So, you are tutoring a student in science and they are having trouble with a particular concept- to be a successful teacher you have to have a variety of different approaches on hand for moments like this. If your student is having trouble getting a grasp on tough biology or chemistry topics, you have to figure out how to re-present the information in a new way that might work better for the way your student learns. Here are five simple tips to revamp the way you approach science concepts as an instructor- they will also help make the information stick long after the test:
1) Make a story out of it!
Science textbooks are full of jargon that can be not only incomprehensible but also uninteresting. Students can be turned off from learning about a topic that seems too complex or boring because of poor presentation. The solution? Encourage your student to devise stories with characters, settings and plots based on the material at hand. The more creative, detail-specific, and relevant to your child’s life and interests the story can be, the more likely he or she will ultimately grasp the information. As teacher and MIT Ph. D. candidate Tyler Dewitt points out in this TED Talk, crafting a narrative around a difficult topic can make it easier to understand as well as much more interesting for your student. The act of narrative generation pushes your child to process and understand the material to a higher level that simply reading a textbook does not achieve on its own.
2) Map it out
Another way to re-present challenging information to facilitate learning is via mind maps. Mind maps are one way to outline information in diagram form that emphasizes connections between topics. Although simple in concept, they can be a powerful way to reorganize information that may be otherwise tedious to remember. Check out this YouTube clip for more information and suggestions on how to begin, but as with study strategies in general, your student should experiment with different methods to find out what works best. A variety of free mind mapping software can also be found online.
3) Note your questions
Take note of how your student takes notes. Does he or she write text verbatim? Are there bullet points, stars, or drawings? While any number of styles might work, one helpful strategy might be to help your child create a structured way of recording questions during class or while studying. Highlighting what we don’t know can be as helpful later on as marking down what we do. Designate a portion of a notebook or select a specific font that stands out. The final and most important part? Look up the answers later on!
4) Why is it called that?
Writing down words that are unfamiliar and looking up their definition is always a good idea. Looking up the origins or roots of a new phrase can be equally powerful. For example, consider this information about the heart. The heart is effectively a muscular pump, and like every other muscle of the body, it needs the oxygen and nutrients found in oxygenated blood to function. It receives its supply of blood from the coronary arteries. Without any additional knowledge, making the arbitrary association between “coronary arteries” and “blood supply to the heart” might be a stretch on a tricky multiple choice question or a diagram of various arteries in the body. Thankfully, the word “coronary” is there to help out. The word coronary is derived from a Latin phrase that means wreath or crown, and the coronary arteries wrap around the top of the heart like their namesake. Having this extra piece of information makes the association between the arteries’ name and function less arbitrary by alluding to the location and path the coronary arteries follow. Taking a few seconds to look up the roots behind other difficult biological phrases will cut down on the amount of strict memorization and will aid in fact recall during assessments.
5) Bit by bit
While cramming for exams may be unavoidable at times, learning how to master challenging topics through frequent study is instrumental to success in the long run. Help your student generate a routine to work on the subject or topic they struggle with the most (the very one they may be avoiding) for a little bit each day. Set aside about thirty minutes each day to review the content of that day’s class and to map out how it fits into the broader scheme of the course – and then start on the associated homework. If possible, previewing material for the next day of class by looking ahead at class notes or relevant pages in the textbook can help your student get a jump on the material. The point is to avoid those cram sessions and empower your student to construct their own study routine – your student will thank you when they get to college!
Mix and match these strategies to see what works best for your student. Ultimately, the goal of these tips is to inculcate simple strategies for proactive learning that will assist with your science classes now and in the future!
Written by: Editorial Team, My Learning Springboard, Inc.