Helping my daughter to learn A Parentsâ€™ Guide
Helping Your Daughter With Her Learning This guide has been designed to assist you in supporting your daughter as she navigates this exciting time in her life at JCG.
When students move into secondary education and certainly as they begin their GCSE studies, many parents struggle to maintain the teaching role they had during their child’s primary education. There are several reasons for this:
• Students are studying a greater number of subjects • There is an increase in the complexity of the work • There is an increased amount of work • Teenagers can be difficult!
The number of subjects studied by students at secondary level and the complexity of the work being covered can mean that parents lose confidence that they may be helpful. It doesn’t help that at the same time children entering their adolescence often seek independence from their parents in every aspect of their lives, including their education. They can become uncommunicative and unreceptive to help and advice. Despite all of this, parents remain one of the most valuable learning resources children have.
Parents can play a central role in helping their adolescent children grow into independent learners. By helping children learn the vital skill of learning, parents can support their child’s success, not only in secondary school, but also as they move on to higher education and the workplace. Understanding how children learn and how parents fit into this is the first step to helping your daughter with her schoolwork.
The Biology of Learning The brain can be divided into 3 parts:
• The Reptilian Complex - the part of the brain dedicated to survival. This part will shut down the higher parts of the brain if it perceives the body to be under threat. Threats can include physical danger but also emotional stress or anxiety and even simple things such as being hungry, thirsty or needing to go to the toilet.
• The Limbic System - the
brain’s filter. This part sends important information up to the thinking part of the brain.
NEOCORTEX LIMBIC SYSTEM
• The Neocortex - the part of the brain
where thinking happens. The Neocortex receives information sent via the limbic system and only works when the reptilian brain allows it.
Ways to Improve Brain Function To stop the reptilian brain taking over and preventing learning, students should try to avoid stressful situations whenever possible. Relaxation techniques such as yoga can be beneficial for some students.
When a student is hungry or their blood glucose levels fall the brain cannot work properly. Eating regularly can help to keep blood glucose levels steady. Eating breakfast is especially important.
Students lose a large percentage of their thinking capability when they are dehydrated. Drinking lots of water is very important. Fizzy/caffeinated drinks are not good for keeping hydration levels up.
Students will tend to remember things which they enjoy or which have some other emotional meaning such as sad or funny events as their limbic system will send information through to their neocortex more strongly than in situations which have no emotional connection. It is important for students to try to enjoy their learning or find a personal connection to it whenever possible.
Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain. It also causes the release of endorphins. Both of these can help students to maintain a relaxed but alert state perfect for learning.
The more the brain is used the more effective learning becomes. Students should be encouraged to take every opportunity to engage in activities that require them to think.
Each new piece of information we learn and each new experience we have creates new synapses between the neurones in our brain. The synapses become stronger each time that information or experience is revisited. Synapses that are not used get ‘rewired’ and that information is lost. Recapping helps to make the work done in class a more permanent part of a student’s memory. Students should aim to revisit the work done in class for the first time within a couple of days of the lesson, then after a few weeks, then again after a few months.
Much of the new information learnt during the day is programmed into a student’s longterm memory during deep sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is very important, especially after studying and before assessments or examinations.
Learning is a process that requires the use of available resources to connect new understanding to prior knowledge. Developing this skill is what becoming an independent learner is all about, yet it is a difficult skill for many students to master. Knowing how to study effectively fosters feelings of confidence, develops positive attitudes and helps children realise that they can control how well they do in school and in life. It also lays the groundwork for good work habits in adult life.
Family members are critical resources that can help students develop their skills and eventually become independent learners. The key is to help provide enough support to allow students to learn the skills they need to be independent in their learning, but not so much support that they remain dependent on others in their education.
Things that parents can do to help
• Offer non-critical assistance - be a
good listener and encourage your child to ask if they need help. Don’t criticise if your daughter is struggling or if they get the answers wrong, this can turn them off asking for help in the future.
• Be a coach, not a tutor - help children by testing them in a friendly manner, the drive to or from school is great for this. Don’t do their work for them or give them the answers, instead help them to find out the answers for themselves.
• Ask trigger questions - help children to make connections between prior knowledge and experiences and the work they are doing now. Don’t give them the answers but ask questions that guide them and allow them to discover the answers for themselves.
• Encourage children to try a variety
of learning techniques - everyone learns differently and it is important that students use trial and error to find the techniques that work best for them.
children to see the teacher with these before the work is due if they can’t understand the work using other resources.
themselves - remind children that the journey towards the goal is as important as attaining it in the end. Encourage a range of short and long term goals to be set.
• Guide children towards appropriate
resources and help them to use these successfully - books, revision guides, websites (e.g. exam board websites, mymaths, bbc bitesize), my learning, peers, family members, social network groups, teachers. Do they know how to use the resource, e.g. look in the index of a book, use the search box on a website? Write a list of target questions and encourage
• Encourage children to set goals for
• Encourage children to keep trying
when faced with challenges sometimes we learn the most when we try and fail.
• Encourage students not to give up;
things do not have to be perfect first time in order to be valuable in terms of learning.
Making studying a positive experience
• Praise effort and celebrate
achievements - this shows appreciation of the effort they have put in, shows that you value their accomplishments and builds their self-esteem and confidence. Rewards can work well for some students but fostering a love of learning in them is the real goal and in the end the reward of making progress and achieving their targets should be enough. Avoid getting into a situation where getting the reward becomes more important to the student than the learning that is taking place.
• Make difficult/disliked subjects fun -
if your child dislikes a subject try to find ways to make it more enjoyable. Break tasks down and allow small rewards for completing each one.
• Encourage and facilitate group study - research shows that students who study in pairs or groups often perform better than those who always study alone.
• Make sure children take sufficient
breaks - help your daughter to slowly increase the time that they are able to concentrate for. For some this may only be 10 minutes or so to begin with. Even older students should take a 10-15 minute break for every 45-50 minutes of studying. Studying for long periods of time without a break decreases the amount of information that will be retained.
• Never use homework as a punishment.
• Discuss aspirations - share your
ideas about what your daughter is learning and their future careers, future studies and possibilities.
• Share your values about education
with your daughter - try not to pass on any negative ideas about your own education, instead talk about your favourite subjects, teachers and experiences.
Coaching organisational skills
• Encourage your daughter to use her
planner - planners should be used to record tasks and deadlines, plan ahead, prioritise, and break down large assignments into more manageable chunks. They can also be used to record other activities and commitments to help with planning homework, recording key words, setting targets, etc.
and give gentle reminders about deadlines - encourage your daughter to bring all of the necessary homework materials home. On days when they forget encourage them to use their allotted study time for other academic activities instead (see previous) so that it does not become extra leisure time. Perhaps set aside one day in the week to go over the week ahead together and look at their workload so that you can help them to plan ahead and avoid becoming overwhelmed. The important thing to remember here is that your daughter should be developing her own organisational skills rather than let you do it for her.
• Communicate with your daughter
about her homework, upcoming assessments and deadlines - often students will say that they have ‘no homework’; this is rarely true as there is always recapping, highlighting key points, making corrections, reading ahead, reading around the subject or reading fiction to improve vocabulary that can be done in times where they have ‘no homework’.
• Check on your daughter’s progress
• Try not to nag, instead encourage
your daughter to take responsibility for meeting deadlines and to accept the consequences when she doesn’t.
Making studying a high priority
• Establish a study routine - set a time
during the day’s routine for studying to be done. Take into account other activities, commitments and leisure time e.g. favourite TV shows. Also consider the best time of the day for your child to concentrate, some may be too tired after dinner, others may need some ‘down time’ after school before tackling their homework. Encourage your daughter to stick to their study schedule but avoid negative comments and nagging – the goal is for students to become independent and want to study. If students are involved in the decisions that are made regarding how, when and where to study, they are much more likely to stick to their schedule as they have ownership of it. Having a ‘family schedule’ where all children have dedicated study time can help to reinforce its importance.
• Create a quiet space for homework to be completed; a place free from disruption and fully stocked with pencils, pens, paper, books, etc. make sure the place to study has a desk or table, good lighting and is comfortable. Some children need a space on their own, others may prefer to be near to parents, e.g. at the kitchen table, so that they can ask for help. Some children study better with music. Few can study effectively with the TV on, most need quiet.
• Help your daughter to prioritise -
demonstrate and enforce that studying has a higher priority than other activities. If your daughter has so many commitments that they have insufficient time or energy to complete their homework, perhaps she may need your help to reduce the number of activities as many struggle to decide which activities are most important.
• Encourage your daughter to review
returned homework and assessments and ask her questions about her school subjects. Perhaps ask her to tech you something. Encourage her to take note of the comments made by her teachers and to use these to guide her in her learning.
• Discuss grades, targets and progress
with your daughter - discuss progress and plan how to solve problems together. Use reports and periodics to help you with this. Maybe have a folder where reports, certificates, etc. can be kept so that students can look back at their achievements and progress as they move through JCG. Take every opportunity to discuss your daughter’s progress with her teachers and ask your daughter about her meetings with her academic mentor.
Further support Remember that things will not always be perfect. There may be times when your daughter struggles with studying. It is important to try to remain positive and remember that help is at hand. Your daughterâ€™s tutor and subject teachers are available to give support and advice. The school counsellor can also discuss study habits and concerns with your daughter.
And Finally Learning should be fun. By helping to support your daughter plan her own time and organise her own study, you will enable her to grow in confidence and independence and be ready for future success.
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