Grade Transformation Blog

Grade Transformation Blog

No.1 in Transforming Students’ Grades

Archive for February 2019

‘Expand your writing’ – Here’s how!

Has your teen ever had comments like ‘extend your points’

or ‘expand your writing’

or ‘more explanation needed’

on their work?

What about something like ‘give more detail’?

Have they ever struggled with those analytical tasks, like essays or expositions or inquiries? Ending up waffling around one point, rather than going deeper.

Well, I’ve got a simple way for them to respond to those situations and up the quality AND detail in their writing.


There are a LOT of different tasks and assignments these days where students have to provide extended explanations and be able give detail by linking points together.
And I know that many find it hard to know HOW to actually make or explain those links, or go into detail on issues or case studies without ending up going round in circles, repeating themselves or ending up in the ‘waffle zone’.


So, here’s what I get students to do.

Simply ask at the end of a statement or after an explanation or key point:

‘So What?’


In other words:

Why is that significant?

What does that or did that, lead to?

Who or what was impacted?

In what way?

And then…
What did that next point then mean?

i.e. Ask ‘So what?’ AGAIN!

What was the knock-on or secondary effect, or what were the impacts of that next point, that next event or linked fact?


Let’s use a quick example.

Take the case study of the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

We’ve got the basic facts, the simple descriptive statements, like:

– it measured 7.0 on the Richter scale,

– Haiti is a less economically developed country located in the Caribbean.

But let’s now  ask ‘so what?‘ after each of those.

This is where we get into the effects and the detail.

For example…
SO, as a result of the 7.0 earthquake over 180,000 homes were destroyed.

Okay, now ask again, so what?…
SO, this left around 1 and a half million people homeless.

So what?…

These homeless people were accommodated in over 1100 squalid camps with limited services such as water and sanitation.

So what?…
Well, now we can bring in the other statement of fact – that Haiti is an LEDC (less economically developed country).
So… because of poor facilities and sanitation, disease became a huge problem, for example Cholera claimed the lives of several hundred people mainly children.

Do you see how we’re now not only extending our explanations of the impacts, but also interlinking the facts and information we started out with.

All by asking ‘SO WHAT?’ at the end of each point.


Have your teen give this a go, with particular focus on seeing if, in those extended explanations, they can also connect different factors or pieces of research.

Because it’s those interlinkages that really show a higher level of analysis and explanation 🙂

And if you know this will be useful for your teen then go ahead and give this a like (on FB) or a thumbs up (on YouTube, and if you know anyone else who could benefit from this tip, then please go ahead and share it with them, and until next week, let’s make this a fantastic week.



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Gain back time – EVERY day

Your teen sits down to start their maths homework. They go to YouTube to find a tutorial that explains simultaneous equations or whatever topic they’re working on. Then, at the end of the video, YouTube autoplays another video – and, no,  it’s not about simultaneous equations – but hey, it’s only 2 minutes long, and… (read more)

One Skill – HUGE Benefits. (Master this to ACE exams and assignments)

If you’ve worked with me or been in my VIP community for even a short amount of time, then you’ll know I go on and on about the importance of being able to dissect the wording of any task or exam question and the ability to know exactly what it’s asking.

In particular, doing this by mastering command words.

And I make ZERO apologies for this!
Because I stand by the fact that this is one of the key issues holding so many students back AND it’s a key breakthrough to being able to tackle any question or task with confidence and clarity.

Let me explain why…


A solid knowledge and understanding of command words
AND how to respond to them
can be of benefit in multiple ways.

Firstly, it can save a lot of wasted time and effort when you know what a question is really asking. For example, I recall a Year 12 QCS paper I was marking asking students to ESTIMATE a particular figure using a graph.
Now those who went ahead and fully CALCULATED that figure precisely went to a huuuuge amount of trouble.
Some used calculus, others calculated areas of trapeziums.
And many of these students who got all the working and the end answer correct, did get full marks.

However, those that understood and had clocked the word estimate and identified that as the COMMAND WORD, simply found the points on the graph, read across to the required numbers on the axis, and added them up to give an estimate of the figure.
These students ALSO qualified for full marks AND moved on with an extra 10 or 15 minutes or so under their belt to tackle the longer, extended questions to come.


The second benefit of being proficient in identifying, understanding and responding to command words is that it can save a lot of disappointment. If your teen’s ever had that experience where they complete a test or a task thinking they’ve done pretty darn well, (you know… where they put in a good effort and wrote some accurate and detailed content), only to have it returned with a low mark or grade, they’re then left feeling totally deflated and perhaps a little upset.
And after that initial disappointment passes, they then feel the confusion seeping in. Wondering where they went wrong.

Well in almost all cases I’ve seen of this, it’s because the student didn’t respond to the command of the question, or the focus of the essay.
This isn’t the topic – that’s usually done correctly.
It’s the level and focus of the question or essay that’s not always addressed or responded to.


This can certainly be disheartening and confusing, but the problem lies in the fact that an answer can only be credited for what matched up with the mark scheme.
So if a student’s ‘stated’ rather than ‘described’, or ‘compared’ rather than ‘analysed’, then no matter how correct the information is factually or how well the answer has been written in terms of technical language or sophisticated vocabulary, there is NO way that it’s going to get full marks or probably even close to it.

So, if you want your teen to avoid all that wasted time and effort, avoid the disappointment and instead feel confident in their ability to tackle any question that’s thrown at them, then they need to get conquering those command words – the title of Catapult 7 in my flagship program – the 10 Week Grade Transformation.
Two quick tips on looking this up for yourself is to Google:

  • cognitive verbs

and also

  • Bloom’s Taxonomy (which you’ve also likely heard me mention before).

So go check those out, share this post with any other parents or students you think could benefit from these tips, and until next week let’s make this a fantastic week!



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Caveman Brain sabotages student results!

Have you ever had that thing where you’re walking down some stairs and you think there’s another step but there isn’t and you kinda get a bit of a jolt and a shock?

It’s the same reason why students sometimes mis-read a question, or mis-interpret an essay title or the focus of an inquiry project.

Let me explain what’s going on and what we can do about this ‘caveman’ (or cavewoman!) brain of ours.

(Yep, we allllll have one!)

Our brains are always trying to predict the future.
We’re programmed that way as a survival technique.
Historically we needed to pre-empt any danger in order to avoid it and to work out where our next meal was coming from.

So our brains still do the same thing today but of course instead of this instinct focusing on danger or food for survival, they do it for the things that help us survive each day as a modern-day student.
Like surviving that Maths exam.
Or getting through that English essay unscathed!


Our brains look for and try to create patterns or systems of recognition.

So for anything that looks similar in any way to something we’ve seen or practiced before, our brain will apply that previous experience to that new situation.
It want us to be able to quickly make sense of it.


But when it comes to exams and assessments, this can be detrimental if students aren’t ready and able to dissect the wording with fresh ‘non-caveman’ eyes so to speak.


Because if they’ve done practice questions in revision, or written an essay in class on a specific topic, then chances are, when they see a similar question in the real exam, or an essay on the same topic, even if any of these are worded differently, their brains will naturally try to make this new question or title fit the previous one.

To be able to continue a pattern or to make something NEW, more FAMILIAR.

To keep things SAFE.


But the danger of this of course is that students may then interpret the question incorrectly or even misread it altogether.
Or they may miss the real focus of the essay title and although they’ll write accurately about the topic, they won’t necessarily have the appropriate level of discussion or structure to their writing.

This is one reason why students sometimes have that experience of feeling like they’ve written a great response, but the result isn’t what they hoped for.

Now of course, this isn’t to say that students shouldn’t practice example or past exam questions.
That is a GREAT way to revise and prep for exams 🙂
And it certainly isn’t an excuse that’s gonna get them out of writing that English essay either!
But it IS a reason why students need to learn and practice and hone their skills in dissecting every exam question for the specific command and demand of that question AND become really skilled in things like identifying the topic and focus of any essay title or question.

So that they don’t fall into that pattern of recognition and prediction that our ‘caveman brains’ have so cleverly designed for us, but in this case, unfortunately doesn’t necessarily work so well for us.

This skill of dissecting the question, identifying command words and know exactly how to respond to them is just one of the 3 key secrets I’m revealing in my online Term 1 Parent Information Event. So if you’d like to grab the essential insider dissection skills for your teen, then be sure to >register for it for free<.
TIP! – This Term 1 Event is for one week only, and spaces at each session are limited, so be sure to register now.


Let me know in the comments…
Have you ever read something, and read what you THOUGHT it said or was going to say, only to realise you made a mistake?
Has your teen ever mis-read an exam question?
If this situation resonates with you or your teen, then please share this blog post with other parents and students AND go register for the Term 1 info event!

And until next week, let’s make this a fantastic ‘Term 1 Event Week’!.

Katie 🙂



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