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New Advice: Vary Study Locations

Working on multiple subjects also improves learning.

How do you teach your children to study? Do you make sure they have a consistent place to study and that they work on one skill at a time? Experts now say that approach is “old school.” There is a better way to study, and parents who have tried it agree.

Variety Works Best

Cathy Holland, school psychologist in the Appoquinimink, DE School District, says studying in varied locations works best. “The goal of studying anything is to understand it and be able to think critically about it,” she says. Varying the study setting helps a student to encode information differently and to understand it on a deeper level. She says the more times students study the same material, the more they internalize the information as opposed to just memorizing it.

Jennifer Shiroff, of Voorhees, NJ encourages her two kids to study in different settings. “I think when you’resitting at a desk or the kitchen table, the kids tune out after a while,” she explains. At different times, she reinforces information her kids are studying  — while driving , playing a game or during dinner. “We just bring it up during casual conversation in a different way,” she adds. “I think they retain it better.”

Adds mom Lori Coleman via the MetroKids Facebook page, “My 15-year-old son is a junior in high school. He has five or six different places in the house where you’ll find class notes and schoolbooks. He stays on the move, I think, depending on the subject and his mood.”

Parents should encourage their children to suggest places where they feel they can best retain the information, says Holland. One day that might mean on their bed with music playing, while another day it could be at a quiet desk.

Study Related Subjects Together

Experts say that working on several skills in one study session can increase retention and understanding of the material. By studying related subjects, kids can better see how those subjects go together and look at them in a bigger-picture way, suggests Holland. “Instead of memorizing one small isolated piece, now you’re making sense of how addition goes together with multiplication, for example.”

Carol Rooney, a mother of three in Berwyn, PA, says that combining skills into one lesson can also make learning more enjoyable. As part of her 15-year-old daughter Tori’s Spanish homework, she needed to design a house and label the parts in Spanish. The project involved  taking pictures, designing, drawing and looking up Spanish words., “It was a great application because there was an artistic quality to it and it was really fun,” recalls Tori’s mom.

Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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