What are some of the best skills and tips to set your teen up for success as they start high school?
I'm not talking the basics like organising their pencil case, or laying out their uniform the night before.
Listen in for my top three study habits I recommend setting up in the early years of high school, the overall purpose of instilling them - AND what to do if your teen’s further along but doesn’t have these in place yet.
YOU WILL LEARN:
Why awareness is the most important 'competence' and how to build it.
Exactly why I recommend the 10WGT for Y9 - 12 / Y10 - 13 and the certain situations where it might be appropriate to start earlier.
How to make sure your teen isn't studying longer or harder than they need to, without dampening their spirit or work ethic
What's important to know and do in order to get maximum return on their effort.
You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode 43 - setting up good study habits early in high school, and what to do if your teen’s further along but doesn’t have these in place yet.
Hello VIPs! I hope you’re doing great.
I’ve got to say, I am really enjoying getting a lot of your emails right now. It kinda goes like that often - we always get emails, but sometimes there just seems to be a bit of a flurry for a couple of weeks, where we get tons, and these past couple of weeks have been like that. And I’ve been replying to quite a few of them personally, and I just love hearing about how this podcast is helping you and your teens. AND I love getting your questions, because it tells me what to deliver more of for you and for students in my trainings and coaching. I really enjoy being able to reply with solutions or tips or trainings that I know can help.
Because many of the issues or challenges are things that I believe, because I’ve seen it over and over, can be overcome or improved.
Now, I’m actually going to read out one of these, because it’s what spurred me into making this particular episode this week. I’ve been thinking about making an episode about starting high school, how to start your teen on the right track or instilling good habits and building the skills I talk about so often early-on, because I know from when I run webinars or send out surveys, or just from your emails, that many of you are here listening with teens in the lower year groups and picking up info and tips trying to lay some solid foundations ahead of those higher year groups that I focus on.
I always say that my trainings and coaching are most suited to students in Years 9 - 12 or 10 to 13, depending on which year group your education system goes up to before Uni and ESPECIALLY the external exam years. So I know there are lots of you being super committed, being pro-active, and I recently got this email which gave me the push to get on and make this right now. This parent wrote:
Love your advice and podcasts. Just such a pity that we have to wait until they get to year 9 for your course. My year 7 boy can already relate to many of the challenges you mention. Wouldn’t it be great to learn these strategies from the start rather than having to correct bad habits later?
And the answer is of course, yes!
So I thought I’d expand on what I think those are and how you can do it.
And before I do, I should also explain my reasons for recommending Y9 and above.
Because I do have a few keen and ambitious Year 8 students enrol in the 10 Week Grade Transformation program - AND I’ve even had two Y7 students over the years. Which I really don’t recommend - but more on that in a sec.
There’s no actual rule on when you can enrol your teen, I don’t ask for their birth certificate at enrolment or anything, but it’s my recommendation and a guide to help you and your teen. So the reason for these specific year groups is because in the 10WGT I do a lot of training in the skills and tasks that are required more in those later high school years. So things like exam technique, note-taking, higher level assignments like essays and independent inquiries or research reports, and in particular I also focus a lot on the higher level commands and criteria like analysis and evaluate. And these really come into play in a big way in Years 9 and above.
I say in a big way, but it’s not actually done explicitly - students aren’t told - okay, this is Year 9 - we’re not just describing and explaining anymore, we’re analysing and here’s exactly what the difference is. I wish they DID do that. But students are instead just expected to grow and evolve into these, and to get what’s happening, which honestly, most don’t - I never did as a students - and it’s just because they don’t know and don’t even know they don’t know.
Another reason I recommend the 10WGT for Y9 upwards is because I use a lot of real life examples in it and we practise with real exam questions, real essay titles and in my live coaching, there will be students bringing their own assessments to coach on. And I wouldn’t ever want any younger student to feel overwhelmed or for anything to add to their worry or stress about their study by feeling out of their depth. But, of course if your teen is in extension or accelerated classes, then yes, they may be being set some of these tasks earlier than that. And when I called up one mum, when I saw that she’d enrolled her daughter and she’d told me in an email that she was in Y7 - this was a couple of years ago now - I actually gave her a call just to double check that she knew everything I just shared and she said: ‘Yes, I know. I just want her to have some of the key things in place early. Even if she just gets half of it right now, then it’s worth it.’
So, if you do want your teen to get a head start, if you feel that they are starting to need some of these skills and are being set some of these types of tasks and assessments, then you’re totally welcome to go for it. But generally, I would recommend waiting til Y9 or 10 upwards, and while you’re waiting, use this podcast to get ahead of the game.
So, when I was preparing for this episode, I was brainstorming and trying to distill down what I believe - from my almost 17 years now of experience in high school teaching (I remember when I really wanted to be 17. You know how you have an age when you’re growing up that you think is just the coolest age to be. 17 was that age for me. So to say I’ve been teaching for 17 years is pretty crazy) - but from all of that experience, I was considering what i think are the most importantand useful skills and habits for students to develop early.
And I did decide on my top three, which I’ll share with you in a moment. But, what I REALLY realised was that the most important skill - I don’t know if you could even call it a skill - it’s more like a competence almost… is building an AWARENESS.
For students to actually GET what is going on with their study. And when I say study, I mean the stuff they’re being set, how it’s worded, what it really means, but I also mean what THEY are doing with it. How they’re tackling it.
If a task is taking way too long, why is that? If they’re stuck with something, what specifically is keeping them stuck? Is it knowing WHAT or is it knowing HOW.
If they’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, specifically what is causing that and why.
That’s what I believe is the most important thing overall. AWARENESS.
I think so many students are moving through high school without really realising what is going on. Why is the question worded that way? What is it really asking?
And to be clear, that was me too as a student. Did everything I was told to, (goodie-two-shoes and rule-follower that I was - and kinda still am) but rarely REALLY knew or understood what was actually happening and why and how to be more strategic about things. I know now that I just kinda went through everything a bit blind really. I had no idea how important the wording of the question was. I didn’t know there were two parts to academic success - the knowledge and the application of that knowledge. I did a lot of ‘hand in and hope’ and I didn’t really have any intentional strategies. I did make some up for myself along the way, and some of them did work well for me, but it was all guess-work really, trial and error. Or trial and improvement as it’s called these days.
Anyway, I do think this is the case for many students still today.
In fact, quick side story - on one of my recent group coaching calls I was coaching on the overwhelm a few students on there were feeling. Obviously we were getting to the latter part of term then and that’s of course when all the assessments are in full flow or even due in, and when end of term exams are getting closer. But when I coached a student directly on this - she couldn’t give me any specifics. I wanted to get into the nitty gritty of some of her tasks and timings, because real life solutions need real life examples, but even though she felt like some tasks were taking longer than they should, when I asked her - okay, let’s get into that; tell me one task where that’s happened recently - she couldn’t come up with one. When I asked her, what specifically is causing you stress right now - in terms of a specific task or issue - she didn’t know.
So really, the first step for her, was to get specific, so that she could build her self-awareness and knowledge of what is really going on here. She wasn’t using the task time management system I’d taught her in Catapult 2 of the 10WGT - it’s called ‘Throw Out the To-Do List’ - and so that was what I sent her away to do. If she started actually using it, not just learning about it, but using it, actioning it, then she’d quickly figure out what’s causing the stress, where her time is being taken up, what’s taking longer than anticipated, where she’s stuck. Then we can solve for these things. In fact the system will solve it for her. But she’ll also discover and become aware of the details or what’s really happening. Her awareness and clarity will skyrocket.
So I really want to… invite you… to look at the three things I’m going to share here with the purpose of building awareness. Not necessarily having your teen become perfect at them, but using them as ways for your teen to build knowledge and understanding of how they’re studying, what’s working, what isn’t, where their strengths and areas for improvement are. Because that’s when they feel more in control and more able to take action to change or adapt or improve things if they want to.
So, the first skill or habit I think it would be great to have your teen build early on in high school is to schedule outcomes. I went into detail on this in Episode 5, and the reason I think this is important is because I hear so many parents and students talk about getting a study routine, thinking that having a routine will mean that no deadlines will ever creep up and everything will always feel calm.
Now, I can totally see how having certain hours that they spend studying before or after dinner let’s say can be helpful to know, and yes, I know many schools and teachers do set homework on certain days of the week. But, I think we also all know that never works out perfectly. Sometimes, they’re going to get stuck on their Maths homework and even though they set an hour for it each Tuesday after dinner, they’ve gotten stuck 15mins in and now need to go see the teacher tomorrow to get help and so now they’re going to have to finish it on Wednesday, but Wednesday is when they have soccer practise after school etc etc etc and now, And then of course, sometimes they might get an Art task that actually takes up hours, but only happens once a term. Or one week their Science homework takes them 15 mins, but the next it takes two hours.
Plus, I don’t want students spending an hour studying (in inverted commas) for no real reason other than it’s on their weekly planner.
In my experience, just studying for the sake of it, using not necessarily effective techniques, is not the best use of time.
So, the issue here is not time management or needing a study routine as such. It’s task management. So scheduling outcomes is what I prefer students to master for themselves. I use the Throw Out the To-Do list system myself and train my 10WGT and Next Level students to use it. Because of course, we can’t actually manage or control time. We can only manage and control ourselves - the outcomes we produce - how we schedule them.
I want students to build awareness around how long tasks really take them. I want them to be able to chunk down big tasks to make them manageable and have a clear plan of attack. So they don’t feel overwhelmed, don’t end up procrastinating.
And I want them to realise, oh, I predicted that would take my half an hour, but it actually took an hour. Why was that? Was it because I got distracted, or was I really focused and it actually does take longer than I thought? Good to know for future, right? Could I work on being more focused, or do I just need to allow for more time in future? Or maybe, I need to have a plan for what happens if I get stuck. Or maybe this is why I need to get homework done the day it’s set rather than the night before, because then I have the chance to go back and ask questions if I need to. And what is the real root cause reason why some things end up being last minute.
Students who do have this awareness are more able to strategically plan and actually stick to that plan because it is more accurate and reasonable. They have go-to strategies to solve for hurdles and therefore they feel more in control, and they get less overwhelmed.
Okay, the second skill or habit is identifying command words and latching on to the fact that there are two elements to the study success formula: Knowledge plus Application. So many students totally understandably think that education and more specifically performance and achievement in exams and assessments is all about subject knowledge.
But, if you’ve been with me for any amount of time now, you know that they have to be able to put that knowledge across in the way that the question or task requires and the mark scheme demands. Those are skills and skills can be learned. That’s why I teach this in the very first tutorial in Catapult 1 of the 10 Week program.
Academic success is not just about learning more and more information. It’s only half of it. The subject content is important. But I want students to see as soon as possible, that in high school and more and more as you move up through the year groups, that it is just as much about being able to communicate that knowledge and information in the way that achieves criteria, in a way that actually ANSWERS THE QUESTION. Or at least, it is if you want it to show in your results.
Thirdly, I’d say that a great skill to build early on would be around transforming information. I cover this in Catapults 3 and 5 in the 10WGT when I train students in ninja note-taking and revision that actually works. Because, like we mentioned just now, so many students understandably but mistakenly think that school and education is all about learning information, they tend to think that just having that information written down in some way is enough. Or they think that they need to get down every single word, just in case.
I see so many students copying out, or typing up information, copying a diagram into their books, writing pages and pages of notes. But, in order for our brains to process and understand and retain information, we need to transform it in some way. That could be by condensing notes, rather than copying them out word for word, but even better is to show the information in a different way. Turn a paragraph explanation of a process in Science into a flow diagram. Turn a timeline in History into a series of quick sketches of those events. Notice I say quick sketches - stick people, basic shapes. These things should usually be faster than copying out the whole thing. Often, when students are copying out in full, that’s taking more time than condensing or transforming AND it doesn’t mean they’re understanding or retaining the info. BUT it does give them a false sense of security - because they have it written so they think they know it. They think they’ve covered it. That’s why I like using analogies and frameworks and models to show or explain things.
There are PLENTY of things I don’t understand at all, but I could easily copy out notes on or copy a diagram of. I have no idea how a car engine works for example, but I could copy out a diagram, I could copy out a text book explanation. But it doesn’t mean I really know it or understand it. Copying out doesn’t do anything except take up time and give us a false sense of knowing it. So, stopping any copying out and instead transforming information would be the third thing I think students can do at any stage of their high school education that will set them up for success.
So, for those of you with teens or tweens in the lower year groups, I hope you find this helpful. And if your teen is higher up through high school already and NOT doing some of these things, it is NEVER too late to start. Tiny changes can make a BIG difference at ANY time. Like I said, I train your teen in all of these skills, and more, in the 10WGT.
But please don’t enrol them in like week 1 of high school, because you want them to be prepared. I totally get it if that’s you, but it won’t be the most beneficial timing. They just won’t be needing or even coming across or seeing some of the exam technique stuff or the analytical style tasks and won’t be getting the sorts of marking criteria that I get into.
So, here’s my simple recommendation: The 10WGT is aimed at students in Years 9 - 12/13. The earlier they get this training within that bracket, the better, BUT it’s also never too late to make a difference.
So, if you’re one of the committed parents or carers here getting a head start, awesome work and I’ll look forward to hopefully seeing your teen in the 10WGT in a year or two’s time. And for all of you, I really recommend getting these three skillsets in place to not only help your teen experience more success and less stress in their study, but also to really help them build awareness around their study.
Have a brilliant week everyone and I’ll talk to you again next week.