Help Your Child Study
Aug 12, 2008 Study Skills 1953 Views
Learning new material is always a challenge, but a great way to lessen that challenge is to get a handle on how the brain works and make more effective use of it.
There are two different sides of the learning coin, as I like to think of it: On one side you have understanding, and on the other side you have recall. For effective learning, you have to maximize both of these aspects of the process.
My aim in this short article is to explain how to more efficiently manage time during your children's study sessions, and thus increase both understanding and recall of new material.
First of all, let's gain a quick understanding of how the brain works when it comes to learning new material.
There are two very important principles to take note of:
Principle 1 - During any study period, your ability to recall what you understand actually drops as time progresses. Put simply, the longer you study without giving your brain a rest, the less likely you are to recall what you've been studying. This applies to all areas of study.
That simple principle clearly indicates what's wrong with marathon cramming sessions. They just aren't effective. In fact, studying in this way is actually damaging to the learning process.
Principle 2 - In any given study period, you have better recall of things at the very beginning of the period, and things at the very end. The only other things during that session you're likely to remember are things that are repeated, or things that stand out in some way.
Now if you take these principles into consideration, it's easy to see that shorter study periods are more effective than long ones. A study session should last no longer than 50 minutes, and should ideally be around 30 minutes. Thirty minutes is our average attention span.
After studying anything for this length of time, it's important that you take a break of about 10 minutes. There are several reasons why breaks are essential.
The first and most obvious reason is that the mind gets a chance to rest and stress levels are reduced. You'll approach your next study session refreshed, and far more capable.
Shortening study periods and separating them with short breaks makes the most effective use of the two above principles. Since the study period is shorter, your ability to recall has less time to diminish, and so doesn't drop as much. And you're also giving yourself the opportunity to recall more because of the fact that you remember more from both the beginning and end of the session.
Think about it like this: If you study non-stop for 4 hours, you'll remember most of what you studied from the first 20 - 30 minutes, and the last 10 - 20 minutes. At most, that's 50 minutes of effective recall from 4 hours.
But what if you broke that 4 hours up into 8, 30-minute sessions, separated by 10-minute breaks? The time you're actually studying will be the same, but even if you only recall the first and last 10 minutes of each session, that's 20 minutes of effective recall per session, or 160 minutes from 4 hours - more than triple the amount of effective recall.
However, the most valuable thing to understand about breaks is that your ability to recall what you've just studied actually increases during that break. This is because the left and right hemispheres of the brain are assimilating the information, or sifting through it on an unconscious level during that break time. It's very important that the mind is given time to do this.
Another important thing you can do to maximize your study sessions is to use preview and review. This simply means that you should spend a few minutes reviewing what you covered in your last session, and a couple minutes previewing what you're about to cover in your next session. Review helps to reinforce the notions in your mind, and preview sets your mind up for improved learning of the next section.
If you'll try these study methods out with your children, you'll find that you're setting them up for much better recall and understanding of whatever material they're covering.