Don't Just Memorize, Try to Understand

Even with a study guide and extra support from her study skills class, my student somehow managed to fail it. Of course my student was devastated too. She said that she studied real hard for the test. I had to figure out what she meant by this. How exactly did she study for this test using the study guide?

When we went over the test, I learned that she correctly answered the questions that were short, easy to read, and had some sort of graph or picture. But, on some of the ones she answered correctly, she was unable to tell me in her own words how she got it correctly or what it means to her.

It was obvious that she studied the test by trying to memorize the study guide.

The questions with words and phrases that she did not understand and that required her to use her inference skills were the ones she had the most trouble with. There were a lot of terms and phrases in the test that she did not understand. For example, she did not understand what "potential safety hazard" could mean. She knew what 'potential' meant (a term she had to know for her science vocabulary test), but did not understand what 'hazard' meant. How was she supposed to answer the question if she did not know what they were asking or what it meant?

So, I took a peek at her study guide and compared it to her actual test. The questions on the study guide somewhat matched the questions asked on the test. While some questions were completely identical, some were worded differently on the study guide. For example, the question that had the phrase 'potential safety hazard' was worded differently on the study guide. It was shorter and did not include the phrase 'potential safety hazard' instead it said 'dangerous'. 

Aha.

So, my student was merely memorizing the study guide and not taking the time to fully understand what she is expected to know.

Usually, if I ask her to read something, I always have to ask her if she understood what she just read. A lot of times she speeds through and does not take the time to think and ask questions. She does not have strong vocabulary and comprehension skills, which makes it tough for her to answer reading comprehension questions and word problems.

Usually, once I explain it to her in a way that she can understand it, she gets it and does not forget.

I always encourage her to try to really understand what is being taught to her and what she is reading. I told her that only memorizing everything is not studying. She has to understand it too, so that when she is asked in another way than what she is used to, she should have a better time answering it correctly. I have talked with the teachers about this and told them how important it is that they double check with her to see if she really understands a certain concept or word. I tell them to never ask her a "yes" or "no" question, because she will always nod her head and smile. She does the same thing when she pretends that she heard what was said to her.

From now on, I am going to look at these study guides with her more often and make sure she really understands what she is expected to know. I hope the teachers will understand what to look for now when seeing if whether or not she truly understands what is being taught to her.

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