If you’ve seen any movie involving teenagers, you’ve probably seen some pretty brazen abuses of the humble study hall. It raises the question of whether today’s study halls are as chaotic as the ones on TV, or if they provide necessary quiet time in a student’s busy schedule.
What are study halls?
Younger children may not have experienced a study hall yet as they usually occur when a child transitions to middle school, so let us first take a moment to understand what a study hall class is. Students making up their class schedules for, say, a 7-period day would only have 6 classes scheduled. The empty spot automatically becomes a study hall. During this time, students congregate in a room, typically the library, where they are meant to get some of tonight’s homework out of the way, study for an upcoming test, or take a makeup test.
Frequently, teachers are available to help with difficult homework assignments or concepts that were just not fully understood in class. Some schools even have special tutors assigned to study halls to assist with whatever struggles a student may have. There is certainly a bit of variety to how each school will run a study hall, so if you aren’t sure how it works, you can always talk to your child’s teacher or principal.
Are study halls effective?
Again, this will vary a bit based on how the study hall is conducted. I strongly recommend speaking with your school’s administration regarding what study halls look like in your district. If you think your child requires special attention or motivation to work during his or her study hall, it can most likely be arranged through his or her teacher.
In the research I have done for this article, though, I can say one thing with confidence: a structured study hall does wonders. What do I mean by a structured study hall? Rather than letting kids do whatever quiet activity they want, some schools have implemented requirements for students to work on any missed homework assignments, missed tests, or teacher-identified problem areas during their study hall.
EXAMPLES OF EFFECTIVE STUDY HALLS
I will provide an excellent example of how this can work from a school in California whose principal was concerned about the large proportion of missing homework assignments he saw. He put the counselor in charge of communicating with parents, he assigned teachers to before- and after-school study sessions, and he hired a part-time employee to enter data about students’ homework completion. Within a few months, he saw a rise in average GPA by half a point, an increase in honor roll students from 32% to 50%, and a significant improvement in the morale of his teachers.
Another example comes from a school in D.C. that tried a different approach. First, the principal ensured students had a designated room for study halls. This helped decrease cases of wandering students who were disrupting other classes and seniors looking to leave campus during their free period (often resulting in tardiness to their next class). Next, students were simply asked to participate in more meaningful work. Some were asked about ways they could improve their study hall, or even their school, some were asked to publish articles on the school’s website, and many others worked with other students on difficult assignments, alongside a tutor. This led to a burst in productivity among students, and even the beginning of a school newspaper. Both teachers and students were much more satisfied with the outcome.
How do I get a structured study hall in my child’s school?
This can be tricky, but if you don’t already have structured study halls in your child’s school there is still hope. There are several ways you can get involved in your child’s school to help make this change. Try attending a PTA meeting and making the suggestion. Make sure you come prepared! The two examples I cited above as well as other scientific studies all show hard evidence of the positive effects of a structured study hall.
You can also try bringing it up at the next parent-teacher conference. Given the positive effects these study halls tend to have on the faculty as well as the students, your child’s teacher very well may be on board. He or she may even be willing to help you get other teachers involved.
Finally, you can speak with the principal and/or write a letter to the school board. Emphasize the low cost for implementing such a program and the benefits it could bring to the district. It will be tough for an administrator to turn down an opportunity to improve student performance at such a small price.
Does your child participate in a structured study hall? Have you seen benefits in his or her performance as a result? Are you attempting to get a structured study hall in your child’s school? Comment below!
Victoria Kerns, Teacher at MathWizard, Inc.