After many years of working with students and parents there are a few skills I feel are not taught in a standard curriculum, but that middle school students would benefit from for the rest of their lives. These skills will stay with them long after they close a book or turn off the computer.
1. How to monotask.
Teaching students to monotask, or unitask is an important skill they will need. The majority of students are constantly interrupted by some device beeping, dinging, or otherwise reminding them of their need to be continually connected to everyone they know. Staying focused is a skill! Uninterrupted time to work on studying, writing, math or whatever else your student is attempting to complete is essential to success. Staying on task is tough for everyone, so taking distractions away for a period of time to help your student focus will go a long way to help build the skill of monotasking.
2. How they study best.
We tell kids to study all the time, but they have no idea how to do that. The process may look different for different people. Some people have to write things down to remember them. Others need to say them out loud.
Helping your student find what will work for them is a great way to learn how your student retains information. It could very well be different than how you retain information. If one method doesn’t work, find another until you hit on one that will work for your student.
3. How to Check for Understanding.
Learning how to check for understanding once they have read some text is an important skill that will last a lifetime. If they read a paragraph or story and they don’t understand it, then they didn’t really learn anything from it or get anything out of it. Just decoding the words is not enough to understand the information. Sometimes it will need to be read again and broken down into smaller chunks. Teaching them how to do this can be time consuming, but well worth it in the long run.
4. How to prioritize.
Spending time productively and prioritizing so that they accomplish a task can be two different things. You can be productive and not accomplish a single task. Teaching them to look at a project, lesson, task or whatever it might be and prioritize what will need to be done in order to complete the task will benefit your student. For example, having a beautifully set up slide show with perfect transitions is not prioritizing completing the actual presentation. Do the important things first.
5. How to read—and maybe even write—for pleasure.
Kids who read independently for pleasure have greater success academically and personally. They improve on all the skills listed above when reading or writing for pleasure and they don’t even realize they are doing it!