Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Xperiment with Study Strategies

“Variety’s the very spice of life.” William Cowper, 18th century poet

Wait! Whatever you do, do not close that book. Sure you’re finished reading, but there is more fun to be done. You need to help your working memory deliver the new information into your long-term memory in an organized and exciting manner. Challenge yourself by asking, “How can I make this information new, fresh, and exciting?” The more novel you make the information, the more your mind will wake up and pay attention.

Novel Information

Every year clothing styles change, music styles changes, and hair styles change. We even change what we eat throughout the day. Why? The brain is a wild and crazy organ. It actually gets bored thinking about the same things over and over again. For example, has the familiarity of sitting in one position and reading from a book made you sleepy?

The mind is constantly seeking out new input and striving to make meaning from novel stimuli. Novel or novelty is derived from the Latin word, novem for “new”. If you want to make sure your mind doesn’t drift away, you are going to have to spice up the information you are reading.

The challenging part of RELAX is making sure you choose the novel stimuli that matches your multiple intelligence. Sure, you took the multiple intelligence survey so you have an idea of your top three choices, however, your prior knowledge and motivation to learn also play a part in this final step.

Breaking it Down

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence suggests there is more than one way to be smart. When you match the way your mind likes to think with the way you study, you increase the amount of new information transferred into long-term memory and strengthen the connections for future recall.

Take all that you know about yourself as a learner (learning style/multiple intelligence) and as a reader (FLIRT/DRIVE/RELAX) and apply it to the new information you are trying to learn. Use the following suggestions to help you create novel stimuli while you study:

Auditory: Interview a friend, tutor, or teacher about the topic. Pretend to hold a press conference where you ask questions to an expert and listen to their answers. Record the class, or record you reading your notes on a small digital recorder. Then listen to it in the car, while working out or before going to bed.

Intrapersonal: Create foldable books or type out your thoughts on a blog. Keep a daily journal to record the insights you discovered while reading.

Interpersonal: Find a tutor or friend with whom to study or write out a script of you talking about what you learned with different characters. Pretend you are on the Today Show, Jay Leno, or Saturday Night Live and are sharing your knowledge to better the world.

Kinesthetic: Invent motions, craft sculptures from play-doh, or design travel brochures. Exercise immediately after reviewing your notes. While you work out, your mind will review and record the new information.

Linguistic: List vocabulary words in alphaboxes, generate acrostics, or draw word graffiti. Go on-line to to create crossword puzzles and word searches with important terms.

Musical: Produce your own lyric summaries to simple tunes or conceive rhyming poems. Listen to instrumental music immediately after reviewing your notes.

Spatial/Mathematical: Construct charts, graphs, maps, and equations that represent the content.

Visual: Construct a collage of pictures that represent abstract concepts or create a power point slide show. Video tape class or watch videos related to the subject.

Warning: DO NOT USE THE SAME STRATEGY FOR EVERY CHAPTER AND CLASS. The more you use a strategy, the less novel it becomes. You will have to XPERIMENT with different study strategies often!

Reality Check

After all this engaging work, your mind still needs you to rehearse or study every day. Take time to RELAX before going to bed. Your mind will replay any information it sees immediately before falling asleep. Establish a schedule to study a different subject each night. Remember, every time you recall the concepts, you strengthen the neuro-pathways between your prior knowledge and new information. The stronger the neuro-pathways, the easier, faster, and longer your mind will be able to remember all the fascinating facts you learned through reading. In other words, a little studying every day will get you that “A”!