These lessons present you with three key study skills which are all you should need to be a top student and an excellent learner. This lesson brings me to the third and final skill. So far we have seen the importance of Recognition and Repetition.
I spent three lessons explaining the significance of Recognition, or Paying Attention. Last lesson I taught on the importance of good old Repetition, and especially Learning by Rote. Now we come to the power-tool that really builds your mental muscle for memory of important things.
All In The Mind
Memory happens in the mind. So I like to imagine what is happening, to help me appreciate the process I am going through.
For my mind to store any information at all it must first be conscious of that information. Paying attention causes us to take note. Mindless reading or daydreaming in class fogs up our mind and it does not get to enter the information effectively. So “Recognition” is vital to ensure that the information is properly inserted and stored in the brain.
However, the information entered can easily be lost among all the other bits being entered. So we need to beef up the size and importance of that information, and this is done by various forms of repetition, including connecting the information with other things stored in the brain. Eventually the piece of information has gained such significance that it is easy to find among all the other things stored in your brain.
Digging A Trench
Your problem is that all information ends up thrown to the back of the mental store-room and it can take quite some fossicking around to find the bits that have been lost. So, a very powerful skill is to dig a trench from the front of your brain, where you want to use the information, directly to the shelf where the information is held.
This process of creating a direct link to the information is achieved by Recall. What we want to achieve is instant recall of important information. The way we achieve that is by doing the very thing we want to achieve – Recalling the information.
Each time you fossick around in the back of your brain searching for the name, date, fact, or other information requested at the front of your brain, you are strengthening the link from front to back. If you give up and don’t even try to remember, just going back to your reference book, your brain does not develop a clear link from front to back and the searching muscle stays weak.
Imagine that every time you reach to the back of your mind for the answer you need, you are digging a deeper trench line directly to the information. Eventually you will have immediate and direct access to the information you seek.
Recall is a Form of Repetition
Recall is a process of repeating the information. Every time you recall a fact you have repeated it in your brain and increased its signal strength in your mental arena. So recall is not only a key skill on its own, but a double skill, in that it does the job of Repetition as well.
If you develop a good Recall program for important information, you will not need to devote as much time to repetition, since that is what you are effectively doing anyway.
Rote and Recall
My primary school teachers not only had our class chanting the various facts which we were to memorise by repetition, but they would also give us spot tests. They would tell us to close our eyes, or turn to the back, so we could not see the answers on the board. We would then be asked to recall something that we had been memorising.
“How many yards in a mile?” “What is Six times Nine?”
As our young brains scrambled to find the answer we were engaging in recall. So our teachers used Rote and Recall, in combination, to plant certain facts into our minds. I can readily repeat those facts almost fifty years later.
Set yourself several questions and ask yourself for the answer several times each day. Have a friend quiz you. Recall information as you sit at a red light or nod off to sleep.
Make your brain fish around for the answer. Each time you ask the same question the answer should come a little quicker than before. And each time you recall the information the trench to the back of your brain is dug deeper and works faster.
Don’t go easy on yourself. The harder you push your brain the sharper it will perform for you. If you go soft on your brain it will happily go easy on itself. Treat your recall quiz routine as a mental gymnasium, to get your brain pumping and fully fit for your study needs.
Do spot tests on your knowledge. Use different times of the day and ask different types of questions. When you get certain answers right every time change that question for a new one. The things you keep getting wrong are areas you can work on.
If you keep getting something wrong then go back and work on the size and shape of the information. See if you can link it to something else, explain it in a new way, summarise it into a distilled form, or find a funny connection. All of that helps to build up the signal in your brain, to make that item easier to find next time you go looking.
Some of you are thinking, “There’s no way I can do that”, because you just don’t have the personal discipline to do it or even remember to do it.
Well, you do need discipline. So, you can ask others to help by phoning you with quiz questions, or the like. And you can build up your discipline over time. If it took you all year to get your brain sharpened it’s still worth it. So plan to make progress all the time until you have built up your skill to keep at it and move to the next level.
Three Important R’s
And there you have my three key Study Skills. They are Recognition, Repetition and Recall.
If you can sharpen your use of all three you will find yourself cruising where once you were really struggling. Your faculties were designed to do all this with ease. It’s only hard because you have allowed you mental muscles to atrophy.
I suggest you read and re-read all five lessons. Make your own notes on them. Summarise them. Teach them to your kid sister. Look for new ways to apply them.
And, above all, use them. Start today. Get yourself into gear to go where you are designed to go. Soon you’ll be cruising past others who were way out ahead.
To see the other posts in this series click the links below….