Make Connections Between School and Life

Here’s Barry the Study Dog on a field trip to the Asian Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum; he’s making connections between Hemerocallis citrina “Yao Ming” the citron daylily, and Yao Ming the 7’6″ Chinese guy in the basketball Hall of Fame.

Study Skills Series: The first Monday of every month, we give timely, practical, and original study skills advice. Timely means it’s especially useful during that month of the school year. Practical means it’s easy to act on. Original means we wrote it ourselves and you can only get it here.

Remember: grades may be stupid and arbitrary, but straight As are still useful in the world. However, getting straight As doesn’t mean you learned the material. For example, I got an A+ in statistics in college despite never going to a single lecture or learning anything.

True story: I had completed my math major but needed to take an introductory stats class for my sociology major. We were allowed to use a page of notes on the test, so I matched every test question to a sample problem from my notes, double-checked for careless algebra mistakes, and got everything right, despite not having bothered to learn why the formulas worked or how they could be used in the world.

If you actually want to learn anything in school, you’ve got to practice making connections between what you’re doing in your classes and what you already know about life on Earth or other planets.

When you read for school, ask yourself, “How does this reading fit in with what we’ve been doing in class?”, “What do I already know about this topic?”, and, “What does this reading remind me of?”. Write your ideas in the margins.

When you go to class, ask yourself, “What question do I want my classmates or teacher to answer so that I can understand this topic more completely?” and “What comment do I have on this topic that might make class more interesting for my classmates and teacher?” Share your ideas in class.

When you do your assignments, ask yourself, “What are the three or four most important aspects of this assignment that I want to remember for the final exam or for when I have to fend for myself in the real world and pay my own rent?” Add your summaries to your ongoing study guide for each class.

The more connections you make, the more you’ll learn. And the more you learn, the faster you’ll get the grades you want, which is nice. But more importantly, the more you learn, the awesomer you’ll become.

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