Bigger Pictures: Let’s Try Again, Shall We?

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Oh, dear. Winter break ended. Now what?

If you’re among those lucky souls who looked up their Fall ’18 grades with a sense of pride in accomplishment, an almost giddy feeling of work well done, then congratulations. That’s no easy feat here at Fun Times on the Schuylkill.

But what if your semester went awry?

What if your best laid academic plans of late August transmogrified into the second act of a low budget horror movie?

What if looking at that grade report made you relive the whole ordeal in all its gory detail?

What if you’re sitting there now, watching the horror unfold yet again, screaming at your past self, “Don’t skip the practice exam! Don’t skip the practice exam!” but there you go again, skipping the practice exam like that kid who just has to play with the Ouija board just one last time, thus opening the Hell Mouth and setting loose the demons who run amok in the second act of a low budget horror movie? Then what?

Even worse: what if it’s all happened before?

Let’s face it, you don’t want to be the recurring protagonist in a lousy horror franchise. You’ll wind up getting type cast and then you’ll find yourself telling people things like, “What I really want to do is direct,” while you read through the script for Schuylkill Terror 3: It Came From Under The Button. The academic equivalent of that goes something like, “I’m going to work really, really hard, and this semester is going to be totally different.” And then you promptly double down on doing things roughly the same way you tried to do them last semester, but with a “serious” and unyielding approach doomed for failure after about three and a half weeks. Lots of times it’s not about working harder.

It is amazing how often people take the same approach over and over, expecting different results, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. And if your Fall ’18 grade report felt like the trailer for Insidious 4, then you DO NOT want to do things the same way in Spring ’19.

So yes, this is a shameless plug for ambling over to your learning center and meeting with one of the friendly Weingarten Learning Instructors. We can help you figure out where things broke bad. Yes, it will be time well spent.

In the meantime, put away the Ouija board.

By Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Sadly, this quote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes”, is at best apocryphal. But it so sounds like something Mark Twain would say that no one really wants to change the attribution.

Welcome Back to Spring 2019 Penn Students!

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Happy New Year and Welcome Back to Spring 2019, PENN Students!

At the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, we hope you had a good Winter Break and opportunities to reflect, relax and recharge for an exciting Spring 2019 semester! You should be proud of your efforts in the Fall of 2018. As we begin the new semester, there is already much to look forward to in the coming months. We would like to share some resources to help you hit the ground running in 2019 in addition to a number of exciting campus-wide programs! To get you started, we have some ideas and resources to help you optimize your learning:

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  • Explore and discover other VPUL (Vice Provost for University Life) resources:

University Life is you! Penn wouldn’t be Penn without University Life

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Study Strategies: Dos and Don’ts for Reading Days

How many times have you said, “I’ll get this done during Reading Days?” I know I have said it at least ten times this semester. This semester’s reading days are Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27. Reading days (and the weekend before finals) are a great time to get prepared for your final exams and papers, but those two days go by very quickly. In this post, I’ll share some dos and don’ts for Reading Days success.

DO create an action plan. As soon as you can, look at all of your syllabi to get a better understanding of what exactly you have to do for your final assessment for each class. Do you have a final paper? How long is it? What kind of outside research does this paper require? Do you have to do a presentation about your paper in class? Do you have a final exam? Is it cumulative? Is there a study guide? Create fake deadlines for yourself before the actual deadline by bringing your paper or study plan to the Weingarten Center or by taking your paper to the Marks Family Writing Center. Making an appointment will create an accountability measure for yourself.

DON’T start the day before. The worst time to start looking at exam material is a few hours before you take the test. If you create a plan and familiarize yourself with your professor’s expectations for the final, then you will know how much time you must devote to studying for that particular exam. Similarly, starting your paper the day before the deadline won’t yield the best result. You may need to get books from the library or interview someone to complete your assignment, so advanced planning is critical when completing these papers.

Do prioritize. The end of the year comes with lots of fun activities that may get in the way of your exam and paper preparation. You are encouraged to balance work and fun, and the best way to do this is by putting all of your activities, fun or not, onto a calendar. We have April-May calendars in the Weingarten Center that are perfect for this activity. Once you see when everything will be taking place, you can make some choices. Perhaps choose one fun activity to do during the weekend before finals, and sandwich it between study/work sessions for your exams and papers.

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Don’t try to cram. Depending on how much time you have to study before your exam, you will have to make some choices about what you study. If you are short on time, focus on reinforcing the material that you know well and reviewing the topics that you can easily learn, rather than getting held up on the most complicated parts of your coursework. This strategy is the best way to get through as much as possible in a short amount of time.

For more tips on making the most of your Reading Days, visit us at the Weingarten Center! We’ll be holding two “Study Hacks for Reading Days” workshops on 4/23 and 4/24. Additionally, we are open for 50-minute appointments or shorter walk-ins if you would like to consult with a learning instructor individually.

Best of luck on your final exams and papers!

By Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Study Strategies: Wrapping Up Spring Semester!

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While it might not feel like spring outside, the semester is starting to come to a close. As we start to prepare for final papers and projects, it can be too easy to start to feel overwhelmed. Don’t let your impending deadlines get the better of you this semester. Weingarten has some tools that can help.

  • First, we suggest laying out all your deadlines on a calendar. This helps you see what tasks are coming up (Stop by Weingarten to pick up one of these calendars).

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  • Next, work backwards from your larger project deadlines and/or exams. Break down these tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  • Create deadlines for these mini-tasks and write these deadlines on the calendar as well.
    • These mini-deadlines will help to make sure you are staying on track with your assignments. These deadlines are personal, so if you need to move some around or reschedule, you can! Just make sure you are not falling too far behind.
  • Make sure to note any other personal obligations you have on this calendar.
  • Call Weingarten at 215-573-9235 to schedule an appointment with a learning instructor who can help you utilize this calendar, make a plan for your studying, or help you manage multiple papers and assignments.
  • Schedule time to attend the Study Hacks for Reading Days workshops:
    • Monday, April 23rd from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Weingarten Center
    • Tuesday, April 25th from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. in ARCH 110
    • Register at goo.gl/iGH4rk
Enjoy the rest of your spring semester!

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Remember Weingarten is here to help!

By: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Study Strategies: Long Term Project Management & Goal-Setting

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I submitted my dissertation earlier this month. A dissertation is essentially a book that takes years of writing and researching to complete. Now that I can look back and reflect on the process, I want to share some tips that really helped me get through the longest project of my life. In this post, I’ll talk about specific strategies for setting goals and sticking to deadlines. Check back next week for part two of this series, where I will cover the self-care initiatives I pursued while writing in order to stay well while completing my dissertation. If you have a final paper or project looming in the not-so-distant future, read on to see how you can create a plan for success!

  1. Identify the due date.

Most, if not all, of your big projects will have a definitive due date. If there is not one, create a due date for yourself that fits best in with your other final exams, projects and papers. We have 2018 – April-May Calendar available at the Weingarten Center to help organize all of your final obligations. See when your busy times are, and plan around them. If you have all set dates for your exams, papers and projects, write them in now so that you can begin preparing in advance.

  1. Work backwards to plan intermediate due dates.

Some of you may have intermediate dates included in your final project description (i.e. Writing Seminar Portfolio). For everyone else, creating intermediate due dates along the way for small steps is a great way to keep chipping away at a larger project. Once you’ve identified the due date, work backwards from that date to today’s date and create a to-do list. We have Long Project Planning Sheet (pictured below) available at the Weingarten Center to help you plan things out, but you can also do this on an app (such as Wunderlist) or on a regular piece of paper.

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  1. Create manageable goals for small chunks of time.

Once you begin creating a to-do list, break your project up into a series of very small steps in order to be successful. For example, the first task on my to-do list is always to re-familiarize myself with the prompt or task. Reread the assignment description, and then check that off your list! You’re already making progress. After that, your steps should never take more than 1-2 hours to complete, and you should take a break in-between. If you’re writing a paper, break the paper up into sections (introduction, argument 1, conclusion, etc.) and make each section a different task.

  1. Find an accountability partner.

Speaking your goals aloud to someone else will make you more likely to complete them. Once I set my intermediate deadlines, I shared them with everyone from my friends and classmates to my dissertation advisor. That way, when the deadline neared, I knew I had to turn something in because others were expecting drafts. Find someone in your class, a friend or roommate who you can check in with periodically. Make an appointment at the Weingarten Center or the Marks Family Writing Center and bring a section of your paper there. Check in with your professor during office hours so you can share your progress.

Long-term projects and papers can sometimes feel like isolating, daunting tasks, but if you involve others and make the project more manageable through smaller deadlines, you’ll definitely be successful. Good luck!

By Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, Learning Instructor

Study Strategies: Spring Clean Your Academic Life

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While it might not feel like spring outside yet, it is definitely around the corner. Spring break is over, and this semester is already halfway complete. Before we become busy with spring social commitments, with enjoying the nice weather (it’s coming, I promise!), and with beginning to study for finals, this point in the semester can be a great time to do some academic spring cleaning.

Sound new to you? Often, we often only think of spring cleaning as a chore we complete with our dorms, houses, or apartments, but actually this can be a great point in the semester for taking time to reorganize your academic life. Spending a few hours clearing out old papers and organizing important files can help you feel recharged and ready to take on the rest of the semester.

So turn on some music, open up the curtains to let some sunlight in, and get ready to get organized. Here are some suggestions for how to spring clean your academic life:

  • Take some time to go through your folders (or the paper crumpled at the bottom of your backpack).
    • Recycle the papers you don’t need anymore.
    • If papers will be useful or helpful later in the semester or in future classes, place them in a labeled folder.
  • Organize the files on your computer.
    • Make sure you have created file folders for each of your courses this semester. Sort your files accordingly. Make sure to add any downloaded files that will be useful.
    • Delete the computer files you no longer need.
    • If you are reading a lot of PDFs, make sure you are keeping them organized for easy reference when you are writing future essays. Tools like OneNote, Notability, or Zotero can be great for helping to keep PDFs organized.
  • Sort out your Inbox!
    • This task can be dreaded, but now can be a good time to take charge of your email if it’s gotten out of hand.
    • Delete unread or unneeded messages.
    • Place important emails in their applicable folders
    • Take yourself email chains that you don’t need or send them directly all an advertisement folder so they aren’t clogging up your main inbox.
  • Take stock of your books and textbooks.
    • If you’re like me and you have too many books, make sure you’ve made any returns to the library.
    • See if you can sell back any books on Amazon or another site.
    • Donate books you no longer need to on-campus donation sites or a local library.
  • Review your planner and/or schedule.
    • Make sure your spring commitments are updated.
What else do you do to recharge and reorganize during the spring? Let us know!

Remember, instructors at Weingarten are here to help with any of your academic needs! Call 215 – 573 – 9235 to make an appointment. Or, stop by Monday thru Friday from 12pm to 3pm and Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 4pm  to 7pm for walk-in appointments.

By: Kelcey Grogan, Weingarten Learning Instructor and Learning Fellow

Study Strategies: Starting Spring Semester Off Strong!

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Welcome back to Philadelphia for the 2018 Spring Semester! We here at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center hope you had a relaxing and rejuvenating break. We also hope you remembered to bring back some warm clothes! It’s been a fairly chilly winter here so far – make sure you stay bundled up for your walks to class, work, and extra-curricular activities. With this weather, some of you may be even more encouraged to stay inside and get a jump start on your class work!

Whether this weather makes you want to head to the library or curl up under a blanket watching Netflix, the learning instructors at Weingarten have five steps to help make this semester the most successful and manageable one yet:

Step 1 – Reflect:

Before you dive into your new coursework, spend some time reflecting on last semester. You can simply mentally reflect, or devote some time to writing your answers down in a notebook or journal. Here are a few questions to guide your thinking:

  • How did you manage your time last semester?
  • How did you prepare for your exams and quizzes?
  • How did you approach long term projects or papers?
  • What worked for you? What didn’t work for you?
  • What would you like to be different this semester?
Step 2 – Set Goals:

Based on your reflections, set 1-3 small goals for yourself this semester. These goals should be manageable (you can achieve them in one semester), measurable (you will know when you achieved them), and reflective of what is most important for you and your studies. Write these goals down on a piece of paper and post them on your bulletin board, or place them in the first page of your planner. Put them somewhere you will see them often to remind yourself of what you are working towards.

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Step 3 – Make a Plan:

Spend some time in the beginning of the semester writing down all due dates for your exams, quizzes, papers and projects in your calendars and planners. Doing this now will save you time and prevent future headaches later. Remember time management has three components:

  1. Long term (semester) planning
  2. Weekly planner
  3. Daily To-Do Lists/Tasks & Daily Schedule

Make sure your time management plan includes all three of these components.

Step 4 – Identify Resources You Can Use for Help:

Before you are crammed with work and crunched for time, spend an afternoon locating different resources on campuses that are here to support you. Make an appointment with a librarian so that you finally understand how to conduct research properly (it’s more than just entering search terms in Google!). Attend office hours with your professors or TAs before they become swamped with students. Make an appointment with us here at the Weingarten Resources Center. Schedule the doctor’s appointment that you have been meaning to go to. Seek out these resources now! Don’t wait until later in the semester. Here are some resources that can be useful for students:

  • The Tutoring Center
  • Weingarten Learning Resources Center
  • Marks Family Writing Center
  • Resource Librarians
  • Professor and TA Office Hours
  • CAPs, Health Center, Women’s Center
  • Campus and Community Houses (La Casa Latina, Makuu, Greenfield Intercultural Center, LGBT Center, etc.)
  • Your college major Advisors
Step 5 – Attend a Session at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center:

To learn more about these ideas and other strategies, attend a session at the Weingarten Learning Resources Centers so that you work smarter not harder this semester!

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Whatever you need, Weingarten is here to support your academic growth! Remember we have walk-in hours every weekday from 12PM to 3PM and on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 4PM to 7PM in the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. You can also always call 215-573-9235 and schedule an appointment.

Have a great, happy, and successful spring semester!

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By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Fellow & Learning Instructor