Joe’s Jotter: Creating A Lifestyle (Study) Timetable

A “Lifestyle (Study) Timetable” is an extended version of a “Study Timetable” that will allow you to become an expert at managing time during exam year. On a Lifestyle Timetable, you will enter other elements of your life outside your study and exam preparation in order to achieve a healthy leisure-study balance. Putting a Lifestyle Study Timetable together is the first step in taking control of real exam preparation. The following is a shortened version of the ten steps you need to put in place to get your first Lifestyle Timetable up and running:

  1. Create Blocks: Draw out a large rectangle representing your full week on an A3 sheet (landscape). Divide the week into thirty-minute blocks from nine a.m. in the morning until ten p.m. at night. Put a five minute break block at the end of each thirty minute one. If it is a school week, your revision blocks will commence at four p.m. on the weekdays Monday through Friday.
  2. Commitments: Write in all the things you have committed to for that week. These are fixed activities for that particular week that you need to attend. For example: school, mealtimes, sports practice, swimming lessons, attending church, etc. Note that there could be a different set of commitments for each subsequent week’s timetable.
  3. Prioritise: List the seven or eight subjects you study in order of difficulty for you. In other words, list your subjects from one to seven, one being the most difficult and seven being the least in order of priority. Consider how much you enjoy the subject when ranking it.
  4. Breakdown: Break down each subject by topic and sub-topic on a separate A3 sheet, so that you can tick them off as they slot into your new timetable over the weeks and get completed.
  5. Frog Subjects: Fill in your first set of sub-topics (from your breakdown sheet) onto your blank study blocks for the week. These are sub-topics of the subjects you find the most difficult or those which are not your favourite (subjects ranked one to three). You should consider giving slightly more blocks to these subjects than those favoured in point six below.
  6. Fav Subjects: Subsequently, enter the sub-topics for the subjects you are good at or like, remembering you always need to leave some free wind-down time before bedtime. These subjects will be ranked four to seven on your priority list.
  7. Rotation: See how you can build in the rotation of learning styles into your study blocks to keep your brain interested. Rotate your study blocks for each topic between learning things off, listening to audio, creating mind maps, online videos, writing, doing summaries, creating flash cards, reading textbooks, drawing diagrams, discussions with your friends, checking solutions, educational television/DVD, rewriting notes, reviewing class work etc.
  8. Breaks: It is recommended to take a longer break every two hours, using one (thirty minutes) or two blocks here. Along with breaks, include free time for leisure activities and meeting friends etc. Your Lifestyle Timetable will change every week as you move closer to a more realistic and better balanced version week on week.
  9. Urgent or Important: Your Lifestyle Timetable blocks for each week should reflect what is urgent and what is important for that particular week. It is important to be able to distinguish between “Important” and “Urgent” work. For example, homework will normally be urgent, and revision will become more so as the year progresses.
  10. Catch Up: You should only plan a week in advance to ensure your focus is firmly on what’s coming up. I would advise you to leave a few blank ‘catch up’ blocks at the weekend (when you have more flexibility), as sometimes things crop up during the week and you might lose the odd block. If you do miss a study block for whatever reason, enter that sub-topic into one of these weekend ‘catch up’ blocks you’ve put in place. In this way, you never miss a block and eventually everything gets done.

Having a balanced approach to exam preparation will energise your study. Put your Lifestyle Study Timetable in place today, ensuring you pencil in the leisure activities you enjoy doing. Combining these activities with a focus on the key content for each subject will set you up nicely come exam day. Joe

To view last weeks feature ‘Six ACE pointers to settle you back into Revision’, click here.

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

*****

W: acesolutionbooks.com
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© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: Six ACE Pointers to Settle you Back into Revision

Here are six useful habits for all students to Improve the quality of your study as we move past the settling back period and try to settle back into revision:

  1. Take regular breaks:

Yes, really! Taking short five-minute breaks every thirty minutes should keep you fresh and focused. However, make sure that five minutes doesn’t turn into an hour! Go for a short walk, call up a friend or have a snack and then come back to your work on time. Some studies have found that having a natter with friends can have a positive effect on memory and laughing increases serotonin (the body’s chemical that makes you happy). It is important to leave your study area during your breaks to get a change of perspective and return with renewed energy for the next session. Enjoyable breaks will allow you to become more efficient with your study blocks. Setting mini targets like completing a long exam question followed by a prolonged break is a smart way to operate.

  1. Stay alert and interested:

When reading, it is a good idea to make notes or highlight key terms. I believe you should always revise with a pen at hand. I feel that just by reading a piece of text, you are not actively engaging with it. In my experience, you will remember more by summarising it or even just by making markings with a red or green pen on the page. This method keeps the brain tuned in to the task at hand. Other learning methods you might consider for variety include YouTube videos, online quizzes, or creating mind maps. If you find yourself struggling to stay alert, you are probably tired, and it may be time for a break or retirement for the evening.

  1. Be ruthless with your notes:

Many students go to educational institutions after Christmas to boost their store of materials and, of course, their confidence. However, I have seen many students over the years become overwhelmed with too much material and they just end up getting swamped not knowing where to start. In subject areas you find difficult, reduce your material into manageable, thought provoking snippets. If you take notes in class, make sure to date and keep them for revision later. Dig out last year’s material requiring revision at this point. It is important to keep a record of what topics you have done in class and how long your teacher has spent on them. This will ensure you are clear on what has been covered and what still needs to be investigated. Being persistently consistent in relation to your notes is a big factor in doing well in exams.

  1. Set goals and keep records:

Setting goals will help you monitor your study and will give you something to work towards. If you under perform in a class test, set a mini goal for your next test to improve by a certain percentage. In your school journal, write down all your goals and check them off as you complete them – name it a ‘Junior Cycle or Leaving Cert bucket list’. Ultimately, use long-term goals to motivate you to ACE the short-term ones. Long-term goals might include a points target in your Leaving Certificate, a possible trip to third level or scoring that rewarding job later. A short-term goal will help you get where you want to be long term. Reviewing the success of your short-term goals every two weeks will give you a sense of achievement. An example of a short-term goal could involve summarising and understanding a chapter from your book and completing a past exam question relating to it. All successful students do a small plan and set goals for themselves.

  1. Earn your rewards:

Don’t forget to ‘have a life’ as you develop a routine that works for you. Reward yourself after a long study session with a trip to the cinema or visit to your friends. Ultimately, reward yourself with breaks, taking a reasonable one after every good hour’s work. There is nothing wrong with the odd bar of chocolate, ice-cream or packet of gummy bears; everyone who has done something constructive deserves a little thank you. Earn rewards with each thorough revision session you complete. This will improve your overall revision output.

  1. Start thinking about Exam papers:

Those of you in Exam years: Are you familiar with the layout of each exam paper and its marking scheme? If not, you need to get checking. You can source all the past exam papers in the ‘Examinations Material Archive’ section of the examinations.ie website. If you are doing exams in 2021 and haven’t a set of exam papers for each subject, don’t delay, get them today. A large part of your revision should be to assess and practice answering questions from past exam papers (under time pressure) on the topics you have covered in class. Remember also that each subject’s exam paper is different, so you need to get familiar with each one. You need to find out the exact layout and style of each individual paper. Is there a choice in sections? How many questions do you need to attempt in each section? Are there short/long questions or both? And, most importantly, how long can you plan to spend on each individual question? Being super familiar with paper layout is key.

To read about how Junior Cycle students can make more out of their evenings, click here.

******

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

******

© Joe McCormack 2020

Making more of your evenings

Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Junior Cycle Students To get More Out of their Evenings

Students, as we come towards the end of the first few weeks back in Secondary School, it is important now that you get into a routine of homework and revision, both during the week and at the weekend. Breaks are important for all students who are putting effort in at home each night, as well as giving yourself some wind down time before bed also. Over the next few months, try and improve the standard of your homework. Always take pride in how you complete written homework. Doing homework like a mini exam is the best form of preparation for any upcoming tests. Here are four more practical tips you can try to get the more out of your evenings:

Be positive

Being positive will vastly improve your attitude towards study and therefore its quality. You should always focus on what you have studied, what you have learned or what you know as opposed to continually looking at what needs to be done. When you come across an awkward question, you need to box it off properly in your mind. Instead of thinking, “we haven’t covered this!” or “how is this relevant to what I know?”, you need to reflect on how it links into your subject, topics within the subject and what your Teacher has taught you in class.

The same goes for studying prior to the exam. Take control by changing the way you speak about your preparation. Instead of saying “I should be studying more”; be good to yourself and say, “Well I did a solid two hours this morning and will go back to it tonight”. Change “I should be…” to “I’m going to…” Research has shown that positive language can lead to more positive results. If you say: “I can’t climb that wall”, you are less likely to succeed in the task, as your brain has almost been auto programmed to fail. As a Maths teacher, I love this equation of positivity:

Positive attitude + Positive actions = Powerful results

Look after your eyes

You will be doing plenty of reading from textbooks, summary notes, post-its, flashcards and the likes over the next few years, so it is important to look after your eyes during this period. The expert’s advice on reducing eye strain is to apply the twenty-twenty-twenty rule. That is to take twenty seconds to look at something twenty feet away and repeat this every twenty minutes. Going outside on your breaks will get some fresh air to the eyes. Another good exercise is to simply rest your eyes in the palm of your hands for a few minutes, making sure that no light gets through. Too much time on devices wouldn’t be great for keeping your eyes fresh. Just saying!

Rotate your learning

The brain can only concentrate on a subject matter for a certain time period. At times, when I was penning my ACE book, I needed to get away and come back to it in order to maintain my focus. Rotate your homework between memorising content, writing, oral work, audio, Internet research and watching documentaries. Most importantly, rotate your subjects. We all enjoy discovering about subjects we find interesting, but it is so important not to forget the subjects you find difficult or the ones you are just not as interested in. Rotation of stimulus will trick the brain into performing better and going for longer.

Become an active learner

During study sessions, always have a pen and a highlighter to hand. You should mark the key points onto your textbook, write brief comments at the side of the page or underline the important sentences. This information should be transferred to a summary page later. I really like this method of revision as it reduces the quantity (amount) of notes you have to analyse and there shouldn’t be a need to revisit that part of your textbook again. Active learning in your homework and revision is a great way to keep yourself tuned into what you are studying. Spend time thinking about how you can use your life experiences and places visited to enhance essays or answers with a few extra bells and whistles. Individuality and drawing on your personal experiences are what every Teacher and examiner is looking out for. You need to try and stand out a bit from your fellow students.

To view last weeks blog on performing well in a difficult, e.g. Maths, click here.

Joe’s Jotter next week will provide students with six ACE pointers to settle them back into revision. Don’t miss it. To view more of Joe’s Jotter features, click the hashtag #JoesJotter. Joe.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copies today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: Performing Well in A Subject You Find Difficult (i.e. – Leaving Cert Maths)

As you settle into the new year, teachers and parents totally understand that even though you are making great strides, you still have plenty of fears. From speaking with students over the years, I find it’s not the full set of exams that cause concern; it is usually only one or two subjects. Naturally everyone has their own talents and subjects they prefer. Personally, I was better at the Sciences than the languages, but I persevered and got the grades I wanted in the languages I chose. Luckily, I could do Leaving Cert Maths.

Sometimes subjects you are not looking forward to are the ones that have you on guard and you end up doing better in; A paper on the day can go well in an exam you were dreading. I regularly hear welcome surprise coming from students on results day, with comments such as “I didn’t expect that result in xxxxx”. The moral of the story here is that too much concern about a subject could end in false worry and be draining you of energy; energy you need for revising and getting your head right.

Preparing for one of your less favoured subjects is a blatant case of having to ‘get on with it’. Of course, it is easier to revise and work on subjects you enjoy and are good at, but you must not ignore the others. Studying and preparing the ‘frog subjects’ is probably the biggest challenge you will face in school. You must prioritise these subjects on your ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’. I will detail how to setup this timetable in a later blog feature. Author and reconstructive surgeon, Jack Penn, once said:

“One of the secrets in life is making stepping stones out of stumbling blocks”.

Maths is one of those subjects that many students find difficult. To me Maths is about grafting to understand the basics, building your confidence and not being prepared to give up easy. Always start by attempting the easier topic questions (usually the part a’s and b’s) and subsequently graduating to the part c’s and d’s. You should check your work as you go against a good quality solutions book and thus be constantly ‘learning by doing’. Here are some of my top tips to improve your performance in Maths (and its exam) at any level:

ACE Maths Tuition’s Top Tips for Success

  1. Put formulas, explanation of words and keynotes into a little pocket notebook. Learn.
  2. Practice as many past exam questions as you can and check your answers against a fully developed and explained solutions book.
  3. Challenge yourself to try and come up with a second method of doing specific questions.
  4. Try to approach each question from different angles. Always write down something. Do not be afraid of making a mistake.
  5. Draw a diagram (if possible) and label it to simplify a question especially in Leaving Cert Maths.
  6. Be familiar with what is and what is not in your log tables.
  7. When studying, exhaust all attempts to answer an exam question before referring to your solutions book. Do not give up easily.
  8. Read each question in Maths carefully and underline or highlight the key words and phrases.
  9. At all levels, if you feel overwhelmed by the length and difficulty of the course – start with basic Algebra.
  10. Find yourself a study buddy to share questions and resources with. Discuss problems with each other and encourage.
  11. Use various Internet sites as a companion to improve your Maths skills.
  12. Consult your teacher about problems with topics or specific Maths questions during and after class.
  13. Start by attempting basic questions for each topic, building up to a full exam question. Answer the exact question being asked.
  14. The word FAIL in Maths for me means First Attempt In Learning.
  15. Do not be afraid to explain a solution to a question with words if you cannot do so with numbers and symbols.
  16. Spend five to ten minutes going over what your teacher has done with you in class daily.
  17. Every time you write down a formula, draw a box around it to help you remember it. Check if this formula is in your log tables. If not, you need to memorise it.
  18. Anything that you type into your calculator (related to a question) must be written on your answer book/copy also.
  19. Have all resources present when doing Maths questions i.e. Full Maths set, pencil, calculator and log tables.
  20. If you are in Leaving Cert Maths, practice as many previous exam questions as you possibly can.
  21. Rewrite the sample questions from your textbook to get an understanding of the basics.
  22. It is ok to look at a solution to a question if you have tried your best to solve it alone. Use the answer to figure out the exact method for the question.
  23. Work with groups of friends on harder Maths questions. Bounce ideas off each other in order to understand and learn from their thinking.
  24. Always write out every single step of your answer. This will be easy to look back, revise and follow later.
  25. Talk positive about subjects you find difficult. Don’t throw away your shot at success by talking your way into failure.

Click here to see my last blog on Transitioning from Primary to Secondary School!

In next week’s Joe’s Jotter, I will advise Junior Cycle students on how to restart a revision routine. Don’t miss it. To view more of Joe’s Jotter features, click the hashtag #JoesJotter. Joe.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copies today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)

There are loads of steps and initiative’s both you and your child can take as they start Secondary school. In Part 2 of this feature, I will discuss three key areas for you to consider in order to ease this transition: One, the importance of learning support; Two, your awareness of how the first few weeks are actually going for them; and Three, practical tips for both of you to consider at school and at home. Part 1 is available to read here.

Learning Support

  • Secondary Schools will have learning support for your child. If your child’s new school are missing any key Information around this, ensure they get it as soon as possible. Many schools will have a staff meeting where the year head outlines important strengths and weaknesses of each student. This usually only happens once a year (In September).
  • Learning support at Secondary is different to Primary school. Contact the school if they have been receiving support and their new school aren’t aware of this.
  • Flag any difficulties your child had in primary early so that it goes on their file where their class tutor and year head can access it. Ensure to request the correct learning supports that your child is entitled to.
  • If your child has complex special educational needs they may need a transition plan to assist them to transfer to secondary school. You and your child will be involved in developing this plan. Other people may be involved, as necessary, including relevant teachers from their primary and post-primary school, NEPS psychologist, health professionals etc.
  • Most post-primary schools will have links with their feeder primary schools. This allows for an easier transfer of information. Usually, there is contact between the 6th class teacher/resource teacher and the receiving post-primary school which helps to overcome any disconnect between what was taught in primary and the starting point in certain subjects at second level.
  • A planning meeting may be held for those students with complex needs. This should include you as the parent, the school principal, if possible the class teacher and as necessary other professionals who have been involved with your child in primary school.
  • As appropriate, a support plan may include information on your child’s learning, social and communication, care, (for example: dressing, toileting, mobility and medication), sensory (such as over sensitivity to noise, textures, lights) and physical needs that require environmental adaptations such as adaptations to the school building, adapted seating or other specialised equipment.
  • For all parents, I would recommend writing a one page profile about your child noting the difficulties and barriers they faced at primary school. Include the strategies that worked and that didn’t work for them. This would be valuable Information for their tutor, year head and individual subject teachers.

You may also wish to ask the following questions?

  1. Where can my child go if they are struggling/anxious/having a meltdown?
  2. What happens at break and lunch time i.e. unstructured time?
  3. How can my child get help with reading/spelling/maths/homework?
  4. How will support in assessments work?

Awareness

  1. Watch out for any early signs of bullying by regularly checking in to your child. Personally, I would be tuned in early to see whats going on and whats being said. A lot of bullying goes on via the phone. Ask them to pass on issues if something comes through on the phone i.e. a comment, message or a social media post. In general, if you get them into good habits in 1st year, 2nd year will be way more straightforward (A major ACE tip here).
  2. Things will be a little unsettled for the first few weeks. A routine is really important. I would try to maintain the dinner, bed, study, training and recreational routines at home as best you can. Kids that are going through change crave some kind of routine and they will look to you for that.
  3. After the Initial settling in period is over, keep an eye out for disturbed sleep, anxiety and poor eating habits – it may be a sign of something not quite right at school.
  4. More serious signs of issues are: Not wanting to do activities they enjoy, not wanting to spend time with friends or worse, an unwillingness to go to school. Teach your child to talk to you.
  5. Ask them what classes they like?, who are they sitting beside? Who are you hanging around with? What clubs have they? Always get the conversation going.
  6. Listen if they have a bad day..

At home you could…

  1. Photocopy their timetable. Have copies in their locker, on the fridge,  in their journal and one for their pocket.
  2. Photocopy the bus ticket. Have a spare ticket in their school bag, at home and in their locker.
  3. Help them get organised with colour co-ordinated folders (available in most stationary shops). Give each subject a colour, so for example, English goes in the blue folder. Put a blue sticker on the English textbook/copies and colour ‘English’ blue on the timetable. If you have a map of the school then the room where English class is on would be blue also.
  4. Have a morning checklist on the fridge for: books, lunch, key, jacket etc.

In school they should consider…

  1. Having a safe person they can approach for help or advice, more than one if possible.
  2. Making sure they have a copy of a colour coordinated timetable, a spare key/combination code and bus-ticket.
  3. Trying to build a good relationship with their class tutor and year head.
  4. Having a notebook that they can write in during the day if they find something challenging. Don’t expect them to talk immediately after school. Give them some quiet processing time.
  5. Getting to know a buddy or designated person in a class that they can text to find out what homework they have.
  6. Checking: If using a laptop, most secondary school books now come now with a code where you can upload their book onto the laptop at home. This may sometimes allow them to leave books in school.
  7. Getting to know the school secretary.
  8. Putting a dob of bright nail varnish or small badge on their school jacket, allowing it to stand out in a crowd. Marks on all their property will reduce the chances of it going missing.

In next week’s Jotter entry, I will provide an insight into Preparing difficult subjects e.g. Maths. Don’t miss it. To view more of Joe’s Jotter features, click the hashtag #JoesJotter. Joe

******

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copies today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

******

© Joe McCormack 2020