Private Tuition Blog: Archive for January 2012
Posted on 29th January 2012
Creative writing, like most things, requires practice in order for you to improve. Here is an exercise to try in order to boost your writing muscles.
1. Write down the name of a place. It might be somewhere really specific like ‘Victoria Station’ or it might be somewhere more general such as ‘a field’ or a particular city.
2. Now write down a time, such as 7:38am or 3:45pm
3. Choose three words that describe how you have been feeling at some point in the last week. For example, ‘excited’, ‘hungry’ and ‘scared’.
4. Think of a name for a character.
5. You now have a person, how they are feeling, where they are and what time it is. Next think of what the date is. You might want to set this in the past or the future, or it could be in the present.
6. What is your character wearing?
7. Now that you know who your character is and where they are, describe what they can see.
8. Next come up with a problem they might be facing in this situation.
9. How might they overcome this problem?
Now that you have made a plan and come up with some ideas, you should be ready to write your story. Describe in as much detail as possible who your character is, where they are, what the problem is, and how they overcome it.
Posted on 29th January 2012
Here is a list of technical literary terms that are really useful to have up your sleeve. Why not print these out, look them up and write a definition and an example for yourself. I promise you’ll remember them better this way….
Posted on 29th January 2012
There are lots of things that we know are good for us, but that we sometimes forget to do. As it’s still January, and thus time when to think about ‘starting as you mean to go on’ for the rest of the year, here’s a reminder of tried and tested ways to stay happy, healthy and in control of your life.
1. Go to bed at a regular time and get plenty of sleep.
2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
3. Drink plenty of water.
4. Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
5. Always say ‘please’ ad ‘thank you’ and be polite to people.
6. Keep your school bag neat and tidy.
7. Try and get your homework done on the day it is set.
9. Read books in your spare time.
10. Write down all of the term deadlines in your diary.
11. Start revision nice and early and don’t leave it until the last minute.
12. Avoid procrastinating when you’re meant to be doing your homework.
13. Have a well-stocked pencil case.
14. Join some extra-curricular teams and clubs.
15. Wash your gym kit regularly.
16. Take library books back on time to avoid getting fined.
17. Look after your belongings so that they don’t get lost or stolen.
18. Don’t plagiarise other people’s work.
19. Ask for help if you are struggling with work or other worries.
20. Plan ahead (this applies to all sorts of things).
Posted on 29th January 2012
When you’re studying a text in your English lessons, it’s really important to think about the form and how the writer expected people to consume their work. Is it a poem that was meant to be read aloud? Is it a novel to be read in instalments? Or is it a play that’s meant to be performed?
There are hundreds of plays on the school curriculum and when you’re studying a play the best thing is to find out if there’s a production on and then go and see it. You can also approach plays in the following ways:
-Read the play from a different character’s point of view each time you go through it
-Imagine how you would direct the play if you were putting it on
-Do ‘character lists’ where you write down what each character says about themselves,
and what other people say about them in the play
-Write a list of all the facts that you can find about the world of the play and the
-Compose a timeline of the action in the play
-Research when and where it is set
-Think about the relationships between each character
-There are film versions of many plays that you can watch
-Read the play out aloud with some friends
-See if you can act out the play in a speedy five minute-long version
-Research the playwright’s life
-Read other plays by the same writer
-List all the major themes in the play
-Learn key quotations
Posted on 29th January 2012
As part of our ‘useful things and ways to remember them’ series, I thought it might be a good idea to do a speedy run-through of the history of Britain. Most people know who our current monarch is, when Henry VIII was on the throne and possibly a few other kings and queens, but everyone tends to have a weak spot in their timeline of British history.
In Judy Parkinson’s excellent book ‘I before E, except after C’, she gives us a popular poem which runs through all of the English Kings and Queens (the only name missing is Lady Jane Grey who was on the throne for nine days in 1553)….
Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
Harry,Dick, John, Harry Three,
One To Three Neds, Richard Two,
Harrys Four Five Six…then who?
Edwards Four Five, Dick the Bad,
Harrys twain, Ned Six the lad
Mary, Bessie, James you ken,
Then Charlie, Charlie, James again…
Will and Mary, Anne of gloria,
Georges Four!, Will Four, Victoria,
Edward seven next, and then
Came George the Fifth in 1910.
Ned the eight soon abdicated,
So George Six was coronated,
(or a George was reinstated)
Then number two Elizabeth.
And that’s all folks, until her death…
(And for the probably future:
Charles Three and now I’m out of breath).
One of our most famous monarchs was Henry VIII, who had six wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. Their fates can be recalled with the rhyme ‘divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.
The names of the royal houses since 1066 are: Norman, Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Windsor. The phrase ‘No Plan Like Yours to Study History’ can be used to remember the names’ first letters. Or you could make up your own phrase.
Although nobody is expected to remember thousands of dates in British history, there are a few dates that tend to crop up rather a lot, so it might be worth memorising a few…
1016: Canute becomes king of Denmark, Norway and England
1066: Battle of Hastings
1071: Norman Conquest of England complete
1086: Domesday book completed
1100: Henry I crowned
1215: Magna Carta sealed by King John
1338: ‘Hundred Years War’ begins
1362: English becomes the official language at Parliament and in Law Courts
1415: Battle of Agincourt
1480: Spanish inquisition begins
1483: Murder of the princes Edward and Richard
1485: Battle of Bosworth
1525: William Tyndale translates the New Testament into English
1536: Dissolution of the monasteries begins
1564: Shakespeare born
1577: James Burbage opens the first theatre in London
1605: Gunpowder plot of Guy Fawkes
1641: Civil war begins
1649: Charles I executed
1660: Restoration of the monarchy
1665: Great plague
1746: Battle of Culloden
1755: Samuel Johnson publishes his English Dictionary
1815: Battle of Waterloo
1835: Christmas becomes a national holiday
1838:Coronation of Queen Victoria
1912: The Titanic sinks
1914-1918: First World War
1928: Women over the age of 21 allowed to vote
1939-1945: Second World War
1969: Voting age lowered from 21 to 18
1972: ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Ireland
1979” Margaret Thatcher becomes England’s first female Prime Minister
1997: Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister
Posted on 29th January 2012
Every year is a big one for the Bard; Shakespeare’s plays are studied all over the world and there are always at least a handful of productions on at any one time, often many more. This year there is going to be no escaping Shakespeare-mania as all of his plays are going to be performed in order to coincide with the Olympics.
Despite the prominent place Shakespeare’s work holds in the national curriculum, eminent scholar Stanley Wells has expressed his concern about the way Shakespeare is taught in schools. ‘If you get a boring teacher you switch off’ he said to The Sunday Times. According to Wells the main problem is that there aren’t enough teachers who are able to teach the texts; ‘I don’t think your average schoolteacher is necessarily qualified to teach Shakespeare in any depth.’ He has suggested that teachers should complete a specific course before they teach the Bard.
There’s no denying that Shakespeare’s hard, but that shouldn’t stop teachers endeavouring to fuel an enthusiasm for arguably the greatest playwright ever born. My brilliant A Level English teacher suggested an amazing book called ‘Shakespeare’s Hard, But so is Life’ by Fintan O’Toole, which I found really inspiring as a teenager. Although the language is unfamiliar at first, it is still English, and the more you read the plays the more familiar it becomes. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it.
In today’s Sunday Times there was an article by Jenni Russel about how many teachers are taking the easiest route to help students pass exams and that a lot of students are only taught specific scenes from plays and how to approach particular questions, rather than being equipped with the tools to approach the whole text and think broadly and creatively. Exam technique is important, but exams are not the be-all and end-all. We are doing schoolchildren a disservice if we are teaching them to pass exams but not cultivating an appetite for literature and independent thinking.
Hopefully the particular prominence of Shakespeare’s work this year will help to promote better teaching of the plays in classrooms. Personally, I think Stanley Wells’ idea about having special courses for teachers on Shakespeare is an excellent idea. We’ll have to wait and see whether they begin. In the meantime, if you are a parent, teacher or tutor, make the most of this year’s fantastic offering of Shakespearean delights and let’s do our best to inspire children to read and watch the phenomenal plays.
Posted on 22nd January 2012
My GCSE science lessons feel like a very long time ago, and even though I haven’t ended up in a profession where I need to use much science, very occasionally I need to delve deep into my mind and try and remember what I learnt in the school chemistry labs. If you’ve ever been flummoxed by the Periodic Table or the structure of an atom, here are a few reminders…
The Periodic Table was devised by a Russian chemist called Dmitri Mendeleyev in 1869 and it houses the names of all the elements in increasing order of atomic number. The vertical columns are known as ‘groups’ and the horizontal rows are called ‘periods’. Tom Lehrer (an American musician and mathematician) came up with a great way of remembering all of the chemical elements by singing the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General’ and replacing the words with the following:
There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium
And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium
There’s yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium and barium
There’s holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium
And phosphorous and francium and fluorine and terbium
And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and caesium
And lead, praeseodymium and platinum, plutonium
Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium
And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium
There’s sulphur, californium and fermium, berkelium
And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc and rhodium
And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin and sodium.
There are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard
And there may be many others but they haven’t been discovered.
Since the song was written a few other elements have actually been discovered. These are” lawrencium, ritherfordium, dubnium, seaborgium, bohrium, hassium, meitnerium, darmstasium, roentgenium and seven more which still need to be named!
Atoms are the most basic units of matter and they are made up of protons, electrons and neutrons. The nucleus, which is at the heart of the atom contains the positively charged protons and the neutral neutrons. The electrons are in rings around the outside of the nucleus.
The formula for water is H20.
The reason why helium balloons float is because helium is lighter than air.
The speed of light is 299,792,458 metres per second.
Posted on 22nd January 2012
Having grown up and gone to school just around the corner, I’ve always been really fond of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and I reckon it’s a great place to go in our special London buildings series.
The gallery is England’s very first purpose-built art gallery, happens to have a rather good café and is next to the rather lovely Dulwich Park, so all in all is well worth a visit. Oh, and it holds some amazing pictures too.
A Swiss collector, Sir Francis Bourgeois and his friend Noel Desenfans were asked by Stanislaus Augustus (king of Poland) to put together a ‘royal collection’ of art in 1790. But after five years of travelling around Europe collecting all sorts of amazing pictures Poland had been partitioned and didn’t really exist anymore. Left with all of these pictures, Bourgeois (Desenfans died in 1807) bequeathed them to Dulwich College and in his will asked for a gallery to be founded to house the works.
The famous Regency architect Sir John Soane was commissioned to design the gallery and it was opened in 1817. The gallery is made up of a series of inter-connected rooms lit by skylights. Its feel is both cosy and intimate and light and airy thanks to the natural light and the well-proportioned rooms.
Dulwich Picture Gallery holds many wonderful paintings by artists ranging from Pieter de Hooch, Rembrandt and Thomas Gainsborough to 10 paintings by Rubens, a pair by Canaletto, two by Raphael, one by Vasari and many more.
The gallery also has a mausoleum where Bourgeois, Desenfans and Desenfans’ wife are buried. Rumour has it that there are some unidentified skeletons lurking in there as well!
Today the gallery holds many exciting temporary exhibitions alongside the permanent collection. They also have excellent education programmes, particularly in school holidays. Why not hop over and have a look around. The website is http://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk
Posted on 22nd January 2012
‘Mindfulness’ is one of those words that seems to be cropping up all over the place at the moment and is a hot topic in the world of neuroscience, so I thought it was about time to find out exactly what it is. Having finally grasped a bit of understanding on what ‘mindfulness’ is, and mused that it could be rather interesting to apply to learning and academic work, here is a very brief explanation of what it is and why it could help you.
Mindfulness is the ability to create a state of mind where you are relaxed, alert and able to focus in an extremely concentrated way on a particular task. A study carried out at Harvard university recently discovered that people who focus really specifically on a physical activity, rather than letting their mind wander, reaped far greater physical rewards; they lost more weight and improved their fitness by a greater degree than the people who were distracted whilst exercising. Many professional sportsmen and women are attributing improvements in their performance to practising mindfulness and a number of academics have suggested that mindfulness can increase academic performance because it increases your ability to engage with what you are doing and learning.
Modern life is so hectic and there are so many distractions that it is difficult to focus on one thing at a time, but there is so much research emerging about the positive benefits of mindfulness, that it might be worth having a go at training your mind to be clearer and more engaged with whatever it is you’re doing. By being more attentive and less distracted in lessons, whilst doing your homework and in exams, it is highly likely that your academic performance will improve.
So, how do you do it?
Well, the first thing is to think about your intention before an activity; what are you going to do and why? What do you hope to achieve? By working out what and why you are doing something, you’ll be able to concentrate on it better.
The next step is to regulate your breathing. Take a moment to establish a steady and relaxed breathing pattern. If you take deep breaths the quality of each inhalation will be better and your respiratory system will be able to work more effectively and efficiently. Your brain needs plenty of oxygen to function properly and deep, steady breaths will help you greatly.
Remove all potential distractions such as mobile phones and external noise. Clear your working space so that you only have exactly what you need in order to complete whatever task is ahead of you.
When you begin do your best to concentrate just on what you are doing from moment to moment. It might take a while to banish distracting thoughts, but the more you practise, the better you’ll get at clearing and focussing your mind. You can practise when doing physical things such as cycling and running. Try to just think about what your limbs are doing and the patterns they are moving in. Or when you are cooking, just think about whatever it is you are slicing or dicing. Eventually you’ll become a pro at banishing other thoughts and when you are in class and doing your homework you’ll be able to just think about the work, and thus absorb more and perform better.
Good luck and let us know how you get on!
Posted on 19th January 2012
It’s the middle of January, the evenings are dark and cold and all the fun of Christmas seems miles away all of a sudden. The Easter holidays and the promise of large quantities of chocolate are there to look forward to, but March also feels a long way away right now. With so little daylight and warmth it can be easy to feel a bit down and lacklustre about things and you might be letting things get on top of you. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the stress of academic work, or just a bit gloomy because of the weather, here are a few tips to get you feeling sparkly and in control again.
1. Get some exercise as this will release endorphins and reduce stress.
2. Eat lots of colourful fruit and veg.
3. Tidy your room so that it’s a nicer place to be and you can find things without having to hunt under large piles of clothes.
4. Go and see a musical. There’s nothing like some show tunes and great dance routines to get you feeling chirpy.
5. Catch up with your friends.
6. Go on an adventure. Perhaps you could go to Brighton on the train and walk along the beach…
7. Pay more attention to your breathing and breathe deeper and slower.
8. Try something new like a dance class, new restaurant, or visit a museum you’ve never been to before.
9. Wear really colourful clothes.
10. Smile more (simple but effective).
11. Sort out your school bag and get rid of anything that’s not necessary, mouldy, or too heavy.
12. Go for a stroll along the Southbank.
13. Do your homework on the day that it’s set rather than leaving it until the last minute.
14. Plan some fun things for half term so that you have activities to look forward to.
15. Get creative and paint a picture or knit a scarf.
16. Watch a funny film.
17. Go dancing with some pals.
18. Do something nice for somebody else.
19. Bake a cake and decorate it with edible glitter.
20. Try a new hairstyle.