In less than a week paper one will be done. I’m going to look into my crystal ball **coming all over “Mystic Meg”** and say there will be a twitter storm about either a certain question or a mistake on the paper or about how they were too hard/too easy and then teachers will start going “off on one” about grade boundaries and not really understanding how they work!! all topped off with me getting irate and there’ll be ranting blog post … again!!

Before we get to that point though we still have time to shoehorn a little more learning! I don’t know about you but last week I found myself (for about 10 minutes saying “oh and you need to know THIS, and THIS and don’t forget how to do this like an absolute mad woman … I had a word with myself though!!) So with my sensible head on we need to be strategic about the last few lessons but what I think is more important is that we provide them with the tools to do the work themselves in addition to supporting in those lessons between other subjects which we all know that if you’re a school that doesn’t do study leave, the next few weeks’ lessons are a bit of a hotch-potch. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t have study leave because I’m actually a supporter of keeping them in school – I think back to when I went on study leave and I remember spending most of the time outside sunbathing and invariably falling asleep! 

I suspect that we’ve all sat in a parents evening and heard parents say “I don’t know how to help them revise” and most of us will have said “get a revision guide as a starting point”. The fact is, lots of students don’t know what to do with it when they have it. Seager used to tell our group (remember that much of what I write is in the context of the old C/D borderline students now they’re probably 3/4/5 students!) that he used to tear off the corner of the top of the right hand page as he was confident with topics so that when he flicked through it he could get a sense of satisfaction of what he’d done. In terms of providing specific support to students and ramping up the pressure (with support of course) I’ve been producing final countdown papers for the last 13 weeks (this weekend will be week 14 and the last one) and in previous years (remember I no longer have “pips on my shoulder” so don’t get to decide what my new school does) we’ve emailed out to parents with the mark schemes and examiners reports for their kids to work on – whether they do or not is up to them – we have to start passing the responsibility back to the students & parents!!! The idea behind them is that they focus on 3 or 4 topics a week to support this whole (as others would call it!) spaced retrieval thingamajig and because it follows the order in which we’ve taught the “crossover” topics the students seem to like it as the topics are familiar and they also have the added benefit of having video support if the students need it so there are no excuses .. apart from sheer bloody laziness! Additionally because these are the “crossover” topics we’d send them to ALL students because those students aiming for the higher grades on the Higher tier needs to nail these topics to access the higher grades and every mark counts! 

I’ve also set got Fize to set up a new tab on JustMathsOnline called the “final countdown” and in it I have put all the previous countdowns and called them “T minus X weeks” etc. The intention is that next year I will use this more for student focused “countdown” stuff to raise the profile (from about October) of the things that the student could be doing to prepare from then onwards with an eye on their Autumn mocks – getting them into the habit ready for next Summer but for now it sort of looks like this:

In terms of the final furlong towards paper one I’ve done some frequency of topics analysis and no, I won’t share it because some of the topics I’ve allocated questions to are based on my opinion and we’ll only end up disagreeing and I don’t have the time or the effort. It’s also pretty inconclusive for all the boards (apart from I’d say product of prime factors and error intervals – that’s not to say they’ll appear this Summer either!!) so trying to pin down ONLY certain topics for students to focus before paper 1 is bonkers. I am not an examiner and they are the only ones that know what is in the papers … for anyone else its a guess and one that I’m not prepared to risk with my kids and I know the exams pretty well! After the summer sitting I will update my analysis and will share at that point! in addition I know that Pearson/Edexcel have made some tweaks to their papers since last Summer so I just can’t bring myself to do it … It’s just too early in the lifetime of the exam to do a best guess for the first paper in my opinion but then again, who am I to say!?!?!

So what I have done in lieu of a “best guess” paper is to pull together all the questions from Summer & Autumn 2017 for each boards papers 1 into one document (i.e. one for each board at higher and foundation tier) and adapted the questions to make them work – we know that the same topics are unlikely to come up again but at this stage I want them to get really familiar with the style of questions and to just “do maths”. I originally did Edexcel but stupidly said in an email that “if there was an appetite for the other boards” I’d do them too! I’ve also mixed the two sittings’ questions up together and “sort of” put them in an order where the “easier” stuff is towards the front (Note for JMOnline users: I’ve made some corrections to version 1 but all of them for the 3 main boards are online now in the extras tab of the teacher toolkit in revision & exam prep, along with solutions).

Given that I have an adverse reaction to “best guess” papers or predicted papers at the minute (I’ll probably be over this by next Summer!) what I will be doing is more practice questions than you can shake a stick at. After paper 1 I’ll be putting together what we have called ““between papers” practice papers” … catchy eh? The ones I produced last year (shown below) were well received! The intention is that I get them done for all three boards (I’ve got come contacts sending me paper 1 when they get their mitts on it!) and they’ll go out via email / up on JMOnline very late on Thursday night /early Friday morning (please don’t email me chasing them because every email I reply to means less time pulling the papers together!!) … so you may want to think about getting someone on alert to get it printed on the Friday after paper 1 so that you can get it handed out to all students ready for half term. The first one will be available LATE on the evening after the first exam. I’ll also make them available in the new “final countdown” tab so it’ll be worth letting your students/parents to look out for them there too if for some reason you can’t get to the papers them. I will of course make them available to the wider teaching community on the blog after I’ve sorted all the other places out first!