Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20 Crumble - Today's Homework: Study

Years ago when I had the opportunity to visit the four middle schools on a regular basis in support of the CRISS initiative at the middle school level, we conducted a survey with the students.  Part of that survey uncovered things that students felt they didn’t know and wanted to learn – and the top request was instruction in study-skills.  Our kids didn’t, and still don’t, know how to study.  At the end of my work that year, we re-surveyed the students, and, even after the year of inundating them with strategies, they were still asking to be taught how to study.

Part of this is our fault, as educators.  We give them study guides and practice tests that they use as their study tools, and they feel as if they complete these tasks, they have studied.  But is that half hour spent on the study guide a few nights before the test a great study strategy?  For some, maybe.  For most of our kiddos, however, constant, repeated exposure to the material is what is going to make a difference for them, and that is what the 12-Minute-Study is all about. 

Remember that these kiddos have an attention span that lasts about as many minutes as years they've been in school - so we're talking that the average seventh grader has the attention span of about seven minutes before he zones.  We can totally make this work, as long as we carefully plan and give our students ideas for studying instead of telling them that they must do this study guide or these practice questions.  Our ultimate goal is to create independent learners, and in order to do this we need to give them tools that they can use to prepare themselves. 

Just like with our formative assessments, studying can and should be done in small chunks.  So if you have a quiz or test coming up in a week, start these kiddos out on a study regiment, just like an exercise regiment.  Give a seventh grader the challenge of studying seven minutes at the beginning of your class each day that week and then seven minutes at home.  Yes, that's right.  I said seven minutes.  So that's fourteen minutes a day.  If they study all week, that's four days at fourteen minutes . . . you're looking at a good hour of studying for a short assessment.  If you're planning a huge unit test, you have a relatively good idea when that test will be, so start the kids out a few weeks before the test.  Or better yet, from the beginning!  Studying doesn't have to, and probably shouldn't, be for just a test.  It should become part of their academic lives.

So how does it work?  It's simple:
  • Each day of the Seven Minute (or Six or Eight) Study Challenge, begin class immediately with a quick study tip.  For example: "Look at the notes we took as a class and make up questions in your head that might be answered with the notes.  Try it with a partner now, and then tonight for the study challenge try it by yourself." 
  • Then give an example, and set the timer for seven minutes. 
  • Tell partners to go back and forth with making up questions and answering them.  The challenge is to do it for exactly seven minutes.
  • Challenge students to give it a shot at night.  You could have them use a study log to log whether they did it.  They could even staple that log to their test, and you could compare the scores of the students who studied to those who didn't as part of the reflection after the test.  Share this information with your students!
So what else can students do during this Study Challenge?
  • They can use flashcards to see how quickly they can get through them, and then they can race themselves using a timer (or stopwatch because everybody and their brother has a phone with a stopwatch on it now).
  • Instead of going over vocabulary words, tell them to read the definitions and then give the word.
  • Students can make up sentences using vocabulary and just say them out loud.  Writing takes too much time in seven minutes.
  • Ask students to listen to their favorite song while studying and see if they can put the notes to the music.  Guaranteed any kid who can do this will certainly get whatever part she put to music perfectly on that test.
  • Ask students to draw quick pictures of some notes.
  • Have them read the notes out loud.
  • Ask students to go back to the text book section and match the illustrations to their notes.  Then have them think of reasons why those illustrations probably go with those notes.
  • If there are lists of things that students need to have memorized, ask them to think of great mnemonic devices to share in class the next day.
  • Ask students to read a section of their notes and then close their eyes to visualize what it might look like.  Then do it with the next section.
  • Ask students to think about the notes from the perspective of somebody else (maybe somebody from the notes?).
  • Ask students to write a quick letter to somebody ridiculous (like Superman or Sponge Bob)using as many of the vocabulary words as possible . . . correctly.
There are so many possibilities with studying, and what we need to emphasize with our kiddos is that they need to find out what is going to work best for them.  Some people actually find that recopying notes helps them remember them!  Well, have at it then!  What we want is for them to find out what works and go to it when the stakes are high.  We also want to empower them to have an open mind to try new things, as well, so that they can increase their shopping cart of good study-strategies.

Happy studying, friends!

No comments:

Post a Comment