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Best study tips for kids: What the latest research says

Study tips
A young boy completes his homework in his home in Beijing. Source: Ed Jones/AFP

School’s back and that means the return of exams and homework. As a parent, trying to get your child (or children) to study and complete their assignments can be tough, if not an outright struggle.

In 2019, parents need an updated strategy on how to help their kids study better. Here’s what the latest research has to offer:

1. Let them nap

Instead of diving straight into homework, try scheduling in an afternoon nap first. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine found a link between an afternoon nap and a child’s happiness, as well as improved behaviour and academic performance.

best tips to study

Napping sounds counterproductive to doing better in school but research proves otherwise. Source: Leo Rivas/Unsplash

According to the study of 3,000 fourth, fifth and sixth-graders aged 10-12 years old, “children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6 percent increase in academic performance in Grade Six,” said Adrian Raine, from University of Pennsylvania.

“How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?”

2. Talk to kids

ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. These include being involved in a divorce, growing up with mentally ill or substance-abusing parents or suffering from sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

Examining close to 66,000 students ages six to 17 gathered during the 2011-2012 school year, US researchers found those with more ACEs tend to have decreased school performance and engagement. For example, children exposed to four or more ACEs are four times more likely to routinely skip homework and three times more likely report not caring much about school.

“Protective factors” can minimise this. Having a safe neighbourhood, supportive neighbours, non-smoking homes, regular family dinners and parent-child conversations can lead to less negative school outcomes.

“The strongest protective factor this study determined was having a parent that can talk to their child about things that matter and share ideas,”  said lead study author Dr. Angelica Robles, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Novant Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“By having open communication and positive daily conversation, they build a stronger relationship with their child, which has the most protective effect.

“The relationship parents have with their child can make a big difference,” added Robles.

3. Approach homework strategically

Writing for The New York Times, the founders of Teachers Who Tutor | NYC identified three factors causing homework stress: procrastination, feeling overwhelmed and struggling to retain information.

“Ideally, parents can help elementary school children develop effective homework habits so they will not need as much guidance as they get older,” they wrote.

To avoid procrastinating, remove sources of distraction like mobile phones and mute apps on computers. There should be a daily structure to follow, as this ultimately helps children thrive.

If they feel overwhelmed, show them how you plan your time so they can copy. Making time estimates of how long an assignment will take, while starting with the most difficult task also helps.

As for boosting memory, try a “cumulative approach” in building up blocks of information to take in. Use visual aids and narratives, as well as mnemonics, keywords and concise lists when taking in a large swath of information.

4. Focus on phonics

Preschoolers can have better math skills if they spend more time learning the links between letters and sounds. The research from Liverpool John Moores University in England found a link between a good phonic background and their later ability at counting, calculating and recognising numbers.

best tips to study

Work on children’s phonological and orthographic features of language to see their math skills improve. Source: Pan Xiaozhen/Unsplash

“These findings suggest that code– rather than meaning-focused home literacy experiences are related to pre-schoolers early number skills. Supporting parents to engage in code-focused home literacy experiences may benefit pre-schoolers number skills as well as their emergent literacy,” the researchers wrote.

The “code experiences” refer to experiences that focus on the phonological and orthographic features of language.

5. Avoid Twitter and other social media platforms

Testing close to 1,500 students from across 70 Italian high schools between the 2016-2017 school year, researchers sought to find out whether Twitter actually benefitted students after the platform became a teaching tool for teachers through literature. They found the popular social media platform is doing more harm than good in students’ education.

Those who used Twitter performed worse on standardised testing, about 25-40 percent of a standard deviation from the average result, as the paper explains. The decline was sharpest among higher-achieving students, including women, those born in Italy and those who had scored higher on a baseline test.

The students were divided into two groups; half used Twitter to analyse The Late Mattia Pascal, a novel published in 1904 by Italian writer Luigi Pirandello. They then started an online discussion, posting quotes, reflections, comments on their classmates’ tweets with their teachers weighing in.

The other half relied on traditional classroom teaching methods.

The first method using Twitter was “quite detrimental,” Professor Gian Paolo Barbetta told The Washington Post, who said his study is the largest and most rigorous examination of Twitter’s effect on student achievement. “I can’t say whether something is changing in the mind, but I can say that something is definitely changing in the behavior and the performance.”

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