and make it easier to study.
In last week’s post I wrote about scheduling learning sessions into your week so you make the most progress you can based on what you have available in your schedule. This article shows you how to structure your German study time to get the most out of it. Here’s how to create a German learning session that works for you.
There’s also a bonus organizational tip at the end that will help you with all of it!
1. Der Anfang: Start Small
You want to start with something that’s fun and enjoyable and gets you in the mood for learning. This can be an especially effective way to create a fun habit out of sitting down to learn German.
It’s also helpful to begin your learning sessions the same way so you create a habit out of it. The familiarity of this habit can help you get motivated when you always know how you’ll begin. When you’ve had a rough day, it’s this habit that will keep you on-track with your learning sessions. You’ll be less likely to simply skip it.
You could start your learning session(s) with:
- spelling a few words you already know
- reviewing solid, old vocabulary to give yourself a boost
- singing a song from class or one you’ve found on YouTube (like this one.)
- saying the alphabet forwards and backwards
- practicing your personal introduction “Hallo! Ich bin … und ich arbeite als…. Ich lebe in ….. und meine Hobbys sind …. “ You’ll need to be able to say it if you want to take a proficiency test, so practice it now!
Starting small helps you get in the mood for learning, it signals to your brain that you’re about to do some learning, and it lowers the hurdle to starting, as I like to say. The lower the hurdle, the easier it is for you to start.
So set that hurdle nice & low.
2. Weiter machen. Go for second place.
At this point you need to get some real work done. Once you’ve gotten your mind warmed up for learning German, pick out the second hardest activity you need to get done and get to it!
At this point you still have plenty of energy for learning and absorbing information, but you’re somehow still warming up. Working on the second hardest activity gives you a more complete warm-up for your brain and really gets the gears moving.
As second place, you could:
- learn new vocabulary words
- complete the homework exercises that come easier to you
- finish that worksheet you didn’t finished last week
- re-write homework that has been corrected (this reinforces the correct form)
3. Jetzt geht es richtig los! Do the hard stuff.
Next up is to tackle the toughest assignment. You’re well warmed-up and thinking auf Deutsch, so use the benefits of that to do whatever is hardest. Perhaps this is a writing assignment or a speaking exercise that you need to record. Write your Stichwörter or Notizen and get to it!
Putting the toughest assignment here means you’ve probably already covered the grammar and vocabulary necessary to complete the work, so by building up to it with a warm-up and other work that’s not quite as difficult, you’ve set yourself up for success.
This is a great time to work on:
- a longer writing assignment
- tough grammar topics
- the homework exercises that you know are hard
- the vocabulary words that just don’t seem to stick
4. Wiederholen Sie, bitte! Do with something repetitive
When it’s the last big section of a learning session, you’ll want to give your brain a little bit less to work on. It’s not quite time to warm-down yet but you don’t want to tire yourself too much. Go for something repetitive.
At this point, you could:
- work on multiple verb conjugations
- conjugate one verb multiple times
- write out sample sentences for your vocabulary words
- review vocabulary words you worked on a day or two ago
- create new flashcards to use in your next learning session
When you create new flashcards in this learning session, you can use them as your number two activity in your next session. Use the warm-down time to make a note of this to yourself or go ahead and plan your next study session out—that lowers the hurdle for next time!
5. Seien Sie cool. Cool-down and follow the organizational tip below.
This is a really good time to take a look at the work that you’ve done and to summarize it. If you have a check-list of items to work on for the week, check them off here. Write out ideas that occurred to you that you could develop in your next learning session or make an entire plan for your next study time. Note questions you have for your instructor.
BONUS Bonus organizational tip: Erst die Ordnung schaffen!
Creating time for learning German also requires creating space for German in your life and in your calendar. You need to block off time to learn German, just as you need to block off time to get to and from work, to cook dinner, etc. You have an entire room in your house or apartment dedicated to cooking, so why not have a space that’s reserved for your German materials?
Create a space in a specific shelf or bookcase that’s easy to get to.
Make this the official home of your German materials.
This way you’ll be more likely to grab your books and get learning!
How can you create a space that is only for your German books? Is it a shelf or a drawer? Is it a part of your desk? Is it a specific bag that you take to class, which you see whenever you walk into your apartment?
Whatever it is, create that unique space that’s easily accessible. This way you keep the hurdle of accessing your books, notes, and German writings as low as possible. You’ll know where your German home is.
When you’re done cooling down from a German learning session, put your materials away in their official home. Then everything is where you need it to be for your next learning session. And when you have some spare time open up, you’ll know exactly where to look for those flashcards or that article you wanted to review.
What’s your favorite way of learning German? Do you have a routine you start with, like a hot cup of coffee or a specific kind of music? I’d love to hear it and share it with others! Please enter your tip in the form below.