Category Archives: Good Study Habits

Phonics Skills Put Kids in The Driver’s Seat as Readers and Lifelong Learners

We knew it: Kids become good readers when parents/teachers 1) read to them, 2) show them books with great stories & illustrations, 3) talk to them about their ideas, and 4) give them tools to read.

A recent Stanford University study published by Professor Marin Aukerman describes how kids naturally move to the driver’s seat by the end of Grade 2 to take charge of their reading when grownups give them the proper tools.

What’s the secret sauce? The Stanford researcher found that kids who know how to decode (break down words into syllables) well most naturally move between pictures and words to understand the piece- they talk about text more often and are more on point than classmates. That tees them up to apply the techniques on their own and to like reading. It’s what my mentor, Harvard Ed School’s Professor Jeanne Chall wrote in her classic, Stages of Reading Development.

The most exciting finding to me is that the kids volunteered those connections (the strong decoders naturally said more about what they read and ‘proved’ their opinions using text and images more than the weak decoders) without prompting from their teachers.

Thinking along the education developmental trajectory as Professor Chall pioneered, the kids who become ‘unstuck’ from the page as good decoders then pull meaning from text with greater ease and success. Then, as they move toward ‘reading to learn,’ they are ready to apply the information to other language-based contexts, such as discussions in a Belief Systems class or in writing bullet points for debates. Karyn Slutsky, Assistant Director of Queens Paideia School conceptualizes it this way:”At QPS, literacy goes hand-in-hand with critical thinking skills. We challenge students to categorize information, notice and create comparisons, seek connections, explain their reasoning, and elaborate both orally and in writing so as to help them get their ideas to the next level of complexity.” From there, it’s on to top-notch Chemistry lab reports, winning law school Moot Court briefs, and writing a business plan to fund her latest startup!

The take home? They really do take in what we say and what we model. All the more reason to pop by your local bookstore or library.

For great tips on classics or new releases, check out The Corner Bookstore, where your kid can even set up his own account – Add his account to the index card archive of kids’ purchases in the drawers behind the antique cash register- generations of UES kids who grew to adore books at this Madison Ave gem. Or head straight down Madison to 79th Street for great kid and adult reads/programming at the timeless New York Society Library.

For those outside The Big Apple which is your ‘drop everything and read’ spot?

Check out these Ivy Prep tips for cultivating reading comprehension skills, too.

It’s National Reading Month: Let’s Celebrate Books & Baseball

 

March: Time to Celebrate Books &  Baseball

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It’s National Reading Month and in NYC the temps are warming up. School teams have started baseball practice, and the first pitches will soon be thrown  at Yankee Stadium​ and Citifield​!

The National Endowment for the Arts’ annual Read Across America finishing its tour and  President and Mrs. Obama supporting the Open E Books Initiative, a government  private corporate partnership designed to provide access to $250,000,000 of digital content free of charge to institutions that assist children who are underprivileged or who  have learning challenges.

 

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What a terrific way to put Common Core in its place: For one afternoon, place appeals for ACT, the ‘New SAT’ and other standardized test accommodations aside,  and pore over a great new release rather than planning summer college visits for you and your  11th grader!  Let’s take the advice of ReadAloud.org and take 15 minutes to enjoy the pleasure of a  good read.

Credit: theindiebobspot.blogspot.co
Credit: theindiebobspot.blogspot.com

It’s time to head over to your local book-store and pick up something fun to enjoy – or to read with someone else.  One of my  favorite  haunts is The Corner Bookstore. Insider tip: Set up an account for your child, who will join  thousands of other UES locals from decades past with index cards tracking their reads and balances — all lovingly archived in wooden files behind the counter that displays  the snazziest vintage cash register around.

 

Reading Recs for Those with Baseball on the Brain

The White House should have total consensus on its Open Ebook Initiative:  It’s a great time for kids and adults alike  stretch their imagination and their mental muscles just as in these weeks the athletes fine tune their Spring Training drills! Here’s a sampling of title we hope you will enjoy:

 

Credit:Harper-Collins.com
Credit:Harper-Collins.com

For the 7-13 Year Old Set  Counting the Minutes till Opening Day:

Dan Gutman​’s latest ‘Baseball Adventure’ release, Willie & Me. It’s the latest in Gutman’s series which  links baseball and history. The series hero, Joe Shostak’s time travel adventures take place with the rub of a baseball card. Parents may enjoy Gutman’s earlier piece, Roberto  & Me, where Joe’s time travel takes him to a  late 1960’s Jimi Hendrix Concert!

 

 

 

For the Budding Sabermetrician:Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 9.10.20 AM

Preorder MLB Network​ sportscaster Brian Kenny‘s ode to analytics, Ahead of the Curve with a taste here from last week’s SABR’s 5th Annual Analytics Conference.  I spoke with  Brian about his mantra: Analytics shape critical thinking on and off the field. We talked baseball, critical thinking,  and metacognition: Here’s what he had to say about why baseball is such a great way to engage our kids:

 

 

 

http://wednesdaymartin.com/books/primates-of-park-avenue/
http://wednesdaymartin.com/books/primates-of-park-avenue/

For Mommies Dashing Around Town……..

for last minute spring break reads can grab the handy paperback (Birken Bag friendly)  Primates of Park Avenue:A Memoir, Wednesday Martin​’s intriguing, dramatic. and humorous take on UES/UWS life and  parenting,

 

Reading Skills Grow When Reading is Fun

Summer Reading

Enjoying reading and improving fluency happens when books are engaging and when we can read them at an independent, comfortable reading level. This  can be a year-round experience, but spring and summer vacation lend themselves to family time and more relaxed opportunities to live literacy through our passions.

 

 

Reading Levels
Stages of Reading Development (Chall)

Professor Jeanne Chall, my Harvard Ed School mentor from 30 years ago would want us all to remember that reading is a developmental process that can be systematically taught  but  is best fostered gradually and in naturalistic ways. It starts with talking to our kids when they are babies and is a lifelong process, just ask the entrepreneurs, lawyers, physicians and writers I teach as they fine-tune their skills to advance their passions and their professional aspirations. Let’s remind ourselves, our students and children to enjoy books that are not always ‘a stretch’ – This is essential to honing reading and ensuring fluency grows and that reading remains  a fun experience. Check out these Ivy Prep tips for  improving reading comprehension.

 

Baseball Harvard

We invite you to share this blog, and to comment it, and jot us  a note – whether about your favorite books  or places you’ll be enjoying  them this spring. And then… head outdoors with your kids to enjoy the beautiful day and…. PLAY BALL!

POSTSEASON LESSONS ABOUT PRE-COLLEGE

Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.— Babe Ruth

512px-Citi_Field_2011

This is an exciting time. First, many of us are glued to our televisions laptops, and smartphones to watch our favorite baseball team play with such skill and passion. And second, high school seniors are in the thick of preparing college applications. It’s not much of a stretch to see the shared elements of these two situations. For both baseball players and HS seniors alike, what’s involved right now is pulling together many prior experiences that have led up to this special moment, and then capitalizing on them through careful planning, practice, and execution. I can’t help but wonder what lessons can be gleaned from the field to help students get through this point in their educational lives with more confidence and self-management know-how that can be called upon in the future.

In my practice, when I discuss with students their developing and submitting applications, managing ongoing academic and extracurricular demands, and juggling their social lives and trying to be supportive friends (while often competing with those same friends for spots at the same universities), it’s clear that I am just scratching the surface of an enormous load. Parents also report that their regular routine of professional and personal obligations are upended by last-minute visits to schools, acting as sounding boards for their children, and trying to let their children take the lead while also being ready to be called into action at any moment.

With the admissions season in full swing, Ivy Prep has already lived through many Common App essay drafts and application checklists. But when it all started months ago, we front-loaded our stressed-out students with talks about how cross-training for writing applications, managing stress, and executive function strategies will yield a better outcome, and we assisted them in strengthening techniques for high school that they can later take to college. In my 30 years of coaching students and their families in developing writing and executive function techniques, I have found to be true what the popular press now reports with increasing frequency: high school is the best time to develop techniques for managing the stress of multitasking, fine-tuning executive function, and honing writing skills. It is the best time and way to anticipate the greater expectations of college.

Psychologists and counselors offer myriad cognitive-behavioral techniques for students and their parents, and research now shows that the more these techniques are broken down into manageable units and practiced, the better a student fares on campus. Some of the strongest findings in this regard come from the world of sports and performance. I knew I was onto something, watching these playoff games and thinking about my students at the same time!

For this reason, Ivy Prep partners with sports and performance experts to bridge our techniques with strategies for stress management and goal-setting. Dr. Jonathan Fader, clinical psychologist and team psychologist for the New York Mets, shared some of his techniques at a 2015 Abraham Joshua Heschel High School Sabermetrics Club Night and in response to a New York Times article last spring about how we can help students prepare for anxiety they may feel at college:

“What teenagers can do to improve their performance is to realize that they can get better at managing their anxiety through practice. Using the same performance psychology skills that elite athletes, performing artists and even soldiers employ—such as arousal control, imagery and other forms of relaxation—teens can better prepare and inoculate themselves against the stress that comes with testing, interviewing, and applying to top schools.”

Dr. Fader’s presentation to Heschel High’s Sabermetrics Club:     “Performance Psychology On & Off the Field,” Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, April 14, 2015                                                                                                              

 

Teaming Up: Sports Psych & Ivy Prep Executive Function Training:                                                                  

[I]t takes a ton of concentration, and self-belief, to stay in the moment in this way and not let the highs and lows mess with your psyche.Mariano Rivera, The Closer: My Story

Baseball HarvardIn partnering with sports experts and cognitive-behavior specialists Ivy Prep helps students and parents maximize the learning strategies being developed as part of the application process and the stress management techniques that sports psychologists use. For example, a student may procrastinate around rewriting multiple drafts for an essay prompt because organizing the content, managing the steps, and refining specific language is anxiety provoking. Applying Dr. Fader’s CBT lingo, this “exposure” to the stress of working with uncertainty for an extended period of time can result in a degree of innoculation to the anxiety that adds to the student’s burdens.

In this situation, Dr. Fader (or another expert) and I might consult about specific strategies I have designed for the student based on his learning style–e.g., dictating ideas into a text to speech app, or using a graphic organizer to see his ideas and color code them before putting them in sequence. Dr. Fader may then develop voice recordings that remind the student of these strategies (and why they work) and specific visualization or relaxation strategies he can employ when working in the Ivy Prep study space in advance of a writing session with me. This team approach gives the student a fully reinforcing experience, where the instruction for executive function work and stress management enhance one another, create an envelope to contain the range of tools he has, and provide an overall experience that is attuned to our understanding of the adolescent brain and to the particular goals of the student. In sessions with Dr. Fader and me, this student and we can then step back to assess the benefits and drawbacks of whatever strategies he is using, which in turn enables us to fine-tune our coaching and provide further supportive opportunities for increased self-reflection.

Project Management: Executive Functions and Self-Awareness                                                               

It gets late early out there.—Yogi Berra 

Baseball clock

Self-awareness (also referred to as metacognitive awareness) is a key area of growth for adolescents and young adults. The region of the brain that mediates the skills underlying self-awareness—the frontal lobe—is the one that develops last, from the teen years through the mid-twenties. A recent study involving close to 2,000 European college students found a strong correlation between the students’ awareness of their attention, planning, controlling their actions, and self-monitoring, and the number of credits they successfully completed by the end of their freshman year. These are the components of executive functions, and they can be directly taught and practiced so that students can then transfer them to new learning experiences (just as Fader’s stress management techniques can be practiced and transferred to new situations). Honing stress-management tools in tandem with learning techniques for handling actual coursework sets up students to be more self-aware of their thought processes during learning and to regulate their feelings in real and successful ways.

We owe it to our kids to make them aware of these tools and strategies. College can, and should be, a time for personal enjoyment and growth. For parents, it should be a time to watch their children successfully experience this new milestone. While there are bound to be moments of transitional stress as children adapt to campus life and the different patterns of studying that college demands, they can weather those blips with the stress management and executive function techniques they used while in high school. As graduation time becomes sharper in its focus, and we can soon begin to see the light at the end of the Common App tunnel, have your child take some time to practice these techniques. Entering this new life stage with confidence and awareness will help ease many of the anticipated (as well as unanticipated) bumps in the road.

Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D.

To learn more about Dr. Rebecca Mannis & the Ivy Prep Approach to school admissions and executive functions strategies, contact us at office@ivy-prep.com. Ivy Prep has proudly entered its 31st year providing customized educational remediation and instruction to students– in New York and across the globe.

Dr. Mannis thanks Karyn Slutsky, Assistant Director of Queens Paideia School,  for her insights in developing this blog series, Pre-College with a Broader Vision.  

Images: Wikimedia Commons and Rebecca Mannis, PhD

Getting Back into the Groove After Winter Break

Winter BreakWinter break is a gift to students and families, but it can also pose a challenge. After a long time off from school, it can be difficult to get back into the groove and reestablish routines and strategies that were second-nature before the long vacation. Here are some strategies to help you and your children start 2015 off on a good note:

Reinstate your daily routines

Routines provide stability and security. During vacation, you may have gotten used to going to sleep late and waking up whenever your biological clock woke you. But now that school has started, it’s important to reinstate a regular bedtime, schedule homework time and institute regular meal times.  Set an alarm on your phone for ten minutes prior to bedtime or other evening transitions to remind yourself to get ready to switch gears.

Eat a good breakfast

It’s tempting to stay in bed for a little longer and roll out of bed just in time to walk out the door. But a filling and healthy breakfast fortifies you for an entire morning. If you don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning, find something you can grab on the run or prepare something the night before. If you are able to spare a few more minutes in the morning, do some stretches or even some actual exercise to get yourself in the game. Although a recent study of Breakfast in the Classroom programs, which provide nourishing morning meals to students, showed inconsistent performance,  the research and anecdotes of Ivy Prep students and their parents speak to the benefit of taking some time to eat, whether at home or en route to school by Via, prior to starting a busy day of physical and mental activity.

Get to class early and get organized

Lack of organization can make it difficult to concentrate and take proper notes. Come to class a few minutes early and take out the correct books and notebook. Check that you have writing materials and paper.   Put only what you need on your desk and leave the rest in your backpack so it doesn’t distract you. If you have a choice of seats, choose a location that will allow you to see the board as well as the teacher, and stay away from students who are distracting. Refer to your planner or app to determine which materials you need during breaks so that you can collect appropriate materials from your locker.

Getting to school and class two minutes before the late bell enables you to get out the necessary books, work sheets and pens. It also prepares you to be ready when the instructor begins (as well as making you stand out as a student who is ready to learn). Come merely 1 minute after the bell and you label yourself as an unstructured, unconcerned and unprepared student:  Do you really need that 3 extra minutes in the hall?  Is the immediate gratification of playing around worth what you are giving up in learning and getting ahead in your work?

Create a study plan

Study PlanAs soon as papers, tests and assignments are scheduled, put them in a calendar (paper – or electronic, such as Google Calendar) and break down study tasks in advance. Plan to do a small task each day so you don’t end up stressed before deadlines.  Develop reinforcements to insure that your plan will work (for example; decide not to use the phone unless history note cards are completed).  You need to replace immediate (and fleeting) rewards and satisfactions with meaningful rewards in the future (for example; decide not to watch a tv show with the goal of being able to go to a movie/party/out for a bite after you have completed work).  Exercising self-control enables you make better use of your time.  By using strategies you create to complete your assignment you will  be in control of the work you face and practice the techniques that enable you to get to the finish line. This approach, which strengthens a person’s ability to delay gratification and increase mental control, is an example of the frontal ‘executive functions’ discussed in my earlier blogs. This PBS interview about New Years Resolutions with psychologist  Dr. Walter Mischel provides a 2015 reminder about the lessons of his famous ‘Marshmallow Experiments’ conducted with preschoolers in the 1970s. As Mischel and behavioral economists note in this video, some people find it much easier than others to delay control toward longer-term goals. But the more children and adults practice consciously delaying gratification toward goals by using plans or otherwise substituting smaller rewards, the more they develop the muscle memory and capacity to stay the course.

Schedule in some recreation

Going back to school isn’t all about studying. It’s also about getting back into school social life. To avoid the going-back-to-school blues, arrange some fun activities with your friends in between tests. Plan to go out and have fun after you have finished school-related tasks, so you will have a reward to look forward to.

File and paper management – neverending but negotiable

Take ten minutes twice a week to sort through papers at home while listening to your favorite music downloads so that you can more efficiently access the ones you need in class. Similarly, when you need to take a break from heavy-duty reading or writing, set the timer on your iPhone for ten minutes and organize your files into proper desktop or download folders and sync the computer to your other devices.

Plan for the next day, but not too much!

Before you head to sleep, take a few minutes to tee up for tomorrow and to them permit yourself to unwind. As my earlier posts about metacognition and time management mention, the practice of breaking down tasks into manageable units is a skill just like hitting a baseball or juggling. Use the Evernote app (which has a cloud-based component for easy access across devices), the voice memo function on your electronic device, or a paper post-it note to list key to-do’s for tomorrow. This way, you will be able to remind yourself in the morning of key tasks and can reassure a restless mind that well-deserved rest is in order.

 

Learning to be an independent learner

Independent LearningA trend is underway toward increased amounts of homework and more sophisticated thinking about schoolwork for middle and upper school students. Teachers often assign homework and projects or schedule tests for their students under the assumption that the students are able to learn new material on their own in advance of it being covered in class. This trend toward using homework to learn or apply, rather than to just practice and reinforce, is different from the way many parents (and these teachers) experienced homework when they were teenagers! Nowadays, many teachers ask students to pre-read and annotate chapters that will be discussed the next day in class, so the task of ‘reading for meaning’ and of ‘reading to learn’ new information has greatly increased at the middle to upper school levels.  A student’s ability to work in this way is a developmental process, with ages and stages that are predictable based on a variety of factors. These factors include the children’s age, physical and thinking stamina, stage of  development for language and critical thinking, reading and writing ability, capacity for frustration tolerance, and executive functions.

This change in expectations over the past five to eight years is happening in part to changes in attitudes toward learning and policies (whether mandated by federal or state law or as part of an independent school’s mission) that reflect philosophies of instruction.  Education policy and methodologies go through cycles and trends, just as other aspects of society shift with the changing of time. One example of this in the twentieth century was ‘The Great Reading Debate” between those, such as Goodman, who valued progressive ‘Whole Language’ or  “Look-Say’ methods and researchers such as (my former Harvard Ed School Professor) Jeanne Chall, whose research validating the necessity of formal phonics instruction served as the impetus for the United States government to recommend the return of formal reading instruction for phonics and reading comprehension to the curriculum.

These debates are now at play and impacting the lives of millions of middle and upper school students as they return from a day of learning in the classroom, football practice and debate team meets. The Common Core, developed in response to education reform mandates by the United States Federal government, is a key factor in this trend. This approach outlines an approach to developing curricula that requires children of all ages to absorb, integrate and use information in new ways. Some of this approach has been  developed, presented and effectively used for decades in systematic forums, whether as optional enrichment work or via math clubs such as well-respected, vanguard Continental Math League. Here, students often are mentored after school or in honors classes about ways of approaching tasks or finding solutions in different ways.  However, the pendulum has swung beyond CML as a helpful enhancement and toward constant integration across many courses. We are moving toward a culture of speeded acquisition of facts and application to new formats as basic elements of the schoolday, evening homework and weekend prep.

When modeled in the classroom, this philosophy of instruction and the materials  the teachers use can effectively tap into general concepts. Teachers can break down or scaffold how to use the content with new twists and turns. The hope is that students will be able to apply the concepts in a new way with independence, and the impact on America’s children is significant. Nevertheless the experiment of Common Core is that, a work in progress, and one in which millions of children and parents are attempting to adapt to this new format. Teachers are learning how to create road maps and cues that students can use in their independent work, but these waters are largely unchartered for the teachers and their students. One result is that students are being asked to ‘read to learn’ much more material on their own and to think critically about concepts. Often students are asked to develop their own systems for recognizing connections and for applying ideas or sequences to new questions after a long day of formal classroom instruction.

A critical goal for middle and upper school learning is that our children to learn how to think about information and ideas rather than simply memorize facts. Nevertheless, many of our children require guidance in understanding themselves as learners, or metacognition as they practice applying the information on their own. Same for note-taking for podcasts or primary sources that introduce information they have not been taught in the classroom as preparation for independent work.

While this can be stressful, there are specific tools that some teachers opt to include in the classroom (I often consult to teachers and schools about linking content instruction to metacognitive awareness). These strategies can also be taught to students in 1:1 customized instructional sessions. At Ivy Prep, we are embarking upon a new program that is available as a supplement to the individual work we do or as a workshop for students who could use guidance and practice in developing these independent skills with the mentorship of specialists who are aware of their specific goals. We present it to our students in this way:

STEP 1 – KNOW THYSELF

The first step in independent learning is to take responsibility for your own studying. This includes developing personal strategies based on your learning style and seeking out resources beyond those provided by teachers and tutors. This will enable you to to push ahead through work and still have time to enjoy special hobbies, friends and activities that offer a balance to the grind that school can become, especially as the amount of daylight turns shorter and the to-do lists seem to be ever-expanding.

Identifying your learning style and tailoring your study habits to reflect it will help you learn independently. There are ways you can better understand the type of learner you are and how to maximize that style for each class you are taking. For example, if you are more of an auditory learner and the History textbook reading about the impact of the Constitution on the institution of slavery has confusing ideas, you might have an easier time if you first ‘warm up’ by listening to this video podcast interview with Professor (and US History textbook author)  Eric Foner on the topic and reviewing the outline that covers the basics.

STEP 2 – MANAGE THE TASK AND TIMING

The second step is to set goals and deadlines so you don’t find yourself cramming at the very last moment. Break down large tasks into manageable chunks and decide when you will complete each one. If there is one task which you are consistently pushing off, figure out why you are having difficulties with it and find a strategy that will help you get it done. For instance, if you have trouble getting the first few sentences on paper, “make a deal” with yourself that once you have three sentences written or a basic outline jotted down, you will take a break and do something fun. When you return to the writing, you will find it easier to continue now that the first barrier has been broken down.

As my prior blogs about managing time notes, one part of managing tasks is knowing what the mini-steps of tasks are,  how to best approach them given your learning style and the teacher’s requirements and how long those smaller steps will take.  Each of these elements is a key ingredient in the recipe you will use to learn on your own and manage the tasks of learning with greater success, more ease, and less stress.

STEP 3 – ASSESS – ON YOUR OWN AND WITH YOUR TEACHER

Once you have completed your work (and hopefully enjoyed doing something truly fun later that night or weekend), you can move toward assessing what was helpful and effective about the approach you used. So, the third step is to look back at your completed schoolwork and reflect on why specific techniques were useful and how your approach can be improved in the future.  By meeting with your teacher and reviewing teacher feedback, you can pinpoint where you have grown and identify challenges or complications you’d like to troubleshoot for the next assignments. Ivy Prep offers customized techniques to do that (ones that match the student’s learning style and the methods and philosophy of instruction of a given school, insights I have from thirty years of teaching students 1:1 and collaborating with faculty about their curricula). And, of course your teacher is a critical resource to identify strategies that can move you ahead. If your teacher does not provide you with feedback, ask for it!

TRAINING FOR THE TASKS – THE IVY PREP WORKSHOP

You may find that you need some help in following these three steps. If that’s the case, we recommend you join us at Ivy Prep Learning Center’s new Structured Study Room. Ivy Prep Learning Center aims to provide students with the customized tools to develop independent learning strategies using actual school assignments. The center’s learning specialists help students identify their learning styles and develop strategies for working effectively at home and at school. Our newest Structured Study Room course is a weekend program aimed at teens who learn well in a group and who want to get to that next stage of independence and efficiency. In two-hour sessions, the students will learn study and time management skills and have the opportunity to practice them by bringing their school assignments to the course and working on them with the help of specialists, who will advise each student on how he or she can best tackle the work. I will be speaking with students and their parents to identify specific goals and strategies that instructors can help students learn and practice, with an eye toward ‘getting the job done,’ learning techniques that are effective, efficient and transferrable, and reducing stress for students and their families.  Technology and print materials will be introduced and offered as resources to make those connections in a strong and speedier way.  Individual game plans will be developed based on those discussions and more than 100,000 hours of direct experience as a learning specialist, in teaching students individually, getting to know the subtleties of schools, and mentoring instructors since 1985 at Ivy Prep. The course begins December 6 and registration is now open. To learn more and register, please contact us at office@ivy-prep.com.

More Breaking Down the Study Process

Study ProcessIt is a lot to master ideas/information and to manage the steps needed to learn it well. So it’s understandable that you may feel stress, as you juggle being mindful of the content, studying with efficiency, and recognizing your feelings as you confront your load.

You can learn to shoulder all of it with time and practice. Remember, there is a difference between mastering content and mastering how to study. The latter is reliant upon executive functions and metacognition. The brain starts to develop networks for executive functions when we are preschoolers focused on swings (not science terms!), but every time we flex these mental muscles, we strengthen the neural pathways that make organizing tasks a more natural part of our behavior. It all matures as the last parts of the brain develop, so while that’s happening, get a jump on things by creating your own systems that promote organization and self-management skills.  

Remember our first post, on listing all of your subjects, sub-sections, units, etc., so that you have all the study “chunks” and their allotted times in one place? Let’s parse that list further and set up some routines—personalized systems—through which you can approach studying in a way that makes it more pleasant for you.

For example, say you have 4 chapters to review in your science textbook. You’ve allotted an hour to do this, but even that feels demotivating. Now break that hour, or 4 chapters, up and attach each sub-chunk to some small reward, like one of these:

  • After each reviewed chapter, or every 15 minutes, take a bite of a snack (precut into 4 equal parts) or take a 5-minute social media break.
  • Insert Post-it Notes at the start of each chapter, and then crumple-toss-them-on-the-floor as you make your way through the review.
  • Get together with study buddies so that you can motivate one another and enjoy your breaks and well-earned rewards with your pals.

Try one or more of these strategies, or devise your own motivation system, and post a comment to let us know how it went and to share your experience with others.

In our next post, we will talk about the powerful role metacognition plays in accomplishing seemingly tough tasks and how to use your language skills to boost it.

Use Your Time Wisely

Use Time WiselyIvy Prep’s first blog post is all about time: why it matters and how to manage it. Managing your time well means you will be properly prepared for exams, less overwhelmed by the intense exam schedule, and less distracted by the warm weather. The trick is to maximize your limited time and focus your studying efforts.

ESTIMATED VS. ACTUAL

By now, you’ve (hopefully!) been told what to study, but you may not know how to study. To be productive in any activity, you first need to learn how to manage your time. Your project management skills (executive functions) are still developing at this stage in life (the myelin, or white matter, that helps the frontal lobe send messages on the HOV lane is still growing way into our 20s), so understanding how long studying will actually take is key to not running out of time or getting overwhelmed by what it takes to be well-prepared for final exams.

If you determine how long it will take to complete each task, then you can organize your studying into accurate, and very manageable, sessions. Through this method, you will have more than enough time to thoroughly review and study the material.

HERE’S HOW TO DO IT

A. Break down your studying into specific chunks—subjects, sections within subjects, tests you’ve taken throughout the year, projects you’ve completed, reports/papers you’ve written, and so forth.

B. Estimate the time you think it will take to review each of these chunks. For each chunk, multiply your estimated time by 1.5. For example, if you think reviewing a certain section in a textbook will take 20 minutes, then write down 30 minutes: 20 mins x 1.5 = 30 mins.

C. Make a list of all of these chunks (subjects, sections, etc.) and their estimated times so that you have them together in one place. When you break down your studying like that, it’s not as bad as you may have initially thought.

D. Time yourself and record how long the task actually takes. Some of the activities may take longer or shorter than you anticipated; you can adjust the anticipated times for the other tasks accordingly.

Now you know to take the pressure off by leaving yourself extra time for your next go round. Notice anything? Very often the tasks we most put off doing are the ones that are the quickest to do.

It works, but only if you actually do it! Try it and let us know what you think.

And, don’t forget to promise yourself a treat for powering through the tasks you are most tempted to avoid.

Next blog preview: In our next post, we will share specific study strategies for optimizing your time.

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