How to cope with Exam Stress

Last week I finished my level three Mental Health Training and it got me thinking about how I support my students with exam stress. The answer was ‘not much’. I do the usual revision planners/ timetables but I spend all of my time supporting revision (and finishing the spec) rather than strategies to actually help cope with exam stress. Students have always expressed that they are stressed when approaching their exams, so I use to work through what they had already achieved and how they were going to stagger their revision over the remaining weeks – thus talking through revision strategies rather than coping mechanisms. But how can students revise if they are not coping?

So I decided to start researching into strategies for supporting students dealing with exam stress. The lists of ideas were pretty repetitive and seemingly obvious – but then isn’t everything obvious when you already know the coping strategies? So I am going to go through this ppt with different strategies and tips to help my A2’s with exam stress. The reason I am going to cover this now, is to tackle the issue before it becomes an issue. Helping students set up strategies to support themselves now, before the serious stress hits, I hope will be more valuable in the long run.

I have also created a Revision Planner:

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And Checklist:

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All the resources can be downloaded for free from TES here.

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When ‘Stretch’ becomes too ‘Challenging’

As part of my role within the GROW Team (a team of teachers who support staff with their professional development) we facilitate in-house themed CPD sessions. My session focused upon developing differentiated strategies to promote stretch and challenge. My aim was to discuss a variety of strategies that could be used with different students/ subjects, which meant that stretching all students in a lesson was less challenging on the teacher.

I started the session with a mix and match worksheet where staff had to link the key words to the online definitions:

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This opened up a lot of initial discussions over the terms and their meanings. What I found surprising when researching for this session, was that most of the definitions on a general Google search for Stretch and Challenge, focused upon the students stretching and challenging themselves not the teacher. This flipped how I saw stretch and challenge in my mind: it is not the teacher driving it but the students recognising what they want to achieve, taking ownership over their success by stretching themselves.

I then moved on to a short ppt which highlighted three main problems with differentiated tasks for stretch and challenge with possible solutions:

After discussing each one, what we would like to try/ have already tried etc. we finished  with a plan of action sheet – basically a check list of what are you going to do:

Continue reading “When ‘Stretch’ becomes too ‘Challenging’”

Messages from Above: OCR Updates

With tight budgets, it is not always possible to attend a lot of conferences, courses and training but I always keep an eye on the OCR CPD feedback sessions, especially when they are more local to Scarbados (e.g. Leeds – London or Manchester make it a very long day!). So I couldn’t wait to attend the session run by Hugh Campbell on ‘Understanding the Assessment’ and really get into the minds of the examiners…until my train was delayed by nearly two hours and my body was finally shutting down with every bug going. I ended up in bed. Worry not though, as a very kind colleague of mine sent me all the information in the post!

The Headlines:

  • Better responses showed a holistic approach – wide ranging knowledge from the whole course (synoptic links are good but make sure they are linked back to the argument/ question).
  • Effort was made to read around the course material and demonstrated assessment of primary sources (I use a few primary sources and often have students take a quote or snippet of information from them but assessment of these or wider reading…who has the time with such a full spec?).
  • Still evidence of ‘Blue Peter’ answers – problem with showing model answers (is there an alternative for demonstrating essay technique?)
  • Prevalence of ‘comparing’ rather than evaluating/ assessing (I think this is a really good point. I think sometimes students think that comparing thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle equates to evaluating, when actually they are just comparing A to B. Assesment needs to take place as to why A is more convincing than B etc).
  • Still issues of asserting rather than assessing – X says this Y says that and therefore X is right with no sense of why X is right (again I think this is a really valid point. Students often state the views of thinkers and if the view of that thinker is negative e.g. Dawkins this means it counts as evaluation. In fact all you are doing is asserting the view of someone else. Assessing means weighing up why their view works or does not work.)
  • Better responses sustained a line of reasoning. Thread the argument from paragraph to paragraph – building from one point to the next.

Overall Tips:

Continue reading “Messages from Above: OCR Updates”

“You can’t be religious and a humanist”: Humanism Explored

It is always a struggle to find R.S related trips and speakers, that would engage a group of teenagers but also be relevant to the spec. When I attended the NATRE 20:20RE conference in Cheshire this October (I highly recommend!!) I went along to a session run by Luke Donnellan who was representing the Humanist Society. As I sat and listened to the array of views, reminiscent of Bertrand Russell, 2017-05-23-LW-v1-Humanists-UK-staticDawkins and Freud, I started to think about the topic of Secularisation in the second year DCT. After speaking with Luke at the end of the session, he pointed me in the direction of the main Humanist website (Humanists UK) and the possibility of arranging a speaker to run a session with my students for FREE. This was sounding better and better…not only would a humanist perspective link to the spec, it would also provide my students with a wider knowledge of different perspectives and challenge their understandings… all for free!

After contacting the head office via the contact details provided on the website, my request was answered within a day with the possibility of a speaker who could travel to Scarborough (we are a bit out on a limb here!) This possibility paid off and within three weeks of attending the 20:20 conference, my students had their questions ready and their notebooks at hand for our Humanist speaker. It really was as easy as that to arrange.

The session was split into two main sections: ‘What is Humanism?’ with Q/A and ‘Does God hate women?’ – a personal interest of our speaker, who knew we were studying gender, feminism and the role of women in the church as well.

Highlights (don’t forget these are the views of our speaker and how he interprets humanism into his life and practices):

Continue reading ““You can’t be religious and a humanist”: Humanism Explored”

Autism Awareness: How aware are you?

world-autism-awareness-day-vector-9417568Alongside my teaching at Sixth Form, I lead a small team who are dedicated to developing teaching and learning, staff wellbeing and CPD in college. Part of our vision for CPD this year is to offer staff a selection of lunchtime sessions ranging from ‘managing workload’ to ‘wellbeing in the workplace’, which staff sign up to depending on areas they wish to develop. This week we were extremely lucky to have a specialist practitioner from the Inclusive Education Service within North Yorkshire to speak with staff about Autism Awareness.

Here are the highlights…

Students who have autism often:

  • Are good visual learners
  • Have good rote memory
  • Work best with routines
  • Have strong interests
  • Pay attention to details

However they might struggle with:

  • Delayed processing time
  • Distracted by seemingly irrelevant details
  • Understanding language and its meaning (often taking a literal approach)
  • Difficulties using and interpreting tone, inflection and volume
  • Unable to generalise learning skills
  • Difficulty reading social situations
  • Often struggle to understand what others are thinking and feeling.

How can you support a student in your class who has autism?

  • Focus on the Visual: Incorporate visual activities into your lessons, write activities and instructions on the board, use visual structures like planners or tables to help organise their thoughts and focus attention.
  • Routine: Be conscious of changing seating plans or sudden changes with routine such as an activity that involves moving around the classroom- if you know this is going to happen, speak with the individual student the previous lesson so they are prepared.
  • Idioms  – speak literally: avoid using idioms were possible (I use these far too much!) e.g ‘put your head in the sand’, ‘off the top of my head’, ‘on the right track’, ‘bookworm’, ‘brainstorm’.
  • Group Work: Be conscious about group or paired work, be mindful about who you put them in a group with and provide extra support with the change of routine and social interaction.
  • Too much stimuli: students with autism often have difficulty processing sensory information so be aware of asking them to look and listen at the same time or write and listen (such as with a PowerPoint) or look and speak…give them processing time. Also be conscious that colour, texture or touch can be overwhelming…e.g. check if things like PowerPoint backgrounds are okay.

This of course only offers pointers to consider when teaching students with autism. As Lorna Wing OBE (leading founder of the National Autistic Society in the UK) says “If you have met one person with autism…you have met one person with autism.”

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For more information, ideas, resources and research linking to autism check out: National Autistic Society and Autism Education Trust

 

The PhilosoCast: Philosophy Student’s Podcast

I have been trialling a number of new approaches this year for incorporating technology into my students’ learning. One idea that has been very successful is ‘Silent Discussions’, posting topical questions onto social media for students to answer and the wider community to view and engage with (check out Silent Discussions on Social Media!) The other new approach this year has been to record my student’s discussions and post on a public forum (YouTube), in order to capture the essence of Philosophy for others to listen to.

Now I cannot take any credit for this idea, as it was my students who took complete ownership over this one. After discussing it with them, we decided that video recording the discussions would be quite off putting (not to mention the difficulties in finding the perfect place in the classroom to film, audio interference etc.). So we decided upon audio recording the discussions instead, creating a podcast called The PhilosoCast.

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Once the cast had volunteered, the topic question agreed upon and the audio recorder set up…off they went and what a surprise I got! Normally in discussions I am the ‘ring leader’ so to speak – I introduce new students into the discussion, I summarise student’s views, I make sure certain students don’t dominate – basically I control the discussion. I didn’t want this to be the case for the student’s PhilosoCast, so I took a back seat.

What happened next was amazing! The students took control, working out ways to signal which student spoke next, taking charge over who introduced and closed the discussion and who started the discussion off. The students did not speak over each other, they were articulate and clear, they listened to each other’s points and engaged with them, they drew the points back to the question and took it in turns to fairly share their points.

Overall a massive success! I hope the cast will continue to develop these podcasts throughout the year. It does take a certain kind of student dynamic for this sort of idea to work but I highly recommend giving it a go!

To listen to the two produced so far, check out:

Well done to all involved!

For other ways to promote the subject, check out: Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?