Actually Giving a Damn: The ONLY Thing That Matters?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

The events in this article are based on actual occurrences. The names and, in some
instances, the genders of individuals have been changed to protect the individuals’
privacy.

The aroma of coffee did little to awake the senses. For a sleepy NQT who was in his first week back at school after the Easter vacation the old routines were a sharp shock the system.

“I’ve got 9Q this morning” – pipes in one colleague.

“Don’t expect much outta them. You might as well bang your head against a brick wall for an hour.”

I stayed quiet – always the best policy in a moaning-match like this. But my silence was justified by another undercurrent.

poll everywhere

The ‘care’ factor

Surprisingly, I’d been doing really well with 9Q. Granted: they were a bit noisy and couldn’t sit still for more than ten minutes (most of them, anyway). But I liked their energy – I saw their youthful vitality as something to draw upon.

“Mr. Rogers” shouts John in a funny voice

“Your tie looks like human vomit”

To which I laughed and replied  – “Well done for bringing Biology into our lesson today”, to which there were giggles from the whole class. 

After that the class did a cut-and-stick activity on chemical reactions, and when we peer-assessed the task I said “Guess what – you’ll find a lot of carbon and hydrogen atoms in human vomit, so once again I thank John for his intuitive reference”

The class roared with laughter.

John does a little dance on his chair like some American rapper.

out-of-control

The wrong approach

These interactions just mentioned demonstrate the power a teacher can wield when he or she actually likes the kids they teach. When we care for and admire our students for the unique people they are, everything else just falls into place naturally.

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I believe that teacher-training colleges and school inspectorates have been getting their emphasis fatally wrong for decades. Focusing on lesson methodologies such as differentiation techniques, feedback mechanisms and behavior management: they have missed the vital component that crucially determines student welfare and academic success – that kids need to know that the teachers actually give a damn about them. 

Over the coming two weeks I’ll be exploring this ‘care factor’ (which I believe is the only thing that actually matters when scrutinizing the fiber of a successful teacher’s character).

Let’s see this in action this week, so that a greater understanding of it’s power can be realised. 

He just doesn’t ‘get it’

In a previous school I was teaching at I had a Year 10 student who had come to me from Germany. He was quiet and compliant in class but a little lack-luster and disinterested.

He completed two Chemistry end-of-unit tests in Term 1, scoring horrendously in both (30% below the next lowest student).

I could have used the old adage many teachers find themselves using: “It just doesn’t sink in with him”, “He just doesn’t get it” and “He doesn’t do enough work at home”.

If I wanted to, I could easily have passed on this failure to the student: alleviating me from all responsibility. 

I just couldn’t do that. This bugged me too much.

“If this student carries on like this then he will surely fail. The consequences for his life choices afterwards could be enormous and who’s fault would that be? That’s right, Richard, it would be your fault, because you and you alone are responsible for this kid’s success in Chemistry.”

This is what I told myself.

The next lesson came and I took this kid aside at the end of the lesson, when it was quiet and only I and him could talk. I said to him “Hi John, let’s have a chat. Let’s take a look at these results.”

I shown him his test scores, and how low they were compared to the rest of the class.

“John, I don’t know what’s going on, but I know that you are capable of more than this. I know that you can do much better.”

“I’ve seen the great diagrams you draw in class, and I’ve heard your great responses to verbal questions. I know that you have the ability to do so well in Chemistry.”

“Help me understand, John. Help me understand why these grades are so low.”

John replies – “I guess I just don’t revise enough at home”

“Well, John. We can’t carry on like this. We just can’t. If you continue to get scores like this then you will fail this whole course. John, I cannot let that happen. I care about you too much.”

“In our next test you must get at least 60%. You must. Do you understand, John.”

Jon replies – “Okay, sir. I’ll try.”

“No. No trying. Do it! Do it because I believe in you. Do it because even though it’s difficult you know that this is the moment when you can prove to yourself just how great you are. Do it for the respect you’ll earn within yourself – self respect.”

We end with a macho display of brotherhood – I hold out my fist and he taps his fist against mine.

High five

The corridor tactic

I see John on the corridors at lunchtimes and break times. Now he knows that I’m on his case. He knows that I care about his grades.

“How’s the studying going, John” I say as I pass him by.

“Great, sir”

“That’s good, John, because I know that you are a hard-working student”

This reinforcement continues day after day, week after week until the next test comes.

The success protocol

Before John takes his test I tell him “Go for it. I know you can do this!”

He scores 64%.

I make a massive deal out of it. He gets merits, a note in his diary and a congratulatory e-mail sent to his parents to tell them of his success.

I take him to the Head of Year, and tell him how proud I am of the effort he has made.

John is beaming with pride and happiness.

be enthusiastic

The belief protocol

Now John knows, with full supportive evidence, that he can achieve anything he puts his mind too.

All it took was some effort by a teacher: directed in a way that would make him realise his full potential; his full power

John continues along this route, scoring higher and higher as the weeks go by. He comes out with a grade A in IGCSE Chemistry.

This is not a tale of fiction – it’s one of many stories I can recount over the course of my twelve years as a teacher. I have learnt that genuine, heartfelt care and concern for our students can literally and completely change their lives for the better, and forever.

From this care comes the standard teaching methodologies – all of which are great and work well, but only when they are built on the foundation of “It is my responsibility that these kids succeed. I will not let them down. I will not leave anyone behind. I will not allow any student to under-perform.”

More to follow in the next few weeks.

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How Can Teachers Earn Extra Money?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” – Chris Gosser

Teachers are incredibly skillful individuals. We’re good communicators, we’re patient (that’s a no-brainer) and we’re good listeners.

with-ukedchat

With ingenuity and a bit of personal drive, we can utilize these skills in a number of ways to gain some much-appreciated extra money and experience:

#1 – Private Tutoring

A teacher’s staple when it comes to cash-on-the-side. If you’ve not tried it, then you’re missing out on a massive opportunity!

High five

As a veteran of 12 years of tutoring, my top tips are as follows:

  • Become confident in teaching more than one subject: I’m a Science teacher but I’ve successfully tutored students in German, English, Science, Maths, UKCAT and BMAT over the years. Expand your skill’s portfolio and willingness to leave your comfort zone and reach a larger market!
  • Post on websites where parents are looking for tutors: Facebook groups and pages, Craigslist and Learn Pick are all good and have all generated student leads for me in the past
  • Try to find out the exact topics the student wants to learn in advance of the lesson – this will give you time to create great resources
  • Teach well! – Be yourself, be professional. Students will love your style and will tell their friends: bringing extra customers to you via referrals!
  • If the students live far away, then bring them to you – I’ve tutored at coffee shops and even at my home in the past. When students need tuition they’ll be prepared to travel.
  • Offer group classes – $70 for one student for two hours or $10 an hour per student for 5 students for two hours? Group classes can offer benefits in terms of teaching (peer-assessment and group activities) and help you to maximize revenue.

#2 – Becoming an examiner

Most exam boards recruit examiners on a yearly basis. It’s hard work and deadlines are tight (generally), but the money can be very, very good. Check out exam boards like Edexcel, CIE, the IBO, AQA and others.

Teacher-led assessment

#3 – Selling your resources

A number of platforms on the web allow you to sell your worksheets, presentations and other resources to other educators. Check out the following:

#4 – Writing

Set up a blog to inform teachers about good techniques, or even a subject-specific blog for students. After a few years or less, convert the posts into an e-book and sell your knowledge to others!

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What Should Schools Teach?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

I often like to listen to my favourite YouTubers in the early morning. For me it’s wake up, go for a run, then shower with my iPhone blasting out some stimulating interviews, lectures or discussions. 

At one point this week I was listening to an excellent and thoroughly interesting interview with the renowned David Icke in which he made a statement that really got me thinking: “I hear of lot of debate about HOW children should be taught, but very little about WHAT they should be taught”.

talk n walk

As a teacher I think this is a very important issue and I’d like to offer David a considered response. 

10 Things I Wish I Was Taught at School

I’m one of those few people who can actually say that I use the stuff I was taught in school on daily basis in my job. I’m a Science Teacher: so naturally I’m teaching my students almost the same things I was taught at school.

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“An AMAZING book!”

However, there are a lot of things I had to work out by myself when I left school. Was ‘personal experience’ the best way to learn these things? 

I don’t think so. 

Many years of hardship and pain could have been avoided had (much) greater emphasis been placed on these ten things whilst I was at school: 

#1 How to manage money

Surely this should be a school staple, shouldn’t it?

I was taught how to manipulate equations and a little bit about compound interest, but a more intense and focussed ‘Money Management’ curriculum would have helped me and so many of my friends. 

jenga

Kids need to know about budgeting. They need to understand how credit cards, credit ratings, debt, home loans, savings accounts, interest rates and investments (such as bonds and mutual funds) all work. They need to know how to avoid debt in the first place, and how to climb out of debt if they fall into it. They need to understand the importance of saving and investing whilst they are young. They need to know how to assess financial risk.

How many schools are teaching this? Almost none, and that’s a tragedy. 

#2 How to manage emotions (especially worrying)

Humans are emotional creatures, and life can test us to the limit at times. 

How do you deal with worry? What makes you angry or frustrated? What makes people do silly things sometimes? Lust? The ego?

With the advent of the Mindfulness in Schools Project in 2009, educators began to see how self-observation can be taught to students as a meaningful way to avoid unconscious reaction. 

being-told-off

Just think of the problems that this philosophy could solve, were it taken seriously and implemented nationwide. A fifteen minute meditation session per day, for example, could help students become calmer, more focused in lessons and even more willing to embrace self-acceptance, making life more enjoyable.

As for the emotion of worrying….the statistics speak for themselves. According to the Anxiety Association of America:

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (which equates to around 18.1% of the population every year).
  • Anxiety disorders can be treated easily, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. 

In my personal opinion, kids need to know this stuff! Yet how many schools offer a rigorous ‘Worry Combat’ curriculum? Almost none.

Yet again, it’s one of things we kind of have to figure out by ourselves (and many people never figure it out). 

Scientists have also found strong links between stress and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. 

I think it’s high time that kids were taught about the effects of worry and how to tackle it as part of a national curriculum strategy. Here’s a book I think should be compulsory reading for every school student (click on the book to take you to the Amazon sales page):

220px-How_to_Stop_Worrying_and_Start_Living

#3: The importance of a healthy lifestyle

Schools are getting better at this but much more needs to be done to emphasise the urgency of this issue with our students. 

The world is facing an obesity crisis.

Those words aren’t my anecdotal musings – they’re substantiated by lots of data. The Word Health Organisation publishes statistics on global obesity and in their most recent report (dated February 2018) they state:

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975
  • 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2016
  • Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016

The report also states that obesity is preventable, which is true: a balanced diet and good physical exercise, when embedded from an early age, can dramatically reduce the chances of adolescent and adult obesity and associated health problems. 

In Japan, schools take health education to a whole new level. Students are actively involved in designing the school’s lunch menu based on nutritional value. For Japanese schools, lunchtime is just as much a part of education as Science and Mathematics. 

Beginning in elementary school, kids come to understand that what you put into your body matters a great deal in how you think and feel throughout the day.

buffet-2953875_1920
Lunchtime is a part of Japenese students’ education.

“Japan’s standpoint is that school lunches are a part of education, not a break from it.” – Masahiro Oji, a government director of school health education, told the Washington Post in 2013. 

A good model for school’s around the world? I think so. 

#4 To question everything

We go through school believing that if something is written in a textbook, then it absolutely must be true. 

It is understandable that this viewpoint is encouraged from an early age: students must believe in the integrity of what they are learning in order to take it seriously.

But is this the right approach in a rapidly changing world, where young people need to be better problem solvers and critical thinkers than any other generation before them?

Sometimes the concepts contained in school textbooks are simplified so much (to make them accessible) that they become completely different to the truth. 

A classic example is atomic structure. We’re all taught that an atom looks like the classic ‘Bohr Model’, with electrons orbiting a central nucleus in concentric circles:

Atom Model

But did you know that this model of the atom was actually rejected in 1925? Yet it is still taught to this day in high school chemistry courses.

Perhaps a research-based approach is best for today’s learners and gadget-savvy whiz kids. Is it really necessary to simplify everything? Is it wrong for students to learn the truth about atomic structure (and other topics) even though the knowledge may be advanced and considered ‘above the level of their age group’? 

Shouldn’t we be challenging students to accept nothing until enough evidence suggests the theory as being truth?

#5: To respect other peoples’ rights to an opinion

This is a no-brainer, yet statistics on bullying suggest that more needs to be done. 

Stopbullying.gov (a US government organisation) compiled a fact sheet based on a variety different studies and reports that:

  • 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools (2007).
  • 70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more (2007).

In the U.K. the statistics reveal an equally disturbing picture. In a 2016 survey carried out by Ditch the Label (a U.K. based anti-bullying charity), it was found that:

  • 1.5 million young people (50%) were bullied in the year prior to the survey
  • 145,800 (19%) of these were bullied EVERY DAY
  • People who have been bullied are almost twice as likely to bully others
  • Twice as many boys as girls bully (66% of males vs. 31% females)

Clearly, these figures are unacceptable and much, much more needs to be done to address bullying in schools. 

out-of-control

I would suggest that anti-bullying initiatives must focus on education, not on more sanctions for students who bully.

The following strategies should be taken on by every school:

  • The United Nations declared May 4th as ‘Anti-Bullying Day‘. What does your school do on May 4th? Consider holding a theme-based day with activities in which kids can get to know about each other’s cultures and preferences better and learn to appreciate diversity. 
  • Diversity, religious freedom, human rights and bullying education as part of a comprehensive PSHE curriculum at all levels of school (even up to and including pre-university students) 
  • Assigning student buddies
  • Having an assigned member of staff act as a school counselor
  • Education on cyber-bullying and school-wide implementation of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym given below:

SMART

The U.K. government’s 2017 guidance on preventing and tackling bullying is also well-worth a read. 

#6 To value creative arts

Creative arts are more important now than ever before. As the world becomes more connected to mobile technology; good images, music and graphics can really make the difference when it comes to marketing products, attracting web traffic and getting your message across.

Let’s be brutally honest – this blog would not be even half as popular as it is if it wasn’t for Pop’s beautiful images. I didn’t take art as seriously as I should have done when I was at school, so I already have a skills deficit that can only be filled in by my excellent illustrator.

PC activity with mouse pen

Gone are the days when Science, Maths and English paraded at the summit of our educational Everest. The age of the games animator, thumbnail and avatar engineer, app designer and social media marketing expert is upon us!

#7 To respect the natural environment

Schools are quite good at this in general, but there are some easy-to-implement strategies that can further improve this area:

  • Having recycling bins on site as opposed to standard trash cans
  • Creating an ‘eco-garden’ on school premises where students learn how to plant, grow, harvest, protect and nurture plants and crops
  • Recognising global events like Earth Day and World Environment Day with whole-school theme days and activities
  • Getting students actively involved in cleaning up the school environment through eco-clubs and environment committees
  • Again: rigorous environmental awareness education through the school’s PSHE programme

#8 Public speaking

An increasingly important skill which is not developed enough in schools.

The power of ‘voice’ as the number one marketing tool of the future has been recognized in a number of influential books including Storyshowing by Sam Cawthorn and Ultimate Guide to Platform Building by Wendy Keller.  

There’s just no room for shyness these days.

I often tell my students who are interested in business that they need to start building their platform now. They need to build up followers on social media channels (provided the students meet minimum age requirements) if they want to build up a brand name for themselves.

I’ll use myself as a ruthless example.

award

I started blogging back in 2016, almost a year after my book was published. In late 2016 I set up my Facebook page and in two years, on a modest budget and through my weekly blog, it’s built up to a following of around 1500 great fans and readers.

But just imagine if I’d have had the sense to start all of this when I was 20. That would have been 15 years of platform building!

One of the best ways to build your platform is through voice: videos, writing and having the confidence to get up front and show your talents and skills. 

Public speaking should be a compulsory element of school education. Opportunities for students to develop their skills through conferences, plays, shows, group presentations, TEDx talks, peer-teaching and online publishing should all be fully integrated into school curricula. 

#9 Manners and etiquette

As teachers we absolutely MUST be role models for our students. 

But what does that mean?

“There’s no such thing as an off-duty teacher” – These words were words spoken to me when I was an NQT.

I think those words are true.

I never saw any of my teachers drunk or smoking, and even on my graduation evening when some teachers came out for a drink at a local restaurant with the students, they acted responsibly.

Our students look to us for guidance and see us as a moral compass – we’re not just sages who impart knowledge without substance.

The way we dress, the way we speak, the way we act: all of these things are picked up by our students. 

Are we careful in saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? Are we careful not to swear or use expletives within earshot of our students? 

We absolutely must keep the subliminal messages we send in mind as we go about our daily lives. 

As for table manners, correct speech (elocution) and common courtesy: these should be on the curriculum. 

#10: How to teach themselves

According to a report published by computer giant Dell Technologies, 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.

Phrased another way: we are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies and techniques that have not yet been invented. 

Whilst teachers have known for decades that computers were set to take over vast areas of business operations, the scale of the acceleration has been surprising even to the industry experts. 

In order to really get our kids ready for the future we must teach them how to teach themselves. Constant re-training and skills upgrades will be the name of the game for years to come.

We need to think about ways in which we can get our students to evaluate their work as they go along. 

Take a look at the evaluation form, given here, and consider ways to make learning more I.T. integrated. 

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The Exam Period is Here: How Will You Use Your Gained Time?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

So the Easter vacation is almost over. Here in Thailand the local people celebrate Songkran – A Thai traditional holiday which is focussed on spending time with family and relatives.

sit n talk

Having brought my Year 11 and 13 students to the end of their courses, I’m left a little deflated. Like a sprinter who’s just finished the 400 metres I’m left thinking: ‘What’s next?’

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“An AMAZING Book!”

Our final year students will hopefully have been revising like crazy this holiday: they need too. These exams will determine the next stage in their lives.

Use of gained time

Here are some things to bear in mind and consider for those of us who will find our timetables a little lighter in Term 3:

  • Invigilation: You’ll probably be asked to invigilate some exams if you’ve lost some of your timetabled classes. We must make sure that we are fully aware of our roles and responsibilities as invigilators (check again with your examination’s officer – don’t just assume that it’ll be the same as last time). We must be prompt and fully responsible during the invigilation process – the integrity of the exams is paramount and a snap visit from an exam-board representative can happen at any time. 
  • Marking: Gained time can be used to catch up with marking – especially for classwork and homework from students lower down the school
  • Feedback and mentoring: This is a great time to have one-to-one discussions with Year 1 IGCSE/GCSE students and ‘AS’ – Level/IBDP/SAT students. Make sure they know that you acknowledge and recognise their efforts and that you’re monitoring their progress. Re-evaluate targets or set new ones if these students don’t have targets already. 

Q & A

  • Tutoring: A great way to help students out and earn some some valuable cash at the same time. Tutors will be in high demand now that the exam season has started. Prepare resources in advance if you can and aim to deliver excellence every time – you’ll be surprised at how quickly your reputation will grow. Websites like Craigslist and Learn Pick are great places to advertise your services to potential students. 
  • Curriculum Mapping and Preparation for next year: Yes, get those long-term plans, worksheets, presentations, games and wonderful resources ready now. We all want to have a summer vacation (notice the word vacation there). Check out ukedchat.com for great ideas and resources.
  • Pedagogy: Brush up on your teaching skills. Attend a class or seminar. Buy a good book and study it (e.g. The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, Mark, Plan, Teach and The Ultimate Guide to Differentiation)
  • Offer an extra E.C.A.: You’ll be engaging new students who you may teach in mainstream classes soon, and you’ll be seen as a proactive team-player. What could be better than that?

Do you have any further suggestions? Please feel free to comment by using the box below. 

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Report-Writing Nightmares: Become More Efficient and Save Time

Updated May 2021

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

The student names contained within this article are entirely fictional. Any similarity to an actual person’s name is purely coincidental. 

A well-written school report can provide a student with useful feedback, great encouragement and even a stern call-to-action.

Despite their usefulness, however, school reports can be an absolute nightmare for the teachers who have to write them!

walking around wt laptop

As teachers we are constantly juggling multiple tasks at the same time. If it’s not lesson planning, then it’s marking. If it’s not marking, it’s teaching. If it’s not teaching, then it’s meetings and professional development. If it’s not that it’s student mentoring and tutoring.

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Report-writing can come up at any point during these foregoing activities, and we just have to, well; get on with it. For many teachers this means very late nights and sacrificed weekends: often with little sleep.

This article aims to give some easy-to-implement tips that will help us write good-quality reports in as little time as possible.

#1 – Remember S.W.A.P.

Every report should contain these four elements (at the very least):

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses (including targets)
  • Attainment
  • Progress

They don’t necessarily have to be in that order, but they should all be present somewhere.

work overload

#2 – Create a S.W.A.P. template

A good template can save you tons of time, and will ensure that your reports are detailed and accurate. I’ve given an example with applications below. Please feel free to copy and paste and use this as you see fit:

x has had a disappointing/steady/good/very good term/half-term/year/semester. He/She has shown strengths in a number of areas including……………………….. . This is pleasing, but even further progress could be made by………………………………. x’s most recent assessment score was ……………., which indicates to me that……………………….. Progress has been disappointing/steady/good/very good, as exemplified by the fact that………………… 

Let’s see this in action below:

Example 1: An excellent student

Joshua has had a very good half-term. He has shown strengths in a number of areas including modular arithmetic, definite and indefinite integration and differentiation. This is pleasing, but even further progress could be made by completing more of the Higher Level assigned tasks on MyiMaths, as he does have the ability to challenge himself further. Joshua’s most recent assessment score was 83%, which indicates to me that he is completing the necessary revision at home. Progress has been very good, as exemplified by the fact that he has jumped from a level 6 to a level 7 in the space of just seven weeks.  

Example 2: An average student

Lisa has had a steady half-term. She has shown strengths in a number of areas including balancing chemical equations and completing laboratory practical work. This is pleasing, but even further progress could be made by completing more practice questions on Quantitative Chemistry and using the model answers as a good guide for improvement.  Lisa’s most recent assessment score was 54%, which indicates to me that she has a good knowledge of some areas of the subject, but needs to work harder to revise identified weaknesses. Progress has been steady, as exemplified by the fact that Lisa’s assessment scores have been consistently above 50% since the start of the course. 

#3 – Store and use your old reports

Keep copies of all the reports you write on a hard disc drive or usb/flash drive, or perhaps even on a cloud-based system like Google Drive. You’ll find that similar student ‘types’ come up every year, and you can simply copy, paste and modify old reports to match new students. 

This is guaranteed to save you oodles of time! Just make sure you modify well: reports still need to contain the personal touch. 

jenga

#4 – Use report comment banks

There are some great report-building websites available online. In just a few clicks you can create detailed and well-phrased reports that will deliver all of the information you need to get across.

Check out these great sites:

Recommended further reading

Check out these great books! Just click on the book image to take you to the Amazon sales page.

Writing Effective Report Card Comments by Kathleen Crane and Kathleen Law (Teacher Created Resources – they do a great teacher planner too! Check out my blog post here for that)

Writing Effective Report Card Comments

This book is simply filled to the brim with great phrases you can use for students at all stages of school education. My advice: buy this book, type all the comments into a doc and copy and paste them for your reports as needed. 

Teachers’ Messages for Report Cards by Marie McDonald and Katherine Ruggieri-Vesey

Teachers Messages for Report Cards

This is another brilliant book that serves well as a standalone guide or as a compliment to the ideas explored in Writing Effective Report Card Comments. McDonald and Ruggieri-Vesey really put the fun back into report writing by showing you strategies and phrases that will save you time whilst enjoying the process of report construction. 

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Easter Revision Tips to Share With Your Students

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

April is here already and I find myself bewildered. 

A year ago I was in China preparing my students for their final ‘A’ – Level and IGCSE exams. Now I’m in Thailand doing the same thing with ‘IB’ and IGCSE students.

Time flies when you’re having fun – and it really has been a lot of fun!

walking around wt laptop

This can be quite a stressful time of the year for many of our learners. They’ll soon have a two-week holiday (some schools in the U.K. have already started theirs). In that holiday they’ll be expected to revise like crazy for their final exams.

A Guidance System

Do our students really know ‘what’ to revise? Do they know ‘how’ to revise?

I’ve realized for a while now that preparing students for exams is really easy – they need to have good resources that teach them the content, and they need to be made aware of the self-discipline tactics that will ensure that they cover everything thoroughly. 

Addressing the ‘What’

Rule #1: The syllabus is your ultimate guide

Our students must have access to the syllabus (in fact, they should have been using it throughout the course itself).

If at this stage of the year your students have never seen the syllabus then you ABSOLUTELY MUST share it with them.

If we are going to really prepare our kids for their exams, then they’ve got to know all of the topics that could come up on their papers.

High five

Students should be encouraged to make notes on each part of the syllabus as part of their revision. 

Rule #2: Complete lots of past-papers under timed conditions

Some exam boards release their past-papers for free, and some don’t.

For my IGCSE Chemistry students I’ve been quite lucky: Edexcel publish all of their past-papers and mark schemes online for free, and my students have had lots of practice in navigating through their past-paper site.

With UKEdChat

For the IB Diploma the papers have to be purchased. I’m lucky because my school has purchased lots of IBDP past-papers and mark schemes.

Now I’ve got to be intelligent enough to share all of those papers with my students.

  • Use your school’s VLE to upload past-papers (I’m currently using Google Classroom and it’s great for this)
  • Print out a past-paper booklet for each of your students to take home over the Easter holidays. You don’t have to mark this – provide the mark schemes so that the students can do self or peer-assessment.
  • Provide topic-specific exam papers (with past-paper questions that are focused on individual topics). Save My Exams is a great website that provides lots of these ‘topic tests’ for IGCSE, GCSE, ‘A’ – Level and ‘O’ – Level subjects. 

sit n talk

At this stage our students should be completing past-papers under timed conditions too. It’s so easy to run out of time in the real exam. Our students must understand the importance of completing past-papers at home under the same time-constraints as the real exams. 

Rule #3: Use more than one textbook for each subject

I didn’t have a lot of money when I was a GCSE student. I couldn’t buy a lot of books, but that didn’t matter. I had some great textbooks that school provided, and my dad bought a great maths book for me, but I needed more. 

My local library in Flint, North Wales, was well stocked with great books. My Easter strategy in 1999 was simple: Spend every day at the library using every textbook I could find to revise every topic I could.

Going to the library had two advantages for me:

  • I couldn’t fall asleep at home, or have a midday nap, or get distracted by TV. I was in the library and I had to work.
  • The library was quiet and very stimulating – there’s something about sitting amongst rows and shelves of books that’s really soothing and conducive to studying
flint-library
Flint Library: The place where I made my dreams come true

The strategy worked  – I came out with A’s and A*s across the board.

But here’s the sad thing – I was the only kid at the library that Easter (that I can recall). No other kids were revising there. I was alone. 

It seemed to me like scores of high school students in Flint had really missed out on the opportunity to enrich and discipline their revision that year.

Students need to get the same information from a wide variety of sources. My best students over the past 12 years of my teaching career have been those that used at least three textbooks per subject to study from.

card games

It’s a tactic that works, and our students must know about this!

Rule #4: Use the internet

There are lots of great websites out there that have good quality notes, tests and interactive activities to learn from. My three favorites are:

  • BBC Bitesize: Perfect for GCSE and ‘A’ – Levels, but there’s lots of crossover with IBDP and the American SATs too
  • S-cool: This site has been going for around 20 years and it’s brilliant. The videos are particularly good. 
  • UKEdChat: Tons of great resources for revision here. Check it out. 

Addressing the ‘How’

Students need to know ‘how’ to revise, as well as what to revise. 

We must pass on these fundamental tips to our learners:

  • Revise in small sections: 30-40 mins per session with a 5-10 minute break in-between
  • Revise for around 7 hours per day: Some may not like this, but the students who’ll get the top grades will be putting in this much time every day. Former headmaster of Harrow School, Barnaby Lenon, made headlines this week by stating that “All topics should be revised at least three times before the exam; studies should start at 9am and finish by 6pm with regular 30-minute breaks and a good night’s sleep at the end. Good exam results are made in the Easter holidays,” (Quote courtesy of The Guardian newspaper). I have to admit that Barnaby’s advice does reflect the truth of the situation – students who want the top grades have to work this hard. It really is that simple (albeit not easy to accept).
  • Use a variety of methods to get the information to sink in: Record yourself reciting your revision notes and listen to the audio for an hour in bed before you sleep. Make revision notes. Use concept maps, Complete past-paper questions. Use flashcards
  • Exercise every day: A nice walk in the morning, or a light jog each day, will get the blood flowing and will boost alertness. You’ll also feel good too (because of endorphin release) which will make your revision more productive.
  • Revise in groups: Get together with friends for a revision session. BEWARE: Make sure you meet to revise, not to chat and play around. 
  • Get up early every day – no sleeping in!: It’s up early, exercise, shower, breakfast and start revising. This self-discipline is necessary to achieve top grades.

In the infographc below I’ve summarized the key strategies for revision success. Please feel free to COPY AND SHARE WITH YOUR STUDENTS:

Final Exams Revision

Recommended Further Reading

Click on the book image to take you to the Amazon sales page.

The Revision Toolbox by Georgia Heard

Just great, direct, no-nonsense tips on training your students to revise thoroughly and smartly.

Revision Toolbox

How to Pass Exams by Dominic O’Brien

Should be compulsory reading for all students, everywhere. Enough said.

How to pass exams

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