Friday, 3 June 2016

Learning to study...

Over the past ten months I've been working with DK Publishing as a consultant on their new book, 'Help Your Kids with Study Skills'...

I should make it clear before I go further that I am not here to sell the book, I will make no profit from sales - my school received a payment for the hours I put in to the development of the book (the equivalent of supply cover costs) but that is all.

I have now had a look at the final copy and I do think it is a really good piece of work. I think it will prove to be a useful guide for parents and carers, form tutors, mentors and learning support teachers in terms of the overarching skills a young person requires as they reach the increasingly academic pressure-zones of Key Stage 4 and 5. It might also be something that would guide a Year 9 'Preparing for GCSEs' programme.

What I like about the book is that it is visual in its presentation which is good for the current generation of internet-minded readers. I am also really pleased that it takes seriously the emotional and social aspects of learning. These were priorities I pursued as I was sent page after page of briefs and drafts. I think the editor and authors have done a great job.

On a personal note, contributing to this project was an entirely new experience for me. I was contacted out-of-the-blue by DK Publishing after one of their senior editors, Carron Brown, had noticed my own attempts at study skills resources on TES. These attempts were a response to the fact I could find no 'school ready' books / materials on study skills out there to really direct and shape my tutor slots. 

I realise TES has now taken on a 'teachers pay teachers' aspect, a model which appears to be successful in the United States, but I have resisted moving over to this. This resistance is partly because I am naturally sceptical of commerce creeping too much into the teaching profession and partly because it is a minefield in terms of copyright and the taxman (read this blog post for more info). 

When teachers ask why I share my resources so extensively, I would say that it was initially simply 'just something I did' - an extension of my previous involvement in TES forums where teachers would habitually exchange resources by post. For my part, it usually involved me getting sent resources by more experienced colleagues, as I started out a newly qualified teacher.

One of my earliest memories of the benefits of resource-sharing was on taking over on a temporary contract from a History and Geography teacher, after he had been awarded a sabbatical as part of a government scheme in the early 2000s. I remember quite vividly helping him with his boxes into the car, as he explained he was 'off to do some research... and sitting in the garden'. There was a Zen-like air of calm about him which, in hindsight, was probably more relief than anything... What ensued was me trying to get to grips with some very rowdy classes, and with very limited experience in geography to boot - cue an SOS call on the TES forums!

In recent years, I have gained added motivation to share resources due to the encouraging emails from colleagues (new and old) who are taking things I have created, developing them further and putting them to good use - and the fact it brings along with it new opportunities such as this. I would certainly recommend teachers getting 'out there' online for these reasons - to borrow a well-known phrase...

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