Grade 11 psychology is difficult
Mr. Ammel, you are a teacher and in your book “Good grades without stress” you give tips on how to successfully pass high school. What is the most common problem?
Rainer Ammel: In my experience, many students adopt poor learning styles. A lot of potential is wasted, especially with gifted children.
How do you learn properly?
Ammel: The grades do not necessarily provide information about this. Take, for example, a student with a good grasp of things, but a learning style that avoids work, who comes to high school. First of all, everything runs smoothly and a feeling of security quickly arises. As long as the grades stay that way, parents are relaxed too. But at some point you won't get any further with the sloppy learning style, at the latest when you have to complete several foreign languages. In the eighth or ninth grade, the great failure begins.
Rainer Ammel (47), math teacher and school psychologist at a high school in Bavaria, has two sons.
Apart from this example, I observe the following in a large number of students: Only when an exam is due do they start learning. What you quickly acquire is very superficial knowledge. With more in-depth questions you are overwhelmed, slight modifications of the usual task throw you off course. With this short-term learning you do not acquire any basic knowledge of what you still need for the next topics.
And how does it work?
Ammel: I advocate a continuous learning style. Away from this learning that only relates to exams. Students should plan a workload of around two hours for homework and additional study every day, even when there is no exam. This is the only way to avoid the stressful phases before exams and to acquire basic knowledge.
That means: If I'm someone who does his homework well, but doesn't study every day, isn't that enough?
Ammel: Well, in relation to today's school landscape, you are already quite good if you actually do your homework regularly and seriously in the middle school as a pubescent student. On the other hand, homework not only includes written, but also oral tasks, which are often not spoken out loud. For example, that you can sum up the last lesson in your own words. In addition, there is voluntary repetition: if you regularly repeat basic knowledge in your problem subject math, you can work your way up from a five to a four.
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Parents often despair of the following situation: The child is gifted, but has no desire to learn. How do you deal with it as a parent?
Ammel: It is very difficult to say in a few sentences because it depends on the particular situation and the characters involved. I'll go into this in more detail in my book. But: It rarely works without gentle pressure from parents. The trick is, as a parent, to recognize the point at which one's efforts do the opposite. Nothing is gained if the children lose even more motivation and become more and more dependent.
In general, I would recommend parents to introduce their children to essential standards in the fifth grade: the conscientious completion of oral homework, but also little things such as packing the satchel completely. When the parents see that things are going well, they can increasingly disengage. Unfortunately, it often works the other way around: the parents hold back for a long time because the grades are right. Then the problems arise in the higher grades and the parents suddenly step in with full force. A lot can break in the process.
But when you're in this situation as a parent, you can't watch, can you?
Ammel: Yes, there is a fine line to walk. But there are a few clever remedies. For example, the parents can sign a learning contract with the child. Both sides undertake to do a few things differently than before. For example, parents say: Okay, I hold back and watch your performance, but don't evaluate it every day.
Instead, there is an interview once a week in which the parents provide constructive feedback. Because the children are of course terribly annoyed by this daily nagging. And it makes a big difference when your parents leave you alone. That creates freedom.
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And what is the child doing?
Ammel: It undertakes to deal responsibly with this freedom and shows parents that they are trying harder and that they can hold back. Such learning contracts can be helpful. It is always good to have this contractual situation moderated by a third person, such as a school psychologist. But on the one hand it always depends on whether the parents manage to get involved in a longer experimental phase of at least a month. And on the other hand, whether the child is ready to change something in the situation.
How do you get children to be intrinsically motivated, i.e. really interested in school?
Ammel: Interest in the learning content is of course always helpful, but it does not necessarily have to be intrinsic motivation. Some get by well with a healthy understanding of competition. They decide to do as well as possible in all subjects and find out pretty quickly how to do it. With these students it has more of a sporty character. It is important that there is motivation at all. And in the best case scenario, such an extrinsic competitive motivation turns into an intrinsic one.
Often parents are not even aware of how much they prevent motivation. Because the pressure, the reproaches, the disapproval, the high expectations - all of this can destroy the child's self-esteem. And then of course the child doesn't feel like getting involved in school. A certain amount of freedom that is tied to conditions is much more helpful. If you then show the child techniques how to motivate themselves, something good can grow out of this combination.
What would a technique be for a young person to motivate himself?
Ammel: I have already given several courses on the subject with tenth graders and the following scheme has proven to be good: The students should think about what is demotivating them. Four levels are given: body, feelings, thoughts and external circumstances. So what's physically stopping you from doing what you think is right? Often tiredness and weakness are mentioned here. When do your emotions get in the way? What kind of negative feelings come up when you think about math? What negative thoughts stand in your way while studying?
And finally, the outside environment, room and desk: is that trouble-free or are cars passing in front of the window? Do things happen that distract you? You should analyze these four areas of demotivation and then think about how you can improve the situation. By the way, the students are very imaginative: For example, one of them always takes a shower when he comes home because it wakes him up.
But aren't there also students who just don't feel like it? Doesn't matter what the parents offer?
Ammel: Of course there are. Going to high school is not a matter of course. And success these days depends much less on intelligence than on willingness to work. The parents should make it clear to the child: If you are not ready for it, you are not suitable for high school. Point. We'll look at your work behavior for another six months. If the situation doesn't improve, junior high school is better for you.
This is not meant to be a threat, but a sober analysis. It is important that the parents are serious. If you have blinkers on and see the absolute catastrophe in a change of school - which unfortunately is often the case - then the suffering process is only delayed and you contribute to even more reluctance to go to school. Incidentally, I haven't met a student who would have regretted switching to secondary school for such reasons. Not even if there was a lot of resistance beforehand. After completing secondary school, some of them did their Abi with a lot of motivation.
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You named your book “good grades without stress”. Do you think that children are more stressed today than they used to be?
Ammel: I experienced G9 in my early years as a teacher. With the G8, the stress has increased significantly. On the one hand, of course, through the increased number of hours. But I think it also has something to do with the fact that the high school is being opened up to a much larger proportion of the students without lowering the level.
In the past, the Realschule was still seen as a good school choice, but nowadays, with transfer rates of more than 70 percent in some large cities, some students can only survive with a lot of coaching from their parents, help with content, tutoring and so on. I also experience high school as much tougher. There is a merciless fight for points because it has to be a very specific cut. This struggle makes some high school students downright sick.
Rainer Ammel: "Good grades without stress", Heyne-Verlag, 192 pages, 9.99 euros, e-book: 8.99 euros
Homework, class work, test anxiety - three tips from the school psychologist
New way to school, new building, new classmates, new subjects, new teachers. When you switch to secondary school, everything is different at first. This is overwhelming for many students - but the acclimatization is quick, reassures math teacher and school psychologist Rainer Ammel: “The students will soon find out which teacher is asking what.” Instead, he records two other problem areas.
First:From elementary school, the students are used to finishing their written homework. “At high school, it is important to prepare orally: to repeat the lesson, learn vocabulary, prepare for tests.” The pupils should integrate this into their everyday life at an early stage.
Secondly:Rainer Ammel doesn't believe in high school students doing their homework with their parents. “The pupils should learn to be independent at an early age.” Because knowledge transfer is very important in high school. And the students can only do this in their class work if they have already practiced it at home.
Concentrate on doing homework
If you don't want to get stressed out with homework, you should avoid tips. This requires regularity. So: Do something every day - and learn in addition to the normal compulsory workload. Rainer Ammel recommends planning two hours a day for written and oral homework plus study units.
The students should take turns doing written and oral tasks. “Few actually do that. But it is a stupid habit to do everything in writing first and then do everything verbally, ”says the expert. Because: If you only want to finish the verbal at the end, you will already be tired and unfocused or postpone, so sloppy, it completely. "When written and oral tasks are alternated, different performance areas are activated in the brain - and ultimately a lot more knowledge sticks."
Prepare properly for class work
In addition to the daily learning units, there is of course preparation for special classwork. You should start doing this at least a week in advance. First of all, the student should structure himself and make a collection of material - that is, list all the topics that could arise in the work. "You should distribute the topics evenly over the days and work through them in peace and quiet," advises Rainer Ammel. Important: Collect all errors in a special list. "On the last day before the exam, all you have to do is look at the list of mistakes and prepare for the difficult topics," says Ammel.
Tips against exam anxiety
“Students often speak of exam anxiety when there is actually none,” says Rainer Ammel. Because: Anyone who has been stressed for days through short-term learning or has not acquired enough basic knowledge cannot calmly react to a changed task in class. The student panics - the blackout is inevitable.
However, if you started learning early and have sufficient basic knowledge - but then still have problems in the exam, you should first try relaxation techniques such as autogenic training. "Those who train such techniques regularly at home will also be able to use them in the exam," says Ammel.
Another problem is that many students spend too long on tasks with which they are stuck. “Students need to learn to cancel this task and continue elsewhere. Otherwise they lose too much time. ”You can practice that with homework.
Also, anxious students should stay away from other anxious students before class work. Instead, you can retreat to a quiet corner before the exam or seek contact with relaxed students. However: If you really suffer from exam anxiety, you should seek help from a psychologist.
- "High school students should study two hours a day"
- Homework, class work, test anxiety - three tips from the school psychologist
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