Finish the Year Strong

This has been an unprecedented academic year, and there are still many uncertainties about exactly how the school year will come to a close, but students can count on two certainties: the end of the year will soon be here and it’s crunch time. Projects and assessments are coming in one form or another, and students will need to dig deep to find the motivation to finish the year strong. Here’s our best advice to ensure that your child is prepared.

Even if students don’t know the exact date or format of their final assessments, encourage them to start preparing today. If your child doesn’t already have strong review habits, here are three steps they can take now to get started:

  1. Get Clarity: Review class notes, worksheets, and readings. Ideally this is something that should happen throughout the year on an ongoing basis. But at this point in the year, your child should review past content in the order it was presented with a particular focus on units with which they struggled.  Have them commit to either a specific amount time or a number of concepts to review each day to make the process less overwhelming.  During that process, they need to identify portions of notes that are unclear or ideas that they do not fully understand. They should then get clarification by emailing the teacher, reaching out to a friend, asking a tutor, or checking out an online explanation. Reviewing early and clearing up questions will ensure that they’re studying the right information from the get-go. 
  1. Prioritize Information: Help your child get in the habit of annotating notes as they review them. They should underline, highlight, or add symbols depending on their preference, but find a way to make it clear which ideas are most important. They might also consider circling particularly helpful examples. Ongoing review of previously learned concepts will help keep them fresh.  
  1. Make It Their Own: The last step involves going back to all of their annotated notes and summarizing them in a single page for each unit. Ideally, they’ll include the vital information in their own words. For bonus points, kids can include a few questions that their teacher might ask about the content.  

Pro Tip: Convince your child to share this sheet with their teacher and have them confirm that they agree with your child’s assessment of the key points. This last step will provide a subject study guide while deepening their understanding of the material by reviewing concepts and synthesizing the information. 

If this seems like a lot of work, think again: research shows that by engaging with new material regularly, retention increases by about 50 percent!

With information front loaded, students can add final assessment dates to their calendars as they learn them, and work backward. They should list out the steps they’ll need to complete to meet the due date and plug those into the calendar, too, starting with the last step. For instance, when writing an essay, try to have a draft finished a few days before the essay is due so that there is time for revising and proofreading. With meaningful mini due dates on the calendar, students are less likely to procrastinate and more likely to turn in their best work.

Jenna Prada, a certified teacher and administrator, is the founder of the Learning Link and the Director of Executive Functioning & Special Education at Private Prep.