Joe’s Jotter: Tips for 2nd and 3rd Years to Make the Most 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 your 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 work 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 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.

Joe’s Jotter next week will provide students with six ACE pointers to settle them back into revision. Don’t miss it. To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to Perform Well in Subjects you Find Difficult’, click here. Get in touch if I can help you in any way. Joe.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Performing Well in A Subject You Find Difficult (Case Study – 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.

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.
  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 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.
  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 underlining 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 daily going over what you have learned in class.
  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. 3rd and 6th Years, practice as many previous exam questions as you possibly can.
  21. Rewrite 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.

In next week’s Joe’s Jotter, I will advise 2nd and 3rd year students on how to restart a revision routine. Don’t miss it. To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to Efficiently Review your Exam Scripts’, click here. Get in touch if I can help you in any way. Joe.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: How to Efficiently Review your Exam Scripts

Class of 2021,

Many of you will wish to view your Leaving Certificate Exam Scripts to see where you made errors and possibly where you should have picked up some more marks. The first thing to note is that from 5pm on Tuesday September 7th, students will have access to their written exam (component and final) marks and their accredited grade marks via the candidate self-service portal (assuming they opted for both in June). If you wish to review your scripts, you must apply to do so between Tuesday 7th September @ 5pm and Wednesday 8th Sept @ 8pm. I would recommend that all students review both their scripts marked on paper and online, especially if you find yourself in some way disappointed or confused by your grades.

If you are going to your school to review your scripts, be sure to bring a subject expert with you to find out if it’s worth getting your paper rechecked. You must attend the review yourself but can bring in a separate adult for each script. If you wish to get a subject rechecked, the cost is free in 2021 (It was €40 per subject previously). Traditionally, around twenty percent of all rechecks were upgraded. Although this number has now dropped through increased accuracy and the new grading system. For equity, the period of access to online scripts will be identical to the time given in schools to review scripts ‘marked on paper’. It is worth noting though that you can do both. A short application will need to be filled out over the next few days if you wish to review any of your scripts.

Script viewing in schools for ‘scripts marked on paper’ will take place as follows:

  1. Script viewing time 1: Saturday 11th September 9-11am
  2. Script viewing time 2: Saturday 11th September 12-2pm
  3. Script viewing time 3: Saturday 11th September 3-5pm
  4. Script viewing time 4: Sunday 12th September 10-12pm (At the discretion of the school)

Script viewing in schools for ‘scripts marked online’ will take place as follows:

  1. Scripting viewing time: From Saturday 11th September@ 9am

The appeals facility application window for those who want their grades rechecked (please note the accredited grade appeal, if selected, is an admin check only) will be open from Saturday 11th September@ 9am until Monday 13th September @ 12pm.

Remember also that further rounds of the CAO process may still hold offers for you, as some students may not take up a specific place offered on a course. You also need to be aware that ‘available places’ emerge where colleges don’t manage to fill the total places available on a given course. This facility will become available on the CAO website on Wednesday 8th September @ 12pm and will be updated on an ongoing basis.

Twenty ACE Tips for Reviewing your Scripts

Here are my twenty ACE Tips when viewing your scripts over the next number of days:

  1. Be realistic. For a 600 mark subject, you will need 6 marks to get an extra 1%.
  2. Bring someone to advise you, whether you are viewing scripts in your school or online.
  3. Check all totals first to ensure there are no clerical errors.
  4. Use all the time you have been allocated to ensure you are satisfied with each script.
  5. Bring in your mobile/tablet to take pics as necessary. Ensure your phone is well charged.
  6. Marking schemes for each subject will be available in the review centre, for you to cross check against your script. This scheme will be on the examinations website soon also.
  7. If your percentage mark given is quite close to the grade band below it, you need to be careful about appealing the subject in case you are downgraded. Use common sense here.
  8. Take time afterwards to consider your options. A recheck is free and between 14% and 20% of students are upgraded each year.
  9. An upgrade later may cause a change to your CAO offer if you achieve enough extra points and have reached the minimum entry requirements for a given course.
  10. You cannot bring pens/paper into the script viewing or write any information down.
  11. The online viewing option will also have a time limit allocated to it.
  12. Keep a close eye on your candidate portal over the next week.
  13. If you spot an error in a script, take a snap. Photos are important for making a case.
  14. In the case of viewing subjects online with two papers. Two AP1 forms will need to be filled in, one for each paper.
  15. Marks inside square brackets denote disallowed marks in excess of the number of questions permitted for a paper.
  16. Marks inside a circle (in the left-hand margin) beside the question number are the total marks allocated for the question part.
  17. During viewing, use the calculator on your phone to check all subtotals and totals.
  18. Organising superintendents that are present during the viewing cannot provide any advice on appeals, errors or otherwise.
  19. Read through each page of your script calmly and carefully in the viewing centre.
  20. You do not have to make an appeal decision on the day. The deadline for making any appeal is Monday 13th September @ 12pm.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘A Guide to the CAO. You Always Have Options’, click here. Get in touch if I can help you in any way. Good luck, Joe.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Your Guide to the CAO – You Always Have Options…

The results of the State Examinations Commission (SEC) jury are now in as we await round one of CAO offers on Tuesday September 7th at 2pm. Successful students will  be sent an e-mail from the CAO with round one offer(s) from 1.30pm onwards on Tuesday. Students who do not receive an offer will get an e-mail from the CAO with their ‘Statement of Application Record’.  All students should again check that all details on this e-mail are accurate to ensure the CAO has not made an administrative error.

Over the next few days, it is sensible not to overly predict what will happen with your CAO application. Predicting points for courses can be a futile exercise, as points on a given year are determined by demand from students for a course, combined with the number of places on it. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for predicting what can happen.

Accepting a Place

On Tuesday, you may get two possible offers; one from your level 6/7 list and one from you level 8 list, assuming you have filled in both. Level 6 courses are ones offering a two-year higher certificate, which are found mostly at the Institutes of Technology. Level 7 consists of three-year ordinary level degree courses, while level 8 are honours degree courses. You may be offered a third level place from both lists; however, you can only accept one.

Once you accept a place on a course from your list, you cannot be offered a place on a potential course below it (on the same list) in future rounds. You can however be offered a place on a course above it (on the same list), irrespective of whether you accepted your initial offer or not. You can always move up on your listings, but never down.  Note that if you do not accept an offer and no subsequent offer is made to you, that original offer will be distributed to another applicant in the next round.

If you are offered a place on any course, I would advise you to do some serious research on its content to ensure it is suitable one for you. You can do this on Qualifax or the specific college website. Do not accept a course that you don’t really want to do, as you may end up dropping out and possibly paying full fees (€3,000 approx.) the following year. I feel that it is important to be somewhat passionate and have a degree of curiosity about a course and subject matter in order to study and research it for three or four years.

Remember that the level 6/7 route is also a viable option for students. In many cases, you can subsequently progress to complete an ‘add on year’ to reach your level 8 degree target. This course transfer process is known as ‘Advanced entry’. If you accept a level 6/7 course, you should then think about a potential pathway to maximise your qualifications later. A phone call to the third level college may be worthwhile to get more Information on this. If you are in doubt about anything CAO related over the next few weeks, you can contact them through the correspondence section of their website.

Deferring your Place

If you wish to defer the place you have been offered, you need to contact the third level college directly (not the CAO office). They will ask you to confirm your deferral by e-mail. The college will subsequently send you an e-mail confirmation of this status, which you should retain.

In order to take your place on this course the following year, you should re-apply to the CAO and simply enter that one course on your CAO form. You should not enter other courses on the form unless you have changed your mind about accepting the one you have deferred.

Available Places

The available places facility of the CAO website will re-open on Wednesday September 8th at 12pm. These courses can be applied for by any student. Applicants must meet the normal minimum entry requirements for a given course. Previously published points in earlier rounds should not be taken as an indication of the points required for entry to an available places course. The role of the available places facility is to advertise new courses that have been launched since the CAO deadline. They also advertise courses where all places have not been filled on them i.e. demand wasn’t as high as expected. The available places application procedure is similar to the ‘Change of Mind’ one. Available places courses are added daily on the CAO website, so a regular check in here is recommended.

Available places, although limited, may be a saving option for those who didn’t get their desired course and aren’t sure about accepting another offer they didn’t really want. Again, my advice here is to research the course really well. The UK’s version of available places is called ‘clearing’. This is also worth a look if you are willing to travel and have your heart set on something. When I was doing my exams in the 1990s, there was really only one way into courses and by inference careers. Now, there are so many routes and pathways you can investigate. No matter how bad things are, ‘You always have options’.

Script Reviews and Appeals

If you do miss out on the course you had your heart set on, you should seriously consider reviewing your scripts with the possibility of an appeal (completed through a shorter timeline from now on) later. Under the new system this year, upgrades after rechecks will not see students lose out on college places which they have achieved the required points for (unless they are unlucky enough to lose out through ‘random selection’, which can happen at any stage of the process). Some third level institutions will allow you to complete a ‘Second chance’ Maths exam to reach a specific grade requirement and therefore be accepted on a course you have enough points for.

Details of how you can review your exam scripts and the appeals process has now been released. I will publish advice and full analysis around this in my next ‘Joe’s Jotter’ feature article on Tuesday 6th September.

Apprenticeships and PLC Courses

If a CAO offer doesn’t come your way, don’t lose hope. Apprenticeships and PLC courses are also real options for you. Full Information about these options is available on the Careers Portal website. Apprenticeships were traditionally based around the crafts, but many new ones have emerged (almost fifty in total) including in areas such as Accounting, Commi Chef, ICT, and Insurance.

While Ireland now needs more graduates for the health, teaching and IT sectors, it also needs those with the skills acquired through the various apprenticeships. For every eight students attending higher education, only one of these will be in an apprenticeship. I think the minister needs to continue to work on re-addressing this balance through consistent encouragement, promotion, and expansion of this sector.

PLC’s courses can be used as a springboard to a certificate, diploma or even a degree course. Personally, I find the courses section of the Careers Portal website brilliant for researching these courses and this site will also show you a route to move from your chosen PLC course into higher courses at third level later. This allows you to map out your future pathway. It is worth noting that the minimum entry requirements on PLC courses is usually lower than third level ones. Once you get your foot on the first step of the ladder, it is a lot easier to keep climbing. As outlined above: ‘You always have options’.

Keep an eye on my Facebook page (link below) for more Information on the CAO and college offer process. To view last week’s feature article on ‘Navigating Secondary School as an SEN Student’. click here. Joe

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Navigating Secondary School as a Student with SEN

Students who have Special Educational Needs (SEN) can struggle with a variety of tasks each day at Secondary School. As teachers and parents, we want to make their transition to Secondary School as smooth as possible. This feature article gives some tips on how you can help your child navigate their day-to-day engagements more seamlessly. It also contains some useful advice and informative recommendations for Parents of Students with SEN that are already attending Secondary School (2nd Years upwards).

The ‘Home’ Support

  • Photocopy their timetable, have copies in their locker, on the fridge, in their journal and for their pocket.
  • Photocopy their bus ticket. Have a spare ticket in their school bag, at home and in their school locker in case it is misplaced.
  • Get colour coordinated folders. Give each subject a colour. For example, all English related work and notes goes into a green folder. Put a green sticker on the English textbook and English copies and colour code ‘English’ green on their timetable. If you have a map of the school, then the room where English class takes place should be shaded green also. Everything ‘English’ is green and so on.
  • If using a locker key, make multiple copies and get a springy key chain so that they can attach it to a loop on their pants or skirt. Alternatively, use a combination lock and get them to memorise the code between now and the start of school. Mark with nail varnish or spray paint to make it brighter and easier for them to see their property from a distance.
  • Have a stash of spare copies and stationery material in a cupboard. Let them know where it is, so that they can draw on it as things go missing or get filled up.
  • Have a morning checklist on the fridge for: books, lunch, key, jacket, PE gear etc.
  • If possible, arrange for them to tour the school before day one. It is also a good idea to do a trial run of their trip to school with them, to get an idea of the route and timing. This will avoid any travel trauma’s during week one.

The ‘School’ Support

  • If possible, arrange that they meet as many of their subject teachers and year head prior to starting back or as soon as is possible. This gives them certainty about who will be working with and helping them this year.
  • Look into having a safe and reliable person that they can approach for help and advice in school on a daily basis.
  • If they have an SNA, make sure that person also has a copy of their colour coordinated timetable, a spare key/combination code and bus-ticket.
  • Make it your business to get to know your child’s Assistant Principals and Class Tutor as soon as the year commences.
  • Have a notebook that they can write in during the day in case they find something challenging. Both of you can reflect on it together when a suitable time during the week arises to see what challenges might need to be overcome.
  • For the first hour each evening, allow them to breathe and relax when they get home. Do not expect them to talk immediately after school. It is advisable to allow them some quiet wind-down time first.
  • Advise them to choose a Locker at eye level. This is so important, as all their classmates and other classes may be scheduled to go to their lockers together, leading to mayhem at times. Having to reach down with people blocking their path can be especially challenging for someone with social or communication difficulties. This is definitely one practical suggestion that will ensure they are on time for each class and that they bring the correct materials to each class also.
  • Encourage them to link up with a buddy or designated person in each subject class, so they can text them to find out what homework they have, should the need arise.
  • If they are using a laptop, most Secondary School books now come with a code written inside to allow the eBook version of it to be uploaded digitally. This means they can leave more books at school each day, lightening their load.
  • Getting to know the school secretary, for both you and your child is definitely worthwhile, as they will have an awareness of who they are and their challenges etc. Any extra support or eyes around the Secondary School environment can help greatly for those who struggle in various practical ways.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Transitioning to 1st Year from Primary’, click here.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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

Practical steps to smooth the Transition into Secondary School

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 you and your child to consider at school and at home.

The Importance of 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 (in September), where your child’s year head will outline important strengths and weaknesses of each student.
  • Learning support at Secondary is different to that at Primary school level. Contact the school if they had been receiving any type of support at Primary that their new school may not be aware of.
  • Flag any difficulties that your child had in primary school, so that it is entered onto their personal file. The class tutor and year heads will then have access to it from there. Ensure to always 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 their new 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.
  • As appropriate, a support plan may also 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.
  • Most post-primary schools will have links with their feeder primary schools. This allows for an easier transfer of information between them. Usually, there is contact between the 6th class primary/resource teacher and the receiving post-primary school. This will help to overcome any disconnect between what was taught in primary and the starting point in certain subjects at second level.
  • 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 in it 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 should you like them to have it. I know that as a teacher, I am always pleased to get Insights like this, should parents be willing to present them. It gives us as teachers a deeper understanding into how each child interacts and learns, allowing us to support and get to know our students better. Outcomes are always better with Informative Insights like these.

You may also wish to ask the school some key questions at the start of the school year…

  1. Where can my child go if they are struggling, anxious or 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, or homework?
  4. How will support during class assessments work in each subject?

Awareness of how they are Settling In

  1. Watch out for any early signs of bullying by regularly checking in with your child. Tune in from day one to see whats going on and whats being said. A lot of bullying goes on via their phone; so ask them to pass on any issues or concerns they may have e.g. a hurtful comment, message, or mean social media post.
  2. With things being a little unsettled for the first few weeks, establishing 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 stability.
  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 being quite right at school.
  4. Watch out for emerging red flags i.e. Not wanting to do activities they enjoy, 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 try and get an honest conversation going.
  6. Try to listen to them if they have had a bad day.
  7. In general, if you get them into good habits in 1st year, 2nd year will be way more straightforward (A major ACE tip here) especially from a communication viewpoint.

 Practical Tips for things to do……….together at home

  1. Make a few copies of their subject timetable.
  2. Photocopy the bus ticket, keeping a spare one in their locker and at home.
  3. Help them get organised with colour coordinated 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, the room where English class is on would be blue also.
  4. Have a morning reminder checklist on the fridge for: PE gear, lunch, keys, jacket etc.
  5. Know the system. If they can view their books on a laptop, this may sometimes allow them to leave books in school. Most secondary school textbooks now come now with a code where you can upload them onto their laptop. Handy to know this Information.
  6. Making a distinctive mark on their belongings will give them a better chance of them not being lost or stolen, especially during the upheaval of the first few weeks.

Practical Tips for things they can do……….at school

  1. Having a safe person they can approach for help or advice, more than one if possible.
  2. Carefully minding their colour coordinated timetable, the spare key/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. It is advisable not to expect them to talk immediately after school. Giving them some quiet processing time will allow you to get the chat going as the night progresses.
  5. Getting to know a friend in each class that they can text to find out what homework or revision they have for the next day. Classmates will vary depending on the subject.
  6. Getting to know the school secretary, should any issues or concerns arise.

To view part one of this feature article on ‘Transitioning into first year’. click here. Joe

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Secondary Maths – Some Useful Insights for Parents

I think it may be interesting for both students and parents to consider the following observations I have become aware of in Maths over the last number of years. Maths is a very emotive subject, and everyone has their own way of understanding and practicing it. This presents its own set of difficulties. The below insights and observations may help you as a parent to reach out and help your child with Maths in a more positive way.

The Second Year Dip

Firstly, in general, I have noticed that some of my students (and those of my colleagues) experience a slight dip in performance in Maths during their second year in secondary school. This is partly due to workload and the fact that the first-year common course is quite basic. This dip for girls is not as pronounced as for boys. There is also a drop off in fifth year, but it isn’t as extreme as the second year one. If your child is heading into second year, you need to be aware that this could be the case for them. I believe that working diligently on their algebra, fractions and general numeracy would be a big help in overcoming any barriers that block their path. These topics are the three main pillars of Junior Cycle Maths and underpin and are linked to many other topics on the course.

We all need to keep in mind that online learning has not suited some students and that they have missed out on that key face-to-face contact with teachers, especially in Maths. As a parent, it is important that you encourage positivity around this subject and remind them that every student in the country is in the same boat. From a personal point of view, I noticed that last year’s Junior Cycle class did struggle (more than usual) with some topics, but it did eventually come together for them in the end. I expect that the incoming third year cohort will take a while to settle back (through no fault of their own) this year. In fairness, it may take many of them until after Christmas before they settle down into a pattern of revision and work across all subjects. It is understandable that they may not hit the ground running this year and we all need to be cognisant of this.

Girls – Go for it!

From the students I have taught since Project Maths was introduced, I have noticed another trend in my classes. I have spotted that female students are less likely to take risks when attempting past exam questions. The new phrasing of questions on Maths papers suit boys better, as they are less conscious of what they are writing down and are less afraid of being wrong. In my opinion, it is important for girls to express their opinions freely and openly and we, as teachers, need to help them develop this skill. I think it is important for all students not to get unduly perturbed if they cannot get a certain part of a question out perfectly. In Maths now, it is more important to go onto another question (within the allotted time), instead of looking to complete every single question part absolutely perfect.  I feel that Churchill’s (not the dog) quote is quite apt for our modern day Maths syllabus.

“Perfection is the enemy of Progress”.

Winston Churchill (Former Prime Minister of the UK)

One does not really have time for absolute perfection on a Maths paper as they tend to be quite long, and unlike other subjects, there isn’t as much time for admiring your work. Students should apply this principle across the board to all their Maths tests in 2021/22.

The New Practical Style Questions

Thirdly, girls especially need to practice more exam questions involving engineering and mechanical parts. My reasoning for this is that, in general, most of the student cohort studying Engineering, Construction studies and Design/Communication Graphics (DCG) at Leaving Certificate are boys, and girls are not being exposed to this specific type of learning. With more everyday life practical questions being the order of the day in Maths, it is inevitable that more technical and mechanical questions will appear in years to come, and girls and parents of girls need to be aware of this. This trend will slowly become more pronounced if the Governments’ promotion and focus on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects continues and I expect it will.

Follow Your Passion

Lastly, in a recent survey, twenty-nine percent of Irish parents surveyed thought that technology subjects weren’t suitable for girls and fifty-three percent of girls in secondary school dropped STEM subjects due to pressure from their parents. These statistics may be contributing to the lack of representation of females working in STEM. Students and parents need to be aware of the excellent third level courses and future career opportunities available in these areas for both genders. Students need to be encouraged to explore all avenues of interest and follow their career path of choice. Pursuing some spinoff of the subjects that a student enjoys each day in school wont set them too far wrong. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 1)’, click here.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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

There are so many genuine concerns for students as they make the leap into the big pond that is secondary school. Over the next few weeks, I will provide some Information and direction to help you as a parent to reduce the stress of this unique transition. This feature article comes in two parts. Firstly, i will analyse the differences between Primary and Secondary School followed by my Top twenty tips for Transitioning from one to the other. A further instalment of this feature will follow online in two weeks’ time. There will also be a feature article to aid Parents (of Secondary School students) who have children with a Special Educational need (SEN) to follow soon.

The Main Differences Between Primary and Secondary School

 

Subjects and Settling into Secondary

  • All first year students will take Irish, English, Maths, Science, History and Wellbeing (excluding exemptions).
  • Students may get a chance to sample subjects in first year before committing to them.
  • Various extra-curricular activities such as debating, drama, science club etc available.
  • It is a great idea for students to join clubs and make new friends. Remind them about some of the skills of making friends; good eye-contact, smiling, showing interest in other children and reciprocal conversational skills. Making friends is a key element to settling into secondary school.
  • The more exercise that students get the better. I did a little study of a panel of footballers I coached previously, and they performed better on average academically compared to those in their year. This is another reason to get active and stuck into clubs and sports.
  • If your child enjoys a specific sport/club, it is a good idea to get to know the teacher who co-ordinates this.
  • It will be exciting for your child to start new subjects – woodwork, home economics and metalwork etc.
  • Students should give each subject an equal amount of homework time for the first few weeks to give each one a chance.
  • It is wise for students to complete the homework of their less favoured subjects first each evening. This will ensure their concentration is at its maximum for these subjects.
  • The better your child’s teachers know them, the better working relationship in class they will have with them. This feeds back into what extra-curricular activities they sign up to. Personally, I find that the better I know my students, the more I am able to help them.
  • Advise your child to enjoy their secondary school experiences. This takes any early pressure off them.

Secondary School Structure

  • The Subject Teacher – most teachers teach two subjects and may spend up to six classes per week with your child.
  • The Tutor/Form/Home Room Teacher – involved in attendance, day to day and possibly some pastoral care or discipline work.
  • The Year Head – Home room teachers report to this person. They usually deal with serious discipline or pastoral care issues also.
  • Deputy Principal and Principal – Admin, Organisation, Events, Final decisions etc.
  • Students are usually divided into 4/5 groups of 25/30 (depending on the size of the school) with possible class names being: 1a, 1b., 1c, 1d, 1e. They stay with this base class for core subjects: Irish, English, Maths, Wellbeing etc. The majority of schools have mixed ability classes in first year. This helps with socialisation. “Mixed-ability groupings in first Year leads to improved progress in literacy and numeracy and can give students more confidence as learners’ (Moving Up -ESRI/NCCA 2004).
  • Students are usually mixed based from Information from their Education Passport from primary school and performance in their entrance tests.
  • Streaming may occur in some subjects in second year. This is where students are grouped by their ability – Higher and Ordinary. e.g. Maths
  • The student council body suggests ideas and raises student related issues with school management. Usually one student is nominated from each class or year. This is the students’ vehicle for discussion and influencing change. The schools’ head girl/boy and deputy head girl/boy are usually elected by the school’s student council.

Day to Day School Routines

  1. It’s important to have a substantial breakfast each morning e.g. Porridge with fruit and yoghurt or a healthy cereal. Students will need something ample to sustain them until little break when they can have a snack. Advise them on the sensibility of not eating their packed lunch at 11am (the first small break) and being hungry for the afternoon then as a result.
  2. Roll call, locker access and lunch are at certain times. If your child is a bit scatty, make sure to advise and help them to be organised for these situations. Ask them to speak to their class tutor or mentor/buddy if any early issues emerge here.
  3. Get them to copy out their timetable into their journal in order to get familiar with it. Colour coding subjects on this timetable can help them track their progress for the week.
  4. In some schools, the students travel to the teacher’s base rooms. In other schools, the teachers move around, and each class has their own base. Movement may be reduced from now on. Having the correct materials for each class every day will be Important. Being good at this will greatly help the transition to secondary school.
  5. Moving around a new building can be disconcerting for a child. They can get lost and that’s upsetting for them. Advise them to tag on to one person from the class for the first few days or weeks until they get their bearings.
  6. Many schools have gone to hour long classes to facilitate the new Junior Cycle. During the first few weeks settling in, they will be tired each evening. It may be an idea to plan ahead so that extra-curricular activities outside school are minimised during this period. After this ‘fitting in’ period is over, plough on with these important pastimes as normal.

Twenty ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year

  1. Talk with your child, listen to their views and concerns and answer any questions they may have about the planned move. Talk to them about individual subjects. Help them plan their evenings and the fact that each one will now be different.
  2. Many students get anxious about assessments. You can explain that they are to help the school to learn more about the supports that they may need. Advise them to speak with the individual subject teacher if they are concerned in any way about a subject or a test.
  3. Try and bring them inside the school building before term starts. This is to familiarise students with the school at a time when there are fewer students in the building. They can learn about the layout of the school, get to know some of their new teachers and become familiar with the operation of the school including the frequency of bells, the location of lockers, where their base room and other key practical rooms are.
  4. Involve your child in buying schoolbooks, uniform, P.E. gear etc. Involve them in more decision making from now on. Empowerment works.
  5. Talk to your son/daughter about the length of the school day, how a timetable works and how they are going to travel to school. Trial runs are good. Leave early for school each morning to minimise this anxiety. Anticipate where they may get anxious during the day.
  6. Talk regularly over the next few weeks about the new school rules, P.E. arrangements, the canteen, lunch breaks, uniform, and the timetable. Make yourself familiar with the policies of the school, regularly checking the school’s website for updates.
  7. Ensure as many of their subject teachers know about their exact strengths and difficulties. i.e. The information on their ‘Education Passport’.
  8. During the first term, if possible, visit the school every so often to meet their subject teachers, tutor, and year head. Always keep an eye on their journal for teachers’ notes.
  9. Get your hands on or draw up a map of the school to promote familarisation.
  10. Consider that it may take your child time to adapt to a new classroom, new activities, and new subjects. Ensure they build in down time each evening to maintain freshness and enthusiasm for the next set of challenges ahead. Unlike Primary School, every week differs.
  11. Organising Issues: Purchase materials for each subject. School booklists and stationary lists (from their website) are the first port of call here. The website theschoolrun.com is useful for an insight into each subject and Introductory worksheets.
  12. If possible, show them a few little skills around note-taking. Most of their subject teachers may not get the opportunity to work on this vital skill.
  13. Talk about and help clarify the Locker process. Many kids get bogged down with this.
  14. Advise them to use their mentor/buddy and class tutor as best they can.
  15. Getting clever at knowing what equipment is required for each class is important: i.e. protractors, setsquares, colours, stencil sets, rulers, pens, calculators etc. A good tip is to remind them to write down each teachers’ instructions during week one about what is required in each subject. There is no need to carry all of their books all of the time. Put their Timetable and Calendar on the fridge at home as a family reminder to all.
  16. Encourage them to sign up to a few clubs and society’s on ‘club’s day’ in September.
  17. Re-enforce the Important habit of recording Information, especially in relation to homework. Check their Journal weekly to ensure homework is being recorded properly.
  18. Get the 3-way communication going i.e. Teachers-Parent-Student. In primary school, it was more about the Teacher-Parent link. Start including your child in more conversations as appropriate from now on. This allows them to be involved and take more ownership.
  19. Do as much preparation for the next school day the night before as you can. Get them into the habit of having the uniform out, bag correctly packed by the door, lunch ready etc. This again will reduce stress levels for all involved in the morning madness.
  20. At secondary school, the days are longer. Encourage them to start their day with a healthy breakfast or give them some dried fruit or yoghurt to eat in the car if in a hurry.

Part 2 of Insights on transitioning into 1st Year will be published online in two weeks’ time. Don’t miss it. Do contact me if I can advise in any way. Click #JoesJotter for more. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Summer Nutrition suggestions for Students’, click here.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Summer Nutrition Suggestions for Students

Summer is a time for rest and reflection. As a student, do you ever think about your diet and the foods you intake? Did you go overboard on the junk food this summer? Here are some pointers to read and have a think about as we approach the last month of summer 2021. This article is not to lecture you, but rather to make you think about little adjustments you could make to ensure you are giving you body and mind the best possible chance going forward.

1. Target One or Two Improvements

Rather than aiming to overhaul your diet and what you eat, start by targeting one specific area for improvement before the new academic year kicks off. This should be something that is most relevant to you and is changeable, for example, breakfast. If you are someone who doesn’t eat a healthy breakfast, you could start by prioritising that. As you become more consistent with that meal, you can work on another mini target like eating more fruit and vegetables or reducing sugary drinks. It is important to be realistic about what you wish to achieve and give yourself a reasonable time period to achieve it.

Progress on any changes made should be judged over several weeks, rather than days, as new habits take time to form. Get a shopping list together and ask your parents to stock the fridge and freezer with specific foods. The more whole and natural a food is, the better. For example, a beetroot unpackaged and untouched is far better than a jar of sliced beetroot. You get the idea. If you can do a bit of cooking for yourself, you will never go hungry. Remember that if you fall off the horse with any type of plan, just get back on and go again! In a world of many distractions, any minor improvements to the quality of food you consume will facilitate improved concentration. We all could do with that. More importantly for you, this will allow you to make a fast start in September.

You won’t go to far wrong by increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables for the remainder of the holidays. This will help you build up resistance to any bugs flying around come autumn time. Eating as many different coloured vegetables as you can is the secret to providing plenty of nutrients for your body. If you do opt for a takeaway, cook some homemade vegetables (before it arrives) to eat on the side. This balances the books a little and ensures you are still getting important vitamins and minerals.

2. Hydrate Very Well

Firstly, it’s important to know that your weight affects your fluid needs. You should drink 35ml of fluid daily for every kilogramme you weigh. For example, a 70kg (11 stone approx.) person should drink 2.45 litres per day. The recommended daily amount of water for a teenager is two litres which works out at eight to ten glasses; however, I would recommend that you drink more if the day is particularly hot or if you are exercising. In athletes, research has shown that a two percent drop in hydration can lead to thirty percent drop in performance.

Water is the best form of hydration, and the benefits of water are well documented. Water increases energy, flushes out toxins, improves skin complexion, boosts the immune system, prevents cramps, balances the body’s fluids, promotes digestion, and eliminates waste products. Having all these benefits working in your favour around is only going to help you maintain good health. Low sugar fruit juices, like cranberry, blueberry and apple are good for hydration and contain enzymes and vitamins. Fizzy drinks will also hydrate but again are to be avoided due to their high sugar content. Other foods to improve hydration include Cucumbers, Watermelon, Pineapple, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Pear, Grapefruit, Lettuce, and Melon. Ultimately, sipping on water throughout the day is the best way to avoid dehydration.

If you get dehydrated, your concentration for revision at home or performance on the sports field will suffer. In essence, it affects everything. Here are four tell-tale signs that your body is dehydrated and that you need to drink more fluids:

  • Dry mouth and skin: If you are dehydrated, you may not be producing enough saliva, which will lead to a build-up of bacteria in the mouth. Acne may also occur.
  • Food cravings: The body confuses thirst for hunger sometimes. Drinking water will reduce these cravings, as it is water your body often requires not food.
  • Headaches, tiredness, and confusion: A lack of water can lead to headaches during the day. This makes it very difficult to operate to your maximum capacity. Ask yourself the question, “Am I constantly tired?” If the answer is yes, you might just be lacking water in your diet. The process of learning and retaining information has been proven to be more difficult if your body lacks fluid.
  • Urine colour: The colour of urine should be light if you are well hydrated. The average hydrated person goes to the toilet to excrete urine six to eight times daily.

To combat dehydration, bring a bottle of water with you wherever you go. Keeping bottles of cold water in the fridge at home will make it easy to ‘grab and go’ and you can sip away on it as the day progresses. It is important to note that if you feel some of the above listed symptoms, your body may already be dehydrated. Prevention is better than cure in this case. Small changes, like these, can end up making a big difference. Joe.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Assessing your Revision Achievements in 2020/21’, click here.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: https://www.acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: http://www.facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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