My Fool Proof Method for Finishing a Book on Time!

All high school English classes have reading assignments, obviously. Some schools read a novel over time and discuss it in class. Some schools, like mine, assign the book, and give a test date, and the student is left on his own. People who procrastinate have a lot of trouble with this method. It’s hard to read a book every night when you know you have a month, three weeks, two weeks, etc. to read it. But then, suddenly, your test is tomorrow and you’re on chapter 4 and you don’t know what you’re going to do!

 

Avoiding that is easy.

 

1. Set up a Schedule – When I am assigned a book, a count the pages, and the days I have to read it. I leave out days I KNOW I will not be able to read. For example, I’m going to visit my sister at college; I can’t read in the car, it’s useless to schedule reading that day. Usually it will end up being maybe two or three chapters a night. This is so much more manageable than reading a whole book in one night.

 

2. Write it down – In your planner or calendar or whatever it is you use, each day write what you have to read (example: Tuesday: “Brave New World” chapters 4 and 5). Follow it like a homework assignment.

 

3. Rewards – “If I read these chapters, I can go to the mall and buy myself something,” “If I finish chapter 7 tonight, I can go out with my boyfriend tomorrow.” Things like that are good ways to motivate yourself. You will also feel the wonderful feeling of accomplishment as you see your bookmark move from the front of the book to the back.

 

Obviously there’s will power involved here, but it’s much better than having no system of getting reading done. Happy reading, guys!

How to Recover from a Breakdown

I began writing a very nice post today about Toxic Friendships (a subject on which I am an expert), but it never got done. Sorry to whoever has been reading this. Today was a really tough day at school, and I came home wanting to shower, lay down in my bed, and not come out until tomorrow. So in light of my latest personal tragedy at school, here’s some tips that are short and to the point:

1. Get past it. Quick.  – occupy yourself, talk to a friend, stop thinking about what ever is stressing you out. Do something mindless like playing Guitar Hero or taking a walk.

2. If you have to cry, do it.  – I’m a pro at this. Don’t hold it in, go cry. Cry alone if that’s your style. Personally I call my mom from the backseat of my car crying, then call my boyfriend from the backseat of my car crying, and tell them both my tragic story and how life is unfair and I’m not getting into college. Everyone has a different coping method. But don’t hold in crying, it will make things worse later.

3. Fix it if you can, Forget it if you don’t. If it’s something like failing a test, just do better next time. Stressing about it will not get rid of the bad grade. But if it’s something like a misunderstanding with a friend, do what you can to fix it. Don’t be too persistent though. accept the things you can’t change.

I’ll finish that other post when I’m less groggy. Have a good day!

Overcome the in-class Essay

It’s happened to all of us – you walk into your class, your teacher tells you to sit down, take out your notes, and write an essay. It’s possible that you’re someone who works well under pressure, so this will be easy. But if you’re like me, and a lot of other people, you’re terrified. So sit down, take out your pen, and take a deep breath.

Clear your mind. Don’t think about your test next period, the fight you had with your boyfriend last night, or anything else. Just clear your mind and look at the question. Read it, digest it, understand what it’s asking. Now you can…

Pre-write. Ok, I hate pre-writing. But it makes essays so much better. If you only have about 40 minutes (depending on the length of your class periods) then you should definitely pre-write a little. It doesn’t have to be an outline, just jot down your ideas and supporting ideas. Figure out what order things should go in. This will make the essay flow much better, and it will look organized. Now…

Write. Don’t think too much. Your teacher will obviously take into account the time constraint you had to write this essay. Waste no time, write what ever it is you pre-wrote. Then take a breath. You’re almost done.

Proof read. If you have time, check for spelling errors or simple grammar mistakes. Read it to yourself and make sure the sentences make sense to you.

There you go. You’ve survived your in class essay. Just remember to relax, and that your teacher knows that it isn’t going to be perfect given the time you’ve been given.

SAT Hacks – Stop Worrying and Start Succeeding

So I’ve taken the SAT once in my life so far. It was the old SAT, and I was in eighth grade in the John’s Hopkins “Talent Search” thing. I sat among a group of nervous juniors, and I didn’t really care how I did on the test. Next Saturday, I’ll go and be one of those nervous juniors. The difference between me and most of my peers is, I’m not nervous. Sure, I know there’s a lot riding on how I do on this test. But being nervous does pretty much nothing to help your score. Here are my suggestions for taking the SAT to the best of your ability.

Take a Class – I took a class since January, and I think it really helped me. SAT classes don’t teach you facts, they teach you test-taking strategies that are extremely useful when it comes to taking the test. The class will also force you to do work to prepare, when you might have procrastinated on your own with it.

Get a Book – I have the one the Collegeboard made. It has a bunch of practice tests. If you sit and time yourself, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you’ll do when it comes to testing day, and what you need to improve upon before the day comes.

The Night Before – My SAT teacher told us this: The night before the test, don’t review anything, and don’t hang out with friends who are going to take the test. Personally, I’m hanging out with my boyfriend who isn’t taking it the next day, because he is not one to talk nonstop about the SATs, and so he’ll help me to keep it off my mind.

The day of the test – have breakfast, bring number 2 pencils and a calculator, and one more thing no one told me but I learned when I took it in eighth grade – wear pants and a t-shirt, and bring a sweater of some sort. You never know what the temperature of the room you’ll be in is going to be. It could be freezing, or really hot. If you are uncomfortable, then you won’t be as focused.

For everyone taking their tests the same day as I am, good luck 🙂

Starting Your Own Club – A Crash Course.

Is there something that you’re really passionate about, but there is no club in school for it? Make one! This year a friend of mine and I founded a club at our school to raise money to help those affected by the genocide in Darfur. If you have something you wish there was a club for in your school, here’s some steps in starting off:

Step 1: Find other students who are interested. 

Many schools have a minimum requirement of people before they will let you make an official club. Ask around your school to see who is interested. Make a group or an event on Facebook to see what kind of interest there is in your school. I know that when we started our club, we didn’t know such a large number of girls would be interested in joining! Find a group of people, and maybe form your executive board. This will show your administration that you’re serious about this club.

Step 2: Find a Faculty Advisor.

This was easy for us, because my history teacher is very actively involved in different efforts to end the genocide in Darfur. Find a faculty member that is willing to help you organize the group and hold meetings. Also, make sure this is a faculty member that you get along well with, because there will have to be a lot of contact and collaboration with them. Once you’ve found your faculty advisor, you can go to the administration.

Step 3: Get your Club Approved.

I can’t say too much about this, because every school has a different procedure in approving new activities and clubs.  Do what ever is necessary to get your club approved, and set up a date for your first meeting.

Step 4: Advertise.

Put something on the morning announcements, make signs to hang in the hallways, make an event on Facebook, tell all of your friends! Get the word out about your new club so that you’ll have a good number of people come out for it.

Creating a club and being in charge is a lot of fun, but it’s a big thing to take on. Make sure you’ve got the organization skills and support from others, and you’ll make it happen!

How to make your break productive

So, with midterms, term papers, and everything else, I forgot to update for a while. Right now my family, my brother’s friend and I are in the Poconos on vacation. After a not so great fall skiing last night, I’m stuck in the room while they are all in the indoor water park. Most breaks my school has are a time when people sleep late, go out every night, and forget about school. The problem with that is that when school goes back in session next week, most people will be exhausted and bogged down by the workload. Especially for me and most of my peers, a week from Saturday is the SAT. Here are some ways to make breaks more productive, and your return to school more pleasant:

1. Read. Anything. If you have a school reading assignment, read it. If not, read something. It doesn’t matter what it is, but reading will sharpen your mind while you are off from school. It will be 100 times easier to focus when you get back to school.

2. Make Lists. If you have work to do over the break, make a master list of everything that needs to get done. I’m a big advocate of putting everything on paper. Once you write it down, you’ll have a visual of what you need to do. Then you can:

3. Create a master schedule. Make a schedule, and add appointments, vacations, and hanging out with friends. Make time slots where you will do work, and stick to them. Don’t just write “Do work,” put a specific task such as “take notes on chapter 7 for history” or something like that.

4. Leave at least one lazy day. This will be a day free of school work. It’s vacation, so leave at least one day where you don’t do any work. Relax, unwind, sleep, and have fun.

5. Study. Force yourself to study what ever you did before break, so that when you come back, it’ll be fresh in your mind.

Follow these tips, have some fun, and when you get back to school you won’t have that feeling of unfocused chaos that most students have.

Making Precalc More Enjoyable – a Math Hater’s Guide.

I have been a history buff for my entire life. My late grandfather was a big history enthusiast, and I guess I inherited it. I’m pretty good at English, and though I’m not a fan of science I somehow get A’s year after year. But I have always had trouble with math. If you’re like me, and can’t find any interest in math, then these tips should help you. They can be applied to any math, but I’m in precalc so that’s the inspiration to this post.

Tell Stories.

This helps me more than anything. When you come across a difficult problem that you know is going to take long and is really boring, then make a story out of it. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but make it interesting. It makes you think more, and usually it will help you understand the problem better, leading to you getting it right! Stories are good because they apply the math to something tangible. When you can think of something in terms of real life, it make it more relateable, more interesting, and much easier.

Pictures.

My math notes are absolutely filled with pictures, drawings, and doodles. This isn’t because I don’t pay attention in class. As with the stories, it makes things easier to understand. It lays everything in the problem out for you to look at and understand what’s going on. When in doubt, draw a picture. It will most likely help. Seeing things helps the brain process the whole picture of what is going on. Most times, if you come across a problem that seems impossible, drawing a picture will help you. Usually.

Buddies.

There’s a group of girls in my precalculus class that frequently goes for our teacher’s extra help  sessions. We do lots of problems on the board, tell our math teacher stories that are completely irrelevant to the subject, and laugh a lot. The best part of this group is that everyone of us is bad at something different. Together, we can understand the entire problem, and have a lot of fun doing it. Get together with a group outside of class, or go for the extra help your teacher offers. It will always pay off to see other people’s points of view.

Although this still won’t take away the work load involved in taking a hard math class such as precalc, it will make the work seem less difficult, and get you better grades. I’ve been a math hater my whole life, but using these tips and some self-discipline, I’ve worked my way to peace with mathematics.

Make your study space perfect – cut study time in half!

There have been countless articles on study skills that tell you the place you study is one of the biggest factors of your productivity during the time you study. Usually the advice looks something like this:
1. Study in the same place every day
2. Don’t study in bed
3. Be away from noise and distractions
4. Have all important supplies around your study place.
I have read maybe 30, probably more, articles that say these four things. As I was a straight A student up until I entered the tenth grade, I didn’t listen to these. I would sit in our den on the comfortable couch with a bottle of water and my computer in front of me. I checked my Facebook, went on AIM, checked my email and talked to my mom while she made dinner and helped my brother do his homework in the kitchen. I got my work done in about four hours, because I was never completely focused on the work I was doing. Last year I got by doing the same thing, but my grades dropped. I was getting B’s for the first time, and I failed a final, which was the biggest shock of my life. I hadn’t changed my study habits, but I had changed schools. Sophomore year went by without damaging my transcript too badly, but I saw that there was definitely a problem. Over the summer my mom put my sister who is now in college’s old desk in my room, right in front of the window. In the corner next to the desk there is a shelf, and on the other side of the desk is my bed. This, to me, is the ideal study space. Here’s why:

1. The Desk. Get a desk that is big enough for you to spread your work out comfortably. If your school is like mine and has laptops, you need a desk you can put your laptop and textbook on without having to flip the book opened and closed repeatedly. Personally I spread my work out a lot because seeing everything helps me to manage my time properly, so I need a huge desk. It’s also useful to get a large desk calendar (you can get them for about $5 at staples). When you sit down to study you will be able to see all upcoming tests and events, and plan your time accordingly. The legs of my desk also act as shelves, which is useful for storing things I need a lot such as my stapler, my glasses, pens, a calculator, and extra loose leaf. Don’t overcrowd shelves, because things need to be easily found. Make sure everything has a place so you can find things without wasting time. 🙂

2. Seating. Comfort is important when studying. You want to be comfortable enough to focus, but not comfortable in the sense that you could doze off. Pick a chair that suits your needs. If you like cushioned chairs, get one. If you like a plain wood chair, that’s fine too. I personally like chairs with wheels for mobility. They have cute cheap ones (mine is bright pink) at staples (yes, I swear by staples products, and I live there during the school year). It is important to choose a chair you like and that is comfortable, because you will be spending a lot of time there.

3. Shelving and Boxes. Next to your desk, make sure there is some form of storage or shelving. It will keep you from clutter and wasting time while you are doing your work. Set the shelves up in however way you like, it’s really up to you. Just remember to keep them organized and have a place for everything. I’m going to describe how I organize mine, just to give you an example. My shelf has a top and three shelves. The top shelf has a clock, so it can easily be seen while I’m working, and pictures (because my room is filled with them). The bottom shelf has reference books and things such as chargers that I don’t need at my hands that quickly. The middle shelf has two bins: one has my computer stuff that I need from time to time (like flash drives and an extra battery) and one has my study essentials: notecards, post-its, extra writing implements, rulers, etc. The top shelf is bare, except for my photoshop CD rom. I use this for books when I’m home from school, so that my desk and floor don’t get cluttered.

4. Bed next to the desk. My bed is directly next to my desk for two reasons: the first is so that when I’m studying for 7 hour periods (which I don’t recommend I’m a bit of a workaholic) and pulling all nighters, I can take a 20 minute power nap. The other reason is that I see my bed while I’m studying. Late nights of working on my term paper are easier when I have the motivation of a good night’s sleep in front of my face. My comfortable bed sitting there makes me work that much harder, so I can get to the reward that is so close, yet so far away.

Using this set up has raised my productiveness, and cut my study time almost in half! Less distractions and a well put together study area really do help in getting things done much quicker.

Midterm Exams – Do’s and Don’ts

It’s the end of the semester for most people in high school right now and that means two dreadful words: midterm exams. I know in my house the lights will be on late at night with two sleep deprived kids (one of them being me) trying to recall all the information covered in every class since September. Since my first exams in 7th grade, I’ve learned a few simple Do’s and Don’ts of conquering these pesky tests.

 

Don’t:

  • Cram the night before. There are one to two exams a day, normally. This makes a lot of people think they can come home from the exam and start studying for the next day. There are a few problems with this plan: first of all, exams are long. When you get home, you’re going to be tired. You’re not going to immediately want to go study some more. Leaving everything to the day before is going to make you overwhelmed. If you start studying maybe four days before, you’ll have the bulk of studying done, and on the say before, all you have to do is quickly review your notes, and you’ll feel confident that you’re prepared for your exam.

  • Skip Breakfast. You’ve heard it said a million times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s true. If you roll out of bed as late as possible and go take your exam, you’re not going to do the best you can. I mean a real breakfast, too. Not a cup of coffee or a candy bar, things like that will give you a quick sugar high, and then you’ll crash. Studies everywhere show that your mind is sharpest when you’ve eaten a healthy breakfast in the morning.
  • Go on Facebook/Myspace/other internet distractions. Personally, I’ve deactivated my Facebook account for Midterms week. This way I won’t check my email and get tempted to click on the Facebook notifications in my inbox. They’re not there. I also temporarily cancelled my RSS feeds on my favorite blogs so I don’t get a pop up about a new post while I’m studying. I suggest avoiding the computer altogether when studying, because there are so many distractions involved. However, if you go to a school like mine where you use a laptop in school to take notes, it’s sometimes unavoidable to use the computer. I suggest either printing your notes (some people find it easier that way so they can highlight/write on their notes). Another option is to turn off the internet on your laptop (mine has a switch on the side) so you can’t be distracted. This will cut the time it takes for you to study in half, and you will learn the information better than if you are constantly checking your Myspace or any other internet distractions you frequently use.

Do:

  • Sleep. Pulling an all-nighter will not get you a better grade. It will get you over tired, over stressed, and less likely to recall information in the morning. Go to bed at a reasonable hour the night before the test. (Note: 2 a.m. is NOT a reasonable hour). In the morning you will be well rested, in a better mood than a sleep-deprived you would be, and your mind will be sharp and ready to take on the exam.
  • Make Lists. To-do lists are extremely useful, but a lot of people don’t know how useful they can be for studying. Currently in my planner, I have my daily to-do list, with things that must be done TODAY, and my midterm to-do list with things I have to do in each subject to get ready for my exams. It reduces stress because you see everything you have to do written out. Usually it looks a lot less intimidating. And being able to cross things off a to-do list gives you a feeling of accomplishment, which makes you feel that much less stressed as you go forward.
  • Study in groups. You’re pulling an A in English but struggling in Precalc. Your math whiz friend is having trouble with her vocabulary. So collaborate and you’ll both do well. It doesn’t have to be any kind of formal study group; you can hang out one day and trade notes or explain something to each other. A friend of mine is really good in Spanish, and I make very thorough history outlines. So we trade off our notes and we both get better grades because of it. Working with someone else will always give you a different perspective, and help you to succeed on tests. Especially with a lot to cover, you can split things up and make less work for everyone! Just make sure to stay on task.

 

 

So hopefully a few of these tips will help you with exams. Just remember, it’s just a test, don’t overstress yourself. Now go get to studying!

 

Feel free to comment, I’d love feedback!!