1. Get organized.
When you have seven or eight classes in a day, with seven or eight different teachers, it can be easy to get a little lost. In fact, it can be easy to miss assignments entirely. But consider this: If you earn two 100’s and one zero, your grade averages to a 66.6. As in, one failing grade can drag your A average way down, into a hole you’ll be hard pressed to dig yourself out of it. Remember, a 0 looks like a hole for a reason. Don't earn 0's.
The solution? Use your daily planner and keep papers in color-coded folders. If you always put your history homework in the green folder (or blue, or red, or whatever says HISTORY to you), then when it’s time to turn it in, you’ll always know where it is. And if you don’t have homework? Write THAT down in your daily planner. A blank space could mean you forgot to write down the assignment, so always put something for every class, even if it’s “no homework tonight!” Feel free to draw some unicorns on the agenda. Unicorns are never bad.
2. Take notes.
There are a lot of ways to do this, but my favorite is an adaptation of Cornell Notes. I don’t use the summary part on the bottom, and I leave about 2/3 of the page for notes and just 1/3 on the left for noting key words, and summarizing. You should be taking notes even if your teacher doesn’t direct you to—by high school, they expect you to take charge of your own learning.
Wondering what to write down? There are some great note-taking videos out there. Crash Course has a whole Study Skills Course that's awesome (and free!) But for starters, if the teacher repeats something, write it down. If they tell you something is important, write it down. If they put something on the board, write it down. Writing something down as you listen forces your brain to analyze the material and put down the most important bits. It’s why typing into your laptop is not necessarily better… the more thinking you do up front, the longer you’ll remember it later. Speaking of remembering class material…
3. Study a little every day.
Your class notes get to play double-duty! If you simply review your daily notes, spending maybe 10 minutes per class, you’ll be way ahead. Take it one small step at a time. Your memory benefits from repetition and the sooner you see the material again, the more likely it will be encoded in your long-term memory. Transferring key words to notecards is also helpful, especially if you are taking a foreign language.
Know what doesn’t work for the long term? Cramming. Trust Auntie Amy on this one. Yes, you might be able to survive a test by studying furiously the night before, but you are making things much harder for yourself when you have to take end-of-term tests or when the material is something that you will be building on in the next chapter, which is often the case for math, science, and languages.
4. Ask questions.
Your teachers are just people. I realize that if you are shy, the thought of raising your hand in class might feel impossible. If that’s the case, send an email after class or write a note and drop it off on the teacher’s desk, but if you don’t understand something, you must ask the teacher before the test. They will love you for doing so. They will be amazed and impressed by your willingness to learn.
And if you have the question, at least a handful of other students do, too. Be brave. Ask the questions.
5. Find a study buddy.
Sometimes, another person can keep us on task and motivated. Of course, choosing the right person matters. Don’t choose the kid who never turns in their work, but if there’s a person who also seems to care about actually learning the material, don’t hesitate to ask if they want to study for a big test together. Take turns quizzing each other. Look at each other’s notes—one of you might have heard something the other missed.
Having to explain something to someone else is a tried and true method of learning material. Remember that just because material feels familiar, it doesn’t mean that you know it. Until you can explain it in your own words to someone else, without looking at your notes, you have more studying to do.
Thanks for joining me for Auntie Amy's Top 5 Tips for Succeeding in School. Simple doesn't mean easy, but it will work if you put your mind to it. Remember, you also need to eat well, get plenty of sleep, and enjoy time with friends and family, too. School is just one part of your wonderful life. Now, go get yourself some folders, an agenda, some notebook paper, and rock out those classes.
One bonus tip for the road:
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt--> Excellent book
This Newbery Honor bookis slower-paced than some, with a winding story full of relationship ups and down set in 1967. His English teacher is my favorite character. Below is my review!
THEN, I found out that this lovely paperback is available for pre-order on Amazon for $8.95, which I am so excited about! It releases April 9, 2019. Shortcuts will also release in hardcover, but for now at least, it's only up for pre-order in paperback. With an awesome price.
I hope you'll hop on over and pre-order your copy! Once the book is released, it'll also be in Shops at the Mill here in Cibolo and hopefully other physical bookstores, too. (Having a lot of pre-orders will help that part happen.)
Thanks for your support! My next newsletter should be out soon, so if you haven't signed up yet, you can do it right from the contact page. Talk soon!
A cover reveal will be coming soon, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, here's the blurb (you can find more info about the book on my website here) and the Goodreads link. I hope you'll add it to your Want to Read shelf!
When psychic powers and secrets collide, no one is safe.
Parker Mills has it all. She's the two-time winner of the Miss Divine Pecan Pageant, head of the 8th grade dance committee, and a secret psychic empath. Since she absorbs strong emotions from those around her, Parker has committed herself to finding shortcuts to happiness. Whether acting as a tutor, coach, or matchmaker, Parker knows that when others are happy, she's happy. Granted, all that fixing other people's drama means her own crush has no idea how she feels, but it's still a win-win so long as her psychic method remains a mystery.
At least, that's how it always worked until Mia came to town. With her mysterious past and dark cloud of depression, Mia's moods threaten to rain on Parker’s happiness parade. After Parker's usual shortcuts fail-- even after bringing gorgeous Josh on the scene--she's forced to kick things up a notch, or two. But when Parker's psychic power goes haywire, dangerous secrets unravel... starting with her own.
You can find it on Goodreads here!
We’re already at mid-summer…amazing. Are we bored yet?
It may be you are at a constantly party-filled summer camp or, like I often was, moving and thus too busy unpacking boxes to be bored. But it might also be that you have had a lot of free time and are ready to crawl up the wall if you have five more minutes of nothing-to-do, especially for those of you in households that limit electronics and screen time. Boredom can be your friend. I know it’s uncomfortable. It feels itchy inside and you would rather do almost anything than tolerate boredom or come up with something new to do. It takes effort. A lot of effort.
And with the internet at the ready, it’s even harder to find the motivation to go do something. And I love the internet and all the wonderful resources it offers, I do! But trying something different is well worth the extra energy it might cost to get started.
Here are five Boredom-Busters that will not only pass the time, but will teach you something useful while you’re at it. And you will feel better at the end of the day than if you’d just watched cat videos all day. Win-win-win.
Some of you are already doing this (yay!), but for the rest of you, if you aren’t reading for pleasure, you are missing out. I’m not talking about a summer assigned reading list or tracking pages read. Science says that people who choose to read a lot are smarter, kinder, and less stressed. Libraries are free—take advantage. Give new books three chapters before you abandon them, but then move on. There are too many excellent books to waste time on a book you hate. Yeah, quitting a book is totally an option when you’re choosing to read on your own.
If you can’t think of a book you like, you just haven’t met the right book. Email me through the contact form and tell me what kinds of things interest you and I’ll suggest a few books for you to try out. I’ll also have a post up soon about my five top summer reads for upper MG books. Also, look over my lists on Goodreads for ideas. I read many MG and YA books. I don’t leave reviews on books I hate, so if it’s on there with four or five stars, it’s because I really liked it.
2. Master a Meal.
3. Get organized. No, for real.
Use this slower more mellow time to set up a system in your room so every item has a place to be stored. It’s far easier to keep your room tidy and clean when every item has a home and clutter isn’t all over your floor. Maybe you don’t care about the mess, but I can almost promise you that your parents/guardians do and, in the future, your spouse or roommate will. Learn good organizing habits now to save yourself hours and hours of time spent searching for lost books, missing shoes, and crumpled assignments.
Keep everything simple. Find three big bins and go through your whole room one drawer, cabinet or shelf at a time. Everything goes in either KEEP, DONATE, or TRASH. Then sort and find a home for every item in your KEEP box. Make sure everything you keep is something you really USE, love, or need to survive. Sentimental items can be boxed up and stored out of the way. Once you set up your room properly, it takes less than 10 minutes a day to maintain it. You don’t have to be naturally organized to succeed at it. I’m living proof.
4. Write Something.
Write a letter. A book. A physical or online magazine focused on a topic that interests you. Just write!
I’m biased, as an author, I admit. But long before I knew I wanted to be a writer for my job, I wrote at home. I wrote stories and poetry. I journaled. I created a little magazine about pets just for fun. I created—and it made me feel good inside. My writing skills developed far faster when I was working on something I actually cared about, too. Today there are so many great online writing options. Storybird and WattPad are just two of them. You could even build a free website full of fun stuff like poetry and photography to share (Weebly and Wix are popular.) Find a way to share a story and opinion via the written word. If you do create something online, send me a link to your finished product if you’d like to show it off to me!
5. Get Moving.
Create a boredom box that focuses on DOING stuff. Write ideas down on slips of paper and draw one out when you are stuck and can’t think of anything to do. Make sure you do what it says. Get active. Run. Jump Rope. Do push ups. Put on loud music and do an at-home dance party. Yoga, a long walk, cleaning the tub (haha), or building a craft. All of those are workable and build up your body, mind, and soul. Go to Pinterest for ideas and you’ll be swamped with possible ways to exercise while having fun.
You might not want to do any of these. A lethargic weight lays over some of us when we’re bored. Getting started with a new activity that requires brain activity or body movement feels like pushing a stalled car. But once things get rolling, it gets easier and easier, and soon you’ll be flying down the road, wind in your hair, enjoying yourself.
Be a creator. As humans, we flourish when we interact with the world in new and beneficial ways. Pick one of these five and give it a shot, then let me know how it went!
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy some new books and authors!
I have a number of books I will recommend in a future post, but for now, I want to give you a list of recommended books put together by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Don't let the picture books turn you off-- there are many middle grade and YA options listed, as well. You can search by region if you are looking for local authors or just look at each YA section if you only want YA.
Mer-Charmer is in the International-Other section, because I'm living in Germany right now and that's the division Germany is included in for SCBWI's regions. I'm delighted to be included in the list!
So scroll through these books and think about which ones you want to take with you to the pool, to the beach, or on your camping trip. Many of these will be perfect to enjoy on a rainy Monday afternoon, too, just curled up on your couch with your favorite treat to eat.
And if you have any book recommendations for others, please feel free to share in the comments!
It's that time of the year again... final exams are looming, the gate through which you must pass to reach summer vacation.
But don't worry. I've got your back.
Here are five steps to follow to finish out your school year with style and grace, instead of blood, sweat, and tears.
1. Don’t cram
Research says cramming isn’t effective, even though a lot of people keep trying. It’s far better to study for 10-15 minutes each day for a week than a bunch all at once. Think of it like taking sips of a slushie instead of gulping it—and getting a brain freeze. Cramming may let you feel like you’ll succeed because the material will look familiar and it’s easy to think, “Yeah, yeah, I know this, I know that,” but recognition is not the same as recalling it. Instead, dedicate a little bit of time every day to study for each final exam. Depending on how much material your test covers, a chapter per day for a week might work.
2. Write out Your Notes
The science is in: writing things by hand helps us remember things much better than typing them out. You may not be able to write down every word the teacher says—but that’s precisely what will help you discern what is actually important to know and summarize as you listen, so you can write down only the critical stuff. Or even if you take notes in class on a laptop, go home and make notecards the old-fashioned way to help lock in the information you’ll need.
Sleep is critical to our health, but also to our learning. Sleep consolidates our new knowledge and organizes memories. Getting a good night of shut-eye is your best tool for making sure you remember what you studied the night before. Logically, this means that pulling “an all-nighter” is a really bad idea. Not only are you cramming (see point 1) but you aren’t giving your brain any time to absorb the material.
4. Eat well.
We all know that eating well is a priority, but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Breakfast in particular can be tough to maneuver on a busy school morning. But on test days, it’s critical that you eat a solid breakfast with protein so your brain has the energy to carry you through the day. As a bonus, eggs contain a nutrient that is thought to help improve memory and cognitive performance. And don’t forget to stay hydrated! Fast and easy ideas: Yogurt parfait, breakfast burrito, fruit smoothie with protein powder, oatmeal made with soy or dairy milk for a protein boost.
5. Decide your goal and go for it.
Writing down your goals or stating them in public helps people reach their goals. Goals help us stay more accountable. So write down your test goal and post it in your room. Tell your friends, parents or teacher that your goal is to make whatever grade you need—an A, a B…even if it's just to pass! You are much more likely to do so once you’ve officially committed to doing it. Goals transform people from wishers to doers.
So there you go—five steps for taking charge of your academic success during final exams. This all assumes, of course, that you’ve been paying in class (because you have, right??) and listening with intention. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache if you learn as you go, with the understanding that you might as well do it right the first time. Don’t find yourself sitting in summer school while your friends are heading out to the pool.
With a little planning and dedication, you can ace all your finals and soar off into summer with victory. Decide to rock your finals and end your school year strong.
You’ve got this.
Take the quiz to find out which Fairy Keeper character you are! (If the quiz isn't showing in the preview pane, click on the post itself and it should appear within the bigger post.)
The Myers-Briggs personality test has been around for a long time. Like, even since *I* was in high school. It sorts people into 16 basic types. Of course, everyone is unique and no one is the same way all the time. This is about your general, first-response preferences. And preferences can change over time. But if you are curious about what your preferences say about you in this one short snapshot in time, feel free to take this free, condensed version of the Myers-Briggs test. Then maybe browse the description of your type to see if you agree.
Also, here is a short test-- really short-- based on the Myers Briggs by 16 Personalities, but I got the same result as usual: INFJ. If you use Facebook, it's been floating around on there, so you may have already taken it.
I scored as an INFP for many years and for years, identified more with that type than INFJ. They are very similar anyway, but I have realized lately-- NOPE, I'm really an IFNJ. To look over the different types, read this page or this page. it has a great summary of each type.
You are the final judge of what you are like and in the end, knowing yourself is what's important. People who know who they are, deep inside, feel less pressure to act in ways that don't match their own values. I think that's part of why I enjoy taking personality tests. It affirms who I am. Yes, I'm introvert. I'm not anti-social and I'm not weird. Well, okay, I'm weird, but so's everyone! But it sure helps me understand why some people are harder for me to get along with than others.
Personality tests help me take things less personally, as funny as that sounds. They help me see that others have their own unique way of looking at the world, like each of the characters in my stories. And just because they see things differently than I do, doesn't make them automatically wrong. It's just different. I recommend trying the test and reading through all the different "types." Knowing that someone else may see something totally differently can help you resolve differences quicker and more smoothly. Understanding each other is a key step toward compassion and peace.
*Image used with permission, copyright free, from Morguefile. Greyerbaby. "djfdklj.jpg" Morguefile. <http://mrg.bz/W0HlXa>
My daughter and I just listened to the first Septimus Heap book on CD. I don't normally like audio books because I get impatient at the slow pace. However, the narrator did a fantastic job with Ms. Sage's story.
I had once tried to read this book on my own, and eventually set it down. I only chose it because it was one of the few audio books in our library that my daughter was remotely interested in. But this is a perfect example of giving a book another chance. Sometimes, we are just not in the right mood or place for a book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book the second time I tried it. It's a very epic-feeling book, with many characters and a rather omniscient point of view narrator, which you don't see very often these days. The plot has a good number of twists and turns and even though I think most readers will figure out one of the big secrets earlier, it made my daughter feel very in-the-know and part of a secret club when she realized what was going on before the characters in the story did.
I highly recommend to those who enjoy Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. This is another long series, but even if you only read book 1, it's well worth the time spent.
My daughter gave it five stars and she's pretty stingy with those. So check it out! And the cover is super cool and you'll understand why at the end. It has special meaning.
Summary from Goodreads:
"The seventh son of the seventh son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby's father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a new born girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?
The first book in this enthralling new series by Angie Sage leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters and magykal charms, potions, and spells. Magyk is an original story of lost and rediscovered identities, rich with humor and heart."
This is my new blog, where I'll post the most recent news and more. You are welcome to visit my old blog, which has many more book reviews. linked below.