By Mary Miele
To navigate independent learning and studying, students must have a myriad of strategies so that they can move through the process of learning. Within this process, students must engage with material in multiple ways, within a structure that works for their learning style as well as over time. The goal is for them to gain knowledge, comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. You can see this process in Bloom’s Taxonomy (see picture below).
I met with a middle school student last week who showed me material from her six subjects. She takes English, math, history, science, Latin and Spanish. Most of her classes move at a rapid pace and her teacher does not cover some of what she needs to learn in the classroom setting. Due to the rigor of the curriculum and its fast pace, it is up to her to have organization and study skills so that she can properly digest material once she leaves the classroom.
This student’s experience is consistent with what I see happening to students we work with across New York City. There is an expectation that students take home the work they are exposed to in the classroom, then work with it until they truly master it at the highest possible level.
For a myriad of reasons, it is rare for these kinds of study skills and strategies to be taught explicitly to students in the middle school. Thus, many students are feeling stressed and unsuccessful within the studying continuum. They come home and complete homework, but do not have an approach to master the material they are supposed to learn.
Thus, those of us who support school are tasked with finding ways to support our students through the study process. The following are a few of my favorite study strategies that you can pass along to your student or child today:
Work Within the Evolved Education Study Process
Teach your students to work within a studying continuum.
- Gather – collect the information you need to learn
- Organize – categorize and simplify what you need to know
- Study – engage actively with your material (see below for some ideas)
- Self-Test – test yourself to see what you have learned – use Bloom’s taxonomy to help you find some action words to help you (e.g. describe, analyze, compare, criticize ..). Also, know the format of the test and create a practice test to take using that format.
- Repeat steps 3-4
- Create a one-pager with info you need to study – create a one-pager with the information that is not at 100% just before the test date to review and copy over.
Take Your Time
Study over time. Most students we start working with only work through the first step of the Evolved Education Study Process. They gather up what they need to know, read over it and head into the exam. The problem with this is that they have missed key tasks to ensure they are properly prepared. Anxiety is often formed because these students arrive at the test without being fully prepared. It’s not a great feeling to be unprepared.
When we talk with students about studying, they often tell us they are spending HOURS of time studying. This is often true! However, they are not using that time properly, which is why they are not seeing results.
The key to effective studying is to work through the Evolved Education Study Process routinely well before the test date. In fact, students should be Gathering Information WHILE they are learning and taking classes. They should be Organizing Information EACH weekend. They should begin the studying process a few days before the assessment.
Smart Study Guide Prep
The key to effective studying is to be innovative with how you organize the information you have to learn. I just did a Facebook Live segment on study strategies and you can see me explain a few of these approaches there, too.
Create a two or three column study guide.
The best part about these study guides, which are adapted from the Cornell Notetaking System is that you can take notes as you are learning and then turn those notes into a study guide and experience right away! This can be done on a computer too by typing in notes and then adding a column to the left and/or right of your notes.
Let’s say your child is tasked with learning the information on this page:
Typically, a child will read and take some notes on the important information. To be efficient, just leave a little room on the left-hand side (you can fold the paper to make the line, or add a column in a word or google doc).
The student takes notes and then goes back afterward to write in questions that they will need to be able to answer about the notes. Again, go back to Bloom’s taxonomy and create questions that not only ask the student to comprehend the information, but also analyze it, evaluate it, combine it, etc.
For math, students can divide the page into three columns. The direction for the problem goes on the left. The actual problem goes in the middle and the solution is written on far right side of the page. This approach allows a student to link the directions to the problem and its solution. Often, students are learning language in conjunction with mathematical concepts, so this kind of organization allows students to link the language presented in the directions with the mathematical concepts and skills they are learning.
Aside from the column notes, visual vocabulary is becoming more and more helpful for students. Pictures provide students with context for the new language. In addition, see below how we use color to highlight word roots. Email me if you’d like to get more sheets of visual vocabulary.
In closing, studying is a process, and part of that process is to review your test taking approaches and feedback from the assessment itself. Please join me on Sunday 12/17 on Facebook Live as I talk about the Aftermath of Testing. I’ll present information about how to rebound from a quiz you could have done better on and how to use feedback to inform your studying process.
In the meantime, if you have specific questions about what you can do to help your child with study skills, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com.