“C” is for Copy Book

writingThe downside to the information age is the decrease in fine motor skills used for writing.

It is a problem I am seeing more often as laptops and tablets replace the use of pad and pen.  An increasing number of students are unable to form legible letters of the alphabet or write numbers clearly enough, so they may read them thirty seconds later.

Some students going into Year 8 are incapable of writing between the lines of a paper or forming numbers within the squares of a quad ruled page.  Students in Year 5 are unable to produce or read their name in cursive script.  These students are struggling with the fine motor skills required to help them to learn.

I have recently finished reading an article by Maria Konnikova, “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades?”, which 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.

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 neuro-pathways being developed in the brain when a child progresses on from printing to cursive writing.

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

I ask you “Is it time to throw away the pen and paper and adopt the technology of the keyboard?”  Was it time to give up walking when we invented the car?

My suggestion to help build a better student is to let your pre-school use colouring books and pencils, jigsaw puzzles and building blocks to help develop fine motor skills. 

When they are at school continue to use the old-fashioned copy book, so your student may practise and learn to form letters and numbers.  Encourage them to practise twenty minutes a day until they are proficient with writing the printed word. 

Allow this to develop into the practice of cursive writing so they may be able to record classroom notes in secondary school, lecture notes at university or record the minutes of a business meeting.

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“B” is for Breakfast

Empty Gas TankNo student can function well without fuel for the brain.  Going to school without breakfast is starting the tank on near empty.  The body’s metabolism is slowed until the first meal to break the fast and it is running on reserve supply until then.

“B” could also stand for B vitamins as they help to convert the nutrients of food into energy; and there lies the next problem when developing a better student.  How nutritious is the food if breakfast is eaten?

Children and teenagers require quite large amounts of nutrients to supply a growing body.  Now I didn’t say they required large amounts of kilojoules, as it is nutrients that build healthy bodies and minds.  Poor choices in food quality can lead to delivery of lots of kilojoules with few nutrients.  This may lead to the problem of childhood obesity.

Parents play a pivotal role in the development of their children’s eating habits.  They do this in their role of parent by not giving into the child’s whims for their favourite snack foods and their position as role model when they lead by example.

The energy requirement of a teenager in growth spurt is only marginally greater than that of pre-teen children and adults but their protective nutrient (protein, vitamins and minerals) per unit of energy consumed is greater.  This means a teenager requires high quality nutrient foods to maintain healthy body and mind rather than high energy foods to keep them active.

“The energy needs of teenage athletes are increased, often greatly, if heavy training and competitive sports are involved.” (Human Nutrition and Dietetics – Ninth Edition).

It is important for your child to maintain three meals a day with the addition of healthy snacks for morning and afternoon tea.

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“A” is for the Academic Year

Male Pupil Finding School Exam Difficult

Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to fit in what needs to be done, and there seems to be not enough weeks in the year for the school curriculum.

There are forty academic weeks to the Australian school year, little enough time for what needs to be learned.  The problem is the school year is not exactly forty weeks.

There are several public holidays to be removed, and then there are “student free” days also to be taken out.  If we remove the school camp that all students seem to be attending these day, sick days and time spent out of school for one reason or another (sports, museums, etc.) then we have a shortened academic year.

This all puts our teachers, and students, under pressure as a larger amount of acquired knowledge is squeezed into a reduced amount of attended time.

“A” initially stood for Academic Year but now I think it should stand for “Attendance”.

So, how do you make a better student?  Don’t add to the problem by reducing your student’s school attendance by removing them from school for a week’s holiday because it is more convenient.

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“The Golden Peacock Glittering Hot” – Rainer (aged 6)

Peacock

The Golden Peacock Glittering Hot

Just yesterday, I saw three elves, one golden fairy and a peacock mixed with fire. They were all reading books in Santa’s library, but the fairy was doing an important job – guess what it was? She had to make all the words and put them into the books and the peacock had an important job too, to make Santa warm with its glittering hot fire. Wait! Don’t leave this book. There’s more. On Christmas Eve they all didn’t do their jobs and so I’m writing this story for you.

Rainer, aged 6. 

See the short film of this story on YouTubeThe Golden Peacock Glittering Hot

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“The Old Man” – by Cohen (aged 9)

HorseThe Old Man

Once upon a time, in a mystical place very close to your house, an old man was saving his money to buy a magical flying horse. He took a job at the toy store and put on his funny robe, tap hat and cape every day, to work 24/7 for months. His boss was very pleased with the effort he put in selling toys, unicorn corns and invisibility potions. One day, when he arrived at work, he saw a magical flying horse just like he’d been wanting for so long and his boss said, “You have worked night and day, so here is your magic horse.” The old man rode off on the horse and he gave all his money to the poor people who lived in the mystical place.

Cohen, aged 9

See the movie of this post on YouTube The Old Man

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“The Journey of Weirdness” – by Rainer (aged 6)

The Journey of Weirdness:

HikerA little boy was climbing a mountain in the snowy weather with all his supplies. He saw chameleons coming out of a rock.  This surprised him because he was climbing in Australia.  So, maybe they were sucked up in a tornado?  Next, he saw tweetie-birds. But he kept walking up the slope because his home was half-way up the mountain. He kept climbing past the witches’ hut, which he’d never seen before because it was not real. He was really surprised that day on his climb.

Rainer, aged 6

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“Super Zebra in the Jungle” by Zaiden (aged 6)

ZebraA long, long time ago, in the jungle, there was a flying zebra called Super Zebra. He was always very nice to people and Santa heard about him from the reindeers who were flying over and saw him rescuing a baby possum from the swamp. Santa asked Super Zebra to help deliver the presents because he was one reindeer down in the sleigh team. The night before Christmas, Super Zebra was flying high in the sky picking up presents and delivering before morning. That was the beginning of his job as Santa’s delivery zebra.
Zaiden, aged 6

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“Grandma’s Visit” by Amy (aged 10)

GrandmaGrandma’s Visit

This morning before breakfast, on the top of the hill where Lucy lived, everyone was getting ready for Grandma’s visit. Lucy loved Grandma because she was very talented, and she could grow a tree into a tyre and juggle eggs without breaking them. As soon as Grandma arrived, she snapped her fingers and turned the teapot into a cat. Then, suddenly, the cat turned into a bird and flew around the house, knocking over the vase full of Lucy’s favourite flowers. It was always like this when Grandma visited.

Amy, aged 10.

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“K” is for Kinaesthetic Learner

Kinaesthetic Learner 3Not 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, physio-therapist, massage therapist, surgeon, mechanic, carpenter, P.E. teacher, athlete, farmer, etc.

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

 

XtraMile Tuition Strategies makes learning fun again

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“The Dark Path by Rainer” (aged 6)

WarriorOne kid called Danoah was all alone in a mysterious dark place. He saw zombies roaming towards him and the sound was like this: brrrrr. He ran as fast as he could, and then he saw a warrior and the warrior saved Danoah by chasing away the zombies with his enchanted diamond sword. Danoah went on his way and climbed the ladder to heaven and asked the Shining Spirit, “Why did you make all the zombies?” The Shining One said “you must not take the mysterious dark path again.

Rainer, aged 6

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