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!
So school is out for two weeks, and most of the kids around Australia are excitedly bouncing getting ready for all the ‘awesome stuff they are going to do’ over the school holidays. Parents nod along in excitement, although they have a number of thoughts rolling around like “When am I going to find time to take you to all these places?”, “How much is it going to cost?”, and “Ten bucks says they spend the majority of their holidays on the Xbox”.
While spending all day everyday on their phone or IPad is not the best idea, some screen or game time could be a good thing. It’s important for kids to actually switch off and have a break over the school holidays. Spontaneous play is vital for children’s development, and it’s something that they don’t get to do a lot of in the classroom. Although, rather than screen time all the time, encourage kids to go outside and explore something in the backyard, or use the imagination to build a castle or a car out of Lego blocks. I spent some time last week building Lego with a student who was feeling a bit stressed and tired of school. It was amazing how Lego managed to calm the student down, and channeled all of their energy and focus into the task of building a ‘dream house’. The Lego activity took us on a different path, in which we talked about the rooms, furniture and layout of a house.
Anything that involves children exploring and independently learning is a positive thing – especially when the child is the one who is setting the path. Sometimes these instances are when children learn the most, simply because of their level of engagement and enjoyment (as they are actually learning about what THEY want to learn). So, let the kids take a break over the holidays and ask them what they are interested in. Once they have given you some ideas (and let’s face it, there will be a MILLION things they are ‘interested’ in), make it a mission in your family to learn something new about these areas of interest!
Weekend Notes put together a great list of school holiday activities in Melbourne over spring – and there is some really cool stuff going on. Everything from Art and Craft, Lego, Minecraft , Disney Princesses and Mermaids. There’s also a FREE School Holiday Junior Ranger Program here on the Mornington Peninsula. Worth a look!
There have been some interesting articles and commentary around at the moment after the Victorian government announced their plans to replace special religious instruction classes in schools with lessons on domestic violence and healthy relationships. It’s an interesting concept really, but one that they obviously feel was very necessary. With the rate of domestic violence and family violence on the increase, perhaps it is something that should be introduced?
When I read the article, my first thought was that domestic violence and healthy relationships are surely something that should be taught and learned at home, not at school. The amount of content that teachers are expected to cover each term is already so high, is it really fair to add more into the curriculum? The majority of children will learn what a healthy relationship looks like through watching their own parents, their friend’s parents and the other relationships within their extended family.
But as I thought more about it, I realised that those kids who are returning home each night to witness domestic violence or an unhealthy relationship between these key figures in their life would actually be learning it all wrong. Some kids might not realise that what is going on at home is incorrect, especially if they are only young and don’t have a lot of exposure to other families and adults. These children would be watching their supposed role models and thinking that it’s acceptable to hit your partner, verbally abuse them and that it’s normal to feel scared in your own house.
It’s proposed that all children in Victorian government schools from Kindergarten to Year 10 will be part of a 30 minute lesson each week on world histories, cultures, faith and ethics – encompassing learning about healthy relationships. This will take the place of Special Religious Instruction classes, (in which usually only a handful of children from each class attend), and SRI will be moved to either lunchtime or before and after school.
So, maybe it is a positive change that these aspects of healthy relationships are taught in schools to children. I guess it’s important to try anything at this point to try and break the cycle of domestic violence, and if it is educating those children who might be in these situations at home – well then I’m all for it.
Have a read of the article and see what you think about the proposed change.
There’s no denying the fact that we here in 2015 live in a technologically advanced world. It’s become the norm to see toddlers operating smart phones and iPads, and kids spend a big portion of their day on ‘Screen Time’ – whether it is on a computer, TV, video game console or portable device. Kids just have a way of understanding these better than most adults do. I’ve just come to accept that when I walk into a new classroom, there will be at least 5 kids I can ask to set up the computer and interactive whiteboard for me (and they do a better job than any IT person would!). Don’t ask me how they are able to make calls, text and surf the web simultaneously on literally ANY smart phone they pick up, but they are also able to find hidden menus we can’t EVER seem to see on our tablets, and are able to fix up computers WITHOUT just switching it off and back on again! Where have all these little people picked up this knowledge from, seriously?
Yes, all these kids with technological superpowers are pretty impressive, but is it just a natural progression because we now just seem to have so much technology in our lives? I know when I was a kid I was big on Television and Movies, and I would happily sit with my family each night and watch shows and videos (children will stare at you blankly now if you mention a videotape), and we used to have to either watch the shows when they were on, or tape them onto said videotape. There was no streaming, you couldn’t watch it on your computer later and DVD’s had only just been invented - but literally NO ONE had a dvd player yet (children are now staring at you with their little jaws on the floor).
So if things have come this far in the last 15 years or so, how different must each generation’s lives begin to look?
I saw this video on Facebook earlier in the week, and it really made me think. It’s a really interesting look at 3 different generations thought’s on what they did/do for fun as a kid. It’s both fascinating and also pretty sad to see how the responses have changed. It’s upsetting to think that the majority of kids these days associate having fun as being alone, playing video games or being on an IPad or phone. It really makes you wonder what future generations and kids’ lives are going to be like.
Check out the thought provoking video at the link below, and see what you think about it!
Mindfulness isn’t really a term we hear all that often – and honestly it’s something I did not really know anything about. However I came across a really interesting article about primary school’s actually teaching this concept of mindfulness to children in Sydney. Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation, and a way of being in the present moment and learning to be confident in how we approach it. The article mentions that children are told that “it’s a way of being brave and facing yourself” – what a great concept and thought process for young children to have!
This is not just for those children who have anger problems or behaviour issues either. All children can benefit from being taught these skills. It teaches children how to respond to things – both in themselves and around them, instead of just instantly reacting. It can also be an instrumental skill in their teenage years, helping them to navigate peer pressure, and shows that real choices come from self-awareness. What’s even better is that these schools have taken what the children have learnt from these mindfulness classes, and used it to underline everything they do from the classroom to the playground. The technique STOP is designed to help children notice their feelings, rather than just reacting.
Sense the body
Tune into breathing
Seems like a mantra we could all use in our daily lives, and one that I think can definitely help children succeed at school and in life. Check out the link below for the full article – it’s a really great read about a truly interesting concept.
Lauren is the owner and manager of MPT, a primary school teacher, tutor and Mum to 2 very active boys.