The most effective ways to get good grades in middle school
Any transition or change in life is stressful, especially for students who are entering adolescence and starting to acquire a different outlook on life. Even top achievers from elementary school sometimes find it challenging to maintain the same level of achievement in middle school, especially due to the significant difference in the approach to teaching and grading, as well as the sheer quantity of new obligations.
The single greatest challenge is perhaps the combination of more subjects, more tasks, and more teachers. If you happen to be in this group, whose academic performance has declined in the transition, read on to learn about the most effective tips on how to get good grades in middle school through activities performed in and out of the classroom.
Study smart, not hard
This might sound like basic common sense, but the fact is that most students do not implement this tip in an adequate way. When you do not have all that much to do at school, the way you learn in order to get a good grade is really not crucial. However, as middle school starts and the number of obligations increases, the way you approach studying – i.e., how much time you spend on it and how hard you work at it – becomes increasingly important. As many students face this issue, here are a couple of tips you might use to get better grades:
Find the right learning style – If your academic results are in steep decline, while the number of hours you have been investing into studying is far from few, it is quite probable that you are not practicing the learning style that best suits your temperamental and hereditary predispositions. For instance, perhaps you belong to the kinesthetic and social type, which is quite hyperactive and needs to exchange information with somebody, while you are using a learning style characteristic for logical, independent types.
Distribute your learning material over time in order to have time for revision – Evolutionary heritage did not predict that humans would engage in long-term planning; this is why many people still find it hard to plan and fulfill their obligations ahead, rather than wait for the eleventh hour. It is the same with a lot of students, who often like to leave the studying for a test for the very last day before the test. Frequently overloading yourself with information a day before the test is not a good approach, as research has shown that you are not likely to remember a great deal of information at once, and even if memorizing information suits you fine, this remembered information will most likely stay with you short-term. This is why it is much more practical to use the practice of spacing (a cognitive strategy), where you will distribute the learning of different units through a longer period of time, and be able to revise what you have studied several times before the test.
Review what you have learned without any learning aids that can assist in remembering – There is a considerable difference between recognizing the learning material and the actual ability to reproduce the knowledge with no aids, which actually implies learned knowledge. Many students still keep textbooks and other learning materials handy while revising, not realizing that the highest degree of retention is actually achieved through making an effort to remember concrete information.
Get into a pattern through keeping a regular homework routine – No successful person is without a daily routine. Daily routine plays an important role towards infusing your day with a sense of certainty and structure. One of the ways you can develop routine is by doing homework regularly; if you persist at it, you will never fall behind and you will prevent your obligations from piling up.
Work on your weaknesses – For every student, there is a learning skill or a subject for which they simply have no affinity. If you would like to keep your academic performance and achievements at a continually high level, including later, in high school and college, it is necessary that you work on your “weaknesses”, i.e., subjects/skills where you are falling short. Working on your weaknesses, you can often gain unexpected new knowledge or perception (this can also be a separate skill) as the fruit of a synthesis of your existing affinities and the process of advancement in the subject or area where you happened to fall behind.
Pay more attention in class
As the number of students with some form of ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) grows, it is becoming harder to follow this advice. There are several reasons why you should pay attention in class. Firstly – for your own sake, as it will make it easier for you to start studying after class, which will actually be a sort of revision right from the start with the memory still fresh. Secondly – because of the teachers themselves.
You will have a hard time finding a person who does not mind it when you are not paying attention to what they are saying. Imagine, then, how the teacher who is trying to give you knowledge they consider important for your future must feel. By being attentive in class, you will make things easier for yourself, as well as establish a better rapport with the teacher, as they will see that you are interested in the subject.
There are several ways to advance your ability to remain attentive in class:
Remove all the things that can distract you – This primarily refers to the smartphones, which are often used for fun or correspondence in class. It would be best to switch your phone to airplane mode or turn it off altogether. Friends in the classroom who are unaware of the importance of getting better grades can also be viewed as distractors; while you cannot (and should not try to) exactly remove them, you can certainly try to ignore their distractions in class – there will be plenty of time for informal fun elsewhere.
Take notes during class – Taking notes is perhaps the best way to stay attentive in class and make the most of being there. The notes themselves, besides physically making you keep focused, also serve as a fine reminder of the parts of the lessons that require extra attention. Therefore, notes can be a good aid when you revise, especially very soon after the lesson, while the acquired memory is still fresh.
Organize your life: create a study schedule
This tip transcends the classroom itself; it can be very useful throughout your life, across all its aspects. Therefore, before you create a study schedule, the best thing to do is to start creating a structured life based on your daily patterns, i.e., habits and rituals (as we have touched upon in the Study smart, not hard segment). Primary, you must have it roughly figured out when you go to sleep and when you wake up. After that, you need to have a list of long-term goals that will include school obligations such as assignments and tests, as well as extracurricular and other activities you find important. To make such a comprehensive list, you can use a planner, in order to improve your time management.
When you make sure that you have a rather strong structure as the basis of your life, you can proceed onto a more detailed schedule, including a study schedule where you would prioritize subjects and teaching units on a daily basis. In order to efficiently create a study schedule, besides time management skills, the student also needs good organizational skills, i.e., awareness of what subjects are more important than others in a given period and how much time each of them will take up daily.
It would be best to write down all tomorrow’s school obligations every evening before sleep, so that you can have your starting line all drawn up in the morning. Implementing this tip, from the general level to detailed daily activities, will considerably improve your time management efficiency, which will in turn, along with other skills, contribute to the improvement of your grades.
Ask the teacher for help if something is not clear
Many middle school students, especially introverts, often hesitate to turn to the school staff when they find something about a teaching unit unclear or confusing. You should know that there is no reason to be afraid, and that you definitely should not hesitate to ask your teacher when you need clarification. It is their job, as well as their calling, to transfer to you the knowledge which you will later need to verify on a test or through an assignment. Asking extra questions when you are unsure about something improves your starting position towards building a good rapport with the teacher, as it sends the message that you really want to learn the subject matter and get a good grade.
Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who wrote the book Why we sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, claims that the importance of sleep is often underestimated in the western society. According to Walker, there is an epidemic of sleep deprived individuals trying to convince themselves that they “feel subjectively fine”. If you are an adolescent, believe it or not, you need to sleep for 9 hours, which almost nobody does, as research has shown that adolescents sleep a little over 7 hours on the average.
The benefits of sleeping for students who would like to improve their academic performance in middle school are numerous. These benefits include better memory (primarily long-term memory, if you view knowledge adoption as a long-term goal), and more energy during the day, which also means a higher level of productivity and lower probability of obesity, which is on the rise among adolescents.
Exercise and eat well to improve your brain focus
If we view sleep as the foundation for achieving excellent grades in middle school, then we ought to view exercise and nutrition as the pillars that allow us to build towards achieving these results. There are a very great number of benefits of physical activity, especially aerobic activity, for human brain cells. Besides boosting the memory, they serve as a good mood regulator, and help keep anxiety and depression at bay.
People often say that we become what we eat, which has proven basically true through a wide range of research. Consuming large meals rich in processed carbs will raise your insulin level, which will fool you into thinking you have received a proper energy boost, but will be shortly followed by a sudden fall of insulin level, and sleepiness. This is why it is very important that you consume fresh food whenever possible, as it provides a lot of energy, as well as vitamins; it will make your stomach feel full, and you will avoid the craving for sweets.
Be active in class
If the student’s performance is on the fence between two grades, the factor that can often prove decisive is the level of involvement in class. Namely, the level of activity and expressed interest during lessons is perhaps the most transparent indicator based on which the teacher can see how eager you are to learn new things in their subject. And although a good grade is important, perhaps even more important is to try to derive as much knowledge as possible from your teachers, as well as when exchanging opinions and discussing a problem with your peers.
This is a win-win position for you, as, in addition to knowledge, you acquire soft skills such as oratory skills, communication skills, and develop emotional intelligence, which can be achieved only through communication with others. Therefore, if you are an shy, step out of your comfort zone and – gradually, not abruptly – establish interaction with the teacher and with your peers, and after some time, you will clearly perceive the benefits.
Join extracurricular activities
Starting extracurricular activities in middle school years can be a great stepping stone and provide extra credit when it comes to starting high school, and even more, when applying for college. The basic benefits of extracurricular activities include more empathy with the teacher, and even a degree of lenience and understanding if you happen to be late with an assignment. The primary reason why teachers are in favor of students who are involved in an extracurricular activity is the fact that these students exhibit a dose of maturity, as well as an affinity for an activity or area, along with a comprehensive approach that will be very useful in further education.
Wrapping up: Where to start?
As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can get good grades in middle school. However, if you want to be confident about the future projection of your academic advancement, it would be best to start implementing these tips one by one.
The main thing is to pay attention to the fundamentals that make learning easier, such as a good night’s sleep, healthy eating and finding a learning style that suits you, and then move on to organizing your free time and planning how to take care of your school obligations. Everything else is a plus – in any case, investing time and effort into implementing these tips is sure to bring you a positive outcome.