Tips for Proactive and Productive Learning This School Year

by Pete Lares
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The AVID program at Spring Leadership Academy and Early College Academy helps close achievement gaps by teaching students techniques to be proactive in pursuit of their education. AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is especially focused on college readiness, but Spring Early College Academy AVID Coordinator Maria Martinez says that all students, regardless of their campus or grade level, can benefit from taking a proactive approach to learning.

Following are a few tips and ideas that can help students achieve better results, especially while learning online through Empowered Learning At-Home.

  • Start with high expectations and a positive, growth-oriented mindset.
  • Maintain an organizational system. “Being organized is a life skill,” said Martinez, who recommends a few simple ideas to her students, like a set of folders – real and virtual – and a binder to help keep items together.
  • Show up on time for online lessons, engaged and ready to learn. “This may be a digital classroom,” Martinez tells her students, “but it’s still a classroom!”
  • Set aside a quiet, dedicated place for schoolwork, if possible. Martinez admitted that isn’t always realistic, but students should aim for a comfortable spot to sit and work at. “But no working in bed!” she added. “We sleep in our beds, so the inclination there is to want to drift off.”
  • Try to minimize distractions as much as possible. Where distractions are harder to avoid, Martinez suggested families get creative, and consider simple technology hacks like a pair of inexpensive earbuds or headphones to minimize outside noises.
  • Write by hand regularly. “There is no true substitute for writing,” said Martinez, explaining that students retain information more effectively when they take at least some handwritten notes or work through material longhand.
  • Take regular mini-breaks. Martinez suggested students set an alarm to get up periodically and stretch or do some other simple physical activity. “At least get up and stretch,” she said. “No human being should sit in front of their computer for five hours without any kind of movement.”
  • Keep water nearby and don’t forget to stay hydrated. Healthy, non-sugary snacks are also a good idea, especially during the school day.
  • Take time for technology and screen breaks, especially when students are spending a larger part of their day than usual on computers or tablets for classes and schoolwork.
  • Start a study group. Just because students are learning from home, Martinez said, is no reason they can’t join friends or siblings for study time. Even a digital study group online with friends or classmates, she said, can give students added motivation and help maintain a sense of connection and community.

In the end, Martinez said one thing that will help students, teachers and parents alike is being clear about expectations and maintaining good communication – including asking questions.

“Reaching out to the teacher has never been easier,” Martinez said, adding that students should feel comfortable asking questions during or after an online class, or sending an email for help with things they don’t understand, whether related to the lesson itself or the technology being used.

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