Monday, January 16, 2017

Studying How To Study: An Aspire and Achieve Workshop

After school on Thursday, December 8, Aspire and Achieve hosted a study skills workshop for 12 freshmen at Oakland Tech. Specifically designed by Tom Demerath (semiweekly tutor, with specialty in writing and history) and me (Max Shapiro, weekly tutor, with specialty in math and science), the workshop consisted of two 25 minute segments, the first honing in on time management skills and the second emphasizing studying specifically for math.  The students were divided into two groups of six and rotated between both workshop segments.

In the time management segment, Tom (with an assist from Katie Crawford, a career counselor at UC Berkeley) invited the students to think about their “big picture” goals (e.g., what they want to accomplish in a year, or in high school, or in college), to share with the group what tasks those goals require, and to visualize those tasks superimposed onto a daily schedule (in the form of a pie chart, with more of the pie taken up by more time-consuming tasks).  Students then learned how to use their phones (via a smartphone application called “30/30”) to manage their schedules and to measure their daily progress.  Students felt appreciative for the reflection time and empowered to hold themselves accountable for their daily responsibilities.

In the math study skills segment, students acquainted themselves with Wolfram Alpha, a Google-like search engine that is phone-accessible and especially leverageable in a math context.  While working on problems in pairs, students gained experience using Wolfram Alpha to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar math terminology and to visualize and solve math equations.  Students learned that the idea of a “math person” is a myth—nobody is born with perfect math knowledge, but interested learners can acquire that knowledge through concerted effort and recourse to relevant resources.

The workshop was a resounding success! Many thanks to the students for their attention and effort, to the Oakland Tech staff members for their permission to use their classrooms, and to Ike’s sandwiches for their postgame nourishment.