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Small tips on studying

Anyone can learn more easily, better, and faster.

"I believe everyone can learn how to learn," said Terry Small, who shared his strategy for learning with parents and students Feb. 7 at Whistler Secondary.

A teacher for 25 years, who has taught elementary and high school, Small also teaches learning skills and techniques at seminars offered through continuing education services.

He believes that forming a strategy for learning can have a marked impact on the ability to recall and understand material as well as improve grades.

"A big part of the strategy is that studying should be an active process," said Small.

"Human beings do our best work when we are actively involved."

Using the analogy of a baseball game, Small points out that spectators can learn something of the game. But the way to really learn about the game is to play.

It’s the same with learning. Anyone can learn something by listening or reading but real comprehension is achieved when people listen, read, take notes, question themselves, and follow-through on their ideas about the subject.

Small refers to this type of learning as "multitracking."

If you take two students, he said, one who only listens and one who takes notes and listens the notetaker will remember 50 per cent more after 30 days even if they never refer to the material before being tested.

"Brain research is clear," said Small, "when you are learning on more than one pathway to the brain at the same time you are going to remember more."

One of the most important strategies for better learning is the use of memory and mastery cards.

The cards have a question on one side and the answer on the other, or for example a French word on one side and the English translation on the other.

Recipe or index cards work best.

Small says they are an important tool because students learn things to the point of recall.

Other methods of learning often bring kids to the point of recognition but that only helps them if they are answering multiple choice questions.

It’s also a good idea, said Small to use coloured pens to create the cards.

The question could be in black, the answer in blue, and key words could be underlined in red.

Studies have indicated that using different coloured pens when making notes can make them up to 13 per cent more memorable.

The beauty of the card system is that students can study anywhere with them. And once they have mastered what is on the card they can put them to the side and concentrate on the information they are still focused on remembering.