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Helping your child learn new subjects in school: Advice for parents

Helping your child learn new subjects in school: Advice for parents

Learning new subjects in school can be a novel experience, but it can also prove challenging if students are approaching entirely new concepts for the very first time.

Much like learning anything else however, it’s possible to employ various techniques to better understand the subject material, from taking thorough notes during lessons and discussing what they have learned with classmates, to poring over textbooks and practising with worksheets during self-study sessions. Done correctly, these strategies will allow students to keep pace and stay on track with the syllabus as they progress throughout the school year, even as they balance their time between new and old subjects.

With that said, studying a whole new subject can be daunting, especially when it comes to subjects that are entirely foreign. Primary 3 students for example would likely be surprised by the need to learn the life cycle of insects in science, or significant names and dates in history for secondary 1 students. It’s therefore completely normal for students to experience some difficulties when learning new subjects for the first time, especially if it features topics that are uninteresting to them.

Everything we know was a new subject once

Not everyone gets used to learning a new subject right away; in fact, it’s far more likely that a student stumbles in the beginning, whether it’s due to completely unfamiliar concepts or marking methods.

Getting over such academic hurdles is part and parcel of studying. Here’s a quick list of helpful study tips that can benefit any student no matter the subject, whether new or old:

  1. Break the study material down into smaller, more manageable chunks before tackling them in each self-study session. This can make it easier to understand and remember new topics and concepts without becoming overwhelmed with information.

  2. Use hands-on, interactive learning activities whenever possible. It’s often easier for students to learn when they are actively engaged in the learning process, rather than just listening to a lecture or reading from a textbook. Geniebook’s suite of online learning products is one such example, allowing primary and secondary students to master science topics in an interactive manner.

  3. Make connections to real-life situations when the opportunity presents itself. Helping your child see how the material they are learning relates to the world around them can make it more meaningful and easier to understand. This is easily achievable with science concepts as they can manifest in multiple ways in daily life. Other subjects can similarly benefit from this strategy, such as history (by referencing current affairs) and home economics (through helping out with household chores).

  4. Encourage your child to ask questions. This allows them to be less afraid of clarifying their understanding and identify areas where they may be struggling, which promotes a growth mindset.

  5. Remind your child to take regular breaks and stay hydrated while they study. Learning new topics can be mentally intensive, which can leave them feeling tired after some time. By encouraging them to rest up, your child will be able to study for longer periods of time and retain more information.

Take your time - you’ll catch up

Sometimes, the process of learning a completely new subject can translate to stress or anxiety for students, especially if there is a constant pressure to perform well or if the material is particularly challenging. Some may also feel overwhelmed by the amount of new information they are expected to learn.

As parents, we have to be aware of these potential roadblocks and to be supportive of our children as they adapt to learning new subjects. We can’t exactly learn on their behalf (that’s not how education is supposed to work), but there are some things we can do to help them help themselves with their studies.

  1. First, try to create a positive and supportive learning environment at home for your child. This can include setting aside dedicated time and space for studying, with a focus on making their study sessions as comfortable as possible. If possible, it’s also a good idea to make yourself available as much as possible to answer their questions and offer support. This suggestion is generally helpful for all students, but it can prove especially beneficial when it comes to studying all new subjects.

  2. Remind your child to take it easy and digest the new subject materials at their own pace. It takes time to build a foundation of knowledge for a new subject; letting them decide how to do so will make it much easier for them to learn.

  3. Keep a close eye for signs of stress and anxiety over learning the new subject, and be ready to help your child develop strategies to manage them. This may include simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or stretching exercises to relax the muscles, or lending a sympathetic ear for them to express their frustrations.

As your child begins an exciting learning journey towards learning new subjects in school, remember that it might not always be smooth sailing, and that they may need your support from time to time. But as long as you remain supportive, encouraging and constantly aware of their needs, your child will no doubt overcome any obstacles that may come their way.

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