Now school is out, we took the opportunity to ask a few of our secondary teachers, in the key subjects of maths, science and modern languages a few questions. All three still work in school, so who better to help in these unusual times!
Thanks to Eloise, Chris and Lucy for taking the time to answer our questions.
Eloise – maths Chris – science Lucy – foreign languages
How has the pandemic affected student progress in your subject?
(Eloise) Personally, I feel that this varies greatly between each student. Some students have had no issues with accessing technology, some have parents who actively encourage work etc and others don’t. My school opted to not teach new content for most of the first lockdown to reduce cognitive overload, so that has resulted in gaps of knowledge across the board.
(Chris) We have found coronavirus has reduced grades at the middle and top end significantly more than at the lower end and remote learning work, with no live learning set by teachers, has not been retained well at all and needs re-covering.
(Lucy) Speaking and listening skills have suffered most in modern languages – these were the hardest to work on during online teaching and even back in the classroom speaking has been difficult at times with the health and safety restrictions. This year’s speaking exam was cancelled too, meaning it was often sacrificed to cover as much content as possible. Reading and translation had to take priority during online teaching initially, so these areas seem to have gotten better amongst my students. Vocabulary gaps – students were often not getting as much practice as they normally would in the classroom.
What are your top tips for success in your subject?
(Eloise) Practice practice practice!
It is one thing to learn the topic, but you must understand how to apply the skill to an exam style question.
- Ask your teacher to re-explain if you don’t understand – don’t suffer in silence.
- Re-read your class notes every few weeks – it makes active revising easier later.
- Make sure you do your homework – it’s worth an extra grade if you do it consistently over the two- year course.
- Don’t leave revision until the last minute- have a plan and start straight after Christmas “ plan your work and work your plan.”
- Do ‘active’ revision not ‘passive’ revision.
Passive is simply re-reading reading notes / revision guides.
Active revision is
- making flash cards or concept maps of recall type points e.g. list the types of electromagnetic radiation in order of increasing energy.
- engaging in past paper questions and then self-assessing with a mark scheme.
(Lucy) Languages are best learnt little and often. Fifteen minutes daily practice is far more effective for vocabulary learning than sitting down for one long session a week. Apps like Memrise and Duolingo can help for short practice. (I tell my students at school to do it whilst they’re waiting for dinner to be dished up or during the advert breaks of a TV programme!)
- start learning vocabulary now! You cannot cram five years’ worth of vocabulary in the run up to an exam.
- use it! Practice with parents and siblings, even if they don’t speak the language. Get them to test your spelling or vocabulary, read out speaking answers and get them to listen etc. Simply reading aloud to someone else will help to build confidence.
- have a set of “wow” phrases that you look to include in every speaking and writing assignment – look for 5 or so phrases that wow examiners and include some high-level language. Try to pick general phrases that can be used in any exam question, regardless of the topic.
There has been some coverage regarding the government looking to give notice to students as to what is on their GCSE exam papers.
How can students best prepare themselves for this eventuality?
(Eloise) If the government were to give prior knowledge of topics to be examined, the best way to prepare for this would be practice, practice, practice.
There are many websites available that you can search topic by topic for & access plenty of exam questions. Practicing applying the maths skills is key!
(Chris) Unfortunately, our experience has been that we cannot rely on press leaks about government policy as many things have been said that have not happened or decisions have been reversed at the last minute. It is therefore far safer to assume that no extra notice/ support will be given until we actually see some. If/when we have some concrete information, we will support students to best use their time to take as much advantage of that as possible.
(Lucy) Keep any notes and work organised. Keep things separated by module/ topic / skill (whatever works best for that subject!) so that revising the correct topics can be made easier if notice is given for specific topics.
Don’t completely neglect other topics if they are not chosen for the exam, for 2 reasons:
- We’ve seen many government U-turns over the last few months – I’m not convinced students will be given notice – I’ll believe it when it happens.
- In some subjects, especially languages, knowledge is built upon in each topic meaning it would not be enough to just learn one isolated topic. This being said, it could be different in other subjects.
If a parent chooses tuition outside school, what can they do to ensure their child makes maximum progress?
Regular practice is key, as with any skill.
Ask your child’s tutor to address specific misconceptions and then application of the skills.
E.g. – your child struggles with percentage of an amount…
Ask your tutor to look at applying this skill across a variety of question types, especially A03 questions.
Look at applying that skill with other skills interlinked as a lot of GCSE 3-5 mark questions for maths include using multiple skills.
Ask them how it’s going after every session – knowing you are taking an interest is a huge motivation.
Make sure the tutor knows what areas they struggle with most at the start of the term.
Try to let the tutor know a few days in advance what topic they want to do next session – the tutor will have more time to prepare a better session if you do.
Ask lots of questions / have a plan – Come to the session with an idea of what needs to be worked on and encourage the child to ask as many questions as possible. Engage actively with the sessions. Be supportive – tutoring shouldn’t be seen as a punishment for not doing well enough in school, it’s about supporting them to be the best that they can be!
Thanks again to Eloise, Chris and Lucy. Don’t forget Golden Brain Academy cover the core subjects in the National Curriculum and- in addition -history, geography, business studies, economics and languages. We teach online to ensure that you have access to a fantastic, fully qualified teacher, wherever you may be, from the comfort of your own home. Don’t hesitate to contact us to see how we can improve your child’s academic attainment, confidence and enjoyment of learning.
www.goldenbrainacademy.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org (t) (44) 7383 421771