Good Learning Habits for Great Results!

Good Learning Habits for Great Results!

Now that the schools are back, many young people are having their first introductions to a foreign language.  Whether your son or daughter is starting out with a friendly, fun-based after-school club; or a more formal secondary school classroom setting, there are a few things that you can do to help your child get to grips with this new challenge and learn more effectively.

Firstly, no matter what you thought of language lessons at school, PLEASE do not tell your child that you were rubbish at languages, or that you don’t see the point of learning them.  Even if both thing are true.  If your child is in secondary school then they have several years of compulsory language-learning ahead of them, so it would be far better to encourage them to have a good try and see what they think for themselves.

At least to start with, learning a new language seems to consist mostly of lists of new words that you have to learn.  Colours, numbers, parts of the body… the lists seem to go on and on.  Many children seem to learn the words just well enough to get through this week, or the test at the end of the module, and the cheerfully forget them again.  As you may guess, this is a very short-term strategy that can easily come back to bite them if they continue the language to GCSE and beyond.  Help your child to start a vocabulary book and encourage them to keep it up, so that they can refer back to it when needed.  Give them little mini-tests or challenges throughout the year to keep the information fresh.  Why not do a treasure hunt using clues written (at least partially) in the key language?  Or play hangman?

At some point in the learning journey (probably fairly quickly) the subject of grammar will rear its ugly head.  Many adults recoil in horror at this point, especially those who were educated in the 1970s and 1980s when there was not such an emphasis on grammar learning in some sectors.  It is important to note that grammar does not need to be scary, or even hard to learn, as long as it is something you get a handle on earlier rather than later.  Indeed, it can be rather like being given the decoder so that you can decipher spy messages.  At least, that’s what I tell my children!  However, it can be a real chore to have to go back through old schoolbooks from several years ago in order to find a grammar explanation and revise the details.  It is a good idea to set up a grammar folder (just an A4 folder, in any colour you like, with dividers) and to write up each new concept on a sheet of paper to go in the folder.  This is a great way of revising as well as providing material to revise from in the future.

Homework – were you the type who saved all your homework until the last day before the deadline and then panicked to get it all done in time?  Or did you prefer to work methodically, tackling one or two pieces each night so you were never overwhelmed?  Well, learning a language can be a bit like that.  Of course it is possible to dash off the worksheets and exercises quickly at the last moment, but if you want the information to stick, especially for vocabulary, then you need to have a bit more method. 

If you try to learn all your new words in one mammoth session, then it is quite likely that you will forget them all very quickly.  Three smaller sessions of, say, 10 minutes each week, are much more likely to be effective. Essentially, “little and often” is best, as each time we practice a new task we get better at doing it.  Try to persuade your children to do their vocabulary learning in regular, bite-sized chunks.  You could help by testing them, or even just by reminding them.

It may be a bit of an effort to help your child to set these habits at the beginning of their language learning time, but it will almost certainly save time later on and hopefully help to streamline the learning process for them.

This blog post I wrote earlier gives some other great tips to help you learn your new language more easily: http://language-learners.com/seven-tips-to-help-you-learn-a-new-language/

Six Tips for choosing a good tutor – for an adult.

Six Tips for choosing a good tutor – for an adult.

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 teach an adult:

1.     Consider carefully whether you would be better to have tuition at your home/office or at the tutor’s premises.  In some cases it can be more convenient to have the lesson at your work, presuming that you have a suitable room available.  You may prefer to meet the tutor in a public place for the first lesson, but this may not be the best option for longer term (background noise, additional costs, space…)

2.     Match your tutor to your needs.  If you are a beginner then you will have different needs to someone who would like to improve their business language.  Ask your tutor about their experience with teaching the type of language you need.

3.     If you would like to work towards a qualification then ask the tutor what they think is appropriate.  There is no need for an adult learner to take a GCSE or A Level – indeed, I would advise against it, unless you particularly like talking about how much your brother annoys you, or why you love geography!  Those qualifications are carefully aimed at teenage learners and so some of the topics are less relevant for adults. There are other certificates available which are internationally recognised, for example the certificates offered by the Goethe Institut for German or the Cambridge Certificates for English (EFL).

4.     Have reasonable expectations of what you will be paying.  Remember that the minimum wage for someone over 24 is just over £8 per hour.  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 meet your requirements in the time available.  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.

5.     Think about how often you will take classes and how long each lesson will be.  If you have little time to commit and an irregular working pattern then you may not be able to learn as quickly as if you can dedicate time to your project two or three times each week.  Once a week is a good start for lessons, less than once a fortnight will give too much time to forget in between!  As a general rule, the quicker you want to learn, the more time you must make available.  So if you have just three months to learn then you would be wise to fit in as many teaching hours as possible.

6.     Personality.  Ensuring that you get on well with the tutor and can work well with 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, German and English (EFL) lessons to adults and children for more than 12 years.   Language Learners operates mostly in the Woking and Guildford areas of Surrey.

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.

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!