7 Tips for choosing a good tutor – for a child.

7 Tips for choosing a good tutor – for a child.

Whether you are choosing a language tutor for a child, for an adult or for a group, there are several considerations that you may want to bear in mind when it comes to finding the right person for you.  Here are some ideas for you if you are looking for someone to tutor a child:

1.     If you need a tutor for someone under the age of 18 then do ask for their DBS check if you will be leaving your child alone with them.  The DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check is the certificate which shows if they have any criminal convictions of relevance to working with children. 

2.     Consider carefully whether you would be better to have lessons at your home or at the tutor’s premises.  Most professional tutors will be unwilling to be left alone with a child in the child’s own home.  At Language Learners we insist on an adult being present in the home for any child under the age of 14.

3.     Match your tutor to your needs.  If you would like your 8-year-old to have a little booster then you may be fine with a University student.  However, if your child has specific additional learning needs or is studying for an exam then it may be a good idea to pay extra for someone who has experience of those particular requirements.  

4.     The GCSE curriculum and exam methods have changed in the last three years – so University students DID NOT sit the same exam that your child will be taking.  If you need to be boosting grades then ask your tutor questions about how they have kept their knowledge up-to-date.

5.     Have reasonable expectations of what you will be paying.  Remember that the minimum wage for someone over 25 is £8.21 per hour at the time of writing.  With a good tutor you are not just paying for the one hour of the class, but also for the time they spend planning and marking homework.  It can take quite some time to plan a student-specific scheme of work to boost that particular student’s grades in the time available and I am sure it is the same for other subjects/tutors too.  As a rough guide, prepare for the cost of the tutor to be similar to the cost of a 1:1 session with a physiotherapist or personal trainer at the gym.

6.     If your tutor is just going over the same material that was covered in school, using the same books and worksheets, then it is time for another tutor.  They should be adding value by bringing different/more resources.  Not that you necessarily want lots of different explanations (that’s confusing) but a range of new exercises and challenges will really help to consolidate the information.

7.     Personality.  Ensuring that your child gets on well with the tutor and will work nicely for them is a key element.  Sometimes two people just don’t get on well, without it being anyone’s fault – so be prepared to review the situation after two or three classes to make sure that both sides are happy.

 

Teri Fleetwood is the owner of Language Learners and has been providing French and German tutoring to children from age 5 upwards for more than 12 years.  Her students consistently exceed expectations at GCSE and A Level through a careful mixture of topic and grammar work as well as a keen attention to exam technique.  Language Learners operates mostly in the Woking and Guildford areas of Surrey.

5 Useful French Grammar Constructions

5 Useful French Grammar Constructions

French grammar constructions?  How dull, I hear you cry!  However, that grammar does have its uses, especially if you are trying to make your language more interesting – whether you are looking to impress your friends with some fancy phrases, or you are keen to get some of those extra exam marks for “complex grammar constructions”. 

Here are a few useful ways of saying things which should help to widen your vocabulary.  Many of these constructions can be used in a range of tenses, so I have given a couple of examples in each case.

 1.     Être en train de + infinitive – to be in the middle of doing something.

  • Je suis en train d’écrire un blog – I am in the middle of writing a blog. 
  • J’étais en train d’écrire un blog, quand j’ai vu un chat – I was in the middle of writing a blog when I saw a cat.

2.     Au lieu de + infinitive – instead of doing….

  • Au lieu d’écrire un blog, il faut faire mes devoirs – Instead of writing a blog, I must do my homework.
  • Au lieu de faire mes devoirs, j’ai regardé la télé – Instead of doing my homework I watched TV.

3.     Après avoir/être + past participle – after having done something. WATCH OUT!  Just like the present perfect tense, you need to take care of the être verbs…

  • Après avoir écrit mon blog, je vais prendre un thé – After having written my blog I am going to have a cup of tea.
  • Après être allée en ville, j’écrirai encore un blog ! – After having gone to town I will write another blog!

4.     Avant de + infinitive – before doing something

  • Avant de boire mon thé, je vais finir le blog – Before drinking my tea I am going to finish the blog.
  • Avant de finir le blog, je cherche d’autres exemples – Before finishing the blog, I look for other examples.

5.     Venir de + infinitive – to have just done something

  • Je venais de trouver un exemple, quand la téléphone a sonné – I had just found an example when the phone rang.
  • Je viens de finir mon blog. Youpi ! – I have just finished my blog.  Hurrah!

 

The author is a Surrey-based language tutor specialising in French, German and English as a Foreign Language.  She has many years of experience of trying to sound more interesting in French, especially with a view to boosting exam grades (whether for herself or others!).

Revising?  Get a schedule!

Revising? Get a schedule!

The GCSE and A Level exams are now approaching at a gallop.  It really is time to knuckle down and get a revision schedule sorted out so that you make sure you spend enough time on each subject and have a chance to look at all aspects of the curriculum.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you stay on the right path:

#1  Don’t revise for an exam within half a day of taking it.  Exam in the morning? Stop revising for it at lunchtime the day before.  Exam in the afternoon? Don’t revise for it that day. 

Revising at the last minute just leads to a lack of confidence as you convince yourself that you don’t know anything and will never get a good grade.  If you don’t know your stuff that close to the exam then spending the remaining hours cramming really won’t help!

#2  Little and often is key.  It can be really tempting to leave the final exams until much nearer the date.  However, after 4-5 weeks of exams you will be suffering from revision fatigue and you really won’t want to spend hours each day revising for the last one or two.  Besides, we can’t focus well for hours on end so that kind of revision is less effective anyway.  Schedule in a few revision sessions for those last exams earlier in the month so that you can keep things ticking over nicely.

#3  Take a break every 45 minutes or so.  There is a good reason why school lessons last 35-45 minutes – we cannot focus intensively for much longer than that.  Work hard and focus well for 45-50 minutes, then take a short break.  Not three hours of social media, but 5-10 minutes to walk around the house or garden, get a drink or something to eat, and stretch.  Then sit down for another session. 

#4  Vary your revision techniques. Reading and re-reading the same page again and again only works for a very small minority of people.  Try drawing mind-maps, thinking of acronyms to help you remember key info, summarising and re-summarising to get to the key points.  Get busy with the highlighter pens, add stickers to mark the important bits, see what works best for you. 

#5  Why not test yourself?  At the beginning of a topic, write yourself a quiz covering 5-10 key pieces of information.  When you think you have finished with that topic, try the quiz and see if you can remember the answers without looking in your notes.

#6  Tackle one or two past papers to check your timings.  Time management is an important exam technique as it is vital to leave enough time to tackle all of the questions on the paper.  Your teacher may give you some past papers, or you can usually find some on the website for the relevant exam board. 

#7  Successful multi-tasking is a bit of a myth.  If you are watching TV, listening to music, checking social media AND revising, then you aren’t concentrating properly on any of them.  Book time in your schedule to check email or messaging apps, tell your friends you are going off-line for a while, and allow yourself to really focus.

#8  Remember to leave some downtime in your revision schedule.  Not days or a whole weekend, but careful slots to allow you to exercise, meet friends, go to that party.

#9  Eat well.  Lots of fruit and veg, of course, but also proper good quality protein and carbs.  Yes to home-cooked stir fry, stew, bolognaise etc. Proceed with caution when it comes to doughnuts, chocolate and fast food.

#10  Sleep properly.  Although it can be tempting to revise late into the night you have to balance the likelihood of retaining something important read at midnight, with the probability of impaired thinking if you have been up that late!

Exam Tips – The Writing Exam

Exam Tips – The Writing Exam

Until this year (2018) the writing element of the GCSE language exams was essentially a memory test in the guise of a Controlled Assessment.  Students had a certain number of hours to prepare their answers in class time. Then the teacher would look at the answer and give some guidance, after which the student would take the text home and attempt to learn it by heart.  Finally, they would then try to regurgitate the text in a fixed period of time, under the supervision of their own teacher.  Being polite about it, this did not actually teach many people much about how to use the language they were learning.  It often benefitted those who were good at learning a script rather than showing who understood the language they were being tested on.  There was also quite a lot of scope for “confusion” about how much guidance a teacher could give.

Given these considerations, it perhaps unsurprising that the Government has returned to a “final exam” style of assessment.  However, there are a couple of points which are causing some stress to students (and their teachers!). The first of these is the return of the translation test.  At Foundation Level this is a number of short sentences to be translated individually.  Higher Level Candidates have a short paragraph written in English, to be translated into the target language.  “Return?” I hear you say, questioningly.  Yes – the return.  I am certainly showing my age but I remember this section from my own GCSE language exams.  Translation is a key element of being able to use a language – after all, most learners at this level are essentially translating everything in their heads anyway before they dare to say it in the target language – so why be daunted?

In addition, students are asked to write a range of different types of language in the same time period (i.e. during the exam).  You may, for example, be asked to write an article for a school newspaper, or it may be a letter (formal or informal).  Make sure you know how to set out each different type of writing, and remember to include your town, the date, a greeting and a closing if it is a letter!

Enough then about the differences between this new curriculum and the old one – how to score maximum marks is what is of most interest to us. One key point is to answer the correct number of questions!  For some questions you will have a choice of which question to answer.  Don’t try to answer them all as you will run out of time, and some of your answers will be ignored.  Try to pick the question for which you have the most ideas that you can express in your target language, and be sure to cover each bullet point.

In order to score well you should also show a range of grammar knowledge and constructions.  GCSE examiners are very keen to give out points – it’s a bit like Tinkerbell and fairy dust! Sadly, if there is nothing there to see, then the dust won’t stick.  Higher Level candidates should try to include as many of the following list as possible:

– A range of tenses (past, present and future as a minimum, but for a higher mark then present, perfect, imperfect, future, conditional and pluperfect if possible);

– Complex grammatical structures – e.g. um…zu for German, après avoir +infinitive and avant de +infinitive for French;

– A range of people doing the verbs (to show you can use correct endings);

– Opinions (3 different ways of showing what you think);

– Modal verbs (can, should, must);

– Word order: especially for German but also with French (adjective order);

– Correct endings depending on gender (and “case” for German);

– Time phrases – not just “at 12 o’clock” or “tomorrow” but also “rarely”, “often”, “never”, “always”, etc.;

– A negative or preferably two;

– A question where possible.

 

Additional things for all candidates to think about:

– NEVER leave an answer blank.  An intelligent guess is more likely to gain marks than a blank (which is guaranteed not to score at all!);

– Pay careful attention to the use of tenses in the translation section.  Past, present or future DOES make a difference and you should be able to recognise which one is needed;

– Watch out for the little words that can make all the difference. Words like “not”, “already”, “never” etc. can change the whole meaning of a sentence and provide the key information for answering the question successfully, especially in the case of the translation passage.

 

Teri Fleetwood is an experienced language tutor with over 10 years experience of tutoring to the GCSE and A Level curriculum.  For more information please look at the rest of the posts in this blog and also check our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LanguageLearnersSurrey/  If you would like to discuss 1:1 or small group tuition, whether for exam preparation or pleasure, then do get in touch!  teri@language-learners.com