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Study Skills: What Are They?

Study skills are defined as the management of time, materials, and information and/or language.  Study skills are often equated with the organization of physical materials like binders, desks, lockers etc. They are also frequently associated with a student’s ability to study for and perform on tests or other assessments. Although these skills are absolutely a part of study skills, they are not the only aspects.  

Referring back to the definition above, study skills also include the ability to successfully manage time. When students have excellent time management skills, they are able to arrive at school and classes on time. They have an awareness of how long assignments will take them and know the appropriate amount of time to dedicate to them. Also, students with good time management skills also have an abstract awareness of time and how it passes. For example, posting a classroom calendar helps students to visualize time. As with all language-based instruction, teachers should work to weave time management skills into their daily classroom routines by emphasizing the importance of the following skills:

  • Breaking down homework time
  • Estimating how long assignments will take
  • Prioritizing the assignments with which to start
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Sticking with the plan
  • Completing long term assignments in smaller steps, rather than in one sitting
  • Meeting due dates
  • Making time visible with the use of clocks and timers

Managing materials is also a crucial part of study skills. Students with the ability to effectively manage their materials can easily locate and organize information: both paper handouts and paper files, as well as digital documents and folders. They should remember to record nightly and long term homework assignments, and they can learn to bring all necessary materials back and forth to school. The following are examples of strategies that educators may suggest to help students develop materials management skills:

  • Keeping track of homework by recording it in an assignment notebook
  • Maintaining an organized binder so assignments can be quickly located
  • Encouraging students to remove unnecessary materials from binders
  • Ensuring students bring materials to class each day
  • Prompting students to gather resources before midterms or finals
  • Modeling an organized workspace where students can focus
  • Organizing digital files and emails

Finally, the ability to manage the vast amount of information and language aimed at students throughout a typical school day is a cornerstone of effective study skills. When students have the ability to process and then organize information and language, they are typically able to effectively take and organize notes on a topic. They can engage their internal thinking about a topic and use it to guide their margin notes and highlighting. Teachers can support students’ development of information management skills by encouraging them to practice the following tasks:

  • Understanding the main idea of a text
  • Recording active reading notes such as highlighting, margin notes, and two-column notes
  • Summarizing information
  • Researching information
  • Using notes to write a paper
  • Taking lecture notes during an oral presentation
  • Prioritizing content to study
  • Studying actively to prepare for tests and quizzes

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