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Learning to Learn: From Failure to Success

       Some students learn how to learn with seemingly little formal instruction or effort.  They figure out the best way to get information into their brain and retrieve it when necessary.  It seems to come naturally. Others don't have a clue what to do to get information and ideas into their heads.  Some have given up on school work because they haven't been successful in the past.  Some who never studied in elementary years are startled when they suddenly have to study in later years in order to maintain good grades.  
       I am living proof that there is hope for students who don't know how to study.  My grades were poor from elementary through high school.  I passed all my classes, but struggled through many of them.  I spent time studying, but most of that time was wasted.  I usually did fine on daily work (when I did it) but tests were another matter!  I felt like I didn't measure up to my siblings who were all straight A students.   It wasn't until my third year of college that I learned how to study.  I learned tips for quickly comprehending what I read, I learned how to store information in my long-term memory, I learned how to learn in a way that worked for me.  I learned straight A's my last two years of college. From personal experience, I know that students can learn how to learn efficiently and effectively.  That's the good news.  The better news is that they don't have to wait until college to do it. 

     --Gina Johnson

Learn it YOUR Way

       Each person has his/her own unique combination of learning style preferences which  can make learning easier.  The key is to find out what your learning preferences are and learn to work with them.  Below is a summary of various learning styles and how to study using each style.  Remember that most of us use a combination of learning styles. 
       Auditory learners learn best through their ears.  They learn by listening, having someone explain things, studying out loud, listening to tapes, etc. Auditory learners must listen carefully in class and often understand difficult reading assignments if they read out loud. They need verbal explanations in math and science.  Auditory learners need to talk to themselves and listen to others talking as well.  
       Visual learners learn best by seeing or  reading.  Studying  for visual learners often involves flash cards or reading explanations (especially in math or science).  Graphic note-taking techniques help visual learners remember.  
       Tactile learners learn best by writing or illustrating.    Studying for a tactile learner should involve writing out and doing practice problems, rewriting notes, keeping a journal, etc.  Tactile learners seem to learn best with a pen or pencil.  
       Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing or moving.   Using money or measuring to learn fractions and decimals works well as does acting out roles in literature and doing the action words you're learning in foreign language.  Kinesthetic learners learn best while moving.
       Students must learn to work with all learning styles in order to adapt to different learning situations.  If you have certain styles that don't work at all for you, you may have trouble in a class in which the teacher expects you to work with his/her teaching style.  It's important to not only know yourself, but also be able to adapt to various learning situations.  
       Learning preferences change and evolve with training and practice.  Good students can generally adapt to various teaching styles in the classroom and use their preferred styles when studying at home.  
       No matter what your preferred learning style, the habits you develop for studying will impact how effectively and efficiently you use your study time.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q.  How much should I get involved when my child gets stuck on homework?
A.  It depends.  Younger children may need more assistance than older ones.  The most important assistance you can give any child is encouragement and support.  NEVER do your child's homework.  Doing someone else's homework is stealing from them:  stealing the opportunity to learn.  Some students need to hear explanations several times in order to "get it."  It doesn't hurt to explain, but it helps more to have your child explain it to you.  That also helps you know where the gaps are.  If your child is so stuck they're falling behind, contact the teacher.  He/she needs feedback on what the students need help with.

Q.  My child is smart but isn't getting good grades.  HELP!
A.  Underachievers, those who can but don't, challenge parents and educators alike.  It's important to determine if your child is underachieving in all areas of life or just school.  If your child doesn't do his/her chores, always has excuses, only does what pleases him/her, you are dealing with a character issue.  Your child needs to learn perseverance which is a very difficult lesson to learn.  In this case, we can help with study skills but I recommend working with a therapist who is experienced in working with underachievers.  If, however, your child is basically hard-working, you probably are facing a lack of skills. This can make a student feel stupid and they may give up. In this case, enrolling in a study skills course could really change things around.         

     --Gina Johnson

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