Why don’t they teach kids how to study?

Groucho has started to think about careers – and she’s aiming high. “I want to be a doctor”

Dad Dancer has mixed feelings. On the one hand I swell with pride that she is growing up to be a confident young woman with lofty ambitions. But I also have some niggling worries. You hear all those horror stories about junior doctors’ working conditions – and it’s a lifetime of study. All the evidence to date suggests Groucho has a maximum concentration span of about five minutes.  I’m also a little bit suspicious that this newfound vocation has a lot to do with her love of Casualty and Holby City. Med school might not turn out quite as she expects.

At the end of the day though it’s her life and whatever she decides to do with it, I’ll support her all the way. But I want her to have plenty of options – and that means getting the grades. The new school year is well under way, the subject matter is getting trickier and it’s only going to get tougher.

Which has got me thinking: Whey don’t they teach kids how to study? There must be techniques, tips and tricks that will make the road ahead easier? Like when you join the gym and they start off with some kind of induction, showing you how to use the equipment properly. Surely the first thing we learn should be how to learn. Or to put it another way, how do you get the most gain from school, with the least pain? 

Like most of us I turn to Google. There’s tonnes of stuff out there, but one piece of video comes to the fore. It’s a lecture by an American psychology professor called Dr Marty Lobdell, called Study Less, Study Smart. It’s aimed at uni students but I think there’s a lot of stuff here that is good for all ages.  It’s about an hour long and if you want to watch here it is.


But if you think life’s too short for that, I’ve managed to sum it up in about 300 words.

  • Study in 25-minute chunks – After this amount of time you stop taking much in. Take a break – it only needs to be five minutes. Step away from your desk. Give yourself a little reward, do something fun  – then after five minutes go back to work. You’ll be almost back to 100% efficiency again. When you’ve finished all your study sessions for the day, give yourself a big treat.
  • Create a study area – A place free from distractions. Bedrooms aren’t great – you associate the room with sleeping but if you have to study there, study at a desk, not in bed. Have a study lamp – turn it on when you’re studying, turn it off when you’re having a break – serves as a cue to get you into the studying mindset.
  • Are you trying to learn concepts or facts? – For concepts, try putting it in your own words, explain it to someone else, even your teddy bear if necessary. Student study groups are good. Use marker pens sparingly. Active learning is good – shut the book, write it down or say it in your own words.
  • Get enough sleep – it’s important in laying down memories.
  • Take notes during a class – but as soon as possible after the class, add to those notes, flesh them out. Maybe takes an extra 5 minutes.
  • Textbooks – SQRRR method.  Survey the whole chapter first, look at pictures etc and ask yourself Questions about the material. Read the chapter. Recite it. Review it again before you have a test.
  • For learning facts mnemonics are useful – There are different types. Acronyms – RADiO Right Atrium DeOxygenated blood. Coined sayings – Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. Interacting images. How do you remember that fat has 9 calories per gram – cats have nine lives, think of a fat cat.

Will this be useful? Only time will tell. I tried to get Groucho to watch the video she declared she was bored to death after ten minutes (maybe I was a little unfair to her when I said she had a concentration span of five).

Oh, and in the time it’s taken me to write up this blog her career choice has changed.

“I’m going to be a vet.”




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