How to Help Students Break Bad Habits

If not caught early, some students will ultimately develop bad habits when it comes to their ability to learn effectively. Teachers are the ones who can catch these bad habits, as they are the ones in close interaction with their students. Here are some ways to help students break bad habits, and start to develop good ones. It is important to remember to keep parents/guardians apprised of what you are doing to help your students habits, so they can reinforce these techniques at home as well.

Taking notes. Students who take notes in class have something to study, and a way to recall what was learned about a particular lesson. Students who are not in the habit of taking notes are hurting their chances of acing that next quiz or test. To help your students with the process of note-taking, provide them with special paper that perhaps has coordinated borders with what you are teaching. As the students leave your classroom, check to see that they have written some notes, and place a check mark to indicate that you acknowledge their efforts.

Procrastination. This is a nasty habit that keeps students from working projects until it is almost too late to do a good job. Procrastination is sometimes caused by a student's thinking that because they have to complete an assignment, they are being forced to do it, which leads them to feel an immediate resentment towards the assignment. To combat procrastination you can try rewording how you present an assignment, such as "We are going to begin an assignment on Huckleberry Finn, which is not due until November 10" instead of "You need to finish this assignment on Huckleberry Finn by November 10." This may help lessen the anxiety that is brought on by the need to get something done.

Goal setting. When a student is unsure about how to set goals for themselves, they are left with nothing to achieve. Teachers can help their students with goal setting by taking the time to explain the importance of goals and how they will benefit the learning process. As a class exercise, consider having your students make goals together. Post these goals where all students can see them clearly. Once that is done, you can then help students learn techniques for developing personal academic goals, as well as personal goals in life.

Study Habits. Or should we say, lack of study habits? All too often students do not have study habits, or at least they are very poor. Reading a chapter of a book the night before a test is not a good way to study, as you know. Help your students develop good study habits by:

  • Encouraging them to develop a routine study time at home.
  • Telling them how to set goals for what they want to achieve during their study time.
  • Teaching them how to pick out key vocabulary words and concepts from what they are studying.
  • Not encouraging study groups. Often times work does not get done effectively when studying in groups (outside of the classroom).

Test taking. On an actual test day, some students may rely on their memorization and recognition skills to get them through the test. This is obviously detrimental to their ability to perform well on the test. Memorization works in some cases, such as spelling tests, but in other cases it will fail because the student does not understand the material on the test entirely. It is easy to memorize something and have no idea what it means. On the other hand, some students think they will recognize the right answer when they see it on paper, and that is simply not true.

To help your students develop good test taking skills you may try to help your students internalize the material covered on a test through practice questions and review questions. The same techniques apply to relying on recognition. Discourage your students from using recognition to get a test done.