I am reading Ron Clark's most recent book, The End of Molasses Classes. If you are not an educator you may be wondering, who is Ron Clark? Ron Clark is a former public school teacher who was named Disney's "American Teacher of the Year. He has written a New York Times Best-selling book on teaching called The Essential 55, and now runs the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta Georgia where tens of thousands of educators visit to learn teaching strategies. I found what Ron Clark had to say about study skills to be insightful and interesting. He encourages parents and educators to show students how to study instead of expecting studying to come naturally.
Very rarely are students taught to study. However, studying is one of the main skills students must master in order to be successful in school. Parents and teachers often assume that students know how to study when in fact they have no clue. How many times have you heard the insistent plea of, "I did study!" after your child fails a test? Often when I have asked students how they study, they reply that they look at their notes (i.e. stare at the page hoping to absorb something); copied their notes (i.e. memorized them word for word with little to no actual understanding); or did very little studying at all (i.e. What? There was a test today!?). Clark mentions a similar experience in his book, noting that after studying in this way, students often still fail the test. This proves to be very frustrating, for student, teacher, and parents.
So, what can be done to make studying more effective? Here are three great suggestions from Ron Clark:
- Study notes one page at a time. Read through the page with the objective of trying to retain as much information as possible. Then put the page to the side and try to tell as much as you can to a partner, parent, or aloud to yourself. You can also write down what you remember instead of saying it aloud if that is more helpful to you. Keep reading that page and retelling or writing it down until you can recall all the key facts. Then move on to the next page.
- Use color-coding to categorize information. For example, if you are studying multiple battles of the Revolutionary War, assign each battle a color. Then highlight everything having to do with that battle in that color. When you are trying to recall information, remembering the color will help you to remember which battle it went with.
- Use flashcards to help memorize events that happen in a certain sequence or steps in a process, for example the scientific method or scenes from a play. Write each step or part of the sequence on a flashcard, shuffle the cards, and practice putting them in the correct order until you can do it quickly and easily.