By Annie Burnquist
With the school year ending, millions of high-school students are preparing
for that last minute push to raise
their grades -- and parents are
looking for ways to help. Here are
six tips to boost your child's
1) Exercise the body to give the brain a
Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, feeding it with oxygen and
learning-boosting nutrients like glucose. "Exercise in many ways optimizes your brain to learn," says Dr. John
Ratey, a Harvard Medical School professor.
Getting students to workout greatly improves
their classroom performance. One
study found that 15 to 45 minutes of exercise before class reduced fidgeting
among children by half. In a study that looked at three groups of students with different physical education routines, the group that exercised the most did the best on tests,
even though they spent the least
amount of time in class.
2) Create a healthy study space.
Where kids study is almost as important
as what they study. So designate a specific
spot for studying. Doing so
sends the message that your household takes academics seriously. And although
the area should be free of distractions like TV, video games, and phones, it should also reflect what the student
needs -- not what mom wants. Developing
this habit early in life will pay
off immensely during college.
Aesthetics matter. One study found that grades were 25 percent
better for students who study near a window; natural lighting promotes concentration.
3) Encourage interactive learning.
An ancient Chinese proverb goes:
"Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand."
Students perform better when
actively engaged with the material. A great way to ensure that engagement is to
hire a personal tutor.
Tutors were once too expensive for
most Americans. Calculus tutors cost about $100 per
hour -- and an instructor's quality varied with location. That's all changed
thanks to online tutoring services They provide
all the benefits of old-fashioned tutoring -- like one-on-one attention, a
customized educational experience,
and instant feedback -- at a considerably lower price.
Kids who use our tutoring service typically
raise their grade by at least half a letter.
4) Get plenty
Sleep is essential to the brain's
ability to learn. Teenagers should get at least eight hours each night. Grade
schoolers need at least 10. Late-night cram sessions don't produce much long-lasting knowledge, and they compromise the ability to analyze and recall
information during tests.
One study by Harvard psychiatry professor Robert Stickgold found that after learning
a new skill, student performance
didn't improve until after at least
six hours of sleep. "It's as if
you have to wait for the dough to rise," he explained.
Psychology professor Pamela Thacher
cross-referenced college student grade point
averages with sleeping habits and
found that "you can't do your best work when you're sleep-deprived.
. . If you use all-nighters, your GPA is slightly lower on average."
5) Encourage communal learning.
Group learning is more exciting than
thumbing through a textbook. As social psychologists
David Brandon and Andrea Hollingshead have concluded, "interaction with
others leads to active processing of
information by the individual."
Thanks to the internet, kids don't need to confine their study partners to people in their immediate area. There are plenty of high-quality online forums for kids to
talk to each other or adult experts.
As psychology professor
Rena Palloff and international studies professor
Keith Pratt noted in a paper on online learning communities, the "keys
to the learning process are. . . the
collaboration in learning that results from these interactions."
6) Have a study plan.
Creating a study plan is an
effective way to manage stress and use time efficiently. A recent study by the
American College Health Association rated stress as the #1 impediment to academic performance
among college students in the United
States. And during finals season, academic
anxiety can be especially bad.
Luckily stress can be substantially reduced with just a little bit of planning. By creating a realistic study schedule and
breaking down assignments into small, manageable pieces,
students can avoid stress leading up to an exam.
Annie Burnquist is the founder and president
of ThinkingStorm.com, an online tutoring service.