Exam season is upon us once again. Not only are the students getting nervous, but also the parents are too. Speaking of which, it is common to hear students grumbling about their grievances, more so when it is nearing examinations. “I do not understand”, “There is too much to remember” or even “It is just too difficult” are some of these common grievances, especially for abstract subjects like science.
Often such complaints are heard as students feel overwhelmed and do not know how or where to start. In this article today, tips will be shared on how to make content heavy subjects like Science more manageable.
1. Use acronyms
One of the main complains I hear from my students are often that there are just way too many terms to remember. As a result, they get confused. Especially since some of the terms could overlap and they might see it being used again in a separate topic. Thus, I often use acronyms in my class to help group the vocabulary together. Make the acronym into a word. Not only will they be able to remember the terms, but they are also indirectly grouping them together. Thus, making it easier to make the relations between the terms.
For example, I will group the female parts of a plant reproductive system into a word and make an association to it.
2. Use acrostics
Alternatively, you can also use acrostics to help your child learn better. It is slightly more challenging than acronym, but it works great in helping students to remember spelling or information that requires order. Similar to acronym, acrostics is a mnemonic device that can be a sentence or a whole phrase instead of just one word. Usually, the funnier or more ridiculous it is, the easier will the students remember the information.
For example, a student can memorise the names of different gases in air according to the order of quantity by creating a poem or sentence using the first or last letter of each word.
Further more, majority of us are visual learners. We learn better when concepts are portrayed through visual representations. Thus, videos are especially useful to explain concepts that are abstract like for Science! There are plenty of online creators who have detailed animated videos explaining the concept step-by-step.
Use it to our children’s advantage. Stop and clarify the video if needed. Check for understanding after the video has ended. You will be surprised at how fast they absorb the information. However, do also be mindful of the videos selected as some may include excess information or may use terms that are not taught in your child’s syllabus.
The Dr Binocs Show on Youtube is one of my favourite channels to show to my students. Not only are the videos educational, but they are also entertaining. Check them out!
4. Bitesize chunks
Students also often have difficulties memorising the spelling for the specific vocabulary required. It does not help as well that the words tend to be long and confusing. It does not help too that the textbook can be wordy.
To help, break up the words to spell or information needed to smaller and manageable size. Help your child to summarise the point of information into shorter and more concise sentence.
For example, “photosynthesis” is a very long word that most students find intimidating to memorise. However, through grouping the letters, our brain can memorise more information than usual.
5. Image mnemonics
To add on, using image mnemonics can also be a useful tool. It is a technique where association is made between the information to be memorised with a visual aid, like pictures. It has been proven to be better in retrieval and retention for learners. Teach your child to associate the information needed to be memorised with their personalised visuals. Being able to link a concept with their own quirky, personal and expressive elements will lead to a better recollection.
Below is an example of a visual mnemonic that I have drawn to help remember the trait of a seed coat.
Seed coat: A layer of tissue that protects the internal part of the seed. It could either be thick or thin.
Coat: Protects human from strong winds and coldness.
Thus, combining both definition into an image, it is easier to remember seed coat and its function.
6. Use personal experience
Children also learn better when the concepts are related back to their own experience or when they hear stories related to your own experience. Often in class when I share with my students about my own experiences, they become more engaged, and the questions just keep coming after.
For example, I once shared how it was previously difficult to dry my clothes whenever it was the rainy season, but the problem has since stopped. I then broached up questions to get them thinking on why it was particularly difficult to dry my clothes and what did I do to solve the problem. It was a good 5-10 minutes of discussion which I could then tie it to the topic on hand, evaporation. I would even ask them about their own personal experience (eg. After PE in school etc)
In addition, do not underestimate the power of hands-on exploration. You do not need a lab full of chemicals for exploration. Even at home you could conduct simple experiments to help your child understand the concepts better. A lot of moments at home or when you are out and about with your child could be a teaching moment.
For example, I once conducted a short but simple experiment in class using just water (hot and cold), food colouring and a dropper. Through the experiment, students could visually see for themselves how the same amount of colouring will spread faster in a cup of hot water compared to a cup of cold water. This could then be used to explain about the concept relating to heat gain.
Hopefully these tips and strategies will be beneficial in preparing for the upcoming examination season. Remember, learning and applying these skills can help with revision but it is equally crucial that practice papers are attempted to ensure ability in application. You may also consider registering your child for the Science Programme in DAS! Here in DAS, we teach science through the 5E approach – engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate – to activate the curiosity in every learner and the joy in learning! After all, every child has a potential that may not have been discovered yet.
Senior Educational Therapist