Sometimes students have no idea how to go about studying efficiently, so of course they don’t do as well as they might. I’ve developed a strategy to help my students better organize the study process. I’d like to share it with you to use.  I hope it is a useful start to help you help your students develop more efficient study processes.

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I’m obsessed with trying to help my students accept responsibility for their learning.   I honestly think some students believe their learning is the teacher’s responsibility. I’ve heard students who are not successful in certain subjects claim they didn’t do well because the teacher hated them. Perhaps you have heard that claim too? Isn’t that an nice little facile explanation that absolves the students of any responsibility for their lack of success. It’s the teacher’s fault, not their fault.

I explain to my students that students and teachers need to work together as a team. Each team member has a job to do. Teaching and evaluating students is the teacher’s job and preparing for quizzes, tests and exams is the student’s job. I’ve written here about the learning plans I have my students complete to help them better  prepare for evaluations.  The student learning plans are useful to help students  prepare for major tests or exams.  I want my students to reflect on how well or how poorly they’ve prepared for quizzes, tests or exams. After students have written their tests, I have them complete a short  reflection handout asking them

  • how they thought they did on the test;
  •  how much time did they spend preparing for the test;
  • how much of the classwork and homework did they do;
  •  about how they prepared for the test;
  • what would they do the same;
  • what would they do differently?

My students, well most of them, have been very honest in completing their reflections.  test results and  the need to make better choices  for better consequences.

Sadly, some of my students don’t prepare for quizzes, tests, or exams at all beyond the review I do with them in class. I think some of my students may intend to prepare for the evaluations, but when they leave my classroom they leave their best intentions behind.   The test reflection handout I have them complete encourages them to remember to prepare for the next evaluation. After a while, they see the connection between preparing better for evaluations and achieving better results. I’ve found that almost all students want to do well.  I tell my students if you want different consequences (better test marks) then you have to make different choices ( choosing to preparing properly for tests).

Some of my students feel as if they are losers .  I tell them we are not born losers; we are born choosers. If we want different consequences then we have to make different choices. Here’s a different choice for a different consequence.

Here’s the handout I give my students.

Name: ________________________________  Date:______________________
How do you feel about your performance on this test? (circle one)
Awesome!!                   Cool                        Lame                                       Get Real
Do you think  you demonstrated what you knew about the topic on this test?


Why not?

How much time did you spend studying for this test?

I spent about

Days ____            Hours ____       Minutes____

studying for this test.

How much of the assigned work did you complete on this topic?

All____     Almost all_____  Some_______   Little_______

What would you do differently preparing for the next test?  Why?

What would you do the same? Why?

The Ontario government has made it a priority to close the achievement gap between students in the applied and academic classes. Research conducted at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate in Toronto supports the contention that destreaming students in grade nine English and geography classes helps struggling students be more successful . A high school in Kingston Ontario found it beneficial to students when it  destreamed Grade 9 students in math and English.

I’ve taught math to  students in the applied level stream, and I can see some problems with streaming students into applied level math  classes.  For one thing, taking applied level math classes even in Grade 9 makes it very difficult for students to attend university. Of course not all students want to attend university even students who take Grade 9 math in the academic stream don’t necessarily want to attend university. So maybe that isn’t such a big problem. There are always ways to met the entrance requirements for university by taking ma math bridging course. I have also noticed more students from low-income homes are streamed into the applied classes.  Many of my students in my applied math classes felt they were stupid because they were in the applied stream.

I don’t think that destreaming Grade 9 is going to make students more successful. All students weren’t successful before destreaming. Destreaming was going to be the solution to helping all students be successful. Why is education going around in circles?

I think school needs to be more relevant to students to catch their interest and make them want to learn and do well. What do you think?




If you’re anything like me, you probably have students who are very reluctant to do any journal or creative writing. I have to confess, at times, I fall into the category of reluctant writer as well. But, never mind. That discussion is for another time.

Over the years, I’ve tried different strategies to motivate my reluctant writers. There’re a couple of strategies that I combine that make my students less reluctant to do their journal entries or their creative writing assignments. Perhaps these two strategies combined will work for you too.

First, I provide my students with photo writing prompts such as the one below that I found on Pinterest.

Writing prompt from Pinterest

Pinterest is a great resource for photo writing prompts. I especially like the combination of the photo and the written prompts. There are lots  of photo prompts with written prompts on Pinterest.   I simply choose a few photo writing prompts on a given day and then upload them onto our class site, or when I’m lucky enough to have a document camera I use it to project the photo writing prompts onto the screen. Then my students choose a photo writing prompt that appeals to them. I also have some emergency photo writing prompts printed off and available in case the computer isn’t working. I’ve learned the hard way to be prepared.

Having my students choose a photo writing  prompt is the first part of my strategy. The second part is to have my students do a 5 minute writing sprint. My students like the fact that there is a time limit to their writing. I used to use an actual timer in class but I’ve found that using an  on-line timer that I  project onto the screen is better. My students  can look up at the projected timer and see when the agony is over. Surprisingly, most of my  students enjoy using the photo writing prompts and doing the five minute sprint. It’s fun to see them so engaged by the photo writing prompts. The Internet is such a wonderful resource.






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