# Category Archives: ABC of Learning

## “U” is for Understanding the Curriculum￼

There has been some talk of late about the school curriculum and the changes it is going through.  These changes, like any change, cause ripple effects of anxiety on students, teachers and parents.  But what are the learning expectations of our young students?

I have been looking at www.australiancurriculum.edu.au for some guidance just so I, as a tutor, am aware and aligned with expectations.  I would advise popping onto the website and having a look.  Meanwhile I will give a brief summary focusing on maths as this is the area parent seek the most guidance from tutors.

# Year One

By the end of Year One a school student is expected to know the numbers to one hundred; skip count by 2, 5 and 10; and be able to locate numbers on a number line.  Simple addition is accomplished by counting on, re-arranging or performing partitioning.  Fractions are introduced as they learn to recognise “1/2″ and be able to tell the time to the half hour.

I mentioned only a small area of the curriculum as these are the areas I see most when a student is presented for tuition.  At this stage of learning any short coming in these areas may be made up by parents sitting down with their little one and turn learning into some form of game.  There are several aids available from various websites and suggestions on the Australian Curriculum site.

## Year 2

If you are a parent with a young student in Australia, then chances are you have your mind in a muddle as to education expectations.

In Year 1 students have mastered the numbers up to 100 and skip counting by 2, 5 and 10.  This year sees them progress even further on the number line as they move towards recognising and placing order to the numbers to 1,000, and investigate the number sequences of 2, 3, 5 and 10.  It is this year they explore the connection between subtraction and addition.

By the end of this year they will master reading a clock (analogue and digital) to the quarter hour using the words “to” and “past” appropriately.   They will be able to name the months of the year in the correct order as well as the seasons of the year.  They will be able to use a calendar to find the date and know the number of days to the month.

This is only a small amount that is on the curriculum and only relates to maths as this is the area, as a tutor, I see the most problems.  How can you help your child with their studies?  Do you remember this:“Thirty days has September, April, June and November,all the rest have thirty-one days clear,except February alone which has twenty-eight daysand twenty-nine each leap year.

## Year 3

“These are the best years of your life.”, self-assuring words spruiked by many a parent and teacher to seven-year-old students who don’t need reassurance after remembering their potty-training years.  They have just cruised through the first two years of primary school, they know all the numbers, the alphabet and can write their name; what else is there to learn?

Year 3 is where many young students realise their world will never be the same again.  It is during this year they discover numbers do not stop at 1,000 but continue all the way to 10,000 and they must know their order, place value, and be able to recognise if they are odd or even!   Not only that but there are numbers smaller than one that no-one told them about as they are introduced to the fractions 1/2, 1/4, 1/3, and 1/5.

When learning the multiplication table by heart for 2, 3, 5 and 10 no-one warned them about having to manage multiplying a two-digit number by a single digit number, without a smart phone.  In fact, they are expected to develop strategies to perform addition and subtraction in their head (mental maths).  Counting on, regrouping and partitioning are all strategies employed to perform mental maths.

It is during this year our students are introduced to metric measurement.  I hear very few complaints from students in our tuition centre about learning measurements.  I simply remind them that learning 1,000 metres equals one kilometre is much easier than remembering there are 1,760 yards to a mile, 22 yards to a chain, or 16 ounces to a pound.

Yes, there is a lot to learn in Year 3 (and this is only maths) and yes, these may be the best years of their life because Year 5 is ahead of them, but we won’t tell them about that yet.

By Peter Kenyon – Online Maths Primary Maths Tutor

## “T” is for Tying Laces and Writing

It caused considerable concern when I read that the American Government dropped teaching cursive writing from the core curriculum in 2010.  They have left it up to the states to decide if it should be taught in elementary schools.  Some have decided not to teach the writing and reading of cursive script.  Their students are not being taught to read or write past the printed letter.

Does not teaching how to write have repercussions other than affecting the way we develop and record our thoughts?  Is it even a concern that we become solely dependent upon smart phones, tablets and computers for recording our words?

People may have asked the same question as the motor car replaced the bicycle or television replaced evening family interaction.  Change produces change and each alteration to our lifestyle needs to be considered for its own new path.  If we haven’t looked far enough down the path before taking the first few steps, we may arrive at a destination we did not desire.  I don’t think an obese society and world environmental problems was what Henry Ford envisioned with his Model T; nor did Steve Jobs foresee family members retreating to separate rooms when he wanted to bring the world together.

What damage can possibly be caused by not teaching cursive writing to young students?  I have already encountered a young postman who has difficulty delivering handwritten letters because they used “running writing”.  So, we don’t receive our mail, is that a problem these days?  The fact the young man couldn’t decipher or decode the letters on the envelope is of greater concern to me.

Cursive writing as with all writing requires the development of fine motor skills; skills that come with practice.  The fine dexterity of finger and hand movement learned by a seven-year-old child is the same skill required to tie shoelaces, do up buttons, place a nut on a bolt or to produce a painting.  I have already begun to see within my tuition experience young students unable to control letter and number formation between 8-millimetre lines or contain them within 7-millimetre squares of a quad page.  Is this a problem?

When I was in primary school, the pencil and then the pen was an important tool to my learning.  Our teachers came in early to prepare the black board with the day’s lessons.  These lessons were copied into our notebooks.  Maths problems were copied from the board or the textbook before being solved.  Our scholastic days were filled with scribing and learning.  Our weekends required us to compose an essay, so we could practise our scribbles and improve our imagination.  Even now I produced drafts for this post with pencil and paper before committing them to digital creation.

Reading, writing and arithmetic formed the foundation of independence for an individual.  With all three mastered a person was armed to contribute to society, create wealth from nothing and control their destiny.  I am afraid the removal of just one may have an impact on creating an independent individual.

By Peter Kenyon: Online Tutor

## “S” is for Stressed Students

The ABC of Building a Better Student –

## Daily Diary Does the Deed

The year is going to progress whether we become involved with it or not.  Those students who don’t take control of time will have time controlling them.  It is these students, particularly Secondary School students, that display symptoms of stress as the year progresses.

Students who learn how to use a diary and planner at the beginning of the year are more likely to feel relaxed as the year progresses.  Keeping a written diary or planner appears to be almost a lost science.  Everything today seems to be electronic with touch pads for keying entries and apps that help to link all the diaries together and co-ordinate your appointments.  This is all very impressive but is it helping your student?

At the beginning of the term or semester your student is given their assignments and due dates.  They are also aware of sports training and events they should be attending; forthcoming birthdays and family events; and school activities.  Showing your son or daughter how to use a diary is a valuable life skill to pass on to them.  Sitting down once a week and running through that week’s entries helps to co-ordinate lifestyles.

Remember: We are all given twenty-four hours a day, how you use them is up to you.

By Peter Kenyon: Online Tutor

## “R” is for Readiness for School

“A stitch in time saves nine.”  How do you know if your pre-schooler is ready for their big jump into primary school?

Does your child understand these words – “above”; “below”; “on”; “in”; “before”; “after”; “beside”; “first”; “second”; “last’: “stop”; “go”; “left”; “right”; “top”; “bottom”; “middle”?

Pre-school education should help young learners with their spatial skills and prepare them for primary school, however there are times when these skills are not acquired.  This is no reflection upon the child, though not having an understanding can place the young learner at a disadvantage when they first attend primary school.

Can you imagine the difficulty a young learner will have following the simplest directions if they do not understand the words from the list above?  We are seeing more instances where the parents of children in Years 1 and 2 are seeking help because their little ones are not keeping up at school.

How can a student fall into difficulty at such an early stage of their education?

Let the early years be play.  Young children learn through play, being read to, and through song.  Have any of these three things changed in the last two decades?  Do children play with other children or with their parents like they used to?  Are they being read to by an adult?  Do the songs they listen to teach them about the spatial world around them?

The things we do with our children before they attend school are just as important as the education they receive before they become adults.  If you can get the foundations right the structure is strong.

By Peter Kenyon: Online Tutor

## “Q” is for Questioning What the Eyes See

The Eyes Have It When 5 + 1 = 5

Some students are behind at school through no fault of their own.

They look at the work and don’t understand what is going on.  They ask themselves “Why am I the only person in this class who doesn’t get this?”  Eventually they begin to believe “I must be a real dummy I just don’t understand why I keep getting this wrong!” Their self-confidence disintegrates and at times their behaviour will follow.  After all, “What is the point of turning up every day if I can’t learn this?”

What is happening with this student?

What would happen if you saw the number zero as a one?  For one thing sometimes five plus one will equal six and other times it will equal five.  When you are in primary school and just learning about numbers and maths, things will become almost incomprehensible.  You won’t understand why sometimes ten is ten and sometimes it’s eleven.  Everything will become an exercise in guess work for you.  These students will also have trouble seeing decimal points, and fractions are just another language when your eyes skip over the line between the numerator and denominator.

That’s just maths.  When they read, “was” can become “saw” and whole lines are skipped because the eyes didn’t see the line to read it.  By the time they are Year 7 their reading comprehension is extremely low and there are gaps in their mathematics understanding because fractions and decimals don’t exist.

The problem is with their eye tracking.

Eye Tracking issues occur when the two eyes don’t move smoothly and accurately across a line or from word to word.  The student will often lose their place while reading, skip lines, misread short words as in “was” and “saw” and cut off the beginnings and endings of words.

Eye tracking issues are usually corrected by visiting a Behavioural Optometrist who tests for the condition and prescribes glasses that are worn until the condition is corrected.  Normal optometrists don’t usually check or test for this condition, so if your student has glasses and their schoolwork has not improved it may be time to visit the specialist.

By Peter Kenyon: Online Maths Tutor

## “P” is for Planners

Quite often students begin the year in a casual stride and who is to blame them? After all, they have just come off holidays (about 1 ½ months’ worth).

I come from a sports training background and understand that an athlete who wants to perform well will not take six weeks off their training year.  The repercussions are too great as they will lose too much form.  They must work too hard to get back to square one.

A dedicated rugby player will be maintaining his/her aerobic fitness with moderate exercise during the off-season.  When January comes around, they are ready to start full swing on improving their strengths, building on fitness and working on skills.  That is how you stay ahead of the pack.

Most learners will forget the last four weeks of learning over the six weeks of Christmas break. Pretty much everything learned in November is lost by the time they go back to school in January/February.

I often wonder why students don’t undertake the same planning when it comes to academic performance.  Most students and parents of students are willing to let the achievements of the final months of the previous year disappear through resting the brain after the school year.

The brain doesn’t need that much time to recover.  In fact, that length of time of recovery is detrimental.  The last month of knowledge learned prior to exams has been lost and must be relearned in the first month of the new year!

During the last two weeks of the Christmas holidays many students maintain their academic conditioning by working with their Academic Coach at after-school tuition.  Some use their coach (their tutor) to work on their weaknesses from last year while others use the time to get a head start on the subject they know is in the next year.

These guys, like their athletic counterparts, are staying ahead of the pack.  Is it worthwhile?  You bet it is.  They will go into the new year confident and stress free.  They have locked in with their coach who is helping them to perform at their peak.

We live in a competitive world and those who rise to the top are those who are willing to go the extra mile to achieve that result.  Time and effort are often put into young people with their sport, but will that effort bring a return on investment for them? Will these skills bring them an income? Most likely not.

If the same effort was put into their academic ability, or at least more evenly distributed well……

By Peter Kenyon: Online Maths Tutor

## “O” is for the Over-Worked Student

Many parents don’t realise they may be setting their children up for burn-out later in the year because they, as their child’s coach, have not planned their activities so their academic athlete may peak at the appropriate times (exams).

It is with the best intentions that many parents will fill almost every minute of their little one’s waking hours with sport, training for sport and transport to and from sport.  I am amazed at how many children are undertaking more than one sport a school term.  If you are a parent who is building a champion, please remember three things.

1. Training and playing sport are tiring, very tiring.  That is why great coaches don’t over-load their prized athletes.  They allow down time for recovery and for their protégés to spend time doing non-competitive recreational activities.
2. A tired student will find it difficult to concentrate in class.  Many students who participate in after school sports are still running around during the day at school.  Play is how they socialise with their friends.  An over-loaded student will take the  inactive time in the classroom to recharge the batteries with rest.  This will affect their learning.
3. In today’s world a person has a much better chance of achieving a high-income future with good grades than becoming a highly paid athlete.  It is best to plan a balanced week for your child.  Yes, sport is important, but it should not be the only focus to your child’s development.

Children are growing and that takes energy.  You can help by planning their week to include some down time when there is no running around, high energy sport or study.  Sometimes, it good to let them be themselves to develop their own interest.

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

## “N” is for Nutrition

A child of any age is growing rapidly and needs plenty of food for energy and nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) to help supply the body with the building blocks to allow the cells to multiply and the body to grow.

The inability to concentrate, feeling listless, unenthusiastic and headaches are all signs of insufficient nutrient intake.  The body begins to slow down by mid-afternoon after a day of high activity and little nutritious food.

The best way to maintain high-energy output is to ensure a nutritious breakfast, a healthy lunch and perhaps morning and afternoon tea.  A healthy round of vegemite sandwiches with a glass of water or milk will ensure the B Vitamins for energy production are in the body to spur the brain into motion.

The chief function of B Vitamins is to act as spark plugs for the body to assist in converting glucose into energy for fuel.  They are also important for the functioning of a healthy nervous system and in helping to promote relaxation in stressed individuals.  Very few vitamins are found in a packet of potato crisps and a can of coke.  A person will literally obtain more miles out of a banana than soft drinks and chips.

The importance of Vitamin C can’t be over-looked.  The highest concentration of vitamin C in the body is found in the adrenal glands because it is required to make cortisol and adrenalin for conditions of stress.  But the next highest concentration is found in the brain.  Why would the brain require vitamin C?  So, the body may produce dopamine, serotonin and melatonin.  Vitamin C helps to keep your sanity as well as your collagen intact.

There are five essential nutrients for effective brain function, and this includes memory.  Many teenagers are low in iodine, as can be said about the general population.  It is readily found in some seafood but if you do not eat seafood then you must obtain it from another source.

Decades ago, iodine was placed in table salt so inland populations may have a non-seafood source of the nutrient.  If your family eats salt, then it may be beneficial to purchase iodised salt.  Other nutrients are omega-3 (from oily fish), iron (meat), zinc (almonds) and the B vitamins.

Two herbs gaining respect for their ability to aid memory are Ginkgo biloba and Gotu kola.  Ginkgo increases blood flow and fluidity to the brain.  Improved circulation aides brain function.

The quality of food is so important.  We do no good for our children when we give into their tantrums for low nutrient junk food.  Be parents to your children now and their friends when they grow up.

According to Henry Osiecki (B.Sc. Grad. Dip Nutr. & Dietetics) some symptoms of ADHD are like those of essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiencies.  Behavioural and learning problems, tantrums and sleeping disorders are common to both.  Supplementing with omega 3 has been shown to improve learning and concentration behaviour.

Other Nutritional Deficiencies in Learning – if your diet is inadequate then consider a quality multi-vitamin because:

B Complex

The functions of the B vitamins in mental alertness and energy are well established.

EFA – Omega 3 & Omega 6

Introducing fish oil into a youngster’s diet may do wonders for concentration.

Zinc

The functions of zinc and the immune system have been known for over 100 years.  Knowledge of its other functions is relatively recent.  Low levels of zinc are associated with low alertness, inability to think along abstract lines (learn a language e.g. English), mood and memory problems.

Magnesium

One of the most deficient minerals in the modern western diet.  Low brain magnesium gives unrefreshed sleep, causes easy fatigue (important for the Krebs Cycle of energy production), poor concentration and daytime sleepiness.

By Peter Kenyon: North Brisbane Online Tutor

## “M” s for Memory

“I just don’t get this!” is a cry for help from a student of any age.  Here is the first thing about the learning process – if you don’t get it you won’t remember it and you won’t learn it.  A student must understand a concept, in their own words, to be able to learn it.

So, the first step to learning something effectively is to understand it and if you don’t understand it then ask your teacher or instructor to explain it another way.  You will not be the only person not understanding and it is your teacher’s job to see that you do understand.

Once you think you understand it then write it out in your own words, this will help to put it into short term memory.  This is where most students stop and then wonder why they can’t remember material.  Short term is good for a few minutes, hours or days, after that it is gone.  You must take the next step to move it into long term memory.

Recitation (saying something repeatedly) has been proved to be the most effective way of placing information into long term memory.  And by long term I am talking about a lifetime. Reading something quietly repeatedly to yourself or writing it down several times is not as effective as reading the material, in your own words, repeatedly ALOUD.

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

## “L” is for Listening Learner

‘Sounds good to me’; ‘It’s starting to ring a bell.’

These are a couple of the phrases used by roughly twenty percent of the population that help to identify them as auditory learners.

Of course, your little one may not be using such readily identifiable markers, but you may still be able to see qualities that help to give you an insight as to the type of learners they may be.

An auditory learner enjoys movies and music and probably notices the sound effects in movies more than other people.  They will readily put up their hands for discussion, happily participate in discussion groups and be involved in discussions without a group as they use self-talk.  These students are not afraid to speak in class and may be accused of speaking in class as they process the information through self-talk.

They will perform their worst at reading passages and writing answers relating to those passages in a timed test but excel in responding to what they have heard and in oral exams.

The auditory learner learns best when reading aloud, receiving verbal instruction, repeating facts with eyes closed and memorising steps and procedures by repeating them.  Older auditory learners need some external sounds (T.V. or music) while they are reading their notes or processing their homework.  Writing their notes and recording them to listen to later is their best way of obtaining and retaining information.

Remember, looking out of the window while the teacher is talking does not necessarily mean they are not completely aware of what is being said.  Auditory learners do not require a visual context in order to learn.

By Peter kenyon: Tutor