What are the simplest ways for students to get better grades? Do we spend so much time on understanding and mastering more complex Teaching & Learning strategies that we overlook easier, more straightforward ways to give our students a boost?
This blog is going to cover simple strategies to teach your students about that will have a positive effect on their performance – and why:
- Eating breakfast
- Believing in their ability to learn
- Developing a sense of purpose
- Putting their phone away in class
- Doing a little extra work each day
- Write down their nerves
- Lowering screen time
- Getting a good night’s sleep
Breakfast is widely recognised as a crucial meal, particularly for students aiming to excel academically. Numerous studies have demonstrated that eating a nutritious breakfast every day has a positive impact on academic performance.
Breakfast gives students’ bodies the essential nutrients that will provide them with the energy they need to concentrate and participate actively in classroom activities. Additionally, a well-balanced breakfast helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, enhancing cognitive function and memory retention throughout the day. By starting the day with a nutritious meal, students can optimally fuel their brains and enhance their overall academic performance.
With over 60% of boys and 70% of girls regularly skipping breakfast, setting a little time aside to educate students about the benefits of making sure they eat before school may be helpful. This would help them understand how eating in the morning positively affects their academic performance and overall well-being.
Believing in their ability to learn
Encourage students to shift their focus from solely grades towards their effort and progress. If they understand that their grades are temporary and not fixed indicators of their abilities, it should shift a focus on to learning. Likewise, if students view setbacks and mistakes as valuable learning experiences rather than failures, it indirectly (and perhaps ironically) can boost their academic performance.
You play a vital role in supporting students to shift their mindset and approach to learning. Here are a couple of strategies you can implement:
- Encourage risk-taking – Create a safe and supportive classroom environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and stepping out of their comfort zones. Encourage them to explore new ideas, ask questions, and challenge themselves academically.
- Provide constructive feedback – Offer specific and timely feedback that focuses on students' efforts, progress and areas for improvement. Emphasise the importance of effort and hard work in achieving academic success, rather than solely focusing on the final grades.
Developing a sense of purpose
Research has found that maintaining a sense of purpose is not only crucial for the well-being of students but can also significantly boost their academic performance, especially for students who are at risk of dropping out. This is because it provides them with a sense of direction and meaning in their education.
When students understand the relevance of their studies and how it connects to their future goals and aspirations, they are more likely to see the value in putting effort into their schoolwork. This understanding can drive them to work harder, stay committed, and persevere through challenges, leading to improved academic performance.
Help your students maintain a sense of purpose by suggestion real-world applications of the content they learn. Showing them how the concepts they are learning will benefit them in later life can help them understand the purpose behind their education and motivate them to excel.
Some other ways to develop your students’ sense of purpose include:
- Cultivating curiosity
- Encouraging self-reflection
- Driving goal-setting
- Modeling and mentoring
- Connecting them to the real world
Putting phones away in school
It’s no surprise that phone use in the classroom is a major distraction. However, its impact on academic performance goes beyond mere distraction. Recent studies have revealed that students who use their phones during class tend to perform worse on exams and receive lower grades throughout the entire academic year.
Clear phone policies can help improve grades and create a more focused learning environment. By clearly communicating expectations regarding phone use, setting boundaries and explaining the reasons behind it, your students may be more likely to understand the importance of putting away their phones during class.
For more help on teaching students about these strategies, read our detailed mobile phone management guide.
Writing down their worries
Exams can be a significant source of stress and anxiety for students. However, a simple yet powerful strategy can bring them some support and potentially improve their grades. Encouraging students to write down their exam-related worries can have a transformative effect on their performance.
When students jot down their worries, it's like they're taking them out of their heads and putting them on paper. This helps them look at their nerves from a different angle, almost as if they are separate from them. This way, they can see the situation more clearly and deal with it more effectively.
Writing down exam-related worries also allows students to identify the specific challenges they are facing. This self-reflection helps them to pinpoint areas where they lack confidence or need additional support. Armed with this knowledge, students can then seek targeted help and resources to address their concerns – whether it be through extra practice or seeking help from you.
Using out-of-school time productively
Homework is a crucial component of learning and academic success, but it can also significantly contribute to improved grades. It allows students to reinforce and apply what they have learned in class, leading to better comprehension and retention of the material. It also helps students develop important skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and time management, which are crucial for academic performance.
While having some down time is important for students preparing for exams, trading in some of their screen time for a little extra homework or reading can pay dividends. A Cambridge University report found that those who spent more time gaming and less time studying did worse in exams. It also found that those who spent two extra hours in front of a screen score 18 fewer points in their GCSEs, whereas those who did an extra hour of homework or reading got an average 23.1-point boost. A separate study supports this, noting that students who game twice a day were less likely to do well in their exams.
All in all, it’s about balance and better managing screen and gaming time.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Sleeping well isn't just important for students’ mood and well-being – it also helps them do better in school. When students get enough sleep, they can focus better, get higher grades and better solidify their learning into their memory.
This is because during sleep, the brain organises and stores the information learned throughout the day, which aids better recall later on. Plus, a good night's sleep can help boost creativity and improve problem-solving skills, which further helps by getting students to think innovatively and generate fresh ideas.
It is therefore important to discuss the benefits of sleep with your students so that they can realise its importance. With so many students getting less than the recommended 8-10 hours, education on this topic is valuable. It can motivate them to make sleep a priority, ensuring they are well-rested and prepared to tackle each school day with energy and vitality.
It’s worth noting though that it’s not just about getting more sleep. When they sleep and how consistent they are with their schedule is a crucial aspect of students improving this aspect of their lives. For more information on this, check out our guide to sleep’s relationship with learning.
You play a pivotal role in shaping the academic successes of your students – by teaching and supporting them every day, but also by giving them access to great habits. Introducing them to the strategies we’ve mentioned is a powerful way to boost not just grades, but also overall student growth and development.
Whether it's making sure your students kick off their day with a hearty breakfast or championing good sleep habits, you have the potential to leave a lasting impact on your students' educational journey and their future habits.