My son started middle school this year and this is my year to evaluate his study spaces now that he will be getting more homework. What’s interesting is that good study spaces are not what I thought: it’s better to mix it up rather than study in the same place all the time. This New York Times Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits article by Benedict Carey upends that idea that a specific place, a study room or a quiet corner of the library is good for retention. The research finds just the opposite.
Instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing.
My son likes to study in different spots around the house. The perfect study space for my tween is actually many locations: his room, my office, and the kitchen.
He likes to read, draw, or do homework in his bedroom lying down.
The reading nook in my office is a sunny spot to work on homework, and I’m near by if he has a question or wants me to quiz him on something like Spanish words.
He likes to do project work here, especially anything messy or arty. It’s really sunny and bright so it’s a nice creative work space.
Once there are a study location choices, the next middle school hurdle is managing his homework deadlines. Because he’s on a six day cycle at school, his classes don’t meet every day.
After school homework of worksheets gets done generally in the kitchen at the dining room table or eating nook. He likes to eat and work at the same time.
My son was good about doing his homework right after school when he was in elementary school, but I noticed that his older sisters would time their homework to coincide with the night before it’s due. That’s fine with me when there’s no forgetting, but what about when the homework is hard because the class lesson has faded from memory? That happens to us when the class meets Thursday, and then again on Monday, with three days for the lesson to disappear from my child’s brain.
I have a five-volume set of study guides just for middle school students from the brains behind Brain Quest for my son when he needs a quick review on a particular topic in order to tackle his assignments. The BIG FAT NOTEBOOK series is built on a simple and irresistible conceit—borrowing the notes from the smartest kid in class. And this kid happens to be an amazing doodler as well so the notes are visual and fun to read.
There are five books in all, and each is the only book you need for each main subject taught in middle school: Math, Science, American History, English Language Arts, and World History. Inside the reader will find every subject’s key concepts, easily digested and summarized:
- Critical ideas highlighted in neon colors
- Definitions explained
- Doodles that illuminate tricky concepts in marker
- Mnemonics for memorable shortcuts
- And quizzes to recap it all
My son likes to self learn and the BIG FAT NOTEBOOK series invite page flipping! His favorite subjects are math and science so far, but he hasn’t really ever studied history. I can see my son using the Math BIG FAT NOTEBOOK to clarify concepts that he learns in school. I found personally that sometimes an alternate take can make something confusing crystal clear. I like how it’s easy to find the topic that you need too so this works even if your child is learning in a different sequence.
The Science BIG FAT NOTEBOOK has brightly colored drawings so it’s fun enough to compete with YouTube videos, my son’s favorite form of entertainment these days. I would have him read chapters to coincide with quiz and tests. This series is, after all, a study guide! Sometimes adding additional information gleaned here can help add points to a test score. It’s also nice to have the different topics well-organized and summarized. This really does seem like the best notes ever taken by a middle school genius kid.
As our school week progresses, my son will assume a nonchalance about middle school that most 6th graders adopt once they get the new school down. He’s the youngest of three so I expect this to happen rather quickly. And now he has this extra back pocket boost of confidence; anything that he doesn’t understand in the classroom can be found in these five volumes, at his leisure. This is really setting him up for success.
As for the perfect study space, it really doesn’t exist. Variety, it turns out, is the spice of life. And of retention.
Impressive fine print: The BIG FAT NOTEBOOK series meets Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and state history standards, and are vetted by National and State Teacher of the Year Award–winning teachers.
This is a sponsored post for Workman Publishing. As always, my opinions are my own.
p.s. Here’s a handy guide for kids on how to take great notes.
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