It is hard to believe another school year is winding down. The week that separates the end of the year and beginning of summer fun may feel more like a chasm than a span of a few short days. Even the best of students start to stress at the idea of cramming a whole term and for many a whole year’s worth of work into a few short days of exams. The last chance; the grades that can make you or break you; just thinking about the week ahead can feel overwhelming and perhaps unbearable.
Maybe, your tween or teen is not the studious type. As a parent your child’s failure to show any signs of stress about finals week may signal impending doom. Maybe you are besot with thoughts such as: “Shouldn’t she care more; doesn’t he understand the importance; oh my goodness, he is going to fail;” for what’s it’s worth, you are not alone.
Final’s Week takes preparation. Your involvement in the prep process will depend on both your child’s age and natural affinity for organization. If for example this is your Middle School tween’s first experience with Final’s Week, she may need more guidance than you both realize. What follows are a few quick tips to prepare both you and your student for the grueling week ahead.
1.) Create a realistic study schedule. A study plan can help create organization and focus while a haphazard approach to studying can create confusion and chaos. Encourage your tween or teen to develop a plan based on his testing schedule as well as his familiarity with each subject. If for example, his English exam will focus on several books he feels he knows pretty well, less time will be needed to study. If however, his history exam covers a large volume of facts that he does not feel he knows as well, he should be sure to include enough time to cover all the material.
Study schedules should also include breaks for meals, snacks and rest. Keeping to the plan will help create focus. If the original plan he has created is causing him conflict encourage him to re-write the schedule.
Maybe for example, he has blocked out too much time for one subject and not enough for another, or, he realizes he needs to study for shorter blocks of time and take more frequent breaks to remain productive.
2.) She should study what she does not know first and last. There is a common inclination to study what we know first. This approach can create confidence, a sense that she already knows the material. In reality however, cognitive research reminds us that due to a phenomenon known as the “recency effect” she is best served studying the material with which she is not as familiar first and last. This approach can initially be confusing. She may be pulled to study the material in order. Remind her that if she really focuses more on the material she does not know first and last, her ability to concentrate and learn this information will increase.
3.) Switch it up when studying. Have you recently taken a peek into his room while he is studying, and sworn that although his notebook is in front of him, he looks like he is staring off into to space? The fact remains that the best way to learn material is to take a more active approach. Writing material down while studying can be very helpful. Encourage him to take notes, outline material, and make flash cards. Studying she be a multisensory process. Encourage him to repeat the information out loud or suggest that you test him. The more active he makes the process of studying the more likely he is to learn the material. In order to ensure that he really has the material down suggest that he test himself (or ask you to test him) in different ways. If for example, he is studying vocabulary words, test him by both giving him the word and asking for the definition, and by giving him the definition and asking for the word. This will ensure that he truly knows the material backwards and forwards.
4.) Encourage her to focus on what she can do, not on what she can’t. Finals week is synonymous with end of the year stress. Your tween or teen may feel overwhelmed especially if she believes that so much is riding on her performance on one exam. If she is especially concerned because she has been struggling in a particular class, remind her that worrying will get her nowhere. You can help her by taking a more active role in helping her study. Test her frequently on the material. Encourage her to create strategies which will reinforce her learning. Mnemonic devices such as acronyms or rhymes are often helpful. Remind her she can only do what she can do which is to try her hardest and give it her all. Be sure to frequently validate her efforts.
5.) You can’t do it for him. As a parent it can be frustrating to watch your tween prepare for finals. Perhaps you don’t agree with his approach to studying. Maybe you think he is not giving it his all. You can guide him by helping him get organized and actively reviewing with him. In the end however, he will have to step up and do the actual studying himself. Sure it might be easier if you were taking the test for him. Even if you feel that the writing is on the wall, that he is only fooling himself, there comes a time when you have to take a step back and let him try. Remember, some of the best lessons we learn in life are through experience. Who knows, he may actually surprise you!