How to Study a Foreign Language

studying foreign language

I love your post about taking notes from a textbook, however I’m currently taking Spanish and the book isn’t set up in paragraphs.  Any tips on how to study a foreign language?

– – –

It can be frustrating to study a class/subject that isn’t set up the “traditional” way. For example, we get used to textbooks being set up like a hierarchy with heading and subheadings. On the other hand, foreign languages are more about acquisition and proficiency of the language than they are about learning information.

Foreign Language textbooks tend to focus on grammar rules, conjugating verbs, etc. BUT they don’t always teach you HOW to speak the language.

Another thing that’s weird about  language is the vocabulary terms. For example, the vocabulary terms are usually pretty random and not necessarily what you would need in day-to-day life. I’ll never forget a Spanish class I had my freshman year when my teacher had us saying sentences from the textbook, like “Necesito  mochila” (I need a backpack). We were in tears laughing because they were so random!

Language acquisition happens for us in other languages the same way that it happens in our primary language. How did you learn the language you speak now? You listened to others speak it, you read short children’s books, you played games where you matched 3-letter words to pictures. Learning a foreign language is very similar to teaching yourself Kindergarten!

High Frequency Verbs

In Kindergarten, we teach High Frequency Words. These are words that appear most frequently in the Engligh language: words like a, to, the, are, you, is, etc. Similarly, Terry Waltz came up with the idea of teaching the seven most common verbs first, so that you can create more sentences that you might actually use. Here are the “Super 7” for Spanish:

1. está (is at a place / is feeling)

2. hay (there is / there are)

3. tiene (has)

4. es (is)

5. le gusta (likes / is pleasing to) 2

6. va (goes / is going)

7. quiere (wants)

Read: Study Tips for High School Students

Keep a Notebook

First, track what you’re learning in a notebook, and be sure to use a pencil! Color-coded notes may not work as well for foreign language like they would for science. Next, dedicate different sections of your notebook to what you learn about grammar rules and vocabulary. Finally, give yourself the challenge of writing 10 sentences for every new vocabulary word you learn.

Related: 4 Rules for Effective Studying

Give Yourself Homework

I’m sure your professor gives you homework but is it effective? In college, I always found it easier to teach myself than to try to learn from a professor (no offense, professors!). For example, ordering a simple workbook that’s designed for elementary Spanish-speaking students would be a great (and kind of fun) way to apply and practice what you’re learning!

You might also like: Crash Course in Visual Note-Taking

Use Google Translate

Throughout your day, what sentences do you find yourself saying over and over again in your primary language? Things like, “Do you want to go to…” “Would you please hand me a…” “What time do you want to…” As you start to recognize your recurring sentences, just Google the translation and practice saying that. Likewise, you can also record it on your Voice Memos app to help you remember in the future.

Read: How I Color Code My Notes


Foreign languages are all about growing your vocabulary, practicing fluency, learning to read, and practicing correct grammar rules. These are all the things you did in Kindergarten! Don’t just do something once then move on to the next chapter. Keep practicing and applying what you’ve learned! I even used to have the “Siri” voice on my navigation app turned on in Spanish so that I would have to actively listen and comprehend basic instructions (and I only got lost a few times). As a result, my listening comprehension improved and I was able to differentiate between words more easily!

Related: How to Take Better Class Notes

In short, the more you practice, the better you will be! And don’t forget to keep practicing even after you finish this class. Foreign languages are a real “adult” skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life!

How to Create a Flexible Color-Coded Planning System

I’m wondering how you handle changes within your color-coded system.  For example, if the professor pushed an assignment back or classes were canceled due to inclement weather. 
Great question! I get so annoyed when dates change, but then I remember “oh yeah, this is why I have a planner in the first place”. 
If the thought of writing every assignment/appointment/engagement in boring pencil in your planner gives you the heebie-jeebies, don’t worry! There are other (prettier) options!
Welcome to the wonderful world of flexible planning!
So, “flexible planning” has kind of become my thing over the past few years. I LOVE planning ahead. LOVE. IT. I love color-coding and timelines. I love being prepared and not having things sneak up on me. But… life, y’all. 
Life is full of surprises and things are always changing. Events get postponed. New things pop up.
And since our planners are a reflection of our lives, shouldn’t they be able to mirror those changes?
Of course, they should!
So, what’s my #1 secret weapon for creating a flexible planning system?
Post-It’s have come a long way since Michele first invented them. Check out the amount of space in your planner’s monthly and weekly boxes. Then take a stroll down the office supply aisle of any store (or Amazon) to find some colorful sticky notes that will fit! 
These are the Post-It Tabs I use for the outside of my Teacher Planner. They’re 3″ (75mm).
My favorites are the Post-It Tabs.
They were originally intended to keep on the edge of pages of books, but I have found that they’re the perfect way to keep my color-coded planning system neat and flexible (no more crossing things out)! I just flip them sideways and write on the colored and clear parts. 
Here are the different sizes I use in my Planner: 
I have found that these are the perfect size for the columns in the Plum Paper Planner! I have the ME Weekly Layout, and this kind of Post-It fills an entire section within a day. If you want multiple Post-It’s, try these:
These are a good alternative to the Tabs because they give you more room to write above/below or have multiple flags in a particular section of your planner.
In school, I might suggest using the Tabs for bigger assignments, and the flags for smaller assignments… but just find the system that works best for you!
Here is what I like best about these two types of Post-Its:
-They are durable, so they’re easy to write on
-You can remove/replace them over and over again, and they still stick
-They’re easy to write on
(I use a Black Tombow ABT N15, but Sharpie pens work well, too!)
Here are examples of how I use them:
In my teacher planner, I use Post-It Tabs for lesson ideas. Then I can easily move them if plans change.
(Side Note: First rule of teaching? Plans always change.)
In my personal planner, I use Sharpie Highlighters set-in-stone events and Post-It Tabs for things that can be flexible.
Other Options:
Another option that I’m not quite as crazy about (but is more cost effective) is the Post-It Page Markers. The colors are pretty and you get way more for your money… but they aren’t as durable and won’t re-stick as easily. If you move it more than once, you’ll probably have to rewrite it. So, I guess it’s good that you get more in a pack!
Using Post-Its has worked so well for me, that I haven’t really tried another system. Although, I have heard really great things about the Pilot Frixon Erasable Pens. If you’ve tried those, please chime in and let us know what you thought! 
(UPDATE: I have tried these and they are beyond incredible! They actually do erase really cleanly and the colors are fun. The only downside is that they dry out a little faster than other pens. But it may be worth it for the convenience!)

If you’ve tried another system for flexible planning and color coding, please share it below! 
We’d love to know some other options! 🙂 

How to Organize Your Class Binders

Reader Question: “What are your suggestions to keep organize for my college binder such as labels on dividers, notes, and assignments? I prefer to use binder instead of the folder. I like to bring everything in the class.” -Amanda
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of opting for class folders over binders. But what if a folder just isn’t practical for your class? Or what if you get really annoyed by the bent up corners and you just can’t take it anymore? 
If you’re the kind of person who prefers to use binders, this post is for you!
1 | Label your binders for quick access
This may seem really obvious, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes! Make sure to clearly label your binder on the front cover as well as the spine. This way, whether you have them standing in a locker or tossed in the backseat of your car, you can quickly grab the right one! 
2 | Follow the same format in each binder
Make up a consistent system and use it in each binder. What I mean by this is, plan the “layout” of your binders and use the same format in each one. Here’s an example:
-Front Pocket: Upcoming Assignments
-Back Pocket: Graded Assignments
-Back Cover: Class Grad Sheet
Pull out the 3 things you’ll need/use the most over the semester and put them in these easy-to-access locations! In the photo below, I used the first page of my binder as an “actionable steps” list. Just use whatever you need and whatever works best for you! 
3 | Get a sheet protector
I love sheet protectors! I recommend using one as your very first page in the binder. I would put a semester assignment spreadsheet for the class in there, just to make sure you’re always on track! You could also use wet/dry erase markers to write on them, like below!
4 | Don’t be afraid to rework your syllabus
What I don’t like about syllabi is that each professor uses a different format. I like to take the syllabus, get rid of all of the university guidelines, and re-type the important parts, like assignment due dates and class meeting dates. This keeps is clean and concise. 
5 | Use tabs
The amount of tabbed notebook dividers I find all over my house is ridiculous. I usually just get the ones that have 5 dividers, but you can use more or less depending on your needs! Here are the categories I usually use:
Class Information- Hole punch and save the original syllabus
Handouts- Any handouts your professor gives you, newest on top
Notes- Neatly rewritten notes from class, newest on top
Graded Assignments- Papers/tests that have been graded & returned, newest on top
Blank Paper- If you’re not bringing a separate notebook, bring blank notebook paper 🙂 
Binders are a great way to stay organized throughout the semester! They are a little bulkier and a little more awkward to deal with in class (all that snapping!), but if that doesn’t bother you, then bind away! 🙂 
How do you organize your class binders or folders?!

4 Tips for Writing Notes in Your Own Words

A few years ago, I wrote a post on how to take better notes

One of the strategies in that post is to write notes in your own words

But guess what? I’ve had a few requests on a post about how to do that. How do you write notes in your own words? Especially if you’re struggling to understand the material. 

This is a great question, so I’ll try my best to outline some strategies for writing notes in your own words today! Let’s go! 

Paraphrase PPT Slides
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (or at all), you probably know I’m pretty preachy about not mindlessly copying PowerPoint slides word-for-word. Just… no. All you’re doing is wasting ink and giving your self a hand cramp. 

READ the slide first, then look away and try to paraphrase what you read in a sentence or two. These are your notes. You’re just trying to pull out the relevant information or facts. If there are pictures, draw those, too 🙂

Look Attentive
When you’re sitting in a lecture, you are playing the active role of a LISTENER. You need to develop an effective listening technique in order to glean anything from the lesson. Active Listening is a strategy that will help you in class (and also in life). 

Read: Strategies for Studying with ADD/ADHD

Just like everything else in life, your body language actually plays a big part in this! Here are some physical signs of Active listening that can help you comprehend and retain what you hear:

-Eye Contact

I mean, you don’t have to stare and creepily stare at your professor for an hour, but do sit up straight, track them with your eyes, and nod your head… basically, use the same courteous body language that you would like your classmates to show you if you were presenting. 

Not only will your professor see you as respectful (you are… aren’t you?), but you send your body the message that this is important, which will keep you focused.

Read: Are You Reading Your Textbooks Correctly? 

Ask Questions
Some other strategies that will help you put information into your own words are to ASK QUESTIONS! I know. I get it. You don’t want to be that person who might add an extra 3 minutes onto class time. 

If you have a question, just ask it! If you need clarification on something the professor said, just ask them! You can ask after class, too. Just make sure you have a basic understanding before you walk out of class every time, okay? 

Read: Note Organization Checklist

Rewrite Notes After Class
When you leave class, put together the information that your professor gave you in the lecture with what you read in the textbook. This is why you always need to read (or at least skim) your textbook chapters before going to class! 

While you rewrite your class notes, make sure they make sense. Write them in words/sentences/phrases YOU understand easily. Make the concepts as simple and easy as you can. 

And of course, make them pretty! 😉 

Like Organized Charm on Facebook!

What tips do YOU have for writing/rewriting notes in your own words?

-Skills You Need: Active Listening 

How I Color Code My Notes

A few of you have requested a post about how I color code my notes! So I’m happy to share that today! 

One thing I will remind you of is please don’t try to do this IN class! You will get frustrated and you WILL mess up! 

Take sloppy notes in class and rewrite them into pretty, colorful notes later! 

Those pretty, colorful notes are the ones you will use to study before a test or reference while writing a paper! 🙂 

Ok, so here is the system I use. I’ve been using this same color-coding system since my  sophomore year of college and it has worked perfectly for me! In fact, I still use it today in my classroom to color code our subjects and schedule! But that’s a post for a different day 🙂 

Pink | Headers/Major Points
Because I’m drawn more to the colors at the end of the rainbow (Pink! Purple! Blue!), I do all my color-coding treating pink like it’s the top dog color (which it is, as far as I’m concerned). I actually remember the day I came up with this system. 

I made a mark on my paper with every color pen I had, then I checked to see which one grabbed my attention the most quickly. Pink was the winner (pink is always the winner, amiright?), so that’s why I use pink for headers! Use whatever catches your attention!

Purple | Sub Headers/Keywords
Any major information that you need to go under the header will go here. It can be the first thing your professor mentions about that particular topic, it can be keywords you make up to trigger your memory, or it can be a quick and broad sentence explaining the header. 

Basically, it’s just a little more explanation to assist you in making sense of the header. 

4 Tips for Taking Better Class Notes

Blue | Bullet Points
Pretty straight-forward. I always prefer bullet points to sentences. Even when I’m typing up information to give to my parents at school, I very rarely type information in paragraphs. Is it because I don’t think they’re smart? Nope! It’s because I’ve researched how people read. 

And research shows that “a few tiny dots attract the eye and can make a complex concept understandable.” In fact, only 57% of people read the content in paragraphs. Bottom Line: Don’t write paragraphs in your notes… You’ll probably never go back to read them!

Speaking of reading paragraphs, are you reading your textbooks correctly?

Green | Vocabulary 
Depending on your major, you may have some crazy-ridiculous vocabulary terms. I like to write my new vocabulary words in green and all the way to the left side of the paper (in the margin) to make them easier to find! 

Be sure to write a definition that makes sense to YOU, not just the definition from your textbook (because, if it’s a new concept, that can sound just as confusing as the word itself)! Make any sort of connection you can! Do you need help with that? 

Check out this post on putting notes in your own words! 

Orange | Examples
Finally, the examples. Good teachers and professors come up with memorable examples. In fact, I’ve had some professors who have told such funny stories that I started laughing when I saw the vocabulary word on the test! 

Examples of your topic in real life will make all the difference, so do whatever it takes to find good ones and remember them! I also like to draw little pictures to break up the text of my notes 🙂 Want to know more about that? Check out this guide to taking visual notes!

Hopefully, that makes my color-coding system a little easier to understand! If you’re interested in seeing a more in-depth explanation, check out my Note Formatting Resource, where I break it down even more! 

Now that you’ve got these beautiful notes, let’s organize them so they’re easier to study! 🙂

How do you color code your notes? Have you used the same system for a long time? Or are you just starting a new system? Share your process below!

Follow Organized Charm on Instagram

8 Steps to Prepare for Certification Exams

A normal test can be one thing, but a state certification exam can be quite another. 

When I was working on my teaching certification, I had to sign up for and take five different Praxis Exams.

It’s really intimidating to work so hard in school (or grad school) and then to feel like one test could make or break you.  

First of all, congratulations on finishing (or almost finishing) school! 

I remember how daunting those certification exams were! 

Here are some of the strategies I used for studying for certifications exams:

Study Guide: 
I could find some sort of study guide for most of my tests on Amazon… even the most obscure-sounding ones. If you’re having a hard time finding one, check the company’s website who gives the test. Most likely, they’ve put out a resource or can recommend one!

Practice Test: 
Once you get your study guide, don’t study it! Flip straight to the practice test (there should be about three). Take the first one “cold” so you can see your strongest and weakest areas. That’s what you’re going to use to build your study plan!

Strengths & Weaknesses: 
Obviously, you’ll want to spend the most time studying areas that you scored the lowest in. You may need to teach/reteach yourself the content. Use your favorite study strategies to learn as much as you can here! Skim through your strength areas review-style. 

Top Priority: 
Make studying for this exam your top priority! Since it’s more intimidating than other tests you’ve taken in the past, it can be easy to procrastinate. Stay conscious of the fact that you might be scared and take the opposite stance! Spend 1-2 hours a everyday studying for it!

Retake the Test: 
Set checkpoints (like one week before the test, and a halfway point between here and there) to retake the practice tests. This will show you which areas you’ve made improvement in, and which areas you still need to focus on. 

Make sure that all of the logistics of your test day are taken care of well in advance. Actual exam days can be stressful and can negatively impact your performance on the test. Make sure you know exactly what you need, where to park, which building it’s in, etc. 

Night Before:
Take care of any logistical details. You’ll probably have to show an ID. Have that and anything else you need read to go. Map out the route you’ll take to the testing center. Lay out all of your clothes/materials the night before. Relax and go to bed early! 

Stay Relaxed: 
On test day, wake up and actively stay calm! No decisions! Eat a breakfast that’s high in protein. Stay in the zone! No phone calls, emails, etc. Leave early! Listen to zen or classical music on your way to the testing location and stay positive!! 

If you’d like to see this in a timeline format, here it is: Standardized Test Study Timeline

I know you’ll do great, so don’t stress (too much)! 🙂 

What tips do you have for taking certification exams?

Study Strategy: Just Get Started

Sometimes, when you have a big paper or project due, it can be difficult to know where to even begin. 

In grad school, we often had pages that were 30+ pages. At the beginning, I remember thinking, “This is insane. How can I even find a starting place?”

So, when you’re faced with a project that’s huge and ominous, what can you do? 

My best answer is to just do something. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. It can be as simple as formatting the Word document or scribbling down a quick outline of your ideas. 

In fact, this first thing you do doesn’t even have to make it to the final product! The point is to just get started

Here are some reasons it’s important to get started:

By simply starting a task, you are more likely to complete it. 

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate being interrupted when I’m trying to complete a task. Have you ever noticed that unfinished tasks kind of stick with you? It’s because of the Ziegarnik effect

You see, once you start a project (even a small one) your mind creates this nagging need to finish it. When things pull you away from your task, you just experience this great need in your mind to go back and accomplish it. 

So, by simply starting on your huge project, you’ll become invested in it and actually start to care about finishing it! 

Do a little bit each day, as early in the day as you can. 

Look at that overwhelming paper or project and break it down into sections. For example, I would break down a basic paper into Intro, Point 1, Point 2, Point 3, Conclusion. Then just focus on one section of the paper at a time. No need to overwhelm yourself for no reason!

Then, schedule in some time to just get started on one of the sections. Since I usually write my intro and conclusion last, I would focus on Point 1 first. Work on this for 20-30 minutes a day until it’s finished. Then move onto the next section. 

Try to schedule these 20-30 minute work times as early in the day as you can. There are less distractions in the morning. Also, the longer the day goes on, the more likely other people are going to give you stuff to do. Then you’ll really be feeling the Ziegarnik effect!

Objects in motion stay in motion. 

I don’t know a lot about physics, but this rule is pretty easy to understand. Just like objects that stay in motion, we also tend to keep going once we’ve started. It’s why we have terms like “on a roll”, “in the zone”, “hit my stride”, etc. Once we start, it’s easy to keep going. 

Something that is so cool about teaching is seeing how children (even 5-year-olds) can get “in the zone” and become super focused on what they’re doing. The other day, one of my Kindergarteners was at my teacher table and I planned to work with him for 10 minutes. 

Once he got started, he kept wanting to just keep going. He ended up working on math for 30 minutes straight because, once he got in motion, he stayed in motion. As long as you break your project down into manageable chunks, once you start, you’ll stay in motion, too! 

(If you want to read more about the Physics of Productivity, check out this post by James Clear)

Start your task in 2 minutes or less. 

“But that’s impossible!”, you might think. 

No. It’s not. You can do it! Think about the thing you’re dreading the most right now. What is one step you could take that could be done in 2 minutes? Could you open a Word document and create your cover sheet? Or type in your header? Bam. One step accomplished! 

Maybe you could just do a quick Google search of your topic and read about it for 2 minutes. I bet once you start, you would find something interesting that would make you want to keep going! If it’s math homework, just do the first problem! 

Once you start that task and feel that momentum, you’ll feel motivated to keep going! Keep working until you lose your momentum. Take a short break, then come back and do more! The nagging feeling of your unfinished product will keep pulling you back in once you start!

Focus on 1 thing at a time. 

Don’t try to do several parts of the project at once. Create a list and work through it. After you’ve completed the first section, move on to the next section and give it your undivided attention. 

If you have a lot of other things going on (like other classes, work, etc.) remember to focus on each on of them in their own time. Men tend to be better at “compartmentalizing” than women are. However, with practice, you can train your brain to stop trying to multi-task! 

I make a really big effort to only focus on one thing at a time. I would rather give 100% of my attention to one thing at a time, then set it aside and give 100% to something else. This is why I don’t answer personal texts at work and I don’t bring work projects home (anymore)! 

You don’t have to be able to complete it all at one time! You don’t even have to be able to complete one part of it at one time! You just need to break it down and start where you can! Perfectionism can hold you back, too. Remind yourself that “Done is better than perfect!”

What productivity tips do you have for tackling big projects? Have you tried any of these techniques? If so, how did they work for you? Share your experiences below! 

Follow Organized Charm on Tumblr for study and productivity inspiration! 

Strategies for Studying with ADHD

I recently received a request for a post on How to Study with ADD/ADHD.

“Of course!”, I thought, “I can’t believe I haven’t written about this before now!”.
The most recent numbers from the CDC say that the number of children with ADD/ADHD is currently at 11%!(Which is roughly 1 in every 10 students, for us math whizzes of the world).

But we can all be a little fidgety sometimes. And even the most attentive student can stare out the window, lost in a daydream while a professor is reading the PowerPoint presentation word. for. word. but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have ADHD.

A good rule to remember is that our attention span in minutes is typically our age + 2 (up to 30 minutes). But on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve also read that ADHD can result in hyper-focus, which makes it extremely challenging to switch your brain “off” and move to a different activity.


If you THINK you might have ADD ADHD but aren’t sure, the questions below can help you. But, of course, see a professional! (and no, “that girl who writes that study skills blog” doesn’t count.)
·      Do you have a hard time getting organized?
·      Do you procrastinate when given an assignment?
·      Do you have a hard time completing projects?
·      Do you make impulsive decisions?
·      Do you get bored easily?
·      Do you have a hard time reaching goals?
·      Do you get easily distracted?
·      Do you get so wrapped up in what you’re doing that it’s difficult to switch activities?
·      Do you tend to “over do” or compulsively do things?
·      Do you get easily frustrated or impatient?
·      Do you have low self-esteem?
·      Do you need lots of stimulation to stay interested in things?
·      Do you say or do things without thinking?
·      Do you have a hard time following rules and procedures?
·      Do you frequently fidget?
·      Do you feel bouts of depression?
·      Do you worry a lot yet are accident-prone/careless?
·      Do you have a lot of fears yet are a risk-taker?
·      Do you make careless mistakes?
·      Do you have blood relatives who suffer from ADD ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse?
According to ADDitude, if you answered, “yes” to 15+ of these questions, you should contact a doctor to get screened for ADD ADHD. Also, there are literally (and I mean that in a figurative way) TONS of resources online!

Problems & Solutions: 

Below are the 7 Biggest Problems for ADHD students (according to ADDitude) and a couple of strategies for each:
Problem: Being easily distracted / daydreaming / not paying attention
Strategy 1: There are all kinds of apps out there that keep you from getting on this website or that website. Try one of those if you think it would work! Another strategy is putting your phone on airplane mode (I know, the struggle of not feeling connected). You can still use functions like an alarm clock and calculator but it won’t give you the distracting notifications!
Strategy 2: Don’t try to study at home. Your room, roommates, pets, etc. can be unnecessary distractions. Go to your campus library. Most of them have quiet “study rooms” where you can sit quietly and work. If that isn’t an option, check out those headphones that people wear to the gun range or put on their babies for loud events.
(It looks silly but I’ve totally tried it and it does make a difference!)
Problem: Being Disorganized / forgetting or losing things
Strategy 1: Get a planner or use your phone calendar. As soon as you find out about an assignment date, put it into your calendar, then schedule some “warning” dates. The Calendar app lets you choose when you’d like 2 reminders. I like to start warning myself about upcoming due dates at least 2 weeks in advance: 2 weeks, 1 week, 3 days, 2 days, 1 day.
Strategy 2: Get a cute container/basket (an excuse to go to Target? Yes, please!) for your school supplies for each class. Every single day, put those same items in those same containers until it becomes a habit (21 days). Try this strategy with keys, sunglasses, cell phone, etc. Habitually check those stations before you leave to keep yourself from forgetting things!


Problem: Procrastinating with assignments
Strategy 1: Set aside an “Anti-Procrastination Day”. Make it a real thing. Put it on your calendar. Don’t schedule anything else for this day. Use it to power through those things you’re just struggling to start. Set aside large blocks of time to work on your most dreaded assignments & get started!
Strategy 2: Write down a list of EVERYTHING that you must complete- don’t worry about order or priority. Then go back and prioritize each thing on the list. Which things on this list have you been procrastinating the longest? Start them now or get rid of them! Either way, by taking some type of action, you will instantly relieve the stress being caused by procrastinating!
Problem: Failing to complete assignments
Strategy 1: Set a timer for 30 minutes and refuse to give attention to any other project during that time. Keep a blank piece of paper near you. If a distracting thought won’t leave you alone, write it down, flip over the paper, and vow to take care of it once the timer goes off. Try this system every time you work/study and repeat this 30-minute work time daily.
Strategy 2: Some professors like to write a paragraph (or even entire page!) for assignment instructions. Take a highlighter and highlight the actual actionable steps/tasks from wordy directions. Then rewrite the instructions as a list of clear and concise tasks. Work on each one for 30 minutes a day until the assignment is complete. Your goal: “Incomplete is not an option”.
Problem: Blurting out answers
Strategy 1: Write down your answers/comments on a piece of paper before sharing them with the class. This can help you cut down on impulsive talking/answering in class. It can also help you refine what it is that you actually want to ask the professor. The more thoughtful questions and comments are, the more other classmates will benefit from them as well.
Strategy 2: Give yourself an “allotment” of times to speak out in class. If you know that you can only speak 5 times in class, you’re more likely to make sure that those are quality comments/questions. Keep tally marks on your paper so you know how many times you have left. If you have more questions or comments, write them down and tell your professor after class.
Problem: Sitting through structured activities
Strategy 1: In class, try to sit next to people who will be a “good influence” on you. So, for example, even though it’s hard, don’t sit by that sorority sister who you know will be on her phone the whole time or that friend who rolls her eyes after every comment made by a classmate. By sitting by less distracting people, you’ll have a less difficult time sitting through class.
Strategy 2: Out of class, designate a “work space” and a “work time” to follow consistently every day. The more routine things are, the easier they are to do. Try a study lamp. Also, try to work in the morning, if it’s possible. Cognitive functioning skills pique between 9-12 in the morning. It’s easy for everyone to get distracted in the afternoon!
Problem: Being fidgety / impulsive
Strategy 1: Connect with each of your professors at the beginning of the semester and share your needs with them. It’s better to let them know on the front end that you are uncontrollably fidgety rather than them just thinking that you’re uninterested in their class later on in the year. As the year goes on, they may be willing to work with you on different assignments.
Strategy 2: Teachers have come up with a million ways to help fidgety kids in their classes. Check out this post and this one and then try some of these ideas in your study area at home! The good part of being an adult (or almost an adult) is being able to identify what you need AND being able to go out and get it. Make sure to keep your study area clean and away from a window!
Of course, I’m certainly no expert. If you have some better strategies or advice, please share it below! 😀
Follow Organized Charm on Pinterest for more study and organization tips!

High School Study Tips

I spend a lot of time focusing on college study tips, and that is really important that we take the time to remember our OC babies! 

Homework, study hall, drivers ed, curfews, and the potential to get grounded. 

That’s right, this post is all about studying in high school!

Plan Ahead.
First and foremost, I’ll start this post like I start every post: Have a planner and use it religiously! (I just happen to know of a great one). But for me, high school was always a little harder to plan for because there was no full course syllabus at the beginning of the year. 
Dates for quizzes, tests, assignments, homework, (and substitute teachers) can sneak up on you… especially with 6+ classes a day! Don’t forget all the extracurricular stuff, plus bringing money for fundraisers, field trips, etc. So keep your planner with you at all times and write down EVERYTHING as soon as you hear about it!
Use a mechanical pencil just in case things change (which they will). Also, use a highlighter system to keep you on track:
Yellow = In Progress
Pink = Complete

Set a Timer.

When you get home from school every day, set a timer and work high priority to low priority! So…either start with the thing that’s due the soonest or the thing that’s worth the most points.
I played competitive sports in high school, so sometimes I didn’t even get home until 10:00. There was no way I was getting ALL the homework done EVERY night, so I just went with the top priority items.
So, if I didn’t make it to that 5 point worksheet by the next day, it wasn’t really that big of a deal.
(I also knew which teachers would give me extra credit for bringing in extra boxes of tissues. God bless you, Ms. Parker)
Perfect Your Time Management.

Manage your time as wisely as possible. High school is full of important schoolwork and every day feels like it’s the most stressful one ever (or at least, that was my experience). At the end of the day, make sure that you’ve also allowed yourself the balance to actually enjoy your friends, football games, dances, etc.
Work for 30 minutes at a time then give yourself a 5 minute break. Also, work smarter, not harder. A lot of teachers assign similar assignments, so don’t be afraid to “piggyback” off of your prior projects and just make it a little better each time!

Even though it’s been (ahem) a while since I’ve been in high school, I definitely remember it was a high stress time… Having 3 lockers (one in each building), literally running to class carrying 30 books to make it before my teacher locked the door, and (most importantly), trying to catch up on the details of every little daily drama between classes.
If it feels a little overwhelming right now, just remind yourself that college will be here before you know it and things get SO. MUCH. BETTER. 😀

Follow Organized Charm on Bloglovin’!

How to Highlight Books & Notes in College

Have you ever seen that picture of a textbook completely covered in yellow highlighter that just says, “Highlighting. You’re doing it wrong.”?
I literally laughed so hard at that the first time I saw it because I have definitely gotten those textbooks before! 

(And in all honesty, I’ve also been that highlighting offender.)
Sometimes, it’s just hard to know what to and what not to highlight. Like, what if you need to know this in the future? Clearly, that neon yellow will lead the information right into your brain and let it stay there forever!

Here is my system for highlighting (and reading) textbooks:

First of all, go into your textbook with a purpose. Just reading a chapter start to finish without a purpose is like walking into Target without a purpose (dangerous and costly).
When you know what you’re looking for (either by using a study guide, looking at class notes, or reading the guiding questions that the end of the chapter), you’re more likely to pull out the importantinformation.
Scan the pictures and headings to get an idea of what you’re SUPPOSED to learn from the chapter. Then really focus on learning that thing! You and I both know every chapter doesn’t need to be 30+ pages. Don’t waste your time reading every word.

Create a routine, just like everything else. You may want to use one color for vocabulary terms and a different color for important ideas. I always, ALWAYS write my notes right in the margins using a mechanical pencil. It just makes it so much easier to have all of the info right there together!
If you use a consistent system, you’ll automatically look for vocabulary words to be pink, or learning theories to be yellow, which would make it a little more memorable!

Also, don’t forget about the wide variety of office supplies that can make your textbook reading more interactive! Use Post-It flags/tabs to save pages where important theories/concepts/charts, etc. are. You can highlight away, but what good does it do if you can’t find the page again?
If you’re not totally comfortable with writing straight into your book, you can use medium-sized sticky notes and stick those in the margins of important pages instead! Plus, sometimes a little extra color makes textbooks a little more bearable.

Don’t forget to bring the information “out” of your textbook.By that, I mean pull out those important terms/concepts/ideas that you highlighted and put them on index cards. Hang them up on your fridge, the wall above your computer, or on your mirror. This brings the information to you instead of you having to do work to get to the information.
Also, Target and school supply stores have that giant paper that you could use to create diagrams, etc. and literally hang them on your wall (provided your husband/roommates wouldn’t mind too much).

Follow Organized Charm on Pinterest!