Teachers, especially at the higher grade levels, often assume their students learned effective study skills in prior school years. As a result, students often make it to the college and university level with few study skills and poor study habits, leaving them unprepared for the more rigorous coursework. There are simple, effective techniques, however, that teachers can use at any grade level to teach their students to study.
Two Major Areas
There are two major areas necessary for students to learn, but that are often overlooked in teaching. The first is reading for information, which is essential not only for studying but also for reading portions of standardized exams. The second area is effective note taking skills, which are essential throughout a student’s educational career.
An excellent way of teaching both skills to students is to use the following set of activities, which build on each other:
Activity 1: Reading for Information. Teaching students how to read for information, as well as improve their reading comprehension, requires short articles and highlighters. Give each student a short informative article, which should be suited to the grade level. It may make it easier for the teacher if all of the students have the same article. Tell the students to highlight the important information in the article. Remind them that important information can include vocabulary words/key words and definitions, numbers that tell sizes or dates, and important people and places.
Check their work after they are finished highlighting. If students are having trouble highlighting important information, help them recognize what the important ideas are. Discuss what makes certain information important and worth highlighting.
This exercise helps students learn to look for the important information in a reading passage. It also helps the student learn how to study key information without reading the entire article again.
Activity 2: Taking Notes. This activity requires the highlighted articles from Activity 1 and lined index cards.
Students should write the title and author of the article on the first card. Instruct them to put a number on this card, and explain that the number will be put on every other card that goes with the article. The number is a method of keeping the note cards organized by grouping key points together under one master index card.
Instruct students to write the highlighted information from their article on the index cards, putting one fact on each card.
Teachers can check to make sure students are writing down the main points without copying every word. Discuss writing only key points as a way of remembering the entire statement.
Ask students to tell you what they learned from the article, using only their note cards.
Explain that students can do this for every class. Note cards can be used to review for tests, and reviewing can include flash cards, card games, or basic shuffling. Encourage students to keep index cards with them in other classes.
Activity 3: Outlining Notes. Outlining notes, or taking notes in outline form, is a step up from taking notes on index cards. Once students have had time to practice and become comfortable with the index cards, begin teaching outlining.
Provide students with an outline and discuss it with them. Make sure they understand headings and subheadings.
Going back to the highlighted article, or using a new, longer article, instruct students to outline the key points of the article. Check to make sure they are following outline format.
Another option is to outline an article together, as a class, then assign a second article to be outlined by each student.
Pace your lectures so students will be able to practice making outlines. Encourage them to use the outlines in other classes.
Knowing how to read for information and take effective notes are necessary skills at every level of education. Reading comprehension is necessary not only for standardized assessments, but also for general reading and studying. With a few simple activities, teachers can help ensure their students have those skills.
Classroom Activities for Teaching Study Skills
As a teacher, your teaching strategy should always be creative to ensure that your students find learning in school an exciting activity. You can add or incorporate a study skill activity in every class session. For variety, you can include a unique classroom activity in every class period to motivate and improve your students’ learning capabilities.
Preparing for various classroom activities can be very challenging as you need to work out imaginative ways to ensure that your students learn from the activity. Each of your class periods should integrate a study skill activity to enable your students to develop their own good study habits. A classroom activity should consider the three factors detailed below.
Your idea of what a good study environment should be and compare this with your students’ ideas – You must first evaluate if your planned study skill activity is appropriate for the study environment you aim to promote among your students by compiling a list of suggestions from your students on what they think a good study environment should be. You can also have them fill out and comment on your prepared worksheets which detail your ideas of what a good study environment should be. You can use these worksheets as basis for your guided discussions for the duration of the school year.
Open discussion about concentration – Your students’ ability to concentrate is important in developing and improving their study skills. You can allocate one session openly chatting about various factors which interfere with concentration, encouraging your students to talk about their experiences and aspects which contribute to their concentration skills (both bad and good aspects). Once everyone has participated in the class discussion, you can give out tips on how to better concentrate in various circumstances. After this initial discussion, you can prepare a worksheet which your students can fill out and submit to you at the end of each school week. This worksheet will be your basis in monitoring whether your students have improved or which areas they need more help on. This worksheet can also be used as your students’ basis for self-assessment at the end of the school year.
Coaching students on how to effectively take down notes and improve their test-taking skills – You can facilitate a guided discussion about the various methods in taking down notes which your students can easily understand when they review for a test. You can allot one session for this study skill activity which should include a sample lecture where your students practice note-taking, followed by a discussion on the various techniques of note taking including outline, charting and mapping methods. The note-taking practice can be immediately followed by test-taking practice, or you can plan another class period for this.
Each study skill activity should also incorporate tips on how to effectively acquire basic learning skills and attitudes, write my college essay describing in detail different ways of organizing a specific study area at home and school, demonstrating and coaching time management skills to enable students to make their own personal study schedules, and illustrating various approaches to enhance your students’ test-taking skills