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Study Skills Workshop

As parents, it’s heartbreaking to see our kids put so much time and effort into studying, but still not see the kind of success in their classes that they should. Do you see your child reacting to day to day homework assignments, and scrambling to put the pieces together to study a day or two before the test (or worse, surprised that a test is coming up in a do or two)?

We want to teach our kids that they will be successful if they work hard. But, as adults, we know that working hard, while very important, isn’t everything. We also need to work effectively.

Do your kids know how to study effectively?

In my experience as an academic coach for over 18 years, most students don’t.

Sure, they may have picked up some tips and tricks here and there. But that isn’t the same as having an overall learning strategy that can be changed and adapted as the need arises.

Our education system spends a lot of time and effort telling our kids what to learn, and precious little on how to learn, which, in the long run, is the far more important skill.

Wouldn’t it be great if your child could take a chapter/unit view of their courses, starting the weekend before a new unit begins, and confidently map out a strategy of what to do, day by day, to create the success they want to have on the test?

This is why I am so excited to offer our Summer Study Skills workshop. Students who go through this workshop go into the next school year more confident and more able to deal effectively with challenging classes.

In this workshop, your child will learn:

  • how to “activate” passive studying and get more engaged.
  • how to use visualization to make memory a superpower.
  • why studying starts before the unit begins, and how to prepare for lectures.
  • how to (and why) take notes they can use.
  • study cheat code: communicating with teachers outside of classtime:
  • how to use homework to study

And much much more.

The big picture: students are not victims of difficult classes or tough teachers. With a growth mindset (and of course, the right tools) your child can perform at a high level in any of their classes next year (and into college too!) Arm your kids with these tools and sign up for this workshop today!

Course info:

Weekly, 1 hour, weekly workshop. 8 weeks (week of 6/28-week of 8/16)
Day and Time: TBD (will fit schedules of participants)
Where: Online
Cost: $440 ($400 if paid by 6/15)
Students per workshop: Maximum of 6

Call 858.551.2560 or email to reserve your child’s spot!

“Getting Things Done: For Students” Summer Workshop

In my years working as an academic coach, I’ve realized more and more that the difficulties that students have in their classes are often not academic problems, but problems with organization, planning, and execution. At Wells Academic Solutions, we’ve been focussing more and more on providing support to students for these issues (in addition to academic support).

But it is tough to convince a student of the value of looking ahead to the next 2-3 weeks when they have a test tomorrow they are worried about, and they have late assignments to make up in another class. 

Our students can’t learn to plan if they have to keep reacting to emergencies (the result of poor planning skills themselves). It creates a cycle of frustration for students and parents. And sadly, though planning, organization, and executive function are crucial skills for success in school, they aren’t skills actually taught explicitly in school.

Which is why I’m excited about our “Getting Things Done: For Students” summer workshop! This is the third summer we’ve offered it. Every school year, we learn more about the things that students are struggling with, and every summer, we learn more about what ideas and techniques connect with students.

Outside of the day-to-day stress of school (like during the summer!), students are more free to focus on developing longer-term skills.

Topics covered include:

  • ”To-Don’ts”: As important as “To-do’s”. Identifying the bad habits that get in the way of accomplishing our goals and how to take steps to eliminate them.
  • Mind Dumps: Learning how to clear out a cluttered, overwhelmed mind, distill important information, and record that information to take action on later.
  • Ready State: How to create and maintain a mental framework and physical workspace ready to take on new responsibilities or assignments without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Goal setting: Learning how to set goals, both within the context of school/classes, and in terms of their development outside of school.
  • Planners: How to use planners effectively, and how to create a planner habit. We’ll cover both analog and digital.

Throughout it all, we’ll be discussing why planning is an important skill and the huge improvements in their lives planning can offer them, both now and for their futures.

Teens are transitioning from a stage in which their lives are planned for them to one in which they need to learn to take more and more responsibility and control so that they’ll become successful adults. We will help give them the tools to navigate their lives and futures in this course.

Course info:

Weekly, 1 hour, weekly workshop. 8 weeks (week of 6/28-week of 8/16)
Day and Time: TBD (will fit schedules of participants)
Where: Online
Cost: $440 ($400 if paid by 6/15)
Students per workshop: Maximum of 6

Call 858.551.2560 or email to reserve your child’s spot! We’re looking forward to helping them take control of their time and their futures.


The “Five Why’s” process for test prep

Why do some students spend so much time studying and still underperform on their exams?

There are many reasons, but one underlies almost all of those ideas: passivity. People (not just students!) tend to do the easiest things that feel like progress. For example:

  • Language learners use Duolingo (easy/passive) rather than speaking to people in the language they want to learn (difficult/active).
  • Programming learners watch a tutorial video (easy/passive) rather than create a website (difficult/active).
  • Math learners by “looking over” homework problems (easy/passive) rather than working through new problems (difficult/active).
  • History learners study by reading the text (easy/passive) rather than taking notes on the text or answering review questions (difficult/active).

But even for the students who get to “doing” in their studies, almost all of them are missing something important. When students are practicing for a test by working through problems or answering practice test questions, in correcting their work, they usually ask just one question:

What is the correct answer?

Particularly diligent students might ask a second question:

Why is this the correct answer?

On a math problem, they will try to look over their work to see how the correct answer can be arrived at. On a biology question, they’ll look back through the text to the information that they needed to answer the problem correctly. Once they are satisfied that they see how to arrive at the correct answer, they move on.

This is an important process. But it is not enough. If it was, every student who watched a teacher work through a problem on the board would be acing their tests. Observing how to get a missed problem correct is not enough to ensure that the student will be able to get a different problem correct on a test.

There are two questions every student should be able to answer when they are reviewing a homework problem or practice test question that they missed:

  • Why did I miss this question?
  • What do I need to do differently in order to not make this mistake again?

If the student can’t answer these questions, they are not learning from the error they made in their practice. And these aren’t always easy questions to answer! An academic coach can be a very efficient way to help students answer these questions, but one technique that students can use to make sure they are digging down to the root causes of the error is the “Five ‘Why’s” technique.

What is the “Five Why’s” technique?

When you have a problem you need to get the root cause of, ask a “why” question. Then ask a “why” question about that answer. Ask a total of five “why” questions. Why five? No special reason for five. Four might be enough, and on some problems you might benefit from more. But five is a number that usually ensures you are pushing yourself and squeezing every ounce of value out of the question. 

Let’s say a student missed the following problem:

Most students (and most tutors) will say something like this:

The answer is ‘D’ because when you want to find the original value of something before percentages were applied, you have to divide by the percentage taken. For example, if you want to know 25% of what number is 70, you would divide 70 by .25. And when we take multiple percentages, we have to multiply or divide them one at a time, not add them.

Reading this feels like you are making progress. Oh, I know how to solve that problem now! a student will say. It will make sense to them. But they will NOT necessarily be able to apply that idea next time. So let’s try a more active, effortful approach that forces the student to go through the reasoning process themselves.

Here is what the “5 Why’s’” process might look like

Q1: Why did I pick A?
A1: Because she only paid 80%, and then added 8%, so .88 seemed like the obvious answer as it was the sum of these. I also thought that since we were taking a percentage of something, I should multiply the percentage, not divide.

Q2: Why did I add the percentages?
A2: Because I saw two percentages so I figured I could add them together.

Q3: Why did that not work?
A3: You can’t add those percentages together, you have to multiply each percentage. And multiplying by the percentages rather than dividing would lead to a lower original price, which doesn’t make sense.

Q4: Why do I have to divide p by the percents rather than multiply them?
A4: Because I’m not finding 88% of p. I’m finding 88% of some other number, which means I am multiplying .88 by that other number, not by p. So it is definitely not .88p.

Q5: Why did I not catch this mistake?
A5: I was rushing. I didn’t test my answer. I was confident in the answer.

Now the student, having gone through this questioning process, can answer the key questions:

Why did I miss this question?
Because I didn’t look at all of the answer choices. Because I rushed and picked the “obvious” answer.

What do I need to do differently in order to not make this mistake again?
Look over the other answers in the multiple choice problem, and test my answer.

These takeaways are the entire point of a student’s practice. If the student doesn’t get these, then solving the problem was almost pointless. It was focussing on actions rather than outcomes.

The “Five Why’s” is a great technique because it trains students to look for questions. Questions are the key to unlocking what students know, and help light the way to possible paths to explore. It certainly take more effort than reading an explanation of the answer. But if the objective is a student who can independently work through a variety of different problems, the “Five Why’s” technique will help them discover what is getting in the way.

How you can help

When students are studying for an exam, ask them to explain to you what they are studying, and get curious and ask them “Why” questions that dig down to the foundation of the question/concept. Even if you don’t understand the material they are studying, you will still be able to hear when your son or daughter is unsure (and more importantly, your son or daughter will.) If you son/daughter works with a tutor, listen in and see if the tutor is just “telling” the student the process, or if the tutor is helping the student ask questions to explore their process and understanding.

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