Struggling with homework? Revision just not effective? Many students are now at the point where they are becoming overloaded with work, aren’t succeeding in tests or are finding school stressful. There are some easy ways of organising your learning to get a better balance and become more effective. Don’t become demotivated – become a super student using these top tips.
Organising Your Learning Tasks – Amazing Agendas
Most students use a paper homework diary or agenda. Many schools also have an electronic system where homework is recorded as well. The trouble is these can be unreliable or not useful if used incorrectly. Firstly – teachers try very hard to help you by recording homework on electronic systems however they can’t help it if the system isn’t working properly. Also, with the current issues many teachers are running classes in school and online at the same time so give them a break and organise yourself!
Tip #1 USE YOUR AGENDA EFFICIENTLY
- Write the homework on the date it is due in NOT the day it is set.
- Write instructions IN FULL – e.g. ‘complete sheet’ is not a useful instruction. ‘Complete sheet on angles’ is much more helpful. Write and check page numbers and exercise numbers are correct.
- Use colour to highlight tasks that are completed – it makes you feel good and helps your brain process what is left to do.
- If allowed there are lots of free apps that you can use to record your homework that will set alarms and reminders for you.
Organising Your Learning Time – Prioritising for Motivation
In France the school day runs from 8.30am to 5pm most days. Some students get study time (etude) during the day. In the UK the school day is shorter but there is no study time until A-levels. Whatever system you are in, most of us want to have time to do our hobbies and spend time with family and friends and not just study all the time. Anyway, there is a multitude of research studies that shows that we all need balance in our lives if we want to achieve the best.
Tip #2 WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER
Take 30 minutes at a set time each week to write your priority list. This could be a weekend or during a study period on Monday for example. You need to prioritise by date, task importance and time needed to complete the task. In the picture below I have prioritised the tasks so I would complete the Science first as it’s for a test (so arguably most important). Then it would be Maths as that’s due on the 2nd. This is assuming I’m writing my list a few days before. If though I’m writing my list on the 1st, I would do the Maths first as its due the next day and then the Science second. This way nothing gets forgotten and time is used efficiently leaving more time for fun!
- Have everything ready for you to complete your work without distraction. Put your phone away, make sure you have a drink with you, have your pencil case nearby. We all use distraction to put off what we don’t want to do so be strict with yourself. Focusing for an hour is better for your balance than getting distracted for two hours!
- Look at what you need to complete the task before you start it. Metacognition (reflecting on our own learning) has been shown to make learning much more effective so think about what the task requires you to do for a couple of minutes before you start. This sort of planning will make you a better learner.
Organising your Learning – Rapid Revision for Maximum Marks
As a teacher I often do tests with my students that I haven’t warned them about. I’m not just cruel (although my nickname when I first started teaching was Cruella…), cognitive research tells us that repeated testing of the same material actively encourages the creation and maintenance of memory traces in the brain. We learn better because of it. Sometimes we know that we are going to get tested and might have a homework set to ‘revise’. Any revision though should only be for 30 minutes at a time or our brain gets bored and won’t learn any more. If you are revising for a lot of exams create a timetable that is in 30-minute blocks and do a different subject every block. Here are some great quick review activities to get your memory working brilliantly.
Tip #3 READING NOTES DOES NOT WORK
Memory is an active process – you need to do something with knowledge to get it securely in your brain. If you have learnt about the water cycle, for example, draw a diagram from memory giving yourself 5 minutes. Then spend 10 minutes looking at your notes or the text book and add any missing detail using a difference colour pen to make it stand out, then test yourself by covering parts with a sticky note and seeing if you can remember what was underneath for 10 minutes. Then finally 5 minutes on another piece of paper drawing out the water cycle again. The whole thing can be revised in 30 minutes!
Tip #4 GUESS THE QUESTIONS
- After every lesson if you really want to supercharge your learning, you need to review. This can be done in 15 minutes. Without looking at your notes, write questions on a sticky note that the teacher might ask you in next lesson to see if you can remember what this lesson was about. Then look at your notes and write further questions. An example might be ‘How are clouds formed?’ using the water cycle example again. The teacher will be looking for the words Evaporation, Transpiration and Condensation in an answer. You then stick the notes into your book in the right section and when you are revising use these to help you.
- You could do a similar activity but create revision cards with the questions on one side and the answers on the other. Colour code by subject or topic and save them for the end of the year. Efficient and effective!
Tip #5 USE THE TECH
- There are some amazing websites that you can use to review which are fun and save you work. You can even work with friends and help each other out. Just don’t get distracted searching around for something relevant.
- Quizlet (https://quizlet.com/) is a website that is based on questions/definitions and answers – like interactive flashcards. The best thing is that if you search for a question set you will see what other people have already uploaded. You can then use their work to test yourself (always check they have got the right answers though!) Many teachers create sets on there and share them so look for these. You can also create your own sets which is great active learning.
- Kahoot (https://kahoot.com/home/) uses mobile technology so you can play as an individual or against others online (a bit like X-box live but better for your grades!). There are quizzes and you select the right answer against the clock. If you have to revise you might as well make it fun.
Using these tips should help you with organising your learning and reduce the stress you may be feeling. Stop feeling demotivated and become a super student. If you need any further support, please contact me to send an email.