by Graeme Matthews

April 13, 2019

As a parent are you thinking about how you can help your child get off to a great start in their A-level courses? You want to stress the importance of education but don't want to micro-manage them. You want to give them independence in how they approach their school work but you want to see them be successful. You can achieve this by helping them with one of their sixth form essentials which is getting organised for their A-level courses.

You can show them how to organise their workspace and folders so that they can easily find the resources that their teacher gives them. You can help them organise their time so that they are completing their homework assignments, lab reports and studying for topic tests with a structured approach. And you can show them how to have a school-life balance so that they don't get burned out with their studies.

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So, if helping your child get organised for their A-level studies is something which interests you then keep on reading this blog post.

Sixth Form Essentials: Help Them Organise The Resources Their Teacher Gives Them

One of the main differences between GCSE's and A-levels is the volume of information that your child will receive from their teacher. In A-level courses, isn't the case of a slow and steady teaching pace using a few worksheets that have to be completed by the end of the week. Rather, it is the case of a fast-paced approach where your child is receiving handouts, sample questions to complete in class, homework sets, past paper questions, old practice exams and lab assignments on a daily basis. If your child doesn't have an organizational strategy in place at the beginning of the course they can quickly become overwhelmed with paperwork which could impact their final grade.

The best practice to organise all of the resources they receive from their teacher is to use one A4 lever arch file for each section of your child's course. For example, because there are three sections in A-level chemistry, they would have three lever arch folders. One for Organic, one for Inorganic and one for Physical chemistry along with the necessary divider tabs and sheet protectors. As soon as they receive a resource from their teacher they place it in their day folder. And as soon as they get home they hole punch it and file it in the appropriate A4 folder.

Although organizing their resources using lever arch folders is an excellent organization system, students today are also organizing their resources digitally using a scanner app on their smartphone which is connected to an air drive. Once they receive a resource from their teacher and before they submit their completed homework assignments they scan them using an app on their smartphone and save the file to the appropriate folder on their air drive. Most schools offer a free subscription to Microsoft Office 365 which includes a 1 TB air drive, the Microsoft Office suite and a scanner app called Office Lens.

If your child's school doesn't offer a free subscription to Microsoft Office 365 then it's worthwhile purchasing a subscription and installing the app on your child's smartphone. Or if their school uses Google classroom then purchasing a scanner app for their phone and using Google drive as an air drive. There are many different scanning apps and air drives available for your child's smartphone. The advantage of using the Microsoft Office suite is that one Office Lens scans a document directly from your child's smartphone and saves it to their OneDrive.

Once you have established an organizational system for your child the next step is to help them make filing and scanning their paperwork part of their daily routine. Filing and scanning resources should take about 15 minutes per day for your child to complete and should be the first task they complete when they come home from school and before they start their homework. This is because the paperwork quickly mounts up by the end of the week and a well organised set of folders is crucial when they start to revise for their topic tests, UCAS prediction exam and final exam in the course.

One of the major differences between a student who earns a C in A-level chemistry and one that earns an A* is that the student who earns an A* is organised which is one of the sixth form essentials that have to be mastered. They don't spend their time looking for notes that were scribbled on a piece of loose-leaf paper and then placed in their textbook. They don't spend time looking for homework sets or sample questions that were tossed somewhere in their book bag. Rather they have a well organised set of folders so that they can easily find the resource that they are looking for and spend their time learning the course material.

How to help your child organize their A-level work:

  • Buy one lever arch folder per topic in your child's A-level course.Purchase a subscription to Office 365 or a scanner app and an air drive.
  • Help your child scan and file their resources as soon as they receive them.
  • Help them scan their completed assignments before they submit them.
  • Help your child maintain their filing system by spending 15 minutes each day filing and scanning their resources.

Sixth Form Essentials: Help Them Optimise Their Daily Commute

A lot of students commute anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half each way to school especially if they live in a large city. This adds up to between one or three hours each day or five or fifteen hours each week. That's the equivalent of almost either one or two school days each week that they spend commuting to and from school!

Everyone needs some downtime to decompress after school and make a few phone calls to their friends, listen to music, watch a movie or stream a YouTube video. However, A* students know that this is valuable time they can use to study for their course. Because they are organised they don't waste any time looking for handouts or homework sets tossed in their book bag because they can easily find them in their day folder. Rather, they use their commute time to revise key definitions and concepts using index cards or a flashcard app on their smartphone. They complete their weekly reading from their textbook or a digital copy of their textbook. Or they complete homework questions using the paper copy in their day folder or a digital copy on their smartphone.

A* students also choose their mode of transportation wisely so they can leverage their study time. If they live in a large city they may have a variety of modes of public transportation. For example, bus, tube, train or combination of these modes of transportation. Rather than take the bus which may be standing room only during their commute time they may choose to take the tube or the train so that they can get a seat and get some work done during their commute home.

A* students understand that they need to leverage their time wisely so that they can earn the grade that they want in the course. Its another one of the sixth form essentials that make an impact on whether your child earns an A* or a C in the course. As a parent, you can help your child reclaim this lost time each week by helping them choose a mode of transportation for their daily commute which allows them to get work done during this time rather than being the shortest commute time to and from school. Being able to study between an extra one to three hours each day which is between five and fifteen hours per week can make a large difference in the grade your child earns in their A-levels exams.

Help your child optimise their daily commute by:

  • Choosing a mode of transportation that allows them to study during this time.
  • Plan what they are going to study during this time i.e. revise key definitions and concepts using index cards or complete their homework assignment.

Help Them Organize Their WorkSpace

Besides organising their folders A* students also know that they need to organise their workspace. It doesn't matter where they study at a desk in the corner of their bedroom, at the dining room table or at the public library. Wherever they study, their workspace is organised.

As a parent, you can help your child with their A-levels by helping them organise their workspace. If they are working at a desk make sure that they have a good light source such as a desk lamp, a bookcase to store their books and folders and a comfortable chair. They will also need a pencil case to store pens, pencils, different coloured highlighters, ruler and a calculator. And they will need an adequate supply of college-ruled paper, a hole punch and index cards.

If they are working at the dining room table or a public library then they will need a sturdy book bag and a day folder in order to transport their work. Although this may seem one of the sixth form essentials which is easy to complete it is an important one because having an organised workspace means that your child will be more productive when they start completing their course work.

Ways you can help your child organise their workspace:

  • Make sure they have a desk in their room with a good light source, a bookshelf and a chair.
  • Make sure they have all of the stationary that they need for the course.
  • Make sure they have a sturdy book bag and a day folder.

Sixth Form Essentials: Help Them Organise Their Time

One aspect of their lives that A* students have mastered is time management. It's another major difference between students that earn a C on their A-level courses and an A*. It may just appear that A* students are always studying during their spare time between lessons during the day and in the evening time. And they always seem to have their homework set and lab practicals completed and ready to be handed in by the due date.

As a parent, you can help your child be successful by helping them organise their time using a time management system. It doesn't matter if its a school planner, a day planner or a time management app on their smartphone. What is important is that they have a system that accomplishes two things. First, it captures all of the due dates for homework assignments, lab reports, end of topic tests and exams. Second, it allows them to plan how they are going to complete all of the assignments by their due dates and what they are going to study each day.

The first aspect of your child's time management system is easy to achieve. Your child gets into the habit of writing all of the assignment due dates that their teacher gives them into the time management system. And avoids jotting important due dates in the corner of their notes during their lessons. The second aspect is a little more complicated as it involves them structuring their time wisely during their study sessions. If you need help showing your child how to do this read the blog post Revision Plan: How A* Students Plan To Revise For A-Level Chemistry for more details.

Ways You Can Help Your Child Organise Their Time:

  • Find a time management system that works for them.
  • Help them get into the routine of writing all of their due dates in their time management system.
  • Help them plan their week so that they can complete all of their assignments.

Helping your child get organised for their A-levels is crucial for their academic success and is something that they may not have been required to do when studying for their GCSEs. A-level courses are taught at a faster pace than GCSEs and your child is required to learn and retain a larger volume of information. Helping your child model the strategies used by A* students such as how they organise the resources given to them by their teacher is one way you can help them improve their grade in the course. Helping them complete this list of sixth form essentials will get them off to a great start in their A-level courses.

About the author 

Graeme Matthews

Graeme Matthews has a B.Sc and an M.Sc in Chemistry and a PhD in Adult Education. He has been teaching a combination of university level, college and A-level chemistry for over 23 years. He has taught over 10,000 chemistry students in his teaching career. He has a proven track record of helping students earn an A* on their A-level chemistry exams so they can attend the university of their choice.

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