In the process of advising teens and families on how to best prepare for college admission, I often suggest a student work to improve his or her grades. Sometimes better grades simply require getting serious or devoting a little more time and effort. However, in many cases students don’t know what to do. That’s where study skills enter the picture.
I’m familiar with a variety of strategies and organizational techniques, but I’m not an expert. But I do work with someone who specializes in these areas—Gretchen Wegner. The greatest compliment I can pay my podcast co-host Gretchen is that she helps me learn new study strategies, even if I’m initially doubtful.
I’m a “just the facts” person when it comes to studying. I was always good at school and test taking was a skill that came easily, so I didn’t want to waste time on “creative” study solutions. I could read the chapter, complete the assignment, and get top grades without too much effort. Gretchen has spent her career working with students who need another approach.
If you have ever struggled in a subject or studied only to find it wasn’t enough, you know that some of the “old school” approaches to education aren’t sufficient. Gretchen combines the latest research in brain science and learning with an understanding of teens to present strategies that really work.
Here are some of my favorites. (Click on the titles to access that episode on The College Prep Podcast website.)
I’m a big fan of flashcards— specifically the paper ones you can shuffle and sort which have some functionality that apps like Quizlet can’t replace. When Gretchen introduced me to some of the strategies listed in this episode, I was skeptical. (I’m not a personal fan of “fun” activities; I’d rather just study the cards.) Why should we add in “silly” activities to regular study? Because it works. Well. Since this podcast aired a year ago, I have encouraged my students, and even my own daughter, to incorporate these techniques.
In Gretchen’s academic coaching practice, she notices students mindlessly use flashcards. This makes studying take longer and results in less effective learning.
In this interactive podcast, Gretchen walks listeners step by step through her favorite technique for using flashcards to turn your brain ALL the way on. Come with a few blank index cards (or a torn sheet of paper) and follow along. You’ll discover:
- The less effective ways students use flashcards
- How to use categories and grouping to turn your brain to “on” while you learn
- How to infuse silliness while still learning effectively, and
- Ways to invite family and friend to play with flashcards, in order to make info stick longer
If you’d like more practice with this creative technique, or want to learn 10+ additional techniques for taking the boredom out of studying, check out the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.
One of the most time consuming activities for students is reading! And most students don’t effectively read most assignments. (Eyes moving over the pages won’t help if the information never enters their brains.)
In this episode discover simple tips for reading faster and more effectively than you ever thought possible. Learn:
- The section of the book readers usually skip (but shouldn’t)
- How to skim for the structure of the information so you remember the main points
- How to find secret clues inside the chapter that will allow you to quickly identify main ideas
- How to use your hand while you read to help you read faster
- How to annotate a nonfiction text (it’s not what your teacher taught you!)
As a parent I’m pretty fortunate when it comes to the task of refereeing homework. My fourth grader comes home and immediately starts his work and my high schooler may grumble some days, but has always been self-motivated. I know not all parents are as lucky.
Initiating homework is a hard task for students! Especially students with executive function challenges (planning, organization, self-monitoring, prioritization, task initialization, etc.)
Tune in to this episode to learn about why the Pomodoro technique is such a good antidote to getting work started, and how to set yourself up for success with this technique, including:
- What the Pomodoro Technique is, and why it’s so helpful for students
- 4 tips to get your work space set up so that you make the most of the Pomodoro Technique
- How to adjust it for your unique work style
- How to take breaks that refresh you, so that you’re ready to come back for more
This is another example of one of Gretchen’s techniques I doubted when I first heard of it, but that I have started using at home.
Here are some other great episodes to help you build your study skills arsenal: