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.

 

 

 

 

Do-you-need-help-with-home-schooling?

Reasons to home school

There are many reasons that parents choose to home school their children. Education can be child-led – there’s no requirement to follow the national curriculum in the UK.  You can work with your child’s biological clock, which is really handy for teenagers.  Children can ask questions as they go along, rather than being put off putting up a hand in class. And 1 to 2 hours a day of one-to-one tuition is felt to be the equivalent of a days schooling.

Help and support

There are plenty of people who will tell you that it’s the wrong thing to do. Many cite lack of socialising as reasons not to do it. However there is great support out there to put you in touch with other families who are home schooling, such as Education Otherwise, who can put you in touch with other parents to share experiences and help each other out.

What if you lack the right skills?

Not having the right skills can be a worry for parents, especially as kids get older. Many parents are able to tackle some subjects to GCSE or A level but rarely all of them. Organisations such as Education Otherwise are great at putting parents in touch with each other for support, but also to share the teaching. Maybe you can teach English and a local parent the maths? Families can get help from tutors who can work one-to-one with students to help, especially with exam preparation.

Exam arrangements

If you want your children to sit GCSEs and A levels, you will need to follow the exam syllabus. The new GCSEs are very different from the old ones, and need different skills.  Taking the exams can be arranged privately  – AQA and other boards have detail on their websites. Private tuition is something which can be really useful at this point to ensure effective understanding of the new GCSE and A level syllabuses, but also for the all important help with exam technique. Many a mark can be picked up through a good understanding of the marking scheme.

Get in touch

At Tutor My Kids, our teachers who tutor in Ely, Cambridge, Newmarket, St Ives and Huntingdon, support students in many ways, and our teachers we have daytime availability to support home educated students. For more info on Tutor My Kids, please click the link, email Rachel or call her on 01223 858421 for an informal chat.

 

What’s-different-about-the-new-GCSEs-and-what-skills-are-needed-to-succeed?

There are several differences to the new GCSEs. Aside from the new grading system, they’re harder, require students to learn the whole curriculum for the end exams, need students to apply their knowledge to problems and remember quotes, technical terms and formulae. This needs a different set of skills from the old GCSEs.

Memory and retention

The new GCSEs require students to use the correct technical vocabulary for the subject, as well as remembering quotes and formulae. A mark would be awarded for correctly using the term osmosis or reacting, whereas more general terms such as mixing, combining would not score. Fomulae for maths and science equations (such as an area of a circle) are no longer provided, so students need to learn these by heart. Quotes from books must also be learnt verbatim for English and history. This requires students to have strategies and study skills that will help them commit these elements to memory.

Resilience and repetition

The new exams have end exams which tests all the knowledge learnt across the whole GCSE course. Previously, many subjects had end of unit tests – several tests across the year testing a specific block of learning,  which required less information to be learnt for each test. This means that students are expected to know topics that they learnt in Sept of year 10 as well as those taught just before the exam. This approach also expects that students will be able to use and apply their knowledge across topics in one problem, so a question may require students to demonstrate a knowledge of trigonometry and ratio within one question. Students need to have the discipline and techniques to ensure that they’re revisiting and revising topics as they progress through the curriculum.

More advanced skills

Without doubt, the new exams are harder. There is content in the higher maths tier that was previously in the A level syllabus and topics in the foundation tier that were in the higher tier of the old GCSEs. For the new English GCSE, students are expected to be able to discuss why the author has used certain techniques  – this is a completely new skill to students, never tested before. Understanding the historical context of books studied is expected to be at a higher level than previously needed. All these require students to be able to take on board this higher level of thinking and analysis.

Applying the knowledge

Learning the topics well, however, certainly is not enough  – the new GCSEs require students to demonstrate that they can apply their knowledge to problems set in the questions. Students are expected to be able to discuss why Priestley set An Inspector Calls before the first world war, when it was written after and how his political viewpoint informed his writing. Maths students are needed to be able to apply the fomulae that they’ve learnt to worded problems, such as Calculate the height of a building, given various angles and distances, without explicitly being told to use trigonometry.  Science students need to demonstrate how science applies to real-life issues such as the environment. This is a step on and above from students learning and recalling key facts.

How can I help my child?

There are several key areas that can help your child succeed at the new GCSEs. Firstly, really good subject knowledge is absolutely key – encourage your kids to do their homework to ensure understanding of topics and take advantage of any after-school or lunchtime drop-in sessions. Relearning and revisiting of a topic – essentially making revision notes can become a great resource to refresh learning and ensure topics are not forgotten. Look at techniques for committing quotes,  formuale and technical vocab to memory – whatever works for your child – mind mapping, revision cards etc. Reading around the topic, taking full advantage of any supplementary materials from school and practice papers can help with applying the knowledge.  There’s a lot to fit in, so encourage and help your kids to start with some of these techniques early.

Would a tutor help?

At Tutor My Kids, our tutors in Ely, Cambridge, Newmarket, St Ives and Huntingdon, support students in many ways, but almost always include subject knowledge, help to apply that knowledge and study skills. For more info on GCSE exams and tuition in Cambridgeshire, please click the link, email Rachel or call her on 01223 858421 for an informal chat.

 

 

 

Are-you-confused-by-the-new-GCSE-grading-system?

The new GCSEs are now in place.  The new exams and grading system for maths, English Language and Literature was introduced for the exams in summer 2017. The remained subjects joined them for 2018.

Why-do-we-have-a-new-grading-system?

The exams are new and having a new grading system helps employers to identify that students have studied this more challenging exam. It’s a very visual way of signalling this change in the education system.

How-do-the-new-grades-work?

Grades 9 is there to show the students who have exceeded the old A* grade. Grade 7 is an A, grade 8 a strong A.

Grade 6 is a B

Grade 4 is a C – a standard pass, with grade 5 being a strong pass.

Grade 3 is between a D and an E, grade 2 between an E and an F, grade 1 between an F and a G. Grade U (ungraded) remains unchanged.

So, a grade 4 and above is a pass.

At the moment, grade 4 is a pass and I think it’s realistic to expect it to stay so for the moment, but given the focus on improving our rankings in the international edcuational league tables, I think it’s entirely possible that this may change and 5 may become the official pass mark. However, given the movement of grade boundaries in 2018 to ensure pass rates remain consistent with previous years whilst the new exams bed in, I think this will be some years hence.

For more info on GCSE exams and tuition in Cambridgeshire, please click the link.

 

 

Exam Preparation… The Final Day

So you’ve done all the revision and practice that you can… but even the most prepared students can feel like there is always more they can do.  Here are some tips and pointers for the day and hours before each exam.

Last minute revision… the day before: 

You now have limited time; try not to cram – focus your attention to specific areas you’ve either not had time to cover, or you feel you are weaker on.  Consider each topic’s weighting in the course and prioritise.

Be realistic; are you going to be able to learn 50 formulas in a few hours, or would your time be better spent learning 3 key formulas which are more likely to be assessed.

Make a cheat sheet with key details which you can either test yourself on or continue to learn – this is good for dates, formula’s, names.  Keep it brief so you can keep reviewing it throughout the day.

Take another look at any topics you still don’t feel comfortable with; reviewing for a final time may just be what you need for it to sink in.

Get organised:

Double check where you are meant to be, and at what time!  The last thing you need is to turn up at the wrong place, or at the wrong time.

Double check what you are able to take into the exam with you (and what you can’t); pack everything you need together so it is easy to access when you arrive.

Get some rest:

Even though you may be feeling the pressure now, make sure you still take breaks from studying.

Try and relax and get an early night, if you feel like you still have preparation to do, set your alarm to get up early.  Your brain will be better prepared to study after a good sleep and the benefit’s will be greater than studying when you are tired.

Eat and drink.

Be on time:

Turn up early, where possible.  Having a last minute stress being stuck in traffic, or your bus being late won’t help you focus when you arrive.

Now you’re on time, there is a chance for you to talk to your friends, however try not to discuss too much about the exam!  There may be things that they know and you don’t and vice-versa and discussion without the opportunity to review and clarify what is correct may cause panic and confusion.  Not what you need just before the exam.  Stand by yourself and stay calm if you find it helps to stay focused.

In the exam room:

Breathe!

Remember your preparation (reading questions carefully, allocating time etc).

Do your best, and relax!

GOOD LUCK!