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Use Your Best Mnemonics

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Encourage students to review previous course material as a part of a study session. Help students note patterns, connections, and relationships among ideas and concepts, not only to reinforce recall of important concepts, but also to highlight areas where comprehension and recall may be faulty.

Have students practice grouping related information. Then have them practice choosing a key word, short phrase, or mnemonic retrieval cue to act as a trigger for their recall of the related details. Strong, precise nouns and verbs are probably the most useful words to use as cues.

- By practicing recall using the retrieval cue, students will build a strong association between the cue and the details. Eventually, the cue will help them easily recall the associated information. Some studies of memory suggest that the retrieval cues are most effective when they are selected at the time of the initial learning.

Give students templates to help them create action plans for future tasks such as studying for tests, getting the night's homework done, getting help in class, completing a long-term project, etc. Each template might include spaces for: a description of the task, an estimation of time and effort required, the names of the people involved as partners or helpers, familiar elements or aspects of the task, the order of steps required, the strategies that can be used. Templates may be saved on the computer, then individualized and printed out for specific tasks.

Encourage students to use staging, i.e., to break a long or complex task into smaller, shorter, or less complex "mini-tasks." For example, provide students with a pre-planning template (a blank timeline, flow chart, task web, etc.) for analyzing a task then breaking it into stages. If necessary, model the staging process for students to help them develop a sense of "step-wisdom," an understanding of the proper sequence of steps necessary to complete a task.

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