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

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

The ‘Home’ Support

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

The ‘School’ Support

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

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

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

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

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

Practical steps to smooth the Transition into Secondary School

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

The Importance of Learning Support

  • Secondary Schools will have learning support for your child. If your child’s new school are missing any key Information around this, ensure they get it as soon as possible. Many schools will have a staff meeting (in September), where your child’s year head will outline important strengths and weaknesses of each student.
  • Learning support at Secondary is different to that at Primary school level. Contact the school if they had been receiving any type of support at Primary that their new school may not be aware of.
  • Flag any difficulties that your child had in primary school, so that it is entered onto their personal file. The class tutor and year heads will then have access to it from there. Ensure to always request the correct learning supports that your child is entitled to.
  • If your child has complex special educational needs, they may need a transition plan to assist them to transfer to their new secondary school. You and your child will be involved in developing this plan. Other people may be involved, as necessary, including relevant teachers from their primary and post-primary school, NEPS psychologist, health professionals etc.
  • As appropriate, a support plan may also include information on your child’s learning, social and communication, care, (for example: dressing, toileting, mobility, and medication), sensory (such as over sensitivity to noise, textures, lights) and physical needs that require environmental adaptations such as adaptations to the school building, adapted seating or other specialised equipment.
  • Most post-primary schools will have links with their feeder primary schools. This allows for an easier transfer of information between them. Usually, there is contact between the 6th class primary/resource teacher and the receiving post-primary school. This will help to overcome any disconnect between what was taught in primary and the starting point in certain subjects at second level.
  • For all parents, I would recommend writing a one page profile about your child noting the difficulties and barriers they faced at primary school. Include in it the strategies that worked and that didn’t work for them. This would be valuable Information for their tutor, year head and individual subject teachers should you like them to have it. I know that as a teacher, I am always pleased to get Insights like this, should parents be willing to present them. It gives us as teachers a deeper understanding into how each child interacts and learns, allowing us to support and get to know our students better. Outcomes are always better with Informative Insights like these.

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

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

Awareness of how they are Settling In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: 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 5 of 6)

The Importance of Your Friends, Exercise and Trusting the Exam System Being successful in any new routine will be determined by how positive your current outlook is. Positivity also fosters better mental health. In order to maintain that positivity, keep in touch with friends via WhatsApp and the usual social media platforms. Maintaining contact with […]

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’

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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.

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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

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© 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