Learning is hard work – for all of us. And each of us will spend our lifetimes learning new skills and ideas. If students in their teens can learn effective and efficient ways to learn, they will have an ability that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
My friend Jim, a commercial pilot and the father of three adult children, was visiting this week, and he had just finished
Did that take a lot of time and a lot of work? Yes! Did he pass his new pilot's test? Yes! Is he now flying to exotic places all over the world? Yes he is.
Having strong skills and a wide breadth of knowledge can lead to many adventures, and people will pay you for what you know and what you can do. I often tell my tutoring students that their life is like a treasure chest, and what is inside is up to them. Each time they work hard to learn something new, they have added to their own treasure chest of knowledge, and they will be able to use that knowledge in the future.
But developing effective study skills requires a lot of time and patience, and just reading textbooks and listening to lectures is not enough.
Here are some practical ways to help students learn and retain knowledge.
2. Eat Well and Breath: Health is an important part of good study habits, and good nutrition and reducing stress are critical. I thought about writing a blog entitled, “Is My Child A Fat Head?” because the answer to that would be yes – in a biological way. The brain is made of 60% fat, and eating a diet full of good fats and proteins in addition to healthy carbs can make a difference. Many students subsist on junk food, but switching to a healthy diet and learning to relax and breath between study sessions makes studying easier and more productive.
3. Understand the Study Cycle: According to Frank Christ, the developer of The Study Cycle Theory, the process of studying can be broken down into five parts: previewing, attending class, reviewing, studying, and checking your understanding. Many students miss key components of The Study Cycle. For example, few students read the material ahead of time before the lecture, but when students preview the material, they create places in their brain where they can hang the new information they learn in the lecture. Also, by skipping the reading preview, they miss the benefit of having the information repeated to the in a listening mode after experiencing the material in a reading mode. All five components of The Study Cycle are required for solid learning.
5. Write and Draw it Out: Often students will finish a week of school with a three-ring binder crammed with notes. What the student really needs from these notes are the key ideas, so time spent underlining or highlighting key words can help. Also, rewriting these key ideas on another sheet of paper in a condensed form (and perhaps as an outline) will help the brain connect information and form patterns.
Making connections is what learning is all about, and for some students drawing out mind maps,
(As a quick side rant – many students cannot take notes and listen/learn at the same time. It is so helpful if a teacher gives the students pre-printed notes so they can follow along and engage in the class. If your student is in a class where they are struggling to take notes, suggest he or she ask the teacher if the notes can be given out in printed form instead of just being shown on the board.)
Talking to teachers helps too. They are there to help, and after discussing questions with an instructor, students often find that the teacher was able to give more clarity than would have happened in a class situation. Teachers also are more enthused to help students who take the initiative to ask for help, and having a strong connection with one’s teacher is beneficial in many ways.
8. Study in Short Bursts: High Intensity Interval Training – Hiit - is popular for those seeking physical fitness. Studies have shown that short bursts of intense studying for 30 to 45 minutes followed by a 10 to 15 minute break can more effective for learning as well.
9. Eliminate Distractions: Research indicates that multi-tasking does not improve efficiency and actually has a negative effect on results. Students need to eliminate distractions such as social media, game playing, web browsing, texting because they increase the amount of time needed to study and decrease the amount of material learned.
The only “distraction” that has been shown to help some students is listening to classical music. Not all students benefit from listening to music, but when choosing music, instrumental music has a better effect that music with words.
10. Get Organized: Antoine de Saint-Expery said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” All ten of these learning ideas take work to plan. A planning calendar is a help for many
A treasure chest of life that is full of knowledge, skills and experiences gathered in the teen years can be used and enjoyed for a lifetime. It does take extra planning, commitment and self-discipline to make that happen. Following the ten tips above can help!
“For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” – African Proverb
Wishing you joy on the journey,