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About Maggie Wray, Ph.D.

Dr. Maggie Wray is an Atlanta-based academic coach who helps high school & college students achieve their academic potential by improving their organization, time management, study skills, and mindset about school. To set up a time to speak with Maggie about how to help YOUR teen develop the skills he or she needs to thrive academically, visit http://creatingpositivefutures.com/contact or email support@creatingpositivefutures.com

The 10 Back-to-School Tools & Apps that Every Student Needs

As you’re preparing to go back to school, having the right tools to work with can make school a lot easier!  As you’re preparing to go back to school, having the right tools to work with can make school a lot easier! Here are the most important tools I would recommend setting up before the year begins. 1. Binders and/or Folders for homework, notes, and handouts While some schools are going electronic and giving out less paper than they used to, most students still have a lot of paper they need to keep track of for their classes.  So, it’s important to find a system for storing that paper that is going to be organized and easy to use. For some students, this will be one binder with a 2-pocket divider for each subject to store homework and handouts, and some lined paper for notes behind each pocket.  For students on block scheduling, it might be 2 different binders — one for “A day” and one for “B day”.  Other students might prefer to have 5 smaller multicolored binders— one for each class, with a homework packet in the front of each one.   For students who dislike binders,

By |August 11th, 2017|Categories: Organization|0 Comments

Back-to-School Goals: What you need to know

For many students, Back-to-School goals are like New-Year’s resolutions…they’re set with the best of intentions, but are typically forgotten within the first few weeks.    Studies suggest that only 8-10% of people who set New-Year’s Resolutions actually end up achieving them.    Why are these success rates so low? Because most of us have never actually learned how to set goals effectively.   We’re trying to figure it out by trial and error.  And a lot of the time, we’re getting it wrong.    This is especially true for students, who have significantly less real-world experience setting and achieving goals than the average new-year’s-resolution-setting adult.   The good news is, there ARE strategies you can use to beat the odds and help your teen set more effective back-to-school goals this year.   Here are some guidelines to get you started!     4 Keys to Setting Effective Goals: 1. Don’t just “do your best”: Set specific, challenging goals How many times have you been told to “do your best”?  Well, it turns out that may not be the best advice, after all.In studies of how goals affect performance, researchers have found that “specific, difficult goals consistently lead to higher performance than urging

By |July 31st, 2017|Categories: Organization|0 Comments

What are your Teen’s Focus Triggers?

Does your teen have a hard time focusing on homework?   If so, they’re not alone!   For most teens I know, staying focused and avoiding distractions during homework is a huge challenge.   In part, this is due to the work itself. Many teens are not inherently interested in the subjects they are studying at school, and depending on how well they are doing in the class, homework can end up feeling uselessly simple or impossibly difficult.   Here are Two Quick Solutions to Combat Missing Homework: This is one of my favorite questions to ask students, because even though there are a lot of things they can't control, we can almost always figure out at least a few things they CAN change. No one likes to feel powerless...and that's especially true for teenagers.  For most students, focusing on what's out of their control tends to increase feelings of frustration and hopelessness. So, encouraging teens to focus on what IS in their control can help them to feel more in charge of the situation and improve their motivation, confidence, and focus. When it comes to homework, WHAT students are asked to do is largely out of their control, and

By |March 30th, 2017|Categories: Mindset|0 Comments

Missing Homework? Two Quick Solutions!

Now that classes are in full swing, a lot of teachers are starting to assign more homework. And with more and more schools going digital, a lot of these assignments are being posted online. Depending on your student's school, assignments may be announced in class, posted on individual teachers' websites, or posted on a learning platform like Scoology, Canvas, Edmodo, or Its Learning. This can be challenging for students, especially if they forget to check the website every day, or if they're checking the wrong sections of their websites and missing important announcements. I've been having lots of fun this week exploring some new tools and techniques to make it simpler for my students to track their homework more effectively, and wanted to share a couple of videos with you about how to make this process easier. Here are Two Quick Solutions to Combat Missing Homework: Technology Tip 1: Create a bookmark folder for teachers' websites If you have teachers who post their assignments online, it's a really good idea to check those websites every day to make sure there's nothing new that's been added. However, a lot of students find this is tedious to do, so they don't end

By |September 15th, 2016|Categories: Organization|0 Comments

When positive thinking backfires…

"Dream big!"  "Dare to Dream..." "Stay positive!""Believe in yourself..."Everywhere we look, we are surrounded by slogans about the importance of being optimistic, staying positive, and assuming the best. And why not? As anyone who has seen "The Secret" knows, positive thinking leads to positive outcomes!Right?Well, not necessarily.  Optimism and positive thinking do have a number of benefits, but they have downsides, as well. Why too much positive thinking can backfireResearch by Gabriele Oettingen, author of the book Rethinking Positive Thinking has shown that too much time spent fantasizing about the future can actually backfire…reducing motivation, and increasing the likelihood for future depression.Why does this happen? Well, while imagining a positive future outcome feels great, it can also trick your brain into thinking that you have already achieved your goal…which lowers your blood pressure, makes you feel more relaxed, and reduces your motivation to work hard and take action.How this impacts students’ performanceChildren and teens are naturally more optimistic than adults, and while this has a lot of benefits, it can also backfire when it comes to student’s performance in school.When teens imagine that an upcoming test is going to be really easy for them, they typically don’t put as much effort into studying for it...and are frequently disappointed in the results.One of the most common reasons

By |August 3rd, 2016|Categories: Mindset, Motivation|0 Comments

4 Steps to Avoid Summer Procrastination

Even though school is out for the summer, most students still have assignments to do…whether it’s reading 3 books, working through a math packet, taking an online class, studying for the SAT...or all of the above.Left to their own devices, many students end up scrambling to complete these summer assignments in the final week before school starts...which creates a lot of stress & anxiety for them and their families.While this may be the default way students operate, it’s often not what they really want.When I sit down with students to discuss how they'd like to handle their summer work, and discuss the pros & cons of different options, they typically choose one of two approaches..."I want to finish my work as soon as possible, so it’s out of the way and I can relax for the rest of my break!"OR "I want to do a little work each week, so I don't have too much to do on any one day"So, if students don’t really WANT to procrastinate on their work & leave it until the last minute, how can we help them make better choices about how to spend their time?Here are 4 tips to help avoid summer procrastination:1. Put them in charge of making the planStudents are much more likely

9 Areas for your Teen to focus on over summer break

What are your teen's plans for this summer? Immediately after the end of the school year, many high school & college students feel burned out from all of their final papers & exams, AP tests, and SAT/ACTs, and all they want to do is have free time to rest and relax.  But, once they’ve had a couple of weeks off from school and have had a chance to catch up on sleep & hang out with their friends, it can be worthwhile to set aside some time with them to discuss their goals for the summer. In addition to relaxing & having fun -- which are also important goals! -- having at least one additional area to focus their time & energy on over the summer can help minimize boredom, increase energy, and give teens a sense of purpose & accomplishment. Here are 9 potential 'focus areas' your teen could consider for the summer... 1. Pursue existing interests or strengths Taking a “strengths” focused approach with students can be great for building their confidence, and increasing feelings of competence & accomplishment. It’s also relatively easy to get teens motivated to build on their strengths, because it’s already an existing area of interest.  As an added

By |June 14th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

3 research-based strategies for overcoming test anxiety

A little nervousness about exams is perfectly normal,  and sometimes can even help performance by encouraging students to pay close attention and focus on the problems in front of them. However, for many students, the anxiety that they feel on tests is anything but beneficial.  Some students feel so nervous when they sit down to take exams that they have a hard time remembering the information they have studied. Instead of focusing on the questions in front of them, a large part of their working memory is pre-occupied with worries about whether they are moving through the test quickly enough or getting enough problems right, and fears about what will happen if they do not do well. Like a computer that freezes when it has too many energy-intensive programs running, students’ brains can freeze up during exams, making it hard to process or respond to the questions in front of them. If your teen experiences test anxiety, or would simply like to go into their tests feeling more confident and prepared, there are a number of research-based strategies they can use to prepare themselves to perform more effectively on their tests. Here are three of my favorites! 1. Write about your stress Before high-stakes tests, students will often try to

By |May 13th, 2016|Categories: Mindset, Study skills|0 Comments

Making the Most of the End of the Semester

Students often wait until the final week before exams to study, believing they will remember the material better if they study it closer to the time of the exam.  It's true that the material will seem more familiar if they have seen it more recently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to recall it on the test.  In order to remember what we’ve learned, we need repeated practice recalling it from memory and applying it to practice problems.This makes sense if we think about how we practice a sport, or a musical instrument.  In these contexts, we intuitively understand short-term “cramming” doesn’t work.  Can you imagine a football team waiting until the week before playoffs to practice, and then staying up late – putting in hours on the field – to “cram” before the big game?  Of course not.  No team would practice that way…and if they did, they would certainly lose the game.Yet, students often attempt to study hard right before their final exams.  In addition to leaving less time to study, “cramming” also causes students to…Feel stressedWorry about the testAdopt quick and ineffective study strategiesStore the material they learn in short-term, rather than long-term, memoryLose

Stages of Competence: Where is your teen right now?

Learning something new can be an exciting experience! For most students, the excitement comes at the END of the process...once they’ve mastered the skill, and it starts to feel effortless. But most of the time, when you're learning something new it doesn’t feel so easy!In fact, it often feels hard, confusing, and frustrating! The fact that learning new skills is hard isn’t a problem...as long as students understand that it’s supposed to feel hard, and trust that eventually their efforts will be rewarded.  Unfortunately, many students have gotten the impression that learning something new SHOULDN'T be so difficult. They believe they should be able to do well without working hard, and that mastering new skills should come easily and naturally.  Students with this expectation tend to get frustrated and disappointed when they're not able to master something right away, and stop trying...concluding either, “I’m no good at this, so why try?” or “Who cares about this? It's stupid anyway." One of the questions I like to ask my students who are in this situation is whether they're familiar with the Stages of Competence.  If they're not, I draw them the following diagram...   Stage 1: Unconscious incompetenceIn the first stage of competence, students aren’t yet aware of how bad they are at this new skill…either because they haven’t tried it yet, or because they haven’t

By |April 1st, 2016|Categories: Mindset, Study skills|0 Comments