Four Simple Study Tips for 3rd - 4th Graders

by Alysa Craigie

Your kid is smart. They try to do well, but… why can’t they get good grades? One major struggle for students is developing basic organizational and study skills to help them succeed.  Developing these study skills at an early age will pay huge dividends in the future.  Plus, good study habits are easier to develop at an early age as opposed playing catch-up in later grades. Below are four foundational study tips for young learners.

1. Identify the Question

If you don’t know what the question is, you can’t answer it!  Learning to identify the question and what’s being asked of a student is the first step towards completing the problem. This is used regularly in classrooms with math word problems. “If CJ has twelve apples, and he gives two of them to his sister, how many apples does CJ have?” The first objective is to identify that this is a subtraction problem. From there, we can identify the numbers involved (twelve and two) and find out that CJ ends up having ten apples.


The same principle can be applied more broadly to incorporate assignments in general. What is the assignment asking the student to do?  Do the directions say to read a story and draw a picture, or to write a response to a prompt? Is it math, reading, science? Understanding the question allows the student to get in the right headspace to complete the assignment and store that knowledge in their brain.

2. Talk it Out

Sometimes the thoughts in our brains are a little too jumbled, so we have to talk out loud in order to make sense of them. If your student is ever stuck on a problem, encourage them to talk it out with you. For this to work best, be patient while the student deciphers the work on their own first. If they’re totally lost, feel free to work it out with them, but give them that initial chance on their own. 

You can even encourage your student to talk to themself! If they don’t have anyone to talk it out to, just speaking out loud helps to organize the jumble of information darting around their brain. The goal eventually will be to have them do the work in their head, and not out loud, but it’s okay when they’re first starting out on a subject. 

3. Take a Break

For kids in elementary school, fifteen minutes is about as long as they can focus on one topic before they start to get antsy. It’s important for them to be able to focus on their work, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to work for an hour without taking a break to reset their focus. This break could be standing up and stretching, talking about their day or their favorite games, or just sitting in silence and breathing for a minute. Something to calm their mind for a few minutes. It’s hard for kids to acknowledge how much time has gone by, so be sure to monitor their study and break times. Kids can benefit from using timers to mark when they should take a break and when they should get back to work. If they need an extra break, that’s fine – just make sure they eventually do get back to work!

4. Rewards

Sometimes we don’t get that sweet feeling of accomplishment after finishing a task. That’s where bribes rewards come in. The rewards don’t have to be expensive, they don’t have to be all the time, and they don’t have to be time consuming. A gummy bear for finishing their homework, an extra five minutes of TV or games before bed. Something small and something that they can get that day.

Kids don’t choose to do poorly in school. But they don’t always have the skills they need to succeed. Using these tips can help implement structure into study time. If your student continues to struggle, consider reaching out to the school or a tutor for additional support.

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