What Does “Success” Really Mean?

What Does “Success” Really Mean?

Do You Set New Year’s Resolutions?

If you’re anything like me, my new year’s resolutions are usually phrased like ‘get better at X’ or ‘do more of Y’ or ‘don’t do Z’. These goals are well meant, aimed at helping me to grow into the happy, confident and successful person I want to be.

But how do I know I’m improving?

To work out whether I’m becoming more like the me I want to be, I need some metrics for success.

After such a tumultuous year where lessons, assignments and exams didn’t look like they usually do, it’s hard to know how to measure your child’s success. We can look at their report to see that they’ve achieved more A’s or no D’s, but surely there’s more to success than pass or fail?

Yes, there is!

At Nepean Tutoring, our tutors work with their students to determine individual definitions of success. At the start of each term, we reflect on the previous term and discuss what worked well (aka what we want to do more of) and what needs improvement (aka what needs to change). These goals guide our reflections for the following term.

The Private Tutoring Difference

Private tutoring is such an effective way of supporting your child’s learning because every student learns differently. A private tutor gives your child the individual attention they need to help them learn the skills and content necessary to progress to more complex concepts. Our tutors tailor their lessons to suit your child’s unique learning style and passions so that learning is fun and relevant to them.

Tutors do more than simply helping your child to improve their grades, though that can be a helpful indicator of progress. We have a team of over 45 tutors who specialise in early learning, primary school and high school literacy and numeracy. Across our high school tutors, we have tutors who are experts in every subject.

We also mentor students in study skills and organisation to help them create the habits and routines they need to reach their individual goals.

At the end of term 2, one of my senior students decided that she wanted to improve her proofreading skills and her working knowledge of grammar and syntax (sentence structure) so that she could write with more clarity and confidence. In our last lesson for this year, we compared a few of her written assignments and both of us were so excited and encouraged to see that by term 4, her written assignments were almost unrecognisable compared to the start of the year. Since we had a clear goal throughout terms 3 and 4, she focused on drafting and re-drafting her assignments and regularly asking for feedback on the technical skill of her writing. Most importantly, the improved clarity of her writing enabled her to record her ideas with confidence, and as a result, her imaginative and persuasive writing became more sophisticated and detailed.

Measuring Confidence

As with any goal for long-term growth and forming helpful habits, we notice improvement over time, which is why regular check ins and reflection is a vital part of our lessons.

Remember the student I talked about earlier? Something that helped her to stay focused on improving her grammar and syntax was that after each assignment was handed in, we took 10 minutes to reflect on what part of her preparation worked well and what she would do differently next time. By becoming more aware of her own processes, she became noticeably more confident that she could accomplish any task set before her.

Measuring Engagement

Just as we detect an engaged listener by the questions they ask and how they respond to what we’ve said, we measure a student’s engagement in their learning by the insightful questions they ask and how they direct their own learning.

Critical thinking is driven by curiosity: asking questions and testing claims to come up with evidenced answers. While the specific metrics for success are unique to each student, for every student engagement and progress are measured as we notice the student merging fundamental concepts to solve more complex problems or putting forward more nuanced arguments that reflect higher critical analysis skills.

When I first met one of my students, he was quite shy and didn’t like to say much. He didn’t think he had any good ideas so he was reluctant to ask questions that he didn’t know the answer to. Looking back over the last 12 months, his teachers and I have noticed that he’s started putting up his hand in class and participating in discussions, and increasingly, his arguments respond directly to the question being asked and his claims are more compelling and based on a critical use of evidence. Another student I’ve been working with this year has asked me, of her own volition, to help her complete assignments a week before the due date so that she can submit them to her teacher for feedback to guide her revision process .

What Do Students Need to Be Successful?

Successful students are those who are well supported. To measure a student’s progress, we need to reflect on growth over time, which means that they need consistent and reliable support.

If your child has goals for 2022, contact Us today to see how our expert tutors can give them the educational support they need to succeed.

From all of us at Nepean Tutoring, we wish you a safe and joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Number Sense: The Key to Math Success.

Number Sense: The Key to Math Success.

What is number sense?

Number sense is the fundamental skill that all mathematical learning rests upon. In short, number sense means understanding how the basic rules of numbers work.

Unless you’re a teacher, it’s not unusual if you haven’t heard of number sense. We often talk about children struggling with maths, but we often prescribe practice worksheets to solve the issue instead of questioning whether our children have strong number sense.

So how does maths work? Here are the basic principles that all mathematical concepts rely on:

1. Numerals are symbolic

Before you have mathematical equations, you have numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on. Numerals like these are actually symbols that represent quantities.

For example, the numeral ‘5’ symbolises the word ‘five’ which represents five of something, such five blocks. This is what we mean by cardinal numbers, or numbers that represent a quantity.

2. Order is important

We often follow discussions of cardinal numbers with talking about ordinal numbers. Ordinal numbers refer to the order that numbers or items are arranged in. For example, in a race, athletes are awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

3. More than, less than

Number order also symbolises a hierarchical value, where one number is greater than another, such as $100 is worth more than $50. However, it’s important to know that the numerals themselves don’t represent a value since they are representational. For example, 1st place is better than 2nd place, even though 2 is more than 1.

4. Patterns

Without the key rules above, it is impossible to understand relationships between numbers, or number patterns.

 

  • Even numbers are those that can be divided by 2 without any remainders: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12…
  • Odd numbers are those that, when divided by 2, leave a remainder: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11…
  • The Fibonacci pattern is a sequence of numbers where each term is the total of the two previous numbers in the pattern: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… This pattern is seen in the spirals of a sea shell, the arrangement of petals on sunflowers, in the swirls in your fingerprints, and elsewhere in nature. The golden ratio, explaining why some examples of nature, artwork and architecture are visually appealing, is based upon the Fibonacci pattern.

5. Mental computing

Understanding basic number patterns is essential for helping us to mentally calculate or estimate the answer to a math problem quickly, without using a calculator.

Mental maths isn’t about memorisation, because learning times tables by rote doesn’t necessarily mean that we know how to use times tables to solve problems. Instead, practicing mental calculation increases the speed at which the brain recalls knowledge and solves mathematical problems.

6. Estimation

Estimation is an important part of mental computing because it enables us to get a rough answer which helps us to verify the exact answer using a calculator.
For example, if I go to a café and order a cappuccino for $4.50 and a wrap for $11.25, I can estimate my bill to be $17.00 so I know how much cash to present to the cashier without having to empty the entire contents of my wallet on the counter. If the cashier asks for more than $17.00, I’ll know there’s something wrong with the bill and can ask them to check my order.

Rounding up and rounding down is crucial to estimation and is a skill that requires number sense to understand which numbers round up and which round down. In my example, I rounded my coffee to $5.00 and my meal to $12.00 in order to estimate the minimum whole dollars I needed to hand over. Likewise, if I gave a $20.00 note, my estimation that my bill was just under $17.00 tells me that I need at least $3.00 change. If I get less than $3.00, I need to ask the cashier to verify my order.

7. Time

Estimation and rounding are also essential skills of number sense required to understand how to read analog and digital clocks and how to plan my time. Let’s say we’ve agreed to meet for dinner at 7:00pm. It will take me 15 minutes to travel to the restaurant, and an hour to get ready beforehand. This means I need to start getting ready by 5:45pm at the latest. Without good number sense, I would struggle to make it to dinner on time.

How can a tutor help?


Number sense develops over time, and a bit of confusion is totally normal when grappling with new concepts. However, if the struggle is ongoing, it is better to ask for help sooner than later. Left unaddressed, prolonged struggles with maths can lead to or worsen maths anxiety which makes learning and asking for help much harder.

Similarly, if your child struggles with number sense, it is possible that they might have Dyscalculia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to understand and process numeric information. Symptoms of Dyscalculia can appear as early as pre-school but usually become clearer as children get older, which is why it is rarely diagnosed until children reach school.

As we’ve seen, number sense is vital for functioning well in every day life. People with Dyscalculia struggle with all the mathematical parts of daily living: measurements, time, managing their finances, directions and more. As a result, many people with dyscalculia suffer from maths anxiety.

Whether your child experiences dyscalculia or maths anxiety, or struggles to comprehend their maths homework, engaging a tutor can make the world of difference to their maths success at school and later in life.

Nepean Tutoring boosts a team of creative tutors who are experienced with working out the best ways to help your child make sense of numbers. Tutoring gives your child immediate feedback on their learning, helping them to practice mathematical skills effectively. Even better, our tutors make learning enjoyable, and we know that when your child enjoys learning, their confidence improves too.
We have tutors working throughout the summer holidays to give your child a head-start for next year, and if that doesn’t work for you, it’s not too early to lock in a tutor for Term 1 2022 so you don’t miss out.

If your child struggles with number sense, give Nepean Tutoring a call today.

 

Reference: Thank you to Kerry Joseph for sharing her experiences living with Dyscalculia.

7 Reasons Why Literacy is the Most Important Learning Goal

7 Reasons Why Literacy is the Most Important Learning Goal

What do you think of when hear about ‘literacy’?

Most of us associate literacy with the ability to read words, but that definition only scratches the surface of what literacy really is. As a tutor, when I teach literacy, my job is to teach more than just reading skills, though that’s certainly part of it.

The problem with only thinking of literacy as reading written texts is that, just like many students say “I’m just not a maths person,” many opt out of anything to do with English because they say “I’m not a reader.” This means that they miss out on so much knowledge that is available to them and leave themselves defenceless against questionable sources of news and information.
We need to understand how literacy is the bedrock of every other learning skill. When we understand literacy correctly, and prioritise it as a learning goal, we teach students the vital skills they need to be successful in life.

Here are 7 reasons why literacy is the most important learning goal for all students:

1. Literacy is more than the ability to read

Literacy skills include the ability to understand (or comprehend) what a text is saying and to compose new texts using that information. On school reports, these skills are called ‘comprehension’ and ‘composition’.

The best way to test a student’s comprehension is to allow them to produce an original work, such as a poster or essay, that allows them to pick and choose the relevant facts and explain them in their own words. Textbook comprehension questions, while they can be tedious, are actually incredibly valuable for helping students to understand the key details of a text and encourage them to respond to the text by extrapolating a broader meaning or linking previous learning with this new knowledge.

2. Literacy is about more than books

When we say ‘texts’, we don’t just mean books, short stories or poetry.

In English, History, Geography, Studies of Religion and many other subjects, students are required to glean information from visual texts such as films, photographs, posters and advertisements, and aural texts such as songs and speeches.

There is also the language of signs and symbols, such as road signs, traffic lights, or universal symbols such as the plus sign outside hospitals and pharmacies. These symbols are seen all over the world and transcend language, which makes them a vital communication tool.

Literacy is about understanding how written, spoken, and visual signs and symbols create meaning and also being able to create meaning using these sign systems.

3. Literacy doesn’t have to be boring

While a big part of English at school is understanding and composing written texts, studying spelling, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and syntax (sentence structure) can actually be really fun. Workbooks have their place, but like maths teachers, most English teachers and tutors combine written exercises with games, group work and creative activities to suit all learning styles.

4. Literacy applies to all learning styles

Even if your child’s learning style isn’t linguistic, that doesn’t mean they can’t develop good literacy skills. While teachers offer a broad approach to meet the needs of a classroom, a tutor can tailor each session specifically to your child’s learning style.

At Nepean tutoring, our tutors aren’t afraid of pulling out pencils and textas to draw diagrams and mind maps, or to play games, or find a creative way to help your child understand what they’re learning at school. Many parents have told us how much their child enjoys tutoring and how they would never have thought about teaching a concept in such a unique way.

Tutoring gives your child the dedicated attention they need to master or extend the skills they’re learning in the classroom.

5. Literacy is the foundation of numeracy

To understand a maths problem, we need to be able to put it into real life context. Many students struggle with mathematical word problems not because they can’t understand the mathematical equation but because they struggle to understand how the words translate into the equation.

In order to understand how numbers work, we need to understand that words and numbers work together. Good literacy skills allows us to see that maths is all around us, and to understand these calculations.

6. Literacy paves the way for critical thinking

Critical thinking is the skill of evaluating a source of information (Is it reliable?) and assessing the information it provides (Is it true? Is it the whole story?). It is an essential skill in the twenty-first century as news travels fast across the internet and social media.

To be a responsible social citizen, to cast informed votes in elections, to make sound judgements about scientific claims used to persuade us to buy something or do something, we need to teach out students to think critically.

7. All workplaces need literacy

Think back to when you started your current job. You had to write a resume and maybe a cover letter. You had to read a contract and some WHS procedures and sign that you read and understood them. You had to fill in a Superannuation form and declare your Tax File Number.

Within your first week, you navigated your way to work using street signs, found your way around the building, made notes on new procedures and names of your colleagues, answered your first emails and read posters in the lunchroom.

All workplaces require a basic level of literacy to do the job. However, according to the SBS Original documentary, Lost For Words, 43% of Australian adults do not have the basic literacy skills they need for everyday life. Think about that. That’s nearly 50% of Australian adults who cannot read food labels, write a shopping list, or fill in a form without asking for help, let alone write, read, sign and understand all the words and signs around a workplace.

Literacy is empowering because it enables our children to grow up to be independent and make their own way in the world. At Nepean Tutoring, we understand that not all students learn quickly or easily in the classroom, while others want to go beyond what they’re learning in class.

 

Contact Us today if you feel your child’s literacy skills are falling behind, or your child is restless to move on to more advanced literacy skills.

No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind

When it comes to receiving educational support, students with specific learning needs are often left behind. There are a myriad of reasons for this including a low classroom resources or a lack of support staff at school, to the student masking their struggles to fit in so their needs go undetected.

Since the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was published in 2013, the language we use to talk about learning difficulties has changed. For the most part, the names of neurodivergent conditions have become more generalised to include a greater spectrum of experiences.

In many ways, receiving a diagnosis can be helpful because it gives students language and a category to understand and talk about their unique experience of life. However, when talking about learning needs, the language we use can inadvertently stereotype and limit our children.

While Anxiety, Autism (ASD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are medically known as ‘disorders’ and ‘deficits’, using these terms as statements of identity can contribute to the low self-esteem and alienation that children and teenagers experience as they try to learn effectively in a non-inclusive world.

Learning difficulties are widely misunderstood as behavioural problems. This means that the learning needs of children who don’t exhibit disruptive behavioural symptoms go unidentified. For those who do exhibit behavioural symptoms, treatment is aimed at discipline or lifestyle changes to correct behaviours instead of addressing the underlying neurobiological causes.
Children who experience neurodivergent conditions learn pretty quickly that the world is not friendly towards those who play too loudly, or can’t sit sill, or who experience sensory overwhelm. They learn to compensate for or mask their struggles which makes it even harder to recognise that they need support.

Learning challenges are far more common than many people think. Current studies estimate that 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with dyslexia, 1 in 25 Australians are diagnosed with ADHD and 1 in 70 are diagnosed with ASD. This does not include the many Australians who doctors believe are undiagnosed.

Dyslexia affects a student’s ability to decode single words. MRI studies have shown that in people with dyslexia, there is less blood flow to the language processing areas of the brain meaning that phonics (how letters translate to sounds) are much harder to understand. Students with dyslexia often have a very inquiring mind, outstanding creative thinking skills and possess a broad vocabulary which enables them to mask their difficulties by using synonyms to explain a text, covering up that they are struggling to read the exact words.

Dysgraphia and dyscalculia are similar to dyslexia, though diagnoses are slightly less common. Dysgraphia affects a students’ handwriting ability. These students are often called ‘lazy’ or are told that they spend too much time typing and not enough time writing by hand. Students find this frustrating because their written work doesn’t show the full breadth of their knowledge which causes their grades and self-esteem to suffer.

Dyscalculia affects a student’s ability to understand numbers, remember basic numerical facts, and understand formulas to confidently apply them to problems. These students are often held back because of their struggles with maths instead of being given the dedicated support they need.

The autism spectrum is non-linear which means that the learning challenges and needs of each student can be vastly different. When learning environments do not take this into account and do not offer sufficient one-to-one learning support, a student’s ability to become a confident, independent learner is hindered. Moreover, students experiencing ASD are often the target of bullying and discrimination in school settings especially when their school pathways are interrupted by a lack of appropriate support.

ADHD refers to a range of difficulties that affect a student’s executive functions such as concentration, switching between mental tasks, discerning relevant information, working memory (holding several facts in mind while working on a task) and impulse control. These skills are foundational for higher-order thinking skills such as critical thinking, abstract thinking, organisation and planning.
Students experiencing ADHD are often hyper focused and able to devote extraordinary attention to a task. Like students with dyslexia and ASD, they may understand and link concepts quickly, but may also quickly lose interest in a task if their engagement is unsupported. While there is evidence that lifestyle changes can help children to focus or better regulate their emotions, there is no evidence that ADHD is caused by poor parenting, too much TV, food additives, or sugary drinks.

Not all experiences of ADHD are the same. The hyperactive subtype (the ‘H’ in ADHD) is how many people understand ADHD. Like students diagnosed with ASD, they are often bullied because they may behave impulsively or have difficulty regulating their emotions. The inattentive subtype (which used to be called ADD),and the combination subtype are often stereotyped as ‘forgetful’ and ‘unfocused’ so the learning needs of these students are unmet because they are misunderstood as students who don’t put in any effort.

Every student has gifts and passions that are unique to them and we need to value every student’s contributions to function effectively as a society. Importantly, this acceptance will go a long way towards creating inclusive environments for all learners.

Nepean Tutoring is proud of our ability to provide a range of services to suit every student’s learning needs. We boast an array of tutors who have experience supporting and mentoring students from Kindergarten to Year 12 and beyond, helping them to become confident learners who draw on their strengths to overcome their challenges.

At Nepean Tutoring, our tutor matching process ensures that we find the perfect tutor for your child. Our tutors take care to develop a tailored learning approach that recognises each student’s strengths and uses a supportive, positive approach to develop their skills.

Since 2012, our tutors have helped countless students to organise their studies, to create healthy study habits, to understand challenging concepts and problems, and to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. If you’re looking for quality educational support for your child’s learning, contact Nepean Tutoring today for a free consultation.

(Photo by note thanun on Unsplash)

The Battle For Balance

The Battle For Balance

High school students know the struggle of time management all too well.

Throughout primary school, we managed our home readers, maths worksheets and the occasional poster or diorama without thinking about it. All of a sudden, we reached year 7 and we’re expected to spread our afternoon across 8 subjects worth of homework and assignments as well as any work we didn’t finish during the day’s lesson.

For some students, the struggle to do it all can be dangerous. They strive to keep up with their homework, yet their to-do list only grows longer, so students regularly stay up until the early hours of the morning, sacrificing sleep, exercise and self-care. They know this routine isn’t sustainable, yet in our workaholic “hustle” culture it’s nearly impossible to see an alternative way to succeed.

The school curriculum is designed to share knowledge about the world and give students the skills they need for the world they’ll graduate into. By this logic, the school years are also a training ground for students to develop the time management practices and principles that will enable them to succeed in life after school.

Here are 3 tips that every student should know to achieve a healthy balance between life and study:

A paradigm for prioritising.

One of the books I read and re-read in high school and my early university days was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. It’s based on the bestselling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, but has been revised with examples and scenarios relevant to teenagers. Both Covey’s write about ‘The Time Quadrants’ but you might have heard of this called the ‘Eisenhower Matrix’. It is a 2 x 2 table divided into:

  1. Important and urgent,
  2. Important but not important,
  3. Not important but urgent,
  4. Not urgent and not important.

Adapting this framework to a student’s to-do list would look something like this:

STEP ONE: List all homework and assessment activities and their due dates.

STEP TWO: Sort them into the following categories:

  1. Homework that is due tomorrow (important and urgent),
  2. Assignments and exam revision (important but not important)’
  3. Recommended readings for tomorrow’s class (not important but urgent),
  4. Optional extension activities that are relevant but shouldn’t be done until more important tasks are up-to-date (not important and not urgent).

By following this guide, you can tame your to-do list in less than 20 minutes and work out where your focus should be in the present.

Once we’ve prioritised our to-do list, we have to do the work. The next tool for effective time management is what I call time-blocking.

STEP THREE: Estimate the time it will take to complete each task.

Be realistic and round up by 5-10 minutes. If your teacher says to spend 15 minutes writing a paragraph, allot 20 minutes. If you think the maths worksheet will take 20 minutes, allow 30 minutes. Most people underestimate how long it takes to complete a task so it’s wise to leave some margin.

STEP FOUR: Break it down

If the task will take over 45 minutes to complete, break the task into smaller pieces. You could divide 2 hours of research into 4 x 30 minutes blocks or divide a 90 minute essay into:

  • Introduction (10 minutes)
  • Body paragraph 1 (20 minutes)
  • Body paragraph 2 (20 minutes)
  • Body paragraph 3 (20 minutes)
  • Conclusion (10 minutes)
  • Proofread (10 minutes)

Time-blocking is crucial for students who work slowly and carefully to make sure they get everything right, since they are the students most prone to sacrificing sleep, exercise and self-care to finish a never-ending to-do list.

Change your definition of productivity.

Instead of asking yourself, “Did I complete the task in the time I set?”, time-blocking allows you to re-frame effectiveness as “Did I focus during the time set?”.

  • If you answered “no”, then you need to identify and manage distractions.
  • If you answered “yes”, but the task still isn’t done, you may need to re-evaluate how realistic your time estimates were or whether you are putting more time into a task than the teacher is asking you to. You might have to shuffle some time blocks to tomorrow to get the task done tonight (if it’s important and urgent) or allocate an additional time block to the task another day.

In some cases, it is possible that your child has been assigned an unrealistic amount of homework or that the teacher’s expectations about what tasks are and are not for homework are unclear. If you think this is the case, speak to your child’s teacher.

Spending too much time on homework is counter-productive to learning (which is the goal of homework) because you are compromising on your body’s need for rest and movement which help your mind to retain the information and skills you are revising.

Sleep is non-negotiable

High school students, whether they’re in Year 7 or Year 12 need at least 8-10 hours of sleep each night.

Contrary to popular opinion, you cannot catch up a sleep debt. Sleeping in more on the weekends might help you to feel better, but you cannot buy back lost sleep. This is because one of the many functions of sleep is moving short term memories (what we learned that day ) into long-term memory. The brain creates new synaptic connections and reinforces or changes neural pathways, linking new information to what we already know, and organising it in a way that helps us to recall that information when we are awake.

We go through several sleep cycles a night, and when we compromise on the amount of sleep we get during the week, short-term memories miss their opportunity to be consolidated into long-term memory. Sleep only works on what you’ve earned that day, so if you learned something on Monday and stayed up all night doing homework, sleeping less that you need to, your extra efforts aren’t going into long term memory.

We also know that when we are well-rested, we focus better and actually get more done in the same amount of time, meaning your time blocks will be even more effective.

We can’t hack our biology and overworking does not equal effective learning, but balance does.

Nepean Tutoring cares about the whole student because we know that that achieving success is supported by a healthy body and a healthy mind. Our tutors not only help students with assignments and homework, we also help students to get organised. If your child needs help with time management, Contact Us to see how we can support your child to success.

(Photo by Gustavo Torres on Unsplash)