Category Archives: ABC of Learning

“N” is for Nutrition

Your car will not run without fuel, and neither will your body, including your brain. 

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

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“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

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“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

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“K” is for Kinaesthetic Learner

Not everyone learns the same way, and that creates problems in classrooms and at home. 

As a generalisation, there are three types of learners: auditory, kinaesthetic, and visual.  These are the main channels of learning.  It’s a generalisation because, a person is more likely to be a combination of two (or more) rather than simply one, as in being purely an auditory learner.  How do you identify a kinaesthetic learner? 

Kinaesthetic learners just want to touch and feel everything. As adults, their mates give them plenty of personal space because they just want to playfully thump them all the time.  Their house is a mess because they just want to collect and pull everything apart, just to see how it works.  Putting it together again may be another matter.  Does this sound like someone you married?

It is easy to identify an adult kinaesthetic learner, but how do you identify it in your child? 

Well for starters, their teacher will be strongly suggesting you attend Parent Teacher Nights, so they can discuss how disruptive this young pupil is in the classroom.  They fidget, leave their seat to touch things, move things and find it difficult to sit and learn.  They may not even be aware of their movements as they are easily distracted by the movement of others and want to investigate.

This student needs a hands-on approach to learning so sitting in class and listening, reading from a book, or even taking notes from the whiteboard is not the best way for them to learn. 

They will respond better when learning is through participation, such as in chemistry experiments, or building a model. These students do well in sports, drama and live for school lunch breaks.  By the age of seven, they have been categorised as being an under-achiever, or worse still, hyperactive.  But fear not.

Being a kinaesthetic learner is not a problem, as approximately fifteen percent of the population are kinaesthetic learners.  The problem is our education system is geared towards auditory and visual learners, and kinaesthetic learners are the speed bump in our systems road to education.  What can you do? 

For starters, accept them for who they are, healthy active children.  Give them down time after an active session and reward them for the tasks they perform.  These guys may be reward driven.  Kinaesthetic learners do best with images so paint them a picture of what you want from them and give them regular breaks while studying.

Your student is likely to become an actor, dancer, physiotherapist, massage therapist, surgeon, mechanic, carpenter, P.E. teacher, athlete, farmer, etc.

The point is, be patient, give them space and let them grow.

By Peter Kenyon: XtraMile Tuition Strategies Tutor

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“J” is for Just in Time

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 
― 
Nelson Mandela

Is there a good time to seek out tutoring?  Does your son or daughter display any of these?

  • Lacks confidence with schoolwork
  • Becomes distraught about going to school
  • Struggles with Maths
  • Reads without interest or understanding
  • Reads through punctuation marks or skip lines completely

Of course, these indicators are not the only signs for a cry for help.  Any change in behaviour or mood may be an indicator that moves you to further investigation.

One thing you should not do is shrug off these indicators as, “Oh, it is only a phase they are going through.” because chances are it is a phase they will not get through.  The cause, or trigger, of the change may vary from changing teachers to taking your children out of school for off-season holidays.  The latter has a considerable effect on children in Year 3, 5 and 7.

Years 3, 5 and 7 appear to be the years when new concepts are introduced in Maths, and probably other subjects.  But we, at the tuition room, see these years as the most influential to the student’s development.  Basically, a lot of new stuff is taught in Maths during these years.  Missing one or two weeks during the school period has a lasting and recurring effect on that area of knowledge through the following years.

Back to our original question, is there a good time to seek out tutoring assistance?

You would think Year 1 students would not require tutoring assistance, after all they have just started school and what have they learned?  Prep is used to prepare children for Year 1 and it is at this stage they learn the simple things like singing the alphabet, counting to ten or twenty and spatial skills such as left, right, in front, under, first, second, last and inside and outside.  Even colouring in pictures helps to develop the fine motor skills required to hold a pencil to form letters while learning to write. 

Sometimes children miss some concepts, and this puts them behind during the first year because there is assumed knowledge in Year 1.  Yes, tuition does help to restore confidence to a Year 1 student.

It is always easier to help students who are in Year 2, 4 or 6 because these are the years before the next knowledge jump.  Catching them up in these years aligns their Maths knowledge for the next year jump in concept learning.  We have noticed the most distressed students who come to us are in Years 3, 5 and 7. 

When is the best time to bring a student for tuition?  When you notice a change in behaviour that continues for more than two weeks.  There is generally a reason for that change and if it is related to learning then tuition may be your answer.  Having said that, it is never too late to seek out tuition.  We have had students in Year 8 that have received tuition to cover knowledge short falls from Year 5.  No, it is never too late to help a student who wants to be helped.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” 
― 
Confucius

By Peter Kenyon: XtraMile Tuition Strategies Tutor

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‘I’ is for Interest

“A man who limits his interest limits his life.” – Vincent Price

We all want our children to do well in school and in life, but how do you ignite that spark that fuels a need for knowledge.  How does your child develop an interest in the world around them?

For starters, let’s look at your environment.  After all, we shouldn’t put the responsibility for learning and growth upon the school system alone.  Children’s exposure to teachers and schools is small compared to their exposure to parents and home life.  So, let’s take stock of the most influential environment upon your child’s growth – you and your home.

Talk with your child, not at your child

Talking with your child encourages conversation and participation while talking at your child is more about giving instruction: “Don’t do that”, “Sit and be quiet”, “Go outside and play”.  Which type of parent are you?  Is most of your communication one directional, or do you urge a more open form of communication?  Do you talk with your child about the things you are interested in, such as books, movies, and gardening? 

Talk with your child about your interests

Your growth and learning don’t stop when you become an adult.  Your child is likely to become the adult you are because you are the major role model in their life.  Your continued growth doesn’t have to be purely academic.  Your interests, hobbies and activities continue to develop you as a person.  As an adult, have you continued to grow, or do you come home at night and sit in front of the computer surfing YouTube or watching television?

Involve your child with books

Look around your house and count the books on your bookcase.  What? You don’t have a bookcase.  Reading is still the best source of gaining knowledge.  It is a sad fact that today many households don’t have a library.  Their interests and knowledge are not on display.  I enjoy visiting people and scanning the titles on their shelves as it immediately lets me see the interests of the people who live there and gives a basis for conversation.  Many people will have a display case for their sports trophies and I consider bookcases as display cases for your knowledge.  Now, before you go thinking I am some sort of nerd, as well has having several hundred books, our household also has a movie library with several hundred movies.  Display your interests and talk about your interests.

Do things and show your child how you do things 

Involve your child in your interests, within reason.  If your hobby is your garden, then have them help with the weeding.  If you love live theatre, then take them to some live shows to expose them to the experience.  Just keep the experience relative to their developmental level.  Let your children see you reading at night instead of squatting in front of the television.  Being entertained by books offers a different intellectual experience to being entertained by X-Box.  If you are an X-Box kind of dad, you may just have to try a little harder.  Try playing board games that offer challenges and choices while playing to help with the thinking process.  Become involved with your children in thinking games and not just reaction games.

Become your child’s best teacher

From the day they are born your number one priority is to protect then and to prepare them.  The adult they become is the result of your influence as much as that of the school system they fall into.  Sometimes being a good parent requires learning new skills, but that is alright as learning new skills is part of life’s processes.  No-one is born knowing how to parent.  We learn some of it from our parents through their role modelling and we learn some from interacting with people as we grow up.  Though, having said that nothing will prepare you for being a parent, you just learn as you go along.  But you do have to learn.

Don’t overload your child 

You don’t have to expose your child to everything at one time.  There is no need to fill every waking moment with experiences and knowledge.  You should allow down time, so they may process what has been experienced, what has been learnt and to rest and recover.  Being a child takes a lot of energy and there is a need to re-charge their batteries from time to time.  Build quiet times into their day when it is alright to sit and do nothing.  Remember, a tired child will struggle at school.

Be positive about their school experience 

“It’s alright mate, you have to go and there is nothing we can do about it.” doesn’t send a positive message about going to school.  The school years are such a wonderful time of our lives and must be reinforced as such.  Don’t bring the woes of being an adult, or the problems you are experiencing upon your child’s fun years.  You can use their experience to bring some release from the pressures of your life.  Encourage them to become involved with school activities and then be supportive and join in with them at these events.  One of my most vivid memories is when my father and his friends turned out to watch me at my school rugby league game.  I played many games but that one I remember.  Don’t underestimate the importance of being part of their school experience.

“We will all be role models in our children’s lives.  We don’t have that choice.  The choice we do have is whether we are a positive role model or a negative role model.  That is our choice.” – Peter Kenyon

By Peter Kenyon: Online Tutor

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“H” is for Help

A decreased ability to concentrate, confused thoughts, motivation low, increased irritability, grumbling, quarrelsome, overly sensitive to criticism, anxious or depressed.  This may sound like a typical teenager but they are also warnings a coach watches for in athletes. 

Good coaches recognise the signs of over-training and adjust their athletes’ schedule so the next phase of over-training, which is burn-out, doesn’t occur.  A great coach will not let these signs develop because they know how to pace the training sessions without over-stressing the athlete.

What has fitness training to do with students?  Burn-out may occur in any person in any profession at any age.  Many parents don’t realise how much pressure they place on their children when they load up their awake time with sports training and competition outside of school hours.  Some students are playing two sports a season.  Some parents don’t realise they may be setting their child up for burn-out later that school year because they haven’t planned enough recovery time for their student.

If you are a parent who encourages outside sports for their children, then you should consider these three things:

  1. Training and playing sport are tiring, very tiring. 
  2. A tired student will find it difficult to concentrate in class.
  3. In today’s world, a person has a much better chance of achieving a high income with good grades than becoming a highly paid athlete.

An over-committed student who finds it difficult to concentrate in class will eventually fall behind on their grades.  They may require the help of a coach, an academic coach. 

When athletic students attend tuition sessions, we ask parents to consider dropping one activity before introducing a program of tuition.  There is no sense in adding to an already over-loaded timetable.  Nothing will be achieved.  The tuition, depending upon the grade the student is in, will probably take one full year to bring them aligned with the class.  That is only one season of any one sport, so they will not miss much when dropping one activity to replace it with tuition.

As an academic coach (with a long background in fitness training) I watch for signs of over-training in our students and act on it.  Sometimes, that action will be to remove tuition from the student’s timetable if nothing else is removed.  We do this for the well-being of the student.

You don’t have to be a sporting student to fall behind.  At times, a high achieving student places themselves under unnecessary pressure because they have not learnt to budget time or to study correctly.  A student like this will benefit from some one-on-one guidance so they may learn from an expert how to research and produce assignments, or how to prepare for secondary school exams.

So, as the school year progresses, watch for signs that indicate your student may not be keeping up and is silently crying for help.

By Peter Kenyon: Online Tutor

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“G” is for a Good Read

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” – Margaret Fuller

How important is it to be a reader in this world of instant information? 

Does sitting with your child and playing computer games produce the same outcome as sitting with them and reading a book? 

Does it matter that you have never sat with your child and read to them before they have attended school?

More research is coming forward to indicate it does matter that a child is not read to or encouraged to pick up a book, even to scribble in.

Sitting with book in hand and child on lap allows them to see symbols, words and images.  Moving your finger, leading their eyes along symbols of words and from words to images, allows little ones to make connections, at their own pace, with these symbols, words and images.  Their vocabulary grows.

They may not yet be attending kindergarten or pre-school, but you are already preparing their mind for life-long learning.  You have been helping their brain develop neuropathways that will assist with learning when they attend pre-school and beyond.  Now, not every child will be ready to make these connections, just as not every child is ready to attend school at the tender age of five.  These things happen when the child is ready, and you can’t rush it. 

Spending this quality time with your toddler is crucial to early childhood development. 

Andre Biemiller, a Canadian psychologist, studied the consequences of lower vocabulary levels in young children.  The results of his studies indicated that children entering kindergarten in the bottom 25% of vocabulary generally remained behind the other children.  By year six they were approximately three years behind their peers in vocabulary, reading and comprehension.

But what of teenagers?  Is this a time for them to stop reading and focus on computer coding and superhero movies?  Jonathon Douglas, of the National Literacy Trust (U.K.) doesn’t think so in his 2013 article “The Importance of Instilling a Need to Read”

“Teens who choose to pick up a book for pleasure are more likely to succeed in life.”

His article intimates that reading for pleasure reveals a predisposition for life-long learning which he suggests explains increased social mobility.  If life-long reading is one indicator for success, then how may you encourage your moody teenage, or pre-teen, to put down the games console in exchange for the printed word?

We are unlikely to read material that doesn’t interest us, so to encourage a reading for pleasure environment in your household you should supply reading material (graphic novels, magazines, fiction and non-fiction novels) that will be of interest to your teenager.  Hopefully, the school library will also have a supply of reading material that falls outside the curriculum.

What about reading on the internet?  Research has shown that we adopt different styles of reading for different formats.  Internet reading tends to lead to short concentration skimming rather than long-term absorption.

Over the past few decades, authors have been producing extraordinary books written with the adolescent in mind.  These books deal with issues teenagers may be exposed to or experiencing in their life and allows them to deal with them from the safety of the book.

This is not to say teenagers should not be exposed to the classics of Dickens and the like, but there are books more relevant to them and their time.  The classics may come later in life with the pleasure of reading.

Exploring the world through books, gathering information and understanding develops a solid core of knowledge upon which to build ethics, morality and character that becomes the young adult.

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

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“F” is for Foundations

If your child was an average student last year, chances are they will be an average student this year.  If they struggled with maths last year, they will probably be struggling with maths this year.  Nothing changes unless something changes.  What must change to improve your child’s grades?

The first thing that must change is someone’s attitude.  Children are children and they will not change unless they are given a reason to change.  Telling them to do better or to change their ways will probably not get the result you, as a parent, desire because they do not know how to change.  They are children, they are young, and have a limited frame of reference when it comes to change.  They must be taught how to change.  At this stage, the biggest change must be in you as a parent.  You must make the decisions for them, and then guide them along the path.

One of the biggest issues seen with students is they have problems with weak foundations.  They simply don’t know their multiplication tables up to their year level and they don’t have in place a memory of subtraction and addition of the numbers up to twenty (20).   No matter how well a student understands the mathematical concept they are being taught at school, if they can’t perform the foundations, they will not be able to solve the maths problem.  Continually getting the wrong answer whittles away their confidence.

Every student needs to build strong foundations.  You can’t have lasting structure without strong foundations.

By Peter Kenyon: Online Maths Tutor

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“E” is for Enough Sleep

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin

And on the other side of the coin insufficient sleep will make children:

  • Hyperactive.
  • Lacking in confidence.
  • Irritable.
  • Inattentive; and
  • Fall behind in class

If this sounds like your youngster then it is so easy to fix.

Much study has been devoted to knowing how much sleep is needed, or not needed, to remain healthy and productive.  The conclusion being “…. there is a lot of individual differences in what children and adolescents need to sleep to be at their best.” (Australian Centre for Sleep Education).

As a general guide, primary school students require between ten and twelve hours of sleep per day, while secondary (higher) school students get by with eight to ten hours each night.  Research has indicated children of any age will arise at about the same time each day so the difference in hours of slumber occurs at the time of going to bed. 

What time should a child go to bed to be at their peak the next day?  To make this exercise easier and because Australian schools commence at 9:00 a.m. let’s assume our children get up at seven to start their day during the week.  This would require a primary school student to be in bed by 7:00 p.m. and no later than 9:00 the night before, and our secondary student in bed by 9:00 pm no later than 11:00.

The younger the child the more sleep required.  Students from grades one to three require closer to twelve hours of sleep each weeknight while those from grade four to six/seven may drop to needing ten hours of sleep. 

Problems occur with teenagers as their bodies are not ready for sleep when the clock says it is time for bed and they stay up whiling away the hours until slumber overtakes them.  Unfortunately, the activities they do while waiting to sleep may not be conducive to bringing sleep on and they miss out on their required sleep quota.  They then go into sleep debt which they try to reclaim on weekends by sleeping in.  This problem may be compounded by staying up later during weekend nights to interact with friends and sleeping even more of the morning away to further knock the body clock around and make sleeping during the week more difficult.  As a parent, you must take control of this situation.

Children deprived of sleep, like adults, are hard to rouse and will feel sleepy during the early part of the day.  Unlike adults, primary school students will become more active during the day, though still be less able to concentrate. 

Because they have become more wired, they will be less likely to fall asleep easily, thus becoming more sleep deprived.  Parents may have trouble identifying a young child who is not getting enough sleep because they are active.

Some home factors compound sleep deprivation in children.  Families in general are not going to bed as early as they need.  For one reason or another, parents are staying up later and as role models may be setting poor examples of a healthy lifestyle.

We see how the concentration of a child who has insufficient sleep is affected in our tuition room.  A student who the previous week was performing wonderfully on our program suddenly has low scores and answers very few questions.  When asked what they did the previous night the answer always involved a late night of movie watching, game playing, internet surfing or social media.  We have also seen how a poor student changes so quickly when they stop being tired.

You can take steps to create good sleep habits by cleaning up the bedroom and time leading up to retiring.  Some good sleep hygiene habits are:

  • No T.V., computer, mobile phone or exercise 1 hour before going to bed.
  • No T.V., computer, mobile phone in the bedroom.
  • No coke or caffeine drinks 2-3 hours before sleeping.
  • Set bedtimes and wake times and keep them to form healthy habits.
  • As a parent, be a good role model and lead by example.
Visit the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep website for a more comprehensive read.

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

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