Learning Strategies

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Studying strategies, also called learner strategies, are ways of learning. Good learners use these strategies to make their learning more efficient.

There are two main types of learning strategies, the first are strategies for planning how to learn, and secondly strategies for learning.


Strategies for Planning How to Learn

Advance Organisation
Doing a preview of what you are going to learn. For example, if you want to improve your pronunciation, you can read the introduction to different pronunciation books, and find out that you need to study the sounds of consonants, vowels, intonation, stress and linking.

Directing Attention
This means paying attention to studying something, and not doing other things like surfing the Internet.

Selective Attention
This means studying things that you can remember more easily, for example because they are useful for your university course or for your job. If you need to do a presentation for your course you can study presentations, if you need to write a report at work, you can learn how to write a report.

This is understanding the conditions that help you learn, and organising them. For example, if you like music, learning in a place with music. You will also need materials like books and maybe a computer. CILL has good learning conditions (but no coffee!).

Advance Preparation
Planning and learning English that you will need for something, for example learning the correct pronunciation of important words in a presentation.

Correcting yourself if you make a mistake when you are using English. This is good for accuracy, but not for fluency.

Delayed Production
When you first start to learn a new language you may decide not to try speaking until you have learned some vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. You may just want to try listening first, before speaking.

Self-evaluation (Self-assessment or testing)
Deciding if you have finished learning a topic because your English is good enough to do the things you need. Click here for more details on how to test yourself.

This means giving yourself a present when you have successfully learned something. For example, chocolate or 10 minutes playing computer games.

Working Alone or with Other People
Click here to find out reasons for working alone or with other people. There are sections in the reading, writing , listening, speaking, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation pages on this as well.

With other people you can compare ideas, criticise ideas, get more ideas, and therefore think about things in more detail than you can alone.


Learning Strategies

Learning Strategies

Watch a video about learning strategies


Thinking Strategies

- Grouping: Putting things in groups and in order helps you to build a framework for learning. Grouping also reflects the way your brain organises information. For example, you can group vocabulary words together according to categories like furniture, animals, office equipment, etc. Using mind-maps is one type of grouping.

Imagery: This means making pictures in your mind to help you remember things. For example a 'hamburger paragraph'.


Speaking Strategies

- Questions for Clarification: This means talking to English-speakers and asking for them to repeat, paraphrase (summarise in different words), explain or give examples. You can say:

  • Repeat: "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that, can you say that again?"
  • Paraphrase: "I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you mean. Can you tell me again?"
  • Explain: "Could you explain that for me?"
  • Examples: "Could you give me an example?"

- Recording yourself: record yourself speaking, either on your own, or with other people. Later you can review the recording, listen for problems such as saying "Um" too much, and research anything that you didn't know how to say.

- Form a group of people to practise speaking English: In CILL you can join the SAP to do this with a teacher. The English Club also runs the Big Mouth Corner for speaking practice.

- Sing: You can sing English songs that you like, either alone, or with friends; e.g. karaoke.

- Act: you can join a drama club or group that puts on English plays. The ELC has a Drama Club.

- Imagine: Imaging that you are in a situation where you need to speak English; e.g. as a character you like in a movie. Try to imagine what you would say. Do you know what to say? If you are not sure, you can research it later.

Click here to go to the Speaking page.


Pronunciation Strategies

- Repetition: You can repeat a word out loud or silently to practice pronunciation. Be careful to listen to a model to make sure that you pronunciation is correct.

- Sound: This means remembering English sounds by using sounds in your own language. For example, the English sound / i: /is very similar to the Chinese (Putonghua) sound of the word that means 'one'.

Click here to go to the pronunciation page.


Writing Strategies

  • Note-taking: it's a good idea to write down the main ideas, important points, an outline or a summary of a topic.
  • Organisation: You can use a mind-map, organisation tool or pros and cons calculator to help you organise the information.
  • Proof-reading: you can use this program to automatically check for some common mistakes.
  • Peer-review: ask a friend to read your text and comment on it. Do they understand it? Can they suggest any improvements?
  • To-do list: write a list of 10 specific problems you have with your writing. Put them in order of seriousness or solvability. Work on the highest priority problems until you solve them. When you have solved them, cross them out, and add new problems to the bottom of the list.

Click here to go to the writing page.


Reading Strategies

- Transfer: This means using ideas that you already have to make learning easier. For example, if you know that a paragraph (like a hamburger) usually has an introduction, a middle containing supporting detail, and a conclusion, you can use this knowledge to skim (read very quickly, by missing out non-important information, to understand the general topic) a text because you know that you only have to read the introduction and conclusion of both the whole text and the paragraphs.

- Translation: You can read a story in a newspaper in your own language first, then read the same story in an English newspaper. Most of the story will probably be the same, so the story in your own language will help you to prepare for reading in English. For example, it will give you vocabulary, and when you read the English story and there is some vocabulary that you don't know, then you can use your knowledge of the story to guess what the new vocabulary is.

- Inferencing: You can also use the strategy of reading a newspaper story in your own language first for prediction. You can predict the contents of the same story in an English newspaper. Reading to confirm your predictions is easier than reading with no background information. Click here for more information on reading newspapers.

- Prediction: As well as predicting from newspaper stories in your own language, you can predict from your knowledge of the world, you knowledge of how people think, write and talk, and your knowledge of what the writer is like. For example, if you are reading a book it is a good idea to read about the author and the contents (on the cover or at the front of the book) to help you make predictions about what he or she believes.

Click here to go to the reading page.


Listening Strategies

- Physical Response: You can listen to instructions about how to do something, and follow the instructions. Relating sounds to movements helps you remember the sounds. So does listening to the sounds many times and repeating the movements. For example you can buy an English fitness video and listen and follow the instructions, and get fit at the same time.

- Prediction: You can predict what someone is going to say by the topic of the conversation and your knowledge of that person's opinions. Listening to confirm what you predict is easier than listening and trying to understand everything. For example, if you are watching a film or TV programme about lawyers, you can predict that the defense lawyer will say that his client is "Not guilty.", and give reasons. Here are some phrases and predictions about the words that will follow:

  • "I think" + an opinion.

  • "I'm afraid that " + bad news.

  • "Next," + another topic or point.

  • "Finally," + a last topic or point.

  • "But" + disagreement.

- Preparation: you can listen to the news in your own language, then listen to it in English. Listening in your own language will help to predict what topics and vocabulary will be in the English news. Click here for the BBC news in English.

- Motivate yourself: for example if you like movies or music, you can practise listening to them. CILL has a large collection of movies, and some songs on CD.


Click here to go to the listening page.


Grammar Strategies

- Deduction: This means using rules to work out the answer or how to do something. It is especially useful for grammar, for example Rule: To change normal speech to reported speech; eg. for writing minutes of a meeting, move the tenses back one past tense. Example: Mr. Chan - "I will see her tomorrow." Reported speech - 'Mr. Chan said that he would see her the next day.

- Recombination: This means joining together things you already know to make new things. For example, if you know that the simple past tense is used to describe things that happened in the past which have finished, and you know that the present perfect tense is used to describe experience, you can make a sentence that includes both of them:
"I first visited America in 1990. Last summer I went there again, so I have been there twice."

- Writing your own grammar book: this can contain rules, examples (e.g. from newspapers or magazines), your notes (e.g. on things you don't understand), lists of exceptions, etc.

- Using new grammar: after you learn some new grammar, use it in conversation or writing, and see what your listener's or reader's reaction is: do they understand you? You can ask "Did I say that right?"

- Get a grammar book: come to CILL or go to a bookshop and look at the different grammar books. Choose one that you understand.

- Read and listen: to see how writers and speakers use English grammar to communicate their ideas.

Click here to go to the grammar page.


Vocabulary Strategies

- Contextualisation: This means putting new vocabulary words into sentences to help you remember them and to test if you are using them correctly. You can use these sentences when talking to an English-speaker to see if they understand, you can write these sentences in your learner portfolio for the tutors to see, or you can e-mail the tutors and ask them to check these words in your sentences. The most independent ways are talking to an English speaker, and searching the Internet to find examples of the word being used in sentences.

- Elaboration: this means relating new information to information you already know. For example, if you know the meaning of 'information', it is easy to remember that the verb is 'to inform', and that 'informative' is an adjective, and that 'an informant' is someone who gives information.

- Inferencing: This means using available information to predict or guess the meanings of; e.g. new vocabulary items. For example, if you know that you are reading about football, and you know that a field is often a large area covered in grass, then you can guess that a football field is a large, grassy area for playing football.

- Translation: You can read a story in a newspaper in your own language first, then read the same story in an English newspaper. Most of the story will probably be the same, so the story in your own language will help you to prepare for reading in English. For example, it will give you vocabulary, and when you read the English story and there is some vocabulary that you don't know, then you can use your knowledge of the story to guess what the new vocabulary is.

- Personalisation: you can write down why the vocabulary item (i.e. the word or phrase) is important to you, where you first saw it, and when you used it, for example, you may have heard the item in a movie you liked (click here for list of movies and famous phrases in them), and used the item when you talked about the movie with your friends.

- Keeping your own dictionary / vocabulary book: Writing entries for the dictionary will help you to learn words, and using your own dictionary can be faster than a normal dictionary. Click here for more details and examples.

- Grouping: you can group words into different areas, such as words in the different courses you study. For example, business students could group vocabulary items into marketing vocabulary, accounting vocabulary, and human resources vocabulary.

Click here to go to the vocabulary page.


Group project strategies


Last updated on: Wednesday, May 29, 2013