Definitions, Great for All Ages, School Advice, Study Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#95: Deliberate Studying

Often kids waste time studying things they already know and then they don’t have time to dive deep into studying the stuff that is challenging them. Teaching them about what deliberate studying is and how to study deliberately so that they focus on the hard stuff can help them use their time more efficiently and effectively!

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Deliberate studying is the term I’m using for what experts have been calling “deliberate practice”. So to define deliberate practice, it is:

  • At least 1 hour of intensely focused practice or study (and no more than 2 hours before a break)
  • Purposeful, focused attention
  • With a specific goal of improving performance

It differs from regular practice, which often includes more mindless repetition. When you are just practicing, you run the risk of reviewing stuff you already know and so you aren’t really learning anything. When you are deliberately practicing, on the other hand, you figure out what you don’t know and you work on improving that specific skill. When we think about deliberate studying, we should be thinking about focusing on the areas that you don’t have a good handle on – things that are challenging. They need to practice those challenging problems and get feedback so they can see where they went wrong and try it again.

Deliberate studying would mean trying the problems they missed on their homework again. If they get them wrong again, it means looking at how to do it correctly and then trying again and practicing some similar problems until they get them right every time and they are no longer challenging.

For English, maybe your child isn’t good at writing essays. Deliberate studying would mean writing essays. It would also require feedback, so you may need to be there to provide some gentle, constructive feedback so they can keep improving. To improve their writing, they may also want to look at recommended outlines for writing quick essays so that they have a template.

How can you help your child learn to study deliberately?

Talk to them about it. You’ll definitely get better results if you can talk to them about it when they are young and still willing to listen to you. If they are older, they may still listen to you if you can say it in a helpful, suggesting way and frame it as your experience.

Simply explain to your child deliberate studying. And while you are teaching them about deliberate studying, it would be extra convincing and helpful if you told them about a time you used deliberate studying. Kids love to know that you struggled too and that they aren’t going through these tough things alone. So sharing your story can be really powerful. It’s also really helpful because it gives them a concrete example of what deliberate studying looks like.

  • “Oh, now that you are starting to take tests, I want to teach you about a trick that really helped me when I was studying. It’s called deliberate studying.”
  • “I see you’re having trouble studying. You know what I did when I didn’t have enough time to study everything and I really needed to focus, I used this trick called deliberate studying.”

Teaching children about what deliberate studying is and how to study deliberately so that they focus on the hard stuff can help them use their time more efficiently and effectively!

Studying References:
How to Study
Study that Vocab!
Tackling Reading Comprehension

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

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School Advice, Study Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#93: Study that Vocab!

Vocabulary studying is the worst. Learn Fireborn’s technique for making vocabulary studying more interesting and effective!

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Here’s a more interesting way to help your kid study for those vocab tests:

Start with a blank PowerPoint presentation.

  • The first time you do this with your kid, you can make the PowerPoint to show them how it’s done. Then next time, they can make it with your help. And then hopefully by the next time or maybe the time after that, they are doing it on their own.

At the top of the first slide in the “Title” section, write the first vocabulary word.

  • If your kid knows the meaning already, then you actually don’t need this slide at all.

Look up the meaning online.

  • Don’t type the definition of the word yet!

Do a safe Google Image search of the vocabulary word.

  • Pick a picture that represents the word. The funnier the picture the better.

Copy and paste that image into the presentation on a new slide.

  • Be sure to cover up the sentence that has the vocabulary word, if it appears in the picture.

Write a sentence using the vocabulary word on a different slide.

  • The funnier the sentence the better because humor makes the information easier to remember.

At the bottom of a new slide, write the definition of the word.

Then you want to add animation to the slide so that when the slide opens, it’s just the vocabulary word.

  • Then when you click once it shows you the photo. When you click again, it shows you the silly sentence. When you click again, it shows you the definition.
  • This way when your kid goes through the slides they have a few opportunities to guess the meaning of the word. Maybe they know it immediately just seeing the word and then they can click through to the next slide. Or maybe they need a little help, so they look at the picture to see if that jogs their memory. If not, then they get a little more help with the sentence. And if not, then they get the definition again to remind them.

Make as many slides as vocabulary words.

Go through it together once to practice.

  • See how much information your child has already retained.

Then take a break!

  • That was a lot of work already and your kid’s brain needs time to rest and reflect on all of that hard work.

After a little break and maybe doing some other work, your child can go back and go through the slides over and over until they know all of the words by heart. Of course, they should take breaks if they get overwhelmed and tired and need a break.

This strategy gives your child a lot of time to engage with and really understand the word even before they start testing themselves. They have to understand the word enough to find a photo and to write a sentence. These give their brains extra connections to use to remember the definition later, which helps in really retaining the information quickly and for even longer than just the next day of the test. The more you engage with the information, the more you really understand it and can use it later, which is what we really want for our kids.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Study Tips

How To Survive Exams

Exam time is stressful. There is most likely a lot of cramming going on (just being realistic here). Stuff that your child struggled with during the rest of the year but was able to put off is now starring them right in the face – they can’t ignore it any longer (well they can, it would just hurt their chances of getting a good grade – and let’s not forget, learning). That can really make them panic as they realize they have a limited amount of time to actually learn what they don’t know and what they have had a hard time learning.

To help make this time a bit easier on your child (and you), we have 8 tips to make exam time a little less stressful and a little more productive. (Depending on your child’s age, the following recommendations are either for you to help your child with or for your child. Younger children are more accepting of help than older children. Developing these habits early makes surviving exams easier.)

1. After each exam, treat yourself. Rewards help motivate you – they give you something to look forward to. Exams can be daunting. Knowing that you don’t have to immediately start studying for another one as soon as you finish this one gives you extra energy to keep going.

Rewards are also good because they give you a break. Breaks rejuvenate your brain and make you more productive during study time later.

Some good options include: Frappuccinos (my treat of choice after exams), a trip to the ice cream store, 30 minutes of basketball, a game of fetch with your dog, and talking to friends about non-exam-related stuff. (As a parent, during middle school exams, start this habit by picking your child up from exams and suggesting an immediate trip to a favorite restaurant or snack place).

2. Move on after you have finished one exam. Do not rehash what you may or may have not gotten wrong, though it is quite tempting to do this with friends. Move on. It does not matter anymore until you get your test back. Harping on it takes time away from studying for the next exam. It can also increase your stress level and make studying for the next test harder.

3. Create a plan for how to attack studying at the subject level (How will I study for math?) and at the daily level (What will I study Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday?).

For example, for math, I will take out all old homework, quizzes, and tests and start redoing all the questions I got wrong. Then I will keep redoing each one until I get each one right. Check out Fireborn’s episode on Study Tips for specific tips on how to study.

Then, perhaps you have two exams on Monday. So perhaps you plan your days as follows:

  • Friday after your exam you will take a break and enjoy your day and evening, maybe watch a movie.
  • Saturday in the morning, you will study for History. Then in the afternoon, you will study for Science. Then in the evening, you’ll again take a break and reward yourself with a movie.
  • Sunday, you will do the same study routine as Saturday during the day. Then in the evening, you will study whichever subject needs more work.

4. Take timed breaks. Like I said before, breaks are important. They are little rewards that help motivate you to get through your work. They also energize you and your brain. Timing your breaks is a good idea because then you are less likely to lose track of time and use up all of your study time on your break.

5. Eat a quick dinner with your family. Family dinner is an important reset and time for reflection and connection every day, but during exams it becomes even more important. Family conversation helps get your mind off of work and rejuvenates you. Making it short will stave off any anxiety you may feel that you’re not studying every single moment you have free.

6. Exercise. Sleep. Meditate. All of these things help reduce your anxiety and help you perform at peak levels. Sleep also helps you remember what you’ve been cramming into your brain the last few days during the test. Without sleep, what we’ve been studying doesn’t get encoded and so you’re less likely to remember it on the test the next day.

Exercising, sleeping, and meditating are important for both parents and students. Parents can become quite stressed by exams (or by their stressed students) and need to take care of themselves too!

7. Parents, you can help your child stay awake to study by staying awake with your child. If your child wants you to, sit and read or answer emails in the same room as your learner. Having someone else in the house awake and sitting with you can help you to stay awake as well as focused on your task.

8. Make exciting plans for the end of exams. Have something concrete to look forward to, such as a night out with friends, a movie or game night with your family, or going to Six Flags! Again, rewards are important. Having something to look forward to motivates us to do our best. The anticipation of something fun helps energize us to keep studying and doing well. Without that motivation, it can be hard to sustain that energy level and exams can become a slog.

Exams are hard! It’s easy for students to get overwhelmed and trudge through them. But it’s really hard to do your best and learn and get the grades you deserve when you’re dragging your feet to do your work or when your really anxious. By rewarding yourself, taking breaks, exercising, and planning out your study times, you will have more energy and be more motivated to get the studying done. You’ll be a happier, less anxious student and your quality of life (and hopefully your grades) will be much improved!

The Happy Student # 15: It’s Paper Time
School Advice, Study Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student #15: It’s Paper Time

Writing papers can be super intimidating! Catchy openers, good transitions, a strong thesis, supporting evidence… That’s a lot of work. And starting with a blank piece of paper or screen doesn’t help. Fireborn’s got a few tips to help you help your kid write their paper! (One idea: offer to type up what your kid says. To your kid, it feels like you are writing the paper for them, but you are simply putting their ideas on paper, which can be a bit of a block for them otherwise.)

The Happy Student # 15: It’s Paper Time

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

The school year is really in gear: quizzes, exams, and PAPERS. Writing can be a scary, trying time for kids and parents. Looking at a blank page can make it impossible to actually start writing anything. Organizing thoughts in a cohesive fashion is also really tough for kids. Coming up with a thesis can be intimidating. There are lots of difficult aspects to writing papers. You don’t want to be that parent who writes entire papers for your kid, but you do want to be a supportive parent and some kids need a lot of support when it comes to writing.

  • Make sure that they never look at a blank page and help create an outline that fits their needs as a writer. They can add in all those icebreakers and transitions later.
    • First, you want to help create a “Robot Thesis”. A robot thesis is a simple sentence. It is: This is a paper about __________________.
      • Ask your learner, “How might you fill in the blank space?” You can generate ideas together if it is difficult to answer. Your learner could even write “I don’t know what I would say.” It does not need to be an amazing, dynamic thesis, yet.
        • You may do the typing (but not the thinking) for your learner. Let them dictate their thoughts to you.
      • Secondly, you want to help create an outline.
        • Organize the outline for your learner.
        • Show your learner how to create an outline.

To create an outline:

  1. Have your learner slowly read the assignment aloud to you. While they are reading, start the bare bones of an outline.
  2. Have your learner read through the outline and check with them.
    • Ask them: Does this make sense? If we flesh out these bullet points, will we have answered all of your teacher’s questions? Do you think this is what your teacher was looking for? Adjust accordingly.
  3. Ask your learner for their thoughts on the paper. Do they have any initial thoughts about what they want to say? While they are responding, type up their thoughts in an appropriate place in the outline.
    • Outlines help non-linear thinkers organize their thoughts in a linear fashion. You are taking your child’s non-linear thoughts and showing her how to organize them. These are initial thoughts. As your writer continues to work on the outline and the paper, the ideas will mature and progress.
  4. Ask your student to find quotes that he thinks are relevant. Ask them what they think the quotes mean. Write it all down!
  5. When the research does not obviously fit with the theme of the paper, ask some clarifying questions, such as: That’s very interesting. How does it relate to the thesis? Then figure out where to put it in the outline. Maybe you need to create a new bullet point.
  6. Add in a bullet for the introduction and conclusion (and any other specific section needed) if your student has not yet said something for which you would create a bullet point.
  7. Ask if they want to update her thesis now that they have done so much research. They probably will.
  8. Now, take a break! Then let your learner take some time to write the rest of the paper without your help.
  • This outline is for your learner, so it does not need to be pretty with impeccable language and word choice. Functional is just fine – probably better.
  • Writing is a personal process. What is best for one learner, is not for another. This is one option worth trying.
  • If you want to see the outlines written out, you can view How To Start Writing a Paper.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Okay – somehow you got your kid to start doing their homework. That’s amazing. How do you now help them maintain their focus on their homework?
Study Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student Podcast #80: Now That I Have Your Attention

Okay – somehow you got your kid to start doing their homework. That’s amazing. How do you now help them maintain their focus on their homework? Fireborn has 8 tips to help your children sustain their attention. Talk with your kids about which strategies they want to try when school starts. That way, when they start their homework, they can keep working, finish their assignments, and start the school year off right!

Okay – somehow you got your kid to start doing their homework. That’s amazing. How do you now help them maintain their focus on their homework?

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  • We often get distracted more easily from our work when it’s something we are afraid of.
    • If you just say, “I’m just going to read through the assignment and then I’m going to take a break. I’m not actually going to try to do any of the work.” That’s a lot less scary and it’s much easier to read the instructions. The benefit of this is that while you are not stressing about it, your brain is subconsciously thinking about how to tackle the problem. So that when it is time to start working on it, your brain has a head start and you probably already have a few ideas of what to do. This means that instead of starting work and immediately getting distracted, you have a place to start, which will reduce the chances of getting so easily drawn off course.
  • Set a timer – say for 20 or 30 minutes.
    • For that period of time, you promise yourself to do the work. Having a set time like that can be quite motivating.
  • Incorporate music instead of just a timer.
    • So I like to have 20, 30, and 1-hour long classical music playlists for when I’m doing work. I choose which playlist I’m going to use, so I know how long I’m going to focus for. The music playing is a cue that triggers me to start working.
  • Keep in mind that breaks are really helpful.
    • It’s impossible for anyone to maintain their focus all evening without breaks. In fact, neuropsychologists suggest taking a brain break after each hour of intense work. Planned breaks help motivate us to keep focused for the time we set aside for working.
  • Do difficult stuff first – or do the easy stuff first.
    • Help your child figure out which style they prefer so that they plan to do their work in that order going forward.
      • Some people like to do the difficult stuff first so that it’s not weighing on their mind. If they start with the easy stuff, they get distracted because all they think about is their anxiety about the hard stuff.
      • Other people like to start with the easy stuff so that they can check things off their list quickly and feel like they’ve accomplished something. They can then start the hard stuff and have a better attitude about it because they already feel good about themselves.
    • Break large projects down into manageable action items.
      • If you are working on writing a research paper, it’s not a great idea to just sit down and say, “Okay, now I’m going to write this whole thing.” It’s much more manageable mentally if you say, “Okay, what do I need to do to get this paper written? I need to think about what my thesis is. I need to do some research and find some quotes and evidence to back up my claim” and so on.
    • Reward yourself!
      • Breaks are one type of reward, but they’re not the only reward. Make sure that you reward yourself after you get something major accomplished. That will help you get to work and maintain focus next time, knowing that you get something special at the end.
    • If you are stuck on something, it’s okay to move on to a different subject.
      • It’s okay to give your brain a break from something that is hard for you even if you are in the middle of your work session because you’re not actually accomplishing anything just sitting there staring at your paper worrying that you aren’t getting anything done. So instead of doing that, just move on to a different subject for a bit and come back to the hard stuff later. That mental break can be really helpful because subconsciously your brain is still thinking about it, making it easier to return to later.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

How to Not Look at your Phone During Homework Time
High School, Middle School, School Advice, Study Tips

How to Not Look at your Phone During Homework Time

We each have a certain amount of willpower – an ability to not watch TV and instead get to work or an ability to not eat that chocolate cake. And we use up our willpower as the day goes on (which is why it’s much harder to avoid that cake or that TV as the day progresses). We can strengthen and increase our willpower, but it will never be infinite.

Every time your child puts his phone down and starts reading his textbook, he’s used up a bit of his willpower. So, as the night progresses, and bedtime approaches, and homework still needs to be done, he has less and less willpower to keep putting down his phone and it gets harder and harder to actually do his work.

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid depleting your willpower and get your homework done: HABITS. “Things that are habitual don’t tax your willpower” (Barker, 2014).

The more good practices that we can turn into habits, the less we use up our willpower, so we have more of it in reserves for other stuff.

So, if you are currently eating chocolate cake every evening at 9 pm, you could try changing that habit to first eating an apple and having a glass of water and seeing if that fills you up and satisfies your sugar craving. Create a new habit.

Or perhaps, when you get home from work, you know you have chores to do, but you have a habit of watching TV instead and the chores don’t get done. Create a new habit. When you get home and want to go sit down on the couch in front of the TV, lie down on your bed instead (and don’t turn on the TV or your smartphone). You’ll either get bored and decide to just get your chores done or you’ll take a nap and wake up refreshed ready to do some chores.

Or perhaps you have a habit of checking your phone every time it vibrates while you are doing your homework. Create a new habit. Turn your phone off when you start your work. Or put your phone in a different room. Or put your phone on silent. If you notice you start to check it even though it hasn’t vibrated, create a new habit. Maybe you’re checking it because you are bored? Instead of checking your phone, try a new habit of taking 3 belly breaths to help refocus your mind and maintain your attention on your homework.

The more we can help our kids develop good habits, the less they have to use their willpower, the more successful they will be at getting their homework and chores done. The younger you start working on developing these habits with your kids, the easier it is for them to develop them an internalize them.

Modeling good habits for your kids is always a good first step, like doing the dishes right after dinner instead of watching TV first or putting your stuff away when you walk in the house instead of throwing your coat over the back of a chair.

When they are young, when they get home from school, you can insist that before they play they put their backpack away and put their coat in the closet.

As they get older, you can have a rule (that becomes a habit) that they sit down at the kitchen table, have a snack, and do homework right after school.

What’s interesting is that when we have these habits, it can actually look like motivation. It looks like self-discipline. And it is those things, but it takes less willpower to be motivated and self-disciplined when we have good habits. So helping your kids develop good habits will help make being motivated and self-discipline easier for them.

Elementary School, Study Tips

Episode #67: Study Tips

Study Tips
Fireborn has a few tips to help kids understand how to study effectively and efficiently by making studying more of an active process and making sure kids don’t spend too much time studying information they already know well.

Studying is not an intuitive skill. Lots of students do not know how to actually study. This can mean kids avoid studying because they aren’t actually sure what to do. Or it can mean they spend a lot of time studying, but not actually learning or retaining very much. Fireborn has a few tips to help kids understand how to study effectively and efficiently by making studying more of an active process and making sure kids don’t spend too much time studying information they already know well.

CHECK OUT THE EPISODE BELOW: 

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

Lots of students do not know how to actually study. This can mean kids avoid studying because they aren’t actually sure what to do. Or it can mean they spend a lot of time studying, but not actually learning or retaining very much.

Some key aspects of studying are that:

1) You want to make it as active as possible, and

2) You want to spend the majority of your time on stuff you don’t know very well, as opposed to reviewing stuff you do know.

  • Studying should be more active because the more you engage with the information, the better it will be stored in your brain, and the better you will be at recalling and manipulating the information during the test.

How to review information for any type of exam:

1) Take out all of your old homework assignments, quizzes, and tests.

2) Start going through them one by one, starting with the homework assignments because presumably they are easier. Look at each question. Cover up the answer. And write down what you think the answer is.

  • If you get it correct, put a check mark by that question and never return to it again while you are studying.
  • If you get it wrong, circle it. Review the correct answer. Then, cover up the answer, and try to answer it again. Continue this step, reviewing the correct answer and trying to answer it again, until you get the right answer on your own. Once you get the right answer, move on to the next question, but keep this question circled.

3) Once you get to the end of that first assignment, go back through all of the circled questions and try them again.

  • If you get the answer right, put a check over the circle and move on.
  • If you get it wrong, make a square over the circle. Review the answer and then try to answer it again on your own. Keep doing this until you get it correct. Once you get it correct, keep the square around the question and move on to the next circled question.

4) Once you get to the end of the assignment, restart with the questions with the squares.

5) Repeat this until each question has a check mark. Then you can move on to the next assignment.

This gives you an opportunity to review all of the old information quickly by sorting through what you already know and what you don’t know yet.

Other ways to study include…

  • Flashcards
  • Practice tests
  • Study guides

Good luck with exams!

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode. How do you help your children study and get ready for exams?

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!