Study Like No One is Watching
Why Making Memorization Fun is the Fastest Way to Get Through It
n The Straight-A Conspiracy, Katie shares one of her most successful high school memory hooks. As a quick refresher, here’s the section from the book:
When you find some good glue, you never forget the glue or the fact that it’s holding in place. When Katie had to learn the word “harangue” during sophomore year of high school, she couldn’t find any good glue. There wasn’t a good way to break the word down, and it meant, “a lengthy and aggressive speech; a lecture.” But Katie found a way to remember this word that she still uses today. “Harangue” is pronounced “huh-rang,” and it was some sort of angry lecture. “Harangue” and “angry” sort of sound similar, so…Katie used a funny voice, kind of like a Scottish pirate. “Harangue…her-anger…Her anger made her yell at everyone!”
Well, it turns out that silly voices help make words memorable for all ages. The youngest member of The Straight-A Conspiracy team, Julian, has been diligently learning as many words as he can all day and testing out memory hooks to remember them. Just like his mom, he has found silly voices and gestures to be some of the most useful memory hooks. Words like “tortellini” become much more memorable when you say them in an Italian accent and make hand gestures like you’re in the middle of the Piazza Navona haggling over the price of pasta as Julian demonstrates in the video below.
We don’t usually associate silly voices and dramatic flair with memorizing vocabulary. Instead, we’ve all been taught to think that because school matters (and “smart people” are so serious) that we should approach studying seriously. Actually though, effective students know that looking serious isn’t actually what seriously effective studying is about. Instead, serious study… is really about play.
Of course, we don’t always feel comfortable talking in silly voices, making up songs, or dancing around others. That’s why there’s a simple secret to dancing your heart out and studying with the silly voices that make words stick like freshly-cooked tortellini: prioritize things that make you laugh. Maybe you have the privacy of your own room or corner at home to come up with your memory hooks. But even if you have to make it work in a library or during study hall, you have to do it like no one is watching. Sure, the person sitting to your left may giggle… but when the test comes, you’ll have the last laugh!