WyzAnt Wants To Know: 5 Tips to Keep Tutoring Fun

What are your 5 outside the box tips that help make your tutoring lessons fun?

1. Have a sense of humor about learning.

I like to use humor in my tutoring, to keep students engaged and interested in the material. I’ve found that it’s easy to zone out during a lesson, and the classes I’ve retained the most information from myself have been ones where the teacher employed humor. In a writing class, a teacher explained the importance of context to spelling with the quip “You need to remember which witch is which, or you’ll suddenly have a lady with a black hat appear in your paper.” My high-school calculus teacher helped us remember the SOH-CAH-TOA trig function sequence by telling us a long joke about a native american who stubbed his toe and was advised by the village elder to “Soak-a-toe-a.” And later on, in a materials science class in college, our professor explained the molecular physics properties of a certain material with a joke about coal trying to rob aluminum by saying “This is a stick-up. Give me all your oxygen,” and the aluminum responding with “Yeah, you and who else?”

Not only are students more likely to retain information because they’re paying attention for the humor, but it also helps to keep the atmosphere in a session light. For me, learning is something to be enjoyed and to get excited about, and all too often people start to stress and become far more worried about their grades than about learning the material. If I can lighten the mood with a quip or a bad pun, if I can get that smile to cross the student’s face, then I’ve just associated learning and our lessons with a fun chat with a friend, and they’re more likely to come to future lessons with a motivation to learn.

2. Explain it back to me

One of my top strategies for working one-on-one with students is to have them explain a concept back to me. This works particularly well with math; if they know it well enough to explain it to someone else, then it’s not as much of an issue to remember it themselves. It also helps remind them of the upper-layer “concept” behind the process; saying “I need to do the Lowest Common Denominator thing” isn’t nearly as informative as “I need the denominators to be the same so I can add them, so I need to find a number that will divide by both of these denominators.”

I also use this strategy with SAT prep students; if they can explain to me how they would solve the problem, they’ve done the bulk of the work already. I frequently spend sessions taking an SAT student through a section of problems, not asking for the answer, but asking for “Explain to me how you would go about solving this one.”

3. Learn from your students and show that their opinions have value

I use this one a lot with English Literature students. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a wrong answer in Literature studies. If we’re discussing themes or symbols, I always encourage my students to chime in with anything they’ve been thinking about while reading, even and especially if I haven’t brought it up myself. I had a student last year, reading A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, introduce the idea of a symbol I legitimately hadn’t even considered. She pointed out that in the third act, the Christmas tree – a definitionally useless ornamentation – was replaced by a lamp, a functional object. She connected this change to Nora’s changing mindset about becoming an adult and taking on the responsibilities of a human being. Nora was a useless ornamentation in the first part of the play, just like the Christmas tree, but now she’s seen the necessity of having a purpose. I was blown away by this quite articulate exploration, and I promptly encouraged her to delve deeper. By showing that I am willing to learn from my students, I let them know that their opinions have value and they should not feel self-conscious about sharing them.

4. Field Trips!

This one takes a bit of planning and doesn’t work with everyone, but if possible, I love to subvert the expected routine and take my student on a field trip of sorts. If it’s a nice day and I feel the student getting restless – why not work outside? If we meet up on Sunday and didn’t realize the library was closed – why not head to a nearby coffee shop and work there? If she’s studying Shakespeare and the local theater company happens to be doing a Shakespeare play, why not arrange an outing to see it? (or at the very least, let her know it’s happening and strongly encourage her to go)

5. See your students as people

I gave one of my students a little present two weeks ago. No special reason; I just felt like she’d been in a dreary mood the past few weeks and needed a little pick-me-up. Mid-November is always a tough time for learning; it just seems like Thanksgiving break will never ever come. Her eyes lit up, and she was motivated and happy for the rest of the week. One of my middle-school students had a birthday, and her dad canceled her lesson for that day so they could take her to the mall to get her ears pierced. The following lesson I brought her a birthday present – a pair of pierced-ear earrings. She stuck them in her backpack and flounced off with a broad smile on her face.

Sometimes, all a student needs is a little reminder that I know they’re a person with their own issues or excitements. I try to recognize that in my students, and keep an eye out for when they might just be having a rough week. Sometimes the student just needs an excuse to shake off the stress and get back to what they love. I can always tell with one of my students when she’s in a funk and doesn’t want to work, and usually I’ll indulge her with a few minutes of chatting about her favorite books.

6. Break down the authority dynamic

I just thought of another one, so consider this your bonus tip. I made a conscious choice when I started tutoring to come to lessons dressed simply in jeans and T-shirts. I always make sure I look presentable, but I don’t get dressed up to “business casual” or something similar when I tutor. This is deliberate, and is an attempt on my part to communicate a few things subconsciously.

First, I don’t want my students to see me as an authority figure in the same way that they see their parents or teachers. I would rather they see me as approachable, as a friend they can turn to with questions. I tell my students to think of me as someone who is here to help them, someone they can ask questions and run ideas past without having to worry about bad grades or punishments. I prefer to present myself on the same level as the student, here to help them figure something out, to share in their frustrations or confusions and see if I can shed some light on the problems they’re having. Dressing on the same level as them helps to communicate that.

A lot of times, especially with late middle-school or high-school students, the student-parent dynamic is already strained. I want to stay out of that dynamic, from the student’s point of view, as much as I possibly can. Often times, if a parent comes in with the student and chats with me about their performance before a lesson, I’ll listen and chat normally with the parent, while surreptitiously paying attention to how the student is reacting to their parents’ comments. (Oddly enough, parents will often talk to me as if their child isn’t present, or at the very least as if she can’t speak up for herself.) Then, once the parent has left and I’m alone with the student, I’ll turn to them and say, “So what do you think about that?” It’s natural for a parent to view their student as a child, even if they’re a senior in high school. I want the student to know that I see them as a responsible individual and am eager to hear what they have to say. My goal is for them to improve, so I want to hear what they’re not telling their parents. I want to be a friend who can help them with this, not yet-another-grown-up telling them what to do and what they’re doing wrong.

Second, I want to emphasize for my students that it doesn’t take a super-special person to be able to understand these topics, nor does it take special preparation to be able to execute them. You don’t have to get dressed up in a suit and heels in order to understand calculus; you just have to bring your brain and your desire to learn. If I can do it, so can you.

WyzAnt Wants to Know: Preparing for your first lesson

“What advice would you give students to prepare for their first session with a new tutor?”

This is a great question! Overall, I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to put some thought into exactly what you want to get out of your tutoring sessions. Many people come to tutoring simply because their grades (or test scores) are low, and they’re hoping that private tutoring can “fix” the problem. Which it probably can, but if that’s all you bring to the table then your tutor has to work that much harder to figure out exactly how to go about helping you.

Before you arrive at your first meeting, spend some time thinking about your classes. Which subjects in school do you feel most comfortable with, and which ones least comfortable? Think over your answers like a detective – what common themes do you see that could be the real root of the problem? Were you easily able to ace an open-ended, discussion-driven English class, but this year your teacher runs class like a lecture and isn’t as open to opinions that aren’t his own? Did you instinctively understand your math class when the teacher used humor to keep you engaged, but this teacher simply drones on and on and you can’t focus on the problems at hand? Do you have trouble with the figures and illustrations in geometry even though you aced the more analytical, linear algebra class? Think about the differences between your classes and see if you can pinpoint what makes it difficult for you to learn. Then bring this information to your new tutor to help them formulate a strategy.

It’s also a good idea to bring a sample problem for the tutor to help you with, just to see how they teach. I always try to work a miniature lesson into my first meeting with a new student, since tutoring is really all about explaining the concepts in a way that the student understands. Everyone teaches differently, and a good tutor should be able to respond to your reactions and explain things in a variety of ways until something clicks. If you like the tutor’s teaching style, you’ll be more likely to look forward to lessons and you’ll get more out of them.

Once regular lessons begin, my top piece of advice is to come prepared, and remember that your tutor is here to help you. If you are unprepared for a lesson, there’s not much your tutor can do. No tutor wants to feel like they’re just there to watch you do your homework. Come in to each lesson with at least one concrete idea of something you’d like to work on – it can be as simple as working through a few homework problems or reviewing for a math test, or talking about a theme in your current English book. If you got a quiz back and don’t understand why you missed a question, bring that in and ask about it. If you just can’t figure out a topic, bring your book and ask for a review. If you want some extra writing practice, ask for some prompts. But whatever it is, ask! Don’t be afraid to be direct about what you want – your tutor is there to help deepen your understanding of the material, so if you’re clear and upfront about what you don’t understand your tutor will know what to do.

And remember, there’s no shame in tutoring – often you find that all you really needed was someone to take the time to explain it differently!

WyzAnt Wants To Know: The 2 Sigma Problem

We recently passed the 30th anniversary of “the 2 Sigma Problem,” which is the problem of achieving the effectiveness of personalized, one-on-one instruction at a large scale. As a tutor, how do you help multiple students at the same time while retaining the benefits of personalized tutoring?

To me, one of the major benefits of personalized tutoring is that the tutor has the space, time, and flexibility to respond to the student’s needs. If I am tutoring a student in math, we can spend as many sessions as we need on a given topic to make sure the student understands it thoroughly. I can also try a lot of different methods to explain a topic, since not everyone learns the same way. If a spatial or visual learner is having trouble with division, I might bring in a bag of M&Ms and show them physically the process of dividing up a pile into smaller piles. If a student is having trouble understanding probability, I might bring in a set of polyhedral dice and discuss it practically. Those same polyhedral dice might also find a use during discussions of geometric solids, in situations where it is tough to accurately illustrate a 3-D figure on a flat piece of paper.

When working with more than one student at once, I take advantage of the fact that thoroughly understanding a topic often means that you can explain the topic to someone else. When I work with students in math, I focus a lot on the student being able to explain the concepts back to me – so if there are multiple students present, they can try explaining the concepts to each other! Maybe the student for whom the topic has just clicked will have a novel way of explaining it to the other student; a turn of phrase or an analogy that I may not have thought of myself. This is particularly effective when the students are friends outside of class, since they know each other far better than I do and are more likely to understand how the other one thinks or be able to connect the topic to a passion or interest.

Encouraging the students to help each other also helps them to feel as though they “get it,” which increases their confidence later on. I’ve found that a large part of math improvement is simply a question of confidence; if a student doesn’t quite understand the material, it’s going to be that much harder to be consistent. Once the student “gets it,” though, I often see a burst of happiness as they begin to complete problems with little or no help from me. Often when that happens that student will instinctively begin explaining the concept to the other student, subconsciously wanting their friend to feel that same burst of happiness and excitement.

WWTK: Starting the Year Strong!

WyzAnt Wants To Know: What advice would you give students going back to school so they start the year strong?

This is a great question, and one that I’ve answered before on this blog. In general, I’d say the most important thing for starting the new year strong is starting the new year ORGANIZED. Go back and look through your notebooks from the previous year, but not for content – look at them like a detective. What does your note-taking style say about you? Do you have spiral notebooks stuffed full of handouts with rumpled edges? Are your note pages just solid blocks of hurried scribbles that are all but impossible to read? Did you have to add extra notebooks halfway through the year? And most importantly, how easy is it to find a specific piece of information in one of your notebooks?

Take the opportunity while summer’s still going strong to head to an office supplies store and wander around. Really look at all the organization solutions, and try to imagine yourself using them. Organization is a very personal thing; what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. But once you find that workflow that clicks with you, you’ll be much better prepared for the classes ahead. Here are a few of my favorite tools and tricks concerning the monster of all organization debates: Spiral Notebooks versus Three-Ring Binders.

Ah, the age-old debate – spiral notebooks or three-ring binders? Once again, it all comes down to what you plan to do with them and how you personally take notes. When I was in high school, I liked to use three-ring binders to organize my notes, since I could carry around one large binder that had notes from all of my classes in it. When you’re walking around a high school with only 4 minutes between classes, not needing that extra trip to the locker can make a huge difference. Even more so if, like mine was, your locker is in a block in the basement that is kept locked whenever it’s not a lunch period.

There are down-sides to three-ring binders, though – in particular, my problem with them was always how loud opening and closing the rings was. I never wanted to open them during class, so I was forced to figure out ways to write on the back sides of paper with my wrist craned around the rings, which wasn’t exactly comfortable. I have since figured out a solution to this problem, though – bring a clipboard with your looseleaf paper on it, and write on that. Then transfer your notes to the binder at the end of each class. Oddly enough, looking back now, there was a classmate of mine who did exactly that – but I didn’t realize it at the time. I remember thinking it was a bit odd that she was carrying a clipboard around – but odd is fine if it keeps you organized!

Once I got to college, I realized that I didn’t need to carry all of my notes around with me all the time – I frequently only had one academic class per day, and was already carrying around enough as it was. So I switched to spiral notebooks because I could take only what I needed and lighten my load, plus it was easier to keep information from each class separate in my mind when it was separate in my bag. But I always hated having to rest my wrist on the spiral when writing on the back sides of the pages. During my junior year I solved that problem – I found full-size spiral notebooks with the spiral across the top rather than down the side – stenographer style binding but with regular ruling. It was perfect! I could write on both sides of the paper without discomfort.

The only downside to the steno-style spiral notebooks was that they didn’t have pockets. I had one class where the professor liked to load us down with handouts, sending us home each day with a new stack of paper. I never quite figured out how to handle that, and my perfect note-taking system became a bit unruly with a chunk of loose paper stuffed under the front cover of my notebook.

There is a happy medium between both of these methods, though it requires some specialized equipment. Some companies make a hybrid system that uses a series of specially-shaped rings to create a notebook with re-arrangeable pages. The most famous of these systems is Circa, designed by Levenger, but you can get knock-offs at some office supply stores as well. These systems are easy to use, and the pages come out and go in simply and quietly, removing the loud-snapping-rings issue. The only issue with these is that to really make them work, you have to invest in the hole punch that makes those special cutouts. Armed with one of these notebooks and the hole punch, you can punch your handouts and put them directly into the notebook exactly where they belong, but still have the feel of a spiral notebook.

WWTK: Real-World Writing

I received this WyzAnt Wants To Know prompt this morning:

“Students often want to know how they’ll use a subject “in the real world.” Pick one of your subjects and tell us why it’s important outside of the classroom.”

As it happens I wrote an article on this very topic as it relates to Algebra a few months back. You can check out that article here. So since I’ve already answered this in relation to math, I’ll discuss another of my topics: writing.

It’s true that once you finish college you’ll probably never need to write another term paper. Unless your career path tends towards academics (or blog posting), regular paper-writing is probably not going to show up very much. But what will show up quite frequently is the need to clearly and concisely articulate your thoughts and opinions in writing. In today’s text-based world, first impressions are often written rather than spoken – whether that be a cover letter for a resume, a request for information about a position, or a proposal for a new project. If you plan on being self-employed, starting your own business or going into certain fields such as arts administration, you can expect to run into larger writing projects as well. Business plans, grant applications, and press releases all require skill in clear and concise writing. But even something as simple as an email introduction still deserves a careful and articulate hand.

I experienced this myself when I first started tutoring; each time I wanted to respond to a job posting on WyzAnt I found myself sitting on the response screen deleting and rewriting for several minutes to get the phrasing just right. Realizing this, and also realizing that I generally ended up using the same specific phrasing for certain situations (such as finishing all introductions or requests for information with the sentence “Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you”), I finally decided one day to sit down and write up a template response, one that incorporated all of the best phrasings I’d come up with over the months of writing and rewriting. This way I can now save time on each response by simply tweaking any specific details, and still be sure that I’m putting my best foot forward and including all relevant information.

Writing papers and essays in high school and college provides you a valuable chance to develop and hone your written voice. As you complete assignments, you’ll begin to learn what a good sentence looks and sounds like. You’ll practice thinking ahead, going through each next point as you type the one before, and you’ll become more skilled at translating that inner monologue into a smoothly-flowing paragraph. Writing papers also teaches you to edit, whether that means drafting, proofreading and rewriting or simply stopping in the middle of a sentence to think through a few different ways of finishing it before continuing. You’ll learn to be straightforward and confident, whether that means stating your opinions as facts in persuasive pieces or citing just the right piece of research in history papers.

Speaking of research, the act of researching for a paper is an invaluable lesson for when you need to figure something out in the real world. Taking notes, highlighting and marking pages with post-its are valuable organizational skills, and they are usually learned first in the context of researching a history paper. In the real world you eventually realize that not everything can be found with a wikipedia search, and that sometimes you need to go old-school and hoof it to the library to find the book you need.

WWTK: Summer Fun with Math!

Nobody likes doing homework in the summer. It’s just a fact of life. My advice to students who want to stay sharp during the summer is to inject fun into your work and work into your fun. Find a way to connect your personal fun time back to the subjects you’re learning in school. The best way to accomplish this, in my opinion, is to look for school skills in unusual contexts. If you’re interested in maintaining your English or writing, you can join a book club or arrange one with your friends. Take this summer as an opportunity to read that book you’ve been dying to get to, and while you’re reading think about it critically and talk about it with others. I’m part of a “Bring Your Own Book” club right now, where each month we are given a topic and have to find and read a book that fits the topic. BYOBook clubs are a great chance to see a broad range of interpretations of a given theme and think about your reading in a larger context (what does the topic “animals as main characters” mean to six different people?). If you’re organizing the club, start with various genre selections and move on from there (Sci-fi night, horror night, etc.).

Finding math in unusual contexts is a bit more difficult, but for me it’s a lot more fun. There are plenty of seemingly-unrelated skills and activities that actually involve a great deal of math, and if you look for it you can learn to think about math and its impact on the world in a broader context. Here are just a few examples of fun activities that involve math.

Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop Role-Playing Games
Dungeons & Dragons is the most well-known of a genre of games known as Tabletop Role-Playing Games (RPGs). In a D&D game, each player creates a unique character using a complex chance-based generation system involving rolling dice to determine various statistics. The game is full of math, including but not limited to multiplying to find base stats or critical damage, or adding and subtracting various modifiers. Dice are rolled on the fly and numbers tallied up and called out, resulting in the need for quick mental math. Playing D&D can be a great way to practice your mental math skills without it seeming like drudgery. Plus the game itself is a great lesson in problem solving and algorithms, as you figure out which patterns of addition and multiplication are needed for which actions and very naturally arrive at your most optimal workflow. The storytelling aspect of the game can be helpful for creative writing practice as well, as you think about how best to phrase your statements or work together to figure out the solution to a puzzle.

Knitting and Crocheting
Knitting and crocheting are great for math practice. Learning the basic stitches is an act of problem solving and devising algorithms, as you figure out how to hold your work and where the various parts of the stitches go. Once you have the basics down, you’ll still need to count your stitches, follow patterns for lacework, and even use math to figure out how fast to increase or decrease. For a real math workout, though, you should go through the gauntlet of altering a pattern. Use a different weight of yarn than the pattern calls for; you’ll need to figure out your stitch ratio and then use lots of multiplication to figure out how all the numbers will change. It’s a complex process, but incredibly rewarding.

Want a fun afternoon of geometry- and physics-based fun? Head out for a round of mini-golf! Navigating around the obstacles requires planning and forethought – can you figure out how to predict where your shot will go before you start? Banking off of the sidewalls provides an exercise in angles of incidence – can you avoid the obstacles in the first place with a carefully-lined-up shot? How are you deciding which tee to use, and how do the bumps and hills affect your ball’s trajectory?

Extra Exposure on WyzAnt!

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled weekly posting for a special update!

A few weeks ago I was asked by the WyzAnt team to write a pair of articles offering an overview of the SAT Writing section and the SAT Essay. Those articles have just gone live on WyzAnt’s “Lessons” page! You can check them out at the links below:

SAT Writing Overview
SAT Essay In-Depth

The articles have a byline linking to my profile page on the site, so it’s great exposure for drawing new students to me. If you’re here, you don’t really need to use WyzAnt – you can just contact me directly at the email in the sidebar. But it’s still a great chance for you to experience a taste of my teaching style, so enjoy!


WWTK: Mastering Challenging Subjects

WyzAnt Wants To Know: How did you go about mastering a challenging subject in school?

When I was in high school, I was fairly skilled at most subjects. One that always seemed to be an effort, though, was French language classes. They just seemed to have a lot of little parts to memorize and drill, so many irregular verbs, so many special cases. I held on, but it always seemed like a lot of work.

That is, until my senior year. Due to my ballet training, the IB-level French class that I should have been in didn’t fit into my schedule. As a compromise, the IB 2 French professor agreed to give me an independent study in French, which would be a self-guided project. I decided I wanted to read a selection of plays by the French playwright Moliere, in their original French, and write a paper about each play, also in French. Over the course of that year, I learned more about the ins and outs of French as a language than any number of irregular verb drills would have taught me, and I chalk it up largely to the addition of context.

I find context to be a very powerful tool to enhance your understanding of a subject. In math class, if you know what you’re doing in a broader sense, and why, and how it fits into related math topics, you’ll be better able to understand the concepts. In history classes, if you explore the ramifications of a piece of legislation in the context of an economic or political situation as well as in the context of the nation’s place on the world stage, you’ll have a better understanding of the full scope of the topic itself. And with me and French, reading my way through a play written in the language in question gave me a broader sense of how the language came together and was used. By reading something with a plot, that native French speakers might read and laugh at (I mostly read his comedies), I began to see the context for all of those grammar specifics we’d worked on in previous years, and that random assortment of rules became a natural way of composing thoughts. I got used to thinking in French, which goes a long way towards being able to converse in another language.

Having context for the work you’re doing can connect that work to its proper place in the world and give you a more thorough understanding of it as a result. Next time you’re struggling with a subject, take a step back and ask yourself “Why am I learning this? How can it help me in the future, and how does this subject affect other subjects I’m learning or have learned?” You might find that subject is more fun than you thought.

WWTK: Preparing to go back to School

Got this topic from WyzAnt this morning: How should students prepare to
go back to school if they only have a few minutes to spare each day?

Good question. I think it’s important to spend some time thinking
about the big picture of the coming year and getting organized, so
that you start out on the right foot. I believe it’s a very
personal question, since as a student you have to decide what you
want to get out of the coming school year as opposed to the previous
one. What areas did you feel you were lacking? What are
you most excited about? What are you least excited about or
most dreading? And why?

Here’s something that doesn’t occur to a lot of people: what format are you
learning in? I’m talking about two distinct things here – your
supplies and setup, and the way you approach classes. Let’s look at
supplies and setup first. Think about your usual note-taking
setup – is there anything you’d like to change? If you’ve been
using spiral notebooks but are finding you have to keep flipping back
and forth a lot while studying, for example, maybe you should try
switching to the flexibility of a three-ring binder. That way
you can reorganize your notes to your heart’s content, putting the
important notes together after the fact so they’re easier to refer
to. This is also handy if you have a teacher who gives a ton of
handouts; you can punch holes in the handouts and put them into
exactly the right place in the binder. What about the paper
you’re using? If you feel like you’re wading through reams of
notes to find the important bits, try switching to annotation-ruled
paper (paper with a little blank box down one side) and put the large
bullet points in the box and the detailed notes on the full sheet.
You can also put stars or asterisks in the box next to important
information so it’s easier to find. Then studying will be a
quick matter of scanning the box and referring to the full sheet when

Don’t overlook the little things, either. One of the best decisions I ever
made in my academic experience was the year I switched from
traditional spiral notebooks to ones with the spiral on the top edge
rather than the left (sometimes called “steno” pads or
“stenographer’s” notebooks). It sounds like a small thing, but
it meant my hand no longer hurt from sitting on the wires when the
notebook was flipped over. That in turn made it easier for me to
concentrate, since I wasn’t thinking about how uncomfortable writing
was. Along the same lines, if you use a three-ring binder, consider
getting a clipboard and putting your looseleaf paper on it to write
instead of leaving it in your notebook. You’ll avoid having to write
around those rings when you’re on the back side of a sheet of paper
(or disrupting class by opening and closing the rings repeatedly to
remove each sheet), and you can simply transfer the completed pages
to the binder after class. I have found that both of these methods
have the added benefit of making me feel like I’m really taking
notes, rather than simply scribbling down everything the teacher
says. I can sit up and look around more easily, looking directly at
the teacher as they talk and then glancing down to write my short
reminder note about the topic.

This brings me to my second point: how are you approaching the class
itself? Making decisions about this sort of thing is much easier if
you know a bit about how you personally learn best. There are three
basic types of learners: visual, auditory, and tactile. Most of us
are combinations of these three, but usually one is dominant in some
way. Not everyone responds best to the “scribble down everything
he says without any pronouns” method of note-taking, and the
important thing is to make sure you remember the material, however
you need to do that. For example, I myself am a mostly visual
learner; if I can see someone solve a problem I can more easily solve
it myself, and I tend to think of things in a visual way. This made
me a stronger student in subjects where the material was visual, such
as mathematics and arts, and a bit weaker in things like history.
However, I have quite a bit of tactile learner in me as well, so I
found that in history classes, the act of taking notes was enough of
a reminder to me. I didn’t actually need to look back through my
notes that much, since writing them down locked them into my brain.
Even if we got a handout with all of the information on it and I was
tempted to just refer to it, I made myself write out anything
important since I knew I’d remember it better that way. Auditory
learners learn best when they hear something said to them, so if that
sounds like you, you might try bringing a tape recorder to class (or
use the record function on a smartphone) to record the teacher’s
lectures. Then you can play it back for yourself if you need to
refer to it later. Of course, some schools have rules about
electronic devices, so ask your teacher first if it’s okay to bring
it in and explain why you want to.

Taking the time to think about these small things can make all the
difference later on. I’ve tried many different note-taking systems
over the years, and some work better for me than others. What works
for me might not work for you. You just have to experiment until you
find one you like. Take a field trip to the office supply store, and
just wander around the school supplies looking at all the options.
Maybe something will jump out at you. Eventually, you’ll find the
method that works best for you.