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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Joe’s Jotter: Assessing your Revision Achievements in 2020/21

The key to doing well in exams is continually trying to improve the quality of your preparation. An hour of good quality revision is equivalent to three hours wastefulness. Was your revision productive and fruitful in the school year just gone? Here are some reflections to help you assess this and also to contemplate what changes you can make to be more effective in the upcoming academic year:

  1. Assess your study area: The ideal study space is somewhere where external distractions are kept to a minimum and has an organisation about it. It should be a quiet area where you can concentrate, allow yourself to think and effectively listen to those notes on the page.
  2. Sort out a study routine: You should plan revision for the same time each day, especially during the school week. On these days, I would recommend that you commence study thirty minutes after completing your homework. This will eventually become routine as your mind/body adjusts. Our body likes routine as it learns to anticipate events better and becomes more familiar with them.
  3. Organise your materials/notes: Have all the materials you need to hand for studying. Having to search for materials will lead to frustration. Develop a system that works for you. There is no excuse for not having your notes organised and close at hand. A suggested system is to have a large ring binder for each subject. In each binder, divide each topic for the subject using card dividers. Subsequently, put the content for each sub-topic into plastic poly pockets between these card dividers. This is just one suggested method. It is never too late to get yourself organised. It is never too late to start studying.
  4. List out the topics: For each subject, list out the topics that need to be revised. Show the list to your teacher to make sure you haven’t excluded anything. You need to be realistic in not expecting to cover them all over a short period; it will take time. Make a second list of the sub-topics inside each main topic. The full listing for each subject should fit onto an A3 landscape page, giving you a quick reference summary of a subject at a glance. Each time you complete and understand a sub-topic, tick it off. I always find that ticking off lists and seeing them shrink gives a great sense of satisfaction.
  5. Mirror exam hall challenges: I would recommend during the days leading up to the first exam that you get up at eight-fifteen a.m., have your breakfast and complete a full past exam paper from nine-thirty to twelve similar to the time the real exam will actually be taking place. This prepares the mind, body and even the arm for the process of rising, eating, and focusing on the task ahead. This serves to mirror upcoming challenges you are about to face and is a little known and under used technique.
  6. Use clever ways to remember content: You need to use your imagination when revising – this includes constructing summaries and lists in different parts of your house to help you remember them. Over my educational career, I based a lot of my preparation around summarising notes. Set yourself a target to summarise a full chapter onto one A4 page and then summarise this page into bullet points using post-its or flash cards. You will then have a shortened summary (written in a language you understand) of a topic, instead of fifteen pages of text in a textbook. It’s so simple and it works. Effective study is based on working smarter not harder or longer.
  7. Set short term goals: Setting goals will help you monitor your revision and will give you something to work towards. For example, if you under perform in a test, set a mini goal for your next test to improve by a certain percentage. In your school journal, write down all your goals and check them off as you complete them – call it an ‘Exam bucket list’. If we do not set some goals in our lives, we tend to just plod along aimlessly.
  8. Eat your frog: We all put off things we dislike, like going to the dentist for example. Start by studying the subject or topic which isn’t your favourite. Look at the subjects you are struggling with, and then consider the topics within these subjects that you need to tackle. Do not avoid a subject if you don’t enjoy it, as it will eventually catch up with you. Similarly, don’t invest all your time and energy into subjects and content that you enjoy. You need to find a balance that works here.
  9. Attend school and listen: Make sure to attend school every day and be fully present in class, paying attention and taking notes as best you can. Remember that your teachers have been through exams with hundreds (maybe thousands) of students before you, so they are well worth listening to, especially during the last six to eight weeks of term time.
  10. Live in the present: Writer T.S. Elliot once said: “Time past and time future are all contained in time present”. Try not to give yourself a hard time about the lack of revision done in ‘time past’. Conversely, it is also not a good idea to be looking too far ahead into the future as it can cause anxiety and tension about your workload or what may or may not happen. Plan your revision strategy week-by-week and review it as you go along. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Improving our current exam system’, 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: Improving our Current Exam System

The debate is ongoing in relation to continuous assessment at Secondary school, with a keen focus currently on the percentage and type of allocation being introduced for the new Junior Cycle. Many subjects at Junior Cycle level already have Classroom Based Assessments (CBA’s) incorporated into them. Now with a review of the Leaving Certificate taking place (more than likely to be rebranded the ‘Leaving Cycle’), I am wondering whats next? As with any change to an assessment model, we need to ensure there are transparent procedures in place and a clear sense of fairness is preserved.

Preserving Fairness

With the above in mind, firstly I feel that any continuous assessment needs to be completed during school time. If students take work home, it may become an unfair competition depending on the socio-economic background of their parents and other extrinsic factors. i.e. I feel we can’t take the chance of having any external interference in projects that students are required to complete alone. We need to make sure a level playing field is retained and that we don’t allow potential changes to tarnish or unbalance our currently solid exam system.

Should Teachers assess their own Students?

I strongly feel that projects and practical’s should not be corrected by the student’s own teacher. The department needs to hire suitably qualified personnel for these posts. They also need to properly resource schools for these assessments and allocate proper time on the timetable for students and teachers to prepare for them.

Teachers are clear that they don’t want to assess their own pupils. A teacher correcting their pupils’ work for any kind of state certification would leave our existing robust system open to all kinds of accusations. When I read articles around the world and hear of exam papers being leaked and scandals over corruption in education, it’s clear that our current Irish system actually works pretty well. People need to be careful what they wish for. ‘The law of unintended consequences’ and ‘baby and bath water’ come to mind here. The SEC and our Department of Education and Skills have a great record of always acting professionally and with the utmost integrity when it comes to the exam process. These principles need to be maintained at all costs.

According to a Jan 2019 report from the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) entitled ‘Senior Cycle Reform – What do we want?’, the responses are varied in relation to the question of exam paper correction. For example, only 22% of principals, deputy principals and teachers support the practice of correcting their own students’ work, with many having concerns that a teacher would be biased against/for a student. That number increases to 30% of parents who would support such a change with a slight majority of 51% of students wanting it. Not major numbers in favour there!

How can we Improve our Current Exam System?

In order to further improve the exam system, I propose that we have a week of continuous assessment before Easter to take the pressure off the June bottleneck. Each student could still then enjoy their Easter holidays and return refreshed for the last push towards June’s finals. I think by spreading the load more, it would mean that all the focus for the student isn’t placed on one part of the academic year. This would greatly reduce the intensity levels for those two weeks in June.

Would studying a reduced amount of subjects, five for example, be another option?  I think the benefit of having less subjects would mean that students could spend more time exploring and even enjoying the ones they select. It might also take away the constant focus on how many CAO points a subject can yield and allow them to investigate topics they genuinely have an interest in. Third level courses are usually made up of quite specific content compared to our current broad based Leaving Cert. Is our second level system too broad?  Are our students ‘Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades and masters of none’?

Another potential option might be to run a compulsory Transition year (TY) and implement some continuous assessment at the end of that year. This would ensure the large majority of students would be eighteen sitting their final exams and therefore be in a better position to decide on their third level/further education options also. The students could still enjoy their trips, experiences, and work placement in tandem with assessment in certain subjects. In addition to this, I would also like to see a system where all TY’s have the opportunity to sample leaving cert subjects. This would give them a deeper understanding of subject content, prior to making those choices for 5th year.

I am all for some continuous assessment, but still feel a final exam is the best and fairest way to differentiate and separate students academically. Having said this, I would be in favour of students having around 30% (approximately one-third) continuous assessment of each subject assessed before sitting down to do the final exam papers at the end of the year. This would seriously reduce current exam anxiety.

There are always improvements we can make to our exam system, but I feel there is a still lot right with it. Some of the above initiatives would take a little pressure off our students, while maintaining the integrity of our process. Indeed, there are a many changes the department could make, and it seems some are afoot. Ultimately, I still firmly believe that final exam papers should be retained as the fairest judgement. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Twenty Five Summer Reflections 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: https://www.acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: http://www.facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter – Twenty Five Summer Reflections for Students

Students,

Here are some light reflections to help you enjoy your summer holidays and stay in a positive frame of mind.

  1. Enjoy these long summer days.
  2. Write down a vision for your future.
  3. Organise and store what books/materials that you need/don’t need for September.
  4. Take a step above it all and have a closer look at what you are doing.
  5. Once in a while, do something nice for someone. People appreciate generosity.
  6. Set goals. Even if you don’t meet them, you are still moving in the right direction.
  7. Let people make their own mistakes, sometimes all you can do is advise them.
  8. Find yourself a role model for time management.
  9. Don’t spend any full day on the internet and mobile phone.
  10. If you have a particular problem, talk to someone who has been there.
  11. Be careful who you share your dreams with.
  12. Try and expand your circle of friends.
  13. Record on a sheet all the good things in your life and ignore the negative bits.
  14. Don’t fear change. Tackle it head on. Go for it.
  15. Write a wish list for the summer. Make it fun.
  16. Every so often, take time away from your devices and sit in silence.
  17. Reconnect with friends you have lost touch with over the last year or so.
  18. Go for walks outside in the fresh air – early morning and late night air is the best.
  19. Enjoy each sunny day and don’t take it for granted.
  20. Make a kind gesture to someone without asking for thanks or payment.
  21. Be kind to your Parents. They have made a big effort to help you this year.
  22. Get back into the sports and activities you missed out on this year.
  23. Keep your bedroom tidy and clean up after yourself at home.
  24. Record on a sheet all the things you are doing right in life – Focus on the positives.
  25. Bring back the lol’s.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Students: Practice thinking critically’, 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: 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.

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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/

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Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Exam Day Quick Reference Guide

As we reach the start this year’s exams and work our way through each subject, here is a little checklist that you can have a glance at before setting off each morning. It is important to get your brain into ‘exam mode’ in order to exact the maximum out of each paper. The below pointers will help you get organised and put you in the right head space:

  • Do your best – that is all that is expected of you.
  • Get to the exam hall at least fifteen minutes before each exam.
  • Be fully aware of the start and finish time of each exam.
  • Read the instructions carefully on every single page.
  • You cannot leave during the first thirty or the last ten minutes of each exam.
  • Prepare for a longer exam paper than any of the ones you have sat during school
  • Make sure you have plenty of pens, pencils, rulers, etc.
  • Phones, books and notes are all forbidden in the exam hall.
  • Use the toilet before entering the exam hall.
  • Answer your best question first to settle the nerves.
  • Take your time when reading each question.
  • Attempt all parts of every question asked.
  • If you make a mistake, draw a line through, so it is still readable.
  • Questions answered, even if cancelled out, must be corrected by the examiner.
  • Check that you have answered all parts of all questions.
  • Make sure to include all extra pages used e.g. graph paper etc
  • Place twice as much emphasis on ten markers than fives etc (twice as much time also)
  • Carefully label any diagrams you draw or use.
  • Layout your paper well. You can save the trees in later life.
  • Do not repeat yourself in a question.
  • Skip a line or two after each full question.
  • Remember that any reasonable attempt will get you some marks.
  • Bring some sweets and water into the exam hall.
  • Focus on your own exam paper not your friends efforts beside you.
  • Don’t panic if you don’t understand a question at first.
  • Eat good meals before and after each exam.
  • If you run out of paper, ask for more from the superintendent.
  • Think how your answers will sound to someone else reading it.
  • Spend appropriate time on a question depending on marks allocated.
  • Try and write clearly especially in subjects with a lot of writing.
  • Answer the exact question that you are being asked on the paper.
  • Go into each exam with a positive and determined attitude.
  • Put a ‘*’ on questions you didn’t finish and revisit at the end.
  • Show all rough work for each question on your answer book.
  • A labelled picture/diagram can explain better than words.
  • Scribble down notes if you happen to run out of time.
  • You are ready. Leave all doubt outside the exam hall.
  • Stay until the end of all your exams.
  • Do your best!

Ten admin checks to do before entering the Exam Hall

If you are getting ready to sit your Leaving Certificate examinations this week, the following administration information is certainly worth a quick read. The more familiar you are with exam hall procedures, the more you can focus on your own game plan:

  1. Be very clear on the timing of each exam.
  2. Get there early on the first day of your exams to find out where to put your school bag and what centre (exam hall) you are sitting in.
  3. When you sit down each day, double check you have the correct paper and label in front of you. At Leaving Cert level, you can change from one level to another on the morning of the exam, but this does not come recommended, as you have spent considerable time preparing for a specific level.
  4. You cannot bring any notes, school bags, phones, or materials into the exam hall with you. You should just bring in your pens, instruments, and some water/sweets.
  5. Listen to the superintendents’ instructions carefully at the start of each exam, as there may be corrections to be made to the exam paper or other announcements.
  6. Be aware that Higher, Ordinary and Foundation Papers may finish at different times.
  7. You will not be allowed enter the exam hall once thirty minutes from the official start time of the exam has elapsed.
  8. If you take paper one at higher level for a subject, you must take paper two at higher level also. The same obviously applies to Ordinary and Foundation levels.
  9. You can obtain a copy of the exam paper from the school authorities after the exam. Each exam paper will be uploaded to the examinations.ie website soon after each exam.
  10. Ensure you write your exam number on each booklet you use, and be sure to hand up all your writing material. Good luck. Joe. :-)

To view last week’s feature article on the final ‘ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home’, click here.

                                                                                        

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) 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. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 6 of 6)

Parental Support for Students at Home

Parents, your new role is one of increasing influence, given that your child is now at home revising for their exams all the time. Strangely enough, they actually like the structure of school and seeing their friends there every day. Being at home is not something they are used to and may require some time to bed down into a pattern of revision and rest. You are not a teacher, so it’s important to remember that if you are doing your best, you are doing enough. Here are my twenty recommendations to help you be the best you can for your child currently revising in the home environment:

  1. Help them establish a revision routine in a quiet, clean, and comfortable area.
  2. Plan your day a little around them, so you can be there to support their efforts.
  3. Provide the quiet support: school materials , healthy dinners & encouragement.
  4. Be realistic about the amount of revision they may do each day.
  5. Encourage family time including walks & drives to keep communication open.
  6. Show interest by requesting that they discuss or come and teach topics to you.
  7. Be calm, tolerant, and patient with their moods as best you can.
  8. Try praise their efforts (no matter how small) even if you feel they don’t deserve.
  9. Remind them to communicate with their teachers/friends if they have queries.
  10. If they are disorganised or scatty, sit down & brainstorm to help them organise.
  11. Empower them to help around the house, i.e. Cooking/Cleaning/Gardening.
  12. Trust them to take responsibility for their own learning.
  13. Encourage them to talk to you if they feel anxious about anything.
  14. Endeavour to maintain balance. Nothing is ever as bad or as good as it seems.
  15. Don’t be afraid to get stuck in academically. Impart your knowledge to them.
  16. Examine them on subjects, questions, and texts they may need help with.
  17. Try not to pass any anxiety you have on to them; Just let them breathe.
  18. Try to cook substantial nutritious meals so that they aren’t constantly ‘grazing’.
  19. Intervene in all cases if you feel they are overwhelmed or struggling mentally.
  20. Parent

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ACE’ing Your Prep at Home – Final Thoughts

Students,

Your best bet now is to make the most of this challenge set down for you. You now have more freedom than ever to create your own study blocks and breaks; effectively you can control the pace of your learning. If your revision blocks are short (i.e. thirty minutes), you are less likely to daydream and waste time in them. You can now allocate time to various subjects and tasks unlike before; embrace it. It is an opportunity to take responsibility for your own learning and with this you are preparing yourself for third level education or whatever route you choose after school.

Create a good solid routine, especially to start the day. Having a good morning can often be the key to a productive day. Keep your social media stint to a limited time in the morning, otherwise it may become an endless scroll, with well laid out plans being scuppered. Every morning, commence your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable or the list of ten to twelve tasks you have written down from the night before. Be sure to make everyone in the house aware of your revision times, so that they can try to be as quiet as possible during these periods.

Keeping your timetable/task list simple and realistic will allow you to get through the day’s work and make it easier to get started also. Maybe setup four tasks in the morning, three after lunch and three in the evening if you find creating a timetable for the full day too daunting. Sample tasks may include revising a short chapter in your Maths book and completing ten test questions based on it, or note taking on a certain period in History, or summarising one aspect of your Biology or Home Economics course. How do you eat an elephant? Answer: Break it up into small pieces and eat it bit by bit. Treat your daily task list or timetable the same.

Be honest with yourself (as best you can) about how you are going to use the Internet, social media, and phone during revision times. The best way to control this is to set out the exact times you will use devices and where they will be located during revision blocks. If you struggle to separate yourself from your phone, request the help of your parents to find a solution. If you find your eyes are getting sore from ‘screen time’, whether that be on a PC or phone, this is your body telling you to give it a break and it is wise to listen to the voice within in these cases. Along with reasonable tech time, ensure you enjoy and inbuild fun, phone calls to friends, exercise, music, and relaxation into each day’s revision timetable. These types of breaks are essential for productivity; but ensure to keep an eye on time away, as short breaks can easily turn into longer wasteful ones.

As above, vary the different ways you study and indeed your revision location also. Keep your study area clean and organised in order to be more productive. Find out which ways of learning work for you and repeat them. If you are finding a specific revision method worthless, come at it from a different angle. Manage your revision effectively by using the best methods suitable to you and appropriate to that subject.

Winston Churchill once said that ‘Perfection is the enemy of progress’. In subjects we find difficult, we often learn more by making mistakes as opposed to getting everything perfectly right at the beginning. If you always think your notes and revision blocks aren’t of a high enough standard, you will soon loose heart by your perceived lack of excellence. Failure and Imperfection should be viewed as a positive, as it encourages us to try harder and continually better ourselves. This was one of my keys to success. I always wanted to improve and ultimately be the best at whatever I did. You will never actually reach perfection, so be content with progress and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Finally, write down both short and long term goals and re-read and update them every so often to remind yourself why you are putting in such an effort right now. Goals should be used to motivate and drive you to achieve great things. Focus always on the work you have completed, not what you haven’t done. The quicker you settle down into a routine and discover study techniques that work for you, the better you will feel. Adjusting to a new school year structure and timetable can take time. Right now, you are effectively trying to discover a home routine to allow yourself to continue learning and give yourself the best possible chance come exam time. I wish you luck and good health going forward and feel free to contact me through the channels below if I can help you in any way. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Positive Ways to Cope with Exam Stress’, click here.

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More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) 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. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Guiding your Child Through their Exams

Your Role as a Parent as Exams Approach

One of your main roles around exam time is to create a good atmosphere at home and it will be important to remain calm and try not to transfer additional pressure on to your child in the lead up to them. This applies whether they are sitting a state exam or an end of year summer test. I would be wary of placing any extra emphasis on them achieving certain grades or points. Allowing them to talk without judgment, actively listening to them and keeping career options and results in perspective are other ways that you can be there for them at this time. Be sure to check that they have a plan ‘B’ in place for further education/training, as this will help greatly to regulate stress levels in the house.

Try not to let uncertainties or worries you had in school, especially any negative vibes you had around exams or certain subjects, influence how your child deals with their exam year. I don’t think conversations beginning with “When I was doing the Leaving Cert…” are really that helpful or relevant to their situation now. Similarly, never compare your child’s performance or study ethic to that of their peers or siblings, as this will just add to the stress. Complaining about the unfairness of the exam process is also airing unhelpful negativity. Keep it all on a positive plane and let them breathe. If you have any concerns at all about your child, you should contact their school, as teachers and management are usually more than happy to help. If you meet a roadblock, I would be delighted to help and advise you in some small way; so don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

More than any other time in their life, it is important to help your child manage their feelings, as they may struggle with overwhelming emotions and pressures placed on them by exams. There are lots of great techniques you can show them, like slowing their breathing down or helping them become aware of their feelings. Maybe, look up one or two of these online, so that you can pass on something practical to use during intense situations. Exercise and involvement in activities right up to exam start are brilliant stress reducing techniques and should be strongly encouraged.

Practical Insights to Really Support Your Exam Student

The following are some real and practical insights into how your support can really help your son/daughter be their best around exam time. This advice applies to all types of examinations, not just the state ones in June:

  • It’s an obvious one to start but ensure that your child is present in the exam hall for each exam. For parents who are working and leaving home early, avoid the ultimate disaster of your child missing an exam. This advice applies on days they have important class tests also. Ensure they are up and dressed before you leave home for work each morning. A small number of students regularly fail to turn up for morning papers.
  • Making them a healthy and substantial breakfast will greatly help their focus and concentration all the way to the end of an exam, especially if they have an afternoon paper to sit also.
  • Help them to draw up a check list of daily requirements based on each day’s exams. Make a final check with them each morning, so that your child is fully prepared for the day’s exams. The amount of guidance required will obviously depend on how organised your child is. Writing instruments along with the other requirements such as rulers, erasers, calculators, water, and any non-intrusive nourishment such as sweets, or fruit should be checked off for inclusion.
  • When your child arrives home after their exam, listen to their experience carefully and then move on. After each day’s exams allow them to recount to you their daily story. Do not be tempted to review in detail with them any errors or omissions on the paper. Such a process achieves absolutely nothing, other than to again increase their stress levels. Simply allow them the time and space to tell their tale and move on to the next challenge (i.e. the subsequent paper) is best policy
  • Know the exam schedule. Pin the exam timetable prominently up at home; highlight each exam to be taken. This applies to house exams also. Diary the date and time of each paper your child must take. In the stress of the whole exam period, you need to be continuously aware of whats going on and when. Investigate which days or subjects your child isn’t looking forward to so that you can be there for them in a real and practical way.
  • It can help them greatly if you have a little knowledge of each exam paper or at least show some interest in it. Simple questions such as, “What is up next?”, “Are there any compulsory sections?” or “Are there any predictable questions?” can be asked. The best open question to ask is “How are you feeling about …? “. This will allow them to express themselves more freely if they wish. This also ensures they won’t feel alone and that you really care about how they get on. If they will allow you, work with them on devising a short but efficient revision schedule, as this is something I have noticed that students struggle to do alone. Time management is key from now on.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to ACE your Maths Exam’, 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

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Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE Your Maths Exam

No matter how intelligent you are or how well you prepare, if you are not exam smart, you will underachieve in any Maths exam. It is vital to have a plan in place for the content that can appear on your Maths paper. You need to go in there with your eyes wide open and be tactically aware in case things go a little bit wrong on the day. The following are my ACE tips to deal with a Maths exam paper more efficiently. These apply to both state exams and the upcoming final summer tests for all other students.

Sensible Tips When Dealing with a Maths Exam Paper

  • Units matter. If they are present in your question, they are required in your answer.
  • Do not put anything into the calculator that you have not already written down in your answer book.
  • You can get almost full marks (high partial credit) with just one slip/mistake in your solution. High partial credit could gain you as much as seven marks out of ten.
  • If you make two or three attempts at a question, they will all be corrected and the highest marks from your efforts will be counted.
  • Marks will be allocated for work done on diagrams that have been printed on the paper.
  • Be careful when dealing with minus signs.
  • You must show your workings out for all questions.
  • Write down every single step until you arrive at the solution.
  • If your answer is ‘off the wall’, it is probably incorrect.
  • If there are many steps required in a solution, you need to keep going back to check completed steps for accuracy; otherwise, you may need to re-write the whole solution.
  • Never rub/tippex out any work done even if you think it isn’t neat. Draw a single line through any part of the solution you are unsure about. The examiner must correct it.
  • When asked for your opinion, give it, and refer to any numbers or statistics given in the question if available.
  • Algebra is the bedrock of all Maths courses and is the main area that students struggle with. Practice it repeatedly.
  • Get used to attempting questions involving real life statistics.
  • Estimating the heights of larger objects outside is now an important part of Geometry and Trigonometry.
  • In Co-ordinate Geometry, the slope of a line has become more important in practical style questions.
  • More recent Maths exam questions tend to contain an increased number of words. The reason for this is the examiners need more English to describe real life Maths scenarios. You need to be able to separate the important keywords in the text from the padding that surrounds them.
  • Look through the wording of each question and pick out the Maths related information. In all subjects, but especially Maths, identify the relevant pieces of the question with a highlighter. Watch out for numbers written as words, for example “thirty” instead of “30”.
  • If no diagram is drawn for you, try to draw one yourself to give a clearer picture of what is being asked.
  • If given a diagram on the paper, mark in the numerical information given in the text of the question onto it. Re-drawing sections of more complicated diagrams into your answer book can help to simplify questions for you. This is very useful is Geometry, Trigonometry, and Area and Volume.
  • Do not leave any blanks, ensuring that every question is fully attempted. If you leave a blank, the examiner can give you at most zero marks for that question part. If you attempt the question; you may get some marks and perhaps more than you think. In summary: No attempt = No marks.
  • If you are dealing with a Trigonometric problem at Leaving Cert level, know how to apply the three basic Trigonometric ratios (SOH, CAH, TOA) , Pythagoras’ theorem, the Sin rule, and the Cosine rule. In these, you have all you need to solve most right-angled or a non-right-angled triangle problems.
  • Relate the information you have in the exam question to the theory and equations you have worked on in class. In Geometry, have you got two right-angled triangles that need to be solved separately? Again, if you are unable to start a question, there is nearly always something you have learned from your teacher or hopefully from my solution books that you can draw on to help you.
  • The relationship between two sets of data is important. This concept links up the ‘slope of a line’ in Co-ordinate Geometry to that of ‘correlation’ in Statistics. Other examples of where topics overlap in Maths at Leaving Cert level include: Co-ordinate Geometry of the line and the Circle and of course Geometry and Trigonometry. Across all levels of Maths, there are many links between topics on the course now. Be sure to ask your teacher to help you understand and be familiar with how different topics can interlink prior to any exam.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone and there are tens of thousands of other students in the same position as you on exam day, many of whom have had their various struggles with Maths. Above all, practice your Algebra and be familiar with what formulas are available to you in the log tables on the day. If you are familiar with the main equations and some theory on your course, you should have everything you need to attempt your Maths paper well and really give it your best shot. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Homework and Your Child – A Parent’s Guide’, 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

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Joe’s Jotter: Homework and Your Child – A Parent’s Guide


Homework is an extremely important part of your child’s learning at Secondary School. It is key that all students spend some time each night revising what they have learned in class each day. This also applies in situations where they are not given anything written or oral to do that evening. Tending to homework diligently each night will certainly reap benefits as a student enters their final years at second level.

How Much Time should my Child be Spending on Homework?

Time spent on homework varies according to what year a student is in. In sixth year, I recommend that students target at least two hours homework and one-hour revision each evening during the school week (Monday to Friday). Fifth years should target a minimum of at least two to two and half hours work in total each night. First up to third years should complete between one and two and a quarter hours work a night. Further time spent on homework and revision during a weeknight will probably involve a loss in Information retention. To this end, it is important to use common sense as night draws in i.e. tomorrow is another day. Students that have their work done for the following day’s classes and find themselves falling asleep, should go to bed. Your body may be telling you to rest, so it is advisable to listen to it.

Time spent on homework is always time well spent. Students should always divide work due into two elements, namely ‘Urgent’ and ‘Important’. Homework will normally be urgent, as your teacher will be requiring it completed within one or two days. Revision itself is ‘Important’, unless it is within a month of state exams and then I believe it is ‘Urgent’. Each week brings different ‘Urgents’ and students should use this knowledge to work out how many revision and homework blocks they can fit into each week. Nights where a student has little or no homework should allow a revision of topics learned in class over the previous few days to take place. More details on this concept are detailed in my study guide publication ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects.

ACE Tips for on How Parents Can Help Their Child Enhance Homework Time

Below are fifteen helpful tips that will hopefully facilitate your involvement in making homework a positive learning experience for your child.

  1. Provide your child with a suitable place and time to do their homework. Minimise interruptions/distractions from TV and other siblings.
  2. 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.
  3. In the case of recurring homework problems, it is advisable to ring or send a quick note to the teacher to explain what the issue is. If you are a parent of a third or sixth year student or the issue is more urgent, a phone call is probably the recommended form of communication.
  4. Parents should communicate with teachers about homework in the following cases: when your child cannot do homework due to family circumstances, when your child cannot do homework due to a lack of understanding (after studying their class notes), or when your child is spending an unreasonable amount of time doing homework in a specific subject.
  5. As well as showing a keen interest in their homework, I would suggest being more aware of the type and content of homework they are doing. You can then attempt to link it to their everyday life by chatting to them about sports, prices, trends, media headlines, countries, travel etc. This will reinforce their learning.
  6. Reward an improvement (no matter how small) in their homework with a treat. Similarly, if the teacher has made a positive note about it in their journal, a reward will be deserved and appreciated. An example might be a takeaway meal, their favourite snack or a trip away with their friends. Make sure to check their journals regularly for comments on homework. This will help you to keep on top of things and identify any challenges your child might be experiencing.
  7. Ask the career guidance teacher about study skills courses which may help your child overcome barriers in relation to homework. Ensure you chat extensively with each subject teacher about their homework at the Parent-Teacher meeting.
  8. Talk to them about the homework they are doing in each subject. Most of all, if they are finding homework difficult, encourage them to talk to their teacher about what they find challenging.
  9. If they are finding a particular type of homework difficult, encourage them to persevere, try again and maybe write down what they are finding difficult so that the teacher can see evidence of their efforts. This can also help the teacher work out which learning styles may suit them and how best they can help.
  10. Teacher’s comments written on homework, class tests and mocks will help you understand what they may be doing wrong. Try and focus on any positive comment made by their teachers. Make some suggestions as to how they can improve from the less positive ones. They may not admit it, but they do value your opinion and advice. Always book end a negative comment with two positive constructive ones. This will leave them satisfied, knowing they also need to and can improve.
  11. Much of the information they learn in school applies to everyday life, so even though you may not be an expert on a subject matter, you will still be able to draw on your life experiences to tie in with what they are learning. Do not be afraid to try things or introduce perceived links with schoolwork to your children.
  12. If family circumstances change, make sure to inform the school as this can have an impact on your child’s homework and performance, of which the school and your child’s teachers may not be aware of.
  13. Knowing how your child is progressing in the classroom can help you make informed decisions about aiding or giving them space at home. Ask the teacher to send you a homework progress comment or the odd test result home in their journal, so you can remain up to date with each subject.
  14. Attending Parent-teacher meetings is important each year, so plan ahead for them when the annual school calendar is released. You can use these meetings as an opportunity to check progress and find out how your child is performing in relation to the class average etc. It also shows your child that you are interested in how they are progressing in various subjects. In my experience, it is good to enhance communication links with your child’s teachers, as your child is now aware that a line has been established between two significant people in their life.
  15. Parents should monitor homework from a distance to ensure it is being attempted to the best of their child’s ability. Many Parents are aware that their children are spending full evenings in their room; but are they actually completing homework and revision well during this period? Quietly check in with them weekly on how revision and progress is going in each subject. Car journeys can be a good time to do this. Commencing these habits in first or second year is advised, as It won’t seem like you are suddenly checking up on them later then. Your support and encouragement should motivate and foster an effective homework schedule each evening. This will ensure that the outside of school independent learning gets the respect it needs and deserves. Standing back and hoping all will be well could be a very risky strategy. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Improving your Homework at Secondary School’, 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

*****