Student in lesson

Activities in lessons are supposed to help you learn. Obvious, really – but often forgotten. If you’re serious about more effective learning, one of the best things to do is pay better attention to what’s going on in school, college or sixth form. This doesn’t involve any extra time, so you really have very little to lose.

Thinking More

A lot of the changes you can make won’t be visible from the outside. They mean staying focussed on the topic at hand, and there are many ways to get your brain more involved with what’s going on. Why not try one of these each week? If it works then keep doing it, and if not then scrap it and try something else.

  • How is this relevant to last lesson? What’s coming next?
  • What ideas are most important? What cues could I look for to help with a question?
  • What examples in my life/house/bedroom/hobbies are relevant to this?
  • What are the traps or common mistakes in this topic and how can I avoid them?
  • What are the consequences (e.g. Good/Bad/Interesting, Danger vs Profit, People or Environment) that should be considered?
  • How could I summarise this in a word/sentence/paragraph/diagram/graph/equation/cartoon/mime/whatever?
  • What question could/should I ask to understand this better?

Better Notes

Adding anything to your notes will help you remember it later – this is obviously particularly important when you want to record your extra thinking, as above. Consider emphasis – underlining, highlighting, ALL CAPS – to make key ideas stand out. (This only helps if you emphasize a small amount of the content.) Leaving space around your written work, especially diagrams, will make it easier to review later and means you can add bits if you want.

Adding extra examples or clearer definitions will also improve the quality of your notes. This is a prompt for yourself, not an explanation for someone else; a single word might be enough. This is particularly important if the main notes were copied from a board, or a printed worksheet or slideshow. You want additions that will help you to understand the relevance or get a clear picture of the main ideas. They might even be jobs for yourself for later, perhaps a word you want to define or a possibility you want to explore. If so, leave space for you to add a summary sentence once you’ve had a chance to review.

You should always be able to justify what you are doing in terms of learning. In the same way as products should be ‘value for money’, what you do should be a good use of your time. If you’re trying to improve understanding and recall, activities that don’t help are pointless. If you can get a couple of extra minutes of useful work done in a lesson, you’re setting yourself up to remember it better later and so have a head start when it is time to revise.

For more ideas, have a look at some of the posts in the ‘lessons’ category.


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