Many middle and high school teachers assume that students are being taught organizational skills at home (such as how to plan study time), but often that’s not the case because parents are busy and may think that teachers are teaching it at school.
Explicitly teaching students how to manage study time (and other study skills) improves their academic performance (as shown in this study here).
Today we’re going to look at seven easy tips to teach your students to manage their study time more effectively.
1. Explicitly teach skills
The first tip we have to teach students how to manage study time is to explicitly teach some study skills. Many students don’t know how to take effective notes, so show them.
Showing students a range of note-taking styles ensures that they have a variety of ways to take notes for the range of situations they will find themselves in – whether it’s doing visual notes in a science lesson, Cornell notes during a history lesson, or mind map notes when planning an essay.
Many students also don’t know other basic study skills such as,
- how to organize a study space
- planning and writing research papers
- recording and citing sources of information
- studying for tests
- planning and organizing their time effectively
- creating a study schedule
- avoiding procrastination
- managing reading assignments
- planning study tasks
- or what to do when they get stuck
So pick skills that your students seem to lack, and do mini-lessons that focus on those skills when you need to.
And if you have skills that specific students need particular help with, consider sending home tasks that students can do to help them address those skills.
2. Use videos to help teach or revise skills quickly
By now you’re probably thinking my kids need help with all of those skills! I don’t have enough time to do that – especially with such a crowded curriculum.
An easy way to address that is to use mini-lessons. Students don’t need a full forty-minute lesson to learn to take notes. At least, most students don’t. Likely they need a quick mini-lesson or refresher to help them remember what to do.
An easy way to help students learn the skills for managing study time and still ensure there’s enough time in class to cover required content is to run mini-lessons. They can be short – ten to fifteen minutes. And you can even use videos to speed things along.
My favorite study skills videos (in case you didn’t know) are the Crash Course Study Skills and Crash Course Navigating Digital Information videos. These videos are fantastic for teaching (and refreshing) study skills for students in a fast, easy, and engaging way.
In terms of the specific skill of learning how to manage study time, my pick for a video would be their planning and organization video. This video is great because it shows students how to manage their study time by creating a plan.
The video also shows students how to use tools such as calendars, to-do lists, and files to help them keep their study time and space organized.
Students are likely to feel far less overwhelmed if they can identify when they are going to study, for how long, and what they plan to work on. This leads us to my next point – students need time to map out their study plans and study tasks.
3. Give students time in class to map out their study plans
Now, many teachers may be reluctant to give students time in class to plan their study time and study tasks. Why give students time to do that at school when they should do it at home?
Well, have they been doing it at home? Or are they just skipping that step and then flailing? Are their study plans and study tasks well prioritized or random? Do they have a system for creating a study plan, prioritizing tasks, and then get started?
By giving students time in class to complete this – and it doesn’t have to be a lot of time – you enable them to show you how they are doing it. Then you can offer suggestions to guide them to be more effective.
Students are still learning the skills for managing time effectively (heck – many adults are still learning this!), so give students a chance to do it in a way that immediate feedback is possible.
If your students waste the time you give them, perhaps try another tack. Pose the question, how does managing time make studying less stressful? and ask for students’ ideas. Once students have explained reasons why planning their time makes studying less stressful, explain that the time you’ve been giving them is designed to help them out, but that if they abuse that time, they will lose it.
4. Discuss students’ study plans and offer helpful tips
This tip goes hand in hand with the tip above – you need to give students time in class so that you can see how they’re doing and guide them toward more effective habits.
If you don’t want to commit to a regular time in class to give students planning time to manage their study time, consider instead having random informal chats with students. So, in that last five minutes when you run out of steam in a lesson, chat with three students about which study tasks are most important to them that week and ask why.
Or, as students are coming into class, ask them which days that week they are studying for their biology exam. When some kids have finished work but others are still going, ask them which assignments carry the most weight in their grade that term.
By promoting all of these discussions, you help students think about these topics and informally learn that they should be thinking about things such as
- which assignments, essays, or tests are due soon
- what days they are going to study for their biology exam
- which class assignments they should spend more time on because they are worth more of their grade
The skills for managing study time aren’t learned overnight and don’t happen at all unless students think about their time and how to manage it. And informal conversations are a great low-pressure way to get students thinking.
5. Model planning and organizational skills such as setting up a study timetable
Another great way to help students learn the skills for managing study time is to explicitly teach them how to work towards completing an assignment or set up a study timetable.
My favorite way to show students how to set up a study timetable is to use the Crash Course Study Skills Planning and Organization video and this worksheet. The video and worksheet show students how to manage study time by creating a study schedule, prioritizing study tasks, and planning out when in the next day or week they will complete those study tasks.
The video also shows students that they have immediate study tasks – such as writing that essay due next week – and longer-term study tasks, such as ongoing study for their biology exam at the end of the semester.
By showing students how to manage their study time using planning and organizational skills, the video shows students how to balance their time between competing priorities and tasks.
The video also shows students tools they can use to help them in managing study time – tools such as calendars, to-do lists, and filing systems.
Another way to show students how to manage study time . . .
Is to show students how to work towards completing an assignment is to show them to think of the assignment like a recipe. So, if the end result is an essay on why Lizzie Bennet is Austen’s most successful heroine, show students how to work backward and create a ‘method’ for the ‘recipe’.
So the ingredients would be an introduction with a thesis statement, four paragraphs, and a conclusion restating the thesis statement. And the method would include steps such as
- create a thesis statement
- do some research about Austen’s heroines
- marshal some ideas about why Lizzie is so successful as a heroine
- find quotes from external sources and Pride and Prejudice to back up ideas
- write a draft
- edit the draft
- finish the final copy and submit
By helping students think of the essay like a finished product with a bunch of steps in between, you help them to identify the steps they need to take to finish. By knowing how much there is to do, students are able to more accurately predict how long each step in the method will take.
You are helping students systematize the task, which makes it easier to complete. This leads to the next point, which is to show students how to set mini-deadlines to monitor progress.
6. Show students how to set mini-deadlines to track progress
Another important skill to show students is how to set min-deadlines to track progress. This is a little easier to do with assignments and essays, as students are given a due date and work towards completion by the due date.
This can be as easy as using the ‘recipe’ format above and assigning dates to each task, or students may have to show you specific parts of the assignment at specific points during the term.
Demonstrating this skill is a little harder with end-of-term or end-of-semester exams when students have only a vague idea of what they need to know by the end of the term or semester.
Showing students how to use the Leitner palm card method of spaced repetition or how to use Anki cards, you can show students how to study for end-of-term or end-of-semester exams.
These systems have ways to track progress because until students know the answer correctly, the card is repeated more frequently. Once students know the answer correctly, the card moves to a less-repeated ‘level’ in the spaced repetition system.
Another great way to show students how to set mini-deadlines to track progress for the end-of-term or end-of-semester study is to show them how to come up with questions from each week of study and then to do a little ‘quiz’ for each week of questions.
Then the progress tracking would be that they should know the answers for week 1 questions by week 3, the answers for week 2 questions by week 4, and so on. Then perhaps after a month they re-test all the questions so far and see which weeks they may need more practice with.
7. Show students time-management and motivation techniques
The last tip for showing students how to manage study time is to show them time-management and motivation techniques. My favorite way to do that is to show them the Crash Course Study Skills Focus and Concentration video and use this worksheet for student notes.
Not only does it make it fast, easy, and engaging to teach students tips for managing time effectively, but it also shows students specific ideas and tools they can use to motivate themselves to do the work.
Well, that’s the end of our seven tips for teaching students skills for managing study time. If you want more study skills content . . .
Check out these blog posts
- How to teach note taking skills: 10+ tips
- 10 awesome study skills worksheets: high school and upper middle school
- 5 fantastic videos showing how to take Cornell notes
- Virtual note-taking: 9 powerful tips to use with high school students
- Why your students’ notes suck and how to improve them
- 5 research-based reasons you should be teaching mind-mapping
If you have any other tips or tricks for improving students’ skills in managing study time, post them on our Instagram or Facebook pages.