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18 Aug, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Finish the school year on a high note

As kids shed their winter coats, hats and scarves in anticipation of spring, they can easily jettison their powers of concentration as well. It’s a hard reality; just as the sunshine and warmth make their spring debut, schools are ramping up the pressure to prepare for end-of-year projects, papers and exams, And this year, the new grading system set by the education ministry means that the last school session counts for 60 per cent of a student’s final grade. So it’s crucial that students continue to work hard right up to the final day of school. There are several ways parents can support their children to ensure the year ends on an academic high note.

Ian Spencer, a guidance counsellor at Riverdale High School in Pierrefonds, says parents should insist on a set time each day for study and review. The actual time, for example, before or after dinner, doesn’t matter. What is crucial is that students not only complete homework but, most importantly, also review what they’ve learned. “People forget about 80 per cent of what they hear in a day,” Spencer says. “So if students don’t review what they heard in class each day, at the end of the session they have to relearn almost all of the material. It’s insane.”

To help with the review process, Spencer encourages students to take notes in class. Nothing too detailed, he says, just facts and key concepts. This will help keep students focused on what the teacher is saying, which can also ward off distraction. Then in the evening, the student can use the notes to review the day’s work.

Spencer also encourages parents to talk with their kids — and the teachers if necessary — to ensure a student hasn’t missed any assignments. Many young people don’t grasp how quickly a zero on an assignment will drag down their grades.

Many teachers will take off points for work that is late but that is better than getting a zero for not submitting anything at all. To push home this point, Spencer suggests handing your child a list of made-up grades, say 80, 85 and 75. Then try adding in a 0 grade and taking the average, which comes out to 60. Then try the same exercise adding in “late” grade of 50; the average will be 72.5, a huge difference on a report card.

David Schipper, who runs a tutoring company in Montreal called 2Torial Educational Centre, says parents should look over the report card from the end of February and follow-up with teachers in any subjects where a child may be struggling. “Find out how your child has done on tests in March,” he suggests. If grades are slipping or poor, take action by developing a study plan.|

And, although it may sound obvious, make sure your child attends class. Students who are prone to cutting class are more likely to do so in the warmer months. And try to schedule doctor and other such appointments after all exams are over.

As exam time approaches, especially coupled with end-of-session projects and papers, students may feel extremely anxious. To help students, Spencer suggests creating a detailed study plan for the upcoming months. Also, ask if practice exams are available. Young people should write down all assignments and then schedule time (write it in their agenda) to complete them.

During exam time, Schipper says parents should be extra supportive and attentive. “Make sure they are eating well, sleeping enough and not playing hours of video games or spending too much time on Facebook,” he says.

On the day of an exam, students should avoid chatting with each other beforehand about their worries and fears. They shouldn’t run up to friends and say things like: “so, what did you study? Oh, you spent an hour on Chapter 3? Oh my God, I only spent 20 minutes looking at it.”

Instead, kids should breathe, quietly review their notes and then head straight into the exam. There’s no avoiding the hard fact that spring/summer fever tends to hit just as students are facing some of their biggest challenges. But with a little planning and encouragement, the last few weeks of school can lead to a satisfying finale.

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