Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Top Three Study Skills: Organization

getting_organized_-_Google_SearchThere are two parts to organization: getting organized and staying organized

Organization includes keeping things straight in your mind, your backpack, your locker, your notebooks, and your study area. For some of us, it’s super hard. Here’s some ways to start to win the battle:

1. Have a place to study.

It doesn’t have to be a desk in a room all by yourself. A kitchen counter is a great place, especially if there is someone nearby who can help you. The table should be big enough so that you can spread out papers and books. Have supplies such as pens, paper and calculator are close by and easy to get. At our house, we have a roller cart like this (again, not advertising) in the kitchen. We have pencils, pens, rulers, staplers, tape, and a calculator on the top and extra paper, a dictionary, and a thesaurus on the bottom. The cart can be easily rolled over to the kitchen table when it’s time to get homework done.

2. Develop a system to keep track of important papers.

Have a binder with a folder in the front for all completed work ready to be turned in (all classes) and a folder in the back for papers returned by the teacher (all classes). Many teachers want different kinds of notebooks for their classes but one binder that you carry to each class for papers to turn in and returned papers will benefit you.

Have a place at home to keep papers that have been returned but that you don’t need to take to class everyday. We have a  filling cabinet where all returned papers are placed into the correct class file. The bottom drawer contains a file folder for each subject (English, history, science, math, music, foreign language, health).

It really doesn’t matter what your system is. What matters is that you stick to it. Do the same thing each day with your papers.

3. Use a planner to keep track of assignments.

I say USE because many students have a planner but never use it. Get in the habit of writing down each daily assignment in each subject and checking it off when it’s complete.  Checking it off is the best part. It gives you that sense of accomplishment and keeps you going (try it).

4. Estimate how long each assignment will take

This will let you plan a realistic schedule. Remember to get the harder subjects done first and build in study breaks. Read my post on Time Management. There is some helpful advice on creating schedules.

Remember the time you need for things like soccer games and band practice. If you notice that you are spending too much time on a subject you might need extra help or tutoring.

5. Break big projects into smaller ones.

If you have a big research project or a paper, it will seem less overwhelming if it’s done in manageable chunks, each with its own deadline. If you have a big project due in two weeks, write on your schedule what you will do for it each day and follow your plan.

6. Communicate with your teachers

This is a big important one. Your teachers are there to help you. If you feel that you are struggling in a subject, the homework is taking much longer for you than it should, or you have questions please, please, please talk to your teachers. It is better to talk to them about your troubles with the assignments than keep struggling, get bad grades, and have your teachers think you just don’t care.




The Top Three Study Skills: Time Management

I don’t have enough time to do that! This is taking me way too long! I didn’t get that done!!! How am I suppose to do that!!! But I have to go now!!!!

Sound familiar? Have you said this? Have your kids said this?  If the answer was yes then listen up (we just talked about listening in a previous post – go look at it)…


So, time management. How do you fit in school, homework, sports, activities, friends, family, and just being? There’s not enough time in the day. Or is there?

So here’s an interesting article from Take a look. Now here are some ideas to get the most out of that article…

Weekly Reviews: set aside one day each week to review. The best day is Friday. I know, what?????  I say Friday since that is the day of the least amount of homework. Plus, there is still that hour or two after school before anything else happens. Take 15 minutes and answer these questions about time (no, really answer them): What did I do well this week? What didn’t I do well this week (ie. what did I suck at – now is not the time to be politically correct. Be brutally honest with yourself)? What do I still need to do? How can I make next week easier with time management? 

School Year Calendar: Like this one (I am not advertising this in any way, shape, or form – just something along these lines). Make sure it is an academic year (otherwise your time-managed life will have to start in January). Put it up in a place where it won’t get destroyed and you will use it. Bedrooms are good – since they are usually activity-free. Hang it up on the wall.

Weekly Schedule:  Do it. Look at it. Follow it. It really works.  Here’s a weekly hourly planner if you can’t print out the one in the article. But I really like those questions the article presents after the planner. So answer those (or at least put a little thought into them). Be realistic about how much time you need. It would be nice if you could get that math homework done in 15 but if 1/2 hour is more realistic than write that in. Check out this filled in planner as an example to what I’m talking about.

Don’t Stress Out: Breathing is one of the easiest things we can do to relieve stress. Don’t believe me? Try this. Now, when you feel stressed or worried, take a few minutes and do it. It will work. Really.



Schoolhouse Rocks Grammar

Ok. I was born in 1972. You do the math.  I was of the generation that grew up with ABC Afterschool Specials, the very beginnings of (and best) Mtv, and Schoolhouse Rock.


I had forgotten about this last gem until I ran across this blog. This middle school teacher cracks me up! Anyway, he had his class look at this about adverbs. I was thrown right back to the 70’s!  But the coolest part is that it worked. Those Schoolhouse Rock shows really taught me things. So, I’m going old school baby and showing them to my students.

But wait! There’s more. Schoolhouse Rock was able to put to music a myriad of great things. How about Conjunction Junction? Want to know how a bill becomes a law (I’m Just a Bill on Capitol Hill), or the three branches of government? If you’re my age, are you getting just a little misty eyed about those sweet, simpler times?

The Top Three Study Skills: Listening

I know we call them study skills, but I think a more appropriate name is life skills. No, I am not talking about learning how to pay bills (blah) or keep the well-stocked fridge ( I admit I have candy in the fridge). I am talking about those skills that get one through school and then magically help to create a successful life.

It’s true! There are skills that we can teach our kids in middle and high school that, if they learn them (very important) and use them (that’s the catch), they will have more success in college, in career, and in relationships than if they didn’t know and use them. Want to know them?

Ok, here are my top three study skills:

1. Listening  Skills        2. Time management  Skills        3. Organization Skills

What?????? No test taking strategies, no note taking? Nope. Those are important, but they don’t make my top three. You can’t do those if you don’t do these.

Let’s talk about listening today.listening_skills_-_Google_Search

Shhhh…….Listen. Think about it. Just for a minute. Listening. Wow, that is a big help in the classroom, and in the workplace, and in every relationship I have ever had; from marriage to children, from child to friend. When I understand how to listen, not just hear, I am suited to be all the things I need to be: teacher, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. We need to take the time to block out all the other junk in our lives, focus on the person speaking to us, and concentrate on really being in. the. moment.

In the classroom, if our students are able to listen to us they are able to take notes, remember the lessons, and most importantly ask questions. Here are several things to do as you listen:

1. Put all other material out of the way. If you are in a classroom, keep paper and a pen out. If you are face-to-face, stuff all your gear away. GET RID OF THAT PHONE!!!!!

2. Focus on the person speaking. Yes, even if they are boring. Yes, even if you couldn’t care less about what they are saying. Let’s face it, that happens more than we would like to admit. Plus, it happens to students more than adults. Every day. Actively engage in what they are saying. Stay interested in the meaning of their words. Hmmmmm. Ok, you say. That’s easy when someone is talking about something I am interested in. But, how does one do this when the topic is putting you to sleep? Ah, on to the next…

3. Ask questions and restate their words. What??????? Ask the person questions. “What do you mean?” “How so?” “Can you give me another example?”  “So what your saying is….” “What I hear you saying is….is that correct?” Ask yourself questions. “What did they mean by that?” “How do I put that in my own words?” “Is there a part of my life that is similar to that?” “Where else could I use that information.”  By all means, don’t think about what you want to eat for lunch!

3. When the lecture, conversation, discussion is over take a moment to review. By yourself. Just make sure you understood what all happened. Review your notes, add to them, jot down questions you may still have. If you do this directly after (or as soon as you are able) you are more likely to remember and understand.

The main thing is to practice, practice, practice. Listening is a skill. Like any skill it takes practice in order to do it well and integrate it into your life. This is true if you are 14 or 54 years old. It makes a difference in your life. It really does. Try it.