Private Tuition Blog: Archive for September 2011
Posted on 29th September 2011
Words are amazing, they really are; constantly evolving and being created, essential in our everyday lives and able to help us communicate all sorts of things. The origins of words are also totally fascinating and our language is constantly absorbing new words and phrases. Language is like a living animal, always growing, changing and adapting.
Only yesterday I got out my beloved Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable in order to look up the origin of a term I’d come across in a play script. It so tickled me that I thought I’d share some of the other things I found whilst perusing the pages of this glorious book…
AS EASY AS PIE
Making a pie is actually quite tricky, so I never really understood this, but apparently it refers to how easy it is to eat pie, which is something I certainly can relate to.
AS MAD AS A HATTER
Anyone who has read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will know how bonkers the hatter is, and the reason why Lewis Carroll made the hatter mad is because the mercurous nitrate used in the making of top hats was highly poisonous and over exposure to the substance made many hatters quite literally go mad.
‘Blue blood’ refers to aristocrats or nobility and the term comes from the fact that if you were wealthy you didn’t used to have to work outside like a farm labourer or merchant and so would retain pale and un-tanned skin. If you have very pale skin then it is easier to see the blue-coloured veins running underneath.
The very delicious Caesar salad was invented in 1924 at Tijuana, Mexico by the restaurateur Caesar Cardini (it was not, as one might easily think, eaten by the Emperor Caesar).
THE CAT’S WHISKERS
Cats’ whiskers are very special indeed as their extreme sensitivity enables them to feel their way around in the dark. The term is now used to refer to brilliant people. I wonder what dogs’ whiskers are like…
‘Coke’ as it is affectionately known was created in 1886 by the American pharmacist John S.Pemberton. Its name derives from two of the key ingredients: coca leaves and cola nuts.
Stands for ‘frequently asked questions’.
HP Sauce was first made in the 1870s and it is so named because of the image of the Houses of Parliament on the label.
LET YOUR HAIR DOWN
The expression, meaning to be carefree and have a good time, is derived from the fact that women would wear their hair up in public, and to have loose hair suggested wildness.
‘Posh’ came into use in the days of travel by steamship between England and India. The best cabin arrangement was thought to be ‘port out, starboard homeward’ and this arrangement was the most expensive and luxurious.
THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING
Now we tend to just say ‘the proof is in the pudding’, but our term comes from this longer saying, which advised how important testing something properly (i.e. eating) is rather than just looking at it.
Posted on 27th September 2011
I’m afraid the moment you’ve no doubt been dreading has finally arrived and it is indeed time to crack on with your personal statement. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog full of tips for getting started, so hopefully you saw that and started jotting down a list of things that you think should be included, If not, don’t worry, it’s not too late to start from scratch, as long as you work efficiently and productively.
What you always need to keep in mind is the function of a personal statement: it exists to tell universities why you want to study a particular subject and why you are suitable for that course. That’s it, there’s no big secret.
Ucas has very strict regulations with regard to word limits and you can only have 4000 characters, so keep that in mind in order to prevent yourself from writing a thesis on how passionate you are about Geography or SPS or whichever course you are applying to.
Personal statements should cover the following:
-Which subject you would like to study and why.
-What have you done at school and beyond that has fuelled your interest and developed your understanding of the subject?
-How have your IB or A Level choices fed into your thinking?
-What other extra-curricular/charitable activities have you done?
-Have you done any work experience and what did you learn?
-What you hope to get out of university.
Don’t try to include too much information; it’s best to be selective rather than give a list of every sports team you’ve been in since you could stand. However, you should really try and communicate how your interest in the subject has developed and which books you’ve read beyond the school curriculum, or places you’ve visited, or lectures you’ve attended that demonstrate your commitment.
Ensure your personal statement is written in an appropriate style (it shouldn’t sound like a text to your friends) and check for any spelling or grammatical mistakes.
Don’t leave it until the last minute. Find out when the deadlines for applications are and leave yourself plenty of time to draft, re-draft and re-draft again. Personal statements tend to need lots of tweaking at various stages.
Seek further advice if you are stuck, either by requesting an Enjoy Education tutor, talking to teachers at school/college or by looking at the following websites, which have plenty more tips. Good luck!
The Student Room
Posted on 26th September 2011
Last week the Enjoy Education blog focussed on sleep, a subject dear to my heart, and something that is vitally important for students. Although it is common knowledge that getting a good night’s sleep is important, (and hopefully if you read last week’s blogs you’ll be taking on board our tips for improving the quality of your sleep) we now have more information about just how important it is.
Over the weekend I came across some new research that has been carried out by scientists at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, which extends many of the things I wrote about last week.
According to the Spanish researchers primary school pupils need at least nine hours of sleep each night in order to optimise their intellectual development. Children who sleep for less than nine hours each night are likely to struggle in the classroom and lag behind with linguistic, organisational and writing skills. “Memory, learning and motivation” all suffer heavily if children are too tired. Without enough sleep, pupils put the core skills needed for learning at high risk, which is dangerous at such an important and formative time.
Just prior to the publication of the research in Barcelona, psychologists at the University of Michigan announced that they had discovered that pupils who are aggressive at school and bully their classmates tend to get less sleep each night than their better-behaved counterparts. Tiredness limits our ability to control our emotions and thus makes us more prone to erratic and aggressive behaviour.
Also in the University of Michigan study is data about the increased levels of childhood obesity among sleep-deprived children. The study revealed that of the children that took part, 22% of the eight year-olds who sleep for less than nine hours are obese. Tiredness can lead to increased snacking as a way of improving energy levels, but if these calories are not burnt up they turn into excess fat.
All of this research stresses just how important it is for children and young adults to get plenty of sleep each night if they are to maximise their potential to learn, behave well and maintain a healthy body weight. So on that note, maybe it’s time for bed…
Posted on 26th September 2011
Thousands of students take English A Level and year on year it remains one of the most popular subjects, however Ofqual has recently criticised the content of the A Level syllabus and exams.
With different examination boards, and teachers able to choose which text their students study (albeit from a list supplied by the boards), it is difficult to guarantee that every student studying English has a directly equivalent experience.
It would be almost impossible and rather dull if every student studied exactly the same texts and took the same exams, although Ofqual wants an urgent reassessment of the set texts on the A Level syllabuses.
Although Ofqual is happy with GCSE English, they believe that many of the texts on the A Level courses are not challenging enough and that the examination questions are too formulaic and becoming easier each year.
On the AQA syllabus, students are able to study texts such as Northern Lights and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Personally I was rather surprised by this and agree with Ofqual’s opinions on the texts as I had first read Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy at primary school and into my early teenage years. At my school we studied texts like Hamlet, Lolita, the poetry of John Donne and the poems of Robert Browning. Indeed many of my own tutees are required to tackle equally challenging texts at their schools, but it is worrying to think that some teachers are setting much less demanding works of literature. Not only does it make the assesment process unequal, but it will also be unfair to ambitious students if their teachers aren’t pushing them enough.
Where the examinations are concerned, Ofqual is disparaging of exam questions which are purely extract-based and thus don’t require candidates to think more broadly or comparatively about the texts they have been studying in class. While close-reading skills are vitally important, they must be coupled with an ability to consider an entire text as well.
Since the assessment, Ofqual have started working with examination boards to improve and equalise standards. Hopefully the kinks will be smoothed out in time for the next round of exams.
Posted on 23rd September 2011
‘Always say please and thank you, don’t talk with your mouth full and no soup slurping’. Good manners are drummed into you as a child, and hopefully should stay with you for life. Some are easy to remember, some require a bit of extra thought (such as sending thank you cards after receiving birthday gifts) and some seem to be forgotten far too frequently. Wherever you are and however old you are, bad manners will set you back. So, to make sure you are always invited back for dinner, delight new friends and acquaintances and don’t embarrass or disgrace yourself in public situations, here is a little guide on a few areas of manners and etiquette.
Basic table manners:
When you sit down you should place your napkin on your lap, not tucked into your clothes. On the whole work from the outside in when there are multiple rows of knives and forks next to your plate. Elbows shouldn’t be resting on the table when you are eating and you should wait until everyone on the table has been served before you start eating. Never ever talk when you have food in your mouth, it’s an absolute golden rule of table manners. At the end of a meal, cutlery should be left lying face up and next to each other on the plate. Even if you are not totally keen on the dish you have been served, do your best to finish the plate of food and always compliment the cook as they will have spent a long time preparing the meal. When you leave the table, place the napkin next to your plate (don’t leave it crumpled on the floor).
Throughout our lives we meet thousands of different people, and often we need to introduce people to each other. There are in fact codes of conduct when it comes to introductions, and if you stick to these rules you’ll always do well:
Men should be introduced to women and younger people introduced to older ones. If you need to introduce somebody to a group, introduce the group first and then the individual. If you can, try and add a little something about who the people are (for example, ‘Poppy and I were at school together).
Giving and receiving presents is one of life’s many delights. If you are attending a birthday party, a weekend away at someone’s house or any other kind of event where it might be appropriate, you need to think carefully about what you are going to take. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. The most successful gifts are ones which are appropriate to the receiver. Always take the price tag off, try and learn how to giftwrap neatly (use as little sellotape as you can) and attach the card/gift tag to the present so that they don’t get separated. When you receive presents, always make sure you send a thank you note. Thank you notes should also be sent after attending parties.
Tea is extremely important to the English and drinking it is a serious matter indeed. If you are making tea, the best thing to do is use loose leaf tea and to brew it in a pot. Add milk, sugar or lemon after the tea has been poured and place your teaspoon on the saucer next to the cup once you’ve finished with it. If you are eating a scone with your tea, cut it in half, spread the jam first and then add the cream on top. However, if you are in Devon, spread the clotted cream first and then put the jam on top.
Going to the theatre
This is a subject very close to my heart and I have very strong beliefs on what makes a good audience member. Always turn off your mobile ‘phone, it is criminal to let it go off. Also make sure you turn up on time. It is disrespectful to the actors and annoying to fellow audience members if you arrive late. Try to avoid wearing heavy perfume; the seats are very close together and you don’t want to knock someone out with a very strong smell. Equally, don’t turn up too sweaty! Avoid chatting or whispering to the people you are with and save your comments for the interval and after the show. If you have snacks with you, try to avoid munching too loudly. Any extra sound is very irritating to everyone else in the auditorium. At the end of a show, even if you didn’t particularly like the show, it is courteous to give a warm applause to show your appreciation for the actors’ hard work.
This was just a whistlestop guide to a few areas, but if you want more detailed guidance on matters of etiquette, take a look at www.debretts.com.
Posted on 21st September 2011
Some of you will have already started at your new universities, and others will begin shortly, but I thought now might be a good time to offer some top tips for getting through those tricky first few days.
1. Remember people’s names
You will meet hundreds of new people when you start university, and will have to remember lots of names. When you meet people, make sure you concentrate when they tell you their name, and if you don’t think you’ve heard it properly, then ask them again to make sure you get it. To make sure it goes into your memory, repeat their name, either silently in your head or in conversation. For example:
“Hi my name’s Colin”
“Nice to meet you Colin, so which course are you doing?”
Then see if you can associate something with them, maybe they’ve got a distinctive feature, or a great bag, any little detail, which is particular to them should help you.
2. Ask interesting questions
When you’re meeting people, try to avoid the typical “so which A Levels did you do?” think of more unusual things to ask and try to remember what people say. Then when you meet them again you can ask whether they’ve found a jazz band to play their alto saxophone in for example.
3. Explore the city
Most people move to new cities to attend to university. Get a small group together and explore your new home. See if you can find a nice independent coffee shop, or a place to relax like a peaceful park. Also look for shops that you’ll inevitably need as a student such as a decent bookshop, stationery shop and supermarket.
4. Eat healthily.
You don’t want to get ill or run-down in the first few weeks, so you need to look after yourself. Just because your mum is no longer making you eat broccoli, it doesn’t mean you should take the opportunity to eat pizza every night. Learn how to cook a few basic dishes and make sure you eat plenty of fruit and veg.
5. Don’t drink too much.
Freshers’ week inevitably involves a lot of parties, but take it easy. You don’t want to get a reputation for drunkenly embarrassing yourself in the first few days.
6. Start as you mean to go on when it comes to work
Make sure you stay on top of your reading and essays from the word go, as you don’t want to get behind.
7. Get involved!
See if you can join a sports team, band, drama society, or whatever else you fancy doing in your spare time. Most universities have thousands of clubs and societies, just make sure you don’t over-commit yourself and leave no time to attend lectures!
8. Have fun and good luck!
Posted on 21st September 2011
…As go the lyrics to a song by The Perishers, and many people really do have a lot of trouble sleeping. Today we’ve got part two of our sleeping special, and I’m going to look at sleep disorders and how you can improve the quality of your sleep, which should mean that your brain is happier and thus you can perform better at school and university.
If you have trouble sleeping at night, you are certainly not alone. In fact over quarter of the British population have difficulty getting a good night’s kip. I am lucky enough to be not too bad at sleeping, although I sleep so deeply that I find it very hard indeed to wake up in the morning and if I am stressed then I can’t doze off quite so easily. I am also, like many others, easily distracted by noise when I go to bed. Ticking clocks, loud traffic, or parties happening in houses along the street drive me mad. In order to be able to drift off quickly I need to be in a nice quiet room, otherwise I’ll be counting sheep for hours!
Other people have difficulty sleeping because of sleep disorders, and one of the most common is called ‘apnoea’, which affects thousands of people in the UK. Sleep apnoea comes from the Greek word ‘apnea’, which means ‘want of breath’ and the condition causes muscles in the soft palate to relax so much that they block the airway in our throat, making breathing irregular and more difficult. If you find that you are short of breath at night, then go to your doctor and get tested for apnoea, which is potentially rather dangerous as it limits the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream.
Maybe you can’t get to sleep due to restless leg syndrome, which affects almost 6% of the UK. RLS causes itching, twitching aches and pains in your legs. Having an iron deficiency, major hormonal changes or damaged nerves can cause it. A strange and unexplained cure for RLS is to have a little bag of soap at the bottom of the bed. Give it a go and see if it works!
By far the most common sleep disorder of all is insomnia and a staggering 30% of the UK suffers from it. Insomniacs are unable to achieve decent periods of uninterrupted sleep and there are many causes for it. On the whole, stress tends to be the biggest cause, but environmental and lifestyle factors can also have an impact. There are lots of things you can do in order to try and cure your insomnia, including treatment through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and altering your lifestyle. Speaking of which, here are some tips for how to improve your sleeping pattern:
-If you are stressed about essays and deadlines, try to relax before you go to sleep. Calming yourself with some breathing exercises, or having a warm bath infused with lavender oil should help you to relax at the end of the day.
-Frequent exercise will keep you fit and should help you to sleep, just don’t work out immediately before bed as the stimulants produced by the body will keep you awake.
-Make your bedroom a relaxing place. Avoid having a television, computer or other distractions in it. Try and use it only for sleeping and relaxing, otherwise your body will associate the room with other activities that may prevent you from sleeping.
-Don’t drink too much caffeine, especially in the evening.
-Avoid eating a big meal immediately before bedtime, but if you do need to nibble on something then munch on carbohydrates, as they will make you sleepy.
-Try and get into a regular pattern and go to bed and wake up at a similar time each day.
-If you are having major sleeping problems then visit your doctor.
Some useful links:
Take the Epworth test to find out about your sleeping pattern.
Take a face memory test to see if you are sleep deprived and losing memory function.
Posted on 20th September 2011
Sleep; we spend an awful lot of time doing it and it is vitally important, particularly when you are a student. Teenagers are notorious for their ability to sleep for hours on end and university students are accused of getting either too much, or not enough. As it is so important to get the right amount when you are at school and university, I thought I’d do a little investigation into the science of sleeping in order to enlighten us about why it is so crucial.
For many years scientists have been trying very hard to work out exactly why we need to go to sleep at night, although the general consensus is that sleep is absolutely essential to keeping the brain in good working order and maintaining memory, speech and flexible thinking. This conclusion was arrived at after scientists examined the effects of getting too little sleep. If you don’t get enough then the part of the brain that controls language, memory and sense of time starts to shut down, you are also les able to make rational decisions, and more likely to become emotionally wrought and distressed. Quite a scary prospect when you think about it.
When you are sleeping you experience different ‘cycles’, which fall into two categories: non-REM and REM sleep.
Here are the different stages of sleep:
Stage one: light sleep (when you are half asleep and half awake)
Stage two: true sleep (after ten minutes of light sleep you enter true sleep, when your breathing and heart rate slow down)
Stage three: deep sleep (your breath and heart rate are now at their slowest rates and your brain begins to produce delta waves)
Stage four: deep sleep (very little muscle activity and if you are woken up at this point you will feel very groggy and find it hard to adjust to being awake)
REM sleep: this starts after about 90 minutes and it is when most dreams occur, although your body is paralysed so that you do not act out your dreams.
After REM, the whole cycle starts again.
So, just how much sleep should we get? Well, this totally depends on each individual, but it should be between five and 11 hours, with the average being 7.75 hours. Although, Napoleon, Florence Nightingale, and Margaret Thatcher claimed to get by on only four hours a night. The record for the longest period of time spent without was set by Randy Gardner in 1965 when he stayed awake for 11 days, scarily, he did start to hallucinate and became delirious after four days.
Animals also need to sleep and pythons shut their eyes for a staggering 18 hours a day! At the other end of the scale, giraffes only need about two hours.
We’ll have more information on sleep tomorrow, but until then, make sure you get a decent amount tonight in order to keep your brain in good working order!
Posted on 13th September 2011
A little while ago I wrote about a variety of common grammatical errors, such as the misuse of apostrophes and when ‘their’ should be ‘there’ and ‘your’ should be ‘you’re’. At the risk of becoming a punctuation pedant, I’m going to recap on a few key rules regarding commonly vexing bits of the English language. I will also dish out a few new bits of advice to help you make your writing as perfect as possible. I urge you to do your best to remember what is to follow, as it will help you for years to come…
Use these to indicate possession (Ben’s dog), contraction (you’re going to walk to dog today) and express quantities (twelve pounds’ worth of chocolate).
When you have nouns ending in ‘s’ you can either add ‘s when they own something, or just add an apostrophe. For example: James’s shoes or James’ shoes.
IT’S or ITS
It’s stands for ‘it has’ or ‘it is’, whereas ‘its’ is to do with possession.
(It’s rude to speak with your mouthful).
(Its tail is pink and fluffy).
These are used to explain something, or show that you have modified a piece of quoted text. ‘It [pheasant] is very hard to cook well’.
Colons introduce things, such as a list.
(You need to buy: pens, paper, a ruler, a rubber and a folder.)
They can also present quotations or divide bits of a title.
(Marieke said: “learn how to use colons”, or, Marieke wrote a book called ‘Punctuation: The next level’.
You can use semicolons to separate items in a list or extend sentences. For example: ‘Amy was in the school jazz band; Philip was on the swimming team’ (a good test of whether you have used a semicolon correctly in this way is if it could be replaced with either ‘but’, ‘and’, ‘or’ or ‘therefore’).
These are words that sound the same but are spelt differently and mean different things.
Below is a list of homophones, which you should learn to distinguish:
FEWER OR LESS?
Use ‘fewer’ when you are referring to more than one item (fewer bits of chocolate), and use ‘less’ when you are referring to one thing (less chocolate is needed for the biscuits).
If you want to know more about grammar and punctuation read one of the following:
Grammar Rules: Writing with Military Precision by Craig Shrives
Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
Modern Punctuation by William Bradford Dickson
The Perfect Punctuation Book by Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels
Posted on 12th September 2011
This isn’t the first time I’ve advocated the benefits of healthy eating in relation to brain power, but rather than bore you with a lecture on how many pieces of fruit you should be eating each day in order to maximise your ability to concentrate in class, I’m going to give you some useful practical advice.
When I was at school I always took a packed lunch in with me, and making your own lunch is a great way of ensuring you eat a healthy, balanced, diet. However, coming up with ways of keeping your lunch interesting and varied can be a bit tiresome. I distinctly remember getting varied bored with eating the same thing day after day. So, to kick-start the new term with some exciting lunches, and banish the threat of monotony, here are a few ideas for you. There’s range of lunch and snack suggestions, so all you need to do now is grab yourself some tupperware and tin foil, and get stuck in…
-Homemade soup with brown bread is both warming and filling
-Salad made with mango, baby leaf spinach, feta, red onion, red chilli, coriander, olive oil and balsamic vinegar (refreshing and unusual)
-Pitta pockets stuffed with tuna and salad
-Smoked mackerel salad served with a yoghurt and lemon dressing (goes nicely with cold boiled new potatoes)
-Dried fruit and nuts make a great snack
-Spanish omelettes (make these the night before with potatoes, vegetables, eggs and cheese and eat with salad)
-Leftover pasta and sauce
-Cous cous with roasted vegetables and goats’ cheese (another one which you might want to make the night before)
-Pesto, mozzarella, parma ham and tomato on ciabatta (an Italian feast!)
-Chopped raw vegetables (peppers, celery, carrots, sugar snap peas) dipped in hummus
-Homemade flapjacks (bake these at the weekend so that you have treats ready for the week)
-Instead of having regular sliced bread, try bagels, wraps or flatbreads
-Falafel and/or dolmades (get these from a deli or supermarket) with salad
-Quiche, especially homemade ones, always makes a nice filling lunch
-Bananas are the best fruit for giving you an energy-burst
-Oatcakes with cheese also make a nice snack
-Smoothies are tasty, filling and packed with vitamins
-Homemade slaw with thinly sliced apple, red cabbage, carrots and beetroot mixed with raisins and lemon-juice
-Bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese
-Greek yoghurt with honey