Having taught English and Maths for the past four years, a residential placement in St Tropez gave me the opportunity to work with two children outside the confines of one or two hour lesson slots. The younger of the two boys is preparing to enter his first year of primary school while the other is working towards taking the 7+ exam in January.
I found staying with the boys during my placement very beneficial and convenient for everyone concerned as I could adjust session time and length to work when the children would be most productive and engaged. Working with both boys for the two months prior to the placement allowed me to assess their levels ahead of time and arrive in St Tropez with a clear plan of what we should achieve and concentrate on to maximise the efficiency of the sessions during my stay.
To prepare for the 7+ we concentrated on reinforcing and building skills in English comprehension and writing as well as mathematics. With exam techniques in mind, after teaching a number of topics, the student practised short tests with minimal help under time pressure. This allowed him to develop confidence working under these conditions and learn to make educated guesses when unsure, as is the reality of sitting an exam, without becoming stressed. Every morning we began a new set of times tables, which we practised in the afternoon and subsequent days to work on the student’s memory recall skills. Having extra time with the student also meant we discovered more memory tricks that suited his personality; for instance, when times tables were put into a song or tune he remembered even tricky tables with ease! With regards to English, as well as focusing on more challenging elements such as comprehension and new vocabulary to help in the exam, we went back to basics and ensured all grammar and punctuation was perfect. This combination allowed the student to both learn new skills and develop old ones, increasing the quality of his work as well as expanding his overall knowledge.
Unlike working towards an exam, preparing to enter primary school can be relatively nondescript in terms of what to focus on while tutoring. I tailored my approach to the ability of the student, keeping his age in mind, to create a positive experience that will encourage him to embrace learning and education in the future. We continued working on phonics, moving from the simple letter sounds to more complex phonemes. We also focused on handwriting and spelling; these skills will give the student a good foundation to practise writing and reading in reception with confidence. Over the course of the placement we also established a solid base in arithmetic: adding and subtracting; using money and calculating change; telling the time; and an introduction to fractions, multiplication and division.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the placement; it allowed me to accomplish everything I wanted to with the children in a relaxed setting. The personal relationships I developed with the children while staying with them are invaluable to me as a teacher and will enable me to develop learning techniques in fitting with their personalities in future.
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