Monthly Archives: August 2013

What’s Your Student’s Learning Style?


Albert Einstein once said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I have worked with so many students who while not labeled as stupid, since that is politically incorrect, have certainly been given less and less attention and support through their school years because they don’t fit in or conform to the system.  Recognizing talent is not an easy task and teachers certainly have their hands full today as common core changes absorb them.  This is where you as a parent need to make extra efforts and help find where your child’s talents and skills lie.  For my daughter her talents lie in the Arts, Nature and Music.  She has issues with language arts and yet she is a great speller.  Her math skills seem to be average.  We are coming to see that she is a Tactile learner.

The problems with reading can be frustrating (actually very frustrating!) for me, but then I keep remembering her talents and where she truly shines.  To help her (and us!) deal with the troubles learning language skill we have had her tutored off and on again for the past 3 years and it has truly helped as the tutors use our input to improve our daughters skills.  As parents it is important to keep remember that children process and absorb information in different ways.  Some students like to see the big picture first and then learn the details and skills of each step while others can’t imagine what the big picture will be until they have learned each little step along the way.

Some students find diagrams and infographics helpful in learning information while others like to listen to the teacher’s lesson to get their facts and figures.  Others like to build, measure, mix and experiment when they are learning.  Knowing what your student’s learning style is will make it easier for you to present information in a format that they can relate to.

Traditionally there are three ‘basic’ learning styles. They are Visual, Auditory and Tactile.

Visual learners
Visual learners like their information presented in an interesting visual format so videos, pictures, charts, illustrations, mind maps, and online presentations are a great way for them to learn. Presenting information this way makes it easier for them to see how things relate to each other. Visual learners should create their own mind maps and graphics when they are studying as this will help them to remember the information and see.

Auditory learners
These students are good listeners. They like teachers and tutors who explain, talk and read aloud. These students learn understand through a more traditional teaching method. When they are learning, auditory learners can benefit from reading aloud or listening to taped lectures and online podcasts.

Tactile learners
These students like to learn through action. They are great with experiments, measuring, observations, field trips, building models and other physically-oriented tasks. Activity is the way to get them to remember information or learn new skills.

Most teachers try to present information in a number of different formats to accommodate the learning style of all of their students. If your student is having trouble with a subject, ask their teacher or tutor to help you ascertain their learning style and then present the information in a way that they will absorb best. The internet is a great resource tool for finding the information you need to share in a format that suits your student. There is a video, infographic and experiment you can try for just about everything.

If you are curious about your student’s learning style, take a quick online test with sites such as ID Pride or VARK. Tutors and teachers are also great at understanding learning styles and they will be able to not only help your student to understand their learning style, but to convert information into a format that they understand and accept best.

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Global Geometry


This post is designed to keep on track with the two previous posts this week related to helping your child meet the challenges of the new common core curriculum.  The focus is on 9th-10th grade Social Studies aka. Global.  But just what is Global.  As author Pamela Kyle Crossley states in her book titled What is Global History:

Global and world history address the deep structural changes that have shaped human experience. Many are material, related to environmental and climatic alteration, to the domestication of livestock and development of agriculture, to technology, to disease, and to variations in human immunity, reproduction, and physiology.
Others are social and cultural, touching upon issues of migration, trade, language development and differentiation, institutions of enslavement and of freedom, traditions of marriage and child-rearing, the emergence of large-scale political organization from early kingdoms to vast empires, republics and federations, and the management of war and peace.

In respect to the NYS common core, history is still not really well-defined except that the regents exams will use the style of writing that the movement has been pushing.  In this style the student is asked to use a research based, referenced approach to essays they would be asked to write on exams. Dates, historical figures, movements and cultures are still important and but rote-memorization is emphasized less.

As a tutor one of the sites I like to use to obtain maps is Education Place.  They have a host of maps and they generally come in a labeled and unlabeled format. They are quite accurate and are regularly updated as countries come and go in the political map world.  Education Place also provides a variety of physical feature maps.  The maps are a great tool to help teach children parts of the world and demonstrate where history took place.

For my students I have them create essays that utilize a famous figure, their homeland, the culture, dates or time ranges and physical features of their homeland.  I have found that this works quite well in making sure the lessons are engaging, enlightening and fact based. Students have been very excited about the approach and according to preliminary data they are doing better in the classroom and on written exams.

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Keeping Math Fun


So in yesterdays post we explored a bit of the new common core learning shift related to reading and provided some suggestions to help your child meet the challenge. The common core has also raised the bar on math for students.  Our daughter is pretty good in math as she enters 1st grade but to keep her skills up we have been working with her over the summer with addition, subtraction, greater-than and less-than.

About three weeks ago a parent of one of my students mentioned an online site that one of her daughters teachers for the coming year asked her students to use.  She gave me a great overview of the program and I checked it out.  It did look great and much of the math was free to use.  Our daughter has been using it for the last three weeks and there have been times where after 2-3 hours we have had to actually pull her away from it.

The site is Sumdog and is aimed at children from PreK – 5th grade.  Sumdog’s math games cover over 100 numeracy topics, split into 10 levels.  The games can be played either at home or at school and if you create an account your child’s results will be saved.  The site also has a parent function so a parent can see how their child is doing.

Most of the games in Sumdog are multiplayer, so your child can play against thousands of students worldwide.  As i said earlier the games are very engaging so students generally enjoy developing their numeracy skills as they collect coins and modify their avatar.

I don’t mean to plug just one math skill building site, but Sumdog is the best I have seen to date.  If you have another suggestion please let us know.

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Reading To New Levels


Educators often forget to tell parents some of the basics about education philosophy and what it means to the material they use to teach a child.  Currently the implementation of the Common Core or what is more formally known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in some areas of the USA has changed many aspects of reading especially in the PreK to 6th grades. Especially important to parents in my mind is the shift in the common core of when a child is ‘Learning to Read’ to when they are expected to ‘Reading to Learn’.

Prior to Common Core the expectation for many schools that the shift of expectations occurred in the 5th grade. Now with Common Core this seemingly insignificant concept is shifted to the 3rd grade. This means the expectation of educators is that a student has mastered all the basics of reading and can now read competently with little to no help. For parents this means working with your child and their reading skills in the early years is more important than ever.  The problem is that takes time…lots and lots of time and that is a commodity most parents in the USA do not have anymore.

So how can busy parents help a child learn to read better and faster? There is no silver bullet answer for that, but some suggestions for newborns to 7 year olds would include:

  • Have books in the house and make sure some are at the level that your child can read
  • Read for your own pleasure and let your child see you doing that
  • While driving make a game out of reading road side signs
  • Read to your child daily…bedtime story is best
  • Get your child into a UPK (Universal Pre Kindergarten) program
  • If your child goes to daycare make sure they read to your child and have books available for the children to look at.  Do the same if you have a sitter or family member provide the care
  • Use TV as a teaching tool BUT limit the time. Carey Bryson at About.com has a nice list of programs that encourage and teach reading skills
  • Enlist the support of other family members like Gram and Gramps to read to as well as with your child
  • Get a tutor to work with your child an hour or two per week
  • Use web sites like ‘Learn to Read‘ that allow the child to explore reading through interactive sounds, reading, and video
  • Use magazines, comics, and newspapers
  • Use computers, tablets and other electronic devices.  Teach your child how to search or ‘google’ for information.
  • Ask your child’s teacher or school district for material to help your child’s reading development
  • Go to the library. Explore it with your child and talk to the librarian…they can be an outstanding resource! Get your child a library card and take books out and return them
  • Look for story hours that are age appropriate at your local library, Barnes and Noble store or local book store.

One final suggestion is that you keep in regular contact with your child’s teacher and remain aware of how your child is doing.  Try to remember that the teacher and you are a team and neither can do the job of teaching your child alone!

For more information on the Common core you should search on line. A nice article I came upon was in the Seacoast Online by Joey Cresta ‘Common Core raising the expectations of education

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


One of the best things about summertime is the time it affords children in unstructured play.  Backyards turn into vast wilderness; dress up clothes  sprout mermaids, magicians, superheroes, and musicians; stone piles become mountain fortresses; and bicycles give children wings, wheels, and a new world of their very own independence.  Many adults have to do some pretty serious unwinding to relax enough to “play.”  Children just play.  It is their work!

Before school starts and play becomes a commodity, consider what experts say about the importance of play.  In an article written by Laurel Bongiorno, entitled “Ten Things Every Parent Should Know About Play,” that appeared at The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) website, Bongiorno discusses how through play children learn and develop cognitive skills, physical abilities,  social skills, and literacy skills.  For example, think of all that is occurring with a simple game of playing restaurant.  Bongiorno reminds us that play is healthy, as it helps children grow healthy and strong.  It is also a great stress reducer in children’s lives!   She encourages parents to make time for play.  As we get ready to start a new school year, it is a good time to consider and plan for this very vital need of your child’s versus their school schedule, homework demands, and outside activities.  Play truly provides a rich context for both discovery and secondary learning, as children try out, rehearse, and rehash things from the classroom; a book they have read on their own; or perhaps things taken from a new experience.

Bongiorno also emphasizes outdoor play heavily.  According to the work and studies shared by Richard Louv in the 2007 bestselling book Last Child in the Woods,  outdoor play is especially powerful in improving cognitive abilities and emotional health.  The Bongiorno article encourages parents to trust their instincts when it comes to letting their child play, allowing children the numerous rewards of the activity.  She reminds parents that when children’s play lives are rich and they are experiencing the many rewards and benefits of play, their self-esteem improves and their success is likely to follow….

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Fitting In At School


Of course you want your student to be an individual who is not a slave to peer pressure, but a sense of belonging is essential to the health and wellbeing of every student. If your student feels like they don’t fit in, there are ways in which you can encourage greater social interaction so that they feel part of a group and enjoy a happy social life. Students who do have a healthy social circle will do better academically.

A sense of self-worth
Foster a sense of self-identity in your student by providing positive reinforcement. Focus on their strengths and encourage them to find an identity through what they wear and what they think. Teach them that being generous and kind to everyone, regardless of the clique or group they come from, is the best way to make friends.

Active listening
As students mature, they may be going through difficult social situations or bullying without telling you because they fear your involvement. Often students don’t want advice or are afraid that you will take action that will embarrass them. Instead, practice active listening — listen to your students without offering advice or criticizing. Instead, try phrases like: “It sounds like you had a really bad day…”, “I’m so sorry that happened to you…” or “I hear what you are saying…” Active listening is a great way to get your student to communicate; you can monitor the situation to see if they are experiencing any bullying or if they are managing on their own. Establishing communications can be really tricky with older students, so persevere. If your students ask for advice, be constructive rather than critical. Active listening is really challenging for parents as they want to make things better. Instead you have to separate your needs from what your student needs. Establishing a connection is more important so that your student will turn to you when they are in real trouble or in need of help. Resist the urge to solve problems or dispense advice in favor of creating connections.

Check in with teachers
If you notice a change in your student’s behavior or circle of friends, check in with their teachers to see if they are doing ok. Teachers and councilors can help you get an insight into events at school and how best to deal with them. Periods of not fitting in socially are completely normal. Perhaps your student has changed grades or schools or maybe they have had a falling out with their clique. Learning to deal with these changes and learning to fit in are all part of growing up. It’s difficult for parents because they often have insights they want to share or solutions to their student’s problems and they have a natural desire to want to help their children. It’s important to maintain a connection with your students, so often you will have to listen to them and resist the urge to get involved. That way, when they really need help, they know they can come to you and are more likely to do so.

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How To Choose The Right Tutor


Homework help or hinderance? (Image Credit: http://reducehomeworkstress.com/blog/)

Homework help or hinderance? (Image Credit: http://reducehomeworkstress.com/blog/)

Struggling academically or doing a little extra tutoring to bring up a grade point average is a natural part of growing up. Most students need a little extra help from time to time and getting a professional in-home tutor tends to be the best choice for improving grades. One-on-one tutoring will mean that your student gets the all the help they need. There are so many benefits to tutoring, but you must find the right tutor to suit your student in order to for them to get the best out of the situation.

Benefits of Tutors

  • Tutors are able to identify the gaps in your student’s knowledge and fill in the building blocks for them.
  • Tutors focus on teaching the skills your students need to excel, rather than just disseminating information.
  • Each student has a learning style. Tutors are able to identify the learning styles of each student and then present information in ways that your student understands.
  • The one-on-one tutoring gives your student the opportunity to answer without fear of embarrassment which helps them to build confidence and improves performance.
  • Tutors teach students study methods that work for them. They can help students to study for exams and tests, help with homework, help them to effectively manage their time and compile study schedules that leave enough time to study for each subject.
  • In-home tutors come to you and fit in with your schedule, so you aren’t inconvenienced.
  • Confidence gained through tutoring will help reduce the anxiety your student feels in academic situations.

Choosing The Right Tutor
Start by talking with your student and their teacher. This will help you to ascertain exactly what difficulties your student is having. Knowing exactly what the problem is will help you to find a tutor that is the right fit.
The success of a tutoring program depends on your student, so get their opinions and input so that they are part of the process.
Once you have established your student’s needs, contact your local Tutor Doctor for a list of tutors in your area. Ensure that the tutors have the right qualifications to teach your student. Ask about their experience levels and what experience they have with the grade your student is in and the kinds of problems they are having.
Work with your student, teachers and tutor to set very clear goals. Ensure that the academic goals are realistic and achievable.
If the tutor isn’t a good fit for your student, feel free to ask for a different tutor. Getting the right tutor will exponentially improve your student’s performance.
In-home tutors are able to give your student their undivided attention, but there are alternatives like extra classes which are given at the tutoring center, online courses or phone tutoring which reduce the costs of tutoring for families.

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