Strategies for Better Grades in 2021
By Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed
One of our primary pieces of advice for parents in the difficult transition to virtual learning last year was “Focus on completion, not quality.” Just getting your child in front of a Zoom class on time and through an independent assignment was a big enough ask. It wasn’t the time to stress over whether or not every practice problem was accurate.
As we (finally) move into 2021, we know your child’s grades may not be what they once were—and that’s okay. The start of a new year is the perfect time to reassess and implement new study strategies. Now’s the time to end this academic year and start this calendar year strong.
Read on to discover six study strategies that can help your child improve their grades this semester. Each research-backed method is from The Learning Scientists and proven to help students study more effectively, retain more, and perform their best.
Strategy #1: Spacing
Last-minute cramming for a big test isn’t just stressful—it’s also ineffective. Research shows that students who practice spacing by spreading out their studying over time ultimately perform better. As you figure out your family’s routine in this new year, encourage your child to set aside a set window of time each day for studying. They can then use that time to regularly prepare for upcoming exams. This strategy will make big tests feel less intimidating and improve their recall on test day.
Strategy #2: PRACTICE
When left on their own to study, many students read over their class notes a few times and call it a day. According to researchers, this common study method isn’t a very effective way to retain information. Instead, students need to practice recalling information without looking at their notes. Flashcards and practice tests are tried-and-true methods of retrieval practice. Another idea? Encourage your child to write or sketch everything they remember on a particular subject, then review their class notes for accuracy and missed points.
Strategy #3: Elaboration
It can be hard for young students to wrap their minds around big ideas. Elaboration can help. This study strategy encourages students to elaborate on big ideas with smaller details and even make connections to other big ideas. This may sound abstract, but it’s quite simple to practice. Next time your child studies a new topic, engage them in a conversation about how things work and why. Encourage them to ask questions and seek out answers or to create a list comparing and contrasting two different ideas. As they explain these big ideas to you (and themselves), they’ll get a much firmer grasp on complex material.
Strategy #4: Interleaving
Imagine going to the gym for a workout and only doing one exercise—like push-ups—for the entire hour of your workout. You would quickly grow fatigued yet leave many muscles un-worked. That’s why personal trainers pick a variety of exercises and lead you through a rotation. Interleaving works the same way. Instead of choosing one subject, idea, or topic to study for an entire session, allow your child to pick a few and rotate. Switching between ideas while studying will help your child strengthen their mental muscles, stay focused for longer, make connections between topics, and increase their mastery of all the materials.
Strategy #5: Examples
No academic subject is free of abstract ideas. From complex statistical concepts in math class to complicated reading passages in English, students are continually asked to grapple with and master abstract ideas. The best strategy for doing so? Concrete examples. Compiling a list of concrete examples (by using class notes and their textbook or brainstorming with peers) helps students understand and remember big ideas. Even better—have your child explain why each example works as they make their list to help them grasp patterns and connections.
Strategy #6: Dual Coding
No, we’re not asking your child to learn computer coding for this last strategy. Dual coding is a study strategy that combines words with visuals. When your child comes across a visual (like a map or diagram) in their study materials, they should stop and use words to describe them. And when they come across a chunk of text, they should stop and create their own visual. Infographics, diagrams, or cartoon strips can help a child illustrate ideas. Combining words and images when studying will help your child better understand the material now and remember more of it on test day—win, win!
Get Help When You Need It!
After the whirlwind of 2020, your child may need extra support to catch up and get ahead before the end of this school year. Our expert tutors are trained in helping students with subject-specific struggles, executive function skills, and general review and preview.
No matter what last year looked like for your family, we’re here to ensure this year is as successful and stress-free as possible. You deserve a little extra support! Click below to schedule a free consultation, and we’ll connect you with a handpicked tutor to provide the exact help your child needs. #
Ann K. Dolan is the president of Educational Connections. For more information or to learn about your options, visit ectutoring.com.