In the UK the beginning of Secondary School is Year 7 when children are typically 11 years old. Here are a few ideas on how to prepare over the summer holiday before starting.
Read a lot
A visit online or to your favourite book store is useful to start reading books which are a notch more difficult than what your child may have been used to. Of extra value are non-fiction books such as encyclopaedias covering subjects such as Geography and History.
Following on from the point above, listening to audio books (fiction and non-fiction) aimed at early teens is a useful way to help increase vocabulary and the complexity of sentence structure.
Yes I hate to say, but buying a few Year 7 / KS3 workbooks is a good idea – not to finish but at least to have a go and to understand some of the key concepts especially in Maths. Always useful is to start working on more complex algebra and geometry.
It almost doesn’t matter what a child wants to write about, but it is worth a child spending a good amount of time every week over the summer holiday writing about anything. It’s useful to mix this 50/50 writing by hand and writing on a computer. This is also a useful time to build vocabulary and practice more complex sentence structures.
Compared to Primary School there’ll be a lot more work at school and home work, so you’ll need to figure our what works best for your child in terms of keeping track of everything. I’m a fan of using post-it notes on the wall above a child’s desk to keep track of Mon-Fri and also Sat & Sun for the homework schedule. A whiteboard is also a great idea which enables the child to draw out their own organisation.
At times it’s not easy to get your son or daughter to do all their homework on time and to a good level of quality. Here are some ideas:
Don’t shout if they don’t understand something. There can be many reasons to shout but this isn’t one of them. No matter how loud you should it won’t help a child understand something, in fact it will just close up their brain.
Get help from a teacher
If your son is unable to do their homework, make sure they go to the teacher and ask for help. Try calling up the teacher a couple of days later to see if it has happened and if it hasn’t, it’s over to you to arrange it.
Work it out at home
Don’t worry if you don’t understand the questions. If your daughter is trying to work out a percentage, try working out the answer on a calculator and see if they can get to that answer, or try googling how to work out this problem. If you do it together it’s an intellectual and emotional win for both of you.
Think long term
A great way to give rewards to your child is not on every piece of homework or on every test, but at the end of each half-term results. Reward good results at the end of a half-term and issue reasonable consequences if grades have slipped. Consequences should always be discussed in advance so they’re not a sudden shock for the child. A popular consequence is loss of the Xbox or screen time for a month.
This allows for the occasional mistake or poor results in a test and puts focus on the overall progression.
Email the Tutor Dragon for advice
I’m happy to answer emails when I get time so please feel free to email me with any questions regarding homework, performance and rewards & consequences.
Although noise in the classroom is a negative factor for learning, some level of noise and/or chaos in the home environment can be healthy.
We are not suggesting that constant noise and chaos at home are desirable, but anecdotal evidence suggests that when a child gets used to dealing with noise and unexpected events at home – e.g. someone at the front door or a crying younger sibling, it can help with a child’s ability to stay focussed during study.
This in turn can help a child during SAT’s, exams and even in a noisy classroom.
If a child can ONLY study and complete test papers in the silence and solitude of their room, this may not translate to good results in a real exam situation if the child has not built up some immunity from surrounding noise and unexpected events.
As much as the content of home study is important, so is the way you structure it, allowing for change depending on the child’s feedback.
A hundred pages of maths given to a child on a Monday and asking them to finish by Friday is not a useful approach.
Structure is just as important to a child as is the content of the work they’re doing.
One way to approach this is to split the day into morning and afternoon. Each of these can then be split into two or three working periods allowing for breaks.
Giving a child two pages of maths and two pages of English will result in better focus for parent and child in terms of what has to be done, by when and to what level of quality.
Allow the child to offer feedback and make sure you listen to that feedback. A child may offer “Can I spend the afternoon doing English because I have to write a story, so I can do the maths half this morning and half tomorrow morning?”. Creative feedback and planning coming from the child is great and unless unreasonable should be worked into your daily plan.
It potentially means more work for the parent, but it will make everyones day easier if the days work is dividd into clearly defined chunks and times.
Here are a few tips and ideas if your child is practicing 11+ papers
Make a Plan
Plan each exam session and agree with your child in advance where and when the exam will be. It is not so successful saying to your child “Right, we’re doing an exam now”. Much better to agree 24hrs in advance.
Simulate the test environment as best you can
The child should use the exact same pencil case with pencils, ruler, rubber, sharpener etc as they will use in the real exam. The child should be left alone for the duration of the exam simulation and of course they are not allowed to ask for any help whatsoever.
Go to the toilet first
An often overlooked step in the exam process. Get into the habit of going to the toilet before every exam.
Mark the paper with the child after a short break
Don’t mark the paper immediately after the test as the child will need a break, but don’t leave it until a week later or they would have forgotten the questions and what they specifically struggled with. Ideally you should have the exam after breakfast then mark the paper in the afternoon with the child.
Focus on the positive
As you mark each question, emphasise the positive. One of the most common mistakes is not showing enough working out. If a question was too hard for the child, continue marking then come back to it.
Identify areas requiring improvement
After marking the paper with the child, list out the questions which cause problems and where the child dropped points. It is not sufficient to work through the answer, the root gap in understanding has to be identified and addressed. For example was the underlying issue decoding text into numbers, or not understanding a percentage, or misunderstanding the units required in the answer (another common mistake).
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