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One Way to Get Better Help From Your Teacher

Do you ever need to email your teachers because something they did or said is confusing, and you need clarification?

One of the skills I work on with teenagers is how to communicate respectfully with teachers without sounding like you are blaming or accusing them. This is a HARD lesson for many teens to learn and takes some practice.

Listen in as I share a story about a recent young man (sophomore in high school) who caught himself writing some blaming language to his teacher, and figured out — all by himself! — how to correct it.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a short summary:

One of the skills I end up working on quite often with students, that I hadn’t originally thought I would, is writing emails. And this week I was talking with one of my clients, and he needed to write an email to one of his teachers. He was walking himself through it, and while I usually walk my clients through the email writing process, this young man is a good communicator and his parents work hard with him to help him be a good communicator. Anyways, here’s something that he caught himself doing that I wanted to share with you.

Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, Email, Emailing Teachers, Communication, Teacher and student relationships, student email, teacher, teachers, students, teenagers, high school

As you can see above we have a little image of my client typing up his email and what he noticed was that he was starting to write “You were confusing in class today”, but he stopped himself and rewrote it as “I have confusion about what we were doing in class today.” And this is something he said his mom drilled into him last year ad nauseam, the importance of not blaming the teacher with your language; regardless of whether you think it was the teacher’s fault or not. We want to try and take ownership as much as possible in our email communications, as we will get better help from our teachers if we are generous with our communication.

So I just loved that he caught himself there and the truth is that “I have confusion” was very true, as he is confused, regardless of what the cause of the confusion is. And by checking his language and tweaking it so he took responsibility for his experience, he is much more likely to get help from his teacher now, and in the future.

I hope this tip is helpful, and if you want more tips and advice on communicating with your teacher, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying™.

College Prep Podcast #189: How to Make an Anti-Cram Plan for Final Exams

Gretchen Wegner, The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically, Final Exam Anti-Cram Master Class, Anti-Cram Plan for Final Exams, Teachers, Educators, Academic Coaches, You’ve heard it’s bad for your brain to cram for finals, but what should you do instead to get ready for semester exams?

Make an Anti-Cram! plan, of course!

During this episode of the podcast (which is a reprise of Gretchen’s recent Master Class for educators), Gretchen walks you through the steps to get ready to rock your finals, including:

  • Mistakes teachers & students make when preparing for exams
  • Why the Study Cycle is so important, and how to teach it to students
  • What the Study Senses are, and how to incorporate them into your study plan
  • A simple formula for how to learn, so students can identify and fix their weakest link, and
  • How to create a final exam study plan that (hopefully) kicks cramming to the curb.

If you’d like to follow along with Gretchen’s slides to her Master Class, here they are. Also, we ended up recording the Master Class as a Facebook live, so if you want to watch the original, check it out here.

Finally, here is more information about Gretchen’s upcoming class for educators, The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically.

Click here to tune in as Gretchen gives you the rundown on how to prepare for your final exams!

Don’t Wanna Do Your Homework?

Do you ever have the strong, stubborn feeling that you just DON’T wanna do your homework?

In a client session recently, a junior in high school reported in that she just couldn’t motivate herself to get her work done over the past weekend.

When I questioned her about what was in the way of taking action (I have a checklist I use to help students identify what’s going on when motivation flags), she pinpointed her “mindset” as the problem. So, I helped her investigate how she might shift her mindset to take quicker action in the future.

Check out this video, where I summarize our subsequent conversation:

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

In the last week of September, I was talking with one of my clients, she’s a junior in a very rigorous high school, and she said that this was the first weekend she just didn’t want to do her homework. So we did a little investigating about what was going on in her brain that was making it so hard for her to take action on her homework. First, we investigated the idea of “I don’t wanna”, but I put “because” after that in order to see the beliefs behind the strong stubborn feeling of “I don’t wanna”. As a result, we came up with a list of beliefs that she had that were holding her back.

Gretchen Wegner, Homework, Procrastination, Stubborn feelings, mindset, how to shit your mindset, Academic Coach, academic coaching, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying

So the first was that there was too much homework, the second that it was too hard, and the third was that she didn’t know what to do. Once we had this list, we asked, a couple of questions of each belief. First, we asked, “is it true?” and as we were discussing it, my client said, “You know, there really wasn’t too much once I looked at it, but I hadn’t looked at it when I had this belief, so I just was convinced in my mind that there’s too much.” So in this case, asking “Is it true?” and then checking to make sure that’s actually the case, can help you overcome this belief. Similarly, the belief “it’s too hard” she couldn’t know if it was true as she hadn’t started yet, so once she started she realized it wasn’t, and if she first checked she’d have seen that it wasn’t too hard. Had the homework actually been too much, or too hard, she could have then asked herself, “What’s the next small action I can take?”.

Now, the reason these questions can help you shift your mindset and allow you to take action is that the statements, the beliefs, on the left of the image are what’s known as fixed mindset thinking. These are items that come from a place in the brain where we think that it’s always this way, this is the truth, the truth doesn’t change, and everything is locked in place. On the other side though, we have growth mindset thinking, which is based on the fact that our brains can be changed over time through practice.

And if you feel like you want more help getting or keeping yourself motivated and on track, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

College Prep Podcast #188: Important Distinctions Between Scholarships and Financial Aid

Megan Dorsey, The College Prep Podcast, Scholarships, Financial Aid, Education, College, University,Families often mistake financial aid with scholarships, which can lead to confusion, disappointment, and wasted time as seniors choose their college and figure out how to pay for it.

In this episode Megan breaks down how to think about the different pathways to paying for college, so that families can plan accordingly. Specifically, she discusses:

  • what exactly financial aid is
  • why you should never lie about your assets to try to maneuver more financial aid
  • how to calculate the amount of money your family will be expected to pay for college
  • how to decide whether you should apply for financial aid in the first place
  • why you should apply for scholarships even if you only have an “average” student
  • where to start when looking for appropriate scholarships
  • and more

Click here to tune in as Megan discusses the key things you need to know about scholarships and financial aid.

An Unfortunate Side Effect of Hating Your Class

Do you hate one (or more) of your classes? I don’t mean mild annoyance or frustration with difficulty. I mean absolute hatred of the subject you’re learning?

One of my clients truly detested a subject area she was learning, and we worked hard this year to convince the powers that be to take it off her plate. In this video, I describe how this one shift made a world of difference in her motivation at school… and why it might sometimes be appropriate NOT to force kids to suffer through a class just because it is a “requirement.” Especially in the case of this client, who tried HARD to like this class (she stayed in it for two years), it became apparent that a change was necessary.

Tune in to the video to find out what class this was, and how letting it go turned things around for this client.

Hey, don’t have to watch the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

I have one client in particular with whom I’ve been talking about motivation in very specific ways lately. This young woman has been with for 3 years, and in the first two years were quite a struggle; however, this last year things have been going extremely well. There are three main reasons for this change. The first reason is that she’s not doing the dance team this year, which has increased her free time; however, this wasn’t as nearly as important as the other two.

Of the two other the first I’d like to discuss was the topic of last week’s video, “Why Working Out Helps You Be a Better Student“. As I discussed last week, this young woman enjoys working out, but more importantly, the cardio she’s doing this year seems to be helping her much more than the dance team did last year. And as we discussed in that video, there has been a marked increase in her motivation to complete her homework when she’s getting regular daily exercise as compared to when she isn’t.

Motivation, Gretchen Wegner, Unfortunate Side Effect of Hating Your Class, Academic Coach, Academic Life Coach,

With that said, the final and most important change from to this young woman’s school life that has drastically increased her performance was the removal of a class she simply detested. For her freshman and sophomore year, she was taking French, and she simply hated it. She hated the way the language sounded, she hated speaking it, etc. She simply didn’t like the language. Finally, the adults helping her, myself included, got the picture and she was able to drop French in exchange for taking Sign Language at her local community college.

You see, there’s something about when you absolutely hate a class and how it ends up tainting everything else. When you hate something heavily, it ends up draining your energy. So if you or a student who you know and love is in a situation where they simply can’t stand a class and it’s affecting their other grades as well, you might want to experiment with removing that course or changing it out.

And if you feel like you need help with motivation or tips for studying in a class you have trouble with, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying™.

College Prep Podcast #187: How to Stay on Track with Mid-Semester Tune Up

Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, The College Prep Podcast, Tune up, Tune-up, School, College, Education, Thanksgiving Break, It’s time for a mid-semester tune-up!

Take a couple hours this Thanksgiving Break to organize yourself, clean up any broken systems, and assess your study skills.

Gretchen will teach you how, including:

  • How to tune up your organization systems, including what to file and what to throw away
  • Clean up your study space
  • Make sure you have enough supplies at home to get you through the rest of the semester and/or year
  • Assess several academic skills to make sure you’re learning in effective and efficient ways including your ability to: (1) make effective study plans, (2) Hone your notes well, (3) Create quizzable study tools, and (4) re-teach yourself information that you are having trouble remembering.

If you need more support with any of this, feel free to check out Gretchen’s online course The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, which you have lifetime access to.

Click here to tune in as Gretchen and Megan discuss the keys to keeping yourself on track.

Why Working Out Helps You Be a Better Student

Do you struggle to get motivated to do your homework? You are not alone! I’ve had lots of videos on motivation in the past, but this one is different.

As you may know, I like to collect data from all my clients in a process I call the Habits Graph. One client, in particular, wanted to track how many times she works out each week. When we first put this on the graph, we had no idea how useful it would be!

We also tracked how motivated she feels each week to do her homework. This past week, when we filled out the Habits Graph together, we noticed some interesting trends. You might be able to guess what they are! Watch the video to see if you’re right.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

So as I was working out today I was thinking about a conversation a client and I had about the link between working out and her level of motivation to do her homework. For the last three weeks we’ve been collecting data, and as any of you who have worked with me before know, I love to collect data with students to help them understand their habits better. So over the last three weeks, we’ve tracked how many times she’s gone to the gym each week and how motivated she’s felt to follow through on her homework.

Why Working Out Helps You Be a Better Student, Motivation, Physical Activity, Workouts, Gretchen Wegner, Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful STudying,

As you can see there is definitely a pattern here. In the first week, she went to the gym 4 times and felt a 7 out of 10 in motivation.  In the second, she went 0 times and had only a 2 motivation. And in the third week, she went to the gym 3 weeks and felt a 5 in motivation. And while the pattern is pretty noticeable, it really shows when you see it on a graph.

Habit Graph, Physical Activity and Motivation, Working out and Motivation, Body and mind,

Isn’t it fascinating how almost perfectly the shapes match-up? For this student, and for most students in general, being physically active greatly helps with motivation. Our bodies and brains are inexorably linked, so if you aren’t being physically active in a way you enjoy then your probably hurting your ability to do your school work and your motivation.

And if you’d like to learn more about the Habits Graph, or feel you could use some help getting your homework done each week, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

College Prep Podcast #186: Should Your Teen Take Online Courses?

Should Your High School Student Take Online Courses, Academic Coaching, Academic Coach, Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, College Prep PodcastHave you ever taken, or considered taking, online courses as a high school students?

Megan describes her daughter’s experience taking on online course through the Duke Talent Identification Program and delivers her final assessment about whether these programs fulfilled expectations.

She and Gretchen discuss:

  • what online courses promise they will deliver teens, including a) a fun learning experience with b) similarly motivated students that you can c) take while traveling
  • to what extent these promises were delivered in the course her daughter took, and
  • when it might be appropriate to take an online course, and when it might be better to find additional learning options.

Click here to tune in as Gretchen and Megan discuss the pros and cons of online courses, and if they are right for your teen.

One Reason Calendars Save Students From Disaster

Do you ever find that you run out of time to complete your assignments?

I have a client in college who ended up having to rush to try and complete an assignment because he hadn’t planned it out. Calendars are super important for helping you to plan out your homework assignments, especially the big projects. Don’t believe me, check out this weeks video to see why calendars can save you from disaster.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back, here’s a short summary:

So, I have a client that’s in college, and we’ve been working together for a few weeks. He was assigned a research paper at the start of the semester, which is due October 16th – and I’m recording this October 3rd. Every week I prodded him saying, “you need to start looking for sources. Why don’t you go to the library and come to the next session with some sources?” and every week he hasn’t done it. So this week, I asked him about it again and he said, “I still have time, the draft isn’t due until the 16th.” So I had him pull up his google calendar (a great online calendar tool). Then I asked him to mark the due date on his calendar. That gives him less than 2 weeks to complete this research project. Next, I asked him, if you’re going to have this turned in the 16th, when do you need to have all your research and outline done? He said, the 12th and marked it. Finally, I asked him if you’re going to have all your research and outline done by the 12th, when do you need to have all your sources? He said, the 6th. Once we had marked this all out, he said, “Oh my god, this is all sooner than I thought.”

It wasn’t until we made time visible by putting these items all out on the calendar, that he was able to really grasp how little time he had left to complete this project. So I STRONGLY recommend that you have a method of visibly seeing time and keeping track of when things are due compared to your current date.

And if you want more tips on time management, please consider checking out my online course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

The art of inspiring students | how to trick struggling learners into studying harder, learning more, and raising grades | ebook | gretchen wegner | the study cycle

Final Exams Are Almost Here. Do Your Students Know How to Study?

As an academic coach, I’ve spent thousands of hours talking to stressed out and/or unmotivated students (many of whom contact me right before final exams, totally freaked out!) and one pattern has emerged that is striking —

Students don’t know how to study. Everyone TELLS them to study, schools and parents EXPECT them to study, but no one has actually taught them how.

“But that’s not true!” you might be thinking. “I tell my students exactly how to study for my tests. I give them study guides, quizlet sets and teach fun Mnemonics! We play Jeopardy before final exams! We review ad nauseum in class. Why isn’t that enough?!” If you’re a tutor or coach, you might be thinking, “I even study right along with them! What do you mean they don’t know how to study?!”

I don’t doubt this is true. Many educators ARE giving students a zillion resources to help them study. As I’ve coached your students, I’ve seen into your classrooms, I’ve read your study guides and I’m aware how many of you are putting in a sincere, thoughtful effort into providing excellent, scaffolded curriculum and support.

However — and this is what I’ve discovered as I’ve coached hundreds of stressed out teenagers:

The way YOU talk to your students about their own learning may be backfiring.

That was true for me, at least, for the years that I was a classroom teacher. Once I became an academic life coach, I discovered that I needed to unlearn a NUMBER of bad habits I’d acquired about how to talk to students about learning and studying.

My bad habits as a teacher and new coach backfired. Although my actions were intended to help students become more engaged, proactive learners — instead they created the opposite.

Students became dependent on my creativity and my expert curriculum development skills to do any learning.

Now that I am unlearning these bad teaching habits,  I’m watching my students transform their learning, their stress level and raise their grades in unprecedented numbers. If I can do this as a coach, you can do this too.

In the rest of this article, I’ll introduce you to:

Here are the top four bad habits that I discovered in myself and have observed in other educators:

  1. We overuse the word “study,” assuming it communicates something of value to our students.
  2. We teach specific strategies (like flashcards) that worked for us when we were students.
  3. We focus on “learning styles” as the way to discover how to study effectively.
  4. We break learning down for students into bite-size, motivating chunks and provide clear instructions for students.

Well hold up, you might be thinking! Aren’t these the tenets of good, progressive education? How can they possibly be bad teaching and tutoring habits?

Free ebook: The Art of Inspiring Students

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How To "Trick" Struggling Learners into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades
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I feel your pain. I was surprised, too, to discover that certain “facts” of good teaching in which I’d been trained sometimes do more harm than good. Why might that be?

Let’s take a closer look at each of these bad habits that are plaguing well-meaning teachers, tutors, and academic coaches:

Bad Habit #1 – Educators overuse the word “study.”

Imagine the following scene:

It’s Wednesday, 4th-period chemistry. The teacher writes on the board, “Study for test on Friday.” Students make a mental note, “Ok, I better study for that test”; some even write “study” into their planners. Parents, coaches and tutors see the word “study” in the planner and follow up by asking, “Have you studied for the test yet?” The student responds somewhat impatiently, responds, “Yes! Yes! I’m studying.”

Think about it: How many times was the word “study” used? Was anything of value about the learning process communicated in these brief interactions?

I’d argue NO! This entire conversation about studying is largely meaningless. How do students decide what they need to DO to study?! How will they know when they’ve been successful studying, and are ready to take the test?

Because students aren’t actually taught the theory behind effective study and the strategies associated with that theory, they often go home and do one of two things:

  1. They try to “study” the best way they know how, often by rereading the textbook and reviewing and highlighting notes. Some make flashcards, though this technique is often a time-waster too (more on that later). Or…
  2. They simply don’t study, either because the actions I’ve described above are unmotivating and uninspiring or because they don’t believe they need to study.

When test grades are published, student’s spirits are dashed. “But I studied!” they say. “How come I got such a bad grade?” The answer is — because they studied in ways that felt effective but are are not actually effective.

As an academic life coach, I am on a mission to banish the words “study” and “review” from the English language. Ok. I know. That’s pretty impossible. But what if educators, parents, and students used it a lot less? How would you talk about test preparation with students if you weren’t allowed to use either the word “study” or the word “review”?!  Too often the use of these words allows us to live under the illusion that we are communicating something of value about the learning process when truthfully we are not.

What should teachers, tutors, and academic coaches do instead?

  • Quick Tip: Start noticing when you use the word “study” and what you are actually trying to communicate. Play around with banishing the word “study” from your vocabulary for a day or two. What might you say instead?   You might even include your students in this game! See how this experiment forces you to talk about learning in new ways.
  • Advanced Tip: Want to know the 3 words that I use with my clients instead of the word “study”? Watch the FREE demonstration video that’s embedded here. You might even print out the graphic of the 3-step Study Cycle that I provide in my e-book, post it somewhere visible, and practice using those words with your students instead.

So, what’s the next blind spot I’ve noticed in educators (and of which I was also guilty)?

Bad Habit #2 – Educators teach specific strategies (like flashcards) that worked for us when we were students.

I’m guessing you are one of the many thoughtful teachers, coaches, and tutors who DO teach specific strategies for studying. Perhaps you suggest flashcards or provide mnemonics to help students memorize complex information. Maybe you hand out a study guide with suggestions for how to use it. Some teachers (I was one of these!) even build studying for a test into the curriculum, guiding students through the steps they need to prepare.

Yes! This is all good pedagogy!

Here’s the problem:

First, usually, we pick the strategies that worked well for us when we were students. But not all learners are going to rock the information just because they’re studying it in a way that worked for you.

Also, well-meaning educators often suggest strategies without explaining WHY these strategies tend to work. We assume that the strategy in and of itself is what will help the student study. But even the BEST strategies can fail if implemented in ways that ignore how the brain is built to learn. I know so many students who are bored to death by flashcards, but who use them anyway because they’ve been taught it is a successful learning strategy.

Many educators themselves don’t truly understand how learning happens in the brain. I sure didn’t, before I became an academic life coach. In our teacher education programs, we are taught strategies for engaging students, but we aren’t taught how this fits into a brain-based model for how learning happens.

When we teach strategies without teaching the underlying theory about why that strategy might work, we are creating kids’ dependence on the specific strategies. We are teaching them that the way to study is to throw a random strategy at the problem and hope you learn the information.

What should teachers, tutors, and academic coaches do instead?

  • Quick Tip: When you hand students a new assignment, ask students to look it over and reflect: “What is the purpose of this activity? What am I supposed to learn?” and then “How does the design of this lesson help me learn this objective?”  The goal here is to help them start to distinguish between learning objectives and the strategies used to achieve that objective.
  • Advanced Tip: Teach students the 3-Step Study Cycle. Once they understand each of the three steps, have them reflect about which step of the cycle they are in for each kind of assignment you offer. This tip might not make much sense now, but it will make more sense after you read the description of the 3-Step Study Cycle and watch the demo that I provide, both of which are available here for free.

Bad Habit #3 – We focus on “learning styles” as the way to discover how to study and learn effectively.

Many educators — myself included! — have espoused learning styles as an important factor in increasing student motivation and performance.

When I was a classroom teacher, I had students take learning inventories, and then I would use the results of this inventory to help individualize student learning. For example, I’d have students who tested as “visual learners” do history projects that were primarily visual; students who tested as “logical” thinkers could write an essay or create a chart filled with information.

When I was trained as an academic coach, I was taught to use these same inventories with my clients, and then apply the results to help the students maximize their learning.

In the last few years, however, I’ve stopped giving these inventories. I DO still believe that every person learns differently and that it is important for students to understand — and advocate for! — learning methods that reveal their strengths.

However, I’ve noticed that too much of an emphasis on learning styles makes students less inclined to learn in ways that are *not* their learning preferences. In recent years, brain science has backed up my observations, stating that the most effective learning strategies use all parts of the brain, regardless of whether the students has a specific preference for that strategy.

What should we teach instead?   

  • Quick Tip: Teach students that the brain needs to learn information in a multitude of different ways. If one method doesn’t seem to be helping them learn, then students should be flexible enough to choose a different learning strategy, even if it’s NOT their preference or dominant learning style.
  • Advanced Tip: So that students understand the brain-based reasons why variety is important in learning, teach them the 3 Step Study Cycle (it only takes 5-minutes to teach, as you’ll see in the demo inside this ebook). Then brainstorm with them multiple strategies for studying the same content when they are on their own, using the Study Cycle as a guide.

Bad Habit #4 – We break learning down for students into bite-size chunks.

When I did my teacher training, I learned of the importance of breaking tasks down for students to help them be successful. I mastered the art of creating engaging, complex curricula for students, as well as how to break it into discrete, doable parts with clear instructions so that students wouldn’t get lost in all the details.

This is an important teaching skill! I don’t knock it, and I hope you continue to do it!

However, a side effect of this kind of teacher-intensive curricula is that it can accidentally foster dependence rather than independence in students.

Students depend on the instructions. They wait to be told what to do, for the adults to initiate action.

I can’t tell you how many of my clients have answered my question, “Why didn’t you take notes in class today?” with the, “My teacher didn’t tell me to.” Argh! I stifle my frustration at this answer with, “Your teacher shouldn’t have to tell you to take notes!! You should know what’s good for your own learning, and be able to take initiative on your own!”

The side effect of our willingness as educators to break learning into digestible parts is that the teens themselves don’t have to learn to do this for themselves. They’re off the hook and don’t need to understand how successful learning happens for them. Instead, they mindlessly follow (or resist) the teacher’s instructions, a habit that is not conducive to lifelong learning.

Even tutors foster passivity and dependence in students. I’ve had several students who’ve told me, “Oh, I don’t need to study for the Spanish test by myself; I’ll just do it with my tutor.”

When students rely on their tutors and teachers to guide their study process, they are abdicating responsibility for their own learning. So what should teachers and tutors do instead?

Here’s a quick tip you can apply immediately:

  • Quick Tip: After you teach a lesson, ask students to reflect on what they just learned and how they learned it. Ask them to notice the ultimate learning objective, and how you structured the learning to help them get there. Invite them to remember that when they are studying at home, they are in charge of designing their own learning process.*
  • Truly Highly Advanced Tip: Check out my list of 7 types of struggling students, including each student’s “study blind spot” and “study solution.” This will help you hone how you work with specific types of students to help them study more strategically, including which step of the Study Cycle each kind of student needs more practice with.

*You may notice that this tip is very similar to the one I made for Bad Habit #2. This is purposeful! It is helpful to ask students to seek out the learning objectives both (1) before they complete a worksheet or assignment and (2) after they have engaged in a learning activity. The more often you have them reflect about what kinds of learning strategies help them achieve what kinds of learning, the more self-sufficient they will become at being able to structure their own learning when they are at home studying.

Is It Really This Simple to Help Students Break Through Passivity and Become Strategic Learners?

Yes! In my experience, most students are eager to learn how to become more effective learners. However, adults make it seem so complex! When they are introduced to a simple, easy-to-understand model for how to learn strategically, they rise to the occasion.

That’s why I’m such a fan of the 3-Step Study Cycle. I teach it to all my clients now, and I’m watching them become creative, engaged, skillful learners as a result. In fact, just a week ago a college freshman who’d been getting C’s and D’s on most of his tests this semester, came to his session with his eyes beaming. Here’s a summary of our conversation:

Student: Guess what?! I got an A on the test!!!!!!!

Me: OMG! Seriously?! Wow!!! How’d you manage that?!

Student: I followed the study cycle. And I worked really hard to hone my notes*.  In the past, I could usually narrow the multiple choice answers down to two that seemed similar, but I never knew what the right answer was. This time I totally knew! It was clear to me because I’d taken the time to encode the stuff I didn’t know in new ways*.

I’m so proud of this young man for working so hard to understand how to study strategically and raise his grades. He clearly worked hard! In that respect, it’s not simple to become a strategic learner; it involves hard work!

However, it is simple to teach students how to study strategically. And in my experience, it all starts with a 5-minute conversation that I fondly call the 3-Step Study Cycle. I’m such a believer in this process I’ve discovered that I wrote up an instruction manual for how to teach it to students, and I’m giving it away for FREE:

Click here to download your FREE copy of The Art of Inspiring Students: How to “Trick” Struggling Learners Into Studying Harder, Learning More, and Raising Grades.

In this short instruction manual, you’ll receive:

  • suggestions for how to talk to students about the difference between homework and studying
  • an overview of the 3-Step Study Cycle, a brain-based model for effective and efficient learning
  • a video demonstration of how I teach the Study Cycle to students
  • 5 different sets of learning tools that help students apply The Study Cycle more effectively
  • the 7 types of struggling learners, and which study tools work best for which learners

Phew! That was a lot to take in! If you have questions or observations for me about any of these bad habits, please feel free to post below. I look forward to engaging with you.

What To Do When Assignments Seem Pointless

Do you ever struggle to follow through on an assignment because it feels pointless?

A client of mine was recently complaining about the pointlessness of his English class assignments, and you’d better believe this isn’t the first time a student has struggled to find his teacher’s assignments meaningful or relevant to his life.

I helped him explore whether it is true that his class is pointless, and at the end of the investigation, we came up with a fascinating way to make it pointFULL instead. Tune in to find out what we came up with.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

My client a couple of days ago was complaining that the assignments in his English class felt pointless. He has been finding that the class feels like it’s moving slowly, and the “do now” assignments seemed meaningless. He said that he didn’t feel like he could respect the class, it just felt so meaningless and he noticed he was doing less and less of the work. Then we talked through it a bit and went through some strategies I have for investigating the things that we tell our selves and seeing if they are true or not, and one the things I had him really think about was ” is it really pointless?” Now we went through far too many layers for me to go over, but what we came to at the end of it all was a key question. I asked him, “what would give it a point for him?”

He said, “Oh, maybe with every question the teacher asks I could give a class analysis for it.” Class analysis, not like “school classes” but societal classes. Anyways, I said sure, why not? Maybe not in writing each time, but in his head, he could definitely be thinking about the questions from that point of view, that way it would feel to him more meaningful. So he’s going to be trying that this next week, and I’m super excited to see how it goes for him.

In the meantime, I want to walk you all through these 3 steps that he and I went through.

What To Do When Assignments Seem Pointless, Gretchen WEgner, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying,

  1. You are the one responsible for the sense of meaning in your life. Not your teachers or parents. Sure it’s nice if they contribute to the meaning of your life, but you are the one who’s responsible for the meaning.
  2. Be clear on what ideas or activities will give you a sense of meaning. For my client, thinking about class and governments is interesting and thus thinking about questions or assignments in a sense of the effect of the subject matter in different classes gave it meaning. For me, I enjoy making artful creative notes. So as long as I can take fun notes, I can make any subject matter meaningful. It’s all about finding the ideas or activities that will give it meaning for you.
  3. And finally, talk about it with others. My client talked with me, and I love showing others my notes. By sharing it with others we can help keep our interest high.

I hope you all found this to be helpful, and if you want more tips on how to make school and homework less boring, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach.

Get Creative With How You Track Habits

Do you have great intentions for following through on new habits, but then find yourself struggling to keep the momentum?

This happens to me all the time in the transition between summer and the new school year. So this year, I got creative! Check out my new habit tracker, and listen in to why simply TRACKING your habits can be so powerful (even if you don’t actually follow through).

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

So this particular school year, 2017, has been so hard for me personally to transition from the wide-open summer to the regimented school year, and I have had to do something I haven’t had to do in a long time. I’ve made myself a star chart, and I’m noticing that a trick like this is the best way for me to rev up my habits in a quick period of time. And the way I use this is I have some double-sided tape (or in my case tape rolled up so it’s sticky on both sides) and I have it placed on my mirror with some stars next to it. That way I’m guaranteed to see it every morning and night!

Get Creative With How You Track Your Habits, Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, Habit Tracking, How to track your habits

Now, let’s discuss how to make this and how it works. As you can see I have it divided into 4 sections, my morning routine, my evening routine, the exercises I want to do every day, and diet/water. Here’s the deal, I don’t expect myself to be perfect. I’m simply tracking, what am I good at vs what am I not good at. The beauty of this though is that let’s say I don’t feel like flossing, but I see the star chart it makes me want to do it just so I can put a star on it.

That said, I don’t recommend that parent’s make these for their students; however, I do recommend to students that you make something like this for yourself to get you revved up for the school year. Because until your about 21 you’re going to be going through the cycle of starting a new semester and trying to build habits, then slowly losing them, and rebuilding them, and slowly losing them.

If you want more tips and tricks for tracking, managing, and forming new habits, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Can You and Your Teen Stop This One Tech Habit?

How many notifications pop up on your desktop or smartphone each hour? I’ve noticed with my clients that they get gazillions of notifications!!

I’m on a mission to banish the notification from you and your teen’s technology. Parent’s aren’t excluded here!!

Check out the video to hear more, and pay attention to the one exception I’ll allow.

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a short summary:

I have a new… tirade. You see, I work with most of my clients via Zoom on the computer, and I have my client’s share their computer screens so I see what they are doing. And I have seen far too many teenagers when they are on their computer getting nearly constant notifications! This drives me crazy because I watch as their eyes flick over to each one, and while usually, they come back to attention pretty quickly, I’ve noticed that there is usually a pause… and their thoughts are distracted and or slow to think about the next thing. As a result, I’ve decided I want all my teenagers and their parents to practice stopping all notifications.

Gretchen Wegner, Notifications, Social Media, Computer sounds, Attention, Energy, Brain science,

The brain science is so clear that all these notifications are draining our energy and fracturing our attention. So I am challenging all my clients and their parents to stop all notifications, at the very least, during the time you are trying to study or work, with one exception. Notifications from your calendar/reminder app that are there to help keep you on track. But I want those to be the only notifications.

So, let me know how it goes. Feel free to send me an email at Gretchen@gretchenwegner.com and let me know what your experience with this is. I’d love to hear from you. And if you want more academic and life tips and guides based on brain science please consider checking out my online course.

A 30-Second Mind Trick to Envision a New Habit

Do you struggle to take action on new habits and routines that you know would be good for you? Recently, a client of mine was having trouble jumpstarting “The Set Up Routine,” which is a process I recommend to students for setting up their study space right when they get home from school. I realized that during last week’s session, I’d failed to help him truly envision himself doing the habit! This is a 30-second trick that can really make a difference. Check out the video, where I describe it in more detail.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a quick summary:

So, I have a quick 30-second trick to help you, or your child, or your client (if you’re an academic coach), get a jumpstart on a new habit. And this is something I was doing with a client just this last week. He knew he needed to do what I call the “setup routine”, which is to come home from school, walk in the door, and get your study space all set up. The problem was that while we’d talked about it the previous week, he wasn’t following through, and I realized we really needed to walk through it in much more detail.

So I had him imagine actually doing this task, in as much detail as possible. I asked him what the front door looks like, what it’s like on the inside of that door, where he has to go to put his study materials, where the table is, what’s in that space, etc. Then I asked him to imagine himself taking his books out, where he’d put them, what else he needed to do to set up, etc. And he was really able to see it in his mind, almost like a movie. One of the benefits of this was that it allowed me to see where he was getting stuck and help fill in the steps. It also benefitted him, as he was able to get a real feel for how the habit would go from start to finish.

I hope this little trick helps you, and if you want more tips and tricks, please consider checking out my course.

How to Raise a Calendar Savvy Teenager

Planner! Planners! Planners! They are the bane of my existence with many of my clients. For students with extreme executive dysfunction, it can be difficult to find the right planning device for them. Year after year, we experiment with different devices and processes made for students, many of which don’t stick.

This year I have several students who are seniors, and I realized with a shock that many of these students don’t use a CALENDAR. We’ve been so focused on tracking their academic To Do lists that they don’t know how to use a regular old calendar.

I’ve told them all that I will consider my work with them a failure this year if they graduate without being calendar savvy.

Watch the video for a more thorough explanation of what I hope their families will do to help them be calendar savvy.

Get Into the Perfect College for You with Megan Dorsey

Do you have questions about College Admissions? Want to know the secrets to getting into College and get all the tips and tricks others wish they knew?

Well, luckily that’s what I’m here to tell you today, along with guest host, Megan Dorsey – who some of you might recognize is from The College Prep Podcast, which we co-host weekly together.

This recording is from a webinar Megan and I did in the summer of 2015, so sit back and strap in, because this recording is packed full with information.

Now, as I said above Megan Dorsey and I co-host the College Prep Podcast, which is a weekly podcast where we discuss advice for everything ranging from College Admissions to Study Skills, and everything in between in the field of education. It’s aimed any students from Middle School up to University, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone in education still.

With that said, I’d like to give you a little information about Megan Dorsey. Megan is a former SAT essay reader for the College Board, a Texas Education Agency, a certified highs school teacher and counselor, and a successful educational consultant. She earned her B.A. from Rice University, her M.Ed. at the University of Houston, and her Certificate in College Counseling at UCLA. She went on to found College Prep, LLC, and now offers a variety of services to help families navigate all aspects of college admission, including:

  • My Vocabulary Success Coach
  • Online SAT prep classes
  • SAT and ACT private tutoring (in person or via Skype)
  • College admissions counseling

You can find out more about Megan’s programs and sign up for her free newsletter at CollegePrepResults.com.

And if you need help with school, whether it’s raising your grades, studying, getting homework done, or managing your time as a student, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach.

The Only Thing You Need to Know to Ace Tests

Hey there, do you have trouble with tests? Do you study by rereading your notes or textbook? Even if you don’t, it’s very likely that you use the same method every time you study right?

Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the way you’ve been studying is most likely being wasted. The good news, I have the solution right here, and I’m going to share it with you.

Hey there, while I HIGHLY recommend watching this particular video in full, here is a summary:

The Study Cycle is composed of 3 steps and is the most effective, efficient, and anti-boring method I know for studying. So before we begin going over the steps, I have a little image here, which we will be referencing.

 

The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically | Gretchen Wegner | Teacher | Teachers | Tutors | Academic Life Coach | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Academic Coaches | Tutors | Tutor | Study Skills | School Administrators | Parents | Parent | Student | StudentsWe start with the basket of knowledge and skills at the bottom of the image, this is what we need to learn, and we need to get this into your beautiful brain at the top. So step 1 is encoding the information from the basket into our brains. In this step, we are getting the information into our brains, whether we are teaching it to ourselves or it’s being taught to us.

Step 2 of The Study Cycle, which the majority of students skip, is practice retrieval. This is the process of getting the information out of our brains and assessing what we actually learned. By doing this, we get two very important pieces of information. The first is what we do know, what we actually did learn in step 1. The second is what we didn’t encode in step 1. What we didn’t learn, or encode, we put back into the basket of knowledge.

Then we have step 3. Step 3 is one of the least practiced steps, but just as important or more important than the other 2. Step 3 is to encode the information we assessed we didn’t learn in step 2 in a NEW way. The important thing is NOT just to try to re-encode it the same way you did in Step 1, but to encode the information in a new way.

My course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, for students, and The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically, for Educators, both are filled with a wide variety of tools to help students encode information in new ways. So check them out, and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

5+ Oddly Effective Tools That Build Great Habits with Thomas Frank

Back in July 2015, I presented a webinar, “5+ Oddly Effective Tools That Build Great Habits” with special guest Thomas Frank, from CollegeInfoGeek.com. This webinar was to help introduce high schoolers and college students to some unique and potent tools that they could use, and Thomas was excellent, showing us a wide variety of tools that were unique, creative, and very effective that everyone could add to their toolboxes.

So tune in to see what crazy ideas Thomas shared with us.

The tools demonstrated in this video are quite a few, and a summary wouldn’t do the video justice; however, I do want to give you all the links to the different applications and sites mentioned in the video.

Buffer, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, CollegeBuffer is a social media management suite. It allows you to schedule posts, set up a queue of repeatable posts, etc. for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.

IFTTT is an application that allows you to connect two different websites/applications. In the video, IFTTT is used to connect Beeminder with Buffer, so that when a post from Buffer goes live, a data point gets added to Beeminder.

Beeminder, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, College

Beeminder is a website application that allows you to have a system of accountability for your goals. You can set up goals, and if you don’t complete the goals, then you have to pay Beeminder. So, for example, if you don’t send out one post on Facebook a week then you have to pay $5 for each one you miss per week.

Habitica, HabitRPG, Habit RPG, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, College

Habitica/HabitRPG is a habit tracking website. Effectively this website is a game based on your habits. The more habits or routines you complete, the stronger you get and the better you do. You can do a wide variety of things here, so here’s an example of what you can do: Let’s say you want to make sure you do your HW every day. You can schedule out your HW that you have in your planner, and then every day you can check it off, and you’ll gain EXP, items, etc.

ToDoist is a great place to keep track of all your tasks that you need to take care of. You can add tasks here to keep track of everything that you need to take care of.

Google Calendar is basically a planner that’s online. You can use it to schedule out all your time in a visual schedule. This offers a wide variety of features, including multiple calendars that can be turned on/off easily, time slots that can be overlapped and color coded, and much more.

As you can see there were a variety of tools listed in the video, and the system surrounding these were even better, not to mention starting at around 39:00 minutes into the video, Gretchen and Thomas answer a wide variety of questions from high school and college students. For a little sample, there’s one discussion about part-time jobs, another question about meta-habits, and so much more!

If you found this useful, I highly suggest you check out Thomas’s site, CollegeInfoGeek.com. He has a regular blog, podcast, and more for college students with tips and advice. And you can get even more tools and tips in my course, The Anti-Boring Approach.

College Prep Podcast #166: Is Self Control a Myth or a Must-Have?

Is Self Control for Students a Myth or a Must-Have, Academic Coaching, Academic Coach, Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, College Prep PodcastSo often parents wish their students had more self-control.

However, it turns out that “effortful restraint” (which is one word researchers use for “self control” is hard for the best of us, students and adults alike

During today’s episode, Gretchen and Megan discuss what science teaches us about the myth of self control.

They discuss:

  • why we should stop worshipping “self control”
  • what we can learn from the people who believe they’re good at self-control
  • techniques to make self-control feel more effortless,
  • and more!

Click here to tune into Megan and Gretchen’s discussion about self control.