Monthly Archives: January 2013

Return to School – Tip # 5

Tip # 5? Where is Tip # 4?  Tip # 4 is on our facebook page!/assistSME.  It was, quite simply, clean your room.  A cluttered working space = a cluttered mind.  You need a clean and organised study space.

Tip # 5

Create a word bank for yourself for each of your subjects.  For instance, if number stories are something you want to improve on in maths, create a word bank for number stories.

1. Draw vertical columns on a piece of A4 paper.

2. Give each column a heading.  For instance, if your word bank is for number stories you would have headings “addition”, “subtraction”, “division”, “multiplication”.

3.  In each column start writing words or phrases that a synonomous with the heading word.  For example, in your addition column you would have words/phrases, such as “plus”, “altogether”, “sum”, “total” and in your subtraction column you would have “how many more”, “how much more”, “how many left” and so on.

4. Stick this in your book for that subject.  You may even with to put a coloured sticker on it that matches your colour system from Tip # 1.

5. Use your word banks whenever you are doing work in that subject.  You could have word banks to build on your vocabulary for persuasive texts, narratives and essays, for improving your knowledge of scientific language, for maths, history and other subjects.

You may wish to add visual cues such as pictures or colour to your words to help you remember the words.

The year that you are in at school will determine the vocabulary you would use.  Eventually, you won’t need to rely on the word bank anymore.


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Return to School – Tip # 3

Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. It is one of the best methods for study that I have seen.

You can find out more by visiting

You will need a kitchen timer or Pomodoro Timer.  You can also buy the Pomodoro book, and I would recommend you read this over the school holidays to get yourself ready for the new school year.

On the Pomodoro website there is a video clip that explains the Pomodoro Technique in detail.

So, for this tip, I am not going to tell you anything, other than to visit, get yourself a kitchen timer or Pomodoro Timer, read the book and start enjoying your Pomodoros.  Practice a few times in the holidays, set yourself times to do some reading, writing and maths practice.  If you are in Year 12, you can start using it straight away to get study time each day of your break and still have time for your friends, the beach/pool and relaxing.

It works perfectly with the chart you created in Tip # 2.  As the Pomodoro team says, make time your ally.


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Return to School Tip # 2

Return to School – Tip # 2

January 3, 2013

Tip # 2

This tip is the be all and end all.  You can start this in primary school to get in the habit.  This method has successfully seen me complete my HSC whilst working full-time (yes I left school and completed my HSC at TAFE at night whilst I worked full-time to earn money) and 2 university degrees, whilst working and raising a family.  It really works.

Before you can start you need to find out from your teacher just how much study you should be doing at night and on the weekend.  Some schools give homework to help you structure your study.  If your school doesn’t set homework, you will need to find out just how much self-directed study you need to be doing.  By year 6 you should be doing 1 hour of extra work a night and build from there, working towards your HSC.  At school we learn, at home we practice what we learned so that we master it.

You will need:

1 large piece of cardboard

1 small piece of cardboard

1 pack of velcro dots (double-sided)

1 roll of double-sided tape, if dots do not have adhesive backing




1. Draw a table spreadsheet on your cardboard and label with days of the week and hours of the day.  Start with the time that you wake and end with the time you go to bed each day.  It will look something like this.


2. Put a velcro dot in each blank square – eg


3. Using your extra sheet of cardboard, rule it into squares that fit the size of the blank squares on your large sheet of cardboard.  Cut the squares out.  On each square, write all your activities that you do in the week, eg if you play team sport you will need a square for training and a square for the game.  Each square is worth 1 hour, so if you train for two hours, have two squares for training.  If your teacher says you need to do 1 hour of maths each week night, make sure you have 5 squares that say “maths”.  Do this for each subject, and each activity.  Make sure you have squares for leisure time, family time, sport, other activities you do, part-time job and social time.

4. Colour in subject squares to match your colour coded folders from Tip # 1.

4. Put the other half of each velcro dot on the squares.

5. Organise the squares on the large chart, and organise your week.

6. Stick your chart on your wall.

How it works

If you have been told you need to do, say, 4 hours of maths work at home each week, 4 hours of English, 1 hour of science, 2 hours of history (this is just an example), you need to make sure you have those 11 squares on your chart.

If you get a call from a friend asking you to go out Friday night but you have allocated a study square to that time, you can move the square, but it has to stay on the chart.  You can’t remove it entirely.  You need to find another spot in your week to complete that hour.

This system works better than a normal planner, as it helps you juggle the increasing demands of the week, making sure you get all your study done, but still achieve down-time.  It is important in your studies to have breaks and have leisure time with family and friends.


Have fun with making this one!


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Return to School – Tip # 1

Over the coming weeks, I will post a series of organisational tips to help you get ready for the school year.

Tip # 1 – Colour coding

This tip will suit any high school student, and can also be used for students in late primary to prepare for their transition to high school.

You will need:

Folders – each a different colour, ring binders are good.

Stickers in matching colours to the folders

Pens, markers, colouring pencils.

Your study timetable.

1. Start off with a list of all the subjects that you will be studying at school this year (eg English, maths, science, HSIE, languages, music, drama, design, PDHPE, etc).

2. Label 1 folder for each subject. Stick to 1 colour per subject (eg English – yellow, Maths – blue, science – green, etc).

3. If you have a desk, label each drawer for each subject, using a coloured sticker that matches the colour of your folder.

4. If you don’t have a desk, or don’t have enough drawers, you could make a space on a shelf for each folder, with a coloured sticker on the shelf marking the spot for your folder. Each should be returned to the same space every night so you don’t lose it.

5. Using your weekly school timetable, colour in each subject square the same colour of the folder you have selected for that subject. Eg if you have chosen yellow for English, then you should have a yellow folder, a yellow sticker on what will now be your English drawer, or a yellow sticker on your shelf, and each time English appears on your timetable, it should be coloured in yellow.

Your timetable may look like this (with matching coloured folders):timetable

This is the start of your study organisation. If everything is returned to the proper drawer/shelf spot, and you colour code everything, all your notes, papers, etc will be easy to find and won’t get messed up. By using a ring binder you can hole-punch papers and put them into your folder.

For senior students, you may wish to consider a filing cabinet to help you organise your paperwork for years 11 and 12. If you do this, you can colour code the tabs in your filing cabinet so that you have an easy to find spot for each subject.

If you don’t want to carry ring binder folders with you at school, use notebooks for each subject, but use a different notebook per subject, and cover it in coloured contact or paper that matches the colour of the folder you have at home. A4 hole-punched notebooks are good because you can insert them into the ring binder once they are full.


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