5 Things I Do Over Reading Break

Afternoon, everyone!!!

Yesterday was the first official day of my week-long hiatus from university, otherwise known as Reading Break, which is akin to the secondary school Spring Break. I do so love Reading Break because it offers an oh-so-delightful reprieve from the university schedule and, despite what the name implies, I do not know many people who actually read during this time. However, it is a great time to do a few little things to keep you on track at school and not end up freaking out in the last weeks. Some of you may remember my post on the 5 things I do at the start of each school term, so I wanted to follow up with a post on the 5 things I do over Reading Break.

1. Organize my notes

While some of you may still have midterms looming in the first week back to school, I was fortunate enough this term to get all mine over with before Reading Break. While this was nice in a way because now I can enjoy my week off, it also means that my notes are in a right state of disarray. I use Reading Break as a chance to sit down, sort out my notes into piles for each class, and then file them away for when I need to study them for final exams. I also like to read through them all for a quick review and to flesh out any ideas or fill in any sentences that start out like this “Two main problems with categorical perception as evidence for human specialization for language are . . . ” but have no ending. That little fact might just turn up on a test.

2. Get a head start on assignments and projects

I know no one likes to think about doing more schoolwork on their time off, but it is really advantageous to even map out an outline for an essay, a draft for a research paper, or a rough idea of an in-class presentation. This week, I have been madly at work on a journal article summary that I have to present to my class in two weeks, mini assignments for my class on psychological disorders in adulthood, and a corpus analysis project that isn’t due until the last day of classes but I never know what my wireless internet will be like. For all I know, it’ll go on strike when I need it most and I’ll have to resort to typing out my summary on my old Underwood typewriter. Not knocking typewriters, but the backspace button on a keyboard is much more convenient if I make a mistake.

3. Tidy my study space

This one is similar to 1. in that my desk is a right mess once reading break comes along. There are sticky notes everywhere, snacks stashed on every shelf, and pen caps that have mysteriously vanished. Before I get back into the groove of sleep, eat, study, repeat I want to make sure my desk and bedroom are restored to a state of organization I can live with.

4. Sit down with a good book

With all of the assigned textbook readings for classes, what little spare time I have left is not often spent reading some more, even for pleasure. Thus, I have been at the same spot in Margaret Atwood’s book The Heart Goes Last, and I am dying to know how it ends (no spoilers!!!). Well, now I can actually sit down and finish it without it hurting my head and competing with all my school stuff for space in my brain.

5. Plan out some blog posts

I have been making a list of things I want to post about throughout this week, and have drafted a few of them to get my inspiration flowing. By the time school is back in session, there may be an inspiration drought, and I do not want my posts to come to a halt because all I have on my mind is which inflectional affixes children acquire first when learning language or the difference between exogenous and endogenous orienting to space.

What are you up to over Reading Break???

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5 Things I Do at the Start of Each School Term

Hello there lovely readers!!!

I had my first day of the Spring 2016 university term on Monday, and I am already excited for the next 13 weeks of classes. I know that sounds weird, but when you’re a Psychology and Linguistics nerd, small things fascinate you and you can spend days analyzing an utterance like “I can’t even” without getting bored.

The first three weeks of university are usually pretty slow, with professors starting to delve into new material, course loads being shuffled, and no midterm in sight. It’s really tempting to pilfer away this time, which is exactly what I did in my first year, and I instantly regretted it when the first wave of midterms hit me. So, while this is a time to blog more, read more, and cherish the last weeks of social life, here is my list of five things I do at the start of each term to prepare:

1. Create a Master Syllabus

What is this, exactly??? Well, it is a page-long list, organized by month, of all of the important course dates for all classes over the course of the term. It provides an easy way to quickly glance at deadlines, cross off completed items (so satisfying), and identify gaps of days that can be used to catch up, or get ahead in, classwork. I also find it really helpful to put the weight of each assignment and test in brackets so I can keep track of grades.

2. Organize my planner

This one is huge for me because I find it both cathartic and necessary to map out my study time to ensure I’m using it well. Using a day planner, I keep track of everything I have to do, with separate columns for appointments, assignments, and the sliver of life leftover. This way I never forget to do something or be somewhere and, once again, I get the euphoric rush that comes with crossing something off my list (or, in some cases, scratching the name of the item in Sharpie repeatedly out of spite).

3. Buy my textbooks

I know a lot of people who purchase their textbooks over the Christmas holidays, and even a few people who purchase their textbooks in September for the winter and spring terms all at once. Me, I like to wait until the first week because I tend to change up my schedule a lot. In the event that I decide to drop a course it will be because of one of three reasons:

a) It was meant to be an elective and doesn’t look nearly as interesting as I thought it would be.

b) It is taught by a professor whose teaching style I know won’t work for me, or

c) After getting all the course outlines and creating my Master Syllabus, the workload looks like it will be too much, so I swap out a course for another, less demanding one.

Regardless of which of these reasons motivates me to change my schedule, I don’t want to deal with any of the issues that can arise when trying to return a textbook to the school bookstore. If you are reading this and you are in high school, and therefore don’t have to worry about this, I envy you.

4. Get my desk set up

Turn your desk into the ultimate study space, stocked with pens, pencils, index cards, sticky notes, and a few snacks hidden here and there. Make sure you have a water bottle close by, because staying hydrated is key for a productive study session. Also, since you will be spending a lot of time at that desk, make sure it is at the right height for you, and that you have a comfortable chair. There are few things that irritate me as much as the discomfort characteristic of studying in a hunched over position for too long, or realizing too late that I was sitting at a weird angle and now my back is sore.

5. Decide how I plan to take notes in each class

To me, there are two main course styles: fact-based and idea-based. You may define these differently, but to me fact-based courses are those that involve memorization, like anatomy or history, while idea-based courses are those that involve understanding and applying concepts, like math or philosophy.

For fact-based courses, I really like using a coil-bound notebook so that all of my notes stay in one place and no stray piece of paper detailing key final exam information floats away on me. Index cards work really well for these courses, too, because you can use them to study word definitions, or to test your knowledge by summarizing a concept in its limited space.

For idea-based courses, I will either use coil-bound notebooks or loose paper on a clipboard depending on the speed at which the professor goes through the material. I don’t like leaving blank spaces in my notes that I have to fill in after class because the prof blew through an entire concept in one lecture, so for more fast-paced courses, loose leaf paper is the way to go. Highlighters and sticky notes are great for these types of courses because you can have little aside memos about things mentioned in class, or flag areas you want to study more.

I have written these five things from a university student perspective, but they also work really well for anyone in middle school or high school. A lot depends on your learning style though, so I’m curious: what do you do in your first week back at school to prepare for the term ahead???

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