Elementary and Middle School Mayhem: Top 5 Learning Strategies
Welcome to our Elementary and Middle School Mayhem series. During the month of May, we will be featuring information to support children in elementary and middle school. There will be a wide range of topics, so stay tuned on Fridays during the month of May
for great tips and tricks!
Top 5 Learning Strategies
According to a recent study, 90% of students improved a full grade level after receiving one-on-one tutoring that focused on strategies and techniques. That leads us to the question, what on Earth are "strategies" and how do they help??
A learning strategy is a trick or method for approaching school work that a child can use for many different subjects and assignments. According to Serving the Language Learning Disabled Adolescent (Buttrill, Niizawa, et. al.), strategies are essential to the "academic survival" of language disordered children.
Studies have shown that strategies which help children become
active learners are most successful. For instance, children learn best by taking notes, asking questions, thinking about what they are learning, and having an opportunity to experience the material through interactive lessons. Passive learners, on the other hand, memorize information without understanding it and without making connections to other knowledge they have.
Overall, strategies support a child's ability to become an independent, active learner.
Check out our list of the top 5 learning strategies for Elementary and Middle School students, below!
5. Note-taking Strategies
There are a variety of symbols that help students take more efficient and effective notes. Once students get the hang of using symbols to represent lengthy terms, they can also use them when brainstorming and outlining. Many students become so focused on spelling and grammar, that they forget their ideas and then become frustrated. Using symbols on outline sheets helps to take the focus away from writing and redirect it to generating more sophisticated ideas.
4. Brainstorming / Outlining Strategies
Blank pages are scary. Blank pages with lots of line to fill with great ideas can be even scarier. I've remedied many meltdowns over empty pages by encouraging discussion about the topic and filling out a brainstorming graphic organizer. Brainstorming helps children to get ideas out of their heads and onto the paper. Once children see some ideas on a graphic organizer, it often encourages them to think harder and add even more details. Categorizing and color-coding those ideas and putting them into an outline, reminds children that they have so many great ideas to fill up those empty lines. Outlines help children to create a well organized paragraph with a topic and concluding sentence. It gives them structure on which to add more complex vocabulary and transitional words (e.g.: "For instance," "Most importantly," and "Additionally").
3. Color-Coding Strategies
I may or may not have a highlighter obsession I color code everything because it helps me organize and group information. In turn, I often encourage my students to highlight information in categories. Categorizing information helps students in two ways. It helps them organize details before writing and it helps them organize reading material in their heads.
2. Visualization Strategies
Visualizing is a crucial strategy to improve memory and understanding. When children make a "picture" or a "movie" in their heads, they are able to remember and understand information better. Making information into a visual story, helps children to see if information makes sense. I rely on a variety of visualization strategies the help children to generate a clear picture. For instance, we practice visualizing basic objects, then add details such as movements, sounds, smells, and colors to make the picture more specific.
NtheP is my all-time favorite strategy. I use it in a variety of different ways on a daily basis. However, let me start by explaining what NtheP actually means. "Name the Paragraph," or NtheP, is a strategy that helps children identify the main idea. Whether they are identifying the main idea of a textbook passage or of their own writing, NtheP helps students understand information in an organized way. My favorite way to use NtheP is in writing. I encourage my students to NtheP for each paragraph of their essay. When trying to determine if a sentence fits in with the rest of the paragraph, they check to see if it fits with the "name" of the paragraph. If not, then they are encouraged to move the sentence to a different paragraph. This helps facilitate critical thinking skills and, in turn, greater independence in writing skills.