Today my least favorite part of homeschooling is studying for tests. Studying for a test yourself is waaaay easier than trying to teach someone else to study for a test. It's an agonizingly long and arduous process. However, it must be done. My oldest suffered through my lack of knowledge in teaching her how to do this before she got to high school. Those middle school boys benefit from her pain.
So, today we're all in pain together. Isn't that what homeschooling is about??
I use textbook science books to teach studying in middle school. Text has clear colored/bolded headers for each topic, bolded vocabulary words and bolded key concepts. The headers and paragraphs length themselves to easy outlining and the pre-chapter and post chapter questions assist in knowing what will be on the test.
Right now I have the boys read and outline the chapter over the course of 3-4 days.
I ease them into this over the course of a year. This is not a skill the kids innately know and we have to teach them how to do this. We have the book in front of us and read through it together. For each paragraph and every key concept and vocabulary word, I write what notes they'll need to study for the test on a wipe-off board. They duplicate it with me in their notebook. I wait for them and they wait for me to finish writing. Then we read the next paragraph together.
By the end of the year, I have weaned them off me doing all of the summarizing for them. I'll write a few things on the board, like the heading of that section, but as we read together, they have to summarize paragraphs and take their own notes. First they'll summarize it orally to see if they've got the idea and then they'll put it in their notebooks. When they're done, we read the next paragraph together. By the next year, I just assign them to read the chapter and take notes, looking over their notes at the end of the week to make sure they did a good job.
Day 5, they have to write separate vocabulary and key concepts on index cards.
Day6 they have to answer the questions in the back of the chapter without going back into the chapter.
Day7, I grade it and they mark in their notes and on their vocabulary cards concepts they missed. Then, they go back into the chapter to find the answers to the missed questions.
Day 8, I regrade and we discuss any concepts they still don't get.
Day 9 I give an oral pretest from the actual written test, changing some of the phrasing. At that point I'm able to see their notes and their vocabulary cards and see what problems they're having outlining or keeping track of their own mistakes. We use highlighter markers for mistakes in their notes and on the vocabulary cards and they have to quiz their missed concepts until they have them memorized the day before the test.
Day 10 Test day. If they haven't done well on the test, I let them use their book & notes to re-answer their missed questions and give them half credit for them. I want them to see that doing well on a test is worth their while.