Term 1 and 2 has been a time of positive change for Mornington Peninsula Tutoring. As many of you know, I had my beautiful baby boy in February of this year. This has meant no actual tutoring for me, as I am on Maternity Leave enjoying being a first time Mum. However, MPT has still been running and I have been quite busy behind the scenes.
At the moment MPT has its highest number of students yet, and has welcomed three new tutors throughout Term 1 and 2.
Samara has completed a Bachelor of Secondary Education and Arts at Deakin University, with her majors being in Dance and Drama. As a new teacher, she is full of energy and enthusiasm, and is excited to see her students grow and learn in their tutoring sessions. We get great feedback from Samara’s students about her positive energy and engaging lessons.
Vicky has completed a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), as well as a Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology. She is still studying towards a higher qualification in this field, and is also working as an Integration Aide at a local high school. Vicky’s experience in the psychology and educational fields, as well as her excellent communication skills make her a wonderful tutor. She does especially well with students who are facing learning difficulties or social and behavioural disorders.
Jess has completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Education Secondary) at Victoria University, and is currently studying her Masters of Teaching (Primary and Secondary) at Monash University. Jess has a very bright and bubbly personality, and her patient and caring nature make her a great tutor for our primary students.
I’m sure the rest of the year will continue to be just as positive, with the tutors at MPT working hard to continually improve and extend their students each week.
Homework can be the absolute worst part of any family’s day, especially for parents of kids who don’t want to do their homework, or who genuinely struggle to do it. Parents who sit down with their children and try to help are often met with surly attitudes and a “what would you know” attitude. Which in turn, leads to arguments, yelling, no homework actually completed and more often than not puts everyone in a terrible mood. What a great way to end the day…not!
Parents helping with homework can often be stressful, and both parties often end up on the defensive with no one really getting anywhere. Most classrooms use the rule that homework is purely revision, meaning that students should know how to do everything in their homework tasks as they have done the “learning” and background work in class during the week. Yes, this may be true in theory, and yet it doesn’t always reflect this when kids get their homework out at night.
Setting a schedule and sticking to it is key – if kids routinely do homework on the same nights, at the same time each week, you will find the battle a lot less ‘uphill’. If homework time just becomes a part of the week (whether parents are sitting there to help or not), kids appreciate the routine. Same goes for tutoring, I know that some of my most successful students are those that treat tutoring as more of an ‘Extra Curricular’ activity. Tutoring is placed at the same level of importance as sport, music or dance – and the same time is dedicated. These students continue to excel in their tutoring because we meet on the same day, at the same time every single week. By scheduling tutoring or study time into kid’s weeks, homework becomes habit – and hopefully allows for a much less stressful environment (for kids and for parents!).
The use of a calendar or timetable for your child’s week is an important step in creating the routine, and I have linked a few sites below that have some great templates to go off!
As I was browsing The Age website earlier this week, I came across this article about VCE students and practical VET subjects. As I deal predominantly with primary school aged students each week, I had no idea about the variety of subjects and practical experiences secondary school students can undertake now. It was a very interesting read about four Victorian high school students, and the paths they are taking through VET studies in order to reach their career goals. While VET subjects used to be the territory of VCAL students and kids who were going into trades or TAFE studies that is not the case anymore. A rising number of VCE students are now undertaking the certificates in order to keep their motivation for future study up and gain an edge at University. The Vocational Training Courses lead to nationally recognised qualifications, and can be scored towards student’s ATAR, not to mention it gives them extra certificates to go alongside their future university degrees. This is something that can only be beneficial, with the numbers of students attending university growing, thus leading to more and more competition for jobs in the long run.
The article goes into detail about four students, their chosen VET subjects and what they are hoping to achieve after secondary school. There’s no shortage of variety, with the students studying VET subjects in Acting (screen), Building and Construction (Carpentry), Equine Studies and Aviation. What’s interesting is that students can also begin to partially complete an apprenticeship, which means that kids don’t have to drop out at Year 10 to start these. They can work towards their apprenticeship while still completing their VCE – meaning they really get the best of both worlds!
The following VET courses can be undertaken for VCE credit in 2016. Almost all of them have a clear tie in with later university studies.
Agriculture, horticulture, conservation and land management
Applied fashion design and technology
Building and construction
Information and communications technology
Interactive digital media
Sport and recreation
View the article at…
It’s hard to believe Term 1 is now well underway, with kids and parents everywhere finally getting back into that old ‘school routine’. After a long stretch of Summer Holidays, it can sometimes be quite difficult getting back into the swing of things. The routine you had perfected in Term 4 (in which you worked hard all year to instill) has completely vanished, and you are now back to forgetting lunchboxes, not being able to find shoes in the morning, and arguing each afternoon about homework and reading and “What day do you have football training again? Monday…? I thought swimming was Monday and Football was Thursday? What about you guitar lessons, when are they again?”
There are so many extra activities kids attend now in addition to school that sometimes keeping them all in order is a full time job in itself. There are many arguments over how much is too much in terms of after school activities, but in my opinion I think that as long as the child is enjoying what they are involved in, it can be a really good thing. It teaches children to be busy, and gives them different circles of peers and friends. It teaches them commitment and perseverance, both wonderful skills to have as they grow older. For those children who have that extra bit of energy to burn, being involved in a sports team or a multi sports program can be really beneficial. Kids who have an interest in something more creative can look into learning a musical instrument, or joining a dance school. Circus and acrobatics classes are really popular at the moment, as are arts and craft workshops and cooking lessons.
I’m all for encouraging children to participate in these great opportunities, ensuring of course that their schedule is not completely ridiculous (because let’s face it – you as parents are the ones that will be driving here there and everywhere). It has been shown that these activities give students more drive in their schoolwork, eventually leading to better academic results. Starting them off in these teams, classes or clubs from a Primary School age will ensure that they discover what they enjoy early, and will lead to a better involvement throughout their high school years (and later life) as well.
There are so many great activities to choose from here on the Mornington Peninsula – everything from football clubs, little athletics, music tuition, acting programs and surf schools. Check out http://www.peninsulakids.com.au/ for a great listing of these local clubs, classes and activities. There is definitely something for everyone!
As we approach the end of Term 4, I am often asked different variations of the following question, and it really is a tough one.
“Is my child at the level they should be, and if they aren’t, should they be repeating the year?”
The majority of students that I see each week are children who are struggling or ‘behind’ in some area of their learning. Their report shows poor grades in certain areas, and as a parent seeing these low grades and feeling that your child isn’t at the standard they should be can be incredibly difficult.
One aspect of tutoring that I love is the one on one nature of it, and the fact that I get to know each student on a personal level, finding out things like their interests, their hobbies, what they like about school, what they hate about school, which sport they play, which AFL team they follow, who their friends are and their favourite television programs. More importantly, I also find out how each student learns. Some need a variety of activities and games in a session to keep interest levels up, while others learn best focusing on one topic with pencil and paper type work. Some need a lot of visual activities, while others need more verbal prompting. Every child is different, and every child learns things at their own pace.
So when this question comes up, I am always a little bit torn. Because yes; on paper perhaps the student isn’t quite up to their grade level. They may be at a lower reading level than their peers, or they may struggle with spelling or with counting or perhaps they still don’t know all of their times tables. But, there is so much progress made on a week by week basis that may not be factored in to these levels.
Yes the student may still not know all their times tables, but they have worked incredibly hard to learn their 2’s, 3’s and 4’s by rote memory. Now they are able to draw ‘groups of’ pictures to work out the bigger ones, and while it may take a bit longer – they do get the right answer in the end. And maybe they are still reading a few levels behind everyone else in their class, but they now have the confidence to sound out words they don’t know rather than just put their head on the desk. And they are actually excited about reading now, they aren’t shaking and on the verge of tears at the thought of reading out loud. Maybe they are still getting in trouble at school, and it feels like their teacher is sending a note home every second day about ‘how distracting they were on the mat today’. But now they are at least able to sit still each morning while they do their spelling words because they have been practicing and they know that they are going to get most of them right, instead of all of them wrong.
Sometimes having a child repeat the year can be beneficial, as it revises topics they have already learned, and allows them to ‘catch up’ to where they should be academically. But repeating the year can also be detrimental to children, especially as they get older. Seeing their friends and classmates move up a year while they stay where they are can be difficult, and their confidence can waver and decrease dramatically.
It’s a decision only you can make with your child, and I encourage you to get the advice and relevant information from teachers and schools before you make any decisions. But just know that it may feel hopeless – but your child has made progress (whether it is academically socially, emotionally or behaviourally).
No matter how small, these improvements are still massive achievements that kids should be proud of – something I am sure to tell my students on a regular basis.
When a parent reads to their child from a young age, it opens up a whole new world of learning opportunities – and not just in regards to literacy.
Reading promotes general academic excellence. Language is the basis of all forms of learning – without words and sentences, grasping the notions of other subjects like Maths, Science and History is near impossible. By encouraging reading as early as possible, your child will quickly gain a sense of the words and sentence structure and will put them in a position to learn new subjects faster and more easily.
Not to mention that reading enforces the fundamentals of writing. Seeing words on a page will vastly improve spelling and grammar, and inspires the young student to write on their own, both technically and creatively. Words are so important and vital to your child’s growth and development – so why not give them that bit of head start!
The act of reading before bedtime strengthens the bond between parent and child. It becomes more than just reading a book – it’s a fun, relaxing, nurturing activity that can be shared. If it’s a good book you’re reading as well, it might be something your child actually looks forward to! Encouraging this activity will put reading in a positive light in your kid’s eyes, and will increase the chance of them loving books and embracing the English language on their own terms.
It also encourages patience, persistence and enhanced concentration. In this tech-heavy world, new forms of learning and entertainment can be extremely fast-paced and overwhelming. Reading books is almost ‘old-school’ but it develops an appreciation and understanding of the joys of reading. By slowing down and taking in a book, your child will increase their ability to focus and calmly tackle any challenge that comes their way.
Reading, for me, is one of my greatest joys. My mother read me books and encouraged me to choose and read my own for as long as I can remember, and now it has turned into a lifelong passion for me. I always remember coming from school and reading whatever book I was working through at the time for at least half an hour – off my own back, mind you! And I know that this joy and skill of reading helped my other subjects immensely – I wouldn’t have been able to write a History essay or understand complex Psychology theories without it. My love for books eventually expanded to also include a passion for writing – something I hope happens to your children as well.
Read to your kids. Just, read. Titles from authors such as Dr. Seuss, Graeme Base, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton are all wonderful and enjoyable, and will fire your child’s imagination for many years to come.
Students using educational technology in class has long been a point of discussion, but with the prevalence of learning apps and digital methods of study higher than ever, the question is no longer should, but how, it can be incorporated into the classroom.
There are a number of benefits for using learning apps at school. They can be fun and engaging for students - more so than regular worksheets and textbooks – and can enable them to focus and learn faster. It enhances the child’s tech skills which helps them prepare for the future, especially in our rapidly growing digital world. And best of all, with instant feedback and a simplified collection of grades and materials, it’s much easier for teachers and parents to manage!
Of course, there are always downsides. Kids can be easily distracted by the computers and iPads, it doesn’t encourage patience and persistence like regular work does, and it’s highly likely that there will be tech issues, whether it being low battery power or poor Wi-Fi.
But using technology in schools extends far beyond kids using iPads to learn. Canadian app FreshGrade allows teachers to record their student’s learning achievements, and send them instantly to parents; and apps like Remind, Buzzmob and Class Messenger allow swift communication like memos, reminders and upcoming deadlines between school and home.
Technology in classrooms, regardless of personal opinions, is here to stay. (Some Queensland primary schools are introducing coding and robotics subjects from as early as Grade One!) But rather than be staunchly against it, teachers and parents should learn to embrace it and apply it to the child’s needs, in moderation. For starters, kids should have no more than two hours of screen time a day, and it should be balanced with regular work in order to avoid over-stimulation and lags in personal creativity.
Also try and identify what kind of learner your child is, and what they enjoy – every student is unique and has different learning methods and capabilities, so make sure that using learning apps for your kids will benefit and not hinder them. If your child enjoys the use of apps and you feel it encourages their learning, then make it a focal part of their studies. However, if the student is quite adept and content with working the ‘old school’ way, then use the apps in moderation.
And, of course, it all depends on the subjects. Personally, I find reading off a screen detrimental to my own understanding, but I can imagine tricky maths problems and geometry puzzles would be much more enjoyable on a colourful app. But it’s completely up to the child – work out what subjects the student could use some help with and download the relevant apps accordingly.
So, teachers and parents – what’s your opinion on using learning apps in the classroom and at home?
During one of my tutoring sessions this week, an interesting idea came from one of my older students. This particular student loves reading, and really enjoys all aspects of books and literature. We often have really engaging talks about different books, it's characters and why it should (or should not) be made into the next mega movie! During one of these discussions, the student mentioned how much they would really (really, really) like to be able to go to a book club. But then, (very somberly) told me that they only have book clubs for adults.
This talk definitely got me thinking, and made me realise how many other students I see on a weekly basis who might benefit from such a club as well. A way for students to improve on reading and analytical thinking skills, a way to make some new friends and most importantly... get really excited about reading! At the moment I am doing a bit of research into the idea, and am hoping that it may be something that MPT can trial in the future (possibly Term 1, 2016).
For now though, I would like to share said student's reason's for wanting to join a book club, as well as some insight into why they love reading so much!
I am a 12 year old and I love reading. It is one of my passions, and I love reading because....
when you read you can let your mind race while you are reading a book. I like dystopian themed books, and if you have no clue what dystopian is it is when an author thinks about the future and makes up what it will be like. James Dashner is the author of the Maze Runner (a dystopian book), and he thinks that the world will be burning. I am guessing, but maybe our climate change problem is giving him a chance to explain the future in his own words.
I would like to join a book club because if we do it means that we can socialize, learn about books and talk about them. We could also set ourselves up with buddy reads, which is when 2 people pick a book to read and they take turns until they finish the book.
This wonderful student also writes their own blog about books, movies and lots of other cool stuff.
Raising a hand in class can be a thoughtless reaction for some students, but a nerve-racking struggle for others. Everybody learns in varying ways, and sit at different levels on the introversion/extroversion scale, but in a modern classroom environment, speaking up is often essential. We already know that some students are quiet learners (which do not necessarily mean they are shy individuals) but the time will inevitably come to answer a question or do a presentation in front of the class. So how can we get kids to feel confident enough to speak up?
I remember when I was in primary school I had no fears in raising my hand to answer a question. Whether I was confident enough to talk in front of everyone, or I was just seeking validation from my teacher, I’m still not sure. However, by the time I got to high school, my eagerness to answer questions dwindled. It wasn’t so much a confidence thing or me trying to look ‘cool’, but more that I always doubted my answers and second-guessed myself. It was only when I had a pre-prepared script to read from for an oral presentation did I feel confident in my knowledge.
This might relate to your children in some way if they have any trouble speaking up. Ask them if it’s a confidence issue, or a concern about their ‘image’. There’s obviously nothing to be afraid of in the classroom and there’s nothing wrong with answering a question incorrectly, as long as they try. In fact, failing in front of your classmates can be a positive experience too – once they realise that nothing awful happens, it’ll drive them to answer more questions in the future!
Much like extroverted kids are forced to work quietly and independently, introverted types should be encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and speak up. Being able to talk openly in front of their class will enhance their public speaking, communication skills and confidence, and will help immensely when they move on to further education where oral presentations are a more frequent occurrence.
It’s now officially Term 4 - the home stretch of the school year - and while kids may be excitedly winding down for summer holidays, unfortunately there’s still a little way to go before the final bell rings. Arguably, Term 4 is the most important of the year, but with Christmas looming around the corner it’s understandably tough to get students motivated to achieve their learning goals. Luckily, there are a few sneaky tips on boosting enthusiasm to do work (which might help some parents getting through the final leg of the working year too!)
Make sure your child has a suitable environment to study. A separate room is ideal, but if that’s not possible then a working space that’s clean, clutter-free and relatively quiet will ensure the best opportunity for success. The right set-up should be also be personalised with their favourite stationery and decorations, or situated in front of a window, to help boost inspiration. Having a permanent place to return to and work after school that’s free from distractions will do wonders in the long-term.
Stick to a schedule. Often homework gets put on the back burner if we have other commitments going on, but writing up a timetable and following through with it will ensure that all their learning goals are met. And if your child knows that free time is coming straight after they finish their homework, they will be more inclined to get it done.
This blog has previously mentioned the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, and this is also an essential way of boosting motivation. When the pressures of school and the anxiety of a much-needed holiday coming up is almost unbearable, taking the time to unwind and observe their breathing and feelings is a naturally calming and attention-training technique. By focusing on the ‘present moment’, kids will find it much easier to hone in on their schoolwork and overcome any challenges.
Positive reinforcement and rewards systems are recommended only for short-term goals, but if your child is struggling with some tricky maths homework, a little treat can give them the edge they need to get through it. Give a reward like a sticker or some screen time for every few questions they complete, and watch them blitz through their work in no time. Make sure to not get them too reliant on it though. By acknowledging achievements and celebrating the things they have done well, the satisfaction they get from finishing a task successfully will eventually become their main motivator.
These are just some of the ways to get your kids performing at their full potential over the last (and seemingly endless!) term. But getting into good study habits now will have your child kicking goals in their future years of study, and beyond. I don’t know about you, but I think I need to put some of these tips into practice myself!
Lauren is a teacher and tutor who works with primary school aged children. Lauren has a Degree in Education from Deakin University, and is currently studying a Diploma in Counseling with AIPC.