How to Make a Final Exam Study Plan

Do you ever feel lost or stressed when it comes time to start studying for final exams?

I know a lot of my clients have over the years, and so I wanted to share with you all my favorite technique for how to organize your final exam study plan.

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with this summary:

In this video, I show you my favorite way to organize how to study for final exams and get it all on one page. And this, especially when you have multiple final exams, is very important as you have a LOT of details you have to prepare. So to start, you want to start about 3 weeks out, even if you haven’t received all your information for the final exams, and draw out on a sheet of paper a calendar as seen below.

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Basically, you want to start out with a blank sheet of paper or white board, and then draw a table that has 7 columns and 3 rows (or more or less depending on how many weeks out your finals are. Then above each column put the day, and I like to start on Mondays and have the weekends grouped together. Then we want to number the days, so Monday the 1st, Tuesday the 2nd, etc. Next, on the final week we want to put in when our final exams are, so if you are in high school you likely have 2 exams a day and it might look something like above, with English and History on Monday, Math on Tuesday, Science on Wednesday, etc. Then in the weeks prior we plan out what we are going to do to study. In the example above I said that on Tuesday we’d study English with 10 flash cards, math on Wednesday with 10 flash cards, and then take a math sample text on Thursday. And my final tip is to leave Friday’s empty that way you can really focus your studying on the weekends when you have free time and give yourself Friday afternoon’s off; because let’s be honest, no one wants to do anything on Friday afternoon.

If you found this tip helpful, you can find a LOT more tips for studying and time management in my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, so please go check that out!

College Prep Podcast Episode 162 – Summer Programs, Study Guides, Improving Vocab, & More

Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, Q/A, Q&A, Q & A, Questions and Annswers, Summer Programs for college prep, Teachers, Incomplete Study Guides, Apps for Vocab Improvement, Singing to Music When Studying, What's Wrong with my college application?, University, Universities, You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! Join us as we discuss the following questions:

Summer Programs for College Prep: We are looking at the Stanford University “High School Summer College” program for our son. The classes are interesting, and it looks like a good experience. My question is will this help him get into Stanford or other similar schools when he is a senior?

When Teachers Give Incomplete Study Guides: What do you do if your teacher doesn’t list some facts/ideas on the study guide but does put those questions on the test? How do you study?

Apps for Vocab Improvement: I’m wondering if you know of any apps or programs that would help a high school student develop a deeper understanding of words… I imagine through word study including roots, prefixes, and suffixes. I have some old=school tools but would like to give her something a little more user-friendly for working on at home. Ideas?

Singing to Music When Studying: I’ve heard you say that it’s ok to listen to music while studying, but what about if you are singing along with that music? Can you really concentrate and use your full brain if you are singing while doing your homework?

What’s Wrong With My College Application? My son is completing his 12th grade and has applied to several good universities. He did his 9th and 10th from a school in India and will graduate from high school in Texas. He scores A*s in all subjects. His current GPA is 4.1. He scored 800 in SAT Math and 760 in English. He plays guitar, is a black belt in Karate and knows multiple languages- English, French, German, Hindi. With all these qualifications he is still not getting selected by Universities. Why? What is missing for him? How can we supplement his existing applications in other universities? Can we appeal?

Click here to listen in as Gretchen Wegner and Megan Dorsey answer your questions!

Do You Get Bored When Studying? Try This!

Do you ever get bored using the same studying technique over and over again?

I have a client who, until recently, has used nothing but flashcards when preparing for all her tests. Because we’d developed a number of fun ways to use flashcards, she enjoyed this as a study technique. In her most recent session, however, she revealed that she’s finally getting bored with flashcards and wants some alternative methods for retrieving information. Watch this week’s video to see what solution we came up with for her.

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

I’ve been working hard this year with a client, who is a freshman in high school, to understand the Study Cycle, and to fill her toolbox of study techniques. And until recently she’s really only used flash cards, and this was fine for a while because we found a variety of different ways to use the flash cards. However, she came to me this week and said, I have a history exam I need to study for, and I don’t really feel like using flash cards.

The awesome thing is, that since she’s been working through the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, she had already chosen and started using a new study technique. In this case, she was using what I call a T-Chart. And she reported that studying felt fresh and new, and she was enjoying using this new technique more than the flash cards.

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In this instance, the flash cards were like a screwdriver in her toolbox. Up until now, it’s worked fine to help her unscrew (dissect and learn) the materials she needed to study; however, now she needed to hammer something in (study for her history exam) and the T-Chart was just the hammer she needed.

So, I recommend that you spend some time thinking of different study techniques and start building your toolbox. And if you don’t feel like you have enough tools, then you can always check out The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Why the Word “Study” is the Worst Word to Write in Your Planner

Never Write the Word “Study” in Your Planner. Here’s Why.

It doesn’t take long for a teenager who’s just started working with me to learn this — I hate the word “study.”

Well, obviously that’s not completely true. My passion is teaching students to study strategically, and I couldn’t do this work if the word “study” weren’t involved. However, I do believe strongly that the word study does NOT belong in a student’s planner or To Do list. Neither does the word “review.” Check out the video for a full description of why.

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

I was working with a client recently on the skill “verberizing,” which is about finding really strong specific words for the tasks that you need to do when you are doing homework or studying to make it an easy instruction for you and your brain to know exactly what you need to do next. Now before we continue, I want you to look at the following four options and think about which of these would be the best way to verberize “study french” in her planner.

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My client had written, “Study French,” to which I cringed and said, “Eeeh, I don’t like that.” Of course, she responded, “Oh my god Gretchen you always make me change these,” and I thought it was rather funny, but said, “I know, so let’s do it.” Next, she erased “Study French” and wrote “Review Subjunctive.” I still said it wasn’t clear enough. Then she wrote, “Go over Subjunctives.” This was getting there, but “go over” still doesn’t tell me what she needs to be doing. It’s very broad, and I can’t picture in my mind what the steps would be for “go over subjunctives.” So I had her change it one more time. This time she wrote, “Finish subjunctive worksheets.” This was MUCH better. You see she realized she had unfinished worksheets for subjunctives, and what better way is there to study subjunctives than to finish the worksheets – a readily available tool. Not to mention this tells her exactly what she needs to be doing next.

Now you might be wondering, why is writing super specific instructions in your planner so important. Well, the answer is that “verberizing,” or making sure your planner has crystal clear instructions, is important because it helps ensure that your brain has no excuses about following through on your plan/to-do as the instructions are so simple and crystal clear.

If you’d like more instructions and information about “verberizing,” including an extensive list of verbs you can use in your planner, you should check out my course!

Q&A: Math Mistakes, Gap Years, Distracted Studying & More

Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | College Prep Podcast | Q&A | Q/A | Math | GAP Years | Scholarships | Early Action school | Studying | Study | Universities | Communication |

It’s another Q&A Show! Here are the questions that we tackle in this episode:

1. Weird Mistakes in Math. My math teacher is a little confusing, which gets me doing weird things that complicate matters on simple problems. Mom thinks it could be that I’m making it complicated in my head, and I can see that, but I don’t know exactly. Thanks for the offer, and I think I’ll try it, ~ Ella, Middle School Student

2. Gap Years and Scholarships. I have been a fan for years and really appreciate your podcast. My daughter is a senior, and she was accepted to her highly selective Early Action school, so things are looking good and the pressure is off! Now we’re waiting for the other schools to respond from the regular decision round. My question is about applying for scholarships when you are planning to take a gap year. My daughter has not told any of her schools that she is planning to take a gap year, but she will ask the ones that she is deciding between if it’s OK after she has all of her acceptances. We already know that the Early Action school is a very pro-gap year and I think the others will be fine with it too, they’re all private liberal arts schools. As she’s been looking into scholarships, she has found that they all apply to students who are going to start college this fall. So, if she applied and received one of these scholarships, would she then have to tell them she’s taking a gap year and then have to re-apply for it next year? If so, there’s no point in going through that, and maybe she should just wait to apply for scholarships next year.

3. Distraction When Studying. I got distracted every time I sit to study. I need some suggestions. ~Aish

4. Sports Communication. I have heard you mention in 2 previous podcasts that you have a student you are working with that is interested in Sports Communication. My son Sam is a junior, and he is interested in Communication, sports or political journalism or broadcasting, and we are also in Texas. He is homeschooled, and we do not have a high school counselor. I would love to know any helpful information you have found for this student and what this field looks like regarding universities, especially in Texas.

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

Every Student, Teacher, And Parent Should Memorize This ASAP

Hey Y’all, I’ve got a very special video for you today. I strongly believe that every student, teacher, and parent out there should memorize what I call The Study Cycle. It needs to be a part of the daily language in classrooms and households. Normally I keep this video locked up in my paid online courses, but today I’m releasing it for you to watch for FREE!

Check out the video here. And then — if you’re a teacher, tutor, school administrator or academic coach, please considering joining me for my upcoming course The Art of Inspiring students to Study Strategically. We start on February 27th. You will learn everything you need to know to ensure that students have the tools they need to rock their learning with or without 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.

How to Make Sure You Follow Through On a Plan

Do you ever get a good idea about something you want to do in the future? But you don’t act on it right away, and soon enough you forget the idea… and nothing ever happens?

Recently, I was working with a client who had a very good idea about how to make sure he studies well for his next test! Check out the video to find out how he almost sabotaged his good idea… until I made sure he did one little thing that prompted him to follow through.

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

Recently I was working with my client, preparing his study plans for his final exams. He had the idea to study with his friend, which I thought was a wonderful idea. So I asked him, “when are you going to study with her?”, to which he replied, “Oh I don’t know, but I’ll study with her.” He was procrastinating, so I suggest he send her an invitation to study right now. He laughed and agreed, saying, “you got me if I do it now I’m more likely to follow through.” This is a perfect example of how the “team” part of my “Tools, Team, Routine” triangle I teach in the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

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The “team” part of “Tools, Team, & Routine” is not just him studying with his classmate, but also utilizing me as a source to make sure he doesn’t procrastinate contacting his classmate and setting up the time to study. It’s usually other people’s presence that helps us take action on difficult tasks. I know this is true for me, as I always save my hardest tasks for when I’m working with co-workers. It’s a great help to have someone there to help us not procrastinate.

If you’d like to learn more about “Tools, Team, & Routine” or just want other amazing tips on how to follow through on a plan, check out my course here.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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!

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 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

Here’s An Easy Fix to a Teen Calendaring Problem

Time management and organization are vital pieces for successful study habits and grades.

All too often, students do not have their cell phones or calendars attached to their laptops. In this video, I offer a simple way to connect and see the “big picture” of what needs to be done each week.

I am hoping everyone can benefit from this helpful tip!

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

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.