I have always believed that learning is a two-way street and it is preferable that my students travel with me instead of me pushing them on just so they can pass my class. Students should eventually evolve into a self-analyzing individuals and productive members of society. In order for this to happen, learning should not be viewed solely as a means to pass a grading system but should be a continuous process that an individual goes through even after he or she has left school. Though sharing information and teaching methods to students is part of a teacher's job description, it is their responsibility to assist students to enjoy studying and improve their studying skills. What follows are four strategies to stimulate study and learning among my students.
Lesson 1: Loving Learning
One misconception of studying is that students are in school to listen to the teacher and follow their instructions so they would give good grades. This kind of mindset is counter-productive and creates dependency of the student so much so that they will not be able to apply any of the lessons learned outside their classroom (Kyriacou, 2003). Learning is more than just the student being spoon-fed data and information through instructional methods; it is also them having eagerness and the initiative to learn and move forward on their own.
No amount of teaching methods or study skills will mean much to a class who don't love to learn, so my first goal is to make sure that they enjoyed learning with me and not just because of a need to pass the class. For a future literature class for sophomores, I plan to start by presenting a scenario that's similar to any computer role playing game: a hero, villain, damsel in distress within a complex storyline. In the event that some would venture to ask me if the game is available for purchase, I will tell them, yes. But it's a book, not a video game. Of course, the class will most likely burst into surprised reactions. I would then read them a poem that could be mistaken as one of those love letters that could assure you of any girl's undying love. Afterwards, I would tell them that the poem is almost a century old (Cummings, 1923). I would then invite them to journey with me to love literature enough to see learning, not as a requirement, but as an adventure. If I have finally captured their attention and imagination then I would have succeeded in introducing learning as a cooperative action and it would be easier for them to enjoy studying, at least for literature.
Lesson 2: Analyzing their "Intelligence"
After they are introduced to the subject matter, it's time to get to know the learner. Many students fail in using certain study skills simply because many of them don't even know what kind of study strategy would work best with their learning personality. I will introduce the different types of learners, also known as intelligences, to the class so that they would be able to identify what category they would fall under (Littlefield, 2004). Here are the three major groups that most students can be classified under:
Word Smart (Linguistic): These students work well with words and phrases. They would do well with extensive note-taking and flashcards. They are encouraged to keep a journal to write what they need to remember in class.
Body Smart (Kinesthetic): This group likes to get physical with learning. They work well with "manipulatives" which are gadgets that can be used or tinkered to master a lesson. Computer programs would fit their needs nicely, along with real-life examples and applications of the concepts they learn.
Picture Smart (Spatial): They love visual aids such as movies, drawings, charts and other graphic tools to aid their learning. Graphs and graphic organizers are perfect way for them to keep track of lessons. Pictures and drawings are very effective in retaining concepts or information taught in class.
It would most likely take awhile for the students to identify their learning class and some may even maintain that they are a little bit of two or even of all three. If they choose none of the above, that's when I will introduce the other intelligences not listed here. But in the end of the session they should be able to categorize themselves effectively with my assistance.
Lesson 3 - Time Management and Goal Setting
Before discussing in detail the best study techniques fitted for my students, I would impart to them the necessity of time management and self-discipline. Though some would think this is the most boring part of any class, it remains as one of the most important lessons. Without proper scheduling and goal-setting, most plans and activities will not even materialize. The strategy for time-management that I will share is quite simple: To make a certain goal for studying everyday and allot a specific number of hours for that activity only. When time is up, they are to analyze their effectiveness based on their set goals and consider ways to improve their work and scheduling skills.
Lesson 4 - Improving Specific Study Skills
Now that my students are aware of what real learning is and what kind of learner they are, it will be relatively easy to discuss and choose which learning strategies would best apply to them. As mentioned before, there are specific study skills that would work best for each learner category. Here's a more extensive description of each:
Flashcards: They can be easily carried and easily personalized. Although there are specific functions to these cards such as vocabulary or definition cards, they can also carry pictures or numbers for easier memorization of information. Remember to be brief in your descriptions and underline or highlight important parts of the card's notes.
Visual Mapping: Flowcharts, graphs and tables that give you a better understanding of your lessons are also better review options. Colorful printouts of these visual aids can make reviewing less stressful and more appealing.
Memorization by Association: When memorizing any information or data, you can use real-life references for memory triggers. An example would be a well-known basketball player in your neighborhood that has a very similar name as a well-known historical figure in your lessons; or a ridiculous situation that can remind you of a mathematical equation. The possibilities are endless when using this study skill.
This is my ideal setting and lesson, although it may not be as smooth as I imagine it to be, it is still a highly probable plan especially if presented to a class of secondary school students. If everything goes accordingly, they will not need to be forced to study anymore, but will only need to be occasionally nudged in the right direction. As long as I keep giving them prepared and interesting lessons, they too will be prepared enough to learn every time I teach them.