Tips (4)

Πέμπτη, 13 Αυγούστου 2020 16:23

Encouraging Effective Learning Strategies: Tips for Parents

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We write many posts for teachers, many for students, and also some that will be of interest to researchers. But did you know that we also write posts specifically for parents? Today, I wanted to bring together some of the tips we've accumulated, and add a few more. 

Manage expectations around homework

Homework is probably the first thing we think of as parents, when we think about how we might help our children succeed in school. Homework is a controversial subject, and we've published various posts about it on our blog (from researchersteachers, and parents). Based on the scientific evidence, however, we can make 4 simple recommendations about how to handle homework:

  1. Quality is much more important than the quantity. 
  2. The goal of homework completion shouldn't be to "get it all done" and/or “get everything right”, but to make a concerted effort to attempt the task at hand
  3. When giving feedback on your children's homework focus on how to turn mistakes into learning experiences rather than punishments.
  4. Children should be doing roughly 10 mins of homework per night per grade (so a 3rd grade student might spend 30 minutes per night on homework). If your child is spending much more time than this recommended amount, you may want to speak to their teacher and ask about their reasons for assigning a heavy homework load – or whether your child might need some more support at school.

The suggestions above were based on this post. For more evidence-based information on homework, see here.

Help your children prepare for tests

At some point in your child's school career, they will come home and tell you that they have a test coming up. What can you do to help?

When to study

Often, we might try to remind/nag our children to study. Instead, we might help them plan out a study schedule as many days or even weeks ahead of the test as possible. This might seem counterintuitive to children who would rather only study for the test when it is imminent; but helping children get into the habit of spacing out their studying would be a valuable gift.

For more on encouraging spaced practice, see this post.

How to study

Do your children know what good "studying" actually involves? If not, you might suggest they start with retrieval practice. You can help facilitate this by quizzing your children from their notes or textbook. It's important to ensure that they know this is not just a check of how much they've learned - it's actually producing learning. If they'd rather practice on their own, you can show them simple retrieval practice techniques, such as putting away their notes and writing or drawing everything they know about a topic.

Create casual opportunities for spaced retrieval practice

You can help your child increase their learning by asking them what they learned or did at school. When your child is describing and explaining to you what they did in school and what they learned, they are actually reinforcing their learning. It’s ok if you don’t know much about the material they are describing – just let them do most of the talking! Sometimes, children won't want to answer such questions (ask me how I know). You may need to warm up a bit by talking about your own day, and giving them opportunities to ask you questions before you jump in with yours.

Balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Ideally, we would want our children to be inherently (intrinsically) interested in their homework and their studies. That's the ideal, of course - but it's not always possible. For tasks or subjects that students are less interested in, small external rewards (extrinsic motivation) such as stickers won't hurt. However, be careful not to make those rewards too valuable, because disproportionately high rewards can actually decrease intrinsic motivation.

Model good learning strategies

One of the best things you can do for your children is to model effective learning strategies in your own behavior. If you're learning something right now (be it a language, a musical instrument, or perhaps a presentation for work), make sure you are practicing it in front of your children. For example, my husband is studying for a Japanese test that's a few months in the future, and modeling spaced retrieval practice by using a kanji app that's based on spaced retrieval practice and interleaving principles. This way, he's not forcing anyone to participate, but our children can see him practicing regularly and effectively.

Note: This post was based on a Facebook Live session sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. The session video was, unfortunately, removed by Facebook.




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Τρίτη, 11 Αυγούστου 2020 15:27

Six Ways Students Can Prepare For Success On The Day Of An Exam

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When you’ve worked so hard revising, don’t leave the last few hours before entering the examination hall to chance. Here’s how to make sure you’re ready

Everyone has moments of self-doubt. For some, these thoughts are fleeting and quickly pass. But, as Shakespeare puts it, others find that their “doubts are traitors” which hold them back from fulfilling their potential. Elite athletes have long known the importance of a pre-performance routine. It allows them to focus on what’s important, helping them concentrate on the task at hand and execute their skills to the best of their abilities.

Could the same concepts work for students before an exam? With the scrapping of modular exams, more than ever students have to be able to perform under pressure. Unfortunately, more and more of them are reporting that they feel unable to cope, let alone thrive.

I have previously written about some of the best ways to maximise learning during revision time and how to minimise revision stress. But what simple tips can students follow on the morning of or lunch time before the exam to ensure those crucial final hours are used to their best effect?


Eat breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; the gap between dinner and breakfast is the longest your body goes without refuelling. Studies have shown that eating a typical breakfast of cereal, made up of complex carbohydrates, helps improve memory and concentration over the course of the morning.

Furthermore, researchers have found that those who eat a cereal breakfast regularly are “less emotionally distressed and have lower levels of perceived stress” compared with those who do not.

Arrive at school with plenty of time

Exams are stressful enough without the added worry of running late. Lateness tends to magnify everything; if people are a bit stressed or nervous, when running late they become more so. Follow the old maxim “if you are not early, you’re late” and you’ll be on the right path to starting your exams calmly and confidently.

Avoid people who stress you out

When it comes to school, the old maxim “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” seems to ring true. Research suggests teachers’ positive comments directly affect how students feel about themselves.

On the morning of your exam, think about who makes you feel calm and confident and actively seek them out. Avoid spending the time before your exam surrounded by people (friends or otherwise) who are particularly negative or who stress you out.

Remind yourself of all your hard work and preparation

This can be a great way to boost your confidence going into the exam. Taking a moment to reflect on all the hours of hard work you have put in will reassure you. This technique is often used by athletes in the build-up to pressurised competitions to help them perform. Also using this time to reflect on your previous successes should help boost your confidence.

Pause for a minute and take some deep breaths

When people are under pressure, they often underestimate how much time they have. This leads to them rushing and making sloppy mistakes that cost marks.

Focusing on taking a few deep breaths can act as a prompt to slow you down. Physiologically, this helps to lower your heart-rate and reduce tension. By slowing down or pausing for a moment, you allow yourself time to fully assess the situation, come up with a plan and decide the best course of action.


Remind yourself of your exam strategy

Legendary American football coach Bill Walsh wrote a great book, The Score Takes Care of Itself, in which he details his leadership philosophy. His approach was to focus on executing a game strategy and not worry about the goal tally. If you do this, he says, the result will often take care of itself.

The same is true during exams. Focus less on what grade you might get, and more on executing your exam strategy. This might mean the amount of time you should spend per question, reading each question first, writing five minutes of rough notes before answering the long question or any other technique. If in doubt what your exam tactic should be, ask your teacher; they will almost certainly have some helpful advice for you.

Final thought

When you have spent so much time working and revising for exams, it is a mistake to leave the last hour or two to chance. Nothing can ever guarantee success, but by executing the tips above, you give yourself the best chance of demonstrating your knowledge when it really matters.


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Τρίτη, 11 Αυγούστου 2020 15:15

What To Expect On Exam Day

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This section gives you some tips and advice on what to do during the written and speaking exams day.

What to do during the written exams

Before the exams start

  • Take with you a pen, pencil, eraser, your passport/ID and your timetable.
  • Be at the exam venue at least 30 minutes before the start time.
  • Look at the exam signs and locate your designated exam room. The supervisor will inform you when it is time to enter.
  • Keep your timetable handy. Know your candidate number. You will be placed in a specific exam room and desk, based on your candidate number.
  • You MUST NOT have any electronic devices, such as mobile phones, digital sound recorders, mp3 players, cameras etc. in the exam room during the exam.

During the exams

on entering the room

  • If you have any electronic devices, such as a mobile phone, digital sound recorder, mp3 player, camera etc., they must be placed in the designated area outside the exam room before the first written paper, and only accessed after the last written paper has finished.
  • Other unauthorised items (books, bags, etc.) must be placed in the area that your invigilator will specify.
  • You may keep a bottle of water, but place it on the floor next to your desk, so as to avoid any accidents.
  • After you are seated, the invigilator will ask to see your passport/ID and your timetable in order to confirm that you are indeed the correct candidate. After this, you will be asked to place your timetable on the floor.
  • The invigilator will distribute the question papers (and in some cases a separate answer sheet and/or rough paper).
  • If the name printed on your question papers is not correct, please inform the invigilator immediately.
  • The invigilator will give specific instructions for each paper. Please pay attention and ask the invigilator if you have any questions about the procedure.

When the exam starts

  • Read the instructions on the front of the question paper (and the separate answer sheet if relevant).
  • Do not to open the question papers until the invigilator tells you to do so.
  • The invigilator will inform you about the duration of each paper. Make sure that you complete all tasks in the allocated time as you will not be allowed any extra time to transfer your answers.
  • The invigilator will inform you if you need to use a pencil or a pen in order to complete your answers in each paper.
  • Writing: please write within the grey lines in the spaces provided on the question paper. If you need extra paper for your rough work, ask your invigilator or supervisor and it will be provided. Please note that this applies only to the Writing component of B2 First (FCE) for Schools, C1 Advanced (CAE), C2 Proficiency (CPE), B2 Business Vantage (BEC Vantage), C1 Business Higher (BEC Higher) and TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test). For all other exams, you can use your question paper for your rough work. Make sure that you complete your actual writing tasks in the allocated time in the appropriate answer book.
  • Listening: The test is divided into sections and the recording on the CD is complete in itself, with all necessary pauses and instructions to candidates. Each part will be heard twice. You will be given time to transfer your answers and the CD will inform you when the test is finished.
  • You must not talk, copy, keep or use unauthorised items (such as mobile phones) because you risk being disqualified.
  • If you wish to go to the toilet, an invigilator must accompany you for security reasons. Please raise your hand. No extra time will be given for a toilet break.
  • The invigilator will remind you when you reach the last ten and five minutes before the end of the written papers.

on completion of the exam

  • At the end of the test you will be asked to put down your pen/pencil.
  • The invigilator will collect all question papers, answer sheets and rough work before you are permitted to leave the exam room. You must remain seated while this happens.

After the exams

  • Before leaving the room, make sure that you take all your personal belongings with you.
  • Make sure that you keep a copy of your timetable. You will be able to access your results with the codes available on your timetable.

Reporting of Incidents

  • If something happens during the exam that may have affected your performance (e.g. if you were ill during the test or if a loud noise affected your Listening test) you must inform the centre Supervisor/Invigilator immediately.

What to do during the speaking exams

  • Take your passport/ID and your timetable with you.
  • Be at the exam venue at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.
  • Look at the exam signs and locate the speaking exams area.
  • The co-ordinator will check your photo ID against the attendance register. Once this is checked, you must remain in the designated speaking exams area until your test.
  • You MUST NOT have any electronic devices, such as a mobile phone, digital sound recorder, mp3 player, camera etc. in the exams area.
  • If you have any electronic devices, such as a mobile phone, digital sound recorder, mp3 player, camera etc, they must be placed in the designated area outside the exam room before the beginning of your speaking test, and only accessed after the end of the test.
  • While you are waiting to be examined, please keep quiet so as to avoid disrupting the exams of other candidates.
  • If there is an error in the spelling of your name, please inform the co-ordinator, who will make a note of the correction.
  • The speaking tests are in pair format. The invigilator will specify which of the other candidates will be paired with you, in accordance with the timetable.
  • In case of absences, the pairs will be re-arranged in order to avoid delays.
  • You will be given a personalised mark sheet. Do not fold, crease or write on it. You must hand it to the examiner when you enter the room.
  • Where there is an uneven number, the last candidates taking the test will form a group of three. The exams cannot be conducted with a single candidate.

Test day photos

Test day photos are mandatory for the C1 Advanced (CAE), C2 Proficiency (CPE) and Business (BEC): B1 Preliminary, B2 Vantage, C1 Higher exams. Photos may be taken on the day of the written tests or Speaking test.

All candidates, or a parent/guardian, must sign the relevant consent form (see below).


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Σάββατο, 18 Ιουλίου 2020 23:54

Help your child beat exam stress

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Tests and exams can be a challenging part of school life for children and young people and their parents or carers. But there are ways to ease the stress.

Watch for signs of stress

Children and young people who are stressed may:

  • worry a lot
  • feel tense
  • have headaches and stomach pains
  • not sleep well
  • be irritable
  • lose interest in food or eat more than normal
  • not enjoy activities they previously enjoyed
  • be negative and have a low mood
  • feel hopeless about the future

Having someone to talk to about their work can help. Support from a parent, tutor or study buddy can help young people share their worries and keep things in perspective.

Encourage your child to talk to a member of school staff who they feel is supportive. If you think your child is not coping, it may also be helpful for you to talk to their teachers.

Try to involve your child as much as possible.

Make sure your child eats well 

A balanced diet is vital for your child's health, and can help them feel well during exam periods.

Some parents find high-fat, high-sugar and high-caffeine foods and drinks, such as energy drinks, cola, sweets, chocolate, burgers and chips, make their children hyperactive, irritable and moody.

Where possible, involve your child in shopping for food and encourage them to choose some healthy snacks.

Read more about healthy eating for teens.

Help your child get enough sleep 

Good sleep improves thinking and concentration. Most teenagers need 8 to 10 hours' sleep a night. Learn more about how much sleep children need.

Allow half an hour or so for your child to wind down between studying, watching TV or using a computer and going to bed, to help them get a good night's sleep.

Cramming all night before an exam is usually a bad idea. Sleep will benefit your child far more than a few hours of panicky last-minute study.

Be flexible during exams

Be flexible around exam time. When your child is revising all day, do not worry about household jobs left undone or untidy bedrooms.

Staying calm yourself can help. Remember, exams do not last forever.

The Family Lives website has more about coping with exam stress.

Help them study

Make sure your child has somewhere comfortable to study. Ask them how you can support them with their revision.

Help them come up with practical ideas that will help them revise, such as drawing up a revision schedule or getting hold of past papers for practice.

To motivate your child, encourage them to think about their goals in life and see how their revision and exams are related to them.

Talk about exam nerves

Remind your child that it's normal to feel anxious. Nervousness is a natural reaction to exams. The key is to put these nerves to positive use.

If anxiety is getting in the way rather than helping, encourage your child to practise the activities they'll be doing on the day of the exam. This will help it feel less scary.

For example, this may involve doing practice papers under exam conditions or seeing the exam hall beforehand. School staff should be able to help with this.

Help your child face their fears and see these activities through, rather than avoiding them.  

Encourage them to think about what they know and the time they've already put into studying to help them feel more confident.

Encourage exercise during exams

Exercise can help boost energy levels, clear the mind and relieve stress. It does not matter what it is – walking, cycling, swimming, football and dancing are all effective.

Activities that involve other people can be particularly helpful.

Read more about the benefits of physical activity.

Do not add to the pressure

Support group Childline says many children who contact them feel that most pressure at exam time comes from their family.

Listen to your child, give them support and avoid criticism.

Before they go in for a test or exam, be reassuring and positive. Let them know that failing is not the end of the world. If things do not go well they may be able to take the exam again.

After each exam, encourage your child to talk it through with you. Discuss the parts that went well rather than focusing on the questions they found difficult. Then move on and focus on the next test, rather than dwelling on things that cannot be changed.

See Childline's advice on exam stress and pressure.

Make time for treats

With your child, think about rewards for doing revision and getting through each exam.

Rewards do not need to be big or expensive. They can include simple things like making their favourite meal or watching TV.

When the exams are over, help your child celebrate by organising an end-of-exams treat.

When to get help

Some young people feel much better when exams are over, but that's not the case for all young people.

Get help if your child's anxiety or low mood is severe, persists and interferes with their everyday life. Seeing a GP is a good place to start.


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