How to Find the Theme of a Book Quickly So You Can Write That Essay Already!

Does your heart sink when you notice that the essay prompt asks you to find the “theme” or the “purpose” of the book you’re reading? Do you often think to yourself, “I have no idea!!” and then BS your way through the essay?

Well, I have a hint for you! Of course, the best line of defense is to listen during discussions in class, take good notes, and also talk to your teacher. But if none of that helps, this trick will take you the rest of the way. And who knows, maybe what feels like BS might be pretty smart stuff after all!?

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

I received an email earlier this week from a senior in high school that was having a difficult time with a prompt she received in an AP English class. She needed to find the purpose of a novel so she could write an essay about it. Another way we can look at this is: What is the theme, or meaning, of the novel?

How to Find the Theme of a Book Quickly, Gretchen Wegner, Essay Writing, Purpose, Meaning

So I wanted to give you all a little trick I use with my clients. See when I’m coaching I have very little time to help a student push through work on their essay, so I have to make quick decisions how to help a student find the theme or purpose of a book when I haven’t read it myself. As such I’ve developed a bit of a trick. I like to use a list from the Center for NonViolent Communication that’s called the Needs Inventory.

Universal Needs Inventory, The Center for Nonviolent Communication, Gretchen Wegner, How to Find the Theme of a Book, Purpose, Meaning, Essay Writing,

What I have found is that it can be really helpful to look over this list with a student and ask, “What are the universal needs that are represented by the characters in this book?” For example, is there a need for order because things are really chaotic, and the characters are trying to create order but it’s really hard. I’ve found that students can pretty easily find 1, 2, or 3 needs that are really active in the book, and then find concrete evidence why those needs are a big deal in the book and how it plays out for the characters. Then you can use this to write an essay about how the theme or purpose of the book was about “insert universal need here”.

If you found this tip useful and you’d like more tips for writing essays or understanding the theme or purpose of books, click here!

3 Tips to Make Worksheets More Than Just “Busy Work”

3 Tips to Make Worksheets More Than Just "Busy Work" | Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | College Prep PodcastWorksheets may seem like useless “busy work,” especially to bored students.

But actually, they are great tools to help you score well on tests if you use them in the right way.

Tune in to find out more about how to:

  • Be less bored when filling out worksheets
  • Turn worksheets into quizzable study tools so that you can better prep for tests
  • Make sure you’re answering all the questions correctly so that you can…
  • Use your worksheet as a quizzable study tool,
  • and more!

Learning how to maximize worksheets as a learning tool is an underutilized habit for both students and teachers alike, which makes this a particularly important episode. Click here to listen to this episode!

Always Write These Two Things In Your Planner

Did you know that the WAY you write something in your planner can have a big effect on whether you actually follow through?

My client recently discovered that there are two things he needs to write in his planner for every major assignment — the WHAT and the HOW of what he needs to do.

Check out the video to find out more.

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

I LOVE it when I get blown away by the concise way my clients articulate something they’ve learned in our sessions. I had a college student who was a freshman in college and in high school, he’d never used a planner. So we were working on making sure he planned out his assignments. In this instance, he came to the session and said he had an essay assignment, but not to worry he was great at writing essays. I asked him to take it out and just review it, and it turned out, while the essay was simple itself, the process for completing was a bit more complex than he had thought.

This led my client to realize that when he’s writing an assignment into his planner he needed to add 2 very important details. He needed to note, not just WHEN he would work on the assignment and when it was due, but also HOW he would complete it. For his essay, he needed to plan out a few different topics to discuss, as well as take the time to go to the library and research the topics chosen. So in his planner, he put down when he would figure out his topics, and when he would go to the library to research them, and when he would do the final writing.

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t just want to plan around WHEN you will do something, you also need to plan out HOW you will complete what you’re working on when you plan to do it.

If you’d like more time management tips, click here to find out more about my online course.

How to Get Past Debilitating Roadblocks

Do you ever experience huge roadblocks that make it impossible for you to finish a big project you started?

Recently, I had a client who was working on his first major research project ever. As often happens with students who struggle with executive functioning, there was a supposedly simple task in the research process that seemed insurmountable to him.

In this video, I walk you through how I helped this teen move through his roadblock.

Don’t have time for the whole video? I have your back, here’s a short summary:

It’s so common when working on a large project to hit a roadblock, some task in the project that simply seems insurmountable. So we tend to procrastinate, which is exactly what my client was doing, procrastinating.

The client I was talking to recently, a 9th grader, was working on his first massive research project and what might seem like a very simple task, had become a roadblock for him. He was stuck on the task of transferring his notes into his main rough draft. He knew how to do it, but in his mind, it just seemed like too much, he was suffering from cognitive overwhelm. Not only was he stressing about the task, he was also procrastinating which was just making things worse.

The solution for this is actually pretty simple. With my client I just sat with him while he copied and pasted, over and over, from his notes to his rough draft, acting as a force to help him do what he knew had to be done, but couldn’t seem to force himself to do. Whenever you run into a roadblock, it’s often best to simply ask someone you know, reach out, and have them help you push through the roadblock.

Anyways, I hope you found this tip helpful. If you did, and you want more free tips and resources, click here to check out The College Prep Podcast.

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.

5 Fears Students Have That Need to Be Acknwledged

Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | The College Prep Podcast | Fears | Students | Student | Success | Acknowledged | Homework | Tests | Teachers | Teacher |

Sometimes adults forget that being a student is an emotionally taxing job, that students have fears, and that students often need reassurance!

On today’s New Year’s episode we discuss the five ways that feelings get in the way of student success if they’re not acknowledged.

Each of today’s tips is inspired by a video from Gretchen’s YouTube channel. Tune in to get the low-down on each of these tips, or go directly to the videos that inspired them in the first place:

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

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.

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.

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

 

How to Get Homework Started Painlessly with the Pomodoro Method

How to Get Homework Started Painlessly with the Pomodoro Technique | Gretchen Wegner | Megan DorseyInitiating homework is a hard task for students! Especially students who are challenged with their executive functions (which means: almost all teenagers).

Tune into today’s episode to learn about why the Pomodoro technique is such a good antidote to getting work started, and how to set yourself up for success with this technique, including:

  • What the Pomodoro Technique is, and why it’s so helpful for students
  • 4 tips to get your workspace set up so that you make the most of the Pomodoro Technique
  • How to adjust it for your unique work style
  • How to take breaks that refresh you, so that you’re ready to come back for more

How to Read a 400 Page Book in Two Hours, Part 2/4

Reading is hard for students!!

Especially reading books that you don’t necessarily choose for yourself…and at an assigned pace that isn’t natural for you. So it’s important to have some tricks up your sleeve for how to read large quantities, ESPECIALLY if you are a college or grad student.

This week I discuss creating a roadmap for finding important information and main ideas in books. Once you understand the structure of how an Author writes, it is easier to dive in and start reading efficiently.

Watch to find out how!

Just to recap so far:

Tip 1. Pay attention to the table of contents
Tip 2. Pay attention to “where” the Author puts their main ideas.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

How to Read a 400 Page Book in under Two Hours, Part 1/4

What if I told you it was possible to read a 400-page book in under two hours?

You wouldn’t believe me, right?

This summer I had a stack of books I wanted to catch up on, but I only had limited time. So I challenged myself to skim each of the books as quickly as possible.

In this week’s video, I walk you through the first step in how to read efficiently and effectively. You don’t have to read every word in order to walk away with the main idea, after all! Enjoy.


Stay tuned for Part 2 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

Why Teens Should Stop Being Afraid of Librarians

Why are so many students hesitant to talk to Librarians?

Have you (or a teen you know) ever had a burning research question but been afraid to talk to a librarian? So many of my clients would prefer to spend hours alone googling for resources than spend 20 minutes with a knowledgeable librarian.

However, librarians are there to help and they love to answer questions. Research is definitely in their wheelhouse!  In this video, I share a few fun and creative ideas for helping students overcome their reluctance to ask for help. Getting past this minor roadblock will definitely benefit students in the future when more complicated research is needed for lengthy high school and college essays.

Would you like to learn more great tips like this? My online course The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying is filled with 30+ tools for rocking school…and is perfect for teens, parents, or educators.

If You Want to Be A Better Writer, Improve This First!

Does your poor typing slow you down when writing essays?

During client sessions, I often have an opportunity to watch my clients type. They often make so many mistakes that they are constantly deleting what they typed…and rarely can their bumbling fingers keep up with their brilliant minds.

Poor typing skills are not only frustrating but it is also stifling to creativity and the natural thought process. In this video, I discuss the possible reasons you or a student you know may be having difficulty as a writer. There are many resources out there to help sharpen your typing abilities, speed, and accuracy. I love to hear success stories. Leave them in the comments section above!

With the school year suddenly looming, now is the perfect time to get yourself some more tools to rock your grades this year. Click here to check out my favorites! 

Four Awesome Apps to Learn To Use This Summer

Do you have trouble keeping track of all of your To Do Lists and School Projects?

There are so many awesome apps out there to help you manage your time. Since it is summer, this is a perfect opportunity to discover and play with new time management applications.

In this video, I discuss a flashcard tool “Anki”, newly improved “Habitica”,  alert app “Way of Life” and organizational tool, “ToDoist”.

Would you like more creative solutions to time management and study woes? Check out my online course the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. It’s great for grown-ups and teens alike.

Memorizing Definitions: A Client Success Story!

Memorizing definitions accurately can be a real challenge for students. Not to mention booooring!

Here’s an “anti-boring approach” success story from a client who used what I call my “formula technique” to learn and memorize some complex definitions in a higher level class.  When I checked in with him at the end of the school year, he credited this technique for transforming his ability to be prepared for tests.

Check it out and let me know if it would work for you, too!

 

Would you like to learn more great tips like this? My online course The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying is filled with 30+ tools for rocking school.

 

3 Surprising Ways to Turn Your Math Grade Around

I know that summer is here for most students ..so math is the last thing you might want to think of. However, I couldn’t wait to share this trick!

The other day, I was talking with a client of mine who has been struggling in her math class. Trying to decide if she needed a tutor or not, we came up with some ways that might help her turn her grade around, and they worked!! Check out what we came up with:

What experiences do you have with coming up with creative solutions for turning your grades around? I’d love to hear. Also, check out this cool link that’ll give you more surprisingly awesome ways to be a great student!

What To Do When You’re Stressing About Homework

Does doing homework stress you (or your teen) out?

I don’t know of *anyone* who loves homework: parents, teachers, or students. Yet we all have to deal with it!

Although I can’t totally take the stress out of homework for anyone, a client and I recently discussed a different way to *think* about homework. Check it out here:


If you got in the habit of thinking about homework in this way, how would it change your experience of your work?

I’d love to hear from you…. including any questions you have! We may just tackle your question on the College Prep Podcast. Comment Below

What Hot Dates and Homework Have In Common

Prior to today’s coaching session, I had no idea that hot dates and homework have ANYTHING to do with each other. Turns out that they do, quite a bit.

Meet Ulysses: a high school freshman who is charismatic, thoughtful, and funny. He’s been struggling with a constant stream of zeroes in his classes.

He’s often loopy during our Skype sessions, which occur when he’s exhausted after Lacrosse practice. As a result, we often veer off into crazy tangents, though lately I have grown to trust the wisdom in our seemingly random deviations.

Today there was another zero in the online grade book. Sigh. A Spanish assignment this time. According to Ulysses, he had done his homework, albeit incorrectly, and thankfully his teacher would allow him to resubmit it.

I suspected a deeper learning issue and inquired further. It became clear that Ulysses had completed this homework assignment in class while everyone else was watching a video. Aha!

Wanting to be diplomatic, I observed: “There was something good about you choosing to do the homework in class, and also something problematic. Can you guess what was what?”

“Yeah, I was being proactive about getting my homework done. That was the good part,” he said and I agreed.

“The problematic part was that I was not paying attention, and I didn’t read the instructions correctly.” True, yes, although I wanted him to think more deeply about how his learning was impacted by his choice to multi-task.

Suddenly, a strange analogy popped to mind. At first, I didn’t trust it, but Ulysses cajoled with a twinkle in his eye, “Just say it, Gretchen. Just say it!”

Encouraged, I asked, “What if this homework assignment was actually a cute girl you were taking out on a date?”

Ulysses took the analogy and ran with it. “I get it! I rushed the date, not paying any attention to her, trying to get it over with as fast as possible. Instead, I should have taken her to a nice dinner, bought her flowers, asked lots of questions, and really gotten to know her.”

“Yes! So, what does all this have to do with your Spanish homework?”

It took some back-and-forth, but Ulysses finally understood that he had not been respecting his own learning. He was doing his homework just to get it done, without any attention to using the assignment as a legitimate learning tool. As it turns out, he really struggles with Spanish. He’s not going to learn it well unless he slows down and commits to being in an active, intimate relationship with his own learning.

Practically speaking, what does it look like to be in active, intimate relationship with one’s own learning?

(And this is where I’m afraid I must leave the analogy of dating, lest I extend the metaphor way too far).

1. Read the instructions to fully understand what is being asked.

2. Take a moment to reflect: Does this assignment teach me something new? Or is it asking me to practice something to which I have already been introduced? How much do I already know? What needs more practice?

3. Complete the assignment. Notice what tasks come easily, and what don’t. Take extra time with the ones that don’t.

4. After completing the assignment, reflect: What do I know now that I didn’t know a moment ago? What have I not yet mastered?

5. If there is anything that needs more mastery, make a plan. Will you ask the teacher for help? Go to peer tutoring? Consult the textbook?

OK. So maybe doing your homework isn’t quite as exciting as a hot date.

However, the skills you can practice while doing your homework mindfully — noticing the details, being curious, asking good questions, paying close attention to what is (and is not) working, adjusting accordingly, and being clear about next steps — are pretty sexy. And might just earn you another date!

What is/was your relationship with homework or other work like? How can you treat your work more like a hot date? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Do you know students who could afford to treat their homework more like a hot date? Be sure to forward this article to them!

Photo Credit: Image by Kevin Dooley under Creative Commons license.