(Part 4 of a 4-blog mini-series.)
Actually, it looks as if it will be a five-blog mini-series; there’s a lot of info to help you. All to the good. The last time we spoke, we looked generally at morning and afternoon patterns of learning. What follows is a zoomed-in look at a day from an effective weekly routine.
Week 1: Monday
- 9.30 a.m. – English multiple choice test – 50 mins.
- A small 10-break, then mark the test. You can mark it together, asking your child to look at the supplied answers and check against their paper. Ask them to play at being the examiner, not getting upset at wrong answers, but rather being curious to know.
- Identify the learning areas your child got right. For example, did they score highest in spelling, punctuation, grammar or comprehension sections? Note this and see if the same thing happens on the next test.
- Identify the learning areas your child missed marks on. Note this and see if there is a pattern on the next test. Did they score lowest in comprehension, or did they not see the tricks being played in the punctuation questions? Be very upbeat about discovering these areas. You are both playing detective to find out what the next area is that they are going to be brilliant at.
- Suppose comprehension was low-scored. Looking at the reading text AND the questions, can you work out together why it was tricky? For example, it could have been a misunderstanding of vocabulary. Were there a lot of words your child didn’t know? How did this affect the score? Was it just choosing the wrong meaning from a list, or did the misunderstanding lead to a misreading of the meaning of the text, perhaps the motivation for a character’s actions. Or was it the questions themselves that were misread? Was it even something to do with the tricky way the answers are laid out like traps? I found so many tricks in both the questions and the answers of most multiple choice English tests that I wrote a very helpful book explaining them all, along with explanations of what your child can actually do to beat those tricks and boost their scores.
- To finish the English session, pick up on an area of weakness immediately and learn something together. Suppose there are often lots of words your child doesn’t know (indeed, even if they do know lots of words), then start a daily habit of learning 5-10 new words a day. You could do this in a million different ways. Take the letters in their name and find words in a dictionary or thesaurus beginning with each letter; find five words that start with the same letter; choose one word and its meaning, followed by a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word; focus on verbs only, or adverbs, or nouns, etc; find five words that use the same prefix, e.g. indecipherable, inhumane, innocuous; five words that end with the same suffix, e.g. courageous, advantageous, epigeous. You can make a game of it, using a dice to find a word to land on. Alternatively, if punctuation is an issue, have a twenty minute learning session on how to use a particular mark, e.g. semi-colon. Once it is half-understood, put it into practice and have your child write sentences using the punctuation mark, or have them deliberately fool you by leaving out the problem punctuation mark, which you have to spot.
If you’ve spent 2hrs on a session, not including breaks, then that might be enough for a day’s targeted learning. Let your child continue with their day, BUT HANG ON…Remember to include other good learning habits, such as daily reading later in the day, shared loud reading to each other, listening to audiobooks or programmes that use formal language such as nature documentaries, leaving background programmes on that use formal language, such as Radio 4 documentaries, and avoiding over use (or any use) of electronic games that might zap their mind and undo the good work you’ve just done. You are trying to lead your child into the zone, into a summer holiday mindset of learning and thinking, with minimal drag from activities that don’t support learning.
If you haven’t used 2 hours, or fancy targeting 3-hours, then you could have an hour away before repeating the process for Maths, or verbal/non-verbal if your choice of school tests using these. By week 3, it would be very helpful to make time for different subjects in the same day, to build stamina and to give the brain experience of switching between subjects, which they have to do during their real test.
Okay, perhaps we’ve covered enough for now. Hmm…and we’re only at Monday. This is turning into less of a mini-series and more of a season box set! It all matters and all has to be covered. Make sure you read the previous blogs to help you catch up with where we’ve got to.
Thank you for nurturing your child. Start learning, stay learning and stay 11plushappy!