5 Easy Review Tricks That Maximize Learning (part 2)

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grassPart Two of 5 Easy Review Tricks series — See the other parts at the bottom of this post.

2. Learn in loops. Learning a fact is like repeatedly squashing flat a blade of grass until it stays flat. If you try to squash that grass flat by stepping on it once a week, it will recover each week and you’ll have to squash it anew. If however, you squash it every few minutes at first, each time you squash it it will take longer to start to spring back up. You’ll be able to wait longer and longer between each grass squashing episode, and you’ll eventually get the dad-blamed grass to stay the heck down. (I was going to use “pushing down little kids” as my metaphor instead of “squashing blades of grass,” but my better judgment kept squashing my sense of humor).

That’s exactly how you get a troublesome fact to adhere to the inner-lining of your cerebellum. Review the fact frequently at first. Each time you review it, the will stick longer (it’s moving into long-term ). You can move to less frequent reviews, until the gol-darned fact finally stays the heck stuck.

Review Question 1: Learning a fact is like… ?

Review Question 2: In what way is it like that?

If you thought of pushing down a little kid for question 1, shame on you. Emotion (in this case, humor … or maybe horror) really beefs up memory though, doesn’t it?

So when you are learning that vocab list or going through your flash cards, review each item as you’re continuing to learn new items. Let’s say you learn that poderoso is the Spanish word for “powerful”. Learn another word, then quiz yourself about thirty seconds later; “poderoso means ?.” Learn some more words, then loop back and quiz yourself on poderoso about a minute and a half later. Keep slowly lengthening the time between each review of the word. And, of course, your going through this process with each subsequent word you learn.

In a perfect world, you would quiz yourself on that item again just before you forgot it.  A general rule might be to review a new fact at intervals of 30 seconds, 1 minute and thirty seconds, 3 minutes, 9 minutes, 27 minutes, 1 hour and 23 minutes, etc. tripling the interval each time. But don’t sweat getting the intervals perfect. Just keep looping back to each fact.

Combine this with the previous trick, “write a quick question,” and you’ll be well on your way to memorizing text book chapters! I read a paragraph, write a quiz question or two on a flash card, and immediately quiz myself. Then I read the next paragraph, write a few more flash cards, and then review the first flash cards, etc.

Review Question 1: Learning a fact is like… ?

Review Question 2: In what way is it like that?

These questions are easy now, because you already reviewed them once not very long ago. Review them again in four or five minutes, and you’ll have them permanently plastered in your skull forever, with minimal effort.

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