As students begin to make the transition from the structured learning environment of K-12 education to the looser collegiate model, proper study techniques become more and more important. One of the best ways that teachers can prepare their students for the next level in their education is to teach them the study skills they need to succeed. All too often, students are expected to develop their own way of studying that works best for them. However, just as we wouldn’t rely on a student to discover their own proof of the quadratic equation, we also shouldn’t rely on a student to organically develop his or her own effective study system. Studying, like applying the quadratic equation, is a skill that should be taught and developed in order to ensure student success.
One of the most important study skills happens in the classroom. Note taking is a system of processing the information presented during a lecture or reading and formatting it in a way that it can be easily revisited later. The benefits of note taking are twofold. First, the process of writing down relevant information reinforces main topics and keeps students focused on the lesson at hand. Second, students have a reference they can refer to later should they find their understanding lacking in some area.
There are many ways a teacher can instill good note-taking habits in students.
Graphic Organizers: These tools are great for visual learners in the way that they use visual clues such as placement on the page, lines, and groupings to highlight the relationships between information. At first, provide students with the graphic organizer most appropriate for the lesson. As students become more comfortable with the different ways of graphically arranging their notes, have them decide the best way to visually represent the information they are learning.
Cornell Notes: The Cornell note-taking system is a great way to take notes during a lecture. It relies on a simple schematic of a piece of paper divided into two vertical columns, the one on the left approximately 2 inches wide and the one on the right approximately 6 inches wide. In the right column, students are tasked with recording as much of the lecture as possible in great detail. This large chunk of text is then reduced into manageable chunks and recorded in the left column. Students can review by covering up the right column and then reciting what they remember about the words or phrases on the left. Then, students compare what they have recited with what they have recorded during the lecture to determine the information retained.
Teach your students effective time management by showing them how you have broken down your own class schedule. This is an especially valuable tool for younger students who need to be alerted to any schedule changes. Organizing the day into chunks of time that are dedicated to particular activities will help students develop the habit of devoting amounts of time to specific tasks, a fundamental part of effective scheduling. Older students will benefit from receiving a syllabus or course outline at the beginning of each grading period that lays out the topics to be covered and the dates of major tests and quizzes. By showing students the overall picture, they can better plan what needs to be accomplished by what time.
As students advance their educational careers, they will be required to assume more responsibility for their own academic success. Note taking and scheduling skills will prepare them to become successful students.