Learning to Learn

Fall 2016 | Permalink | Category: Career

Learning to Learn 
By: Jennifer Hurd Tucker

We are all different in many ways, and how we learn in school is no exception. Not everyone learns the same way. For some students, studying and being motivated comes easily and naturally. For others, success in school depends on their abilities and efforts in studying. A student’s high school and college success depends on his/her ability to study efficiently and effectively. It is never too early to learn the most effective study skills for achieving this success. A lack of appropriate study skills will only result in wasted time and poor grades. 


Therefore, the first step to success in school is learning the skills necessary to be successful. 

The next step is applying them.


To learn how to learn, you must first learn about yourself. Below is an outline to use to ensure you become a successful student. 


Guide for Students


What type of learner are you? 


There are three learning styles- 

  1. Visual- learn best by seeing
  2. Auditory - learn best by hearing
  3. Tactile-Kinesthetic - learn best by doing


In order to learn how to learn and how to be an effective student, you must first learn how you best absorb, understand and process information. Assessing your learning style(s) is essential to learning how you learn. There are many free self-assessments available online that will provide you with key information to determining your learning style. (Search “Learning Styles Inventory” in your favorite search engine. Complete 2 to 3 learning styles inventories.) 


Understanding how you learn will help you narrow down and focus on the most effective studying techniques appropriate for your success in the classroom. It is important to understand that most individuals have a dominant learning style, while others may learn best by combining two or three learning techniques. 


Study skills should be adapted and applied to specifically meet the needs of the individual learner. 



Develop a plan, get organized, and create a valuable study schedule.

Organization in school and at home is key to being a successful learner.


*Organize the supplies required to be consistently prepared. 

*Make a supply checklist.

*Be sure to always have with you the supplies recommended by your teacher(s). 


Set up a study area at home with essential items such as pencils, pens, notebook paper, highlighters, index cards, colored pencils, calendar, and sticky-notes.

Your study area at home should be comfortable. A desk and straight-back chair is ideal, but many students learn best while stretched out on a couch, slouched in a bean bag or lying on the floor. An area that is well lit and free of outside distractions is essential.

Your study area at home is your office. Make it your space where you can accomplish great things!


Prepare for tomorrow…

In order to remember your items needed for school each day, gather everything together at night before you go to bed. When you get ready to leave for school each morning, all of your things will be ready to leave with you. If you make this part of your nightly routine, you will always be prepared for a day of learning. Preparation is most definitely a key to success. 


Time is a valuable resource, so do not waste it. Execute your plan productively. 

Give yourself the gift of more time by managing it wisely. The more time you spend planning, the more time you save on a daily basis. 


*Create a daily to-do list.

*Plan a weekly to-do list. 

*Keep a monthly calendar in your binder. 


*Prioritize items in the order in which they need to be completed. 

*Be realistic in the amount of time needed to complete each task.

*Cross off items as they are completed, and you will feel an immediate sense of accomplishment. 


Keep these to-do lists and calendars in the front of your binder or in a notebook that you will access often. 


Time management tips based on learning styles:

Visual- Create and keep to-do lists; use sticky notes as reminders; color code activities

Auditory- Give verbal directions; talk to yourself; audio record items on your to-do list

Kinesthetic- Make a monthly calendar; write down tasks that need to be completed

Reading is a key approach to obtaining information. Do you really know how to read? 


*Read with a purpose. 

*Read directions and assignments carefully and more than once.

*Find the main idea and supporting details. 



Follow the SQ3R Method for an effective reading strategy.


SURVEY- Review the reading assignment by reading the title, main headings, subtitles, end of chapter summary and any available follow-up questions. 


QUESTION- Ask yourself if you can pin-point “who, what, when, where and why”   questions of what you will be reading. 


READ- Actively read the assignment one paragraph at a time. 

Visual Learners- Visualize what you are reading as a read. 

Auditory Learners- Read aloud to yourself or to others. 

Kinesthetic Learners- Pace or move around as you read. 



RECITE- At the end of each paragraph or segment, recall the main ideas to yourself. Focus on main ideas and take notes throughout. 


REVIEW- Read the questions at the end of each chapter. Try to answer without looking back in the chapter. Reread paragraphs/sections as needed. 


Knowing how to read and knowing how to understand what you read are two different concepts. Read slowly, read thoroughly, and reread as often as necessary in order to answer the important who, what, when, where, and why questions. 


Note-taking in class is intentional and requires focus and attention.


There is a difference between hearing and listening. 


While taking effective notes from a class lecture, it is important to not only hear but to listen to the teacher in order to completely take in the important information long enough to write it down.  


*Do not try to write each word the teacher is saying. 

*Use shorthand or phrases instead of complete sentences. 

*Use numbers, bullets or outline form to organize notes. 



*Review your notes daily.


*Make charts or graphs from your notes.

*Keep all notes together in a notebook or binder. 



Note-taking skills based on learning styles:

Visual- Pay attention to vocabulary/important words; group information in paragraphs; create charts or pictures

Auditory- Repeat important words, definitions, dates, etc. aloud while reviewing notes; retell your notes in story form; repeat orally often

Kinesthetic- Create charts and graphs to organize notes; rewrite notes while reviewing; make vocabulary/flash cards


Studying notes requires more time than you may think.

While studying, try to link what you are learning to what you already know. There are many tricks you can use to help you remember information longer. You want to focus on learning and not only memorizing information for tests. There are some techniques to help you retain the information quicker. 


Mnemonic devices. This is a tool to remembering facts or a lot of information at one time. This is a great technique for learning and recalling lists or items that need to be learned in a particular order. For example, while studying the planets, you might learn:

“My Very Excited Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” 

(Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)

or without Pluto…

“My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles”


Break up material and study small units at a time. Add this to your daily, weekly and monthly timeline. Cramming sessions the night before a test or exam are rarely effective. Give yourself time to absorb information, even if you only allow 15-20 minutes at a time. Therefore, you should take breaks often while studying!


Studying skills based on learning styles:

Visual- Use Flash Cards; rewrite notes and important information often

Auditory- Audio record notes/important information; report aloud while studying; use rhythm or music 

Kinesthetic- Pace or walk while reading silently or studying aloud; use your fingers to follow along while reading or studying; tap your feet, snap your fingers or clap your hands while reviewing notes or reading aloud.


Study smarter, not harder!



Testing is a necessary part of the learning process. You can actually learn more information while taking a test. The biggest obstacle students face while testing is “test anxiety.”

It is real, and it is crucial for students to overcome test anxiety as early as possible. Knowing a few things prior to testing can help overcome test anxiety and ensure a more successful testing experience:

  1. Know in advance the type of test you will be taking— objective (true/false, matching, fill-in-blank) or subjective (essay). 
  2. Be sure you comprehend the information on which you will be tested. Memorization is only effective in some cases. Comprehension is key. *I always quiz students “backwards and forwards” while reviewing for tests. Can they recall a definition and give examples?
  3. Have a positive attitude before the test. Believe in yourself and your capabilities.
  4. Rely on your common knowledge. Do not second-guess yourself. Your first instinct is usually correct.
  5. Proofread and review before handing in your test to your teacher. If you take the time, you will catch a mistake and save yourself some points almost 100% of the time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Test-taking based on learning styles:

Visual- Use “Cue” words in the questions, form pictures in your mind.

Auditory- Remember your mnemonic devices, read directions to yourself at least twice.

Kinesthetic- Sit up straight in your chair, focus on breathing slowly, softly tap your fingers or feet in rhythm with your thinking.


Let us summarize the most important aspects of being a successful learner:

  1. Discover your learning style(s) by completing a learning style inventory. 
  2. Get organized at home and at school.
  3. Manage your time by creating daily and weekly to-do lists and maintaining a monthly calendar.
  4. Be realistic in the amount of time it takes to complete each activity. 
  5. Follow the SQ3R Method while reading in order to read with a purpose and maintain information.
  6. Note-taking requires active listening.
  7. Time spent studying notes is more effective when broken up in small study sessions and work in a study area free of visual and auditory distractions.
  8. Test-taking success mostly depends on your preparation, positive attitude, and use of common knowledge. Take your time while testing. 


Jennifer grew up in Anniston, Alabama.  She graduated from The Donoho School and continued her education at Jacksonville State University where she was a Ballerina for the Marching Southerners.  She received her bachelor’s degree in Special Education.  After she began her teaching career with the Jacksonville City School System, she returned to JSU to receive her Masters and Education Specialist degrees in Education Administration.  Jennifer has continued in the field of education for eighteen years. She delights in working with emergent readers as they develop a love for reading. Jennifer is married to Brian, and they have two daughters, Emma Kate and Addison.