Webinar 2: Study Skills

Webinar Script

Slide 1: This webinar is titled, “Study Skills.” Its purpose is to describe different study skills so that paraprofessional educators can share these with students.

Slide 2: My name is Marged Dudek. During the school year, I teach English, Language Arts, and Reading in central Texas, for grades 7-12. This summer I also work as a consultant for WordFarmers Associates on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences Grant Center.

Slide 3: On this slide, you can see a diagram that shows the process of helping students learn to use study skills. First, the paraprofessional (or the teacher) and the student choose a study skill. Then the paraprofessional or teacher explains and demonstrates the skill. Next, the educator observes and guides the student to correctly use the skill, after which the student practices the skill independently. Finally, the student and the paraprofessional (or teacher) come together once more to double-check the student’s use of the study skill.

Slide 4: Now let’s turn attention to the specific study skills.  These skills include three types of note-taking—charts, outlines, and maps. Then, we’ll look at a variety of mnemonics, which are memory games and tricks, including things like developing acronyms, image associations, and also a method of attaching information to places, called “Loci.” And we’ll discuss a method of self-questioning—very helpful for the review and reinforcement step of the study cycle—called “The Corson Method.” This method helps students determine where breakdowns in learning occur.

Slide 5: First, we’ll look at the three note-taking methods: mapping, charting, and outlining. All students have to take notes from time to time, particularly when they are listening to lectures or class discussions or reading textbooks. Giving them one tool that they can use in all classes, for both lectures and for textbooks, will make their note-taking simpler and more effective!

Slide 6: This slide shows examples of mapping. These formats work well with many types of learners. Mapping helps students organize big ideas and details in a graphical format. It lets students cluster details with the big idea that makes sense of those details. For example, details such as “numerator,” “denominator,” “part,” and “whole” fit with the big idea, “fractions.” Mapping also helps students see how ideas interact. Venn diagrams are a kind of map; flow-charts are another kind of map. Students can use mapping to help them study for tests, for instance, by creating flash cards with maps showing each big idea and its related details.

Slide 7: This slide shows an example of outlining. Like mapping, outlining helps students organize details in relationship to big ideas. Outlining is particularly helpful for organizing information about hierarchical relationships, where one piece of information or one idea falls under the umbrella of a larger piece of information or idea. This method is also useful because it allows students to record detailed content. Like outlining, mapping focuses on relationships, but it doesn’t leave room for a lot of content. The way outlining works is that the biggest idea is at the top of the outline. In fact, the biggest idea serves as the title of the outline. Then, below the title, against the left-hand margin the student writes the information that is most general. Facts that are more specific get listed below and indented to the right of the general information. If you look at the image on the slide, you’ll see what I mean. One disadvantage of this method is that it requires students to organize information while simultaneously listening to what’s being said in class or presented in a textbook.

Slide 8: As you can see on the slide, charting is a method that organizes information into tables. This method works well, as part of the review process, to help students organize and distill information from notes they took in class. Charting also makes it easy to create games, flashcards, or mnemonics. For example, a student might create the rhyme, “In September ’43, Allies beat Italy!” from the information in the chart, as a way to remember that fact for the test. Charting is a versatile and simple way to organize information, from simple 2-column “T-charts,” to tables like the one you see here.

Slide 9: Now, we’re going to look at study skills that help students retain the information they have recorded in their notes! I’ll go through these techniques one-by-one, and offer a few suggestions on how to use them with students.

Slide 10: “Mnemonics” is a term that refers to the methods we use to create shortcuts that help us chunk together details, thereby making them easier to remember. For example, the acronym, “PEMDAS” helps us remember the order of operations in algebraic equations: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. Another mnemonic involves attaching a visual image to a fact, word, or idea in order to remember it. As you may remember, in the previous webinar, I talked about students in my class drawing little pictures of books next to words having to do with reading. This is an example of an image mnemonic. Sound mnemonics are simply rhymes, rhythms, or word tricks the student can use to make a word or phrase more memorable. For example, “The principAL is a pAL, and a principLE is a ruLE.” Or you might remember this one: “I after e, except after c.”

Slide 11: When a student has a complex timeline or chain of information to remember, the “Loci” method can come in handy. With this method, a student chooses a room in his or her house or a room at the school or library, and associates places in that room with the sequence of facts or events. For example, let’s say I am learning about Henry the 8th, and memorizing the names of his five wives in chronological order. A logical room to use would be the bathroom, because it’s also known as the “throne room.” On the “throne,” I might tape a number 8, so I remember that we’re talking about Henry VIII. Then, I would name the items in the bathroom after his wives, with the item closest to the “throne,” being his first wife (Catherine of Aragon), and the item farthest away being his last wife (Catherine Parr). To make this mnemonic trick more effective, I might pair it with a rhyme or an image to help. For example, since both Henry’s first and last wives were named Catherine, I might assign Catherine Parr (his last wife) to the towel bar on the door farthest from the “throne,” and repeat to myself, “Catherine Parr on the bar.”

Slide 12: But mnemonics have their limitations, and memorization is far from the only thing involved in studying. Memorizing facts is all well and good, but understanding how things work together, and why, is more important for deep and meaningful learning.. In the last part of this webinar we’ll talk about (1) how to help students locate and talk about the gaps in their own knowledge and (2) how to help students close those gaps through side-by-side review.

Slide 13: In a sense, what we’ve talked about so far are things that prepare students for studying. Taking notes gives them reminders about what they learned in class or from the textbook. Maps, flash card, and mnemonics are tools for studying. After students make these preparations, then they actually study! As they do so, they may need encouragement. A paraprofessional can provide this type of support. For example, the paraprofessional might encourage students to ask themselves the following questions: “What (specifically) do I not understand?” “Where in the book or notes are the things I can’t wrap my head around?” “Why do I think I am having a hard time with this concept or fact?” Encourage students to write down the answers to these questions. When your students engage with the study process in this way, they (1) take ownership for their own learning and (2) let you and the teacher pinpoint where they still may need help.  It’s much better for a student to say in a focused way, “I get it, right up until this part, and then I get lost,” rather than the less focused, “I don’t get it.”  This process allows students to identify specific gaps in their knowledge, and instruction becomes more effective when teachers and paraprofessionals can help students fill specific gaps. By the way, this technique of having students ask themselves questions about what they do and do not understand before they seek help from teachers or paraprofessionals is known as the “Corson Method.” This method was named for Dale Corson, the eighth president of Cornell University, who invented it.

Slide 14:  For some students, learning study skills is enough. Once they learn the skills, they are able to use them on their own. But for many students, it’s not that simple. These students need on-going support while they are studying. Paraprofessionals can provide this support. Sometimes that means helping the student use a fancy method like Loci, but more often it means going over the notes together, addressing gaps in understanding, and filling gaps by adding information the student forgot to capture in the notes. Sometimes, all that’s needed is to sit next to the student and work with her to compare what’s in her notes with what’s in the corresponding part of the textbook chapter. Or the paraprofessional might help a student color code the notes using highlighters.

Slide 15: Another way to support students and reinforce their learning is by playing side-by-side review games. For example, while holding a ball, you might ask a question whose answer is in the notes. The student gets the ball when he can answer the question without looking at his notes. Then, when the student has answered correctly and is holding the ball, it’s his turn to ask you a question from the notes. The benefits of this kind of activity are many. For one thing, the activity requires the student to look at his notes many times. For another, the student gets to “show off” his knowledge, and in return is granted power. It’s also a give-and-take approach—giving the student a chance to ask as well as to answer questions.

Slide 16: No matter what games and supports the paraprofessional decides to use with students, the bottom line is that help with study skills enables students to gain confidence and make positive strides toward high levels of academic achievement!