By now, it's become apparent that COVID-19 has negatively impacted the academic progress of our kids. While this impact has not yet been quantified, it can certainly be estimated. We already know how decreased instruction, absenteeism, and the so-called "summer slide" can all delay progress. Because of COVID-19 and distance learning, all of these factors have compounded, on top of added emotional stress and a de-emphasis on hands-on, inquiry-based learning that happens in the classroom. As a collection of educators, we are always looking for new ways to offer help for your kids. To that effect, we're profiling 3 study techniques which improve performance, so that you can try them in your household to see if they have a positive impact on your child's education. Let's get started!
The Pomodoro Technique
A favorite method of designers, developers, and other creative types, the Pomodoro Technique increases productivity by balancing work and breaks on a schedule. It's no wonder, then, that its creator, Francesco Cirillo, is a developer himself. The method is named after the Italian word for tomato, pomodoro, since as a college student, Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to keep him focused on his school work. His method is simple; break up your work, whether it be writing, reading, studying, or any other task, with short breaks. Here's a step-by-step guide:
- Choose a task to be accomplished, like a worksheet or a reading chapter.
- Set a timer to 25 minutes. This 25-minute sprint is called a Pomodoro.
- Work on the task until the timer goes off.
- Take a short break, about 5 minutes.
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break, about 15-30 minutes.
Now, since this method is generally used during an 8-hour work day, not a 2-3-hour homework or study session, feel free to adjust your child's Pomodoros accordingly. Also, remember that any distractions which interrupt the Pomodoro reset the timer. So, if your child is 10 minutes in and request a snack break, the Pomodoro resets when they finish eating, it doesn't keep running. And, best practice is to run a little over time if a task is almost completed, like finishing the last page of reading or the last few questions on a homework page before starting the break. The goal of the Pomodoro method is to keep the child focused and not overwhelm them.
The Testing Method
This technique is used to retain information. At its core, the method is very simple, requiring students to test themselves periodically on information that they are learning. Employing this method works best for students when their homework is not interactive, such are reading long passages in textbooks or works of fiction. The Testing Method was developed by researchers Karpicke and Blunt in 2011 by testing various methods of memory retention. Interestingly, this method found that reading a passage twice as much was less effective at retaining the knowledge than reading the passage less times, but testing the subjects to recall the knowledge directly after reading.
So, how can your child implement the Testing Method in their studies? Like the Pomodoro Technique, this method is time based. Break the study session into 5-minute periods of reading, and 10-minute periods of writing. Read each passage twice before moving on. In the writing portions, the student should try to recall everything that they read in the passage, and challenge themselves to remember more the second time than the first. If your child reads their assigned work over and over and over again but can't seem to retain the information, then the Testing Method is definitely for them!
We've explored before how forgetting is built into the human brain, and is actually essential for lifelong learning. The more we hear something, the more likely we are to remember it, as our brains recognize it as important information for us to retain. This learning concept has many other names, such as spaced rehearsal, expanding rehearsals, graduated intervals, repetition spacing, spaced/expanded retrieval, or repetition scheduling, but they all refer to the same method. The goal of spaced repetition is to retain knowledge by repeating the information to engrain the knowledge in our brains. To do this, a schedule must be created. Some curriculums have spaced repetition built in. If not, you can implement a schedule, of which there are many and are created by various companies.
Like the Testing Method, spaced repetition involved recalling information throughout the learning phase. First, take notes on what you are trying to memorize. Flash cards can also be used. This should be done within a day of initial studying. Then, try to recall the information in a non-study environment, such as when taking a walk, listening to music, or playing. Repeat this process daily, and after several days, study the original material again. Daily practice will lead to retention!
We hope that the above methods will help your child as they deal with distance learning during COVID-19. Parents of Best Brains students will notice that we utilize many of these methods within our unique curriculum. That's one of the reasons we have been so successful over the years, and why our students are academically achieving during this pandemic. If your child could benefit from these methods, you can join our Math and English programs anytime!