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Social Emotional Learning or Academic Management? 

Executive Functioning Skills

Social Emotional Learning or Academic Management?

Executive functions are a broad set of skills that occur in the frontal lobe of the brain and take nearly all of adolescence to develop. Children, teens and young adults develop at different rates so you may observe a child appear mature in one area, only to struggle in another.  The list of executive functioning skills is diverse but can be categorized into two primary groups, Social & Emotional Learning (SEL skills) and Academic Management Skills.  When you consider what your student needs, you may want to ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my child struggle with response inhibition, emotional control, perspective taking and flexibility.  If so, you might be interested in the social emotional components of executive functioning.
  • Does my child struggle with sustained attention, task initiation, planning & prioritizing, organization, time management, goal directed persistence, metacognition or working memory? If so, you may be interested in the academic management skills of executive functioning.

Summer is a great time to work on these skills. To help your student build their executive functioning muscles this summer, see the list of offerings below.  Parenting is not for the feint of heart but rest assured, with the right support, we can help you through it!

Time is a Finite Resource

Time Management

Why measuring matters!

Frequently, students have been told that they need to boost their time management skills, a common phrase they have heard, but one that can be hard to understand how to improve. Defining time in a way they can comprehend empowers students to manage their tasks for improved completion. A clear and workable time management definition is a great starting point for students who struggle with increasingly demanding schedules. When students are aware of their time and tasks, their decision-making improves, as does their capacity to prioritize. 

 

What are the benefits of time management?  Students who feel more in control which in turn, reduces anxiety.  The less anxiety a student feels, the more capable they are to follow through.

 

How to Improve Time Management? Why do students need a picture to plan?

  1. Students first need to see how they’re currently spending their time and evaluate if it’s adequate.
  2. Brainstorming activities and placing them in a specific time on the calendar allows them to ‘see’ commitments in one place. This process can identify potential conflicts which will expose choices when students can begin prioritizing and problem-solving.
  3. Students cannot prioritize or solve what they cannot see.
  4. Students who learn to build their week ahead of time using effective and proven time management tips have an easier time in college (and eventually the workforce) making decisions about how they spend their time.

 

What is necessary to learn Time Management Techniques?

  1. Awareness of where one’s time is being spent currently.
  2. Visual Support (calendar) that combines time and tasks in one place so students can identify if there is a conflict – a picture is worth a thousand words.
  3. Designated time to look ahead to plan accordingly.
  4. Practice looking ahead and planning.

 

Why is Time Management Important?

Just because students think ahead doesn’t always mean they can ‘see’ problems and make decisions to successfully solve them. Sometimes they need a picture to talk it through so the problem becomes obvious. Students cannot prioritize what they cannot see. Having a strong foundation of time management strategies provides them with a lense that will reduce anxiety, eliminate feelings of helplessness from expanding workloads, and ultimately set them up for a bright future. Awareness is the beginning of learning. Awareness is the beginning of learning.

Interested in learning more?

Time Management Lessons you can complete                                                                    Summer training for educators.

Self Care for Kids

Filling the Tank

When asked how to improve academic performance, students often repeat what they have been told: “study more” or “study harder.” What is equally important is to take the time to decompress, reset and recenter themselves. Self-care is often discussed in reference to adults, but what does self-care look like for kids?  The recent rise in mental health issues in children and teens over the last two years is startling. Just as important as a rigorous work ethic, self-care is critical to stave off anxiety, exhaustion, and depression. 

What exactly is self-care?

The capacity to get work done well is like a fuel tank. It is filled and emptied. When empty, the quality and quantity of work decrease. When we’re running out of steam, we mean we have depleted our emotional or time-based reserves. It’s imperative to manage the fuel in our tank and to remember to take the time to refill it. Teaching students to become more self aware and regulate their fuel tank becomes more important when they are in high-stress, demanding situations where their tank may deplete faster. Learning about margin (emotional and time), evaluating their own margin, and learning the value of how to build it for themselves is crucial. How much fuel reserves should be stored for emergencies? How much time and emotional energy is currently saved up if it’s needed last-minute?

Balance

How do we strive for balance, since we’re multifaceted human beings? We’re more than parents, teachers, and students. We have different needs and things that fuel our tank. Each of our unique parts deserves attentive care to help make us better at being “us.” We must get in touch with what helps us refuel and be courageous enough to set aside time and indulge in these activities. When our tanks are full, we are balanced. And when we’re balanced, we accomplish more.

While adults may be more apt to recognize their individual need to go on vacation and take a break from work, children may not be as in touch with this or be able to communicate it as easily. Typically, the child who asks for support in the least pleasant way is the one who needs the most help. 

As parents and teachers, how do we convey the importance of self-care?  

  1. Model it – we can model self-care for our children and students. “I’m taking a mental health day” or a “mental health moment” (60 seconds of quiet breathing). 
  2. Talk about it directly to improve their understanding of self-care and what it may look like for them.
  3. Reflect on it periodically throughout the semester with reflective exercises.

For many people (adults and children) with ADHD, some of the best ways to fill their tank include getting outside, hiking, or doing engaging projects or sports. For others, it may be arts and crafts or building a puzzle or LEGO set. These kinds of activities help kids disconnect from the stress of life (and technology) and reconnect with themselves. A filled tank leads to better health and better outcomes. What fills your kid’s tank?

Contact Us

 

 

executive function coaching cycle

How to Build Executive Function Skills: The Coaching Cycle Explained

Developing executive functioning skills is a process. When it comes to helping students build these essential skills, an academic coach makes all the difference. Each student is unique so personalizing the approach and relationship are foundational to success. An effective coach knows how and when to shift between teaching and coaching as they partner with the student fostering a growth mindset leading to academic independence. In the skill development process, students can demonstrate strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others on the journey to mastery. With a reliable partnership and pathway, students are enlisted to participate on their journey to success. 

executive function coaching cycle

What Makes an Academic Coach Effective?

Effective coaching relationships require three components: 

  • Reliability – Coaches demonstrate reliability when they consistently share the knowledge and practices to move the student to the next level. 
  • Relatability – Coaches exhibit relatability when they connect with students under an umbrella of trust. When a coach has experienced a similar situation to a student and is honest/real with their feedback, the student trusts them and their guidance. 
  • Resources – Coaches operate as resources when they can capably adapt to changing academic environments and select the appropriate resource at the right time to help the student. Effective coaches can quickly access their personal rolodex and furnish a lesson or solution at the opportune time. The resource can be within our outside of the immediate environment.

Goals of Academic Coaching

The ultimate goal in coaching is to help students achieve Academic Independence and reach their personal goals – this process is referred to as goal setting. Coaches help students become more self-aware and self-directed learners. Here are a few more images we are working on: 

pathway to academic independence

Lessons in Academic Coaching: Relationships Matter

Students, like adults, don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Students read people and make decisions about credibility quickly – especially middle and high schoolers. An effective coach must communicate, connect and consider the goals of the student so they feel ‘understood’. The earlier this occurs, the more apt the student is to follow the lead under the umbrella of the coaching relationship. 

Just the other day, a new student and parent arrived in my office. The student was clearly under duress and tensions were high. We had to connect and find value for the student in about 180 seconds, or he was going to be checked out for our full hour together. 

Ultimately, this situation provided the perfect opportunity to build the coaching relationship. To prevent the student from checking out and help them reframe their feelings, we began by earning their trust with three key steps: 

  1. Understanding – the tension between the student and the parent are not uncommon.
  2. Acknowledging the student’s perspective. In this situation, the student felt ‘stuck’, did not know how to resolve the problem so he was considering not participating.
  3. Relating – Offering information about personal experiences or those of other students in his situation then setting clear expectations on how coaching could move him to a place of Academic Independence. 

By addressing the conditions above, I had an early opportunity to begin demonstrating reliability, relatability, and share resources that could positively affect his coaching experience. We still have a road ahead to build his skills but we have passed the first hurdle of trust. Now we can move on to build his skills and help his parents let him practice developing independence. 

Every student (and adult) has a personal win. The sooner we find those wins, the faster a student will engage in solving the problems ahead with us. 

What does your student want out of education? 

Contact Us

 

 

emotions learning differences and academic grit

Emotions, Learning Differences & Academic Grit

We all have emotions! Emotions are what make life rich and unique.  Some emotions are positive, some negative, some stronger than others. As parents, we see our children develop emotions as they respond to the world around them.  We can feel the front lines of the raw emotions with our kids.   In fact, tons of literature has been written about the terrible twos, the teen years, launching students to college or independence.  So how do emotions play into development when a child has a learning difference?

Learner Differences: Processing Information

The very position of being a student means that new information is presented daily for a person to learn.  Information a person doesn’t already know.  Take the example of upper elementary or middle school student.  There are typically 4-5 academic classes (math, english, science, social studies and reading/lit).  One student is required to ‘learn’ at least one thing but probably several in each one of those classes.  Adding to that social emotional learning, navigating peer relationships, teacher/student relationships, getting to/from school with all materials.  It’s no surprise kids are tired when they return home and even a little cranky.   If we as adults encountered new circumstances every day, I can’t imagine how tiring this could truly be.  Much of the time, students handle the novelty of all of the learning that happens in a day because over time, routine becomes reliable and they can focus on academic material.  

What is Academic Grit?

Now let’s take the situation for student A – let’s call him Alexander.  Alexander has ADHD which means his brain would prefer to focus on many things at once rather than one thing at a time.  He is more easily distracted by _______ (a peer, a noise, an itchy shirt, his stomach).  Alexander has to do the same ‘learning’ as the other students but it’s harder for him because his brain learns differently. So for every effort of 1 for a typical student, Alexander is putting in a 1.3 of effort. Does Alexander have 1.3 of resources to give what is needed for him to keep pace? 

 

Emotionally, what is happening with Alexander when he is having to expend 1.3 worth of effort?  Does he feel overwhelmed? Does he persevere? Does he want to give up?  Is he tempted to lie about the upcoming work because he’s out of resources, like ‘get up and go’, ‘ask for help’, ‘focus’?  How do we help Alexander learn about his own brain and develop the grit he needs to be successful in life – the perseverance that will propel him forward? 

 

Matthew Tull, PhD writes in Very Well Mind, Distress tolerance is a person’s ability to manage actual or perceived emotional distress.  For our student specifically, how is Alexander, tolerating the emotional ‘distress’ that he experiences daily having to work on his weakest areas  – focusing and learning?  Alexander is tasked with ‘learning’ because he is a ‘student’ so each and every day, he goes to school facing a challenge that is more difficult for him than other students.  If this is true, why is it any surprise that he might be experiencing a more intense emotional response.  

 

Now let’s take Sally.  Sally has anxiety.  She is also a student which by definition means that her job is learning or being presented with new information – every – single – day in every-single-class.  Sally is in 7th grade so she is also experiencing the social pressures of middle school.   When Sally experiences anxiety due to________(upcoming assignments, sitting with someone new at lunch, a cranky teacher), her brain, the learning and decision making part or the frontal lobe, locks up and her amygdala (fight or flight part) takes over.  That is the brain’s natural response to danger.  Sally’s brain isn’t in a position to ‘learn’ because that requires her frontal lobe but due to the anxiety or fear, that part of her brain is not available.  

 

So how do we build academic grit or distress tolerance in students with learning differences and is it important?  It’s in fact critical for these students to be lifelong learners.  

 

  1. First, we need to understand what is happening with students so we can make adjustments and meet them where they are.  
  2. Second, we need to teach students about their brains (the learning and the emotional parts) so they understand themselves and can partner in solving the problem.  
  3. Third, we need to draw attention to learning, not just performance.  Performance is reflected on tests/quizzes with grades.  Learning is about the connectedness of information.  Learning requires emotional safety, perseverance, and self reflection. 
  4. Cultivate a Growth Mindset – setbacks are a natural part of the learning process and that even if students struggle, skills can improve over time. 

 

Here are some coping strategies to build distress tolerance or academic grit

 

  • Distraction – students with ADHD often go to distraction because it gives them emotional relief and is ‘easier’ versus focusing.  While maybe initially helpful, it can lead to problems like procrastination.  Sometimes coming alongside a student to get them started is just the support they need to realize the assignment is easier than they expected. 
  • Improving the Moment – if we have to do something we don’t like or is hard, let’s make it as pleasant as possible.  A clean and comfortable desk, peaceful and calm environment, relaxing music, a snack or even visualizing a relaxing break when finished with an assignment are all ways to improve the moment.  
  • Pros and Cons – this works well for students who have trouble seeing ahead or have experienced a setback.  Hindsight is 20/20 so let’s not let the learning opportunity pass.   What will happen if you ______ (ignore that assignment vs tackle the first part tonight, making a study tool for the vocabulary vs. just looking it over). How could we address that differently this time? 
  • Radical Acceptance – accepting things as they are. For instance:  Alexander, you are a student which means your job is learning.  You also have a learning difference which means your job is hard.  With practice it will get easier and that test will not go away.  I see you working and I believe in you. Hey Sally, new information and tons of assignments can be scary and uncomfortable, let’s unpack this together and see what’s really going on.   I love a challenge and appreciate your willingness to let me solve this problem with you.  

 

For students with learning differences, what would happen if we praised perseverance over performance? Behavioral Science reminds us that what we focus on grows.  

 

As leaders of little people (or big people), what is your focus?

leadership skills in studentsn

Self Leadership: Helping Kids Forge Ahead

At what point are we willing to transfer leadership to our children?  It’s an important question because if we want them to be functioning adults, our children will need to lead themselves.  When are they prepared to do this and how do we prepare them?  John Rosemond once said, only one person can be concerned about grades.  Parents, if that’s you, it won’t be your student.  Shifting this responsibility of their performance to the student is what gives them the opportunity to practice managing themselves. Small failures build awareness.   Our desire to ’help’ interferes with their learning experience.   How do kids become better problem solvers?  They solve more problems.  

Leaning by Experience

For those of you who don’t know, we have several pets.  Three dogs and 8 chickens at the moment but it’s been as high as 5 dogs, a cat and 10 chickens.  All dogs are rescued but two of them run together, Maverick and Einstein.  Einstein is an 8-year-old Australian Kelpie who runs the property and Maverick arrived from Mississippi State as my son was passing through on his way to Athens, GA.  Maverick is a clingy 18-month-old pit bull who has personal space issues and an abundance of affection.  

Maverick has a tendency to run off into the woods chasing who knows what.  Einstein goes with him on occasion, which makes my trip into the woods required.   Recently, Maverick took off in his impulsive fashion, followed shortly thereafter by Einstein, which required me to track them down.  The afternoon hike was not on my list, rather I was trying to get out the door so this was quite a nuisance.  As I traipsed through the woods imagining myself on an ops mission tipping and falling, calling to no avail, I would stop to listen for them to head in the right direction.  

Eventually Einstein returned first with Mav keeping his distance at a 20’ perimeter still trying to play chase while Einstein cowered as he was scolded and heeled as we turned for home.  At some point, I must have paused to get my bearings and noticed that Einstein had moved from healing to 4 yards ahead of me.  He took a sharp left and kept looking back to check I was with him on a trail that is perfect if you’re 3 feet, not 5 feet tall.  Seeing Einstein ahead of me and leading me in another direction helped me realize I was heading in the wrong direction.  Knowing the woods much better than I and also seeing that I was off track, Einstein gently took charge and led me home.  Maverick was still circling.  

When did I realize I was off track?  Did Einstein recognize this before I did or did he observe me pause? When did I notice he was already out in front and needed to be there?  At what point was I aware that it was wiser to transfer the leadership for the return home to him?  

Students Leading Themselves

Recently a client and her high school freshman were at odds.  Tensions were high, threats flying.  After some discussion, the parents decided to shift the responsibility of grades and alignment of resources to the student.  The parents applied this hands off approach, to both boys who have been in coaching.  The boys began practicing what they learned in sessions, evaluating their resources, how to plan and use their time and how to reflect on their performance.  Outcome? The parent/student engagement has been delightful in recent sessions.  They even shared that their 6th grader played Xbox the night before a test and did very poorly reflecting he would not repeat that because he didn’t like the grade (he’s a conscientious student).  Not every student is ready for this but this 6th grader was.  

Back to the dogs.  So am I comfortable transferring leadership to Einstein? Now – yes, because I recognize he’s ready, in fact has been leading for a while I just didn’t notice. Not only did he know the right thing to do, he knew when to do it.  Is Maverick ready?  Not a chance.  He’s still a distractible puppy.      

As parents, do we recognize when our children are ready to lead and at what point are we willing to transfer self-leadership to them? What will make them want to listen to our feedback or take suggestions?  Will it be when we are dictating how and when they do things or in a calm discussion of thinking through choices and temptations?  

Sometimes consequences or life experiences are the best teacher.  It’s easy to let our emotions get caught up in driving outcomes instead of focusing on the process of our kids learning how to solve problems.  So when do we start turning over leadership to our kids?  As soon as practical.  The more practice they have before they leave the house, the more proficient they will be when they leave for college.  How will our kids learn to become better leaders of others?  By practicing leading themselves. 

what is flexible thinking

What is Flexible Thinking?

Flexible thinking is the ability to think about something in a new or different way.  Inflexible thinking or rigidity is being stuck or being only able to do something only one way.  Students who struggle with executive functioning often also struggle with fundamental skill.  They may be stuck in a routine or mindset that isn’t working for them.  They may be aware that what they are doing isn’t working but not be able to make a change or be willing to even entertain a change. 

Becoming a Flexible Thinker

A few years ago, I worked with a fifth grader whose parent and teacher shared that the student struggled with organizational skills and executive functioning.  Upon meeting the student for the first time, I asked to see his binders (there were 7) and asked if he was open to a change in how he was managing them.  He refused to even show me his backpack and held his binders to his chest as if I was going to steal them.  In this scenario, I had to be the flexible thinker (modeling) and move to another lesson until he trusted me enough to come back to demonstrating the Organization skill.  Ultimately, the student earned the most improved 5th grader award and rightfully so! He did a lot of growing that year.  

To the observer, the lack of flexible thinking may sound like, “I don’t need help” or “My way works” or “I’ve already tried that”.  The behaviors have been observed in students and adults alike.

We can’t effectively discuss flexible thinking without broaching the subject of margin and anxiety.  Margin is the bank of reserves we have available of time, money or maybe patience.  It’s what we may have set aside in case of emergencies, the unexpected or surprises.  

When students are in a state of ease (lots of margin), mental flexibility is much easier.  They may be open to considering or even trying new things, open to learning and even solving problems.  The opposite is also true, when students are in a state of stress, they are generally out of margin, are less flexible and more rigid.   

Students are more open to flexible thinking when they have a process they can control to manage their affairs.  Learning that process begins with managing time/tasks effectively so they can build margin into their day and week for self care, self management and planning.  

Time Management →  Margin →  Flexible Thinking

Once students have a process to see and plan their time and tasks, they can build the muscle of flexible thinking by being rewarded for variations and adjustments to their processes, like a science experiment and soliciting their feedback on those adjustments (metacognitive exercise).

For students with executive functioning difficulties, flexibility thinking and structure are important opposites to balance.  A problem can have more than one solution!  Students are more open to flexible thinking when they feel safe, have a process they can follow and are rewarded for trying new solutions.     

Want to learn more about executive functioning and how it may help your student?  Contact us!

Awareness: How This Executive Function Skill Marks the Beginning of Learning

Self Monitoring is the ability to observe and evaluate one’s behavior.  It includes being aware of how one is acting, perceived, sounds like, looks like, impacts other people.  It can include being aware of how we feel at any given moment, how we relate to or engage with our responsibilities, taking care of ourselves or interacting with people and the world around us.  

What is self monitoring?

One characteristic of an individual who struggles with executive functioning is the lack of self monitoring or even being aware of what he/he is doing or in many cases, not doing.  If we ask a student to change before they are even aware that a change is needed, obtaining buy-in becomes difficult.  Often students and even parents, are not aware of what they are doing, how they are being perceived (perspective taking) and whether what they are doing is helping (or harming) them reach their goals.  So how do we build the skill of self-monitoring? 

Before we can ask someone to self monitor – it helps to know if they are self-aware.  At Effective Students, that begins by asking the student what he/she thinks of themselves and their skills.  In a recent workshop of twelve students, when surveyed only 15% had ever been asked their opinions of themselves as students.  When given the opportunity, students can usually identify what is hard for them, what they need to do but don’t want to do and their opinions of what works and doesn’t work for them and why.  If they can’t immediately, by asking the question, they have an opportunity to reflect and begin building self-awareness

With intentional questions and time and space for consideration, students reflect on their feelings and abilities to begin self-awareness and self-management.  With instruction and consistency, self awareness leads to self-monitoring – generalized to new situations over a period of time so students can identify for themselves when they may be off track and make the adjustments necessary for improved effectiveness.  

Self monitoring applies to 

  • Work habits
  • Tone of voice
  • Personal care
  • Emotional awareness & regulation
  • Group engagement
  • Interpersonal skills

 

It’s easier to see how others are doing at those versus accurately seeing ourselves but with practice, this improves.  

In some organizations, this is called Mindfulness – 

mind·ful·ness

/ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/

noun

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

It has been said, we can’t take data on ourselves because we can’t accurately see ourselves from another’s perspective.  However, pausing to reflect builds that self awareness and ultimately, the self management muscle.  The good news is that over time and with practice, self-monitoring is a skill that can be developed.  

Want to learn more about Executive Functions? contact us

 

Academic Coaching for College Students: Get Help Transitioning Into College

Preparing for and transitioning to college presents unique challenges.  Students have worked diligently to get into the school of their dreamshours of challenging courses, test preparation, and extracurricular activities.  Others view college as the necessary next step toward securing better professional future opportunities.  Transitioning successfully is a key component to making the most of the college experience to help ensure students are ready to meet every challenge and achieve their educational goals. 

High school students have a certain degree of structure in their day, when students go to college, they experience significantly less structure.  College students are typically in class with their professors for less time during the week but have significantly more work to complete assignments and study outside of class.  The sudden change in expectations is not always clear to students transitioning into college, leaving them potentially overwhelmed or caught by surprise at midterms.  Coupled with the social distractions, living on their own, and general self management, it can be difficult for college freshmen to find a way to focus on academics successfully. 

College is a critical time for students to learn about themselves while pursuing their academic interests, but transitions can be challenging even for very bright students.  When you’ve worked this hard to get to the school of your dreams, it helps to hit the ground with the tools you need to succeed—that’s where coaching for executive functioning can help.  

What is a college coach?

College coaches specialize in teaching executive functioning for students in the college environment.. Whereas college tutoring is designed to help students in a specific area of their education (math, chemistry, writing, etc.), academic coaching functions more broadly, emphasizing what’s known as ‘executive functioning’ skillscognitive abilities that affect planning and executing, memory, critical thinking, and one’s ability to exercise self-control. 

College is a significant investment.  The dropout rate for college freshmen is 30% and college students generally, 40%.  College coaches can help students beat the odds by providing individualized instruction and essential guidance students need to transition to their new educational environment. Over time, students learn more about themselves and new ways to excel and/or identify and overcome challenges. College coaching can help students identify and access the resources that may be present on campus they may not know exists.  

What to expect when hiring a college coach from Effective Students

Life as a student is busy, that’s why we designed our academic coaching services to be flexible yet consistent.   If you’re considering hiring a college coach, here are some key details to consider beforehand:

  • College academic coaching begins before students head to school in the fall but can start at any time.  
  • Sessions are weekly and start at 1 hour but can move to 30 minutes depending on the student’s progress.  
  • Effective Students works with students in-person throughout the Atlanta area. Prefer a virtual option? College coaches online services are also available!
  • Our academic coaching for college students covers,
    • Time management
    • Study locations
    • Study skills
    • Self advocacy
    • Planning and forecasting
    • Resources (online, in person, at school)
    • Personal care, exercise, nutrition, sleep
    • Boundaries 
    • Project Management
    • Getting up and getting to class!
    • Checking on yourself and how you’re doing

Teaching self-awareness and essential time management skills are foundational to the success of transitioning students.  Rather than throwing them into a ‘sink or swim’ environment, college academic coaching with Effective Students gives them tools and resources they need early on to adapt and successfully meet new academic challenges.

Questions about how college academic coaching can work on your schedule or pricing? Contact us for more information!

Common Misconceptions of Students in College:

1. Professors make study guides for students, schedules for projects, and worksheets to learn content, etc.
2. Professors/Instructors will warn them when they’re underperforming
3. Their newfound freedom and independence will not lead them to slack or coast.
4. Professors/instructors will give second chances for missed assignments, absences, etc.
5. To be able to juggle social life successfully (partying, friends, activities) and school without forecasting intentionally.

College students should:

1. Find a study space that works for THEM and GO
2. Study in groups (if that works for them)
3. Balance social and study time – don’t party too much/don’t study too much. Be intentional about planning this on a weekly basis. College academic coaches can help with this by training students in specific areas of executive function.
4. Join activities and clubs to make new friends – variety is the spice of life!
5. Develop professional relationships with their teachers (office hours, emails, etc.). Yes – it matters. One day you will need favor and it’s best to build it ahead of time.
6. Manage their own deadlines and schedules – get help with this if you need to, it’s part of learning and learning is lifelong.
7. Set and track personal goals. It’s part of growing up! College academic coaching can help by keeping students accountable and assisting in the development of realistic goals.
8. Take care of their physical and mental health (exercise, diet, meditation, etc.). You get out what you put in.
9. Pick classes and plan their schedule strategically — have a plan. Will scheduling a morning class make you get up and get going? What if you need to have a part time job? When will you plan to study? College academic coaching can help students isolate their strengths and identify areas where they need to improve, helping them make the most of their academic situation.
10. Find out who can help them and what resources they have. Yes – they are there, but you will need to ask. College academic coaching can help identify what resources are available and how they can help them academically.
11. Set plenty of alarms and GO TO CLASS, GO TO CLASS. Did we mention, GO TO CLASS?
12. Sit in the front and take notes. It helps them to pay attention. College academic coaching can help by providing additional tips and tricks to help students better absorb and interpret material.
13. CALL HOME (parents and coaches are still their biggest supporters)

how to develop study skills with effective students

Study Skills Curriculum: Improving Learning Skills & Executive Functioning

Education is only as good as a student’s capacity to learn—with this principle in mind, there is simply no understating the importance of learning how to improve learning skills from a young age.

As you’ll discover, developing curiosity that can lead to research skills for students of all ages starts with building the right foundation. Whether you’re a parent or an educator, here’s how to get started and where Effective Students can help.

Study Skills for Elementary Students

The most important elementary study skills are those that build the foundation for future progress in education.  As with all students, science has taught us that content retention improves when students use multi-sensory practice coupled with retrieval practice.  In simpler terms, that means students are actively engaged in writing material and typing if they struggle with dysgraphia.  Engaging students in this process of thinking about their thinking is called ‘metacognition’.  We like to position it as ‘how quickly can you get the information to stick?’.   From the students point of view, this is how to make learning a game. 

Essential Study Skill: Retrieval Practice

Let’s break down a bit further with our first essential learning skill, retrieval practice.  According to an official source, “Retrieval practice is a strategy in which bringing information to mind enhances and boosts learning. Deliberately recalling information forces us to pull our knowledge “out” and examine what we know.”  As an example, a student is likely to absorb material better when they recall the information as opposed to skimming over material in a textbook or even their notes—this is what makes study strategies like flashcards particularly effective. When spaced out over time, retrieval practice makes content stick faster than re-exposure to the same material because typical re-exposure is the same thing as ‘reviewing’.  

So, why don’t students utilize retrieval practice more often?  Usually two reasons: 1) they are not taught how or why and 2) it takes cognitive effort!!  When younger students learn that self testing is a core to ‘studying’, they are less apt to regress to ‘reviewing’ and calling it studying.  

Fun study skills activities to develop retrieval practice

  • Spelling list practice where students challenge themselves to correct their own spelling mistakes
  • Math facts practice with apps on an iPad – goal of each fact family under one minute
  • Building practice tests out of a study guide with peers 
  • Making an answer key to the study guide test
  • Making games or puzzles (like matching games) out of study guides
  • Quizlet games

Study Skills for Middle School 

As students get older and increasingly gain confidence with executive functions, essential study skills become more important and advanced.  With a proper foundation for executive functions in place, students are more prepared to take on the challenges that come with more independent learning.  Here’s a quick overview on how to approach middle school study skills for later success.

Essential Study Skill: Self-Testing

Without a doubt, early study skills for teens and students around the time of middle school are predicated on their ability to optimize their time learning material with multi-sensory activities and perform self-testing and utilize study guides effectively.  Research has shown that self-testing is an essential tool for content retention as are multi-sensory learning activities, particularly for those kinesthetic learners..  Using study guides to generate a self testing tool or practice test, helps the student identify what is important to learn and a tool for identifying what they don’t know so they understand where to focus their efforts.  

When using a tool like Quizlet, it helps to tailor the study guide to the material and personalize it to ensure it is compatible with your student’s preferred style of learning.  Additionally, creating an answer key within the study guide can really help the student understand the material and can improve retention during self-testing.  This is why when a student uses a tool like Quizlet, creating their own set, rather than just using another one they find, is important.  Ultimately, the effectiveness of a study guide is dependent upon the amount of effort involved to produce this important learning device, so your mileage may vary!  

Study Skills Needed for College

Students preparing to go to college are ready to handle more responsibilities when it comes to executive functioning.  According to US News, this is a time where students should prioritize improving their attention span and taking more control of their education—knowing the difference between studying and really “studying” is imperative.  The good news is that it’s not too late to create good habits—here’s how to get started. 

Essential Study Skills: Time Management, Structure, Self-Awareness & Self Advocacy 

In a year with so many learning challenges, students of all ages have really struggled—particularly those with ADHD.  

Why were ADHD students disproportionately affected by the migration to virtual learning?  Ultimately, many of these students are dynamic and kinesthetic learners—they improve their ability to attend and digest information by engaging in-person and having dialogue with teachers and peers.  

In the absence of in-person instruction and structure of attending class (synchronous vs asynchronous) and a schedule, students received a crash course in self and time management.  Some did well and others simply didn’t have the tools to be successful.  

Creating a visual support/calendar helps students see their time and tasks in one palace so they have a way to make decisions about where to spend their time without over-taxing their working memory.

Simply put, the best way to improve learning skills is for students to learn to test what works best for them in each class because each class may require a different strategy. This requires us (the adults) to be comfortable with experimentation.  By its nature, this process will have some successes and some failures but that is part of refining the process.  

In the book Think Again, by Adam Grant, one of the main points he makes is the importance of having the ability to think and then rethink how we do things—to understand the value of learning to see things more clearly and make changes to our approach.  There are those who learn by experimentation and those who learn by reading a manual.  Giving kids the freedom to learn which kind of learner they are can lead to greater autonomy.  

Improve Study Skills With Effective Students

Educators must be intentional about how study skills are taught.  We once surveyed a group of 4th – 6th grade teachers about who should teach study skills—each grade level said the previous grade level should be responsible for doing so!  To better equip teachers with proven study skills curriculum, Effective Students provides a robust educational course and complete curriculum with a systematic approach, so educators can better assist their students experience success and instill the confidence to keep going!  

Effective Students provides study skills lesson plans, training workshops, instructional videos, student workbooks, decks for teacher-led instruction, handouts for parents and quizzes to check for understanding.  Our team of executive function experts help teachers make learning study skills fun for Middle, Elementary and High School students.  Receive ongoing support from Effective Students teaching teams and learn how to collaborate to provide better executive functioning instruction in as little as 15 minutes each week!  

Want to learn more?  Check out our summer workshops for educators.