Diane Tall, a former Stanton Faculty Member, developed this Study Skill Course
There are many definitions and breakdowns of learning styles. I limit the number I use in working with students to four. However, if after exploring the literature in the area, you think there should be more then by all means use more to determine the learning styles in your family. I use seeing, hearing, saying, and writing. I lead students through the four and try to find the combination that works best for them. Most of us use all to some degree, but there are usually two dominant areas.
Hearing provides a formidable tool for those for whom it works as a major tool of learning. For others like myself, hearing a lecture is nice, but if I do not write it down so that I can see it and later say it out loud, I have not learned it. Everyone has to experiment until they find the right mix of the four major learning styles. For the majority a personal learning style consists of two major factors. For some only one, and for others three or more learning styles make up their personal style.
Applying these styles to learning is a discovery process. I strongly suggest to students that they use all four individually and slowly mix them to find their best combination. For instance I suggest they try saying the material. They can use mom, dad, baby sister/brother, the dog, or the cat, whoever they choose. But my strongest suggestion is a teddy bear. Most teens have one in the back of the closet and with due diligence can pull it out. The teddy bear brigade is the ideal audience -they pay close attention, do not interrupt and do not argue about what you said and you can repeat the material as often as you need to do so. And all the while they have a lovely smile on their faces. What better audience can you imagine? For me to learn I have to see and say. I am a member of the teddy bear brigade.
Additional aids to discovering a personal learning style can be found on the Internet. There are many sites that share their insights. Also there are sites that want you to buy their product or services. That is unnecessary. One of the best sites for comprehensive help with study skills and time management is http://www.studygs.net/
I strongly recommend study groups as an excellent method of learning for the long-term. All learning styles come into play in a study group. My suggestions to students for the group include:
- Limit size, no more than four to five
- Select the members of your group according to how well you work together, not how close a friendship you share
- Set rules for studying and stick to them
- Neighborhood group – decide whose house (s) at which group will meet and when
- School group – decide when will meet and where, a teacher’s room, library, lunch
- Phone group – should be a small group, possibly only two, other rules still apply
- Group members do not have to be in the same class (es) but should be taking the same course(s)
Teachers are an excellent source of information on how to learn their particular courses. Just as not all students learn the same way, not all disciplines use the same methods to best advantage. Again the Internet provides an excellent source for researching the many ways suggested for learning. Just type in study skills or add a discipline such as math – math study skills. Usually included in these sources are methods of reading skills, note taking or writing essays. Check out the Internet for a variety of ways to improve the learning process.
Organization is the main key to smarter not harder learning. All of the keys are important, but this one makes a student’s life easier as well as more productive. With a bit of practice the formation of habits that increase productivity and lighten the workload will reduce stress and create mental leaps of joy for the student, parent and teacher as the student enjoys success after success. Often when working with students to help improve grades I suggest that they imagine their parents doing a celebratory dance around the house. This image makes them smile, but it often increases their determination to improve.
The first step is to set up a specific study time. At Stanton the minimum needed for success is five days a week and 1-2 hours each day. This can be Monday through Friday, Sunday through Thursday, or Monday through Thursday and Saturday. To increase the power of habit set the study time for the same time each night. Also, begin early enough that if more than one hour is needed, the student does not stay up too late to be efficient the next day. Student and parent(s) need to mutually decide on the days and times. Late nights of studying are often counterproductive. Because of the growth factor teenagers need more sleep than any group other than infants and toddlers. Sleep deprived teens usually are not effective, successful students.
An important aspect of this key is to never do less than one hour. If all assigned work is done in five or fifty-five minutes use the remaining time to read ahead, review notes or rewrite an essay. Never on the five study days use less than 60 minutes. And there may be days you need more than an hour. When the days and times are determined build in enough time before bedtime for those times when extra study time is needed.
The best way to ensure never missing an assignment or not turning one in is to combine a planning book with a time log. In the planning book write down the assignment on the day the teacher gives it followed by the due date. If it is a large and/or long-term project, break down the assignment and set due dates for the parts and a final due date before the teacher’s assigned date. When a student sits down to study, the first item on the agenda is to read over the planning book. The next is to open the time log and use it throughout the study period to write down what to do and how long it took to do it. I assure everyone it took me longer to type this than it will for a student to read the planning book and write in the time log.
The environment in which a student works at home should be conducive to the student’s learning style. Some people need absolute quiet and others noise. White noise (background noise) helps to mask sounds in the home that can distract. White noise can be a vacuum running, but I suggest classical such as Mozart not Beethoven or soft jazz. Music they really like can distract because they listen to it rather than the music becoming background. Parents and students should sit down and discuss the best method for the student’s success. Listen to the student and as long as the grades are good follow the course he/she wants.
The Self-Improvement handout found in the information section contains more information on the above as well as other areas that can make or break a student’s success rate. My recommendation is to suggest to your child that every few weeks to take one from each section and work on them until they own these habits. However, I would suggest that the first new habit to form would concern trying to tame procrastination. Sticky notes for reminders provide an easily available encouragement to continue until all of these new habits are theirs.
A three-way partnership rewards a student with success in high school. The partnership of student, parent, and teacher provides the student with support and push that lead to motivation and self-responsibility. Communication between parent and teacher; parent and student; and student and teacher is a major Key to Success.
After years of working with students and parents I have come to certain conclusions on how to create motivation and self-responsibility. Parents can help the process and the student needs to cooperate but sometimes time is necessary – time to mature. Of course grades and time wait for no student, so here are my recommendations until maturity kicks in.
1. Always know when report cards and progress reports will be given out. These dates are in the Stantonian and in the calendar in the Student Handbook. Parents need to put them on their own calendar in red to either celebrate or commiserate with the students. The best plan is to catch a bad grade with a progress report, then there is time before the report card to improve.
2. Most teachers give students a pacing chart, a calendar or a syllabus. You should have one of your own, ask the teachers or make a copy of the ones your child has. Mark major due dates on your calendar and mark an earlier day so that you can encourage your child to meet the deadline.
3. If a bad grade comes in the form of a progress report (preferably) or a report card, do not wait; do not tell the student he/she can fix it himself. Bad grades have limited causes.
- Student does not understand the material
- Student is not studying or not studying properly
- Student is not turning in the work required
There are solutions to the first two of these causes – tutoring. Tutoring in the subject or in study skills will help in solving either problem. There is a solution for the third also, read on.
4. You the parent need to lead the way to better grades by:
- Insisting on a weekly progress report from the teacher (with a consequence if it does not make it home with the student whatever the reason – the report is only useful if you have it)
- Supervision of homework
- Discussion with teacher over the phone or in person
Now a large part of this Key to Success is not to punish but to guide students to more motivation and self-responsibility. This may mean removing obstacles to accomplishing good grades. These obstacles could include television, social gatherings or fill in the blank. But removal should be for a short period, the next good weekly progress report may indicate the student is maturing and now knows how and what to do to remedy the problem. This keeps you the monarch in the realm of guidance rather than the ogre of punishment. Keep the weekly reports coming until a major grade adjustment appears in a mid-term progress report or report card. Never ever let a student whine you into abandoning your guidance. Stick to the above recommendations and you will see a marked difference, the grades will improve and with any luck you will see the leading edges of responsibility and maturity followed eventually by motivation.
The Internet is a good place for parents and students to seek help in areas in which they would like more knowledge. In researching the Internet I found excellent sites. I also found sites that wish to sell a service. They are not necessary. There are more than enough sites with free material. Sites with .edu in their address usually provide reliable information and are not selling a product. Many universities and colleges have sites to help students to produce academic success.
The following are the areas that I examined and found material suitable for expanding our knowledge base. I recommend going to a search engine and exploring the following topics which have many free excellent sources.
1. Essay Writing
2. Study Skills
3. Note Taking
4. Learning Styles
5. Study Groups
6. Parents Motivating Students
Stanton’s Media Center provides the students with a place to find help from the library’s research materials and computers for researching and writing assignments. However, the Media Center’s greatest asset is the people who support the students in their work. My advice to students in high school and college is “make a friend of your librarian.”
Stanton has a solid tutoring program in place and teachers can aid you in finding help for struggling students. The Stantonian will list the available tutoring with days and times. This is a wonderful resource that is often underused by the very students who need it the most.
Webster’s dictionary defines a habit as “A constant, often unconscious inclination to perform some act, acquired through its frequent repetition. A habit is an established trend of the mind or character.” For better or worse we are married to our habits. A wise move is to consciously form good habits. On the next two pages you will find some behaviors you might at least like to date to find out if you are compatible. It takes between twenty and thirty days to form a habit; at least a good habit, it seems to take only doing it one time to form a bad habit.
Benefits of Overcoming Procrastination:
1. Get more done by doing it now.
2. Overcome procrastination by getting in the habit of acting.
3. Reduce your workload by doing the work at once.
4. Be as clever about doing things as you are about putting things off.
Tips on Organization:
1. Set up a system for storing all papers including works in progress, unused paper, returned essays and tests.
2. Organize your computer files and e-mail,
3. Put as much attention to detail in how you are set up to work as you do on the work itself. You may want to add “white noise” to your work area. “White noise” is colorless noise, sound that will block out other sounds that usually distract you.
4. The space you use to study at home should have all the necessary tools (paper, writing implements,
stapler, paper clips, white out, etc.) organized into an usable set up.
Tips on Organization of Time:
1. Set up a schedule of study time and stick to it. Use a time log to discover exactly how you are using your time. Log in total study time and how it breaks down per course or task.
2. Determine the order in which you will study for each course. Make sure you have given yourself enough time to accomplish everything you need to succeed. (You decide what success means to you).
3. Parkinson’s law, “work tends to fill up the time available or allotted to it,” is as true for school work as other types of work whether it is yard work, house work or business work. Setting study times and deadlines for special projects will give you three benefits: 1) you will form habits that eventually you do not have to think about doing, you will just do; 2) you will be successful in school, both high school and college; and 3) a greatly reduced load of stress to pull around with you.
Tips on Prioritizing
1. Write a list of all of your activities and then decide which is the most important, second most important and so on until you have put your activities in perspective with where they fit on the priority scale.
2. Put a calendar in your notebook and every time you learn of something you have to do or want to do put it in your calendar. Work in one week at a time. For each week mark in one color the things you have to do and in another color what you want to do. Now prioritize them along with an estimate of the time it will take to do each one. This should help you to make realistic plans using your calendar. You should be able to see what you can really do as compared with what you may have thought you could do.
3. Each week mark down the actual time each task or activity took to complete.
4. When you have a project to complete, prepare a project plan that will guide you to your goal(s). Some criteria for projects that need a plan are: 1. has critical deadlines 2. high complexity, difficulty level, 3. involves other people, 4. is a new activity.
5. The key elements to laying out a project plan are: 1. brainstorming on all aspects of the project. 2. identifying the crucial needs to succeed. 3. grouping ideas into categories, 4. estimating the time the project will take, 5. deciding how to organize all of the preceding into a coherent plan.
Tips on Goal Setting:
A goal is something for which you are willing to plan and work. Your goal is as individual as you are because it is something you decide you need or want. A goal is similar to a dream except the goal is specific, defined, and measurable.
1. For maximum return write a measurable goal that is positive, personal, and possible. If you cannot measure it, how will you know if you’ve attained it? Will you want to attain the goal if it is not p cubed?
2. Keep a goal tracker, a notebook that you can use to write down goals, ideas for goals, details about goals, and dates of goals. In the first part of the tracker, write down all the specifics about each goal. Use the second part of the tracker as a journal, a personal resource, to record how you feel about the goal.
3. Your goals should be SMART. S savvy – easy to understand M measurable – define exactly what you plan to accomplish A active – what specific action you are taking R reachable – it is possible
T timed – goals have clear dates/deadlines
For more information on the above topics see
What Do You Really Want? by Beverly K. Bachel which can be borrowed from Ms. Tall
The Personal Efficiency Program by Kerry Gleeson found in your library ‘s stacks, 650.1 GLE
Time Management Made Easy by Peter Turla & Kathleen L. Hawkins, found in your library ‘s stacks, 650.1 TUR
After students begin to organize their study habits, they then need to determine how they will study. They need to develop different methods for the various disciplines – history, math, science, language arts, foreign language, and elective courses. Also their best learning styles need to be considered (third key).
Effective learning is long-term learning. Often the thought of immediate needs gratification leads students to use short-term memorization techniques. This leads to harder not smarter learning because the next time they need the material they will have to relearn it. One of the most difficult concepts to teach students is that what they learned yesterday and today is the basis for what they will learn tomorrow.
When students are given a reading assignment an ineffective method is to pick up the book, turn to the first page of the assigned reading and read until unconsciousness either in the form of sleep or daydreaming occurs. This method reinforces the idea that courses such as history or science are boring and/or inscrutable. Since this method is usually not very productive, why do they continue to follow the same routine? Habit.
It is time for a new habit. Seeking a more productive method for reading assignments that incorporates their key types of learning gives students a grip on studying smarter not harder. I would recommend a six (6)-step method for reading assignments that produces good results – long-term learning.
” Step one – examine every graphic in the assignment
” Step two – write a sentence (two at the most) pulling all of the graphics into one idea
” Step three – read all of the bold headings in the assignment
” Step four – write a sentence (two at the most) pulling all of the headings into one idea
” Step five – read the first section of the assignment (a small section)
” Step six – take notes from the first section, then continue to repeat steps five and six
Often students think this method takes more time than just reading the material. However, this is a smarter not harder study method because students retain more and longer, they use the notes to study for a test rather than rereading the material and it requires critical thinking that leads to better essays as well as higher scores on multiple-choice tests. Every discipline has methods to help in long-term learning. Students benefit from looking at the different methods and adopting one(s) that compliment their learning style
Note taking is an essential part of a productive study plan. There are many methods of note taking. Learning style and the specific discipline should determine the type of note taking used. I find that concept mapping helps the majority of students to organize the material from their reading assignments especially in history. Outlining works for some students, and the Cornell or the charting methods still others. The main point is for students to experiment with methods until the right one or ones become apparent. Keeping a journal of which method was used and the results helps students to determine their best method of note taking in each subject. This information could be included in their time log.
Throughout their four years at Stanton, students write a great number of essays. They should learn from the first nine weeks of their freshman year the cardinal rules of writing at home. Never think a first draft is a final draft. Only in the classroom is a first draft the final draft. Write an assigned essay as soon as possible after it is assigned, that allows time for the material to mellow before it is reread and rewritten. If an honest friend will read the paper and give a brutally frank view of the paper – content, structure, punctuation, grammar – the quality of the essay greatly increases with the rewrite.
HOW TO SUCCEED ON MATH TESTS
Original by Cindy Arem, Ph.D., Math & Sciences
Revised by Diane Tall
1. Always review daily and weekly. Do a major review one week before your big exams, especially the end of the nine weeks and end of the year exams. Use study checklists and flash cards.
2. Once an exam is announced:
a) Determine the scope of the test
b) Construct a list of topics to review
c) Find specific problems for each topic on your list
d) Make your list long enough to provide enough practice for mastery
e) Include all types of problems and of various levels of difficulty
f) Adjust your study to the type of test that will be given (multiple choice, free response, fill in the blank)
3. To guarantee success of your math test, you must master all the topics on your list BEFORE you work on any practice tests.
4. Do not expect to be able to work out very difficult problems on a test if you have not practiced working out these kinds of problems ahead of time. So work out lots and lots of difficult problems with each topic. Do one topic at a time.
5. The best way to ensure success on a test is to take and master “practice tests” that have the same form as the actual test you are preparing to take. Create some tests for yourself from study guides and course outline review texts that have the correct answers listed so you can check your solutions. Check your answers often to ensure that you are not reinforcing a misconception. Test yourself often. When you can get 100% on your own difficult tests, you are bound to do well on your exam.
6. If you will have a time limit on your exam, then give yourself timed practice tests similar to the one you expect in class. Time yourself with a kitchen timer or an alarm. Practice various types of problems and see how fast you are working. Often speed counts on a test. You may have to practice some types of problems over and over again until you can work them in less time.
7. Learn to recognize your math concepts, formulas or procedures in random order, that is, in a different order than they were presented in your textbook or in class.
8. Remember it’s not possible to study too much for a math test. It’s not possible that over studying can lower your grade. Doing more work can only help you to gain greater mastery of your material. But don’t study until the last minute and be sure to get a good night’s sleep the two previous nights before your exam. The last half hour before an exam should be devoted to breathing exercises and techniques for self-calming in order to relax.
9. Do an error analysis of your homework problems, practice tests and past exams. Note the typical careless or “dumb” errors you usually make and the types of problems that cause you difficulty. Give yourself more practice in these areas of difficulty. Make a check list of the careless errors, such as simple addition errors, copying numbers inaccurately, leaving the decimal point out, reversing signs, etc.
After completing your next exam be sure to proofread it as you would do an essay, to correct these typical errors. This will often give you many more points on an exam.
10. When taking your math exam know how much time you have and the point value for each question. Set up a schedule for progressing through the exam, not spending too much time on any one problem. Work at a regular pace. Begin the exam wherever it feels comfortable. Often it’s best to start with the easiest question and then go to the next easiest and so on. You do not have to begin at the beginning, and often the first question is not the easiest. Omit and mark questions that resist a ready response. After finishing the exam use all the remaining time to recheck and proofread your exam and to work out omitted items.
11. When you get your exam write out all of your formulas on the top corner of the sheet. This becomes your “cheat sheet” and you can refer to it anytime during the exam. Be sure to put down even the easiest formulas (brain dump) so you won’t blank on them later, as some students have.
12. Get into the habit of always checking every problem you work out. Estimate the correct answer first and then see if your worked out answer is close to your estimate. Do the problem a different way and see if you get the same answer. Ask yourself, is this answer reasonable? Did I make any of my usual careless errors? Because most teachers give partial credit make sure you write out all of your work.
13. Throughout the exam focus on remaining calm, relaxed and positive. Make sure you are breathing regularly and slowly from your lower lungs. Relax any tight neck or shoulder muscles and push away any negative or disturbing thoughts. Keep saying positive things to yourself – I can do it, I know I am capable, tests are becoming easier, and/or this test is a positive challenge.
14. Give yourself the entire test period to finish and don’t get spooked because others leave early. Teachers have frequently reported that students who leave early invariably do poorly on exams.
15. After finishing your exam, check your answers and proofread for your typical errors and then leave and reward yourself for a job well done.