Private Tuition Blog: Archive for March 2011
Posted on 31st March 2011
A number of people I know from university have become Teach First teachers, and all have my utmost admiration.
Teach First was set up in 2002 and recruits bright graduates from top universities, trains them to be inspirational teachers and places them in what are considered to be some of the UK’s most challenging schools, often in some of the most deprived areas of the country.
Teach First’s work is exceptional. By recruiting high achieving graduates who are dedicated to their own subject and keen to share their passion with others, the charity is making a real difference to classrooms across the UK.
They have recently announced that this September, for the first time, Teach First will be placing teachers in primary schools. This year they will begin by placing up to 80 teachers and hope that in a few years, 5% of all primary teachers will be Teach First teachers.
I think it is wonderful that these exceptional young teachers will now be influencing primary students as well as secondary pupils.
Teach First has recently been named Graduate Employer of Choice in the Public Sector by the Times Graduate Recruitment Awards.
Here at Enjoy Education we know that having an inspirational teacher can transform a student’s outlook, achievements, confidence and ambitions.
If you are about to graduate and want to share your love of learning and make a difference to pupils’ lives, maybe tutoring is your calling. Or perhaps you have the ability to inspire an entire class, in which case becoming a teacher, and maybe even a Teach First teacher, may be the job for you once you emerge from your finals and the big ‘what should I do when I leave university?’ question looms heavily over you and requires an answer at last.
Posted on 30th March 2011
Putting quotations into your essays is really very important indeed; in fact I’d go so far as to say absolutely vital. Quotations will help to back up the argument that you are making and show your teacher/examiner that you have really engaged with the material you are supposed to be discussing.
From my own work as a tutor I know that many students find it difficult to work out exactly how to go about quoting, so here are a few tips…
Try and keep your quotations nice and short. This is especially true if you need to remember lots of them for an exam.
Remember that you MUST attribute the quotations to the source and show that they are quotations by using either single or double speech marks. If you fail to do this, especially when using the work of critics or historians, you may be accused of plagiarism. If you are quoting a critic or historian then make sure you footnote appropriately and include their texts in your bibliography.
During your revision or preparation for an essay, if you are writing down quotations as you go along, make sure you write down the page numbers of the book where you find them, so that you know where to look if you need to find them again.
Rather than just plonking your quotations into the middle of your work willy-nilly, it is best to ‘weave’ them in. This is in order to make your writing flow nicely. I dug out some of my old essays to show you some examples of what I mean by ‘weaving in’ your quotations:
-Hopkins then associates royal imagery with the bird, describing a “kingdom of daylight” and calling the windhover a “dauphin”.
-The other rhyme, with “sillion”, “billion” and “vermillion” is undeniably impressive.
-Beatrice declares in the first canto of the Paradiso, “le cose tutte quanto hanno ordine”, and there are many more examples which follow and deal with the same focused attention.
-Natural love tends to “good existing in a thing”, whereas elective love tends to “good which is apprehended”.
Posted on 29th March 2011
The Sunday Times published an article last weekend warning against letting schoolchildren pursue too many extra curricular activities. Indeed there are so many exciting extra curricular activities on offer it is easy to overload yourself.
When I was at school I often had trouble completing my homework, not surprising really considering the fact that as well as school I had Ballet, Guitar and Singing lessons, stage school on Saturday mornings and training for the swim squad three times a week. I would also babysit every now and again. Now I look back and wonder how on earth I managed to fit everything in.
Rosie Kinchen’s article revealed that researchers, “have found that children who do more than 17 hours of organised extra-curricular activities a week are at increased risk of burnout, aggression and exam failure.”
However, if you do “moderate” levels of sport and music, you will actually improve your prospects of academic success.
The study was led by American academic Jennifer Fredericks. Fredricks blames the “lack of time to do homework, stress and tiredness” for children’s decline in performance at school.
It seems that, unsurprisingly, the best answer is a healthy balance of activities. Fredricks’ study found that the benefits of extra activities began to show when a child was doing between one and 13 hours a week. More than that and problems start to arise.
John Coleman, a research fellow at Oxford concurs with this: “It’s about balance. If children take on too much, school becomes less of a priority,”
If your child does a lot of extra activities, make sure you take a good look at their timetable and check they also have enough time to complete their schoolwork, rest, and play with their friends, as these are all just as important as getting grade 8 violin and winning county hockey matches.
Posted on 28th March 2011
I started thinking about names last week during a number of lessons. One of my tutees was writing a poem about his pet hamster called Sneaky. I thought this was such a brilliant name for a hamster and if I ever get one myself it may have to become Sneaky the second. In another lesson a pupil and I were discussing Juliet’s famous ‘O, Romeo, Romeo’ speech in which she questions the value of names and suggests, ‘that which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet’, and by this reasoning, if Romeo were ‘not Romeo call’d/retain that dear perfection which he owes/Without that title.’ Then on Friday I was sitting on tube reading the Evening Standard magazine and I came across a fascinating article all about names.
The article discussed ‘nominative determinism’, the idea that a person’s name encapsulates or in some way reflects major attributes of their profession or life.
Here are a few examples…
Bob Diamond is the president and CEO of Barclays and Rich Ricci is the CEO of Barclays Capital.
Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 million in a Poker competition.
Larry Speakes was a former Whitehouse spokesman
Sir Michael Scholar is the president of St John’s College, Oxford
Alan Heaves is the Professor of Astrophysics at Edinburgh University
Lord Igor Judge is the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Sue Yoo is an associate at a legal firm in New York
Sara Blizzard is a weather presenter for East Midlands Today
Peter Bowler is an Australian cricketer
Robbie Fowler is a footballer
Mike Spinner is a BMX rider famous for his spins
Layne Beachley is a surfing champion
Nominative determinism was explored in depth in a 2002 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology entitled ‘Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions.’ In the paper the conclusion is made that humans really like things that are connected to their name and on the whole people ‘choose careers whose labels resemble their names (for example, people named Dennis or Denise are over-represented among Dentists).’
Sadly my name doesn’t explicitly suggest a particular career path so I’ll have to make my own mind up. But next time it’s your turn to name something or someone, remember that there may be more in a name than you initially thought!
Posted on 25th March 2011
As well as being diligent about keeping your notes in order and revising carefully there are a few other things you can do in order to maximise your chances of success when you get into that exam hall in a few months. ..
I am a huge believer in the ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ principle and if you saw Jamie’s School Dinners on television a few years ago or have read anything about how to optimise concentration, you’ll know that you can help your attention span by eating the right foods.
Getting some exercise in the middle of a day of revision will also help to get some oxygen in your system and clear your mind for an hour or so, which will prevent your brain from feeling too stuffy and overloaded. Why not arrange to play some tennis or badminton for an hour with a friend, or go out for a twenty-minute jog?
Food-wise, you need to stick to the principles of healthy eating and have a nice balanced diet. Make sure you eat plenty of protein and slow-release carbohydrates. Oats, nuts, seeds, eggs, lean meat and wholemeal bread will all release energy slowly, rather than give you a short sharp sugar burst like white bread, doughnuts, biscuits and milk chocolate. These foods will give you a temporary energy high, but leave you feeling worse in the end.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and minimise the amount of caffeine you drink. Instead of a can of coke, why not make yourself a healthy smoothie and blend together a banana, some berry fruits, milk and a bit of vanilla essence.
Regular snacks will help to keep your blood sugar levels even. However, you should steer clear of salty and sugary snack foods like crisps and sweets. Instead, try some crudités with houmous, oatcakes with nut butter, or make your own granola bar by mixing oats with seeds, dried fruits, honey and a bit of melted butter and leave to set. If you really want a sweet treat then a bit of chocolate should do the trick.
Posted on 24th March 2011
Here are a few fun facts that you might not pick up in the classroom but may prove handy one day…
Butterflies taste with their feet.
An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
Porcupines float in water.
Many hamsters only blink with one eye at a time.
“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” uses every word in the alphabet.
Women can hear better than men.
Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history. Spades - King David; Clubs - Alexander the Great; Hearts - Charlemagne; and Diamonds - Julius Caesar.
The very first bomb dropped by the Allies on Berlin during World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
More people are killed annually by donkeys than die in aircrashes.
Coca Cola was originally green.
Not only are your fingerprints unique, but so is your tongue print!
Tom Sawyer was the first novel written on a typewriter.
Mel Blanc, who was the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots.
The phrase “rule of thumb” is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn’t beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.
Donald Duck comics were banned from Finland because he doesn’t wear trousers.
Ketchup was sold in the 1830s as medicine.
In the last 4000 years no new animals have been domesticated.
There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: ‘abstemious’ and ‘facetious.’
If you know any more fun facts then let us know!
Posted on 23rd March 2011
There’s something about springtime and the approach of Easter that always gives me an urge to get creative and make things. If you also have an artistic side, then here are some fun things to make and do…
Edible Easter nests
You’ll need some cupcake cases, shredded wheat cereal, icing sugar, food colouring, toothpicks and plain dark chocolate.
Start by crushing the shredded wheat up so that it looks like little twigs. Then melt the chocolate and mix it into the shredded wheat. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and press into the cupcake cases in a nest shape with a little dip in the middle. Leave to set. Sieve some icing sugar and add enough warm water to make a paste. Take a small amount in your fingers and roll into an egg shape. Continue until you have lots of little eggs. Then dip the end of a toothpick into the food colouring and prick the eggs gently so that you create a coloured speckled effect. Put the eggs in the basket (how many will depend on the size of your eggs, but about three is good). And there you have it, edible Easter nests!
Here’s a link to the Guardian’s suggestion for how to make a bird egg…
Why not hard boil some eggs and paint them?
You can make your own daffodils by rolling up bits of yellow crepe paper to create the middle, cutting out and sticking yellow petals on the side of the roll to create the rest of the flower and then attach it to a green straw.
You could also make some Easter bunnies by cutting out rabbit shapes from cardboard and decorating them with bits of material, felt and old buttons.
Want some more ideas? Here’s a great website with lots of suggestions.
Posted on 22nd March 2011
Last week I wrote about Michael Gove’s plans to train more ex-soldiers as teachers, and this week he has more plans afoot. Mr Gove is considering allowing some puils to skip GCSEs and start studying for A levels at the tender age of 14.
In Singapore about 20% of pupils already sit their A Levels without having taken the equivalent of GCSEs.
An argument in favour of the change is that it gives pupils greater ‘freedom’. However Stephen Gorard, professor of education at the University of Birmingham warns that the accelaration of certain pupils may create friendship problems. Indeed the spirit of ‘we’re all in it together’ among friendship groups may be destroyed when half the group is doing something totally different and you feel left behind and inferor to your super speedy classmates who have been pushed ahead of you.
Maybe an issue to be addresed is the effectiveness of GCSEs. Are they the best form of checking pupils’ academic progression? The television programme Jamie’s Dream School has highlighted the fact that there are thousands of students currently not gaining the desired five A*-C grades at GCSEs. This is a worrying problem. Perhaps as well as focussing on how to best accomatadte the academic needs of the brightest pupils, we should also be thinking about ways to engage and encourage those who struggle in the classroom as well.
One of my principal anxieties about the proposal is what will happen after pupils sit A Levels at 14? Do they then go to university earlier than the normal 18 or 19 years of age? I certainly wasn’t ready to move out of my family home and embark on a degree at 16. Another concern is that aged 14 pupils may not know which three or four A level subjects they want to study, Would we be forcing them to specialize to soon?
What do you think about Mr Gove’s sugestion? Should some pupils take A Levels earlier? And what about GCSEs? Are they effective enough or do they need an overhaul?
Posted on 21st March 2011
Every now and again the alumni department of my university send me (and everyone else who has graduated from Cambridge and left them with an email address) an email with all sorts of exciting things. Last week one such email appeared in my inbox and right at the bottom was a link to the following website: http://www.mapoflife.org It ha.s been set up by a group of Cambridge scientists and is packed with fascinating information about convergent evolution.
My brain was pretty clear on what ‘evolution’ is but I hadn’t a clue what ‘convergent evolution’ is and so went for a trawl around the website. According to the website this is what convergent evolution is…
“Evolutionary convergence occurs when unrelated organisms evolve similar adaptations to similar environmental or selective pressures, arriving there by very different routes.”
An example given is the comparison between our eyes and that of an octopus. We have what is known as a “camera eye” with a lens suspended between two fluid chambers. Octopuses have a surprisingly similar eye, which is strange since they belong to a group of invertebrates that have followed a very different evolutionary route to our own. The ancestors of the octopus couldn’t have had the same type of eye and so they must have evolved independently but somehow ended up with eyes a bit like ours!
The website has all sorts of fascinating bits of information about convergent evolution but my favourite section was on the search of extra-terrestrial life and the “exploration of alien biospheres”. If you’re interested in science then make sure you take a peek!
Posted on 18th March 2011
Official figures have just been released which show that a staggering one in three London pupils were not offered a place at their first choice secondary school. Across the country the figure is about 1 in 6, or 79,000 children.
In the north east of England a lucky 94.3% did get into their first choice school, but most pupils weren’t so fortunate,
The fiercest competition is in Camden, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea. Westminster council has said that the problem in the borough is mainly due to rising birth rates and immigration as well as the decline in popularity of private schools, with many parents choosing to educate their children in the state sector.
The schools minister Nick Gibb has responded to the figures with the statement, “[there] simply aren’t enough good schools”.
What the government clearly needs to do is improve the quality of state schools across the board so that they are all more desirable and should a pupil miss out on a place at one school, not be overly disappointed or anxious about attending their second or third choice school.
If you have children who will be applying to secondary schools next year and would like them to have a little extra support with preparation for the entrance examinations, then Enjoy Education can find you the right tutor to help improve your child’s chances.