Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Friday, January 28th, 2011
Art teacher Lisa Willis gives us her top tips on succeeding in your GCSE Art journey
To gain better art grades it is essential that you know what the moderator is looking for. Essentially they will be looking to see that you have taken a ‘journey’ through your work. This usually begins with showing that you can record the subject you have chosen to study (for example Still-life), and drawing is usually the first way most people choose to record. As well as drawing your subject in pencil you could also record using biro, pen and ink, collage, paint and even complete line ‘drawings’ using wire or string…the list goes on! If drawing is not your strong point however, then capture your subject using Photography. Set up your still life in an interesting way and photograph it from a variety of angles. This can then be manipulated to change the colours and styles and even cropped to change the composition using programmes such as Photoshop.
The next stage would be to analyse your subject. Analysis can be done in many ways. If your written English is good then you can write down all that you have discovered about the subject, your thoughts and feelings about your work and the work of other artists and how you now plan to develop your ideas further. If writing is not your strong point then the examiner can still see your analysis through brief notes or simply through your artwork. By trying out different compositions for your work, different media and different colours, you are showing you are analysing what works for that subject. Also a transcription of a relevant work of art or even recreating certain sections of it will show you have really considered what the artist was trying to do.
With your recording and analysis complete the moderator will then be looking for your design ideas. The previous part of your journey should have given you lots of ideas of where you want to go next. Producing a wide range of design ideas for a final piece in different media will gain you marks in this section. Refining them at each stage so that you get just the right composition or background will add to your grade. Remember not to let the ideas just remain in your head – get them all down on paper so the moderator can see how you got to the end result.
At the end of your ‘journey’ should be your final piece or pieces. This could take any form from a large scale pencil drawing or a collection of photographs to a 3D sculpture or a large painted canvas. The most important thing is that the moderator can see that it has come from your design ideas and also that it shows you have been influenced by a relevant artist. That is not to say that you have directly copied an artist’s work – just doing this will not gain you any marks – but instead working in the same way as an artist; using the same compositions, subject matter, materials, colours and shapes, etc will gain you far more marks. For example a still life of a vase and fruit bowl, collaged using lots of different spots and stripes would clearly show an influence of the artist Roy Lichtenstein.
Finally, always play to your strengths. It’s never a good idea to try something you’ve never done before as a final piece, or in the exam. So good luck and enjoy your journey!
Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Tommy, an old hand at GCSEs, gives us some advice on these important years
I’ve finished my GCSEs and believe me, I know exactly what the entire process is like. There are ups and downs, but in the end it will be worth it. If you are reading this and you’re in year 10 or 11, then I will give you one piece of advice that will help you more than anything – don’t get lazy. This sole thing is the downfall of so many of my fellow students in their GCSEs.
If you don’t understand something in class, then ask your teacher! That’s their job! Don’t simply go, “ah well, it probably won’t even be in the exams, I won’t bother with it.” It is amazing how the littlest of things can change your final grade in the exam.
But don’t get nervous about your GCSEs. Stay confident and use a wide range of sources for information. Use textbooks, go over your class books and also use GCSEPod! I feel this website has genuinely increased my grades and I would recommend it to anyone. I always have my mp3 player on the go, whether I’m doing my paper round or chilling with my friends in the park. It doesn’t matter if you’re learning some Biology – your friends will never know! If you start working now, then when your exams come around in a few months, you’ll have no problems because you’ll be well prepared.
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Art teacher, Lisa Willis, gives us some tips on preparing for your Art GCSE
If you’re taking GCSE Art, there are a few things you can do in preparation. You can make it easier by ensuring you have the correct equipment. You could spend a lot of money on a long list of art materials but you only really need:
• a range of drawing pencils (HB, 2B, 4B)
• a putty rubber
• a sharpener
• some good quality coloured pencils (or cheaper watercolour pencils will do)
• a set of watercolour paints and a good quality brush.
You could also pay a lot of money for a good quality sketchbook and then spend hours preparing the backgrounds for each page. Instead, why not make your own? Collect a range of different papers in A4 or A3 size. The greater the variety the better – plain cartridge paper, tracing paper, newspaper, brown paper, wrapping paper, old maps, wallpaper, thin card, black paper, sugar paper and even tissue paper all make good surfaces for sketchbook work. Pile them up into whatever order you want them and then hole punch before binding with anything from ribbon or string, to wire or even a shoe lace. Think about the ‘look’ you want for your sketchbook. This might depend on the topic you are studying and choose your materials accordingly. For example, a Graffiti Art project might look good with a black, decorated cover and a wire bind.
Also collect things…anything interesting that will fit into your journal; tickets, leaflets, interesting pages from magazines, good photos from newspapers (some of the Sunday Broadsheets often have amazing portrait black and white photographs that are great to draw), some of the postcards given away free in cinemas are also worth collecting.
Visit galleries – go online first and plan the best things to look at so you get the most from your visit.
Always carry a notebook to jot down ideas when you think of them (or save them to your phone). Trust me, you will forget them later otherwise!
Finally…keep your eyes open! Start to take in your surroundings. Really look at posters, signage, graffiti, shop windows, etc. You’ll be surprised at what you notice when you really look and this will eventually improve your observational skills.
As you can see, GCSE Art is a commitment. It is very time consuming, but is also very flexible. For example, if drawing isn’t your strength then you can use photographs, collage, ICT etc. Just make sure you dedicate regular time to this subject throughout the year – it’s not something you can rush at the last minute. Be as creative as possible and above all, enjoy it!
Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
GCSE student Claudia gives us her thoughts on going into this all-important year
I’ve just started in year 11. Although in many ways I am excited to be going back to school, I am very aware it will be an extremely important year for me and my class. Our GCSE year is finally here, although it seemed like only yesterday that we were all year nines. Year 10 for me was like a warm up, because we still had to work hard for our modules, which we did in Science and Geography and were each 25% of our actual GCSE. Doing the modules gave us a taste of what it is like to do our GCSEs, although of course in year 11 it will be a lot more difficult and intense.
I sometimes find revision very difficult. I like the method of just writing all the information down then getting someone to test me on what I’ve written; but this sometimes isn’t that good of a way to revise, because I think you need to be able to revise by yourself. Although I find answering the questions in the textbook and doing mind maps helpful too.
I think the information goes in faster when I am hearing or saying it, but everyone’s methods are different. GCSEPod is useful if you prefer to learn by hearing or seeing things. When I make notes, I try and make them neat and colourful, so they are easier to read. I also find it better if all the information is very simple and tidy.
At school my favourite subjects would have to be Graphic Design, Business and Geography. I enjoy Maths and English too, as well as Biology. For languages I do German, but I don’t think I am a natural born linguist. As for Chemistry and Physics, I don’t dislike them too much but I cannot say I enjoy them – and my final subject RS, I find very interesting, and I like the different topics we learn and discuss during it.
All my teachers are very good with helping us to find the best way to revise. At the beginning of the exams, when we have pretty much covered the whole syllabus, we have revision lessons where we try and go over the things we have done. Sometimes we have worksheets, and other times the teachers go over things on the board and ask us questions.
Friday, September 10th, 2010
English teacher Mark Coates offers up some advice on how to make the best use of your time in year 11
Read this carefully year 11. It’s crystal ball time. You don’t have one year until your GCSEs…you have just 84 hours. That’s right, 84 hours! You see there are 38 weeks in a school year, but the summer exam season starts in just 30. If your school is anything like mine, there are 2 weeks of mock exams in the winter. That leaves just 28 weeks of teaching.
As an English teacher, I’m fortunate enough to have 3 hours a week with my year 11 classes. So I have a precious 84 hours (28 x 3) in which to:
* Get all the coursework finished off/sent off
* Teach the rest of the syllabus
* Prepare students with some past papers, and finally (time permitting)…
* Run over the entire syllabus again!
Your teachers will tell you as soon as you walk through the doors in September: “This is a very busy year/This year will go in the blink of an eye/The clock is ticking/Time to knuckle down” and they’re right. So what can you do to make sure you swim and don’t sink? My advice is:
* Firstly, don’t just sit there and listen! Write notes in lessons (keep them in neat, ordered folders) and annotate handouts, worksheets or anthologies clearly (no waffle). If you don’t, then your final revision schedule will be spent rewriting and reorganising notes, not revising them – and you don’t have the time to do that!
* Secondly, use a little colour in your note-making whenever you can (the eye responds to colour and makes it more likely you will remember things). Colour code your notes where possible (e.g. notes on themes in Of Mice and Men might be underlined in red and context in green). Personally I like ‘Mind Maps’, but I know they’re not everybody’s cup of tea.
* Thirdly, use snowball revision (little and often) as well as block revision. Even half an hour a week on each subject (term time only) will give you an additional 14 hours per subject. And that’s not including holiday time (when you can get some good block revision in).
Taking all of this into consideration, 84 hours (plus revision) is actually enough time to climb (or drop) two, three or even four grades in a subject. So don’t you dare start the year by thinking you are destined to get a certain grade, whether it be an E, D, C, B, A or even an A*! As Peter O’Tool says in Laurence of Arabia, “nothing is written.” In other words, crystal balls are misty for a reason; the future isn’t written until you learn it, revise it and then write it yourself… in an exam. The result you get will depend entirely on how you and your peers use those 84 hours of teaching time in each subject. And half of those hours (14 weeks) will be gone by Christmas.
Good luck for Year 11!
Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
English teacher Nic Worgan discusses the options for those students who have finished their GCSEs
If you collected your results yesterday, congratulations – that’s your GCSEs done! What are your options from here on in? It is a good idea to have a chat with your tutor or teacher, someone other than your parents who will be able to offer you advice on your options. It is important that you are able to consider all of your options with someone who can help you.
You can also go to a careers advisor. Most schools and colleges will have these, where you can book an appointment for a chat in light of your results. If you don’t want to use the ones at your school or college there are national services you can get in touch with, just do an internet search for “careers services” to find the ones in your area.
One of your options is to study in a sixth form with a view to go on to higher education (such as a degree course) or a vocational course. If your school has a sixth form that offers the subjects you want, they will probably welcome you back in September. Although you will be returning to the familiar, remember that your day is likely to be very different and you will be treated as more of an adult. If your school doesn’t offer the subjects you want to take, there may be one in the surrounding area that does.
Another option is to continue study at a college. They may offer similar courses to your school, but it is likely to be a more relaxed atmosphere. Remember though, it will be up to you not to relax too much, you must have the self discipline to work hard as you will be left to work on your own to a greater extent than at school. If you can work hard independently in a college, it is great preparation for university as you will develop the necessary skills and self discipline.
The other option is the world of work. If you have had enough of school and exams and you are ready to start to earn your own money, this could be the option for you. Again, a careers advisor can provide a wealth of information for you if this is the path you decide upon.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you are aware of all of your options and don’t be afraid to talk to the people who are there to help you.
Monday, August 23rd, 2010
With results day tomorrow, English teacher Nic Worgan offers up some advice for those collecting their results
So, the day has finally come. All that work boils down to the envelope in your hand and the letters next to your subjects. Once the envelope is open, there are a few things that can happen. First and foremost, you must try not to panic. I know it is easier said than done but a panic at this stage really won’t help!
If your results are not as you expected there may still be some options available to you. If your GCSE is made up of units, you may be able to re-sit individual units, which could go a long way to getting you a grade you are more satisfied with. However, it is worth remembering that revising for these units will take time, so you must factor that time into your future plans. You may also have the option to re-sit the whole exam, most schools and colleges will offer a one year re-sit course for some subjects, so make sure you speak to someone in your school or college about this. If your grade is very different from the one you or your teachers expected it is possible to have your paper re-marked. The sooner this is organised the better, so again make sure you speak to your teachers about this as soon as possible. If you are disappointed with your grades, remember that it isn’t the end of the world, there are always solutions and, if you are determined to improve your grades and are willing to put in the work to do so, you will.
If you are pleased with your results, well done you! Now is the time to plan your next move. If you are going on to do AS levels, you should have at least a grade B in your chosen subjects. Even if this isn’t the policy of the school or college you are going to, you must be realistic about the standard of work that will be expected of you.
Good luck and don’t forget to let us know if GCSEPod helped you with your GCSE exams or coursework! Watch out for some more advice later in the week…
Monday, July 5th, 2010
Nic Worgan, English teacher and author of topics such as Animal Farm, offers some advice on how to brush up your English skills
If you want to achieve a grade C or above in the English exam, you need to make sure you don’t make the common mistakes frequently seen in papers that fail to achieve these grades. Some of the following may seem like simple mistakes, but under the pressure of the exam they can crop up, so you make sure you definitely know them!
The most common mistake is the confusion between there/their and they’re. One way to remember this is:
- Their is possessive (it has an ‘I’ because ‘I’ possess it)
- There: where? There. They are spelled similarly
- They’re: is ‘they are’ (two words)
Search the Internet for some sentences with these words missing and fill them in. Click here for some examples. Keep repeating the exercise until you are sure you really know the difference and are confident you can use the correct one in the exam.
Another common mistake is when ‘a lot’ is written as one word. You must remember it is two separate words, because it is something the examiner will be looking for to be correct. The word ‘rhythm’ has caused many spelling headaches, but an easy way to remember how to spell it is ‘rhythm has your two hips moving’ – this is a memorable one!
The difference between ‘you’re’ and ‘your’ also sometimes causes confusion. If you need to use this, read the sentence and replace it with the words ‘you are’. For example, ‘You’re treading on thin ice’. If ‘you are’ makes sense, you need to use ‘you’re’, if it doesn’t, use ‘your’.
Another common mistake is the incorrect spelling of ‘definitely’. Remember that an ‘i’, not an ‘a’, follows the ‘n’ – think of the phrase ‘I know how to spell definitely’. Lots of people also spell ‘argument’ incorrectly, by spelling it “arguement”, but think of mulling over an argument whilst chewing gum.
Making one or two mistakes in the exam won’t be a complete disaster, but avoiding these common mistakes will go some way to convincing the examiner you deserve the grade you want. An exam paper containing all the above mistakes would almost certainly get a lower grade than a paper that gets them all correct. So it is definitely worth making sure you know these!
Monday, June 7th, 2010
Mike Ryan, author of topics such as Classifying Materials and Representing Reactions gives us some tips on learning facts
One of the really tricky things about Science revision is learning lists of basic facts. This might be the kind of thing your teacher seems to know automatically and you haven’t a clue where to begin. The reason your teacher knows the facts is because they have probably been doing the subject for many years and these things stick. As you might not have much time before your exams, break the lists of facts down into chunks and then make links.
As an example, consider the tests for different kinds of substances in Chemistry. The same idea can be used for other topics too. There are three basic areas of testing: organic, anions and cations. Try to learn each separately. For example, cations are tested in two main ways: flame tests and sodium hydroxide precipitates. You could start by learning the flame colours. Next, break the sodium hydroxide reactions down into sets:
- Some show no change and some give a precipitate.
- Some of these precipitates are coloured and some are white.
- Some of these white precipitates redissolve in excess sodium hydroxide and some do not.
Try learning each set of outcomes in turn. Remember, each GCSEPod title highlights the key facts you need to know.
Too many students read through their notes on this kind of thing and are happy to “sort of know it”. The successful student is the one who spends a few minutes of concentrated time and REALLY KNOWS IT.
Have you ever been in a school play? For weeks you can read the lines from the script, until one day the director says that books are no longer allowed. It’s scary but everyone makes that special effort and gets the job done. The cast members help each other. Parents and friends help test the actors to make sure that they know the lines properly. Some will even ask you to explain your role in the play to make sure that you really understand it. Do you see the parallels? Make the big effort now and your exams will be a smash hit with a happy ending, rather than a Shakespearean tragedy!
Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Nicola Greener, author of topics such as Lord of the Flies and Media and Non-Fiction Texts, offers up some advice for English exams
The first thing to remember is that tone is not a technique in English. It is a concept that is constructed through other techniques such as word choice or vocabulary, register, structure, sound devices, imagery, exaggeration, and point of view, among others.
It is the combination of these techniques that suggest the tone or attitude of the piece you’re reading. One way to think about it is to ask yourself how it would sound if it were spoken aloud. This is because the words you use to identify tone are all words to do with speaking in a particular way.
For example, is the voice in the text angry or sarcastic? Is it moaning or critical? Humorous or ironic? All of these words can be used to describe the tone of a passage. You could listen to some GCSEPod English titles to hear how certain quotes or different styles of writing are spoken aloud.
If you are asked a question about tone, or tone is suggested as one of the concepts that you need to look at in order to answer a particular question, then it should be quite obvious and fairly easy to recognise in the passage you have been given.
When answering these types of questions, you need to make sure that you place it in a context. This means that you have to show what words, phrases, structures, sounds and so on have alerted you to the tone that is being used. Then you need to explain how the words you have chosen are linked to the tone you have identified.
Other tone words to think about when you’re trying to identify tone are: jovial, bitter, scornful, direct, formal, informal, nostalgic, reflective, optimistic and pessimistic. There are many more, just consider all the ways that language can be spoken to demonstrate a particular meaning.