During our Easter holiday course, the year 5s were learning about 3D and spatial Non-Verbal Reasoning. We were learning how to draw 2D elevations (plan view, side view and front view) from a given 3D shape, but we were also trying to figure out the 3D shape and draw it using only the given 2D elevations. This is much more complex and is not a question type which appears in the 11 plus papers however doing these types of questions helps the child to fully understand the properties of 3D shapes which in turn helps them answer questions which are in the 11 plus such as the CEM style papers which include questions on 3D and spatial Non-verbal Reasoning.
During one of our holiday courses, we were working through a Non-Verbal Reasoning paper one section at a time, marking the section and then going over the questions the children got wrong. Now, it was a reasonably tough paper and it was the first full paper these year 5 children had attempted.
All was going well and the children were getting scores reflecting the difficulty of the paper, their individual ability as well as how far they were through the 11 plus course.
We reached the third section (Non-Verbal Reasoning series), marked it and totalled the scores out of 12. It was at this point where one of the top children in the class broke down, put his head in his hands on the table, and began to cry. He had scored 1 out of 12. Nothing would bring him around for us to continue with the class and go over the section.
After a couple of minutes of trying to console him, I began to talk to the child sitting behind him who happened to play chess and tennis for the county. I knew the other child was listening at this point albeit with his head resting on the desk.
“How long did it take you to get your first decent serve?” I asked.
“Two years,” he replied.
“How long did it take you to win your first game of chess?” I asked.
“About 3 months,” he replied.
I then asked the class, “how long do you think it will take to get a decent score in a Non-Verbal Reasoning section? Longer than 6 minutes right?”
The whole class agreed.
You are never going to master something instantly and there will be at least a few occasions where it will be difficult and quite a few where you will make mistakes. Learn from these difficulties and mistakes and try not to let it bring you down or put you off even trying as this is where the learning actually takes place.
The moral of this story is if at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again.
As a tutor, I have come across many children who find school work easy. Despite having natural ability and being ahead of their peers, children who are perceived as highly intelligent often seem to have character traits that bind them together. I talk about “perception of intelligence” because it is the perception of being intelligent which can truly damage a child, not the fact that the child may have extraordinary mental abilities.
These are the four points that have stood out to me with the children I have worked with (there are actually much more):
- Seeking perfection
Children are often told that they are intelligent by those around them. This adds to the internal pressure that they feel (as clever children often feel) that they need to be perfect. They thus identify themselves as “the clever one” in their peer-groups.
- Inexperience in failure
Naturally, many of these children past most of their early years being able to accomplish most of the academic tasks set by their teachers. This means that they may lack the experience of real failure, which is important for well-rounded developmental.
- Lack of mental resistance to failure
As a consequence of not failing in their young days and the need to seek perfection, some children take failure in their later years particularly hard.
- Difficulty relating to others in their peer group
If others perceive a child to be intelligent, and the child, in turn, believes this idea, this can lead to isolation in social situations.
As an educator, my role is not merely to facilitate learning, but to understand the issues affecting a child. At every point, I have to always be aware of the words I am using when working with children. If anyone has comments about the points I have mentioned or has experience dealing with these issues, please feel free to comment.
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.
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.
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.
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
Image by Allan Ajifo
These are the seven key technical tips that will help you write a better English essay for your GCSEs.
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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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