An Easy and Fun Way to Memorize Anything

It’s officially fall! As the temperature drops, the semester is just heating up. Students are starting to sweat through harder tests and more complex assignments. Is this true for you?

Recently, a client who has difficulty with short term memory was assigned one day to memorize the preamble of the constitution. For a young man with a learning difference, this was a Herculean task!

We came up with a fun approach that might be helpful to the rest of you, so I wanted to pass it on.

Take a look at this quick 2-minute video explanation. Then, use the comments section below to tell me whether you think this might work for you. Are there other memorization tricks that rock your world?

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a short summary:

So as I said, I was working with a young man who needed to memorize the preamble of the Constitution, and this can be used by anyone who is struggling to memorize material. The first thing I had him do was look at the preamble and take note of how many parts there were to the sentence or material. In the case of the preamble, there were 8 sections that he noted. Next, we went part by part and drew a picture to represent each part. The first picture I drew was 3 stick people which represented “We the people”, and every time I held this up I made him say “We the people”. The second image was two wedding rings to represent “in order to form a more perfect union”. As before, I start by showing the first image, then the second and made him repeat them both. From there we kept going, doing an image, practice all images in order a few times, and then we’d move to the next image.

By the end of it, he hadn’t quite memorized the whole thing; however, he could do it with the pictures. So I had him practice it some more on his own, and the next day, when I texted him to check up, he had it memorized! The key here is breaking down something large into smaller more manageable pieces and then using images to help create connections in our brain.

Did this trick help you? Want more awesome tips and tricks like this one? Please consider checking out my course.

Studying Sucks…Now What?

skateboarder I usually come home from my midday walks with major insights.

Today I was strolling along, and suddenly realized a major mistake in the way I have been talking to my clients about studying.

The truth is, studying is hard work. When we study, we are doing something that we usually don’t feel naturally inclined to do.

What Studying is Like When We Feel Passionate

As I was walking I was thinking about the things I’m passionate about. Right now, I’m loving playing with my new iPad! Every day I find two or three new apps that would help me in my business or my work with clients. It’s so much fun to curl up on my couch wrapped in a blanket and explore the apps, figuring out how they work, making mistakes, getting lost, having a little successes, and ultimately creating some cool, Cool stuff. I’m doing a whole lot of learning while I’m playing this way, but it doesn’t feel like studying.

Does a kid who’s going out to practice his skateboarding say to his buddies, “Hey, Let’s go study skateboarding!” Of course not. This young skateboarder is simply passionate about his skateboarding, and curious about how to get himself more and more skilled.

Many adults talk about studying as if

  • a. It’s easy,
  • b. Kids should want to do it, and
  • c. Kids know what to do to study.

That may be true for activities that kids naturally like to do. Our passion and curiosity pull us along through all the hard parts about learning. We’re willing to PRACTICE.

What About When We Don’t Feel Passionate (Which Is, Like, MOST of the Time)?

However, everyone needs strategies for keeping their brains focused on unpleasant tasks.Part of the art of studying is learning strategies to get yourself to do something that is pretty hard.

Over my years coaching middle and high school students, and watching them transition to college life, I’ve been practicing a better and better ways to help students tolerate, and sometimes even enjoy, that pesky task of studying. I’m super excited about a new course that I will be offering starting in January.

Once I’ve written it, I’ll be looking for people to give it a test run, because it’s my first on line class. If you’d like to be informed of the release date of this course, and possibly sign up for to be a free beta tester, please sign up here.  (You’ll also get, as I special gift from me, access to a webinar about 5 major mistakes students make, and 5 secrets about what to do instead).

I’m super, super excited about coming out with this new and powerful way of helping high school students think about how to get themselves to study. Stress free studying, here we come!

 

Photo Credit: Mark Dalmuder via Flickr

A One-Size-Fits-All Method to Study for Tests

Finals are just around the corner! What a great time to revisit a study I read recently that announced a sure-fire way to study for tests: reorganize information in your own way.

Over the years as an academic coach, I’ve been helping students practice their own unique ways to do this. Some make posters; others prefer flashcards or mind maps. Some make charts and graphs; others write songs. Not only is this study method scientifically proven, but it works for learning styles of all types, which is why I call it one-size-fits-all.

In order to explain this process in more detail, I’d like to return to my client Lyndsey, about whom I wrote a few weeks ago. Lyndsey struggles with procrastination.  All year long I’ve been working with Lyndsey to build a habit of practicing her anatomy flashcards regularly, and she never follows through. I concluded that instead of being lazy, Lyndsey simply hadn’t found the right study method yet.

Remembering the study alluded to above,  I suggested that Lyndsey reorganize her anatomy notes after each lecture. This week she showed up to my session announcing that she had, indeed, tried this new tactic. “And it works!” she said.

She hauled out her binder, and showed me the before and after pictures:

Provided by Teacher: Reassembled by Student:
20121108-203649.jpg 20121108-203704.jpg

 

Note how the teacher’s notes are formatted in a list. Lyndsey’s notes, however, have more “shape” to them as she visualizes the flow of ideas using arrows, circles, and placement on the page. It’s clear that Lyndsey thought actively about the information she was learning as she reviewed her notes. Way to go!!

I’m always psyched when my clients have insightful observations about new strategies they try; I was thrilled that Lyndsey reported several benefits to this review process that she now calls “reassembling”:

  1. First, it helped her notice that there were holes in her lecture notes. Reorganizing the notes the evening of the lecture gave her a chance to look up the missing information, something she’s never done before.
  2. Secondly, it helped her notice that the information being presented was actually a flow chart; she never would have noticed this if she hadn’t forced herself to look closely —  and critically! — at the teacher’s notes.
  3. Finally, noticing the flow of the information helped her to understand how the facts relate to each other, which in turn helped her memorize them.  She’ll need to continue reviewing the information each day to fully memorize the entire list, but she’s well on her way!
If you’re digging the idea of reassembly and would like more of a “how-to” guide, check out this great resource.

And now: please tell stories! Do you, dear readers, have experience with “reassembling” your notes before tests? What’s your favorite method? I’d love to hear.

Art by Derrick Tyson on Flicker.

P.S. If you know a student who you think could use this information, be sure to forward this article to them!

Rock Your Finals by Making an Exam Study Schedule

The first wave of final exams are upon us, which means (drum roll, please!) it’s time to map out the final exam study schedule.

This is easier said than done. I’m saddened that most teachers seem to pass out final exam review information *only* a week before finals. From the student’s perspective, one week of a study time for 7 classes is simply not enough.

If we really want students to learn to plan out their projects and become effective time managers, we need to give them the tools they need to do this. For a majority of students to do a thorough job planning and studying for their final exams, two weeks is necessary.

In the case of Cassandra, the student whose schedule is pictured above, we sat down to map out her study schedule 2 weeks before finals began. At this point we had information for 3 of her 7 classes, so we began to map them out on a calendar. Cassandra preferred to think through exactly what task she needed to do on each day in order to be ready, and so we wrote these tasks on her schedule. Click on the picture if you’d like to see it in more detail.

Tony, on the other hand, preferred to study only one subject each day. As a result, his study schedule looks like this. You’ll note that we put his schedule in the middle of the white board, and then around the edges we wrote specific steps for him to do to study for each of the classes. Click on the picture to see it in more detail.

It doesn’t matter how you choose to map out your time; what’s more important is that you make a plan! In fact, you might not stick to every detail of your plan; however, by taking the time to think through all your tasks in advance, you’ll be more likely to study over time, rather than cramming the night before.

Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions!

What is your study schedule like? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. If you know a student who you think could use this information, be sure to forward this article!

 

Study Incentive for the Truly Desperate

Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope all you students got some much needed R&R.

I’m taking this week off of blogging. However, for those of you who find yourself stuck with some homework, I recommend trying this person’s funny study incentive.

I imagine it works for books of all sorts: textbooks, SAT and GRE study guides, nonfiction tomes, law reviews, and more.

What other treats — sweet and/or savory — could you use to provide incentive through dull reading? Please comment below and tell me!!

Source: www.weknowmemes.com.

 

P.S. If you know someone who you think would like this idea, be sure to forward this article to them!

Warning: Is Your Tutor Teaching Bad Study Habits?

OK, that title might be a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t really believe that tutors do more harm than good — but I DO believe that there are some bad habits students fall victim to where tutors are concerned. Now that the school year has started, students and tutors are starting their work together; it’s a good opportunity to nip bad habits in the bud.

First, I need to explain that as an academic coach, I do not consider myself a tutor. Tutors are subject-specific content specialists; academic coaches are process specialists. Tutors help explain the pythagorean theorem to a student who doesn’t understand; an academic coach helps the student identify processes in which they can better learn the pythagorean theorem (e.g. use the textbook more effectively, take better notes in class, do sample problems, etc).

Many of my academic coaching clients also see Spanish or math tutors because they need help with both process and content. Too often, though, I encounter a conversation that sounds like this:

Me: So, it looks like you have a big trigonometry test coming up on Friday. What’s your study plan?

Student: Oh, I’ll just study with my tutor. I see her the day before the test.

Me: But what about making a study guide? And reviewing it at least two days before the test?

Student: Yeah, but I don’t need to do that with math. When I study with my tutor, I usually do just fine.

Just the other day, in fact, my client Annabelle (a high school senior) repeated a similar refrain,  “Oh, I don’t need to study for the Spanish test by myself; I’ll just do it with my tutor.”

In the short term, this student’s relationship with the tutor is doing all sorts of good: Annabelle trusts her tutor and is making B’s on all her tests.  I can *assume* this means she’s also learning to speak Spanish, although I can’t say that for sure.

However, when Annabelle relies on her tutor to guide her study process, she is neither holding herself accountable for her learning nor is she practicing how to be a self-sufficient learner. If the tutor guides the whole study process, Annabelle isn’t practicing how to: a) compile all the necessary information, b) make a study guide that works for her, c) save time to review her study guide, and d)  self-assess when she has learned the information well.

All four of these skills are critical for college readiness. The last one — knowing how to self-assess at what point she has learned the information sufficiently — is critical long after she’s done taking tests; it is crucial for helping her be a life long learner.

Tutors provide a wonderful service to many students; however, without sufficient attention to the study processes they are advocating, they can foster dependent students who can’t learn unless experts walking them through every step of the way.

If you are a parent hiring a tutor, I highly recommend that you ask them, not just about their content expertise, but also about what strategies they’ve developed for teaching learning/study processes to their students. Some questions to ask might include:

1. What’s your philosophy about how students learn best?

2. What content do you tutor? What skills do you teach alongside that content?

3. What are your responsibilities when tutoring my child? What are my child’s responsibilities when working with you? How do engage my child in dialogue about these responsibilities?

4. What specific strategies do you teach to help students become self-sufficient learners?

5. Sometimes students can become too reliant on tutors, and they begin abdicating responsibility for their own learning. How do you know when this is happening, and what do you do to minimize this tendency?

Do you have any additional questions you like to ask tutors? Are you a tutor with some reflections about how you foster self-sufficiency in your clients? Are you a student with stories? Please comment! I’d love to hear…

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What Makes Homework Different Than Studying

Many of my academic coaching clients have a devil of a time studying for tests.  The reasons are varied, but one major stumbling block I’ve uncovered is this: students do not understand the purpose that homework plays in preparing them for tests! Our current education system rewards students for mindlessly following teacher’s instructions, rather than thinking about the purpose behind the instructions. I’ve repeatedly discovered that it’s my role as an academic coach to help students uncover the connections between homework and what’s on the test.

Let’s look at two clients in particular, who are learning to understand the distinction between studying versus doing homework, and how both tasks are a crucial part of test preparation.

Michaela and Grant are both 9th graders who are consistently scoring Cs and Ds on their history tests. The other day I asked Michaela to show me her homework assignments, and sure enough: it appeared to me that she had copied the definitions from the textbook into her homework assignment.

Technically speaking, Michaela is answering her homework questions correctly; however, when she copies the definitions, she’s not actually internalizing the information she’s supposedly “learning.” When I asked her if she even pays attention to the meaning of what she’s writing, she confirmed, “No, I don’t. I just scan for the answers and write them down. That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?”

It hadn’t occurred to Michaela that the purpose of homework is to be introduced to new information, and then to practice that information with the purpose of learning it. If she mindlessly reads and answers questions, she *might* get a 100% on her homework assignment — but she’s making studying for the test extra hard.

We then discussed the difference between doing homework (when the teacher structures the learning activity, and you make sure you’ve learned it) and studying (when you structure your own learning activity to make sure that you’re understanding the information).

Michaela was shocked, and a little disheartened, to learn that test prep begins waaaaaaay back when she first does a homework assignment. It’s important for her to:

a) think actively when completing the teacher-assigned activity, so that she is aware of of what she is learning as she learns it (this is homework), and then

b) take some time to determine her strengths and weaknesses, and then (using multiple modalities) drill the weak areas and reinforce the strengths (this is studying).

If she does her homework with conscious attention to what she’s learning, and then several times a  chooses to study what she’s learned, she will be much better prepared for the eventual test.

Another client named Grant was working on a history worksheet during our coaching session. At one point, the worksheet asked Grant to make a list of the five beliefs shared by the enlightenment philosophers. Just as Michaela had done, Grant copied the beliefs directly from the textbook. When I asked him, “Do you even understand what you are writing? Would you be able to remember what these mean for the test?” he answered honestly,  “Probably not.”

Together we practiced going back, rereading the textbook, looking up confusing words, summarizing the information, and only THEN writing it down into his homework. Although this kind of mindful attention is more time-consuming, it saves time in the long run because Grant will not need to re-learn the information the night before the test.

I know it will probably take Michaela and Grant a couple of years before they fully “get” the distinction between studying and doing homework and how both impact their time efficiency and performance on tests. Both students have learning disabilities which make them slower processors, which makes the entire learning process — as well as thinking about their own thinking — a bit harder for them. Many students don’t fully integrate these processes until college!

In the meantime, Michaela and Grant will practice, practice practice. I’ve been an academic coach for long enough, I know that by the end of their sophomore year, they will (most likely) turn the corner and be more interested in improving their learning processes. One step at a time…

If you’d like a free fifteen minute consultation about your student and whether he or she could benefit from academic coaching, please contact me. I’d be happy to talk in more detail.

Photo by icanhascheezburger.com.