Online Tutoring

online-tutoringWhile Nepean Tutoring is predominantly an “in home” tutoring service, the need to diversify became evident as the business grew and time restraints caused availability issues.  The inception of online learning as an option still met our philosophy of “one to one” tutoring but it broadened the scope for this to take place.

The opportunity to tutor young children in remote areas, young people in the Senior Secondary sector whose timetables often made it difficult meet tutoring appointments and our editing service were able to utilise technology via google drive and add another dimension to our services.  Below is a testimony of how this online service was borne and the success it has bought to the learning of some of the students we work with.

DANUTA PAXTON

Danuta PaxtonI have been tutoring for 10 years, 4 of them with Nepean Tutoring, and via Skype for over two terms. Skype has been a welcome addition to my tutoring skills and the skills of my students. Most of them are familiar with both Skype and Google Drive and do not quail at the thought of opening laptop to access the information they need. However, since most of the initial resistance has come, not from the students, but from the parents, I thought I would like to give some reassurance. So this message is for the parents.

Recently I had the opportunity to take on a year 2 student. No surprise in that, but the fact that she lives in rural NSW meant that the only way to tutor was via Skype. Now, I had often thought that tutoring via Skype would be the solution to issues of geographical availability and save on travelling time between students. Nevertheless, because the student is only very young, I was a little anxious. Needlessly so. The lessons continue to go well and the student is gaining computer skills as well as improving in numeracy and literacy. This gave me the confidence to explore the possibilities with my other students.

As most of my students are high school students and due to a change in my personal circumstances, I suggested that with the permission of their parents, they try a Skype lesson to see if it suited them. I am pleased to say all of them said it made no difference whether I was actually in their home or on screen. Furthermore, by using Google Drive (which everyone has on their computers if they have internet) I am able to share files and edit them with the students. Whatever either of us writes comes up on both screens and is saved automatically. This works really well especially with year 11 and 12 students. Both student and I can access any changes that have been made on the document, regardless whether the other is on line at the time.

The advantages of Skype tutoring are the greater flexibility and availability of the tutor and the ability to catch up on lessons that have been missed. The geographical location of the students ceases to play a role in availability and travelling time is diminished. The technology is simple and carries no extra cost. The advantages for the student are that their work is always there, saved, so no excuses. The work can be added to and edited by both parties as needed. The student can still see the tutor in a small window and vice versa.

I now do all my lessons on Skype with very pleasing results. I would encourage year 11 and 12 in particular.students to give it a go.

Other tutors are beginning to see online tutoring via Skype and Google Drive as an option. Our plan is to fine tune this method of delivery by a range of tutors and invite you take Danuta’s stance and give it a go. It may provide you with a solution to tutoring your child with some flexibility and utilise the wonderful technology we all have at our fingertips.

The Changing Face of Nepean Tutoring

Nepean Tutoring is still growing strong with over twenty tutors available to suit the wide variety of needs of our students. We are not your every day tutoring company, but a group of committed educators with different talents, interests and skills who hone these into specific teaching and learning methods for our individual students. While we pride ourselves in the high quality of HSC tutors we offer, we equally committed to provide what I call “multi faceted” tutors who can deliver our younger students in the infants/primary and junior secondary years a service that crosses a variety of key learning areas.

It has become increasingly evident that clients need tutors to be flexible, innovative and of course talented in their teaching craft. Parents/caregivers contact us to express how their child is struggling across a range of concepts in Literacy, Mathematics and other topical subjects. The need for a focus on basic Mathematical and Literacy skills as well as assistance with assignment work and homework in the home can be overwhelming for busy households. It is for this reason that a number of tutors at Nepean Tutoring could be termed as Educational Assistants/tutors who are skilled practitioners and guided by the current needs of their students in a variety of learning areas.

For instance, if your child requires assistance with a Mathematics concept as well as guidance with an assignment in another subject area, some of our tutors have developed skills to cross-curricula teach when needed during one tutoring session. No longer will these tutors teach only one subject, they will cross curricula teach, which is a wonderful asset for students who are struggling in different areas of their learning. If this idea resonates with you and your child’s needs PLEASE GIVE US A CALL!!!
At present, vacancies are filling for the remainder of this term and for Term One 2015. Therefore if you would appreciate a further discussion on this innovative shift in our tutoring focus, please get in touch as soon as possible with no obligation. As many of our regular clients know, I simply love talking about what I am passionate about.

 

HSC 2015

On a slightly different note our HSC STUDENTS have already started the last chapter of their journey toward their 2015 exams. What we find is the panic button is turned on during February/March when gaps in learning begin to become more evident. At the same time there is a swathe of assignments and class tasks to tackle and this is when the HSC crisis begins. AND what we know is that these problems actually already EXIST NOW and could be resolved with so much less stress if tutoring begins at the start of Year Twelve rather than half way through next year.

The misconception that the hard work can be postponed until after the Christmas break, is misguided. Students in their final year should have already set clear goals for achieving their desired outcomes, have planning for major projects and portfolios under way and developed a clear pathway for their English reading schedule. Mathematics and Science concepts that are troublesome at present need attention earlier than later and reliance on cramming with a tutor in the last months of the HSC year is not ideal. A confident knowledge of Essay writing and analysis of questions should be evident along with the creation of a realistic study program.

By the beginning of February the panic button is in full throttle and the phone calls begin to find a tutor to help play catch up. While this is better than no assistance at all, and our tutors work hard to bring their students the best results possible, an early start alleviates unnecessary stress and makes the process so much more balanced. If this idea resonates with you or your child PLEASE GIVE US A CALL!

 

Reading Angels Program

Finally, our successful Reading Angels program for children between the years of three to seven is a lovely new initiative. It encompasses a variety of learning experiences from teaching our little ones to love reading books to role play and artistic pursuits. For more information about the Reading Angels program, go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reading-Angels/357021761122288?ref=hl for a brief snapshot of the ideas behind this progressive method to engage our youngest children in learning as a life time pursuit. If you would like to sample this program during the last weeks of this term PLEASE GIVE US A CALL!
We do look forward to the continuance of the wonderful relationships Nepean Tutoring as forged in the community. With three successful years behind us now, our credibility as a leading boutique tutoring agency is evident. Most of all, we are fiercely passionate about teaching and learning and providing your children with quality tutors and teachers. I do ask that you consider the three ideas presented in this article and call us on 0402339217 to discuss any of the above points if you feel we can be of assistance.

Warmest Regards – Ros McHenery 0402339217

Learning Pods?

Whilst visiting a new student for the first time I did my usual orientation with the family to introduce my pedagogical ideas about the way children learn.   As a new business, Nepean Tutoring has had its ups and downs in terms of accommodating the influx of students whose parents enquire about our services and thus working out how to meet the growing need for one on one tutoring is a bit challenging with a limited staff base.

When I visited the family in question, the child’s mother suggested the idea of learning pods.  A Learning Pod is a new term used to delineate a small group of students learning together where a teacher facilitates the learning.  In a classroom, it is a child-centered learning environment where a number of “pods” are created to meet the demands and learning needs of a busy curriculum and to give children an interactive environment in which to learn.

Now, Nepean Tutoring advertises as a “one on one” tutoring service where tutors target the weaknesses of a student and fast track the learning to fill in the gaps in the student’s shortcomings.  While I still believe this is the most effective way to fill the gaps for most students, I became open to the idea of learning pods as an expansion of our services. 

Research does demonstrate the benefits of small group learning, particularly for on task students. The other benefit is a financial consideration for families who are unable to afford the fees for one on one tutoring.  A small learning pod of three to four students would allow a more focused learning experience for the members of the group along with an affordable alternative to the one on one method.

With some apprehension, I tested this idea in the Secondary School where I teach “one on one” on a part time basis.  I targeted a small group of three students who were struggling with some particular writing concepts and made the instruction very specific to those needs.  Concepts such as sentence structure, forming paragraphs, proof reading and vocabulary development were used to pilot this idea and I found it extremely productive and time effective to work with the small group and achieve the same level of progress as the “one on one” method.   The students were engaged in the learning and demonstrated improved quality writing over a period of five lessons of instruction.

As a result, I am toying with the idea of introducing Learning Pods as an additional service to the business.  I can see many benefits to this approach, especially in the area of writing as discussed above.

Another area where I can see the benefits of this approach is in Science.  Learning Pods would be an ideal method for Science instruction where very small groups were given the opportunity to engage in hands on science investigations at a level which is often impractical in a large classroom of students.  Similarly, I can visualise Learning Pods as a means for rich Mathematical investigations where students are given Mathematical problems to solve together that crosses over more than one Mathematical strand.  For example, I recently worked “one on one” with a student on a rich Mathematical task where we created a symmetrical 2D piece of art where I reinforced their knowledge of a variety of 2D shapes, and the measurement skills of length, area and perimeter. I could see this approach working in “Learning Pods” and am very excited to hear any other similar ideas you might have for me to consider.

Email me on rosmc1@msn.com or follow us to our Facebook fan page here and look for the post on learning pods and make a comment.

Five Jars and a Great Story

Just imagine that “text types” as we know them were thrown out for a day and we inspired students to write a quirky creative story that engaged them in vocabulary development and sentence and paragraph structure. Try this idea to whet their appetite for creative writing.

Firstly discuss with the student/s what creative writing is all about.

1)      Explain the idea of the potential audience. Who are they writing for? How are they going to keep the reader captivated?

2)      Discuss the importance of a GREAT introduction that leaves a little cliff hanger to keep the reader interested.

3)      Do a recap of adjectives and adverbs and how they enhance nouns and verbs.

4)      Discuss the importance of dictionaries and thesaurus’s to use new words and different words in the correct context.

5)      Talk about characterization and how often the characters in the story gives it a real interest.

6)      Recap how descriptions are and  what creative writing is all about in order to make the reader feel like you are taking them on a journey.

7)      MOST IMPORTANTLY, provide examples of some good short stories and MODEL writing.  A good short story shows the student/s how to bring all the pieces together.

I use the commonly used hamburger example to demonstrate the correct way to structure a story and differentiate between an A and C grade piece of writing as follows:

C:  *Simple introduction and conclusion.

*One of two pieces of information in the body on the topic.

*Use of simple sentences.

*Uses repetitive, simple vocabulary.

*Has not answered the question given.

*Poor editing and proof-reading skills.

B: *More detailed introduction and conclusion

*Two to four pieces of information in the body

*Uses some complex sentences.

*Uses major connectors.

*Demonstrates good spelling and grammar skills.

*Demonstrates a reasonable range of vocabulary usage i.e. meaning/context.

*Demonstrates some understanding for editing and proof reading.

A: *Has a detailed introduction with a thesis sentence.

     *Concludes essay with a strong conclusion that supports the points in the essay.

*Uses more sophisticated vocabulary.

*Writes detailed paragraphs that begin with a topic sentence.

*Uses major and minor time connectors.

*Show a very good understanding for, and uses a range of vocabulary.

* Answers the question given.

* Demonstrates thorough editing and proof reading.

Now we arrive at the ‘five jars and a story” strategy.  Discuss with students the different components of a narrative. Put variety of examples of these components in jars on laminated card for continued use.  This is where students choose one idea from each jar to help them plan their story.

When: When did the story take place? This could be from an ancient to future period in time.

Where:  Where did the story happen? This could be from the depths of the ocean to a place in space.

Who:     Who are the characters in the story? Have students choose up to four character types from the jar.

What:   What problem evolves in the story? Students should be instructed to know that this is the most important part of the story as it engages the reader and the place where the “ingredients” of the story can be enriched.

How:    How do the characters of circumstances resolve the problem? This section should be one paragraph and lead to the concluding paragraph of the story.

When they have randomly made their selections have them make a story web plan as a guide for their writing.

Most importantly, make sure your student/s enjoy the journey of writing their own creative story. Have dictionaries, word banks and a thesaurus available for them to enjoy developing interesting vocabulary.  Allow them to publish their story on the computer using interesting combinations of fonts and clip art.  Encourage them to illustrate their story by themselves. Mount the story onto cardboard and laminate it to preserve it for years to come.

Five Jars and a Great Story

Just imagine that “text types” as we know them were thrown out for a day and we inspired students to write a quirky creative story that engaged them in vocabulary development and sentence and paragraph structure. Try this idea to whet their appetite for creative writing.

Firstly discuss with the student/s what creative writing is all about.

1)      Explain the idea of the potential audience. Who are they writing for? How are they going to keep the reader captivated?

2)      Discuss the importance of a GREAT introduction that leaves a little cliff hanger to keep the reader interested.

3)      Do a recap of adjectives and adverbs and how they enhance nouns and verbs.

4)      Discuss the importance of dictionaries and thesaurus’s to use new words and different words in the correct context.

5)      Talk about characterization and how often the characters in the story gives it a real interest.

6)      Recap how descriptions are and  what creative writing is all about in order to make the reader feel like you are taking them on a journey.

7)      MOST IMPORTANTLY, provide examples of some good short stories and MODEL writing.  A good short story shows the student/s how to bring all the pieces together.

I use the commonly used hamburger example to demonstrate the correct way to structure a story and differentiate between an A and C grade piece of writing as follows:

C:  *Simple introduction and conclusion.

*One of two pieces of information in the body on the topic.

*Use of simple sentences.

*Uses repetitive, simple vocabulary.

*Has not answered the question given.

*Poor editing and proof-reading skills.

B: *More detailed introduction and conclusion

*Two to four pieces of information in the body

*Uses some complex sentences.

*Uses major connectors.

*Demonstrates good spelling and grammar skills.

*Demonstrates a reasonable range of vocabulary usage i.e. meaning/context.

*Demonstrates some understanding for editing and proof reading.

A: *Has a detailed introduction with a thesis sentence.

     *Concludes essay with a strong conclusion that supports the points in the essay.

*Uses more sophisticated vocabulary.

*Writes detailed paragraphs that begin with a topic sentence.

*Uses major and minor time connectors.

*Show a very good understanding for, and uses a range of vocabulary.

* Answers the question given.

* Demonstrates thorough editing and proof reading.

Now we arrive at the ‘five jars and a story” strategy.  Discuss with students the different components of a narrative. Put variety of examples of these components in jars on laminated card for continued use.  This is where students choose one idea from each jar to help them plan their story.

When: When did the story take place? This could be from an ancient to future period in time.

Where:  Where did the story happen? This could be from the depths of the ocean to a place in space.

Who:     Who are the characters in the story? Have students choose up to four character types from the jar.

What:   What problem evolves in the story? Students should be instructed to know that this is the most important part of the story as it engages the reader and the place where the “ingredients” of the story can be enriched.

How:    How do the characters of circumstances resolve the problem? This section should be one paragraph and lead to the concluding paragraph of the story.

When they have randomly made their selections have them make a story web plan as a guide for their writing.

Most importantly, make sure your student/s enjoy the journey of writing their own creative story. Have dictionaries, word banks and a thesaurus available for them to enjoy developing interesting vocabulary.  Allow them to publish their story on the computer using interesting combinations of fonts and clip art.  Encourage them to illustrate their story by themselves. Mount the story onto cardboard and laminate it to preserve it for years to come.

The Power of Vowels for Emergent Readers

Understanding vowels is the foundation for reading and writing the English language. Try stringing a line of consonants together and ask your child or students to make sense of what they see.  They will soon realize that vowels give meaning to words and create patterns that assist their ability to read correctly.

It is essential for young children to be exposed to the power of vowels from the earliest stages of their reading development.  Research has demonstrated that confusion with vowel sounds, or a lack of knowledge for the importance of vowels in words, serves to create much of the reading problems we see in literacy support classes at school.

For instance it is not uncommon for young children to confuse the vowels “i” and “e”.  One way to overcome this problem is to focus on these vowels independently in the first instance and then to participate in classification activities so students learn to differentiate between the two vowels sound. Following is a sequence of a few simple tasks to teach children to decode words which contain the “i” or “e” vowel sounds.

1)           Make large cut outs of both sounds. Display and discuss the difference in the shape of the letters.

2)           Display word list that contain “i” and “e” as beginning and medial sounds. Colour code vowels to assist young readers with their visual perception of the sound.

3)      Make picture cards of relevant words and their name and have children classify them according to the vowel sound. (Visual example would be good here)

4)      Make mixed up silly sentence activities which focus on one of the vowel sounds for children to cut and paste in the correct order.

A similar problem can also emerge with the vowels “a” and “o” as the shape of these letters is similar. The same activities above can be adapted to these vowels as well as the following activity which is more specific to the “a” and “o” sounds.

1)        Give children a worksheet that demonstrates the shape of both letters.

Ask them to make a smiley face on the “o” letter to show how Mr “o”   looks   straight ahead. Next draw an ear on the right side of the “a” and a nose on the left to demonstrates how Mr “a” looks to the side.

When children have a strong grasp for the first four vowels, and are competent with identifying them in print at the beginning and medial junctions of a word, introduce the “u” sound.

When you sense children are ready to work with the five vowels together, construct simple tasks that assist you to assess their understandings for reading the five vowels. Classification of activities using words with medial vowels is powerful indicators for children’s understandings for example. Below is a list of words that could be made into a cut and paste activity as an enjoyable, yet accurate form of assessment.

This task can be different to meet differing stages of understanding, at a teacher or parent’s discretion as follows:

 

Take vowels seriously when teaching young children the basic of reading. Lack of understanding can be evident for reading and spelling problems in later stages of literacy development. Let your creativity reign and HAVE FUN!