Many students begin the school year on a high note. They are organized, motivated, and ready to tackle any challenge that comes their way. Yet at some point mid-semester, that motivation starts to wane. Tasks take longer than they used to, planning and time management dips, and grades begin to fall. Help your child prevent this mid-semester slump with the ideas detailed below.
Build Stronger Time Management Skills
Some students excel at time management year-round, but others have very little sense of how long a task may take to complete. Help your child become more realistic with his time by teaching him to estimate how long a task may take to finish, then compare it to the actual time it takes. For instance, say he has a sheet of math problems to complete. He might think he will take 15 minutes to finish, which is his estimated time (ET). As he works on it, he should keep an eye on the clock and note how long it takes to complete, which is the actual time (AT). For students with poor time management skills, the ETs and ATs are often very different when they begin practicing this skill. Yet the more they use this technique, the closer these times will become, and the more realistic they will learn to be with their time.
Learn to Prioritize
Some students may feel at times that they have a seemingly insurmountable quantity of work to complete in a short period of time. Homework! Tests! Soccer practice! School play! Dinner with friends! The list can feel endless. It’s important that your child learns to identify which tasks are more important than others, then learn to prioritize them. For example, if she has three exams, an English essay, and a project to complete by the end of a given week, and has also scheduled a dinner with her friends, she should create a list of priorities (i.e. 1. Science test, 2. History test, 3. Math test, 4. Spanish project, 5. Dinner with friends). In doing so, she may quickly realize that she needs to cancel her dinner with friends that week in order to prioritize her schoolwork.
Break studying into chunks
There may be some times during the semester when students feel so overloaded with exams and schoolwork that they may not even know where to begin. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and worries about never being able to complete all of their requirements. To help combat these feelings, help your child break down tasks into smaller steps. For instance, say she has a research project that is due in two weeks. Encourage her to come up with a topic by day two, create an outline by day four, finish her research by day six, write a rough draft by day nine, edit the rough draft by day 12, and come up with a final product by day 14. She should put each of these steps into her homework planner so she has a concrete, manageable plan with individual steps for conquering what may seem like an insurmountable task.
When schoolwork seems endless, building in rewards may help beat the mid-semester blues. Help your child brainstorm some ideas that excite him. Perhaps he likes playing video games; if so, when he completes his English essay, he can take a 15-minute video game break. Maybe he likes certain snacks or treats, and can eat one after one hour of studying. Other rewards may include a movie, phone call break, special meal, or the like. Infusing a special reward to look forward to can ease the stress of long nights of studying.
If all else fails and your child stills feels stressed, encourage her to try meditating. For even five short minutes, she can lie flat or sit in a comfortable position. Teach her to breathe in through her nose for four counts, hold her breath for four counts, then breathe out for four counts. Have her repeat this process over and over for five minutes (or longer), letting any thoughts that may pop in pass, without drawing any attention to them.
Many students experience the all-too-common mid-semester slump, which can leave them feeling anxious and stressed. Help your child become more motivated with these ideas and she will soon move past this phase and toward academic success.
Dr. Emily Levy is the founder of EBL Coaching, a local tutoring program that specializes in one-on-one home and on-site instruction for students in grades pre-K-12. She is also the author of the workbook series Strategies for Study Success and Flags and Stars. To learn more about Emily Levy and EBL Coaching, visit eblcoaching.com!