Motivation and Study Skills
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Beach Cities Tutoring is offering summer classes for students of varying ages in executive functioning, mindfulness, and stress management! Often very smart children and teens struggle in school because they lack these skills. Please inquire for more info and registration info. We also offer this type of service on an individual basis. Angela who will be conducting the classes has a Phd in Transformative Learning and 30 years of teaching experience.
With finals fast approaching, I wanted to address the issue of test anxiety because tutoring can help students learn strategies to overcome test and school anxiety in general that will help them succeed far beyond the limitations of this type of anxiety.
Test anxiety is almost universal among students of all nationalities and ethnicities. In fact, it is unusual to find a student who doesn’t approach a big test without a high level of anxiety. Symptoms of test anxiety can include an upset stomach, headache, loss of focus, fear, irritability, anger and even depression. Emotional stress can greatly impact a student’s performance on tests and in school in general. Stress can inhibit students’ abilities to absorb, retain and recall information. It can be a vicious cycle as feelings such as frustration, fear, anger and anxiety cause the neural activity in the two branches of the autonomic nervous system to become disconnected. As a result, this negatively impacts the synchronized activity in the brain, disrupting our ability to think clearly.
Conversely, positive feelings and accomplishments can lead to increased harmony and synchronization in the brain and nervous system, which facilitates our ability to think more clearly. This is where tutoring comes in. Tutors can provide students with tools and strategies that build both emotional skills and healthy physical habits when preparing for a test can help them overcome test anxiety and the associated symptoms, while improving their ability to prepare for and perform on critical testing.
It’s important to help students identify what they are feeling and give them tools that will help them learn to manage emotions such as anxiety, self-doubt, anger or frustration. The proper physical habits enable students to have enough energy and stamina for their brain to do its job of thinking and analyzing for a sustained period of time.
Below are some tips from Heart Math that tutors can teach and help students practice
Tips for Students
Practice the neutral tool: When you have uncomfortable feelings about whether you will do well on the test, practice the neutral tool. It’s important to catch negative mind loops that reinforce self-doubt or uncomfortable feelings. Every time you catch a negative thought repeating itself, stop the loop and practice going to neutral. Start by focusing on the area around your heart. This helps to take the focus off the mind loop. Then breathe deeply. Breathe as if your breath is flowing in and out through the center of your chest. Breathe quietly and naturally, four-five seconds on the in-breath, and four-five seconds on the out-breath. While you’re breathing, try and find an attitude of calmness about the situation. Do this in the days leading up to the test, right before and during the test.
Address the what-if questions: A lot of times before we have to do something like take a test, much of the anxiety we feel is a build-up from negative “what-if’” thoughts. What if I fail, what if I can’t remember anything, or what if I run out of time. Try writing a what-if question that is positive and can help you take the big deal out of the situation and begin to see things in a different way. Examples of these kinds of questions are, “What if I can remember more than I think I can?” “What if I can feel calmer than I think I can?”
Think good thoughts: Science is showing that good feelings like appreciation can actually help your brain work better. When you feel nervous or anxious, try this. You can do it as many times as you need to or want to. Remember something that makes you feel good. Maybe it is your pet or how you felt when you got a big hug from your mom, or how you felt after a super fun day at the amusement park with your friends. After you remember how you felt, hold that feeling. Pretend you are holding it in your heart. Let yourself feel that feeling for 10-20 seconds or more. It’s important to let yourself really feel that good feeling all over again. Practice this tool right before the big test.
Get enough sleep: Big tests require a lot of energy and stamina to be able to focus for several hours. Make sure you get at least eight-10 hours of sleep the night before the test.
Have fun: Do something fun the night before to take your mind off the test, like see a movie, play a board game with your family or participate in a sports activity. That way your mind and emotions are more relaxed in the time leading up to the test.
Eat a hearty breakfast: The brain needs a lot of energy to maintain focus on a big test for several hours. Eat a hearty and healthy breakfast, including complex carbohydrates and protein to make your energy last as long as possible. Foods such as eggs, cereal and whole-wheat toast help energize your brain to think more clearly and much longer compared with the fast-disappearing bolt of energy from drinking a soda pop or eating a cookie for breakfast. For a snack food, bring simple foods such as peanut butter and crackers, cheese and crackers or a burrito to sustain energy until lunch.
If your teen seems resistant to reading during the summer you are not alone! Here are some Dos/Don’ts to help motivate your teen to read.
- Criticize what teens read.Explain what troubles you about certain types of reading materials after reading them yourself. Forbid as little as possible. And whenever you can, accept differences of opinion as just that.
- Lavish too much praise.If you catch your teenagers reading, show interest, but don’t make a big deal out of it. Teens need to know that they’re reading for their own pleasure—not for your approval.
- Pressure, nag, or bribe. Encourage teens to read, but don’t hound them
- Set an example.Let teens see you reading for pleasure.
- Furnish your home with a variety of reading materials.Leave books, magazines, and newspapers around. Check to see what disappears for a clue to what interests your teenager.
- Give teens an opportunity to choose their own books.When you and your teen are out together, browse in a bookstore or library. Go your separate ways and make your own selections. A bookstore gift certificate is a nice way of saying, “You choose.”
- Build on your teen’s interests.Look for books and articles that feature their favorite sports teams, rock stars, hobbies, or television shows. Give a gift subscription to a special interest magazine.
- View pleasure reading as a value in itself. Almost anything your youngsters read—including the Sunday comics—helps build reading skills.
- Read some books written for teens.Young adult novels can give you valuable insights into the concerns and pressures felt by teenagers. You may find that these books provide a neutral ground on which to talk about sensitive subjects.
- Make reading aloud a natural part of family life.Share an article you clipped from the paper, a poem, a letter, or a random page from an encyclopedia—without turning it into a lesson.
- Acknowledge your teen’s mature interests.Look for ways to acknowledge the emerging adult in your teens by suggesting some adult reading you think they can handle.
- Keep the big picture in mind.For all sorts of reasons, some teenagers go through periods without showing much interest in reading. Don’t panic! Time, and a few tips from this article, may help rekindle their interest.
What Can Your Teen Get Out of Reading
Adults know how important it is for their teenagers to read. Reading is not just important while teens are in school; good reading skills are essential to future success in the workplace. But making a pitch for reading can be a real challenge. If you are the parent of a teenager who has lost interest in reading or never liked it much, here are some suggestions for connecting with your child about books and reading.
Through reading, teens can:
- Become an expert.An expert on any subject they like—from sports stats to spelunking, coins to carburetors, or anything in between.
- Live dangerously.Through reading teens can share the challenges, fears, thrills, and achievements of those they are reading about without the risk.
- Have a few laughs.Many teens will enjoy sitting down with a book by their favorite stand-up comedian, a collection of jokes or cartoons, or a humor magazine.
- See the world.Without leaving their room, teens can visit places that fascinate them.
- Travel through time.Historical fiction and science fiction move a reader back and forth in time.
- Use their brains.Teens may enjoy solving a mystery by figuring out whodunit, outwitting a crafty villain, or thinking through a perilous situation.
- Get some free advice. Lots of novels feature teenage characters who have problems and pressures similar to those your teenage may be dealing with.
- Discover new interests.Through reading, teens may develop an interest in something they knew nothing about before.
- Find a cause.Teens can get smart on an issue that matters to them.
- Teens can escape noise, tension, or boredom by escaping into a book.
- Let one good thing lead to another.When you read something that really speaks to you, you may be sorry to have it end. But the end is never really the end for a person who reads. You can always open another book, and another, and another.
Article adapted from “Reading is Fundamental” website
Just in time for finals and AP Exams! Here are some apps that will limit your procrastination and improve your time management and study strategies
- http://www.pomodorotechnique.com – this is an online timer to help you with focused study sessions.
- Stayfocusd for Google Chrome
- LeechBlock for Firefox: https://www.addons.mozilla.org/e-us/firefox/addon/leechblock
- MeeTimer for firefox tracks and logs where you spend your time online. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firebox/addon/meetimer/
- 43 Things- goal setting site http://www.43things.com
- StickK- goal setting site http://www.stickk.com
- Coffitivity- modest background noise similar to a coffee shop. http://coffitivity.com/
Planning and Flash Card Apps
- 30/30- combines timers with a task list. http://3030.binaryhammer.com
- Studyblue- combines flash cards and notes with text messages when its time to study again. http:///www.studyblue.com
- Evernote- one of my personal favorites; very poplar for noting task lists and random pieces of information. http://evernote.com
- Anki- http://akisrs.net one of the best pure flash card systems with excellent spaces repetition algorithm.
- Quizlet.com- allows you to input your own flashcards. http://www.quizlet.com
- Google Calendar- can help you organize your study schedule.
No, you are not alone! Now, is the time of year between February and April when students struggle the most in school. As a teacher, I think there are two main contributors:
- Class material is becoming more challenging and more complex
- Students are starting to feel physical and mental burn out
- Students can become overwhelmed and not able to manage their time efficiently with many after school activities.
So what should you do if your child/teen’s grades suddenly start to drop? Instead of yelling or accusing them of not studying, spending too much time with friends, social media, etc, the best approach can involve having a calm discussion to get your child to open up and for you to learn what may be the cause of the drop in grades.
Some areas to focus on might be :
- Are you having a hard time concentrating?
- Are you taking notes?
- What part of the class is most difficult for you? (homework, listening to the teacher, working in groups, etc.
- Are you having issues with the way the class is taught?
- Where did things change? Did something get harder for you?
- Are they having issues with friends or with a specific teacher?
The next step is to talk to the teacher regardless of the age of your child/teen. You might want to find out about:
- Child’s weakest area(s)?
- Copy of Distribution of grades
- Suggestions to help improve their grade
- Was there a noticeable change at a certain date/time frame?
Once you know more about the causes of your child’s academic struggles you can take action to either help him/her yourself or call in a private tutor. Beach Cities Tutoring also has tutors who specialize in study skills to help your child learn to study, stay organized, and prepare for tests.
What better time to help your son or daughter create some beneficial habits for the New Year?! Here are some New Year’s Resolutions that you could suggest for your children and teens to adopt.
- Stop procrastinating! This will not only help your students grades and help them retain the material but it will also help them to feel less stress and sleep more as they will not have to cram for tests and projects.
- Commit yourself to getting good grades. Unless you are a top notch athlete this is absolutely necessary to get into a good college.
- Don’t do it all! It’s better to focus on a few activities/sports verses joining 10 clubs and only being a little involved with each of them. Colleges want to see your commitment to something.
- Keep a calendar with all your important dates for projects, tests, essays, college application dates, standardized testing dates.
- Take standardized tests early and use tutoring to prep. This will allow you to do your very best and retake the test if necessary.
- Research your college choice carefully whether you visit in person or do web research.
- Try new things in high school such as an internship, travel opportunity or hobby.
After reading Forever Fluent, by Gabriel Wyner, as a result of my own desire to become fluent in Spanish, I found the technique of SRS or spaced repetition system to be a particularly useful study technique for memorizing any information not limited to vocabulary or to a new language. It can be used to study history or science facts, English vocabulary words, or words in a new foreign language.
SRS is a presentation method that gives you the information before you would forget it and makes sure that it stays constantly fresh in your mind. Anki,which can be downloaded from Ankisrs.net, allows students to create their own flashcards or download already created flashcards from a wide variety of topics: https://ankiweb.net/shared/decks/
After students create their own flashcards or download cards, they practice the cards and rate each card as “again”, “good” or “easy.” Then, based on the student’s rating, the SRS system keeps showing the difficult words and pushes the easier words into the future. It will only show them from time to time to help the student retain the fact or vocab word.
Anki can be downloaded to ipads and iphones as well as your laptop. The convenience factor allows students to study when they have a few spare minutes while waiting for their mom to pick them up or while waiting to meet a friend. In addition, if you are practicing a foreign language Anki allows you to record your own voice and play it. It also allows you to create your own flashcards with images. Research has shown that connecting a picture or image with a word has been extremely to help students remember vocabulary so they can connect the word with context and make it relevant to their own lives. I was excited to find this technique and definitely plan to use it to improve my Spanish. I hope you will share it with your children and teens!
Just when you thought it was time to relax, the kids are complaining “I’m bored…..” If you haven’t tried Lumosity yet, it is definitely worth the time. Lumosity is a series of brain training games that work on improving mental flexibility, memory, problem solving, speed and attention. Lumosity is a perfect tool for students with ADHD or those who just want to improve their memory. It was designed by neuroscientists, and in addition to the game like format it incorporates social networking. Users create a profile that helps them to track their progress.
Lumosity is based on neuroplasticity, which treats the brain like a muscle that will adapt when it encounters new challenges. In the past, neuroplasticity was believed to only benefit children whose brains were still developing, but current research shows that teens and adults can also strengthen their brains. In order to benefit from Lumosity, players must use the program regularly. In addition, users should try try a variety of different games and increase their difficulty level over time to increase the challenges. When users create their profile they can identify their strengths and weaknesses. There is much evidence that supports the effectiveness of Lumosity and other brain training games but no one knows for sure. In any case, it certainly can’t hurt.
Check out the free app for the ipad and iphone at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lumosity-mobile/id577232024?mt=8