Introductory Challenge

Megan Black is a teacher of 7th grade History. She and her paraprofessional co-teacher, Jennifer Marshall have been working together for five years. And they talk together often about teaching dilemmas.

Recently they have been concerned about students’ performance on tests. As they think about the situation, Jennifer remarks, “our students willingly, even happily, do the textbook reading, and they participate in discussions, take notes, and follow through by doing independent practice.” Megan chimes in, “Yes, and they seem to have fun with the projects we develop to help make the information more interesting and relevant.” But, when it’s test time, all of the students’ grades hover around 80%! Even the “quickest” students seem never to get anything higher than a high “B.” Megan and Jennifer are stumped.

The students are frustrated, too, because they do study for the tests. Megan and Jennifer worry that the students might not be studying hard enough or that the tests might be too hard! There are so many details, facts, and dates to remember, and they are so easy to get mixed up.

But there might be another explanation. Perhaps Megan and Jennifer are paying more attention to the content of the lessons than to helping students develop a structure for studying important ideas and details. Maybe they have not figured out how to help students link the big ideas with the details, so the students can keep things all straight and remember the material for the long term. Showing the students how to study, not just insisting on the importance of studying, might improve the effectiveness of instruction. And more effective instruction might help test scores improve.

As you review the parts of this unit: the overview, the webinar, the activity, and the links to additional resources, think about possible answers to the questions below. You might want to jot down your answers in a reflections journal or, if you are completing this activity as part of a workshop of class, discuss them with other participants.

  • Some students have special needs or need extra help in order to succeed in class. What study habits and skills would help these students with their schoolwork both in the classroom and at home?
  • What can you (or other paraprofessionals) do to help individual students develop study skills?
  • In what ways can you (or other paraprofessionals) work collaboratively with classroom teachers to help students learn how to study?

At the end of the unit, we will revisit these questions as a way to review what you have learned. Throughout the unit, we encourage you to think about the benefits and challenges of making the development of study skills and habits an explicit part of classroom instruction.