Ten Study Skills’ Strategies for parents: on helping children to study more effectively

This blog post is a summary from The Sydney Morning Herald’s “Many students don’t know how to study. Here’s how parents can help”; I have printed quotes from the article in the summary either in bold or italic, below:

  1. Establish a regular time and routine for homework (or home study) – a pattern that can be started early in elementary school, with scheduled reading time or structured games. Try to choose the most suitable study time and spot, feasible, for your family.
  2. Be firm about rules, including about minimizing distractions and choosing appropriate settings for study. I would suggest 3 to 5 rules at most. Mine is usually: a. No red pen to write for me (very old school); b. Task must be dated with the exercise unit written; c. Task must well written and done with due diligence (attention to the task is important), any sign of sloppiness used to lead to ‘do the whole unit again’.
  3. Don’t help too much, and resist the urge to nag, which can make students dread studying. Use Direct Instruction: explain what they need to do in clear terms. For example, show them a worked example in Maths or a sample paragraph or sentence in English, depending on what they’re doing and provide them with the basic guidance they need to attempt the task.
  4. Multiply your child’s grade level by 10 to determine how many minutes they should spend studying each day, g. SS3 will be 12×10 = 120 minutes. This is a new concept to me, although, recently I have been asking myself how I should engage my 1st son more with learning at home as he moves up the secondary education ladder. This approach gives me a simple and logical strategy to use, but I would suggest you work according to your family’s situation; I’m a strong believer in the quality as against quantity of time spent studying. However, there must still be an appreciable amount of time spent in studying by a child but do everything in moderation.
  5. Spaced practice or studying a subject, then taking a break and studying it again. This suggests that a student who studies a topic for an hour on three days over the course of a week will know the information better than a student who spends three hours on it in one night. This is a simple practice that’s logical and also based on evidence. Don’t do crash programme; spread the study over i.e. 4 days of 30 mins each day as against 2 hours of study in one day only and nothing for the rest of the week.
  6. Retrieval (Bring it Back)being quizzed about material you have studied, either by yourself or others. Is good for, e.g. weekly or monthly assessment of what a child has been learning.
  7. Mix it up (Interleaving): when a study session involves a mix of topics or approaches, it helps students discriminate among the types of problems and select the right method for each.
  8. Self-explanation: where students talk to themselves about their progress through the learning process.
  9. Students eliminate material they know while studying (apply Cognitive Load Theory (CLT)) so they are reviewing less material and can focus on topics they are struggling with. But experts say a desire to make quick progress may prompt them to eliminate material they think they know but actually don’t fully understand.
  10. Learn the material well enough to teach it. The student should be able to master the study material to the point of being able to explain it to another person.

Additionally, I would add:

  1. Feedback: boosts learning by providing an explanation after retrieval that indicates whether a student was correct or incorrect, which increases students’ metacognition or understanding about their own learning progress1. An easy approach to use at home is to use workbooks or exercise units in textbooks, this approach, as a parent, will save you time and the need to master higher-level assessment skills that professional teachers usually have.
  2. Metacognition: is, put simply, thinking about one’s thinking.  More precisely, it refers to the processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one’s understanding and performance2. An example of how to use this strategy is to imagine your thought process when you’re about to carry out a specific task and talk through each step as a way to model to your child how to use metacognition in studying.

Nos. 1 to 5 & 11 could be very effective if introduced together and sustained. I’ll suggest they are used together from the beginning, if possible. Also, I would suggest Nos. 7 to 10 & 12 are introduced gradually as support strategies for a child but, preferably, not at the beginning. This is because if they’re done wrongly their outcomes could be catastrophic but I’ve included links to them for further reading if you want to know more about them. And most importantly, it’s most likely that you’re already using some of these strategies and all you need to do is to consolidate on them.

For those in Nigeria, if you want to help out with your children’s maths and English lessons at secondary school level, I will suggest you consider:

  • Maths – New General Maths
  • English language: Lexis and Structure; First Aid in English and Brighter Grammar.

Also, you can get the Cambridge Use of English Grammar: elementary, intermediate and advanced. They’re very good books to use and are good for anyone that has like 10 or 15 minutes a day to teach a child English grammar.

If I identify very good and accessible textbooks that are readily available in the Nigerian textbook market locally I’ll update by God’s grace. And if you have resources that you’re already using with your child or students that you think will be of help, kindly drop the title(s) in the comment section. Thank.

I have either bolded or italicised quotes from The Sydney Morning Herald’s “Many students don’t know how to study. Here’s how parents can help” in the summary above. For more knowledge on some of the ideas in the article you can read Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by By Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger, III, and Mark A. McDaniel, or visit the authors’ book page on Retrieval Practice.

Links to resources:

Retrieval Practice











Cognitive Load Theory (CLT)

https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4419-8126-4 (£)









  1. Argawal, P.K. (2019). Feedback. Retrieved from https://www.retrievalpractice.org.
  2. Chick, N. (2019). Center for Teaching: Metacognition. Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/metacognition/.

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