History Course Survival Guide

History Survival Guide

What I've called "History Survival Guide" here, is a virtual verbatum copy of something I found on the web for another history class. Claire Weinstein, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas, analyzed the transition that students make from high school to college. Here are some of her thoughts which I too would have found helpful in my first years of college. I have reproduced the hints which are especially applicable to this course.

Hints:
1. Reading assignments complement but do not duplicate lectures. 
2. There is less "busy work."
3. Using the library effectively is very important.
4. Students are held responsible for what they learned in high school. 
5. Class discussions often raise questions with no clear right or wrong answers. 
6. Harder work is required for earning a grade of A or B. 
7. The simple completion of an assignment often earns a C grade. 
8. There are more major writing assignments. 
9. Taking good notes and reading for comprehension is more important. 
10. Students must independently seek additional sources of information. 
11. Students need to monitor their own progress. 
12. Paying attention in class is extremely important. 
13. There is an increased workload and a faster pace. 
14. There are an increased number of choices and decisions to be made. 
15. Students determine when they need help and locate appropriate resources. 
16. More independent reading and studying are required. 
17. Students are more responsible for managing their own time and commitments. 
18. Students must establish and attain their own goals.

Other tips:
Here are a few suggestions that might help you reach your highest potential this year.
Practice time management skills:
--Get plenty of sleep. The more well-rested you are, the better you will be able to work at full capacity, the better thinker you will be, and the more fun you will have.
--Prioritize work. Even if you find a project to be uninteresting, if it needs to get done before something else, do it. Do not wait until the last minute. Much of the time employers and teachers know what a rush job looks like.
--Prioritize play. Get your work done, but make sure you reward yourself with something you like to do.
Be a “smart” student:
--Use various study techniques. Know how you work best. Psychologists have found that some people (typically extroverts) work better around other people or with background noise, while others (introverts) work better alone in complete silence. Generally one should:
--use diagrams, graphs, cue cards, draw pictures, talk aloud to oneself, pace the room, make audio tapes, etc. Do whatever it takes to help you remember and develop mental survival skills.
--read sitting upright at a desk or table, with sufficient light.
--study for 20-30 minute periods with 5-10 minute breaks.
--avoid sugar while studying or while at school.
--leave time to finish what you start; it is difficult and time consuming to “pick up where you left off.”
--Do your work. You get more “points” for work done than for none done at all. Indeed, you may even benefit from the process of doing poor work.
--Use the dictionary. When you come across words you don't know and cannot figure out from context, look them up. It helps tremendously if you know what you're talking about (and using appropriate vocabulary at least helps give the appearance that you know what you're talking about).
--Respect others. Chances are that you will be working with other people for the rest of your life. If you cannot do this effectively, then you're not doing any of us any good.
--Respect yourself. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to exercise your brain--your greatest survival tool. Throughout history people your age have accomplished great things, there is no reason why you should be any different.

When students take history classes in college, they are often confused and overwhelmed by the amount of information they are expected to read and analyze. It often seems like "just one fact after another." Try following these hints for success in this class. 
1. Skim the primary source, book, assigned chapter, or handout first. As you do this, concentrate on any particular questions posed in class or in the text you are reading. Now that you have set the stage for serious reading, your comprehension will improve. 
2. Read the assigned pages carefully. Highlight or underline major points. Mark up the handouts distributed in class with notes and questions. Refer to maps and locate places that you are unfamiliar with. Use a dictionary if you do not comprehend the vocabulary. Study any images you come across. For instance, if you are reading the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the pictures will help you interpret the text. (Some students even develop a glossary in their notes.) Remember to keep the preliminary questions in mind. (Part of the Egyptian Book of the Dead) 
3. Review the material and write out responses to the question(s) posed or develop a short outline. If you do not understand a particular point, return to the text and reread it. It is not uncommon to need to read the text or source at least twice. Remember that you will retain information that you write down far better than if you simply read it. 
4. Review your outlines or answers to questions periodically. Try not to wait until the night before a paper is due to begin writing or the night before an exam to start studying. If you study for frequent and shorter periods of time, you will find more success that if you do it the night before. 
5. Organize your study time effectively. Many students fail to do well in courses because they do not organize their time effectively. At the beginning of each week, check the sequence of events and anticipate the preparation for the coming week. 
6. Take good class notes. This applies to discussion as well. Concentrate on the major issues/problems/events/people which were discussed in class. Make sure you get the notes you miss from another student. (Never ask the instructor if you missed anything important! If it was not important, it would not have been discussed.) Compare the information you received in class with what you are reading in the texts and handouts. 
7. Form a study group with other students. Discussing the information will make it more understandable. Ask fellow students in your study group to give you feedback on rough drafts of papers. 
8. Approach each class with a positive attitude. Think that you will succeed and ask questions if you do not understand the concepts conveyed. 

RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL CLASS PARTICIPATION AND DISCUSSION 
As you read in the syllabus, class participation is weighted very heavily in this course. The points awarded can make a significant difference in your grade. Try to follow these suggestions: 
1. Attendance is very important. If you are not in class, you automatically lose points. 
2. Be prepared. Make sure you have read the material before class so you can contribute your perspective to the discussions. 
3. Actively participate in the discussions. At first, you may be hesitant to speak up in front of thirty or forty students. Try to contribute to "partner" and small group discussions. 
4. Develop confidence! You certainly have opinions on the issues we will discuss. Share them with us! Certainly, some of the issues we will discuss in this class are very controversial. Some are also very painful to certain individuals. We need to create an environment which is respectful to all students and cultural groups. Try to keep the following guidelines in mind when you make comments in this class.
5. Rather than generalize about whole groups of people, please use "I" statements and speak from your own experiences. Refrain from stereotypical comments such as "All Mexicans do....." or "Women are...." 
6. If you have a different point of view than one being expressed by another student or the instructor, listen carefully first and then respond by explaining your perspective. Try to avoid "put-downs" in class discussions, even the humorous variety called "the dozens" or “caps.” When an individual is "capped on," it discourages open and honest exchange of ideas. 
7. If you recognize that you are an individual who tends to monopolize the discussions or you interrupt others, please monitor your own behavior. Encourage quieter students to speak up. This will enhance our learning experiences by allowing all students to share their unique perspectives and experiences.

ADAPTED FROM: Schmiechen and McKay, Study Guide for A History of Western Society, Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin, 1991