One of the most important factors determining a person’s success is their ability to learn – and many strong learners begin by developing study skills in middle school. In a world that just gets busier and busier, students need efficient ways to learn. Sure, you could hammer a chapter into your skull by reading it 10 times, but you’ll hate it – and life’s too short to hate learning new things.
I taught for 13 years, and throughout that time, the most efficient students I knew all used these study skills for middle school.
Every honor roll student I taught had one place where he wrote everything down. For one of them, it was a notebook that she carried from class to class. For another, it was an actual school calendar (some places call this an agenda), and every day had notes about classwork, special events, and other things he thought were important. This can look different for each student, so find a way to make this work for you.
Successful students with strong study skills in middle school almost always used flashcards. Every subject has knowledge you just have to learn – vocabulary, formulas, facts, or steps in solving a problem. Research tells us that it’s easiest to learn by repeatedly quizzing yourself, and notecards are a great way to test your knowledge. Research also shows that the best results come from writing a question on one side of the card and its answer on the other side – and keeping the answers short. Having a bigger stack of notecards is better than having notecards with lots of words on one side.
Read the Whole Chapter
Sure, you can scan the material for the answers to the questions, scribble the answers, and call the homework finished. Unfortunately, this kind of reading is only efficient for one assignment – and that’s not efficient! If you get in the habit of reading the whole chapter, you will soon see how facts are part of a theme, and how a theme is part of a larger theme, and how a discovery in one place affects a discovery in another place. You’ll enjoy what you learn because you will see for yourself how important something becomes when seen as part of something else – which is the point of learning study skills for middle school!
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Sometimes, you get to a test and discover you don’t know the material as well as you thought. This happens to everyone, and the students least affected by such a surprise shared this trick with me: they prepared themselves for the hardest test they could imagine. One student who excelled in Spanish vocabulary learned all the words on flashcards, then created new sentences using each word, and finally challenged herself to use her new vocabulary words in a single paragraph. By the time she got to the test, she was ready for anything!
Master Time Management
Finally, another one of the best study skills for middle school students to master is to make time your friend, not your enemy. How? Study before you ‘have’ to study. Think of it like this: if a test is three days away, and if you’d normally cram everything into your head over an hour, try studying 30 minutes tonight, and see how much time you need to study tomorrow night to feel ready (hint: it’s probably less than 30 minutes). Since you’re ready for the test a whole day early, you can add another 15 minutes of review the night before the test, just to stay sharp. The students I know who approach tests like this usually make high A’s – and they don’t waste time stressing out about the test! They build confidence by preparing early and using the additional time for relaxed reinforcement of what they’ve learned.
Use these study skills for middle school, and as studying becomes a habit, you’ll find learning not only fun, but something you look forward to doing every day. With the right tools for learning, you (or your child) will finish 8th grade and enter high school with the ability to face – and overcome – any challenge life sends your way.
After 13 years in the classroom, Ezra A. spends his time tutoring a variety of subjects (online or in the Atlanta area), preparing for a new career as a physician, and spending time with his beautiful wife and two dogs. Learn more about Ezra here!
Photo by DeepCwind