Unfortunately, a hallmark of teenagedom is the tendency to shut out all parental help. Since teens are not likely to express their struggles clearly (“I hate school!” doesn’t count), I am going to do it for them. Here are 5 easy solutions for the most common high school problems, as related to school.
Though they may be reading, they often don’t understand what they are reading.
Most parents contact me initially because they want to address their child’s writing and studying skills. Since good writing is interconnected with good comprehension, I always ask: “How is her reading?” This is especially important for class novels and textbooks, which unfold more slowly. School reading is also full of connections to larger contexts and ideas. Compare this with online media, which is comprised of shorter soundbites and paragraphs. Though teens use their devices more easily than we do and are good skimmers, this does not mean that they are comprehending longer works.
Tip: To get a handle on their comprehension, engage your child about anything she is reading–a book they are reading on their own, or one for school, or something on the internet. Ask her to describe the character, if/why she recommends the book, or to summarize the events from her history reading.
They may not know what you mean when you say “Go study.”
Studying is a process. It starts with taking notes, reviewing them regularly, and then doing something with them like outlining, rewriting them or speaking them aloud. It is a time consuming practice that seems like a relic to people who are used to absorbing the surface of information regularly, but not the meat. Like anything else, teens can learn how to study, but it is a process. Unless they are shown how and held accountable for doing so, they will opt out of.
Tip: If your teen is not performing well on tests, suggest that he devote a half-hour to reviewing every night. This can include the use of something like quizlet to help. (It is online, so you will have to regulate their usage, but quizlet is a fantastic study tool for fact-based subjects like history or science.)
Writing is hard, and not just because they are lazy.
Though they are assigned early in one’s academic career, writing essays is not intuitive. Like studying, it is time consuming and has multiple stages: generating ideas, finding evidence for those ideas, formulating those ideas into tidy paragraphs that make sense, attaching those paragraphs into a cohesive whole. And don’t even get me started about editing! Even if your child does well in other subjects, don’t be surprised if her writing makes no sense or seems convoluted.
Tip: If you know about about an upcoming writing assignment, first ask your teen to put the assignment in her own words. So often the challenge of writing literally begins with not understanding the directions. Once she does, engage her in a brief discussion where you take down the notes as she talks and then send her on her way to draft.
Watching videos online is incredibly helpful.
Math and the sciences are their own languages. It is hard to integrate the abstract concepts of geometry or calculus. If your child missed a class prior to a test or generally struggles with these subjects, resources like Khan Academy or Youtube are lifesavers. Videos can clarify and further explain math and science material, and watching them can be part of the study routine. The combination of doing the problems on the screen while explaining them is a good auditory and visual. And they can watch these videos over again, or pause them in they need to. (Note: you will have to supply pen and paper for them to practice on. Don’t assume that they know this–they probably don’t.)
They need help managing their time even if they don’t think they do.
Who doesn’t struggle with this?! Though they might have a planner with an upcoming test written down, they don’t understand how soccer practice the 2 nights before will affect how well they do on it. They don’t get that a unit exam is different than a quiz and therefore requires different time constraints. They often think they have nothing to work on! (In their world, if it’s not imminent, it’s not happening for a loooong time.)
Tip: Model this skill for your child. This is perfect for right now because it can set him up for the success until winter break. (Remember: Teen brains are sieves!) Look at the whole week together and then block out the time that is consumed by any and all activities, including school. Teach them to look at the amount of time instead of the number of tasks. For the example above, block out half-hour time chunks for the week leading up to the test.
These 5 aspects of being a student suck for many, many kids regardless of intelligence or ability. Even if your child doesn’t ask for your help with school and is fiercely protective of his work and time, the next time you see him struggling with one of these areas pass along any of these tips and resources. Try them out and let me know how they work in the comments section below.
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