You can be much more productive at school. Here’s how.

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Diana Rapp

Diana Rapp

High School Math Teacher & Woot Tutor

You can be much more productive at school. Here’s how.

During the school year it is hard to keep track of assignments, quizzes, presentations and exams. One of the benefits of technology is it can make your life easier which allows you to be more productive.
Personally, I use a mix of everything. I have different calendars, a few reminders apps, and apps that help me slow down. Sometimes our phones can be a pain, but if used correctly they can be a powerful tool that allows you to be more efficient. As a high school math teacher, I have seen first hand how these apps help kids and adults be more productive and organized, and I hope they can help you…

Are you a student who writes everything on their arm to remember? How is that working out for you?
Hmm, not too well?

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Reminder Apps

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Have your smart device do the remembering for you.

You know that feeling when you are in a group project and someone assigns you a task and you wonder if you will forget about it later? I can relate. That is why I strongly recommend using a reminder app on your smartphone (if you have one). Students often tell me “I will meet with you tomorrow at lunch to retake that test.” Lunch rolls around and they never show up. Later they frantically come into class, “I totally forgot about my test retake!” I always have student set reminders on their phones.

Both iPhone and Android have great built-in reminder apps that allow you to assign priority, time and dates, and notes to help you remember all of the necessary details. There are also a variety of third-party apps available that do this plus a lot more. Some of my favorites include Any.do, Trello, and Asana.

Android

A great Android app is Any.do. Any.do can create lists for everything you need and organizes events into chronological timelines. Pretty neat!

iPhone

The Reminder app on the iPhone also works perfectly for this. You can assign priority, time and dates, and notes to reminders.
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Notes

Handwritten notes not your style? Want a tech savvy way to organize your thoughts and ideas? Evernote and OneNote are both easy to use apps that help you capture and prioritize your ideas. They also have to-do list features so nothing will be forgotten. You can add photos, webpages, and even audio to your notes. These apps also sync across devices so you can access you Geography study guide on your phone or your computer. Talk about a game changer. 

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Calendar

Are you a student who writes everything on their arm to remember? How is that working out for you? Hmm, not too well Keeping track of important dates and deadlines is a skill necessary for success in school. I always give my students a few minutes during class to organize themselves. Everyone has a different method for doing this. I see some students take out their smart device and open their calendar, some have a classic assignment book, and other creative tools. Some students really love the look and feel of an assignment book or paper calendar, and I get that. It is important that you use the method of organizing that is best for you.

I prefer calendar apps.

Every smart device should have some version of a calendar app. When your teacher, coach, or parent gives you a due date or an event that you need to attend, your next step should be entering it into your calendar.! The benefit of using the smart device calendar is being able to access that calendar from other synced devices or websites. This means you can access your calendar anywhere. Never forget that important Spanish presentation ever again!

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Grammarly

I wish that Grammarly existed when I was in school! It would have made a huge difference in my life and I probably wouldn’t have sent all of my essays to my mother to proof read. I am a math teacher, so numbers and letters speak to me very differently than essays and grammar. I haven’t personally used Grammarly, but I have heard good things. Grammarly is a Google Chrome extension that helps you edit your own words using technology. Think of Grammarly as spell-check on steroids. Taking the time to edit your work and using Grammarly could make a difference in your letter grade.

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Calm

Close your eyes, breathe in slowly, and breathe out. Repeat 5 times. Don’t you feel a bit more relaxed? As humans, we can get caught up and lose sight of the moment quickly. Personally, I have noticed in the last few years that students are becoming more stressed. To combat this, I have incorporated weekly exercises in my class to relieve stress. I use Calm.com when looking for quick exercises to do with my students. The results are awesome and they always ask to do more. Calm is the #1 app for sleep and meditation. The app has something for everyone, from experienced yogis to newcomers just looking for a break.

Here are some more ideas to help you be more productive this school year…

  • Wunderlist– To Do list on all your devices – supports team collaboration
  • Trello – collaborative task list for Teams
  • Asana – To-do list that allows for super granular level of detail for todo lists and team collaboration

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A Fresh Take on Back-to-School Readiness

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Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M.

Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M.

Woot Tutor Coach

A Fresh Take on Back-to-School Readiness

The new school year is about to begin. Are you ready? Is your child? How will you each know?

To answer that question, you first each need to consider what you want the outcome to be. What accomplishments and feelings would you each like to have on the last day of school? Essentially, what are your goals?

In future blogs, we will be addressing how to develop some important tools and strategies for building your child’s Executive Function skills (the cognitive skills that give us the ability to focus, plan, and act in a goal-directed manner). But let’s start off with seeing what we can do now to help you and your child prepare for a successful school year.

Start with The End In Mind - What Are The Goals Of This School Year?

I am a firm believer that in order to make any change or progress, it’s helpful to start basic and small. You and your child will no doubt have different ideas as to what you believe is important and reasonable to set as goals for the year. As parents, we are often focused not just on the academic subjects, but on the broader life skills that must be developed to support achieving future goals. Things such as waking up independently, managing personal hygiene, and keeping personal space clean and orderly are on many parents’ minds. Students, in addition to thinking about their classes, are often focused on their developing social life, pursuing their interests, and having downtime to just chill.

A good place to start planning for the new year is by taking out a sheet of paper simply writing a list of what you each thought went well last year and what areas you would each like to see growth or change happen. While you may instinctively want to shape the list to your vision, it will be most valuable at this point to get your child’s input and perspective. When looking back over the areas that may not have going well last year, try to highlight the ones where your child can more easily see the value in working toward growth. The discussion is intended to help your child visualize a positive, satisfying, and productive school year.

Here are a few areas you may want to consider in your discussion:

Waking up independently
Getting adequate sleep
Finishing homework within a reasonable amount of time
Maintaining a reasonable GPA
Contributing to household chores
Participating in a school club
Participating in a sports team
Developing new friendships
Maintaining healthy personal hygiene

SMART Goals

Once you have developed your list of areas you agree could use improvement, then you can begin setting some goals. I recommend you start with just a few areas so as not to create too much overwhelm or stress. As certain areas improve, you can add on new goals. If the goal is too vague or broad, then it may not be valuable, motivating, or achievable within the coming school year. To ensure it’s value, you will want to elaborate on each goal listed. It is helpful to use the acronym SMART to supercharge your goals.

Each goal should be:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

For example:

"I will wake up on my own in time to be ready for the school bus."
"I will choose a club that interests me and will attend meetings regularly."
"I will develop a strategy to use regularly for studying for quizzes and tests."

The Action Plan

Once the goals are fully written, write down all of the things that he will need to do to make each goal happen. Include the materials he will need, the steps he’ll need to take, and anything else that might be involved in creating his success. Also, consider what support he may need and from whom. You may want to consider having a dedicated notebook or journal where all of your child’s goal planning and monitoring can be tracked. If it is a goal that involves your child doing something more independently than he has in the past, you may need to consider intermediary steps before expecting full independence. For example, if you have been his alarm clock all of these years, he may need occasional support as he transitions to using his own clock.

Barriers and Obstacles

Often, the areas we choose as goals for ourselves represent some of the persistent challenges we face in our daily lives. “My goal is to exercise daily.” “My goal is to study more.” “My goal is to get to bed earlier.” If some of your child’s goals involve overcoming past challenges, it would be helpful to address the reasons why these areas have been difficult in the past. One of the Executive Function skills that all children need to develop is the ability to use their Self-Talk to help guide them in achieving their goals. Work hard with your child to tap into the barriers and obstacles they may have faced in the past when trying to achieve this goal. Empathy and encouragement may go a long way here. Be aware not to use any shame, blame, or criticism as this may shut your child down from talking and taking the chances they need to make the changes.

Keeping Track of Progress

Once a goal has been clearly defined, the steps have been identified, and the potential barriers and obstacles have been explored and addressed, it will be vital to help your child stay connected to his goals and on track with his plan. Keep in mind that often once the initial excitement of creating the plan wears off, it may become necessary to help him revisit and address any challenges he faces along the way. It’s also essential to help him acknowledge and appreciate the success along the way to help him stay motivated.

Learning how to set and track goals is a life skill that can help your child be successful throughout life. Keep in mind that this is a learning process and that sometimes the most valuable lessons are around choosing the best goals and knowing when and how to adjust our plans. Reach out to us if we can support you or your child with this process.

Enjoy the new year.

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5 Tips To Calm Those Back-to-School Jitters

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Diana Rapp

Diana Rapp

High School Math Teacher & Woot Tutor

5 Tips To Calm Those Back-to-School Jitters

I still remember when warm summer days would feel long and endless. When my parents were okay with me staying up late because it WASN’T a school night. And then BOOM.

It is over and suddenly the first day of school would be just around the corner. I could almost hear the school bell ringing and those endless back-to-school commercials didn’t help.

If you are feeling more dread than excitement at the thought of school starting again, you are not alone. This is normal for many kids just like you. As someone who teaches high-school students, I have seen a few things that can help. Here are my top 6 tips for calming the back-to-school jitters.

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Get into Your Routine

A week or so before the beginning of school, start figuring out your school routine. If you are a student who thinks breakfast at noon during the summer is great (brunch, anyone?), now is time to get back on a school friendly sleep schedule. I recommend that 2-3 weeks before your first day back, shift your clock an hour each night until you are back to going to bed around the same time you would on a school night and then waking up as if you were going to school. I get it. It’s hard, but trust me, it will be much harder if you try to shift all at once on the first day back.

If you are feeling more dread than excitement at the thought of school starting again, you are not alone.

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Plan Your Lunch Ahead of Time

Sloppy Joe anyone? Are school lunches your least favorite meal? Is eating off campus making a hole in your wallet? Maybe it is time to start packing your own lunch. I suggest getting into a schedule of making healthy, filling, lunches ahead of time. Constantly, students are tired in class and the first thing I ask them is if they have eaten lunch. They respond, “I had a bag of hot cheetos and a donut from the grocery store.” I have some news, this is not a healthy lunch. As a growing teen, you need adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and fats.

I suggest, on Sunday night you make your lunch for Monday-Wednesday. Then on Wednesday night you can make your lunches for the rest of the week. Make sure you also pack snacks because as a growing human you are likely chronically hungry. There are tons of awesome meal prepping recipes on the internet. If you don’t have time to pre-pack lunch, ask your family if you can take last night’s leftovers to school… Big tip: Be extra nice to a teacher with a microwave.

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Reconnect with Friends

During the summer, it is easy to lose touch with your school friends. Remember that one friend from your chemistry class who you ate lunch with a few times a week? Or that kid who totally had your back when you forgot your calculator before your math final (we’ve all been there)? Shoot them a text and see how their summer went. Ask about their class schedule, maybe you can study together again. Reaching out to your classroom friends is one of the best ways to help ease the transition from summer to school.

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Be Prepared

Create a list of school supplies you will need. Check to see if your school sent out a list in advance, many do. Quick tip: shop at home first for your school supplies. This saves money, and also makes sure you reuse your own products, reduces your time in long lines, and helps you ‘Marie Kondo’ your desk drawers. If there is something you need, find friends who have taken the class before you. Even better, maybe they can also give you some of their tips for how to succeed!

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Practice Your Commute

If you walk or bike to school, start taking the commute when you have free time. It will get you in the habit of walking or biking more and you can also scope out the best routes. To make your commute more fun, download a new podcast or audio book to listen to on your daily commute.

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5 Simple Things to Start Your Year Off Right

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Diana Rapp

Diana Rapp

High School Math Teacher & Woot Tutor

5 Simple Things to Start Your Year Off Right

As a high-school math teacher, these are the things I wish I could tell every student. They are not earth-scattering ideas, but they are proven ways to start your year off right. In fact, these are the tips that I wish someone had told me when I was in high school.
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Fresh Start!

Think of this year as a fresh start in math class. Regardless of your affinity towards math, a fresh start is exciting for everyone. New teacher, new classroom and new materials. This could be the year that math becomes your favorite subject. This is your chance to embrace a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that your abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work and dedication. Research shows that people with a growth mindset achieve more than people with a fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are something they are born with). With a growth mindset, you know that you can always improve your skills with hard work, which in turn leads to greater growth, which ultimately leads to your success. Powerful stuff, no?

These are the tips that I wish someone had told me when I was in high school.

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Hey can I borrow a pencil?

Everyone knows those few students who never have a pencil. And to be fair, most of us have at one time or another been that student. This year, plan to arrive to your math class prepared so you aren’t fumbling and searching for a pencil for the first fifteen minutes. Having the right supplies means you are ready to learn and focus on the class – on learning. Also, make sure you have clean pieces of paper and erasers. Seriously. These little things matter and often make the difference from a stressful class to a successful class.
Checklist
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Set Goals

I believe in the power of goal setting. For everyone. At the beginning of the year, I set goals for myself. Start by thinking about your last experience in math class. What worked for you? Even more, what didn’t work? Take those ideas and try to turn them into goals. With goal setting it is important to be specific. For example, “Study More” is a loose and meaningless goal. Try this instead, “Twice a week I will go over my notes and organize my binder” or “Once a week, I will go to office hours to ask my teacher questions.” The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to stick to it.
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Mrs. Who? Mr. What?

Knowing your teacher is essential for your success. Your teacher is your go-to person for math help. Take some time to introduce yourself to your teacher and make it a point to go to a few offices hours the first month of school. Your teacher will take note and admire your commitment to the class so early on in the semester. Have you noticed that before big tests office hours are crowded, but at other times they are free? Those free hours are the best time to get real one-on-one help from your teacher. I have seen first hand the dramatic success that students can have when they make the time to come in and work with me during office hours. Also, nowadays many teachers have a website that they update frequently. Often this is where you can find assignments, schedules, and sometimes even notes from class. At the beginning of year, bookmark your teachers’ website so you can access it easily and regularly.
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Find Allies

Math class can be hard sometimes, which is why I recommend that you seek out your classroom allies early on. Try to connect with a few students in your class – what I call allies. Even if it feels hard or scary to build these connections, it can be a lifeline when you are struggling. Imagine you are out of class for several days with the flu or a cold. This is when your allies (and of course your teacher!) are there to help you get back on your feet. With your allies, you can form study groups, reachout for homework help, and share class notes. I know it sounds funny to actively think about building class allies, but the more people you have to lean on – the more people that have your back – the more likely you are to succeed.

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