How to Help Your Teen Study Smarter: Sponge Learning Skills Review
Help your middle schooler study smarter with these study skills for teens. It’s an important part of teaching our homeschool kids how to learn. It’s one of the life skills for teens that we need to spend time working on so they will be successful in high school and beyond.
As a high school student I thought re-reading my text books and skimming over my illegible notes would be enough to help me pass my Algebra exam with flying colors. My less than perfect study skills were enough to help me get through high school and enter college, but when I received the grade for my first college exam and I knew I needed help!
Several of my friends shared their tips for preparing for exams but often their test prep plans didn’t seem to make any sense to me. Eventually I began to understand that I needed to learn how to learn.
Years later I found myself teaching college level courses and one semester I was assigned to teach a study skills class to new students. It did not take long to realize that many of these students were in the same position I had been in as a college freshman — they had never learned effective study skills.
During the class a student mentioned how beneficial it would have been to have learned these skills at an even younger age. I agreed as it would have prevented a lot of stress and late study nights in my life as well. Some people are able to figure out effective ways to take notes, manage their time, and prepare for exams but most of us need help developing these skills and strategies.
Now that I am a parent of a teen I have been thinking about how to best help my own children build strong study skills so they don’t share my academic struggles. In my recent search for a study skills program I was very excited to meet a team of cognitive scientists who are passionate about helping teens study smarter. The result of their many years of research and teaching is the new Sponge Learning Skills program.
Sponge Learning Skills – What Will Teens Learn?
The Sponge program begins by teaching how memory works and how to apply that information to studying smarter. This is a critical starting point as it helps to create a foundation for the entire course.
“If you know how your mind works with information, you can apply effective learning strategies intuitively.
-Dr. Winston Sieck
Here is a video from the Sponge program that introduces:
- Sensory Memory
- Short-term Memory
- Long-term Memory
This lesson about the different types of memory was my son’s favorite part of the program. We were told several years ago that he had difficulties with memory retrieval (it was explained that he knew the information he wanted to talk about but it was like he had a hard time finding the “mental file cabinet” where it was located). My son said this visual aid helped him understand the many steps needed to move information into long term memory and that he was going to try using more of the strategies in this program to help him “file and locate” the information he takes in.
The remainder of the course teaches specific and usable study skills such as:
- Textbook reading strategies – assess, read & explain, self-test
- Strategies for lectures – prepare, attend & notetake, edit & self-test
- Time management techniques – time, activities & scheduling, control
- Testing strategies- test analysis, get ready, take it
Sponge Learning Skills – Benefits
Not only is there strong scientific research behind WHAT your teens will learn with the Sponge Learning Skills program, but great thought and research has also been applied to HOW this information is presented to teens. The Sponge program uses:
- E-Learning format – the program is completed online with no workbooks or printed materials needed. The program was easily accessible from my teen’s computer and I was happy I did not have to print any forms or workbooks.
- Multimedia presentations – each topic includes a variety of videos, interactive demonstrations, quizzes and more. My son has experience taking online courses so he was comfortable following along with this multimedia format. He found a few of the early “fill in the blank” type exercises a bit challenging but once he figured out the answer and format that was expected he worked through the rest of the units with no problems.
- Student led pacing – teens proceed through a series of lessons, unlocking new content as they master topics, but always having the option to refer back and review material in previous sections. Every year I encourage my children to work more independently and I really appreciate how Sponge is designed for students to progress through the material at their own pace. According to the Sponge website most students should be able to comfortably complete the course in about a week.
- Many strategies introduced – although many study strategies are introduced during the Sponge program, students are often reminded of the importance of creating a “tool box” of study skills they find helpful and constantly evaluating the effectiveness of these tools and making necessary adjustments. I find it helpful when teens are reminded there isn’t a one size fits all approach to learning, but rather they are encouraged to try new skills and strategies until they find the ones that work best for them.
- Appropriate for any time of the school year – ideally I think it would be helpful for students to complete at the beginning of a new school year or the beginning of a new semester. However, the good news is that if students find themselves at mid-term or facing final exams and are feeling a bit stressed about their study prep there is still time to complete and use the strategies found in this program. Students can refer back to this program over the course of several months and hopefully learn new strategies each time through the program.
- Parents can help in several ways – students will learn the skills they need by working through the program independently, however, after reviewing the Sponge Learning Skills program myself I believe it can also be valuable for parents to review this material as well. I find that as my children are working through increasingly complex information my role as a coach has increased. It is helpful for me to be able to ask questions related to the strategies learned in this program such as “what information did you use for your self-test” or “let’s take a look at your study plan and make sure you included all of the key points.” Now is the time for us to help our students build solid study skills.
Sponge Learning Skills – Learn More
We hope your teen will benefit by using this new unique program.
To learn even more about this unique program, including ordering information, visit Sponge Learning Skills.
I was given a copy of these materials in exchange for sharing my personal and honest opinions. I am happy to have these opportunities to review family friendly materials that we believe our readers may benefit from. Please read our Disclaimer for more details.
The Sponge program looks like a great resource. I’m fascinated by how memory and learning works and how we can make the most of our brains. Thank you for sharing, I’m bookmarking for when my kids are a tiny bit older.
Hi Lucinda – thanks for stopping by! I agree, I’ve always been interested in the memory/learning connections. So excited to have these unique resources to help our children understand these concepts as well.
Susan, I’m interested in this program. One thing I couldn’t find in your review or on the site was how long the course should take. About how many hours of video content is included? How long did it take your teen to work through it? I know it’s self-paced, but I’m not getting any feel for how lengthy this course is. (I’m clicking notify me of follow-up comments, so feel free to reply right here.)
Hi Jimmie, great question! In the “student led pacing” section I referred to the publishers site and mentioned that most students could comfortably complete the program in a week. Each “chapter” (text books, exams, etc.) should take about 1-1.5 hours to complete. Note that there is room for some variability because each unit includes quizzes and activities that require input from the student. I had my children complete 1 chapter per day but we didn’t work on it every day. I had them complete a chapter every other day they would have time to let the material sink in and give us time to discuss it. With that pace we finished in 2 weeks.
Hi Jimmie, I agree with Susan’s general estimate of the time for each chapter. We haven’t been too specific about the time because times can differ quite a bit across learners. Certainly appreciate the desire for some kind of general estimate, though.
Thanks for your thorough review of the Sponge Learning Skills program, Susan. It’s nice to be appreciated by someone with your own study skills background. Really like your thoughts on how parents can be involved. The point you make about some of the exercises being challenging is well taken. We are working on including a few tips and suggestions for a future update. In the meantime, we do offer support through a link on the main page, and are happy to help kids who get stuck on any challenges. Thanks again.
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