Saturday, December 6, 2014

John Langan's Seven Steps to a Better Memory

If you are looking for a good book on getting better grades, check out John Langan’s “Reading and Study Skills.” Adult learners will find it is the bible of books on how to survive in school.  Parents will find lots of help for their children.  Sixth graders and above can read the book for themselves. Struggling students might want to reread it once a year.  Now in its tenth edition, a new copy online  might cost you over a hundred dollars. College book stores will be just as expensive. Older editions are just as good and usually much cheaper.  Go with an older edition, unless assigned the latest edition.
The book discusses attendance, test taking, note taking  and all the other skills, students need.
It was a required textbook in the college classes I taught.  I drilled Langan’s seven steps to a better memory into students, so I hoped they would never forget.
Step One: Organize the material.  Using this step I could introduce Pegging. My students organized material chronologically, alphabetically, or by order of importance.  See my earlier and blog on “Pegging” and “Loci.”.  To really learn anything, you must learn the order.
Step Two: Intend to learn.  So many students think they don’t need English or math and that they can forget the information as soon as the test is over. Decide to learn the material and to keep that learning.  Review previous learning from time to time. I find a good time to review my old learning is when I am walking the dog, biking or doing dishes.
Step Three: Test yourself repeatedly.  Who says the teacher must do all  the testing? Write your own tests.  Quiz fellow students and let them quiz you.
Step Four: Use memory techniques.  Langan introduces his readers to catch words and phrases, but to learn more about memory techniques, read my blogs.  I will also be sharing a list of books that have some of these techniques. Those of you not willing to wait for me to address these topics can look for books by Harry Lorraine, Joshua Foer  or Dominic O’Brien,all of them memory champions. 
Step Five: Space out learning sessions.  Don’t cram for tests. Study everyday, but give yourself breaks. Get up, watch a television show, walk the dog, or eat a sandwich.
Step Six: Over learn. When I would give tests, I would watch the students leave the classroom, take  a deep breath and promptly forget the material.  Spend a little extra time and really learn the materials. I can rattle off the names of U.S. presidents in alphabetical or chronological order. Give me a number from 1-44, and I can tell you what president had that number. I also still know the shorthand I learned way back in high school.
Learning is something you should strive to keep.
Step seven: Study before bed time. We are more open to new learning when we are relaxed. Studies have shown that playing baroque music and relaxing comfortably increases learning.The very best time to study is just before bed time.
While Langan is a great introduction to learning, my techniques go further and show you more. I elaborate on techniques described by Langan and other scholars.  I hope you enjoy my blogs and learn from them.

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