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Study and Organizational Skills

Top 10 Study Tips from a Middle School Teacher

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 5/2/2013 edited by: Deborah Miller 8/30/14

Whether it is back to school time or any time of the school year, studying equals academic success. However, some students do not know how to study. After watching countless middle school students struggle over the years, I've created a top 10 list of what students can do to improve study habits.

  • 1. Make academics a focus in your life.

    Studying takes time and effort. Get organized, ask for help and put forth effort aimed at improving your study habits now.

  • The lessons taught in middle school are building blocks for high school and college. Starting good study habits now will help you later in life. It does take more effort to study and to become organized; however, academic success will make you feel good about yourself and make your parents smile.

2. If you are struggling, ask for help.

Start by talking to the teacher. Your Academic Advisor or School Counselor generally has a list of tutors in the area. Some high school students  at your local high schools need to complete community service hours to be in clubs or in honor societies. You may be able to get a free tutor.  Tesoro High School's National Honor Society members volunteer at LFMS in the library after school.  Watch our news feed for dates and times to be announced for the current school year.

3. Talk about assignments with friends.

Discussing assignments with friends is another great way to study. This is very helpful when studying for novel tests. Friendly discussions about books help deepen understanding.

4. Make your own study guide.

One great way to study is to make a list of the important information from a chapter and write it in your own words. Copy down any words that are written in bold or in italics. Look at chapter headings, section headings and review sections at the end of a chapter for other important information to add to your study guide. Merge this information with class notes.

5. Make study cards.

On the front of a note card write the word or idea. On the back, write the definition or important information. Have a friend or parent ask you about the word and/or provide a definition.

6. Stay organized throughout the year.

Most students have many binders and folders, but they do not use them. Many stuff every single paper from  school into one binder. Half of their papers become misplaced or lost. Do not use the “shove” method when papers are returned, i.e. shove everything in one binder. Place them in the correct folder. If you are using a three-ring binder to keep papers organized, take the time to open the metal prongs and place them securely in it.  If someone helps you organize your papers, take the time to continue putting everything in its place.

7. Dedicate a space for every class in your book bag/backpack.

In the department store aisles, there are boxes and boxes of binders, folders and organizational tools. For every class, dedicate a binder, folder or notebook. There should be a place for class notes, handouts and homework assignments. Some of the larger binders can accommodate all classes. It is really a matter of personal choice; just keep papers separated by class.

8. Use your agenda book

All students have an agenda book, but many don’t write anything in it.  On Monday, write down all of the week’s assignments. Most teachers have them posted in the classroom.

9. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Study a little every night instead of cramming late the night before the test. A good night’s sleep helps. Bleary eyes and a tired body do not.

10. Select a consistent place to study.

Some people need total quiet while others can study well with music in the background (try classical music). The key is to find a comfortable place and study there regularly, such as the kitchen table, a desk, a favorite chair, bed, etc. Make sure it has adequate lighting and keep all your study supplies in reach.


  • Study Tips This information is from Kellie Hayden's teaching experience of over 19 years and from being a mother of three children who all at one time attended middle school.

Tips for Getting Organized

What areas should you organise?

Desk or Home Study Work Space - Find a quiet and clean location for a study space with good light and a place to store study materials.  Keep materials in the same place so they are easy to find when needed.  Keep small items such as pencils, pens, erasers, etc. in a small container so they may be found easily while study materials such as textbooks or notebooks should be labeled and stacked so titles may be clearly seen. Keep spare paper for homework assignments in an easily accessible area.

Notebooks and Folders - Ideally, keep a separate notebook for each class with separate sections for class notes/study guides, returned tests/quizzes, homework assignments to complete, and homework assignments to turn in.  Handouts should be placed in the appropriate section (i.e. class notes, homework, etc.). Organize each section in chronological order.  Have additional paper available for class assignments and note taking.  If a notebook is used for more than one subject, separate subject dividers labeled with each subject should be used.  You may want to include a calendar in the front of each subject area to write down homework assignments, homework due dates and quiz/test dates.

Assignments for classes - Whether you use a separate agenda or a calendar in each subject area, be sure to record homework assignments and due dates.  Don't forget to notate if any special materials such as textbooks, worksheets, or reference materials are needed.  List assignments so that you may check off or highlight each as it is completed.  Move completed assignments to your completed folder as each is completed.  Check School Loop daily for additional information in case you've forgotten to write everything down properly.  Check your folders daily before/after each class to assure you've turned in all homework that is due.

Backpack - Only carry necessary notebooks and books to and from school.  If you have a class set of textbooks and don't need your textbooks at school, leave these at home for homework use. Keep small items such as pencils, erasers, calculators in a zippered pocket or plastic container for easy access.  Keep all loose papers in their appropriate folders for each subject.  Reorganize your backpack weekly to clear out unnecessary documents and place in their appropriate folders.

Locker - Keep books and notebooks standing upright or laying down so that titles may be seen easily.  If it is necessary to take all books to/from school daily, leave afternoon books each morning in the locker then swap the morning books for afternoon books at lunch break.  Locker organisers are available at some stores to help organise larger lockers with shelfs and places for hanging clothing or placing small containers for pens, pencils, etc.


Study Skills Programs

There are several study skills programs available from outside tutors.  Check with the local community colleges, tutoring companies, and community recreation guides.  Below is one resource offered through a local community college but local tutoring companies may offer longer term programs.


Browse the CFK Academic for Kids section of the Saddleback College Community Courses.

Saddleback College for Kids - one day seminar