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.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

An Assignment: Plan a Journey Around the World
by Mary Ann Slavcheff

Phileas Fogg went around the world in 90 days in a Jules Verne novel.

Abe Lincoln's son Willie used to make imaginary train


Plan a trip around the world in 90 days. Sure it can be faster today, but let's stop here and there and enjoy perhaps a soccer game or a concert or bicycle trip.  Maybe we can climb a mountain or take part in a festival.
Leave from your home. How long will it take to drive to the airport or bus station or to drive to New York City.
Go to the cities you want.  You can go north, or south east or west. Just so long as you go around the world in 90 days.
Find out about airline, bus, train and boat timetables.

What cities will you spend extra time in?

How will you get from airports or bus depots?

The imaginary trip is yours to plan.

Faulty Argument
Now that we have learned how to memorize anything faster, easier and better, let’s learn how to evaluate facts.  If you still need help with memorization, go the earlier blogs on chaining and pegging. They may take some practice, but after you have a fun alphabet or two and some loci, you can memorize anything.
Next comes logic. How do we evaluate information that is coming to us? 
If you are on a jury, how do you decide guilty or not guilty?
Who should you vote for? 
What product should you buy?
We use logic, to evaluate the facts and make a decision.
Too often in our modern world, we make decisions based on Liking or on Social Validation. Liking means that if I like someone, I am more likely to vote for him or buy a product from him. Salesmen work on likability. Social validation means we make decisions based on popularity. We read books on best seller charts, watch popular movies and television shows, and buy stupid toys because we saw people fighting over the toy on the evening news.
These are not good reasons to make selections.
One of the best ways of understanding logic is to understand examples of poor logic. That way when bad logic comes our way, we can quickly recognize it.

Over the next several months, I will be presenting a blog each on about a dozen and maybe more faulty arguments.