Friday, 27 March 2015

Holidays - What Are They For?

Obvious question? Possibly, but the answer's intended to be reassuring.

First, rest. The point of holidays is rest. It's a point that's often lost. There's no point in doing the heavy lifting part of revision if it means you start the next term exhausted and ill. Build in some rest at some stage.

Second, relationships. During term, time can get squeezed. This means young people spend less time with parents, siblings, extended family and non-school friends. Much of what we understand by quality of life comes from these relationships. Holidays are when they should be fed (and that means, teenagers, you should do the washing up more often in holiday time!).

Thirdly, revision (at this time of year). It's no good leaving your revision until a month before the exam. By the time you go back to school, you should have done your learning, because your teachers will be running through the final elements of how to use your learning to perform well in the exams. Work intensively in the holidays, and work a lot. See the next post below for more tips on this score.

So, it turns out that not only is term time about the 3 r's, but so is the holiday: rest, relationships and revision. If you don't have public exams next term, substitute reading for revision, and the same applies.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Last Lap

So, you are preparing for your last school holiday, before A levels launch you into a more independent world. How can you make the most of this period of time. Here are five simple things which have helped students I have been associated with in the past, and which could be helpful for pupils this year, or for parents. They are probably equally applicable to public exam candidates in Year 12 or 11.

First, remember what the purpose of your revision is. Nobody revises just so that they know more. Nobody revises to fill the time. The purpose of revision is to answer exam questions more effectively. Remember that in every revision session - make it as much question and answer driven as you can - this is more effective and more interesting than trying to learn facts. Work intensively, as you would in an exam, so that you are practising being examined. Practise questions you can’t do, not those you can.

Secondly, be collaborative. I recommend students set a target for the amount of work they are going to do on each day in the holidays, and show their progress against it in a public place in the home. Organise it as a table, and show across the top the days on which you will work, and down the table show one box for each work session, whether that’s an hour, forty minutes or another time period, you intend to complete. Agree the total and distribution as a family, and put a tick in each box as that revision session is completed. If you miss a session on one day, don’t try to catch up, just move on to the next day. This helps family communication - everyone knows how much work is really being done towards agreed targets - and means praise can be used rather than students feeling checked up on, or chased, by their parents.

Thirdly, seek help. Technology means that every revising student in the UK can revise collaboratively without leaving their home. While finding someone else to revise with face to face is good, sometimes Skype, Facetime or the phone helps - you are less likely to distract each other. Use question and answer with someone to break up the day - so that it comes between silent at-your-desk sessions of work. If a topic has six units, prepare a revision lesson for another person on three of them, and get them to prepare the other three topics. Deliver them on Skype with no notes.

Fourthly, be realistic. Don’t set yourself the target of working ten hours a day for ten days. You won’t be able to do it. Don’t listen to others who have told you how much time they have spent revising, revise intensively and effectively towards the goal of answering your exam questions better.

Lastly, while you are doing all this, keep an eye out for what works best, so that next time you have to revise for exams, you can do it even more effectively.