Christmas holidays and exam preparation
By Elizabeth Holtom, Author of Study Skills, the complete guide to smart learning
05 Dec
These two important events don’t exactly go together, do they? You will be busy getting ready for the festive season. Your children will be tired after the longest term of the school year and looking forward to having a break. So, what is to be done?  

Team leader-for-learning
Your children are the team leaders of their learning. Check out chapter two in Galore Park’s Study Skills, the complete guide to smart learning for more on this. You are a key member of the back-up team. The more you have to nag, the less your children are likely to take responsibility for their learning.  

1) Before the end of term
Let’s take a step back. Here are a few of the things your team leaders need to get sorted before the end of term. They should talk to their teachers/form teacher/academic tutor to make sure they know exactly what is important and urgent and what is great if they have time. 
Here are a few possibilities:

Important and urgent
  • Holiday work.  Have they got all the files/books etc. they need?  When does it have to be handed in?
  • Practice papers, especially for subjects they are having time management problems with.  Are they meant to be doing some as part of their holiday work?  When do these have to be handed in?
  • Revision topics for exams at the beginning of the Easter Term.  Have they got all the files/books etc. they need?

Great if there is time
There may not be much, if any, time for this category if there is a lot of important and urgent stuff to be done.
  • Building up their library of revision resources.
  • Choosing a topic/topics for mind mapping; index cards; box and bubble charts
  • Choosing vocabulary topics or maths/science formulae for making sets of flashcards or setting up their cards on an app like Quizlet or Brainscape.

2) During the holidays

First of all, let your children have that much needed rest. Make sure they are getting enough sleep and not just using the holidays as a reason to stay up late playing games on their tablet or smartphone. They should put their devices away well before going to bed. Their bodies will then produce melatonin which helps them fall asleep and stay asleep. 

In previous Galore Park blog articles I have explained the importance of breakfast. The evening meal is also very important.  Make sure your children have a satisfying meal at a reasonable time. One based on carbohydrate foods such as pasta and potatoes with just a moderate amount of protein can help prepare the body for sleep. A high protein meal with a small amount of carbohydrate may have the opposite effect and keep them alert.  In any case you don’t want them to go to bed feeling hungry or too full as this can make them feel alert or uncomfortable. This will make it harder to get to sleep.
Recipe tip for supper:  what about their favourite pasta with a cheesy sauce and some small florets of broccoli stirred in. Sprinkle the pasta mix with extra grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Grill until the cheese has melted and the breadcrumbs are golden.


Year Planner
Get your children to choose a colour code for the following:
  • Dates of exams
  • Project deadlines
  • Other holiday work such as practice exam papers due in 

Weekly planners - click to view free weekly planner
You will need enough of these to cover the whole holiday. Start with the fun things.

  • Days off for treats, outings and, of course, Christmas Day!
  • What time of day suits your child for studying? How long will they work for?  Factor in short breaks and reviewing. Read more about these in chapter 1.3 of Study Skills, the complete guide to smart learning. Have those healthy snacks on hand.
  • Make clear there is plenty of time for meeting friends, sport, other hobbies or just taking it easy at home. Getting out into fresh air is great for the brain as well as the body.  
Recipe tips for snacks: crunchy raw vegetables with an avocado dip; wholemeal toast with peanut butter; chocolate brownies with added chopped hazelnuts and dates; cookies using porridge oats; berry muffins.

Into action
Now for the nitty gritty! Have your children got their workspace sorted out? Have they got plenty of storage space – boxes/ baskets/cupboards so that it can all be put out of the way when done for the day? Have they all the stationery they need?

Encourage your children to assess how they are getting on. Do they need to tweak their schedule? Do they need some help? Who can best help them?

Looking ahead: when they take those exams or hand in that holiday work, are the results what they hoped for? 
If yes, great.  Keep going.  They are becoming responsible team leaders. 
If no, what do they need to do to improve for next time? 

Your children need to become expert in the 3Rs of learning:

Responsibility - taking responsibility for their actions.  Their choices on when, what, how long and how to revise will all have consequences.  The better your children understand how they like to learn, the better the chances are that they will make informed choices about how to work in an effective, brain-friendly way. 
Resourcefulness - being prepared to take risks, accept challenges and try new approaches. ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent’. Get into good studying habits – make these permanent to maximise the chances of success.  Try out a range of strategies in a creative and personalised way.
Resilience – being able to deal with frustrations and setbacks. The brain believes what we tell it. Change negative thoughts into positive ones. Change ‘I can’t’ into ‘I can’t, yet’; ‘There’s no way’ into ‘I’ll find a way’; ‘I don’t know how’ into ‘I don’t know how to do this so I will need some help’.

For these children - ‘There is no such thing as failure, only feedback’.
Good luck and Happy Christmas!

Tags: Christmas, Elizabeth Holtom, Revision

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