Realising the importance of first year at second level

Every year you wonder, is there anything new to say to first year student and parents? But every year, it comes down to the basics.

Getting organised

Help your students become organised. Help them understand their timetable; to organise their schoolbooks each day; to do their written homework the evening they get it, and to read over subjects in which they may not receive daily written homework. Getting this right can impact on every year of a student’s later years. Please try to remember this.

Definitions

The key to a student comprehending and enjoying a subject, particularly a new subject, can be the mastering of subject definitions.

Such subjects can be: science, business, languages, geography, music, technology, metalwork, woodwork, religion, home economics, and English.

Help a young student to write out new definitions, and new words for individual subjects and languages as they learn them, each night. And, as a parent would listen to and check spellings through primary school, listen and check definitions and new vocabulary through this vital first term and first year for your student.

The building of these definition and vocabulary copies helps a student to solidly learn, rather than simply read, a subject, day-by-day and week-by-week. And, later, when a student needs to revise for weekly and term tests, he/she will have an unbeatable and personal revision method and back up.

Maths

A problem with maths seeps into the heart of a student, leaving that student uncertain, lacking confidence in their ability, afraid to take risks, afraid to ask questions, afraid to participate in class.

Always get help, first in your student’s own school, and if necessary, seek outside help. Getting maths right for a student, in first year, and through all years, will keep open careers in science, business, engineering, the health sciences, and many more

English and reading

A confidence in English will form the basis of so much of what a student will study and do throughout the next five or six years at second level.

English is imbedded, not only in the subject English itself, but a competence in English will be required for a student to handle language-based subjects such as history, geography, business, the history of art, together with languages and science. And the new Project Maths has added greatly to the demands of English for students.

Encourage your young student to read. Start with what interests him/her. Reading is the only way students will truly develop and expand their vocabulary and their use of language. This cannot be done simply by the conversation students hear all around them.

The joy of practical subjects

Practical-based subjects such as art, music, woodwork, metalwork, and home economics, are wonderful subjects to help a student settle into second level.

Students walk around in these classes, chat, can be at their ease, a lovely change to their more formal classes. They are also interests that later may become careers, but, more importantly, may stay a fulfilling and joyful part of a student’s life in the unknown years ahead.

Friendship and happiness

By getting the academic balance right, students are freer to socialise, to integrate happily as part of their class, of their school, and to make friends who will journey with them through these important school years and beyond.

It also allows time for sport, new interests, school trips, and family treats such as going to the cinema and time with friends. A stressed student can find it difficult, if not impossible, to concentrate or learn.

Academic benefits

A good first year is the key to a student having the maximum choice of honours level subjects for their junior cycle and later Leaving Certificate examination. These decisions can happen as early as the beginning of second-year – often based on first year summer exams.

Final tips

Cover schoolbooks, workbooks, and copies in the same colour paper for each subject. Keep together with a heavy elastic band. This lets a student find books with ease, whether in a school locker or a crowded schoolbag.

If possible, sit with your first year student each evening as he/she does homework. Definitely to Halloween, and maybe Christmas.

This will help your young student adjust to the heavier workload at second level while also giving you, the parent, a valuable insight to his/her changing world.

And, most important of all, should you sense or see that your young first year is not happy at school, is not settling in, is struggling in his/her learning – do talk to a trusted teacher or year head. Do not wait until a later parent-teacher meeting. Second level is the next part of the journey with your student – always try to work together as a team.

Marie Barrett is founder and a director of MBCS, Marie Barrett Career Services, Loughrea, Co Galway. She is author of The Education Guide and contributes to national and local radio education programmes. MBCS works individually with second-level students and parents in individual student and career, study and education planning. Contact: 091 841424/086 2359751 or [email protected].

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