How Do You Study?

Maybe we’re not all students anymore, maybe some of us are, but there are always times in our lives when we need to study – for a test, for a job interview, for a presentation.  How do you do it? Trevor sent me this article from the NY Times on new research in study habits, which busts some myths about different kinds of learners, finding a specific study place, and others. Personally, I was always a lousy study.  I tended to be among the advanced students during school (up to college, at least), so I would often do much of my homework during down time at school, leaving nothing for actual home.  When it came time to study for tests, I …didn’t, really.  I was always a believer that either I had internalized the information, or I didn’t, and no amount of cramming would fix it. Sure I crammed, I read my notes over and over while always thinking “Ok, I knew this 5 minutes ago because I just re-read it 10 minutes ago, that doesn’t really say much about whether I’ll still remember it tomorrow morning.”  And, predictably, some courses I aced (the ones I’d internalized), some I failed no matter how much I studied. How about you? What can we say about study habits that might specifically apply to Shakespeare?  An old post of mine on how to memorize Shakespeare remains one of my most popular, but that’s not really all there is to it, is there? I’ve known people that can recite the words and still not tell you the plot. I don’t know how to *teach* kids this, but I know that for me that breakthrough moment came when I was able to shatter this idea of “deciphering a series of words and translating them into something I can understand” and started seeing actual people, just like me, who were expressing what was happening to them (the famous example being Hamlet’s “thrice-baked meats did coldly furnish forth the wedding tables” joke I’ve retold many times over the years).  I’ve always said that were I to write a study guide for Hamlet I’d start it like this:  Hamlet’s dad died.  Let that sink in.  Kids have dads.  Heck, some kids might well have dads that died.  So did Hamlet.  Regardless of what he said or when he said it or who wrote it for him or why or what was going on politically at the time, the reason that it survives is because, underneath at all, Hamlet is a young man whose father died, and anybody can relate to that (or at least attempt to, which is close enough). Ok, that was a bit of a tangent.  Somebody else go.

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