It Takes 66 Days to Form a Habit

During the long summer break, I decided to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning whether I need it or not. And since I have been doing this daily for the last 2 months, it has become a part of my routine. In fact if I forget, then I feel as if something is missing; it bugs me.

Experts say that on average it takes 66 days to form a habit, if the new habit/behaviour is repeated every day. The length of time depends on the habit, the person and how consistent the person is. Also, if it takes longer to form a habit, then it will be stronger.

The same rules apply when forming learning habits in children (and adults).  Some of the learning habits that we encourage our literacy students to adopt are:

  • to plan a piece of written work before writing it

  • to check their work for mistakes

  • to remember to start sentences with capital letters and end with full stops

  • to remember to use quotes correctly and to explain them.  This is called the PQE technique in English (point quote explain)

  • to underline keywords in exam questions

  • to read every day

  • to brainstorm words and ideas for used in a story

And some of the learning habits we teach our numeracy students are:

  • to show working out when doing a maths question

  • to touch every single object when counting

  • to write out the formula they are going to use

  • to search for patterns in maths calculations

  • to set out calculations in the correct way

These learning habits cannot always be acquired in the classroom because there isn’t enough opportunity for repetition.  Planning is taught, but maybe only for a week and then the school teacher would move onto a new topic.  To create a habit you need to repeat the behaviour in the same situation. It is important that something about the setting where you perform the behaviour is consistent so that it can cue the behaviour.  Eventually the behaviour will becomes automatic and then the child can apply it in other situations.  So a child may punctuate correctly at Kip McGrath, but not necessarily remember to do so at school.  This would happen once the behaviour has become automatic and the child does so without thinking.

So be patient with children, when they are trying to learn a new skill.  New habits do not stop the old habits from existing; they just have to become stronger influences on behaviour.

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference    ………………………Aristotle

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