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Free Resources for Teaching Study Skills

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

Teachers frequently are shocked by their students’ lack of study skills. Some teachers assume that most study skills are simply common sense and do not need instruction. Or, maybe each teacher thinks that “some other teacher” should or has already taught them. From my own teaching experience, I have come to believe that study skills are not caught, but must be taught.

All content teachers have the responsibility to teach these essential learning skills. Mastering study skills will help your students “work smarter, not harder.” If students learn these skills, they will spend less time, but accomplish more during homework and study time. Students will memorize better and forget less. Their test study will be more productive and students will achieve better grades. Reading comprehension, speed, and retention will improve. Writing will more coherent and essays will be easier to plan and complete.

Following are articles, free resources (including reading assessments), and teaching tips regarding how to teach the essential study skills from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/summer-daily-brainwork/

Looking to prevent summer brain-freeze and help your child get a jump start on the next school year? The tips from Summer Daily Brainwork will teach your child to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time.

How to Avoid Procrastination

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-avoid-procrastination/

This article explains why people procrastinate and gives you the tools that will help replace bad habits with good ones. Learn how to develop a workable plan to avoid procrastination. These practical, easy-to-understand suggestions will help you avoid putting off until tomorrow what you could be doing today.

Learn How to Study

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/daily-school-and-work-review/

Learning how to study is a skill that is taught, more so than caught. Memory research tells us that we remember up to 70% of new information if that information is practiced within 24 hours. Learn how to practice key information from school and the workplace to interrupt the “forgetting cycle” with the Quick Daily Review.

How to Take Notes

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-take-notes/

Some teachers seem to feel that knowing how to take notes is simply a matter of common sense. However, this is simply not true. Taking effective notes is a skill. Good note-taking can improve comprehension of the information presented in class and in textbooks. It can also help organize for test study. This article teaches the four best strategies for note-taking success: formal outline, webbing, Cornell Notes, and margin notes.

How Margin Notes are Better than the Yellow Highlighter

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-margin-notes-are-better-than-the-yellow-highlighter/

The key to reading comprehension and retention is interactive reading. To prepare effectively for tests and discussion, marginal annotations prompt that internal dialogue with the author. This article provides the prompts you need to annotate texts well and tells why you should get rid of your yellow highlighters.

How to Get Motivated and Set Goals: The Top Ten Tips

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-get-motivated-and-set-goals-the-top-ten-tips/

Motivation and goal-setting techniques should work together to produce effective behavioral change. This article will give you the plan to avoid procrastination and develop the discipline needed to achieve your goals.

How to Study: The Top Ten Tips

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-study-the-top-ten-tips/

Good students have learned that knowing how to study is just as important as knowing what to study. Good study habits are not just common sense; they have to be learned and practiced. This article discusses how to create a study environment and gives practical tips on how to study effectively.

Six Steps to Active Listening

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/six-steps-to-active-listening/

Good listening skills need to be learned and practiced. They are not just common sense. Learning new habits to replace old ones takes time and patience. However, everyone can improve listening skills by applying the Six Steps to Active Listening found in this short article.

Top Ten Memory Tips

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/top-ten-memory-tips/

Improving memory helps in all walks of life: business, school, and relationships. Learning and applying the Top Ten Memory Tips will significantly improve your short and long term memory. Who knows? After reading this list, you just might remember where you left your car keys.

How to Memorize Using the Grouping Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-grouping-technique/

This simple memory technique will help students of all ages place many items into the long term memory. Using the grouping technique, the seeming trivia of the academic disciplines is organized into meaningful and memorable categories. Score higher on tests and make study fun by learning the way our brains are organized.

How to Memorize Using the Catch Words Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-catch-words-technique/

Improve your long term memory by using catch words. Students will especially appreciate how catch words will help organize their test study. Catch words are useful for simple day to day facts that need to be memorized. You may also figure out why “ROY G. BIV” has helped millions remember the colors of the rainbow in order.

How to Memorize Using the Catch Sentences Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-catch-sentences-technique/

Learn how to significantly improve your long term memory by using catch sentences. Students will especially love how catch sentences will help organize their test study. Catch sentences are useful for many aspects of daily life. You may also figure out why “Every good boy does fine” has helped millions learn to play the piano.

How to Memorize Using the Association Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-association-technique/

Need to improve your long term memory? The association memory trick will help students prepare more efficiently for tests. The trick will help sales people remember names. Learn how to significantly improve your long term memory by using catch sentences. You may also find out how the memory experts can memorize the names of an entire studio audience.

How to Memorize Using the Linking Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-linking-technique/

The linking memory technique is one of the best memory methods to memorize lists of seemingly unrelated objects. Learn how to significantly improve your long term memory by using the linking strategies. Once you’ve made a link, you won’t have to think—you’ll just remember.

How to Memorize Using the Location Memory Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-location-memory-technique/

Location! Location! Location! The real estate professionals haven’t cornered the market on this strategy. Developed by the ancient Greeks, using familiar locations to memorize many ideas or objects has always proved a full-proof method of memorization. Have a speech or business presentation? This article will give you the tools to place the words into your long term memory.

How to Memorize Using the This Old Man Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-%E2%80%9Cthis-old-man%E2%80%9D-technique/

Who would think that a simple nursery rhyme, “This Old Man,” could help you memorize ten completely unrelated items in perfect order. Great for a business presentation. Useful for test study. Wonderful for a grocery or any to-do list. Once learned, the information will be retained in the long term memory.

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

English-Language Arts and Reading Intervention Articles and Resources 

Bookmark and check back often for new articles and free ELA/reading resources from Pennington Publishing.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Pennington Publishing’s mission is to provide the finest in assessment-based ELA and reading intervention resources for grades 4‒high school teachers. Mark Pennington is the author of two Standards-aligned programs: Teaching Essay Strategies and Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)Mark’s comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies and the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books help struggling readers significantly improve their reading skills in a full-year or half-year intensive reading intervention program. Make sure to check out Pennington Publishing’s free ELA and reading assessments to help you pinpoint grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and reading deficits.

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Free Resources for Test Preparation

Test Prep

Test Prep Articles

Like most teachers, I teach test preparation strategies in my content area-English-language arts. I teach how to study and how to take tests. As an MA Reading Specialist, I happen to think that it’s an important reading skill. However, despite pressures from some to teach to the annual state and district standardized tests, I just smile and continue to teach to the established standards and to the needs of my students. In other words, I think I teach what I’m supposed to teach and to whom. Not all of my colleagues share my views. We just have a basic, honest disagreement on this matter.

Some of my colleagues support teaching “power standards” and use “release questions” to practice for the annual standardized tests. Some spend considerable amounts of time composing benchmark assessments in the standardized test format. Some colleagues plan mini-lessons to address relative weaknesses indicated through item analyses of the test data. Some minimize instruction in content and/or skills that are untested or seem to be relative strengths. Some plan and prioritize their instructional minutes and assessments to match the percentage allotment of test questions. If 7% of the subtest consists of word analysis questions, then they plan 7% of their instructional delivery time and 7% of the questions on their unit tests to match. Some essentially abandon instruction the last week or so prior to the standardized test in order to review test-taking strategies and practice test questions. The standardized test certainly does drive instruction for some teachers, and they readily admit that this is the case.

Now I’d like to report that my method of teaching to the standards and students produces superior standardized test results than my more zealous standardized test colleagues; however, states wisely have precluded this kind of data analysis. But, to be completely honest… If we were able to determine that my colleague achieved superior test scores, I doubt whether I would alter much of my instruction accordingly. I don’t think I’m stubborn or close-minded. I steal from my colleagues all the time, but I better trust the process of teaching to the standards and to my students than the process of teaching to the standardized test.

Following are articles, free resources, and teaching tips regarding how to prepare students for test preparation from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Test Preparation

How to Study in Advance for Tests

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-study-in-advance-for-tests/

Although cramming for a test is somewhat effective, studying over a period of days prior to the test gets better results. Learn how to prepare in advance by practicing a daily review of notes, asking the right questions of the teacher, and forming a study group. This article details the best advance strategies for test success.

How to Take Tests

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-take-tests/

Although your effective test study does increase the likelihood of test success, it is only half of the equation. The other critical half is how you take the test. Developing a test plan will reduce stress, manage time, and maximize success. This article details the best strategies for taking a test.

How to Reduce Test Anxiety

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-reduce-test-anxiety/

Test anxiety plagues students of all ages. This article teaches you how to relax and build test-taking confidence with positive self-talk and practical strategies.

The Phenomenal Five Objective Test Tips

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/the-phenomenal-five-objective-test-tips/

Objective tests pose many problems for test-takers. Knowing the strategies of how to answer multiple choice, matching, fill in the blank, and true-false test problems can significantly improve ones overall test scores. This article details the five best objective test-taking strategies.

How to Take Multiple Choice Tests

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-take-multiple-choice-tests/

Learn how to strategically guess on multiple choice sections. These multiple choice tips will help you get the grade you want by eliminating selection mistakes. Learn how multiple choice tests are constructed and take advantage of this to maximize your test score. Hint: the answer isn’t always “C.”

The Top Nine Tips to Taking True-False Tests

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/the-top-nine-tips-to-taking-true-false-tests/

Students say that they like true-false tests; however, it is hard to earn an A on these types of tests. This article details the tips that will maximize your scores on these test sections. Learn how to strategically guess on true-false tests. Everything you learn will be true, of course.

The Top Ten Tips to Taking Matching Tests

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/the-top-ten-tips-to-taking-matching-tests/

Learn how to strategically guess on matching sections. These tips will help you get the grade you want by eliminating selection mistakes. Learn how matching tests are constructed and take advantage of this to maximize your test score.

Top Ten Memory Tips

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/top-ten-memory-tips/

Improving memory helps in all walks of life: business, school, and relationships. Learning and applying the Top Ten Memory Tips will significantly improve your short and long term memory. Who knows? After reading this list, you just might remember where you left your car keys.

How to Memorize Using the Grouping Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-grouping-technique/

This simple memory technique will help students of all ages place many items into the long term memory. Using the grouping technique, the seeming trivia of the academic disciplines is organized into meaningful and memorable categories. Score higher on tests and make study fun by learning the way our brains are organized.

How to Memorize Using the Catch Words Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-catch-words-technique/

Improve your long term memory by using catch words. Students will especially appreciate how catch words will help organize their test study. Catch words are useful for simple day to day facts that need to be memorized. You may also figure out why “ROY G. BIV” has helped millions remember the colors of the rainbow in order.

How to Memorize Using the Catch Sentences Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-catch-sentences-technique/

Learn how to significantly improve your long term memory by using catch sentences. Students will especially love how catch sentences will help organize their test study. Catch sentences are useful for many aspects of daily life. You may also figure out why “Every good boy does fine” has helped millions learn to play the piano.

How to Memorize Using the Association Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-association-technique/

Need to improve your long term memory? The association memory trick will help students prepare more efficiently for tests. The trick will help sales people remember names. Learn how to significantly improve your long term memory by using catch sentences. You may also find out how the memory experts can memorize the names of an entire studio audience.

How to Memorize Using the Linking Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-linking-technique/

The linking memory technique is one of the best memory methods to memorize lists of seemingly unrelated objects. Learn how to significantly improve your long term memory by using the linking strategies. Once you’ve made a link, you won’t have to think—you’ll just remember.

How to Memorize Using the Location Memory Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-location-memory-technique/

Location! Location! Location! The real estate professionals haven’t cornered the market on this strategy. Developed by the ancient Greeks, using familiar locations to memorize many ideas or objects has always proved a full-proof method of memorization. Have a speech or business presentation? This article will give you the tools to place the words into your long term memory.

How to Memorize Using the This Old Man Technique

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/how-to-memorize-using-the-%E2%80%9Cthis-old-man%E2%80%9D-technique/

Who would think that a simple nursery rhyme, “This Old Man,” could help you memorize ten completely unrelated items in perfect order. Great for a business presentation. Useful for test study. Wonderful for a grocery or any to-do list. Once learned, the information will be retained in the long term memory.

The Sweet Sixteen Strategies for SAT® Success

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/study_skills/the-sweet-sixteen-strategies-for-sat®-success/

Just sixteen general strategies will help you make a significant difference on both the SAT® and ACT® test. Warning: Don’t assume you already know these tips; these are not just “common sense” test-taking strategies. Use these strategies with readily available online practice tests and watch your scores improve.

How to Answer the SAT® Sentence Completion Test Problems

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-answer-the-sat-sentence-completion-test-problems/

Most SAT®-takers generally think that the SAT sentence completion sections are relatively easy. After all, they are just fill in the blanks. However, many students can be shocked to find out that their test results in this section can be lower than those from the passage-based sections. This article shares the best strategies to help SAT-takers significantly increase their SAT scores on the sentence completion test problems.

How to Answer the SAT® Passage-Based Reading Test Problems

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-answer-the-sat-passage-based-reading-test-problems/

The SAT passage-based reading sections can create a stumbling block for SAT test-takers. Many students score poorly on these sections; however, using the memorable strategies explained in this article will help SAT-takers significantly increase their SAT scores on the passage-based critical reading section. Learn how to beat the SAT with these effective strategies.

How to Get a 12 on the SAT® Essay

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/writing/how-to-get-a-12-on-the-sat-essay/

The SAT essay can produce time management challenges and difficulties for SAT-takers. Many students score poorly on this section; however, using the AEC  TP  IT  2B  RCP strategies will help SAT-takers significantly increase their SAT scores on the SAT essay section.

How to Learn SAT® Vocabulary

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-learn-sat-vocabulary/

SAT®-takers find the critical reading sections challenging because both the sentence completion and passage-based reading sections are so vocabulary dependent. You may not have a huge academic vocabulary, but some concentrated study and knowing the following strategies can make a significant difference in your scores. Here are the short-cuts you need to succeed.

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

English-Language Arts and Reading Intervention Articles and Resources 

Bookmark and check back often for new articles and free ELA/reading resources from Pennington Publishing.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Pennington Publishing’s mission is to provide the finest in assessment-based ELA and reading intervention resources for grades 4‒high school teachers. Mark

Essential Study Skills Program

Essential Study Skills

Pennington is the author of two Standards-aligned programs: Teaching Essay Strategies and Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)Mark’s comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies and the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books help struggling readers significantly improve their reading skills in a full-year or half-year intensive reading intervention program. Make sure to check out Pennington Publishing’s free ELA and reading assessments to help you pinpoint grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and reading deficits.

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Essential Study Skills

From a child’s point of view, there are advantages and disadvantages to having a teacher as a parent. The time off over holidays and summer vacations certainly provides plenty of options for family activities. However, that additional time at home also means plenty of opportunities for learning and character development.

In our household, Dad was the teacher, and he had three sons. So this meant plenty of sports and outdoor adventures. This also meant that we were given a choice every summer: 4 hours of summer school each day at the nearby public school or 90 minutes of daily supervised instruction at home. It was not much of a choice. Each summer we chose the option that Dad affectionately labeled as Essential Study Skills.

Despite our relief at finally graduating from Dad’s Essential Study Skills once we got summer jobs or took community college classes during our high school years, we have to admit that we learned quite a few useful skills each summer. The study skills were especially helpful, and to this day, we don’t understand why these skills are not taught and re-taught to mastery during the regular school year by “regular” teachers.

Maybe these study skills are not introduced because teachers assume that most are simply common sense and do not require  instruction. Or, maybe each teacher thinks that “some other teacher” should or has already taught them. From our personal experiences, study skills need to be taught, not just caught.

Parents can use the time off over holidays and during summer vacations to teach the study skills that teachers “did not have the time” to teach during the school year. Here’s how to develop your own Essential Study Skills plan for each of your children.

-Find out what your child’s relative weaknesses are by giving brief diagnostic tests. Check out these free diagnostic tests in phonics, spelling, grammar, and mechanics, just to name a few. Design short lessons to address those weaknesses.

-Have your child read for 30 minutes a day in a book at his or her challenge level. Not sure how to help your child pick a book that will best develop the vocabulary and comprehension skills that your child needs to achieve optimal growth?

How to Select Books that Have the Appropriate Reading Levels

The goal is to match individual readers to text that has about 5% unknown words. A much higher percentage is too hard for the reader; a much lower percentage is too easy for the reader.

How can you pick a book to read that has 5% unknown words? Choose a book of any genre and count the number of words on any complete page found near the beginning of the book and multiply that number by 3. Read a page toward the beginning of the book, counting the number of unknown words. A good guideline would be “if you can’t define it with a synonym, antonym, or example,” it is unknown. Then, read a page near the middle of the book and continue the count. Finally, read a page near the end of the book and finish the count. Divide the total number of unknown words by the total number of words found on the three pages. The result will be the percentage of unknown words. Anything within the 4-6% range is acceptable. For example, a reader counts the number of words on a page and arrives at 225. 225 x 3 = 750. After reading the three pages, the amount of unknown words totals 30. 30.00 divided by 750 = .05, or 5%.

Also, check out these helpful articles: How We Learn Vocabulary from Reading Part II and Interactive Reading: Making a Movie in Your Head.

-Have your child study Greek and Latin vocabulary game cards. Which word parts should they memorize? Check out this article.

-Have your child develop his or her writing style and build writing fluency by spending 30 minutes a day writing journals, thank-you notes, blogs, emails, stories, or essays, while using the techniques taught in this article: How to Improve Your Writing Style with Grammatical Sentence Openers.

-Buy this fantastic self-guided resource: Essential Study SkillsThe 56 lessons in Essential Study Skills (eBook) will teach your students to “work smarter, not

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

harder.” Often, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because they don’t try hard enough, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable.

Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, advocacy/advisory, opportunity program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice.

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How Margin Notes are Better than the Yellow Highlighter

Ditch the Yellow Highlighter

Teach Margin Notes

We all remember the joys of highlighting articles and college textbooks with our favorite yellow marker. Aw, the smell! It is true that note-taking on the text is superior to note-taking on paper or on a computer. However, is yellow highlighting the best form of note-taking to improve reading comprehension and retention? In a word: NO.

Highlighting text may even be counterproductive. Let’s face it. Highlighting takes time away from reading. It also interrupts the flow of what should be an internal dialogue between reader and author. If you stopped an important conversation every minute or so with an unconnected activity, you would certainly decrease your understanding of that dialogue. No doubt, you would also irritate your conversational partner!

Also, highlighting can’t be erased. Ever highlight what you thought was a main idea and find in a paragraph later that you were mistaken? Some even use white-out to un-do their highlighting errors!

Finally, highlighting limits effective re-reading and study review. When reviewing a highlighted text the night before an exam, your eyes are drawn only to the highlighting. You miss out on the possibility of revising your understanding of the text or seeing the author’s train of thought from another angle.

Now that I’ve de-bunked the cherished highlighter, is there a better reading and note-taking option to improve reading comprehension? Yes. Try using margin notes. Margin note-taking uses symbols, abbreviations, and and annotations in the top, bottom, left, and right margins of books and articles to promote interactive reading. As an M.A. Reading Specialist, I highly recommend this interactive approach to reading and responding to the text. The more the dialogue between reader and author, the greater the reading comprehension. “Talking to the text” makes reading comprehensible and memorable. Also, the margin notes prepare the reader for class discussion and serve as helpful review prior to tests.

Teach your students to take margin notes using the following marginal tips with your next article, reading passage, or story. Who knows, you might just save a few dollars on yellow highlighters! Can’t write in the textbook? No worries, the small yellow stickies fit margins perfectly and can be removed without tearing pages or erasing the ink.

How to Take Margin Notes

  1. Circle key vocabulary terms and [bracket] definitions in the text.
  2. Write a check mark in the margin for a main idea.
  3. Number examples and key details in the text.
  4. Write a question mark for confusing passages, for sections to review, and for questions to ask the teacher or in class discussion.
  5. Use a single [bracket] to identify a text selection and write out comments, using the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies. Label each comment with an S, C, R, I, or P:
  • Summarize means to put together the main ideas and important details of a reading into a short-version of what the author has said. A summary can be of an entire reading, but it is more useful to summarize more than once at key transition points in the author’s train of thought. It frequently requires the reader to skim that part of the reading once more.
  • Connect means to notice the relationship between one part of the text with another part of the text. The parts may compare (be similar) or contrast (be different). The parts may be a sequence (an order) of events or ideas. The parts may respond to other parts of the text, such as to provide reasons for or effects of what came before in the reading. Draw arrows in the margin to connect related ideas if within the text. Next, Connect also means to examine the relationship between one part of the text with something outside of the text. It could be something from another book, movie, television show, or historical event.
  • Re-think means to re-read the text when you are confused or have lost the author’s train of thought. Reviewing what has just been read will improve understanding. You may even understand what the author has said in a different way than how you understood that section the first time reading it. Write your conclusion about the author means.
  • Interpret means to focus on what the author means. Authors may directly say what they mean right in the lines of the text. They also may suggest what they mean with hints to allow readers to draw their own conclusions. These hints can be found in the tone (feeling/attitude) of the writing, the word choice, or in other parts of the writing that may be more directly stated. Write your interpretation and other possible interpretations.
  • Predict means to make an educated guess about what will happen or be said next in the text. A good prediction uses the clues presented in the reading to make a logical guess that makes sense. Good readers check their predictions with what actually happens or is said next.
Essential Study Skills Program

Essential Study Skills

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success.

The 56 lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Want five FREE lessons to teach the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies plus a FREE set of SCRIP Bookmarks sent to your email?

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

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Six Steps to Active Listening

Active Listening

Six Steps to Active Listening

As a middle school teacher, I’m quite familiar with the research showing that only 30% of my audience is actually listening at any one given point of a class lecture. Many of us can relate to the actor, Ben Stein, trying to engage his high school class in this clip from the 1986 movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Most teachers would not perceive themselves as being that boring, but our students might at times disagree. Through experience, teachers learn a variety of cueing strategies, such as the teacher’s lights-off/lights-on cue, the clap-once, clap-twice response, or the “Eyes on me!” techniques to get their students to pay attention.

However, something more than cueing strategies is needed to help students become effective listeners. As is often the case with many of the key study skills that students need to be successful in school, active listening needs to be specifically taught, not incidentally caught.

Surprisingly, there is little educational research on how to teach listening skills.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman completed a meta-analysis of what good listeners actually do in their article in the Harvard Business Review. Based upon data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches, the authors identified those who were perceived as being the most effective listeners (the top 5%).  Zenger and Folkman arrived at these conclusions: 1. Good listeners viewed listening as a “two-way” activity in which listeners ask questions that promote discovery and insight. 2. Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem. 3. Good listeners tended to be cooperative, not competitive with the speaker. 4. Good listeners made suggestions and provided feedback to the speaker.

Despite the lack of listening research, we do know from life experience that there certainly are different levels of listening engagement. Generally speaking, we tend to classify the levels as active and passive listening. The listening behaviors described by Zenger and Folkman would be classified as active listening. However, in much of our daily experience, we tend to be passive listeners. For example, we frequently turn on the television not to watch, but to provide noise just to keep us company. While in the car, we turn on the radio to reduce the noise of traffic. If we are honest, we also tune out in some of our conversations. The problem is not the fact that we are sometimes passive in our listening. The real problem is that we have become so habituated to listening without real engagement that when we need to listen carefully, we are out of practice. So how can we turn the switch back on and replace passive listening with active listening when we really need to listen? And how can we teach our students to do so?

First of all, recognize that active listening is not a one and done teaching lesson. Improving our students’ active listening skills takes practice and plenty of reinforcement. Learning new habits to replace old ones takes time and patience. However, students can improve listening skills by applying the Six Steps to Active Listening, summarized as ED IS PC. A helpful memory trick students will remember. Who knows? Maybe you even know someone named Ed, who really is politically correct. Or go with Ed, the virtual reality computer. Display the graphic and get ready to teach!

E

Eye contact with your conversation partner is essential. One of our famous poets once said, “The eyes are the windows to our souls.” When we “lock in” to the speaker’s eyes, we better focus on what is being said. We all remember a parent demanding, “Look at me, when I’m talking to you” or a teacher saying “Eyes on me!” to the class. Experience teaches the fact that eye contact improves attention to what is being said.

D

Distractions must be avoided at all costs. Anything or anyone that takes you away from active listening must be identified and eliminated to the extent that you can control. In a classroom or in a workplace, sitting next to your best friend or someone who is not actively engaged with the speaker will distract you from listening fully. Time to move! Avoid having toys within arm’s reach that will challenge your ability to pay close attention. Think of toys such as cell phones, pens, reading materials—any external stimuli that distract you from the 100% listening task.

I

Interact with the speaker. Get into the speaker’s mind and think like the speaker. A good speaker will have an organizational plan to any presentation. A lecture, interview, and meeting all have their own patterns of organization. Identify this pattern as soon as you can, and anticipate where the speaker is going next. Common organizational patterns include the following: cause and effect, reasons for, compare and contrast, chronological, issue and action step, main ideas or points and their key details/examples, problems and solutions, questions and answers, argument/opinion and justification.

Practice these interactive actions to increase your active listening:

  • Ask questions to clarify speaker points.
  • Maintain an internal dialogue with the speaker about each of the main points.
  • If appropriate, make comments or answer questions.
  • Connect to prior learning. How does what is being said now relate to what has recently been said?
  • Focus on the main ideas and don’t get lost in the details. Recognize when your speaker gets off on a tangent or “bird walks.”
  • Write down summary notes at the end of key speaker points—not in the middle of the point. Jot down questions or points to clarify for later.
  • Hear the speaker out from beginning to end. Predict where the organizational pattern will take your speaker next and check your predictions as you listen.

S

Signal words that identify main ideas must be identified. Pay attention to the key words that signal the introduction of a new idea. Each pattern of organization has its own signal words to transition between ideas. For example, the chronology pattern makes use of “first,” “next,” “then,” “finally” and many more. Listening to these cues will help you concentrate better.

P

Posture matters! Sit up straight with feet flat on the floor. Adjust your seat or desk so that you are looking directly at the speaker, not from an angle. Keep both hands on the table or desk to maintain this posture. A bit uncomfortable? Good. Perfect relaxation induces passive listening. A little stress promotes active listening. Try to sit as close as possible to the speaker—front and center gets the most speaker attention and your best position for interaction.

C

Concentrate on what is being said and don’t daydream. Listening is a full time job. Develop the mind-set that you must fully understand everything that is being said, how it is being said, and why it is being said. Practice the mind-set that you will have to remember each of the main ideas and be able to use or apply each of these soon. A good trick is to pretend that you will have to repeat the speaker’s presentation immediately following.

After using these active listening skills, help place this short-term learning into your long-term memory by completing a Quick Daily Review as the first part of your homework plan.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why

Essential Study Skills Program

Essential Study Skills

students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success.

The 56 lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

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How to Get Motivated and Set Goals: The Top Ten Tips

Motivation to Achieve Goals

Get Motivated to Achieve Goals

Following is a lesson that I teach at the beginning of the school year and reinforce time and time again. I also walk through these steps with parents at Back to School Night and in parent conferences.

I first learned about The Motivation Cycle in my freshman intro to psychology class at U.S.C. Go Trojans! It just made so much sense. To get motivated to achieve goals: 1. Start practicing with expert advice. 2. Effective practice leads to achievement. 3. Achievement makes people feel good about themselves and the cause of that feeling. In other words, people want to feel good about themselves and so this want transfers to practicing something else to achieve that same satisfaction. A true cycle!

As a teacher, years ago I learned that no matter how well-crafted was a unit or lesson plan, my behavioral objectives would not be met unless I included a motivation stratagem. It’s easy to get students motivated to do something they enjoy. The trick is to learn how to self-motivate to accomplish the things that involve practice that they don’t enjoy. Follow these Top Ten Tips to increase motivation and to set goals that are truly achievable for your students.

1.  Define your goal. You’ve got to clearly understand where you want to end up before you begin any journey. Set goals that are realistic and specific.

For parents: If your child got all D’s and F’s on his last report card, straight-A’s on the next one not not be realistic. A goal of “do better” or “improve” is not specific.

2. Don’t try to do everything at once. Limit your goals to follow a one-at-a-time model. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

For parents: Avoid tutoring in all subjects. Better to tutor in one to a certain level of achievement and then tackle the next subject.

3. Make your goals public. Tell those close to you what your goal is and that you want their feedback and support as you work toward your set goals. Ask them to ask about your progress.

For parents: For elementary students, post goals on the refrigerator and use stars or stickers to show progress. For middle school and high school students, host peer study groups and help your child and friends to state their goals.

4. Break down your goal into manageable mini-goals. Get expert help in how to organize your plan to achieve success.

For parents: You may be the expert, but children perceive their teachers as the real experts. Find out how your child’s teacher likes to communicate and become that teacher’s favorite parent. Get advice early and often. Buy Starbucks cards and write nice notes to the teacher and commend her to the principal. Teachers are human, after all.

5. Set personal rewards for achieving each of your mini-goals. Behavioralists are right—positive reinforcement stimulates sustained effort.

For parents: Don’t give $10 for an A on the report card. That report card is month’s away. It’s not the money that is problematic; it’s that the goal is too long-term. Much better to provide rewards such as “I’ll do one of your chores if you do all of your homework for a week without me reminding you” or “I’ll make you and your friends a batch of chocolate chip cookies and let you do a sleepover if you get an A on the next math test. Make sure to state the reward in advance. Also, teach your children how to set their own rewards for achievement. Again, the short-term goal is the key. Sure, we’d all like to have our children focus on intrinsic rewards, but extrinsic rewards are a start and they get results. You may enjoy your job, but you probably wouldn’t do it without a paycheck.

6. Start small, but start.  Starting small can produce big results. Even the longest journey begins with a single step, but you have to take that step. Start by spending just ten minutes extra each day, working toward your set goals.

For parents: Try starting with a ten-minute Quick Daily Review to break the forgetting cycle. Check out this powerful small step in my article, “Learn How to Study.”

7. Practice correctly with accountability. More golf swings do not improve a golf game. Expert advice and coaching makes a difference.

For parents: Again, consult your child’s teacher(s). I do favor task-oriented study and homework more so than time-oriented homework. For example, much better to assign your child 18 pages to read in a novel with a follow-up parent-child discussion, rather than read on your own for 30 minutes.

8. Practice consistently but don’t over-do.  Limit practice to avoid burn-out. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. So keep moving to accomplish your set goals.

For parents: Parents are the chief reason why students fail to achieve their goals. Brutal, but true. Don’t make promises you won’t keep. If your serious about helping your children improve motivation and achievement by effective goal-setting you have to be there, each and every day. As a teacher, I never let parents say, “School is my child’s job, not mine. It’s up to my child to succeed.” My go-to response? “How’s that working for you?”

9. Avoid procrastination. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. Make consistent effort a habitual practice. However, if you miss practice, forgive yourself and then start again.

For parents: Your best tool for elementary, middle, and high school? Your child’s daily planner. If your school doesn’t provide one, buy one. Require your child to write down something for each subject or class to complete or study every day, as well as upcoming tests, project due-dates and announcements. Check the agenda daily and ask to see work completed.

10. Evaluate your progress toward your set goals and be flexible. What is working and what needs adjustment? Do the set goals or practice need refinement? 

For parents: Each child is motivated in different ways. Experiment to find what works and change things up if things aren’t working. Quickly. Don’t wait until your child’s grade takes a nosedive before making adjustments.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why

Essential Study Skills Program

Essential Study Skills

students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success.

The 56 lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

For parents: My three boys completed each of these lessons during summer vacation over a period of years. I let my sons choose: 4 hours of summer school daily for 10 weeks or 30 minute of study skills, 30 minutes worth of reading (by page numbers) and discussion with me, 30 minutes writing, and 30 minutes of other stuff: Boy Scouts achievement work, church Sunday School lessons, chemistry set work, art, etc. for the 10 weeks (time off for vacation). They never chose summer school!

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