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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Help Your Kids Get Better Grades - Gary E. Howard




Released June 2012

Gary E. Howard

Book Review by Jen Beams

As we began our first steps into the world of education, we quickly found that there is no manual for learning. Gary E. Howard has attempted to give one in Help Your Kids Get Better Grades.

The book is perfectly styled for middle school students and some high school freshmen. Therefore, I find the title to be improper. Howard writes his book to a student and so it should be titled as such. Also, school is not all about grades. They are important and they are helpful when it comes to applying to college and to jobs. As I read the book I found that his goals were more centered around organization and learning skills. A letter on a paper will not help you in a college course, only the organization and content you take away from a class will.

Secondly, the book is out of date. Howard states that students should only have three computer skills; to send and receive email, to use a search engine, and to type a report on a word processor. In today’s
world, students, even in middle school, use computers for much much more. The basic computer skills of a 7th grader should include making power point presentations, citing sources, computer research skills and understanding, and Internet safety along with those skills Howard stated. Howard also presents the anecdote explaining that schools no longer have lockers because of drug problems. I have yet to visit a high school or middle school without lockers. Most students need both in order to survive the day without breaking their backs with text books. Finally, Howard covers only three different learning styles when in fact there are nine now defined.

Howard also endorses quick study guides and guessing. Quick study guides, the sheets you can buy from Staples on certain courses are generally not helpful. They offer information that sometimes contradicts that of the teacher and sometimes not everything the course requires you to understand. This doesn’t mean that either set of information is wrong, but it’s much better to stick with the teacher’s information as it is their class. Guessing is never a good idea. Teachers use assessments to better understand where students are
in their understanding. Guessing can give the false impression that a student knows the material when they might not. I’m not suggesting that students should leave answers blank, but there’s a big difference between following intuition and just plain guessing.  Students should be taught to do their best on a test but not to place their education in the hands of “lady luck”.

Howard does give many valid and helpful tips for studying and note-taking, though it would be more beneficial to list alternative ways to take notes and to study. Howard suggests that all notes should be taken in one note book and later organized into master binders. I personally found it more helpful in middle and high school to have small binders assigned to each class I was taking in which I would keep all of my notes, homework assignments, papers, and assessments for that specific class.

I recommend parts of this book as a reference for ideas and strategies to all middle school students and parents of struggling students. Howard’s study and organization tips can be helpful to many, but I wouldn’t advise putting faith into everything the book says.

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