Thursday, October 8, 2009

Starting the School Year off Right - Part #6

After a very busy September, I am happy to finally have a few minutes to get back to posting to the blog. I will continue with our list of tips for starting the school year off right.

Exhibit teacher-pleasing behaviors!

We have a self assessment quiz that we have students take in our study skills class to help make them aware of the kinds of behaviors that teachers do and do not like from their students. Students often find this assessment to be very enlightening. They may be aware on some level that they are exhibiting behaviors that are not pleasing to their teachers, but often they do not realize how detrimental these behaviors can be to their academic careers. Some of the behaviors that should be avoided include: not looking at the teacher, showing up unprepared for class, turning in assignments late, coming to class late, socializing in class, asking irrelevant questions in class, demanding an inordinate amount of a teacher’s time and attention in class, being rude to the teacher or other students, or doodling or daydreaming when they should be paying attention. All of these behaviors annoy teachers and make them less inclined to look favorably on the student. Students need to understand that the teacher is the boss of the classroom, and much like in the real world, when you please your boss you will go far, when you displease your boss you are doomed to failure. Try to help your child identify which behavior(s) they are exhibiting in class that are negative, and work with them to figure out how they can be more aware of when they are doing these things, and most importantly, how they can try to avoid them altogether.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Starting the School Year off Right - Part #5

Know yourself!

We have found it very useful for students to have an understanding of how they best learn information. There are three main types of learning styles: visual, auditory and kinestetic. Visual learners learn best by seeing. Visual learners may need to draw pictures to help them remember data. Auditory learners learn best by hearing. Auditory learners may need to repeat information aloud when studying to help them retain data. Kinestetic learners learn best by doing. A kinestetic learner many need to write out information to help them remember. Many of us are also combo learners – we learn best by using a combination of the three styles. When we know how we best learn, then we can devise techniques (drawing pictures, reciting information out loud or writing things down) to help us remember data. Some of our auditory learners have found it helpful to create songs to help them remember grammar rules, math facts or historical events. There is no right or wrong way to learn, there is no one best way, the best way is the one that works best for you.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Starting the School Year off Right - Part #4

Make use of the resources offered at school!

Many schools offer peer-tutoring programs before or after school. While these programs can be hit-or-miss, it is worth taking the time to see if your child can connect with a good peer tutor. If the first tutor does not click with your child, encourage them to seek out another tutor and try again. Schools often recruit students who have done well in a subject to tutor their peers. Just because a student is skilled at a particular subject, does not mean they have the skill, maturity and ability to teach it to someone else. Again, if the first tutor does not work, try a few more to see if they might be a better fit. One of the most underutilized resources a student has for getting help is their teacher. Many teachers complain that they offer time both before and after school for students to come to get help, and very few students take advantage of this resource. Many teachers will go out of their way to help a student when they know the student is putting in extra effort. Encourage your child to take advantage of the help offered by their teacher. If they are nervous about approaching the teacher then offer to role-play with them how they might go about asking the teacher for help. We have found that role playing with students can help ease some of the trepidation they have about approaching a teacher for help, and can get them over that first hurdle and on the way to getting the assistance they need.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Starting the School Year off Right - Part #3

Manage time effectively!

We tell our students to set up a weekly schedule for themselves. They should plug in all their extra curricular activities and commitments on a daily basis (for all 7 days of the week) and then schedule time (in half hour blocks) to work on their homework. They should also make sure they build in time to eat and take care of personal hygiene and some down time to relax every day. Often when students go through this exercise they realize they have more free time than they think. If they are diligent about sticking to their schedule then they will avoid procrastination and time wasting activities that lead them to feel stressed and overwhelmed. One tool that many of our students find to be valuable is a timer. An inexpensive timer can be purchased at any supermarket or drug store. We tell the student to set their timer to 30 minutes and then get to work on their homework (one subject at a time – tackling the hardest one first). When the time goes off they can take a break and spend 30 minutes doing something they want to do. They key is that they must be disciplined enough to go back to their homework after the 30 minutes are up for another 30 minute homework block. Many students find that by splitting up their homework into 30-minute blocks and interspersing it with free time they are able to be more focused and productive. Homework becomes less of drudgery when it is not tackled for hours at a time with no break. They key is to be disciplined enough to stick to the 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off cycles.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Starting the School Year off Right - Part #2

Set goals!

We work with students in our study skills classes on setting goals for themselves at the beginning of every semester for what grades they would like to get that term in each subject. We tell them to be realistic. If the best they think they can get in math is a B, then so be it. Students should create a chart of all their academic subjects and what their grade goal is for each subject. On a weekly basis they should take this chart out and record their test, quiz, homework and project grades and see how they are measuring up against their goal. If they are not on track to attain their goal, then they need to analyze what is not working and make adjustments. If a student uses this system there should be no surprises at the end of the semester. This chart is a powerful tool in helping students monitor their progress and make corrections early on so that little problems do not snowball and become big problems.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Starting the School Year off Right - Part #1

Get organized!

Make sure your student has a space where they can work that is free from distractions and has all the supplies they need for school (pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, ruler, calculator, index cards, etc.). Buy them a planner (if their school does not provide them with one) so they can keep track of tests, quizzes and due dates for projects and reports. An investment in a plastic filing system with hanging folders is a great way to help them get organized. We advise students to set up a filing system for each academic subject. Create a folder for each subject and set aside a time each week to file papers, including: handouts, tests, quizzes, etc. Students should never throw out tests and quizzes; these are valuable tools to help them study for mid terms and finals. Very often when a student is doing poorly and they come to us for help, we ask to see past tests and quizzes so we can see where they are having difficulty. Many students do not have these materials, as they threw them away. Valuable information has been lost. Having a filing system will also help them easily locate important papers and keep them from having to lug everything around in those heavy backpacks. Being well organized is the first step towards getting good grades.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Summer Learning - Final Thoughts

Summer should be a time for trips to the beach, family vacations, lazy days spent in the pool, visits to amusements parks, and nights under the stars. Summer should also be a time to develop, strengthen and advance academic skills, so that the upcoming school year starts off on the right foot.

Next week we will start a series on how to get the school year off to a great start!

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer, but use the time wisely to lay the foundation for a successful and stress free school year!