Tag Archives: improving success in school

The busy start of term..

Whether you are a parent or a teacher, the last weekend in August marks the start or end of your freedom but those first few days offer a hectic similarity to us all as we readjust to the early mornings and return to the loss of our evenings and weekends to planning, preparation and marking. The countdown to half term begins the moment you step across the threshold and pick up your timetable for the weeks and months ahead. Still, the process of educating and entertaining our charges keeps us going and quickly the arrival of over 300 new personalities serves to reawaken the passion and move on from a relaxing 6 weeks.

The transition period for some young people is a tricky one. Routine is absolutely essential as they try to get used to approximately 15 slight variations of the school rules and have to get to grips with how they will transport the hoard of new books and PE kit in their newly purchased undersized ruck sacks.

The early days do serve as stressful times for the newbies and as teachers it’s important that as we start to set and establish classroom routines and discipline rules in our way, we remember that a collection of nervous faces look at you judging how ‘safe’ they will feel in your class. Hopefully some are not weighing up what they can get away with but a confident approach in the first lesson combined with a nice mix of  assertive humour you will have the kids eating out of your hands.

As you start to see the production of work try and look out for the following traits you may wish to raise with your Head of Department/SENCo as potential areas that may need attention.

  1. The grip the student uses with the pen/pencil. You are looking for a classic tripod grip between thumb and first two fingers. The child doesn’t need to stop and shake their hand from fatigue associated with a tight grip.
  2. The speed at which the student writes. This could be due to poor processing speeds, poor spelling or because of attention issues (which could be temporary and dealt with via a swift prompt and refocus)
  3. Do all students complete tests in the time you have allowed. If not, it could be because of a couple of reasons. Potentially there are processing difficulties which could be alleviated with the application of 25% extra time.  Alternatively a student with an average processing ability may not have yet developed the skills to plan and organise their writing efficiently and some strategic coaching may be all that is needed.
  4. Watch out for spelling errors.

Any of the above observations should be raised with the SENCo who is likely to look into transition data as potential additional evidence to build a picture of need.

Lots to think about but the new term wouldn’t be the new term  without a reminder of the job we trained to do and the reward it offers on a daily basis.

Watch out for next week where my first guest blog post will be uploaded. Keep a close eye.

Enjoy your first half term everyone.


Charting progress to boost self confidence and esteem.

It is sometimes difficult to convince a child or young person that they really are doing well and making progress in school. Being able to appreciate the ‘bigger picture’ is a concept that is hard to grasp and the only way to truly convince young people they are doing well is to find a way to illustrate this clearly. There are many ways that you can demonstrate progress in a child friendly way. On a simple level we can relate this to saving money using a piggy bank whereby progress is clearly seen by a gradual increase in coins deposited.


Progress stops being made if coins are not continued to be added or regression occurs if money is taken out. The bottom line here is that progress shown in this way is very tangible and visual and can be used as a motivator.

The same principle can be applied to illustrating progress in social, emotional and academic areas of school. Adding sweets to a jar or colouring bars of a totaliser each time a positive behaviour is observed can offer more frequent rewards and avoid issues of delayed gratification. Academically progress can be shown equally as well. The image below demonstrates this.


So long as results are collected and plotted it is easy to show progress over time. Take the first bar chart for example. This was something I used with an A Level group who were preparing for their AS examination. Preparing for an exam involves practice using past examination papers and mark schemes. The graph shows progress over 7 past papers that were sat, marked and re-sat in the period leading up to the exam. As the results were plotted on the graph, students could see how much more success they were achieving and how at the point leading in to the exam they were achieving 78-80% correct. Having used so many past papers, they also confidentially recognised the format of 95% of the questions answered on the day of the exam and stress levels were greatly reduced.

The line graph illustrates an improvement in reading speeds collected over time using http://www.spreeder.com as shown in my blog post about improving reading speed. Any graphic showing an upward trend will be pleasing to see from all angles and can be used to reassure and motivate young people.

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