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5 Strategies For Building Strong Study and Organizational Skills

Written by Nick Mehring of Prep Academy Tutors of Kitchener-Waterloo

For parents and teachers alike, it can be incredibly frustrating to see the self-sabotage that sometimes goes on when a student lacks positive study habits and organizational skills. For many bright students, it’s not uncommon for them to be able to simply coast through entire grades and subject areas with little to no effort put into studying or organization. For others, developing those skills as early as possible can be a crucial aspect of their academic success. Regardless of where your student or child may fall on this spectrum, promoting positive study habits and organizational skills from a young age is essential to ensure that they are set up for success at higher levels of education and in daily life, even if it seems like they are getting by without them. The following list highlights five of the best strategies to promote these crucial skills in children and students of all ages. 

1) Start Young by Helping to Build Foundational Learning Skills

Play “academic” games with your toddler. Read aloud to them, put together puzzles, play counting games, math games and games that promote their creativity. Through play-based activities, you begin to set your child up for strong study skills in their future [1]. As your child gets older, place an emphasis on routine when it comes to homework [2]. Do your best to have dinner around the same time each day and set aside time especially devoted to homework. At this time it’s beneficial to relay the importance of designating a space for homework. Have your child help to co-create a space which they feel comfortable with. Stock the room with all of the supplies they might need for completing homework and ensure they are free from distractions while they are in that space [1]. As your child gets better over time at sticking to this routine, begin to pass more responsibility for completing their homework onto them including where and how they can find resources to help them if they get stuck [1].

2) Model Effective Organizational Skills from an Early Age

One of the best ways to do this is to use a family calendar. Track everyone’s activities on the calendar and include your child in the process. When they are old enough to do so, encourage them to make their own entries [3]. Another strategy is to assign chores and tasks to your child that involve sorting, categorizing and pre-planning. Cook together and follow recipes, allow them to help plan grocery lists, and plan family trips and activities with the input of your child [3]. All of these things add up, and over time will help to promote organizational skills necessary for success later in life. 

3) Encourage the Use of Time Management and Organizational Tools

At a certain age, planners are a must. Many schools give these out at the start of the year. Make sure to constantly encourage your child to develop a habit to use them. For older students, writing a daily list either in their planner or somewhere else can be incredibly effective in increasing productivity and keeping them on track [4]. Once this has become habit, have them use a simple ranking system to prioritize the list. Another highly effective strategy for disorganized students is to get them thinking visually. Colour-coded notebooks that signify different subjects or priority levels can be a difference maker in terms of getting students to stay on top of things [5]. Finally, teach students the value of chunking tasks into more manageable bits. One example is to use the first, next, last strategy where you break tasks into three much more reasonable steps [6]. 

4) Teach Self-Regulation and Discipline

As students get older, it becomes much more important for them to learn to properly manage distractions in order to stay on task. During study or homework time, encourage them to learn to control their social media and phone usage. For some, this means removing the phone entirely from the room they are in. If they feel like they have no willpower to control this on their own, introduce them to things like AntiSocial, an app that restricts access on their phone during scheduled times [7]. During studying and homework time, the television should be off. If your child or student enjoys listening to music when they complete their homework, encourage them to listen to music in the 50 to 80 beats per minute range. Music like this has been shown to help focus the mind by stimulating alpha brain waves —  just make sure the volume isn’t turned up too loud. 

5) Student Mindset Matters

Many students view homework or studying as a required task, instead of as an opportunity to learn. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however research has shown that having a positive mindset during study and homework time can greatly increase the positive effects of the activity — in other words, mindset matters [8]. If a student is very clearly upset, anxious or distracted by a problem going on in their life, it might be beneficial to forgo the studying until that issue is resolved. More often than not, if you try to force your student or child into studying when there’s something big looming on their minds, you’re likely setting them up for frustration instead of learning.


[1] “5 Ways to Build Strong Study Habits at an Early Age.” Huntington Learning Center. March 23, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/blog/5-ways-to-build-strong-study-habits-at-an-early-age.

[2] “Homework and Study Habits: Tips for Kids and Teenagers.” Child Development Institute. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning/tips-for-helping-kids-and-teens-with-homework-and-study-habits/#.XJzFhC3Mw6h. 

[3] “12 Ways to Develop Your Child’s Organizational Skills.” Scholastic Parents. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.scholastic.com/parents/family-life/social-emotional-learning/social-skills-for-kids/12-ways-to-develop-your-childs-organizational-skills.html.

[4] “Mastering Time Management and Organizational Skills to Increase Productivity.” Brian Tracy International. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.briantracy.com/blog/time-management/mastering-time-management-and-organizational-skills-to-increase-productivity/.

[5] Simeon, Diana. “Organization Skills for Students: 10 Ideas That Really Work.” Your Teen for Parents. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://yourteenmag.com/teenager-school/teenager-middle-school/help-your-teenager-get-organized. 

[6] Morin, Amanda. “At a Glance: 7 Ways to Teach Your High-Schooler Organizational Skills.” Understood: For Learning and Attention Issues. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/teaching-organizational-skills/at-a-glance-7-ways-to-teach-your-high-schooler-organization-skills.

[7] Zegarra, Maria. “9 Techniques to Improve Your Study Habits.” Florida National University. December 18, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.fnu.edu/7-techniques-improve-study-habits/.

[8] Grohol, John M. “10 Highly Effective Study Habits.” PsychCentral. October 8, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://psychcentral.com/lib/top-10-most-effective-study-habits/.