Best-selling study skills author and former teacher, Nina Sunday teamed up with pen brand Stabilo to offer tips to parents on how to make studying more effective for your child.
- Music - Encourage your child to learn a musical instrument. There is a lot of research showing the connection between learning an instrument and how that helps people to learn at school. Sound is a very primal thing and is great for brainpower. If parents can find a way to encourage their students to learn an instrument that’s my number one tip.
- Reading - Encourage them to be a reader. Research was conducted looking at 16 year olds who were avid readers versus those that were not. They were followed into their 20s and the avid readers had better paying jobs. Another important thing to realize is that if you child is good at STEM subjects but struggles with English subjects the may not get a high score if they don’t get a good mark in English. Grade 12 final exam English is vital to marks. Students who are readers are exposed to creative writing. They are exposed by osmosis to lots of different ways of expressing ideas. English isn’t something you can bone up on quickly. Critical essays where you can extract yourself and analyze and go beyond the story and see what is different about this novel as opposed to others.
- Colour Coding - Encourage your children when doing notes for homework to colour code their notes. So they start to associate a topic with that colour, it is what we call a memory hook which helps them to visualize what the notes said
- Visual Design - Another way to create a memory hook is to add a visual design element. It could be as simple as drawing a big star on the page and putting the notes inside and outside the star. Using the geography of the page. Rather than doing left to right. You then create memory by association. You could use a diamond, a circle, a square a pyramid. It gets away from a page being a sea of words. Chunk the information down, chunk sections by colour. One chapter in one colour. Or each subject in a different colour. Using a colour coded approach. But don’t make every page multi coloured because then you get no effect whatsoever.
- Breaks - Frequent short breaks. Max 15 mins per study session. You have to stretch and send blood and oxygen to the brain. PET scans of someone who has been sitting for an hour have shown that brain activity has decreased significantly after sitting for that length of time. You need to get up to get the brain going again. I recommend doing something physical for 5 to 10 minutes and then study for another 50 minutes.
- Sleep - Uninterrupted sleep is really important. Students are taking devices to bed, and waking up to check social media. It’s awful for memory. Body can end up getting into a habit of waking up. I really recommend when students go to sleep they put devices on silent mode and have the device outside the bedroom. Bed is for sleeping. Teach them early. If you have no chance to check social media you will go back to sleep.
- Preview - Preview the big picture: Preview for a minute or so, skimming through the manageable chunk you have chosen to pick up the gist of what it’s all about (30 seconds – 1 minute)
- Outline - Notes outline using key headings: Make an outline for your notes or memory map, dividing your page into segments and leaving space to add the detail later. Keep your headings short; key words or short phrases only. (30 seconds – 2 minutes)
- Understanding - Read for understanding: Read your manageable chunk for good understanding, to acquire and absorb the information. For any important keyword or key idea that sums up what the sentence or paragraph is about place a tick in the margin next to the line you are reading or highlight the key word. Remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of the ideas come from around 20% of the work (3 - 5 minutes)
- Reread - Reread a little faster: Reread to check you’ve absorbed everything truly important. Tick and highlight if there is anything important you’ve missed before (2.5 - 4.5 minutes)
- Postview - Perform a postview, scanning only those lines you have ticked or highlighted as important. You are reading only the important parts of the manageable chunk of information. This is your final ‘cram’ before starting to make your notes for immediate recall (30 seconds – 1 minute)
- Start notes – first from memory: As soon as you have finished the postview, cover your reading material and add to your notes whatever you can immediately recall. Use the headings in your outline as memory triggers for the detail you’re adding. (1 - 4 minutes)
- Add notes - using another colour: When your notes are complete with as much as you can retrieve from memory, only then open your reading material again. Go through the text and cross-reference i.e. check whatever you ticked or highlighted is included in your notes. If not, add it in using another colour (1 – 5 minutes)
- Retell - after your ten minute break (no longer), verbalise what you can remember out loud to yourself or to someone you know. Review again after 48 hours, then 7 days, after you first studied the material.
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