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Why I don't tell students to study

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
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I don’t tell students to study anymore.  I just don’t use the word.   It is not that I don’t believe in students studying.  It has nothing to do with the anti-common core movement.  It has nothing to do with testing in general. I have found that these terms are ambiguous and meaningless. I am a 7th/8th Language Arts virtual teacher.  I teach reading, writing, grammar, and studying.  

When I asked my students what they did to prepare for a test, the answers that I got back was study and review.  My follow up question was what does it mean to study.  The answers back was “Mrs. Kerr - study means to study”  I asked how do you study, and the answer back was reread. Now granted it, I teach middle school students, so I was not expecting well-thought out answers.  However, I was expecting something more that “rereading.”    

Students don’t know how to study.  It is assumed that they were taught to study somewhere in their education, but I have found that they were not.  Rereading is not an effective activity to prepare for a test.  It is time-consuming and boring.  

The students know how to take tests; however, they do not know how to study.  Teachers need to take time to teach how to study.  Now, I am not saying the teachers need to add one more thing to their long list of things to teacher.  This can easily be incorporated into teaching.  My favorite way to teach how to study is teaching the use of graphic organizers.  As we are learning a piece of literature, a graphic organizer is filled out. As we are learning a new grammar lesson, a graphic organizer is filled out.  I use a variety of graphic organizers.  Since I teach virtually, there is no need to copying.  I also keep templates online available - the students all have access to Google.  The students are to keep a folder on their desktop or in cloud storage of the graphic organizers.  

My second favorite technique is the use of sticky notes.  I encourage students to put labeled sticky notes in their books at strategic places.  For example, if students can’t remember the linking verbs, I tell them to put a sticky note on the page that has the list of linking verbs and label the sticky note “linking verbs.”  This helps the students to organize the grammar book so that it more manageable and easier to review.

When we get close to a unit test, I ask the students to share their folders so I can review them.  This takes minimal time on my part.  The students are encouraged to use the graphic organizers when they take their tests.  This is done for two reasons:  one, because I can’t actually see the students when they test, there is no possible way that I can assure that they are not using their notes and book; and two, this motivates students to fill out the graphic organizers and use the sticky notes.  

Parents seem to like these techniques because it takes the overwhelming responsibility of trying to get a child to spend hours rereading away.  Parents only need to ask 2 questions:  Please show me the graphic organizers for this unit; and please show me the sticky notes in the book and tell me why you put the sticky notes there.  Now parents and students know what to focus on to review without spending hours of rereading.  And students are not engaging in the ambiguous task of studying.


Marzano, Robert J., Debra Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock. Classroom Instruction That Works:

Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA:

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001. Print.

Urquhart, Vicki, and Dana Frazee. Teaching Reading in the Content Areas: If Not Me, Then

Who? Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2012. Print.

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Rachel Kerr has been a teacher for over twenty years, primarily as a Language Arts teacher.  She has worked in public school programs, private school programs, charter school programs, and is currently working for a virtual school program where she is the lead teacher and Language Arts for the middle school program. She has taught kindergarten through twelfth grade. She has worked in Illinois, Hawaii, Guam and Wyoming. Her bachelor’s degree is in secondary education; her Master's degree is in early childhood education with an emphasis in reading; and her doctorate degree is in educational leadership. In her spare time, Rachel is a 4H leader. Her hobbies include knitting and playing hand bells.

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Guest Tuesday, 22 January 2019