Lewisville ISD is moving forward with a program that is designed to help middle school students learn how to learn.
LISD leaders hope to have a program in place by the 2021-22 school year in which sixth-graders’ advisory period incorporates various study skills.
The program comes following both surveys of eighth-grade parents and discussions with middle school principals to gauge the importance of these types of instruction and if they should be delivered as an elective course or as part of required lessons in an advisory class.
Leigh Ann Lewis, chief of schools for middle schools, said parents were asked to rank their students’ second elective option. The choices of fine arts, Spanish and study skills were nearly balanced, Lewis said, with technology applications and STEM being the highest-ranked.
When asked how students in the sixth grade should learn study skills, parents were split between requiring a study skills class and embedding the skills in advisory and content.
She said the skills most needed, according to the survey, were note-taking, organization, time management, how to study and self advocacy.
Lewis said principals agreed that an isolated class is not as effective.
“It really should be embedded into what the students are learning,” Lewis said.
Principals at some campuses said currently study skills are embedded in content areas, advisory lessons and in the district’s Canvas program. She said many districts use planners, iPads, agendas, assignments and learning targets to incorporate study skills.
She said there are also “boot camps” at the beginning of the school year, more so this year, that focus on organization, time management and self-advocacy.
Lewis said it’s also important to remember the skills needed for a sixth-grader is different from what that student will need at higher grade levels.
The program will be the next step in what has been an evolution of study skills programs.
Lewis said as early as 2011, study skills classes were used more like a study hall at most campuses. Those began to get phased out in 2016-17 because of the lack of curriculum and standards.
The following year any study skills class was required to have an approved curriculum or program. Examples include Success 4 Students and 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.
Last year study skills classes were only offered to students in special education, English as a second language (ESL) or academically at-risk programs. Lewis said some campuses worked to embed study skills into content areas by adopting developmentally appropriate activities.
In the fall of 2021 the district plans to pilot the program at a minimum of 10 middle schools in sixth grade with parent modules being released in the spring of 2022.
If successful the program would expand to seventh- and eighth-graders in the fall of 2022.
Deputy Superintendent Lori Rapp said it will likely be a shift for content area teachers to have a common approach for concepts such as note taking.
“That’s one of the reasons for building in the pilot,” Rapp said.
Several members of the Board of Trustees were eager to see the program move forward. Trustee Angie Cox said the study skills parents supported in the survey were spot on and agreed that embedding the skills is key.
“I would love to see this all through to eighth grade,” Cox said. “You don’t just learn this in sixth grade. Those three key years are so important, and then you’re ready for high school. Start breaking that information down and start understanding what those teachers are saying and the note taking to be done.”
Cox said the advisory class concept could work but that it would need to be monitored to ensure students stay on task.
Trustee Jenny Proznik questioned if this program would be too similar to the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program that also teaches study skills and is in place at certain campuses.
Jill Adams, director of counseling services, said while the proposed program is similar to AVID this one would be more accessible since it’s not an elective-only class and the content would be more digestible.