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.

images (3)

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.

download (2)

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.

images

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

Advertisements

Creating Positive Environments

College is advertised as a place where students can learn, grow, and interact with their peers. The college setting is known for bolstering interpersonal relationships in virtually every setting, including college dorms, dining halls, and even group study rooms in open spaces.

Before coming to college, both of us had imagined a college experience that would challenge us to explore the unknown, meet unfamiliar faces, and succeed academically. This image of the perfect college experience soon became dependent on the people in our immediate surroundings. From the friends with whom we became acquainted, to the professors with whom we interacted, these key relationships provided a strong and positive foundation for our now flourishing college careers.

Interpersonal relationships are an important part of students’ academic success. We have found that surrounding ourselves with the right people, inside and outside of the classroom, is an essential component of achieving academic success.

From Chieme:

Chiemela Ohanele

At Penn it is easy to be consumed by the daily pressures brought on by academics or extracurriculars. However, Rani and I have found that the constant positive reinforcement of a persistent friend or a model mentor can make these daily difficulties easier to withstand. Whenever I am concerned about a class or overwhelmed with responsibilities, I can turn to Rani to encourage me to get the job done and to put my best foot forward even if I am burnt out and ready to give up. Through my friendship with Rani, I have learned how essential it is to have these constant cheerleaders in my life. Not only have these motivators given me the courage to persist through adversity, but they have also given me the confidence to know that I am capable of achieving the goals that I have set out to accomplish.

From Rani:

Richardson_Rani_HeadshotApril2017

Our relationships outside the classroom are critical for thriving academically, but the attitude we have toward our coursework plays a role as well. Contrary to what we had expected, sometimes, campus culture can also include negativity about schoolwork. It is normal to hear people around you discussing how pointless the class is and refusing to do the homework. During exam week we hear people saying how they are going to fail the exam, and it affects not only their focus and productivity, but it affects others as well. It can be very difficult to do well in a class if one internalizes this type of mindset.

Chieme and I have adopted an attitude of positivity. When we have classes together, we sit near each other and our comments on the coursework classroom material are usually positive and hopeful, if there are any at all. In classes where I don’t have friends like Chieme to foster a positive attitude, I try to sit with quiet people or those who also have a similar outlook on the material. Surrounding oneself with positivity seems to supply the courage and energy necessary to attack the material in a more productive way.

* * *

Overall, we have enjoyed our college experiences. Our friendship, work ethic and positive outlook have gotten us far along our respective paths.

  • So, try to find people who push you towards the goals you have set for yourself.
  • Try to find those constant motivators who will encourage you to think beyond the campus culture and to embrace positivity.
  • Look for ways to create constructive friendships and in-class interactions that will promote academic success.

Contributed by PENN Students: Chiemela Ohanele and Rani Richardson

Wrapping Up Spring Semester!

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).

calendar

  • 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.

images (9)

  • 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!

images (1)

Remember Weingarten is here to help!

By: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Tech Tuesday: Text Help with Read and Write

Picture1

Read and Write is a technology software recently introduced to our office by Amrou Ibrahim, our Assistive Technology Specialist. It’s an amazing application that can assist many students with their reading and writing needs. The tool offers support through various features, including highlighting texts, reading texts aloud, and utilizing talk-to-text features.

Picture2

Read and Write can be installed through a Google Chrome or Safari add-ons. Once it is installed, the application installs a toolbar that can be used with any tab in your web browser. Additionally, there is a desktop feature that can be downloaded so that Read and Write can be used offline as well.

This tool includes many different features which can benefit students here at Penn. Here are a few :

  • Text-to-speech features for selected passages or entire documents (works with emails, web browsers, PDFs, and more!)
    • While the text is read aloud, the associated words are highlighted on the screen. (This can help keep the reader focused)
  • Text and picture dictionaries to aid in students’ reading
  • A speech to text feature that can aid in students’ writing
  • A simplifying text features that gets rid of ads and other distracting features from web pages
  • Tools to highlight and underline while you are reading

Picture3

This is a great tool to try, especially because it is free! If you are interested in learning more about this tool or other technology that can be useful, call the Weingarten Learning Resources Center at (215) 573-9235 to make an appointment with Amrou or with one of our other learning instructors!

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

How to Succeed at Long Term Project Management Part One: Goal-Setting

downloadimages (2)

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.

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 6.16.46 PM

  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.

images (3)images (7)

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

What does this problem want me to do?

Picture1

Solving problems in STEM courses often requires identifying the correct procedure for solving a problem. If, under the time pressure and stress of an exam, you jump right at a problem, you may choose the wrong procedure to solve it.

Picture2

To train yourself to look before you leap, when working on problem sets, ask and answer the questions, “What does this problem want me to do? How will I give it what it wants?” for each problem.

Rashmi Kumar, Ed. D., STEM Specialist at the Weingarten Center, consistently teaches her undergraduate and medical students to ask these questions before they jump at the problem, so they are more likely to pair it with the right procedure:

What does this problem want me to do?

Picture3

Define the goal of the problem

It might make the work a little more fun, and you will be faster and better at problem-procedure pairing on the midterm:

How will I give the problem what it wants?”

Picture4
Identify the procedure that should be paired with the problem

Imagine…

Susana is about to solve a STEM problem. She asks herself,

What does this problem want me to do?

She answers,

Hmm, it wants me to calculate the torque at a perpendicular force.

Then she asks,

How will I give it what it wants?

And answers,

First I have to convert the units into the expected format. Next, I’ll need to identify the right equation. Then I’ll be ready solve the equation.

Simple and easy, right?

Practice it until it is an automatic habit and you will do it under pressure.

And for added fun, try saying “problem-procedure pairing” ten times fast!

Picture5

By Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor

The Problem-Solving Sandwich

tomato-sandwich-ck-1898530-x

Take-away:

When you go to do your homework (reading & problem-set)…
  1. Start with a homework problem first, not the reading.
  2. Read only if you need to. Read only what you need.
  3. Then get back to the problem and solve it.
PART 1: WHAT IS THE PROBLEM-SOLVING SANDWICH?
Read-Then-Solve: A Bad Idea

image 1

Unfortunately, many students do their homework using the read-then-solve strategy—they read the entire assigned reading, then start on the problem set.  This may make for reading more than you need and likely zoning out while you’re reading. Read-then-solve is often wasteful and boring. You may ask, “But don’t I need to understand the concepts first?” I ask in reply, “Do you read-then-solve in real life?”

The Problem-Solving Sandwich – What You Do in Real Life

image 2

In this “real world” scenario, suppose you are writing a report on a Word document, and run into trouble with the formatting. Say it is a problem with making bulleted lists in Word. You have a problem you intend to solve. Here are two strategies you can use. Which is best?

Strategy 1: Read-Then-Solve
  1. Read an entire chapter on formatting in Microsoft Word
  2. Attempt to solve the bulleting problem
Strategy 2: Use the Problem-Solving Sandwich
  1. Attempt to solve the problem with what you know. For example, you might right-click and see if any of the options make sense.
  2. If can’t figure it out, THEN search for a solution to your specific problem. For example, you might google “how to make bullets in word for mac 2011”
  3. As soon as you have what you think you need from whatever reading you find, get back to the Word doc and solve the problem.
It’s a sandwich—see?
PART 2: WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?
Benefit 1: The Problem-Solving Sandwich is More Efficient

Let’s see how the problem-solving sandwich can save you time. Compare Kim and Susana, both in a class involving problem sets, in this toy example.

Kim uses the read-then-solve strategy:

On Monday, from 4-6pm, she completes the assigned reading. The next day she works on the problem set, also from 4-6pm. Thus, her schedule looks like this:

READ-THEN-SOLVE
  KIM
TIME MONDAY TUESDAY
4:00 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
4:30 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
5:00 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
5:30 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE

Remember, this is just a toy example! You will likely want to put in a 6-hour minimum; see previous blog post with that title.

Susana uses the problem-solving sandwich strategy:

She works the same days, but not the same amount of time.

PROBLEM-SOLVING SANDWICH
  SUSANA
TIME MONDAY TUESDAY
4:00 PM SOLVE SOLVE
  read SOLVE
4:30 PM SOLVE read
  SOLVE SOLVE
5:00 PM SOLVE SOLVE
  read SOLVE
5:30 PM
 

As you can see, Susana stopped half an hour earlier than Kim on both days, saving herself an hour. Does this mean she has less mastery of the concepts? Will she do less well on the exam?

Who has greater command of the key ideas?
  • SUSANA > KIM
  • SUSANA < KIM
  • SUSANA = KIM

When I show this to students in my workshops, they generally think that Kim and Susana have equal control of the topic, that is,

  • SUSANA = KIM
But Susana had an hour more to have fun!

Why could she learn as much in less time? First, she only read when she couldn’t solve the problem on her own so she cut straight to the stuff relevant to her specific question with a strong motivation to get the info and get out—her brain was on the hunt.

Benefit 2: The Problem-Solving Sandwich is More Engaging

What do I mean by your brain being “on the hunt”? When you read-as-needed only, your goal is to find a specific answer to a critical question—you’re giving your brain a question mark: “?” J

But when you read-then-solve, your goal is to “get through the chapter.” You’re giving your brain a period: “.” L

Which is more fun? Ready to Try It? So if you have been using the read-then-solve strategy, try out the problem-solving sandwich strategy. If you have any ?s about how to do it, feel free to come chat with a learning instructor—we’re happy to help!

image 5

 To your better learning!

Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor