Here are some thoughts and suggestions on several topics.

Homework

Homework is a subject I feel strongly about. It is the hallmark of an academic school, but it is frequently poorly set. Left till the end of the lesson, it is often rushed and badly explained. Meanwhile, the pupil, waning after 40 minutes of concentration, his or her mind focused on the next lesson, often leaves with only a partial understanding of what is to be done. Greeted with the words ‘do English’ in the diary, parents are powerless when their child has a tearful tantrum the night before work has to be handed in.

At Exeter English, I try to stress the importance of taking a professional approach to homework. I like to ensure that pupils and, if possible, parents understand what needs to be done. Here are some suggestions with regards to school:

Always make sure you understand the homework. Speak to the teacher about it. If there isn’t time at the end of the lesson, make an appointment to see the teacher outside the lesson right away. Don’t leave it till the work is due or they’ll think you’re using lack of understanding as an excuse.

Even if you do use a note form, write the instructions clearly in your homework diary. Make sure you and your parents can read them.

Even if you don’t start the homework right away, review what you have to do whilst the instructions are fresh. That way you can recall what was said in the lesson and estimate the time involved in completing the task.

Do the work as soon as you can. That way the task will not become a dark cloud hanging over you.

Pick the best time to complete the work and take a pride in doing it well. That way you will turn what might become a chore into something meaningful.

Reading

Reading should be a joy. If it isn’t, take every effort to make it so. Find books on subjects that interests you. What you read doesn’t have to be highbrow, but it should match your reading age. It’s better to read something than nothing at all.

Success in English, and many other subjects for that matter, depends on reading. There is a direct correlation between those who read and those who do well at GCSE. The habit should be encouraged and maintained, especially in the difficult years when pupils transition between children’s, teen and adult fiction.

At times, it is good to read aloud. This is especially so with poetry where the sound and rhythm of words has such an impact.

It is also important to be read to. If parents aren’t able to do this, audio recordings and readings broadcast on stations like Radio 4 Extra are an important substitute.

Younger children should be encouraged to record and, even, write about what they have read. Taking part in local library schemes that reward reading can be an important incentive.

Comprehension is vital and it is important that children have the opportunity to discuss what they have read. This way they can improve vocabulary and cement understanding.