Released at last!

Good Habits, Good Students: A Complete Guide for Students Who Want to Succeed has been released for sale. Little did I imagine what I was getting myself into a few years ago when I wrote a one-page handout for my students about the good habits they should be cultivating.

No Manhattan release party is being planned, so just raise a glass of your favourite beverage, wherever you are.

Information on where to buy is just a click away.

Goal: Write it down or write it off

It’s always nice when others agree. Darren Rowse has a post on ProBlogger about the importance of keeping a written record of your goal (and, I would add, each day’s success or failure). He has a nice quotation from a book he’s reading, Leverage: How to Create Your Own ‘Tipping Points’ in Business and in Life, by Darby Checketts:

Only goal setters who are goal writers are truly goal achievers.

Yes indeed. Students who want to create a new habit must set a goal and keep a daily written record of their goal-setting activities. What’s the Number 1 reason my students fail to achieve a goal? They don’t keep a written record.

For more on this check out How to Define a Goal, an excerpt from Good Habits, Good Students.

“A great book for students”

I have added a new page, The Book, where potential readers of Good Habits, Good Students: A Complete Guide for Students Who Want to Succeed can view the front and back cover, and the table of contents.

You can also download the entire book for free, and download full-sized copies of six goal-setting aids described in the book.

Also included is a growing collection of praise from readers, and information about where you can purchase a copy.

If I have missed something out or you have a question of any kind, please drop me an email or leave a comment.

How to save time and learn more: the daily review (book excerpt)

Take five minutes to review every lesson you’ve had each day. Put your notes in order, jot down any questions you have about the lesson, etc. This will really pay off.

Remember that fable about the ant and the grasshopper? The ant spends the warm months collecting food for the winter and preparing his lodgings while the grasshopper eats when he’s hungry and plays the rest of the time. When winter comes the ant is warm and snug, with a good supply of food, but the grasshopper is freezing and starving.

Fables are not really about animals or insects, of course. They’re about you and me.

You probably know students—you may be one of them—who do little studying until the days just before a test. The night before the test, these students may stay up late cramming. Sometimes, they do fine. As you move up from grade to grade, however, the tests get harder, and the amount of material they cover grows. It becomes very difficult to wait until the last minute, cram, and still do well. When you reach the big examinations at the end of Grade 12, it’s impossible.

If you still have the habit of cramming for tests in Grade 12, it will be very hard to break it and replace it with better habits. The time to form good study habits is now, when tests aren’t so difficult—or so important to your future—as they will be later on.

The habit of reviewing every day for five minutes is easy to practice. Once you have established it as a routine, you’ll find that cramming for tests has become unnecessary. Here’s how you do it.

Let’s say you have four academic classes on Wednesday. On Wednesday night, you start your homework session with four five-minute review sessions. For each class, you have your textbook, your notes, and any handouts from the teacher. Using your notes, think back over that day’s lesson. What topics were covered? What were you supposed to learn? Did you understand everything? Do you have any questions about the day’s lesson? Write down any questions you have in a section of your notes, clearly labeled with the date and the topic. If any of the five minutes remains, go through your notes, handouts, or textbook and search for the answers to your questions. Any questions not cleared up during the review or the homework should be asked in class during the next lesson.

Do this for each of the classes you had that day, whether or not you have homework in those subjects. When you’ve finished, or every 20 to 30 minutes, take a five-minute break to stretch, walk around, have a snack, etc. Just be sure the break is no longer than five minutes. Then go back to work, this time doing whatever homework assignments you have.

The mini review
Here’s an even quicker way to review. Every afternoon or evening, answer three questions, in writing, about each class you had that day:

What is one thing you learned in the lesson?

What is one question you have about the lesson?

What is one thing covered in the lesson that you’d like to know more about?

If you can answer these questions, you were certainly paying attention in class and thinking about the lesson! Next day in class, ask the questions you still have about each lesson.

Daily reviews have several purposes:

They help you to store in long-term memory what you have learned in class each day. Scientists studying how the brain works have established that without regular reviews like this, whatever you have “learned” never moves from short-term memory into long-term memory, and before long it disappears! Then when test time approaches, the memory bank is empty, and you’re back to cramming. If you review regularly, you store the important ideas and information in your long-term memory, where they will remain safe and secure until you need them—on a test, for example.

They help you to identify the questions you have. Just a few minutes’ review will bring to mind questions you would otherwise forget about. Good students ask questions, and the key to getting the right answers is asking the right questions. The more you think of questions and ask them, the more you will learn.

They help prepare you to do any homework assignments that are based on that day’s lesson. Homework often aims to review and reinforce material that has been introduced in class. At other times, homework is designed to introduce a new topic. Since one lesson often leads to the next one, the best preparation for doing homework is to review what you did in class that day.

No study technique or work habit is more important to your success in school than daily review. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it makes homework and tests easier, too!

How to deal with organization problems

Dr. Mel Levine of All Kinds of Minds has excellent advice for teachers and parents trying to help a disorganized student. A common mistake, he says, is to nag and threaten. “You won’t always have me here to help you”, etc. The truth, says Levine, is that as adults we can almost always find someone—a spouse, friend, or colleague—to help us.

Words of Praise for “Good Habits, Good Students”

“Eric MacKnight’s wide experience with diverse students has gone into producing the book so many students, parents and teachers have been waiting for – all those individual tips that teachers want to pass on to help turn struggling students into better, happier ones. Well, they’re here within one cover in an easy to read format.” —Jan Archer, teacher of English in Singapore and UK; Head of English in Tanzania, Uruguay and Vienna

Use a homework diary every day (book excerpt)

Whether you call it a student agenda, a day planner, or a homework diary, it’s the most important tool of a successful student.

You need a homework diary to stay organized, and you need a homework diary for successful goal-setting. I have yet to find a disorganized student who uses his or her diary regularly. I have yet to find a failed attempt at goal-setting in which a daily record was kept in a homework diary.

So why do so many students ignore this vital tool? Because teachers rarely require the use of a homework diary. They may encourage it, they may nag or remind, but few require it, and even when they do, most of their colleagues don’t. So, at best, students will be required to use their diaries in one or two of their five or six classes each day. As readers of this book should know, habits are created by repetition, and under such circumstances the repeated behaviour is to ignore the homework diary—exactly the habit that most students cultivate.

If you want to do something to improve education in your school, lend this book to your principal or head of school, and convince him or her to require the use of homework diaries by every teacher in every class (even gym teachers sometimes assign homework or give out information that needs to be diaried).

As with so many other good habits, using a homework diary becomes more important every year. You may be able to do fine without one in the younger grades, but don’t let this fool you into developing bad habits that will hurt you later on. Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed with a busy schedule and heavy workload. Cultivate the habit when you’re younger and life is simpler.

If you’re on your own, enlist the help of your parents and make daily use of your homework diary your first goal. Use a wall calendar at home to record the number of classes each day in which you use your diary. A simple “5/7” (5 out of 7) or “4/5” will do. Ask your parents to remind you to take your diary to school each day, and take it to every class. When you arrive in class, take out your diary and put it on your desktop, first thing. If you do this in every class, it will become a powerful habit. And if the diary is on your desktop, of course, it’s quite easy to remember to open it up and record the homework assignment.

A final tip: If the teacher assigns no homework, don’t just leave your diary blank. A blank entry could mean no homework, or it could mean you forgot to write the assignment in your diary. Instead, write something like “Science: No HW”. That way, there’s no confusion.

Using a homework diary in every class is the key to staying organized, and the key to successful goal-setting. Start today!