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This week we’re delighted to share an article written by Professor Ellen Bremen. In this article she shares her experiences as a parent as well as a professor with us on how to encourage great study.

Prof. Ellen Bremen
Prof. Ellen Bremen
Ellen is a tenured professor of Communication Studies at Highline Community College. She is dedicated to helping students develop better relationships with their teachers and professors with the aim of prospering better student-professor relations, higher grades, and improved skills.

You can read more of Ellen’s work on her blog The Chatty Professor

If your teen holes up in his/her room to study, lure them back to the living room! Studying in isolation works for some students, but others become frustrated, bored, distracted… and just plain done with the entire process.

What few students realize is that more collaboration and discussion about what they are studying means more likelihood that they will connect to and retain material.

Here are some strategies you can suggest:

1. Cheating (but not really…)

When students are in the early stages of studying for an exam, encourage them to go through their books, notes, PowerPoint files, or any other helpers to find the answers (rather than use the answer guide).

When students flip pages, hunting for the correct answer, then ultimately find it, they make a deeper brain-based connection to the material. Ask your teen to show you where some of the answers are, or host a study session where their fellow classmates can join in the hunt and talk about it (more immersion in the material, but listen in to make sure they are actually working!).

Caution: This strategy should be used early enough for your teen to “wean” themselves off the books and other resources well before the exam. Of course, your teen should know that most exams are not open-book!

2. Student as Professor

Is your teen studying psychology? Economics? Literature?

Ask them to create a lesson for your family based on what they are working on. Encourage them to use as many of concepts as they can so they can practice all they know in one or two lessons.

Make the “lesson” a priority, such as a “lunch and learn” on a weekend, a special “working” dinner, or as a replacement for movie night. If your teen really gets into the teaching, have her ask some friends to join in and “co-teach” or sit in as “students”.

3. Symbols, Phrases, and Stories

If your teen is studying for an exam that requires memorization of terms, formulas, etc., tell them to attach something completely unrelated to the information.

Ask “What does this word make you think of?” and then have them draw a picture, write a phrase, or even tell you a story.

For memorization, this works best if the attached symbol or phrase is outlandish! This is because your teen concocted the connection on their own, so they will be more likely to remember it and retrieve it come test time.

4. Student as Test-Creator

The more your teen incrementally practices what they are learning, the better their chances of succeeding when a high-stakes (or even low-stakes) test comes along.

Your teen can work backwards and make up their own tests based on the material they are studying. These practice tests can begin on a simple, rote level and then become more advanced, requiring them to “apply” the information.

Two other options:

1) If you can make heads or tails of the material, develop some practice tests yourself

2) Have your teen ask their teachers for publisher resources, such as student study guides, CD’s, or a companion website. These tools may not be used by the teacher themselves but often contain additional practice tests or study guides.


As a parent, it’s difficult to look at your teen’s closed bedroom door, wondering how their studying is progressing. Surprise your student with these twists on studying.

They may be so taken aback by you saying, “Hey, why not teach a class in the kitchen tonight?” or “Go find those exam answers in your textbook!” that they actually listen to your advice—and happily set up their future study shop right in your living room.


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