Take Notes That Make You Smile

Let’s play a quick word association game! When I say “note taking,” what’s the first thing you think of? I just *bet* that the word you thought of is more likely to make you frown than smile. But note taking doesn’t have to be that way!

Check out these cool notes that my friend Jo took at a conference she attended recently. I bet you’ll smile, too.

Hey there, while I highly recommend watching the video to get the full effect, here’s a short summary for you:

My friend Jo and I were at a conference and I noticed that she has some of the most amazing notes I’ve seen in a long time. So here are some of those tips.

  • Start with a large title at the top, so you know what that page of notes is about.
  • Next up, you can split a page up into sections. For example, you could draw a line down the middle, with the notes on the right, tips and tricks on the right, or other relevant information, perhaps the location of information you need.
  • Then we have the use of visual imaging. Basically, make small doodles along with your notes that help you visualize what the notes are about.
  • Try and use colors, as these can make notes more fun, and they help bring attention to the notes.
  • You can also try and group notes that are similar into chunks so that you can more easily find and take action on those notes.

Are you thinking, “That’s cool and all, Gretchen, but I need step-by-step support to figure out how to take decent notes?”
Then I recommend checking this out: In my typical anti-boring fashion, I’ll walk you through the two steps to note-taking that will transform your ability to capture the key points of a lecture or book, and four simple ingredients that you can apply to any note-taking method to make it more effective.

A Silly Way to Memorize Math Formulas

As midterms approach, that one math test is approaching. Yes, the one that has seven formulas to go with it. How are you ever going to remember all of the formulas without mixing them up?

Here’s a recommendation I made to a student regarding a silly, quick way to memorize math formulas! Check it out and let me know if there is a clever trick that works for you!

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

While many teachers nowadays allow students to have little flashcards or cheat sheets with their math formulas on them, there are still plenty that don’t. So in the case that you need to memorize your math formulas, I recommend finding some silly anti-boring methods for how to get these formulas into your brain. My client Sam and I were doing just this today. He needed to memorize the formula for compound interest which is A=P(1+r/n)nt. Now our brains work very well with narrative and imagery so as I was looking at this formula I came up with a story.

First I noticed that A=P made me think of “ape” so that’s the start of our story. Next, the parenthesis reminds me of a couple of bananas. So the story goes, “Once upon a time there was an A=P, and that ape really wanted some bananas (). So he started by picking 1 banana, but something scared him so he ran off (+r/n), so he did not (nt) get any more bananas.” After we came up with this little story for remembering the formula, I quizzed Sam on the formula verbally and in writing, so we were using all the study senses, and he got it down pat. Afterward, I recommend to his family, that they spend some time coming up with stories for the other formulas he needed to study.

I hope that this tip helped you, and if you have a silly method for memorizing math formulas let me know down in the comments. And if you want more tips on how to study in silly anti-boring ways please consider checking out my course.

A Silly Tool (to Buy this summer) That Keeps Students Motivated

Do you ever have trouble staying motivated to do hard tasks? Whether you’re 7 or 70, I think we all have trouble with this!

Several weeks ago, my 7-year-old nephew was visiting me from Pennsylvania. We had lots of fun trips planned, but he ALSO had some summer homework to do (ugh). He TOTALLY didn’t want to do it.
Luckily, I have the tool that’s in this video laying around my apartment. I’ve seen it work on 17-year-olds, but apparently, it works for younger folks as well. He got his homework done, and when we were skyping after he returned home, he asked, “Auntie Gretchen, can you show Ayla that ‘easy’ button?”

Check out the tool that kept him motivated in the video above!

 

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

I’m curious, do you tend to notice the good things you do as often as you do the things you think you are doing wrong? I’ve noticed, in my work as an Academic Life Coach, that most students tend to just pay attention to the things they have or are doing wrong.

So as an academic life coach, I try to instill in my clients the idea that they should be paying attention to the things they do right as well, and I have a funny story to share about one of my clients. Whenever he’s done something well, in this week’s case it was finishing up his college applications, we hit the “Easy” Button. It’s a silly little congratulatory tool that we use, and have a lot of fun with. I’ve found it’s a nice little motivational bonus for getting through hard tasks.

What silly tools keep YOU motivated? I’d love to hear.

How to Tell Your Professor About Your Learning Difference

Do you have a learning difference that impacts your experience of school?

How do you feel about telling your teachers and professors about it?
Many of my clients resist telling their professors because it’s such a vulnerable thing to admit! However, this is such an important conversation, it’s important to know how to psych yourself up for it.

Here’s how I recommended that one of my clients inform their professors about her learning difference.

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

 

I was just walking around a lake near my house with a client of mine, who goes to college out of state, and when she came back after this last quarter, we decided to do an outside meeting instead of the usual meeting in my office. And it was so great to hear her reflections about what she learned in this last quarter, and I there was one thing, in particular, I wanted to discuss with you all today that she told me about.

This client has a learning difference, and she had an interesting reflection around how she wants to discuss this with her professors in the future. She has a piece of paper she usually presents to her professors at the start of each semester, that states she is entitled to extended time on tests if she needs it. However; what she realized, is that she wants to make this presentation in the second week of class, that way she has time to look over the syllabus, get to know how this professor teaches, and to make some notes for herself about what specific problems she might have in this particular class, with their specific syllabus, and their specific teaching style. This way, when she goes to talk to her professors she can personalize the presentation and discuss with her professors what troubles she might have and have some open dialogue with her professors about how she might get help with those specific issues she might have.

Want more tips and tricks for how to handle a learning difference? My course has lots of great tips, tricks, and ideas that can help you to manage your learning difference and be successful, so please consider checking it out!

An Easy and Fun Way to Memorize Anything

It’s officially fall! As the temperature drops, the semester is just heating up. Students are starting to sweat through harder tests and more complex assignments. Is this true for you?

Recently, a client who has difficulty with short term memory was assigned one day to memorize the preamble of the constitution. For a young man with a learning difference, this was a Herculean task!

We came up with a fun approach that might be helpful to the rest of you, so I wanted to pass it on.

Take a look at this quick 2-minute video explanation. Then, use the comments section below to tell me whether you think this might work for you. Are there other memorization tricks that rock your world?

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

So as I said, I was working with a young man who needed to memorize the preamble of the Constitution, and this can be used by anyone who is struggling to memorize material. The first thing I had him do was look at the preamble and take note of how many parts there were to the sentence or material. In the case of the preamble, there were 8 sections that he noted. Next, we went part by part and drew a picture to represent each part. The first picture I drew was 3 stick people which represented “We the people”, and every time I held this up I made him say “We the people”. The second image was two wedding rings to represent “in order to form a more perfect union”. As before, I start by showing the first image, then the second and made him repeat them both. From there we kept going, doing an image, practice all images in order a few times, and then we’d move to the next image.

By the end of it, he hadn’t quite memorized the whole thing; however, he could do it with the pictures. So I had him practice it some more on his own, and the next day, when I texted him to check up, he had it memorized! The key here is breaking down something large into smaller more manageable pieces and then using images to help create connections in our brain.

Did this trick help you? Want more awesome tips and tricks like this one? Please consider checking out my course.

What Makes Homework Different Than Studying

Many of my academic coaching clients have a devil of a time studying for tests.  The reasons are varied, but one major stumbling block I’ve uncovered is this: students do not understand the purpose that homework plays in preparing them for tests! Our current education system rewards students for mindlessly following teacher’s instructions, rather than thinking about the purpose behind the instructions. I’ve repeatedly discovered that it’s my role as an academic coach to help students uncover the connections between homework and what’s on the test.

Let’s look at two clients in particular, who are learning to understand the distinction between studying versus doing homework, and how both tasks are a crucial part of test preparation.

Michaela and Grant are both 9th graders who are consistently scoring Cs and Ds on their history tests. The other day I asked Michaela to show me her homework assignments, and sure enough: it appeared to me that she had copied the definitions from the textbook into her homework assignment.

Technically speaking, Michaela is answering her homework questions correctly; however, when she copies the definitions, she’s not actually internalizing the information she’s supposedly “learning.” When I asked her if she even pays attention to the meaning of what she’s writing, she confirmed, “No, I don’t. I just scan for the answers and write them down. That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?”

It hadn’t occurred to Michaela that the purpose of homework is to be introduced to new information, and then to practice that information with the purpose of learning it. If she mindlessly reads and answers questions, she *might* get a 100% on her homework assignment — but she’s making studying for the test extra hard.

We then discussed the difference between doing homework (when the teacher structures the learning activity, and you make sure you’ve learned it) and studying (when you structure your own learning activity to make sure that you’re understanding the information).

Michaela was shocked, and a little disheartened, to learn that test prep begins waaaaaaay back when she first does a homework assignment. It’s important for her to:

a) think actively when completing the teacher-assigned activity, so that she is aware of of what she is learning as she learns it (this is homework), and then

b) take some time to determine her strengths and weaknesses, and then (using multiple modalities) drill the weak areas and reinforce the strengths (this is studying).

If she does her homework with conscious attention to what she’s learning, and then several times a  chooses to study what she’s learned, she will be much better prepared for the eventual test.

Another client named Grant was working on a history worksheet during our coaching session. At one point, the worksheet asked Grant to make a list of the five beliefs shared by the enlightenment philosophers. Just as Michaela had done, Grant copied the beliefs directly from the textbook. When I asked him, “Do you even understand what you are writing? Would you be able to remember what these mean for the test?” he answered honestly,  “Probably not.”

Together we practiced going back, rereading the textbook, looking up confusing words, summarizing the information, and only THEN writing it down into his homework. Although this kind of mindful attention is more time-consuming, it saves time in the long run because Grant will not need to re-learn the information the night before the test.

I know it will probably take Michaela and Grant a couple of years before they fully “get” the distinction between studying and doing homework and how both impact their time efficiency and performance on tests. Both students have learning disabilities which make them slower processors, which makes the entire learning process — as well as thinking about their own thinking — a bit harder for them. Many students don’t fully integrate these processes until college!

In the meantime, Michaela and Grant will practice, practice practice. I’ve been an academic coach for long enough, I know that by the end of their sophomore year, they will (most likely) turn the corner and be more interested in improving their learning processes. One step at a time…

If you’d like a free fifteen minute consultation about your student and whether he or she could benefit from academic coaching, please contact me. I’d be happy to talk in more detail.

Photo by icanhascheezburger.com.