Portrait of asia student with open book reading it in university library
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Portrait of asia student with open book reading it in university library

One of the biggest challenges with students is that many of them do not know how to study. Studying has been demeaned to simply attempting to memorise information from a book or class then being able to regurgitate it when asked. Contrary to popular belief, the ability to recite information does not equate to mastery of the content. In order for learning to really occur, students must be able to take the information from the state in which it was introduced and apply it to other scenarios. As educators, we must teach students that studying is the ability to comprehend the information and the ability to apply it when needed. Before one can study, one must know how he/she studies and the study methods that work best for them.


Many educators can agree that most students do not know how to take notes. This can be especially challenging for ELL learners, as they have a dual task of attempting to process the language in addition to comprehending the material in order to take good notes. I have found the Cornell note taking method to be an effective way for ELL learners to take notes. It is a simple and concise way to track the information that they acquire. The goal of Cornell notes is to consolidate information on one page. As such, Cornell notes are designed so the heading guides students in focusing on the important points of the lesson, topic or reading. Model to students how to use the Cornell notes. Be sure to decipher what is important information and that “notes” are short words or phrases and not copying down everything that is stated or read. Students should keep track of their Cornell notes in a notebook for easy access.


Four squares is a method that allows students to visually represent their learning. Students can look at the four squares and can have a good grasp of the content or reading. The student can take a piece of paper and fold the paper into four sections. Then label and complete the four sections as represented in the diagram below.

Mel Monney May June15


Clear/Unclear windows are a great way for ELL learners to reflect on their learning in an engaging manner. This strategy uses an index card, where the student folds the card in half; on the top left side of the card the student writes “clear” and on the top of the right side “unclear.” On the clear window side, students write 3 things about the topic/reading that are undoubtedly clear, and on the unclear window side, they write 2 to 3 things about the same topic/reading that they are still unclear or confused about. By using the things that they wrote in the unclear window, students can guide their re-reading/research of those items for clarity. When the student re-reads or researches the unclear information, the approach to reading may be different, as the student is now guided in his/her review.

Understanding how one learns is essential in knowing what study methods work best for each individual. Great study skills are key to academic success. Teaching ELL learners (as well as other learners) good study skills could help them acquire a deep love for the target language.

By Melissa Monney

Melissa is a passionate educator from the United States of America. She currently works with the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

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