Joe’s Jotter: Students, Practice Thinking Critically

Students,

Did you struggle to find a way to revise this year? Did you feel like your classmates were always a step ahead of you with study? Do you just read content in the hope that you will remember it later?

This article relates how you understand and learn subject content, and the different angles you can approach it from to get a better handle on it. The more ways you can approach learning, as opposed to just ‘learning off’ material, the more successful you will be.

I believe successful students are those who can think critically about the information they have in front of them. To do this, you as a student should read the information presented by the author, understand it as best you can and then begin to question it critically. Being critical does not mean just being negative; it also means being knowledgeable and really assessing the quality of the information. My ACE tip here is to use your imagination, challenge the question being asked and don’t be afraid to offer your own personal opinion on topics. Teachers and Examiners like opinions as it shows you can think independently.

In 2013, The Open University (UK) developed a ‘stairway’ to help students understand the skills of critical thinking. Students should apply these steps to a specific topic in order to understand it better. I think this is an excellent way of studying, as you are reflecting on all aspects of the information presented. This method would be particularly useful in subjects like English, Economics, History, Geography and Business.  The steps are as follows:

  • Process: take in the information (i.e. in what you have read, heard, seen, or done).
  • Understand: comprehend the key points, assumptions and arguments presented.
  • Analyse: examine how these key components link together.
  • Compare: explore the similarities and differences ideas you are reading about.
  • Synthesise: bring together different sources of information making logical connections between them.
  • Evaluate: assess the worth of an idea in terms of its relevance to your needs.
  • Apply: transfer the understanding gained and use in response to questions, assignments, and projects.
  • Justify: use critical thinking to develop arguments, draw conclusions, and identify implications.

In today’s Junior and Leaving Certificate, where you need to be able to apply knowledge to a topic, learning off too much information is a common mistake made by students and is not recommended. There is more of an emphasis now on applying everyday life experience to each question asked. Similarly, if the butterflies are fluttering madly on the morning of the exam, you are less likely to remember a lengthy essay you have learned off. In my opinion, you are better off to stick with summaries, bullet points, post-its, quotes, mind maps, definitions, and little hardbacks. The state exams are now more about identifying the important information in a question and discussing its merits, as opposed to emptying the contents of your head onto the answer book. This is something to reflect on over the summer as you plan your Autumn revision strategies.

To view last weeks feature articles on finalising your CAO decisions, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Maths Tuition classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Students (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/

*****

 

 

Joe’s Jotter: Improving Your Homework at Secondary School



Is Homework useful?

Students. Time spent at homework each night serves two purposes. Firstly, it is a reminder of what you did that day in school. In my opinion, the first five minutes of homework you do in each subject should be to go back over what the teacher did in class that day. Secondly,  it also allows you to test yourself to see if you now understand information about a topic, and maybe how you may need to explore it further. Students should take care over each piece of homework that you do and complete it as best they can. Personally, I really see the value of homework as a key tool in re-enforcing learning that has taken place during each day.

The Best Way to Tackle Homework

How you approach homework after a long day is a secret to being more efficient with it. Firstly, I would make sure to rest a little when you get home and get a good solid meal into you, especially if you have plenty to do. Clever students ‘eat their frog’ and do the difficult homework or subjects they struggle with first. This allows them to feel better as the evening goes on. As I see it, this make total sense, as your concentration levels, later in the evening, do not need to be as high for subjects you are good at or enjoy, as tiredness creeps in.

On a similar note, attempt the type of learning you do not particularly enjoy first. In other words, if you aren’t fond of reading or learning off, do that first as opposed to writing or note taking. Homework and revision are all about tactics and working smarter. It is better to write some short jottings and key points as opposed to spending hours mindlessly reading. Fact.

No Homework Tonight!

If your daily homework has been completed during ‘free periods’ during the day, it is still important to use those few hours in the evening to revise material from last week or the week before. You need to use these opportunities, if they arise, to catch up. For students in Senior cycle, you cannot really afford to take a full night off. I am in no way saying you have to work from 5 – 10pm every night. You should take a short break every thirty minutes. Even on weeknights, take some exercise or go do that little activity you enjoy that keeps you sane.

Homework is the Best Form of Study

Homework done to a high standard is a brilliant form of study. Reviewing work done in class via mini test questions or checking what’s coming up tomorrow can be included as part of your homework if time allows. Homework teaches you to analyse the information your teacher has given to you. Always take pride in the homework you produce, as it will stand to you in the end. Time spent doing homework should be counted as part of ‘exam preparation’ time and you shouldn’t feel in anyway guilty about doing ‘all homework’ and ‘no revision’ (or study as you like to call it) on certain nights.

Super Organisation

The importance of homework and being super organised are important aspects to kick-start success. In my opinion, homework is the best form of study and you need to be disciplined with it. Write it diligently into your journal each day and complete each piece of homework like you are doing an exam question. Being efficient with homework takes time. It may take months to figure out the best way to approach it. Ensure each subject gets a fair amount of ‘homework time’, depending on what you schedule is like for the next day.

Every day, I make a list of tasks on my phone that I need to complete. At the end of the day, I review this list to see how many of them I have actually fully completed. Tasks unfinished are then moved to another day so that each task is eventually dealt with. At times, tasks are postponed (put off into the future), but ultimately they always get completed unless I eventually deem them unimportant. Apply this to your revision, ensuring that everything gets completed as soon as is possible in the most efficient manner. Task monitoring, homework discipline and dedication are all attributes of the ‘Super Organised’ student.

The Importance of Homework Survey

I did a survey of students previously and asked them to think about the importance of homework to them and how its benefits helped them achieve their goals. Here are some of the more interesting observations and advice they gave about it:

  • Record your homework carefully in your journal every day.
  • Use class time well if teachers allot it to homework.
  • Set the same time aside every evening for homework.
  • Do your homework after dinner and soon after arriving home.
  • Try to complete the majority of homework before nine p.m.
  • Try to be honest with your teachers in relation to homework.
  • Tick off your homework for each subject as it gets done.
  • When doing your homework, do not lounge on a bed or sofa.
  • Ask your parents/teacher if you cannot understand your homework.
  • Have a quiet study area with a desk, fresh air, and good lighting.
  • As well as written work, browse over what was covered in class.
  • Do not let homework affect sleep time.
  • Plan ahead on assignments if you are expecting a busy week.
  • Get the phone numbers of classmates for queries on homework.
  • Leaving homework until the next morning is a bad idea.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) Classes for Junior Cycle (2022) and Leaving Certificate (2021) Students, ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

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

*****

Joe’s Jotter: Parental Insights to support your child through to Exam Day

Dear Parents,

You may now be in the situation where your child is preparing for a final state exam and at times it will seem like you are the one actually sitting the paper. Firstly, ‘you’ getting stressed out and worked up will only make them more anxious. Students need to be encouraged and rewarded and this will be your main role around exam time. Getting annoyed or even angry with your child for not studying or putting in the hours will achieve very little. Ultimately, the only person you are upsetting is yourself. The old adage is apt here:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink

As a parent, all you can do is put the conditions in place to help them flourish. Purchasing some revision and solution books, making healthy food, providing a quiet house for study and plenty of love and support are all positive actions around this time.

Providing that Subtle Support

Being in the background and offering that hassle free support is what most exam students want right now. Firstly, let’s focus on the support they need for revision and homework now. Homework is an extremely important part of your child’s learning in exam year. Below are some short tips that will facilitate your involvement, in making homework, a positive learning experience for your child:

  • Provide your child with a suitable place and time to do their homework. Minimise interruptions/distractions from television, phones, and other siblings.
  • If a child has difficulty with homework, you should try where possible to help them overcome it with explanations and examples, without actually doing it for them.
  • In the case of recurring homework problems, it is advisable to ring or send a quick note to the subject teacher to explain what the problem or issue is. If you are a parent of an exam year student, a phone call is probably the recommended form of communication at this stage of the year. More detailed advice on homework will follow in feature articles over the next few weeks.

 Encourage them to Express Themselves

If you find your child is getting quite anxious about upcoming exams and needs more than talking, ask them to write their thoughts and concerns on a sheet of paper. Having kept a diary for ten years as a child, I found that writing down thoughts and feelings helped to get them out of my head, so I could deal with reality better. An idea might also be to ask them to write down some positive actions, such as “I will relax and perform well” or “when I get the first question on the first paper started, it will settle me”.

It’s important to guard against what they perceive as failure; support instead of policing is the way to go. To me failure in school is not about grades; the students that fail are those who don’t try, and the same philosophy could be applied to life. From this point of view, encouraging all their efforts and promoting calmness is the ideal standpoint for any parent as exams near.

Get in touch with their school if you are overly concerned about your child’s anxiety, as sometimes it can happen that teachers are not aware of issues with students, and being informed, they can take steps to help them or at least cut them some slack in class. Ultimately, if you feel exam anxiety (or any other serious anxiety for that matter) is reaching an uncontrollable level, you need to seek advice, support, and guidance, probably from a medical practitioner.

 Five Practical Tips to Support Your Exam Student

Parents, here are more real and practical insights into how your support can really help your son/daughter be their best around exam time:

  • Help them maintain a well-balanced daily routine. You should guide your child to aim for a proper balance between revision and rest. After each exam or class test, they need time to rest and recharge before they can do any beneficial study for the next challenge. With a lot of tests in school at the minute, it is important to maintain that freshness where possible. Late-night study sessions are not advised.
  • Studies have shown that a good night’s sleep improves exam performance. All revision should end at least an hour before bedtime to allow your child time to unwind before sleep. Encourage them to conclude revision and start to relax, in order to slow down the body and mind. This will result in a refreshing night’s sleep. It is not advisable to fall straight into bed from the study desk as their mind will be buzzing for hours as they attempt to get to sleep.
  • “You are what you eat”. What you eat and drink affects your performance in any activity, especially one involving mental sharpness. As a parent, you should try to ensure your child has nutritious food as exams approach, starting with breakfast each morning, the lunch they bring with them if they are facing long days, their evening meal, as well as snacks during the day. Grazing on junk food is very tempting at times of increased stress but should be avoided as much as possible.
  • Success is always a team effort. Drawing on the support of everything that is potentially positive in a student’s life helps to maximise exam performance. Such supports include a heightened awareness on the part of all family members in their interactions with the person doing exams. Meeting with friends and participation in sporting or social activities should be encouraged. All these factors help to maintain a student’s ‘spirits’ during an extended exam period.
  • It is advisable not to over hype the importance of any examination. It is very easy in the middle of a stress-induced experience, such as a major exam, to get the whole event totally out of perspective. The secret here is to try and maintain their normal school routine. Parents should ensure their child is clear that your unconditional love and regard for them is in no way dependent on how they perform in these annual academic Olympics. Your affirmation is the greatest gift you can give them, prior to and during their tests.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Revising from Home for an Exam (Feature 5 of 6)’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) Classes for Junior Cycle (2022) and Leaving Certificate (2021) Students, ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

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

*****

Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

 


Revising Together to Shrink the Workload

Some students really struggle to motivate themselves on their own. Are you one of these people? Others work better in a small group or with one other person. Working on questions and tasks with your friends is a very effective study method, as long as you stick to the topic. Zoom sessions can be easily organised in pairs (with a study buddy) or three’s. Use this time to discuss topics or plan who is going to note take or write a certain essay to share with the group later. Working together is almost vital now given the amount of time you have spent at home working alone recently. I revised in groups for a small number of modules in university and found it very useful in fact-based subjects.  We rattled off stats and opinions to each other that many of us recalled at exam time.

Collaboration with one or two friends for some subjects can work. Avoid large groups, as you end up with too much information that you haven’t time to process and condense it then. Too many voices can lead to chaos and too many opinions can lead to a lack of conclusions. Collaboration is particularly good in fact-based subjects like History, Home Economics (S&S), Physics, Ag Science and Biology etc, as you can get a good flow of information going between you. It may not be as useful in Irish, Music and Maths as many topics in these subjects need to be worked on alone. Sometimes it is difficult to measure the success of a study technique or approach prior to testing it out, so make the decision and see will it work for you. I would recommend it.

‘The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision’

Unknown

I’m sure you will agree that studying on your own for the last few months has at times got boring and tedious, so collaboration could be a way to spice up the ‘run in’ and reignite your spark. With a trustworthy ‘study buddy’, you can divide work up, teach each other and share notes. Rotate your study between working alone and with your friend(s) – this will keep you fresh. Work to your strengths is the advice here.

Thinking Outside the Box

If the usual revision methods of reading and note taking are not working for you, you need to think outside the box. Try and come up with new ways to learn and understand content. Use acronyms, create raps or songs to help aid memory. Associate your notes with lyrics from your favourite tunes. Use postits, summary sheets, colourful mind maps etc.

A good technique is to read your notes aloud recording them into your smartphone. Listening back to them will help you absorb the information and keep your memory sharp. I have used this method myself where I converted essays I was lecturing on into audio files. I then played them via my phone (using the AUX connection) in the car on the way to work. The advantage of this method is that you can educate yourself ‘on the go’ and make the best use of your time.

Audio files have become an option, now that all smartphones have the facility to record. Trial it by maybe recording an English poem into your phone, constantly playing it back to yourself, in order to get an insight into its theme. Various content from subjects can be recorded and replayed on your phone. You are only limited by your imagination. Your phone can be your mobile educator over the next few months. Some students actually enjoy listening to lectures, podcasts, or audio notes. Try it and see what you think!

Dealing with Distractions aka ‘Your Phone’

In my opinion, you are either studying or on social media: Which? There is no problem with ventures onto the Internet any time during the year, but I believe if you are inside a thirty-minute study block now you need to stay off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat et. al. Nothing harms productivity as much as constant notifications from social media. As I have previously said, set your phone to silent or turn it off completely and only check social media during your set breaks. Being a ‘screenager’ around exam time will distract you from your key short-term goals. For those of you who really struggle to stay offline, try a blocking app that will temporarily keep you away from social media sites – there are plenty in your app store. I would request my Parents help on this one also.

We are all been guilty of spending too much time on our devices, but there is a time and a place for everything. I feel that the best way to prevent this distraction is to leave the phone in a separate part of your house. If you are in an exam year, work out the amount of time you spend surfing on your phone/laptop every week. Can you afford to spend this amount of time on it from now on…? Think about it. Now is the time to sacrifice and do without, so that you can enjoy and celebrate your success later. Joe.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to Maximise Your SEC Accredited Grade’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) Classes for Junior and Leaving Certificate Students, ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books 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 2021

Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success
Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

As Christmas exams draw closer, here are two under used hacks that might just give you the edge as you try to get the most out of your revision time:

  1. Record yourself

With so many portable digital devices to play content on now, recording audio is a great option being availed of by many students. This is an excellent revision hack if you have long commutes or spend a lot of time in the car. Playing back notes you have recorded is a very successful method of retaining information. I have recorded questions and answers for job interviews previously, where I called out a possible interview question and then proceeded to answer it as best I could. Recording information on various subjects has been helpful during my career, when different jobs and challenges emerged. The great thing about recorded audio is that it will always be at your fingertips and is easily accessed from multiple devices. You can also barter this material with your study buddy i.e. swap it for other audio content or even for a great set of handwritten notes.

Bullet points, facts, list and key points have the perfect attributes for being recorded to your phone and played again and again. Remember, you will need to repeat any learning process regularly to achieve success. Having a portable learning tool like your phone or a small hardback in your pocket is great to keep you tuned in when opportunities to catch up arise.

  1. Rotate your learning

I feel it is important to rotate the type of learning you do in order to keep the brain fresh and Interested. When you sit down at the start of the week to plan your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable, be sure to rotate your learning in each study block. This rotation tricks the brain into going longer. You should even rotate your place of study. For example, by studying a specific sub-topic in the garden, it will make it easier to recall what you revised there, since you have created an association with this part of your home. Rotating your learning could also involve going down the road to your grandparents or your local library to write some essays or update your hardback. I would recommend initiatives like this to maintain freshness in your preparation, ensuring each revision session gets the attention it deserves. A change is as good as a rest.

Rotating your learning means using multiple ways to take in and understand material and notes. There are so many ways you can acquire Information these days; examples of these include: reading, taking notes, writing summaries, listening to podcasts, recording something you have learned into your phone, playing back lists through your headphones, searching the Internet, reading out loud, getting someone to examine you, watching educational YouTube videos, watching educational tv programmes, watching ted talks, creating flashcards, summary hardbacks, using postits, sticking key notes up on your wall, underlining, highlighting or discussing a sub-topic with your friends or in a study group etc. These are just some of the options available to you, which you could and should be using. Select and practice a number of these in order to try and find out what works for you. After that, rinse and repeat. Joe

To read last weeks ACE feature on ‘The Importance of handwriting your own notes’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes (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

 

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success
Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of handwriting your own notes

With a lot of schools switching to iPad’s and tablets as a mode of Education, the debate rages about which type of notes is best to have from a classroom lecture i.e. typed or handwritten ones. I still think there is a question mark about learning content in digital format, with it being more suitable in some subjects than others. It is a super Idea to work with a study buddy or group, where you can swap essays and notes. Upon swapping these notes with your friend, always rewrite them into knowledge you understand. This is my ACE tip for being able to recall this Information later.

From listening to students, I think many of them still like to hold a hard copy book in their hand. Even as an ICT teacher myself, I believe that the old-fashioned way of taking notes by hand is best for the following reasons:

  • Since we now can type faster than we write, students are tending to type notes verbatim (exactly to the word) as they try to keep up with their teacher. We are copying down a lot of the teacher’s language directly. There would be more of our own language than the teacher’s used in a handwritten set of notes, which makes them easier to understand and ultimately, of better quality.
  • With handwritten notes, we spend more time thinking about the Information before the actual physical act of writing occurs. If we are attempting to type everything exactly as spoken, there is less thinking time about that same information. In essence, I believe that slightly more learning takes place during the actual handwriting process.
  • Keywords are valuable in any content. When you are taking down notes by hand in a lecture/class, you are listening out for the keywords to ensure you are grasping the bones of the sentence. Again, while typing you are trying to get everything down and so your brain misses out on this ‘essential keyword focus’.
  • When handwriting notes, you are putting your own special stamp on them, making it easier to recall information you have translated into your own words.
  • During class, you can link up handwritten notes quicker with bubbles, arrows etc. and while doing this, you are learning what the connections and linkages are in the teachers’ content. Joe

To view last weeks feature on ‘My Top 10 reasons to do after school study’,  click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes (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

 

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of handwriting your own notes

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of handwriting your own notes
Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of handwriting your own notes

Meath Post Primary Schools – Virtual Open Days (Enrolment 2021)

Meath Post Primary Schools – Virtual Open Days
Enrolment for Sept 2021

St Joseph’s Mercy Secondary School, Navan.

https://youtu.be/f1D7wocPQRs

St Michael’s Loreto Secondary School Navan.

http://loretonavan.ie/News/Virtual-Open-Night-Videos-1st-October-2020/61628/Index.html

St Patricks Classical School, Navan.

https://www.stpatscs.com/2020/09/09/information-evening-for-admissions-to-first-year-for-the-academic-year-2021-22/

Colaiste na Mi, Navan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu1-VfBLdmI&feature=youtu.be

Beaufort College, Navan.

https://kuula.co/share/collection/7Pkq5?fs=1&vr=1&zoom=1&initload=0&thumbs=1&chromeless=1&logo=1&logosize=179

Ratoath College, Ratoath.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWbYBtQQbVhswoDO7JiJeEdq4FDiaux_L

Eureka Secondary School, Kells.

https://youtu.be/3qdmCX41jw8

Boyne Community School, Trim.

https://youtu.be/tWPn4OdQkUY

Ashbourne Community School, Ashbourne.

https://youtu.be/HoBszFhffCo

Scoil Mhuire Secondary School, Trim.

https://scoilmhuiretrim.info/new/virtual-tour-video-2020-welcome-to-scoil-mhuire/

Athboy Community School. Athboy.

https://athboycs.ie/

St Ciaran’s Kells, Community School, Kells.

http://www.stciaranscs.ie/Admissions

Colaiste Clavin, Longwood.

https://colaisteclavin.ie/

Franciscan College, Gormanston.

http://www.gormanstoncollege.ie/News/Gormanston-College-Open-Evening/19457/Index.html

Colaiste na hinse, Laytown.

https://prezi.com/view/daT8BQg8Ms600GnEwWBm/

Meath Post Primary Schools – Virtual Open Days (Enrolment 2021)

Meath Post Primary Schools – Virtual Open Days (Enrolment 2021)
Meath Post Primary Schools – Virtual Open Days (Enrolment 2021)

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

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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)

Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)
Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)
More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments and Solution Books via the links below.

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

Over the next two weeks, I will provide some Information and direction to help you as a parent to reduce the stress of this unique transition. I have broken the first part of this feature into two elements. One being the differences between Primary and Secondary school followed by my Top twenty tips for Transitioning into First Year. Part two of the feature will follow online next week.

The main difference between Primary and Secondary School

 

Subjects and settling in

  • 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. You might remind them of 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 they get the better. I did a little study of twenty footballers I coached previously, and they performed better on average academically compared to those in their year.
  • 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 month to give each one a chance.
  • I would advise students to complete the homework of their less favoured subjects first each evening.
  • Advise your child to enjoy their secondary school experiences. This takes any early pressure off them.
  • My ACE Tip: The better your child’s teachers know them, the better working relationship in class they will have with them.

School structure

  • The Subject Teacher – most teachers teach two subjects and may spend up to six classes with your child.
  • The Tutor/Form/Home Room Teacher – involved in Attendance, Day to Day and maybe discipline.
  • The Year Head – Home room teachers report to this person, but they may also deal with serious discipline or pastoral care issues.
  • 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 grouping 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 on Information from their Education Passport from primary school and performance in 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 management. Usually one student is nominated from each class or year. This is their vehicle for discussion and influencing change. The head girl/boy and deputy head person are usually elected by the student council.

School day to day:

  1. It’s important to have a big breakfast each morning e.g. Porridge with fruit or yoghurt. They will need something substantial to sustain them until little break when they can have a snack. Advise them on the sensibility of not eating their main lunch at 11am 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 if any issues here (as applicable).
  3. Get them to copy out their timetable into their journal to get used to it. Colour coding subjects on this timetable can help track their progress for the week.
  4. In some schools, the students travel to the teacher’s rooms. In other schools, the teachers move around, and each class has a base room. Movement may be reduced from now on. Having the correct materials for each class every day will be Important.
  5. Moving around a new building can be disconcerting for a child. They can get lost and that’s upsetting for them. Tell them to tag on to one person from the class for the first few weeks.
  6. Many schools have gone to hour long classes to facilitate the new Junior Cycle.

My ACE Tip  – During the first two weeks settling in, they will be tired each evening. Maybe plan so that extra-curricular activities outside school are minimised during this period. After this fitting in period, plough on with these as normal.

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Twenty ACE Tips for Transitioning into First 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 evening.
  2. Many students get anxious about assessments. You can explain that they are to help the school to learn more about the supports that students may need. Advise them to speak with the individual subject teacher if they are concerned in any way about a subject.
  3. Try and bring them inside the school before it 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, the noise and movement when classes end and what happens at break times.
  4. Involve your child in buying schoolbooks, uniform, P.E. gear etc. Involve them in more decision making from now on. Empowerment works during their transitioning into first year.
  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. Anticipate where they may get anxious during the day. Leave early for school each morning to minimise anxiety.
  6. Talk regularly over the next few weeks about the new school rules, P.E. arrangements, the canteen, lunch breaks, uniform and the timetable. Know the policies of the school and constantly check the school’s website for updates.
  7. Ensure as many of their class teachers know about their strengths and difficulties. i.e. The information on their Education passport
  8. Visit the school every so often to meet their subject teachers, tutor and year head.
  9. Get your hands on or draw up a map of school.
  10. Consider that it may take them a while to adapt to a new classroom, new activities and new subjects. Ensure they build in down time each evening to maintain freshness and enthusiasm.
  11. Organising Issues: Purchase materials for each subject. School booklists and stationary lists 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. Their class teachers may not get the opportunity to work on this vital skill.
  13. Talk about and help clarify the Locker process.
  14. Advise them to use their Mentor/Buddy and class tutor as best they can to order to ease transitioning into first year.
  15. Getting clever at knowing what equipment is required for each class is important: i.e. protractors, setsquares, colours, stencil sets, rulers, pens etc. My Tip– write down each teachers’ instructions here. There is no need to carry all their books all of the time. Put their Timetable and Calendar on the fridge.
  16. Encourage them to sign up to clubs/society’s on club’s day.
  17. Re-enforce the Important habit of recording Information, especially homework into their Journal. Check their Journal each week for homework progress and teacher notes.
  18. Get the 3-way communication going: Teachers-Parent-Student. In primary, it was more about the Teacher-Parent link. Start including your child in conversations as appropriate.
  19. Do as much preparation for the school day the night before. 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 in the morning.
  20. At secondary schools the days are longer, so try and start them with a healthy breakfast or give them some dried fruit or yoghurt to eat in the car if in a hurry. Part 2 of transitioning into first year will be published next week. Don’t miss it. Joe

To view more of Joe’s Jotter features, click the hashtag #JoesJotter

*****

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 First Year (Part 1)

Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into First Year (Part 1)
Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into First Year (Part 1)More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments and Solution Books via the links below.

Project maths-the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?

Project Maths –the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?

Maths teacher and ASTI member Joe McCormack looks at the impact and challenges of Project Maths The new Project Maths course is well and truly upon us now at this stage. This new way of teaching and learning maths will be given a fair shot to see if it can raise maths competency and increase the cohort of students who take higher level maths. Last June, Strands One and Two of the Project Maths syllabus were examined in the Leaving Cert with students studying the new course on Probability/Statistics and Geometry/Trigonometry, alongside other topics from the ‘old’ maths syllabus. This cohort only began to study the new syllabus in Fifth Year and so the students were in the precarious position of having to try to understand the “Project Maths way” in just two years. While, in general, the “old” course saw the above topics examined as separate questions with little linkage between them, June’s exam paper, in some places, linked topics together. I welcome this new association since we now live in an integrated world where problems, both academic and real life, need to be solved using a mutli-pronged approach. The Leaving Cert class of 2013 will need to need to be even more competent in dealing with the new concepts as they take on Strands Three and Four of Project Maths. Like the 2012 students, this year’s class will have studied the old syllabus at Junior Cycle, which means they have to work hard to adjust to the new course. Most teachers would agree that it would have been more beneficial for Project Maths to be introduced to only First Year students initially, with these students working their way up through the system, building on the concepts from the foundation up. Leaving Cert 2012 The results are now out for the class of 2012, so what are their implications and what kind of reaction have they got thus far? Firstly, an increase in the numbers opting for the Higher Level maths paper was anticipated, but the surge of 35 percent on last year’s numbers exceeded expectations. In actual terms, the uptake on this paper increased from 16pc to 22pc. This year 11,100 candidates sat the higher level paper, up from 8,235 in 2011. Almost all of them (98pc) were eligible for the additional 25 bonus CAO points because they achieved a D3 or higher in the subject. This should give great encouragement and reassurance to students in two minds whether to take this level. The bonus points inevitably contributed to higher CAO cut-off points in areas such as science and technology. Points for such courses were expected to rise anyway, driven by the increase in demand from students heeding the advice of Government and employers in relation to jobs. However, this initiative does not seem to have distorted the points system as much as was expected with only approximately 3,000 students using maths as one of their six CAO subjects and thereby benefiting from the bonus points. This would indicate that different or additional measures may be needed. Employers have welcomed the results but warned there was no room for complacency. Student feedback Students’ experiences and feedback on Projects Maths, in general, are mixed. From my experience, the First Years are enjoying the common introductory course. For example, the new Probability section allows them to get involved in more practical maths in the classroom, enhancing their learning on the primary school topic ‘chance’. I believe the more practical questions will increase students’ interest in the subject because they relate more to student’s everyday experiences. The teacher will have more opportunities for open discussions on topics in class and allowing students to back up their answers with relevant information should also allow them to express themselves more, leading to them developing a deeper knowledge of topics. In parallel with this, if a student can argue their case properly in the context of what they are being asked, they could be in line for very high marks. I see this as a positive development as it will foster creativity and promote independent thinking. However, in my opinion, there needs to be a more balanced paper set at all levels. Some elements of the papers were marked too easy while topics in other areas were too difficult. I would be more in favour of questions that are fair with a more rigorous marking scheme applied, if necessary. It would be nice if students finished their Post Primary Maths experience satisfied that they did their best and that the rewards reflect their efforts. They shouldn’t feel traumatised to a point that preparation for other exams might be compromised. This year, most students got the result they deserved anyway so why should we put our students through this? We, as teachers, want to see our students given a genuine opportunity to show what they have learned. I feel that they cannot do this with complicated over wordy questioning aligned with some abstract university type problems. Surely every student deserves simple language and somewhat relevant questions on their paper? Social media has allowed students to feedback openly on the new course. The idea of being able to write on the paper is clearly one they welcome. However, practical issues must also be considered: will the length of a student’s answer be influenced by the amount of space allocated for each sub question? Unfortunately, I think a weaker student could be drawn into the idea that a small amount of space for a question might mean a very short solution is required. Also, students must be given enough room to write their answers to a particular part of a question on the same or next page. Teaching challenges There is no doubt that teachers will need to adjust to this new practical way of teaching their subject. They will need to choose their books carefully and use a wider range of resources outside these books. They will need to think outside the box and try to bring some of these new topics to life using practical examples and real life demonstrations. They will need to be more ICT proficient; I believe the Department may need to look at some more Continuous Professional Development in maths specific ICT. One of the biggest challenges for the classroom maths teacher is time. At the moment, it is hard to gauge how much time to spend on each topic and sub topic. Teachers will learn, as each year passes, to structure the course better, including the topic order and timeline. They will learn to choose the best paths through each topic while keeping a closer eye on the syllabus than ever before. However, I believe the Leaving Certificate courses at both Higher and Ordinary Level in their current format may now be too long. Looking through the available exam papers, the length of some of the questions has increased significantly. Those schools that haven’t done so already may need to introduce a double maths class on their senior cycle timetable. In parallel, I envisage a situation where schools may start investing Transition Year maths time to teach some of the Project Maths syllabus and concepts. The marking scheme will be interesting too with the new credit system seeing students being marked from zero up. At present there are a number of graded versions inside the marking scheme. After seeing how this year’s papers were marked, many teachers I spoke to felt the Department hasn’t yet hit the target with the weighting of marks. Students and teachers need to be given more concrete information on how the exam is being assessed. I welcome the Department’s Initiative to create a “Professional Diploma in Mathematics” course. This is a free two year course to upskill maths teachers and to support the implementation of Project Maths. There is an incentive there for many maths teachers to improve their skills and the Department has, in fairness, improved the resources available to teachers via the Project Maths team. In general, we as maths teachers are still a little sceptical about Project Maths. There is also a concern about some topics that have been removed from the syllabus that may be necessary for some mathematically related university courses. In a survey of 253 members of the Irish Maths Teachers Association (IMTA), over 77 percent thought students would benefit if maths teaching in schools was combined with industrial visits to view real-life application of maths. The Government has little money to spend; industry must be encouraged to support the work of maths teachers as much as possible to bolster the effectiveness of Project Maths.

Project maths-the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?

Project maths-the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?
Project maths-the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments and Solution Books via the links below.