Starting the New Year Right

Another school year is upon us, and students feel the energy of new classes, teachers, and friends, perhaps along with renewed goals and the promise of a fresh start. Whatever one's academic goals for the new school year, students and parents alike are eager to begin on the right foot. It just takes some faithful preparation, organization, and execution.

Advising, Opening of School

Prepare

1. Find a study space

It is best to study in the same place every night, so make sure you have a desk or table designated for study. It should be well-lighted and face away from any potential distractions. Have non-scholastic items crept into your study space during the summer? These items will only distract you from the job of being a student. Take time to remove all clutter from your study area. Try to avoid using your bed for studying -  a desk or table for studying, a bed for sleeping.

2. Stock up

Stock your desk drawers, a shoebox, or other container with pens, pencils, paper, highlighters, calculator, and other supplies.

3. Organize your study space

Hang a whiteboard above your desk for reminders, to-do lists, and dates of major assignments. Tape a copy of your class schedule to your desk or wall.

4. And your locker and backpack

Organizing your locker and backpack is equally important. Make sure both contain plenty of school supplies and only current class materials. Tape a copy of your school schedule on the inside of your locker door, and place one in a pocket in your backpack. Don't forget to write down your locker combination or store it in your phone.

5. Organize your binders, notebooks, and folders

Make sure you have the appropriate binders, notebooks, and/or folders for each class. Binders should contain notebook paper and/or graph paper and dividers for separating notes, graded work, and handouts. Label the outside of each binder or notebook with the class name and your name so that you can easily spot it. Using a specific colored binder/notebook/folder for each class helps you make sure you always have the correct materials.

6. Put your name on everything

In addition to putting your name on all your binders and notebooks, put your name on all of your books, too (in pencil if you're planning to sell them back). That way they can be returned to you if you misplace any of them.

Be Present

7. In class, choose the desk where you are least likely to be distracted

There will be more time for hanging out with friends outside of class if you can focus on your studies in class.

8. Pay attention

Take out your notebook, writing utensil, and any outside classroom work due that day. Listen to your teacher's opening remarks and pay attention to anything the teacher emphasizes or repeats; that is a clue that the information is important.

9. Participate

Take notes and play an active role in class discussion.

10. Know what's expected

Write down homework assignments in class when the teacher posts them. You can use FACTS to double check your assignments after class.

11. Know how to get more help

Make note of your teachers' work period availability and plan to attend work period each week.

Study

12. Put away your phone

Once you are back in your room or at home and ready to study, place your phone out of sight and sound and settle in to your highly organized study area.

13. Prioritize your work

Use your white board to prioritize your assignments. Schedule a specific number of minutes (30-45) for focused study. Use well-known stalling techniques, such as getting a snack, calling/texting a friend, etc., as a reward when you finish a task. As soon as you have completed an assignment, cross it out on your whiteboard (this feels great!), and immediately place the assignment in a homework folder or designated place in the appropriate binder. It's an awful feeling to finish an assignment and then not be able to hand it in.

14. Plan your breaks

Take a 10-15 minute break between study sessions. Ideally, your breaks should involve activity rather than screen time: play with the family pet, walk around the yard or house, shoot baskets, play an instrument.

15. Sleep!

Don't forget the importance of sleep. Stick to a regular sleep schedule. You won't be able to follow through on any of these habits of a good student if you can't stay awake in class!

Get organized and remain disciplined, but don't forget to ask for help from your teachers, advisor, house parent, or parents because this organization business doesn't come naturally to many of us. Remember, you have a team of folks ready to help you enjoy a successful school year!

Look Out for You

14. Plan your breaks

Take a 10-15 minute break between study sessions. Ideally, your breaks should involve activity rather than screen time: play with the family pet, walk around the yard or house, shoot baskets, play an instrument.

15. Sleep!

Don't forget the importance of sleep. Stick to a regular sleep schedule. You won't be able to follow through on any of these habits of a good student if you can't stay awake in class!

16. Ask for help

No matter how faithful you are to this advice, sometimes you will struggle. When that happens ask for help from your teachers, advisor, house parent, parents, or the Learning Resources Center. You have a team of folks ready to help you enjoy a successful school year.

Getting a Fresh Start for Second Semester

The beginning of second semester is a good time to do some winter cleaning for your year-long courses. Store away your notes and materials from first semester and keep only current class materials in your binder. Storing your notes prevents you from losing a large portion of the year's work should you misplace a binder, but gives you a ready source for studying for final exams. Follow these tips to begin the second semester in an organized fashion:

  • Store your first semester work. Use folders, accordion folders, hanging files, an empty desk drawer, or even a box.
  • Separate your materials into groups such as notes, handouts, tests, and quizzes. Decide what you need to keep in order to help you prepare for your final exam.
  • Order each group by date.
  • Clip all of the groups together with a large binder clip and label the packet by unit(s) or chapter(s).
  • Put the entire packet into the designated folder or space for safe-keeping.

Once you have stored your class materials, evaluate the condition of your binders. If they are falling apart, or the rings are not closing fully, it's time to get a new binder. Getting a new binder will both help to keep your papers safe and organized and will give you a feeling of a fresh start - a great motivational tool during the long months of winter.