Study-Skills Tune-Up

SarahLynn1Sarah Lynn

What are the most effective ways to study?  Teach your students these four simple principles.

1: Study one thing at a time.
Multitasking doesn’t work.  Research has shown that multitasking actually depletes your ability to learn. If you are not fully paying attention to new information, you cannot move it into long term memory.

Teaching Tip:  Remind students to turn off electronics when they study.   Check out the app SelfControl.

2: Study a little bit every day.
Research has proven that distributed learning (studying a little bit every day) is much more effective than studying a lot in one or two sittings.

Teaching Tip:  Get students to look at their weekly calendar and commit to 20-30 minutes of study every day.

3: Recycle.  Repeat.
“Cells that fire together, wire together.”  Neural pathways are built with repetition and variation.  A non-native speaker needs between 7-15 different encounters with a word before the speaker can be expected to use the word.   The more varied the encounters, the more effective the repetition.

Teaching Tip:  Teach students repetitive and varied learning routines they can do at home, for example:

  1. Flashcards.  Variations:  pronouncing the word aloud, covering the word and writing it from memory, defining the word, translating the word, counting the syllables in the word, identifying the part of speech, etc.
  2. Multiple readings. Variations:  reading silently, reading along with a recording, reading aloud to oneself, recording oneself as one reads aloud, etc.

4:  Test Yourself.
Recall is the most effective way to move recent learning into long term memory.  By simply closing the book, or putting away the notes, and then reconstructing the information (orally or in writing) students commit the new learning to long term memory.  When students then check their work by returning to their book or notes, they gain the added advantage of identifying what they need to study more.

Teaching Tip:  Teach this routine in class.  Encourage students to do it at the end of each study period.

1.  Close your book.
2.  Think about it.
3.  Write down what you remember.
4.  Open the book and see if you were right.

Is Multitasking more efficient?  American Psychological Association. 2001.
Strengthening the Student Toolbox American Educator. John Dunlosky.   2013.
Vocabulary Learning in a Second Language: Person, Task, Context and Strategies.  Peter Yongqi Gu
TESL-EJ. 2003.