Be a Good Student—Best Book in This Category
November 15, 2008 Leave a comment
It’s brief, it’s well-organized, and it’s full of sane advice. It’s a book called Study Is Hard Work. The author, William H. Armstrong, explains all the fundamental skills needed to be a successful lifelong learner. Here are the chapter titles:
- Learning to Listen
- The Desire to Learn
- Using the Tools
- Getting More From What You Read
- Developing a Vocabulary
- Putting Ideas in Order
- Books and the Library
- Written Work
- Acquiring Skill in Methods
- How to Study Languages
- Letting Mathematics Serve You
- How to Study Science
- Getting the Most Out of History
- Tests and Examinations
All of this in 143 pages. Each chapter begins with an Interest Measurement Test and ends with five Review Questions. Each “Interest Measurement Test” is a set of five questions that get readers to think about their current experiences and skill level in some category of study. Here are a few samples:
- “Have you ever stopped to think what your life would be like if there were no books?”
- “Do you believe that you really have a desire to learn, or would you, had you been left alone from birth, be totally primitive and beastlike in your thoughts and feelings?”
- “Do you believe that, other than your parents, the people who will most influence your life for good are your teachers?”
- “When you have read a book do you feel that you have talked with, and come to know, the author?”
- “Do you know certain traits of your own mind that lend themselves to some methods of study more effectively than others?”
- “Would you agree that there is much of the poet in all great mathematicians?”
- “Do you believe that your life will be influenced by your interpretation of history?”
- “Are you afraid of tests, or do you consider them a challenge?”
Chapters are loaded with numbered tips, steps, strategies, for doing all the things a college or university student must do to succeed, all showing students how to achieve real success by learning with pleasure and good work management. My students are exceptional graduate students, and every one of them could benefit from practicing the methods set forth here.
I came across this book at a charming little bookshop we visit when we’re in Port Angeles, Washington. One tip for studying foreign languages struck me right away as eminently sensible and yet generally unknown.
“Make your own vocabulary cards, writing the word to be learned on one side and the English meaning on the other. If you are lucky enough to be studying two languages, write the meaning in the second language on the back also.”
The second sentence is simply brilliant. It makes a truly powerful suggestion, and it strikes a positive chord about foreign language study. My first thought was, “If you’re going to learn a foreign language, why not make it two?”
If you aren’t officially a student and you read this book out of curiosity, you may feel a strong desire to sign on for a class at your local college or university. I say, go for it! But if for some reason you aren’t able to take a class, Armstrong is still an excellent guide through the steps to independent learning. It all begins with a desire to learn (chapter 2).
Note: There are two other groups who would be helped by this book. First, high school students, especially those who plan to go on to higher education. Why not learn how to learn before learning gets even harder? Second, home school parents. These heroic people know what lifelong learning means, and welcome suggestions for organizing the learning process into manageable steps. I believe that practicing the principles presented in this handy book will shave hours of labor from the task of home schooling, make the whole experience more enjoyable, and result in much less stress.
From “That Bookstore in Portland”:
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