In 1941, Dr. Francis Robinson made a name for himself with his now classic study method, SQ3R–Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review–a systematic and very effective approach to learning. Instead of your child jumping right in and reading an assigned chapter, Robinson’s method suggests SURVEYING it first, checking out main ideas, summaries, end-of-chapter questions, graphics, and so on. The next step is the all-important “Q.”

QUESTIONING keeps the reader actively and thoughtfully engaged in the material. Instead of mindlessly turning pages and quickly forgetting, she is thinking about the information and jotting down pertinent questions. There’s a method to it, though, and I’ve added a two-column twist. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Fold the paper, so there’s about a two-inch wide left-hand margin for recording
2. Abbreviate as much as possible and no writing complete sentences.
3. Use WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW to turn headings and
sub-headings into questions.
4. Ditto for main ideas, which are usually found in the first sentence in textbook
paragraphs—and occasionally in the last.
5. Jot down any in-the-margin questions and end-of-chapter questions.
6. Include bold-faced or italicized terms; place on flash cards, as well.

Once all questions are recorded your child READS the chapter actively. That’s because there are answers to be found and recorded in abbreviated form beside the corresponding questions, thus creating a two-column study guide. No more losing focus.

Next comes RECITE—the most effective study technique around. After folding the paper so that only the questions are visible, he asks and answers them OUT LOUD. Whenever unsure of an answer, he just flips the paper over and recites the answer before flipping back to the question and repeating the answer from memory. Then it’s on to the next question.

The final SQ3R step is REVIEW. Repetition is a powerful memory aid, and RECITING from two-column notes and flash cards a few times a week all but guarantees learning and retention—something cramming can’t do. Once confident of the information, parents and/or friends can then do some quizzing.

Here are some more helpful tips:

1. Make sure your child knows the assignment’s purpose: class discussion, research,
answering end-of-chapter questions, and/or prepping for a test.
2. Help build background knowledge, such as a trip to Independence Hall and other
historical sites.
3. Rent films on specific time periods/topics under study.
4. Check our such Internet sites as
5. Tell your child, “Let me know what you learn about . . . .”
6. Keep a supply of small post-its on hand for noting confusing material for clarification the
next day.
7. Encourage your child to ask questions in class, reminding him of the Chinese proverb:
“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not is a fool forever.”
8. Persuade your child to “repair” class notes as soon as possible while the information is
still fresh in mind. Blanks can be filled in by calling a friend or asking the teacher the
next day.
9. Finally, follow Nobel prize-winning nuclear physicist Isadore Rabi’s mother’s lead and
always ask, “What good questions did you ask today?”