Read every day [book excerpt]

Good students are readers.

Why? First, they have a large store of background knowledge. Second, they have large vocabularies. Third, they can read quickly with excellent comprehension.

Reading is a habit that can be acquired, like any other habit. The lucky people acquire the habit of reading when they are little children. They’re the ones who must be forced to put down their books to come to the dinner table; who stay up past their bedtime, reading by flashlight under their blankets; who sit in the backseat of the car with their nose in a book; and who long for summer, when they will have time to do nothing else but read.

If you are one of these people, skip the rest of this section and go on to other good habits that you may not have acquired.

If you’re not yet a habitual reader, begin now. Continue reading “Read every day [book excerpt]”

Essential: the homework diary

Whether you call it an agenda, a planner, or a homework diary, no single piece of equipment is more important to staying organized.

However, not all homework diaries are created equal.

To be most effective, a homework diary should remind you of essential daily tasks and make it quick and easy for you to check them off as they are completed.

For example, it’s not enough simply to provide space to write down homework assignments. There should be a blank for each subject that might assign homework that day, followed by a quick way to indicate that homework either was or was not assigned, followed by space for writing down the assignment and the due date.

Here’s a sample excerpted from the SSIS Homework Diary that I designed last spring. Middle-school students at SSIS have a maximum of three homework assignments per day.

Today’s Homework
1. ___________ HW/NHW
2. ___________ HW/NHW
3. ___________ HW/NHW

1. ____________________
Date Due ________

The students fill in the three subjects on their homework timetable for that day. For each class, they circle HW if they have homework, and NHW if they have no homework.

This “NHW” feature is important. Without it, no one can tell whether (a) no homework was assigned, or (b) the student forgot to write down the homework.

The key to forming habits is repetition, and a well-designed homework diary helps remind students to record their assignments, thus building one of the good habits essential to success.

How to make a new habit stick

Ryan at Learn4Liberty has a nice post about the importance of motivation when trying to break a bad habit or establish a good one. “Repetition helps,” he writes, “but repetition alone will not do it.” I would put this differently: repetition will form a new habit, but without motivation you are unlikely to repeat the action long enough to turn it into a new habit. Check it out, and then tell me what you think.