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8 good study techniques to teach your students

Mary DeanDecember 1, 2019

boy writing on paper near girl in classroom

When students have a tried-and-true arsenal of study techniques to choose from, everyone wins. As teachers, we’re responsible for making sure students are always prepared for college and their careers. The best way to ensure this is to implement study techniques that inspire confidence and solicit higher test scores across the board. This builds confidence and makes for keen, independent students who know their capabilities.

Your students will be less stressed on test day, and you’ll spend less time taking off points for incorrect answers. You’ll also be able to move through your lesson plan more efficiently because your students will have the tools they need to get a lasting understanding of the material.

8 effective study techniques for your students

1. Turn the radio up

Playing music while studying helps some students to feel less overwhelmed. Teachers have reported success by playing instrumental music during independent work. Classical music is another popular genre among teachers. Background noise or sounds of nature can help students to tune out distracting noises and focus on the task at hand. They can even use this strategy at home!

While this method has shown excellent results for many different types of students, some benefit more from silence. In that case, consider allowing headphones during study time. This allows students to choose what they listen to and doesn’t disturb those who prefer a quiet working environment.

2. Introduce interval studying

The concept of cramming before a test involves frantically reading through all course materials the night before a test — or, even worse, in the last few moments leading up to it. Although some students believe this is an effective way to refresh their memory of the coursework, research shows that much of what they review during this time is quickly forgotten. Interval studying is a more effective alternative to cramming.

Interval studying focuses on reviewing learned information within 24 hours of learning a new concept. When students hear a lecture for the first time, they retain 80% of the learned information if a review occurs within the same time period. Additionally, the concept of interval learning is cumulative, which means that with repetition throughout the week, students could very well retain most if not all of what they learn.

3. Create a study schedule

Students do best in school with structure. The best way to make sure that your students aren’t overwhelmed with studying is to set aside a block of time each day in your class schedule for studying. At the end of every lesson, take some time to review what you just went over. Then, at the end of the class, allow your students to engage in an independent study.

Use this independent study time to focus on the day’s objectives or anything else from previous days. You can assign worksheets or study guides to complete, or you can allow the students to decide how to structure this time. Spiral reviews are another good study technique.

4. Focus on note-taking skills

Good note-taking is an extremely valuable skill that only increases with importance as students get older. Because this is something teachers do naturally, we often assume that students know how to take good notes.

The first way to encourage excellent note-taking skills is to provide a structured template to use during class time. Take a day to format a universal template that your students can use to model after. Then, as you’re teaching, you can briefly pause or give some other indication that students should take notes on the information presented. Don’t have time to create a template? Doodlenotes might be an option.

Another easy way to foster good note-taking involves giving notes. If you have a smartboard or a projector, you can write your own notes for each student to copy down as you go through the lesson. Save these notes, and you can use them to create the tests and quizzes given on a lesson. This is also helpful if a student is absent because they can review those notes when they return, or even from home.

The last way to ensure your class has good notes is to write them before class and hand them out. If you worry about class participation, you can have children highlight important parts as you go through the lesson. This gives you control over what content gets reviewed and ensures your class is on the same page. 

5. Eliminate distractions 

Your students can’t study effectively if there are constant distractions around them. Most kids fail to realize this. The increased use of technology for social media and other interactions with friends greatly disrupts study time. So does the idea that multitasking is doable.

A distracted student might spend three hours going over material that would otherwise take them an hour or less, just because they’re constantly looking at their phone or watching a show. On the other hand, a different student who spends an hour studying dedicates the entire time going over the coursework. The student who commits the whole time to studying without distractions will retain more information.

What can parents and teachers do? Encourage students to put down their cellphones when studying. Allow them a bit of class time to design and decorate “ban buckets” where they can place their phones during study time. This will increase productivity, and they will end up spending less time on schoolwork when they go home. Multitasking is not an efficient way to learn what’s needed to succeed in class. The sooner that each student understands this, the better off he or she will be.

6. Create flashcards

Flashcards are an easy, portable way to get the most out of study time. They don’t take long to make, and they can have a good impact on test scores, especially in subjects like foreign languages where memorization is unavoidable. Take a day to create flashcards as a class and encourage your students to review them often.

These cards aren’t just for learning new words, though — use them to study all kinds of subjects. Though you shouldn’t rely on flashcards entirely for studying, they’re especially effective in subjects requiring repetition, such as in elementary math classes where students are learning their multiplication tables.

If you don’t want to go through the chore of creating flashcards by hand, you can create them online with popular platforms like Quizlet. Instructors can set up classrooms with multiple flashcard sets, organized by folder. Students can then combine these sets or review them individually. Quizlet offers a number of review options, including plain-old flipping, tests, matching activities, spelling activities, and even a game for your more visual learners. You can play these games as a class or have your students study independently — whatever works best!

7. Use intentional learning strategies

Intentional learning is all about the effort a student puts into learning class materials. A student who practices intentional learning is motivated, ready to learn each day in class, and wants to understand class materials.

Although the student may struggle with particular subjects, they take the initiative to ask questions or further investigate a problem to gain a better understanding of the subject. The easiest way to encourage this type of behavior in your classroom is to form a rewards system.

You can use learning platforms like Classcraft to gamify learning, incentivize positive behaviors, and discourages misbehavior. For example, reward a productive study session with experience points (XP) that a student can use to customize their character with new gear.  

Using a platform like Classcraft makes learning fun for everyone. It encourages your students to learn valuable study habits that will follow them through the rest of their lives.

8. Develop time management skills

Time management is a big part of a productive study session. If a student spends too much time on one subject, they might sacrifice performance in another. Start by helping your students to gauge how much time they should spend on each section and encourage them to stick to a plan. 

Planning study time out beforehand equips students to be more productive and successful. While there may be a small learning curve to this technique, mastering it will benefit them in the long run. After all, time management is an important skill not just in school but also in the workplace!

Consider having frequent checkpoints that allow you to evaluate where each student stands, and restructure this study time as needed.

Help your students to reach their potential

Studying and school go hand in hand. By teaching students these studying techniques, you’ll prepare them for academic success in your classroom and beyond.

Photo: Santi Vedri/unsplash

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