Yesterday, I was talking to one of my clients, and she was telling me how emotional she is getting about her first grade daughter’s reading level. She said that when she got her latest test scores, she just burst out crying.
It got me thinking about the emotions of learning. When I taught elementary school, many children in my classroom were unable to learn at first, because they had so much going on in their lives that was more important. The turning point in their learning abilities came when they realized they could trust me and gained confidence in themselves.
From this experience, I will argue that there are 2 key factors to being successful in school (or really, any endeavor).
Do you approach your assignments and papers with the knowledge that you can tackle any task? Self-confident people view difficult experiences as learning opportunities. What do you tell yourself about your skills and abilities? Does your internal voice say that you can do it, or shy away from difficult tasks? If you lack confidence in your abilities, get help by hiring a tutor or visiting your school’s writing center. Break assignments down into smaller tasks so that you can see what you need to do to be successful.
Remember that everyone is brilliant in different ways. Know yourself – where do your strengths lie? Can you apply them to assignments you find more difficult?
Finally, self-confidence grows from accomplishments. So if you are feeling badly about your abilities, fake it until you make it. Just keep working and know that when you complete assignments, you will not only learn more, but gain confidence as well.
2. Support from others
Do you have a teacher you trust, someone who always encourages you and knows you can accomplish any task? If not, seek one out. Get to know your professors; see if one of them can serve as your mentor.
Surround yourself with people who know how brilliant you are and who will help you achieve your goals. Are your f
riends understanding when you can’t go out with them because you have to do schoolwork, or do they tell you to have more fun? Are they willing to discuss academic topics with you? If not, befriend fellow students and make a point of spending time with those who are succeeding in school.
In elementary education, we spend a lot of time focusing on our students’ emotional needs, but it seems to me that this focus is lost as students grow older. However, the older we get, the more complex our emotions become. We may be able to push them aside more effectively, but they can still greatly affect our success. Who hasn’t experienced an argument with a loved one followed by an unsuccessful day at work? Take time to nurture yourself. When you feel good, you will be much more successful.
Visual/spatial learners are artists, architects, and great parallel parkers. They can easily see how objects relate to one another in space. They may think in pictures rather than words, which can make it difficult to write papers effectively. They tend to learn things all at once, instead of in a sequential manner. Instead of using typical methods, they prefer to come up with their own answers to problems. These students learn best by grasping relationships between ideas.
So, what are the implications for how visual learners can best approach the paper writing process?
1. Plan visually.
Most people are taught to plan their writing by creating an outline. However, visual learners may benefit from laying their ideas out in a more spatial manner. Instead of writing in a list format, why not create an idea map for your paper? Below are two documents to help visual/spatial learners plan their papers in a different way. The first is a template, the second an example of how to fill in the template.
This is a skill that most readers do naturally, but when reading high level, academic texts, it is easy to stop visualizing. Try to see the concepts or ideas in your mind. Maybe even sketch a picture of your thoughts. This can help you ground yourself and understand your reading.
3. If you are unfamiliar with a topic, gain some background knowledge by watching educational videos or looking at books with pictures.
A key component to gaining deep understanding is connecting to background knowledge. If you don’t know enough about a topic, first fill your background knowledge bucket by watching a video on YouTube or finding some other visual way to become acquainted with your topic. A great paper shows that its writer is an expert on the topic.
Information on visual/spatial learners gathered from:
What are the multiple intelligences? Howard Gardner coined the term in 1983 to refer to the different ways that people learn. The multiple intelligences are:
Those who are linguistic learners love reading and writing. They are adept with words and may also be good at learning new languages.
Linguistic learners probably love writing papers, because it gives them a chance to express themselves in words.
This intelligence has to do with abstract thinking skills. Those who are mathematical/logical thinkers can easily connect the dots and come up with new ideas.
This intelligence also comes in handy when writing papers, because a large part of the thinking that goes into paper writing is connecting ideas to come up with a cohesive thesis.
Spatial thinkers are good at putting puzzles together. They can see how objects relate to one another. For example, spatial thinkers are great parallel parkers. (Whereas I usually think I am way closer to the other cars than I actually am!) They also tend to be artists or other professionals with a visual focus.
How does spatial intelligence relate to paper writing? In traditional paper writing, it doesn’t seem to apply. However, spatial thinkers can tailor their paper writing experience to their strengths. Instead of writing outlines, they can choose to make an idea map, where each concept connects visually to the next.
Bodily/kinesthetic learners are adept with using their bodies. Athletes and dancers have a high bodily/kinesthetic experience. They are able to focus on a physical goal and hone their bodily responses to meet that goal. They also tend to like moving their bodies when they learn, and physical learning experiences can help them internalize concepts.
Bodily/kinesthetic learners may struggle with paper writing, because it is such a sedentary activity. However, why not infuse some of the process with physical activity? Instead of sitting still while reading research articles, why not work out and read at the same time? It may be helpful to visualize paper writing skills and connect them with physical goals as well. Kicking a soccer ball into a goal, hitting a baseball, or making a slam-dunk is akin to writing a clear, focused thesis statement.
As you might guess, those with musical intelligence have a good pitch and a sense of rhythm. Musical thinkers tend to also be good with language, which can come in handy with paper writing.
I would also argue that a well-written paper has its own internal rhythm. The sentences flow well together, alternating between longer, more complex ones, and shorter, succinct ones. If you are a musical thinker, write and read your paper over with an ear for flow. Does your paper sound like a well composed piece of music, or is it more like a series of disjointed sounds? Use your musical strength to revise and enhance your paper.
Those with interpersonal intelligence relate well to others. They can understand other people and what they need to be successful. They are also empathetic and are able to motivate others. Those with this intelligence learn best by working with others and discussing their ideas.
If you are a highly interpersonal learner, get together with other students and write your papers side by side. Leave time for discussing the ideas in your paper. Many people think that they need to be secluded to write papers, and they struggle to stay focused. That is because some people need to discuss their ideas with others in order to fully understand the concepts. If that sounds like you, make paper writing into a social event. Instead of sitting down alone to write your outline, jot down ideas while discussing them with your peers.
Intrapersonal learners have a deep understanding of themselves. They tend to be very introspective and understand their strengths and weaknesses and what they need to be successful.
If you are an intrapersonal learner, use introspection to your advantage. Think about your strengths and weaknesses in regard to paper writing. In which areas do you need more help? Plan your paper writing accordingly.
Those with naturalistic intelligence feel deeply connected to nature. They are able to understand the natural patterns in the world and are great gardeners and naturalists. They love animals and other living things.
If this sounds like you, try to come up with topics about nature for your papers. If that doesn’t work, why not write your paper outside, in a park? Fill your home with growing things and see if it helps you to stay energized.
Most people are a mixture of many of the intelligences. For example, I excel at paper writing, because I am a linguistic, mathematical/logical, and intrapersonal learner. However, I could never be an artist or an athlete, because my ability to relate objects in space and to make physical goals are nil. However, I love painting abstract watercolors and doing yoga, because they are highly intrepersonal activities.
What are your strongest intelligences? Take this test to find out where your strengths lie. How can you use them to help you in the paper writing process?
Of all of the grammar mistakes I’ve seen my students make, using the word “they” incorrectly is the most common.
When you are writing an academic paper, NEVER follow a singular subject in the beginning of a sentence with the word “they” in the second part of the sentence. Here are a few examples of how NOT to use the word “they”:
1. When a student doesn’t understand an assignment, they might just need to hear it in a different way.
2. When a person becomes a victim of sexual assault, they can access many resources.
3. If a goalie wants to effectively block a shot, they should put complete focus on the ball.
Why are these sentences wrong?
The beginning of the sentence refers to a singular subject. In the second part of the sentence, the writer refers to that one person as “they”.
Why do students love to do this?
In many essays and papers, it is considered incorrect to assume one gender or another for a subject. For example, in the third sentence, the goalie could be a male or a female. The word “they” could refer to either gender, thus avoiding any sexist stereotyping. However, “they” is also grammatically incorrect.
How can you correct this mistake?
One method is replacing “they” with “he or she”. This sounds a but awkward at times, but avoids gender stereotyping while maintaining a grammatically correct sentence structure.
In many papers, it seems like we have to repeat “he or she” over and over, making the writing seem a but clumsy or choppy. In that case, it is just as correct to change the singular subject to a plural one:
If goalies want to effectively block shots, they should put complete focus on the ball.
By changing the subject to a plural word, “goalies,” and modifying the rest of the sentence, the writer can avoid using “he or she” and also have a correctly worded sentence.
If you are editing your paper for grammatical errors, notice how you used the word “they.” Make sure that anytime you wrote it, you were referring to a plural subject. If not, use the above hints to change your paper.
Knowing how to write “A” quality papers may seem like navigating a complicated labyrinth at times, but really, all the clues you need to be successful can usually be found in your assignment.
When reading a paper assignment, look for the answers to two key questions:
1. What is my professor trying to find out about me as a student by assigning this paper?
You professor assigned this paper for one purpose: to learn about you as a student. Think about the context of the paper – what are the key learnings you have been focusing on in class? Look at your syllabus for the main objectives of the course. Is this paper assigned primarily to test your abilities as a writer? Or is the greater purpose to determine if you understand course material? What is the material you need to prove you’ve mastered?
Did your professor give you a rubric? If so, use it! By following all of the requirements on the rubric, you are practically guaranteed to get a good grade.
If all else fails, you can even ask your professor, “What are you trying to learn about me as a student from this paper?” He or she will probably be impressed and hopefully tell you exactly what you need to aim for in your paper.
The key to getting an A on your paper is giving your professor what he or she wants.
2. How long will it take me to write this paper?
In order to determine the amount of time you will need to spend writing your paper, look at the required length of the paper. How many sources will you need? How in depth do you need to go into your subject matter?
Once you have a clear idea of the length of time you will need to write the paper, immediately schedule times for writing it into your calendar. While knowing what your professor is looking for will point you in the right direction, planning ahead and giving yourself enough time will ensure that you are able to reach your destination of an A quality paper.
In summary, if you know exactly what your professor wants in an A paper, and you give yourself enough time to write it, you are much more likely to succeed in getting a high grade on your paper.
If you are looking for scholarly articles on a topic, don’t read the articles until you’ve looked over the abstract and made sure that this article fits in with your intended subtopics. Don’t fall into the trap of using any article as a resource just because it vaguely relates to your topic. You will waste time that could be better spent reading the right articles.
2. Type quotes as you go.
If you find a quote that you think you can use in your paper, type it into your outline under the appropriate subtopic. Make sure to note the author and page number. By the time you get to the writing stage of your paper, you will already have relevant quotes ready to go. You won’t have to waste time going back and finding them. This will also help you solidify your thesis statement.
3. Site your sources as you find them.
I remember getting to the end of papers in high school and having to go back through all of my sources and create a works cited page. By that point, I was so done with my paper that it felt tortuous to do this last step. Don’t make it your last step – do this as you go. Whenever you realize you will use a certain source in your paper, immediately add it to your works cited page. That way, when you are done writing and revising your paper, you won’t have to worry about it.
For extensive guides on citing in APA and MLA styles, follow the links below:
We’ve all experienced it: On the first day of class, we notice a paper assignment on the syllabus. It isn’t due for a month, so we ignore the assignment for a few weeks. Then the professor starts talking about the paper in class, reminding us to do it. We promise ourselves we’ll sit down and work on it over the weekend, but then friends invite us out to lunch, or to play Frisbee in the park, and we push it back further.
Finally, it is a week away from the due date, and we have to sit down and start writing. But then anxiety about starting the paper shows up. The strong among us push through it, choose a topic, outline the paper, and just start writing. But others of us push the paper off even more, waiting until the night before the paper is due to sit down and get it done. By then, it’s too late to do a great job, or to learn much from writing the paper. An assignment that could have taught us something ends up being a stressful, nerve-wracking experience.
Why do people procrastinate on papers?
1. They don’t know where to begin a complex project like writing a paper, so they don’t begin at all.
2. Paper writing is often seen as an unpleasant task, so many students choose to do other things until they absolutely have to start writing their papers.
3. Many people lack motivation – they don’t see the inherent reason for writing the paper, other than being told to do so, so they avoid writing it.
4. Paper writing requires discipline, and it can be difficult to stay on task when distractions creep up.
Everyone procrastinates, but doing so causes students to perform poorly on papers, lose sleep, and stress out. What are some strategies for pushing through the procrastination to increase our success?
1. As soon as you get an assignment, read it thoroughly. Figure out how long it will take you to finish the paper from start to finish, and schedule some times on your calendar for planning, writing and editing. Make sure to write down the time of day you will sit down and work on your paper. Studies have shown that people who write down a specific time to accomplish tasks are much more likely to do them.
2. Find a place to write where you will enjoy it and not be distracted. Personally, I love going to coffee shops to work on papers. Drinking a frothy latte and sinking into a comfy chair helps me enjoy the process, and there aren’t as many distractions as there are at home. I actually like the noise. However, you may need to go to a quiet place, like the library. Figure out what works for you.
3. Use this website and others like it to become more familiar with the steps of writing a great paper. When you are more familiar with the process, you won’t be as intimidated to begin writing your paper. Then, break down the process into manageable tasks. Decide to choose your topic and do some initial research one day, prepare an outline another day, and so on. Don’t try to tackle your entire paper at once.
4. To increase your motivation, choose a topic that is meaningful for you. What do you want to learn more about? Don’t think about the paper as something you need to get done for your professor, rather, see it as a learning opportunity for yourself. Writing papers is one of the great opportunities in college to learn about something you’re curious about. View it as a great excuse to spend time investigating an interesting topic.
5. Ask a friend from your class to write with you. Or hire a tutor to sit down with you and guide you through the writing process. Just as I am much more likely to go jogging with a partner, you are more likely to sit down and work if you have someone to write with you.
Are you a procrastinator? Why do you think you do it? Do you have any additional tips on how to stop procrastinating? Share them in the comments section.
Your professor assigned this paper because he or she wants to know something about you as a learner. Look over your syllabus. What are the main objectives for your course? Talk to your professor. Ask her what she is looking for in your paper. The best way of acing a paper is giving your audience – in this case, your professor – what she wants.
2. Read the assignment thoroughly.
Many students look over writing assignments for paper length and font size, but don’t take the time to notice the content requirements. Make sure to read your assignment a few times so that you know exactly what you need to do. This will help you determine what your professor wants, get some ideas about your topic, and also figure out the amount of time you need to get the paper done.
3. Choose a focused topic.
Make sure that the topic you choose is specific and that your thesis statement is concise. Many students think choosing that a broader topic will make it easier to find lots of things to write about. However, the broader your topic, the more difficulty you will have in narrowing down your subtopics and making a clear, concise thesis statement. For example, if you are in a U.S. History course, instead of writing about the 1960s, write about political music in the 1960s. Better yet, write about the Bob Dylan and how he influenced the politics of the time.
4. Organize your ideas first.
Once you have a focused topic, do a little research and come up with a few subtopics. Then break those down into smaller subtopics. Create an outline for yourself before you begin writing. This will help you stay on track with your writing, and will reduce the time you need to spend later on editing and revising your paper.
5. Give yourself enough time.
This is probably the most important thing you can do to get a good grade on your paper! As soon as you know how long your paper needs to be, calculate the amount of time it will take you to complete each step of the paper writing process. Don’t forget to factor in time to try out a few different topics, research, create an outline, find great quotes, edit and revise, and do citations. Schedule paper writing time into your calendar. The more time you give yourself, the less stressed you will be, and the more likely you are to ace your paper!