Posts Tagged ‘organization’

Monday Grammar/ Teacher Journal

In Grammar on September 28, 2009 at 10:00 am

stack of books


Often, the first grammatical issue for international students is the issue of verbs. Not all grammatical problems are created equal. Usually, the first grammar issue on the list of most English teachers is subject/verb agreement. If your verbs don’t agree with your subjects, your teachers will notice. The first step is to learn about the verb forms and subject agreement. Usually, when students come to my classes, that’s already done, but if you’re still unsure of how to decide, crack those grammar books and do a bit of a review.

The second step is to get your ear to hear the right verbs. This is the most important step. Even if you understand how to choose the right verb, it’s easy to accidentally slip in your writing and pick the wrong one. The goal is not to have to think about the complexities of subject/verb agreement but to be able to pick what sounds best. You can train your brain to do this. It’s just a matter of getting yourself to hear the right verbs.

One of my mentors, who also teaches English, taught me a trick that can help you with this. As you’re reading textbooks, articles, and other things for class, go through and underline the verbs in a paragraph or two. Then, try reading those paragraphs out loud to yourself — but read every underlined verb louder than the rest of what you read. Here’s how it might look:

Verbs *ARE* important parts of speech in writing, and *USING* the correct verb in you speech and writing *WILL HELP* quite a bit in your classes. Teachers *PAY* special attention to verbs in sentences, so you *WILL WANT* to use the correct verbs.

It won’t happen overnight, but if you practice this type of reading regularly, your ear will begin to hear the correct verb in your sentences. That’s what we want! Once your ear hears the right verb, you won’t have to think about verb forms so much. You’ll just know what sounds right. Then, you can tackle another grammatical problem. Read the rest of this entry »


Autumn Organization: Use Organizational Tools You Already Have

In organization on September 24, 2009 at 10:00 am


Okay. I admit it. I have an office supply problem. If you get me in a Staples store, you’ll probably find me looking longingly at the different styles of Post-It notes, gazing through the binder supplies, or eying a label maker in the third aisle. I love pens. I love bulletin boards and dry erase markers. I love pouches designed to keep paper clips and other things organized. I love hooks. There’s this website online, See Jane Work, that has the coolest assortment of fancy file folders and file carriers. It’s a real problem for me.

The truth about organization, though, is that we don’t need new stuff to be organized. We don’t need color-coordinated post-its and tabs. We don’t need fancy computer programs. Usually, all we need is the stuff we already have: a place to write stuff down so we don’t forget it, a calendar, and a place to keep syllabi and other class materials.

A place to write stuff down: a notebook, index cards, a little reporter’s notebook, those cute little half-index cards, a binder. If you can’t seem to remember to carry these things with you, you could use your cell phone to leave messages to yourself, use a service like jott.com to send emails from your cell phone, send a text message to your email address, or (one I learned from a particularly creative student my first year of teaching) use your phone to take a photo of whatever it is you need to remember.

A calendar: you could get a paper calendar, or you could use your cell phone’s calendar, yahoo calendar, google calendar. You could also print out a free calendar from D*I*Y Planner.

A place to keep class materials: A folder, notebook, binder, a plastic sheet cover; anything that can corral your papers into one place. Read the rest of this entry »

Autumn Organization: Give Your Brain a Break

In organization on September 10, 2009 at 10:15 am


I don’t trust my memory. My brain, it seems, was not meant to store the database of upcoming events, assignments, phone calls, errands, and projects — and even if it was, I’m not very good at remembering stuff. When I try, I end up awake late at night, thinking about something I might have promised to email a student or whether I need to buy milk or whether I should schedule bicycle repairs.  Whenever this happens to me, I know that I’ve been trying to remember too much. I grab a sheet of paper, and I write all that stuff down. My insomnia usually disappears immediately.

In 2007, Michael Condouris coined the term WSD as a new organizational system designed around a simple idea: Write Sh*t Down.  The idea, so simply stated, is to write something down to remember it later. Easy, right? It turns out that it’s a useful way to get organized — better than running out to buy a binder-organizer or super fancy software to keep all your class notes in order.

Try it. Write down your dentist appointment, the date your visa needs updating, the flight information you need to check on for your visit home. Write down what your teacher says about the test next week. Write down if you need to buy toothpaste next time you’re at the store. Write everything down. Put these notes in the same spot every day, and look at them every so often. Then forget about it, and keep your memory free for stuff that you really should try to remember: what will be on the midterm or new vocabulary. If you do this, I’m guessing you’ll be a lot more organized than you were before, no matter how messy your folders or notebooks look. Read the rest of this entry »

Autumn Organization: An Introduction

In organization on September 3, 2009 at 10:00 am


As a writing teacher, I’ve seen all types of working styles for students. Often, the first day of the semester, students come to class with carefully coordinated notebooks and folders, with matching post-its and an indexed system for papers. By mid-semester, things have changed. Students lose the syllabus or forget deadlines. All those beautiful organizational systems have turned into one pile, and I can see the exhaustion and stress on students’ faces.

Once, while helping a student with her research paper, I suggested that we look at a particular article she quoted.”Oh, I know exactly where that article is,” she said, and she began shuffling the stack of papers in front of her. It was an impressive stack of articles, and she flipped through each one, checking and double checking. After 15 minutes, she said. “Oh, I know where that article is. It’s in my car. Is it okay if I go out to my car to look?” 20 minutes later, she had extracted the article from the floor of the front seat of her car. It was crumpled, with a footprint on it. We settled down to take a look. “Oh, I don’t think this is the right article after all,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

Using a Syllabus Wisely

In organization on August 27, 2009 at 10:00 am


I remember my first day of college. I had a literature class at 11am, and the first thing the teacher did was hand out a thick packet of sheets, single spaced, in tiny font. This was the syllabus, and over the course of the first week, our professor kept talking about it. I didn’t know what a syllabus was. We didn’t have them in my high school, but it seemed like it was important, at least to my teacher.

I quickly learned that a syllabus is a class plan for the semester. The plan includes all the papers, tests, and projects you’ll be doing over the semester, along with the due dates. In the following years, whenever I got a syllabus for a new class, I would read it and promptly panic. I’d imagine reading the five novels we’d have to read in the next 16 weeks. I’d imagine all those tests, all those papers to write. I learned after a while, though, that it was never as bad as I’d imagined. I didn’t have to read all those books in a day, and I didn’t have to know all that information immediately. I learned to look at the big picture but also to think of the class just one or two weeks at a time.

What I never knew as a student was that teachers think of the syllabus as their contract with the student. This is the real reason that my teacher kept talking about the syllabus on my first day of college. This was her agreement with us, and she wanted to be clear in making that agreement. This is where we could find our teacher’s policies on everything from attendance to late assignments to what happens when you use your cell phone during lectures. The syllabus serves as a record that students received the information.

What do you do with all that information, then, when you get your syllabus? I’m glad you asked!

Overwhelmed during finals week?

In organization on June 4, 2009 at 9:00 am

life computer printout

It’s easy to get overwhelmed toward the end of the semester, as you’re studying for three tests, preparing your final English paper, or completing that last final project. Sometimes, even starting to tackle a project like this seems too overwhelming. One solution is to start by breaking the project into smaller chunks. Here’s an idea of how you might break down a research paper:

  1. Read the teacher’s handout of the assignment
  2. Make a list of resources (people, libraries, etc.) available for help
  3. Brainstorm a list of possible topics
  4. Choose your favorite topic
  5. Create a research question (a thesis statement in the form of a question)
  6. Learn how to use the library database
  7. Locate 3 articles from the database
  8. Look critically at the first article to decide if it’s a good source . . .

Notice that these are small steps. You don’t want to tell yourself to “Research” or to “Write the paper.” Instead, look for tasks that are small enough to make you think “I can do that!” Choosing a topic might be overwhelming, but brainstorming a list of ideas might not sound so bad. Researching sounds like no fun, but just finding three articles? Not so hard. Read the rest of this entry »

Hate taking notes? Try these tools–

In organization on September 17, 2008 at 4:05 am

I ran across a post on Lifehacker today that gives some of the most exciting tools I’ve seen so far this year for note-taking in class. Check it out:

Lifehacker’s “Back to School Power Tools for the Savvy Student

I’m especially excited about the tool for getting notes from a whiteboard as the teacher is writing. One word of caution, though: sometimes (especially if you’re a visual learner) the act of taking notes can help you remember the material later for a test. If this sounds like you, don’t stop taking notes just yet. Still, you never know when you might need to grab that stuff on the board fast (before your teacher erases it!). Also, check out some of the textbook-buying tools. The post has a nice collection of tools!

Super-cool organizational tool

In organization on September 17, 2008 at 3:28 am

I’m always on the lookout for new and cool organizational tools, and here’s a new one: Evernote. It’s an online application that lets you use your computer, cell phone, and camera together to help remember all the stuff that needs remembering. In my earlier days of teaching, I once had a list of due dates and plans on the blackboard, and I saw a student pull out his cell phone and take a picture of it. I was so impressed! Without having to copy a word of what I’d written, the student had all the information he needed. Evernote is similar but much more powerful!

One of my favorite blogs, Lifehacker, recently had a post about how Evernote can come in handy for students. Check it out, and see what you think?

Expand your brain with Evernote: from Lifehacker

Getting ready for fall: using a calendar

In organization on September 17, 2008 at 3:25 am

There’s a new tip for getting ready for fall on the podcast. Check it out:

If, after listening to the post, you’re interested in using an online calendars, here are a few you might like:

AirSet – http://www.airset.com (this is what I use)
Google – http://www.google.com/calendar
Yahoo – http://www.yahoo.com/calendar
30 boxes – http://www.30boxes.com/
Backpack – http://www.backpackit.com

Getting some kind of organizational system

In organization on September 17, 2008 at 3:09 am
Photo by hawkexpress (thank you!)

Photo by hawkexpress (thank you!)

I am not naturally an organized person. My brain often races from one thought to the next, and I have no memory whatsoever (if you’ve been in my classes, you know this about me!). My mind’s natural state is chaos. As a result, I’ve had to learn how to get organized. When I left home to go to college, I brought a planner—a calendar with plenty of space for notes. As classes begun, I dutifully filled in all my assignments, my work schedule, and my other responsibilities. The little calendar seemed kind of silly at first, but it came in handy later in the semester. While my classmates forgot assignments or remembered to study for a test only at the last minute, I had everything pretty much organized. That’s not bad, for someone with no memory!

While I used good old fashioned pen and paper, there are many many online tools to help with this kind of thing, if you like. Here’s a quick round-up, off the top of my head:

Online Organizational Systems
*Disclaimer* All you really need is a calendar of some sort (whether it’s on your cell phone, online, or on paper) and a to do list of some type. Other stuff is sometimes fun, though!

Notely (www.notely.net) — organizational system created for students. It includes a calendar, a place to keep class notes, and to do lists. Free.

Remember the milk (www.rememberthemilk.com) or Vitalist (www.vitalist.com)– both are online to do list. Works well with the GTD system (explained below). Free.

Box.net (www.box.net) — online storage space for files. Never worry about forgetting your jump drive again. Free for up to 1 gigabyte of storage.

(www.airset.com) — online calendar. Also includes to do list, blogging, calendar sharing, and other fancy features. The neat thing about Airset is that you can create multiple calendars and share some with others. Create a homework calendar and a social calendar — then look at all your events at once, or just your homework schedule. Google calendar is nice too, but it’s not as pretty!

A Book to Help You Organize
Getting Things Done, by David Allen
*This book is often referred to as GTD (for Getting Things Done). If you google “GTD,” you’ll find lots of discussion and devotion to this system of staying organized. I think it works well — as long as you don’t try to cram your to do list too full. Remember to leave time to relax!

Photo by hawkexpress (Thank you!)


Other student tips to help get the school year off to a good start:

1) Communicate With Your Teacher

2) Beat Procrastination

3) Focus on Your Process

4) Be Kind to Yourself