Can this be true? Is this blog really about preparing for the summer exams? When we haven’t even eaten our Easter eggs yet?!
Yes people! SIT UP… concentrate .. read this ...and then implement!
I've seen it all before. The secret tutor a friend has employed for 6 months and accidentally lets slip about this ‘gem-of-a-find’ causing you to choke at the coffee morning; the ‘extra’ work that falls out of the rucksack when you give another child a lift home; the parent from your son’s class you see coming out Waterstones as you drive by, laden with workbooks. "Each to their own", I say (I love Waterstones, by the way) and that’s why I am here to help you. What's your strategy? It’s a good idea to draw up your own game plan - whatever it is - so you can’t say you weren't prepared.
It’s best not to wait until the week before to start preparing - unless of course your child is a born genius. So my gems of wisdom follow. Read, absorb, and inwardly digest. For then, you can give your child the tools they need to do their best.
1. Planning and Preparation:
The child who does well in their summer exams probably worked hard and was prepared. So, decide what is going to work well for your child and draw up a rough timetable.
How does your child work? Where are the weak spots? And how much free time is there after the various after school clubs, homework etc.?
Try to address the bigger issues now. Perhaps your child needs to do 15 minutes of extra maths every night to nail those times tables. Or maybe they are struggling with fractions and percentages. Put some time aside to help them. And have a reading target too.
Bear in mind, “The man at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there”. So, map out the time between today and the date of your child’s exams and make a plan. If they resist - don’t force it. Just TRY to do your best to help.
Be familiar with what is being learnt at school. Look at the syllabus for the year group and look through the work your child has done. Regularly. Find out what will be tested in the summer too.
Gather the books, notes and revision materials you are going to use. Ask your teachers for help with resources - see below. They won’t always help with this because they are very busy ... but they might.
Do you need some variety to make the learning process less… challenging and dull. I love these maths times tables sheets. For work, I am also a fan of Bond books (Andrew not James or Basildon!), CGP and Galore Park. There are so many, though, so you should choose what works for you.
If you think online learning might work better, I have arranged a 10% discount with one of the newest online learning platforms, Atom Learning (promotion). And don’t forget my book, Revision Fun for Clever Kids. Slot it in among the workbooks and use it if they refuse to do any work at all, as a warm-up (if your child is so inclined) or on the days when you realise your plans are going to come to nothing. Fear not! Tomorrow is another day.
4. Bribes (🤭) and the Pasta Jar:
I call this “negotiation”. You are struggling to demonstrate the importance of preparation. Your child doesn't understand why they would need to be able to get all their times tables right. Or, just for a few weeks, you would like your child to reduce the amount of time spent socialising with friends on Fortnite or Minecraft. The answer to these obstacles: you need to deploy the cunning of your older and wiser brain - ha ha!
The basic principle of The Pasta Jar is explained here: you start with a large empty glass jar. Each time your child does some good work towards a goal you have set, you add a handful of pasta. (You could use marbles, sweets, pebbles - let them choose!) In younger children this is used to reward good behaviour, but it can work well for any goal. For example, reading for 30 minutes every day when you know they find it hard, or doing a sheet of times tables to try to improve accuracy. It’s the effort that counts.
The pasta jar gradually fills up and at the end you can give a pre-agreed reward. I used to offer anything under £10 in the Argos catalogue! Quality rewards in my house every time … and they were much younger then. But you can do anything: special pizza and film night; a new football; whatever it is that works for them. Don’t overdo it though - the reward needs to be reasonable.
In addition, NEVER take pasta from the jar. That would be like doing a full days work only to have your employer say, “Some of your work today wasn’t up to scratch so I will take some of last week’s pay back from your bank account.” A definite no-no.
A quiet space to work in is important. Distractions are not helpful. So find somewhere quiet in your house or read the newspaper in your kitchen while they work at the kitchen table. And wherever they are, try to make sure you or someone else is nearby and ready to help if needed. Don’t think that because you have set them off they will complete the task as requested. You need to check not only that it has been done but also that you think they have done it to their best ability. Is it neat? Have they given it a fair go? Did they understand it? Did they write enough?
Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Some people don’t need as much sleep as others but everyone is different. Experts recommend 9-11 hours of sleep for junior school children but some may need nearly 12.
7. The After Party:
Plan something really good that your child can look forward to after the exams. A day trip. A holiday. A new pair of trainers. A TV marathon. Even a Fortnite party if that’s what they will have been deprived of. Something they can keep in the back of their mind that will help keep them focussed. The goal beyond the goal. We all need something to look forward to.
Here endeth the lesson. And if you found it hard to get your head around all of this, how is your child going to manage without your help?
Its relatively easy: 7 gems of wisdom - one for each day of the week. So tackle one today and so on … and in a week’s time you will be better prepared for the months ahead.
More resources next time to help with English, maths and generally bringing out the best in your amazing child!