(This is actually a modified version of an article I posted a while back -
Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs. But I think tutors should consider this idea of study skills even more than parents should.)
After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example –
insert subject here and the reaction is the same.
But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc......
After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – “insert subject here” and the reaction is the same.
But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc. And let’s be honest – in most high school classrooms, students are essentially graded on their ability to keep track of, complete, and submit paperwork (i.e. homework), instead of their mastery of the material. (Not a good state of affairs, but it’s a topic...
As a student, I found that I remembered information a lot easier when the information was in a song. I learned the 'quadratic formula song' in one of my math classes and have not forgotten the formula since. Several of my students have also found this song helpful (and catchy!), so I though I'd share:
The 'Quadratic Formula Song' (sung to the lyrics of 'Pop Goes the Weasel')
The quadratic formula is negative b
plus or minus the square root
of b squared minus four a c
all over 2a!
(Warning, this will get stuck in your head!)
Okay! Call me old and grouchy.
In fact, I am getting old but I'm still going to recommend Strunk & White's "Elements of Style" for two reasons: 1) That's how I learned the vagaries of grammar, punctuation, usage, etc. and I've used "the little book" successfully in ESL, composition, literature and creative writing classes. 2) The major reason is that no student wants to spend--or needs to spend--hours going through interminable grammar and punctuation exercises.
Instead, use E. B. White's marvelous book to learn the fundamentals. Then, student and tutor can begin to learn how to write, edit and re-write. A far more profitable and enjoyable line of work.
I have written professionally for over forty years. Far more helpful than grammar and punctuation tests is a good ear. If something sounds wrong, it most likely is! The last thing to try to memorize are dozens of meaningless rules. Spend that precious time on developing a topic and re-writing for...
Ever noticed that if a friend quizzed you and they made you laugh, or a teacher had a funny story behind an event, that you REMEMBER IT WELL ON THE TEST? That's because emotions help us to remember! If a story or incident can make you laugh, you're more likely to remember it! So teachers and parents, even students, try to think of a funny analogy or story! Your mind might thank you later!
If you or your child need help memorizing a list or a group, create a funny acronym! There's a reason teacthers use them: THEY WORK! Even at the University, I still recall all of the acronyms my teachers taught me, but teachers don't have acronyms for everything! If you create your own, you can help friends! Maybe the teacher may even use YOUR CREATIVE ACRONYM! So try it!
For the first time in a while, I'm taking a course where the information I have to know is entirely based on memorization. In my experience, a liberal arts degree has requires hundreds of hours of writing (so I have that down pat!) , but its been a while since I've had to know the text almost verbatim. This is how I've taught myself the material:
1. Talk about it with friends. My boyfriend has an interest in the course material, so we discuss it conversationally. This allows me to really have a context for what I am learning.
2. I highlight! I know, I know, my pages are ruined. But color-coding the information helps me put it into note form, after I've read the chapter.
3. Read, then read it again. Yup. Definitely helpful, but not always fun.
4. Utilize all study guides. This may seem obvious, but for anything that doesn't have an outline, I make one, and I make note of information that could be asked in test form. And then I test...
I was surprised one day to hear the instructor in an introductory physics class claim that "memorization is useless." He meant that it won't help you succeed in a physics class. Now this professor is a smart guy, but this claim is untrue. If he'd qualified it by saying that memorization is not enough, that would be different. Certainly it's true that compared with a history class, remembering random facts is a relatively unimportant skill in physics. But he didn't say that, so his actual statement, that "memorization is useless", is nonsense.
The professor tried to support his claim by showing how, if he happened to forget the quadratic formula, he could quickly derive it. That's fine, but you have to start from somewhere, and the more you know, i.e. the more you remember, the less work you have to do.
Let's face it. You sit down to write a typical physics exam and you have 50 minutes to solve 3 to 5 problems. You have to be fast...
Throughout the course of my own education, and now as a semi-educator myself, I have picked up various handy ways to assist with memorization.
The first and probably best "memory assistant" is music. It doesn't have to be good, or really even "musical." But putting whatever you're trying to memorize to music is vastly helpful!
In high school, I memorized the presidents of the United States (in chronological order) by putting them to a song. I can still sing it to this day.
I can also recite the alphabet backwards by simply putting a tune to it.
The best thing to do is write out the words to your song, then sing it repeatedly - taking away a few of the written words each time. You (or whoever you're helping) won't forget it!
Similarly, rhymes are very helpful too! Remember the old favorite "i before e, except after c, or when sounding like 'ay,' as in neighbor or weigh"? I'll bet you do... because it rhymes!
Lastly, mnemonic devices...