Helping teenagers memorise their school work is often a challenge; constant exams, long study sessions and repetitive exercises can leave them demotivated. Thankfully, there are many studies which show that by making some small changes, teens can make a big difference to their ability to remember their school-work.
Mix it up and make a change
We often think of consistency as important for study: using the same desk, studying at the same time of day, or even using the same pen. However, every time we do something different (study outside, talk about our work with friends, record our notes instead of writing them etc.), we make the memory richer and easier to recall in the future. We can encourage our teenagers to do this by allowing them to listen to music for part of their study time, inviting their friends to come and study with them at home, or helping them to write a study schedule with different times and places for study sessions. Any small changes have huge benefits to learning.
Take a break
Many scientific studies have shown how the brain continues working on a problem long after we’ve stopped working on it ourselves. In fact, our brain might even work better when we’re thinking about something else! This gives us a very clear way to help our children. If your son or daughter is struggling with an exercise, encourage them to take a break! The activity they do in the break isn’t important, so they can chat to friends, play sports, sit down for a meal, or anything they want. In this time, their subconscious steps in to start working on the problem, and when they start again, they should have a clearer idea of how to work it out.
Review everything, not only the difficult stuff
We often believe that we will always know something because we know it now. This is called ‘the fluency trap’, and it can cause us problems when we need to remember information a long time after we last reviewed it. Teens often suffer from this problem when choosing what to study, because if they know it now, surely they will remember it for the test? Encourage them to revise all their class work a couple of weeks afterwards, even subjects they think they’re finished with, and space out the study sessions so that they will see where the gaps in their knowledge are.
The power of testing
We often think of reading and making notes as the best way to learn material, but psychologists now believe that it is the testing that actually helps us to remember. Being in a test situation requires a lot more brain power than sitting and memorising, and this makes the memory stronger. There are a number of websites which our tech-savvy teens can use to make revision tests for themselves, or they can visit websites such as learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org, where they can quickly complete short tests after each study session.
At the British Council, our teachers put these theories into practise to improve our secondary students’ memory of the material studied in class, as well as giving them study skills which are transferable to all of their future studies. Giving students short quizzes and tests, constantly reviewing work from previous weeks, and even getting students to sit in different places, all enrich their memory of English and make the classes more enjoyable as well!