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Top tips for keeping children’s brains active over the summer holidays

  • By Clare Rimmer
  • 13 Jun, 2017

Why is it important to keep minds active over the summer holidays?

Northern Ireland has the longest school summer holidays in the U.K. Eight long weeks to find alternative ways to entertain and stimulate their minds! But should we be catering for more than just their social life over the summer months? Children can lose on average two month’s worth of knowledge over the summer if their brains are not actively engaged in educational activities.

How can I help my child practise writing over the summer?

Write a blog diary. Creating your own blog that is automatically published to the web may be a much more motivating proposition to most children than the traditional paper diary. Sites such as wordpress and blogger make this easy to set up and you can email friends and family a link and ask them to comment on your child’s efforts. Positive feedback could give them the confidence boost they need to keep writing.

How can I encourage my child to read this summer?

Create a summer reading challenge. Let your child choose what books they want to read from the library and have a family reading competition – you can all get involved! You could create a reward scheme based on the number of pages or chapters read. Prizes don’t have to have a monetary value but could be simple treats like staying up late or having a friend round to play.

Can I practise science skills over the summer holidays?

Get into the kitchen and teach your child to cook. Cooking involves science, maths and language skills. They will learn how to plan ahead, how to time things, measure ingredients and gain lifelong skills. What could be nicer than having your child make your dinner!

How can we practise maths skills over the holidays?

Practise money skills while shopping – put your child in charge of the weekly shop. Develop data handling skills by taking surveys when on a long car journey, for example different makes or colours of cars.   Plan a trip   using google maps to investigate distance and travel times. Every day experiences can be fun and interesting, while giving children opportunities to go over the skills they need.

On Target Tuition Blog

By Clare Rimmer 10 Nov, 2017

After months of preparation, the Northern Ireland Transfer test exams  are upon us. How can you ensure that your child is calm, cool and collected on the day?  Here are a few tips to make sure they can perform to the best of their abilities.

The week before the test

  • Try to make sure your child eats healthily  in the run up to the test. Don't be tempted to give them too many sugary, fatty treats to make them feel better. The body needs lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, oily fish, and plenty of water. Dehydration shrinks the brain!!
  • Make sure your child is getting lots of sleep  by going to bed at a reasonable hour. Try and keep any extra after school activities to a minimum in the week before the test. You don't want them to be over tried.
  •  Make sure that your child knows when the test starts and finishes .
  • Go shopping for some new HB pencils  and a quality rubber .

The Day of the Test

  • Leave time for the journey  to the test venue. Check the traffic reports before you set out.
  • Make sure that your child has a good healthy breakfast . Consider giving them a healthy snack  on the way to the test such as a banana. This will keep their blood sugar up, which will help with their concentration.
  • Remind your child is keep an eye on the time. The invigilators should alert your child every 15 minutes but your child must take responsibility for timing the test as well.
  • Don't forget essentials  such as glasses or an inhaler. Give them some tissues just in case.
  • Prepare your child for the fact that some children may cry. Help them understand that they must focus on themselves and not the emotions of others.
  • Talk about the distractions  they may face in the exam room and how to ignore them and get on with their work.

After the test is over

  • Give them a big hug and reassure them that it doesn't matter what the result is, they have done their best and you are extremely proud of them!
  • Spend the rest of the day engaged in a relaxing and fun activity of your child's choice to help them take their mind off what may have been a stressful experience.
  • Ask your child how they felt the exam went. Try to find out if anything significant went wrong for them. This information could be important if you have to appeal.

By Clare Rimmer 17 Oct, 2017
After 10 minutes of the teacher talking to you about your child’s progress they ask you if you have any questions to ask them.   If you are any thing like me your mind goes completely blank and it is only later in the car on the way home that you suddenly remember that important question that you wanted to know about your child’s education!

So this year I am going prepared with this handy list of the Top 10 questions to ask at parents evening:

1. Do they seem happy at school ? Do they get along with other children?

2. Who do they play with?

3. Which subject is their strongest and which do they get the most enjoyment out of ?

4. What is their weakest subject and how can you help to encourage them to make more progress in it?

5. What can we do at home to help?

6. Are they making steady progress? If the parent interview is early on in the school year this question may not be relevant yet as the teacher is still getting to know your child.

7. Do they contribute to class discussions?

8. Are they at the expected level for their age group? If  they are performing below their age, ask what areas need to be worked on and what is being done by the school to bring them up to the level required for their age group.

9. If your child is having any learning difficulties then bring this up as well. What extra support can the school provide? What feedback can you get from the teacher implementing this support?

10. If your child is preparing for exams – What work is outstanding? What subject areas do they need to revise? Are they on target to get the grade they need?

If you feel your child needs more support with their school work On Target Tuition in Lisburn can help. Call us on 9267 5071 to discuss how we can help .  
By Clare Rimmer 18 Aug, 2017

If you are one of the many GCSE  students dreading the arrival of the postman on exam results day , you are not alone! It doesn’t matter how hard you studied or didn’t study , that sick feeling that you get right down in the pit of your stomach is the normal reaction when it comes to exams. We have all seen the smiling, happy children on the 6 o’clock news, smugly opening their envelopes to find 7 A’s and 2 B’s shining back at them. With more and more focus on academic performance and more pressure on young people to achieve, 16 year olds could be forgiven for thinking a poor set of GCSEs is the end of the world as they know it. In these tough economic times students are being told that a good set of results is all the more important. It is no surprise that teenagers are left feeling ill at the thought of hearing their letter boxes opening!

By Clare Rimmer 22 Jul, 2017

The transition from Primary to Secondary school is one of the important milestones in every child’s life. It can often be a daunting time for children as they move from the safe, sheltered environment of the Primary classroom with one teacher to the much busier world of secondary education with multiple teachers, classrooms and homework to try to keep on top of. It is all too easy to let your child take a holiday from all things education for the whole summer. However, remember that the last few months of Primary 7 are often filled with less academic activities and it is especially important that the summer brain drain does not mean your child falls behind at the beginning of their first year.

So what can you do over the summer months to make sure your child is ready and able to cope with the realities of being a “Firsty”?

By Clare Rimmer 13 Jun, 2017

The answer really depends on your child's individual needs.  If you feel your child is a happy, confident learner and their P5 report card does not flag up any difficulties or gaps in their knowledge then you may just want to wait until they have settled into P6. Many parents choose to start seeking the help of a tutor after Christmas in the P6 year.  Some decide that the summer of the P5 year or the start of P6 is more appropriate.  If your child has gaps in their learning then really the answer is, the sooner the better!

Learning time is crucial as there are many new concepts which need to be introduced and your child needs time to digest these and fully understand them without any stress.

English skills need to be assessed and bad habits with punctuation and spelling need to be worked on. Understanding of figures of speech such as nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives needs to be thorough. Your child must be confident skimming and scanning questions and texts.

Problem solving methods need to be worked on in maths, which is the key to success for the Transfer Test. A solid foundation in times tables, decimals, fractions and percentages is required along side a good grasp of measure, shape and the use of statistics.

A year to prepare for the Transfer Test allows time to build in revision of concepts to consolidate understanding as well as the opportunity to be introduced to past paper questions. This helps build confidence by building on success and learning from mistakes.

The aim is to maintain a steady pace of progress which peaks as the first test approaches around the first week of November in the test year.

At On Target Tuition we have a lot of experience guiding children and supporting parents successfully through this process.   Our Centre Director, Martin has recently gone through the experience with his own daughter and knows the stresses and strains felt by parents and children going through the process.We begin with a free assessment from which we can pinpoint areas of weakness and tailor a programme of study designed to help them achieve their own personal targets as they move towards the test. Our lessons are 80 minutes long, which allows us to work on both English and Maths as well as past papers.   Our tuition involves extensive past paper practice in both the AQE and GL Assessment papers, which is vital to improve exam technique.

For more information or advice please call us at our Lisburn centre on 9267 5071.

By Clare Rimmer 13 Jun, 2017
Northern Ireland has the longest school summer holidays in the U.K. Eight long weeks to find alternative ways to entertain and stimulate their minds! But should we be catering for more than just their social life over the summer months? Children can lose on average two month’s worth of knowledge over the summer if their brains are not actively engaged in educational activities.
By Clare Rimmer 10 May, 2017
  • Scan the paper

Go through the paper quickly reading or scanning it to get an idea of what is asked.

  • Do what comes easiest first

Leave the more difficult questions until the end. You will lose valuable time if you get stuck on a difficult question and do not move on. Get some easy marks in first and then return to the more challenging questions secure in the knowledge that you have already got a solid mark.

  • Use every available minute

If you finish the paper before the time is up do not sit back and relax! It is unlikely that you have not made any mistakes and there may still be some marks to pick up. Spend every last minute looking for errors.

  • Write clearly

If the examiner cannot read your answer they will not mark it. If handwriting is not your strong point then take the time to write neatly and make sure you write your answer in the correct place.

  • Read the question carefully

Read the question slowly to find out exactly what is being asked of you. Highlight or mark the different parts of the question and note the different calculations needed to come up with a final answer.

  • Make sure you are accurate!

What is the question asking for? If it asks for 2 decimal places or 3 significant figures, then make sure your answer includes them. Simplify when told to do so.

  • Check for errors

Check your answer is sensible. It is unlikely that the answer will contain a long string of decimals. Sometimes it is useful to estimate a rough answer and check that your final answer is not miles away from it.

  • Learn your times tables

This might seem obvious but it is essential for speed and accuracy in your exam to know your times tables.

  • Inverse % questions

These are ‘backward looking’ problems. With current values given in the question, you have to calculate some original value before the decrease/increase occurred. Again, the answers tend to be rounded numbers. If you get a string of decimals, check back in your working.

  • Probability

Simply check that your answer is between 1 and 0; and of course, there are no negative values.

  • The Mean

Use your common sense. Check that your answer is between the highest and lowest values.

  • Rounding

Unless the question asks you to, don’t round up a calculator stage until you get a final answer. You may end up with an incorrect answer even though you have implemented the question correctly.

  • Quadratic Equations

A question asking for significant figures or decimal places indicates you should use the quadratic formula.

  • Pythagoras and Trig

Check your answer. Remember a shorter side should not be a longer than the hypotenuse.

  • Graphs

Remember to clearly label axis and in a stem and leaf diagram include a key.

  • And finally

Look at the pointage for each question as that will reflect how much time and working is required to achieve the answer. Remember to include all stages of your working out.

By Clare Rimmer 02 May, 2017
Comprehension   is   understanding what you have read   and is the key to becoming a successful reader. It is a key part of the secondary and GCSE curriculum and it is important that students perfect their technique in order to gain the maximum marks in an English comprehension exam. At   On Target Tuition   we are used to helping students who are struggling to cope with comprehension techniques.
By Clare Rimmer 28 Apr, 2017

I have been teaching for 17 years.  Homework time in my house is a lovely, relaxed experience in which me and my kids bond over our love of learning.  I am always confident they will be going back to school fully prepared and happy that we have consolidated what they have been taught in school...

Oh how I wish the above statement was true.  The truth is that often parents and homework are not a match made in heaven, even if you do possess the teaching skills I have.  Why is homework so difficult and stressful for some parents and children?  Me included!  

I personally feel it is due to the fact you are just too close to your child.  You know what you want them to achieve.  You expect them to work independently and understand everything they have been taught in school.  You are their parent, not their teacher and home is not school.  It is where they feel they can be their true selves.  If they are finding something difficult then this is where the stress is going to show and you are the person who is going to take the brunt of that stress.

However, homework is an important part of your child’s education. It gives you a chance to become involved in the learning process and a good homework routine from an early age will develop good study habits that will help your child later on in their school careers when they are sitting exams and writing coursework.  There are things you can do to make the whole process easier.  So don't stress!

By Clare Rimmer 26 Apr, 2017

The summer term is upon us already and the dreaded exams are lurking!  If you are the parent of a teenager sitting their  GCSE’s this term I am sure the end of June can’t come soon enough. We are into the final straight, but it is important to keep up their moral and the pace of their revision.

It is no surprise that taking exams is one of the most stressful times in a young person’s life, particularly as their importance may have been drilled into them for months, sometimes years, beforehand.

Some pupils and students are able to handle the pressures: they may get nervous but they cope. Other people become anxious, agitated, bad-tempered and may even become literally ill or seriously depressed. Remember that  anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. But make sure that they are anxious because the want to do well and not because they want to please you!

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