Top 5 Best Online Learning Websites

To help you with homeschooling

Parents of the UK, it is time again to open your doors to welcome back the pupils to your own Home School. Now at Castle Tutoring we are only too aware of the challenges that you are facing, so we have researched the best websites to help support you.

Schools are much better equipped in this second major lockdown to be able to be able to adapt to online delivery and from first impressions online lessons are much more immersive and thorough which is a real credit to teachers. However, you may want some extra support, in which case I highly recommend the following sites as your first ports of call.

The BBC

The BBC announced yesterday that they were rolling out a full programme of lessons for all Key Stages through all of their platforms.

The primary programmes, which will be broadcast on CBBC from 09:00 every day, will include BBC Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily as well as Our School, Celebrity Supply Teacher, Horrible Histories and Operation Ouch.

BBC Two will cater for secondary students with programming to support the GCSE curriculum, including adaptations of Shakespeare plays alongside science, history and factual titles. Bitesize Daily primary and secondary will also air every day on the red button as well as episodes being available on demand on iPlayer.

The Oak National Academy

With over 10,000 free lessons and resources made by teachers, it is a really good resource base for everyone and easy to use. With resources across all subject areas, backed by the Government and Key Stages this should be a first port of call for home schoolers.

Khan Academy

An American non-profit educational organization created in 2008, with the goal of creating a set of online tools that help educate students. They produce short lessons in the form of videos. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators. All resources are available for free to users of the website and app.

They cover a wide array of subject areas including, but not limited to:

  • Maths
  • Programming
  • Grammar
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Animation

Twinkl

Ideally suited for younger children, Twinkl was founded by Jonathan Seaton and Susie Seaton (a former early years teacher) in February 2010, and launched on 24 March. While working as a teacher, Susie had difficulty sourcing materials for her lessons, which led the couple to begin creating their own resources and publishing these online. Twinkl now creates digital teaching materials for educators worldwide. This includes materials for primary schools, secondary schools, parents, home educators, childminders, English as a second language, special educational needs and disabilities, adult education, and international markets.

Brilliant for English and Maths in particular, there are thousands of free to download resources aswell as paid for resources, which can be bought by upgrading a subscription.

Times Educational Supplement

ssshhhh possibly the biggest secret in the teaching profession is the TES resources section, here you will find tens of thousands of resources on any topic created by teachers to be used by teachers. There is no subscription but resources can either be downloaded for free or alternatively bought with the money going directly to the teacher who created the resource. genius. By signing up to TES you also have access to the latest news in education and also if you have found a real hidden flair for teaching you can browse the jobs section too.

The Great Covid Dilemma

To open schools for Face to face teaching or to move to remote teaching?

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The great moral dilemma of our time: Don’t forget the underlying narrative that, despite the trash talk from the Daily Mail, schools are NOT closing, those in London are moving from face to face learning to online learning except for exam classes and vulnerable students. From a teachers perspective online teaching is a pain in the backside and we would want to avoid that as far as possible.

So the options available to school leaders are either face to face teaching or remote teaching, which one is more preferable?

A) Face to Face teaching

  • Education is very important and with public examinations due in the summer, time cannot be lost. Students will fall behind and will be unable to compete in the future.
  • The mental health and well being of students will be adversely affected. Children need interaction with their peers to sustain personal development. Already there are reports of a four fold increase in eating disorders amongst children.
  • Without schools being open, the economy grinds to a halt. Instead of working, parents are having to entertain their children or monitor their online lessons. In some cases parents are having to lend their child(ren) their laptop preventing them from doing any of their own work.

B) Remote Teaching

  • Covid infections are rising rapidly and the new strain is as the Government states out of control.
  • Transmission in children is low, but the real threat of 30+ bubbles taking the disease back to their families, some of whom are vulnerable is very high and with ICU units reaching capacity can the risk be taken?
  • A lack of PPE for school staff in small poorly ventilated rooms

From my own perspective, I think schools should be open for face to face lessons, but there are a number of caveats within this. Firstly is it safe for the school to open? Are the teaching areas suitably large enough and/or are there enough staff in school to be able to facilitate this? Secondly, the Government should prioritise school staff in the vaccination programme, whilst it does not solve the problem of transmission to family members of the students, it does enable an extra layer of protection for those on the front line who do not have the PPE protection of other frontline workers.

Photo by Gantas Vaiu010diulu0117nas on Pexels.com

All in all, this is a very avoidable situation, we have known that the winter months would bring further challenges and it doesn’t take ‘Mystic Meg’ to understand that the virus would be more prevalent in these winter conditions.

That there are no contingency plans in place from the Department for Education shows a real lack of leadership from themselves or the Education Minister Gavin Williamson MP. It is very simple in the case of scenario (A) we will deploy policy (X), for (B) we will deploy (Y) and so on, all it took was some organisation and foresight which appears to be lacking in our political leaders.

There are plenty of opportunities for taking teaching outside of the classroom perhaps now presents a perfect opportunity for the profession to move into the 21st century? In the meantime, I wish everyone the best of luck in and out of schools in the next few days and weeks, it will be a bumpy road, but hopefully we will see each other on the other side. Good luck.

How to get the best out of Christmas Revision

Like all the best partnerships, Lennon and McCartney, Broad and Anderson, Holly and Phil, Christmas and revision go hand in hand for GCSE and A-Level students.

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For years I have been urging my students to make the most out of the Christmas period to give their best shot at the January mocks and for years they ignored me. But now, the goalposts have changed. With exams cancelled in Wales and Scotland there is a thought that any further disruption to school life in England will see GCSE and A-Level exams either cancelled or pared back. The ,mocks therefore have become the single most important benchmark of a students ability and Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) become really important.  So, for A level students the next two weeks will be a juggle between Christmas celebrations and completing essential revision.  

If you’re a student thinking where do I start? Or parent wondering just how much revision should my child be doing in the holidays?  We have put together a handy guide below looking at how to get the most out your revision during the festive period. I have already asked if you know how to learn, so now is the opportunity to put all that to the test.

Where to start…..

Firstly, the key is balance.  Even if you do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday no doubt you will still associate the festive period with winding down.  Taking time to rest is just as important as taking the time to revise because from January the next 6 months of study will be extremely important and burning out at the start isn’t ideal!

Allocate days off

OK, so the situation has changed and with the five days of rules relaxation over the Christmas break you may have some days off for family and friends, safely of course, so it’s always useful piecing together a revision timetable.

Planning the Revision Timetable

Priority Subjects (1 to 3).

Eng / Maths / Science

Opt 1

Opt2

Opt3

EPQ (6th Form only)

How many hours in a session

How many sessions a day

The days I cannot study

Clubs/Jobs etc.

Odd days

The evening I can’t study/want to rest.

How much revision is enough?

For this part of the process you will need to gather some information so we can create a revision timetable that helps you stay on track right up to the final examinations. Everything you collect helps us so you will need to sit down with your families and look at the next few weeks and months. You may need to ask your teachers for some guidance too.

HOW MANY HOURS SHOULD YOU DO FOR EACH SUBJECT?

You will be surprised how little time there is for each topic you need to cover. It is important that you spend your time on the things that will make the biggest difference for you. Give each of your subjects a score of 1, 2 or 3.

2 = The norm. This subject that matters to you. You could get it but know it needs some quality time spent on it.

1 = I have this in the bag it is so easy I don’t need to revise or I have no hope and it is not worth going for it.

3 = I need this badly for my next stage. It is one I am banking on and want to spend extra time getting it right.

WHAT DAYS WILL YOU NOT BE ABLE TO STUDY?

You may have family occasions to attend, social events or other things that stop you working some days. Find these out and make a list of them so we can plan your work around them. Be thorough and remember things like birthdays, football matches, clubs you attend or training sessions. You may also have a job that stops you working sometimes.

HOW LONG CAN YOU REVISE FOR?

Most students work for something like 90 minutes or two hours. Any longer doesn’t work and less doesn’t help much either. How long would a sessions be for you, and how many of them would you do in a day; two, three or four?

WHAT TIME OFF WOULD YOU LIKE?

Give yourself an evening per week that is not given over to revision and a spell of time over the weekend that is for relaxing. Do not be too soft o yourself and have so much free time that the work is not being done. Do not be too ambitious either. You won’t be able to jump from to hours of homework a week to forty.

WHEN ARE YOUR EXAMINATIONS?

As soon as we have it let me know you examination timetable, so we can plan revision to finish in time for the first exam and plan spread the time out properly for the rest.

CONCLUSION

Take this process seriously. It is difficult to pan a revision timetable properly and each one takes up to forty-five minutes to produce. This is a lot of work for the teacher concerned. If you do your bit, and use the timetable you are given, it is worth all the work. We do not want to spend so long on a task if you have not got the right information.  

  • Refreshing the subject matter, for example, read back through your notes/watch a YouTube tutorial or make notes from the textbook.
  • Reproducing the subject matter in a different form, for example creating a mind or model map, creating a summary table or list, re-writing content in your own words on flash cards or recording a series of voice notes.
  • Attempt past paper questions without the support of your notes.  Self-mark the questions and highlight the marks you missed. Check you have these points in your notes.
  • Create your own questions and mark schemes. Put yourself in the examiners shoes this will take time but the process of creating the questions is just as valuable as answering them
  • Ask others to test your knowledge or test yourself under timed conditions.

Always remember, work through the topics you do know at a fast pace and spend more time on the topics you find challenging.  Do not avoid them!

The thought of doing revision over Christmas can cause feelings of dread but by planning ahead to gain the right balance will ensure the holidays are stress free and enjoyable for all.

Should we call Time On The End of Term Movie?

Where do you stand on the great last week of term debate?

Depend on how old you and your equipment are:

  • Show a video?
  • Put on a DVD?
  • Stream a movie?
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Cards on the table I love an end of term movie. Nothing says end of term more than a subject relevant good old Christmas movie. Here in my class we have studied the Blitz and now we are in our final lesson together this term tucking into ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’, personally I do not see anything wrong with that.

However the pressure on exam results and the tremendous expectations put on teachers by over-bearing senior managers has made the Christmas movie a thing of the past.

“You must teach right up to the very last minute” comes the mantra from those who do not actually have to teach up until the very last minute.

Teachers see the end of term video as a positive in a number of ways, whether is reward for students’ hard work or as I personally see it an opportunity to support the curriculum with subject specific content.

Of course the arguments against are just as strong, there is a chance for low level behaviour to develop and of course in this post pandemic world valuable curriculum time is lost. One of the most important arguments against is from parents asking why should they send their children to school if all they are doing is watching videos all day? These are all very valid points and perhaps are conscientious teacher may decide not to show films during the last week of term for these exact reasons. That is totally fine, but as professionals we are best placed to make those calls.

I am lucky to be in school which trusts me to make my decisions, yes I am accountable for the end of year results, but I am also best placed to make the judgement as to what happens in my classroom. Not every lesson today will be a video, later I will be finishing up the Parliament topic for my Year 12s who have mocks after half term, but for now year 10, let’s bring the evacuation and Blitz to life. Lights off please.

Student Led Inquiry

Erm Sir What am I Learning today?

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You know that moment when you’re sitting in class and you’re thinking “what exactly am I supposed to be learning today and why am I here?”  Think of the feelings that brings up.  Frustration?  Annoyance?  At that moment, are you ready for learning? This must happen daily to most children, but by utilising the research of Hattie we can change the way learning happens.

My main aim in tutoring is to explore topics using learning enquiries, keeping a clear focus on an exam question with older students or a directed part of a syllabus with younger students. In the past, this is something that the teachers did to direct their teaching.  However, this time, we had the kids discover the standards themselves and they develop their own learning targets. The students therefore develop their own learning pathway, based on a clear understanding of the process and the direction of travel.

Here’s an example of how the process could be developed.

1. I posted an enquiry question and simply allowed the student to tell us what they thought it meant.  Bringing in several different sources of information we were able together to scaffold some information leading us towards the enquiry, shaping towards able an answer. For example “to what extent did rats and rebels shape England?”.

2. It is essential to link this basic knowledge to something tangible like an exam or essay question. It surprised me that the students had never broken down a standard before so we modelled how to do it with the first learning target.  The students decided that even before they started integrating the text, they had to annotate the first set of sources to understand it at a deeper level. Thus, our first learning target: I can take notes while reading to get a deeper understanding of the text. Cornell note taking is a really key ingredient here as it helps to organise information and develop deeper understanding.

3. Based on the feedback from the first exercise, they decided what the next learning targets were.  This was where the ownership in learning began.  This is when the path of learning was revealed.

Some of the discussions the students initiated at this point were:

  • How do I comprehend a text?  Will I need to determine importance?
  • What graphic organizer should I use?  Is there more than one I could use?
  • What about the text structure of the passage?
  • How do I effectively take notes?
  • How do I show that I really know something well?
  • How exactly do you integrate two or more texts? Find a theme, a topic, etc?

4.  A Student having ownership over the success criteria and being able to analyse this is very powerful in laying out the direction of learning.  I always use model answers to questions as the most powerful learning tool, these aren’t necessarily perfect answers either as it is important that students see weak responses too. Same process though reviewing their own or their partners work, with highlighters or the highlighting function on the computer they take ownership of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each answer.

Highly effective teaching is tough.  Deep learning is even tougher.   What we have to do in education is work smarter, not harder so that our students can be self-directed learners.   Having kids unwrap the standard and develop the learning targets opened the doors to learning. These students now know where they’re going and they are guiding themselves.  They’re on the path to learning, not just sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher.

The most amazing parts of this process was the deep discussions students led and took part in and the fact that they can very specifically describe where their learning is about to go.

Running this process by a PGCSE student in school, the question that he posed is a valid one: How do I make time for this when I have so much to teach?  The answer is “How can you not?”  This process will make the teaching and learning more productive because the students developed the path for learning and they know what they’re working towards.   As opposed to that frustrated and annoyance feeling we’ve all felt when we have no idea what we’re supposed to be learning. If you doubt this, refer to number 9 and 10 on this site of John Hattie’s work, which is a meta-analysis of over 50,000 studies.  It works.

Still on the high road out

A progress check three months since leaving the classroom

at the beginning of September I wrote a blog explaining my rationale for leaving the classroom and what the future lay in store. In taking the high road out, I outlined three priorities:

  • Priority number one – Pay Septembers mortgage. I have registered with plenty of agencies, digging out old certificates and applying for DBS. Supply work is the priority, to make ends meet I probably need to bring home around £120-£130 a day, a quite and frighteningly tall order. I don’t actually know if any schools will take anyone on supply in the next few weeks with all this uncertainty? I guess pupils and teachers may well be hit by the French and Spanish quarantine rules? Who knows?
  • Priority number two – Set up a Tutoring Company. Its a mysterious world, tutoring. I hear of all these ex-teachers who have made successful transitions into tutoring, then I find out they all teach Maths! I have no idea if this will be successful or not, but I guess now is a good time to try. I will cover my experiences of setting up a company in my next blog post, but in the meantime excitingly http://www.castletutoring.com is live.
  • Priority Number Three – Contact schools to offer catch up sessions. Talking of opportunities, the Government is offering schools a catch up premium of £1bn towards a National Tutoring Programme, with each secondary school receiving approximately £80k. This money is for small one to one tuition and extra teaching capacity from September.

So what progress has been made since leaving the classroom?

Priority number one – Pay Septembers mortgage.

Success – Well OK I cheated, we have deferred our mortgage payments for three months as part of Rishi Sunak’s Coronovirus support package. However, we have been able to put the equivalent amount away each month as the business builds and consequently are well placed to re-invest once the payment holiday comes to an end.

September

A tough first month, one day placement at an all girls Islamic school and the first two clients, one requiring A-Level English and one Year 6 Sats. The first £20 however went into the Castle Tutoring accounts in the second week so we were up and running. I enjoyed preparing a student for their University of Cambridge UCAS application in mechanical engineering and was successful in applying to run the Extended Project Qualification with a set of Chinese students, keen to obtain the necessary qualifications to study at UK Universities.

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October

Supply teaching work started to increase, providing a financial safety blanket to the growing business. I worked at two schools, both mixed comprehensives in Berkshire, neither I had been to before, but as a former school leader I could see similar areas for development. I have really enjoyed going in at the ‘bottom level’, seeing what challenges ordinary teachers face not only day to day, but also how during a global pandemic they tackle the issue of social distancing and sanitation. There is no right or wrong approach, but one does feel that the advice given to schools could be more explicit to help develop a more coherent strategy, it does feel that headteachers have been left to sort their own schools out with very little guidance.

The tutoring work really started to build, as word of mouth spreads. A lovely set of clients across all age groups, I spent the first few sessions getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of each child and tailored each session to their needs. The National Tutoring Programme is an interesting development; as a small business unfortunately Castle Tutoring was not able to apply for any of the programmes, however the opportunities in schools are beginning to open up and the successful agencies are keen to recruit as schools look for catch up opportunities for their more vulnerable students.

November

Wow! I did not think that the situation would change so dramatically and so quickly, after a quiet couple of months November has been hugely successful. A lovely supply placement at an all boys independent school has set the tone for the month and the business has developed really successfully, with thirteen clients now on the books. There is a huge demand for tutoring services across the local area and it is now more a case of matching the right tutor to the right student.

Castle Tutoring have a waiting list of clients, if any qualified teacher is looking for some extra work then please do visit the website http://www.castletutoring.com

I have my first meeting with the Chinese clients this Saturday working through the Extended Project Qualification, working out their areas of interest and seeing what resources they need in order to be able to develop their area of expertise and more importantly their project skills, to prepare them for life at an British University.

All in a really positive start and as we prepare for the next steps it will be focused on how we can grow this opportunity further.

Priority number two – Set up a Tutoring Company

Success – the legal details are all in place, accountant booked and Google business has been deployed. Early on I participated in a networking meeting with @realnetworking which was hugely positive and gave me some excellent pointers as to how to grow the business further. Since then thanks to my good friend @chrisedge76 and the partnership I have developed with @Opogoeducation, I have established a really positive online presence, blogging regularly to direct traffic through the site. The company exists and it is profitable, so onto the next stage. I have also recruited staff to help support the venture to reduce the waiting lists and I am looking forward to introduce our range of experts to a wider community.

Priority Number Three – Contact schools to offer catch up sessions

Less successful, whether it is the wrong time of year or that schools are preferring to work with National Tuition Partnership scheme I am not sure, but I have not received any offers of work through this option, despite emailing all the local schools. It is a difficult one as supply work has been constant and the odd hour in school may not be worth my while anyway, so will to perhaps reconsider this priority.

So what next?

It has been a very exciting adventure to date, you can track most of my progress through the variety of blogs that I have written and published. Castle Tutoring is profitable and the original daily target has been smashed.

However, despite only being three months into the campaign, it is clear that there is scope to grow even further. Finding out how that works and to turn the business into a truly exciting enterprise is the next step.

It would be great to partner with like-minded individuals who can see the potential scale of the business opportunity and help match outstanding qualified tutors with students looking for that extra bit of support.

The first few months have been a real labour of love, developing the business and working long hours in the evenings and weekends to ensure its success. There is still much to achieve but the future is very exciting indeed.

Richard Endacott, Castle Tutoring

So you think you know how to learn?

But you are completely wrong…..

Congratulations! You have reached the grand old age of …. and now you know everything. Teachers pack your bags, tutors? meh who needs them? I have conquered the world of knowledge and even that I don’t know I can google it. Yet, no matter how old you are you still have this opinion, just ask my 8 year how clever she is and she will tell you she knows everything, my 90 year old aunt probably does to be fair. This mentality is carried through with you no matter how old you are says Ulrich Boser, author of Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or How to Become an Expert In Just About Anything.

“We’re learning all the time, figuring out how to use new tools,” he says. “When you get a new smartphone or system at work, you need to gain new skills to use it. How you do that impacts your success.”

Unfortunately, there is a gap between conventional wisdom and facts when it comes to the process of learning, says Boser. “There are so many myths,” he says. “A lot of people don’t give much thought to the best way to gain new knowledge and skills. But learning is often a form of mental doing, and the more someone is actively engaged, the more they learn.”

Through studies and research, Boser identified several myths about learning that can make the process more difficult. Here are five misconceptions, and why you should stop believing in them:

MYTH NO. 1:

WE HAVE SET LEARNING STYLES

You’ve probably heard about visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning. Boser argues that once you start thinking about the idea, it falls apart.

“It’s hard to learn football only by hearing it,” he says. “Like many myths, there is a bit of truth that lies behind it, but there’s no research to support learning styles. One major recent review stated simply that the authors found virtually no evidence for the approach.”

How to really learn: Instead, match your content to the process, says Boser. “Students should learn music by listening to music, while students should learn reading by doing more reading,” he says. ”

MYTH NO. 2: REREADING MATERIAL IS A GOOD WAY TO LEARN

Before you go into an important meeting, you might refresh your memory by reviewing your notes or proposal, but this passive approach to learning won’t serve you well. While more than 80% of respondents in Boser’s study believed that rereading is a highly effective approach to learning, research suggests that the approach is flawed, says Boser. What works better is an active form of learning.

“People tend to see themselves as a computer; data flowing past them somehow gets into their head,” he says. “That’s not how learning works. You need to make sense of the order to understand.”

How to really learn: Instead of rereading, highlighting, or underlining important information, turn the information into a quiz.

Research shows that quizzing yourself is a far better way to learn,” says Boser. “After the end of a paragraph, ask yourself, ‘What is the author trying to say?’ ‘How is this different than other things I’ve read?’ ‘How does this relate to other material I know?’ When you’re making sense of something, you start learning it.”

MYTH NO. 3: FOCUS ON ONE SUBJECT AT A TIME

When it comes to learning a difficult subject, people often believe you should practice one thing at a time. If you’re learning to use a new suite of software, for example, practice one program one day and another the next.

How to really learn: Mixing it up, however, is a better approach, says Boser. “In mixed learning, you get a chance to see the core idea below it,” he says. “And when you shift details, you get a better sense of what it means.”

MYTH NO. 4: YOUR FIRST ANSWER IS OFTEN THE RIGHT ANSWER

In school, many of us were taught that if you put an answer on a test you shouldn’t change it, but you’re actually better off reconsidering, says Boser.

“People are overly confident,” he says. “Go around a room asking who the hardest working person is, and most people will identify themselves in that group. Also, if they’ve learned something from an article or TED talk, they think they know it. We actually need time to deliberate and reflect to understand something.”

How to really learn: While facts are important, how you use them is key. “To solve new problems and come up with ideas, you need analogies and systems of how things relate to each other,” he says. “Making that connection takes time. A study found that teachers who give three- to five-second pauses when explaining ideas have students who learn a lot more. The brain needs time to settle in.”

MYTH NO. 5: THE NUMBER OF HOURS YOU PUT INTO SOMETHING TRANSLATES TO BETTER UNDERSTANDING

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory provided a benchmark for becoming an expert, but this doesn’t necessarily translate to learning, says Boser. “Most of us drive every day, but most of us have not gotten better at driving,” he says. “Putting in a lot of hours doesn’t always mean you’ll become good at something.”

Like trusting your first answer, overconfidence plays a role here, too, says Boser. “There’s a long line of research that suggests people often overestimate their own expertise in just about every field, from driving a car to their grammar skills,” he says. “Or as one research paper put it, ‘people tend to be blissfully unaware of their incompetence.’”

How to really learn: What works instead isn’t just time; it’s outside advice and input. For example, Boser hired a basketball coach to help him improve his game, and videotaped himself shooting baskets in the park.

“Don’t just ask a friend for feedback,” he says. “There has to be a social contract where the other person has to give you something. That’s why hiring coaches and tutors are so beneficial to learning.”

What do the best students do?

The characteristics of successful students

Through my career I have taught, coached and mentored 23 students into Oxbridge. All of them are very different, yet in the own ways are extremely similar.

So, what characteristics do all the high performing students appear to share?

1. They Google EVERYTHING.

It’s like an automatic reaction. New concept = go to Google for a quick explanation. Don’t think just because your teacher gives you a textbook and some examples on the interactive whiteboard that you’re limited to that information. You have a massive free search engine at your fingertips, so make use of it.

2. They never “read through” the textbook.

Per time spent, reading the textbook is one of the least effective methods for learning new material. Top students use the examples and practice problems, but otherwise use Google, lecture notes, and old exams for study materials.

3. They don’t always do all of their homework.

Shock/horror, teenagers do not always do the homework? Say what?

Yet who can blame them? The homework I have seen set has generally been set to please the senior leadership team and Ofsted inspectors. The quality is poor and the tasks extremely mundane, with no connection to to any future usefulness. Parents are experiencing unnecessary confrontation by insisting that their little ones colour in that picture of a rabbit set by the Biology teacher who had been teaching about natural habitats. dull, dull dull. No wonder the brightest students avoid completing this work.

The best homework’s are the ones set to inspire further questions which they can bring to class next time, that allow the students to stretch their minds and prepare them for learning, maybe completion rates might even improve.

4. They test themselves frequently.

Testing yourself strengthens your brain’s connections to new material, and gives you immediate and clear feedback on whether you know something or not. Bottom line, repeated self-testing significantly improves long-term retention of new material.

Those of you familiar with my blogs, will know the following strategy to help with retrieval:

Block out a two hour revision slot in your revision timetable.

  • 30 mins – Revise the information, read the notes/books, make notes, use flashcards. Active learning through doing rather than simply reading or highlighting.
  • 10 mins – Off, go and make a cup of tea, check your insta stories, whatever really to switch off.
  • 30 mins – Answer a question in exam conditions, no notes, no phones, no laptops, no reference points. Simply put yourself under pressure for 30 minutes.
  • 10 mins – Reward yourself wit a cup of tea or a nice cool relaxing drink
  • 30 mins – Compare your answer written in exam conditions with your notes. use mark schemes and examiners reports. what grade would you have given yourself? Why? What did you do well? what could you improve etc? If you have time re-write either your whole answer or parts of it.

5. They study in short bursts, not long marathons.

Studying in short bursts tends to help you focus intensely because you know there is at least a short break coming.

This also fits in nicely with our Ultradian Rhythm, the natural activity/rest cycle of our bodies, which makes studying continuously for multiple hours on end counterproductive. Students are always amazed when I explain this to them, yet it is such a simple concept, no one can concentrate for more than 45 minutes at a time, this is why TV shows are becoming ever shorter, episodes of Schitts Creek or the Mandalorian for example are never more than twenty minutes long as they know the attention span of the audience cannot commit to longer.

6. They reverse-engineer solved problems.

It’s one thing to follow and memorize a set of steps to solve a calculus problem. It’s an entirely different thing to understand what a derivative is, be able to take derivates of complex functions, know when to use the chain rule vs. the product rule, etc. The problem with simply following the steps the teacher provided, or the textbook outlines, is that you’re only achieving a surface-level knowledge of the problem. Top students, instead, take solved problems and work backwards, from solution to question, asking “why.”

7. They don’t own a highlighter.

Highlighting anything = unengaged reading. If you want to note something that stands out, underline and write a corresponding note to go along with it. Or better yet, write yourself a note summarizing the item in your own words. Alternatively try the Cornell note taking for effective notes which can trigger retrieval.

8. They sleep–a lot.

They’re teenagers! Let them. The daily routines of top performers, in any field, are characterized by periods of intense work followed by significant quantities of high-quality sleep. You see this trend in top violin prodigies and chess champions, as well as elite athletes. The idea is to alternate periods of intense work with rest, so that you create tons of new connections in your nervous system, and then allow adequate time to assimilate those gains.

9. They engage themselves by asking questions.

An innovative mind must always be filled with questions. You’ll probably find yourself going to Google to fill in the gaps. Through that process your learning will be much more deeply seated in your brain than anything your subject teacher ever told you about. That’s the power of asking questions.

10. They immediately study their exam mistakes.

In a recent CPD, I challenged teachers to not focus on why the student achieved seven out of ten, but why they missed out on the three. This is what the highest achieving students are doing, most students get their exam grade back, flip through to see if the teacher made any mistakes they can argue about, and then promptly shove it into their notebook, never to be seen again until the mad scramble at the end of the term to study for the exam.

Instead, top students ignore what they got right, and use their mistakes as an indicator of what to improve on.