Tag Archives: Primary School Maths Tutor

“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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“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

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“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?

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“Cats” by Ella T (aged 9)

ginger catOnly on dark nights when there is no moon, from a big house in the city, the ginger and black cat leaves to go out adventuring. She is small, friendly and adventurous. She goes, with her friends, to an underground river where there is a little house that is full of woolly pink balls and cat food that tastes like marshmallows. They play for three hours, eat for one hour and then they sleep until they wake up. On dark nights the cat goes home and then she goes to sleep.

Ella T (aged 9)

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