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Having Trouble Paying Attention? Maybe It’s This

Recently, a client’s teacher emailed me to say that in his physics class, this teen seems glassy-eyed and has trouble focusing. When I checked in with my client, a high school senior, he reported that indeed — he has trouble keeping his eyes open in that class. Low energy!

We talked it over and realized that the problem is probably what he’s eating for breakfast! Check out what we discovered — and how he fixed the problem.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:

This past week I had a discussion with a student, that I’ve never had before, and it just cracked me up. My client’s teacher had emailed me that he was like a zombie in class, he just didn’t seem to be paying attention. So when we had our weekly coaching session, I talked to him about it, and he did realize that he was just super tired by the second period. During the first period he felt fine, but by the second he had low energy. My first thought was, well what is he having for breakfast. As is pretty common, he was eating cereal, and I went, “AHA!”

Cereal, whether sugary or not, often leads to sugar crashes, so I told him he needed to get some healthy snacks. This led to a discussion on grocery shopping, as he said his parents weren’t buying him any. As I told him, he’s 17 years old, he can go grocery shopping, he doesn’t need to be relying on his parents for his groceries!

Gretchen Wegner | Breakfast | Paying Attention | Low Energy | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | snacks | Student

I realized that there are 4 key things students, especially high-schoolers, need to be aware of. They need to pay attention and be aware of when and why their energy is low. It’s often because of what they are eating, and usually not because the teacher is just too boring. With that in mind, they need to be keeping track of their nutrition, which means going grocery shopping for themselves when they need certain things!

I love working with my clients, there’s always something interesting I can help them with. If you are interested in academic coaching or want some awesome Anti-Boring tips and tricks for school, check out my course!

Do You Lose Papers in the ADHD Wormhole?

Do you tend to lose the work you do? Is there a wormhole that completed assignments get sucked into?

I have several ADHD clients who can’t seem to track papers to save their lives. THEY swear they completed an assignment and turned it in; their TEACHERS swear that they’ve never seen the assignments. Who is right?

In this video, I share with you my attempt at a solution to this problem, and it involves the app CamScanner. Check it out, and see if this might work for you.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry I’ve got your back, here’s a summary:

I want to know if you’ve ever experienced this: The ADHD Wormhole. I have a few clients who swear they’ve turned in a homework assignment, but their teachers swear they’ve never seen it. I know they’ve done the work, but no one knows where the assignment has gone, it’s like there’s this wormhole in the universe sucking in all these lost papers.

The ADHD Wormhole | Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Assignments | Homework | Papers | CamScanner

The best solution I’ve found for this problem is the smartphone app CamScanner. I recommend for my clients to scan their homework the moment they finish it. This allows students to bypass the wormhole because if they lose their homework they just need to shoot off an email with the scanned image of their homework to the teacher and they are good to go. The hardest part of using this method is developing the habit. I recommend to parents to try making it a scheduled event at night, to make sure that their student has scanned each piece of homework.

If you’re wondering why I am recommending CamScanner over taking a picture, it’s because CamScanner actually scans the image, just like a printer, so the quality is a lot better than a picture would be. Of course, you could always use a printer if you have one instead.

As always, this is just one of my many tips available in the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying course. So click here to check that out as well.

Can “Truth or Dare” Really Be a Study Technique?!

Did you ever play Truth or Dare when you were younger? Perhaps you play it now?

Recently a client of mine gleefully reported a fun study game that she and her study buddy made up while they were doing homework the other night. It wasn’t quite Truth or Dare (it was actually pretty G-rated), but it was super creative. Not only did she have a lot of fun studying her Spanish vocabulary, but she learned a lot too!

Tune into the video to hear me describe my client’s version of Truth or Dare for studying… and let me know if you try it, too!

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I’ve got your covered, here’s a quick summary.

I’m always intrigued by the many wonderful ways my clients can surprise me with new and exciting ways to study. I have one client who was telling me last week about how she and her study buddy came up with a little game. She didn’t refer to it as such, but it was reminiscent of Truth or Dare.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Study | "Truth or Dare" |

As I said, my client has a study buddy, and so they were both studying for their Spanish class, which they are in together, and they decided to have a sort of race. They agreed that whoever could learn the flash cards the fastest, and do the best on their mock exam, could ask the other to “do” something – thus the truth or dare aspect. In this case, my client won and got to read one of her study buddies poems, which she didn’t usually get to read.

This is an amazing example of making studying Anti-Boring. I can’t promise to make school fun, but I can certainly make it anti-boring. So if you want to find out about more awesome tips and tricks check out the Anti-Boring to Powerful Studying.

Are Your Homework Plans Realistic?

Do you should on yourself when making plans?

During most of my coaching sessions with teens, we spend at least some of our time making plans for the next week. We break big projects down into smaller parts; we decide what study tasks will be done on which days before the test.

However, invariably my clients will make plans that they can’t keep! They tell me what they think they SHOULD say, rather than what they can realistically accomplish.

Here’s one way I handle that during our sessions:

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I’ve got your back, here is a quick summary:

As you can imagine I do a LOT of planning with teenagers. Close to, if not more, than half of my sessions are planning out the next week or month based on what homework they’ve been assigned. Typically we look at what assignments they have upcoming and then planning backward to figure out what they should be doing each day/week/month as necessary.

During these planning sessions, quite often we’ll make a plan and my clients will say, “Sure I’ll do that”, or my personal favorite, “Sure I’ll do that Friday afternoon.” The vast majority of my clients and students I know, don’t want to do ANYTHING after school on Friday, even as a teacher I don’t. They are saying what they think they “should” say, instead of being realistic and making a plan they will actually follow through on.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Homework | Plans | Planning | Clients | Assignments |

The way I handle this is by asking them, usually a few times, “Are you “shoulding” on yourself? Are these plans actually realistic?” I try to make sure they understand they don’t have to “should” on themselves. It won’t benefit them to make a plan they know they won’t follow through on, or that they will just end up procrastinating for later. So we revise the plan using my triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, to make a more realistic homework plan.

If you want to know more about the triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, you can find it in the “Overcome Procrastination” section of the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Sentence Starters for Getting Unstuck When Writing

Do you ever struggle to get the ideas that are in your head out of your head onto paper?

Several of my clients struggle with this a great deal. One of my best tips is something I taught myself when I was in college.

Check out this video to find out some ideal sentence starters that will get you unstuck.

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I understand. Here’s a quick summary:

A common problem for students, when it comes to essays, is getting their ideas out of their head and onto paper. Many of them sit there just typing and then backspacing, and they can’t even seem to get the “shitty first draft” of the essay done.

I have a couple of suggestions for this. First off, I have found that if students are talking out their ideas, it comes out much easier, and often well thought out. So when one of my students are stuck, I often will ask them questions and then write what they say. It’s surprising how well thought out their ideas are when it seems like they are struggling so much to write it. So I suggest to anyone that gets stuck writing to ask either a parent or a friend to write what they say for their first draft. If you don’t have a friend readily available, you could also talk into a recorder and then listen to it and write it down, or pretend you’re writing an email to a friend.

Another suggestion is to use some of these sentence starters:

  • “I’m trying to explain that…”
  • “I want to describe how…”
  • “I need to figure out how to say that…”
  • “What I’m trying to say is…”

While these aren’t phrases you’re teacher wants in your final draft usually, they are perfect for the “shitty first draft” and just getting your ideas down on paper.

These are just a couple of the many tips I have for writing essays, and completing homework when you feel stuck in my course, which you can learn more about by clicking here.

The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically

Gretchen Wegner | Eda Chen | Natalie Borrell | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically | Students | Educators | Teachers | Educator | Teacher | Student | Study

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Meet two amazing educators teaching students study skills in creative and cutting edge ways. Gretchen interviews Eda Chen and Natalie Borrell about how the unique ways they’ve integrated the Anti-Boring Approach in their work.

Together they discuss:

  • why it’s important that educators equip themselves with specific study theory and strategies
  • the creative ways they are incorporating the Anti-Boring study tools into the work they’re already doing as life coaches for teens, including
  • Eda’s plan to include study skills and career coaching into her work with foster students, and
  • Natalie’s plans for bringing her lively in-person workshop to schools all over Ohio.

Natalie Borrell is a licensed School Psychologist and Academic Life Coach in the Cleveland, OH area. She works with teenagers who want to become better students, but need some direction on how to do so! She uses Gretchen’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying in her work with individual clients and a hands-on workshop for high school students. Check out her website, and also her Facebook page.

Eda Chen is the Owner and President of Elan Advising. It’s an education and career consulting company based in Davis that works exclusively with high school students, college students, and recent grads. They use life coaching techniques to teach executive skills–like time management, emotional resiliency and more. They also help their clients with college and graduate school applications and job hunting. Eda‘s a UC Davis alum and grew up in Dallas. You can find her website here. She’s also on Twitter and Instagram: @elanadvising.

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

How to Start Homework After Taking a Break

Are you a fan of taking breaks? Me too. But how do you keep yourself from taking a break that’s way too long?

This is a common problem for many of my clients (honestly, it’s hard for me, too).

Recently, though, a client’s love of music helped inspire this new time management idea.

Check out the video, or read the summary below. Will this anti-boring idea work for you?

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I understand. Here’s a quick summary:

We all love taking breaks when we’ve been working hard. The problem with taking breaks, especially from homework, is that they are often too long. Afterward, we aren’t motivated to get back to work. A recent session with one of my clients lead me to a new idea for a potential fix to these issues: A Break Playlist.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Life Coach | Life Coaching | Breaks | Homework | Homework Break | Time Management

The goal is to create a few playlists to listen to when you’re on break. You want to make a few so that you don’t get bored of your playlist. The playlists should be the length of your break so that you know you have to get back to work once they end. You also want them to all end on the same motivational or energizing song so that you feel motivated to get back to work.

That’s just one of the many time management tips available in my course, which you can learn about by clicking here.

Safe, Fun & Life Changing Adventure Travel Trips for Teens

Gretchen Wegner | Megan | Claire Perrone | Adventure Travel | Teen | Teens | Moondance Adventures | students |

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Ever considered adventure travel as an interesting summer option for your teen?

There are many companies that take teens on cool trips around the world and build their life and leadership skills, to boot.

On today’s podcast, we interview an expert in the field of adventure travel. Claire Perrone, of Moondance Adventures, started off as a 12-year-old on her first Moondance adventure. Since then, she has transitioned from the role of student to a leader to Community Service Director; so she can speak about adventure travel for teens from a few different perspectives. Specifically, she, Megan and Gretchen discuss:

  • What is adventure travel?
  • What are the benefits to students of participating in these types of trips?
  • How can you tell if your child is ready for this type of experience?
  • What should parents look for when finding the right trip for their child?
  • How is a Moondance trip different from the hundreds of other travel opportunities?
  • What is the affordability of adventure travel trips?

Moondance is a teen adventure travel company based in Nashville, TN. They offer 25 awe-inspiring summer programs for high school aged students, domestically and abroad. Check them out on their website or their popular Instagram feed.

Click here to tune into the podcast and learn more about adventure travel.

For Every New Assignment, Do This ASAP

What’s the first thing you do when a teacher gives a new assignment — especially something big, like a paper or project?

Thanks to their work with me, many of my clients are getting good at writing the due date in the planner (on the day it’s due, by the way, NOT the day it’s assigned).

However, a few of them are still making THIS mistake, which causes them a lot of stress in the long run.

Check out this video for more details about what not to do, or read the summary below!

For those who don’t quite have the time to watch the whole video, I’ve got your back. Here’s a quick summary:

My Client’s Problem: My client almost made a horrible mistake. He was telling me about how he had an essay to write over the weekend and how it wasn’t a big deal. I asked him about the prompt and he said, “Oh I haven’t read it yet.”

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | New Assignment | New Essay

Our Solution: I made him read the prompt right there in our session together. It turns out that this assignment was not an essay, as my client had thought, but rather a short research assignment that included talking to several students on campus and taking a poll. Had he waited until the weekend before the due date to read the prompt, he may not have had the time or capability to finish this new assignment. The tip here is that for every new assignment you get, always read them when you get them. This will save you a lot of academic headaches!

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | New Assignment | New Essay

 

10+ Productivity Apps for Scattered Students with ADHD

Gretchen Wegner | ADHD | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Apps | Time Management | Distraction Management | Study | Research | Break | Breaks | Students | Productivity

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Smartphone apps can be a great support, but also an annoying distraction, for students, especially those suffering from ADHD.

Gretchen provides a list of 10+ apps and suggestions for how to use them so that students maximize productivity and minimize distractions.

Tune into the episode to hear the details about how to use each of these apps. However, for your convenience, here is the list of the ones Gretchen mentioned:

Tune into Gretchen’s podcast and learn more about these apps by clicking here.

Inspire Struggling Learners to Study Harder, Learn More & Raise Grades

“I’m lazy,” teens often tell me when I meet them for the first time. Parents often confirm this. And so do teachers, when I email them to get more info about how a client is doing in their class.

I know students often feel lazy. And they certainly seem lazy to parents, who watch their teens get sucked into the vortex of their phones.

But what if students are not lazy at all. What if — God forbid — it’s the adults around them who are helping to create the conditions for this apparent “laziness”?

Let me explain:

As an academic life coach with a glimpse into hundreds of classrooms throughout my career, I’ve noticed two different tendencies amongst the students who seek me out:

  1. Some students try really hard. They stress themselves out keeping up with their school work. Despite their best efforts, these kiddos still perform poorly on tests. Argh! Why?!
  1. Other students seem apathetic, perhaps even lazy. They can’t motivate themselves to learn, despite teachers’ best intentions to make curriculum interesting and their parents’ best efforts to keep them on track.

I’m guessing that YOU are the kind of educator who has also noticed this trend… and is doing what you can to reverse it. 

You are sincere, creative and a hard worker. You’ve done your darndest to design a curriculum that will be motivating and effective for students.

So why are students STILL struggling so much?!

What are we missing as educators that hold them back?

As an academic coach I’ve spent thousands of hours talking to stressed out and/or unmotivated students, and one pattern has emerged from these conversations that are 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! Why isn’t that enough?!”

I don’t doubt this is true. Many educators ARE giving students a zillion resources to help them study. However, this is what I’ve learned in my hours coaching teenagers from around the country:

The way adults talk to 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 about how to talk to students about learning and studying.

Although my actions were intended to help students become more engaged, proactive learners — instead they created the opposite effect.

Students became passive learners, dependent on their teacher’s creativity and curriculum development expertise to guide their learning. They didn’t know how to teach themselves. 

Now that I am an academic life coach, I’ve been unlearning these bad habits. I’m watching my student clients transform their learning, lower their stress level and raise their grades in unprecedented numbers. I’m also watching the teens who seemed lazy perk up and start taking action.

If I can do this as a coach, you can do this too — as the incredible teachers, counselors, tutors, and coaches that YOU are.

So, what are these bad teaching habits to which well-meaning educators fall prey?

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 allow 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 this demo). 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.

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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A Trick for Using Lecture Notes to Study for Tests

Are you good at taking detailed notes during lectures, but then struggle to know what to DO with those notes later on? In a different but related question, are your test grades disappointingly low, given the amount of time you study?

Often the way we use our notes (both inside and outside of class) directly affects how well we are able to perform on tests. In this video I give a few ideas about how to study for upcoming tests by “honing” your lecture notes. Tune in to get the details.

If you’re in too much of a hurry to watch this 3 min video, I get it! Here’s a quick summary: 

My Client’s Problem: I just got a text message from a college freshman who is really struggling. It’s mid-semester and he’s realized none of his old high school strategies are going to work for college. He’s getting really low grades on tests, and needs to change that.

Our Solution: It was clear that he needed to learn how to hone his notes. I had him work through the note taking part of my online course The Anti-Boring Approach, and then taught him a couple of specific skills related to his Psychology classes: (1) Summarize all the terms, definitions, and examples from his notes into a chart, and (2) create a fake textbook by looking through all the notes, think about what the major headings might be if he were a textbook writer, as well as what diagrams or bullet points might help bring all his notes together. The main idea is to rewrite your notes, to hone them, so they take much less space and require you to think actively about the information, so that you’re turning it into something that makes sense to YOUR brain, not just your teacher’s brain.

This tip is just one little piece of my step-by-step system for raising your grades with less stress. Click here to find out more about the whole system.

How to Ace the College Interview

Megan | College Prep Podcast | College Interview | Schools | Students | Interview Etiquette

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

The college interview is a great way to round out your college application. However, students often make silly mistakes!

Megan provides numerous tips to help you be your best self at your interview.

Tune into this episode to explore:

  • which kinds of schools require interviews and which don’t
  • why you should always interview, if there is an option
  • how to prepare for the interview
  • what kind of research you should do about the school beforehand
  • standard interview etiquette
  • some key things not to say and do
  • how to follow up afterward

Click here to learn how to ace your college interview!

The Coolest Memorization Tool You’ve Never Heard of Until Now

What if you’ve got a bunch of stuff to memorize for your next test, but no time or energy to make flashcards or set up a study group?

Enter a cool study tool (used by students all over Japan, evidently!) called a Check Set!

I just ordered myself one for a client who needs some new approaches to memorization, and I got myself an extra! So check out the video below to enjoy my demo for how to use this cool memorization tool that you’ve never heard of (until now!).

For those who prefer reading to watching, here are some highlights from the video:

What is a Check Set & How Do You Use It??

“I’m so excited today to show you this check set that came in the mail! It’s a way that many Japanese students study.”

Check Set | Memorization Set | Memorization Tool | Study Tool | Gretchen Wegner | Anti-Boring Approach

This image is an Amazon Affiliate link to the product.

“A memorization set, sometimes called a check set, are a great way to turn what can sometimes be a kind of boring learning tool like standard worksheets, into what I like to call a quizzable study tool.”

You highlight the answer, key phrase, or term you want to study with one of the two markers. You take the opposite color piece of plastic and hold it over it and now you can’t see it. So you can quiz yourself, slide down the plastic piece to check your answer, and continue on quizzing yourself using old tests, quizzes, and homework.

“So with the final exams coming up you all might want to order these check sets because for old tests and quizzes and homework it can be a great way to quiz yourself.”

Another reason many students feel anxious around tests is that they don’t feel confident about their studying. Along with today’s tip, I’ve got a step-by-step system for studying that makes the entire process super simple and reduces test-taking freak out. I promise!

How to Help Teens Who Struggle with Anxiety

Gretchen Wegner | Megan | Yshai Boussi | Family | Therapy | Therapist | Anxiety | Teens | Stress | Students

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Anxiety in teens is on the rise! At least, this is Megan and Gretchen’s experience working with students all over the country.

Guest expert Yshai Boussi, a family therapist, helps us understand more about this phenomenon.

In this super insightful discussion, they discuss:

  • The difference between anxiety and stress
  • Why anxiety can sometimes be helpful
  • What causes anxiety in teens
  • How parents can help students with their anxiety
  • How to be involved in your student’s life without micromanaging and accommodating for their anxiety

The free resource that Yshai recommends for teens is Reach Out, a website chock full of useful advice for teens about how to get through the hard times.

 Yshai Boussi is a therapist in private practice specializing in adolescence and family therapy. Yshai has been working with adolescents for 20 years. Over the last 15 years, Yshai has sat with and helped hundreds of anxious and overwhelmed teens and parents as a family therapist. Find out more at www.portlandfamilycounseling.com.

Click here to listen to this insightful podcast episode.

How to Use Your Energy Level to Prioritize Homework Tasks

Do you ever find yourself too tired to finish your homework? Sometimes that’s because you simply have too much homework to do; but other times it’s because you didn’t do your homework in the right order!

In today’s video, I tell the story of a client who consistently finds himself too tired to finish his writing assignments, and what we learned when we decided to graph his energy levels. Maybe this process will work for you too!

And don’t forget to head on over to check out my Anti-boring Approach to Powerful Studying. You’ll be glad you did!

Easy Tips for Prepping for Finals Over the Holidays

Gretchen Wegner | Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Studying Tips | College | Finals | Holidays | Notes | Testing | Study Tools

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, as are the winter holidays.

If you get started studying for finals now (or over the winter holidays, if your finals aren’t until the end of January), you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later — plus, you’ll learn the information better! Today Gretchen shares:

  • How to put in more effort to studying without feeling like you’re working too hard
  • The importance of testing yourself using “spaced retrieval”, and a few simple ways to do this over the holidays
  • How to get yourself organized so you don’t waste time later finding important study tools
  • A crucial tip for how to use your notes so that you’re actually learning (rather than just faking it)
  • and more!

For more strategies about getting prepped for finals, check out Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Tune into the podcast by clicking here.

How to be Less Confused By a Writing Prompt

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed when your teacher hands out a new writing prompt for an essay? I have one client who has gotten feedback from teachers that he consistently fails to address ALL the parts of their prompts. Check in on this video to see an example of one of his recent writing prompts, and how we transformed it into a clear checklist of ideas to address.

Be sure to check out my Anti-boring Approach to Powerful Studying. It’ll change the way you do things and make your student life easier.

Great Colleges for Students with Learning Differences

Gretchen Wegner | Megan | Melissa Masland | College | Colleges | Students | Learning Differences | Anxiety | Depression |

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Students with learning differences or high anxiety often have special considerations when choosing what college will be best.

Tune in as guest expert Melissa Masland shares her tips on how to help non-neurotypical students land in the perfect college for them. We discuss:

  • what kinds of colleges students with learning differences should consider
  • how to help students own the college search process
  • what are the changes in the law regarding special education when a student moves from high school to college
  • how students with learning differences should approach standardized tests
  • when a student should get neuropsychological testing,
  • and more!

Melissa Masland is an Independent College Consultant who completed the College and Career Advising Certificate at UC Berkeley extension and worked at College Track for two years before starting her independent practice. I work with students of all kinds, about half of her clients have a learning difference of some kind or anxiety and depression. You can find out more about her at www.maslandeducationalconsulting.com.

Click here to listen to the podcast!

A Tech Tip for Students Who Loses Assigments

Do you (or a student you love) lose a lot of your assignments?

I have a couple of clients who consistently SWEAR they’ve turned in an assignment, only to have the teacher SWEAR they haven’t. These clients sometimes re-do a single handwritten assignment 2-3 times before they finally get it turned in.

Technology to the rescue! Today I share a simple smart phone app that takes seconds to use, and saves these kinds of organization-challenged students lots of time. Watch the video to find out more:

 

And as always, be sure to check out my Anti-boring approach to Powerful Studying! You won’t be disappointed.