Slide 1: This webinar is titled, “Helping Students Learn to Study.” Its purpose is to provide information about helping students learn good study habits and specific study skills. This information will give paraprofessionals tools for working with students one-on-one or in groups. Good study skills help children and young adults become better 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: Not all students love studying, especially those who encounter other academic difficulties, in other words, those with whom paraprofessionals often work. It’s been my experience as a teacher, though, that all students actually want to learn what the class is learning. Some just don’t have the tools to keep up. Teaching them study skills and habits gives them tools that will help them succeed.
Slide 4: On this slide you can see a diagram that shows the steps in helping students develop and sustain effective study habits and skills. Every teacher and paraprofessional may approach this process somewhat differently, but the basics are the same. Start by helping each student figure out his or her learning style. When students understand how they learn best, it’s easier for the educators who guide them to point to study methods that are likely to work. Next, help the student learn the study skills you think will be most useful. Giving the student a chance to practice new skills is the next step. Then, give the student feedback on his or her evolving study skills by observing the student’s use of these skills. This informal type of assessment provides feedback enabling the student to know whether or not he or she is using the study skills correctly Then, based on your feedback, the student can refine or sustain newly learned study skills. This loop of practice and feedback creates a cycle of continuous improvement.
Slide 5: Let’s spend some time talking about each step leading to continuous improvement of study skills.
Slide 6: The first step—the assessment step—helps a student determine his or her best style of learning. Although research shows that there’s no good way for teachers to accommodate a wide range of different individual learning styles, students themselves can take their own learning styles into account. In other words, they can match their study styles to their own learning-style preferences. Involving students in using study approaches that fit with their own study styles keeps them involved in the process, makes them better able to identify their own learning challenges, and helps them improve their own study habits and skills throughout their lives.
Slide 7: The five styles of learning are: visual, aural, verbal, physical, and logical. In other words, some of us learn best by seeing. Others learn best by hearing, talking or writing, doing something physical, or puzzling something out.
Slide 8: Information about learning styles tells us that individuals differ. Some of us learn best by reading and re-reading, while for others, this approach to studying would be a total failure. Some students need visual cues to help them remember certain facts or processes, while others do better with abbreviations, acronyms, or flash cards! The next slides will discuss each style of learning, suggesting study methods that would be likely to help students who have strong learning-style preferences. It’s also important to remember that some students are equally comfortable with several different learning styles and study methods.
Slide 9: People who learn best by seeing—that is, visual learners—can use a variety of methods to help them study. These students might benefit from creating diagrams to capture the most important concepts they are trying to learn. They might even design their notes to resemble a newspaper format. Visual learners can also remember ideas by attaching them to visual symbols or icons. The visual learners in my classroom, for example, help themselves learn academic vocabulary by drawing pencils next to terms that have to do with writing and books next to terms that have to do with reading. Concept maps and other graphics also help visual learners organize information. Visual learners love structure, but they also love to inject splashes of imagination.
Slide 10: Students who learn through sound also can use several different techniques for organizing and remembering information. For example, they can use tapping patterns to help themselves recall facts and ideas. When you encounter a student who talks about listening to music (and may try to sneak music into class) and seems to perk up when you make up a rhyme, you’ve probably got an aural—or sound-oriented—learner. Some sound-oriented learners find that listening to music before or during a test provides one way to block out distractions and increase focus. Providing access to instrumental music during testing is one of the official test accommodations available in Texas and other states as well.
Slide 11: Students who learn by talking and writing have a learning style that fits well with traditional school expectations. These are the students who actually get excited about “writing down each spelling word five times.” However, not all students who learn by talking or writing actually feel comfortable with the same techniques. Some students who prefer this style enjoy writing and presenting mini-speeches (with you as the adoring audience), for example as a method of study. Others—perhaps those who are more introverted or shy—would find that approach excruciating.
Slide 12: Those who learn by doing sometimes have a hard time in classrooms where instruction mostly involves listening to lectures and reading textbooks. Using physical activity to help students comprehend and remember information from books and lectures is a challenge for teachers and paraprofessionals. Some students who learn by doing may benefit simply from the use of flashcards. For example, they can organize the cards, shuffling them in different ways, or laying them out to indicate patterns. Others may want to build a physical model to represent a concept, possibly using clay, straws, or pipe cleaners. Math manipulatives can be particularly useful for students who learn by doing. For some students who learn by doing, physical activity can help them remember factual information. For instance, they might clap, hop, or move their arms as they learn to remember the spelling of words or math “facts.”
Slide 13: Students who prefer to puzzle things out as an approach to learning constantly question, “why?” Helping them figure out the “why” helps these students understand and remember concepts. For example, some note-taking methods, such as concept maps, allow students to see the connections between cause and effect. This method also helps students see how details (which can be difficult to retain) fit into the “big picture!” Finally, students who love logic also tend to love routines. Getting these students to develop and stick to structured study routines supports their learning for the long-term.
Slide 14: Step one also involves the assessment of the student’s learning environments. This slide lists the generally accepted “musts” for a good study environment. Especially important for those who are new to independent studying is to have them face a wall. It’s uncomfortable at first, but it helps them build focus and attention.
Slide 15: This slide shows ways for students to break up study time and maintain good overall health. It’s critical for students to get enough nutritious food and to get enough sleep. If you have students who seem to lack adequate nutrition, one part of helping them improve is to encourage them to eat school breakfast and lunch!
Slide 16: Once students have identified their preferred learning styles and also figured out ways to improve their study environments, it’s time to teach them relevant study skills. Participating in lessons about study skills is the second step in the process of learning to study..
Slide 17: In the next webinar in this unit I’ll discuss several methods and the kinds of learners who might benefit most from them. These methods include three types of note-taking—charts, outlines, and maps; mnemonics, which are memory games and tricks; a method of attaching information to places, called “Loci;” physical games and memory devices; and a method of self-questioning called “The Corson Method,” that helps students determine where misunderstandings or breakdowns in learning occur.
Slide 18: The third step in the learning-to-study process involves practicing the recently presented study skills. Paraprofessionals can provide useful help during the practice phase.
Slide 19: This slide shows the techniques a paraprofessional can use to help a student practice newly learned study skills. These techniques involve: observing, questioning, supporting, reinforcing through application, and holding the student accountable.
Slide 20: Observing simply means keeping an eye on your student while he or she works. For example, look to make sure the student is using the note-taking system chosen in a consistent and useful way. Make sure that the details a student records on a concept map match up correctly with the big idea. While you are observing the student, it’s important to let the student know that he or she can come to you for help!
Slide 21: Questioning is more active on your part than just reminding the student that he or she can come to you for help. In fact, every day you might take the opportunity to ask the student how well the study skills are working. You might ask questions like: “What have you learned?” “How did the study skills help?” “What are you still having trouble with?” “Are you having trouble using the study skills?” and “How can I help you improve your use of the study skills?”
Slide 22: Supporting involves lending a hand to the student as he or she gets used to studying in a systematic way. For instance, you might provide the student with resources when needed, give praise when a task is accomplished well, or offer corrective feedback when the study process is being used incorrectly.
Slide 23: Reinforcing during application takes place throughout a lesson, when the student is trying to make use of a study skill. If you sit close to the student, you can monitor his or her use of the skill. For instance, if he or she is using a structured note-taking form, you can make sure the student is putting the right kind of information into each part of the form. You can reinforce correct use of the form or offer gentle reminders if the student has forgotten about how to use it correctly.
Slide 24: Holding the student accountable involves making sure he or she is actually studying. It also involves monitoring to ensure that the student is applying the study skills whenever those skills would be useful. For instance, is the student using a suitable note-taking technique during class lectures? Is the student remembering to eat healthy meals? Is the student correctly applying a memory technique? The degree to which a paraprofessional or teacher needs to intervene in order to hold a student accountable depends on how much the student needs help structuring his or her work.
Slide 25: Giving students feedback about their progress in acquiring study skills is the final step in the cycle of helping students learn study skills. Several kinds of feedback are useful. One important kind of feedback is the student’s own assessment of what he or she has learned and how his or her study skills have improved. Insights from the student’s teachers and paraprofessionals provide another important kind of feedback. The paraprofessional, for example, might want to let the student know the techniques that seemed to work and those that didn’t. Feedback from the teacher about the student’s academic performance over the course of the cycle is also extremely helpful. Finally, feedback should always include the results of tests and projects that the teacher used to assess the student’s knowledge of the topic studied.
Slide 26: Though we’ve covered a lot of territory in this webinar, remember that the cycle of helping students learn to study breaks down into just four steps: determining learning style and study environment needs, learning study methods and techniques, practicing study skills with the help of the teacher and paraprofessional, and reviewing feedback about study through discussions and assessments.