Study Skills Teach the Girls to Work Smarter, Not Harder

students look at paper with teacher

When St. Mary’s seventh-graders first enter their requisite Life Science class, most of them think they will walk away learning the basic tenets of biology; however, what they don’t know is that science teacher Kate Fairless is going to equip them with essential lessons in organization and executive functioning, preparing them for Upper School – and for life.

One of the goals of the Middle School curriculum is to ensure students are academically ready for Upper School, while also teaching them study skills and organizational methods necessary to be successful in their next academic chapter.

“Each Middle School teacher incorporates study skills and learning techniques that best accompany their course. Whether it’s learning annotation in Literature, creating visual packets in History, or honing the art of repetition and practice in Math and English, each instructor tries to teach the students the relevant study skills they need to succeed,” said Mrs. Fairless.

In Life Science, the curriculum is content-heavy, meaning efficient and effective note-taking, as well as kinesthetic methods of content recreation are a necessity to take in the material.

“I teach my students how to utilize text features to pull out the important information. I help them learn what to highlight, how to bullet point, and a system for underlining and capitalization. For some of them, it can be a fine line between focusing on what’s important and focusing on everything. I try to help them understand the difference by identifying what is essential.”

These organizational methods aren’t limited to pen and paper. Mrs. Fairless also helps the girls learn how to keep their documents organized digitally, which is likely different from anything St. Mary’s parents were taught when they were in Middle School.

“In my class I have them scan all of their notes and organize their documents into a Google Drive. Staying digitally organized is a huge skill these days. It’s important to have a folder system with everything paginated to find the documents efficiently,” said Mrs. Fairless.

Before teaching at St. Mary’s, Mrs. Fairless said she knew the school had the reputation of being very organized with study skills. The techniques she instructs in Life Science fit into the workings of the school and the content of the class.

“There are so many effective ways to learn content-dense material. The Middle School teachers try to help the students discover tools that work for them so they can choose from their toolbox when they get to the Upper School.”

Given the rigor of the college preparatory courses in the Upper School, it’s critical the students already know how to study when they get there. ”We don’t want them to overstudy and spend time reviewing what they already know,” said Mrs. Fairless.

The seventh grade study skills help the students synthesize, paraphrase, and pull out big ideas, certainly preparing them for higher education, but also conditioning them for life.

“Being able to communicate essential information, whatever it may be, is a lifelong executive functioning skill,” said Mrs. Fairless. “The girls are good at working hard, but these study habits help us teach them how to work smart.”

  • Middle School

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