Lesson 11: How to Use Study Hall Effectively
Have you finished with your course
deadlines scheduling project? (Did you think I'd
forget?) By now, you should have every
assignment in every course recorded in such a way
that your schedulers reveal the time that you
must invest to complete each assignment. This
means a specific time investment, allocated over
several weeks, for every project. No cramming at
the last minute!
If not, you're not ready to read Lesson 11.
You're too far behind.
Next, did you create 20 note cards with a rote-memory item on each card?
THE LOGIC OF STUDY HALL
Study hall can be a tremendous tool of academic
success. Not many students know what to do in study hall.
They don't see its possibilities. By the time you have
finished reading this lesson, you will see them more
REVIEWING CLASS NOTES
This is the most important use of study hall. This is
why you should try to schedule it at the end of the day.
There may be an exception, however. If you have one
class that you absolutely must take to graduate, and you
aren't willing to take it in summer school, then you should
schedule study hall immediately after that class. The
entire study hall period should be devoted to reviewing and
organizing your notes of that killer course. I will cover
note-taking and reviewing in later lessons. But if you are
having a major problem with some unavoidable course, you
had better go to your counselor and explain your problem.
If you don't have study hall, maybe you can schedule one,
even if this means dropping a course.
You should never drop a class unless you have first
discussed this with (1) the teacher whose course you want
to drop, (2) the teacher who is in charge of the class you
want to get into, and (3) a counselor. Then, if they all
approve, ask your parents. Explain to your parents the
logic of your decision. Tell them that you have the
approval of everyone in charge. Do what your parents say
you must do. If they merely recommend, and it's not what
you want to do, make your own decision. It's your
WHY NOT WORK ON TERM PAPERS?
The main reason is your memory. The sooner you review
your notes, the better. You can research a term paper when
you have long stretches of open time. Don't write a paper
in snatches. Go to the library and spend several hours.
Your memory fades fast -- within minutes. Your notes
may not make sense to you the next day, especially if
you're only now learning how to take notes. You must
review your notes and add comments in the margin before you
go to sleep at night. Don't allow your notes to fade
overnight. You have got to get them into your memory.
But if you use study hall every year, doesn't this
force you to skip important courses? Not if you're willing
to bite the bullet and go to summer school. If you take a
one-semester course in each of the two summer school terms,
you can make up a one-year course. Concentrated time is
best for learning anyway. It helps you to focus.
Your problem is your memory. You have to teach your
memory how to work better. The best time to memorize new
material is immediately after this information has been
presented to you, though maybe not today.
If you find in study hall that your notes are garbled,
you may be able to contact the teacher before the school
day ends, and ask for clarification. This way, you won't
carry incorrect information home with you.
Don't use study hall to read magazines. Study hall is
to be devoted 100% to review, preferably review of recently
written down information.
WHEN IN SCHOOL. . . .
Those things that you can learn most easily in school
should be mastered while you are at school. Those things,
such as research or rote memorization, that can be done
off-campus should not be done at school.
Use your study hall time to identify anything that you
need to verify at school, preferably from a teacher.
You should walk out of study hall with the most
important question to ask any teacher whose notes you have
just reviewed. If you can get an answer between classes,
do so. If you can't, then write the question on a 3x5 card
and hand it to the teacher, or put it on his desk, before
class begins the next day. If he will answer it verbally
in class, you don't have to sign it. But if he probably
won't get around to it in class, then you should sign it.
Maybe he'll jot a note on the back: the lined side. He'll
give it back to you.
If he doesn't, ask your question in class at some
You don't have to keep raising your hand in class to
get your questions answered. A 3x5 card works fine. If a
teacher has a choice between a raised hand and a 3x5 card,
he prefers the card.
SIT AT A TABLE
At a table, you must sit up. Read your notes and make
revisions or additions. Do not sit in a deep chair to make
Never sit in a soft chair unless you're trying to take
a nap. A chair into which you sink will put you to sleep.
Your body may have its down cycle at study hall time.
If this is the case, then you must find out if sleeping is
allowed. If it is, find that soft chair, or else put your
head down on the table. If you can sleep for 20 minutes
and feel revived, then do it. Tell the study hall teacher
that this is your down time. Explain that a nap now will
let you work more efficiently when you get home. If she
doesn't believe you, bring in your DayMinder the next day
to show her how you allocate your time.
A filled-in DayMinder will convert adults' perception
of you from a possible flake to a serious student. You may
be able to work around the rules.
You can't learn well in your droopy-eyes time. That's
the time to type if you aren't allowed to sleep in study
hall. Do something physical to help keep your mind
Most people have problems staying awake immediately
after lunch. That's a reason for not eating heavy foods or
any form of refined sugar at lunch.
If your killer course is an after-lunch class, you're
I have estimated that you must find an extra 15 to 20
hours a week to convert to study time. If you are not yet
taking study hall, you can pick up an extra four hours
(five 50-minute study halls) a week.____________________________________________Make Every Study Minute Count
You must identify which minutes are your study minutes. That requires time management. We have been through that already.
Here, I'm talking about those minutes which you have set aside for study, and which you have marked down in a DayMinder or other time-management tool.
Each person is different. Some people are really efficient in one course, but they are woefully inefficient in another. What works in one course doesn't work in another. For example lecturing to the wall may not work for you in math, but it does in history.
What should you do if things aren't working in one course? Maybe you can drop it. But what if you can't?
At that point, you had better get help from another student who is efficient in your killer course. If you can't get help from someone you know at school, consider getting help from someone on-line. You may be able to find such a student on my Q&A forum on study skills. That's another reason for joining my site.https://www.garynorth.com/public/5.cfm___________________________________________________
LAST-MINUTE CRAMMING FOR AN EXAM
If you are facing an exam after study hall, structure
your schedule in advance so that you reserve this period to
reviewing your notes or your textbook. Use the flash cards
on the bus or some other time. Use study hall for those
academic exercises that are most efficiently conducted
while you are sitting at a table.
DROPPING A KILLER COURSE
You probably have several goals. First, you want to
raise your grades. If you didn't, you would not have
signed up for this course.
Second, you want to take courses that will get you
into college, or in some way help your career.
You may be facing a big problem: one class is giving
you fits. You may get a bad grade. If you work hard and
long to get a good grade, this may hurt your performance in
other classes. You may not get a good grade anyway.
If you must have this class to graduate, ask yourself:
"Should I take this class in summer school, when I can give
it my full attention, and not hurt my other grades?"
If you don't have to take it this year, should you
stick it out? Why?
If you aren't sure if it's necessary in your college
plans, find out as soon as you can.
Are there other ways of fulfilling this requirement?
In my senior year, I dropped physics early in the
first semester and substituted a speech class. I was the
best speaker on campus. I knew this. I planned to run for
student body president the next semester. (I did, and I
won -- based on my one campaign speech.) I had been
elected to a state office at Boys' State, the American
Legion program, the previous summer. Did I need a speech
class? No. Was I wise to take it? Yes. I got an A in
speech, doing no work to speak of, and I avoided getting a
B or even a C in physics. No college except engineering
and science schools such as CalTech and M.I.T. required
physics. I got into one of the top colleges in the U.S.,
with a partial scholarship (discount). If I had received a
C in physics, I might not have gotten in.
It's no disgrace to drop a class if you have a clear
plan to compensate for your having dropped it.
Talk to the teacher of the killer course. Tell him or
her that you're in serious trouble in the course. Tell the
teacher your plan of action. Bring your now filled-in
weekly scheduler. This will show the teacher that your
decision to drop the course is part of your overall effort
to reform your bad study habits. The weekly scheduler will
serve as proof of your good intentions, but only if it is
filled in. Next, talk to a counselor. Explain your
problem again. Show the counselor your scheduler.
You're in a situation very much like a person who has
run up a huge credit card debt. He doesn't want to declare
bankruptcy. If he gets assistance from a credit manager,
the credit manager can contact his creditors and negotiate
a reduction in the interest rates. The person avoids
bankruptcy. He has to pay for more years, perhaps, but he
If you show that you are serious about doing better
academically, your counselor may be able to negotiate a
solution. You may be allowed to drop the
Study hall is ideal for reviewing
It is best scheduled after an inescapable killer
course or at the end of the day, when you can
review several courses' notes.
Use each segment of your day to do whatever
exercise that is most efficiently done at that
time or in that place.
Sit at a table, not a soft chair. Stay awake.
Do at school those things which can be done best
If your down time makes you inefficient, schedule
study hall then, unless you can schedule physical
education. This assumes that you're allowed to
sleep, or at least cat nap in study hall.
Otherwise, type or write.
A killer course can hurt your chances of learning
better ways of studying.
It's easier if you can get on your feet
academically, and then take the course over.
It's better to go to summer school than to get
defeated this term by a killer course.
Drop it, but promise to take it later, after
you're more sure of your abilities.
Substitute study hall if you can.
Don't stop working in the killer course until you
are officially out of the course.
If you are taking a killer course,
and you're doing poorly, and you can take it in
summer school, (1) drop it and (2) take it in
summer school. Substitute study hall. Also,
find out the study hall's rules on sleeping. Are
they really enforced?
Don't forget to lecture to the wall: one page,
PREVIEW OF TOMORROW'S LESSON: If you can't drop a
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