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Book of the Month: Learning How to Learn

By Barbara Oakley, PhD, and Terrence Sejnowski, PhD

Recommended grades 7-12

Written with tweens and teens in mind, Learning How to Learn gives students permission to understand their brains and to take responsibility over their learning. Authors Barbara Oakley, PhD, and Terrence Sejnowski, PhD ground their advice to students in cutting edge psychology and brain science research. The mission of this book is to demystify the learning process for students. It is based in the belief that one must understand how the brain learns in order to effectively teach it new things. A student who understands how the brain memorizes and recalls new information will have significantly more success (and significantly less stress) when preparing for SAT-level vocabulary. A student who knows how to listen to the signals its brain is sending and take meaningful breaks to regain focus will be much more independent when completing AP coursework.

This book is organized for learners of all different reading levels and attention spans. The pages are illustrated with photos, cartoons, and diagrams to present concepts to visual learners. Each chapter closes with opportunities for students to immediately implement what they learned through active recall activities, written reflection, and intentional break-taking. The authors expertly translate difficult concepts in neurobiology (such as neuron dendrites and episodic memory into engaging) memorable metaphors for kids. Good study habits become “good zombies” while working memory becomes your “attentional octopus.” In fact, this is one method of memorization they ask students to try out themselves: using visual metaphors to make sense of advanced concepts. Students are invited to use their creativity, humor, and other interests to make meaningful connections to facts from other courses. By the end of the book, learners will have concrete strategies for minimizing procrastination, moving information into their long-term memory, preparing for testing environments, and independently evaluating their academic progress.

A chapter that stands out is Chapter 14: “Learning Surprises.” This chapter encourages students to see what are traditionally considered cognitive “weaknesses” as potential strengths. For example, if you are slower-learning, you may not be able to answer questions as fast as your classmates, but the extra time you take to process information pays off in the long run. This connects with the idea of Growth Mindset that we foster in our Veritas Education students. Students become confident, mature learners when they leverage their traits as strengths, rather than write them off as weaknesses.

Our expert instructors here at Veritas Education are here to not only help your student learn facts and strategies to solve math problems, but are also here to help them learn how to learn. Check out Learning How to Learn and then check out our Fall 2023 classes to give your student a chance to put these skills into action!

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