My seventh-grade son finally has to study for school and it hasn’t been easy.
He’s always been a good student. He enjoys reading and is usually a good test taker. He’s been able to finish homework and keep up his grades with little effort. Until this year.
Because most school tasks have been easy, he’s never learned to study. And he has the organizational skills of a not-so-organized 13-year-old boy. (I’m regularly pulling folded up school papers out of his pants pockets—usually after they have gone through the wash). Up to this point he’s been able to successfully navigate school without having to study. But this year Spanish I has changed all of that.
As parents we try to let our kids manage their academic work on their own. We offer to help, but won’t step in until we see they need assistance. The first four weeks of Spanish last fall seemed to be going well. We asked about what they studied in class and I insisted he write all his quizzes and tests on his agenda. (The agenda stays at home because he won’t write in it during the day, but it is a goal for this year to simply record projects, tests, and quizzes for all classes.)
It was about that point in the semester when his Spanish grade started to fall. Then he came home and said he had a test in class—one that was a complete surprise to him and me. I asked why he didn’t know about the test. Had he checked the online system? He said it wasn’t listed online. When I made him grab his computer and show me, I realized that he had no idea how to navigate the online system. The test had been listed, but because he has Spanish last period, he had to scroll down to see it.
It was time to step in and start teaching him some study and organization skills.
I’m a relatively organized person (but not by the looks of my desk) and I spent over a decade in the classroom, so I have plenty of strategies for students. But my real secret weapon in all of this is my creative podcast co-host, Gretchen Wegner, who is always coming up with new and creative strategies based on brain science. I’ve been sharing a lot of these approaches with my son. (Exciting news! He made a high A on the Spanish test he took this week. And, even better, came home that day saying that he felt good about Spanish for the first time.)
Today, I’m going to share some of our best study skills and organization podcast episodes with you.
“The College Prep Podcast” began in 2014 and we are now the longest running, regularly produced podcast in our category. I’m including links to episodes on our website, but you can find us on
If we aren’t on your favorite podcast directory, let us know what it is and we will submit our feed.
Here are some of the podcast episodes I regularly draw on when I’m advising students and my own children: (click the title to access the episode on our website.)
The key to effective studying for tests is a brain-based trick called “retrieval practice.” Most students forget to do this when studying. They might review their notes or text book, but they forget practice “retrieving” it from their brain (which means looking away from the source of the information and testing yourself to see how much you know).
There are some basic life and school skills that adults assume teens know how to do — but they really don’t!
Great tips for any time. (I personally like the homework routine and grade checking tips!)
Students often worry that studying effectively for tests will take more time than they have! In this episode, Gretchen takes a deep dive into retrieval practice, which is arguably the most important things students can do when studying.
One of the important ingredients of studying strategically is cultivating your willingness to try new strategies, even if they require effort and are uncomfortable.
Time management does not come naturally to teens, that’s for sure! But there are some simple actions parents can take to support their teenagers in becoming time aware, pro-active, anti-procrastinators.