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The Secret to Better Grades


WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

By Marcy Lovitch
Good Housekeeping Magazine Logo
These five strategies — gleaned from spelling bee stars, science fair champions, and others — can help any child excel.

 

studentWhen you see the latest spelling bee champ crowned on TV, or hear about a kid earning a perfect score on the SATs, you probably assume the winner studies all day ... or is just a born genius. In fact, there's usually something else at work. These kids, with their parents' help, have unlocked the secrets to being supermotivated students. They like to study, they like to achieve — and they know how to get results. Here, they spill their best strategies to help your children love learning and excel in school (and their future careers).

Sharpen Their School Skills

High-achieving kids don't forget when term papers are due or arrive at an advanced math class without a calculator. These kids have learned good organizational skills, often thanks to their parents. And they've learned what study habits work best for them.

Having — and using — a planner is one habit most high achievers swear by. Jannett Maxon buys daughter Lindsey, 17 — a high school senior in Arlington, TX, who earned a perfect 2400 on her SATs — a day planner so she'd get in the habit of writing down important dates. Planners visually organize information for students, so they can see when papers are due, when tests will be taken, and when, say, recitals are scheduled. "When you've got things coming at you from all directions, you've got to keep one calendar," says Jannett.

Harnessing your family computer can also help. Bonny Jain, 15, of Moline, IL, won the National Geographic Bee in 2006, and prepped for it with Excel spreadsheets he created with his parents. "We asked him his goals and what he wanted to accomplish each month," says his father, Rohit Jain. Since there were so many categories to cover for the bee, such as history, current events, and natural resources, Bonny had to estimate how much time he could devote to it while not letting his schoolwork slide. With the help of his spreadsheets, Bonny was able to figure out how many hours he could allot for each category and create a schedule/study guide to steer his efforts.

And when it comes time to actually study, consider how your child learns best, and tap into that. "Children learn in different ways," says Paul J. Donahue, Ph.D., director of Child Development Associates in Scarsdale, NY, and author of Parenting Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focusing on What Matters. "Some benefit from oral repetition and quizzing, while others are more visual learners and better at writing out their answers or studying from notes or textbooks." Josephine Kao, 13, of Roseville, CA, has competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee three times, and takes a low-tech approach with her parents' help. "My dad puts Post-its with hard words all over the house, so I'll be walking by the fridge and see one there," she says. "The spellings tend to stick in my head that way." If you know your child retains information better when he says it out loud, follow the lead of Erica Remer of Beachwood, OH, whose son Scott, 14, tied for fourth place in this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee. When Scott practiced for a spelling bee, he and his mother power walked, spelling out loud as they got fresh air and exercise. Unconventional, for sure, but it worked for them.

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