How to Help Your Child With Multiple Assessments

Jun 10, 2020NCEA, Parent advice

Picture this: your child has just gone back to school in person, and their teachers yarn on about “making up for lost time”. All of a sudden, they’re expected to complete 3 internals for different subjects!

It can be hard trying to juggle all that work while students are still adjusting to the new school term and an uncertain school year. They may be feeling stressed, anxious, upset, or even angry. Where do you begin?

Luckily, we have some tips, tricks, and resources to help you get through a stressful situation like this with your child. 

Managing The Workload

Staying on top of your work is one of the best ways to juggle all the assessments coming your child’s way. They can achieve this by organising their work.

Studies show that writing down daily tasks can:

  • Increase your productivity
  • Keep you engaged with the content you’re learning
  • Help you understand your limitations
  • Decrease your cognitive load (that’s a fancy term for how much information is crammed into your brain at one moment)

At the end of the day, getting good at time management can decrease your stress levels, lower your anxiety levels, and help you perform better at school.

Need some help with planning?

There are lots of resources out there that can help you log due dates, checkpoints, and draft deadlines. Here are a few that use different methods to plan your days:

The Eisenhower Matrix 

This method encourages you to order your tasks by importance and urgency.

This method gives you four categories: Do First, Do Later, Delegate, and Don’t Do. For example, if you have a draft for your English essay due today, you would put it under “Do First”. If you have a Geography task due in a week, you can put it under “Don’t Do” (for now). Here is an app and website that helps you organise tasks using this method.

Study planners

This method is ideal for setting up daily tasks by the hour, where you can plan out the day ahead. Students can jot down which subjects or modules they’d like to focus on in a one-hour time slot. This helps them to structure their work throughout the day. You can access a study planner here.

Checklists

With these, students can tick off goals as they’re completed. Writing a short sentence like “finish the first paragraph of drama essay”, sets a task, and can be check-marked it once it’s done. This is a pre-made checklist that allows you to fill out the information about the task names and when they’re due by. Students can also write out additional notes if they like detailed ideas.

Students could use these methods together to organise their day, too. For example, they could use the Eisenhower Matrix structure in a checklist, or sort their study planner hours into a checklist

Next on their to-do list? Getting into the nitty-gritty of the work itself.

Work Smart

When students have a plan in mind, it’s easier to figure out how they’d like to structure their work. When students integrate some of these skills, they won’t have to rush to finish their assessments the night before they’re due.

All the skills mentioned here are proven to help students remember and recall information over long periods of time, space their study out to benefit their brain, and connect modules or assessment standards across different subjects.

What’s in the toolbox?

Retrieval learning

This skill teaches students to recall information that they’ve already learned, and move it from working memory (what you might know as short-term memory) to long-term memory. You can use the scientifically-backed Method of Loci. Let’s say you have to remember some Biology topics:

  • Life Processes
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Variation

When using the Method of Loci, students can build a mental image of your house, then chuck a topic in a “room” of your imaginary house. So, you can store Life Processes in the lounge, Gene Expression in the kitchen, and Genetic Variation in the bathroom. By connecting the topic to something familiar, students can retrieve the information faster.

Spaced Practice

Spaced practice builds on retrieval learning and asks students to recall information over a long period of time (usually a few weeks). This is sort of like self-testing, but less stressful and better for your brain. It means that students don’t force their brain to remember large volumes of information all at once. That makes it harder for them to remember information.

Basically, retrieval works like this: when you learn something new, your brain creates a new path with neurons (cells that send and receive instructions from the brain). When you recall it, your brain is using that one particular path to remember information. Spaced practise helps students refresh that pathway by asking them to let your memory partially forget the information, then recall it every time you’re a bit rusty. This helps the learner recall more and more information over time.

Interleaved study

Sometimes, students might find that it’s easier to switch between multiple assessments when they’ve got a lot on your plate. This is actually a proven method that helps you with your memory and learning.

It helps because subjects have lots of skills to teach each student. When they switch between lots of them, they’ll find that skills can be transferred across different subjects. Once students clock which skills can be used where they can improve the skill as a whole across a range of different scenarios. For example, writing essays for English might help them learn classics because both rely on the skill of critical thinking. Balancing equations in chemistry might help them learn maths formulas because they both rely on the skill of logical reasoning.

Chunking

This method encourages students to break large chunks of information down to bite-sized components. Chunking improves someone’s ability to store information in the short-term. You can eventually link smaller bits of information together and combine it into one big topic that’s easier for you to remember.

As an example, let’s use the Level 2 Biology standard of Gene Expression. It can be broken down into its topics, we’ll use DNA as our topic example. Then, students break the DNA topic down into specific details. Here is a great example of how the Level 2 Gene Expression topic can be broken down into small, simple, and easy-to-learn components, just by the way.

Staying Motivated

Getting all these assessments done at the same time could leave your child exhausted, demotivated, and stressed. It’s important to make sure they’re taking care of themselves when they’ve got all that work to get through.

Even though some people might tell you that these little rewards won’t really help you finish your work, some people say that this isn’t true!

There’s been a lot of discussion around the way we reward ourselves for work. A lot of studies used to say that praise worked better as motivation. Some more recent studies have told us that “rewards”, like an hour of social media or a few lollies, can motivate more than praise or affirmations. This is because students may need an extra push, rewarding themselves with things they like for doing work they might not like can actually help them get things done.

In finding ways to manage breaks, your child could try:

  • Scheduling breaks: Go do something else for a change: take a walk, talk to your mates, or have a snack.
  • Treating yourself: Find it difficult to keep your eyes on a page? Give yourself a mini chocolate when you finish a section.
  • Getting in contact: Doing assessments on your own for a long time can make you lonely. Reach out to your friends for a chat when you’ve finished an essay. They’ll help you take your mind off things!
  • Watching something: Mix it up, open up Tik Tok, and enjoy yourself. Only for twenty minutes or something, though. Just enough time to rewire your thinking and decrease that cognitive overload.

 

Round off

If your child organises their schedule, applies some of the learning skills we’ve suggested, and takes breaks between their work, they’ll survive all those assessments they’ve got. Although let’s be honest, they won’t just survive them, they’ll ace them!

 

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