“K” is for Kinaesthetic Learner

Bad StudentType ‘student’ into Fotolia and you have 14337 pages of pupils sitting quietly at their desk diligently working away.  DREAM ON.

We know all students are not alike because all children are not alike.  In a (teacher’s) perfect world all students would be just so, but …

Approximately 15% of the population are kinaesthetic learners and that means there will be no such thing as a quiet classroom.  Kinaesthetic learners just want to touch and feel everything.  Their friends are bruised because these learners just have to thump their mates.  Their homes are a mess because they have to pull everything apart, just to see how it works.  Does that sound like someone you married?

You can picture this in your husband, but how about your little one?  How do you know you have a kinaesthetic learner on your hands?  Well for starters their teacher will probably be calling you in to complain about how disruptive they are in class.  This student finds it difficult to learn through reading and writing.  They need the hands on approach so they do better in chemistry experiments, sports and acting.  They may not even be aware of their own movement and are easily distracted by the movements of others.

By the age of 6½ they are generally classed as under-achievers or worse still hyperactive.

What can you do with this learner?  For starters accept them for who they are. There is nothing wrong with them rather it is our education system that is not geared to accept 15% of the population.  As a parent, 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. (For more information visit www.educ.uvic.ca)

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“The Karate Master & The Undead Pirates” by Alex (aged 8)

PirateOne stormy night in the heart of the Antarctic Ocean, a Japanese karate master was yelling out “Half-Flesh Pirates!”  Then he boarded the wretched pirate ship and attacked the un-dead scavengers.  Soon the pirates were destroyed and their ship was blown into the Bear Cave where they were eaten by the zombie bear.  The Japanese karate master returned to train his young karate class.

Alex (aged 8)

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“Alligator” by Dardo (aged 9)

AlligatorWhen John and Jeff came to the ditch on the way to school, Jeff slipped and hit his head on a stick.  The ten-year-old twins were alike in many ways as both were playful and blonde.  John came down to Jeff to remove the stick from his head when suddenly a vicious alligator burst from the water and chased them up the slope and all the way to school.  The teacher opened the window and through a baton at the alligator and the kids ran into the school room.  The teacher said, “That’s what happens when you’re late for school’.

Dardo (aged 9) 

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“Unicorn Guy” by Emlyn (aged 12)

unicornNow a ragged man in shabby clothes, Daryl, was unlike everyone else because he liked unicorns and loved to put posters of them in his room.  He was intrigued by the world of unicorns and he wanted to show the power of them, until he went bankrupt because he bought a concrete unicorn tiled with bright Fluro colours that was bigger than the Statue of Liberty.  Although he lost everything he owned, had nowhere to live, and only had the unicorn, Darrell was still overjoyed because he found his new home.  He climbed up the unicorn’s mane, swung into the mouth of the statue, and relaxed into the belly of the unicorn.  Now a man in shabby clothes lives in inside a unicorn.

Emlyn (aged 12)

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“The Fight” by Abbie (aged 12)

GladiatorOn a rainy, cold winter morning in Dublin, Alex and Fiona watched in amazement as everyone around them slowly disappeared into the foggy air.  They heard a loud cheer and clinks and clanks that could be sword fighting and they realised they had somehow been transported into the middle of a gladiator fight.  A big, strong man charged over and forced two golden swords into their hands and told them to fight for their life.  Alex stabbed with his sword at a highly-scarred, fierce gladiator who collapsed with a gasp, and Fiona fought a ferocious lion who bit off her leg.  Suddenly the cheering crowd disappeared into the foggy air and they rushed to the Dublin hospital to save Fiona’s life.

Abbie (aged 12)

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Students’ Stories – The Puppet (Nikita – aged 10)

Sock PuppetIt was just after lunch and Bang!  The puppet knocked over the bookshelf which fell on top of the new television.  She had straight yellow wool for hair with black sewn-on buttons for eyes and inside her long pink dress was my hand.  Mum stomped into the room as the puppet grinned but it was me that Mum shouted at.  When Mum turned her back, the puppet jumped on the counter, ripped the paintings off the wall and tipped over the bowl of fruit.  After lunch, I took the puppet off my hand , picked up the mess and mopped the floors.

Nikita (aged 10)

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“J” is Just in Time

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

Male Pupil Finding School Exam DifficultIs there a good time to seek out tutoring?  Does your son or daughter display any of these?

  • Lacks confidence with school work
  • 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?  Unfortunately, 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

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“I” is for Interest

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

pretty young mother teaching her little kid childWe 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?

Well, 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.

Do you talk with your child or do you talk 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?

Do you have interests you can talk about with your children and your friends?  Your growth and learning doesn’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.

How many books do you have in your life?  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.

You must 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.  Now, 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 time 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.” does not 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 under estimate 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

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“H” is for Help

Education concept: Student and Time to Learn with optical glassA 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 signs 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, 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 sufficient 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 is 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.

We have many athletic students attend our tuition room because of the reasons mentioned above.  When they do attend, 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 time-table if nothing else is removed.  We do this for the well-being of the student.

But you don’t have to be a sporting student to fall behind.  Sometimes a high achieving student places themselves under unnecessary pressure because they have not learned 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.

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“G” is for a Good Read

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

Baby ReadingHow 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 neuro-pathways 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 super hero 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 does not 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 in-depth 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.

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