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Archive for May 2019

The truth about these ‘fun and modern’ assignments

Do you remember the days when an essay was an essay, and a presentation was a presentation?
We knew where we stood with those (even if we didn’t necessarily like them).

But now it’s all ‘create a video movie review’,
or ‘record a podcast episode about a historic figure’,
or ‘write a blog about a character in such-and-such a novel’
or… (and this is probably the most common right now)…

‘perform a TED talk about a current issue in society’

Well, I’m here to tell you that really – not a lot has changed.
Stick with me and I’ll explain why really, it’s still just essay-writing in disguise.


Tell me if your teen has been set anything like this lately…

– Create a VLOG movie review, or record a podcast episode about a historic figure,

or write a blog about a character in such-and-such a novel OR…

this is probably the most common right now… perform a TED talk about a current issue in society.

Do you remember the days when an essay was an essay, and a presentation was a presentation? Back when there wasn’t even powerpoint to take the pressure off YOU  and onto the slides alongside us?

Well, I’m here to tell you that really – not a lot has changed. Stick with me and I’ll explain all…

Because oh-boy – it’s something I’m seeing crop up more and more for students and the tasks they’re being set.

I want to share with EVERYONE out there the key point that so many are missing when it comes to
these new, fun, and funky style assignments I see cropping up a TON these days.

Or at least they’re TRYING to SOUND fun and funky…

Like, perform a TED Talk, create a VLOG, or record a podcast episode.

These new-fangled assignments are supposed to:

(a) be more up-to-date and relevant to life today and

(b) be more FUN.

So that students see the point of them and enjoy doing them more.

And there is nothing wrong with that – except that actually these are all just pretty much the same thing, wrapped up in different coloured bows.

And those fancy bows are causing quite a few students a bit of confusion.

They don’t know HOW to write a blog. They’ve no idea where to start with planning a podcast.

And so I have some good news and bad news. And a very clear message to take away – so stick with me to the end here.

Okay – the good news is this:

There are no fancy or brand new structures, templates or scaffolds needed here. No new-fangled techniques, features or skills required that your teen doesn’t already know about or haven’t been shown before (or at least HOPEfully knows about if they’ve ever written a PEEL or TEEL paragraph, or a standard 5 paragraph essay).

Because the marking criteria for a TED talk will still demand an introduction, body and conclusion – but maybe just with a fancy hook thrown in as the very first sentence of the intro.

The teacher is still going to be looking for a VLOG or a podcast or a blog article to have a clear intro to the topic, discussion – in other words – a body – and a summary or – yep, you guessed it – a conclusion.

So here’s the bad news:

These cool and funky tasks really aren’t all that new and exciting when it comes down to it.

Because – shock-horror – It’s basically still an essay, with a bit of a tweak of language or an extra little bit of word-based glitter thrown on top, like a fun and engaging opening or ending.

And I’m not here to pooh-pooh the idea of making things more relevant to today or trying to make them a little more fun.

But I DO want to reveal these tasks for what they really ARE so that students aren’t left feeling confused about what they have to do or how to tackle them.

I want students to realise that really, they just have to write an essay and then perform it.

They still need an intro with a thesis statement or hypothesis or key argument, 3 body paragraphs that support and discuss their key point or theme or message, and a conclusion that reinforces it.

So, the message I want you take away from this, is no matter what the task is called, it’s very likely that it’s still an essay format behind the scenes. So don’t let any fun disguises lead to confusion or overwhelm. Just write an essay.

Intro – body – conclusion.

And tweak that essay a little to fit with the genre and final format.



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How to feel a sense of accomplishment

It’s easy to feel like we’re just not getting anywhere sometimes.

I’m sure we all have that feeling from time to time.

I know I do!
Because I’m a real action-taker, and with that, I’m also a little impatient at times
(okay, a lot of the time) 😉
or frustrated when I don’t feel like I’m progressing with something as fast or as well as I’d hoped.

So I thought I’d share with you something that I’ve done recently that’s helped me feel better about how each day’s gone and what’s gotten #done.


When things didn’t feel like they were moving along as much as I’d like, even though I was working hard (not just because I wasn’t doing anything, cos, well… if that’s the case, then this won’t work) 😉
I had to remind myself and prove to myself that progress was actually being made and that things were indeed getting done.


So I would take 2 minutes at the end of the day, to write down all the things I’ve accomplished that day.
Whether it was a small, stand-alone simple task, or a step towards/some part of a bigger project.


For example, your teen might not have completed the whole essay they need to write, but they might’ve planned the structure and content, or written their thesis statement and the arguments or evidence they’re going to use to support it.

Perhaps they’ve done the research they need in order to get the background theory for their science investigation.


Now, this 2 minute daily review is not something I do all the time, I just do it when I feel like I need that bit of ‘proof’ to myself that things are actually happening and progressing.
(Though, actually – it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep this up – so that it’s almost a preventative technique to stop me getting to the point of feeling that way in the first place!)

But I usually keep it up for about a week or two.
Just til I feel positive and back on the ‘progress train’ again 🙂


So if your teen’s feeling a bit like they’re spinning their wheels, not making as much progress as they’d like, when really they just need to be reminded of all the small steps they ARE taking in the right direction, or a bit of positive reinforcement, then have them give this a go.

I’m Katie Price Grade transformation expert and if you have a question you’d like me to answer or topic for me to address on a future blog video, then I’d love to hear from you – you can email me at– and until next week, let’s make this a fantastic week!

Katie 🙂



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What we need to ACTUALLY get a task DONE.

Is your teen procrastinating over something?
Getting started on a task, finishing something they started, something small, something big?

It might be because they’re missing one of the essential resources that we ALL need to get ANY task done.


What do we need to get any task done?

There are four essential resources – key ingredients if you like –
and without any one of them, we’re likely to fall short of our goal or the required outcome.


So what are they?
Let’s see if you can work it out from this recent not-so-academic example for me…

My husband and I needed to put up a fence a couple of months ago.
Because #Bonnie #NewDogParents ??

So, we put aside a couple of days to do it and roped in a couple of DIY savvy friends of ours too,
because although I’d love to be,
we are NOT the most practical or knowledgeable when it comes to DIY beyond hammering a picture hook into a wall!
We needed their skills and we needed their tools. (Big time).

(Honestly, it more ended up like us helping and them doing the fence.
And my main skills were mainly in the tea, coffee and snacks department – but those are kind of essential too, right?!)…

So, anyway – did you pick them out?
The 4 key resources?

Well, they are:

– TIME (to do the job and any prep)
– PEOPLE (who know what they’re doing!)
– SKILLS (the knowledge and the ‘how’ to do it)
– TOOLS. (what practical things you need to be able to do it)


Let’s use a different example that’s a bit more academic:

For any webinar I host, I need:
time to plan the content,
time to deliver the webinar
and I need
people: Me to plan and deliver it, my glamorous assistant Alistair to monitor it, and sometimes the brilliant tech support people.
On that tech note, I need
tools: I need the webinar software, plus the powerpoint software for the slides, and the laptop to do it on.

Plus I need
skills: Skills in putting the powerpoint together and skills in running the webinar software, plus speaking and presentation skills too.


And, for your teen and their study, it’s the same.

For them, their 4 essential resources will look like this:

Time – time to get that essay written, to complete that exam, or to revise the subject matter, or simply to get those questions done for homework.

People – this includes themselves to do the work, but of course also their teachers, any tutors and perhaps their friends or you as parents for help or a practice audience maybe.

Tools – including their laptop, their stationery, and of course any other practical or subject specific gear, a graphics calculator perhaps or art equipment for example.

And finally,
Skills – which I’ll come back to in a moment 😉

Because first consider the fact that really, students need to minimise the first two if they’re to study successfully, efficiently and independently.

And when it comes to official assessments and exams, then this is critical.

When it comes to the ‘people’ resource,
they won’t be able to get help from friends, parents or teachers when they’re sat in the exam hall.
And they don’t want to be wasting time seeking out that help or waiting on it during their revision.
And in general, they don’t want to be spending more time than is necessary on each and every task.
They’ll almost always feel like there’s more content to be covered than there is time available when it comes to revision, so they want to make that as efficient and effective as possible.
They want to still have time for friends, family and hobbies and so want to minimise time spent on homework whilst also ensuring it’s still of a high quality.


And this is where that fourth resource comes in: SKILLS.

Students need to know and master the techniques and strategies that’ll make them effective as well as efficient in their study.

So they don’t waste time using revision strategies that aren’t effective.
So that they don’t waste time on false start after false start on that inquiry or assignment they’ve been set.
So that they don’t have to edit and re-draft their essays more times than is necessary.

And instead, craft and construct writing that is high quality and focused on the elements that’ll gain them marks in a rubric or mark scheme.

They need a proven system that’ll get them on the right track from the very start and then have the techniques and skills to complete any task to a high level.

And they need the six elements of exam technique that enable them to tackle questions and essays with clarity and confidence, because they know exactly what the question’s really asking, and they have the knowledge and ability to get the required info from brain to paper in the way that the marking guide requires.


These skills of:
– exam technique,
– high quality written communication
– extended response structure and planning
are critical for students to operate independently with confidence in their study.

And it’s this resource of SKILLS that I believe to be most important.
Because with the necessary skills, your teen can reduce or make the others more efficient.

It means they’re less reliant on other people
(like you, their friends, tutor or teachers),
they can use any necessary tools more efficiently and smoothly,
and it takes less time to complete homework exam Qs or essays (AND they can do so to a higher standard).


I’d love to know, which of the four essential resources – time, people, tools or skills – does your teen have and which do you feel they are lacking?
Let me know in the comments, or send me an email 🙂

And until next week, let’s make this a fantastic week!

Katie 🙂


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How to answer high level essays and exam Qs (Part 2)

I explained in my previous blog the exact reasons why students struggle so much with the highest cognitive performance ‘Evaluation’ level essay titles and exam questions.

(And the fact that these are the Qs that every student should be perfecting because:
1 >> they’re worth the most marks, and 2 >> they give students access to the highest marking criteria in rubrics).

So that’s why this week, I’m giving you a very specific strategy to help your teen deal with those high level ‘Evaluation’ essays and exam Qs.

I’m letting you in on the EXACT words that’ll help ANY student:
– make sense of these Qs,
– know exactly what they’re really asking
– be able to clearly and easily structure a response accordingly.

> Looking for Part I to this blog?… It’s HERE! <

Which exam questions and essay titles do students dread the most?

The ones that are also (unfortunately for those students) almost always worth the most marks?

Yep, it’s those Qs right at the top of the pyramid of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Marzano’s Taxonomy – the evaluation level Qs.


And I explained in my previous blog the exact reasons why students struggle so much with these types of essay titles and exam questions.


So, if you haven’t already watched that, then I’d recommend you check that out HERE,
because this week I’m going to give you a specific strategy to help your teen deal with those high level ‘Evaluation’ essays and exam Qs.

So stick around because I’m letting you in on the EXACT words that’ll help ANY student:
– make sense of these Qs,
– know exactly what they’re really asking
– be able to structure a response accordingly.


So, if you watched my last video, you’ll know how evaluation Qs are worded and that they require students to make a JUDGEMENT.


Here’s the strategy for how to do that in words, on paper:

They need to consider or turn the wording of the Q into

and craft their essay or answer around that.


So, instead of “evaluate the experiment” – turn it into:

To what extent
was the experiment accurate and reliable?

Instead of  “Y leader was influential in X event. Discuss” – turn it into:

To what extent did Y leader influence X event?

Or change “assess the success of the director in persuading the audience to agree with their point of view “– change it to:

To what extent was the director successful in persuading the viewer to agree with their message, or understand their point of view?

“And how do you answer THAT?” I hear you ask.

Well, given that wording, now their thesis statement or key point to focus on will be one of 3 responses of:

  1. Yes / totally / very successfully.

(Depending on the wording or topic of the Q)
– and then here are the reasons why and supporting evidence …


2.  No / not at all / or was not successful  – and here’s why… (reasons and supporting evidence)


3.  To some extent – and here are the two sides of the argument.


So in summary, responding successfully to these types of questions involves 2 key things:

>>> Changing the wording or considering the Q to be a ‘to what extent’ question,

and then

>>> Responding in one of those 3 ways – yes, totally, and here’s why –  no, not at all, and here’s why, or to some extent and here are the two sides

I know this is a very practical and actionable specific strategy, (probably one of the best that I’ve given away for free!) so if you know others who might also find this tip useful, please feel free to share this video – forward the email, share the video link, post it on social media…  and until next week, let’s make this a fantastic week!

**** If your teen would LOVE all the quick and practical, immediately actionable strategies to get them writing quality essays and exam answers, smoothly, confidently and successfully, then you definitely need to check out my 10 Week Grade Transformation Program!


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High level essay and exam Qs (Part I) – What they are and why they’re so TOUGH!

What do you get if you cross the most dreaded type of exam Q with the one type of Q that’s almost always worth the most marks?

Nope, that was not the start of a joke – I’m useless at telling jokes.
And that would be a pretty dull joke, right?

I’m talking about a real combo that crops up in exams way too often for many students.

Here’s what it is and why these Qs are so dang tough!

(Just a heads up: There’s a lot I want to cover on this, so this is part one of two videos I’m going to do on this – so be sure to look out for the second one next week!)

For most students – or at least those who haven’t been through my exam technique training 😉
– this isn’t a good combo.

Because, who wants a situation where the one type of Q you don’t feel confident in,
the one type of Q you DON’T want to come up,
not only does actually crop up (pretty commonly) but also is worth a BIG chunk of marks on the paper.

And I can tell you, I was pretty clueless on how exactly to respond to these Qs when I was a student too.

You might’ve guessed what I’m talking about, because I’ve talked about these Qs before.
They’re right at the top of the pyramid of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Marzano’s Taxonomy.
They are the evaluation level Qs.

Go and check out my Blog entitled ‘Look out – these Qs are super common’ if you’d like to hear more about where and just how much they’re cropping up across all subjects right now.


But today, I want to explain WHY these Qs are so tough.


It’s not just because this is a command at the top end of cognitive processing.
Although that is the case and does in itself make these common high end exam Qs a challenge.


But, in the eyes of students, it’s because the wording of them just sounds so open or vague.

Or at least they do on first appearances OR if you don’t have a specific strategy and proven structure to tackle them.

These are the questions that just give a statement and then say –  ‘discuss’.
Just that word, ‘discuss’, sends students into waffle mode, or worse, total mind-blank.


These are also the Qs that start with the words: ‘To what extent’… or ‘Assess’

They may even have the word evaluate in them, like ‘Evaluate the success of’….


So students struggle for two main reasons – and over this and my next blog, I’m going to give you the reasons AND solutions to these struggles, so stick with me 🙂


Students aren’t clear on how to identify an evaluate level command in the first place.

They need the training in identifying and making sense of commands and cognitive verbs and the different ways they can be expressed.
One way they can do this is to research Bloom’s taxonomy and then find heaps of example Qs and fit them to each level.
Or, an easier way is to go through Catapults 6 and 7 in my 10 Week Grade Transformation Program 😉


And secondly, even when they figure out that they’re looking at an evaluation level Q, they don’t have a clear strategy to tackle it or a structure to follow in their response.

So, the first thing they need to know is that any evaluation Q or task requires them to make a judgement.

Think about it, look at plenty of examples, and you’ll see this is true for any type of evaluation.


A science evaluation means your teen’s judging how well the experiment went – was their data read or measured accurately, was the methodology correctly carried out, are their results reliable?

Or if they’re evaluating a product in Design Tech– they’re judging how well that product meets the needs and demands of the target audience, how well it meets the specifications.

And to evaluate in the arts subjects, they are judging how well an author  or message to the reader for a novel, or artist conveys a certain mood.
Or they’re judging how important a particular leader was in shaping events in History, or judging how effective a particular film technique is in making a documentary appealing or striking to an audience.


Be sure to catch Part 2 of this info in how to deal with those high level Evaluation essays and exam Qs in my next video next week where I’ll give you the EXACT words that’ll help ANY student make sense of these Qs, know exactly what they’re really asking AND be able to structure a response accordingly.

In the mean time, I explain ALL of this and give even more examples and full response templates for all subjects in Catapult 10 of my 10 Week Grade Transformation Program which builds on the Command Words training in the earlier modules and goes into this particular command in detail.
Plus we’ll be diving deep into evaluation level Qs in the  Exam Mastery Workshop.

Can’t wait to see your teen in one of those trainings very soon!

Until next week, let’s make this a fantastic week.

Katie 🙂




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