Lifelong learning and the web

“Lifelong learning” at the moment is particularly in vogue. The concept is based around the idea that learning continues into adulthood, past our compulsory and formal education to further life skills and aid our professional development. The term originated in higher education circles; in the academic life, lifelong learning is necessary in order to stay relevant. Governments have also started to see lifelong learning as one of the answers to skill shortages in our economy.

The web has huge potential to bring education to both the educated and the less educated. For instance, Khan Academy started as YouTube hosted videos created by Sal Khan for his cousin and has flourished into a fully-fledged education platform. Children and adults alike can use internet content to gain a better understanding of subjects and topics. In the classroom, teachers are also utilising the huge store of available online content. Of course, these vast stores of knowledge are a powerful resource, however, the fact that they exist does not necessarily lead to a true education revolution: 7.2 billion people live on this earth yet 4 million still lack internet access.
It often seems to be the story that the rich are getting richer and the poor are staying poor.  The story is the same in education; the educationally rich seek greater enrichment, and the educationally poor tend to stagnate. These social trends are called the Matthew effects.

An example of this in education are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are free for anyone who wants to take part, but they have mainly attracted those who already hold degrees; there are still many barriers to access for the poorer educated. My advice is to start young when it comes to educating yourself. If you want to learn a skill for tomorrow, start today. Whether you utilise online content or read a book or learn by doing, just begin now.

By Jonathan Strange

The Power of Practice.

 

We have all heard the saying ’practice makes perfect’.

Well, that saying is not exactly true- it needs some further insight and explanation.

Take for example, writing your name.

How do you know that what you have written is correct?

When you first learned to write, you had to be told that in English, we write from left to right. You had to be told what the letters were and you were taught to make the connections between those letters to make sounds and eventually create words.

Now imagine that you had only ever written your name once in your entire life. Would you remember how to do it so many years later? You would be able to write your name but would have to think about it. It would not be instinctive, automatic and natural.

The same is true of most things, whether it is mental agility or physical exercise. The brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised in the same way that you would exercise your body.

Practice Makes Perfect

by PookyH

Nothing is easy

Unless you know how,
What was not easy then,
Might seem quite easy now.
What is hard when you’re three
Isn’t hard when you’re four,
By the time that you’re five,
You will know even more.

It’s not practice, but deep practice that makes perfect. So what is deep practice?

Deep practice is effectively breaking down the components of practising anything, whether it is learning to play tennis or your times tables.

The first step is to break it down into small, manageable pieces.

The next step is to focus ONLY on those small pieces and repeat the practice of them.

The final step is to review what your mistakes were when practising and correcting those until the process ‘feels’ natural.

Rupa Harji

RTG Tuition

Left Brain or Right Brain?

Do you struggle with exams? Find your mind wandering? Doodling over your notes?

While going through school I found myself choosing more creative subjects such as Design Technology and Music. I loved creating things from scratch, whether it was a new product such as a speaker system in D.T. or a new composition in Music. This is still true to this day.

As I finished my GCSEs and moved on to A levels I found it more and more difficult to memorise and recall facts when it came to revision and taking exams. I now know that this is due to the fact that the right side of my brain is more dominant.

The brain is divided into two equal sides or ‘hemispheres’. We use both sides of our brain on a daily basis. The left side of the brain controls the right side of your body and the right side of the brain controls the left side of your body, however, each side is used for very different tasks when it comes to thinking and carrying out tasks.

2000px-brain_lateralization-svg

The left side of your brain is more logical, verbal and analytical. It handles things like speech, language, facts and mathematical calculations. It also deals with things such as rationality, strategy, details and rules.

The right side of your brain is more creative, non-verbal, intuitive and curious. It also helps us to deal with images, understand context and tone of voice as well as comprehend music.

Neither being more left brain or right brain orientated is better than the other, they are purely two different ways of thinking and although everyone uses their whole brain for different tasks or a combination of both sides for some tasks, the classroom environment seems to favour left sided thinkers more. A large part of exams and learning involve recalling facts, analysing data, logical computations, details and rules. This can leave the right sided thinker feeling quite neglected when it comes to learning and exam taking.

The good news is that once you know whether you are more right brained or left brained, you can use this to your advantage. For example, instead of trying to remember a mathematical equation as it stands, make it more visual. Use things like flashcards, find a way to relate it to an image or story. (‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’ to memorise the colours of the rainbow is a good example of this). This will make it much easier for you to remember and recall at a later date.

Once you find out which side is dominant, try doing tasks which use the less dominant side. For example, if you are dominantly left-brained, have a go at some more creative activities. Practically every person has the ability to use both sides of their brain more equally and by doing exercises to boost your less dominant side, you can work your way towards ‘whole brain thinking’

This 30-second test will tell which side of your brain is more dominant as well as the balance between the left side and right. Comment with your results!

My result was L 31 / R 69

http://braintest.sommer-sommer.com/en/index.html

Prajay Harji

Image by Allan Ajifo

GCSE English Essay writing success: 7 tips for a better essay

These are the seven key technical tips that will help you write a better English essay for your GCSEs.

  1. Planning

Many students seem to have little idea about how to plan. Plans need to be logical, structured and indicate the purpose of each paragraph. There are different methods of planning. However, a good plan will keep you disciplined. An essay is supposed to be an ordered piece of writing. Working out timing (how long will you take to write paragraphs) is also a key aspect of planning (you can usually do this before the exam).

  1. Acknowledging Reader/audience/viewer response

Often students fail to mention how a poem/play/film will affect somebody. When I was taking exams as a student, I remember being egocentric; I would talk about how the language was affecting me, but I would sometimes fail to mention how it could affect a “third person”. Many students forget this. Students have spent many years thinking in terms of themselves. They thus will often use “I” in essays and focus on how something is affecting them. Remaining objective is the key.

  1. Addressing and explaining the evidence

Students, by the time they take GCSEs, usually know that they need to include evidence. However, they often want to include many examples rather than talk in depth about a single example. They are thus failing to receive marks for deep analysis.

  1. Context

Background knowledge is often the key to understanding why a poem, novel etc has been written in a certain way. For instance, Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney cannot be understood fully unless a student understands the political background behind the poem. A student cannot achieve a top mark without proper consideration of the background.

  1. Linking

This is probably one of the more difficult of the skills. Linking involves taking evidence from one part of a poem/novel/play etc and explaining the relationship between it and another part of a poem/novel/play. In a comparison essay, a part of one poem can often be linked to a part of another poem.

  1. Discourse markers

Discourse markers are words and phrases that maintain the flow of a text. Most children use “because, so, however”, as they have built up the habit over the course of their school life. Key Stage 3 and GCSE children should be using them more frequently and with greater variation.

  1. Consistency

To achieve the top marks, do all of the above consistently. The top achievers not only do all of the above, they constantly do it.

By Jonathan Strange

Essay technique in GCSE English Language and Literature

Teachers talk a great deal about the importance of exam “technique”. However, this wording is meaningless to students and parents without further explanation. I wish to offer up my understanding of what it means to have sound technique in an English essay. Most mark schemes are also fairly difficult for students and parents to navigate so I will explain some of these ideas in plainer English.

Although I cannot offer any specific data, it seems that most students who are looking for help with English language and literature GCSE have substantial technical flaws. These flaws often, unfortunately, have almost nothing to do with their understanding of English and their competency with the language. There are thus many students who could increase their grade by one or two boundaries merely by focusing on improving their technique.

Essay writing is not a natural ability (though certain people may have more flair); it is something that can be taught and learned. Schools with students who achieve top marks in exams are usually better coached in the technical aspects of essay writing. This is the reality of the current education system. Next week, I will talk about the seven aspects of essay writing which are usually problematic, so please revisit our blog.
Jonathan Strange

How to you help your child achieve

Studying is a skill in itself. How to study is a very important skill that very few schools teach. Apart from things like note taking and colour coding, setting small achievable targets is the best way to create that route to your end target.

Setting goals for studying, when done consistently will pay massive dividends. Start this process early with your child so it becomes second nature.

Use this simple 5 step method to help your child achieve throughout their academic journey:

Step 1- Dedicate

Have a dedicated space within your home.

Clear all clutter and distractions from the area. Set it up with all the relevant items needed (writing/rough paper, pencils, highlighters, dictionary etc.). Make the area pleasant so there is no angst about working there.

Step 2- Keep it real

 Plan (be realistic!). Become best friends with your schedule.

Work out whether you are a lark or an owl and put together your schedule accordingly. If you work better first thing in the morning, then set your routine for that time. Studying when you are at your best will allow you to power through the mundane and boring stuff that you will otherwise put off, and later regret doing so.

Step 3- Consistency is key

Focus, focus, focus!

Break down to individual components (topics or areas of learning and sub-area within that).

Set each piece of work to last no more that 45 minutes, then take a break and resume. Constantly look at your tasks and whether you are meeting your targets. Evaluate and readjust if you need to.

I know I always underestimate how long I need so I double the time I think I need.

Step 4- What, why, how?

Allow time for creativity.

Make sure you allow down time. Relaxation is an important part of the cognitive function. It gives the brain a chance to process and assimilate information. It also means you are recharged to go again.

Ticking off completed items as a visual chart will prove to give great satisfaction and will also help motivate. Use a rewards system to help motivation, whether it is that second chocolate or a new top.

Step 5- Rinse and repeat

Evaluate – Be honest.

Learn from your past mistakes (the best way to do this is to keep a journal as part of the end of day routine).

What do I want/need to achieve? How will I do it? What are the component parts that make up how I do this? How long do I need for each component?

If you need to go over something that you were not completely sure about, reallocate some time to it, but this time look at where you fell down rather than the whole item again- break it down into smaller parts to isolate what the problem is.

Cramming is not Learning

Working through test paper after test paper is not learning.

If you had asked me at the age of 9 or 10 what goals I had set, I would have probably told you that you were crazy, but as an adult, I can now appreciate how important it is to set goals.

Why should you set goals?

The easiest explanation is the analogy of the boat drifting at sea, letting the currents take it where they may. There is no planned route.

When do you set goals?

It is never too late to set goals. It does not matter if they are changed or even not met. The important thing is there is an end goal in mind so that you are working towards a target. This helps create focus and direction.

How do you set goals?

There is no one right way to set goals, but I would suggest you think about isolating particular areas or topics and then thinking about where you want to end up. For example, if it is maths, think about what you currently know and what knowledge level you want to achieve. Then look at the time frame in which you want to do this.

In my experience, the most successful method is the whole-parts-whole method:

Look at it as a whole, break down into bite size pieces and then piece the whole thing together at the end.

For example the CEM 11 Plus Exam:

Think of it as the exam, break down each topic area and the components within that. Then once the learning and revision have taken place, at that point practice the exam. In my opinion, there is no point in doing test after test if the subject knowledge is not cemented in.

Based on that can you answer the following questions?

  • Where do you (or your child) need to get to/what do you want to achieve?
  • Where are you currently on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • What steps do you need to take to achieve 10? (This will probably consist of several different things).
  • What are the component parts that will help you get there?
  • How much time do you have to achieve this?
  • Is it manageable in this time frame?

Look out for our next blog post which will provide a 5 step method on how to help your child achieve throughout their academic journey.

If you would like further information, then feel free to email me and I will gladly respond.

Rupa Harji

info@rtgtuition.co.uk

Grammar Schools of the Future

Selective schools have been a prominent feature of our system for a long period of time. Many would be correct in considering them to be particularly competitive, as the demand for places is huge. Depending on the area, children need to achieve on average between 75% and 80% to be in with a chance of gaining a place.  7  out of 8 parents would fail the Eleven Plus Exam. I suspect that with the added time pressure in the exam, the pass rate amongst parents would be even lower.

It is no secret that Teresa May, our current Prime Minister is lauding the grammar schools. She herself is a product of that very system. Therefore, it is worth considering the possible changes that could eventually take place in UK Education. These changes will probably happen over a relatively large period of time or be shelved by the next government. Interestingly enough, there have been discussions between some key ministers and the Grammar School Head’s Association (GSHA), which have shed some light on the future of selective education.

From the discussions, it appears that there is particular enthusiasm for, as The Times have dubbed it, “Super-selective grammars“. In a nutshell, the “brightest 10%” of the general population will be selected for places at these grammar schools and selective testing will be integrated into our school system. Of course, these are merely preliminary discussions, however, they illustrate how we have increasingly turned to the East for educational inspiration (standardised selective testing is the norm in the Orient).

Jonathan Strange

‘How do I choose the right 11-plus tutor?’

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/03/14/how-do-i-choose-the-right-11-plus-tutor/

Finding the right 11 plus tutor can be tricky, especially with new tutors and centres popping up on a daily basis. Be sure to find a tutor that suits your needs and whose teaching style works well with your child and keeps them motivated and engaged.

The best and most reliable source is word of mouth. Make sure that your tutor not only helps your child to pass the exam for your chosen school but also helps prepare them for when they are there. If they get in and struggle to keep up with the fast pace it could be damaging to their self-esteem. Talking to other parents in and around the local area is a good place to start to find the right tutor for your child.

Remember to make sure all staff are DBS checked. It’s also worth noting whether they are members of The Tutors’ Association (TTA)

Prajay Harji