Tag Archives: learning vocabulary

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Free Learning How to Learn MOOC on Coursera

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Learning How to Learn is a free MOOC available through Coursera. It is a self-paced course which just started January 4, 2016, and I highly recommend it if you have trouble studying or remembering what you study. It includes valuable information about how your brain and memory work, and offers advice on how to study, take notes, conquer procrastination, etc. as well as what is NOT good for learning, i.e. constant re-reading and too much highlighting, for example.

This course is actually one of the most popular courses on Coursera, and the instructors deliver the content in a great way. While this course is broad enough to encompass learning material for various subjects, they do mention learning languages and the techniques are just as valid for learning languages as for learning math or science. One technique is the Pomodoro technique. Basically, you should study for 25 minutes (set a timer), and then take a 5 minute break – to stretch, exercise, have a snack, or just relax – and then do another 25 minute session, followed by another 5 minute break, and so on.

They also mention spaced repetition, which you are probably familiar with if you use Anki, Memrise, and other online study websites. The idea is to space out your learning and study over time rather than trying to cram and memorize everything at once. It is better to let your brain rest for a day or two and then repeat the material in order to really learn it.

The course is only 4 weeks long and new sessions start often if aren’t able to keep up with the quizzes this time around. The course is based on the book A Mind for Numbers, written by one of the instructors, Dr. Barbara Oakley. It is not required for the course, but it does delve deeper into the topic of learning math and science.

Learning How to Learn is based on the book A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

Let me know if you’ve taken this MOOC and what your thoughts are on it.

Vocabulary Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching

Vocabulary Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching by Keith Folse (2004, University of Michigan Press) is a great introduction to the gap between practice and research in vocabulary learning and teaching.

I highly recommend the book, but if you’d like a shorter summary, Folse’s article “Myths about Teaching and Learning Second Language Vocabulary: What Recent Research Says” [TESL Reporter 37,2 (2004), pp. 1-13] is also available if you have access to online journals.

The eight myths are:

  1. Vocabulary is not as important in learning a foreign language as grammar or other areas.
  2. It is not good to use lists of words when learning vocabulary.
  3. Vocabulary should be presented in semantic sets.
  4. The use of translations is a poor way to learn new vocabulary.
  5. Guessing words from context is as productive for foreign language learners as it is for first language learners.
  6. The best vocabulary learners make use of only one or two effective specific vocabulary learning strategies.
  7. Foreign language learners should use a monolingual dictionary.
  8. Vocabulary is sufficiently covered in our curricula and courses.

Think about your language classes and how many of these myths were prevalent in the textbook or even encouraged by your teacher.  These myths make teaching languages as well as designing textbooks much easier for the teacher or author, but they go against second language acquisition research on how learners should go about learning a language and tend to make learning even harder.