Straight-A Study Skills for Teens to Kickstart the School Year Right

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: Straight-A Study Skills for Teens to Kickstart the School Year Right

Written by: Cynthia C. Muchnick, M.A. 

After this challenging year of Zoom school, hybrid learning, and all sorts of unknowns for students, traditional study skills and time management strategies fell by the wayside. 

Most students didn’t have the opportunity to see peers or engage with teachers face-to-face, and many kids even developed unusual sleep patterns. (How many of you had child vampires who stayed up late far beyond what is considered healthy for tweens and teens and were exhausted during the day?) And when kids did roll out of bed to attend class, they did so in pajamas, and with more of a temptation to cheat than ever before.

But now that school is (hopefully) resuming this fall in a more “normal,” albeit still-modified way around the country and world, it might be a good time to help your tween or teen brush up on fundamental study skills and time management to help kickstart the upcoming school year right.

How can you as a parent instill and support good learning habits?

Navigating the tween and teen years can be tricky under even the best of circumstances, so be careful when you share these ideas with your student that you’re not being too pushy or abrasive. Instead, find a relaxed and convenient time — preferably undistracted and with a meal or snack involved — when it makes sense to have a conversation about study skills and time management with your teen.

Begin the conversation by asking your teen what he or she finds works best to get homework done: at a well-lit desk? On a comfy chair with a laptop on their lap? In a coffee shop where they can daydream and also people watch? In front of the TV with ambient noise in the background? 

If your teen does reasonably well in school and has little trouble meeting deadlines and assignments, then I would follow their lead and support their study preferences. If, on the other hand, your teen has developed a few bad habits, is prone to procrastination, or struggles with studying for tests and quizzes and meeting deadlines, then it might be a good idea to pass along our Straight-A Study Skills for Teens or consider purchasing a book that offers more in-depth tips, advice and insight to help them get on track.

(The Everything Guide to Study Skills or Straight-A Study Skills is chock full of user-friendly study skill ideas ranging from memorization tricks to how to take great notes to help students prepare for quizzes, tests and exams.)

Drawing from my experience working with teens for the past twenty years, I have discovered three main areas to focus on as they re-enter a normal school schedule post-Covid: Study skills, teacher relationships and time management. Here are a few “Spark Notes” on my best, easy-to-implement concepts to share with your teen.

Straight-A Study Skills for Teens to Kickstart the School Year Right


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Use Short-Term Memory to Help with Tests

When a test is passed out, immediately flip it over and write down those hard-to-remember formulas or helpful mnemonics so you don’t forget later in the test. 

Have a Clean, Well-Lit Study Space That’s Free of Distractions

Teens, if you are easily distracted or your grades are shaky, shut down social networking, turn off distracting music, and don’t do homework on your bed, but rather in a desk area conducive to good learning. Parents, help provide that uncluttered and quiet space for your tween or teen. 

When Studying for Tests, Consider Forming a Focused Study Group or Work with a Study Buddy

 Discussing the material out loud, whether you’re teaching it to a peer, in a study group, or asking a classmate questions, helps you learn it better than if you were to silently study alone.

Parents, suggest this idea or help facilitate it. Zoom, iChat and social media clubhouse rooms, etc. make study groups easy for kids to assemble. In-person, (post-Covid) study groups are great options too, whether you gather at your school or public library, a coffee place, or a friend’s house.

Take Advantage of Extra Credit Opportunities

Even if you already have a respectable grade in the class and even if you’d much rather be spending time with your friends, grab every extra credit assignment you can. When you’re trying to raise (or hold) your grade, every “extra” point counts. Think of extra credit as your teacher handing out free money. Why wouldn’t you take it? 


Strive to Build Great Relationships with Your Teachers

If you take the time to get to know your teachers and work to build a positive rapport, they can prove to be your greatest allies both in and out of the classroom. (And, remember, someday you might be relying on them for a college or job recommendation.) Parents, while your tween or teen is in middle school, engage with their teachers. However, once they get into high school, pull back a bit and allow your child the opportunity to self-advocate. This is an essential skill for them to develop!

Engage in Classroom Discussions (Politely)

When teachers open up the classroom discussion for spirited debate or some sort of argumentative discourse, jump in! Politely, that is. Even if you are arguing or debating points in class, don’t forget to be courteous and polite, because the last thing teachers want is a mean, bossy, know-it-all student. Parents, you can model this behavior when you participate in debates or heated discussions as a family. 

Make a Good Impression

If anyone happens to be visiting your class – whether it’s the principal, a prospective teacher, or the superintendent – make sure to be a lively and active participant. You can be certain that any classroom visitor is going to talk with your teacher after class, and it would be great if you were singled out as an intelligent contributor to that day’s lesson. Enough said!

Thank Your Teacher

Most teachers know… teaching can be a thankless job. That’s why a simple “thank you” to your teacher after every class can leave a meaningful impression. Never underestimate the power of a simple thank you.

Even if it’s a simple, “Thank you, Mr. Smith,” or, “Have a nice weekend, Mrs. Jones,” your teacher will appreciate your politeness, friendliness, and maturity. Parents, we always remind our kids to say please and thank you. Encourage your kids to carry it over in the classroom until it becomes second nature.


Plan Ahead and Keep Track of Deadlines

Don’t rely on a school loop or the online calendar posted by your teacher. Be proactive and responsible when it comes to planning ahead and tracking your own deadlines for both short and long-term assignments. Parents, ask if you can assist in setting up a family calendar or how you can help your teen prepare for assignments, i.e. supplies, etc. 

Don’t Procrastinate

A great way to prevent procrastinating is to set up a rewards system for yourself. A few M&Ms after each 15-minute increment, a walk around the block after an hour of work, a TV show, or a few minutes on social media after two hours of studying can be just the incentive you need to keep going and stay focused. 

Don’t Use Your Cell Phone to Track Study Time

Use an egg timer or wall clock to track your work progress when studying or doing homework, not your cell phone. Simply having your cell phone near you can tempt you into falling down the Internet or social media rabbit hole. 

Check in with Your Teacher

When writing a paper, check in with your teacher often to update him/her on your ideas and progress. Teachers will be impressed that you have your paper mapped out and organized and they like to be part of the writing process. Moreover, checking in with your teachers is a great way to see if your essay is on the right track. Parents, this skill is also essential to learn in college and in the workplace so when your child faces uncertainty, they’ll know how to seek help and gain clarification on concepts, assignments, and team projects.  

Put Your Cell Phone Out of Reach

Place your cell phone out of your study area. And, turn off iChat or other chat capabilities on your laptop so that you can focus on your homework or school projects at hand.

I hope this “tried and true” collection of helpful study ideas are useful to your student and that you as a parent can help navigate these uncertain and competitive years by supporting your teen in their academic journey and mental health.

About Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick, MA:

Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick, MA, is a graduate of Stanford University and has been working in education for the past 25+ years as a former Assistant Director of College Admission, high school teacher, educational consultant, and author of six education-related books. She speaks professionally to parent, student, teacher, and business groups on topics such as study skills, the adolescent journey, college admission, and now the parent compass movement. She is the co-author of The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World and is also the author of The Everything Guide to Study Skills and Straight-A Study Skills. IG: @parentcompass 

If you enjoyed “Straight-A Study Skills for Teens to Kickstart the School Year Right,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy:

25 Study Stations that Take the Stress Out of Homework

5 Reminders for Parents as the College Process Begins

6 Amazing Organization Apps for Teenagers

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