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Teaching Young Children To Study

every child can shineWHAT IS STUDY? – Study is the skill of learning something independently of a teacher.

Obviously I did not mean that a 5 year-old should be reading and studying textbooks at night after going to school!

Being an independent learner in Kindergarten means things like being able to FOCUS on what the teacher is saying so the child is be able to COMPREHEND what is being said and to FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS given.

Many children are not capable of concentrating enough to be able to do this effectively when they first arrive at school so they miss a lot of the teaching in class – it just goes straight over their heads. These children are dependent on the teacher instructing and monitoring them individually . . . meanwhile the independent children are getting on with their work and learning things. The independent learners will have been taught good listening and oral comprehension skills by their parents, and just as importantly, they will have been taught the social and emotional skills needed to operate successfully in a room full of people – many of whom will be disruptive of the group as they have not learned good social and emotional skills before coming to school.

By the time your child is 10 years-old, study means a lot more. By then your child will need much more developed written and oral communication skills to be able to make the most of his/her time in class, and be able to do homework with minimal supervision – a child who is not a fluent reader for example will not be able to become a very independent learner. By this age, it is also important that your child has developed the positive Growth Mindset.

On entering Middle School it is important that your child has learned how to take full responsibility for comprehension at all levels. Your child should:

  • KNOW WHAT SHE/HE KNOWS and
  • KNOW WHAT SHE/HE DOES NOT KNOW, know what to do about it, and ACTUALLY DO IT. That might mean independent research or seeking help from an appropriate person.

So you can see, study skills are important right through school. As a caring parent it is important that you monitor your child’s progress very closely, and teach your child good study skills at home – if possible, BEFORE they are needed at school.

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Being Engaged in our Children’s Education: – “What is it you do in school today?”

learning_stylesI keep remind myself the need for parents to be involved in their children’s education.

As a mum I want to know what’s going on with my son. And I had a number of interesting challenges to the very idea and I want to share it with you.

A friend repeated to me Einstein’s famous saying that “education is what’s left after you forget all the facts they taught you in school.” “Leave the teaching to the school and concentrate on educating your child” he said. To him, being involved in his children’s education meant providing them with parallel real life experiences and he couldn’t care a fig about tonight’s homework assignments; they are the responsibility of the child, and not the parent.

A mother of two teens commented that the best gift she could give her daughters was that of trust and self confidence. She wasn’t getting involved in the process of schooling. “Did you ever see the look of embarrassment, even horror, if your child unexpectedly sees you in the school hallway?”  “My child doesn’t want me to look over her shoulder” commented one of my daughter’s friends about her nine year old. These parents were taken aback by what they thought I was suggesting.

It is my contention that parents need to know what their children are doing at school and to become actively involved in helping facilitate their success. I am not referring to homework and test preparation. I am not referring to being cooperative with the school and teachers, which I am not denying it is very useful to engage with teachers too, to keep up and learn more about our child in school. I am more referring to make the child’s school experiences a part of the parent’s life. I believe a parent’s role is somewhere between coach and cheerleader; neither as critically involved as the former or as benignly enthusiastic as the latter. Allow me to elaborate.

Taking an active interest; or: “What is it you do in school today?”

Indeed, we forget most of the facts we cram for tests during our school years. What we are expected to retain are the skills with which will enable us to learn and discover for ourselves. Even more importantly, good teachers will have inculcated within us a love for learning to last a lifetime.

Learning skills do not develop in a vacuum; they develop through learning and internalizing the process. A love for learning develops from the satisfaction of understanding and the curiosity to know more. This too is a byproduct of learning and absorbing information, primarily in school. When a parent shows interest in the subject matter, his child is learning that says to the child: what you learned at school matters. Questioning a child about what he learned in school is an essential component in his developing a healthy respect for what he does all day; and he learns.

Questioning a child about school can be a tricky experience though. Ask a typical adolescent “what did you learn in school today” and the response, if you get a verbal one rather than some sort of primal sound, may be “nothing” or “stuff”.  The questions must be direct and specific for the child to be responsive. “What did you enjoy most about your Maths class today?” If he responds with a multi-word answer, the parent will have gotten a perspective of the child’s engagement in the Maths class. He may well say, “I didn’t enjoy it at all” — that speaks volumes too. Regardless, the parent has demonstrated interest and that the subject is important.

On the other hand badgering a child for information and interrogating him about precisely what he learned may be counterproductive from a parenting perspective. What the child might deduce from continuous pressured questions is that the less he says or pretends to remember the better off he will be. He perceives the questions as an invasion of his privacy; of course he will resist. A lot more information would be forthcoming if the question were put something like this “did you learn any interesting at the School Talk today?” or “How did the teacher like your social studies project?”

In a nutshell: the questions must be detailed and about the work rather that about the child. Specific but open ended questions will generally elicit a coherent response which can then

I did rather not head in the direction of the parent who spends the night studying with a child for a test and then asks “how well did we do on the exam?” Naturally, when taken to the extreme, that kind of “interest” will be more crippling than helpful.

Till my next post, hope this helps.

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When Our Child Is Struggling at School

lead_960It can be discouraging to learn that our kids are struggling academically. Don’t wait for the problem to work are some practical steps toward helping:itself out — act now. Here are some advice you may want to follow:

  • Meet with teachers. Ask questions, listen and take notes.
  • Research problem areas, and learn how you can provide practice and structure. Most academic struggles can be alleviated by consistent practice in the home.
  • Most school will give home revision and tests. Check it daily. When needed, follow up with teachers via email or their school dairy.
  • Set up a reward system that you develop together with your tween. Follow through and make sure to celebrate successes.

When parents and teachers unite, students have the best chance to experience academic success.

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Tips to Help Children Understand Maths Concepts

model-drawing-hIn any school system one finds children who excel in Maths; but one also discovers that an equal or even greater number of school children fare poorly – probably because of their failure to understand basic math concepts at a very early stage.

In this article I would like to ventilate the following tips to help children, young and slightly older ( teens in their junior and middle High School years ) ones who have difficulties grasping math concepts, resulting in them not doing what they are inherently capable of achieving in general mathematical performance.

Tip # 1: INTRODUCE MATHS CONCEPTS PROGRESSIVELY with emphasis on developing manipulative skills and activities-based learning.

It is vital that children in elementary schools be taught the fundamental math concepts involving the usual operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and fractions, proportions and percentages. Early Maths education should be as activity-based as possible: from simple additions ( putting objects together and counting them ), subtractions ( removing articles/items from a certain number of such articles/items ), multiplications ( linking addition to the ultimate concept of multiplication ) and division ( dividing a certain number of objects equally among say 2 or 3 or more children ).

Tip # 2: EMPHASIZE both THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF MATHS and the INTERESTING ASPECTS OF MATHS – hands-on and practical approach.

Many children would question why they have to learn Maths concepts like fractions, percentage, decimals, etc.; they demand to know why they are in a sense compelled to learn sometime apparently ‘useless’ and ‘abstract’ topics. It is therefore incumbent on the teacher or the parent or anyone who is interested in the child’s Maths abilities to try a hands-on and practical approach, at least at the beginning stage of learning of the more abstract topics. This necessarily requires that the learning of these ideas be associated or linked with everyday, commonplace activities.

Children could be brought to markets, both traditional and the modern ultra-modern hypermarkets – to see and experience themselves first-hand activities and visual stimuli that involve math: fractions, percentages (e.g., on signboards in departments that offer discounts), geometrical shapes of bottles ( perfumes and toiletries department ). Slightly older children could also pay visits to local banks to find out the meaning of interest rates, exchange rates, etc. – practical matters that bear some relation to what they learn in classes.

Tip # 3: EXPOSE THE CHILDREN TO THE POSSIBILITIES OF MATHS: make attempts to encourage and stimulate children to think of areas which could make use of Maths concepts.

Although children with some form of learning difficulties in Maths are generally not whiz-kids it does not mean that they all are lacking in imagination and enthusiasm. It takes a dedicated, qualified, well-trained and inspired person ( usually an educator ) to motivate these seemingly less Maths-inclined children; with appropriate approaches and methodologies, it is not impossible for educators to unearth the potential abilities of these children.

Suitable strategies can be drawn up in attempts to pique the children’s curiosity as when the teacher poses the interesting question of how Maths concepts like game theories and stochastic processes are used to forge new and novel designs in both weaponry and machinery. Children could also be guided to navigate the huge resources offered by the Internet – with its several hundreds of thousands of useful math websites; to look for interesting, interactive Maths programs that teach basic math concepts. The possibilities offered by Maths are therefore quite limitless though not immediately tangible and practicable. By encouraging children to freely voice their opinions and suggestions (however naive and improbable) on the use of Maths concepts, they realize that learning Maths can be fun and Maths is not a dull and abstract subject at all!

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