For reasons unknown, there is an idea even amongst professional educators that children inherently understand how to study. Schools do not always directly teach study skills. Instead, teachers offer learning strategy suggestions as an aside or in individual conversations with students who specifically request help. However, research shows that improving student study skills, reading comprehension, learning strategies, and test-taking skills helps overall academic achievement. One of the best ways to increase studying skills is to prepare students with improved memorization strategies using a few simple techniques.
Students can use acronyms to improve their memory. These are letter combinations chosen by the student to represent the concepts learned. For example, HOMES is used to learn the names of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.
An acrostic is a poem or sentence created using the first letter of the items to be memorized. The following is a common acrostic: “My very elegant mother just served us nine pickles” to learn the planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
The use of images linked to senses can help students to recall difficult concepts. The following visualization strategies are useful:
- Rhyme keys connect certain words with visual images that rhyme with numbers to help memorize a list of items. For example, a student can memorize a bun for one, a shoe for two, and a tree for three. To remember a list of items, the student visualizes those items associated with the bun, shoe, and tree.
- Loci uses a familiar walking pattern, such as through the house or school building. If the student wants to memorize the presidents, they will imagine seeing them in the rooms of their chosen building as they walk through it.
- Chaining creates a story using the list of items to be memorized. For example, to retain the Bill of Rights, they might make up a story involving a public speaker arguing with a reporter over a Bible and petition to help remember freedom of speech, press, religion, and petition.
Chunking is a proven strategy for taking disassociated strings of information and grouping them to make them easier to remember. The most common example of chunking is in phone numbers, which takes a string of ten random numbers and chunks it into two groups of three and a group of four. Research suggests people are capable of storing 5-9 units of information, but short-term memory is more limited with a capacity of around four chunks of data. Effective ways of chunking information include the following:
- Make connections – What do the items have in common? Sort the items by category or theme.
- Find an order – Sort and group the items by order, such as alphabetical or numerical.
- Make associations – Link items to other items or experiences in your memory
Strong study skills are critical to master in order for students to achieve academic success. While they are often not directly taught, specific strategies can improve memory and allow more effective studying and learning. Visit WPS today, and browse assessments that help clinicians and educators identify poor learning strategies that affect academic performance.