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Modeling Study Skills Greatly Improves Executive Functioning

Posted by Carrie Gibori on Tue, Jan 22, 2013 @ 10:01 AM

HappyKids2 resized 600Modeling Study Skills Can Greatly Improve Your Student's Executive Functioning.

Executive functioning, at its core, is simply a fancy way of labeling the way a brain organizes, accesses and harnesses information. We often take these skills for granted, and as such, forget that they are skills that are learned. For instance, imagine watching a toddler quietly organizing his toy trucks in a line. As a parent, you might remark that you never taught him that skill, and so it must be an innate desire to organize. Then, years later, when that same child is found struggling with keeping his notes in order, you might wonder what changed.

That adorable toddler and his trucks most likely picked up that organizing skill without you realizing it. When you placed crayons or shoes side by side, that toddler noticed the method of organization. As such, he modeled the behavior and that behavior manifested itself during his playtime. His notes, however, present a different problem. One of the most common struggles amongst preteens and adolescents is creating a study system that works for them. The transition into a world of notes and heartier tests can happen more subtly than you think. Without the proper study skills modeled for them, they might not know how to tackle the task themselves.

This is where both tutors and parents can have a great impact on their students executive functioning. To start, modeling the organization of materials can have an incredibly positive impact on a student’s performance. The first thing to remember is that every student is different. While a parent might have had great success with a color coded note card system as a student, the child might be better served with a numbered folder system. Finding what works for the student is paramount to their success. Have the student try different systems until they find the one that feels natural to them.

Once the materials are organized, managing the information is another task in itself. Modeling the skills of hierarchizing information is a fundamental asset for your student’s education. Oftentimes a student will take notes that even they cannot decipher. Chicago Academic tutors can point out the difference between important information and auxiliary information. Parents and tutors can help a student create systems for information retrieval with acronyms, flashcards, word associations or rewriting notes. Once again, every student is different, and both figuring out and conquering the system that works best for your students can take time.

Time management is also an essential skill to model. Setting the tone for prioritizing various tasks and managing the time necessary to complete a task is a fundamental step towards improving executive functioning skills. Too often students procrastinate when it comes to upcoming tests or essays. It is a common tale. Your student seems to be getting along fine and then the night before a big test or essay due date and your child has turned into a raving lunatic.

Well, those nights of insanity can be avoided. Keeping track of your students syllabi can really help avoid those situations. If a syllabus for a history class mentions a test coming up in two weeks, there is an opportunity for the parent, tutor and student to collaborate on a plan of attack together. Scheduling short study/reading/note organizing events throughout the two weeks will ensure better preparedness. Certainly a student always knows a test is on the horizon, but without proper modeling of the study skills necessary, all too often students are ill prepared for successful test taking.

From there, ensuring a proper environment for study is incredibly important. Recent studies have found that having a student study the same information in two different environments aids in helping the student retrieve the information come test time. When the same information is ingested in more than one environment, a student will store the information in a different place. This allows for easier retrieval come test time.

Overall, improving upon your student’s executive functioning skills is a matter of finding what works for the student. Modeling study skills like organizing materials, time management and idea management will no doubt have a positive impact on your child’s school performance.


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Chicago Academic offers study skills tutoring. To learn more about these and all of the tutoring services we provide please contact us today!

Topics: executive functioning, study skills