Category Archives: ABC of Learning

“Z” is for Zee Final Word

“Z” is for Zee Final Word

“What then of children who come from homes where no-one hears Mother Goose, where no-one is encouraged to read signs, write scribbly letters, or play with books of any kind?  What happens to them as they enter kindergarten has serious consequences for the rest of their lives – for them and for all of us.”

Though they may not be able to read by the age of five (and we should have no expectation of this) there is no reason for not sitting a child on your lap and reading to them.  Let them see the words and the pictures as you read them.  They may, or may not, develop at their own pace as they link the symbols of the word with the symbol of the picture.  Just remember, if they don’t, they just may not yet be ready so let them be children.

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.

How to build a better student?  Read to them.  It’s a good start.

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

“Y” is for Your Child’s Early Years

Are there things you can do to help your prodigy to become a person who thirsts for knowledge?

Maryanne Wolf in her book, “Proust and the Squid’ addresses this question. 

“The more children are spoken to, the more they will understand oral language.  The more children are read to the more they understand all the language around them, and the more developed their vocabulary becomes.”

“… many efforts to teach a child to read before four or five years of age are biologically precipitate and potentially counterproductive for many children.” 

The reason for this is the myelin sheath (fatty coating around nerves to help electrical information to flow) in the angular gyrus (that part of the brain related to language, number processing, spatial cognition, memory and attention) is not sufficiently developed until five to seven years of age.  It develops in all children at different rates and in girls faster than boys.

Sometimes your five-year-old is just not ready for school and your young lad may not be ready until seven years of age.  By that time, they are in year two or three and maybe well behind at school.  It is not that they can’t learn, it is just their brain was not ready for them to learn.  They can catch up, but by this time they may need some assistance.

By Peter Kenyon: North Brisbane Tutor

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

“X” is for the X Factor in Learning with Technology

In his book “How Language Works” David Crystal discusses the possible effect computer-mediated communication (CMC) has had on both spoken and written language.  CMC is the written communication that takes place on the internet, emails, forums etc.  David Crystal infers that CMC is not like written or spoken language.

An elementary social grace we learn at an early age is that of turn-taking when we hold a conversation and “Turn-taking is so fundamental to conversation that most people are not conscious of its significance as a means of enabling interactions to be successful.” 

When we ask a question and expect an answer; or expect a complaint to be followed by an excuse or apology; even when we acknowledge the receipt of information with a “thank you” we are turn-taking.  This social formality allows people to take turns when they talk and not compete to talk at once.

On the internet turn-taking is dictated by the software rather than the people involved in the conversation.  It is your turn after you push the “send” button and when it is received by the other party, which could be days if they are infrequent with checking their email. 

Similarly, CMC is not like traditional writing because it can lack the permanency and traditional structure.  Because there is so much perceived pressure to communicate some people are happy to send their messages with typographical errors, misspellings, erratic capitalisation and lack of punctuation.  It would appear the care taken to revise their writing is of little or no importance to most authors of communication.

Written language has always had problems of interpretation when compared to face-to-face conversation but no amounts of “????”; “!!!!”; or smiley emoticon on emails or Facebook will replace the quizzical look or a raised eyebrow as immediate feedback to a statement.

By Peter Kenyon: North Brisbane Maths Tutor

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

“W” is for Writing Your Lessons by Hand

“Does handwriting matter?  Not very much according to educators.  The Common Core standards, which we have adopted in most states, call for teaching legible handwriting, but only in kindergarten and first grade.  After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.”

“What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades” – by Maria Konnikova

The article suggests evidence is emerging of a greater link between handwriting and learning.  It appears children learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand.

A 2012 study by Karin James at the Indiana University supported the association between handwriting and learning.  Children who had not learned to read were presented with index cards with a letter or shape they were to reproduce.  They could either:

  • Trace the image on a page with a dotted outline.
  • Draw it on a blank sheet of paper.
  • Type it on a computer.

A study of their brain waves as they reproduced the shape or letter showed an area of the brain, active when an adult reads and writes, was highly stimulated when the child drew the letter on a blank sheet of paper.  The activation was significantly weaker through the other two processes.

Learning is a complicated process.  When we reproduce letters, or anything else, by hand a plan is required before executing the action.  The result is highly variable in that it will not exactly represent the original.  Learning to identify variable representations is important to decoding letters when reading.

The research by Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at University of Washington, indicated that when a child who composed text by hand (either printing or cursive) “They not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on the keyboard, but expressed more ideas.”

There is also a suggestion of different neuropathways being developed in the brain when a child progresses on from printing to cursive writing.

Research at the University of California have reported laboratory and real-world studies of students learning better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard.

So, is it time to throw away the pen and paper and adopt the technology and the keyboard?  Was it time to give up walking when we invented the car?

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

“V” is for Visual Spatial Learner

“Let’s look at this differently”, “I can’t see the big picture”, “See how this works?” – stand back here comes a visual learner and a future artist, builder, inventor or musician, that is if they can get through our education system.

These right hemi-sphere thinking (that’s creative thinking) students are not wired to produce written reports on the thoughts they visualise in their mind, at least not until they learn how.  They think and learn in multi-dimensional images.  Our education system is more geared to teach left hemi-sphere thinking auditory learners who think and learn in words rather than images.

A visual-spatial learner may be good at spelling and lousy with names, needs a quiet study time, likes colour and is good with charts, maps and diagrams.  They remember pictures and are good with direction.  They will always have trouble remembering verbal instructions and must learn by taking notes.

As a parent you can help by explaining a project you wish them to do by explaining why you want them to do something, because they need to see the big picture first.

by Peter Kenyon: Tutor at XtraMile Tuition Strategies

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

The ABC’s of Learning: “T”

“T” is for “Tying Laces Requires 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 problem 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

The ABC’s of Learning: “S”

“S” is for Stressed Student

Daily Diary Does the Deed

Those students who don’t take control of time will have time controlling them. 

It is these students, particularly Secondary School student, 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

The ABC’s of Learning: “R”

“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, but 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

THe ABC’s of Learning: “Q”

“Q” is for Questioning What the Eyes See

The Eyes Have It When 5 + 1 = 5

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning

The ABC’s of Learning: “P”

“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 very 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……

Leave a comment

Filed under ABC of Learning