Sunday, 24 February 2013

Unscramble the Toolbox in the Brain

A toolbox can be messy, confused and quite impossible to find anything in. On the otherhand it can be a well organised place where items are filed and easily found. As we learn, study and try to retain information our brains can be places very similar to a  toolbox, cluttered or well organised, it's all in how we train it.

This week as our youngest son started University in earnest, we sat down with him to go over his study habbits. So I thought perhaps it was a pertinent time to refresh the teenagers in your families of a few study techniques that have worked in our house over the years.

Organisation from the outset is the key. Make good use of an organised desk, book shelf, filing system, whatever is available.
A folder for each subject to file your daily notes, whether that is paper or electronic, whichever suits you best is essential. Make sure your notes are revised and filed. I'll come back to revision in a moment.

Each subject should have a course outline. If you don't have it, get it! From each of these you can see exactly when assignments, oral presentations, creative work and exams are due. Draw up a chart of how long the term or semester is and plot each due date on it Then using a bar graph in different colours for each subject work out how much time you need to complete each task. You will have a pictorial chart in front of you to see exactly how much time you need to spend on each subject each day and week to complete everything on time.
eg.       Week 1     2      3       4     5       6       7       8        9       10
Maths                                           Assignment                            Exam
English                         Oral                   Essay                  Creative
Science                                         Assignment                            Exam
IT                                                                            Assignment Exam

There is nothing like a visual chart to help keep you on task.

Revision for exams is one thing that has cluttered the toolbox of many minds for centuries. To start with if assignments are organised and time is planned and well spent, you are more relaxed and able to cope more effeciently.

Another helpful tip however is to be organised right from week one. Start your revision from the beginning.
Here comes another chart, but I promise it will be the most useful tool in your room.

You will need a seperate sheet for each subject. Label the subject title at the top.  Down the side list the number of weeks. Beside each week write the topic studied. Beside that add in the equation or key notes for that topic.

eg  Maths
week  topic     equation
1     algebra    a2 + b2 = c2

Stick the charts on your bedroom wall or mirror, or the back of the toilet wall, anywhere that you see them every morning when you get up. You will read them every day and it will only take a few moments, but if you keep them up to date by the time you get to the end of term, you have revised all the key formulas everyday of the term. They will be so familiar the exams will come naturally and stress free!

Reading text books! How often do you pick up a text book, open it up, read the first page, yawn, scratch, flick through to see the unfathomable amount you have to get through, then decide you need a snack or a better still, a nap? Try power reading the text book first. Read the cover, the blurb and the index or contents page to get an idea of what the text is all about. Now see if you can draw a mind map to remind you of the title and some of the chapter headings. A mind map is a pictorial recognition of key words to help you quickly register something you want to remember. For example for "mind map" itself if asked I might draw a brain and a trasure map with an x that marks the spot. Someone else may come up with a completely different idea, but it gets you thinking, the brain is stimulated and now you are curious to continue on with reading further into the text book. Don't forget as you read in more depth to continue making notes and more mind maps, they really do help you remember key notes.

To all those high school and Uni students out there, don't stress, you've come this far, be organised, file the cabinet or toolbox in the brain neatly. Keep it ordered and unclutterd and good luck this year.

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