You may have noticed the same when you’re at work. Have you ever felt that surge of clarity and productivity after you clear the rubbish from your work area and organise your belongings more neatly? By suddenly creating a clean space, your mind experiences a shift, too, you can think through problems more clearly, and enjoy your time in the workspace instead of resenting every second of sitting in these horrible conditions.
The same is true of a study space. By creating a tidy and pleasant environment dedicated to their GCSE and A-Level preparation, you can boost their productivity and also gain other benefits that we’ll explore below:
What makes a study space “great”?
There are a number of things that contribute to the perfect study area.
· Quiet – a study space needs to be free from exterior noise like traffic, the TV, distracting music or the general hum of life outside the GCSEs and A-Levels.
· Distraction-free – a quiet environment can still have its distractions, especially in the modern age. Smartphones and the Internet seem to provide the biggest distractions, and the TV and games consoles still have considerable allure --- these should be kept out of study spaces as much as possible (though no Internet can be counter-productive).
· Space and light – natural light makes the room feel fresh and healthy, as well as offering the best light for the eyes to use when studying books, notes and other materials. A larger space will allow students to feel free, have the space to pace and think about their materials.
· A comfortable seat – a hard chair from the dining room is no good. It really has to be something ergonomic, preferably with lumbar support that is comfortable and safe to be sat in for protracted periods, possibly hours at a time.
When not at home, your child has the school or public libraries, as well as empty classrooms and even possibly a public café or similar location to do study (though the café is not exactly “distraction-free”). At home, there’s their own bedroom, the kitchen/dining room table, or a separate room like a study or home office. Of all these locations, the best solution is a separate, dedicated space like the study or home office where you can leave your kids to study without disturbing them. If you don’t have one, then you should use their bedroom because the common spaces like the kitchen table are easy places to get distracted or disturbed.
It’s nice to have something separate from the bedroom because then when your son or daughter returns to their room for a break or to sleep at night, they can feel their bedroom is a separate, relaxing and recreational space. We must work with what we have, though.
What does the study space need?
These are the items that you definitely need to put on your pre-revision shopping list.
· Stationery --- pens (yes, lots of spares), pencils, eraser, ruler, protractor, calculator and any other specific items needed for each subject.
· Paper --- lots of paper will be needed, but try to use up whatever you have at home before you go buying more. Scrap paper for quick tests and scribbles, notebooks for making revision notes, fresh loose paper for miscellaneous notes, tests and other working (write on both sides before disposing of it).
· Index cards for revision --- varying sizes depending on their purpose; larger cards for more detailed notes and smaller cards for things like language vocabulary
· A laptop --- to be used when further revision or checking is needed, or just to make notes and save on paper. It would be good to use a work laptop with no games on it, and you could limit Internet access with passwords.
With that final item, the key is getting the balance right. They’ll need the Internet at times, but not all the time. Perhaps you could help your son or daughter by allocating specific “online” times to the revision timetable where they can be sure to get what they need, and “offline” times when it’s just for focusing on study.
Is there anything else I can add to the space?
You could throw in some little luxuries if there is room. For example, a mini-fridge that you keep stocked with water and/or healthy snacks would be a nice addition and can be temporary if you don’t want it in there permanently. Putting up a whiteboard and markers is another nice touch since it allows another sustainable (no waste paper) option for scribbles, working and brainstorming ideas. Finally, offering a timer or stopwatch would be a good idea so that they don’t have to rely on their smartphone.
Setting up your study space
Once you’ve got everything lined up, it’s important that you set it all upright. Here are some final pointers on building the ideal study space:
· There should be plenty of space to work, but those crucial items we’ve mentioned above also need to be within easy reach.
· Encourage your child (or help them yourself) to tidy and clean up the space each day. Every time they use it, it should be tidy, fresh and ready for a new day.
· The space is for study, not recreation, so encourage them to take breaks and leisure time outside of that study space so that they can feel more detached as they unwind.
Best of luck to all those students and their families preparing for the upcoming exams!