How to study

Study 15 minutes per day

Learning Styles Inventory – Find out how you learn best…

Here are some documents that you can download to help you study:




Vocabulary Quiz Preparation

1. Before you begin to study, check to make sure you have all of your materials.

  • the list of vocabulary we have studied (a handout I’ve given or from my website or your notebook) Be sure they are spelled correctly.
  • index cards
  • my website vocabulary exercises
  • the fanfold vocabulary sheet
  • whatever is best for you

2. Pronounce the vocabulary words out loud as you write them down..
3. After practicing 10-15 minutes, move away from it for a few minutes. Take a brain break — stretch, run or walk for 10 to 15 minutes, get some water and a snack — but no TV or computer. Return to the vocabulary with a new pen color or different pencil and paper, reviewing your words.
4. Set aside 10 minutes before you fall sleep to review your vocabulary one more time. Close your notes, fluff up your pillow, close your eyes and feel the excitement of being prepared for the test. As you fall asleep, relaxed, your brain begins moving and massaging the information throughout the working memory all night long. Our brains are actually able to work harder when we sleep if we study what we need to know before closing our eyes for the night.
5. Go over our Diario entries to see how those words were used in our practice

Visualization technique – this has worked very well; especially for those with dyslexia. You can use a vocabulary list or make flashcards to take with you to study this way.

  • Look carefully at the spelling of the word you are studying.
  • Close your eyes and visualize the word written in your handwriting across your forehead.
  • Out loud spell the words as you normally would.
  • Out loud spell the words backwards (starting at the end and going to the 1st letter)
  • Out loud spell the words as you normally would.
  • Write the word.
  • Check to be sure you were correct.

Vocabulary exercises on my website.
Be sure to try all of these exercises and end up with the fourth one, writing the words.

  • The first practice is like flashcards.
  • The second practice is recognition.
  • The third practice is listening.
  • The fourth practice is for spelling the words correctly.

The fanfold method – You can download a paper (above) with this practice or make your own with columns for Spanish, English, Spanish, English, Spanish, etc.

  • Write no more than 5 words in Spanish in a column.
  • Then write the English for those words.
  • Check to see if your answers are correct.
  • Fold the Spanish list in the 1st column back. Look at the English words and write the Spanish.
  • Check your answers.
  • Fold the 2nd column back. Look at the Spanish words and write the English.
  • Check your answers.
  • Continue until you know them well.
  • Then you can go on to the next 5 words and do the same thing.
  • When you are done, look at the English of all of the words and say and write the Spanish one more time.

My Mother used to help me this way:

  • I used to study the vocabulary first.
  • Then I asked my Mother to say the vocabulary words in English.
  • I spelled the Spanish words.
  • Afterward, I’d practice those that I had missed, including the accent marks.



Why don’t you tell us when a test is coming?

Unannounced assessments evaluate your proficiency in Spanish. They prove what you CAN DO at any time. Can you read or listen and comprehend? Can you communicate in writing or speech? Can you recognize key vocabulary structures? Have those key structures been internalized?

Announced assessments measure how much you’ve studied. How much you studied last night or last period is not important when evaluating your proficiency.

If you struggle with unannounced assessments, ask yourself . . .

Am I doing everything I can in class to be successful? Do I pay attention at all times? Do I attempt to comprehend every bit of Spanish that I hear? Do I participate? Do I answer questions that are asked to the entire class? Do I follow the text for ALL reading and listening activities? Do I take responsibility for my own improvement?

If you do all of the above and you still struggle with assessments . . .

Your first goal should be to GET BETTER at SPANISH. If you are looking for tricks to do better on tests and get better grades, you are missing the point.

Study vocabulary structures every day. Studying everyday will lead to internalization of terms. Cramming for an announced test leads to a superficial knowledge that quickly fades.

Read, read, read. Read over stories from class. Ask the teacher for extra reading options. Reading is one of the best ways to improve proficiency and vocabulary in Spanish.

Practice writing and speaking. Keep a journal in Spanish. Write about what you did today or plan to do tomorrow. Write or talk about what happened on a TV show. Talk to your cat.


The most important thing to remember is that Spanish is a class, like math, which builds on previously learned concepts.  Thus, it is extremely important to keep up with classwork.  Continuous study also helps.  The most obvious advice is to pay attention in class, listen carefully, take brief, thorough notes, ask questions, and practice.

Research shows that there are two hemispheres (sides) in our brains.  The left side is usually very logical/rational, while the right side tends to respond better to emotional content, creativity, etc.  While both sides usually work together, one hemisphere of your brain will normally be “in charge” of directing the processing of information more often than the other.  Consequently, some of the techniques that follow will work better for you than others.  Ideally, you should try to use techniques of both types because this will involve both halves of your brain.

  •   Monitor your attitude.  The fastest way to be sure you won’t understand it is to tell yourself that you don’t.  (Your mind is very susceptible to the power of suggestion.  It will believe what you tell it and act accordingly).
  •   Try to use as many sense as possible when you are studying.  Say everything aloud as you are reading it, writing it, studying it.  (This gives your brain more ways to encode the information and more channels through which the information can be retrieved).
  •   Get involved with what you are learning.  The more you can apply new information to your own life and experiences, and the more actively you are working with it, the better you will remember it.  If you are studying vocabulary about sports or verbs, act them out as you study).
  •   Look for patterns (especially with verb and grammar) and try to categorize things.  (Your brain prefers to encode chunks of similar pieces of information.  The bigger the chunk the less work the brain has to do, and the easier it will be for the brain to stumble across it later).
  •   Try to find similarities to and differences from English.  (Your brain tries to fit new information into the patterns that already exist in your memory.  You make its work easier by helping it associate new information with things you already know).
  •   Put new ideas into your own words.  “Explain” new concepts to yourself. (This gives your brain a way to make connections between the new information and the things you already know).
  •   Change your point of view.  If you are not able to understand something, try looking at it from a different angle.
  •   Be sure that you know what the words mean.  (It will be easier for you to understand what you are doing, and for you to discover your own errors when you know the meaning of the words and sentences you are using).
  •   Ask lots of questions – both of the teacher and of yourself.  What does this mean to me?  Why are they telling me this?  What does this remind of me of?  Where else did they talk about that in the book?  How does this example apply?
  •   Talk to yourself and talk yourself through exercises.  Pretty soon it will seem as though an “invisible teacher” is there helping you.  It will seem silly and awkward at first, but soon you will find yourself catching your own mistakes, and explaining things to yourself.
  •   Before you begin the homework, review/summarize what you learned in the PREVIOUS lesson, and then what we did in class.  (This will ensure that your brain ahs a schema or framework set up into which it can file the new information).
  •   Rehearse.  If we have learned a new verb, repeat the conjugations aloud over and over.  If we have learned the vocabulary for places in the city, then think them to yourself as you pass each building.  In other words, try to apply what we do in class to things you see during the rest of your day.
  •   Try putting difficult concepts or vocabulary lists to various pieces of music.  On the tests, you can hum the song in your head and you will be amazed at how well your brain will be able to remember the words you put to the song.
  •   Use visualization.  Picture a favorite room or street, etc.  As you walk down the street in your mind, picture various vocabulary words next to your favorite shopping places.
  •   Use exaggeration and stupidity.  The more silly and outrageous it is, the easier it is to remember.  Listen to the way the vocabulary words sound, and try to come up with silly pictures that help remind you of the words and their meanings.
  •   Try the paper fold technique.  List Spanish words, close your book, and try to list the English ones next to them.  Then check your work and correct any mistakes.  Fold the paper over so that just English words show and try to list the Spanish.
  •   Use association.  Try to associate a Spanish word with a picture or English word it reminds you of.
  •   Tell yourself stories about the grammar and concepts which help you remember them, or use key phrases in the stories to remind you of important concepts.
  •   Make up rhymes about things.
  •   Use other mnemonic devices such as making silly sentences form the first letters of important concepts.  In music, an easy way to remember the order and names of the lines in the staff Every Good Boy Does Fine.  The spaces in the staff spell the word BEAD.  The sharps are Fat Cats Go Down And Eat Breakfast.  These techniques also work in Spanish.
  •   Practice speaking in front of a mirror.
  •   Listen to as much Spanish as you can – movies, music, foreign exchange students, etc.
  •   Write notes to yourself in Spanish.
  •   Try thinking in Spanish.  Just as drama students must “get in character” before they go on stage, you should try to get your brain into the “Spanish mode” before you begin to study.
  •   Get someone to quiz you on vocabulary.  Read, write, and speak it over and over.
  •   Develop an interest in current events regarding Spanish-speaking countries.  Read the newspaper, watch the news, keep an eye out for mention of them in magazines, etc.
  •   Get your family to help you.  Ask them to listen to and help you with your daily practice.  Have them ask you the time, days of the week, numbers, or new words and expressions from the day’s lesson when you are in the car, at meals, working on chores, etc.  You might even try to “teach” it to them.

In short, the techniques are endless.  Chances are, if you’ve heard of a technique for one class, it can probably be applied to Spanish.  The reverse is also true – most of these techniques can be used to improve your ability to memorize information from your other classes.  While not all techniques will work for every person, this should give you a place to start looking for what works for you.  And remember, to expect to know the content of a foreign language lesson after one time through a drill is the same as expecting to be an expert athlete after just one practice.  Language is a habit and must be studied and practiced daily!



Here are some tips that will help you develop the four basic skills that are essential to success in a foreign language:  listening, writing, reading and speaking.


Listening is one of the most important skills a successful foreign language student needs; for it is mainly through listening that you will learn how to comprehend, to pronounce, and to speak the language.

How much time does the average student spend listening?

The average high school student spends about 55% of each day in school listening.  That means that you give more time to listening than to anything else that you do in school.  Most people think of listening as something as natural as walking or eating.  However, most of us are not naturally good listeners.  Why not?

What is listening?  Why is it hard to listen even when you’re interested?

­Listening is more than just hearing.  Listening means directing your attention to what you are hearing and trying to make sense of what you’ve heard.

Generally, people talk at about 125 words per minute, but we think at a speed more than three times that fast, about 400 words per minute.  Therefore, our thoughts move much faster than the words of whatever we are listening to.  So, it’s not surprising that we often let our attention wander away from what another person is saying to us.

How can I improve my listening skills?

1)      Be an active listener:

  • Are my thoughts focused on what I am listening to?

2)     Listen for the main ideas:

  • What do the details add up to?
  • Can I summarize the important information in a brief statement?

3)     Listen for and remember important details:

  • Why is the main idea true?
  • What details make the main idea more clear to me?

4)     Listen for phrases that signal you to expect important details, such as “for example” or “the reasons why.”

5)     As you listen, form key phrases and questions in your head to help you concentrate on listening for important information

6)     Listen for new ideas:

  • Has the speaker moved on to a new idea or important point?
  • What details support each main idea?

7)     Think about (try to predict) what the speaker will say next.

LISTENING/WRITING: Taking notes from lectures/presentations

Why should I take notes in class?

Much of what you need to learn to do well in any subject will be covered in class.  However, just hearing something once in class doesn’t mean that you will learn it.  Most people need to hear something several times or to write it down before they can really learn it.

What should I put in my notes?

A brief summary of what was said, written in your own words.

The summary should include:

  • Main ideas
  • Important details

How do I take notes?

You will be more likely to review your notes if you make them as brief as possible.  DO NOT write down EVERYTHING that is said!  Instead:

  • Take notes IN YOUR OWN WORDS!
  • Use abbreviations.
  • Listen for the main ideas.
  • Write down the main ideas in you OWN words.
  • Listen for signals that tell you to expect important details.
  • Decide which details are most important and leave out the rest.  (In other words, write down the important details that help you better understand the main ideas.)
  • When you hear distractions, try to ignore them and concentrate extra hard on listening for important information.

Try to organize your notes in a way that seems logical to you.

  • Keep all notes from each class together.
  • Leave space after each main idea so that you can come back and fill in important details.  Just because the speaker is not organized does not mean that you cannot be.

How do I write well in Spanish?

— Do not try to translate everything word for word from English to Spanish.  This makes the resulting Spanish sound strange and Spaniglish. You can’t write in Spanish at your English writing level. Instead, try to think in the Spanish that you already know.

— Your problem may simply be spelling.  In general, Spanish is spelled like it sounds.  However, a few letters are exceptions.  Once you learn the sounds those exceptional letters make, your spelling will improve.

READING:  Taking notes from printed material

Why should I re-write things that are already in the book?

Remember that your notes are a summary of what you have read.  By taking notes, you are making yourself a shortcut for when you must study.  Instead of having to re-read an entire chapter, you can just look over your notes.

How do I take notes over written material?

  • It is often easiest to organize your notes by sections which follow the divisions of the book.  However, you should always try to organize your notes in a way that makes sense TO YOU!
  • One of the best techniques for written material is an outline
  • List key ideas from each section and then any important details.  Remember:  ALWAYS put notes in your own words.
  • Try not to list examples unless absolutely necessary.  If you need an example, you can refer to the text.  If you are concerned about finding an example, put a page reference in parentheses next to the main idea in your notes.

What if I am not a very good reader?

If you do not read well, you probably need to talk to me about getting some extra help or getting extra help from an outside source.


How should I study?

  • Determine whether you will do best studying wit someone else or by yourself.  This will depend upon the assignment.
  • Study when you are most alert and awake.
  • Be comfortable.
  • Remove as many distractions as possible.  A distraction is anything that takes your attention away from studying.  When you are studying Spanish, it is especially important to isolate yourself from all “English” input.  This keeps you form confusing and overworking your brain.  If you are a person who studies best with some background noise, try to be sure that the noise is Spanish noise—music, TV programs, etc.
  • Set goals for how much you want to accomplish and how much time you will give yourself to accomplish it.  Try not to study for longer than 25-45 minutes without a break.
  • When you do take a break, make it at least 5 to 15 minutes.
  • When you begin an assignment, quickly tell yourself what you already know about it.  Then, ask yourself: What am I trying to learn about this?
  • When you finish an assignment, go over what you have just learned.  Tell yourself about it as though you were telling another person.
  • When you finish studying, ask yourself the following questions…

Do I know the facts and how and when to use them?

If not, study examples and non-examples to help you identify when and when not to use the facts.  This is called building a schema.

Do I know the material well enough to make up my own examples?

If not, look at your mistakes:

  1. You can learn more about how you think by looking at errors you make.
  2. The only way to learn from your mistakes is to learn the source of your mistakes.  In other words, what were you doing wrong and why did you think that it was the correct thing to do?
  3. Errors that are practiced are hard to change, so be sure that you ask questions when you discover an error!


Research in learning suggests:

A.  That we learn

  • about 80% – through our eyes
  • About 11% – through our ears
  • About 9% – through the other senses

B.  That after three months, we retain considerably more of what we have seen and heard, than of what we see or hear alone.

C.  That learning increases when the student changes his or her role from being passive to being an active participant in the teaching-learning experience.

D.  That new knowledge is based on what we already know or have experienced.  It is possible for a roomful of people to be presented with the same lesson and for everyone to learn something different.

How can I become a better learner?

  • Decide that you are going to be interested.
  • Monitor your attitude—be positive!
  • Try to use as many senses as possible.
  • Try to be actively involved in what you are learning.
  • Try to see how what you are learning fits in with what you already know.
  • Try to “explain” what you are learning “to yourself” IN YOUR OWN WORDS
  • Try to use the experience of others to help you understand what you are learning.
  • Try to change your point of view – look at the new information from a different perspective or in a different way.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Review and summarize what you have learned by integrating what you have learned with what you already know.  This is called synthesis.

 SPEAKING – You are teaching your mouth “new tricks,” so listen, then imitate.  You must speak in class, mentally, aloud, alone, and with the group.  Speak outside of class too.  Find a place where you don’t feel embarrassed and practice new words and sentences aloud.  Listen to yourself and try to improve.  You might also try tape-recording.




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