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The Ultimate Test Prep Guide – Ace Any Exam

This workbook is the best guide to meeting your academic goals for tests, midterm exams, and final exams. Many students have found success with using these strategies! This book contains information that will help you before and during your exams. You will learn how to prepare for any test in a way that suits you as well as combat test anxiety. You will succeed! You can do it!

test prep guide title page

Today’s educational system is becoming increasingly competitive for students, as educational institutions are being required to increase their standards. This is causing a stress epidemic amongst students. They must learn as much as they can, and learn it effectively. As someone who works closely with teens I see this the intense pressure students are under. Unfortunately, in school there is no stress management class and students are forced to “deal” with these overwhelming feelings of anxiety.

I created this book so students can achieve the grades they want on major tests with less stress and more success; thus helping them reach their academic goals. With this book I hope you are able to learn how to manage the stress that comes with exams and effectively study in a way that suits your learning style.

test prep guide table contents

Want this workbook so you can get the grade you want? Contact me at (904) 487-8269 or email me at hello@studentfutures.org for more information. Workbooks are just $15. Need some help preparing for exams? I can walk you through every step of the way. We can set up a session and make a plan for you to achieve your goals.

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

 

Words of Wisdom: Gordon Hinkley

rope climb

As the middle of the school year approaches students tend to feel overwhelmed by projects, tests, mid term exams, etc. Gordon Hinkley’s quote reminds us not to give up. Keep going. Do your best. If there is a quiz, test, homework assignment, etc. that you did not do well on or you downright flunked no worries. You have many more opportunities to improve. Think about what you can learn from your disappointments and use those experiences to make the future better. The school year is not over yet! Keep your head up and continue to work towards your goals. If you need any help don’t hesitate to contact me. Academic coaching has helped so many students reach their academic goals and achieve success.

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

Helping Students Track Their Own Progress

student progress

Why should students monitor their own progress?

Often, teachers know how students are doing overall, but students themselves rarely know. Students who track their grades regularly, not just at midterms and finals, take ownership of their learning, and are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges and take steps to proactively meet their goals. Tracking their progress empowers students to be independent and successful, which will not only benefit them in school but in any future endeavor.

Benefits

When students track their own grades:

  • They take ownership of learning
  • They are intrinsically motivated
  • They perform better on high-stake tests
  • They learn how to track goals

What does it mean for students to track their own progress?

A student has to understand how they learn, and have the ability to articulate, create, or ask for the resources necessary to meet their learning needs. Students with these attributes take responsibility for and ownership of their learning by reflecting on successes and failures, and creating action steps to positively progress forward in reaching their goals.

When students track their progress, it means that they have set a goal and know how to measure where they are in the process of achieving it. Students regularly analyze and update their goals using concrete evidence—which can be anything. Students should reflect often on what is working and what’s not and figure out what they need to do to make progress with their goals.

How can parents help?

Having a simple non-judgmental conversation with your student is helpful. Ask them how satisfied they are with their grades. Ask them what’s working and what’s not. Then, discuss a plan on how to deal with what’s not working. Ask them what kind of help they might need to be successful. Making this a regular conversation is helpful.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR OWN DOWNLOADABLE PROGRESS TRACKER!

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

What have you learned about yourself from a current challenge?

highschool football

Being a student in middle school, high school, or college comes with many challenges every day. They could be academic, social, emotional, etc. Think about a recent challenge you had and how you dealt with it. What did you learn about yourself? How do you want to deal with similar challenges in the future?

“When you go through life’s challenges, you have the choice to either fall apart and become a victim of the circumstances, or you can rise up high and above others.” — Mo Seetubtim

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

Using the 5 Dimensions of Learning to Achieve Your Goals

 

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/83633410@N07/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/83633410@N07/

Everyone learns differently. In schools everyone is taught the same way, so most people think that the ways they learned in school are the only ways to learn! Actually, there are many, many different ways a person can learn. For example, some people need to move in order to learn and others need to doodle. When a student is able to understand how they learn best they can be successful in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. At Student Futures I help students analyze the 5 dimensions of learning and how they can use each to achieve their goals. The student completes a small online assessment, which we use to look at how they can use their strengths to their advantage and how they can improve their weaknesses.

5 dimensions of learning

POWER TRAITS

The ways you learn and work best make up your Power Traits for Life! There are 5 Power Traits or dispositions: Performing, Producing, Inventing, Relating/ Inspiring, and Thinking/ Creating. Most people have a Primary and a Secondary Disposition —their two highest scores. However, since everyone is different, the combination of scores is different for everyone. Your power traits can be used to help you: learn, study, memorize, communicate, organize, manage your time, get clearer about your interests, passions, and career possibilities. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to score. There are no scores that are “better” or “worse” than someone else’s scores. Whatever your scores are, they are your scores; they are a picture of you! Knowing your Disposition will help you understand what your overall learning and working strengths are so that you can choose materials and activities that will help you achieve your goals.

MODALITY

Your Modality strengths determine how you best process incoming information whether it be visually, Listening, or hands on. Reading, watching movies, sketching, writing, listening, doing something are examples of how we process information. It is very important to get to know your Modality strengths so you can learn how to use them to your best advantage, you will find that learning new information, memorizing, and even doing assignments will become so much easier. You will learn more, better, and faster, because you will be using materials and techniques that work for you!

ENVIRONMENT

Third dimension is your Environment which is everything that surrounds you and can affect your learning and working time positively or negatively. Some people are more affected by certain aspects of the environment than other people. For example, some people have a really hard time concentrating when it is cold, others have trouble when it is hot, and others are not bothered at all by the temperature. Some people can work in their room on the floor and others feel more comfortable at a desk. Some people like to work with music and some can’t concentrate.

INTERESTS

Your Interests, the fourth dimension of learning, are your greatest motivators! What do you love? You do your best learning when you are interested in and excited about what you are learning. The more you can integrate your interests and passions into your schoolwork, the better you will do!

TALENTS

The last dimension is Your Talents, which are the natural abilities that you were born with. Often, a person’s Talents point to career opportunities. However, you might not be interested in pursuing a Talent as a career. On the other hand, you might have a Talent that you would love to pursue, but people have discouraged you. Whether you are interested in pursuing a Talent or not, you can learn to put it to good use, to make your learning and working easier and more efficient.

Want to take the assessment and learn more about how you learn and can achieve your goals? Send me an email at hello@studentfutures.org

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

 

 

 

How to Make a Planner Work for You

Do you have a hard time using your planner? Is it too big? Too small? Not enough room to write?

In this video I share my story of how I created a planner that works for me. Every middle and high school, and college student are different and we all have different preferences when it comes to planner yet most planners have the same layout. In this video I give some simple tips for finding and creating a planner that works for you. It’s easy. I promise. Check it out!

 

Don’t have time to check out the video? No worries. Here’s the gist of it.

I have gone through several planners to get to the one I use now, which I am very happy with. First, I purchased a pretty faux leather planner from Office Depot for about $35. It was a beautiful turquoise, which is my favorite color, and had a weekly layout along with a monthly layout. As with a majority of planners the weekly layout was standard small rectangles for each day. One week spanned two pages. It was ok but I couldn’t fit everything I wanted in those rectangular spaces each day.

For Christmas one year my best friend sent me a couple of Moleskine notebooks with a sticky note on the front that read, “Go to bulletjournal.com” This was life changing! If you don’t know about bullet journaling check it out! For about 6 months I experimented with bullet journalling and various planner layouts that I created. Eventually after using the same layout for a few months I grew tired of drawing the my template in my notebook every week.

I decided it was time to create a template on the computer, one I could print out, one I didn’t have to draw each week. I went to YouTube and found a basic video tutorial for Adobe InDesign about how to create a planner page. Once again another life changing moment! So I created my template and printed it. I put into that old pretty turquoise planner binder from Office Depot. Great! So I have my customized template and a pretty cover. All is good, right?

So this binder was too small. Back to InDesign. I made my template bigger, 8.5×11. I bought a 1/2 inch white binder from Office Depot for less than $5 and printed my template. Perfecto! I also created a photo collage, which I printed and inserted on the front cover of my binder. Then, I created a sticker collage of positive messages and inserted that into the back cover. I love my planner!

What I learned about finding and creating suitable planners.

It’s not the cover or binder that you want to base your purchase on. It’s what’s inside the planner that you want to pay attention to. However, you shouldn’t completely ignore the pretty cover. A planner’s appearance should make you want to use it. I added photos and positive messages to mine because when I look at it makes me happy, it makes me want to open it up and write in it. Lastly, creating systems is a process that requires patience and time. Patience is a virtue!

Want to make a planner that works for you? Here’s my advice. 

  1. Take a blank piece of computer paper. Cut it to the size you want your planner to be.
  2. Take a pencil and draw what your ideal planner would look like. If you are talented you could even do it on the computer!
  3. Punch holes and put it into a binder that works for you.
  4. Make it fun. Buy some stickers, print some photos.

**Use it for one month. Then reflect and decide what works and what doesn’t. Edit your template, tweak your planner accordingly.

Does this sound like too much work? There are lots of different planner systems you can experiment with but it may cost you a pretty penny. Here are some that are popular.

HAPPY PLANNING!

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

Going to a College Fair

college fair

Attending a National College Fair is a great opportunity for students in grades 8-12 to talk with representatives from a variety of schools. Plus, learn about scholarship information, financial aid and how to complete the FAFSA, tips for athletes, college essay tips, and much more! There are 92 college National College Fairs offered across the United States in 2017 with over 1,800 colleges and universities participating.  Go to www.gotomyncf.com to locate and register for a fair close to you. It’s FREE! Yippee!

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • Remain open minded: Some students have their sights fixed on a particular school. The college fair is a unique opportunity to discover schools you may not have considered.
  • Bring a shopping bag: Vendors are going to hand you a ton of stuff. Have a bag with you so you don’t have to carry stuff around in your hands. When you go home and have more time you can lay everything out and sort through it all.
  • Pen and small pad of paper in case you need to take notes. Using the Evernote app on your phone is also a good option.
  • Do make a plan beforehand. There will be a ton of colleges and universities at the college fair. Take the time to plan which schools are a priority for you to visit.
  • Decide what you will wear to the fair. There is no need to get all dressed up but you want to leave a good impression so dress appropriately.
  • If you have a resume listing your achievements, GPA, test scores, activities you are involved in it is good to bring copies with you to hand out to representatives.
  • Talk to everyone! Don’t just add your name and email to a list. Introduce yourself to the representatives.
  • Write out specific questions you have for schools and take notes as you go. *(PLEASE! Think about the messages your questions give the admissions rep.) Ex. I heard your school is a party school. vs. What is the graduation rate at your school? Click HERE for 30 Questions to Ask at an Education Fair.
  • Follow up! Ask for contact information from the people you speak to or ask if they have a business card. Ex. “It was so nice to meet you and hear about [name of school]. Thank you for taking the time. I’m hoping to visit your campus sometime in the future. May I have your business card? I’d love to keep in touch.” After the fair email them thanking them for their time and express why you have an interest in that particular school and that you can’t wait to visit.

COLLEGE FAIR TIPS

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR VISIT TO A NATIONAL COLLEGE FAIR

 

Melanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

The Ultimate Back to School Guide for 2017

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Before you go shopping do this!

  • Go through your closet and drawers in your room. Collect all the clothes you don’t wear anymore. Be realistic! Take them to Plato’s Closet to earn some cash for which you can use to go back to school shopping.
  • Where will you be doing most of your studying? Take time to plan how you want your study environment to look. Make a list of the items you need for your work space. Hobby Lobby has great options! Don’t forget your 40% off coupon!
  • When you are making your list and shopping for items consider color. What is your favorite color? Incorporate this color into your environment and school items. It will help you focus and make you happy.
  • Grab your supply list that you received from school. I f you did not receive one see my advice below.
  • Check online first! Click HERE to see how to score killer deals online with Amazon, AppleWalmartStaples, and Barnes and Noble.

The items the school doesn’t tell you that you need!

Lap Desk: For those times when you feel like writing in bed or on the couch.

Dry erase board and markers: These are great study tools! You can brainstorm ideas, work out problems, etc. Use them when you are studying with friends.

Ear buds FOR SCHOOL: Yes. I know you probably own ear buds, but have some that you only keep in your backpack. Have another pair that are only kept at home.

Water bottle: Staying hydrated means you can stay focused!

Fidget tool/ toy: No, I don’t mean a spinner. Something that doesn’t make noise but will help you focus. I mean a stress ball, a funky eraser, spiral key ring, etc.

First day outfit: This is important to every middle and high schooler’s mental well being. Having an outfit they like will give them a confidence boost.

Learning assessment: Take an online Self Portrait Learning Assessment with Student Futures and then get together with Academic Coach, Melanie Black, for a 60 minute session about how to take advantage of your strengths. Read more about the assessment HERE.

Planner: Choose wisely! Don’t just go for a pretty cover. Be realistic. Look at the structure, size, layout, etc. Read my post about planners HERE.

Essentail Oils: EO’s are all the rage right now. Rosemary has been scientifically proven to help with focus and concentration. Vetiver has been proven to help students with ADD and ADHD. Need a pick me up? Peppermint and Eucalyptus will give you a boost if needed.

Accordion file: Chances are your binders will fill up fast. In the middle of a quarter or at the end take those papers and file them. Label a section for each class. You might need them again before the end of the school year so it is wise to keep them organized and accessible.

Mints: They help you regain focus when needed.

A quick note about supply lists and shopping.

Some students don’t know the supplies needed for their classes until the first day of school. Yes. It is frustrating. Do NOT go out and buy folders, binders, and notebooks if you do not know what specifically the teacher wants your student(s) to have. This will only make you waste money and time. Get one small notebook and a pen or pencil, and use that the first day or two of school. You will have to take your student shopping for supplies. Quite possibly during the week in the evening. Grab some Chik-Fil-A or go to Panera for supper and go shopping.

The best apps for students.

While technology can be understandably distracting to students it can be useful in helping them succeed too. These days there is an app for everything. I have compiled my favorites and categorized them for students HERE. This list is meant to address the whole student, not just academics. There are apps that help students with anxiety, time management, study strategies, and life skills.  I am not advising to download all these apps. Some of them are very similar. Check them out and see which ones will work for you. Click HERE to see the list of apps.

Don’t forget to breathe. Have fun. Wishing everyone a successful stress free 2017-2018 school year. 

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How to Handle a Disappointing Report Card

father and son huggingThe school year is over and by now you probably know your teen’s fourth quarter grades. It’s been a long year but now the whole family can breathe because it’s over. As you look at the last report card you might be thinking:

Grades improved but less than expected.
Grades and attitude both need improvement.
Grades greatly improved.
Grades stayed the same but attitude and effort improved.
Some grades improved but others dropped.
Your student failed even though they worked hard.

When you look at your teen’s report card and don’t see the grades you hoped for remember that grades don’t define a person. Grades do not reflect one’s intelligence. Obviously grades do matter in school because they affect GPA which matters when students apply to college or university. However, there are several other factors that determine a student’s success in school such as passion, creativity, emotions, etc., and it is important to address them when reflecting on a report card and the school year as a whole. How parents handle the results of the last report card could greatly affect the student’s next school year.

photo credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/256/19751739181_ee9f90344a_b.jpg

photo credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/256/19751739181_ee9f90344a_b.jpg

Intelligence is not fixed! It is important that parents get this message across to their students. Some people believe they are just never going to be good at math. You might hear them say, “I am not a math person.” You might hear those who have not had success in English say, “I am not a writer.” This is a fixed mindset and in order to help teens succeed we must teach them how to have a growth mindset and encourage them to learn from disappointments such as low report card grades. Don’t let them give up on any subject! We can all learn anything we want to but the way we learn is different and need to recognize how that affects us.

Failure is an option! Having setbacks are a good thing! I know as parents we don’t want our kids to fail. We want to protect them. However, sometimes they don’t do as well as they wanted and it’s ok because it gives parents an opportunity to teach their teen how to learn from failure. Ask them what worked and didn’t work this school year. Talk about what they want to do different or the same next year to be more successful. Make some new strategies. Focus on learning from the situation rather than concentrating on their abilities.

 

Finals: Defeating Test Anxiety

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anniferrr/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anniferrr/

Test Anxiety: Don’t Panic!

Sometimes no matter how hard you’ve worked to prepare for a test, anxiety can prevent you from performing to your full potential. Students get test anxiety for reasons such as fear of failure, lack of preparation, and poor test history. It can affect them physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Thus, affecting their results on the exam and their overall grade in a course.

I have had test anxiety ever since I was in elementary school. It only got worse when I was in college and university. The minute I received the test I felt my heart pound harder and harder. My face felt hot and my body became extremely tense. Timed tests only made the situation more stressful.

There are several ways to deal with test anxiety. Don’t suffer! Here are some strategies to help students overcome all the stress that comes with taking tests, especially timed tests.

 

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

MOVE
Move around while studying. Stretch. Take Breaks. Walk around with your study sheets and flash cards and read them aloud.
MINDFULNESS
Breathe! “If you’re feeling nervous when you sit down to take the test, take three slow, steady breaths. Remind yourself that you’ve been getting ready for these tests all year long.” – Ted Dorsey
My favorite free mindfulness apps are MindShift and Breathe
FIDGET
Focus with fidget toys. Fat Brain Toys has the ultimate selection of fidget toys, which are searchable by age. Also, use small things such as a bracelet or necklace.
SLEEP
Get plenty of sleep. Don’t study while tired. If you are tired then stop. You will not retain anything if you are exhausted.
EAT
Always eat breakfast! During a test maintain your focus with a peppermint candy, gum, or a piece of chocolate.
PLAN AHEAD
Create a study plan two weeks in advance with a study schedule and specific strategies that will help you retain what you need to know.
MUSIC
Create a study playlist. Pick your power song and listen to it before the test for motivation.
TIME MANAGEMENT
Don’t panic when students start handing in their papers. There’s no reward for finishing first. If there’s answer you don’t know skip it and come back to it later.

 

 

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a trained academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.