Teaching Study Skills to High School Students

Instructor: Lindy Hatten

Lindy has a M.Ed in TESOL with a Cross-Cultural concentration from Saint Mary's College of California. She has taught for 25 years at the secondary and university levels.

Often high school students know they need to study but just do not know how. In this lesson, skills will be discussed which all high school students can use to be successful in all academic areas.

Study Time, Habits, and Goals for High School Students

Where and when a person studies is just as important as how a person studies. Students who receive good grades on their school work often have a specific area at home designated for studying. This area should be clear from distractions, well-lighted, yet comfortable. All materials needed to complete the study task should be within reach.

To be successful in high school, one must manage study time well. Planning how to study can be just as important as the material being learned. Once a high school student becomes comfortable with the method that works best for them, academic success will follow. Let's discuss some of the specific ways students can get the most out of their lessons.

Visual Aids and Graphic Organizers

A visual aid or graphic organizer can help a high school student with understanding connections in the material. For example, if one is looking to compare or contrast two specific items, a Venn diagram, using overlapping circles to define overlapping ideas, or a T-chart, drawing a line across and down the middle of the page (like a big, capital 'T') to list opposing information, can be useful. If one needs to organize content for an essay, a simple outline might help. Cluster graphs, where the individual creates clusters or circle with similar items of information, can also help with organizing material for essay or presentation.

This Venn diagram compares and contrasts dogs and cats.
Venn Diagram

Often, a visual learning must see the material on paper or a computer screen. Simply explaining a method or relationship between two characters is not enough. A visual aid can be the tool to help the visual learner understand how to piece the material together.

Reading and Taking Notes from Textbooks

High school students often find it difficult to pick out important information when reading. If a student is having a hard time understand material, asking them to chunk the material or read it piece by piece is one way to help. The student reads a section of the text, and then summarizes the material in their notes. Once the reading is finished, the student then can go back and highlight the key elements from their notebook. For English learners, the teacher might suggest creating pictures of the action rather than writing summary. Either way helps the student understand the reading content bit by bit.

Cornell Notes is another excellent way for high school students to gain understanding of specific content. Cornell Notes are taken in a specific format and a specific way. Students are asked to write down the important information from a text. Students then look over their notes and chunk similar information. In a different section next to the notes, the note taker, thinking like his or her teacher, creates questions that could be answered with the notes the student had taken earlier. For homework, the student reviews all the information on their paper, and writes a summary in a special section on the bottom of the paper. With this method, students are revisiting the information several different times and in several different ways, which helps with understanding and remembering the content.

This shows the basic set-up for Cornell Notes.
Cornell notes

Students can choose from a multitude of ways to take notes. The important thing is to let students understand that if they are not successful with one method, they should try another. They can always discover one method that fits with their personality.

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