You revised, you went to revision classes at school, you paid attention in class, you did your homework, yet you still didn’t get the grades you hoped you would. What did you do wrong? If you are wondering this, then read on.
This week I have had numerous calls from worried parents who have said the same thing to me. Their child works so hard, yet it doesn’t show, what could be the reason? They saw their child sitting at their desk with their books open, sometimes even staying up late to get the work done.
Experience tells me that any child can learn, if given the right tools. It’s all about focus, technique and time. If one of these three elements is missing from revision, then it won’t work.
The obvious meaning is to avoid distractions, and really really concentrate. Don’t procrastinate. One of my students can take up to 10 minutes just getting her books out, another will leave out the tricky topics hoping that they won’t come up. One student had a super organised study area, where she had a collection of text books, notes, past papers and worksheets, but no real revision had actually taken place.
The other meaning is to cast aside all the stuff you don’t need. Only revise what is going to come up in the exam. If you don’t know what will come up, then you need to ask your teacher to print off a syllabus. Then tick off each topic as you revise it. It will show your progress and will ensure that you don’t miss anything out. If you missed out questions or revised the wrong topics, then you didn’t FOCUS on the right things.
1. What’s your learning style?
We all learn in different ways. I am an auditory learner, so I prefer to watch videos or listen to talks and lectures. Sometimes I like to make notes, and use highlighters to help me remember things. Find a learning style that suits you and one that comes to you naturally. If you don’t have a preferred way of learning, then use what works. This infographic will help you find out your learning style and how you can use it to study better.
2. Test yourself.
There’s lots to revise so break down each topic into smaller chunks. Revise that chunk, and then test yourself. So many students will revise without doing past papers and tests. Worse still, they do the past papers and wait for their teachers to mark them. How will you know if you got the questions right? It’s like cooking something to eat and not eating it! Mark the papers yourself, look at the wrong answers, and then figure out how to get the right answer. Then do another paper and repeat.
I was watching a TED talk on YouTube called “The First 20 Hours — How To Learn Anything“. The speaker claims that all you need is 20 hours to learn something and is worth watching. Did you devote this much time to your revision? If you did fail your mock exams, then now is the time to get organised. Watch the video and then act on it.
So here’s my thought of the week…
So many year 11’s are under pressure right now. They have to go to extra classes arranged by the school, even at the weekend, they have to finish off all of their coursework and revise for mock exams.
The pressure is so much that don’t know where to begin. From experience I know that they struggle with getting organised and don’t realise the seriousness of exams until it’s too late. They cannot see the bigger picture, that a little bit of work now will make less work in the future.
Parents can only push them to a certain extent but the end result depends on the child. If the child is not motivated, then you can be paying for the best schooling and extra tuition but it will not make a difference. Schools can put on booster sessions and revision sessions until 8pm every night. This will tick all the boxes and show that they care for their students of course but will the child be focussed and make the most of the time?
Until effort is made, and I mean real effort which involves engaging the brain when revising, and putting in the hours, the rewards will not be gained.
My A* students are already at the finishing line, they had their notes organised from day one, they realised that it takes an enormous amount of time, they realised that success only comes with hard graft, not because your mummy and daddy are nagging you to work.
Is this pressure a good motivator? Are we being too harsh on our kids? Or is it a necessary life skill to learn? They are teenagers, and have a right to choose what they do with their time, but when faced with deadlines and work loads, should they ignore them or work on them?
Practice loads! do loads of past papers and if you run out of past papers to do, do them again, especially the questions you didn’t do so well on.
After revising a topic, go through past papers but only do the questions on that topic. For example if you’ve just revised circle theorem, do past paper questions on circle theorem only.
Your textbook is full of explanations and worked examples you can follow, study and use to improve your understanding. It’s generally a good idea to find a topic you need help with, read through the explanation (looking up anything you don’t understand), before following along with the examples.
After every exam paper, make a list of what you did poorly on and revise it.
Revise with a friend or work in a small group.
You can explain maths to your friends.
Your friends can explain things to you.
You can work together on problems.
You can test each other.
One of the most effective ways to learn a new skill is to write down the steps you have to take – either as a list or as a flowchart.
Make flash cards, but double sided ones, the reverse side having questions on it or page numbers from your text book where you can find these questions. You could have a set for each of the following:
FORMULAS. The formulas you need to memorise for the exam
METHODS. How to work out a problem, for example the method for working out Pythagoras.
DEFINITIONS. Write down the meanings of maths words you need to know.
NEED TO KNOW. In maths there are quantities and number you must know off by heart. Such as grams in a kilogram or square numbers. One side has the question, the other side has the answer.
Make a cheat sheet. This is one sheet of A4 paper with a summary of everything you need to know.
Go online and revise topics by watching videos or practicing questions online.
Create mind maps. There should be a word/question or something in the middle of the page, with questions, facts or methods coming out.
Create posters. Make them colourful and big so that they catch your eye. Display these posters on your walls so that you see them all the time.
Use highlighters and shade/colour in important facts from text books and workbooks.
If you have a really good set of notes or still have your maths workbooks from school, then you can write questions in the margins to jog your memory as you read.
Use sticky notes to write down formulas and facts, they are quick and easy to do, as you learn each fact, just throw the sticky note away.
LOOK at a worked example of a question. COVER it. WRITE it yourself and work it out from memory. CHECK to see if you’ve done it right. If you’ve missed something out or done it wrong, TRY AGAIN.
If after all this you are still not getting anywhere, let us do the work for you. Book a free assessment and let us take care of things.
Major changes have been made to the 2013 SATs exams for Key Stage 2 pupils in the UK. This year is the first time that children will be doing the spelling, grammar and punctuation exam, and the first year in which there will be no writing paper. Here are some basic facts you need to know:
1. In all state primary schools in the UK, SATs exams are held in May.
2. Children in year 6, will be assessed in Maths and English (spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading) externally. Levels 3-5 of the national curriculum will be tested. There is an additional level 6 paper for children working above level 5.
3. English writing will be assessed by your child’s class teacher throughout year 6 based on the work your child completes in class.
4. English speaking and listening will be assessed by your child’s class teacher.
5. There are 3 Maths tests, mental maths, non-calculator paper A and calculator paper B.
The results are usually out in July and are often shared with parents in end of year reports. SATs exam results are used by schools to measure performance and the average year 6 child is expected to get a level 4b in Maths and English. The teacher assessments are passed onto high schools for them to put children into ability groups in year 7.
What are the implications of these changes when it comes to preparing your child for the exams?
How can you help your child to prepare for the exams?
Where do you start?
As a teacher and a parent, I would start by finding out what level my child is working at. You can speak to your child’s class teacher about this. I should warn you that some teachers may come up with comments like “your child is working at a level 4c”. Unless you are a teacher or are familiar with the grading system used in schools, this doesn’t really tell you much. Try to get more specific feedback which you can work on. For example, if you want to help your child with maths, then ask the teacher which topics you should be revising to improve the grade. If you can get the teacher to put this in an email to you or to just jot down a few bullet points, then it’s easier to refer back to it to see if you are covering the right topics. There’s no point in guessing what your child should be doing because if the works too easy then your child isn’t learning anything and if it’s too hard then you’ll end up getting frustrated and losing patience. The key is to cover topics at the right level for your child.
Once you have determined what level of work you should be doing, then it’s time to practise the skills needed to improve. Doing 20 minutes three times a week is better than doing an hour on one day. As with revision, repetition is important and you should go over the same topic many times. Sometimes your child will understand straight away, whereas at other times it may take weeks to conquer a subject. I remember teaching a child about equivalent fractions, and thinking that the child would never understand. He would turn up to lessons having forgotten what I had taught him the previous week. It was frustrating but we persevered, and eventually, it clicked!
English skills need drilling as well. What I mean by drilling is practising. With the introduction of the new spelling, punctuation and grammar exams, this is now even more essential. The skills needed to improve in these areas need to be registered in a child’s long-term memory. I’ve seen many children who get 10 out of 10 in their weekly spelling tests, but spell incorrectly when using those same words in a sentence. One of the reasons is that the spellings have been crammed and learnt for the test, registered in the short-term memory and then forgotten. Long term memory can be improved by repeated exposure. So to help a child remember a spelling, I would get him/her to learn them, use the words in sentences, use the words in stories, put the words in alphabetical order, think of rhyming words, draw pictures to illustrate the words or write out the words in different colours.
Punctuation and grammar have to be learnt in such a way that they become a habit. It should be learnt so that the child doesn’t have to be reminded to use capital letters and full stops and if they do forget, then there’s a niggling thought in the back of their mind that something is missing from the sentence.
I’ll leave you with links to sample papers and mark schemes for the new style SATs tests introduced for 2013.
We are all familiar with the feeling of satisfaction that we get after spring cleaning our houses. So how about doing that with our brains? Research on learning has shown that “clearing out the junk” that is filling our brains can help us to be better learners and this is more important for children.
As a parent, one of the hardest things to decide is where to start, especially if you only vaguely know that your child can’t do maths or can’t write good stories in english. There will be some gaps in your child’s learning; they will naturally have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. It is these areas of weakness that can give children the feeling of their brain being “full”, so that they don’t have the mental processing powers to learn more. So what should we do to help our children de-clutter their brains?
1. Ensure that your child gets plenty of sleep.
Children need a full night’s sleep to stay mentally alert throughout the school day. All too often, kids are too wired to sleep – they’ve been consuming E numbers, watching TV, playing video games right up to bedtime. There’s so much excitement in the house, that they want to be part of it. So it’s important to establish a pattern or ritual in the evening that will help them quiet down and go to sleep. Have an established bedtime and stick to it, including during weekends.” I love this infographic showing the importance of a good nights sleep in children.
2. Review your child’s learning.
Testing your child’s learning will help you to identify problem areas and most importantly – where to start. It is better to concentrate on specific topics rather than teach everything with the hope that it will make some difference. If there was a hole in a wall, would you rebuild the whole wall or just patch up the hole? Just patching up the hole saves time, money and energy if done properly, so apply the same principle to your child’s learning.
You can buy books with test papers in them specific to your child’s age or download resources off the internet. Discuss the results with your child so that your child knows exactly what they can and cannot do. Next write out some tragets for your child to aim for. Once you’ve identified weaknesses, focus on those but only covering up to 3 topics at a time. This repetition and re-inforcement will give your child confidence.
3. Break down and classify the information your child needs to learn.
When we de-clutter our houses, we have to break down the task into smaller manageable chunks. Like tackling one room at a time or sorting out the toys first. The same goes for de-cluttering information in children’s brains.
tackle one subject at a time
if the subject is too big, then one topic at a time, for example just “writing” in english or just “arithmetic” in maths.
break down what your child needs to know into either “know really well”, “confused” and “don’t know”.
The topics that fall into the “don’t know” category are the ones that will need the most attention. The aim is to review the list periodically so that topics move from this category into one of the others.
We use this strategy at work and focus on those weaknesses, we fill in those gaps and help the children to build firm foundations for their learning.
I am constantly bombarded by busy parents complaining that they never have enough time to sit down and help their kids with whatever they are struggling with at school. Out of all the activities you can do with your kids, I have chosen making lists as one of the easiest to do. Below are ways in which you can use lists as a teaching and learning opportunity:
Make lists. Making lists is easy because you dont have to write in sentences, and you can choose the number of items on the list.
If your child needs to improve vocabulary, ask her to make a list of words she could use instead of “nice” or “big” or “said”.
List 10 questions you would ask your favourite cartoon character/TV personality/pop star.
List the top 5 things you would take with you if you went to live on your own on the other side of the world.
List words belonging to the same “family”. For example list words with “igh” or “ea” or “tion” in them.
Read a book and list the first ten nouns/verbs/adjectives/adverbs that you come across.
Make a list of all the objects in the house which are cylinders, or cubes or spheres.
Collect 10 random items from around the house, weigh each one using electric kitchen scales and list them in order of weight.
Grab a handful of coins and make up 10 different combinations of the coins. Add them up. List the coins you add up and the answer. You might need to vary the coins here depending on the child’s age. The simplest combination is to use only 1p and 10p coins.
List all the items in the house that are made of cotton, or list all the different types of materials things can be made of.
List fruits and vegetables that grow only tropical climates.
Write down all the things you find in the house which are neither pure solid, liquid or gas. (you will need to explain what these could be, for example, gels, foams, emulsions, pastes).
GEOGRAPHY, HISTORY AND CURRENT AFFAIRS
How many capital cities do you know, how many rivers do you know, how many mountain ranges or mountains do you know the names of.
Name as many people as you can in your extended family.
List names of famous scientists, famous artists, famous composers, famous writers, famous inventors etc.
Find and list the top 3 news stories of the day on the internet.
Take a walk and list the different types of houses and buildings that you come across.
The lists are endless and it’s up to you which topic you choose, how difficult you make it and how many items you want in the list. You can even make mental lists whilst on long car journeys. Lists can be useful for revision and general organisation purposes as well. Sit down together and make a list of chores your teen has to do, or organise a revision timetable in the form of a list. Teach your child how to use lists as a means of checking their work or targets.
The list of things you can do with lists are endless.