Academic achievement is not based entirely on innate natural intelligence.
Instead, whether a child achieves or not is dependent on a number of different aspects, one of which is their attitude and their willingness to put themselves in the best possible place to learn.
So, is there something students can do to prepare to learn? Here are a few questions that you can ask them to get them ready…
"Have you eaten breakfast?"
Having a breakfast that contains foods high in fibre (e.g. wholegrain breads or cereals) is the perfect way for students to set themselves up for a day of learning. Recent research has highlighted just how important eating breakfast can be, as it enhances student’s memory and attention. Click here to read about the benefits of breakfast for students.
In one interesting study, students were split into three different groups. Participants in one group were given breakfast, whilst those from the other two were given no breakfast and energy drinks respectively. The researchers then tested the students’ attention and working memory. They found that those who didn’t eat breakfast or were given the energy drink performed significantly worse than those who had.
In order to learn effectively, students need to ensure that they take all the necessary equipment to school. Parents should try and encourage their child to pack their school bag the night before.
It may also be a good idea for parents to sit with their child whilst they pack their bag or to double check the items once the bag has been packed. Often, students rush this process and forget vital equipment. Over time, this can be scaffolded back to encourage more independence.
"Do you have anything to check with your teachers?"
At some point throughout the year, it is likely that each student will struggle to understand a particular topic and therefore should consult their teacher for some extra guidance. Students often avoid asking for help for fear of looking stupid, which is why they might need encouragement.
Occasionally, students may receive some feedback on a piece of work that they do not understand. When this happens, students need to ensure they consult the teacher and ask them for some clarification, as this will allow them to use the feedback in a positive way and make improvements on their next piece of work.
"Have you switched your mobile phone off?"
Each day before lessons begin, students should turn off their mobile phones, as mobile phones can be a huge distraction and hence hinder learning. Recent research has demonstrated the power that turning off a mobile phone can have, such that it was found that enforcing a ban on mobile phones in schools caused a 6.4% improvement in exam results, with this effect being heightened to 14% amongst struggling students.
Find out more about the impact of mobile phones on students on our guide page: click here.
"Have you completed your homework?"
Students need to not only ensure that they have packed their homework, but also that they have completed it within the given time frame. Recent research has shown the benefits that homework can bring, such that it is responsible for an additional 5 months progress in secondary school students. It can also help students evaluate their learning, by allowing them to decipher which skills they need to work on in upcoming lessons.
"Have you had a good night’s sleep?"
Good preparation for learning starts the night before school, with the recommended 8-10 hours’ sleep.
Recent research has demonstrated that insufficient sleep can reduce students' concentration levels, as they become absent-minded and are easily distracted. Sleep deprivation can also have a negative effect on students’ memory, with studies showing that a lack of sleep stops the brain from forming new connections and prioritising the information we need to remember.
"Have you set any learning goals?"
Students can prepare to learn by setting themselves goals for the day ahead.
Goal setting is an effective method for students to use as it motivates them by giving them something to aim for. This improves their focus, which in turn encourages them to partake in challenges and have a more positive attitude towards learning.
However, students need to ensure that their goals are challenging but also realistic, as it can become disheartening if they consistently underachieve.
Whilst factors such as natural intelligence can predict how well a student will perform at school to some extent, it is important that we don’t dwell upon them alone.
Instead, the focus should be placed on teaching students how to prepare to learn. By placing the emphasis on this, all students are given the opportunity to flourish, as every student has the ability to improve the way in which they prepare to learn; be it through eating a healthier breakfast, ensuring they pack their bag the night before school or by switching off their mobile phones in lessons.