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Tutors wait! Why study skills should make up part (maybe most) of every session

(This is actually a modified version of an article I posted a while back - Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs. But I think tutors should consider this idea of study skills even more than parents should.) After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – insert subject here and the reaction is the same. But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc... read more

Biology Study Techniques

I just began tutoring a new student in 10th grade Biology.  Biology is my favorite subject and as we were going over terminology and concepts and processes in each section I thought it might be helpful to outline elements that can help in the general study of biology.  I thought this would be a great time to reference some good study techniques from a biological perspective:  I organized my notes into list of 4 valuable concepts.   1.  Take notes:  Obviously right? of course but listen... More than any other subject taking notes in biology is crucial.  Almost all the information that is introduced each lesson is packed with new terms, new concepts and new images of the material.  Taking notes in the form of term definitions, paragraphs describing a process, or drawings is a way to stay on top of complex new material.  I recommend taking notes on a white piece of computer paper without lines, this helps the student to learn... read more

Classroom, Home, and Tests – Different Experiences, Different Skills

Yesterday, I helped a new student understand some of the difficulties she is experiencing, and I wanted to share this here. The Classroom: Studying in class is like taking a guided tour. If you trust your guide (the teacher,) you can follow into unknown territory, with an open mind. As you are exposed to new things you can ask questions, experience new activities, and be guided out of trouble if you get lost. In the classroom, your responsibility is to follow the teacher’s guidance, and notice when you lose track. (You will lose track. We all do. The only question is when!) Some examples from my students, of how they know they’re lost:  I’m singing a song in my head I’m thinking about my sandwich It seems as if the teacher in talking in a foreign language I’m beating myself up – “I’m a looser”, “I’ll never get it”   So this is the First Classroom Skill: Am I following the lesson, or am I in my head? The Second Classroom Skill:... read more

PRAXIS Preparation

I am currently tutoring three students for PRAXIS I test.  Although it can be challenging to help students prepare for an exam while they are enrolled full time and have many other teaching certification to-do's to tackle, PRAXIS I prep should not be discounted.  When I first meet with my students, I encourage them to purchase the ETS Praxis book to use during our lessons.  It can be procured for a reasonable price online, and I tell them it is the best resource to give you insight into real test questions since it is published by the makers of the PRAXIS!     The most important part of PRAXIS I prep is the study calendar.  First, I use Microsoft Office to develop a daily study calendar for the students from the present time until the day they take their exam.  Each day, I pencil in a combination of a few practice questions, vocabulary building, news article review, practice test simulation, etc.  I coach them in downloading... read more

Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs

After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – “insert subject here” and the reaction is the same. But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc. And let’s be honest – in most high school classrooms, students are essentially graded on their ability to keep track of, complete, and submit paperwork (i.e. homework), instead of their mastery of the material. (Not a good state of affairs, but... read more

3 Time Management Tips to Increase Productivity

Unless you are traveling in a spaceship and moving close to the speed of light, time passes at the same rate for everyone. The Earth takes approximately 24 hours to complete one full rotation on its axis, which has resulted in a day being 24 hours long. So why do some people seem to be able to accomplish so much more when we all have the same amount of time in our day? Simply, they have mastered good time management skills. I have summarized 3 Time Management tips that I have condensed from a number of different resources. Hopefully, these will help you finish more tasks and get you closer to accomplishing your goals. 1) Create a Prioritized To-Do List At the beginning of every day, take 15 minutes to consciously decide how you want to spend your time. This is also called making a plan for your day. Write down everything you need to do that day. This list should include steps needed to complete a S.M.A.R.T. goal, tasks or project items for work or school,... read more

How To Study Less, Have More Free Time, And Still Get Higher Grades

As human beings with limited time, energy, and resources, we naturally desire to get the most done with the least amount of work possible. From reading books and experimenting throughout the years, I have accumulated a collection of techniques that maximizes efficiency and has allowed me to achieve a 3.93 GPA while studying less than three hours a day. Below are some of these techniques. Although I have separated it in general and chemistry study tips sections, these study tips can be applied to every class you will ever take in high school & college. Furthermore, some of these tips, especially the blocking technique, will skyrocket your ability to get more done in less time not only in school, but in life in general. I hope these tips will benefit you as much as they have and continue to help me. General Study Tips 1. Study in purely focused block periods Our body functions in cycles. For example, our circadian rhythm dictates when we sleep... read more

Rude Awakening: About My Freshman Year in College

As I held the crisp white letter with the university’s insignia in my hand, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I read the letter once more to ensure that I understood the cold words. If you do not improve academically within the next semester, you will be expelled from this institution. I stood at the mailboxes in my residence hall… suddenly awaken (rudely I would argue) from my cozy assumption that, “I am smart and that’s all that matters”.   Back in 2001 I didn’t realize that peacefully drifting as I did in high school would not serve me well in college. No matter how smart I really am I would not have made it college by simply paying attention and doing my homework. Study skills are imperative for maximizing success potential. This is no major secret but sadly studies of freshmen revel that my experience was not isolated. Many students may suffer a blow to their self-confidence when they encounter the more rigorous academic work of higher education . Even... read more

No Excuses!

This post is all about #mentoring. There is no excuse for any student to ever say, "I can't!" As a mentor, I lead my kids by example. I am back in college for the degree I always wanted to get but didn't. Someday, I will be an engineer! That just gets me excited to be alive and be a teacher. But, I'm 41. I old right? 25 years out of school? I can't do it.   Well, I hear enough of that from students. So, I prove to them: anything can be done if you put your mind to it! Now, in my 3rd semester of a 6 semester plan, I have a 4.0 GPA, I'm enrolled in 24 credit hours at 2 different colleges and I tutor 40-hours a week!   If I can go overtime, carry a job, help 20+ students a week with their homework and tests, and keep a 4.0. Anyone can, especially someone half my age, right? Yes, you can!   So, next time you thing it can't be done, just go out that door, put your nose in the books and do it. If Ted can do it you can too!

Are you trying to learn too much?

As a tutor, one of the most common problems I see in students are poor note taking skills. During a lecture in class, many students try to capture everything a teacher or professor is saying. In fact, the average professor lectures at about 180 words per minute and even the fastest typist would be able to keep up with this pace. At that, you are more focused on typing, than actually listening to a lecture and retain information.   Try these three tips when taking notes during your next class: Remove the fluff - Filler words like "the, a, an, this, etc" have no need in notes. Your notes need not be grammatically correct or contain full sentences. Instead aim for complete ideas. In the past, I have reduced notes from 2-3 pages down to 2-3 sentences sometimes less. Pay attention to time - A great note taking technique is to keep time in the margins. This will often lead to the areas that will be covered in exams. For instance, did your finance... read more

3 best ways to keep your brain sharp over winter break

1.  Turn off the electronic devices - I would post links here that point to studies that support this, but is there really any need?  Every time you're tempted to just veg in front of the TV, read a book instead.  It's so easy to just read a book in a similar genre of what you were going to watch on tv.   2.  Eat healthy - More links could be posted on here, but I think this is also a given.  Green veggies and healthy fats from cold-pressed coconut/olive oils are excellent.  Also, consider getting tested for food sensitivities.  Applied Kinesiology is a great testing method.  Remember, not every food sensitivity has digestive symptoms.  Sometimes, the symptoms can be very difficult to identify, but have real, long-lasting effects on your body. 3.  Exercise - Even if you have to stay indoors to exercise, it's still worth it.  Remember to exercise a variety of muscles on all parts of your body.  Isolating... read more

PPSS: PostPartum Statistics Stress; A Guide for Prepping for a Statistics Class

See if there is one thing that I cannot stand, is seeing a student rush into a Stats class and stating that this class is remarkably easy because my friend said so. Too many times has a student come up to me and asked is statistics easy, and I reply "it most certainly is... for myself, because I studied my content for two years before retaking the course.". If you know that you are going to start a statistics class anywhere at any time your going to need the following items.   1. TI-83 or 84 preferably Now why one of these calculators? Students, if you are going to take a stats class be aware that there is a lot of data or numerical values that can be used to find the measures of central tendency and measures of dispersion. These calculators excel for data entry and double checking your answers on the very first test.    *If your teacher says you cannot use this calculator, then get its cheaper cousin. TI-30XII Hint there... read more

The Key(s) to Truly Knowing Something

I am a firm believer that one does not truly know something until she can put it into a new format. You can take notes from a book or from lectures all day, every day, but until you can put the information into a new shape, you haven't actually learned anything. Make a concept map, put facts and vocabulary into tables or categories, write flash cards, and/or rearrange the information in a new outline. Go really crazy and write a song or a poem, draw a picture, even make something in 3D. What you do or make depends on your learning style, but it has to be something new. I also believe that you only know something if you can summarize it. If you know enough about a subject to condense it into something really compact, like a “cheat sheet,” then you’re doing pretty well. You can capture its meaning in much less space than a textbook chapter. I actually do make “cheat sheets” for most of my tests. I condense all of the information I need for the test onto just a few pages,... read more

Freaking out over Finals

Final exams are coming up and you are freaking out!   There are steps that you can take in order to help you prepare for the upcoming exam. Don't panic.   Do not wait until the night before to start studying.  Start going over the material weeks before the final.   Previous exams - use the midterm and any other exams to help you study material from earlier in the semester.  Problems that you saw on these exams may also show up on the final.   Practice finals - many professors sometimes hand out practice problems or practice finals in order to help you study.  Go over these problems and make sure you know how to solve every problem. Take a break from your study routine occasionally.  Your brain will thank you!

Study Skills

Ask any classroom full of students how they study, and you're likely to get a lot of different answers. There will probably be many similar answers, but most people have different methods, locations, and techniques that shortens their study time somehow. Sometimes shortcuts are a great thing- like a shortcut that avoids heavy traffic. The trick to using shortcuts with studying is knowing which ones work, and which ones don't! One of the best ways to ensure that your study time will be used effectively is to take notes during class. Ensuring that your notes make sense to YOU is really important. Your class notes should translate what your teacher is telling you into something that you can remember. For example: the definition of onomatopoeia is, 'the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named.' If you have a long list of literary terms, the strange spelling of onomatopoeia might get lost with your other lit terms. Writing "sizzle" or "buzz"... read more

On behalf of Econ, I apologize for words making you question your abilities

Lately I've realized just how stressful economics can be, particularly for students with English as a second or third language. Trying to explain utility and utils to someone a few days ago, all I could think about was my own AP Econ professor, with his southern drawl, and a look he reserved for confused students.  Someone would ask a question. There'd be a pause. Wearing his varsity football coach jacket, he'd sigh, and make eye contact with whoever had asked the question. Then, it was more like he was looking at you for something in particular - did you really not understand the concept, or were you confused by how the word was being used? Different questions would require very different answers.    As a student who was frequently confused with the use of terms in a different context than I was used to, I hated that look. For the first month of classes, I was convinced he hated me, and that I was going to fail miserably. Every time we got a test or... read more

ADD/ADHD - How to teach and how to learn

  I have spent nearly two years working entirely with students that struggled with mild to severe ADD. First, both students with ADD and those who teach them need to be knowledgeable of WHAT ADD is.     A few basics: 1). ADD is NOT simply being easily distracted, or lack of focus. For the student suffering with it, it feels as if there is a mental fog around everything they do. Tasks requiring long and acute attention are draining for the average joe, but can feel nearly impossible or even painful to an ADD/ADHD student.    2). ADD is caused by by under-stimulation to the areas in the brain responsible for thinking, solving, and task management. I often hear older students (17-18 yrs) say they are not allowed to drink coffee. Coffee couldn't be more appropriate, actually (if you are on medication, talk to a doctor before adding coffee to your routine). In fact the drugs used for ADD are heavy-duty stimulants that are chemical cousins... read more

Some notes on note-taking

Picture it: The gentle rustling of papers flapping and pages turning, the scratching of pens on notebooks, the snoring of the kid next to you, and your professor lecturing at a speed that makes you wonder if she's going to combust. Odds are, somewhere in this scenario, if you are like me then you're lost and writing furiously trying to take some kind of notes before the slide changes for the 47th time. But there's a problem; the professor is moving faster than you write. Typically the best thing to do is to raise your hand and ask her to slow down. The next step however, comes the point of this Note. The best way to take notes is to take as few as possible! By this I mean why write two words when you can write half of one? It'll allow you to keep up with the professor and return your attention to the board or the slides. "But how do you do this word-cleaving Black Magic, Frank?" you ask? You don't need seven years at Hogwarts for it. It's simple: short hand.... read more

Ho, Ho, Humbug?? - Tutoring During the Holidays

The holidays are almost upon us - school will be out soon - and parents and students are looking at a 2-4 week hiatus from the regular routine of school work.  What happens to all of the knowledge and skills learned from school and tutoring during those weeks? Well, having been a high school principal for years, as well as a classroom teacher, my experience is that students often will not read on their own, review math on their own, or if in an AP class "read ahead" on their own.  If you have tutors in the educational profession, we also have that time off and our lesson times can be flexible - so instead of all of those late afternoon, early evening, or weekend appointments, most of us can now meet with our students in the morning or afternoon. So, what would your student gain from tutoring in the winter break? 1.  Weekly reinforcement of knowledge and skills  already... read more

Yes, No or Maybe - Best stress reducers!

So much stress, anxiety and wasted time can be completely avoided if you remember just 3 basic truths about  asking for something in life. It's a matter of simple mathematical probability really. You see, each time you ask someone for something, you have a 33.33333333333333333 (you get the point) percent chance of getting one of 3 responses: a "yes" a "no" or a "maybe" or something similar like "I don't know" or "perhaps" or "not now" or "next year," etc. For simplicity, it looks like this: When you ask for something you have a 33% chance of getting a "No" 33% chance of getting a "Yes" 33% chance of getting a "Maybe." What I find extraordinary is how many people ask for something with just one of these probabilities firmly set in their minds. They completely rule out that the other 2 are likely... read more

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