I was at the gym earlier today, which might explain why I need to hold onto the bathroom wall and straddle the bowl as I sit down on the toilet, when I met up with a friend who was perplexed. Always happy to lend a helping hand, I casually asked about her dilemma. It turns out that her 5th grade daughter is having trouble organizing, getting through and really digesting content driven text (i.e. Science and Social Studies). It was funny that it came up, because I had just spent about a half hour tackling some homework issues with another friend of mine who is struggling w/her 2nd grader. The kids are dealing with two entirely different issues, but nonetheless, it made me think that these friends certainly aren’t the only two moms or dads out their experiencing some back to school studying and/or homework drama w/their kids. So, here is a systematic way for students about 3rd grade and up (before 3rd grade students are more focused on “learning to read” rather than “reading to learn.”) to organize and comprehend material-
Now, I really wish that I had created this fabulous system, but I didn’t.
And, I do have to note that all of my teacher friends know about this too.
In fact, all good teachers, and probably some crummy ones do too.
- Look through the entire chapter. Find out what it’s about and think about what you might already know about the topic.
- Review the headings of each section. Check out photos or illustrations that accompany the text.
- Turn to the back of the chapter. If there is a summary, read it before reading the entire chapter. This will give you brief information about the topic area so you aren’t starting from scratch.
- If there are terms or vocabulary words, look them up/define them before you read the chapter. This will help you understand better what you are reading.
- Look through the chapter and turn every heading (the stuff in bold at the beginning of a new section) and sub-heading into a question. Now you are reading for a purpose and not just reading. Your goal is to answer every one of these questions as you read the text.
- If there are questions at the back of the chapter, divide them out by section. Make sure you can answer these in addition to the questions you made up yourself. Chances are you’ll see plenty of overlap.
- Ask yourself questions? What type of test will I be given (multiple choice, T/F, essay, etc.)? Are there other places I can look for information on this topic? Are there things I want to ask my teacher?
- Read with a purpose. Answer the questions you’ve created and the ones at the end of the chapter.
- Take note of illustrations, graphs, etc. How do they relate to the text? Do you understand them? If not, talk to your parents or the teacher.
- Apply vocabulary terms you defined earlier. Use the words in context by either copying a sentence the word appears in throughout the text or create your own sentence using the word in its proper context. This will help commit the word to memory.
- Summarize the chapter in your own words, either verbally or in written form. This will ensure you really understand what you’ve read.
- Ask yourself and answer questions out loud.
- Write down questions and have someone ask you them. Recite your answers from memory and have the person quizzing you ask follow up questions.
- If you own the textbook or have made a copy of the chapter (I recommend both for students who are visual learners), highlight important passages and other parts of the chapter you find important. They will be easier to find later when you are preparing for a test.
- This is an ongoing process. My suggestion is to begin reviewing your written notes each night beginning one week before an exam. Take 10-15 minutes to identify the areas you know well and areas where you need more review. This will also cut down on your need to “cram” the night before the exam, which, by the way, is never a good game plan.
- Repeat any of the above steps or get assistance from the teacher if you still do not understand a concept or could not come up with an answer to a question on your own.
- Create your own practice test. Ask yourself what you would put on the exam if you were the teacher. Ask a friend to do the same thing and then exchange practice tests. This will help you see the information from another point of view.
- Create a “cheat sheet.” No, I’m not advocating cheating. It’s a great study tool for tests. Think of it this way. If your teacher told you that you could bring in one index card filled with information (front/back) and use it during the test, what information would you write down? Do it. Now you know some of the key points you really believe you need to review before the test. Carry around the “cheat sheet” with you until the exam. Throw it away as you walk in to take the test. You’ll be ready!
This method can actually be taken into much deeper depth, especially as children get older, but this brief synopsis allows you to get the general idea. I hope these tips are helpful to students and parents in that students can gain some independence and ownership over their study habits, while parents can feel organized and directed in how to help their child study effectively. I would love to hear any fantastic tips you have too. Happy studying!!!