Learning how to learn is a valuable skill in life. It can benefit you in school, at work, or when helping your children in school with their homework. Learning new skills can also improve cognitive functioning and is beneficial to an aging mind. One study found that learning new activities that required active engagement led participants to show improvement in memory compared to engaging in social activities or non-demanding mental activities. Read on to learn ways to learn faster and help your friends and family do the same.
Understand Different Styles of Learning
Knowing what your (or your child's) dominant learning style is important before deciding what type of memory retention activity is best to try. Everybody retains information better in different ways. Seven common learning styles are:
Visual learners that prefer pictures, images, and spatial understanding
Auditory learners that prefer using music and/or sounds
Kinesthetic learners that prefer using the body, sense of touch, and hands
Logical learners that prefer using reasoning, logic, and systems
Verbal learners that prefer using words in writing and speech
Social learners that prefer learning with others or in groups
Solitary learners that learn best alone
Regardless of your learning style or combination of styles, it is generally helpful to use as many senses and methods of studying as possible. Repetition and active involvement of multiple senses can help with retention. For instance, writing notes puts things heard into words. Mouthing the words out loud while you copy notes before a test can help involve another sense. There are also a variety of memory games for kids that can assist with retention. Mnemonic devices where you remember pieces of information using a simple association of common words are another go-to information recall tool.
Plan and Study as a Routine
Plan what you have to study and stay organized when you know how much time you or your child has to complete requirements. When you have so many moving parts to keep track of, having a planner can come in handy. This is especially true for remembering due dates, test dates, and assignment requirements.
Once you know what needs to be done by when, creating a study schedule and making it part of your daily routine so it feels like a natural habit can be most effective to retaining content. Be sure to take breaks between study sessions. Planning in time to walk, stretch, or dance in between studying has shown to help the brain improve information recall. This is partially due to the fact that physical movement can increase oxygen flow to the brain which leads to improved alertness and concentration.
Create a Study-Friendly Zone
Preference in where you study and the location's environment can vary from person to person. Make sure it is optimal for whoever is studying. If you like quiet places and there is too much going on at home, consider using headphones with background music to drown the sound. I personally prefer the sound of waterfalls. Alternatively, head out to a library or park with benches. When choosing where to study, remember that good conditions for studying include ample lighting and few distractions.
Sometimes designating an area in your house where only studying happens can help the brain get ready for the task every time you, your child, or family member sits down there. This also helps create a routine associated with a study location. Regardless of where you choose to study, maintaining a positive attitude is key to reduce stress levels that can hinder memory.
Remember to Eat and Sleep Sufficiently
Your brain needs fuel when studying to retain information so making sure you eat is important. If you are too full or eat hard-to-digest foods, this can make you tired easily as your body is working over-time digesting it all. Frequent snacks made of foods that are easy to digest, yet still packed with nutrients, are optimal.
It is also ineffective to study when you are sleepy. Full sleep contributes to memory retention. When you sleep after learning something new you can also help fortify the link between neurons in your brain, and even boost creative thinking. One study found that the ability of high school students to remember vocabulary was enhanced when sleeping after learning, so make sure you get a good night's sleep after studying and especially the night before a test. Cramming is less effective for retention. Rather, it is much better to review or apply the material or skills learned repetitively every week.