Study Skills

Preparing for the New School Year

With the new school year just around the corner, it’s time to start back-to-school prep. Shopping for new school supplies and clothes helps kids to start thinking about the return to the classroom, but that’s just the beginning. There are many more ways to prep kids for school year success so they can start the new school year with a fresh and ready mind.

The habits and routines that are implemented at home right now go a long way to helping students prepare not only for back-to-school success, but for success that lasts the whole school year—much longer than new pencils or running shoes will! Wondering how to help your child get a jump start on a great school year? Here are some ideas to prep the entire household for success in the 2018-2019 school year:

HOW TO START THE SCHOOL YEAR OFF RIGHT:

REINTRODUCE BEDTIMES AND WAKE-UP TIMES
Poor sleeping habits can have an impact on student performance, so the sooner you get your child on a regular sleep schedule, the better. Starting the school year will be easier for you and your child, and will help avoid morning—and evening—rushes.

MAKE SURE CHILDREN ARE READING AND WRITING A LITTLE EVERY DAY
Reading and writing helps get children’s minds working and helps keep their brains sharp. Getting back into the habit of reading and writing a bit each day will help maintain school skills like penmanship and vocabulary so your child can start the school year strong.

LIMIT SCREEN TIME DURING AFTER-SCHOOL HOURS
During the school year, after-school hours should be reserved for homework and extra-curricular activities. Start getting into this routine in the weeks leading up to school. The sooner kids turn off the TV and turn on their minds during this timeframe, the less of a hassle homework will be during the school year.

PLAY BOARD GAMES TO CHALLENGE THE MIND
Use TV-free time to play board games with kids during what will become the homework hour. This will help kids get into the habit of doing engaging their mind during this time, so when homework starts coming home again, they already have a routine in place.

GET AN ALARM CLOCK
An alarm clock can help children develop time management and organization skills they’ll need during the school year. This will help kids take ownership of their activities and help avoid rushed mornings.

BUY A FAMILY WALL CALENDAR TO HANG IN A VISIBLE LOCATION
A wall calendar makes a great organization tool. Have kids write down their commitments like soccer, dance class, birthday parties, etc. When school starts, use the calendar to note the due dates of big projects, standardized testing dates, and vacation days.

START HAVING KIDS SELECT THEIR CLOTHES THE NIGHT BEFORE
Picking out clothes is a great way for children to develop organizational habits. Having everything picked out and ready the day before also helps cut down on school-day morning rushes and last-minute scrambles.

BEGIN TALKING ABOUT RETURNING TO SCHOOL
Start counting down the days together. Preparation can help make the transition back to class much less stressful and difficult for students. Talking about the upcoming school year can help kids manage expectations, set goals, and prepare.

TAKE A TOUR OF YOUR CHILD’S NEW SCHOOL
If your child is starting at a new school, it can be intimidating. Getting to know the way around helps lessen school-related anxiety and boost confidence. Take a tour of the new school, find out teachers’ names, the location of classrooms, and where the bathrooms are located.

REVIEW LAST YEAR’S REPORT CARD(S)
Unless problems were addressed over the summer, it’s likely they may return again this year. Remind yourself of weak areas so you can make a plan to address problem areas early on.

BUY NEW SCHOOL SUPPLIES
Being prepared with the right supplies is an important part of performing well in school. New supplies also hold a certain magic for getting kids excited about hearing the school bell ring again.

A BETTER SCHOOL YEAR BEGINS RIGHT NOW!
Learning how to have a successful school year starts with the right preparation and a positive attitude. It’s never too early to start thinking about getting back into the school-year routine—getting started now will help make the back-to-school transition easier on both you and your child.

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Tips for Academic Success

Finding the right routine:

Allowing enough time to get ready for class, study for an exam, or complete an assignment can be tricky.  The key is to always do what must be done first. This usually involves studying, reading, projects, and weekly homework assignments. Worry about what can be done later, after completing what needs to be done now. If you’re getting ready for a test, don’t check text messages, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, or start any Google internet searches. Enjoy the entertainment side of things after the task at hand is completed.  This strategy reduces a lot of stress that comes with doing things last minute: waiting to study the night before, starting your paper the week it’s due, working on your presentation the morning of, etc. 

Try to stick to a routine or tentative schedule.  This is because time management can be tough for some students. Mainly, because students overestimate the amount of time they have for a task and underestimate how much time it will take for them to do it. All of the student's professional meetings, such as counseling or tutoring, should be pre-arranged.  Most students do well with structure, so meeting at the same time and on the same day works best.

 

Staying focused:

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Students usually retain more information when they study in different locations. If possible, change the studying location from time to time. There are students that do better in a busy area – think of your local public library, the school’s library, Panera Bread, Starbucks, Barnes N Noble, worship center, community center, etc.  Then, there are other students that know they must have silence. These students may prefer a bedroom, basement, home office, private study room, even their home patio, or sun-room.  In case you didn't know, the best place to study is outside. So, try to change the study location when you can!  

You can put your phone across the room or in another room and leave it there.  If you want to check your messages from your friends, you have to get up and walk to it.  Students say that this significantly limits the amount of phone distractions.  If this is too hard for you, set the timer for 15  minutes, and work as hard as you can during that time.  When the timer goes off, get up, check your messages for one minute, and then get back to work.

Playing songs by your favorite artist is fine for routine assignments that do not require too much. However, music should not be played when intensely studying for a big exam. Playing music can negatively impact long-term retrieval.  

When students are having a tough time getting started with homework, it’s always a good idea to begin with an easy task, followed by a difficult one, and then an easy assignment again.  

 

Being organized:

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Record all school assignments on a calendar. You can use a tablet, laptop, smart phone, desktop, or a wall calendar. Record the final due date and then set incremental due dates and associated tasks to get it done on time. By week one, perhaps your topic and introduction should be completed. Then, going into the second week, start doing research on supporting points and arguments.  When large tasks, like a final paper or studying for a mid-term, are broken down into direct, manageable chunks, they are more likely to be completed on time. For instance, if a test is coming up on Friday, the student should record tasks like “complete 1-10 review problems on page 19” and “create flashcards for math steps,” etc. on Monday or Tuesday.  Being specific with your tasks can be far superior to simply jotting down a vague reminder like “study for my math test.”

Tasks that you record should be no more than 30-35 minutes.  When tasks end up taking longer, students are far more likely to procrastinate and avoid doing it altogether.  

Every student should schedule a “binder and backpack sweep” session to help stay organized. Set aside 30 minutes each week and conduct a clean out.  Sundays are perfect for doing this. This also lets the student plan ahead for the week – what’s due and when, starting a long-term assignment, and planning what to work on.  Enter the 30-minute clean sweep on your phone calendar, monthly planner, room calendar, or make sticky notes to remind yourself.

 

Reading and studying:

Active reading should be utilized when preparing for an exam.  Active reading includes writing notes in the margins and highlighting pertinent information.  As reading becomes more complex, these strategies help students to understand more advanced topics. 

Tips:
Read one section at a time.  After you’re done, go back and highlight the important information. The color of the highlighter does not matter at all. Yellow, blue, green, pink, or orange - just pick one!    

Use margin notes. Margin notes are another interactive way of studying. It’s better than just reading the information and moving along. In short phrases, summarize the main points in the margins of text books. Doing so, will help with retaining the information that was read.  

Engage in “self chat” at the end of each section.  The student should ask, “What did I just read here?” or “What’s the takeaway from this section?”  Self chat helps students comprehend what they are reading better.

If you are reading, try the SCAN strategy.  Simply put, before reading do the following:

S = Survey Headings and Turn Them into Questions
Find each heading, and change it into a question.
C = Capture the Captions and Visuals
Review pictures or charts and read the captions beside them.
A = Attack Boldface Words
Hone in on the terms in bold; read these words to gain an understanding of the main idea.
N = Note and Read the Chapter Questions
Check out the questions at the end of the chapter.

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Reading Strategies: Academic Coaching Specialist - Washington DC, Northern VA, Charlotte NC, Richmond VA

There is a host of tools at the student's disposal for interacting with what we are reading. The concept is known as active reading and it will work to increase comprehension and retention of information. Try out some of the strategies below. 

BEFORE YOU READ:
•    Z – Sweep:  Performing a Z-Sweep will help you understand what lies ahead. Move your hand from the left to the right under the first line, then back around through the body of the text, and then finish with a sweep from left to right at the bottom. Read the first sentence, glance or sweep through the body, and then read the last one or two sentences. By using this strategy, you can gain a cross-section of what you are about to read. 

•    SCAN:  This strategy significantly improves text book reading comprehension in middle and high school students.
S = Survey Headings and Turn Them into Questions
Find each bold heading, and turn it into a question. For example, if the heading is The War of 1812, you should think, “What happened in The War of 1812?”
C = Capture the Captions and Visuals
Glance at the pictures or diagrams and read each caption.
A = Attack Boldface Words
Be sure to focus on the terms in bold. Quickly read these words for an understanding of the main vocabulary words.
N = Note and Read the Chapter Questions
This is perhaps the most important pre-reading strategy. Read the review questions at the end of the section first. This will help with the main idea behind the passage.

AS YOU READ OR AFTER YOU READ:
•    Highlighting:  Using color helps to increase attention.  Highlight the main points and be careful not to become “highlighter crazy”.  Highlight the main points after you read a section.  As yourself, “What’s the main point of the paragraph I just read?”

•    Margin Notes:  Questions or comments jotted in the margins next to important paragraphs provide visual cues.  Writing down quick notes as you read really helps with retention.  Furthermore, when you go back over the book before finals, all the main ideas will be there for you. 

•    Summary Writing:  Summarizing information is time-consuming, but it is the best way to be sure that you understand and remember what you read.  You can write brief summaries at the end of each chapter or at the bottom of your 2-column notes.  If you write a summary within 24 hours of taking notes or reading, you’re much more likely to retain the information.

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Getting Prepared for a Test

Essay questions are based on themes and overall ideas. Teachers like to use essay questions because they give students the opportunity to express everything they’ve learned over the last few weeks. Essay test answers reveal more than the bare facts. When submitting essay answers, students are expected to cover lots of information in an organized manner. 

But what if you prepare for an essay question and the test doesn’t include one? No worries! If you use these tips and understand the themes and ideas of the test then other questions will come easily. 

1. Look for teacher “special” words. If you hear your teacher use “again we see” or “a similar event occurred,” be sure to take note of it. A pattern or chain of events is key. 
2. Every day themes. As you review your class notes after school, make sure to look for themes. Brainstorm your own essay questions based on your themes. 
3. Glance over chapter titles. Textbook chapters often refer to themes. Look at each title and think of ideas, events, and terms that fit within that theme. 
4. Practice the questions. Be sure to use vocabulary words found in your notes and course books. Highlight or underline and go back to review their relevance. 

If you take good notes and think in terms of themes, as you study, you’ll be prepared for every type of test question. You’ll soon find that, in understanding the theme of each lesson or chapter, you’ll begin to think more like your teacher.

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How to Organize Your Homework Assignments

Organizing your homework is a great way to improve your grades. One successful way to do this is to incorporate a color coding system into your homework routine.

Here are the steps: 

1. Get a set of inexpensive supplies arranged by color. 
You may want to start with a pack of colored highlighters, then find folders, notes, and various stickers to match them. 
•    Folders
•    Sticky notes
•    Highlighters
•    Round stickers
•    Labels
•    Flags

2. Select a different color for each class. For example, you may want to use the following system: 
•    Orange=US History
•    Green=Algebra
•    Red=Chemistry
•    Yellow=English
•    Blue=Health
•    Pink=Marketing

3. Create a connection between the color and the class. Here's a good starting suggestion, you might relate the color green to money or plant life. This may make you think about math subjects or biology class. Try to relate a few colors to some of your classes. The connection will be clear in your mind after a few days. 

4. Pocket folders: Use each folder to keep track of homework for each class. The type of folder isn't important; just use the type that is best for you. Sometimes your teacher will recommend a specific folder. 

5. Notes work well when it comes to researching articles. You can note down book and article titles, phrases, passages, comments, and such, to use in your paper, including bibliographical citations. Keep standard manila notes if you can't carry multiple packages of colored sticky notes. Use different colored pens in order to keep track of each class. 

6. Flags are for marking pages or reading assignments. Place a colored flag at the beginning and ending pages for each assignment. You can also use flags for marking dates in your organizer. Place a flag on a date when an assignment is due. You can use different colors for your various classes. You'll have an everyday reminder that a due date is approaching. 

7. Highlighters should be used when reviewing your notes. During a lecture, take notes like you usually do and be sure to include the date in your notebook. Once you get home, look over and highlight using different colors. You can breakdown the colors by subject, information type, or relevance. If your papers get jumbled up (or never get put into your classroom folder) you can recognize them by the highlights. 

8. Round stickers are great for your wall calendar. Be sure to keep a calendar in your room or in the kitchen, and place a color-coded sticker on the day that an assignment is due. For instance, on the day you receive a research paper assignment in history class, you should place an orange sticker on the due date. This way, everyone can see an important day approaching, even at a glance.

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All About Learning Styles

What are learning styles?

Learning styles can differ from student to student. Learning styles are the approach an individual takes in learning, or acquiring and assimilating new information. If the student can discover how he or she learns best; the individual will know what strategies and study techniques to employ, in order to accommodate one’s learning style. 

Primary types of learning styles:
1.   Visual
2.   Auditory
3.   Kinesthetic or experiential 

Who are visual learners?
•    Don’t like long speeches
•    Responds to viewing charts, pictures, and graphs
•    Enjoys observation
•    Enjoys visual stimulation
•    Develops images in their mind
•    Thinks in terms of images and pictures
Visual recommendations:  
•    Watch your teacher’s body language and pick up on certain cues
•    Keep a notebook and pencil readily available
•    Write material over and over again
•    Draw pictures to help associate what your notes mean
•    Utilize technology: computer, tablets, laptops, apps, and other media
•    Ask questions in class and stay involved
•    Visualize information as a story 

Who are auditory learners?
•    Prefers oral instruction
•    Not a fan of lengthy notes
•    Diagnoses meanings through tone and voice
•    Responds well to speech and lecture format
•    Talks ideas through in their head
•    Picks up quickly on words, pitch, and voice nuances
Auditory recommendations: 
•    Talk things out to yourself
•    Try to use word analogies
•    Say information out loud, over and over for memorization
•    Practice classroom presentations
•    Get involved in debates
•    Use songs and melodies to aid in memorization
•    Converse with friends about your ideas
•    Read words out loud when proofreading 

Who are kinesthetic or experiential learners?
•    Likes to touch and handle objects
•    Uses their hands when communicating
•    Design oriented
•    Enjoys using tools and equipment
•    Responds well to activities: painting, drawing, or physical activities
•    Sitting for long periods of time is not easy
•    Willing to take more chances
•    Attracted to exploring
Kinesthetic or experiential recommendations:
•    Take breaks when studying
•    Switch up topics frequently
•    Do more physical things when studying: walk around, ride an exercise bike, play with a squishy ball, read notes while doing chores, chew on taffy
•    Make your work desk colorful and intriguing
•    Visualize your work from beginning to end
•    Play soft music in the background
•    Have parents and friends proofread your work
•    Use bright colors for highlighting reading passages
•    Glance over a passage first to get a feel for it 

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Improving Study Skills

Today's students usually walk out of their classrooms with a backpack full of study guides, notebooks, binders, folders, chapters to read, etc. However, they don’t know how to put that information into a bin or storage system, for a week from now, a month from now, or even three months from now. The assignments students receive are both short-term and long-term. So, how do students know what to focus on and when? How do they store this information until they need it? How should they study? Take a look at the following tips.  


Have the Student Teach - Students retain far more information when they draw up an assignment or breakdown a problem for others. Part of the reason this works is because the student is reviewing and teaching the parent or their peers at the same time. You can use note cards, but have the student hold them, read the words, and define the solution or answer.

Push the Learning Button to On - Students believe that if they read a chapter, they’ve studied and they'll be prepared. When in fact, studying should be full, in-depth, and involved. In order to study well, students shouldn't sit on the bench, but become an active participant or an active learner. Students will retain more when they highlight the concepts, ideas, facts,  write down notes in the margins, develop their own study guides, and test themselves. Student need to do more than just reading. 

Study Comfortably - Find a good place in the home or away from the home. Make sure this place is quiet, away from gaming/app electronics, and anxiety free. Set goals for breaks and use of electronics. For example, "After 30 minutes of studying, I'm allowed to take a 5 minute Facebook break." If studying with a group, utilize a place where distractions will be minimized. If possible, try to leave your cell phones at home, so that progress won't be hindered.    

Come up with Catchy Acronyms - Using acronyms can be highly beneficial. Here is an example: The 5 current largest cities in New Jersey in terms of population - J E E P' N. The word Jeep is associated with a passenger vehicle. Jeep'n makes it sound like driving around to the 5 current largest cities in NJ: Jersey, Elizabeth, Edison, Paterson, and Newark. This technique is flexible; it can be used with almost any type of memorization. Once students are shown how to use this technique, they will come up with all kinds of catchy acronyms to make retention easier. These also can be fun and entertaining to come up with! 

Participate in Class - Class participation can help boost study skills. The student is more engaged in class which will transfer to homework and studying. They will know more about the subject and be more familiar with what it encompasses. Asking questions to your teacher and creating classroom discussions can increase focus, interest, and motivation. The desire to get better, increase grades, and perform well takes over. 

Space Out Studying - This will help reduce anxiety over assignments. Spacing out study time over a few days is far better and less stressful than studying the day or night before. When your child has a quiz or test within the next few weeks, help him or her break the study time into multiple days. Have your child write these tasks in an organizer or on your family's refrigerator calendar. An example, if there’s a math test on Thursday, have your child write down to "review my study guide" on Monday, "memorize formula note cards" on Tuesday, and "do practice problems on page 50" on Wednesday. 

The earlier students learn how to study the better off they will be. As they move up to higher education, secondary and post-secondary, and are assigned more challenging work, these skills will become even more useful and help them to understand the material better. They will be prepared, more comfortable, have less stress, and better grades. 

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