- Flashcards - Ms. White gives you Quizlet flashcards, but you can't walk into a test knowing ONLY vocabulary and expect to do well. You have to know concepts, and how they tie together to make the big picture. So try taking flashcards to the next level. I use Quizlet because it's FAST to make a set of cards and it's easy to access, and let's face it - it's way more interesting to flip through electronic flashcards than the old-fashioned index card type. Here's an example of what you can do:
- Make a concept map - This can help tie together the big picture. You may be able to rattle off the definitions of ALL the cell organelles, but can you describe how they work together to make a cell function? Try making a map to connect ideas. We used the Popplet Lite app in class to map together ideas about the cell theory. How about mapping together your learning targets? Figure out ways they intertwine. I made a Popplet for Lipids, and came up with the image below. See how I connected ideas about fatty acids, whether it's butter or oil, and its state of matter at room temperature?
- Teach someone - You've heard me say in class, "How would you explain this idea to your five-year-old brother?" When you teach someone a concept, you understand it better yourself. You'd be amazed at all the concepts I've understood better through the years as a teacher simply because I teach these things ALL DAY LONG. So sit down with a classmate, a sibling, mom or dad, or anyone who will listen and try to "teach" them each Learning Target.
[Parent tip: Pretend YOU'RE the student. Ask your student questions as if they WERE the teacher. If they get stuck, review the concept and try again. And maybe you can learn some high school biology if science wasn't your forte ;) ]
- Four Square Review - Take a blank sheet of paper and fold it into four quadrants. You should end up with 8 boxes, counting the ones of the back. In each box, copy the Learning Target and then write everything you know (or consult notes) about that concept. Include pictures, etc. You may need a couple pieces of paper, but this is a good way to compile your notes in one place to have a concise study guide, instead of reviewing pages and pages of PDF notes.
- Study Groups - The key to this one is finding people who are as motivated as you, and ones who won't get distracted easily. Hold each other accountable for showing up.
Warm, fuzzy anecdote
My major in college was biochemistry. The first two years' courses were mainly general chemistry and biology courses, and it wasn't until my junior year that I took a biochemistry course.
I failed the first test with a 62.
As someone who had always made mostly A's and B's, this was unacceptable to me. I rallied together some other students in the class who were interested in forming a study group, and we agreed to meet a few times a week (even on weeks where there wasn't a test), and always held each other accountable for showing up. I made a 93 on the second test, and by the end of the semester, I was getting high A's on all the tests. I wound up getting an A in the class.
I'm not special, or superior in anyway. I am not a genius. I'm just a pretty normal person who has high standards for myself and was not willing to settle on less than my best. This can be your warm, fuzzy story too, but you have to make it happen for yourself.
I still keep my old college tests around to give myself a boost of self esteem when I need it.