What We’re Still Not Getting About How Teaching & Learning Has Changed

Last month, I followed Pernille Ripp’s 7th grade English class’ progress through a project on refugees. I even pointed to it in a recent post as an example of Twitter’s potential for learning. And on Tuesday, Microsoft shared a beautiful Youtube video of their experience:

After witnessing how all this learning and growing has unfolded, I was saddened to encounter the following comment on the Youtube video:

pernille-ripp-youtube-comment

It’s not the first time we’ve heard this kind of rhetoric, nor will it be the last. The “reading, writing, ‘rithmatic” camp is still alive and well.

However, what those who are of this mindset still don’t understand is that this is English in today’s world.

A world in which we’re flooded with false, misleading, and clickbait-y “news.”

A world in which current events no longer sit quietly in the morning paper, and instead are loudly debated at all times from the devices in our pockets.

A world in which the negative is amplified and distorted truths go viral.

So when the standards instruct us to “engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1), is it beyond English instruction to tackle an issue that is very much a part of their lives?

Or when we’re to teach students to “Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.3), is it beyond English instruction to seek out civility and compassion to help bring clarity to current events fraught with misinformation?

The truth is, we can’t just direct our students to the encyclopedia anymore. The volume and quality of the information our students receive every day from the Internet is staggering, and we simply cannot pretend that it does not shape their learning process. Especially since with greater global access comes greater global citizenship. Thus, dramatic is the difference between asking a student from 1990 vs. 2016 to “Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.8).

In the complexity of teaching and learning today, 21st century educators know that we are tasked to teach our students how to think, not what to think.

Or, as Pernille put it so well herself at the onset of this project,

“My job is not to make you think a certain way, my job is to make you think.  So whatever your opinion may be, all I ask of you is to have one based on fact, rather than what others believe.  Keep your ears open and ask a lot of questions.  That is the least you can do as the future of this country.”

Keep up the great work, Pernille, and all other teachers dedicated to helping their students make sense of this dynamic and exponentially shifting world!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

 

10 Signs You’re Contributing to Your Own Classroom Behavior Issues

http://honorsgradu.com/10-signs-youre-contributing-to-your-own-classroom-behavior-issues/

Your students always have to wait on you to know “what’s next.” Picture this hypothetical: your class returns from PE before you get back from a quick bathroom break. What scene do you anticipate facing when you walk into the room? If your vision resembles Lord of the Flies, consider that there may not not as much trust in place as there could be. Let them in on the plan. Ask for their feedback. Consciously strategize to break down the all-too-common game of “student vs. teacher.”

You see choice only as a reward for positive behavior, rather than a means to promote improved behavior. What if, at the beginning of the year, you tell your students that you trust them to choose right now? What if you tell them you’re there to facilitate learning–not to command it? What if you spend more time coaching them to identify and reflect upon their personal learning needs, and less time on determining the daily learning? When you commit to searching out meaningful student choice in learning space, time, and process, classroom management better falls into place.

Your voice is on more often than your students’ voices. There’s a difference between teaching students polite listening skills–and expecting them to have all their attention on you nearly all the time. We can better strategize to give them more time to digest, experiment, and work one-on-one with teachers. One teacher even committed to actually time her blocks of instruction time, keeping them to 10 minutes or less with her 7th graders.

You’ve done little to create parent buy-in. Do you contact parents about the positive more often than the negative? Do you keep a class blog to give them greater insight on the learning in your classroom (or better yet, do your students blog, giving parents, grandparents and other relatives to leave comments on their work?) Do you have a well-organized system for parents to volunteer? If the answer is no to one or more of these, you might be fighting an uphill battle on the home-front.

You rely heavily on treats, tokens, stickers, and other extrinsic rewards. As effective as these extrinsic motivators may seem, they actually tend to diminish students’ authentic motivation to learn and discover. Instead, seek out ways to cultivate more intrinsic motivation.

Many of your assignments are worksheets. Translation: little student-driven learning and inquiry is happening. If you’re feeling pressured to show “student progress” in benchmarks, open up communication channels with your administration to gain their support as you work to move away from drill and kill, and toward lasting and authentic student involvement in their learning.

Your routines are lacking. That’s not to say that you need to hammer down explicit routines for every minute thing (see my thoughts on bathroom permission), but if chaos ensues in the morning, end of day, and every transition in between, consider what you can do differently. A reliable signal and a united sense of purpose can go a long way–especially when you need to deviate from the norm.

You rely more heavily on formal, summative assessments than daily formative assessments. If you don’t have meaningful, daily practices in place that help you gauge student progress, you are missing precious opportunities to inform your teaching. Here are a few strategies that might help:

You do not greet students at the door. It’s less about the doorway, and more about reminding your students that they are your daily reason for being there (see more ideas for building student rapport). If that message ever falters, you can be sure that behavior issues are sure to follow.

You do not hold class meetings. Or an otherwise community-building time that helps build a sense of shared ownership over what happens in the classroom. You may ask yourself if you can afford to spend the time–but you might just find that you need to ask yourself if you can afford not to spend the time.

featured image: Alan Levine via flickr

10 Tips for Transitioning to Daily 5 & Daily 3

The Daily 5 and 3 for literacy and math: perfect for addressing some questions I’d had on inviting more student choice and ownership. Unfortunately for me, my school adopted it the very year I began my extended parental leave. However, I was thrilled when I was invited to mentor a student teacher that fall, allowing me to still test out the Daily 5/Daily 3 waters for myself.  And after a few weeks, the students and I agreed that it was a worthwhile change.

Meanwhile, not everyone at the school welcomed the transition with such enthusiasm. Some worried about not spending enough time on spelling. Others worried about students squandering time. Others were simply entrenched in their existing routines. If you are considering either program, here are some tips to keep in mind to foster a smooth transition.

Allow a LOT of training time

This is no joke. Most students have learned “school” pretty well, but that tends to be more of a teacher-directed perspective. The autonomy of evaluating how they need to spend their learning time is going to be quite novel for most of them. Take each Daily 5 or Daily 3 choice one at a time, emphasizing not only stamina, but metacognition to support their ability to reflect upon their own strengths and needs.

Use status of the class–especially starting out!

One of the recommendations in the current Daily 5 book for monitoring which Daily 5/3 choices students make is roll call or status of the class. It enabled me to track their choices and to offer brief feedback so they could learn to really plan their time well.

Many teachers I spoke with felt it would be too time-consuming to call out each student’s name for their response. However, after a period of training on this process as well (we even timed ourselves to make it a competition), we were able to finish in under 2 minutes. Especially for older students, over time, you may be able to eliminate this step and let students simply move their name or picture on a choice board (such as the example below).

Daily 5 choice board
via Sarah’s First Grade Snippets

However you decide to track their choices, avoid the temptation to regularly assign them to stations. This eliminates one of the fundamental purposes of Daily 5/3, which is to foster students’ ability to determine how they need to spend their learning time.

Make the schedule work for you

Don’t be intimidated by the way blocks of time are outlined in the book. Interruptions to the school day are almost always a package deal, but the good news is that Daily 5/3 are designed to be flexible.  

If the time you have available for student choices time is a bit shorter than ideal, add one more Daily 5 block (without any whole group time) during the day for them to choose another station to revisit and catch up on. See the example schedules at the bottom.

Don’t skimp on wrap-ups

Despite the flexible nature of Daily 5/3, don’t skip the wrap-up! This moment of reflection is invaluable both for you and students to gauge the progress, problems, and successes.

Stagger the mini-lesson one day and assignment the next

If you don’t have enough student choice times for all students to get to a station that includes an assignment based on the mini lesson, simply give the assignment the day after the corresponding mini lesson.

Make an assignments board

Simplify where students should look for Daily 5/3 assignments (and possibly a reminder on essential agreements) by designating a bulletin board or a corner of your whiteboard. See below for a great example.

Daily 5 assignments baord
via The Daily Cupcake…A Kindergarten Blog

Don’t drown their choices with teacher-centered worksheets

It may be especially tempting in Math Daily 3 to make each of the stations different kinds of worksheets from the lesson manual. However, keep in mind that one goal for Math Daily 3 is to foster more hands-on learning experiences. Both “Math by Myself” and “Math with Someone” are intended for games and exploring math manipulatives (see next tip). “Math Writing” is appropriate for students to show their understanding on paper.

Create a running bank of games/activities for math

As students learn each new game or math manipulative activity, write down the title on a sentence strip. Then, for Math by Myself & with Someone, you can just pull out familiar games for new concepts (or for review, especially at the beginning of a unit). Examples:

Play with which Daily 5 and Daily 3 stations you use

Feel free to adapt which stations you use. For older students, you may want to eliminate “Listen to Reading,” and if your students blog, maybe they would like to add a “Math Blogging” station for them to create Educreations to display their math understanding online.

Get strategic with noisy “With Someone” stations

If the noise level is reaching a distraction for students in independent stations, seek out solutions as a class. For instance, they might find limiting the number of partners that can work during a block to be helpful.

EXAMPLES OF SCHEDULES/CHOICES FOR 2 DIFFERENT CLASSES:

Daily 5 5th grade example

For more on Core Ready, click here.

Daily 3 1st grade example

What about you? Do you have any tips for other starters on Daily 5 or Daily 3? Please share in the comments!

featured image: DeathtoTheStockPhoto

How to Set up Democratic Classroom Jobs

When you set up your classroom, is democracy a mindful priority?

Background

I’ve never forgotten the story of how one of my favorite college professors was begged out of retirement to teach 2nd grade–the evening before school started. When she walked into her classroom on the first day of school, it was to bare walls, stacked desks, and puzzled students.

They sat down on the floor together. Eventually, a 7 year-old timidly shared that things felt a little off, to which the others agreed.  When my professor asked them what a classroom should consist of, one girl raised her hand and said, “Well, last year, we had chairs.” They set to work arranging the furniture, and then regrouped. Then, another boy offered, “We also normally have pencils.” Together, they procured a supply.  And so it went for the first part of the school year.

I’ve always remembered the ending to her story: that those students owned that classroom as none of her students had before or since. And with a wink, she added that she didn’t necessarily recommend having zero preparation before the school year started–at least for the sake of school administrators’ sanity.

The Set Up

The idea of incorporating classroom jobs centers around ownership. This is more than about classroom management or clean-up–it’s about empowering students with the understanding that the feel of their learning environment is in their hands.

Hold a class meeting early in the school year to discuss the shared nature of your classroom’s physical, emotional, and academic space.  Brainstorm tasks you all feel are necessary for smooth maintenance, safety, and support.  You may opt to show students your list from the previous year, and then allow them to help you modify it based on their unique needs.  Or you may choose to go the way of my professor, and allow your students to start from scratch!

Pass out a job application so students can list their top choices and reasons they believe they would qualify for the job.

Additional options to consider:
  • Interview each student before assigning jobs.  I’ve had groups that enjoyed dressing up for a more formal and “official” experience.
  • Set aside “job time” at the end or beginning of the day for those students whose jobs require some time; you may choose to have the other students read, journal, etc., during that time.

List of Job Ideas

Whatever your approach, below are jobs that have all been tried by my fifth graders (with the exception of a “social media manager,” which I plan on trying out as soon as I resume teaching)!  The number to the side is how many students I’ve typically had doing the job, but be sure to base things on your class needs and size!  Also note that some are combos based on how much time some jobs took. Feel free to share these with your students to help them get inspired!

Paper Passers/Absentee Buddies:
  • Description: Passes out any appropriate papers daily and picks up papers from groups. During job time, they get materials gathered for any students that are absent, write down assignments for the day, and leaves them neatly on their desks.  (2)
  • Qualities:  FAST, excellent attendance, organized, hand-writing
Folder Filer
  • Description: Files all graded papers and handouts into each student’s file of papers that are to go home. (2)
  • Qualities: Memory skills, FAST
Lunch/Classroom Maintenance
  • Description: Carries lunch basket daily. Also gets the room ready for projector use when needed by quickly pulling down the projector screen, turning off the lights, closing the blinds, and turning on the projector. During job time, they check all the walls for repairs & remind tables to clean up desks/floors. Takes care of all other classroom maintenance as called upon.  (2)
  • Qualities:  Strong, lines up quickly at beginning of line, tall, takes initiative
Homework Checker
  • Description: Checks all planners at the end of the day during job time.  They also check for completion of the homework journal/project each Friday morning, and reports and missing work to the teacher in the morning.
  • Qualities: Responsible, thorough, organized. (1)
Birthday Coordinator
  • Description: Makes birthday cards for each student on their birthday/half birthday, and then get signatures from everyone in the class.
  • Qualities:  Good handwriting, artistic, thoughtful, AMAZING memory! (1)
Question of the Week Keeper
  • Description: Comes up with brainteaser questions and answers for the Question of the Week and lets the payroll know who gets bonuses for getting it right. (1)
  • Qualities:  Good handwriting, likes puzzles, organized. (1)
Event Manager
  • Description: Updates the daily schedule and keeps the monthly calendar correct.
  • Qualities:  Tall, memory skills, VERY neat handwriting (1)
Assistant Event Manager
  • Description: Assists the event manager with anything he/she needs help with.
  • Qualities: Neat handwriting, tall, organized, memory skills
Board Eraser
  • Description: This person will need to erase the board after each recess and whenever else it is needed. Thoroughly cleans the board during job time. (1)
  • Qualities:  Tall, strong, pays attention, neat
Payroll
  • Description:  Reminds all students to add their paychecks to their check registers every payday.  They also check with students who have bonuses each day during job time to make sure they’ve recorded in their check registers.  (1)
  • Qualities:  listener, math money skills, honest
Debt Collector
  • Description: During job time each day, they check with any students who have fines to make sure they’ve recorded them in their check registers. (1)
  • Qualities:  organized, listener, math money skills
Cashier/Pledge Leader
  • Description: Handles money during the class store by helping students write checks and subtract from their check registers. Assigns prices to class store items. Also stands and leads the pledge every morning. (1)
  • Qualities: honest, math money skills, organized, memory skills
Behavior Recorder/Assistant Room Manager
  • Description: Writes down daily fines and bonuses and then records them on the board during job time. Also assists the room manager with filling in for absent students. (1)
  • Qualities: responsible, great memory, honest
Room Manager
  • Description: Makes sure that everyone is doing their job daily. Also fills in for any job if a student is absent. (Must know responsibilities of all jobs) Takes care of all other leadership/management tasks as called upon. (1)
  • Qualities:  Organized, attentive, fast Learner, leadership
Line Leader
  • Description: Leads the line daily. Learns assigned places to stop & keeps the class straight and quiet by giving firm reminders to students that need to stop talking or walk single file. (1)
  • Qualities:  listener, respectful
Line Ender
  • Description: Ends the line daily to all destinations and turns off the light as class leaves. If any student has to return to the classroom to retrieve a forgotten item, the line ender is required to go with them. Keeps the class straight and quiet by giving firm reminders to students that need to stop talking or walk single file.
  • Qualities:  Fast, good listener great memory, respectful
Class Journal Keeper
  • Description: Updates the class journal each day during job time with a description/illustration of the day’s events. (1)
  • Qualities: Artistic, neat handwriting
Class Photographer
  • Description: This person must have access to a digital camera that he/she can bring to school on a regular basis.  They are in charge to taking pictures of exciting experiments, debates, parties, and anything else; they then need to email pictures from home to me occasionally.  (1)
  • Qualities:  Takes initiative, very responsible, photography/technology skills
Messenger
  • Description: Runs any notes or errands throughout building throughout the day.  Collects Mrs. Wade’s mailbox items from the front office every job time.  (1)
  • Qualities:  Knows school and different teachers, communicator, fast walker, polite, honest
Lunch Counter
  • Description: Also, each morning makes sure all students have moved lunch magnets and then counts/writes down how many for each option. Moves the magnets back at the end of the day.  (1)
  • Qualities: organized, memory skills, fast
Sanitation Specialist
  • Description: Using disinfectant wipes, cleans all desks, tables, (and if time), chairs at the end of each day during job time. Cleans other surfaces as needed. (2)
  • Qualities: Attention to detail, helpful, respectful to others’ belongings
Organization Expert
  • Description: Helps keep the entire class organized; organizes the guided reading desk/teacher area as needed, helps other students with organizing their desks, organizes other things around the class when it gets cluttered. (1)
  • Qualities: Um, organized.  🙂 Also, takes initiative, meaning they don’t need to be asked to notice & jump in to help.
Class Medic/End of Day Caller
  • Description: Keeps band-aids in their desk and distributes to students. Also makes sure everyone takes home their lunch boxes/coats/backpacks.(1)
  • Qualities:  Fast, memory skills, reliable
Clubhouse keeper
  • Description: Straightens up the clubhouse and sorts the books during job time every day. Checks for any damages to books and fixes them or reports them to the teacher as needed. Maintains all other clubhouse materials to keep things looking nice. (1)
  • Qualities:  Organized, respectful to books
Scribe/Word Wall Attendant
  • Description:  On Monday Meetings, this person will write down all the items of business discussed and report at the end. This person also maintains the word wall chart during job time by neatly writing great words we encounter as a class. This person will also take notes whenever we go over important things, remind the teacher of things, and advance PowerPoint presentations during lessons. (1)
  • Qualities:  handwriting, organized, memory skills, strong computer skills
Supplies Station Manager
  • Description:  Sharpens pencils at the end of the day and keeps track of/replenishes all supplies that are running low.  Also cleans up/disinfects the entire supplies station area daily. (1)
  • Qualities:  Great memory, dedicated, attentive to detail, organization skills
Social Media Manager

For a printable version of my list, click here! And if you have additional jobs that your students have loved, please share in the comments!
Photo Credit (featured image): maaco

Financial Aid: Helpful Advice from the HGU Team

Across the country, high school seniors are receiving their letters of acceptance to their chosen colleges.  Next up: financial aid.  Check out some advice from a few of us at HonorsGradU (most of us aren’t too far removed from that game, and some are still there) as you consider your college financing plan!


 

Scholarships

Ashley: Apply for everything!

“I never applied for any [scholarships] because I was always under the impression that you had to maintain a certain GPA or be some kind of genius to qualify for any scholarship. Turns out, I could have been earning scholarship money every year, just because my parents never went to college. Being a first generation college student can get you a scholarship. Who knew?”

Mary: Follow up with your scholarship donors!

I got a scholarship from my city’s rotary club.  Six months later, I found out that they were willing to offer additional funds if my college GPA met their standard, and I ended up getting my books unexpectedly paid for that semester!”

Ashley: Think outside the GPA/ACT’s box

“There are scholarships like ours, where you apply with an essay or a project, there are scholarships for students with specific ethnic or cultural backgrounds, scholarships for being an honor student with a great GPA, all kinds of options. All you have to do is apply, and even a tiny $50 scholarship for being a red-head would be helpful in financing someone’s education. I had a friend who spend all summer every year just scouring the web for any scholarship he could apply to. ”

Loans

Brittany: Don’t wait for graduation to start paying back

“If you can’t afford [college], take out student loans and get done as quickly as possible. Besides that, I’d say that you should pay off your interest even while you’re going to school if you can afford it! My sister has done that and says it makes a world of difference as far as how much they will owe once she’s graduated.”

Jared: Finish faster with loans instead of dragging out school

“It recently hit me that I will not be able to go to school full time without financial aid in the form of loans. Unless I get married and can get money from the FAFSA, I will have to take out student loans. It kind of still upsets me when I think about having thousands of dollars of debt after school, but I figure that I will have a good job, and I won’t have to go through school slowly. I think I prefer being able to graduate in 4 years instead of dragging it out and trying to pay for it all myself.”

Long-term Thinking

Jared: Start with a junior college & use academic advisers!

“Another option is to go to a junior college to get your associates degree. This can help you save a lot of money. If you work with an academic adviser they can help you prepare to enter a 4 year university and make sure that your credits will transfer. Community colleges are very affordable and even have programs that can help you get jobs after a 2 year degree.”

Bart: Get your finances–and your true passion–in order before you start school!

“If you think you can’t afford college, have you considered putting it off for a year, getting some real experience, and finding out what you are passionate about?”

Working During School

Bart: Find authentic job experiences during college

“Try as hard as you can to have your work while at school mean something. Find a job that has something to do with what you might want to do with your life…frankly, your work experience might be the only thing you have going for you in the job search after you graduate.”

Bart: Prioritize physical and mental health over graduating a semester earlier

I worked a job full time at night (9pm to 6am) while going to school full time. That went ok for about a year until I crashed and suddenly couldn’t function at all, and had to learn how to adjust my life to handle work and school in a more healthy manner (I cut back on classes and switched to working during the day until graduation). (see more about Bart’s story in our post on studying).

Heard of any other awesome financial advice? Share in the comments below!

Photo Credit

5 Teacher Resources for 21st Century Learning

Whether you’re implementing a BYOD classroom, teaching students to develop PLN’s, or planning a Twitter debate in your class, these 5 tools may help you with some unexpected logistics.


The Importance of Keeping Up

Anyone involved with teaching today is familiar the swift and exponential nature of changes in 21st century education.  This is true to the extent that even if you graduated with your teaching degree within the past few years, your pedagogical training probably did not leave you fully prepared.  We hope that the following 5 resources will be valuable to you as you adapt to modern learning strategies.

#1: Citing Social Media
via TeachBytes
via TeachBytes

We recently published a post designed as a student guide to social media citation.  However, this may prove helpful for you, too, as you guide your students not only toward broader digital literacy, but toward continuing the responsibility of adequately giving credit.

#2: Google Drive Hacks

If you are not already using Google Drive in your classroom, add it to your must-try-asap list!  From elementary school on up, it enables effective digital collaboration.  As an added bonus, it cuts down messy stacks of papers!  Below, we’ve listed a few of our favorite time and sanity-saving tips to maximize your Google Drive usage in the classroom:

  • Teach students to use the “Comments” tool for peer editing and revising.  That way, students can have actual conversations about the feedback they give one another without actually altering others’ work!
  • Self-grading function: If you are currently using or are interested in using Google Forms to quiz students (for free!), make sure you look up how to make it self-grading!  (Check out one tutorial here!)
  • Revision history: Make sure that both you and your students are familiar with this tool in the “File” menu just in case one student accidentally alters or deletes another’s work.
  • Take Advantage of its share-ability: Long-gone are the days of needing to upload each student’s PowerPoint to a flash drive (see our article on Powerpoint alternatives), or even asking them to individually email you their digital project.  Instead, have students create all projects that are compatible with Google Drive in one class Google account that you can easily access and manage.
  • Use Google Spreadsheets for a multi-purpose class roster: Keeping track of missing permission slips, student project groups, or anecdotal notes is a cinch with Google Spreadsheets.  Google Drive’s app makes this especially appealing as you can whip out your phone or tablet to view your notes as you walk through the class!
#3: Digital Classroom Management Tips:

Establishing quality classroom management strategies is a critical skill for every educator.  However, such techniques can quickly get complicated when BYOD is introduced–how do you manage a variety of phones, tablets, and laptops when such devices can already be distracting?  Jennifer Carey, a director of educational technology, shared her top 5 tips for digital classroom management in an Edudemic article, from setting clear expectations, to recognizing that it’s OK to put the technology away at times!

#4: PLP’s Twitter Handbook:

Instrumental for me in discovering the professional usefulness of Twitter was a handbook released by the Powerful Learning Practice Blog. It includes very specific details on how to get started, definitions, and practical uses! Especially if you’re still unaware of Twitter’s usefulness in the classroom, this resource is an absolute must! (We reference it and more in our Twitter’s classroom potential post).

#5: Fluency Poster by Delia Jenkins:

In the 21st century, students need to be less familiar with memorizing specific facts and more familiar with how to manage it all.  Author & educator Eric Jensen states it well in the following image:

via Larry Ferlazzo
via Larry Ferlazzo

One way we can cultivate this shift is to foster digital fluency in our students and ourselves.  One excellent resource as you consider your approach to is Delia Jenkins’ Fluency Poster “Cheat Sheet,” available in PDF format.  Watch for our post on digital fluency coming soon!

Photo Credit:

Sources:

How To Get Good Grades

Success in school is often measured by the grades you get. For some of us, getting good grades is more than difficult–it seems like no matter how we try, we can’t follow through. With this list on getting good grades (that applies to all levels), maybe we can change that and get on the path to good grades…


Five steps to getting good grades

I. Get Organized

If you’re anything like any of us at HGU, we sometimes get caught up in the organization and forget to move past the step. We sometimes find ourselves lost in endless check-lists and to-dos that never get done. Don’t get us wrong, organization is important (hence why it’s on the list), but don’t get lost in it!

  • Get a planner. Most phones have calendars, and smartphones have apps you can download for daily checklists. (See our top smartphone apps post here). At the beginning of every semester, get your syllabus and go through your calendar/planner and mark all the due dates, tests, and projects. You can even color code if you’re feeling crazy.
  • Organize your workspace. This helps avoid losing things, and it helps our minds feel in order if our space is in order. Don’t believe us? Try it out!
  • Schedule time for study. Decide how much time you need to devote to each class and pick specific times at which you will buckle down and study.

II. Learn the Information

They key to getting good grades is learning the information. This seems obvious, but so many people try to get by with cramming and learning just enough to get through each test. That method is more stressful and less predictable. Sure and steady is the way to go! As a similar warning from the organization section, don’t let your desire for perfect flash cards take you so long that you don’t actually get to study them.

  • Figure out your learning style. Are you a visual learner? Auditory? Hands-on? A combination? Figure it out, then apply those methods to your study and your in-class note-taking.
  • Read the texts. Everyone hates this, everyone tries to avoid this and most people don’t make it past this point on the list. Why? Because college reading is hard, we totally understand. That’s why we made a post with tips for college reading. If you’re not in college yet, this is still incredibly helpful and it can’t hurt to prepare.
  • Take good notes. Notes are critical to good grades, because the things that are taught in class are what you’re going to be tested on. Like we said at the first bullet of this section, your learning style demands you take notes in a certain way. If you’re an auditory learner, don’t spend the class time with your head in a notebook; instead, listen and during breaks or lulls, take a moment to write/type the things you remember from class. Write in the margins of your books. Place sticky-notes in important places. Clearly mark them.
  • Study your notes. If study guides aren’t provided by your teacher, find out what will be on the test and make your own. Review your class notes during specific study times that you’ve set apart for the day or week, even if the next test isn’t for weeks. This helps cement the information and you’ll find yourself actually learning!
  • Get friends involved. Friends or classmates are great for helping you learn the material. Ask them to quiz you. It’s important to say your answers aloud. This forces you to form your thoughts into sentences and makes concepts turn into more concrete statements.
  • Participate in class. There’s a reason participation is usually part of your grade. Those that participate in discussions, activities, and study groups are more likely to understand the information from multiple perspectives. Also, this is a great skill to practice for situations outside of school. Being able to discuss respectfully and maturely are great qualities.
  • Ask for help. If you don’t understand, ask. Teachers are there to help you. It’s literally what they get paid for. Ask the questions. If you’re not comfortable doing it in class, ask for a meeting, but sometimes you asking a question in class will help other students who might also have that same question. A lot of schools offer free tutors to students, so check out those options at your learning institutions and take advantage of them.

III. Do. your. homework. Seriously. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

The hardest part for most people is doing the assignments or readings that feel like busy work. Well, whether you like them or not, agree with them or don’t, if you want to get good grades, you have to do them. It’s important to realize we’re not entitled to good grades. You have to work for them, and like most things in life, that sometimes means doing things you think are stupid, dumb, or of no use. Good grades get you to good colleges which give you more opportunities–and then you can make the rules!

  • Do assignments ASAP. Starting assignments right after they’re assigned will help you remember and apply what you learned in class. Even if the assignment isn’t due for two weeks, do it right away. Nip that procrastination flower right in the bud.
  • Do extra credit. Yes, it is more work that isn’t required, so why would you do it? Here’s a great life lesson: people are separated in life by whether or not they choose to go the extra steps by doing more than is required of them. Boom.
  • Make homework a top priority. There’s a story of a man who has a to-do list. He prioritizes activities for the day by assigning them a number. 1’s have to get done ASAP. 3’s should be done today, but are optional. He finds he would rather start with the 3’s because they seem more fun. Don’t fall into that trap. Make priorities and stick to them. True discipline is doing the dirty work before indulgence.
  • Have study parties. If you really just need your friend-fix, invite a few friends over to work on homework. The only stipulation is that everyone must bring assignments to work on, or else conversations will spring up and no one will get anything done. Great excuse to order a pizza, too.
  • Don’t plagiarize. Just don’t. Do your own work. You might be able to fake it for a while, but no one can fake knowing things for very long–not to mention getting caught could put an end to your college career. Some schools won’t accept students who have been disciplined for plagiarism.

IV. Prepare for your Tests

  • Stop cramming. As was mentioned before, cramming is stressful and will likely make you frustrated. Some students take pride in staying up all night before a test to cram all the information they can. Wouldn’t you rather be the one who has learned the information over a long period of time, and the day before the test is simply a review of the most important information? Wouldn’t you rather approach a test calmly and with confidence? Confidence comes from a solid foundation built over time, not scrambled together all at once.
  • Get sleep. Being well-rested, eating a good breakfast, and being relaxed are great tips for life in general–especially for tests. If you have to choose between staying up to study and sleep, pick sleep. It’s much better to go to bed early and wake up early. You’ll feel better.

V. Make Good Decisions

If you want good grades, you have to make decisions of a Grade-A person. You have to be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t handle.

  • Choose the right classes. This doesn’t mean choose the easiest classes, but maybe don’t schedule your whole semester with the hardest teachers. Balance out your schedule with the hard, impressive classes AND the simpler ones. Don’t take 25 credits in one semester. Heck, don’t even take 18 unless you want to hate yourself! (Or have your grades suffer). Know your limits. Be honest with yourself.
  • ATTEND YOUR CLASSES. Does it matter how well you choose your classes if you don’t go? No. So go. Even if you don’t feel like it. With some teachers, just showing up to class is enough to earn extra points–not to mention the stress it will be to try and catch up.
  • Keep track of your grades. See how you do on tests and learn from it. Ask teachers for clarification if you don’t understand.
  • Manage your time. Be wise, young grasshopper. It’s important to be well-rounded and have a well-rounded schedule. Don’t spend 100% of your time on any one thing, or you will go insane.
  • Haters gonna hate. People might look down on you for prioritizing your studies. Who cares, do whatever feels best for you.

In conclusion, there will always be sacrifices. You may have to sacrifice a night out for a night in to finish a paper; however, if you find yourself sacrificing a social life in general, maybe you’ve given yourself too big of a workload. It’s all about balance! Have confidence in yourself! You can do it!

 

Featured Image: Stefano Montagner

Sourcehttp://www.wikihow.com/Get-Good-Grades