Ten Top Tips to Make the Most of the End of Year School Report

1. Before the report arrives home, a useful exercise would be to ask your child to write their own school report. Make up a grid similar to this (below) for all subjects, and ask your child to pretend to be the teacher and write about themselves. You could also create a grid that simulates your child’s previous school report.

Subject Grade (A-E) Effort (A-E) Teacher’s comment
English
Maths

 

This gives your child the opportunity to reflect on his/her own performance at school. It can provide parents with a useful insight and can be a reference to compare the teachers’ perspectives with your child’s viewpoint. It is also a good discussion point when the school report arrives home. And a discussion should take place to help your child reflect and evaluate the report with you.

2. Read your child’s report with your child. This immediately indicates openness, and provides direct encouragement and support to your child. Wherever there are positives, in either comments, grades, effort and so on, point them out to your child first. Most students will have areas to commend and should be acknowledged by the parent.

3. The report should be viewed as a vehicle to move forward, and not be perceived as a final judgment of a child’s ability – because it is not. It’s a “screenshot” and not the whole story. It is important students know they have the ability to modify and change their work ethic or study strategies, and they can improve. Reinforcing that the report is an opportunity to highlight strengths and weaknesses, which will happen throughout their working life through appraisal or performance reviews, can help the student develop goals for next year.

 4. Compare the yearly report to the Semester 1 report and last year’s report. This can be useful to identify specific subject areas where there has been an improvement or a decline.  If grades improved, celebrate this achievement. If the grades declined, ask your child why this may be the case. For example, Semester 1 report grades may have been based on assignments and not exams. This could flag that exams were either not fully prepared for and study skills should be reviewed, or your child needs exam practice as they are a very different mode to demonstrate knowledge, or perhaps new concepts were introduced in Semester 2 and these could be weaknesses to work on!

 5. Don’t just look at grades, focus on effort also. A child’s performance is not measured solely by grades. Not every child will receive an A or B, in fact the average child would mostly like achieve a C grade (which typically represents the middle 60%). Effort grades however can reflect the teacher’s perspective on how hard your child worked, his/her commitment to fulfill homework, assignments and contribution in class. A child who achieved a C grade, or 55%, yet gained an A for effort should be congratulated. Again, as the report should be viewed as a discussion and evaluation, if the effort grade is lower, ask your child why this might be the case, and make a note of this to form one of the goals for next year.

6. Consider the “year average” mark or grade. Many schools will include the year average grade as well as your child’s grade. This is important to consider. If your child attained a 75%, and the year average was 62%, then your child is well above the average. Celebrate this.  It’s also important to consider the academic strength of the school. If it is a selective high school, or a school where HSC results are consistently high, the year average would be considerably higher than the State average. For example, if your child is at a school where 50% of the Year 12 students achieved an ATAR of 90 or over, and your child is in the top half of his/her year’s average, this needs to be considered, even if your child achieved a 70%.

7. Teachers’ comments. The teachers’ comments are valuable when discussing the report with your child. Ask him or her if they agree with the comment, or why, if they don’t.  Encourage your child to consider the teachers’ comments. Obviously if there is a consistent thread from multiple teachers, this needs to be addressed. For example, if many teachers comment on your child’s lack of concentration, or need to focus on answering the question, then the comments suggest a specific area of weakness. Similarly, if multiple comments commend your child on commitment, determination and diligence, it suggests your child’s attitude to school is solid.

 8. TALK to your child about the report, and LISTEN.  Help your child not to blame someone or something that resulted in a disappointing report. Blame does not lead to action. If there are extenuating circumstances for a disappointing report (such as a difficult family situation like parents separating, or relocation or demanding co-curricular activities etc), acknowledge these may have affected your child’s focus and give understanding. However help your child accept that they perhaps did not put in the effort, or had not established an effective revision program, or had not given the required commitment. Asking your child what they could do next year to improve or maintain excellence is a good start. Again, it would be worthwhile jotting down your child’s comments to establish goals. Reinforcing that a yearly report is a vehicle to move forward is vital.

9. Grades varying between subjects, and compare exam results with assessment results. Identify specific subjects where grades were ‘low” and where others were ‘high’. It is not uncommon for students to have strengths in some subjects and weaknesses in others. Few children excel across all subject areas, particularly in Years 7 – 10 when they have not yet been able to refine their academic program to areas of interest or strength. Talk to your child about why grades may vary, as there could be good reasons. For example, if your child’s report grades range from 98% to 62%, ask why? Most students would be able to articulate the divergence and it could be simply that they did not study for a subject at all, or had misread a heavily weighted question. Again, make a note of your child’s comments, to form goals or strategies for next year. Similarly compare exam grades against assessment grades. If your child’s exam marks are noticeably less than the assessment grades, it could easily identify a weakness in exam technique and/or revision, and not be a reflection of ability or understanding. Remember, examinations are just one medium for determining a child’s knowledge.

 10. Establish goals for next year and consider a holiday review program (even if only 1 hour a week). The report can, and should, be read as an instrument to create goals for next year, and possibly plan a holiday review program. As students in December typically focus on the long summer holidays, freedom and unstructured days, it’s natural for school work to wane. However, now is the time to create goals for next year, whilst the academic year remains in their recent memory. It is more difficult to establish goals in February. Goals are best determined by the child, yet parental input after discussing a yearly report is prudent and can provide direction. Identify 3 – 5 goals for Semester 1, 2015. The goals should be in response to you and your child’s discussion of the report, and teacher recommendations. Some goals could be:

  • Focus on reading the question in assignments/exams carefully to ensure the question is answered.
  • Ensure I make summary notes when I finish each topic.
  • Do at least 30 minutes reviewing what I learned at school each day, in addition to homework.
  • Ask the teacher if I don’t understand a concept.
  • For example, if Maths is a weakness, spend 1 hour a week doing extra Maths practice. When the goals are listed put them in a prominent place – fridge, bedroom wall, notice board etc.It would also be prudent to develop a holiday review program if there are specific subjects or areas of subjects that are weak. This does not need to be extensive, in fact, shouldn’t, however regular practice of specific subjects that will be required for cumulative learning next year can make an enormous difference.  

LASTLY, if you are very concerned about your child’s report, you should contact the school.

Holiday review programs can easily be incorporated into your child’s vacation plans. For example, if your child sees a movie, they could write a review, or analyse the film techniques. If your child reads a newspaper or magazine or internet site, they could write a short paragraph about bias, purpose, persuasive techniques etc. Examples of subjects where knowledge learned this year would be assumed knowledge for next year can include Maths, Science, English and Languages – as well as many others!

If your school subscribes to www.studyskillshandbook.com.au  you can learn more about goal setting and how to make the most of school by working through the units on the site. Check if your school subscribes here.

NOTE: The CONTENT on this blog and the email newsletters is NOT TO BE COPIED, reproduced or shared in any form.

The only exception to this are the SUBSCRIBING SCHOOLS to www.studyskillshandbook.com.au who have permission to use these tips in their school newsletters, forward to students and parents or post on school noticeboards.

 

Prue Salter
Enhanced Learning Educational Services
The study skills specialist!
Study Skills Resources: www.enhanced-learning.net
Online Study Skills Handbook: www.studyskillshandbook.com.au

 

 

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Parents are often at a loss about how to manage the amount of time children spend using technology. This is becoming particularly difficult as students are required to not only undertake their research electronically, but also to complete their work from school either on-line or at least on the computer.  It can be hard to tell whether your child is doing legitimate work, or working legitimately with “study buddies” online, or whether or not they are getting distracted with gaming, social media and the like.

Here are the Top Ten tips to help you manage your child’s technology use.

  • Model good technology behaviour 

Parents are the number one role model for students. If you are always on your phone, iPad or computer, even if it’s for work, you are sending the message that this is appropriate. Make sure you regularly take time to “unplug” and demonstrate that it’s more important to engage with people than technology. For example turn off your phone when you are having family time (even for a short burst) or rather than watching a family movie, organise a family outing.

  • Try to understand the technology your child is using and why

Some students will happily use the technology available to help them with their homework without getting distracted. Many will easily become distracted by, or will prioritise, social media, online gaming, apps related to their interests, YouTube etc. To help your child manage these distractions it is useful to spend time with them understanding what they are using technology for and why. Developing this understanding will help you set limits which are reasonable to both parties.

  • Set clear limits in relation to technology time 

Parents need to decide what they consider to be a reasonable amount of technology time per day and per week. As mentioned above, understanding why and how your child is using technology will inform this decision. What works for each family will be different, but options include: no technology before school, technology for a particular amount of time each day, electronic games on the weekend only. It’s vital to be consistent with whichever system you choose for it to work well.

  • Monitor technology use 

If you aren’t sure what your child is doing when they are on the computer (homework or something else), then move the computer to where you can monitor what they are doing. This can be difficult depending on your family and space available. If it’s not possible to move the child/computer, consider doing quiet activities in the space they are using, such as reading or ironing, to monitor their use.

  • Establish “screen free” systems – days, spaces etc.

Make sure technology doesn’t dictate your home and family life. Establish “screen free” spaces eg. the kitchen and dining table. Perhaps have a screen free day on the weekend? This encourages the whole family into more active pursuits and positive interactions.

  • Centralise storage of handheld devices 

Have a rule that all handheld devices are stored in the one place (along with their chargers) so when it’s not an approved technology time, the device is away and not causing a distraction.

  • Use technology time as a reward 

Show that you can be reasonable and flexible. If your child has done all their schoolwork and has enjoyed other activities/completed chores etc. there is no reason why some additional screen time can’t be used as an occasional reward. However, mixing up the rewards with other activities will benefit the whole family.

  • Provide lots of opportunities for physical activity and socialising 

Time which used to be spent in physical activity or more creative leisure pursuits is now often spent on technology. Providing opportunities for students to participate in meaningful and enjoyable activities away from technology helps them to find other interests and connect with people. Options include organised sports, playing music, learning a new skill etc.

  • Use parental controls to block particular sites 

Parental controls are useful to block particular websites which have inappropriate content or which your child gets easily distracted by. The Australian Government’s CyberSmart program makes various recommendations http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/Parents/About%20the%20technology/Parental%20controls.aspx

  • Change the WiFi password

If nothing else works, and your child is constantly on social media or surfing the net, consider changing the WiFi password. Whilst it’s an extreme measure it is sometimes useful as a reminder that there are other things that need to be done.

 

If your school subscribes to www.studyskillshandbook.com.au  you can learn more about how to prepare for exams and manage stress with your schoolwork by working through the units on the site. Check if your school subscribes here.

Prue Salter
Enhanced Learning Educational Services
The study skills specialist!
Study Skills Resources: www.enhanced-learning.net
Online Study Skills Handbook: www.studyskillshandbook.com.au

 

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STUDY SKILLS TIP #57 – HOW TO STAY POSITIVE AS EXAMS APPROACH

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