how to use Cornell Notes in English classes
- Cornell notes: how to use them easily in your history lesson
- Why your students’ notes suck and how to improve them
- How to teach note taking skills: 10+ tips
- 3 fast and easy ways of teaching students to take notes
As teachers, we often wonder why students don’t study. One reason could be that they feel overwhelmed when faced with a massive amount of reading to complete for class.
While we might only set a chapter to read for English, students might also have a chapter for science, social studies, and art. They might also have a paper due for history and a part-time job where they have two shifts this weekend.
By teaching students reading strategies, such as the skim, skip, and read strategy, we are also teaching students to study more effectively.
By showing students how to prioritize reading tasks, we are showing students how to use their time more effectively.
Hopefully, then they’ll do at least SOME of the readings!
Another important skill when teaching students to study is to teach them more about how memory works. While some people have excellent memories without effort, most don’t.
And when planning how to teach students to learn, you need to consider how their memories work. By teaching students that repetition of information helps them to remember it, students are more likely to actually do the work of studying.
By addressing the why is studying important for students question, you are more likely to show students the benefits of studying in effective ways. And research shows that recalling information is one of the most effective ways for students to remember what they learn. Easy ways of helping students practice this skill are to
- Get students to come up with study questions from their notebooks
- Play quiz games or set up quizzes on Google Forms or Blooket
- Show students how to create and use Anki cards
- Give students time and materials to create flashcards during revision lessons
- Play games such as Memory or Snap with the questions/answers having to match up
Planning and organization
Other valuable skills to cover when teaching students to study are planning and organization. This is another major reason why students don’t study, they don’t have the skills to work out what to study and when to study it.
Being well organized will help students avoid unexpected tests or essay due dates.
Showing students how to become more organized and to plan in advance can be as easy as showing students
- How to use a paper or electronic calendar
- Where to find assessment due dates
- How to backward map and set mini-goals
- What a to-do list is and how to use it
- How to prioritize tasks on a to-do list
You can help students manage their time more effectively by showing students how to plan ahead using a calendar and to-do list so they can organize their time effectively.
If you want more information on teaching students how to manage their study time effectively by being more organized, check out these blog posts
- 7 Easy tips to teach tweens and teens how to manage study time
- Managing study time: 7 easy tips to teach your students study skills
- What is metacognitive strategy? Plus 6 easy tips for teachers to use it
And if you are searching for some ideas for how to stay organized as a teacher, check out these posts
- 5 Time Management Tips For Tired Teachers
- Motivation and self-care tips for tired teachers
- Time management for teachers: 7 easy tips
- Emergency lesson plans: 6 fast, easy ideas when you have no lesson plan
Focus and concentration
Everyone struggles to focus and concentrate sometimes. Just think of all those staff meetings you’ve attended where you zone out only to realize that the meeting is over and you’ve got no idea what was said.
Your students probably feel the same sometimes. But showing students techniques such as using a timer and working for a short set time (like fifteen minutes or half an hour) can help students develop the skills to get started.
Other ways of teaching students to study, focus, and concentrate include
- Use mini ‘working-time’ blocks in class
- Show students what has to be accomplished in the lesson and tick it off as it’s completed
- Have brain breaks between tasks
Procrastination is another main reason why students don’t study. Ignoring distractions can be difficult when a phone is within easy reach, Facebook Messenger is on in the background, and Snapchat is pinging away.
And don’t even get us started on TikToks or Instagram Reels!
But by teaching students to study and how to avoid procrastination, you can show them that spending focused time concentrating on schoolwork can free up time to do REAL-LIFE fun stuff. (Instead of messaging their friends and wishing they could get out of the house!).
Easy ways to include this during class time are to
- Give students brain breaks when they concentrate for a specified amount of time
- Have set rewards for concentrating for a specified amount of time
- Immediately reward students who get started on tasks straight after instructions are given
A great blog post to find out more about this topic is Avoiding procrastination: 10 tips to teach your students how to stop procrastinating.
Studying for tests and exams
Many students think that studying for a test means re-reading notes the night before the exam and hoping that it all sticks. But you know that cramming the night before a test is one of the less-effective strategies for studying.
If you are teaching students how to study effectively, you probably want to show them how to use spaced repetition, as well as how to create an effective study schedule.
By showing students that repeated exposure to information is how their brains are more likely to remember information, you can show students how to succeed in tests and exams.
Other easy ways of teaching students to study include activities such as
- Getting students to create revision questions and answers
- Showing students how to create anki cards or flashcards
- Giving students class time to revise their notes
- Demonstrating how you would revise notes and create study questions using the course/unit outline and notes
Overcoming test and exam anxiety
Another important skill when teaching students to study is to show them how to overcome test and exam anxiety.
Just about everyone gets nervous before a test – and that can be a good thing to help them focus and perform well. But for some students, nerves get in the way of their performance.
By exploring the main reasons why they feel nervous, you can help students identify why they are nervous and come up with appropriate strategies to overcome anxiety.
If you want more information about helping students better manage test anxiety, see the blog post Fear of test taking: 7 tips to help your students overcome test anxiety.
Writing papers and essays
Another essential study skill students need is to write papers and essays. The vast majority of subjects in high school and university require that students are able to write research papers and extended essays.
But writing a good paper or essay can be tough, especially when research is involved. By showing students how to research, write, and edit their work, you can help them not just at school but in their future careers.
Easy ways to teach these skills include
- Modeling the different parts of writing the research paper or essay
- Explicitly teaching research skills such as lateral reading and how to evaluate whether or not a source of information is trustworthy
- Giving students a checklist to evaluate their own writing
- Show students the difference between an excellent paper and an average paper
Another blog post you might find useful when teaching students to write is this one about literary analysis.
Using exercise to improve results
Now, I know the title says nine tips for teaching students to study, but this tip is a bonus tip because it’s a hard one to do in the classroom.
But, research shows that movement improves learning. So, stress the importance of exercise not only for a healthy lifestyle but also improving academic results by increasing learning.
One way you can try to incorporate this tip in class is to try and use movement in class where appropriate. Ideas to do this include
- Using brain breaks that include movement
- Doing activities such as gallery walks
- Having students take turns to write on the board or put posters/post-it notes on the board
- Play revision games such as four corners, sit/stand, or true/false where students need to move to express their answer
Ok, but who’s got time for teaching students to study?
I’ve already addressed that using videos isn’t lazy teaching – so use a video. My favorite videos for teaching study skills are the CrashCourse Study Skills videos (and those of you who have read previous posts like this one will know that I totally fan-girl over CrashCourse).
You don’t have to be teaching students study skills in every lesson, you can run mini-lessons as and when needed. Or you could aim to cover one study skill every week.
Either way, when planning how to teach students to learn or how to teach students to study, covering these study skills will go a long way toward improving students’ abilities to study effectively.
Other posts you may be interested in about teaching students study skills:
- 3 ways to easily engage your students in study skills
- 3 FREE videos with examples of study skills to watch at the start of the year
- 8 awesome reasons to focus on study skills in ELA
- 5 research-backed reasons you should be teaching mind mapping
- 10 awesome study skills worksheets: high school and middle school edition
- 9 quick and easy study skills lesson plans for high school