study skills

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.

Contact us for Academic Coaching and we'll help get you prepared! 

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.

Contact us to learn more about Academic Coaching. Our tutors will make sure you stay on track and on top of your assignments! We have coaches in Northern VARichmond VAFredericksburg VABethesda MD, and Washington DC

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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