Grade Transformation Blog

Grade Transformation Blog

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Archive for April 2018

4 Reasons Your Teen Gets ‘Stuck’

Here’s one of the statements that really frustrates me as a teacher…

“Miss, I’m stuck”.

My auto-pilot response is “in what way?” or “with what?”.

Now, the worst answer to THAT is – yep, you guessed it:


Where do you start with that?

And more importantly, it’s NEVER actually the case.

So what’s really going on behind the belief or declaration of being stuck?

Watch this week’s video OR scroll down for the written version to find out 🙂

It could be one of 4 things:

  • Is they haven’t read all of the information carefully. Now, this isn’t necessarily a criticism (sometimes it is if they are just being lazy) but sometimes, it’s more that they haven’t processed that information. Very often, once I have a student just re-read the introductory info or the question to me, they suddenly get it. They process something or notice something they hadn’t before and it all slots into place. Other times, there might be sources or resources they need to be using, and they haven’t done that, for example, using a graph or an extract or a diagram to help them answer a question.


  • A second potential hidden situation is that they aren’t savvy in breaking down questions and identifying key words and command words. If that’s the case then they are likely struggling to figure out EXACTLY what they need to do and indeed that CAN be tricky to decipher in some questions, essay titles or assignment instructions. This is why students absolutely need to master their knowledge of command words and Bloom’s Taxonomy.


  • Which leads me nicely to the third possible problem lurking here: It could be that they know WHAT they need to do, they just aren’t sure HOW to do it. For example, how to ANALYSE rather than simply describe or explain. Or how to EVALUATE effectively and concisely. Or they don’t have a template to cover all the bases in responding to a COMPARE and CONTRAST question. This comes down to their exam technique (even if they aren’t actually in an exam situation) as well as having a stack of go-to systems and templates so that they can smoothly and confidently answer any question and command they’re faced with.


  • Lastly, they might actually know all these things really, but they are perhaps just lacking the confidence to go ahead and execute on them. They don’t trust their own judgement and feel like they need approval or have someone confirm things for them.  This is unfortunately the least common situation I find with students, it’s more often situations 1, 2 or 3, but it most often occurs when students have been used to having scaffolds, structures and high levels of input and need to build their skills in independently putting things into practice.


So, if ever your teen is stuck on a homework task or assignment, then consider these 4 potential reasons behind that “I’m stuck” statement, or “I’m not sure what to do” to help them then get on a path to getting clear and confident.


If you think this could help someone else you know, please share or like this post 🙂

Oh, and leave me a comment or drop me an email to let me know which of these situations is the case for your teen 🙂





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2 Things to Focus on

How can your teen best level-up to meet the demands of their current year?

I’ve had a few emails come in since my video where I pulled back the curtain on Term 1 results and shared the fact that it’s not uncommon for students to drop back a little in terms of results and grades from where they were at the end of last year – Parents asking for advice about how students can best level-up to meet the demands of their current year.

So I want to share with you 2 key focus points for your teen to level-up their study and meet the greater demands of their current year level.


Here are 2 key focus points for your teen to level-up their study and meet the greater demands of their current year level

Because – ‘What got them here, won’t get them there’.

Meaning, what got your teen a C grade in Year 9 for example, WON’T get them a C grade in Year 10.

Likewise, working the same hours and putting in the same effort as they did in Year 10, won’t get your teen the same results in Year 11. And so on.

Here goes!…

Focus Point One:  Producing work of a higher QUALITY.

One way to do this is to improve their QWC – quality of written communication. This is a large focus of my Write Like an A-Grader training, with elements such as creating more sophisticated sentence structures, using more technical and a wider range of vocabulary, and strategic proofreading and editing.


Focus Point Two:  Producing work at a higher COGNITIVE SKILL level.

And if you want more info on what I mean by that, then be sure to come to one of my future webinars, where I explain command words, Blooms Taxonomy and how it all relates to assignments, exams and marking criteria, in detail – because this is such a crucial element to students’ achievement – but one that very few students or parents are fully aware of.

But for now, I can tell you that to produce work that engages and displays higher cognitive skills, your teen needs to not only respond accordingly to any high level commands, but they also need to create opportunities to work at that level.

That might be when they choose a topic for an investigation, when writing their own thesis statement, or when selecting a genre for a piece of extended writing. They should be looking for ways to operate at the analysis, synthesis and evaluation levels rather than keep themselves stuck in description and basic explanation mode.


If your teen can put into practice just a few of the many techniques and strategies that go into these 2 focus areas then they’ll be making progress towards meeting the demands of their target grades of their current year level 🙂








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Efficient editing ( = more time for fun and relaxation)

Does your teen sometimes end up spending waaaayyyyy too much time on their assignments and essays?

This week, after an email from a dad concerned about the amount of time his daughter spends editing, re-drafting and sometimes re-writing whole chunks of her assignments, I’m sharing with you the 3 pillars that underpin the whole reviewing and editing process.

If you prefer to read rather than watch, scroll down for the written version 🙂



I recently had an email from a dad, concerned about the amount of time his daughter spends on her assignments, in particular, going back over, changing, editing and re-editing her assignments after receiving feedback and in the final days before submission.


And I totally get it. For many dedicated students there is an element of perfectionism at play here, as well as of course, wanting the achieve the best result they can.

This is why my official taglines are to help students get happy, smart and successful and to have them achieve their best possible success AND enjoy the journey along the way. With a lot of emphasis on that AND 😉

That’s what these blog videos are all about and why my 10 Week Program and other Write Like and A-Grader training are centred around making study as EFFICIENT and STREAMLINED as possible for teens today.

So that they do actually have time for other interests and hobbies, to just sit and relax at home, to hang out friends and even do things just for fun.

Now, being efficient in reviewing and improving any piece of work is so much easier when students have a system to follow. Otherwise any changes or edits end up being haphazard and yet more re-reads are needed after each round of edits.

And while I could do a whole video on just each step of the system it’s really more than I can cover in this blog video, so what I’d love to share with you are the 3 pillars that really underpin or rather hold up that whole reviewing and re-drafting process.

Because if your teen can at least be aware of and start to address each of these, then they will not only be producing a higher quality finished product, but they’ll also be on their way to doing it more systematically too.

  1. The first pillar is matching up a piece of work with the success criteria or the marking rubric. Students should be provided with this for most longer or larger tasks completed outside of exam conditions.

Your teen needs to go through and carefully compare their work with the demands of the grade they are targeting and also the grade above – in a shoot for the moon and land among the stars kinda way. Because if they slightly miss something in their target grade, but DO have some elements of the grade above, then that should be enough to have them achieve their target.

They need to check – are they addressing all the criteria and giving enough EVIDENCE in their work that they are meeting them at the required level?

For example – if it says ‘gives a variety of sources or uses a wide range of references’ then they need to consider:

> How many they have (the amount required will increase as students move up year groups and will depend on the subject and task).

> Where did they come from – they need to show a range of different types. Again this will vary depending on the subject and task, but they certainly need to be academically credible and reliable sources,.

> How have they integrated them into their writing and USED them within their assignment. Are they discussed, compared and analysed, or are they just shoe-horned in?


2. The second pillar is making improvements to improve their overall communication and writing quality. This might be adjusting the structure, for example re-ordering paragraphs so that the points flow more and have closer linkages.

It might be using more technical vocabulary going to the thesaurus to look for more interesting words. It might be extending an explanation to improve the level of analysis. Or it might be combining or re-writing sentences to make more complex points more coherent in an investigation, or to provide more impact through shorted sentences in a speech or narrative.



3. The THIRD pillar is making corrections – ensuring there aren’t any simple errors.

Because sloppy mistakes can not only cost students in any marks specifically allocated to their writing quality, or the spelling, punctuation and grammar, but even if there aren’t any criteria specific to this, it is important in terms of the impression it makes on the marker about the type of student they are. That can be the difference as to which side of the fence the marker comes down on in any other decisions about ANY and ALL of the other criteria. So, yes – impressions from spelling, punctuation and grammar are important and so solid proofreading is essential.


OK – so quick review :0)

The first pillar of reviewing and editing is matching up their work with the marking criteria.

The second is improving their communication and the quality of their writing,

The third pillar is correcting any slips, errors or mistakes, by proofreading their spelling, punctuation and grammar.


Thanks so much for reading!

Until next week, let’s make this a fantastic week! 🙂


P.S. I’d love to know whether or not this text version is rocking people’s socks. I’d love it if you’d drop me a quick email or FB message and let me know 🙂

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Pulling back the curtain on Term 1

As we round out Term 1 your teen has likely had back some assessment results to think about, or noticed along the way that the expectations on them and their work have ramped up a little.

This week I’m digging deeper into what’s going on behind those results and experiences at this specific time of year.


As we closed out Term 1 your teen has likely had back some assessment results to think about, or noticed along the way that the expectations on them and their work have ramped up a little.

I’ve had a couple of parents write in to me trying to either figure out why their son or daughter got a certain result that was a little below their expectations or commenting on the fact that their teen has struggled to get to grips with some of the tasks they’ve been faced with, despite going ok with things the year before.


Well, this situation is very closely linked to a blog video I made a while ago called ‘what got you here, won’t get you there’ and you can CLICK HERE to check it out 🙂


So, let’s say that at the end of last year, a student was performing at a particular level in a particular subject. That was after a year of teaching and learning at that year level’s requirements and standards.

And right now they’re working at the criteria and standards a year above that and with only having had one term of being taught and of learning at that level.

So they have another 2 thirds or 3 quarters of the year to still master these standards and climb up the criteria levels. Of course, the faster they can do that, by working on their exam technique, the quality of their written communication, and developing the learning techniques that are most effective for them personally, the better.


So, if your teen has been disappointed by any early results so far, or a little taken aback by new expectations, then hopefully these reasons will help them understand why this might be.

And of course, if they’re doing great, (that’s awesome!) they can still use this video to help them continue to level up throughout the year.


See you back here next week, and until then, let’s make this a fantastic week 🙂



P.S.  If you know anyone who might find this blog useful, please feel free to share or forward it 🙂
#sharingiscaring 😉

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