Many students of English ask how they can get the most out of their studying at home. While there is no one answer that works for all students, here are some tips that will help you to focus better, manage time more effectively, and create a useful study plan.
Tips for Studying English at Home
Make It a Habit
Set up a regular time when you can study with a minimum of distractions. Make it a priority like any other tasks that are on your schedule.
Pay Attention to Your Personal Mental Rhythm
If you have the option, try to study at the time of day when you are at your best. For some, this might be early in the morning. Others find the mind is more open to new information in the hour or so before sleeping. You can manage your study time at home better if you go with your natural flow.
We can set different types of goals when we study. Most people choose a content goal, such as learning 50 new vocabulary words in a week, or mastering another verb tense. The problem with these goals is that they often make us feel pressured. The result can be a loss of focus and interest.
- Writers, visual artists and other creators are often given this advice: “Fall in love with the process, and results will follow.” In other words, simply learn to enjoy your study time without setting specific concepts to be mastered in each session.
- Instead, set your goal as a specific length of time to dedicate your full attention to your English studies. Any content-based goals should be spread over a reasonable time and allow for flexibility.
Take Control of Your Study Space
If you live with others, don’t be afraid to put a “do not disturb” sign on your door during your study time.
Choose Music Carefully
How to use music to focus when studying at home is very much an individual choice. Generally, experts agree that music with singing will be more of a distraction than a help. Vocal music requires the brain to split its language perception centers between the lyrics and the study material, even though we might not be aware of this. Instead, choose instrumental music that works for you as background music only without becoming your center of focus. Some vocal music, of course, can help you learn English.
If you are using songs in English as study materials, focus on understanding them the same as you would focus on a textbook or written exercise.
We usually think of drinking enough water as essential for intense physical activities. However, university research has shown that hydration is just as important for keeping focused when studying at home. It has been found that drinking enough water considerably improves cognitive abilities, visual memory and all intellectual activities. Keep a bottle handy in your study area so you can easily access it without breaking your concentration.
Don’t Forget to Eat!
Staying focused while studying at home requires that the brain get enough fuel. Scientists have found that around 20% of the body’s calories are used to keep the brain at optimal function. Keep light snacks within easy reach of your study area. Remember to keep them light and healthy as heavy foods can have a dulling effect on the mind.
What Specific Foods Help Us to Stay Focused When Studying at Home?
- Studies where learners consumed berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries have indicated positive effects on long and short term memory, accuracy, and attention span.
- Dark chocolate and cocoa products have demonstrated similar benefits.
- Consuming citrus fruits and juices has also shown positive effects on various brain functions.
- Nuts are another group of foods that have been tested and found to give a potential boost to study focus and over-all mental well-being.
- Red, orange, and green vegetables, including peppers, carrots, and broccoli, have also been researched with positive results on cognitive function. If you enjoy these foods, keep a bowl handy to help you stay focused while studying at home.
How To Manage Time When Studying at Home?
Set a Length of Time for Each Study Session
Scientists have done extensive research to determine the maximum time a person should study before taking a break. Of course, this will vary with the individual student, but researchers at one major university have determined that 50 minutes of studying followed by a 10 minute break is an average. Many other studies have come to about the same conclusion, give or take a few minutes.
Others find it helpful to use the Pomodoro technique, in which you study for twenty-five minutes, and then take a five-minute break. After four twenty-five minute sessions, take a longer break of twenty or thirty minutes.
Manage Breaks Very Carefully
Avoid doing any kind of mentally intensive work during your study breaks. Social media, online shopping, emailing and other popular pastimes require more of your mental resources than you may realize. Take a real break to let your brain actually recharge.
Don’t Look at the Clock!!
Set an alarm or timer for the length of time you’ve decided on. Then, turn the clock away from view. Constantly looking at the clock increases the feeling of pressure and takes away from the mental resources that are needed to learn the material. Just immerse yourself in the experience of studying.
Try “Passive” Multi-Tasking
Trying to manage active tasks at the same time has been shown to reduce efficiency in both tasks. Studying your English while answering emails, making a grocery list, etc., will be frustrating as neither task will be well done.
- Use your routine domestic tasks to help you manage your time when studying at home. Use tasks that have completely passive parts to time your study sessions. For example, while the clothes washer, dishwasher, or robotic vacuum is working you can study your English. Try learning to use a crock pot or other appliance that slowly cooks a meal in one pot and study while it does its work. Be sure to include some of the foods mentioned above that will help you focus.
- Some students are able to combine mentally active tasks with tasks that are completely physical. For example, you can take your tablet to the gym, and get some study time in while you do your cardio workout on the stationary bike or step machine.
How to Make a Study Plan?
Take an English Course at a Respected School
Taking a formal course will give you expert guidance in what to study at home. You’ll be confident that your home study time is being well spent when the material is presented by qualified teachers. Attending well-designed classes such as those at LANGUAGE ON Schools will show you how to make a study plan that is effective and will keep your motivation up.
LANGUAGE ON Schools offer options at all levels for both group and private classes at several convenient locations, with experienced, friendly teachers. Check out their affordable programs here.
Review Older Material
Make reviewing older material a part of your study plan. A good general plan is to use at least one study session each week to review material you have already learned.
Know Your Personal Learning Style and Adapt Your Study Methods To It
Experts in learning have identified three main types of learners:
- Visual learners: For these learners, seeing the material in print or watching video presentations can facilitate their learning best. Taking notes in bright or unusual colors, or illustrating the key points with simple drawings will help them focus.
- Auditory learners: Listening is the key to effective learning for this type. This could include listening to lectures with a variety of voices reciting the material. Sometimes speaking the study material outloud yourself will also be helpful.
- Kinesthetic learners: These learners need some kind of movement incorporated into their learning.
- Combination learners: These learners are at their best when elements of all the above are utilized. Even if you fall into one of the three main categories, using some methods from the others can help keep your interest up and attention focused.
Are you a Lone Wolf Learner, or Better as a Member of a Pack?
Some students find that their study time is more effective if it has a social aspect, such as studying with a partner or larger group. Try to pick study partners whose motivation is high and whose commitment will reinforce your own. Others are more single-minded and need to go it alone.
Mix It Up!
Varying the order you study different concepts in will help you manage your study time. You’ll keep your focus better when studying if there is some variety within your routine.
Studying at home can seem difficult at first. Use the tips above to manage your time when studying at home, and as you get into your study groove, the time will fly by! Keep in mind that as your circumstances change, you may need to adjust your study plan to better manage your time when studying at home.
Always keep a positive attitude and congratulate yourself on accepting the challenges of learning something new!
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