You gotta love her method:
- “Discard ‘C’”
(Martin Seligman’s wonderful book, Flourish, is full of these kinds of nuggets.)
Research keeps pouring out about the importance of sleep. Inadequate sleep is implicated in anxiety, depression, other emotional disorders, attention issues, unhealthy weight gain and poor cognition.
And sleep is essential to learning, because the material we learn during the day needs to be processed during sleep. All that studying is counter-productive if students are staying up too late to then “sleep on it” and let the information sink in.
This is the most hectic, fragmented, high-pressure time of the school year, and I know we all feel pulled in a million directions. But Mother Nature doesn’t care about all our ambitions; she still insists that the #1 Priority must be sleep.
Here are a few suggestions for making enough sleep happen:
- Get homework done immediately upon arriving home. Don’t take a break first; just dive right in and plow through and save the break for evening.
- Look for small bits of time during the day to get started on studying; even those two minutes before class begins can be used to begin reading an assignment, thinking about a paper topic, start a math problem (you need not finish it right then and there), etc.
- No electronics in the bedroom. Keep them downstairs.
- Set a bedtime that allows at least 8 hours of sleep (and really really really it ought to be 9+ hours for students), then reverse-engineer the day to make sleep the top priority. Some favorite activities simply will not fit into the daily schedule; save them for summer.
- No glowing screens after 10 PM (or whatever is one hour before bedtime). The light from computers, TVs and smart phones disrupts sleep.
- Review flash cards, vocab words, etc, before bed: You’ll wake up remembering them better!
- Read something relaxing and/or boring in bed before you go to sleep.
- Record your favorite shows and look forward to watching them this summer. DO NOT watch exciting TV …
The SAT (or ACT) is that sort of friend, a supplier of not-always-flattering truths. Those scores are a reality bite, and although many students are dismayed, I don’t think they are usually surprised.
I suggest that students view their SAT or ACT results as a wake-up call, a spotlight shining onto the skills they ought to finally get a handle on.
Too many students drag their weak academic areas around with them like a ball and chain, trying to ignore them, too frightened and confused to know how to fix them.
And most students experience an enormous sense of relief and empowerment when they improve in a skill that’s been holding them back.
So make NOW be the time you make a dent in that weak vocabulary…or improve those critical reading skills…or brush up those shaky math concepts.
One great thing about these standardized tests? Some focused work in a specific area, done consistently between now and the next test, can make a noticeable and satisfying difference. I suggest you select one or two areas you need to improve on and concentrate on those.
And, here are some great free resources you can take advantage of:
- The SAT website gives some good information and tips on how to improve your scores, plus a free full-length online practice test.
- Here’s a link to many good videos containing specific advice on how to handle many kinds of SAT and ACT questions.
- Khan Academy has a ton of helpful test prep and math help videos and exercises.
- I’ve created this simple calendar/checklist to help students stay on track with their daily SAT/ACT practice. Print a copy and hang it in a prominent location (refrigerator door, bathroom mirror, etc) so that family members will all look for those check marks and help reinforce daily practice.
- Visit my website for other free resources and ideas.
Math homework is necessary for the same reason practicing the piano is necessary: it’s one thing to “get” what the teacher taught during the lesson, but it’s another thing to be able to perform that same skill independently and fluently.
Yet, all too many students practice math incorrectly, and they therefore gain little benefit, or even worse, they solidify misunderstandings and bad habits.
Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but enough practice does make permanent, which is why guitar teachers, ski instructors, and golf pros are all such sticklers for proper form; they know how hard it is to unlearn errors that have become ingrained.
Many students will do a whole page of math and never check their answers. How do they know they were doing the right procedures? (Answer: They don’t.)
Or, students check their answers after completing the entire assignment, and only then discover that their answers don’t match up with those in the back of the book. In both such cases students tend to declare: Oh, well, the teacher will go over it in class tomorrow.
But in each of these scenarios, the student has now thoroughly practiced BEING WRONG.
Here’s the right way to do math (or math-related) homework:
- Locate the answer key. If it’s in the back of the textbook, insert a bookmark or Post-it note for easy back-and-forth flipping.
- Do the first problem.
- Check it on the answer key.
- If you were correct, move on to the next problem.
- If you were incorrect, figure out what you did wrong before you move on.
- Check your arithmetic; did you make a careless mistake?
- If you realize you don’t understand how to do the problem, go to your notebook or your textbook and page through until you find the topic and carefully follow the explanation.
- Still stumped? You can get help on www.KhanAcademy.org. Or, ask a friend or parent or sibling for help.
- Only as a last resort, put a star next to the problem and make sure and ask the teacher for help tomorrow.
- Proceed to …
It’s my third time teaching this class, and I’m finally feeling like I’m getting the curriculum shaped into a form I like a lot.
I’m trying to create something more than just an SAT class: I blend in research-based study tips, plus I’m trying to get my students embarked on some good habits that they’ll need to succeed in college and in life:
- Studying with focus (which includes doing without cellphone and music)
- Studying consistently, over time (not cramming the day before the test)
- Keeping a Study Journal so as to plan, track progress, and stay motivated
- Practicing by writing (annotating, working math problems on paper) not by just looking over one’s notes (a very ineffective method)
- Quizzing and testing oneself as a study method, as well as to assess progress (good old-fashioned flash cards are a great learning method, because the brain learns best with quizzing and repetition).
After each class, I’ve been posting on my website my outline, notes and assignments.
I’ve also inserted links to many useful and free online videos, worksheets and interactive practice. My students use these posts for review or to catch up if they miss a class, and…
Anyone who wants to follow along at home each week is welcome to access all of these materials and use them as a FREE do-it-yourself SAT prep class!
We’ve had two classes so far (there will be six in all):
Session One (January 26)
Session Two (February 2)
I will post notes for the remaining classes after I teach them, on the following dates: Feb 9, 16, 23 and March 2. Just go to my website, www.LeighCousins.com, click on the “Tests” page, and visit the purple box.
A student who follows my notes and does the work ought to be well-prepared for the March 9 SAT or any other SAT this year. (Make sure and register soon for the March 9 exam!)
It would thrill me to have any or all of you …
Ever since our trip to Iceland in July I’ve been enamored of all things Icelandic, including the language.
Every Icelander we met spoke lilting, perfect English to us, and then chattered to one another in a jaunty Nordic blur punctuated by frequent smiles and exclamations of Yow!
Our favorite tour guide was a college student in his early 20′s. Chiseled, blond, and surely a direct descendant of Leif Erickson, Tucker turned out instead to be a skateboarder dude from Wisconsin.
Tucker had discovered that the University of Iceland provides free tuition, room, board and health care to any student, regardless of citizenship, just so long as they speak Icelandic; he grabbed a self-study language course and hunkered down to practice every day…and, two years later, here he was! Yow!
The brain is amazingly “plastic,” and even if it’s not “good at” some subject, if you work at it little by little, consistently, learning will happen!
But what if you, or your student, just haaaaates some subject?…and therefore avoids it like the plague? All the more reason to chip away at it, little by little. Research shows that liking increases with expertise, and with familiarity.
She describes the little-by-little process the French use to slowly educate their kids’ taste buds and learn to love a wide range of foods:
My American baby books recognize that certain foods are an acquired taste. They say …
I love TED talks; I watch them often, I show them in my classes, and I routinely share them with loved ones and students.
There are a number of TED talks that have, without exaggeration, profoundly and permanently changed my own life for the better.
At the first meeting of my new How to Talk to Your Kids class, parents took turns introducing themselves. Lo and behold, every parent had boys and only boys (except for one mom who also had a baby girl; she hastened to explain that her daughter was “easy” and it was her son she was concerned about).
Next time, I’ll call the class How to Talk to Your Sons.
The parents of boys report a common set of problems. Their sons are lazy. They procrastinate. They don’t talk and they don’t listen. They don’t ask for help and they resist advice.
The boys approach their studies with attitudes of defiance and bravado. They under-prepare for tests and then shrug off the poor grades. School is stupid, reading is boring and why do we have to learn this math, anyway? They seem immune to learning from their mistakes. They study even less for the next test, not more.
Of course, not all boys are like this, and plenty of girls fit the profile. Still, this constellation of typically male character traits and attitudes plays less and less well in our evolving economy and culture. David Brooks wrote:
To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks.
In elementary and high school, male academic performance is lagging. Boys earn three-quarters of the D’s and F’s. By college, men are clearly behind. Only 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees go to men, along with 40 percent of master’s degrees.
Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent.
Brooks was responding to Hannah Rosin’s new book, The End of Men, in which she suggests that men are suffering from a lack of adaptability.
Women, Rosin argues, are like immigrants who have moved to …
Decades ago I discovered a terrific ab crunch routine; it’s quick, easy, shows results within days, and it isn’t even especially painful or uncomfortable…and yet…
I haven’t been doing it.
And I dislike the realities that stem from my slacking. I always love the treat of un-boxing my summer clothes; this June I was so disappointed to find several of my favorite dresses were too tight around the middle.
I’m sitting with 14-year-old Emma; we’re doing her algebra homework side by side. We started at the same time, but I’m on problem #3 and she’s already on #8.
Does that surprise you? After all, I’m the math tutor who has been doing this stuff for decades. And I’m not purposely trying to work slowly. Emma really is mentally faster than me.
I’m used to this by now. I work with many teens with super-high IQs who process information at lightening speed. Why on earth do they need a tutor?
Emma glances over at my paper. My work is in neat columns. All the steps are written out. Emma sees that her answers differ from mine on problems #1 and #3. She notices that she’s dropped a negative sign in problem #1. And she left out part of the equation in problem #3 because she didn’t bother to write it down; she was “doing it in her head.”
She goes back and fixes her errors; by now I’m on problem #6.
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