Learning takes time. It requires meaningful repetition. This is why active study techniques are so important. The "recording disk" of the brain accepts new material much faster if it "hears," "sees," "feels," "tastes," and detects motion during input or recording time. The more times around the learning circuit, the longer lasting the impression.
Material that is difficult to master can be organized by finding the key words in each point, noting the first letter, and arranging the letters into a sense or nonsense word (the sillier, the better).
1. What are the qualities of a scientist? (mnemonic answer: PIPOC)
- P erserverance
- I ntelligence
- P atience
- O riginality
- C uriosity
2. Why did the U.S. enter World War I? (mnemonic answer: SPRENCZ)
- S ubmarines, Germans lifted restrictions on use of
- P ropaganda, British control of
- R ussians overthrew the tsar
- E conomic ties of U.S. with Britain and France
- N eutrality, German violations of U.S.
- C ultural ties with Britain
- Z immerman telegram
Note: In example 2, the student has devised a mnemonic based on key words. If you have a basic understanding of each point, you ought to be able to write a complete essay from the mnemonic SPRENCZ. Example 1, however, represents the type of mnemonic a student could use to learn a short list of items for an objective test. If you need to memorize a long list of items alphabetize and learn in small "chunks." In the example of learning the states in the union, it is easier to remember that there are four states whose names begin with "A," no "Bs," one "D," etc., then to try to memorize the list.
In printing study cards, the student is making the impression stronger on the brain, and they will be able to use the cards for overlearning. Another reason for having students make study cards is that they are convenient to carry and flip through for mastery. Reading the cards silently, however, is too passive. Go over the cards orally. The student must be actively engaged in producing the sounds, using muscles and burning energy to make the sound.
- General points to consider
- The student must be "sold" on the course. Why is this subject worth knowing?
- Help the students classify and associate. Many authorities feel that you will master information faster if you learn in groups of seven or fewer at a time.
- Association is a key to memory:
- You remember approximately 10% of what you read.
- You remember approximately 20% of what you hear.
- You remember approximately 30%of what you see.
- You remember approximately 50% of what you hear and see together.
- You remember approximately 70% of what you say (if you think as you are saying it).
- You remember approximately 90% of what you do.
Adapted from: Ann Algier, Everything You Need To Know About Learning