Tutor Mum

Local tutor Kellie McCord is blogging for local mums about her top tutoring tips

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September 15
9 Minutes exam stragegy for success


Many teens are feeling anxious, apprehensive and agitated. They feel completely unprepared for their GCSE finals. And do you know what the biggest fear is?

No time!

Lockdown put a stop to face-to-face learning, leaving many teens to tackle material alone at home. Then, the summer holidays commenced! Coinciding with this, strict lockdown measures were eased, allowing many isolated teens to meet up with their friends for the first time in months. As a result, many teens are aware that they did not put in consistent work over the summer.   

Now back at school, teens are not feeling absolutely at ease, since some schools have declared that they will be moving forward their mock exams. Rather than sitting the exams after the Christmas holidays, students will sit the exams before the Christmas break. This has left many students feeling hopeless.

Following this 9 mins’ strategy, you can create an action plan that will set you up for the best chances of success. Why 9 minutes? We have 9 months until June – when the first GCSE exams will commence.

Step 1: List all your GCSE subjects.

Write down the grades you want to achieve. Beside this, write down the grades you are currently working at. Also write down your predicted grades. By doing this, it will help you prioritise your revision.

How will this help you prioritise your revision?

Well, start with the subjects you are struggling with. It is easy to work in the field that you enjoy and that you are succeeding in; however, it will not help you to revise effectively if you start there. Instead, by focusing on areas you find challenging, you will have done the heavy lifting first. Therefore, you will gain momentum, as you will know that the worst is over with. You can then look forward to the topics you enjoy the most! 

Step 2: Mind map your why!

Why do you want to achieve the grades you have written down? Do not say vague, generic vague statements, such as:

·       To succeed;

·       To get a better job;

·       To make money.

Instead, be specific and personal to you! For example, I want to achieve a grade 7 in Science because I would like to be a vet. This is because I love animals and I want to be part of a community that helps to, not only cure their ailments, but that educates their owners on how to care for their pets.

Focus on how achieving the grades will make you feel. What will it look like when you obtain your desired grades?

Step 3 Define exam terms.

Go onto the exam boards’ websites and find their exam key words. Then, define them, making sure you understand what they mean and how to answer them. 

Write the key words down with their definitions in a notebook. Use coloured pens/pencils to make it easier to read. You could even colour code your work! For example, if one of the keywords is ‘evaluate’ you could highlight it in light blue or use blue ink. Then, terms, words and phrases relating to evaluation, you keep using the same highlighter or ink.

Step 4: Get organised!

Open up a free account with Trello. Create a revision with a specific checklist, so that you know exactly what you are going to do.

Step 5: List topics.

Go onto the exam boards websites’ and note down the topics covered in each module. You can then break down the topic into its main components: the main ideas, the main concepts, the key quotes and the key facts. You can then create a checklist for each topic.

For example, if you were breaking down literature. One of the topics is the social-historical context of the works. You then divide this for your 20th C, 19th C and Shakespeare texts. You then zoom in further by looking at beliefs, religion, education at the time, gender and so forth.

Once you have your 9 mins’ plan of action created, you can then start revising strategically.

0 – 3 months

Learn the material by reading the content from textbooks, recommended books and worksheets. Make notes on what you have learned. Do some quick test questions. You can also record yourself reciting the information so you can play it back to yourself. 

3 – 6 months

Summarise your notes. Use different coloured pens. Do mind maps of the information. 

6 – 9 months

Create flashcards from all your notes, so you have concise, quick-fire testing resources. Do timed, practice assessments. Go through the mark scheme to ensure you know what the examiners are looking.

Top Tip

If you are doing 12 GCSEs, then you only need three months to spend one week on each subject!

For the first 3 months, focus one evening a week to one subject. For example, if you are doing Math, then spend the evening going over the Math concepts. The next day go over another subject.

In the next 3 – 6 months, use interleaving learning. This means move from one topic to the next. It is more challenging and effortful, but it has been proven to help retention of information.

Links

Here is the link to a great cite to help create a mind map/mood board.

https://padlet.com/

I prefer to do it by hand, but it is up to you. What works for you!

Here is the link to Trello:

https://trello.com/

Here are the links to the exam boards:

https://www.aqa.org.uk/

https://ccea.org.uk/

https://www.ocr.org.uk/

https://qualifications.pearson.com/en/home.html

https://www.wjec.co.uk/

Want feedback on your boards? Get in touch! Sign up to Kellie’s Tutoring email list.

 

August 25th
How to beat the ‘Back to School Blues’?




You and your child/teen may be filled with excitement, elation and joy at the prospect of returning to school. Others might be feeling apprehension, dubious and a little anxious. Whatever you and your child/teen are feeling, it is important to accept yours/their feelings. There is no right or wrong; good or bad. By accepting how you feel, you allow yourself and your child/teenager to express them rather than bottling them up. In doing this, it then allows you and child/teenager to take ownership of your/their feelings. This in turn allows you to choose how to respond, so that you do not allow yours/their feelings to control you.


Once you and your child/teen have accepted with your/their emotions, it is helpful to begin to foster ‘Back to School’ habits. How? By following three steps:



1. Routine

2. Role Play

3. Communication


1. Routine
Over the summer, it is easy to get out of routine. There is nothing wrong this. But now that it is the last week of summer, it is crucial to begin to ease your child/teen back into routine. Start by sending your child/teen to bed a bit earlier. Wake them up a bit earlier. In doing this, it is not a shock to system when they must wake up earlier for school. 

To help them adjust to sitting for longer periods, encourage them to do more tasks that require concentration. For instance, doing puzzles, colouring and reading are good ways to nurture sitting and focusing. You could also develop their listening skills by creating a game, such as an outdoor assault course; or an indoor task of dressing their teddies. However, the child/teen is blind-folded, and they must listen to their teammate to complete the task. Switch over, so that your child/teen can give instructions. In doing this, it helps to develop communication skills of active listening, encouraging teammates and articulating themselves.

2. Role Play
One of the biggest issues that kids have expressed (both child and teen) is that returning to school is going to be weird. And to be perfectly honest with you, it is going to be weird. They are going to have to sit alone at a desk. They will not be able to share equipment. Many will have to bring in their own lunches and sit at their own desks to eat. Therefore, it is vital that you make it familiar to them, so that they can adjust to the changes implemented by their school. 

To achieve this, talk to their school. Ask their school what changes have been made so you can prepare your child/teen for the new procedures. Then, role play it in the home. If possible, set up chairs apart. If you do not have enough chairs, use cushions instead. Be creative to make it fun and less daunting.


3. Communication
Communication is key to beating the ‘Back to School Blues’. Talk to your child/teen, asking them open-ended questions to illicit detailed responses. You can do this before they attend school and you can do this after their return to school. If you feel they are not coping, talk to their school immediately. Talk to other parents and your child’s/teen’s friends to gauge where their peers are at. If you are concerned, talk to your GP. This is because the government have made it compulsory for kids/teens in England to return to school, which means that fines will be issued if your child/teen does not attend school. It is therefore imperative you talk so that you do not add more stress to yourself and your child.

Think outside the box when it comes to communication! Although people are surprised that anxiety has declined amongst teens since lock-down, I am not. Consider this: kids/teens have been at home with their parents. Families have been forced to slow down and spend more time together. School have had to slow their pace too and have focused on rewarding effort rather than just the results. As a result, teens feel less pressure and feel more support. What has this to do with communication? Well, under the new government rules, children’s/teen’s classes are going to be like their ‘school family’ in terms of how they operate. They will be spending most of their time together; they will be in their ‘bubbles’ together; they will self-isolate together. So, try to reach out and communicate. You can do this by creating family WhatsApp groups. Perhaps you could set up a weekly, or fortnightly Zoom call between parents. By keeping in touch, you can support one another, and you can continue the family feel outside of school closures. 

Overall
Remember, to beat ‘Back to School Blues’ be creative! Start getting your child/teen back into a routine by making subtle changes now in the last week of summer. Be in communication with your child/teen’s school, including other parents and kids. Start up support groups online and on WhatsApp to keep in the loop. Do role plays at home to ensure your child knows what will happen when they get to school, so that the ‘weird’ becomes familiar, and so they feel safe.

Most importantly, although the government has stipulated that wearing masks in English schools will not be compulsory, it does not mean that you cannot encourage your child to wear them in school. If you and your child/teen prefer to wear a mask in school, then communicate this with your child’s/teen’s school. They will respect your wishes. After-all, if you and your child/teen do not feel safe, how will your child/teen get the best from school?

August 18th
How to move forward from GCSE and A-level results


In this video and vlog, we are going to explore how you can empower your teen to move forward with their exam results by looking at:

1.    What is so;

2.    How to take responsibility;

3.    Other successful people, who didn’t achieve their expected grades;

4.    What routes are open to them.

1. What is so.

Many teens may feel relieved that their teachers’ grades will be used for their final results. Yet, there are others who may still feel disappointed,dismayed and disheartened. Whatever your child is feeling is perfectly acceptable. Allow your child to go through their emotions. But, do not feed into it. What I mean by this, is do not use language that feeds into story and that is full of judgement. Instead, objectively break-down what has happened (almost like a surgeon dissecting). You can do this by doing the following:

-  Saying/writing down the course they were on.

-  Saying/writing down what grade they wanted.

-  Saying/writing down what grade they needed to go on to do what they wanted.

-  Saying/writing down that their is a global pandemic.

-  Saying/writing down that they did not sit the exam.

-  Saying/writing down the grades they have achieved.

Breaking it down helps you and your teen to see that everything else is what we put on it. We add meaning to the things above. We can do this by saying, ‘You did well’. Or, ‘You did badly’. Neither one of those statements is what is so.

After going through the break-down ask your child what they would have done had they sat the exam and not met their own expectations. Would they have re-sat their exams? Would they have gone on to another training program? Would they have gone to employment? Doing this helps your teen to see what is important to them. After-all, no one likes ‘losing’. By ‘losing’, I mean not doing as well as one hoped.

2. How to take responsibility.

Your child may feel like a victim. Who can blame them? The decision not to take the exams was not theirs. They were on a two year course, culminating to a final exam to determine their entire grade, and they were unable to sit their exams through no fault of their own. It is easy to see why many teens may feel powerless and that they have been treated unfairly. However, this is not empowering and it does not move your child on. 

To encourage your child to move from victim to victor, ask them to take responsibility. Responsibility has become a loaded term in society. It is often misconstrued as taking blame, but that is not the case. Being responsible means being accountable for one’s actions, which means taking ownership of one’s actions, and choosing how to respond rather than simply reacting.

3. Other successful people, who didn’t achieve their expected grades.

Your child may feel like things are happening to them. They may feel that no one understands them and that their world is crashing down. Remind your child that they are not alone and that there are many people who have gone through similar experiences. Here are three examples:

-  Clare Balding (English journalist, broadcaster and author) failed her Latin and History A-level. She also messed up her Cambridge University interview. She decided to take a two year gap to study and to indulge in her passion of race-horsing. Nervous in interviews, she took up coaching in interview technique. After two extra years, she re-sat her exams and went for another interview at Cambridge University. She was accepted.

-  Tinie Tempah (rapper) wanted to be an accountant. He achieved 2 Bs and a D grade. Not having the grades to follow his dreams, he chose to go into employment. He sold double-glazing, which helped to fund his passion in music. Had he not had that initial set-back with his grades, he may not had success in music.

-  Dr Mark Lythgoe (PhD neurophysiologist) achieved 3 Fs and an E. His parents cried at the news. However, Dr Lythgoe didn’t doubt his abilities; he has said that “failure was [his] closest friend’, but he kept on going. At 37, he received his PhD and is now one of the most renowned doctors in his field. 

Looking at all these anecdotes, it should not only inspire you and your teen, it should clearly show that an exam grade does not determine one’s future. The only person who can decide that is your teen.

Equally, it is important to note that there are many examples of people achieving exam success and not fulfilling their dreams.


4. What other routes are open to them.

There are many options available to teenagers after their GCSEs and A-levels.

Here are four great links to help you and your teen sit down and look at what they want to do now to have a happy, fulfilling life:

After A-levels
https://www.prospects.ac.uk/applying-for-university/alternatives-to-university

https://www.youthemployment.org.uk/yp-article/what-to-do-after-a-levels-apprenticeships-degree-job/
 

After GCSEs
https://www.ucas.com/further-education/ucas-progress/getting-started/what-are-my-options-after-gcses-or-national-5s

https://www.youthemployment.org.uk/gcse-results-day-comes-next-gcses/ 

Overall
Overall then, it is understandable that teens may feel disappointed, dismayed and disheartened. But, that is not an excuse to sensationalise their pain. Instead, break down what has happened. Look at what is so, so you and your teen can move from victim to victor. Remind them: they are not alone. You and your teen can take heed in how different communities in society banded together for exam results. It serves to highlight how people want what’s best for young people and for society.

Then, look at examples of people who have been where your teen is at. What did they do to empower themselves to move forward.

Finally, look at what your teen can do now!


Enrol in the Summer Challenge!


We all love a competition, don’t we? We have Sport’s Day, the Olympics and online tournaments, to name a few of the ways in which we test ourselves. So, why not encourage your child and teen to get involved?

There is something for everyone! We have challenges aimed at 6 - 12 year olds and 13 - 18 year olds.

Now, before unveiling the challenges, I have a confession: these challenges were initially awful. I mean splendidly awful. They had restrictions, such as: ‘Keep with the summer theme’ and ‘Write a description or a story with summer playing a key role’. I asked for feedback from children and teenagers - and they gave it to me straight! 

One of the most powerful pieces of feedback came from my friend’s daughter. She stated that it was the summer holidays and she had a right to have a rest from school work. She also said (in no uncertain terms) that she hated writing and so did not want to write a story or a description.

Receiving this feedback, I looked at the challenges. What I had done was create work! So, I thought, what was it that I wanted my children and teens to do? I wanted to create a platform for children and teens to come together in a nurturing community and express themselves. I wanted them to express their opinions, to unleash their imaginations and to have fun! 

I therefore didn’t tweak the challenges. I completely re-vamped them! Starting with WHY, the challenges took shape and have had a phenomenal impact. Children and teens have been sharing their hobbies, their opinions and their creative sides, as they want to serve others.

Globally, children are facing similar life challenges: disruption to learning, disruption to routine and disruption in their family lives. By coming together in expressing themselves, they can create a shared space that transcends geographical, cultural and financial bounds. Their words can impact others. 

With this in mind, children and teens have created blogs, vlogs, poems and stories. I have been blown away by their passion and originality. I have received: blogs on baking and reptiles; poetry on swallows and a trip to the seaside; and a magical-horror story!

So, don’t miss out! Encourage your child and teen to take part, as it will build a community that challenges its members in a nurturing environment. And, who knows: maybe their work will inspire someone else…

 

Kids Challenge (6 - 12 years old)

 

 

Teens Challenge (13 - 18 years old)

 

 

Submit work: contact@kelliestutoring.com

 

 

August 4th

Summer Studying for 11+, GCSEs and A-Levels


In this blog and vlog, we are going to explore:

1) Reasons why to study over the summer;

2) Ways to study over the summer. 

After reading the blog and watching the vlog, you will know ways to motivate your teen to study over the summer. You will also know the best methods of revising efficiently over the summer.

Reasons why to study over the summer.

It is vital to remind your child/tween why they are studying. They may reply it is to pass an exam. It might be to please you their parents/carer/guardian. Try and dig deeper. How? By asking them:

-  Why is it important for you to pass the exam? 

-  What does it mean for you to pass the exam?

-  If you pass the exam, what will it look like?

 - How will you feel when you pass your exam?

 - Why is it important to please me?

- What does it look like to please me?

- How does it feel when you please me?

 Then, ask them:

 - What will happen if they do not pass their exam?

 - How will it feel not to pass the exam?

 - Will it feel worse knowing that you did not give it your all?

By asking these questions, it helps you to find out what it means to your child to pass their exam. You can then ask them what they think is needed to pass their exams. This allows them to take control of their revision.

** Note, it helps you to identify pain points that your child may have with exams. It gives you the opportunity to reassure them that if they do not pass, you will not be angry or upset. It also allows you to see how your child feels about under-achieving for not doing their best. ** 

Ways to study over the summer

Lock-down might be sweeping the globe; however, it does not make revising over the summer. Consider this for your child/teen:

Warm sunshine bursts through their windows, making them itch to go outside to the park to a socially-distance hang out. Now that restrictions have eased, they can now go to their friends’ gardens to have BBQs, to play games or to chat. Or, perhaps they have been cooped up inside. Lethargy has set in, so now they want to sit at their desks and watch Netflix or Amazon Prime; they can chat just as easily over the phone or laptop, so see no reason to go out.

Studying over the summer is difficult. Sun and socialising are prime during the holidays. Even though there is a global pandemic, it does not make it any easier! In fact, with lock-down rules easing, you can now meet up with friends in parks; or, go to friends’ houses for socially-distanced BBQs. Your child/teen may therefore want freedom more than ever! You may feel, since lock-down, they have not done much studying. Yet, they may feel differently: they may feel that they have in fact done more, especially in comparison to their peers!

Arguing with them about how much they have done; or, not done is futile.

Remind reasons for wanting to pass the exam. 

Instead, remind them of their reasons for wanting to pass their exams. Then, ask them to create a plan that they will execute. Get them excited about their future by looking at Secondary Schools if they’re going through the 11+. Look at Colleges and Universities, if they want to continue their academic journeys. Go over job profiles that inspire them. In doing this, it makes the results tangible; they get excited and they start to visualise what their life might look.

Recently, a child that I am working with for the 11+ sent me an email saying, “Do not expect me to do homework over the summer. I will be playing with my friends.”

My first reaction was admiration at his boldness and at his self-awareness. I could have told him that he needs to do his homework or he would fail his exam. But this would have been negative. I would be imposing my fears on him. I could have told him that his parents have hired me to work with him and they expect him to do his homework. However, this would have been making the exams important to his parents. It would have also been blaming them for the homework. It would also undermine our relationship, as it loses sight of him. Due to us building a rapport, I knew what was important to him. I therefore replied that I would invite him to consider why he does not want to do his homework. I knew that he did not have school homework and that his parents were only asking him to read daily, so he did not have a lot of academic work to do. I then invited him to consider why the homework was set. Finally, I asked him to think about the school he wanted to attend. We had spent time going through the website, so that he could see what the school were looking for, and to see what excited him about the school. 

He then replied asking me for the links to complete the homework. By not making him wrong, and by reminding him of what is important to him, he made the choice to do his homework!

 

 

Make it fun!

Encourage your child/teen to use different voices to revise. Play with different accents and tones to recite information. They can then record themselves and then play it back.

What voices can they use?

They can try and narrate it in David Attenborough’s voice. Or, they could use one of their favourite musicians. If they enjoy singing, they could sing the revision material. 

Study smartly, not hard

Support your child/teen in making a revision timetable. Making a timetable is a great way for your child/teen to organise their time, so they know what to do. 

Plan your work; work your plan.

Remind your child/teen of this. To help them implement this, set the bar. Make plans and stick to them, so that your child/teen can see how it makes your life easier.

‘To-do’ list and ‘Complete’ list.

Do not just settle with a plan! Make a ‘To-do’ list and a ‘Complete’ list. You can put it on a post-notes into two columns, like the following:

 

This ensures that your child/teen is being productive and not just being busy. It also helps to reduce stress, since they feel that they are getting through their work; they can see it.

Make it applicable to real life.

Remember, it is the summer. Your child/teen is primed to want to have a break. Revision does not have to be done in a traditional manner of sitting at a desk. Instead, look for practical ways in which your child/teen can implement the skills they need for their exams. How?

Encouraging them to do meaningful tasks, such as competitions and summer schools. It is true that many have been cancelled, but there are still some online.

If you cannot find one that you and your child/teen are enrolled in, then try to create opportunities for them to apply their knowledge by perhaps creating an online study group. This will allow them to discuss concepts and to work through problems. This helps to replicate real-life situations, as in labs and workplaces, people work together. It thus helps to bring the studies to life.

Overall

Studying over summer for the 11+, GCSEs and A-levels can be less stressful by reminding your child/teen of WHY. Why are the exams important to them. Create a revision schedule that not only has the days and times of study, but also the chunked-down topics that need to be revised. Then, create a ‘Complete’ list, so that your child/teen gets satisfaction in knowing they have done a task. Liven up revision by using different voices to recite the information and by creating real-life opportunities for your child to apply their knowledge.

Links

https://kelliestutoring.com/summer-challenge/

https://www.ourkids.net/camp/virtual-programs

https://www.techcamp.org.uk/

 

July 28th
Should my child study over the Summer?


In this blog and vlog, we are going to explore the following:

1.      Reasons for and against summer study;

2.      What research says about summer schooling;

3.      Encourage a growth mindset.

Are you debating about what to do over the summer holidays with your children? Perhaps you have enrolled your child in a ‘Summer Study Program’, but are now regretting your decision. Or, maybe you have decided a ‘Free-For-All’, allowing your child to do whatever they want (even nothing!)

When it comes to studying over the summer, we seemed to have a developed a culture of polarised opinion: it is all or nothing. Some children will not be receiving any break, as they continue their studies in a tuition centre. Or, they are encouraged to study six hours at home, like they would at school, five days a-week, so there is no holiday. Exhaustion, anxiety and careless mistakes soon sets. Resentment begins to build, leading to melt-downs, moaning and malicious war-of-words.

Other children are left doing nothing! Aimlessly, wondering around the house, grazing out of boredom, some children will be secretly glad when the summer holidays are over. Some children will have their eyes glued to screens: phones, iPads, TVs, computer games - anything electronic. Lethargy, frustration and forgetfulness sets in, leading to melt-down, moaning and malicious war-of-words. 

How can we avoid over-working or under-working our children during the summer?

1. Reasons for and against summer study.

Pro Summer Study

- Autumn Exams are looming: 7+, 11+, GCSE re-sits; or, final year studies with GCSE and A Level finals approaching.

- Child struggles with learning, so it gives them a boost.

- Lock-down disrupted learning, so need to catch up with school work, or with home-learning work.

- Child is ahead and want to maintain this advantage.

Anti Summer Study

- Child worked hard and is in need of a break, as they are tired, anxious and burnt out.

- Warm, sunny weather means children should be outside playing.

- Parents need a break from home-educating.

- Child is ahead and finds learning easy, so they do not need to do anything ‘extra’.

What’s interesting is how similar both lists are. Can you see what the fundamental similarity is?

Both come from a place of fear. 

Fear that my child has studied too much, or too little; fear that my child is behind, or fear that my child will not have fun; fear that my child will fall behind, or fear that my child will be bored as they are ahead. 

Parents, whatever side of the fence you are on, are united by the fact that you want what is best for your child. It is not that parents wanting their child to study over summer do not value play and fun. And it is not that parents wanting their child to relax and not study over summer do not value learning and studying. Parents on both sides want their child to be happy, well-adjusted and to thrive in their learning. 

So, before we can look at what we could be doing over the summer, what does the research show?

2. What research says about summer study.

We have over a century’s worth of research on this hotly debated subject of summer studying. From [White, 1906[ to recent studies by [Shinwell and Defeyter 2017], the results are resounding conclusive. The long summer holidays does cause children to forget what they have learnt. Children perform worse at the start of the Autumn term in Standardised tests than they did at the start of the summer.

Why is this?
Well, it is as the old adage states: “If you do not use it, you lose it.” Knowledge taught in term-time will be lost if students do not practice it.

Yet, you have probably heard that once you learnt how to ride a bike, you never forget. You may indeed have experienced this yourself. You’ve not ridden a bike for a few years, but then are on holiday and rent a bike. Perhaps to your surprise, you’re not only riding it, you’re zipping around on it like when you were a child! Then, why is it that our children forget over summer? 

This is because we have two types of memory: declarative and procedural memory.

Declarative memory: This is conscious memory. It is memory that you know you know. You can actively draw upon it. There are two types of declarative memory:  episodic memory and semantic memory.

-  Episodic memory relates to our experiences. It can be considered the ‘episodes’ of our lives, as it is memories relating to events we have experienced.

-   Semantic memory relates to our knowledge. For example, capitals of cities, dates in history, meaning of words, to name a few.

Procedural memory: This is considered unconscious memory. It’s things we know that we do not have to actively think about. An example is riding a bike. You may have learnt to ride a bike at 5 years old. As an adult, you are still able to do it, without thinking about it.

What does this mean for our children’s learning?
It means that unless children use their semantic memory, the chances are they will not retain what they have learnt throughout the year.

3. Encourage a growth mindset.

For most people, when we think of ‘Summer Study’ it conjures up rows of desks, a chalk board and mountains of books. Children sit quietly listening to an instructor - though it is most likely to be hunched over a laptop - making notes. Or, children are at home in their bedroom at their desk silently studying.

However, this ignores one crucial point - ‘Summer Study’ does not mean replicate a school environment. If you home educate, you most probably have a routine or structure, and ‘Summer Study’ does not mean sticking to this either. ‘Summer Study’ means nurturing your child’s curiosity; allowing them opportunities to learn about topics that they might not otherwise be able to, whilst still practising crucial concepts that they have learned. 

How do you do this?
I’ll start of by saying what it is not doing. It is not dressing up one activity as something they’ll enjoy whilst ‘really’ doing something else. For example, if your child likes dinosaurs, it is not about printing a Math worksheet with pictures of dinosaurs and working through it (I am not undermining this - it can be useful to do, but not for what I am talking about here).

It is about promoting a growth mindset. A growth mindset is knowing that your abilities can be developed. A fixed mindset is the belief that abilities cannot be developed. 

How does this relate to ‘Summer Study’?We can promote a growth mindset by allowing our children to practise their knowledge in real-life settings, thus allowing them to move past their limited beliefs. For example, if your child feels they are ‘bad’ at reading and they dislike Comprehension tasks, then getting them to do more of this over the summer will most likely lead to more of the same. However, if you encourage them to attend a book club, they will most likely move away from their fixed-beliefs, as they have more opportunities to discuss books with a wider range of people.  If you cannot join a book club, start one at home. You can do it as a family. Each family member takes it turns in choosing a book to discuss. You can even hold family and friends book club meetings online. Not only does it serve to help with their literacy learning, it helps to nurture a genuine pleasure in reading, as the discussions are dynamic, alive and rich. People can talk about how moments from the story impacted them; how words made them feel, and what they wanted to happen. 

For Maths, you may find it more challenging to integrate this into your daily or weekly lives. Therefore, you might need to actively re-visit concepts. Even so, it does not have to be endless drills daily. Indeed, research from [Cepeda et al, 2008[ found that adults could retain concepts if it was revisited every 11 days. Thus, you could revises a Math concept every 3 - 5 days to ensure your child recalls the information. To promote a growth mindset, do not praise your child on the basis of how many questions they answered correctly, but rather praise their efforts. By doing this, they will see the value in trying and become aware that just because they cannot do something immediately, does not mean they cannot in the future if they practise!

Encourage your child to take up something novel. If your child has not done dance classes before, offer them the opportunity to take it up. Not only will this nurture in them the ability to get out of their comfort zone, they will have fun. You could also ask them to write a review of their experiences for the dance club, so that other people can try it. To help your child with their review, you could ask them to look at other reviews so they can get a better understanding of structure and language. If there is a particular style of dance they like, they can look it up and find jargon (specialised words within a field) to help be specific and detailed with their review. All of this, not only enhances their reading and writing skills, but also their researching skills. It thus reinforces concepts and content from what they have been learning at school or in home-learning.

Take trips to zoos, museums, aquariums and amusement parks. Family trips are excellent experiences for children of all ages. When looking around, rather than just going through it, get stuck in! Ask your child questions about what they are seeing and doing. Research from Jant et al, 2014,  Conversation and Object Manipulation Influence Children's Learning in a Museum. Child Dev revealed that when parents asked open-ending questions, children were more inclined to remember facts about exhibits than if their parents had not.

What if your child has a learning difficulty?
If your child is a SEND learner, they may have struggled with particular concepts. It is then worthwhile spending a few hours a week going over these.

What if your child, however, is about to take an important exam, such as 7+, 11+, GCSEs, IGCSEs, or A-levels? The above are all still great tools to engage your child in the concepts that they will need to pass their exams for the 7+ and 11+. However, you may wish to add an hour or two a week to going over exam papers to ensure they are familiar with the test paper. You may also consider hiring a tutor; or, attending a group session to brush up on skills. Again, however, this should be an hour two a week, and not every day to replicate school; or, home-learning hours. 

However, you may also want to consider more specialised clubs or groups. For example, if your child is doing their GCSEs, you may want to enrol them in workshops, talks and hands-on summer camps. They may need more structure to ensure they cover the breadth and depth of their studies. Even so, effective study methods will ensure they still get a break and fun. 

***Effective Summer Revision will be covered in next week's blog/vlog ***

Overall
‘Summer Study’ is fun! It is not building a classroom in your house; or, the continuation of home-learning schedules, it is giving your child opportunities to explore their world through the lens of discovery. Engage with them when on family outings, so they can get stuck in with the family activities. Allow them to try new classes or activities, so they push back the boundaries of their experiences, and broaden their horizons. 

And, remember, if your child does have an exam; is a SEND learner; or, has found learning concepts challenging, then a few hours a week of tuition might serve them well. It should not be used as a way of jimmying more work or ‘school-style’ learning into your child’s holiday. Instead, it should come from a place of growth mindset. Their efforts should be praised, so they know the value comes from what they are doing, not the result. In doing this, they will be more inclined to try, as they know that if they try, they will succeed.

 

 

July 14

How to choose questions in exams


In this video and blog we are going to explore:

1.    What exactly is an “optional question” in an exam;

2.    Why are students unsuccessful when they choose their own questions;

3.    How to empower your child to select questions that are right for them;

After reading this blog and watching the video, you will be able to support your child in confidently choosing questions that they will not only be able to answer, but will showcase their true abilities, earning them the grade they truly deserve.

Overview

Due to COVID-19, OFQUAL are considering offering more optional exam questions for Geography, History and Ancient Studies. The idea is to give students more choice in their exams. By doing this, students can choose questions that they can answer successfully – in theory!

Even without the suggested changes, children are currently faced with optional exam questions, as shown below:

 

Example of GCSE-style questions:

You are going to enter a competition.


Either: Write a description suggested by the picture:

Or: Write a story that begins with the sentence: ‘The fog smothered the entire landscape, creating a deafening silence.’

Example from 11+ papers

Yet, research has shown that when presented with options in exams, students choose questions they think they will perform well in. However, in reality, they often choose unsuccessfully. Why is this?

Before we answer why students often do not select successfully the best questions for themselves in optional exam questions, it is first imperative to examine what “optional questions” are in exams.

1. What exactly is an “optional question” in an exam.

Now, technically an exam is one big “optional question” in that not all course material is covered in an exam. Exam boards will create questions based on the course content, but inevitably some elements will not be covered. Students are therefore expected to answer all the questions that come up. To do this, they will need to revise all the material.

With “optional questions”, it means that students do not have to answer all the questions. Instead, they can choose a question that they feel they will answer better.

For example, these questions are from the AQA GCSE History Paper:

Section B

Answer either Question 2 or Question 3 which begins on page 18.

Question 2 The Nazi Rise to Power

2 (a) Why was the Munich Putsch important? [4 marks]

2 (b) Study Source F in the Sources Booklet. Using Source F and your knowledge, explain why the Weimar governments became unpopular before 1924. [8 marks]

2 (c) ‘The main reason Germans voted for the Nazis was because of the economic Depression.’ How far do you agree with this interpretation of why so many Germans voted for the Nazi party in the years 1930 to 1932? Explain your answer. [12 marks] [SPaG 4 marks]

or

Question 3 Culture and Propaganda 3

(a) Why was Weimar culture important? [4 marks]

3 (b) Study Source G in the Sources Booklet. Using Source G and your knowledge, explain the cult of the Führer. [8 marks]

3 (c) ‘Nazi propaganda was most successful in entertainment and the arts.’ How far do you agree with this interpretation of the success of Nazi propaganda in the culture of Germany after 1933? Explain your answer. [12 marks] [SPaG 4 marks]

 

For these questions, you can see that the style of the questions are the same. They both begin with ‘Why’ questions, then move on to ‘Study’ sources, culminating to an evaluating-style question “How far do you agree”. Therefore, on the face of it, students should be able to decide what question suits them best, as it surely would depend on on the content. Question 2 is about ‘The Nazi Rise to Power’, while question 3 is about ‘Culture Propaganda’, so students need to only choose the topic they know best – simple. But, is it?

Remember, students are in timed exam conditions. Thus, the pressure is on! Students need to make a swift decision to ensure they are able to answer the questions fully. Therefore, students might be swayed by the topic they enjoy more. Yet, enjoyment of a topic does not necessarily mean they will do better in that question. Furthermore, it depends on the sources. How well can the students obtain information from the given source to answer the question. They may like the topic in question 2, but may be able to ‘read’ the source in question 3 better.

 

2. Why are students unsuccessful when they choose their own questions.

We can see that choosing a question in “optional questions” in exams, requires more than simply choosing a topic that the student knows best. Instead, to successfully select a question from the options, students will need the following skills:

·      Being able to assess the level of the question: some questions are ‘easier’ to answer than others;

·      Being able to evaluate what the question is asking them;

·      Being aware of their own abilities and knowledge.

 

3. How to empower your child to select questions that are right for them.

Knowing the skills required for the “optional questions”, empowers you to create opportunities for your child to exercise these skills, so they are able to apply them in the exam. How can you do this?

Let’s break down the skills required to successfully choose in “optional questions”, and see how you can nurture this in your child.

The ability to assess the difficulty of a question.

First of all, get into your child’s or teenager’s world. By that I mean, what do they enjoy? If they enjoy reading, encourage them to notice differences between books they were reading a year ago to now. How do they know they level is different? They may notice the vocabulary is more challenging. Perhaps they notice the themes are more mature.

If your child enjoys video games, ask them what are the differences in the difficulty modes. How do they know if it is on an easier setting? They may notice the style of game play is different. Or, they may observe the number of villains in the game.

Perhaps your child loves to cook. You can then ask them to look at different recipes. Some recipes are considered ‘easy’, while others are considered more ‘difficult’. Ask your child why they think the recipes are given the label ‘easy’ or ‘difficult’. They may think the difficulty of the recipe is determined by the number of ingredients needed for the dish. Alternatively, they may believe it is because of what is required in the preparation of the ingredients.

By encouraging your child or teen to assess things in real life, they will be able to put the skill to their work. You can further bridge the gap by looking over old school work; or, work that is below their age. For instance, if your child is sitting the 11+, have them look at 7+ exam questions. If your teenager is about to sit their GCSEs, have them look at the old KS3 SAT papers. Encourage your child/teenager to notice the differences between the papers. Also ask your child/teenager to look for similarities. How are they similar?

To further help your child, especially at GCSE level, ask your child to compare the Foundation and Higher tier papers in the core subjects. Go through the Mark Schemes, as well as the question paper. That way they can see what is expected of them. This helps your teen regardless of whether they are sitting Foundation or Higher tier, since the skill of assessing the question is required in both papers. It will not only serve them for the “Optional questions”, but it will also help them with their core questions, since the paper becomes increasingly more challenging. They will thus have a better understanding of what is required of them.

The ability to evaluate what the question is asking them.

To help your child better understand what the question is asking them, it is useful to familiarise yourself with the exam boards style of language used in exams.

If you go on the exam boards website, they will have a glossary of their key words.

Here are some examples:

AQA

Art and Design

https://www.aqa.org.uk/resources/art-and-design/gcse/art-and-design/teach/command-words

English

https://www.aqa.org.uk/resources/english/gcse/english-language-8700/teach/command-words

Geography

https://www.aqa.org.uk/resources/geography/gcse/geography/teach/command-words

History

https://filestore.aqa.org.uk/resources/history/AQA-8145-COMMAND-WORDS.PDF

OCR

OCR have an overall guide to their exams:

https://www.ocr.org.uk/Images/570830-guide-to-examinations.pdf   

English

https://ocr.org.uk/Images/231995-the-ocr-guide-to-examinations.pdf

Geography

https://www.ocr.org.uk/Images/539424-command-words.pdf

History

https://www.ocr.org.uk/Images/575580-guide-to-assessment-schools-history-project-.pdf

The ability to know their strengths and weaknesses.

Children and teenagers may not be aware of their strengths and weaknesses as they may not have reflected on their skills. Furthermore, students often relate their abiltiy and apptitude with their enjoyment of a subject. For example, your child may dislike Math, but be very good at it. Yet, when you ask them if they are good at Math, they may believe they are not simply because they do not enjoy the subject.

Moreover, students may believe they are not good at something because it requires a bit more thought. For instance, I have many students tell me they are terrible at creative writing since they find it difficult to get started. Moreover, they think they are terrible writers because they find the prospect of there being no clear ‘right or wrong’ answer, like in Math or Science, daunting. Nevertheless, despite their protests, when I read their work, I am absolutely delighted at how awfully good it is!

So, how can we encourage children and teens to effectively and accurately reflect on their strengths and weaknesses?

To begin with, you can ask your child or teen to write a summary of a task they completed. If they were doing a Geography case study, for instance, you could ask them to write down what they think they had to do. Afterwards, you can ask them to write down what they think they had to know to answer the question. Finally, you can ask your child to rate how they found the task.

You could also get your child or teen to self-mark their work. Ask your child or teen to estimate the overall grade they think they have earned. Then, using the mark scheme go over the work with them. See if their marks correspond with the mark scheme. If not, examine where the disparities lie. Was your child/teen too harsh in their judgement? Or, did they consider themselves better than what they currently are in a topic?

Finally, you can ask your child’s or teen’s teachers to give specific feedback in units in the course content. By doing this, both you and your child or teen, get greater insight into what your child needs to work on.

Overall

To summarise, “optional questions” in an exam can be highly beneficial to students, if they are familiar with the skills required to successfully choose a question that will enable them to perform their best. It is thus imperative that parents, carers, guardians and educators develop the following key skills:

·      The ability to assess the difficulty of questions;

·      The ability to evaluate what the question is asking them;

·      The ability to know their strengths and weaknesses.

Remember, just because your child or teen likes a subject or topic does not necessarily mean they are good at it. Equally, just because your child disdains a topic does not mean they are not good at it. It is therefore vital to encourage your child or teen to self-mark. In doing this, they will be able to see for themselves their true appitude.

Furtheremore, speaking to your child’s or teen’s teachers and tutors can also provide invaluable insights into your child’s or teen’s abilities, as they will be able to provide feedback on class work (or work work submitted online); ongoing assessments and homework.

Perhaps to make it more interactive, you can ask friends or relatives (of the same age as your child or teen) to peer mark. This enables your child to evaluate and assess how well their friend/relative has performed in an assessment or task. By doing this, they will develop their critical awareness. Moreover, they will also receive feedback, which may help to dispel any false images they have of themselves.

Contact:
Kellie McCord
Founder
Kellie’s Tutoring
Email: kelliestutoring@gmail.com
www.kelliestutoring.com
You can access more videos from Kellie’s tutoring Youtube channel here

 

July 6
What will happen to GCSE exams in 2021?


Overview

In this video blog we are going to explore:

-  What the government has proposed for the GCSE summer 2021 exams; 

- The pros and cons of the proposal; 

- How you can have your say;

- How you can support your child. 

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be empowered to support your child as they prepare for their GCSE finals.

What the government has proposed for the GCSE summer 2021 exams
Since school closures, students have missed out on four months of teacher-led learning. Even students who typically home-learn may have experienced disruptions in their learning as a parent may have been forced to work from home, making the study environment more challenging. Meet-up groups and extra-curricular activities that home-learners utilise have also been shut, preventing the variety of resources that home-educators usually have access to.

Regardless of whether your 14 - 16 year old child attends school or home-learns, both will be facing the uncertainty of what their summer 2021 exams will look like.

So, what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on learning? 

To make the summer exams as fair as possible, OFQUAL (The Office of Qualifications and Examination Regulation) have come up with the following proposal:

- Cutting down material covered in exams;

- Delaying commencement of exams for after the summer half-term (after 7th June);

- Increasing teaching time by cutting practicals and field work;

- Increasing exam question options.

Now, you may look at the proposals and think they are reasonable and logical. However, they raise a lot of questions, such as the following:

Is this sufficient action?

Does it put disadvantaged children at a greater disadvantage?

What about home-educated children?

Is this diluting down the qualification?

The idea is to ensure high-quality exams that give each child the best possible chance of showcasing their abilities, without watering down exams. This is perhaps the most crucial point. After-all, tinkering with the exams to make it fair on children now at the expense of making it more difficult for them in the future, would defeat objective.  

The pros and cons of OFQUAL’s proposal

Government proposals:

Cutting down material covered in exams.

Pros:
It levels the playing field by giving teachers the opportunity to consolidate what students have been taught. Thus, their depth of knowledge for topics covered will be enhanced. 

Cons:
Students who have covered more material might be at an advantage, since they will still be able to draw on this. Furthermore, deciding what to cut from a course designed to be years, may prove challenging. More crucially, ensuring that what’s cut does not disadvantage students progressing onto their A level course.

Delaying when exams commence.

Pros:
Pushing exams back may allow more material to be covered. Equally, it allows students more time to revise and consolidate their knowledge.

Cons:
Pushing exams back may give the false impression that it is enough time to make up for contact teaching hours that have missed. It also gives less time for examiners to mark papers, thus increasing the risk of human error.

Increasing teaching time by cutting practicals and fieldwork.

Pros:
Allows for students to focus on the theory and so deepens their understanding of core concepts.

Cons:
Students may have insufficient practice with lab work, field work and projects, making it more challenging for them later on.

Increasing exam question options.

Pros:
Students have more choice in their exams. They can select a question they are familiar with and so will be able to apply their knowledge more appropriately.

Cons:
Weaker students may find it challenging to select a suitable question. 
All students will be unfamiliar with the new exam style and so may find it more difficult to complete.
The duration of exams may increase, thus making it a challenge for all students to maintain their stamina and complete the paper.

Perhaps the three biggest concerns from altering any of the summer exams are:
1) Changes in the exam papers and exam structure may increase anxiety in students taking the exam;

2) Changes in the structure of the exam paper may throw students as they have had no opportunities in sitting the new exam-style paper. Consequently, students may not be able to manage their time appropriately.

3) Changes in exams are subject to a greater risk of error, as the papers would not have been as rigorously and thoroughly gone over.

Both educators and researchers believe that changes to exams may put academically weaker students at a disadvantage. This is because students find it difficult, when presented with more exam question choice, to choose a question that they know well. They therefore tend to select questions that are more challenging and that they are not so familiar with. 

Students with SEND may also be at a disadvantage. For instance, some students with SEND may be given extra exam time. If exams are made longer, SEND students may face exams up to three hours long. They may not have the stamina to complete the papers adequately.

How can you have your say? 

To have your say, go to the following website: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/QTD27I/

How can you support your child?

To support your child, it is helpful to:

Ask them for their views.
Your child will have their own opinion on the matter. It might therefore be useful to go through the government’s proposals and see what they think. Perhaps your child can help you fill out the survey and so have their say in their exams.

Reassure them that everyone is in the same situation.
All children have been impacted by the current situation. Therefore, no one is going to penalise students. Remind your child to have some compassion for themselves and for others at this time. Reassure them that if they do not achieve their best, they will be able to resit their exams at a later date.

Practice exam skills.
Exam papers may alter; however, it is still vital to practice exam skills. What this means is, rather than focusing on the particular exam paper, focus on the skills required to complete the exam. This might be breaking down questions and deciphering what is being asked. It may also be about practising completing timed tasks. To further give them confidence, set them a task that utilises their knowledge, but in a different form. For example, if they are studying Geography, they would have covered urban living: crime and pollution. Ask them to write a letter to their local MP persuading them to make changes to their city (or to a city of their choice). In doing this, they can apply their knowledge in Geography to an English task. It may reassure them that they know the topic and that they are able to use their understanding of the topic and apply it to different situations.

Liaise with schools, course leaders and exam boards.
Teachers and educators are greatly sympathetic to the year 10’s situation. Speak with them about what they propose for your child. If you have specific concerns, let them know so they can offer their support and expertise. 

It may also be appropriate to speak with specific exam boards, especially if you home-educate. However, do bear in mind, schools have put forward their predicated grades for the current year 11s, and so the exam boards may not be able to respond fully. Also, the deadline for the survey is the 16th July. Without the official government outline for exams, teachers and exam boards may not know precisely what is happening. I know it is frustrating, but be patient.

Overall
Overall then, it is imperative that you complete the survey to have your say!

 Reassure your child to keep working consistently and diligently. If circumstances change, like the current year 11s, and teachers are forced to predict grades, then having a portfolio of work will go in their favour.

If your child does sit the exam and does not achieve their desired grade, there will be opportunities to re-sit exams. In Autumn, Math, English and Science re-sits are possible. Some exam boards have exams in January, so students could, potentially, sit some of their non-core subjects in January 2022.

No matter what happens, be compassionate. And remember: everyone is in the same boat.


June 29th

Moving from a failure mindset to a success mindset


Shifting our mindset from failure to success

Overview
In this video and blog, we are going to explore:

What ‘fail’ means; 

How successful people use failures to succeed; 

How to shift yours and your child’s mindset from failure to success. 

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will no longer see exams as the be-all and end-all, but rather as a stepping stone for academic, professional and personal growth.

What does ‘fail’ mean?

One of the most pervading attachments parents and children have with regards to the amount of work completed and whether to attend school or not, relates to exam success. Exams are important. They test a person’s knowledge in a specific field. They also offer opportunities for students to apply their knowledge, so that they have the necessary skills to apply it to real-life work settings. 

So, what if they fail an exam?

Well, it is important to examine the word fail. What does fail mean? Exploring the etymology of this word is powerful in unpacking the attached meaning we are all guilty of harbouring.

From modern-day to past:

Anglo-Norman failir “to make a mistake”

Old-English abreoðan “to destroy/perish”

Latin fallere “to trip, cause to fall”

Proto-Indo-European root bhal “to deceive”

What do you notice?

The meaning of ‘fail’ takes on a more drastic tone; it becomes almost life-threatening. But why? A fail is a mistake. We learn from mistakes. If an exam is failed, it can be re-taken. Employers and Universities accept retakes.

Here are the official reports from Oxford, Cambridge and a few Russell Group Universities on their stance on re-takes:

https://uni-of-oxford.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/510/~/what-is-oxfords-policy-on-re-sits%3F

https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying/entrance-requirements

https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/ugstudy/applying/entryrequirements.aspx

https://warwick.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/apply/admissionsstatement/

https://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/apply/faqs/

So, if employers and Universities accept that ‘failing’ occurs, why is there such stigma surrounding it?

How successful people turn ‘failures’ into success
Jack Ma, a self-made billionaire, who is a co-founder of Alibaba, an investor and a philanthropist, ‘failed’ Primary School twice, Middle School three times and his University Entrance Exam three times. He was also rejected by Havard ten times!

Adding to his academic failures, Jack Ma was rejected by KFC and the Police force. Can you imagine how Jack Ma felt? Did he allow these failures to stop him? No! 

After failing his University Entrance Exam, he finally earned a place at Hangzhou Teachers College. After graduating, he taught English. He absolutely loved teaching and his students adored him. Why? Because Jack Ma was unafraid of failing. He had been there, done that so many times that he not only had the t-shirt, he had the jumper, trousers, socks and even the logo on his work bag! 

Instead of instilling in his students the binary opposite: you fail or you succeed, he instilled his belief that: “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

How refreshing is that? Can you imagine if you empowered your child with the belief that failure is not the end of your academic career. That failure is not something to be ashamed of. That failure does not mean you cannot do something. But, instead instilled in them that failure is a ‘stumble, a fall’ and that you have a choice: to keep going; or, give up.

So, how can you move your child’s mindset from failure is ‘bad’ to failure is simply a lesson?

How to shift yours and your child’s mindset from failure to success. 
Ask your child what failure means to them. By understanding their beliefs and attitudes towards failure, you can help to shift their mind by showing them that the meanings and attachments they have towards failure is created by them. The good news is then that they can re-create what failure means.

How can you do that?

Nurture patience 
As Jack Ma says: “The very important thing you should have is patience.” Instil in your child patience. Encourage them to wait. For example, if you are at a restaurant (or in the current situation - at home) waiting for food and your child complains: “I’m hungry” or “I’m bored”. Do not give into them by offering a snack; or giving them something to do. Instead, remind them of what they are waiting for and how satisfying it is going to be if they wait for it. 

Perhaps the best way to teach your child patience, is by modelling this behaviour. If you find yourself getting impatient, then your child will pick up on this. Try and catch yourself when you are feeling impatient so that you do not allow it to spill over in your actions or words. That way, your child can see that being patient has it rewards.

How does this translate into studying and school work? Well, perhaps your child is not grasping a concept that their friends have mastered. They begin to feel disheartened. Patience can help your child to persist as they know that they will be rewarded. Remember, patience does not mean being passive. For instance, if I am waiting for an important email, I can be impatient and continuously hit refresh on my emails and mutter under my breadth. Or, I could get on with my housework, which would be more constructive. For your child, who is struggling, rather than being impatient, they could attempt other resources to develop their understanding. Patience paves the way for persistence which will ultimately set them up for success.

Perhaps a great example of how patience and persistence can lead to growth and success is the UK medical exams. Medical and Health Care professionals are often admired for their intellect, so it might be surprising to discover that many medical students fail their exams. Research has shown that students who re-sit their exam after failing perform better and are, perhaps, better physicians for failing. This is because they have greater relatability to people having gone through a set-back of their own. It also means they have to revisit material, and so deepen their understanding of the concepts. Thus, if one of the most prestigious professions in the world accepts failures as part of learning, then why can’t we?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3394208/

Develop a game playing attitude
I was working with a 12 year old boy, who was preparing for the 13 + exam. He had told himself that he ‘failed the 11+’. He had proof that he had failed the exam by his rejection letter from the school of his choice. This had made him fearful of exams, as he felt that he may fail and then get rejected. Consequently, he would always hold himself back; rather than attempting a task, he would be cautious and tentative. Even more heart-breaking, he would constantly doubt himself and look for reassurance.

Before I could work with him on the 13 + exam, we needed to unravel the story he created about what the 11+ meant. To do this, we altered the language he used to describe it. Rather than saying, “I failed the 11+ exam”, I had him say the truth of what happened: “I was one mark off the pass mark that year.” By doing this, it helped to reduce the emotional impact. He no longer saw his experience as a catastrophic failure, but rather as a learning opportunity.

When we then approached the 13+ material, I would make it into a game. I would have him note all the words in a passage he did know. Initially he thought this was ridiculous, since I made him include words that he considered obvious such as ‘the’ and ‘I’. However, we would zoom into these words by identifying the following:

Do you know how to use it?

Have you seen it before? Where?

What is the denotation (Dictionary definition) of the word?

What is the word class?

Does it have any synonyms (words with similar meaning)?

Does it have any antonyms (words with the opposite meaning)?

In doing this, it filled him with confidence, as it reassured him that he knew more than he realised. It further primed him for success, as he was looking at ways he could apply his knowledge to things he did not know… yet! 

We then looked at words in the passage he did not know. Rather than looking at it as a negative or as a way of highlighting his deficiencies in vocabulary, I framed it as an opportunity to learn something new. By tapping into curiosity and playfulness, it enabled him to see his ‘failure’ in not knowing a word, as an opportunity to discover something.

When it came to his exam, I encouraged him to enjoy the exam by reassuring him:

That they have given him the opportunity to sit the exam, so they clearly think he is capable;

That not everyone can sit the exam, so the fact that he is means it is a fantastic life experience that not everyone has;

That it is an opportunity to show off what he knows;

That he has the opportunity to learn something new.

In doing this, he felt relaxed in the exam room. When he finished the exam, he actually enjoyed it! He had never come across the passage before, which made him excited as he had the opportunity to read something new and something that he would not have chosen himself.

I am proud to say that he passed the exam! However, the pass was not the true success, the true success was the confidence he regained; the resilience he developed, and his new found love of learning. All of this, enabled him to do his best.

Tragically, due to his family’s financial situation, he was unable to attend the school that he had sat the exam for. However, the boy was not demoralised. Instead, he felt confident that he would succeed no matter his environment because he would not give up. Equally, his parents were pleased, as they could see their son had a new found zeal for learning.

Overall
Overall then, this is a great opportunity to assess yours and your child’s attitude towards failure. What stories and meanings are you attaching to ‘fail’? What stories and meanings is your child placing on ‘fail’?

We build up exams to be the be-all and end-all, but the reality is that they are not. With COVID-19, all the GCSE exams have been cancelled. GCSEs are often used to scare teenagers by telling them that their futures are determined by the outcome of their exams. Yet, due to the virus, all the exams are cancelled. Instead, their work, their mocks and their in-class participation is being used to give them a mark. Surely, this shows that exams are important, but if they are ‘failed’ (as in this case they have ‘failed’ to be sat), there are other avenues to academic, professional and personal success?

To help your child move from a failure mindset to a success mindset, nurture their patience and create a playfulness in what they do. After all, if they do not give up, then they cannot truly fail. 


June 23rd
To send my child to school or not to send my child to school?


In this video and blog, we are going to explore:

Whether to send my child to school or not

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be empowered about your choice to send your child to school. 

Overview
For many parents, COVID-19 has opened up a debate for parents: should I send my child to school or not. Government guidelines have altered so that Primary School children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are able to attend school. We are also seeing more and more schools offer more places for children. Secondary Schools are also starting to open up with students attending a few days a week. This has caused many parents great anguish as the question is not really whether I should send my child to school or not, but rather is it safe for me to do so. 

Whether to send my child to school or not
First of all, rather than feeling guilt over your choice, recognise that it is your decision and there is no judgement. The government are there to provide a service, and so they are offering a service to Primary School children. It is up to you whether you utilise that service. So, rather than looking at it from a moral perspective, look it from a pragmatic point of view - does it work. 

For some parents, sending their child to school creates workability, as both parent and child feel that there is structure, routine and some school work being completed. For some parents, sending their child to school creates dread and worry. Or, if you have other children, who are unable to attend school, it may not be practical to allow your child, who is eligible, to attend.

Look honestly at what is workable for you and then go with that. It is also worth noting what attachments you have formed around the decision. 

Here are some of the most common meanings parents attach to sending their child school:

- If I send my child to school, and they contract COVID-19;

- If I send my child to school, and they feel alienated as their friends are not attending school;

- If I send my child to school, it might be overwhelming as they cannot hug or be near their friends;

- If I send my child to school, they will receive a better education than being at home;

- If I send my child to school, other parents, family members and friends will judge me for being selfish and putting my child at risk;

- If I send my child to school, my other children will feel left out;

- If I send my child to school, my day will be disrupted due to the new schedule form the school, which is a challenge since I am working from home.

Here are some of the most common meanings parents attach to not sending their child to school:

- If I do not send my child to school, I am shielding them from COVID-19;

- If I do not send my child to school, they will not receive a better education, as they will miss out from being at school;

- If I do not send my child school, other parents, family members and friends will judge me for being selfish;

- If I do not send my child to school, they will miss their friends more;

- If I do not send my child to school, it will continue to make home life difficult, as it is challenging juggling work and home-schooling;

- If I do not send my child to school, they may feel alienated, as their friends are attending school.

The most common reasons for and against sending children back to school overlap. This is not surprising when what is being engaged is our primal brain. The primal brain is responsible for survival, drive and instinct. 

So, how can you reach a decision that serves you, your children, your values and that is workable? By looking at workability. Make a list of all the reasons for and against sending your child to school. Remove any judgements or attachments. By doing this, you will be able to create workability. 

Ideal day

To further help you reach a decision about sending your child to school or not, create your ideal day. What would your ideal day be? If possible, ask your child to do something similar. 

Example ideal day sending child to school
My ideal day would be to wake up early at 7am and come downstairs and have a family breakfast. After this, we all get ready. My children are dressed in their smart school uniform. I get dressed for work. We then all leave for a lovely stroll in morning air to school. 

Arriving at school, I am reassured that the school have taken provisions to create a safe, friendly environment for my child. I can see that by reminders to wash hands and to stand apart. There are markings on the ground to ensure that the rules are adhered to.

Example ideal day not sending my child to school
My ideal day would be to wake up early at 7am and come downstairs and have a family breakfast. After this, we all get ready. Since my children are no longer attending school, they can wear whatever comfy clothes they like. I then set them up with the first task of the day - reading. A variety of books and e-books are on the table for the children to choose from. While they are doing independent reading, I am getting on with my morning work meeting.

When creating your ‘ideal day’ it is important to be as specific possible. By doing this, it helps you to see what is needed to create your ideal day. For instance, if safety is at the forefront of your mind, then you can speak with staff at the school and ask about the measures in place to keep both staff and students safe. If you know any parents at the school, you can speak with them to hear their opinions. We feel more comfortable about a decision when we have feedback from people we trust. Therefore, gauging the perspective of a parent (and their child/children), who has sent their child to school (or plans to), you will be left feeling more confident with your choice. 

It is also important to note that during the whole pandemic, key-worker children have been attending school. If possible, ask them for their experiences. This may also help to assuage fears.

Ask my child
If your child is of an age where they understand what is happening, ask them for their input. It might be revealing for you to see their concerns on the matter. For most children, when asked if they want to return to school they reply they would because they miss their friends. Even children who are not keen on school say they want to go back because they prefer classroom learning over online learning. Equally, some children do not want to return to school because they enjoy their extra freedoms they have from being at home. They also prefer the autonomy of home-learning, as they are able to complete work quicker than at school, and have greater choice in what they study.

It is therefore worthwhile engaging your child, where appropriate, as it may help you to further create workability for you and your family.

Take-away
It is not about guilt; it is not about morals. It is about what works for you, your child and your family. To help you make a decision, follow these steps:

- List all the reasons for and against sending your child to school

- Create your ideal day and take steps to create it

- Ask your child for their input

Overall, remember, whatever choice you make, you can change your mind. If you send your child to school and decide it is not working, you can notify the school. You will not be penalised under the current government legislation. If you choose to keep your child home, but then decide you want to send them to school, you can speak with the school to see if it is possible for them to return.


June 16
How to encourage your child to write?
 


In this blog, we are going to explore the following: 

1. How to motivate reluctant writers 

2. How to encourage children to expand their answers 

3. How to ‘magpie’ ideas

1. How to motivate reluctant writers

Your child might be a reluctant writer. When they hear the word ‘write’, they suddenly feel tired, need the bathroom, need food/drink, their hand hurts or - conveniently - lose their pen/pencil! 

Or, you might have a child who is more than happy to do Comprehension questions; however, when it comes to creative writing their mind goes blank. 

What do you do?
First of all, children might be reluctant to write because they are out of practice.  Therefore, rather than focusing on quantity, focus on quality. Encourage them to write a few lines that are truly amazing. It might not seem much but remember it is a process; it is a marathon, not a sprint. As Aristotle stated, “Excellence is a habit.” So, make writing a habit, not a chore.

Now, although it maybe an excuse that their ‘hand hurts’, it might also be true.  Your child may not be writing as much as they used to and so their hand may feel tired; or, they may have aches. Encouraging your child to do finger and hand exercises may help to build up their strength and hand muscles, making writing easier. Playing with ‘Play-dough’ and using pegs can help to improve their hand and finger strength.

You may also want to consider their stationery and desk. Pen and pencil grips can assist your child in gripping their pen in a manner that does not hurt or create tension. You can also explore different types of pens and pencils and see what your child feels most comfortable with. Having a writing slope can further help your child when writing, since they do not have to hunch over. It may also help to reduce stress and pressure on their wrist due to the height adjustment.

For some children, they need a real purpose to write.  So, make writing practical. Rather than doing the same work, why not create real life opportunities for them to write? 

Here are some ways to create meaningful, practical writing opportunities:

- Ask your child to write the weekly shopping list;

- Ask your child to write a daily menu for the family;

- Ask your child to write a review of their favourite film (you can show them other people’s reviews and actually post it on their behalf);

- Ask your child to write a review of restaurant they visited (again show them real life examples and then actually post their review on the site);

- Enter a writing competition

***Note, the reviews might be online, but explain to your child that most people write their reviews by hand so that they can review it before posting it online. Furthermore, since your child is under-age, they cannot have an account themselves; therefore, if they write it by hand, you can then upload it for them to the site. ***

You can also lead by example. How? You can show your child how writing carries more sentiment by writing a note or a letter to your child so they can write back. You can also write to relatives and friends and have your child see what you are doing. When you get a reply, you can share the experience with your child - how it made you feel valued and what it genuinely means to you.

If you are feeling creative, you could write a story, poem or song for your child. This is not only a great way to encourage your child to write, but it is an opportunity to bond with your child, as you can tailor the piece of writing to them. What better way for your child to experience the true value in writing than experiencing it for themselves!

One of my students was a reluctant writer. Over the Christmas holidays, she had an ‘elf on the shelf’ visit her. Young, she believed in the magic of the elf. She was therefore elated to receive a letter from the elf. She then became engaged in writing to the elf, as she found the elf’s letters amusing and exciting. Since it encouraged her to write, the elf extended his stay until February! Taking on the voice of your child’s favourite toy or character might be the incentive they need to write.  

2. How to encourage your child to expand their answers

We experience the world through our five senses - sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. In English, writers will incorporate sensory imagery to bring their works to life for the reader. 

The 5 sensory imagery used in writing are:

Visual

Auditory

Olfactory

Gustatory

Tactile

Therefore, encourage your child to engage all 5 senses in their writing. To do this, make it tangible by using familiar objects. For example, ask them to consider what their favourite toy looks like. Pay particular attention to the shape and colour. To help widen your child’s vocabulary of colour, look on paint websites. Not only do they have a variety of colours, but they also have niche, specific colours that will help your child to have greater specificity in their descriptions.

Here are some questions to help your child engage with the visuals their toy:

What shape is it (INSERT PART)?

Is it big/small?

How does it compare to (INSERT COMPARISON)?

Is it pleasing or displeasing to look at?

Here is a great website for description of colour:


https://www.writerswrite.co.za/204-words-that-describe-colours/

Next, encourage your child to explore the sound(s) the toy makes. If it is a stuffed bear, play some bear sounds and ask the following questions:

What is the volume of the sound?

What is the quality of the sound?

Is it pleasing or displeasing to the ear?

Does it sound like anything else?

What onomatopoeia (words that phonetically resemble the sound e.g. Grrrrr, woof or bang!) can you use to create the sound in words?

Here is a great website on sounds:

https://www.writerswrite.co.za/106-ways-to-describe-sounds/

Then, explore the smell of the toy. Again, consider the following questions:

Is the smell pleasing or displeasing?

Does it remind you of other smells?

What would you like it to smell like?

Here is a great website on smells:

https://www.writerswrite.co.za/75-words-that-describe-smells/

Taste might be challenging. I am not recommending you encourage your child to lick their toys! However, you could ask your child what their toy likes to eat and describe it. 

Here is a great website on taste:

https://world-food-and-wine.com/describing-food

Finally, ask your child to consider the tactile elements of their toys. 

Here are some questions on touch:

What does it feel like?

What is the texture?

Is it pleasing or displeasing?

Is it how you imagine it to feel when you look at it?

Is it warm/cold?

3. How to ‘magpie’ ideas

It is unethical to steal someone’s ideas. However, when encouraging your child to write, it is absolutely fine to ask your child to adapt their favourite stories and to even steal words or phrases. This is effective as it gives your child a framework for their own writing. It also encourages your child to explore the effects of different words and images, thus developing your child’s understanding of different styles and genres.

For example, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven, is a great poem for children to adapt. It opens:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door.

First, ask your child questions about the passage, such as:

Where is set?

Is it cold or hot outside?

How does it make you feel?

What sounds are present?

What do you think the room looks like?

What words, images or phrases stand out?

Next, ask your child to ‘magpie’ any words or phrases. For instance, they might

like ‘weary’, ‘dreary’ and ‘quaint and curious’. 

Then, ask your child to use the opening to write the opening for a sunny day.

For example,

Once upon a midday cheery, while I played, energetic and happily,

With my friends in the park. We soon forget about our homework.

You can also do this with song lyrics, poems, TV and films scripts, speeches, articles - anything! It is a fun exercise that children love!

Overall:

In summary, if you you have a child who is reluctant to write, it might be worth considering:

The physical aspects: different types of pens/pencils; grips and aids for their pens/pencils, and a sloping desk;

The purpose of writing: create opportunities for real meaningful tasks that require writing;

The way in which we experience the world - use the sensory imagery (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactile) to bring their writing to life;

The way your children can ‘magpie’ words, phrases and ideas from works without plagiarising;

The way your children can ‘magpie’ from works by playing with the words, images and structure

June 8

What is positive marking?


In this blog and video, we are going to explore:

- Defining positive marking

- Why positive marking is important

- How to positively mark

After watching the video and going through the blog, you will be able to mark your child’s work in a manner that leaves them feeling satisfied, empowered and motivated to do more. They will have invaluable feedback that will allow them to take actionable steps to improve their work.

Overview
We all require feedback. It serves the purpose of:

- Improving performance

- Measuring how what is done meets the criteria of the task

- Empowering someone to take steps to find out more

In school, students receive marks for their classwork, homework and assessments. To make the marking meaningful, teachers have been encouraged to not simply tick and cross, but to give feedback so that students can read the teacher’s comments and know what to do next time. 

Defining positive marking
To define positive marking, it is important to look at what it is not in order to get clarity in what it is.
Positive marking is not:

- Making trite positive statements that have no value

- Identifying only what is correct and missing out the mistakes

- Reams of written feedback

- Demoralising and belittling

- Comparing siblings’ work, other children, or yourself when you were their age

Now that we know what positive marking is not, what is positive marking then?

Positive marking is giving positive feedback that allows the child to know how well they have done in accordance to the learning objectives (the point of the task). In turn, this allows the child to identify their weaknesses, so they can take steps to improve. The marking and feedback itself will leave the child feeling empowered and motivated to take the next steps.

Why positive marking is important
No body likes to be wrong; no body likes to feel undervalued. This is why positive marking is crucial. It allows you to nurture the development and growth of your child, without shaming them or hurting their self-esteem.

So often parents look for the flaws and mistakes in the child’s work that they forget the impact of their words. Again, going back to values, what is valuable in this moment? The child, not the work. What is valuable in that moment for the child? It may seem like the work, but it is the parent’s approval and feedback that is of great importance to them. In participating in the marking and feedback process, it offers you the chance to connect with your child, as it is an opportunity to give your child attention and concentrate on what they have been doing.

How to positively mark
We can therefore positively mark our children’s work by following:

Commendation

Recommendation

Commendation

By doing this, the tone of the feedback opens and closes on a positive, uplifting note. The Principle of Recency states the last information received is more likely to be remembered. Therefore, your child will feel good, and as we learnt from the previous modules, feeling good is linked to concentration. Thus, by giving positive feedback, you are priming the child for the next task.

As well as following commendation, recommendation and commendation, it is vital that the marking and feedback is tailored to your child. To do this, we can scaffold the feedback by being:

Specific
Being specific means making positive statements that are unique to the work, rather than general statement that are applicable to anything. 

Singular
When giving recommendations, it is crucial to focus on a single point. This allows your child to hone in on that weakness and then take steps to improve. If you overload them with too many recommendations, they may feel overwhelmed and so may become resigned to do nothing.

Supportive
The final piece commendation should be supportive so that your child is left feeling satisfied with the marking process and is motivated to progress.

Following this scaffolding process, along with the commendation, recommendation and commendation structure, it will not only allow your child to advance, but it will also give them confidence and pride. They will also build resilience as they are able to take feedback and constructive criticism. 

Self-reflection 
You may also want to consider encouraging your child to reflect on their work themselves. You can ask them what they felt they did well in; what they think they need to improve in; reflect on how they found the task generally, and then what they would do next time. This will provide you with feedback on how the child perceives themselves, their abilities and their work. You can thus see if your child has low self-esteem, lacks confidence or underestimates themselves. You may also identify a preferred learning style; or, passion for a subject or topic. This can then inform your way of approaching homework and studying. It also helps to encourage your child to take responsibility for their learning and work.

Positive marking outside academia
It is worth noting that positive marking and feedback is not only for academic work. You can tell your child at the end of the day what is working and what is not working, following the structure and scaffold of positive marking. For instance, if your teenager or child followed their routine, you can say how that worked and the impact it made. If, however, your teenager or child did not do something, you can give feedback on the effect of this, but still adhering to the structure and scaffold feedback model. Perhaps it means adjusting the routine; or, just asking your child how they felt and what they think needs to be put in place.

You can also encourage your child to journal their day: what they enjoyed the most; what they liked the least; what would they like to do next time, and how they felt about the day generally. If your child or teenager does not like writing, you could encourage them to be creative: to do a piece of art-work or to build a model that reflects their thoughts, feelings and attitude. For teenagers, it may be difficult to engage them in this, so it might be that you simply have a conversation with them. This should not be weighted and heavy, but light and fun, so maybe do it over dinner. Or, maybe do it whilst spending some time with them. Do not do it whilst they are playing games or Face-timing a friend, since they want to focus on what they are doing in that moment. Consider how you would feel if your child demanded your attention whilst you were talking to your friend or doing something you enjoyed?

Overall
Positive marking is an invaluable tool for you and your child. When you mark your child’s work, it offers you the opportunity to create closeness and connection, as the child can see that you are paying attention and concentrating on their work. It is therefore crucial to tailor what is said to your child’s work, with no comparisons to anyone or anything else, so they feel you truly ‘see’ them and do not feel shame.

Adhering to commendation, recommendation, commendation, leaves your child with a positive experience so they are more inclined to take new challenges. Coupled with this structure of positive feedback is the scaffolding: specific, singular and supportive, which ensures that the feedback is concise, manageable and actionable, so that it is not a wasted exercise.

Remember:

Specific + Singular + Supportive = Satisfaction + Success 


How to implement positive marking?

Screen Shot 2020-06-08 at 23.20.51


Putting into practice positive marking
This piece of work was completed by a 12 year old. His task was to write a story with the title: The Secret. He had to write 500 words. This piece is clearly lacking; however, focusing on what he has not done will be demoralising and demotivating.

Instead, this is the following feedback giving utilising the commendation, recommendation, commendation structure with the scaffolding of specific, singular and supportive:

Commendation
Well done for completing the homework. I know it is the Easter break and you probably do not feel like doing work, so great job in doing it. You have a clear sense of what the espionage genre entails as you have clearly used tropes (ideas, language and imagery relating to a style) for this style. For example, ‘secret agent’, ‘undercover’ and ‘took cover’.

Recommendation
To improve, consider what stories you like to read. How does the writer make it clear and interesting for you to enjoy the story? Paragraphs are crucial in making your writing accessible to your reader. Moreover, it allows you to develop your story so there is more detail. Do you remember the rules for paragraphs? If not, may I recommend you revise how to use paragraphs and then use them in your story. This will help you to break down your work and allow you to go into more detail.

Commendation 
Overall, well done for completing the task. You have some great ideas that will be engaging once you have used paragraphs to develop them further. 


June 2

Concentration and values


In this video and blog, we are going to explore:

Defining values

- How our values impact our children’s levels of concentration

- Ways we can expound our values in our children’s learning

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be able to identify your values and see how they impact your child’s learning, so that you can then actively choose what values to expound. 

Overview
We all have values. These are what guide our actions and help us to determine what to do when situations arise. For example, if you find £50 on the floor, you may hand it in to the police station rather than pocketing the money, as you value honesty and integrity. If you have an argument with a co-worker, and it is their birthday, you may still send them a card and give them the gift you bought them, as you value kindness and friendship.

It thus goes without saying that we want to instil values in our children. However, it begs the question: how do our values affect our children’s concentration?

Defining values
To ascertain how our values impact our children’s concentration, it is important to define what we mean by values. 

Looking at the etymology of ‘values’, it comes from Latin valere meaning “be strong”, which altered over time to the old French valoir meaning “be worth”. Thus, values can be defined as something we feel strongly about and what we deem worthy.

Since we have seen that concentration is strongly linked to how we feel, it is therefore little surprise that our values have an integral link to levels of concentration.

How our values impact our children’s level of concentration
When encouraging our children to complete their homework or to study, we often lose sight of the child; we place greater importance on the task. This is not what we mean to do, as we value our children more than the work itself, it is just that we see the work as valuable for our children’s future, and so focus on that. 

So, how can we ensure that we place value on our child rather than the work? Firstly, if we want our child to pay attention and concentrate, then we must give our child the appropriate attention. What does that look like? 

Give attention to get attention by:

Focusing on your child
If you have more than one child, ensure you focus on one child at a time. Make sure your phone and laptop are not in the way so the child can see that you are giving them your undivided attention. Equally, make sure you are not in the middle of something else, such as cooking, cleaning or working. This is not to say that there will be times when you will require your child to listen and pay attention while you are doing something else, but when you are establishing a routine; or, when you are wanting your child to do something you know they struggle with, then it is crucial that you do spend time creating the space to give one-on-one attention.

Being eye-level
If you are on your child’s level, it creates intimacy and lessens the power-play, as you are not above them looking down. 

Giving eye-contact
This is crucial as it helps the child to ‘read’ you, since non-verbal communication adds meaning to what we say. Thus, if we are giving our child eye-contact, it shows that we are focused on them; it also serves as a cue that we want their attention too. It may also help you to re-focus to what you are valuing in the moment - your child! Looking in their eyes, it is difficult to not ‘see’ your child, so you do not lose focus and make the task more important. 

If a child does not make eye-contact with you, do not turn it into a power play. How many times have you heard a child say, “Look at me while I am talking to you.” ? This might be because it is something that adults value, but not a child. So, do not think that it is your child being defiant or unruly. Encourage them to look at you by asking them to do so. If they do not, be clear, but try to make light of it by saying, “Talking to the back of your head is very nice as I do not often see your beautiful hair from this angle, but I would much rather talk to (INSERT THEIR NAME)”. 

You can also explain that by not looking at someone it is difficult to have a conversation and use a role-play exercise. For instance, ask your child to take on the role of a friend. If they refuse, use their toys. Have your child (or one toy), be the friend and you ask them, “How are you today?” Then, have the other person reply with no eye-contact, “I’m fine.” Demonstrate that there is no way of knowing that; play it so that on one occasion the child/toy is not fine. Explain how eye-contact would allow you to see if they were feeling upset. Then, have it played so that they are fine; that they are happy and by making eye-contact it allows you to share with them that joy. 

Breaking down instructions
Rather than giving your child a huge list of instructions, chunk it down so that it is manageable for your child to understand. This prevents them from feeling overwhelmed, as well as helping them to retain the information. You are thus setting them up for success in following your instructions.

By giving your child your attention, you are demonstrating two values: 

- We value them

- We value the task we asking them to do

However, we cannot simply consider our values in isolation. It is equally vital to consider the values of our children, as they will have things they feel strongly about and that they deem worthy. By tapping into this, we can then encourage them to concentrate as they will begin to see the value in what we are asking of them.

Ways we can expound our values in our children’s learning

The most fundamental way in which we can expound our values in our children’s learning is by considering what they value.

For example, Ben, aged 6, is autistic. He values competitive games and receiving praise. He is also passionate about numbers and trains. Ben was having tuition one-to-one, but due to the current situation, we had to transition to online tuition. However, there was the challenge: how to transition to online lessons without alienating Ben?

Knowing and understanding Ben’s values, it made it easier to make the transition. First, we utilised a platform that was easy to navigate. Having an emoji bar, allowed him to receive clear praise with the thumbs up and smiley faces, so he could see when he had done well. The sad, crying face allowed him to clearly see when he had missed the mark. This gave him clear, concise feedback that requires little effort, on his part, to understand. Furthermore, using ‘screen share’, we were able to create a game with his learning by using ‘Paint’ to create a table with both our names. We then raced to find information from the comprehension and write the answer quickly. 

Initially, Ben was reluctant to write and disliked English. Understanding that he values Math, we would start the sessions with some Math. We would then segue into English and would choose topics that were of interest to him, such as reading passages about trains. We would then count the number of adjectives in a sentence. This would lead to a question that required Ben to write a sentence. All of this proved fruitful, as Ben enjoyed the sessions so much that he began requesting to do English and play the game.

Another student, Lara, detests Math and sees it as a waste of time due to the concepts being abstract and unusable in day-to-day life. She highly values baking and cooking. Tapping into her passion for cooking, we were able to integrate Math into her kitchen escapades. Without realising it, she was doing mental Math with ease! When it was brought to her attention, she was elated and was willing to attempt her Math work. 

It is also worth noting that our children may value different activities to ourselves. If this is the case, why not attempt to consider what is valuable to them? By doing this, it reinforces that you see your child as valuable, as well as emphasising your own values of family and connection. 

Lots of teenagers and young people value video games whether it be on PC or on console. Rather than judging it as a waste of time, why not pick up a controller and play with them? Many games are highly sophisticated with intricate stories and game playing that advances children’s vocabulary and creativity. Moreover, as children are interacting with their friends, they are developing their social and emotional skills.

What is more, although we have our own ideas and values about success and happiness, these should not blind us from our core values: love, connection and compassion. Robert and Trude Steen thought their son Mats was wasting his life playing ‘World of Warcraft’; however, after his untimely death, they were astonished by the name he had created for himself in the online world, and the number of people he had inspired in the gaming community. As Robert Steen himself stated, “we should have been more interested in the game world, where he spent so much time”, rather than trying to force him to fit their expectations of living a “traditional” lifestyle.

Here is the link to read the article in its entirety:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-47064773

Overall
Values can be seen as what drives our actions; we feel strongly about them and deem them worthwhile. By staying true to our values, we are able to create connection with our children.

In terms of children’s concentration, if we can creatively tap into their values, we can nurture and foster a love of learning.

Moreover, by discovering what your children value, you may gain greater insight into them and their world, which is invaluable for your relationship.  

What are my values?
This is a questionnaire that can be used to help you focus on what is important to you.

Task 1

1. When was the last time you felt happy?

a) What were you doing?

b) Were you with anyone, if so who?

2. When was the last time you felt proud?

a) What were you doing?

b) Were you with anyone, if so who?

3. If you have money, what are your first instincts? (e.g. spend it, save it, put towards a cause etc.)

4. What form of exercise do you prefer? (e.g. solo or team games)

5. When was the last time you felt angry?

a) What were you doing?

b) What made you angry?

6. When was the last time you felt upset?

a) What were you doing?

b) What upset you?

7. What qualities do you like in your friends? (top 3)

8. When choosing a holiday, what is key for you?

9. If you were on a desert island, what one thing would you bring?

10. What are your 3 pet peeves? 


Task 2
Once you have done questionnaire, try and place them under the following categories: 

Personal/Individual Values
These relate to self-development, such as learning new skills, trying new activities and self-image/self-esteem. It also relates to values that you feel motivate you and drive your behaviours.

Family Values
These relate to how you view your family; how you interact with family members, and how they fit into your life. They are also related to traditions, ideals or anything else that is passed down from generation to generation.

Social Values
These relate to how you view your friends; how you interact with friends, and how they fit into your life. They are also related to how you view society; how you interact with it. Do you try to take advantage of loop holes in any systems?

Health Values
These relate to how you view your health; how you view your body. They are also related to how much exercise you do and what foods you eat. 

Political Values
These relate to how you engage with politics, such as whether you vote or not. They are also related to ideological beliefs; for example, democracy, welfare, civic responsibility etcc.

Economic/Professional Values
These relate to how you view money; how you view ownership of property, vehicles and assets; how you view contributing to taxes, and your attitude towards spending and saving. It is also worth examining whether you are motivated by money in your career choice. 

Religious/Spiritual Values
These relate to your morals and ethics; what you consider to be right or wrong, and what you are inclined to pass on and teach your children. They are also related to how you engage with humans in terms of respect and compassion. If you have a religion, it is how you engage with your religion and practices.

Screen Shot 2020-06-01 at 21.19.15


Step 1: Circle all the values you feel you possess.

Step 2: Group your values into categories.

Step 3: Now list your values from least important to most important.

Step 4: From your top 10 values, choose 1 value that you would like people to know you for.

Once you have done that, you will start to build a picture of what values are important to you. 

Now, go through the table again and choose all the values that you would like to possess. 

Finally, consider some people you admire/people you are close to/people you respect, and write down the values you believe them to possess.

See how much their values align with your own. Notice also where your values may differ.

Note, this task is not about making you feel bad. There are no good/bad; right/wrong values. This task is to get you present to what values you deem worthy, so that you can be more deliberate in your behaviour and way of being. It is also to identify hidden values that you may like and do not feel you possess, so that you can develop and nurture them.

As Aristotle stated: “[People] acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a certain way.”

What this means, is that if we consistently behave in a certain manner, regardless of how we feel, or what we think, then we will produce our intended result. For example, if you value honesty and you are constantly and consistently being honest, then you will begin to be known and valued for your honesty. 

To explore the value of honesty, consider what being honest constantly and consistently honest would look like?

Being constantly honest would look like:

Your friend asks for a favour rather than saying yes to please them, you will be honest and tell them no. Equally, if your friend asks for a favour and you automatically go to say no and look for excuses, such as no time, too tired etc, you will be able to consider whether these reasons are genuine; or, whether they are just excuses. In doing this, you will be able to assess, honestly, whether you are being a good friend or not? By the way, it is okay to say no if you are honestly too tired, but you would communicate with this friend. If you honestly value friendship, then rather than just saying no, you may be able to offer a compromise or a counter-offer so that you can rest and get what you want, and you can help your friend and be a good friend.

May 17

VARK Learning Styles


Overview

In this video and blog we are going to explore:

- Defining the VARK learning styles

- How VARK learning styles can be used at home 

- How the environment impacts concentration 

After watching the video and going through this blog, you will be able to identify the different learning styles (VARK). You will have an understanding of how to implement VARK methods at home to enable your children to concentrate, and you will be able to create a physical learning environment that enhances concentration and promotes creativity.

Define the VARK learning styles

Visual learners 
These learners need to see information to process it. The more visual stimulus, the better! Symbols, images, graphs, charts, maps, diagrams and colour are all great ways to help a visual learner concentrate on a task.

Auditory learners
These learners need to hear information to process it. They learn and retain information better if they listen to the content. If the tonality and pace are varied, it can help with retention of information.

Reading/writing learners
These learners need to read the information and then write notes, so tend to learn through words. Reading content that is laid out in chunks may assist these learners.

Kinaesthetic learners 
These learners need to physically carry out tasks in order to process information. They are also engaged and concentrate when they are able to participate.

How VARK learning styles can be used at home

Visual learning strategies
Rather than using lined paper and blue/black pen, allow your children to use different coloured paper and different coloured pens. Permitting your children to create posters to put up around the house is also useful for visual learners.

Auditory learning strategies 
Listening to audio books is a great strategy in engaging learners who prefer to hear information. You can also do recordings of your child’s homework on a phone so they can play back the instructions and questions. Encouraging your child to make recordings for themselves would also be useful.

Reading/writing learning strategies
Providing notebooks for different subjects is great in allowing reading/writing learners to organise their notes. Flash cards and post-it notes are also excellent tools in facilitating your child in making notes that are useful for re-engaging with them later on.

Kinaesthetic learning strategies
Using online games and quizzes are tools that enable your child to participate actively in their learning and so suits their learning style. You can also break down tasks to make them practical, such as ‘jigsaw reading’ (filling in the gaps; matching the title & body of text); using a white board to do Math exercises; going outside in the garden and examine leaves and animals.

How the environment impacts concentration 
Studies have shown that children’s learning is impacted by their environment by 25%. Thus, a well-lit, well-organised and well-supplied study space is imperative for children’s home-learning success. 

What is my preferred learning style?

Here is a questionnaire to help you determine your child’s preferred learning style. There is one for primary aged children and one for secondary aged children.

Primary School Children, 4 - 11 year olds:

1. When you are in class and the teacher is talking, do you:

a) Fiddle with things

b) Listen carefully

c) Try to read the instructions on the board

d) Like it when the teacher draws pictures or uses symbols on the board


2. If you have free-time, which of these activities sounds the greatest:

a) Reading a new book

b) Doing a puzzle

c) Listening to a story

d) Drawing
 

3. If you are going on a long car journey, do you like to:

a) Stop and walk around

b) Colour a book

c) Read a book

d) Listen to the radio or to talk to others in the car


4. When you are alone, do you like to:

a) Doodle/Draw

b) Sing/talk to yourself

c) Watch TV

d) Listen to music

e) Build or create something

f) Write stories, letters, poems or songs 

g) Colour or paint

5. Do you find it easy to remember:

a) Names of people

b) Faces of people

c) People you have played or worked with

d) When you see their name written down or you write them a card or note


6. When the adverts come on the TV, what do you do:

a) Sit and watch them

b) Get up and do something else

c) Sing along to them 

d) Look up the things see you on TV on the iPad, phone etc.


7. When you grow up, what job sounds the best:

a) Designing and drawing things

b) Performing like an actor/actress

c) Fixing things or playing sport

d) Writing stories and books


8. What do you like best:

a) Reading stories to yourself

b) Looking at the pictures in stories

c) Writing your own stories

d) Listening to stories

e) Acting out stories


9. When learning a new skill, do you like to:

a) Watch a video explaining how to do it

b) Listen to someone give you instructions

c) Try it out yourself

d) Read the instructions or make your own notes


10. At school, what is your favourite activity:

a) English - reading and creative writing

b) Art and making posters

c) PE 

d) Listening to stories


11. When you are learning spellings, how do you like to learn them?

a) Read the words out-loud

b) Write the words over and over again

c) Look at the word and try to remember what it looks in your head/ use different colours to write them and draw images

d) Use the words in sentences


12. When you are learning Math, how do you like to learn your number bonds/times tables?

a) Write them out over and over again

b) Say them out loud/ Listen to someone saying the times tables

c) Use your fingers

d) Use different colours and images 


Answers to Primary School children Questionnaire

Key to the answers: 

Visual learners
Auditory learners
Read/Write learners
Kineasthetic learners

Tally up where your child scores highest and that would help identify their preferred learning style. If they have a dominant learning style, when approaching new tasks; or, establishing a routine, it would be helpful to try and use their preferred style.

Although your child may have a preferred learning style, a combination of different styles is beneficial because it allows your child to nurture other skills.

*** Note, if they cannot answer all the questions themselves, then note what they are drawn to in play and how they behave with others to make an educated assumption. ***


Secondary/Further Education School Children, 12 - 18 year olds:

Here is a questionnaire to help you determine your tween/teen’s preferred learning style.

1. You just received a new electronic device and want to know how to use it, what would you prefer to do:

a) Read the written instructions with clear bullet points

b) Watch a video on how to use it/ look at the visual instructions for it

c) Discuss with someone how to use it

d) Figure it out by using it


2. You are revising a topic at home and there is resource with a video with some speaking about the topic. Underneath the video is the transcript that you can read yourself; there are also images and diagrams to explain it and there is an interactive game that goes through the material and you can participate. What would you choose to help you learn:

a) Listen to the video

b) Read the transcript and make notes

c) Look over the images and diagrams

d) Go through the interactive game


3. In science, what do you find the most effective way of learning:

a) Listening to the teacher go over a concept and then discuss it

b) Reading a text book and handouts and making notes

c) Participating in experiments

d) Looking at clear images, diagrams and charts


4. You have to give a presentation to the class, to learn the speech, do you prefer to:

a) Write out your speech in full and in bullet points then read over it

b) Record yourself presenting and listen to the playback

c) Perform it in your bedroom or to your family

d) Create visual cue cards


5. You have injured your wrist and must visit the doctor, how do you prefer to tell the doctor what is wrong:

a) Describe what is wrong

b) Demonstrate what is wrong

c) Make notes of what is wrong and go through them

d) Show them what is wrong


6. You are trying to re-tell an event to your friend, do you prefer to:

a) Show the photos, pictures and images

b) Write down what happened to explain it

c) Act what happened

d) Tell them what happened


7. You are choosing where to eat, how do you prefer to choose:

a) Reading people’s views

b) Discussing it with someone who has been

c) Looking at the pictures

d) Just trying it 


8. You need directions to your friend’s house, how do you prefer they give you the information:

a) Show a map/diagram of how to get there

b) Write out the directions in a message

c) Tell you over the phone or in person how to get there

d) Your friend meets you and takes you


9. You’re in class and the teacher is talking, do you:

a) Listen carefully to what is said

b) Discuss with your partner what is happening

c) Doodle on your book

d) Make notes on what is being said

e) Fidget


10. What type of profession interests you most:

a) Skills that involve listening, communication and talking

b) Skills that involve designing and drawing

c) Skills that involve performing and fixing

d) Skills that involve making notes and deciphering information


11. When choosing something to read, do you look:

a) Read reviews by people

b) Look to see whether the book has been adapted into a film so you can watch it

c) Listen to a review/ hear a friend speak about it 

d) See if others you know have read it so you can participate in discussions 


12. When you are unsure how to spell a word, are you most likely to:

a) Sound the word out aloud (if you can); or, mouth it to yourself

b) Write it out in different variations and see if you can spot the one that looks right

c) Trace it in the air or doodle and fiddle for a bit before guessing

d) Read over the word in your head


Answers to Secondary/Further Education School questionnaire

Key to the answers

Visual learners

Auditory learners

Read/Write learners

Kineasthetic learners


*** Note, question 10 relating to profession for teens deliberately uses skills rather than job titles as teenagers are likely to have opinions and judgements surrounding career choices. By using ‘skills’ it removes some  connotations. ***

Tally up the results and that would be the preferred learning style of your tween/teen.

Here are physical aspects that are worth considering:

A space that is not too dull or too bright
You do not have to re-decorate the space by wall-papering or painting, but you can buy some stimulating posters that motivate your child. Equally, you could encourage your child to create their own artwork to place up on the wall. Even if your child is in their tweens/teens, you can get them resources that allow them to be creative. 

See the list of resources under ‘Home artwork’ for further ideas.

A space well-organised so that the child can easily and readily find all their belongings
Allow your child to be part of organising their study space. This allows them to take ownership of their space so they feel responsible and so they know where everything is. Try to place resources low enough for your child to reach unaided (if it is safe to do so for instance do not place scissors low down if you have a younger child).

A clean and tidy area 
Encourage your child to clean their space so they can take pride in their area. If it is clean and tidy, it helps them to focus on their work and not be distracted by the clutter. Decluttering helps to motivate yourself and your child, as dopamine and serotonin are released in response to anticipating something good. Therefore, if you have a goal to have a tidy space, and it is achieved, the brain releases natural feel-good chemicals, so your child is primed for another task. Moreover, your child will be able to easily find their equipment without having to constantly ask for assistance, freeing you up, and giving them a greater sense of accomplishment and a stronger sense of self. 

Plenty of supplies and resources
Ensure your child has all the equipment they require to do their homework tasks and to study at home. Allow your child to organise their pencil case, so they know what they have, giving them greater confidence that they have everything they need to complete what is required of them. Moreover, by having all the right supplies it reinforces what occurs in schools. For instance, if you do not have a ruler and just get your child to use anything, when they are at school and their teacher scolds them for not having a ruler; or, for using something else instead of it, they will be left confused and angry, as they have been doing at home. 

That is not to say that if you do not have something, it should be used as an excuse. You can reassure your child of your awareness of the resources they need; provide them with an alternative (it inspires creativity and resourcefulness), and then reassure of a day and time when you will be able to get them the correct piece of equipment. In doing this, it provides you an opportunity to bond with your child as you are communicating with them in a way that allows them to empathise with you; you, in turn, demonstrate you understand their needs, and you then have an opportunity to build and nurture trust, as you fulfil your word.

Creative space
Allowing your child to study in different areas around the house is a great way to ensure your child maintains concentration and completes their tasks. This is because it offers flexible learning spaces for different learning activities, as well as inspiring creativity and curiosity in your child.

Vittra School in Stockholme, Sweden is a school that has no traditional classrooms; instead, it has creative learning spaces that expounds their principles of learning through play and creativity. You may not be able to transform your home into the creative space that the Vittra School boasts (ice-burg chairs, reading caves and a home cinema room), but you can offer a wider space for learning. For instance, if it is warm enough and practical, have your child do their science work; or, art-work in the garden. Have your child do technology and Math in the kitchen at the table. Allow your child to create a reading nook in the living-room or in the hallway (if it is safe to do so). 

Perhaps another crucial reason to encourage your child to study in various places is that studies have shown that a space can become distracting. This might be because the brain becomes over-familiar with an area and so begins to wander. However, it is vital to point out, having constant change and novel situations, is equally disruptive, as the brain will be distracted by all the new stimuli. 

Music and noise acts in a similar manner to the visual stimulation of the space. While most people believe that music helps them to focus, the truth is that it depends on the individual. Some people process music in a similar way to how they process information, and so music, in that case, will be a distraction. It is thus beneficial to have periods of silent study time, and times where there are background noise. This can be in the form of repetitive, non-lyrical music; or, background noises like the sea or low, animal sounds. In doing this, it can help block out distraction sounds from traffic and neighbours.

Overall
Utilising the VARK learning strategies at home is a great way to encourage your child to participate in learning that suits their style. By being creative, you can ensure that each learning style is utilised at home.

Including your child in creating their learning space is also a great way to motivate your child and prime them for studying, as they already have a sense of achievement. 

Providing a well-lit, well-organised and well-supplied learning space fosters independence in your child, as they have access to everything they need, and are able to take responsibility for their area. 

To minimise distractions, offering different spaces for studying, as well as periods of silent study combined with periods of repetitive background sounds, can be useful in allowing your child to concentrate on a task.

Resources

Home artwork and Colour by numbers

This is a great way to focus your child or teenager on creating something that can be proudly mounted on the wall.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LRZZDP-Painting-Numbers-40X50Cm-Pictures/dp/B07XV6QZL2/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=art+work+for+teens+-+colour+by+numbers&qid=1586761590&sr=8-3

https://www.amazon.co.uk/MingSH-Numbers-Painting-Students-Beginner/dp/B085ZDR9GJ/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=colour+by+numbers&qid=1586764866&sr=8-8

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Numbers-Beginner-Walking-Romantic-Frameless/dp/B06XGMF4DN/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=colour+by+numbers&qid=1586764866&sr=8-6

https://www.amazon.co.uk/JWFJF-Painting-beginner-Decoration-Frameless/dp/B085R9KTPR/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=art+work+for+teens+-+colour+by+numbers&qid=1586761590&sr=8-4


For Math

Subtracting and multiplication Math colouring 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Math-Coloring-Minecrafters-Subtraction-Multiplication/dp/1973922789/ref=sr_1_10?dchild=1&keywords=colour+by+numbers&qid=1586764866&sr=8-10


Complete the sums and colour in the animals
https://www.amazon.co.uk/ANIMALS-Coloring-Book-Calculate-Color/dp/1799222063/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=colour+by+numbers+for+math&qid=1586765218&sr=8-4

Photos
Allowing your child to organise their photos may provide a soothing and personal learning space.

Hanging photos with string pegs
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Photo-Display-string-pegs-non-trace/dp/B076CCHS8C/ref=sr_1_30?dchild=1&keywords=art+work+for+teens&qid=1586761541&sr=8-30

Hanging photos with collage photo frames
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dremisland-Photo-Display-Pictures-Organizer/dp/B07WCV6DWS/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=creative+photo+hanging+up&qid=1586765392&sr=8-1

Explosion photo-scrap-booking
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Balight-Explosion-Scrapbooking-Christmas-Anniversary/dp/B082KLDZWN/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=creative+photos&qid=1586765369&sr=8-6

Photos peg hanging on fishing net
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tenn-Well-Display-Memories-Decoration/dp/B07WRZPD4G/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=creative+photo+hanging+up&qid=1586765392&sr=8-8


Vittra School Telefonplan https://rosanbosch.com/en/project/vittra-school-telefonplan


 May 5th

What is concentration?


Overview
In this blog, we are going to explore:

 - Defining concentration

 - How understanding concentration can help kids to concentrate

 - Ways to improve our children’s levels of concentration

 - After watching the video and going through the blog, you will be able to understand what concentration is and so will be able to implement ways to maximise your kid’s concentration.

Key words as used in the video and in this blog:

Neurotransmitter: a chemical messenger that helps balances signals between neurons or nerve cells and other cells in the body. They affect people’s physical and psychological states.

Serotonin: a chemical that elevates mood by elevating happiness and a sense of well-being.

Oxytocin: a chemical that is connected with emotions. It helps to reduce anxiety; increases levels of trust and is believed to be present in people in lasting relationships.

Defining concentration
The word ‘concentration’ derives from the Latin com meaning ‘with, together’ and centrum meaning ‘centre’. So, concentration can be seen to literally mean coming together in the centre; we focus all our attention on one goal, one task.

Using brain imaging, neuroscientists have mapped the brain’s activity during concentration. When people concentrate, the neurotransmitters serotonin and oxytocin are released. With elevated serotonin levels, people focus better as they are emotionally stable and happier, allowing them to pay attention to the task at hand. Research has also discovered how serotonin helps to speed up learning processes by improving memory and retention of information. Oxytocin, similarly to serotonin, helps in retention of information. Since both neurotransmitters improve mood, making people feel calm and content, as well as making them feel good, it helps people to feel motivated to complete a task. By being emotionally stimulated, people feel an ‘attachment’ to what they are doing.

Concentration can therefore be thought of as the brain’s ability to hone in on a single task. To engage in an activity and concentrate fully, without distraction, a person needs to engage with a task emotionally; neurotransmitters serotonin and oxytocin are released, which prime a person emotionally, so they feel engaged and attached. The brain is thus engaged actively in the process and is not simply wandering.

It should be noted that the process of concentrating is a complex task and more research and new findings are being discovered. 

How understanding concentration can help kids to concentrate
Knowing that one of the determining factors in how well a kid concentrates is their emotional attachment to a task, we can prime our kids for the task by emotional engaging them. We can do this by understanding what is important to our kids. For example, we can ask our kids to consider how they will feel once the task is done; how they will feel proud to show their teacher their work; how they will feel confident and capable once they have mastered a concept or skill.

We can also creatively bring their favourite toys, shows or interests into the task, so they are instantly emotional involved. For instance, if they enjoy playing on their bike, you can ask them to write a description of their bike. If they have an interest in trains, you can create questions relating to this field, such as: if a train ticket costs £10.50 and there are 2 passengers, how much money do they need to ride the train?

To further prime our kids, we can notify them of when we want them to move on to another task by telling them how much time they have left. This allows them to emotionally and mentally prepare for the change.

How can we improve our kids’ concentrations levels?
To improve children’s concentrations levels, games are a great resource that develops children’s attentions so they can then concentrate. This is because there is already an invested interest - you want to win the game! It therefore creates an emotional response, so that a child will focus and so will concentrate. Some great games that can nurture and develop concentration are:

Stroops Test

Puzzles

Verbal reasoning

Colouring

Dot-to-dot

Equally crucial to improving concentration levels is to remove distractions, such as:

Set times to check emails and social media

Switching off electronic devices

Avoid multi-tasking by doing one task at a time

Creating background noise by playing repetitive music with no lyrics

Overall
Concentration is the ability to zone in on a task and give your full attention without distractions. Serotonin and oxytocin are neurotransmitters associated with concentration. Thus, emotionally priming a child on a task can help them to fully engage with it, so they do not get distracted. 

Games, puzzles and art can help develop and stretch your child’s concentration levels. Avoiding distractions is also key in ensuring that your child is able to concentrate on the task at hand and get it accomplished to the best of their ability.

Stroop Effect and Brain Games for Concentration
John Ridley Stroop created a test in 1929 to asses individuals’ cognitive processing speed, their attention spans and their level of cognitive control. He did this by creating games that encourage participants to shut off distractions so they can concentrate on a task. It does this by using information is seemingly conflicting so that the brain has to concentrate on what is being asked in the task, rather than automatically processing the information.

Here is the Stroop Test

  1. Read the colours in neutral ink
  2. Read the colour of the font of the words
  3. Read the words, not the colour of the font

You can use a timer to see how many words are read correctly in a given time. This will allow you to measure improvements over time!

1. Read the colours in neutral ink

Black Blue Pink Yellow Orange Red Brown

2. Read the colour of the font of the word

Red Green Purple Yellow Brown Black Orange

Green Purple

Pink Blue

3. Read the words, not the colour of the font

Purple Green Brown Pink Yellow Red Blue Black Purple


Brain Games

Word Search Puzzles

Word Search Puzzles are a great way to improve concentration, as they brain has to focus on deciphering the muddle letters to find words. It has to push aside the distractions of the insignificant letters to find the words.

Flashcards
Flashcards are a great way of engaging visual learners. You can write a concept or word on one side with the definition and have an image on the front. From looking at the image, they then have to guess the word and its definition. You could also have the word/concept and an image and on the back have the definition, so the child has to guess the definition.

Flashcards can also be used to encourage younger children to become independent as they have cues for what is expected of them. You can also turn into a game, such as an image of brushing your teeth with the words and then a question: “How long should you brush your teeth for?” and at the back have the time.




Why is routine important?

In this blog, we are going to explore the following:

1. What is a routine? 

2. Why is a routine vital?

3. How to create a routine?

4. How to know if the routine is ‘just right’? 

After you watch the video and read the blog, you will be able to create a routine that not only allows you and your family to survive, but to thrive! 

Key words and their definitions in accordance with how they are used in this blog and the video:

Self: a person’s awareness of themselves and the way in which they think and feel about themselves.

 Autonomy: from the Greek roots ‘auto’ meaning self; ‘nomos’ meaning custom or law. It means a person’s ability to self-regulate; to make their own choices. 

 Anxiety: a feeling of unease, worry or fear, that can be mild or extreme.

1. What is a routine?
From the French word ‘route’ meaning ‘way, path, course’, it evolved in the late 17th C to ‘routine’ meaning repetition of a set behaviour.

2. Why is a routine vital?
A routine allows everyone to know what is expected of them and when they are expected to do it. By creating this, it is clear and easy to see whether something is completed or not.

Routine helps children to develop greater autonomy and to learn new skills, as they are able to practice specific tasks. For example, if they routinely brush their teeth at a specific time for a certain amount of time, they will learn when they need to perform this task, and for how long they need to do it. After time, they will begin to gain confidence in their ability to complete the task independently, instilling in them a sense of pride in their achievement. Although this may seem like a small feat, if you are not having to constantly nag your child to do it, imagine how much happier you’ll both be? If you are not having to focus on reminding them, then those few minutes can be spent on something else. And, finally, if a child masters this, they will feel empowered to take on more challenges as they know that with repetition they will improve. You will also have a reference point to illustrate that by doing something routinely they will improve and you can remind them of these small achievements. 

A carefully implemented routine helps to establish boundaries and develop values. For instance, if you and your family eat meals regularly at a set time, then your child learns that family time is important. You are instilling this value in your child. 

For children who experience anxiety, a routine can help create a sense of security and calmness, as they have stability and a sense of certainty. You can also allocate time for them to worry. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there are many reasons why this is helpful. 

First of all, worrying is not in itself a harmful activity. In fact, worrying can serve us and be useful. For example, studies have shown that worry can be a great motivational tool. This is because if someone is concerned about something, they may be motivated to take action; or, to seek further knowledge. Another way in which worry is useful is that it helps to buffer people emotionally. If people brace themselves for the worst, then it helps to mitigate negative emotions and prevent them from spiralling. On the flip side, if someone is concerned about something, and it turns out better than they had expected, their feelings of elation and joy are greatly elevated. As a result, both the bracing and worrying have an emotional pay-off once the outcome is known.  

Secondly, allowing your child a set time for worrying gives them the space to vent their concerns. They are then reassured that their worries will be heard, and so they do not have to ‘worry’ about expressing them. By knowing they have allocated time to worry, it will prevent it from spilling over into their day-to-day activities, so they are not consumed with worry. 

3. How to create a routine?
Sitting down with your child and allowing them to take ownership of their routine is vital in setting up a schedule that your child will consistently commit to. So, how to do this? Allow your child to sit down and contribute to the schedule. This effectively empowers your child to have a voice and so nurtures and develops their sense of ‘self’ and autonomy.

If your child deviates from the routine, you can remind them that they helped to construct it. Doing this should be from a place of trying to find out why the child is not sticking to it, and not to be used as a weapon to guilt-trip them; or, to manipulate them. This effectively sets them up to exercise their power of choice.

Power of choice
What is ‘power of choice? Power of choice refers to someone’s ability to be able to take action in selection. Reminding a child of the routine they helped create, allows them to engage in taking action in selecting what they are going to do. Perhaps they have not completed a reading task. Rather than instantaneously deducting time from their free-time, you can ask your child what they will do to complete that task, and still have time to do what they please. 

It is worth noting that children can be overwhelmed by choice. Thus, it is imperative that you follow these steps to help your child to be empowered by choice, and not be over-powered by choice.

Empowering your child with choice:

Step 1: Make eye-contact with them. You may need to position yourself to be at their level.

Step 2: Give them a clear choice. If they are quite young, then offer them a choice between two options. If they are older and maturer, then see if they can create something on their own. If they struggle, then request that you  interject by offering clear options.  

Step 3: Give them lots of praise to positively reinforce their selection of choice. 

Using these steps helps to avoid power struggles, since you are allowing your child to take responsibility and have a say.

Moreover, having a routine helps to motivate your child to manage themselves. For example, if your child has to do some studying before having free-time, you can acknowledge that you know they want to have that time to themselves. They thus have a choice: do the task as quickly as possible to the best of their abilities, and then they will be able to move on. The longer they procrastinate, the longer they will not be able to have that time - it is their choice what they do. By doing this, you are also helping them to concentrate, as you are engaging them emotionally; the reward of doing the task outweighs the gratification of not doing the task.

Although you want to create choice and allow your child to contribute, you may also want to consider Mark Twain’s advice: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Now, this is not saying feed your children frogs (unless it is a delicacy for you!) What it is saying, is that you should prioritise a task that you dread the most. The reason being is that the longer it is left, the more the negative emotions surrounding it will build up to the point where procrastination sets in and further delays occur.

Priming your child
Priming your child is also helpful in reducing resistance to tasks. What this means is that if your child is on their phone; or, playing in the garden, and you want them to move on to do some homework, you let them know that they have 15 mins’ left, 10 mins’ left, 5 mins’ left. It therefore prepares them for the next task and helps to mitigate the emotional charge surrounding the next activity.

Chunk down
To further assist your child with tasks, you can ‘chunk down’. What this means is rather than making a general statement, such as: “Clean your room”, you break it down into manageable chunks. For instance, you may say, “Take all your toys from the living-room and put them in your toy-box”. Or, rather than saying, “Do your homework”, actually have a look at what they need to do and help them break it down. For example, if your child has a research task on the Tudors for History, break it down into clear ‘bite size’ topics (the monarchs, the fashion of the time, attitudes towards women, to name but a few). If you have a teenager who has to do an essay on Shakespeare, encourage them to break down the question by identifying key words, so they can focus on one part. In doing this, it will help them to concentrate on the question and answer it fully, rather than being weighed down with the perceived magnitude of the task.

Being overwhelmed with tasks, seems particularly commonplace for children today. Since schools are closed, many teachers are using online platforms to set work, such as ‘Sam Learning’ and ‘Educake’. Now, these are great resources, but when a child sees they have over 100 tasks to do, it is very demotivating! Panic and dread quickly set in, rendering the child incapable of knowing where or how to start, so they just give up. This has been the reality for my 14 year old brother. He showed me, via Skype, the 100 tasks for English, the 80 tasks for Maths and the 60 tasks for Science! His protests that the school had set him more work than he would have done at school seemed to be true. Why had the school done this? They want to ensure children have enough work and are kept busy.

However, for my brother and his classmates, they were over-scheduled. This left him feeling helpless, so he was not focusing on the work, only the amount of work. The only subject he seemed to not mind doing was Maths. When asked why, he stated that although there were a lot of tasks, they had been broken down into topics. Within each topic, there were clear learning objectives; examples of the work and a clear expectation of what he had to do. He had to work through some questions relating to the topic and then do an end of topic test to consolidate his learning. Over Skype, I sat with him and broke his other subjects down according to their topics. This helped him to see the trees through the woods; or, the essays through the books. 

Now, you may be thinking that you are not an expert in the subject. Do not let that hold you back from helping your child set up a routine that works. You can group the work according to categories. For example, he had Spanish work to do. I do not know Spanish, but I do know that to learn Spanish you need to cover: Speaking & Listening and Reading & Writing. I also know that there are specific topics for each of these, such as: home life, describing your city, food & drink, pets, the environment, to name a few. Working together, we were able to get really specific with his work. This allowed him to have clarity with what he was doing. He also had tasks that were manageable and the outcomes measurable, so once he completed it, he felt good. Remember, concentration, focus and attention is impacted immensely by how we feel. Thus, if he felt good, he was more likely to engage with the subject and so be productive.

4. What are the indicators that the routine is not ‘just right’? 

These are some indicators that the routine is too much:

 Your child is over-tired

 Your child is moody and uncooperative 

 Your child does not want to play and have fun

 Your child complains of headache, stomach-aches and generally feeling ill

These are some indicators that the routine is lacking:

 Your child seems to get into a lot of mischief

 Your child is easily angered

 Your child is clingy and needy

 Your child lacks confidence in completing tasks

In the beginning, when establishing a routine, it might be a challenge knowing what is ‘just right’ so do not be afraid to make adjustments.

There should be moments when your child has nothing to do. Being bored is not a bad thing. This encourages your child to think creatively and to design their own ways to entertain themselves. It also allows them moments to not be concentrating, so they can daydream or simply explore and be curious. More importantly, it allows your child to rest. Concentrating requires energy and takes effort. 

Overall:

A successful routine is used to: 

 Empower both parents and children to know what is expected of them and when. 

 It fosters shared values within the family, as they have shared experiences and it is clear what is important. 

 Children gain greater autonomy and independence.

To give a routine the best chances of working, it is vital:

 That parents are consistent with the routine.

 That parents do not use the routine to manipulate children to do what you want.

 That parents are patient, empathetic and creatively engage with their children.

I would love to hear your opinions, thoughts and feelings, so please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment.

Bio
I’m Kellie McCord. I started tutoring officially in 2016. Since then, I have obtained my Diplomas in CBT, Mindfulness and Dyslexia Therapy. Oh, and a Level 3 in Veterinary Science for the sheer love of animals!

Presentation-gcse-changes


Passionate about language, I am also pursuing public speaking through Toastmasters, achieving a place at the Division B final in 2019 for the International Speaking Competition. Now, I am at the District Finals for the 2020 Evaluation Competition…

Nursery-Kellie


Combing a love of learning, a true passion for personal growth and development, and speaking - my purpose lies in empowering people, from all walks of life, to create a life they truly want by awakening their natural love of learning. My mission is to transform education into an engaging, enjoyable experience, as I have learned, first-hand, that if you try your best, and no one dies, then you will succeed.

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My two Golden Rules:

If you try your best, there is no shame.

If no one dies (including yourself), you can try again!

Kellie will be blogging for Local Mums Online with tips for homeschooling during lockdown and helping your child learn going forward. 

Contact:
Kellie McCord
Founder
Kellie’s Tutoring
Email: kelliestutoring@gmail.com
www.kelliestutoring.com

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