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Getting Organized

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Before I list some ideas for getting organized, I'd like to list what I've observed about the difference between top students and mediocre students.

  • Top students concentrate in class. They are able to block out the various distractions to focus on instruction. Mediocre students are so distracted by other things going on in class that they seldom hear more than half of what the teacher says.
  • Top students are organized. They have their textbook. They usually keep their homework in a looseleaf binder. They track assignments in an agenda.
  • Top students make sure they understand what's being taught. They ask questions in class. They speak to the teacher after class to clear up what they didn't get.
  • Top students do their own homework. They may work together with another student on the assignment, but they never copy another student's work. They like the feeling of self-confidence that comes with knowing they can do it themselves.
Getting organized is certainly a key component to academic success. Here are some techniques to help you.
  • Pens. Most students do manage to bring a pen to class. Often a pencil comes in handy (you'll need one for quizzes on Scantron forms). Sometimes a pen of a contrasting color (red, green) can be useful in taking notes. Finally, a highlighter can come in handy. To hold your pens you can buy plastic pen cases that will fit in a ring binder.
  • Notebook. Don't fall into the habit of stuffing folded dittos into your textbook! They'll get lost. Buy a notebook. My preference is for a ring binder. (I have a three-hole punch in class that you can borrow.) Some students prefer a folder with pockets. The spiral notebook and the salt and pepper notebook keep your notes together, but they won't store your dittos, which should be a major concern.
  • Agenda. You'll need to keep track of assignments, quizzes, etc. If you don't like the one the school provides, you can buy more sophisticated ones at Office Max. Keeping track of what you have to do is essential to managing your time. And if you intend to go on to college, it is imperative that you learn to manage your time.
  • Flashcards. Learning a foreign language is in large part learning vocabulary. One of the most efficient ways of doing that is by making vocabulary flashcards. Buy unlined 3X5 cards and cut the cards into 2.5X3. Write the French word or expression on one side and the English on the other side. As you quiz yourself, put the words you do know into one pile and the words you miss into a second pile. Repeat with the pile of words you didn't know, gradually reducing the pile of words you don't know.