Explain it to someone else – over and over again

One thing I found when teaching multiple classes of U.S. History all day long is that the more times you explain something, the better you understand it yourself. There’s something about the processing required to explain something that helps you think about stuff in a different way (well, it helps me at least). Here’s what you can do:

Step 1: Read about a topic

Read about it in your textbook, on this website, do more research . . . basically do whatever you have to do to understand it well enough to try and tell someone else about it.

Step 2: Find someone who will listen to you explain the topic

Ideas: your parents, siblings, whoever you live with, your friend, make a study group, your teacher (for history or any other subject), the checkout person at the grocery store . . . you know, get creative! You could try explaining it to your dog or just talking to the wall, but that probably won’t be real enough. Most likely you will need to actually try and explain the topic (with the goal of getting the other person to understand what you’re saying) in order for this to work.

Step 3: Assess your level of understanding

How do you feel about the topic now? Do you feel like you totally killed your explanation and you’ve got this? Great! Move on to something else. Do some yoga and meditate for relaxation. Go get yourself a milkshake. Whatever you want to do to treat yourself!

If you stumbled through your explanation in step 2 (a little bit or a lot a bit), don’t fear! Just review anything you forgot and then find someone else and try again. You could also try writing about the topic. The bottom line is don’t give up until you feel comfortable with the content.

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