Learning Points: Helping your teen to study during Covid-19 lockdown

This summer Leaving Cert students are facing something we've never asked of students before writes Richard Hogan.
Learning Points: Helping your teen to study during Covid-19 lockdown

Last week I outlined a few simple ways to keep yourself and your children occupied during lockdown. Today I’m going to look at Leaving Certificate students and how to manage them now that the exam has been postponed writes Richard Hogan

It is a challenging time for Leaving Cert students in Ireland. File picture.
It is a challenging time for Leaving Cert students in Ireland. File picture.

If you have a Junior Certificate student around the house, you probably think they have swallowed a coat hanger, the smile is so broad on their face.

But that decision comes with its own problems. It will be very hard to keep them motivated, but you will need to because if they stop now and go into fourth year, depending on what they do, it could be a year and a half before they attempt writing assignments or study.

Therefore, they will really struggle settling into Fifth Year. You have to keep them working. I will write about this again.

How can I support my Leaving Certificate teenager?

This is such a pressing and current issue for over 55,000 families on this island. Today’s Leaving Cert students have been charged with something we have never asked of students before.

They have to stay at home and study for a postponed exam — there is no start date, yet. Many students are finding this element very difficult.

The lack of certainty is impacting their motivation: "Will it go ahead? What does postponed really mean? What’s the point in studying when we don’t know when or where it’ll be on?"

I hear these types of questions a lot. And I always reply with the same response. I tell them that no other group of students have had as much time to study for the exam as they have.

I also explain that they have to use this time productively because if they don’t, all the great work they have done over the years will be wasted. I tell them to study now with July as their start date.

Often boys struggle more with this than girls. I’m not using an old stereotype here, but in my experience girls find it easier to organise themselves for study than boys. So, if you have a son, they might need a little bit more guidance when it comes to timetabling study.

They need outcome goals. For example it is not effective to say: “I’m going to study Hamlet now”, but rather they should have an outcome goal. We all work in a more productive way when we know what we are trying to achieve.

That doesn’t mean you will achieve it, but at least you’ll have a target to work towards.

For example, rather than saying: “I’m going to study Hamlet”, say instead:

“Today I’m going to look at appearance versus reality in Hamlet. By the end of this study session, I will know 15 quotes on the theme of appearance versus reality. Tomorrow, I will write an essay on it and the following day I will learn that essay and test myself.”

That is a three-day plan on one specific area of Hamlet. It is goal-oriented and will help you to achieve an outcome.

The major problem I encounter with students when they are finding studying and motivation difficult is that they do not know how to study. Doing well in exams is about preparation, not IQ. Exam Success is about consistent, effective study.

Top tips:

  • 1. Make the timetable doable: This is the first problem with timetables. A student should not be studying after 7pm. They should be going for a walk and unwinding at that time. Cramming is not a proxy of your seriousness, it just illuminates your inability to organise yourself effectively. Never cram.
  • 2. Take breaks: Breaks are vital for a healthy and engaged brain.
  • 3. Get rid of all distractions while they are studying: There should be no phones or devices in the room. They will resist this, but be resolute on this issue.
  • 4. Try to follow the school day: This means they should be getting up at 8am with a view to start studying at 8:30am. This will keep them focused and also allow them to be free by 4:30pm. And they will also be tired and fall into a healthy sleep pattern.
  • 5. Exercise is more important than ever: They must get out of the house for a walk or a jog. This will get the endorphins going and keep them motivated.
  • 6. Keep a good sleep routine: They should be going to bed at a reasonable hour. If they are getting up at 8am they should be in bed for 10:30pm. The brain requires an incredible amount of energy if your teenager is sleep deprived it will be almost impossible for them to study.
  • 7. Maintain diet: It is so easy for our diet to fall apart while we are in lockdown. But we need it more than ever to be healthy and to provide us with the energy we need for studying.

This group of Leaving Cert students are in a difficult, challenging time. The uncertainty over when the exam will take place has the potential to derail their efforts. They need to be minded here and guided towards an effective and positive study routine.

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