Back to School! (Post 33)

Most school-age children and young people in Scotland are returning to their classrooms this week – some time between Tuesday 11th and Tuesday 18th August 2020.

It has been a long time since schools closed because of the Covid19 restrictions, on Friday 20th March.

I wish you all every success in the coming term and academic year. I know that there will be very mixed feelings amongst returners (both staff and pupils, although most teachers I’ve heard from are really looking forward to seeing their pupils face-to-face again).

This weekend is a good time to engage in some refreshing of your memory and some reflection, so that you can get off to the best possible start when school work gets underway once again.

If you completed (or even just started!) it, the exercise in Post 1 – These are strange times . . . is worth re-reading now. It will remind you of what you were doing in one or more subjects just before school closed. It’s not only the content that you can think about; in fact in that respect it’s unlikely that you’ll pick up in August exactly where you left off in March. You can also use your reading of the exercise to get yourself back into the mindset of being in the classroom, remembering how it felt, perhaps some of the challenges you faced with the work you were doing, and/or some of the aspects that you particularly enjoyed.

Remember what it was like to work with other pupils in the classroom or in the laboratory. Remember what it was like to be in the same room as your teacher, and able to ask questions directly.

Then, I suggest, you should think about what you might want to do differently when you go back to learning in class. It would be sensible to write your thoughts down; then you can organise them and use them as a basis for your work-plan for the year ahead. Use the same format as you used for Post 1’s exercise, if you attempted it – either a Word document or a hard-copy journal.

You will have learned a lot during “lockdown”, and I don’t mean only academic content: you may or you may not have learned much of that.

You will know yourself better now. Write about what you have learned about yourself during lockdown. Then think about how you might apply that in order to work differently, and better, in this new school year. Perhaps you have come to enjoy working on your own, with minimal input from others. If so, that’s something you can build upon. Perhaps you’ve really missed working collaboratively [with other people]; if so, try to find ways of doing more of that.

You will have learned things about yourself that are helpful when considering what you want to do as a career: for example, whether you like working mainly alone or mainly as part of a team is an important influence on what sort of employment you’ll enjoy.

What have you found difficult during “lockdown”? Try to work out ways of helping yourself with these things once you’re back at school. Perhaps you’ll return to lessons with a new appreciation of either your teacher(s) or your fellow pupils – or both!

Make sure that you write down your thoughts and plans. Even if these change over time, even if you want to change what you’ve written as soon as you’ve read it over, these things are important; they allow you to note and to reflect upon your self-knowledge, your ambitions and your learning style.

If you want a reminder of how things have been during “lockdown”, as a prompt to help you reflect on how different it will be to return to school, you might look at what you wrote in response to Post 8 – Time to get writing, and/or the Scrapbook of your Life suggested in Post 24. (Neither of these activities needs to stop, by the way, now that you’re back at school.)

This time is an opportunity to take more control of your life, using what you’ve learned about yourself and others during the last few months.

Let’s finish with a fairly trivial example. If one of the things you’ve learned about yourself is that you really like getting up late in the mornings, I’m sorry to say that that’s not something you can implement once you’re back at school (but it IS something that you might want to consider in terms of a future career; however, remember that your sleep patterns might well change as you grow older). However, if you’ve also discovered that you really enjoy having breakfast whilst still in your pyjamas, rather than fully dressed (or vice versa), that’s a little thing that you can implement which might just make your days a little bit more enjoyable! Best of luck!

Wind – by Ted Hughes (Post 32)

See the source image

To my mind, this is another wonderful poem (See Posts 27 and 31 for others I admire and enjoy).

Although it has fairly even (in length), four-line stanzas, there is a random quality to the actions and elements described in the poem – reflecting the unexpectedness and sudden changes of events caused by a viciously high wind in the UK. (There are more damaging and stronger, but more consistent, winds that ravage other countries.) This poem seems to me to describe an English (Ted Hughes was a Yorkshire man) or Scottish storm particularly well.

1 The title bluntly describes what the poem is about. That bluntness – including use of monosyllables (one-syllable words) – is going to run throughout the poem.

2 The opening line challenges our imagination – how can a house be at sea? – but perfectly conjures up the sense of unsteadiness which has been caused by the buffeting wind howling around the outside of the house throughout the night.

3 Even indoors, the narrator has heard and seen the vicious damage caused by the winds. Inanimate objects – the woods, the hills, the winds – are given actions, as if they were alive: The woods crashing . . . the booming hills,/ Winds stampeding the fields . . . .

4 If this were prose (not poetry), there would be something missing in the final line of the first stanza: “astride” usually requires an object – that is, something is astride something else. Here there is nothing. And what is it that is astride, anyway? Is it the winds – stampeding the fields under the window/ Floundering black astride and blinding wet – ? Or is it the fields, or even the window? Certainly “blinding wet” would apply very well to the window during a rainstorm. Here there is a disconnect of language, something poetry can do very well and which we wouldn’t usually “get away with” in prose. The randomness and uncertainty of the actions and the nouns in lines 3 and 4 work to draw us into the situation of looking out of a house window during a raging storm.

5 I’m not going to go through this poem line by line, as I did with the other two. I don’t want to bore you, and also by now you will be able to respond to the poem in your own way, and explain how it works on you. I’m going to pick out a few things that I think work especially well, and a few techniques that we haven’t come across or focused on before.

6 Look at how the lines don’t always end with a punctuation mark. In these cases the sentence runs on into the next line – sometimes even into the next stanza (Stanza 1 into Stanza 2; 4 into 5). This effect is called enjambement (it means making a leg; I always think of a leg bending at the knee, seen side-on, with the thigh being the upper line and the calf being the lower one! OK, I’m strange, but it works for me). I particularly like how the reader comes to an end of the description of the night of the storm (at the end of line 4) and then, as soon as the next line and stanza begin, it is daybreak – and a whole new world, it seems, emerges into the light.

7 The storm continues during the day. An image (a picture in words) that I especially like comes in line 9 – At noon I scaled along the house-side. “Scaling” is how we climb cliffs. The wind is so strong that it threatens to blow the narrator off the side of the house. If you’ve been out in any really strong wind, you’ll relish that description!

8 Line 11 makes great use of monosyllabic wordsThrough, brunt, wind, balls, eyes – and hard-sounding lettersbrunt, that, dented, balls. The brutal impact of the wind on the narrator’s face and eyes is conveyed through the sounds of the words as well as though their meaning.

9 There’s a lovely extended metaphor in lines 12, 13 and 14. Remember, a metaphor is a comparison between two largely unalike things and doesn’t use either the word like or the word as. Here, the metaphor compares the hills with a tent: The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope, / The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace, / At any second to bang and vanish with a flap . . . . Have you been in a tent when it’s likely to be blown away by a very strong wind? The quivering canvas, the flapping of any sections which aren’t pinned down tightly enough – these are all reproduced here, and the hills (possibly tent-shaped on the horizon) – those massive, earthbound lumps of age-old rock – are made to seem flimsy and vulnerable in the face of the powerful wind.

10 Possibly my favourite part of the poem is the image of the black-Back gull [which] bent like an iron bar slowly. Every time I see a bird fighting its way into a strong wind, the black-back gull comes to mind. Again the hard sounds – blackback gull – suggest struggle, and the way in which the epithet (short description) black-Back is bent around the end of one line and the beginning of the next is, I think, genius! And it’s not bent “slowly, like an iron bar” but like an iron bar slowly – so that we have to continue reading the line, relentlessly, without comma or pause, in the same way that the wind is relentlessly pressing on and bending the gull.

11 Have you ever run a wet finger-tip round a fine glass to make it ring? It’s a wonderful sound; do try it. And here the whole house is being made by the wind to ring like a fine glass – and as with the tent-like hills, the massive house is rendered as fragile as glass by the whipping wind – The house/ Rang like some fine green goblet in the note/ That any second would shatter it.

12 The final six or so lines focus on the effect of the wind on the occupants of the house, and tell us of the unsettling, disturbing effect it has. Despite being safe in deep chairs, in front of a great fire, the occupants cannot concentrate on anything, but only sit and wait, experiencing the ravaging effects of the storm – watch the fire blazing . . . feel the roots of the house move . . . seeing the window tremble . . . Hearing the stones cry out . . . .

Perhaps reading this will make you want to try your hand at writing your own poems about intense experiences in nature!

Code-switching (Post 28)

It sounds like something a double agent in a spy story would do. In fact, it’s something we all do – or at least, I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t do it.

We speak in different ways when we are in different settings. I think the most influential aspect of the setting is the person or people we are with at the time. There are things that we would say to friends that we wouldn’t say to our parents; similarly, there are ways of speaking that we would use with friends which we wouldn’t use with our parents. For many people, swearing falls into this category.

HOW we speak, as well as what we say, changes when we are in different groups. In Post 3How do you sound? I asked you to record yourself speaking. You probably sounded rather different when consciously recording yourself, compared with when you speak naturally and in a relaxed way. That slightly more formal, more self-conscious way of speaking is one code; the relaxed, informal way of speaking with your friends is another code. Yet another code might be the way you would speak in an interview – more thoughtful and formal still, trying hard to create the impression you think the interviewer wants to hear (and see).

Gangs very often have their own codes – their own ways of speaking – which they use to identify one another. Rap often contains examples of gang code.

You might choose to speak in only one way all the time, and of course that is your prerogative [that is, it’s your choice to make]. You might think that that shows integrity, and it probably does. If you do only speak in one way all the time, however, you are losing what might be valuable opportunities to establish bonds with other people, and you may be displaying a lack of empathy [sharing other people’s feelings].

It is valuable to be able to code-switch. If people regard you as more like themselves, they are more likely to trust you. If they consider that you are not “one of us”, you must be “one of them” and so they might not accept you into their group. If their group happens to be the university you want to attend, or the business you want to work for, that’s going to place you at a disadvantage.

Here is the writer and journalist Oliver Kamm explaining why knowing how to speak (and write) in an appropriate manner (“code”) is helpful to you. The explanations in square brackets are by me. The extracts which follow are from his book Accidence will happen: The NON-PEDANTIC GUIDE TO ENGLISH. The title makes use of both a pun (see Post 18) and a homophone (see Post 19): “accidents will happen” is a much-used expression in our language, while accidence is the part of grammar dealing with inflection – where we put the stress on words; see Post 17Rhythm.

“We all adapt our style … according to our audience. We use intimate terms (and perhaps a private vocabulary) with a loved one, casual language with friends, and varying degrees of more formal language … with strangers, experts or figures in authority. … code-switching … saves us time and gains us credibility with listeners or readers whose attention we want … .”

” … the conventions of language enable you to talk to any audience without being dismissed or patronised [treated as if you were a child] because of the way you write or speak … .”

“The reason for speaking and writing fluently in Standard form [conventional or “correct” English] isn’t to show refinement; it is to make us at home in the world. Slang makes us at home in a like-minded group. That isn’t wrong but it is limiting.”

“Teenagers may be highly intelligent and also habitual users of slang and non-Standard forms; but if all they use is slang or non-Standard English, then their intelligence will not be recognised and their abilities will be needlessly constrained … .”

“… Linguistic superstitions don’t matter. Tacit [unspoken] conventions that make up Standard English do, because they enable you to get listened to without prejudice.”

And here is another writer on English language use – Professor David Crystal – making the same point about punctuation [commas, full stops, inverted commas, etc] in written English:

“… non-standard punctuation used in settings where we expect standard forms to prevail … can affect the user’s social credibility or career prospects.” [From his book Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation.]

I’d argue very strongly, then, that knowing how to speak and write in Standard or formal English is a valuable tool for anyone to have in his or her language tool-box. It might be said to be a power-tool. And this blog is all about the power that language use gives you!

Eye tolled ewe sew – Homophones (Post 19)

Homophones are words which sound the same but are spelled differently – I/eye; told/tolled; you/ewe; so/sew. There are many in the English language.

Eye-rhyme is when this happens the other way around: words look as if they should rhyme, but they’re actually pronounced differently – rough, through, although, cough. The language is well supplied with traps for the unwary!

If you were brought up from your childhood to speak (and read and write) English, you are fortunate: you will have learned to avoid most of these traps almost as a matter of course.

Even native speakers can struggle at times, though. See how you get on with this ditty (a ditty is a short poem that rhymes very obviously and has a very distinct and simple rhythm), reading it for understanding. Read it aloud (it’s allowed …) if you want to make that easier!

Spell Chequer

Eye have a grate spell chequer:

It came with my pea sea.

It plainly marques four my revue

Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye strike a quay and type a word,

And weight for it to say

Weather eye am wrong oar write;

It shows me strait a-weigh.

Whenever a mist ache is maid,

It nose bee four two long;

And eye can put the error rite.

It’s rare lea ever wrong.

Eye ran this poem threw it and

I’m shore your pleased two no

It’s letter perfect awl the weigh:

My chequer tolled me sew.

Poems (No, wait – come back!) (Suggestion 15)

Some people really would rather run a mile than have to study poetry. It can have a reputation as being boring, difficult and a waste of time. Perhaps it’s a pity that many readers first study poetry when they are at school; in your school years there are so many interesting (and some not-so-interesting) things in your life that you either want to do, or have to do, that it’s maybe not the best time to introduce an experience which – yes – may take hard work at times, but which can have immense rewards.

For some people, poetry is read or spoken to them when they are very young, and that can give them a “head start” when it comes to realising that not all poetry has to be serious, or sad, or hard work. Nursery rhymes are a great way to start really young people on poetry: most babies and youngsters respond to rhythm, rhyme and other people’s voices. If that happened to you, you are fortunate.

Like several things we are made to learn at school, poetry is put in front of us as pupils because even if we don’t like (or see the point of) it now, we might very well need it in our lives beyond school. If we can be taught not to run away from poetry, it will be easier for us to turn to it again in future at particularly sad or happy times in our lives – or just for fun, or entertainment, or to find out more about how people lived and thought and felt in past times.

If the idea of someone NEEDING poetry makes you snort in disbelief, then I think you have been pretty lucky in not yet experiencing times in which you feel very much alone. One of the great comforts of some poems is that they allow us to realise that other people have experienced the same troubles (and joys) as we have done.

What is poetry?

There are many answers to that question, but I invite you to think about poems as pieces of work in which words are used for more than just their surface meaning. Someone writing a poem may well – probably does – put a great deal of work into choosing words that will have effects on the reader, not just convey information to him or her.

Imagine the picture that is created in your mind, for example, by this description (a “dinghy” is a rowing boat):

The dinghy across the bay

Puts out two hands and swims

An elegant backstroke over

A depth full of images1

A poem, then, is an experience where the reader is expected to work harder than usual in responding to the words written down (or spoken). In that sense, yes, poetry can be hard work; but like most things in life, the more effort you put into it, the more you’re likely to get out of it.

And in case that sounds just horribly “preachy”, let’s finish today’s post with encouraging words from a poet whose work can be funny and straightforward, and no less important for that. Firstly, Wendy Cope comments on the view that some poems are for adults and others are for children: “There is no such thing as a poem that is only suitable for children. If it’s bad, it is unsuitable for everybody. If it’s good, there is no age limit.”

Reflecting on her own work in particular, she writes: “I do believe that humour and powerful emotion can exist in the same poem. And that a funny poem can be saying something important. … I think that humour often arises out of misery and despair. Sometimes life seems so terrible that all you can do is laugh at it.” Her best-known poem, probably, is called Bloody Men. I’ll leave you to look that one up on the internet yourself, if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, here are two light-hearted (but thought-provoking!) and short verses by Wendy Cope.

Limerick

A talented young chimpanzee

Was keen to appear on TV.

He wrote to Brooke Bond

But they didn’t respond

So he had to become an MP.

Valentine

My heart has made its mind up

And I’m afraid it’s you.

Whatever you’ve got lined up,

My heart has made its mind up

And if you can’t be signed up

This year, next year will do.

My heart has made its mind up

And I’m afraid it’s you.2

1 Extract from No End, No Beginning by Norman MacCaig

2 Both from Two Cures for Love by Wendy Cope (Faber and Faber, 2008)

How to Write a Story (Suggestion 13)

Of course there are some of you who don’t need to read this! Many people love writing stories and find that they can do so without any help from others. If you are one of those, I hope that you are enjoying having the time to write more, while we are living in Covid19 “lockdown” conditions.

Other writers just need a stimulus – an idea to start them off – and then they’re happy to get down to the task of creating a story based on it or in some way related to it. If you’re one of those writers, here are some ideas:

“Long ago, it must be. I have a photograph … .”

Jennifer.

The end of the road.

The argument.

My first love.

May Day.

Architecture is frozen music.

Those who do not remember their history are condemned to re-live it.

There is nothing new under the sun.

“This is the dawning of the Age … .”

If however you are someone who finds writing a story quite difficult, here is a suggested way of doing so.

Make some notes in answer to the following questions; make the answers up with the thought in your head that these are going to be the ingredients of a story you can write.

WHO is going to be in your story? Don’t have too many characters, but give at least five details about each one, e.g. name (if you want him/her to have a name); occupation (job); physical characteristics (such as hair colour, height, gender); age-group; the mood (s)he is in at the start of the story.

WHERE is the story going to take place? Give as much detail as you want.

WHEN is this happening? Most stories are written in the past tense – that is, as if they have already happened. This is probably the easiest way to tell a story, even if it is actually set in the future or another imaginary time. For example, a science fiction story set in the future might begin, “She got off the space shuttle around 6 pm as usual, but it was only when the animal crossed the road in front of Louisa that her day became unusual.”

WHAT is going to happen in your story? Give an outline of the plot/story-line/events. This can be the most difficult part for writers who find story-telling tricky. Some writers don’t map out their plots in advance, but just start writing and see what happens!

WHY have these events taken place? Often this is the climax – the most exciting – part of the story and for the reader the part that (s)he’s been waiting for. For that reason – the build-up of suspense, which keeps people reading – the climax of the story is very often at the end. Murder mysteries are the best example of this.

So – now you have an outline STRUCTURE of your story. It can be true, of course – based on something that’s actually happened, perhaps to you or in your family – or completely made up, or a mixture of both.

Good luck! If you really want to write a story – or if you really have to, for school, for example – keep trying. Don’t give up. Like everything, writing a story becomes easier with practice.

Remind me again: why are we doing this? (Idea No. 10)

Friday 24th April 2020 – Here in the UK, as in many countries across the world, we are in “lockdown” as we try to stop the coronavirus known as Covid19 spreading at an uncontrollable rate.

Never before has communication been so highly valued.

We can’t touch people outside our own homes – and many people are living on their own – but we CAN talk, listen, read and write to one another.

This morning on the radio I heard about a woman who used to visit her 91-year-old aunt regularly. Now, of course, she can’t do that; but they speak by phone every day, and when they realised that there’s a limit to what you can talk about if you’re staying in the house all day, they started playing word games over the phone. The one they chose is called “Just a Minute” and has been played for many, many years on a popular radio programme of the same name. I’ll tell you about it in a future blog, in case you haven’t heard of it.

When they tired of “Just a Minute”, the woman I heard about started to read stories to her aunt – whose eye-sight is very poor – over the phone. They are both enjoying this activity greatly, and find that the stories prompt them to have conversations about times and events that the 91-year-old aunt remembers.

Yesterday I phoned a friend who is having a tough time, because I couldn’t think what to put in an email reply to her. When at the end of our chat I apologised for not being able to think of anything to write to cheer her up, she said, “Not to worry: just hearing your voice has been great.”

So: talking and listening are life-lines at this testing time. The better you are at suiting your talking and listening to the different people in your life, the more you’ll be able to help them.

Post is still being delivered, too, by Royal Mail, and although there isn’t very much of it – in fact, probably BECAUSE there isn’t very much of it – people love getting cards and letters. Reading and writing are therefore very important, too.

Reading to ourselves (as well as to others) can also be a great escape from the real world. And when the everyday world is depressing, or frightening, or boring, escaping into a happier, more hopeful, more interesting one through reading a book can be both enjoyable and good for our mental health.

Fantasy stories are popular, as they can be a complete change from our own world. Stories about the past can also work as escapism, however, or make us think about how different times were also difficult, but possibly in different ways. Even books about other real people in the 21st or 20th century can help us to take time out from our own lives and think about what others have been through – for better or for worse.

Writing, even if you don’t think anyone else will read it – even if you don’t WANT anyone else to read it – is a very good way to let out some of your feelings. Once you’ve written down what it is that’s worrying or scaring you, it can seem easier to cope with. Just trying to describe how you feel – and why – is a helpful writing task, as it makes you slow down and gives you time to reflect on your situation. Then you might go and talk to someone about it – or you might not, and just feel better for having “got it out of your head”.

Talking, listening, reading and writing – our tools for survival as sane and compassionate human beings.

Look after yourself, and look after others.

Time to get writing! (Post 8)

You know that these times of coronavirus/Covid19 restrictions are very unusual, don’t you? You’ve probably heard people say that they are unprecedented (that is, nothing like them has ever happened before).

These restrictive conditions won’t last for ever, although it will take quite some time for our way of life to return to anything like what we considered to be normal.

You may not think so now, but in years to come many people – perhaps including yourself when you’re much older, and maybe your children when/if you have any – will find it interesting to know what it was like to live through these times.

There will be plenty of historical records of the nation-wide measures that were taken – the political decisions, the role of the police, of the NHS, of shop-workers and delivery drivers. What might be more interesting, however, and certainly more relevant to you and your family, is a record of what it was actually like for you, day to day, living through this time – and of how it contrasted with your life before “lockdown”.

I’m not going to suggest you keep a diary – but if you’d like to do so, please go ahead, or if you’ve already started one, keep up the good work; well done!

My suggestion is that you start in one of two ways, depending on which attracts you more.

Plan A: on paper or in a Word document, make two columns. In the left-hand column, briefly describe something that you experience at the moment, for example (perhaps) waking up whenever you want to do so naturally in the morning. Opposite that, in the right-hand column, briefly describe what would have happened in normal times, before the Covid19 restrictions: for example your alarm going off and you either springing out of bed (no, me neither) or hitting “Snooze” and eventually having to be called out of bed by someone else in the family.

Write as many of these pairs as you can easily think of, then keep adding to the document as you think of more, over the days ahead.

Remember to give your document a title that you’ll remember and – if you’re using Word – to SAVE as you go.

Plan B: write (on paper or in a Word document) a description of how you are experiencing a particular part of the day. For example, you might choose a weekday morning during what is normally school term-time. You might prefer to write about a weekend afternoon, when you would normally be out and about. Think of a time of day that strikes you as particularly strange. You might even want to begin your piece of writing with the words, “This is strange.”

Write in the first person – that is, using “I” to give your account. Make it as detailed as possible but try to avoid repetition. Remember that to communicate your experience as effectively as possible, you have to make it understandable to someone who has NOT been in your situation, or has perhaps forgotten about it over the years.

Remember to give your document a title that you’ll remember and – if you’re using Word – to SAVE as you go.

Why should you do this? Because although you think you’ll remember this time all too well, you will forget. Because in years to come – many years away, perhaps – it will interest you to be reminded vividly of what it was like. Because your children or grandchildren – perhaps – will be fascinated to learn from you what it was like when you were their age, and in a very unusual time.

Why not just record yourself talking about this? Well, by all means do, if you’d find that helpful, but (a) if you’re going to think carefully about this task and try for as much effective detail as possible, you will want to spend time over each sentence and to change and improve your description as you redraft your work; and (b) our means of recording sound have changed much more than our means of recording the written word, over the years – so a written account is more likely to remain accessible over the generations to come!

Suggestion No. 2

Use words to influence, or persuade, or inform other people.

Practise this today by writing a review of something you’ve seen, heard or read. Try to choose something that others can also experience – if you persuade them to do so!

Reviews normally include a brief description of the book, film (movie), podcast, programme or whatever is your chosen subject. Be careful not to give away any crucial plot twists, though, if that would spoil the experience for the other person!

Put some tempting descriptions into your review, so that people will want to try the programme, book, etc, for themselves – but always be truthful; don’t make things up!

If you know quite a lot about the subject, you might want to comment on technical aspects such as music or lighting in films, character and setting in books or stories, or interpretation in a piece of music. Try not to alienate (put off) people who might not know as much as you do, however.

Give your review an intriguing headline or title, which will make people want to read it! (You can do this either before or after you write the review; sometimes afterwards is easier.)

Don’t write too much. Put it in paragraphs to make it easier for your reader.

Now send or give your review to someone else, and see what they think!

These are strange times (Post No. 1)

As I write (April 2020), we are in the second week of school closures in the United Kingdom. The Covid 19 or Corona Virus pandemic has made face-to-face meetings of people unwise, as this is how the virus is most likely to spread.

If you would normally be at school – particularly in your secondary education phase (around 11 to 18 years of age) – this blog is for you.

Language activities can be helpful for most people, however, regardless of their age. Different ages of people come up with different responses to the same task. (In case you’re interested, that’s called “Differentiation by outcome”!)

This first task is for those of you who were at school before the recent closures, however. It will give you a little reassurance once you’ve completed it.

Choose where you’re going to keep a record of your activities: perhaps a Word document, or a paper journal of some sort, is your thing. Perhaps you prefer something else; it’s up to you – but make it something you can KEEP.

Now, take as much time as you need, to remember what you were doing at school before it shut. You can do this for as many subjects as you like, but I suggest you only tackle one at a time.

Think back to the week the schools closed, and write down what you did that week. Give it as much or as little detail as you like at this point.

Then take a different page and think back to what you did earlier in the term. Write it down.

Go back to what you’ve written and add as much detail as you can remember: put in the names of books or sites that you used, put in the types of activity you did, and the homework you were set, if any.

This will be a re-starting point for you when you go back to school. It will also remind you how much you’ve already achieved. It will be something to work on and build on, if you want to do some work with a tutor while you’re off school. If you’re in your final year at school, knowing in this way what point in the syllabus you’ve reached will be helpful if you need to fill a gap between school learning and college or university learning.