One of the most common questions I get from students is: “What’s the best way to retain what I’m learning?”
Students may think they understand the lessons and concepts being taught, but later struggle putting it all into practice. Writing good code takes a lot of time and effort, so the best way to retain the information is through practice and repetition –– easier said than done, right?
To show you how to memorize codes, we’ve compiled some of our best tips and tricks in this guide. Keep reading to learn how you can better retain what you’re learning.
How to Memorize Codes: 6 Tips to Help You Retain What You’re Learning
1. Remember to Implement
That’s because your interpretation of what’s being taught varies –– you can’t just take the lesson at face value. You need to make sure that your interpretation is right by implementing what you learned.
Take some time to truly practice your newfound coding skills. At Treehouse, our Techdegrees and courses offer coding projects you can complete to implement what you learn. As you practice, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of coding concepts.
Free trial on Treehouse: Do you want to improve your development skills? Click here to try a free trial on Treehouse.
2. Don’t Just Watch or Read
Be an active learner, not a passive learner. It’s difficult to retain information through passive learning. You may think that watching a video or reading a tutorial over and over again is enough to lodge the information in your head forever. While some of it will eventually stick, it’s not the most effective way to learn.
Even though you’re focused on what’s being taught in the lesson, you’re just seeing or reading abstract concepts. To really get it, you need to run into difficulty, make mistakes, then identify and correct them. So converting that knowledge from abstract to practical is important because it’s no longer something someone else has told you.
Start building something right away. For example, try building a single-page website or a small website component. It doesn’t matter what it looks like or how it works. As long as you keep doing it while raising the bar, you’ll gradually get better. I promise!
Related Reading: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Coding Skills and Confidence
3. Use Online Coding Tools
These days, online code editors like CodePen, JSFiddle, or Treehouse’s Workspaces provide designers and developers a quick way to communally experiment with code. This is a helpful way of implementing a concept you just learned.
To ensure you’re getting it into your long-term memory, try coding at different times during the day, without looking anything up beforehand.
4. Developer Tools
When visiting websites I like, I always use Chrome DevTools (or Mozilla’s Firefox Developer Tools) to inspect the code and see how certain parts of it were built. I’ve learned some neat things doing that.
Also, viewing –– or “borrowing” –– another website’s HTML and CSS, then changing it around to build something different can really help when learning to code.
5. Share Your Knowledge
“But I’m not an expert!”
It doesn’t matter. You will always know something that someone else doesn’t know. Plus, you’ll retain more when you synthesize then teach the information. Down the road, it might even establish you as the “expert” in a given topic.
I’m always impressed by those students who have blogs where they write about what they’re learning. It’s no coincidence they are the ones who find successful work in the industry.
Related Reading: How to Start Coding
6. Be Patient & Confident
It’s important to be patient because it takes a while to wrap your head around code, but the more you do it, the more it starts clicking.
Don’t worry about memorizing every tag, selector, property or value available. A solid understanding of the concepts –– and a reliable reference –– is more important. I probably don’t know every CSS selector off the top of my head, but I sure know how they work and where to reference them.
For example, If you asked me to code a five-color-stop radial gradient using the old and new syntax, I’d probably go straight to MDN or use ColorZilla’s Gradient Generator. By knowing exactly how gradients work, the types of syntax and browser support, I’m able to move through the process much faster.
Finally, to retain new concepts, you need to be confident and refrain from being pessimistic when you struggle. Pessimism leads to giving up.
Learn to Code With Treehouse
Treehouse offers Techdegrees and courses covering everything you need to know about coding. Plus, we offer hands-on projects to complete throughout each course so you can gain the skills needed for coding success. Learn how to code today by signing up for a free trial of Treehouse!
Thank you so much for sharing helpful tips, I am currently in the stage of learning CSS and HTML and, I do better during practice/exercise, although when it comes to putting them all in practice I always get “mental block”, I am new to CSS and HTML, but definitely not in designing, where I depend on a too offered by Adobe like muse, as a matter of fact I end up producing Website for my husband from scratch just plainly using Adobe Muse. Now that I have to learn from basic, it changes everything. Hope this will help novice designer like me.
Thanks a lot for the advice! I’ll start writing a blog about coding . 🙂
This is some great advice, memorizing how certain types of code works has always been one of my biggest problems. However, I really like that you encourage people to actively learn and not just sit their and read or listen to the instructions. If you really want to take the time to learn HTML, CSS, Java, or any kind of programming language then you’re going to have to actively practice it.
That is really nice information thanks alot .
This is some really good information about how to keep your programming knowledge in your home. I like that you pointed out that it is easy to forget what you don’t understand. So, making sure that you truly understand what you are learning is smart.
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Look for people who know less than you and teach them as soon as possible!
When posting a response, as a comment to a simple issue. Or, when explaining a concept to someone in person. It gives one pause, to boil down into the most basic concepts exactly what one is trying to communicate.
In doing so you are also communicating these ideas to yourself, sharing what you know helps you solidify your knowledge.
In order to retain the material, blogging is my tool of choice, writing down what you learn solidifies the concept. So I am blogging my jouney to learn code at http://www.coding-quesr.blogspot.com
Keepp on writing, great job!
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I don’t know you guys but it helps a lot to me to write each pice of code I learn by hand on paper. And since I can’t get a computer at any time during the day I can get some paper an a pen at any time. It sounds old fashion but it’s just a way to learn something.
To help me remember what I’ve learned I save code snippets in Gistbox.
A second thing I do is take very detailed notes when watching a Treehouse training, including pasting in code. I have a folder in Evernote called Treehouse Training. Within that I have separate docs for each Treehouse topic I’ve done.
I can then easily do a word search to find the teaching on a past topic.
I do something similar to you with Evernote and my Android learnings. I have a note stack in evernote with 3 notebooks inside. One for basics, one for advanced, and one more for expert concepts.
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Thank you Guil, I found this article very helpfull.
I’m currently studying you CSS Foundations Deep Dive, I found your stages very exhaustive and I do appreciate that every one or two lessons there’s a Quiz or a Code Challenge, it helps better to understand and memorize what you just explained.
Glad to help, Evan!
Thanks Guil for this insightful plan to action article. I needed it as bad as California needs rain. Off I go to the text editor to practice.
You’re welcome, Cedric! Maybe I’ll send some of this Florida rain your way, too! 🙂
Let’s implement the methods mentioned above and keep practicing and building websites. It’s just like a trick writers use, to increase their creativity. For instance write 750 words and never look back for mistakes, grammars and other constructs just keep writing.
So in case of css, don’t focus too much on memorizing properties but focus on your web app.
Great advice Guil! The lessons on the site are great to learn the fundamentals of each language, etc but the only way to really help it stick is to put it into practice. I regularly build my own projects either alongside or at the end of courses.
It’s impossible to remember everything, that’s why it’s important to bookmark reference sites such as Mozilla developer, etc. You can’t learn everything but as long as you understand it and you know where to find it you’ll get by.
All very true, Tzevai. Thanks for reading!
You’re 100% right 😉
Don’t forget Anki
I’ve found that quite useful during my time at uni.
Thanks Guil! That’s what’s been in the back of my mind as I’m going along too.
You’re welcome. Thanks for reading! 🙂
This is exactly what I have discovered recently. Which is why I love what you guys are doing with the challenges lately. I’d love if it got expanded into its own section of the site.
I should probably clarify. By challenges, I’m talking about the weekly forum contests.