Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: Study time doesn't have to be solitary time. Your child might actually prefer (and do better) studying in a group. Study groups encourage new friendships, build camaraderie and improve academic success. Organizing a productive study group takes a little planning and supervision on the parent's part, but once the group's underway, it can make the learning process fun and productive.
"For some students, small-group learning is far more appealing and productive than going it alone," says Ann Dolin, author of "Homework Made Simple" and founder of Educational Connections, a tutoring and test-prep company.
Here are some tips to make sure your child's study group is the best it can be:
Know When Group Study Is Best:
Generally, all types of kids do well in study groups. Research has shown that sitting a kid down in a quiet, empty room is not an optimal learning environment. It's best to mix it up, and a study group is one way to do that. If there's a big exam on Friday, studying alone for it on Wednesday and then studying with a group on Thursday can help kids retain information better, says Dolin. Just be sure the kid's old enough: High school and college kids do best in study groups, but even middle schoolers can benefit from them.
Set the Ground Rules:
- Define a clear start and end time for the group. It shouldn't be a free-flowing, all-evening activity.
- Set aside a quiet place where the kids can meet and have privacy to work, but make sure it's within earshot, so you can know they're actually working.
- Decide what will be covered during the allotted time. This doesn't mean the kids need to write out an agenda, but they should have a general idea of what will be studied (and for how long) before they sit down to work.
- Leave the kids alone, but check in on them from time to time to make sure they're still on target. When they're done, find out what was accomplished.
Stay on Track:
Kids get easily distracted, and a group discussion about the Civil War can suddenly turn into a gossip session about the latest happenings on Facebook. To help the kids keep their focus, Dolin suggests having a "parking lot" or a chalkboard on which the kids can write down anything off-topic that gets mentioned, so they can get back to it later when the homework's done. "That way, they feel heard and remember to talk about it later," she says.