Studying at home is an important part of consolidating learning ready for GCSE exams. But is the revision in your home a battleground or a safe haven?
All too often, home study can falter. It makes sense: home is where you relax, school is where you work. However, when GCSE exams are on the horizon, those who fulfil their potential spend time during the evenings, weekends and the holidays revising.
Here are our 8 steps to help you adopt the right environment.
- Agree the rules
- Remove the distractions
- Create the backlog – fancy word for to do list
- Work out the free time
- Allocate work sensibly
- Review and monitor regularly
- Celebrate success
Agree the rules
Ground rules are important. They are also easier to agree before they are needed. Popular ones include putting the phone in a cupboard, making sure that students get a good night’s sleep, and not sleeping past 11 am. But rules work both ways, keeping a supply of sugary snacks (or organic carrot sticks if you prefer) in the house, or promising not to nag about progress are great ways of showing that everyone is pulling together.
Remove the distractions
When faced with a chore we’d rather not do, it doesn’t take a lot to veer off task. For many students, studying is just such a chore. Make sure that the little obstacles don’t become huge roadblocks by removing them. So, sharpen all the pencils, organise folders and buy the required variety of coloured highlighters. Get everything ready so that you limit the procrastination.
Create the backlog
Knowing exactly what you have to do is essential to working systematically. It is the cornerstone of The Study Buddy approach. Using textbooks, exam specifications or even school notes, you can create a comprehensive list of the topics and subtopics. Write these down, preferably on their own cards, or tick lists also work. Think about subtopics as being the level above the detail. For example History > The Norman Conquest > The Battle of Hastings. This way you can target getting a unit done in one revision session.
Work out the free time
A balance of study and social life is crucial, not just for personal growth but also for healthy mental wellbeing. Before structuring the revision, sort out when you can’t do it. Block out time for commitments such as school and extracurricular activities. Then build in time for having a life: parties and the all-important lie-ins. Now, the blank time is fair game.
Allocate work sensibly
It is ultimately counter-productive to spend all your free time studying. How much studying a student can do will vary wildly from one to another. Be realistic. A plan should be geared to success because if you consistently fail then motivation will bottom out. Build in regular breaks and encourage exercise – even if that is simply taking a walk to the cupboard to retrieve the phone between sessions!
Review and monitor regularly
Key to the process is to uncover what is working well and what needs to be adapted. A regular, scheduled session prevents the feeling that this is an intervention. Because they shouldn’t be. During the reviews, you should think of yourself as a coach, rather than a parent. For the next 20 minutes, your function is to guide and support – not exert control or dictate actions.
Start by looking back at the week. With our approach and physical units, there is a lot of satisfaction derived from moving a card from ‘to do’ to a ‘done’ pile. This process feels good because the ‘to do’ pile is getting smaller, and it helps because it brings the focus to near term goals. Getting to the end of the week is so much more in our grasp. Now weekly progress feels like winning. And that feeling is highly motivating.
This is no time to be judgemental if things haven’t happened exactly as they should have. Anything that wasn’t done simply returns to the ‘to do’ list. It’s important to look for roots causes. Is there something that should be changed for next week? Perhaps energy is low on Wednesdays, in which case don’t schedule revision for then. It won’t always be necessary to adapt the plan, sometimes we just have a bad day!
Buoyed by the success of the process, keep it going. Those topics aren’t going to revise themselves! As you go through the amount of control that the student feels has a direct bearing on the desire to continue. Over time, they will open up about their challenges. You should encourage this. Being judgement-free is the trigger. If your child worries what you will say or think, then they are more likely to hide what is really happening, and that doesn’t help anybody.
There is no evidence that outlandish rewards for grades have any effect on effort or attainment. However a spontaneous ‘pat on the back’ for trying hard or simply ‘sticking to it’ can positively reinforce self-belief. This, in turn, drives confidence and a desire to follow the process.