Secondary school is a minefield. Children are becoming teens and are going from the comfortable and nurtured environment of primary school to the comparative freedom of a comprehensive school. There is one simple trick that will guarantee that they have the best possible shot at achieving their full potential.
The key is getting them organised and it is so simple to do. One of the biggest problems that teens have in school is not having the correct books and equipment. By forgetting books for lessons, there will be big gaps in their learning. When it comes time to look over work at the end of the year, they won’t have a great deal to look over. So whether your child is new to secondary school, or has been there a while, this simple method will guarantee them the best opportunity to do well.
The answer is simple – the pocket folder system.
- Write your child’s name, form and class subject on each label and stick them in the top corner of each folder.
- Explain to your child that everything that they are given for each given subject MUST go into the subject folder. This will include all exercise books and worksheets. This will avoid papers going lost and papers being found dog eared in the bottom of their bags and covered in spillage. Any general school letters, homework diaries, etc, go into the pastoral folder. So when they arrive at each lesson, they should get the relevant pocket folder out of their bag. At the end of the lesson, they should scoop up everything they have been given in that lesson (papers, exercise books etc) and put them back in the folder.
- Every day when they get home from school, ask them to pack their bags for the next morning. Quite simply, they need their pencil case, the folders for the day. In my son’s school they have 5 lessons per day, so he packs 5 folders plus his pastoral folder.
- If your child is anything like mine, this 5th step is the most important. Before they go off to play, they must show you their timetable with which lessons they have the following day, plus show you the folders that they have packed. 90% of the time, i ask my 13 year old son if he has packed his bag, he says yes, then during the “showing me his bag” exercise he had inevitably forgotten 1 or 2 items. The act of going through this out loud makes him realise what he has forgotten and he is then able to go and pack the missing bits.
- Check their planner. Check which homework they have, what their teachers have written, stay in the loop.
- Make a plan for when they will complete their homework in plenty of time for the submission deadline. In our house, the policy is to do homework on the night it is given. While this does not always make me popular with my adolescent teen, it does always ensure that everything is completed in plenty of time, no matter what else life throws at us.
- Once that is done, let them go and play or relax or whatever it is that your teen likes to do in their free time.
My son is a wonderful, caring, intelligent and brilliant human being, but he’s a dreamer. My grandmother would have said he is “half soaked as a brick” (an old lady’s term for a drip, if anyone can please explain it’s origins I’d love to hear them). Without this system, I doubt he would pack a single book. Yet every parent’s evening, his teachers report that he is well prepared, on top of his work and doing better than his peers. When report time comes around, his results are always excellent and, as much as he thinks I’m a pain of a nagging Mum daily, he is always delighted with himself for performing so well.
The truth of the matter is, the goals and objectives for school are to come out with some half decent grades at the end, all the while making friends and being happy. This system will give your child the best chance to make the most of those short years that they are given in school to enjoy the lessons and take the opportunity to learn with all of the equipment that they need.
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