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Message from the Head of Secondary: A change is as good as a rest..

04 February 2020

A message from the Head of Secondary, Chris Lowe.

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The secondary school is eerily quiet just now as the vast majority of the students upstairs scribble furiously into their exam scripts, doing their utmost to remember as much as they can from lessons going as far as back as September.  They will eagerly await their results, pestering their teachers from the very moment they complete the paper, ‘’have you marked my paper yet?’’.  The students deserve to do well in the exams but in focusing on the result they may well just miss the point.  The mid-term exams are an opportunity to reflect on several months of learning, and for students to recall that learning in a structured way.  They are also an opportunity for teachers to give formative feedback to students so that their learning can be improved.  The process of sitting the exam, of preparing oneself mentally and physically is every bit as important as the result.

Students at all levels in the school have an instinct to learn and to remember things from their learning, but sometimes in school we aim to develop the skill of knowing how to learn.  When we tell our children to ‘go upstairs and revise’ or ‘go and learn your lessons’, can we be sure they know exactly how to do that?  For some students, ‘revision’ means simply reading through their notes again and again but all the evidence we have on memory and retention techniques tells us that for most learners, this type of revision is very ineffective.  Creating cue cards, using post-it notes for useful facts, creating tests and testing friends are all far more useful techniques, and it is incumbent upon parents and teachers to spend a little time teaching these techniques so that students can learn and revise effectively.  Importantly, there is a growing bank of evidence which suggests that movement matters too.  Sitting in one place for hours on end generally leads to the revision techniques becoming less and less effective as time goes on.  ‘Wandering about’ helps oxygen get to the brain and reciting important information whilst moving can have positive effects.  

Changing your view can help too.  Heading to the local library for a revision session can give it added impetus and I would heartily recommend the recently re-opened Children’s Library in the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation as a place for students of all ages to read their books, make their notes and surround themselves with an ‘academic atmosphere’. The square outside the library makes a great ‘wandering about’ place, and the cool waters of the lake outside are a great place to read or quietly reflect on the learning that you have been doing.  A local park could serve the same purpose and outdoor learning sessions could be broken up with bike or scooter rides using the newly available public ‘apps’ that have popped up all over the city.  Not all learning has to take place in a classroom, and with the mild weather extending into the month of February, why not give you and your family a change this month?  And take the books with you…