It's that time of year where you buy a bunch of cheap back-to-school pens and paper, and a bunch of expensive back-to-school clothes, and then you put your kids on a bus and send them back-to-school. You're about to embark on another year of packing lunches, fighting about homework, and all the joy and tears that come with school. As your kids get ready to go back to school, why not give them an advantage this year that can put them on an academic success path for years to come?
The following advantages can be taught to kids of almost any school age (although older kids might grasp the concepts faster) and the skills will benefit them all the way through college:
1. Application and WIIFM. Students go from class to class, learning things because they "have to". But who likes doing things because they have to? Help your child turn "have to" into "want to" by teaching them to always look for the application and ask "What's in it for me?". Students who ask this will learn to value the information they take in as they look for ways in their life to apply it. So a student who has to take that "boring" math class might be more engaged if they knew about the possibilities that understanding that information might provide.
2. Mindmapping. A mindmap is a thinking and studying tool in which you take a blank piece of paper and put a single idea in the middle. Then branching out from that central idea are concepts or categories. Each concept or category can have branches of it. And those branches can have branches, too. This tool is useful for notetaking, review and test-studying, outlining essays, and consolidating an entire subject into an at-a-glance chart. And since many people are visual learners, the mindmap helps to turn boring old notes into an easy-to-remember picture.
3. Speed reading. Speed reading isn't just about getting through a book faster. Don’t confuse it with skimming. Speed reading improves comprehension because the point of speed reading is not to read. Each. Word. Individually. The. Way. Most. People. Do. Rather, speed reading is about taking in an entire thought at a glance. Speed reading is very fast to learn (you can easily double your speed in just 10 or 15 minutes) and helpful for students, especially in the older grades.
4. Active reading. Nothing is more disheartening than getting a giant textbook at the beginning of the year and thinking "we have to read ALL of this???". But if you teach your child to be an active reader, they will master the text quickly without the pain. Active reading is about looking at the Table of Contents first to get the whole picture, and then reading the headings and sub-headings in each chapter to get a birds-eye view of each chapter. After looking at the Table of Contents and all the headings, then they can read the chapter. Reading goes much faster and they'll comprehend more because of the five minutes they spent first reading the headings and sub-headings.
5. Active listening. When teachers get to be a little boring, it's easy for a student to tune out the teacher. But active listening encourages a student to take diligent notes of what the teacher is saying while also taking notes in the margin of their own thoughts and feelings and questions about the material. Students might identify areas they don't understand, or a list of questions that they had during class, or they might even make a note of the times in class where they started to day-dream (so they can borrow better notes from someone else who was paying attention).
Not every student will engage with these 5 skills, and these 5 skills won't necessarily turn your child into a Doogie Howser. However, if you help to build a strong foundation of these skills in your child now, it will help them in their academic path and these skills will pay increasing dividends, the higher they advance in school.