As the school holidays draw to a close we all must prepare ourselves for the reality of a brand new school year. For those who are starting high school, this time of year can stir up emotions which may range from excited to anxious or even fluctuate between the two. Even as a teacher, I feel the butterflies in my stomach as January ticks on; wondering what my new students or classes will be like, how I’ll keep up with the work load and just generally planning for routine and schedules to rule my life again. Although everyone handles this transition in different ways, there are several things parents can do to support their kids through it. According to an article from raisingchildren.net.au, “when children are making the move to secondary school, you [parents] have the biggest influence on how smooth the transition is. Your child’s friends do influence how your child feels about the move, but your support has strong and longer-lasting effects.”
Familiarise yourself with new schedules and routines
A change in routine as significant as the transition from primary school to high school can be a major cause of anxiety in some children. After 7 years of primary school, new high school students must embrace several adjustments which could include a different starting time, a new school location and complicated class schedules. Help your children to get into a new rhythm in the mornings to alleviate the stress of being late or getting lost. Familiarise yourself with their daily timetable and make it a discussion each morning about what’s on for the day. If you have access to a school map, you could even use that to assist your child in planning out where they will need to physically move around throughout the day. I still have nightmares about losing track of my school schedule or getting lost in the labyrinth that was my high school. For me personally, reviewing the following day’s schedule the night before was always useful and even helped to settle my mind for a peaceful sleep.
Identify Clubs and teams
My sister in law is a high school teacher and she tells me that the children who transition most successfully as those who find a club or an interest group or team to join at the start of their high school career. Discuss what your children’s interests or strengths are before the year begins and help them get to excited for the opportunity to explore these areas further at their new school. This is also an excellent way to make new, like-minded friends. If your child is shy like I was though, encourage them to ask their friends which clubs they will join and suggest they jump on one of those band wagons! I was terribly shy in school and found even the concept of joining a club so far out of my comfort zone. I used to watch the drama club perform lunchtime plays and wish I had their confidence. If I had only taken the plunge and got involved, even in backstage duties, I know there would have been a whole new world of friendships and enriching experiences to be had. I know this now because I finally did work up the courage to join a rowing team at university and it transformed my confidence, social life and overall experience at uni.
With high school comes increased homework and possibly more out of class commitments (especially if your child ends up joining a club or team!). Most children will need support in managing their time and staying on top of everything. Help them to schedule in 30-60 mins per night for homework. Even if there isn’t 60 minutes worth of work to do, encourage the same timing each night (ie. just before or just after dinner) and suggest filling any spare time with reading. This will help to build strong study habits and self-discipline which will certainly come in handy later in their high school career. At the same time, it is important to schedule down time in when kids first get home to give them some space to relax and process the day a bit.
Don’t underestimate the positive influence you can have as a supportive parent. Hopefully these tips help you to get your child’s high school career started well. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out the article mentioned earlier on raisingchildren.net.au or another excellent article from theconversation.com.
The Summer Learning Loss/Summer Slide/Summer Set Back is a common phenomenon whereby students forget some of what was learnt in their previous school year over the summer break. Call it what you like, statistics show that many children end up starting the new school year worse off than they were when the holidays began. If your children are anything like my nieces, they are bubbling over with excitement about the long lazy days ahead. But I know that they will quickly tire of the lack of routine and regular stimulation that school provides. Many children reach for technology to fill this void and depending on the app or program being used, many children are likely to succumb to the dreaded “summer learning loss” by the end of January.
At Mornington Peninsula Tutoring, we have designed something that can be part of the solution for this potential setback. Bryony and Lauren have been working hard to create holiday learning packs for primary aged students. The three packs we are working on so far have all been designed by the two of us (both experienced Primary School teachers) to provide your children with learning opportunities during the long summer break. Activities range from math related problem-solving tasks to literacy-based puzzles and word games. They have been designed to provide children with a fun and educational way to spend some time putting their brains to work in the place of tutoring or traditional homework. Our packs are aimed at students in Prep to Year 4 (there's a Level 1, 2 and 3 book). Some activities may require the assistance of an older sibling or parent, but each activity is clearly described and easy for an adult to follow.
Our aim was to have these packs out and ready for this Summer, however between Christmas, holidays and our two young boys unfortunately we have only got the one up and ready at the moment.
Our first completed pack – A day at the Beach (Level 1) is aimed at students in Prep and Year 1.
Our other two books will be finalised in Term 1, ready for the Easter holidays in April. If they prove popular, there will be more to follow throughout the year (with the possibility of printed books and resources available to purchase too). All of these updates will be on our Facebook Page, so make sure you follow us and keep an eye on it over the next few months.
Meanwhile, if you’re around on the peninsula during the holidays, there are several local options to keep your child’s mind sharp over the break. Peninsula libraries are currently offering some amazing holiday programs for kids, which can be found via the link:
Or join the library’s “Summer Reading club” to encourage your child to keep up with their reading over the break with the potential to win a prize at the end! As well as keeping mentally active, it’s important to ensure your children have plenty of opportunity to burn off some energy and run around. Check out the Peninsula kids website as well for local events and activities http://peninsulakids.com.au/local-activities/ for ideas on keeping your child physically active.
Articles on summer learning loss:
When was the last time you wrote something down that was longer than a list? I’m talking about a series of complete, grammatically correct sentences, possibly accentuated with interesting verbs and adjectives? Thanks to modern technology, we are more likely to punch out a text, type an email or use a word document to compose any writing these days, so why bother to encourage our children to work on their handwriting in school? Is handwriting a lost art that needs saving, or is it superfluous in the tech-based world of today?
I recently came across a fascinating article which suggested that handwriting really does matter and must be explicitly taught in schools. It claimed that children who practise handwriting achieve greater success with reading and spelling. Research has found that as a child learns to write words down, while making letter-sound connections, they are essentially activating circuits in the brain which promote literacy skills. While this concept is generally embraced in early primary school, handwriting skills can quickly get tossed aside in later years as students learn to use iPads and laptops to draft, revise and edit their writing. They learn to rely on automatic spelling and grammar programs, dictation and word prediction, thereby missing vital opportunities to flex some literacy muscles. While the article acknowledges the importance of technology for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities, handwriting still must be taught and practised throughout school.
As a teacher with largely upper primary experience, I concur that handwriting is still a crucial skill to learn and practise. By late primary, if students haven’t mastered a smooth and clear handwriting style they are less likely to be reaching for a pen and paper, and not only do their spelling and reading skills suffering for it, but I believe their ability to retain information is weakened as well. I have always encouraged students to write down important facts by hand to understand and remember them best, but this only works well if handwriting is not a difficult task in itself. I’ve seen many students who are unwilling to take risks with their learning as well, when they feel their handwriting and spelling abilities are lacking. Children need to be taught at an early age to write clearly and efficiently and they need to maintain this skill throughout their school careers.
So how to encourage students to develop their handwriting when technology is so prolific? Fostering a love of writing by hand from an early age is key, but parents of upper primary and secondary students could try a few of the following ideas; find a pen pal overseas and send some snail mail once a week, update a journal or personal diary or simply carry a book around to jot down daily observations, jokes, funny quotes or write poetry, lyrics or stories when they have time to kill on public transport or over the weekend. I suppose the first step is to have some technology free time and to have the writing tools readily available. Check out the links below to read the article in full and get some more ideas for improving your child’s handwriting.
Read the article here
Tools to help with handwriting
Importance of Handwriting Article
~ Bryony ~
It’s been a busy year for Mornington Peninsula Tutoring, with new students joining us every term. We are thrilled to start off Term 4 with more than 50 students and a growing teaching team as well. We now have eight tutors working hard to develop personalised and engaging lessons for our students.
Since the start of the year, we have welcomed four new tutors to the team, all of whom are either qualified teachers, studying to become one or who have relevant tutoring experience. They all share a passion for education and are dedicated to assisting students to reach their full potential.
Bryony is a qualified Primary School Teacher with over 5 years teaching experience in the classroom. Most recently, Bryony worked as a fulltime Grade 5 teacher at an inner city school in Melbourne, before moving to the Peninsula with her new born son and husband. As well as tutoring, Bryony has also taken on the role of our resident blogger for the MPT website, so watch this space for regular posts on educational issues and ideas!
Alex is currently completing his final year of a Masters of Teaching degree at Melbourne University. That means that Alex has been in the classroom since the first semester of his degree and has gained a vast range of teaching knowledge and experience, which he applies to all the students that he tutors.
Alisha has a degree in Professional writing and editing, and is currently studying an advanced diploma of ministry and theology. Alisha has almost 4 years of tutoring experience, with her area of expertise being our Secondary School students. Alisha tutors in both English and Maths, from Year 7 through to VCE level.
Georgia is currently studying to become a teacher. She had the opportunity to help others as a peer mentor during high school and has had one-on-one teaching experience with primary students while volunteering at a local school.
Our four new teachers join an already knowledgeable group of tutors who work hard to ensure that our students are continually developing and mastering new skills to assist them on their learning journey. We are excited to end what has been a busy and successful year with such a strong team and wish our families all the best for the final term of 2018!
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.
Lauren is the owner of MPT, a primary school teacher, tutor and Mum to a nearly 2 year old son.