Setting up an academic routine at home

By Jeremie Ndongo

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected various aspects of our lives, including how we learn. With schools closed due to the different stages of the country-wide lockdown, as a student, you are trying to be productive from home. This is likely to be a challenge as you find it hard to structure your days and then end up falling behind.

It is even worse if your school doesn’t have the means to conduct online learning and provide you with the needed support. To help you tackle the challenge of studying from home, we have sketched a balanced daily routine.

Rest and work pattern

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Good night’s rest done on time

Try to set a consistent time when you go to bed like that of your normal school days. It is essential that you get enough rest for the day that follows. This allows your body and mind to rejuvenate. Before falling to sleep, consult your timetable and to-do list for the following day.

Prepare yourself like you’re going to school

In the morning, eat breakfast, have your lunch, liquid (water, juice, etc.) ready and dress up for the day ahead. Avoid spending your entire day in pyjamas as this promotes a casual mood, which can be fun at first but as time goes by, it quickly losses its appeal, especially if you are not getting the work done.

Set up a studying/working area

Try to make sure it is tidy, comfortable, quiet and use the same place throughout your studies at home. By doing so, you programme your brain to associate that space with work. Remember to get all your materials (textbooks, notes and stationery). Once you are done, clean up your studying/working space, leaving it neat for the next day.

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Have a daily timetable and to-do list

A timetable makes it possible for you to prioritise your time, while a to-do list allows you to set daily goals and have focus. You should draft your to-do list for the day during the night before and place it somewhere noticeable.

After preparing yourself in the morning, check your timetable to see what subjects you have for the day. Make sure to start your academic day at the usual school time. For example, if your first class/period begins at 08:00 am, do the same when studying at home. Begin your study with the first subject on the timetable and preferable follow it throughout the day until the usual end of school time.

Make use of the breaks in your timetable

Go ahead and have lunch, stretch your legs, take a walk around the house, talk to friends or family members. You should also consider minor house tasks: sweeping your room and washing a few dishes. Completing these tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment and gets your head away from the books for a while to refresh your thoughts.

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Socialise with teachers and classmates

Keep socialising by reaching out to your teachers for help and classmates/friends for some chats. It helps to maintain the sense of community that you have on a normal school day.

You may also create an informal, online discussion group with your classmates/friends to have dialogues based on the work you been studying. It is recommended that you keep this group as small as possible, as to maintain focus and effectiveness.

Unwind with family and your favourite activity(ies)

Spend time with family, chat with friends on social media platforms, catch up on the daily news and gossips to help you be informed about what’s happening in the lives of your loved ones and the country.

Do something that helps you unwind. It could be indoor stretches and exercises, cooking or even watching an episode or two of your favourite television shows, just make sure you don’t binge watch.

Apply studying strategies

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Use the objectives of each classes/chapters

Every subject has a primary lesson to be learnt. Within this primary lesson, there are sub-lessons that are found in the individual classes or chapters making up the subject. These are referred to as the objectives. Identify and focus on them. Speak to your teacher and tutor if you are not understanding what is expected for these objectives.

Once you have identified the objectives, you’ll discover that there are areas of focus requiring more of your attention and others that simply need a quick read for a broad perspective of the concepts or procedures.

Use a timer when studying

Use a timer on your phone to keep track of the time you spend studying each subject. For example, if the Mathematics period has a duration of an hour in your school timetable, set your timer to countdown and ring after an hour as you practice Mathematics.

If you are struggling to maintain your focus, try employing the Pomodoro technique. Basically, divide each study period further as 25 minutes focus time with 5 minutes breaks in between. After every 4th focus session, take a 15-20 minutes break.

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Take short notes and ask yourself questions

Be active in your learning by making short notes in your own words, asking yourself questions when studying each subject and testing your loopholes through practice exercises.

Watch explanatory YouTube videos

If it happens that you can’t understand a section in your textbook or notes, try watching an explanatory YouTube video about this section. It is better to watch a three-minute video that easily explains the section and then read the text, instead of spending an hour on a long passage of text that you can’t understand. Ensure that you switch off the auto-play setting to avoid any form of distraction.

Add tasks to your to-do list

At the end of each period or subject, add things to your to-do list that you would like to get done the following day or in the upcoming days. This allows you to build momentum, consistency and keeps you motivated as you cross off the task(s) you have managed to complete.

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Once the day is done, go through the day’s work

After you have completed all classes for the day, work on your notes and practice exercises given to you or the ones you have set for yourself. Use this time to enhance your understanding and memory. Remember spaced repetition is vital in learning any subject. JTs

Writing by Jeremie Ndongo. Editing by Gaby Ndongo. Feature image by Bich Tran from Pexels.

Jeremie Ndongo is the co-founder of JoziTutors, which is an education firm that specialises in personalised learning for primary and high school students. He has more than three years’ experience in the tutoring of science subjects. Jeremie is currently completing a Bachelor of Science degree at the Witwatersrand University.

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