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Make an effective study plan - Deccan Herald
Make an effective study plan
Dr. Ali Khwaja,
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LEARNING MECHANISMS Consider listening to some soft music while studying to see how you remember your lessons.
Some parents may have seen their child walking around and reading her textbook in a sing-song fashion loudly. Others may observe their child closing the book now and then and trying to recollect what he or she read. Some other child may put on music while studying. At times, a student is seen doodling and scribbling while reading important chapters. Some parents get exasperated when their child lie down on the bed and reads. What they do not know is that these are ways in which the child is exploring ways of understanding and remembering better. And, these are indicators of how children’s brains behave and comprehend differently.

Unfortunately, our education system has been made for the average, left-brained student who goes by his 'duty’ to study, memorise and reproduce. While changes are being brought about in the education system slowly, we as parents and teachers cannot wait as the child will grow up before we know it. In order to succeed without getting stressed out and without 'mugging’ for hours every day, each child can learn to learn in the most efficient manner suitable to the individual. Exploration of the best ways of 'smart’ learning can be done by a student himself but it will be nice if parents and teachers take the initiative and make a child aware of alternatives. If done at the earlier part of the academic year, it can yield very good results for the student when the final exams arrive. Here are some ways that it can be done:

Know yourself

Each person has a built-in biological clock, that is, there are times of the day when we are at our peak energy levels, and certain times when we are very lethargic. Check out your biological clock by monitoring when your study intake is best.

Divide the day into time slots, something like this: early morning, before sunrise; morning, before breakfast; after breakfast; late morning; after lunch; late afternoon;evening; just after dark; after dinner; late night. If you observe yourself carefully over a number of days, you will find the ups and downs of your biological clock. Then you can make a schedule something like this:

Low energy time slots: revision, study of easy subjects, preparing notes

High energy time slots: difficult subjects, problem solving, learning formulae or definitions.

Take breaks

It is important that you take periodic breaks from your study. The time period before each break can again vary depending on whether it is a low energy or high energy time. The breaks can be as frequent as once in half an hour, but should definitely not be less than once in two hours. Practice taking breaks after 30, 45, 60, 90 minutes and see if memory retention improves. Equally important is the time duration of the break - ideally, it should not be more than three to five minutes each - and what you do in that time. During this time, try doing one of the following: a brisk walk, deep breathing, washing your face, listening to a soothing song, a casual chat with a family member or playing with a pet. See what gives you maximum relaxation.

Other techniques

Try each of these techniques out for a few days and evaluate their benefits:

Compare how good your study is when you are in different positions. For example, when you sit in one place and read, when you stand - preferably resting against a wall with something to hold your book, when you walk around slowly and sitting down periodically, and when you change your place of study and postures at regular intervals.

Write as you read, either in a notebook, small flip cards, or on a clipboard. If more comfortable, write in the notepad of your phone. Try writing in bullet form, using abbreviations wherever possible. Read what you have written periodically.

Doodle carelessly while you read, scribble one or two important words, and at times write what you have read in the previous paragraph. Throw away the rough papers and keep fresh sheets to write again.

In subjects like Biology, Physics or Geography, convert the reading into a map or diagram drawn and label it, and draw some arrows towards text boxes and describe what you have written.

Read mainly from the notes instead of the textbook, and refer to the book only when needed.

Read aloud to yourself, or even read out to a friend or parent. Try reading softly, then more loudly.

Highlight or underline important passages or definitions with a pencil. Make acronyms and then memorise the short-form. For example, 'VIBGYOR’ for rainbow colours.

Close the book once every five, 10 or 20 minutes and recall what you have read (or even write down in point-form).

After every topic, list out and relate what you have studied to real-life situations, and how the knowledge can be used practically.

Play soft instrumental music when you read.

Discuss with a friend, parent or family member what you have studied and what you have learnt from the topic.

Write important points on a small blackboard or white board fixed to the wall, the way teacher does during class.

Read one subject continuously for hours or shift periodically from one subject to another, depending on your preference.

Give yourself mock tests after reading a chapter or two, or on what you had read the previous day or week.

As far as possible, do not study two languages in one day. This is to avoid the confusion that comes out of differences in grammar and syntax of different languages. Whenever possible, talk in that language on the day when you are studying your lessons.

You need to try out for a few days continuously before you can be sure whether that particular method actually suits you or not. Keep a record whenever you try it out, and systematically evaluate which technique improves your concentration and memory over a period of time. If a concerned adult can monitor this exercise and give objective feedback to the student on the advantages and disadvantages of each of the above techniques and alternatives, it will be very beneficial.

(The author is founder and chairman, Banjara Academy, Bengaluru)