One Phone-Based Skill Every Student Should Master

How good are you at talking into your cell phone? Probably pretty good, huh?
I beg to differ. 😉
Maybe you’re ok at talking to your friends or parents… but what about talk into your dictation app?
A couple months ago a 7th grade client got into a gnarly accident that has put his arm in a cast. That means writing with his hands is super hard, and sometimes impossible.
I have other clients who have specific learning disabilities that make it super hard for them to write and type essays, but they sure are good at talking their ideas out loud.
In both these situations, there’s a skills these clients NEED that would help them be better able to take advantage of their phones.
Yes, it involves dictation, but it’s a particular skill when dictating that I’d like ever student to build this summer.
Watch the video to find out more:
And if you’re in a hurry, here’s a copy of the white board that will give you a hint:
Even if you don’t think you’ll ever need this skill, I swear you’ll be grateful you spent the summer getting good at it.

Quizlet vs Handwritten Notes. What’s Better?

Do you find yourself using quizlet a lot? Does it feel satisfying to upload a bunch of terms and definitions onto that platform? But here’s the question — does it REALLY help your learning to do that?

Recently I worked with a student who was really behind in Spanish. Over his two-week spring break, we made a study plan for him to catch up. He tried a few different study techniques — first, putting a bunch of terms and grammar into quizlet, and second, taking notes in a specific way I taught him.
Which do you think was a more effective use of his time? in this 4-minute video, I give you some more details of his situation and report in to you what he noticed about the quality of his thinking using the different study techniques.

Would you rather just skip to the whiteboard tips? Here’s a close up of it!

When Struggling to Take Action, Try This Nourishing Task First

It’s STILL final exams season! Last week I gave four tips on how to deal with overwhelm.

This time around, I want to share a different kind of tip that’s more related to self-care.

Recently I found myself really dreading a difficult meeting with my coach, which is not unlike the dread students feel when needing to sit down and study. Both are potentially uncomfortable and hard tasks.

To help myself get into the mood, I did the following which I actually show you a picture of in the video:

For those of you in a hurry, here’s my whiteboard summary of the tip:

Are you struggling to take action on anything in particular right now? If so, feel free to “reply” and rant about it to me for a moment. Maybe I can help.

263: Practical Tips for Becoming a Working Artist in College and Beyond

Are you a high school student who is also an artist — a dancer, actor, designer, video game designer, painter, musician, and more? Are you curious how to use your college education to prepare you for becoming a working artist?

Guest Expert Madison Alexander breaks down how to choose the right arts-focused college, write an appealing application, and what on campus resources will help you build your resume and start getting paid for your art sooner rather than later.

After she shares her personal story about becoming a working artist, Madison enthusiastically answers the following questions:

  • What are the key considerations for writing an artistic personal statement for college admission?
  • What are important things to look for in a college when pursuing the arts is a student’s long-term goal?
  • What can students be doing to prepare to enter a career in the arts during their time in college?
  • Lastly, how can parents best support their burgeoning artist throughout this journey?

Click here to listen in!

262: Everything You Need to Know to Rock Your Finals

It’s final exam season again!

In this episode from the archives, Gretchen walks you through exactly how to prepare for your final exams.

Tune in to the episode to hear more about each of these tips:

  1. Map out your entire approach to final exams on one page, so you can see it all at once.
  2. Plan in breaks so you don’t forget to have fun
  3. Practice breaking down each final exam into actionable parts, so that you’re clear exactly what you need to do each day to study.
  4. Organize all your papers and supplies so that you locate notes, worksheets, and old tests that can serve as quizzable study tools.
  5. Study in the manner of the test, and plan backwards.
  6. Build in incentives so you follow through with your plan.
  7. Create clear study routines that are attached to a) things you already do or b) things you like doing.

Please note: This podcast originally ran in November of 2015, so Gretchen and Megan refer to Thanksgiving the upcoming winter holidays. However even though the season is different, all the tips are still super relevant.

Please tune in here!

Do These Micro Decisions Cause You to Procrastinate?

Did you know that we make hundreds and hundreds of micro-decisions every day? These decisions can make or break a student!

Recently I was talking to a 16 year old client about the tiny decisions he makes on a daily basis that result in lots of procrastination … and zillions of overdue assignments.

This client brilliantly came up with the phrase “set back decisions” to describe the choices he makes that result in procrastination, and we discussed how he can plan better around his “set back decisions.

Tune in to hear me describe our interaction, and why he decided to move his cell phone to a different bedroom, as a result of the discussion. 🙂

For those of you in a hurry who simply want to check out my whiteboard summary of the tips, here they are:

Overwhelmed with Finals? Try These 4 Tips

Do you have finals coming up? Are you, or a student you love, overwhelmed with everything there is to do between now and the end of the semester?

Recently I was overwhelmed with a big project. I noticed myself starting to stagnate and procrastinate, but then — thank goodness!! — I started doing a series of four things that really helped me sift through the overwhelm and actually take action.

It occurs to me that folks going into finals might appreciate some of these tips, so here you go:

For those of you in a hurry who simply want to check out my whiteboard summary of the tips, here they are:

If you need any quick email coaching, please don’t hesitate to hit reply and ask me a question. If I can answer it in 10 minutes or less via email, I’ll do so. Easy peasy (and yes, for free).

260: 10 Tips for Learning Even If Your Teacher is a Bad Explainer

How do you get help in a class where you’re convinced your teacher is a “bad explainer”?

Gretchen walks you through 10 practical tips for things to try first before giving up on getting answers from on your teacher.

The tips include how to:

  • Do your homework and use your resources (textbooks, class notes, classmates, other teachers, google) to supplement what the teacher is teaching
  • Remember that people show up differently in different settings, so just because the teacher seems to be a “bad explainer” in class doesn’t mean that they won’t be a “good explainer” one-on-one
  • Know where you are on the Study Cycle before you get help from when you go to the teacher. Do you need retrieval practice or encoding practice?
  • Build a personal relationship with the teacher so that you know and like each other
  • Make sure you’re choosing the right time to go talk to the teacher so that they have time and space to explain things better
  • And more!

Click here to listen in!

259: Is Getting Into the “Right College” Worth All the High School Stress?

Student stress is at an all time high! What is the cause, and what can parents, students and educators do about it?

Join guest Mary Hofstedt from Challenge Success to learn about the results of an interesting research project on student wellbeing, and find out what parents, students, and schools can do to reprioritize student wellbeing without losing rigor, though college and beyond.

Specifically they cover:

  • The interesting story behind how Challenge Success got its name (and how it involves a grown up shadowing students for a full year)
  • Some staggering statistics about what contributes to student stress being so high, including the results of a survey that includes over 175,000 students
  • Two of the biggest contributors to student stress (according to students!!), and how Challenge Success is working with students, parents and schools to address these issues
  • The myth that the more selective colleges will bring you more “success” in life
  • Practical tips for parents for how to support student wellbeing,
  • and more!

If you’d like to explore sending a school leader or administrator to Challenge Success’s conferences, here is more information about the Summer Leadership Seminar. For whole school communities who are interested in getting involved, here is more information about the School Program.

If you would like to read more research about college selectivity, the cheating epidemic, and more, check out these excellent White Papers.

Mary Hofstedt, Ed.M., is a School Program Director at Challenge Success. In her role, she works alongside Challenge Success school teams to advance student well-being and engagement in learning, and provides interactive workshops to parents, educators, and students. Mary has an extensive background in curriculum and program design, positive youth development, leadership of school and community-wide initiatives to benefit youth, and social science research. She is the parent of a recent high school graduate and is passionate about working with others to ensure our young people thrive.

Click here to hear more!

Spring Cleaning?! 10 Ways to Get Organized Before Finals

The final slide to the end of the semester can feel like a drag for students and parents!

Try a few of these simple “spring cleaning” tips to create some momentum, and also get organized BEFORE finals roll around:

  • 4 things to clean out of your binders, bedroom and backpack
  • 2 things to update on your calendar and in your resume
  • 2 things to plan so you don’t lose track at the end of the year
  • 2 things to collect so that you’re ready for final exams

Doing these things now will help you focus on studying and end-of-the-year festivities rather than rushing to find what you need last minute.

Click here to listen in and hear more!

How to Take Notes from a Lecture, Part 2

Do you struggle to take notes during lectures? Last week I shared a quick tip about how to create your own “secret code” so that you can write less while still capturing all the information you need.

This week I provide a different tip, brought to me by my client himself! He actually asked his friend who sits next to him why he’s so chill and doesn’t start writing as soon as the teacher starts talking.

Tune in to hear his answer:

If you want a quick summary of this tip, here is a copy of the whiteboard I made for the video.

How to Take Notes from a Lecture, Part 1

Do you ever struggle to write down everything the teacher is saying during a lecture?

If so, then you’re totally normal! It’s virtually impossible to write down everything!

One of my clients has been working really hard trying to write everything down, and he came to me to get some advice about how to work less hard while still capturing all the important information.

Tune into this video as I explain exactly how I helped him, including his report about whether or not it worked:

If you need it for a quick reference, here is a picture of the whiteboard I made for this video.

How to Stop Constantly Checking Your Teen’s Grades

Parents, are you driven to anxiety whenever you check your students’ grades online? Students, do your parents ambush you with bad news after they’ve checked your grades?

I’ve noticed that one of the biggest sources of frustration between parent and student is the way they talk about grades, especially if the parent has checks up regularly in the online grade books.

Last week I had a video from a 7th grader with his requests for his mom about how to talk to him about his school work.

This week I share the mom’s response to these requests, including a story about how she has actually stopped checking his online grades! I was amazed, and ask her how she did it, as most parents I know are, for better or worse, obsessed with checking.

Listen in to hear how it all shook down:

And if you don’t want to watch the video, but would like to read her words, here are copies of the whiteboards:

Advice for Parents from a 7th Grader

Students, are you annoyed by the way your parents talk to you sometimes (or, who are we kidding, much of the time)? Parents, do you know you can be annoying, but haven’t quite figured out where the line is between begin vigilant and giving your kid responsibility?

I recently had a 7th-grade client make some specific requests for how he’d like his mom to talk to him about his homework. Listen in to hear all the details about what he requests:

If you just want a quick glace at his requests, here’s a close up of the white board:

257: Why Students Struggle on SAT / ACT Math & How to Improve Scores

Many students complain that they are not “math people” and therefore struggle on standardized math tests.

Join Megan as she breaks down three reasons why students tend to struggle needlessly, and five strategies for improving their scores.

Specifically, she explores:

  • the difference between knowing your math facts and understanding concepts
  • the importance of grapple time and developing a tolerance for not knowing
  • how to be mindful about whether you’re in a solution mindset or a process mindset
  • specific strategies for raising your score
  • and more!

Click here to listen in!

256: 6+ Ways to Study for Tests in Five Minute Bursts


Students often worry that studying effectively for tests will take more time than they have!

In this episode, Gretchen takes a deep dive into retrieval practice, which is arguably the most important things students can do when studying.

Specifically she explores simple ways to do retrieval practice:

  • Before class or reading,
  • Right after class,
  • While you are doing already assigned pieces of homework
  • In addition to your homework

Click here to listen in!

Can I Type My Notes, Or Must They Be Handwritten?

Have you noticed I’m obsessed with note taking lately? If you haven’t caught the last few videos you might check them out here:

Today I want to talk about whether your notes should be handwritten, or if you can type them up. On the one hand, this is a straightforward answer (handwriting is almost always better!); on the other hand, it’s complex (some students have learning differences that makes handwriting hard).

Listen in hear me lay out all the considerations, and then let me know if you have any follow up questions!

If you want to get right to seeing what tip I wrote on the whiteboard then you can check that out below:

What Do Muddy Feet Have to Do With Smarter Studying?

Do you notice those students in your class who don’t seem to be struggling as much as you do? How do you feel about them — jealous, annoyed, curious?

In today’s video, I tell a story about a client who noticed that one of her study buddies had a very different time management habit than she does when it comes to a class assignment. I was reflecting about this story recently while on a very muddy hike!

Tune in to hear me muse about what muddy feet have in common with smarter studying… You’ll also get a glimpse of my own bare feet playing in the mud!

And just in case you’re hungry for more, here’s a quick close up:

If you’re inspired, please hit “reply” and answer one of these two questions: how do you feel about being barefoot in mud and/or is there anyone in your class that you suspect you could copy a better habit from?

Buy These Supplies to Make Studying More Anti-Boring

It’s almost the end of the school year! For some college students, semesters end next month; high school students have another couple months to go.

Regardless, everyone is exhausted, and likely a lot of your school supplies have been used up by now!

I recommend that you take a little shopping trip to replenish some school supplies so that when final exams come, you have a lot of creative supplies to make your studying anti-boring.

In this video, I list some options for you. Take a look, and then let me know if you have any questions!

If you want to know what the supplies are now here is the whiteboard: