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4 Study Methods from Kindergarten To Bring Back in Grad School

If you’re considering grad school, you might be overwhelmed by all of the preparation required. While you may think you’ve mastered your study habits, you may find that a highly-competitive academic environment requires you to reinvent your study skills.

The good news: You probably learned all the study skills you need already… in kindergarten!

While you’ve definitely picked up a few other study tricks and habits along the way since then, you’ll be surprised by how many learning techniques from your earliest school days can help you succeed as a grad student.

1. Hands-On Approach

Interactive, hands-on techniques are a cornerstone of early childhood education. Learning how to count or understand simple addition, for instance, might involve props like toys or blocks. These give students a tangible way to process information. The fundamental aim of hands-on learning is actively involve children in their learning through engaging activities.

As a graduate student, you’ll be doing a lot of independent reading and attending countless lectures. But, to truly absorb the content you’re studying, it’s vital to incorporate this same style of hands-on learning.

That might mean visiting your professors’ office hours for one-on-one dialogue, or testing theories in the field. Internships, a staple of most grad school programs, are another highly effective tool for applied learning. You won’t have someone to hold your hand, though—unlike kindergarten, it’ll be up to you to seek out these interactive opportunities.

2. The Play Method

There’s plenty of playtime in the kindergarten classroom, and it’s not just for the sake of enjoyment.

increase children’s confidence and social skills while forcing them to apply concepts to the real world. From kickball to playing house, this approach to learning allows kids to develop and exercise practical skills inside and outside the classroom.

In grad school, learning through play is just as effective and important. Though your playtime might not consist of tea parties and sing-a-longs, finding a non-academic outlet within your subject matter can significantly boost your educational experience.

Studying political science? Join the debate team.

Working toward an advanced degree in English Lit? Write an original poem and read it aloud at a poetry slam.

Though most people don’t choose grad school for pure fun, you’ll undoubtedly enhance your learning experience if you make time for a little play, too.

3. Sensory Learning

In kindergarten, we relied on our senses—touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound—to understand the world around us. Our teachers encouraged us to be curious and explore using basic observations and simple concepts.

Graduate school will certainly require more in-depth analysis, reasoning, and problem solving. However, you shouldn’t overlook the fundamental benefits of sensory learning.

This might mean converting what you hear in a lecture into a mind-map or sketch on paper, or visualizing abstract concepts.

4. Cooperative Learning

Starting in kindergarten and continuing throughout a student’s education, cooperative learning involves working in a group or pair to complete a task. This approach gives young children an opportunity to develop an understanding of each other’s needs and skills and to express their own personal feelings and thoughts. Cooperative tasks can’t be completed by just one person—they require a group effort, and in turn facilitate group learning.

In later years, you’ll recognize this approach as group projects, but in grad school, cooperative learning may take on new formats.

Study groups are a powerful learning tool that can help you understand concepts more thoroughly than if you study alone. That’s because you’ll need to be able to collaborate and explain concepts to your peers. In fact, some courses might be near impossible to pass if you study solo. Workshops and professional skills seminars can also provide unique opportunities for cooperative learning and collaboration.

It’s no surprise that the most effective kindergarten learning methods are grounded in human connection, active learning, and practical application. However, these fundamental strategies aren’t just crucial for early childhood education—they’re relevant to any learning environment, from age five to 85. So, as you prepare for graduate school and the rigors it entails, don’t forget to go back to the basics… and thank your kindergarten teacher for the head start.

Jackie Berkery is a writer and marketer based in San Francisco. She works as a content producer for , a leading online education platform for Chinese students learning English.

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