Spotting English Language Features and Explaining the Effect they have on the reader

Key skills for year 10s to master now for the GCSEs in 2021.

Lyn Moulding has been tutoring English language and literature for Tutor My Kids for many years now and has shared these nuggets of wisdom for year 10s to get ahead, especially in this break from formal lessons, due to the Coronavirus:

Language features – adjectives, adverbs, metaphors, similes, personification etc.

A skill that is tested in all four GCSE English language and literature exams is being able to spot examples of language features and explain the effect they have on the reader. The skill of being able to write using examples of language features is tested in section B ‘creative writing’ on English language component 1.

So, it’s really important that you are confident and skilled in spotting, explaining and writing using language features. Why not try the following revision tactics:

  • Make ‘flash’ revision cards or a language features poster. 
  •   Adjectives = describes a noun – the highly polished, antique, pine table

BBC Bitesize lists many language features and provides great examples and explanations

  • Try reading a passage from one of your GCSE texts. Spot the language features and work out the effect they may have on a reader.

A Christmas Carol – ‘as solitary as an oyster’ = simile – oysters remain closed and ‘isolated’ for most of their lives so the simile emphasises just how isolated Scrooge is. 

Context = Oysters were a main component in the Victorian diet.

  • Write a basic story following the ‘mountain plot model’ and then add examples of language features to make the story more interesting and engaging for the reader.

The platform was packed = the platform was a mass of heaving humanity (alliteration)

The more revision you can do now, the easier it will be next year!

It’s never too early to start revising!

If you’re a qualified teacher and/or have tutoring experience, take a look at our For Tutors page, for information on becoming a tutor in Ely or Cambridge.

If you’d like an informal chat about getting a tutor for your children, take a look at our For Parents page or email Rachel Law to schedule a chat.

How to balance extra-curricular activities with academic studies

Whether you are at school, college or university it is very important to get the balance right between academic studies and extra-curricular activities. Your studies are important for your future success but extra-curricular activities enable you to develop an array of social, communication, cognitive and physical skills, as well as contributing to your happiness.

Here are some tips to help you to best manage your time:

Studies come first

This is true no matter what. To make the most of your education, it’s important that you attend your classes and do your best to learn so that you can achieve your goals. Falling behind now will cause you stress and panic later.

Choose extracurricular activities wisely

You cannot do everything. With some activities it is not enough to attend, you also have to practise at home. Pick only those activities that really interest you and stick to two or three at the most. If you do too much it’s not just your studies that will come under pressure. You need a healthy social life and time to relax as well.

Manage your time

To ensure a healthy balance between your academic workload, extra-curricular activities, social life and relaxing time consider making yourself a schedule. This will help you to see whether you are managing your time smartly or if any changes need to be made.

Prioritize

There will be certain times, such as when exams are looming or assignments are due that you must prioritize your studies. Equally, if you have a dance performance you will need to allow time for rehearsals. Think about what is most important to you at this moment in time. If you have an exam, can you stop any extra-curricular activities for a while? If you have rehearsals to attend, can you minimise study time and catch up later? Talk to your parents or tutors if you are not sure what to do.

Stay healthy

Staying healthy is key to keeping your stress levels low and your energy levels high, enabling you to manage your lifestyle.

  • Eat and drink well. A balanced diet and drinking plenty of water is important for you to be able to function on every level. Without good nutrition you will be prone to fatigue and illness. To live a full life you need to be alert and energetic.
  • Sleep well. For more about this, see our post, ‘Why is sleep important for academic success?
  • Keep fit. As well as keeping you physically fit and warding off the germs, exercise is brilliant for your mental wellbeing as it relieves stress. Pick the kind of exercise you most enjoy so that you are more likely to stick with it. It’s a great idea to choose something physical as one of your extra-curricular activities.

Take study breaks

Studying for too long can result in depression and memory loss. It is very important to plan breaks into your study time. For every 45 minutes of study you need to take a ten minute break to recharge. This might be to go for a short walk or just to make yourself a drink.

Breaks actually benefit your work in other ways too. After taking a break you may find that a tricky concept suddenly becomes clear, or that you are more able to see where to make changes to a piece of writing.

Seek advice

At TutorMyKids we understand how important it is for you to achieve a healthy work/life balance. Our tutors can help you to make a realistic timetable that enables you to manage your studies effectively.

Call or email us for a chat: hello@tutormykids.co.uk, 01223 858 421

Why should my child learn grammar?

Grammar is the way in which words are ordered to make sentences. Using grammar correctly allows us to be clearly understood by others. Grammar is also about how the meanings of words can change when they are used in different contexts: Did you feel afraid when you were watching the Blair Witch Project? No, I’m afraid I didn’t. Strong grammar skills aid both verbal and written communication and enable children to expand their vocabulary by discovering new and interesting ways to present information and communicate their ideas.  Here we share some other reasons why learning grammar is worthwhile.

Foreign languages

Learning English grammar helps children to learn other languages.  According to Richard Hudson and John Walmsley in their article, The English Patient: English Grammar Teaching in the Twentieth Century: ‘…to support foreign-language learning explicit instruction is an important part of grammar teaching and is easier if pupils already have some understanding of how their first language works’.[1]

In order to be able to progress in a foreign language beyond primary level it helps if children understand English grammar. For instance, if a child knows what a preposition, a verb or a conjunction is in English they will easily identify the foreign equivalent.  If they understand the structure of simple and compound English sentences, then that skill can be applied to a foreign language too.  

Speaking a foreign language is an invaluable skill and it is now a compulsory part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum. Proficiency in another language opens the door to understanding other cultures and appreciating their literature and their art. It also considerably enhances career prospects.

GSCEs

Poor grammar, spelling and punctuation will lose a student marks not only in their GCSE English examinations but also in other subjects too including geography and history. The earlier children get to grips with grammar the better their chances later.

Career prospects

If you have ever been in a position to open job application letters then you will know that English grammar is important.  How many letters composed by well qualified, talented people have been thrown in the bin because they were poorly written?  It may be unjust, but it is a fact. The job market is competitive and we need to give children every chance we can, and one way we can do this is by ensuring that their writing doesn’t undersell them.  First impressions count.

Creativity

Grammar supports creativity.  Whilst writing the first draft of a poem or story children write freely and spontaneously.  Afterwards, if they have some grammar knowledge they can return to their work and polish it.  They will know how to successfully convey their ideas to others, portraying the effects and evoking the emotions that they wish.   They will be able to add style, variety and individuality to their work because they can sculpt their raw material – words and sentences.  Grammar is a valuable writer’s tool.

Thinking skills

Grammar develops children’s thinking and investigative skills.  In order to understand it, children need to make logical connections such as classification, causation and time.  When grammar is taught through investigation of children’s existing knowledge it is a good foundation for scientific method.  Moreover, if taught in this way, grammar is interesting and enjoyable.  Children will develop a critical response to some of the ways that language is used every day.

Supporting your child

Anybody who went to school in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s received very little, if any, grammar instruction so it can be helpful to brush up so we can support our children. The best grammar books for clear, concise explanations are children’s books!  Junior Illustrated: Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Bingham and Alex Latimeris a fantastic starting point and very cheap to order on the Internet. 

Useful websites to explore are:

English Grammar Lessons, https://english-grammar-lessons.com/

Grammar Reference, The British Council: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference

If you feel you would benefit more from direct teaching, Cactus TEFL offers an online grammar course designed for those wishing to teach English as a foreign language, but it is beneficial for everybody: http://www.cactustefl.com/ela/

Making grammar exciting for children

Learning grammar should always be fun. Children learn best when they are excited and enjoying what they are doing.  We recommend:

Crickweb, http://www.crickweb.co.uk/ks2literacy.html

Education.com, https://www.education.com/games/grammar/

FunEnglishGames.com, http://www.funenglishgames.com/grammargames.html

Topmarks, https://www.topmarks.co.uk/english-games/7-11-years/spelling-and-grammar

How TutorMyKids can help

Grammar is confusing – the rules don’t always seem to make sense. Our specialist English Language tutors are experienced in helping children to understand this complicated area, raising the quality of their oral and written communication.  To find out more, contact us today: 01223 858 421, hello@tutormykids.co.uk


[1] The English Patient: English grammar and teaching in the twentieth century, Journal of Linguistics, Cambridge University Press, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-linguistics/article/english-patient-english-grammar-and-teaching-in-the-twentieth-century/97B51A21E50FD0960400C42C65CBF1A2

GCSE writing for a purpose: informal letter

In our last blog post we talked about writing a formal letter. Today we help you to write an informal letter by looking at the differences between formal and informal letters and showing you an example of an informal letter.

Formal letters are addressed to people you don’t know – they are appropriate for job applications, letters to newspapers etc. Informal letters, on the other hand, are written to people you know well – friends and family.

Let’s start with an example of an informal letter:

Your friend is considering taking part in a clinical trial to earn some money. Write a letter to your friend to express your opinion.

Dear Lucy,

              When I saw on Twitter that you’re thinking about getting involved in a clinical trial to make some money I was totally gobsmacked! Please don’t do it! I know that money is tight and you’re having problems paying your rent but letting somebody pump your body with an untested drug is really stupid.

              You’re one of my closest and oldest friends and I can’t just sit back and watch you do this without saying something. Why are you risking your health for a little bit of money? I know you think it’s easy money but it isn’t!  Think what the long-term consequences could be for your health! Can’t you just get a job like everybody else? I saw that there were a few people on Twitter encouraging you, but please don’t listen. They don’t care about you; they just want to be entertained at your expense. They will soon change their tune if things go wrong.

              Do you know what you’re getting yourself into? These drugs have NEVER been tested on people, only mice. You will be a human mouse. They even make you sign a contract so you can’t sue them if things go wrong. Does that really seem safe to you? “Just sign here and then I’ll stick this giant needle into your arm.” Sounds great doesn’t it?

              What about the side effects too? Did you think about those? You could have a heart attack or anything. What about your family and your friends? How are they going to feel when you’ve made yourself ill for a bit of money? It just isn’t worth the risk is it? You feel as fit as a fiddle now, but will you when the clinic has finished with you?

              Please just find a job. I know it doesn’t sound that exciting and the money doesn’t seem as ‘easy’ but it’s much better than the alternative. Work in a bar or a club and then you will just get paid to socialise! Seriously, think long and hard before you decide. Long-term health risk vs. quick money – I know what I would choose! Give me a ring to talk about it.

                             See you soon,

                             Karen

Language

The language used in informal letters differs from formal letters. In informal letters we use:

  1. Colloquial words/expressions

Everyday language which includes slang and regional expressions eg. ‘gobsmacked’.

2. Contractions

‘Don’t’, ‘doesn’t’ etc.

3. Abbreviations

Shortened forms of words and phrases  – eg., etc., vs.

4. Clichés

These are over-used phrases like, ‘fit as a fiddle’.

5. Imperative voice

The imperative voice is a command or request – ‘Please don’t do it!’

6. Active voice

This is when the subject of the sentence is the person or thing performing the action.

7. Short, simple sentences and exclamation marks.

Short, simple sentences are used in informal letters. In formal letters sentences are longer and more detailed.

8. Exclamation marks

Used in informal letters, but don’t overuse them otherwise the letter becomes comical rather.

Vocabulary

Use informal vocabulary: ‘help’ rather than ‘assistance’, ‘buy’ rather than ‘purchase’, ‘need’ instead of ‘obtain’, ‘thinking’ instead of ‘considering’, and so on.

Use phrasal verbs appropriately

Here are some examples:

Formal: Clinicians did a test.  Informal: Clinicians carried out a test.

Formal: We must eradicate bullying. Informal: We must stamp out bullying.

Formal: We should maintain standards. Informal: We should keep up the standards.

Formal: Let us organize a meeting. Informal: Let’s set up a meeting.

Salutation and valediction

There are differences between the ways you can begin and end formal and informal letters:

Formal: Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Mr Stevens. Informal: Dear Rebecca.

Formal: Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully. Informal: All the best, See you soon, Best wishes or Regards

Would you like support with GCSE English Language?

TutorMyKids offer GCSE and IGCSE English Language tuition. All our tutors are experienced, professional, and have a passion for their subject. They have expert knowledge of exam board requirements and a thorough understanding of the curriculum.

To discuss how we can help you to prepare for your exams, get in touch with us today.

GCSE writing for a purpose: formal letter

In our second English Language blog post we talk about writing a formal letter to express a point of view. Here is an example of the sort of question you might see in your exam:

Many people prefer to spend their holidays in Great Britain rather than travel abroad. Write a letter to a magazine editor giving your opinion on this topic.

Here’s a sample answer:

Dear Mr Smith,

              After reading several articles in your magazine which suggest that it is unethical to travel abroad, I felt compelled to express my contrasting point of view. As a child I spent many happy summer holidays in Wales and Scotland and I love rambling in the countryside, but I cannot agree that we should all stop taking holidays abroad.

              One argument put forward is that air travel is detrimental to the environment. However, a single flight abroad just once a year is inconsequential compared to the millions of tonnes of pollution pumped into the atmosphere by coal power stations around the world. I am not a global warming sceptic; in fact I passionately believe that we are facing a climate emergency. My electricity at home is generated by solar power and I vigilantly recycle my waste daily. Considering all my efforts, surely I should be allowed to take one holiday abroad a year?

              Having spent every childhood holiday listening to the rain hammering on a caravan roof I think I have earnt the right to lie on a beach somewhere soaking up the sun, and swimming in a crystal clear (pollution-free) sea. In all honestly, who wouldn’t prefer to do so? According to a government survey one in five people in Britain today are vitamin D deficient. Therefore, a week in the sun is important for our emotional, mental and physical health.

              Spending time abroad also opens our minds. It allows us to meet different people and to experience new cultures. Our horizons are broadened by visiting famous sites like the pyramids, the Statue of Liberty and the Amazon rainforest. Only by experiencing the world first-hand can we truly appreciate its wonders. I’ve learnt about volcanoes from visiting Mount Vesuvius, and Roman history by visiting the Coliseum. Learning from books and the internet just isn’t quite the same. Moreover, many countries rely on tourism. What will happen to their economies if tourism is taken from them?

              I appreciate that air travel has an environmental cost which is why I choose to travel just once a year. Foreign travel makes a huge difference to myself and to my whole family. I will never forget the look on my mother’s face when she fulfilled a lifetime dream and climbed to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. The memories I have from travelling abroad are priceless, and I would encourage your readers to keep expanding their horizons by travelling both inside and outside Great Britain whenever possible.

Yours sincerely,

Nicola Higgins                              

When writing a formal letter like this you need to include the following:

  1. Addresses

In the top right hand corner write your address and then leave a space before writing the date underneath. The date should be in long form eg. ‘July 14th, 2020’ rather than ‘14/07/20’.

Just below your address, on the left hand side of the page write the name of the person you are sending the letter to, their job title and their address.

For the exam, you can make up both addresses. Make sure you use capital letters for proper nouns.

2. Salutation

This is the greeting. In the sample letter here we’ve written ‘Dear Mr Smith’, but if you didn’t know the person’s name you would write ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

3. Complimentary close

Sign off your letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ if you know the name of the person (as in the sample letter), and ‘Yours faithfully’ if you’ve stared the letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.  Sign the letter with your signature, and beneath your signature write your name eg. ‘Nicola Higgins’.

4. First paragraph

In the first paragraph of your letter clearly state your point of view and use a tone that is more formal than your everyday language. Do not use contractions (don’t, I’m, can’t, it’s) or vague words like ‘good’ and ‘nice’. Always be respectful and polite even if you are writing a letter of complaint.

5. Use persuasive techniques

When expressing a point of view check that you have used at least 6 of the following techniques:

  • Anecdotes
  • Comparison
  • Counter argument
  • Direct address (‘I’)
  • Emotive language
  • Facts
  • Imagery (simile/metaphor)
  • Opinions
  • Repetition
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Statistics
  • Triples

How many different techniques can you spot in the sample letter?

6. Final paragraph

In the last paragraph of your letter restate your point of view as strongly as you can using a persuasive technique and suggest a course of action.

Read the final paragraph of the sample letter. Has the writer’s point of view been restated effectively? What persuasive techniques are used? What course of action is suggested to the editor?

Do you need help with GCSE English Language?

TutorMyKids offer GCSE and IGCSE English Language tuition. All our tutors are experienced, professional, and have a passion for their subject. They have expert knowledge of exam board requirements and a thorough understanding of the curriculum.

Whether you are struggling with a particular aspect of English Language or need more in-depth tuition, please get in touch to discuss your needs.

What are learning gaps and how can a tutor help?

Learning gaps are the difference between what a student is expected to have learnt by a specific point in their education and what they have actually learnt. For example, by the end of Year 2 most children are expected to have reached Gold band reading level. However, if a child is placed on Gold band reading books before they can read the Year 1 high frequency words and sounds then this will slow their progress further because they will be wasting time staring at pages they cannot read. In maths, if a young child is unable to count backwards they will struggle with subtraction later on. 

Learning is like a child’s wooden block tower – each block builds upon the last. If a block is missing from the tower then it is hard for a student to progress.

What causes learning gaps?

Learning gaps are caused when a student is pushed on to the next level of learning before they’ve fully grasped what came before. 

Learning gaps occur for all different reasons, for example:

  • A student has missed a lesson due to illness or other circumstances.
  • The student cannot focus in class due to bullying, difficult circumstances inside or outside school, or lack of confidence in the subject.
  • The teacher didn’t cover the concept adequately for the student.
  • The pace of the lesson was too fast for the student.
  • The teacher thought the student understood the concept because they mechanically followed the steps but they didn’t really understand what they were doing.
  • The student didn’t master the concept well enough to be able to apply it.

How are learning gaps identified?

If a student is struggling, a teacher or tutor will need to carry out a diagnostic assessment to find out whether there is a learning gap and the nature of the gap.  For instance, if a child seems to be having difficulty in a particular area of maths a quiz is a useful starting point.  Analysing the child’s maths books and talking to them directly will also help to pinpoint problems.

How should a learning gap be addressed?

The only way to address a learning gap is to specifically provide instruction to fill the gap. This could include revisiting activities and topics from previous units and previous years.  Material may need to be presented in a different way than it was before bearing in mind the particular student’s preferred learning styles, and the pace of teaching may need to be slower. The student will need plenty of opportunity to ask questions in order to address misunderstandings. They will also need opportunities to apply their knowledge to a variety of situations so that understanding is secure.

At school, ideally the teacher would find time outside the classroom to provide individual instruction. In the classroom environment, the teacher would need to adapt the content of new material so that the student with a gap can access it as well as those who have a more through grounding. In maths, this could mean using smaller numbers and more straightforward problems so that the struggling student isn’t handicapped by their lack of understanding of prior material. 

How long does it take to close a learning gap?

It depends upon the nature of the learning gap and how soon it is addressed. It can take a week or several years. The quicker a gap is identified the less of a knock-on effect there will be for the student. Once a student falls behind, it’s a difficult cycle to break.

How can TutorMyKids help?

One-to-one tutoring by a qualified teacher is the most effective way of addressing a learning gap. A private tutor can adapt teaching to meet a student’s specific needs.  They can personalize instruction to suit a particular student’s level, pace and unique learning styles – something that’s very difficult for a teacher in a busy classroom to achieve.

Equally importantly, students tend to be more comfortable to talk to a tutor about their difficulties than they are to draw attention to themselves in a classroom.  By talking they become partners in their learning, asking the questions necessary to further their understanding.

At TutorMyKids we know that learning gaps should be addressed as quickly as possible through regular and rigorous teaching.  For fast, effective tuition call us today on 01223 858421 or email: hello@tutormykids.co.uk

10 stress-busting tips for students

The 6th November is International Stress Awareness Day which focuses our minds on caring for our emotional wellbeing.

Most students at one time or another suffer from stress.  This can be due to workload and deadlines, exams, family expectations, social problems, relationship issues, money worries – so many reasons. 

A little bit of stress is good.  It can motivate you to prepare for exams, for example.  However, too much stress can cause anxiety, depression, and other health issues.  That’s why it’s important to learn to manage stress effectively. 

There will always be stressful times in your life, so stress management is an important life skill to master now.

  1.  Sleep

Sleep is number one on the list because students are famous for late nights!  You need between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night to be productive, focused and safe.  However, if you are feeling stressed then it’s much harder for your brain to shut down so from this respect sleep should be last. 

The main thing is to avoid too many late nights and to keep a consistent sleep pattern.  Go to bed early and read or listen to gentle music for an hour or so to switch off.  If you can’t sleep don’t obsess about it because, of course, this makes the problem worse.  Anybody who has cared for a small baby will tell you that months and even years without adequate sleep is not ideal but will not kill you!

For more about sleep see: Why is sleep important for academic success?

2. Exercise

For your mind and body to function effectively you need regular exercise.  Exercise helps you to concentrate and it improves memory and general cognitive ability as well as lifting your mood and improving your sleep. 

Choose exercise you enjoy so you’re more likely to do it.  If you like to dance, join a class.  If you want to lift weights, join a gym.  Find a gym that runs from a school or leisure centre and doesn’t require you to be locked into an expensive contract.

Meet a friend and go for a jog.  For those who want a challenge check out Couch to 5K.  You could take regular brisk walks combined with a high-impact exercise DVD that raises your heart rate.  If you’re time poor search the internet for 15 minute exercise routine programmes.

Intensive exercise before bedtime can make it difficult to sleep, so stick to Yoga or stretches in the late evening.

3. Healthy eating

Your diet can sap your energy or boost your brain.  A balanced diet is made up of carbohydrate, protein, fruit and vegetables.  Include some of each with every meal.  Here are some examples.

Carbohydrates: brown rice, wholemeal bread, potatoes cooked in skin, wholewheat pasta, low sugar breakfast cereal, oats.

Protein: eggs, fish, read meat, beans, lentils, poultry, milk, cheese, yoghurts.

Fruit and vegetables: carrots, tomatoes (fresh or tinned), frozen peas (and other veg), salad vegetables, onions, peppers, oranges, apples, bananas, pears, grapes, tinned fruit in unsweetened juice.

Food doesn’t have to take long to prepare.  Beans or sardines on toast, boiled eggs, jacket potatoes and vegetable-based pasta dishes are quick and easy. 

Avoid takeaways and fast foods.  Cook from scratch by finding yourself a student cookbook.  Don’t deprive yourself of treats though – all in moderation!

4. Relaxation techniques

There’s a book called 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom by Tammie Prince which, although not aimed at students, contains a wealth of easy-to-follow and very effective relaxation techniques that are great for everybody.

The techniques in the book draw upon the following:

  • Breathing
  • Active meditation
  • Guided meditation
  • Mindful walking
  • Positive thinking
  • Yoga

The internet has a wealth of information about each of these too.  See Relaxation coping skills – activities to help kids calm down at home and at school.

5. Do what you love!

What makes you happy?  Is it socialising with friends?  Being immersed in a craft project?  Playing basketball?  Whatever you love doing, make time for it alongside your studies.  Remember to have a work-life balance.  If you do you will feel:

  • More motivated and therefore more productive in your studies
  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Happier and friendlier towards others.

6. Listen to music

Music has many benefits.  It can:

  • Help you to concentrate by making you feel calmer.
  • It can inspire creativity, getting your ideas going.
  • Make you feel better.  When you enjoy music your brain releases a chemical called dopamine which lifts your mood.
  • Motivate you to exercise.  Running, spinning or dancing to music keeps you going!
  • Be sociable.  There’s nothing like a shared love of music to bond friends.

7. Think positively

Negative thinking can be paralysing.  It can stop you from moving forward in life and achieving your goals.  Thinking positively boosts confidence, makes you feel happier and reduces stress levels. 

But what is positive thinking and how do you achieve it?  See the NHS Moodzone (below) for ways to manage unhelpful thinking habits.  Also see 7 practical Tips to achieve a positive mindset.

8. Explore Moodzone!

The NHS provides free mental well-being podcasts to help young people who are feeling low or anxious.  Each podcast gives simple advice to boost your mood.  There’s a mood self-assessment to help you to choose which guide will help you the most.  You will find:

  • Anxiety control training
  • Overcoming sleep problems
  • Low confidence and assertiveness

9. Manage your time

Create a study timetable and stick to it as far as you can.  Make sure the timetable is realistic.  It’s vital to rest, exercise and socialise too.  Remember that work can often take longer than you think it will so be kind to yourself when you’re planning.  Set yourself up to succeed.

Choose the best place to study.  Where are there fewest distractions?  Where are you less likely to daydream and procrastinate?  Some people study better when there is a buzz around them and others prefer quiet.  Be honest about which one is you.

10. One step at a time

When you’re on top of your studies you will feel more relaxed.  Sometimes you might feel like you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start.  This becomes a vicious cycle because then you’re too frightened to begin and so the mountain becomes a daunting climb.

So take small steps.

Decide what you want to (realistically) achieve today.  Don’t work for more than 40 minutes in one stretch.  Take 10 to 15 minute breaks with an hour for lunch. 

At the end of the day reflect upon what you’ve achieved.  If you need help from your tutor because you’re grappling with a difficult concept then get help as soon as you can.  Don’t allow any difficulties to become road blocks.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your studies?

If you feel you need extra help TutorMyKids can find you an experienced, qualified local tutor who will support and motivate you with your studies.  We offer tuition in the evenings, on weekends and during the holidays. 

Whether you need regular tuition or short-term, intensive revision sessions please get in touch.

Exam resits: your guide to a fresh start

If you didn’t get the A Level or GCSE grades you wanted you might feel as though your dreams are over – but that’s far from true.  With hard work and time you can still achieve the results you need. 

Students like you who don’t give up but pick themselves up and try again show themselves as determined, resilient individuals – and that’s a valuable foundation for the future.

So, are you ready for a fresh start? Here’s our guide to resitting your exams:

Do I have to go back to school?

No – not if you don’t want to.  Not all schools offer the chance to resit exams anyway, so check with your teacher.  You can study at a sixth form college or online.  Search Google to find out what is available locally.  You might decide to resit through an online, distance learning course which gives you the flexibility to study part-time while you work. For extra support with your exam retakes, consider hiring a private tutor.  TutorMyKids can find you a professional tutor to support you in overcoming difficulties and understanding tricky concepts.  A private tutor can help you to exceed your expectations and achieve success.

Do I need to resit GCSE subjects?

The first thing to decide is whether you want to resit a particular GCSE exam.  If you failed Geography, you don’t have to retake the exam.  If you need a certain number of passes, you might decide to study a different subject altogether, and you can!

However, you might have to resit English Language and Maths GCSEs.  You will need to keep studying these subjects until you are eighteen if you didn’t get a grade 4 or above.  The good news is you can study alongside other courses such as A Levels or BTECs, so there’s no need to put your plans on hold.

When can I resit my GCSEs?

You can retake GCSEs in May/June, and you can also resit some subjects in November.  When you choose a GCSE provider they will explain your options.

When can I retake my A Levels? 

A Level resits take place in May/June.  See AQA, Cambridge Assessment International, and Edexcel exam board websites for details.

Do universities still consider students who resit exams?

Yes.  Most universities will not penalise you for retaking exams.  In your UCAS personal statement focus on the valuable experience that resitting an exam has given you.  By trying again you are demonstrating commitment, determination and focus.  Perhaps you’ve been busy with work experience or volunteer work whilst you’ve been studying?  Talk to friends, teachers and parents who can help you identify the positives.

What’s the most effective way to revise?

Revise actively not passively.  Don’t mindlessly highlight passages in notes or textbooks.  Here’s what works:

  • Read a section of your textbook or notes and write yourself some questions.  Without looking at the original text try to answer your questions.  Repeat the exercise until you are confident. Each time answer the questions in a different order. 
  • Read notes just before you go to sleep.  While you sleep your brain processes and consolidates your learning. 
  • Read your notes into a recording device.  Play them when you are doing something that doesn’t require concentration like cooking, cross-stitch, running, or sitting outside in the sunshine. 
  • Give your memory a helping hand by:
    • Using mnemonics thought up by others or by making up your own.  Here’s a science example: OIL RIG – oxidation is loss, reduction is gain.
    • Inventing or memorising sayings. For example, to spell ‘necessary’ remember ‘one collar and two socks’.
    • Using visual cues. Draw charts, diagrams or sketches to help you to recall key concepts.  For instance, to remember the plot of Shakespeare’s Macbeth you might draw a basic flow diagram with labelled sketches of the action. 
  • Do practice exam questions, particularly focus on the types of questions you find difficult.  Although the same questions never come up twice, this helps you polish your exam technique.  After you’ve answered a question compare it to the exam board’s model answer.

How often should I revise?

Every day, but not all day.  Make yourself a structured plan.  Aim to revise for about three to five hours every week day, and an hour or less on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Break up your study time into manageable chunks.  Stop every hour or so – make a cup of tea, watch television for a bit, go for a walk.  Some breaks will be just a few minutes, some will be longer.  Make sure you stick to your daily allotted time though. 

Don’t exhaust yourself by over-studying as that’s counter-productive.  Your brain needs time to rest and consolidate information, and you will feel miserable if you spend too long revising.  Exercise is particularly important (healthy body, healthy mind – it’s true!).  While we’re on the subject, try to resist the temptation to eat too many bars of chocolate and packets of crisps while you revise and find yourself some healthier snacks.

Don’t study too little either, otherwise you will feel guilty and stressed.  If you work part-time and you need to reduce your hours then do it.  If friends pressure you to socialise more than you are comfortable with, be firm.  It’s only a few weeks until your resits are over – it’s worth sacrificing time in the short term to achieve your long-term goal. 

Remember: resitting an exam is certainly not the end of the world.  What you learn personally from this experience will have a positive impact on your future. 

If you would like one-to-one support to retake an exam, get in touch with TutorMyKids and we will help you to achieve the result you have worked so hard to achieve.

Why-a-maths-assessment-is-key-to-getting-the-best-tutor-for-your-child

At Tutor My Kids, tutors in Cambridgeshire, a maths assessment is a usual part of our process of putting in the right tutor for your child. It enables us to assess your child’s abilities, their maths gaps and how they approach their work. The importance of getting the right tutor in terms of personality and approach, who will bring out the best in your child is, in our opinion, an integral part of getting the best tutor for your child.

Whether your child is struggling with the basics or the more advanced work makes a huge difference in finding the best maths tutor for them. A strong mathematician may benefit from a tutor who can really question and stretch them, whilst an underconfident student needs a much more gentle, encouraging approach. Establishing this can make the all the difference between ‘ok’ tutoring and exceptional tutoring.

Establishing where your child is with their learning

How confident a student is with their maths is a key determiner to the kind of tutor who will work best with them. Students who are working on the higher paper and are looking to get the best grades for sixth form, invariably need a supportive approach, but one which challenges them to think strategically to tackle the type of questions at level 8/9. A student who has always thought of themselves as a weak mathematician will need someone who can fill in missing gaps, gently, to raise their confidence and enable them to gain the marks they need to pass their GCSE maths. The new GCSE exams need a particular set of skills – see What’s different about the new GCSEs and what skills are needed?  Whilst dyscalculia is rare, it can be a problem. At Tutor My Kids, we do offer dyscalculia screening. Take a look at How dyscalculia screening helped a parent. So, it’s absolutely key to establish where your child is with their learning. Then we can look at the personality match between the student and the tutor.

Getting the personality match right

At Tutor My Kids, we think that getting the right personality match for your child is absolutely key to great tuition. We always meet you and your child in your home, to get a feel for your home ‘culture’ and your child’s personality. We establish what kind of approach will best support your child. We meet all our tutors at Tutor My Kids face to face and know the kind of students that they most prefer to work with – some love pushing the most able students, others simply adore helping the students that don’t ‘get’ maths. This joint knowledge and personal approach helps us to get the best possible match of tutor for your child and your family.

Putting it all together

This is where the magic happens. We put together your child’s level, approach to learning, confidence and personality and bingo we get a great tutor matched to your child to help and support them in their goals. It’s brilliant when we get this right! Student’s simply fly! See our client testimonials and tutor testimonials for a taste of this.

If you’d like more information on tutors in Ely, Cambridge, Newmarket and Huntingdon, take a look at our For Parents page, email Rachel or call Rachel on 01223 858421.

If you’re a teacher interested in finding out how to join our amazing team and working with really well assessed students, please take a look at our For Tutors page, email Rachel or give her a call on 01223 858421.

 

Maths-Gaps-Why-they-occur-and-the-problems-they-cause

I’ve never met a child without some gaps in their maths learning; it’s inevitable. How they affect a student depends on where the gaps in their knowledge are.

Why gaps in maths knowledge occur

Gaps in learning maths can occur for a huge number of reasons. Maths is hugely sequential, which means that many new concepts build upon previously taught ones – miss one and you may have problems. Missing learning can result from any number of factors: missing lessons, not grasping a concept fully before the class moves on, losing concentration, teacher absences and a host of other reasons. It’s not unusual for sight or hearing problems to be picked up part-way through a school year which means children may not have been able to see or hear the lessons well. On top of that, there have been curriculum changes.

New curricula

In 2014, the new primary school maths curriculum was introduced, which meant that (in order to move us higher up the international education rankings) pupils were expected to know more maths earlier. This means that if your child was born in 2002-2004 (and to an extent 2006-2008), there were in the thick of that and may have more gaps than younger students. These years had to get up to speed really quickly for the new year 2 and year 6 primary school SATs, which was a problem for many. I wrote about this in  2015 – Why is my child finding maths particularly hard at the moment?

Plus to compound that the new GCSEs are very different from the old ones – take a look at  What’s different about the new GCSEs and what skills are needed to succeed. These exams require a more thorough understanding of the curriculum, more skills in problem-solving and ability to retain knowledge of all the curriculum.  It’s hardly surprising there are many students struggling.

What problems are caused

Gaps in maths cause difficulty in taking on board new concepts, which can delay or pause learning in some topics. If these gaps are very early (foundation or year 1) in the curriculum, it can mimic the effects of dyscalculia – see Does my child have dyscalculia? Gaps later in the curriculum tend to have a less profound effect, but can still be problematic.

Much of the tutoring that our teachers do at Tutor My Kids, in maths, is gap filling. Whether it’s dealing with a year 3 child who’s struggling or a GCSE student who needs to simply pass their exam.

For information on maths tutoring, click here,  email Rachel or call Rachel Law on 01223 858421.

If you’re interested in becoming a tutor, please take a look at our tutor page, the kind words from our tutors and our other blogs.