Back to School Preparation for All Ages

By: Laurie Hurley

If you have children, late July, August, and early September represent more than summer ending, cooler weather, and fall foliage. School begins once again for millions of kids across the country. Getting your child prepared, regardless of whether they are in Kindergarten or a senior in high school, is a must. Here are some tips to make the transition from several weeks of summer fun to school days and homework easier.

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Children in Kindergarten – 5th grade

# 1.

About a week before school starts, have your children go to bed at the time they will when school begins. Set their alarm or wake them up early. It’s difficult for some kids to adjust to going to bed and getting up earlier after having an entire summer of sleeping in or staying up late. Many young children need to be on a schedule and preparing a week or so earlier will pay off, especially if you have a night owl or late sleeper.

# 2.

If you have a school supply list (many school districts post them on their website or hand them out the last day of school), buy the supplies early. For the child who is not organized, this is a good way to begin the school year off on the right foot. Label everything and get the backpacks ready the night before school starts. Buy some extra supplies to keep at home if your child is one to lose or forget their pencils or markers at school. They will probably need some basic supplies for homework time. Nothing is more frustrating than sitting down to do homework and discovering the basics are missing.

# 3.

If you have a Kindergartener, walk to school two or three days before school begins (or drive if they take a bus or you will be driving them). This helps acquaint them with what they will actually be doing that first day and can work wonders for alleviating the first-day jitters. If your child is especially anxious, ask if you can let them visit their new classroom for five or ten minutes the day before school starts. Many principals will let the Kindergarteners come to the campus prior to school starting.

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Middle School

# 1.

Many sixth graders will be attending a new school for their middle school years. Oftentimes, the campus is much bigger and can be intimidating. Of course, pre-teens may not admit they are nervous, but most parents are. Suggest a bike ride over to the school sometime during August just to look around. Many middle schools conduct orientation anyway a couple of days before school actually begins, but an extra trip without all of their peers might be worthwhile.

# 2.

Just as in elementary school, it is important, if not more so in middle school, to have all the school supplies ready, especially an organizer. Some schools make it mandatory for the students to purchase an organizer directly from the school. Get in the habit from day one of checking it and being sure homework assignments are recorded. Visit the school website and see if homework and grades will be posted on the site. This is an excellent way to stay involved with your child’s progress throughout the year.

# 3.

If your student struggles with the basics; math or language arts, consider hiring a tutor for some review sessions before and during the first semester. Also, it is quite common in middle school for students who are excelling to be moved to Honors classes sometime during the year. Being in an accelerated class is a good way to prepare a student for Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school, which count as college credit.

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High School

# 1.

Find out when the PSAT and SAT exams will take place. If your student is not a good test taker, consider enrolling them in a test prep class. As colleges become more and more competitive, test scores make a difference. One can take the exam more than once if they are not happy with the score, so plan ahead and register early.

# 2.

Stay tuned in to your student’s school and social schedule. There is a tremendous amount of freedom in high school and even the most academically gifted students can be distracted by all of the things that are associated with the teenage years. Establish a curfew for school nights and limit the amount of time that is spent at a part-time job or involved in sports, especially if time management and study skills are not your child’s forte.

# 3.

If your son or daughter is college-bound, start doing your research and be sure to attend the college nights that many high schools sponsor. Know what is expected of college applications. It is no longer a simple process like it was for the baby boomer generation. Test scores, a formal essay, volunteer hours, and class selection in high school are all important factors in getting into college. Take advantage of the many companies that exist today solely for the purpose of assisting you and your student to select the right college for them.

Regardless of the age and grade of your children, stay involved. Volunteering on any level, whether it be reading stories to your elementary-aged child’s second-grade class, helping in the computer lab in middle school, or being on a committee for peer counseling in high school, it is important to know what is happening at the place your children spend a large part of their week. With so many parents working, many Parent Teacher Associations have their meetings in the evening, so more parents can attend. There are activities that need volunteers that do not involve daytime hours such as calling parents in the evening for a fundraiser or helping with a weekend car wash at high school.

These tips can help your children get back to school the right way and prepare them for a year of learning and fun.

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The Art Of Note Taking

By following these ten steps, you will become a more efficient note taker and this will help improve your overall study skills. With good note-taking skills, better grades are just around the corner.

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If possible, sit near the front and center of the class. You will be less likely to become distracted and will probably find staying focused easier.

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Use a binder instead of a traditional notebook. This way you can add, rearrange, or rewrite pages of your notes, insert handouts and assessments in the appropriate chronological order and review the material covered in the chapter/unit much easier.

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Put headings and the date on all papers. Organize them chronologically in your binder.

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Take notes on loose-leaf paper and keep them organized in a three-ring binder. Make sure that you hole punch and add all of the handouts, assignments, quizzes, tests, etc. to your binder. It usually is best if everything for the entire chapter/unit is kept in chronological order in your binder.

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Think about what is being said before you write anything down. Do not write down everything the teacher says. Pick out important phrases, terms, and concepts to focus on.

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Record any examples the teacher may give while lecturing. Examples are extremely important in creating connections in your brain and in helping to jog your memory while studying.

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Look for cues that teachers give to indicate that something is important. For instance, they may repeat something a few times, change the volume or tone of their voice, write it on the board or overhead, and/or creates lists for you. Be sure to ask them to repeat what they have just said if you miss the initial cue but later realize that you should be writing the material down.

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Leave some space between portions of your notes so you can make additional comments as you study or read the text.

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Re-write or even re-TYPE your notes. Not only will your notes be much more organized and make studying easier, but the practice of re-writing notes gives you another opportunity to think about the material as you write or type it again. Make sure that you re-write them in a timely manner. The more time that passes between taking the original notes and re-writing them, the less effective this strategy is.

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Review these notes often. The more times you see them, the easier it is to commit them to memory and the less time you will spend studying them prior to the test.

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Study Skills That Will Help You (or your child) Get Straight A’s

By following these twelve tips, you will be guaranteed to get straight AAAAA's. Read each tip carefully.

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Find a quiet area in your house in which you are comfortable and can isolate yourself from distractions.

Be sure that this space includes a chair, table or desk, and sufficient lighting.

Ask others not to disturb you while you are in this special location and turn off all phones, beepers, televisions, videos, music, or anything else that your mind will wander to instead of focusing on the schoolwork.

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Find the best time to study.

Some students tend to do their best work as soon as they get home from school while they are still in the school mode.

Others need a break and don't settle down to study until after practice, playtime, a nap, dinner, and/or family time.

Just be sure to allow yourself enough time to get everything done and still get enough sleep each night.

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Organize your day, week, month, etc.

Set aside a specific time each day to do your homework and study.

Decide on a reasonable minimum amount of time that you will spend in this quiet place each day.

For instance, let’s say you decide on 45 minutes as a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to schoolwork each day.

This means that even if homework is completed in the first 35 minutes that you will still stay in this area and study or review notes for the next 10 minutes until the 45 is up.

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Reward yourself for sticking to your schedule and being productive.

Decide on an activity to do once your study time is completed.

Plan on watching a television show later in the evening.

Tell yourself that you will play five minutes of a video game for every fifteen minutes that you study.

Create goals and their rewards before you start studying and work hard to reach them each and every day.

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Variety is important.

Vary the topics that you are spending time studying.

Get the mandatory homework out of the way first and then go back and spend the additional time reviewing material from different courses each day.

If you spent extra time reviewing history yesterday, spend the additional time on science tonight.

Some subject areas may require more time than others.
You should get a feel for this a month or so into the school year.

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Study the difficult subjects first and get them out of the way.

You will be able to absorb material quicker and make more connections when you are mentally fresh.

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Take regular study breaks. This can also serve as a mini-reward.

For instance, tell yourself that you are going to get a drink or snack or listen to a specific song after you finish re-copying your notes for science.

Make the breaks short, 3-6 minutes or so, so you won't get side-tracked or lose focus for the day.

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Don't just re-read notes or the text.

  • Ask questions.
  • Create flashcards.
  • Redo assignments.
  • Create timelines.
  • Play games.
  • Re-write your notes.
  • Get someone to quiz you.
  • Find websites online that review the same material.
  • Create questions that you think will be on the test.
  • Create new outlines of the material by writing some specific topics and filling in the details from memory.

Studying should be an active process, not just time spent re-reading something.

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When you need to remember a group of terms use the first letter of each to create a word (acronym) or a sentence (acrostic).

For instance, an easy way to remember the five Great Lakes is the word “HOMES”. By just remembering the word “homes” you can easily remember the names of the five Great Lakes. H stands for Huron, O for Ontario, M for Michigan, and so on.

You can also create silly sentences to help you remember long lists of terms.

For instance, remembering the sentence “Martha Visits Every Monday, Just Stays Until Noon, Period”, will help you remember the planets in the order they are found. M for Mercury, V for visits, E for Earth, etc.

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Become a teacher.

Find someone who is willing to listen to you – a classmate (this would be a great review for them), Mom or Dad, a sibling, the family dog – and explain your notes to them.

Have them (except the dog) ask questions about the material that they themselves don't understand.

It's amazing how much you can retain when you have to actually teach the material to someone.

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Repetition, repetition, repetition.

The material should become second nature to you by the time test day arrives.

If it is not, then you need to devote more time to prepare for the test.

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Exercise often and before you sit down to study.

Research shows that students retain more after being physically active.

Go to soccer practice, take a jog, rough-house with your dog, break a sweat first, then settle down and focus on your schoolwork.

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Note: This content was curated from a third party.

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