How to Help Kids Handle School Testing

Exam time is worrying for most children, and nowadays, even young children are facing tests at school and the pressures that come with them. You may remember facing exams in your own school days and be keen to help your children to do well while avoiding the stress and worry that you experienced yourself. The good news is, while children today do face more testing, there is far more support available. Below is a look at some of the ways that you can help your children handle testing at school.

Talk to Them About Testing and What to Expect

Younger children especially might not understand why they are being tested, what to expect, and what might happen. Learn as much as you can about the processes at their school, speaking with their teacher if you need to, and explain. Talk to them about why they are tested, and explain that tests are used as a standardized system of monitoring progress. Tell them what to expect on test day, and what will happen afterwards. Encourage them to ask questions and explain that you will find out the answers if you don’t already know.

Practice at Home

Tests can be scary, and we’re often more anxious when we don’t know what to expect. Many children make mistakes simply because the process is unusual. You should urge them to practice beforehand, finding practice papers and tests online, and asking the school about past years’ papers.

Praise Their Successes

Go out of your way to praise their successes, however small they might be. Even if they do poorly on a practice paper, praise them for trying, for sitting and taking the paper quietly, and for anything that they did well. Highlight correct answers and praise their attitude.

Don’t Make Them Afraid to Fail

While you should help them to see where they went wrong and why, don’t get frustrated with them. Paying more attention to what went well and using mistakes as a teaching opportunity means that they won’t be scared to fail. They won’t go into the exam frightened of letting you down, and so they are less likely to make mistakes due to anxiety.

Set Aside Revision Time

Revision is crucial, especially as our children grow and start to face more serious examinations. Set aside time for them to revise and make sure they’ve got a quiet and comfortable space to do it. But try not to nag as this may make them resentful.

Make Some Other Plans

You will want your child to be focused on their exams. But, they’ll find it easier to bear the pressure if they have some positive things to look forward to. Make some other plans with them, even small things like a weekend cinema trip, when you need to lighten the mood.

Watch Out for Signs of Stress

Many children suffer from stress and anxiety around exam time. This can affect their performance and also be bad for their mental health. Signs of stress might involve being less chatty than usual, not sleeping, poor behaviour or mood, and not eating properly. If you spot any of these signs, encourage them to take a break and talk to them about coping strategies.

Be Flexible

Remember, exams are a big deal for your child. They’ve got a lot going on, and revision is their priority. Be flexible with other plans, let some of your rules (like keeping a tidy bedroom) slide, and try to avoid any extra pressure where possible.

Exam time can be difficult for the whole household. Remember not to obsess, to let your child take a break, and to not inadvertently apply more pressure by never talking about anything else. With your help and support, this can be a learning experience that sets them up for the future.

School Anxiety:  6 Tips for Helping Your Child Start a New School Year

A new school year brings conflicting emotions for most children – as it does for us parents!  This year will be particularly stressful because, although ostensibly schools will be open come September, the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 has thrown a shadow of doubt over the forthcoming academic year.

Notwithstanding this, whether it is your child’s first year in Primary or, like Ieuan, their transition from primary to secondary school, they are probably experiencing a mix of both excitement and anxiety about what lies ahead.  It is a little easier for Ieuan than it was for Caitlin, as at least he has a sibling ready to greet him in his new school but even so, it is a daunting time – for all of us!

Overcoming these feelings isn’t always easy, but it can be done by following some simple guidelines for both parents and their children.

While there may not be a blanket set of rules to follow, the following are some tips that parents can use to have a more successful school year, regardless of how old a student is:

Familiarize Your Child With the Situation

  • Talk with your child about school, no matter his or her grade level. This can help curtail some of this anxiety.  Discuss such things as what subjects he or she will be taking, and who the teacher will be.  In addition, answer any questions that your child may have.
  • Share personal experiences with him or her. A child will be much more excited and comfortable if they understand that his or her parents “survived” school too.
  • Call the principal or other school staff to arrange a personal visit to the school, if possible. Try to meet one or more of the student’s teachers, who can provide a connection should he or she need one in the first few days. You will both also want to take a look around and see where the child’s classroom(s) will be, and so on.  If you are unable to get inside the building, even just a visit to the building’s grounds can be helpful.

Establish a Routine

One of the major reasons children have trouble with and in school is the lack of a set routine, and failing to enforce such a routine causes unnecessary stress for the parents and the child.

  • Parents need to create a back-to-school schedule with the child. Start this new schedule at least a couple of weeks before school starts.  Having a firm agenda to practice beforehand will alleviate problems of adjustment once school starts.
  • For example, aim for a set time of going to bed and getting up and generally consistent times for meals, baths and other daily actions your child is expected to perform.

Make Going Back to School a Fun-Filled Experience 

  • Go shopping for school supplies and new school clothing together. Having new clothing for the first day of school can increase the child’s self-confidence, and make the first day more exciting.
  • To make the shopping experience even more fun, make it an all-day event with a lunch date included. 

Set Up the Child’s Environment for Homework

  • Set up a space in the home that is comfortable, quiet, and has all the supplies the child may need.
  • Also, since younger children tend to follow a parent’s lead, “study” along with the child. Find a book to read, a craft to make, or some other activity to do that helps the student feel less isolated.  As a child gets older, study habits change, and he or she may elect to study independently of others.  Just keep in touch with how he or she is progressing.

Teach Your Child Organization Skills

  • Another key element to reducing school anxiety is being organized, especially as a student’s work becomes more plentiful and difficult. Encourage the student to keep a calendar or agenda of assignments and projects, and their due dates.  Ensure that the child has the supplies and resources that he or she needs to complete any projects.

Get Involved 

  • Volunteer as a classroom helper, a tutor, or a chaperone for school outings. You may also want to volunteer for the parent advisory council.  When a child sees his or her parents helping with school activities and providing input, the student feels more secure, more a part of the school – the whole experience becomes a “family thing.”
  • In addition, when parents invest time and talent in a child’s school, communication with the child’s teacher and the school staff is strengthened and more open, which simplifies working through difficult times if such situations arise. The more a parent is involved with a child’s school, the more settled a student may be.

Children are resilient, but there are times when new situations might be more than they are prepared to handle.  A new school year can be such a challenge, so parents must be aware of the possible signals of school anxiety, especially as the first day of school approaches.  Reacting to these signals is paramount to whether the year begins in a positive and controlled way, or in a negative manner.  Employing some or all of the above tips is a good way to start a new school year.

It’s also good to remember that your child’s education is a partnership between you, your child and their teacher.  Sometimes we think that education means just handing the child over for the school to ‘do their bit’ but research shows that academic performance is vastly improved where parents take an active role in teaching their children.

How Your Kids Can Have Fun and Learn at the Same Time

It is inevitable that your kids are going to be bored out of their minds because they’re stuck at home during the lockdown. To avoid them doing activities that may end up in a catastrophe, you can fill their time with fun and educational activities. Considering that it is hard to find these nowadays, especially that Gen Z and Generation Alpha are more accustomed to using technology to pass time with unproductive activities, you should step in and suggest a few fun games that can enhance their intellect and cognitive skills. 

If you don’t know which games can help them do so, here are a few suggestions.

Word Games

Using word unscramblers when playing word games will help your children learn more possible variations and arrangements of a certain set of letters. They are easy to use and can grow their vocabulary in a very short time. If your kids enjoy games like Scrabble, Words with Friends, or Anagrams, they can use this unscramble tool, not just to know the highest-scoring words to win a game, but to understand the different possible arrangements that can come out of any set of letters, the recurrent patterns, and generally know how words are formed.

This will become instinctual to them and they will learn to arrange the letters into possible words, even if they don’t understand what that word means. Thus, they’ll have a larger vocabulary at an early age and will become better at utilizing words in their speech and writing, which is why unscramblers are really useful.

Board Games

Everyone enjoys playing board games, especially because they don’t involve using screens, phones, tablets, etc. This makes them excellent if your children are stuck at home 24/7, as it will provide them with a chance to work on their teamwork skills, unlike playing games on their smart devices. The Secret Door, for example, requires at least two people to cooperate together.

Similarly, Connect 4 and Monopoly requires working together in order to make up a strategy or a plan for future gains. Because some board games require working on opposite teams, the competition will arise between your children, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but be careful as it can put too much pressure on them, particularly if they’re very young. 

Educational Apps

If there’s no way to separate your child from their smart device, you can use applications available on the app and play stores to increase their analytical and mathematical skills! There are a variety of applications that range from math to science, art, and even language that are able to challenge your kids and also have them have a great time at the same time. This is practical because most kids are glued to their cell phones or electronic devices, so if you can’t keep them away from their devices, might as well include something useful for them to do on it!

It’s best that you do your research first because it’s important that all the apps that they have on their phones and devices are safe and suitable for their age as well. There are many instances where unreliable apps have been able to hack into people’s phones and access their personal information. So make sure that whichever one you chose, that is it verified, and that it is also educational. You’ll even find great apps that teach languages in fun and exciting ways — so really the options are endless and creative as well. 

Art

Any form of art gives the artist the chance to express themselves freely. Giving your children the liberty to create whatever they want, no matter what the medium is, is going to fill their time with something fun and creative, develop their artistic sense, and help them understand the different nuances of drawing through trial and error.

In addition to this, painting will provide an opportunity for your talented children to unleash their abilities and foster them in a controlled and safe environment free of judgment and pressure. You can order the basic painting tools online and have your kids paint or draw whenever they want.

If this activity doesn’t click with them, they can try colouring books. While colouring doesn’t require a lot of work, your child will still have to make some aesthetic choices to make the drawings come to life. 

Now that you know a little more about fun activities that can be educational for your children, make sure you ask them first which one they would like to begin with to ensure that they’ll be enjoying themselves doing these new activities. Also, make a habit of participating with your child in these games, as they can have a great impact on your relationship, especially at an early age.

How To Help Your Child With Their Home Learning

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have been forced to home-school their children and find ways to encourage them to continue learning despite not having access to a classroom environment. This has been challenging for many, especially those who have also had to continue working, however, it has highlighted the importance of finding ways to motivate your child to learn within the home. I have teamed up with a preparatory school in Somerset to offer you some tips for helping your child with their home learning.

Try and provide your child with a suitable space in your home where they can complete homework and revision. This space should be neat and tidy, as well as free from distractions. This might mean investing in some storage units or shelving, but it will be worth it as your child will struggle to concentrate if they are surrounded by mess.

Bear in mind that not all learning comes in the form of textbooks. There are opportunities for your children to learn in virtually everything your family does. For instance, if you’re playing a board game, they can work on their numeracy skills. With that said, your child is probably learning more than you think, so don’t be too hard on yourself (or them) if they don’t spend hours on end studying.

Try and find fun ways to explore your child’s curriculum at home. As an example, if your child is learning about photosynthesis, you could plant some seeds in the garden and watch them grow. This will teach your child key skills, like patience and determination. There are lots of outdoor activities that you can do together during the warmer months, such as building a bird feeder or taking a walk through the park and discussing the different types of trees, plants and insects you spot.

The best thing you can do to help your child is to be a good role model. Demonstrate a positive attitude to learning and let them see you completing your own work, practising your musical instrument, or reading a book. Essentially, they need to see how important it is to stimulate your brain with a variety of activities, not just watching TV or playing on a digital device.

If you need some additional advice, don’t be afraid to contact your child’s school. What’s more, there are lots of learning resources online that you can find, as well as plenty of educational apps and games that they can play.

How To Proofread Your Essay

There is an old saying that applies to almost everything in life: failure to plan is planning to fail. If you’ve never heard that phrase before, read it again. It makes sense.

When it comes to essay writing, there are two major sections to the plan. First, you have to know how to put the thing together – nobody wants to read a disjointed article.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Any failure to develop a relevant methodology in presenting your work with a flow and a message that is coherent and useful will no doubt result in a failure to impress your message upon the reader, resulting in a failed piece of work.

Second, once the essay is written, you need to know how to proofread your efforts to make sure that you have not made any mental leaps that are not present in your writing (check out scribbr.co.uk for more information). For example, a typical issue is that you assume the reader is up to speed on a certain part of the debate before moving on prematurely. Let’s look at how to proofread your essay.

Start by reading everything aloud

Prose shouldn’t sound like a stack of bullet-pointed facts. Back in the early days of print media, there was a tendency to write in the passive voice, meaning extra words were used to place the object before the verb and relegate the subject to the end of the point being made.

If that makes no sense, don’t worry, here’s an example: instead of saying “The man walked over the field”, the more wordy way would be to switch ‘man’ and ‘field’, creating a long-winded messy sentence that reads something like “The field was walked over by the man”.

Another example would be switching ‘cow’ and ‘moon’ so that instead of saying “The cow jumped over the moon” you would instead say the pointlessly lengthy “The moon was jumped over by the cow”. For some reason, people even to this day have a propensity to write this way. Read your work aloud and learn to spot where you are beginning to sound a little like a 1920s newspaper article.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Print and come back

If you think you are done and your work here is complete, print your essay and leave it to one side overnight. Come back to it the next day and read over it with fresh eyes – you’re going to need a pencil. Make notes on the paper where things could have been worded better, or where any typos and missed words have slipped through the net. Speaking of which…

…As a final tip, always use more than one spell checker. This is because differences in software can mean different changes are suggested.

Primary School Homework: Struggling During Lockdown?

It dawned on me today during the usual morning planning session we conduct that there is a key reason why homework is such a struggle for Year 6 pupils.

It’s actually very simple.

They are used to working on a collaborative basis.  The classroom environment at this age is all about learning and sharing together.  And, because it’s all about learning as a team, there is less censure, less judgment and less pressure when things are wrong.

The journey to learn is more important than the result it seems.

Now this seems to be different from the way I was taught all those years ago (40 years!).  Classrooms were places of quiet (mostly).  Heads bowed we used to complete our work in near silence.  Books were handed in to be marked on the spot.

No Google Classroom for us. It was all about flexing those memory muscles and retaining information.

I will say that for all the advantages technology has given us, increased attention spans and the ability to focus don’t seem to be included.

So, my approach to making things easier is to get involved.  To adopt the approach I used when I was an English Tutor many moons ago.  To listen more and try to coach and motivate.

This, as many parents will no doubt agree, is tricky when you go through the list of work set (particularly for my Year 7) and feel stressed on their behalf!

It’s funny.  I always thought I’d take to home education like a duck to water but, as many experienced home educators have pointed out, this is NOT home educating.  It is taking over the reins from our beleaguered teachers temporarily in a crisis situation.

Home education requires strategy, materials, tools and techniques, a thorough knowledge of the syllabus and lesson planning skills.

It means pushing forward day in, day out.  Not getting to 3 and going “we’ve all done enough now, let’s put Netflix on”.

Or perhaps, depending on the age of the children it does.

Either way, I salute those who home educate on a full-time basis.

For my own part, we’re bumbling along, making sure work is done and deadlines are hit without too many tantrums (mine generally) and too much pressure being put upon kids who are desperate for fresh air, their friends and freedom.