Children’s inherent appetite for books should be encouraged through activities that build a passion for reading. This can be achieved through active participation in literature that whet’s their imagination and interests. Whilst technology, for a time, reigned in favour against the tactile “book in the hand” there is a current resurgence for the presence of a book with pages to turn. We can perhaps envisage and hope for a complete return to the earlier pursuit of children being curled up in their favourite place whilst reading for pleasure.
Image credit: Pixabay
Taking children beyond the classroom, to read for pleasure at home, will provide them with tools that ensure their writing and comprehension skills soar. This naturally occurs as they are confronted with a wider use of vocabulary whilst reading and they concurrently learn to read in a way that teaches them the basic conventions of writing and the structure of language. As a result their ability to be “literacy smart” becomes evident. Their writing appears more complex, they are able to write with more detail, they use descriptive tools to enhance their texts with more fluidity and are less prone to the age old problem of “writers block”.
Children who make reading a habitual part of their journey in life employ higher order thinking skills. Their tendency to become critical thinkers, learners who comprehend at an inferential level and students who can make connections from their readings with other contexts are more inclined to find purpose in reading for pleasure. They become engaged readers and learners who look for deeper meanings in what they read and are more often creative writers and problem solvers. As an outcome, they emerge more confident in their ability to tackle complex tasks that require these skills across all areas of their school work and personal learning journeys.
Reading for pleasure is feeding their imaginations
In addition, reading for pleasure is really all about feeding their imaginations. Books take children on a journey of discovery that is often far beyond their own realisation at the time. The connection with place, people and context enriches their cognitive development by enticing a multi sensory experience as they engage their imaginations by forming images in their minds and turn words into conversations they can hear as they lose themselves in the text.
At the basic level, we all remember the aroma of a new book, the feeling of turning the page, the way words speak to us and that feeling at the end of the book that begs us for more as we look for the next book to read from the shelf.
Books are one of the key cornerstones to a child’s language development and more. Their ability to create language through their own writing and the way in which reading for leisure offers lifelong skills beyond the act of reading should not be overlooked.
It’s looking a lot like Christmas… and the holidays are upon us!
When you hear of the festive holidays, you’re either one of two people. You’re thinking, “No, please get me out of here! I have work to do!” OR, you’re jingling out to your favourite Christmas carols! If you fall into the second category – deck the halls!
If, however, you or someone you know is stressing about the work they should be getting done, then read on!
Getting a balanced life, study/life (and sometimes, a work/study/life, particularly for our older students) can be difficult. There aren’t many resources out there for primary and high school kids on how to manage time, get work done AND grow as a person during the holidays. We have some tips for you.
1) Put yourself first! There will always be work, assignments, practice essays, homework, Christmas shifts…you name it! But to engage in all of that, you need sleep and fun to keep you motivated and energised. Don’t underestimate the significance of taking some time off to chill and just be yourself. Watching movies, spending time out with friends and catching up with family might seem like guilty pleasures during the busy year, but these Christmas holidays are a time when you can do all of these things and get some sleep, and reward yourself for a year of hard work!
2) Break things down A snowman doesn’t come in one piece – he’s built up in three smaller steps, and then you need to find buttons for his eyes, a carrot for his nose, and maybe even a Christmas hat! That’s a lot like what your Christmas study should look like. It’s fine to keep your brain active, and do a little revision (especially for our HSC students)! Plan out your study and your work. These holidays, you should be making LOTS of time for fun and sleep, so factor these into your calendar. How about a couple of hours of work or study a week? Sound fair?
3) Work smarter, not harder There’s lots of ways to keep learning while you take time out to focus on yourself and those you love. Summer sports, reading and travelling are all rewarding ways to meet new people, have new cultural experiences and learn a whole heap of things to get you ready for the adventures that await in 2018! Don’t feel guilty to spend some resources and time on something that is important to you – whether it’s refreshing your library or catching that plane to a snowy Christmas! From painting to learning a new instrument or language, almost any hobby can really be thought of as ‘study’, as long as you’re learning new skills!
So, what’s the overall answer to positive study/life balance? The key word is balance! Your academics and your work are definitely important. But life encompasses so much more than that, and if you’re not going to explore and spend time with the important people and experiences in your life during the holidays, when will you? The Christmas holidays are a time when you can procrastinate without guilt…so turn on those OUT OF OFFICE automated email replies, close your textbooks, and do something adventurous at least once a day!
Check out the links below to help with your Christmas crafts and your Christmas shopping! If there’s ever a question you have about study/life balance, we’re here to help – even when Santa’s elves have gone to sleep!
Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays from Nepean Tutoring!
It is a well-known fact that as social beings, humans, especially children, learn from those they interact with closely on a daily basis. Children spend an average of 30 hours a week in school, and with other commitments like work, sporting activities and social activities, it is reported that many families now spend less than 40 minutes a day together! (The Digital Hub, 2016)
With the busyness of contemporary lifestyles, it is more important than ever that the role models in students’ lives are positive ones, demonstrating outstanding values, great study ethics, and everything that lies between.
Tutors, in the very privileged role of being educators who spend time one-on-one with their students, need to be the right match. This is the reason tutor-student matching is taken so seriously at Nepean Tutoring.
From the moment you pick up the phone, you may be wondering what the process is behind the scenes as your student’s tutor is arranged. While all of our tutors here at Nepean Tutoring are skilled and experienced, we consider the little things that make every lesson a success:
Location – where is your student based? Are there local tutors who provide the service your student needs? (Yes! We have tutors throughout Nepean and surrounding regions).
Age and experience – what year level is your student in, and what experiences would they most benefit from in a tutor?
Special considerations – does your student hate a certain subject? Or do they struggle with particular areas of school work, like reading? Can we find a tutor who is passionate and really experienced in those areas to motivate your student? (Yes, we can!)
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. – Albert Einstein
When a tutor and student – or mentor and mentee – sit together to work on anything, be it English or Geography, an exchange of knowledge, values and study ethic goes on. To have maximum potential, and make for a more engaging and memorable learning experience, there needs to be some degree of chemistry. We’ve all had those teachers who just aren’t interesting. Or that head teacher with years of experience who natters on at a level, speed and tone that their young students just do not relate to…
“Students shouldn’t be sharing these things,” the teacher said. “What things?” A student asked. “The things that if you have them, you want to share them. But if you share them, you don’t have them.” The student looks confused. “What’s that?” She asks her teacher. “It’s a secret!” The teacher replies.
Learning essays or Pythagoras’ theorem doesn’t have to be a riddle. It is the role of a personalised tutor to turn abstract theories into accessible content grounded in students’ real-world experiences. Otherwise, students are alienated by unnecessarily complex explanations. As Albert Eistein once said, ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.’ Having a tutor who relates to a student’s experiences and individual personality makes all the difference.
Friends are the family you choose, and so are tutors!
There has been a great deal of discussion in 21st century education, especially in the past few years, about the importance of resilience for success in school. Glazed-eyed students study their fingernails for many an hour in Life Skills lessons in junior high school, and later attend – often with sighs – a variety of seminars focused on building their skills to ‘bounce back’ from the pressures of senior high school and university. But despite this, feedback from teachers and schools continues to portray the reality that students are not coping well with the stress, deadlines and steep learning curves now associated with study, as we move through the Information Age (and beyond). According to Youth Beyond Blue, “One in fourteen young Australians (6.9%) aged 4-17 experienced an anxiety disorder in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 278,000 young people.”
Australian higher education rates have also been falling. According to studies within the last couple of years, a quarter of students fail to complete their Year 12 certificate, and as per the Sydney Morning Herald’s 2016 report, ‘NSW Universities: Decade of drop-outs prompts warning from Simon Birmingham’, “Up to one in five students now drop out of university, according to figures released by the federal Department of Education.”
But is dropping out of school the positive ‘way out’ to avoid stressful situations that will most likely reappear in the workplace? Is it the only option?
These are some alarming statistics. Perhaps somewhere between learning about resilience and practicing resilience, students are finding themselves overwhelmed by challenges and a lack of real skills and support to begin ‘just doing it’. So, how can modern students practice resilience?
Firstly, what does this concept mean? A Harvard study defines resilience as being, ‘…the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.’
This could not be more important for our students today. Let’s break this down into practical strategies rather than sticking to definitions and conceptual discussion.
1. Recovering from setbacks Learning is an experience. A commonly heard phrase in classrooms and ad campaigns today is: ‘you are not a mark or a number’. This is true, and it is vital that students believe and understand this. Teachers, tutors and markers know that students are real people on a learning journey, bringing with them valuable, unique ideas and approaches. These teachers, tutors and markers are there to assist each student with their educational experience, but sometimes, it comes down to the individual effort and dedication of students to accept this help, learn from feedback and seek advice from available resources. One bad mark, or one exam that did not go to plan, can mean failure – or growth. If students build up a support network of family, friends, teachers or tutors and resources to consult when things don’t go to plan, failures can quickly be converted into another step forward on their learning journey.
2. Adapt well to change Gone are the days when students competed to get into one stable job at the entry-level of their career path and stayed on that path until retirement. Now, career-switching is common and education and work settings are constantly undergoing change. There is also flexibility associated with this – new hours of work, a variety of qualifications that will get you where you want to go. Exams are moving from paper to laptop screens, as marking already has.
Resilience is adapting to change. A well-known proverb states, “When you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails.” If a study technique didn’t work this time around, students should change the way they study for their next exam and utilise those around them for advice – teachers and tutors can suggest new approaches, such as flashcards, handwriting notes, or voice recording important themes and concepts. If a subject at school isn’t enjoyable, students should attempt to figure out why, and address their specific dissatisfactions, rather than resorting too rashly to dropping out of the subject, or school altogether.
3. Keep going Most importantly, keep going! The best way to do this is to set goals. In a modern world with an overwhelming amount of information and demand for splitting one’s attention between hundreds of tasks each week, setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals to break down larger tasks and projects can provide a way of coping with challenges. At Nepean Tutoring, our consistent message to our students is not to give up, and goal-setting decreases the lack of motivation or feeling of “but I can’t do it!” that often crops up when things get too busy or stressful.
Just do it. If it fails, try and try again…differently each time.
Why tutoring can give students equal opportunities to learn
A differentiated curriculum is a learning program that, ideally, meets the academic needs and interests of every student. This means that all the teaching approaches outlined in the curriculum are flexible, so that the content being taught is digestible and refreshingly challenging for each individual child. In a class of twenty or thirty students, who will undoubtedly possess slightly different needs, interests and skills from each other, an effective differentiated program is a challenge for teachers to implement. Nonetheless, experienced teachers, including educators at the new NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA, formerly BOSTES), know that such an individualised curriculum is necessary if all students are to meet their full potential. Susan Winebrenner, an experienced education consultant of the Education Consulting Services in the US, has put forward a compelling argument for differentiated learning, “Equality means giving everyone equal opportunities to learn, not teaching everyone in exactly the same way.”
NESA agrees, and differentiated programming of lessons is integrated within the current K-10 Syllabus Framework. The ability of proficient teachers to individualise and create greater flexibility in lesson plans is also a clear requirement of the NSW Proficient Teacher Evidence Guide (BOSTES, published June 2014), in which the first standard discussed is a knowledge of students and their diverse learning processes. For example, some students may be visual learners who prefer teacher demonstrations, and some students may be more autonomous when given a written list of instructions.
Unfortunately, efforts towards establishing curriculum differentiation in schools often falls short. Within NESA guidelines, such programming is a guide, rather than a requirement whose success can be evaluated by students and their families. In reality, curriculum differentiation may go little further than a few sentences in a school’s teaching/learning policy handbook, or informal extension programs where gifted students meet once or twice a term to work on self-guided projects. Not all schools offer the supported learning or acceleration programs that many students need. And what about HSC students in Year 11 and 12, whose teachers already have their hands full with weekly marking and feedback, and a strict limit on the length of time they can spend on one learning outcome?
Despite schools’ best intentions, classroom sizes and a lack of support materials can mean some students (whether they require additional learning help, would like to fill a few gaps in their knowledge, or are gifted students needing a challenge in class) simply do not receive an equal opportunity to learn.
So how can tutoring provide the flexible learning opportunities often lacking in many classrooms?
NESA recommends these following methods for differentiating students’ learning programs (Differentiated Programming, NSW Education Standards Authority, NSW Government, 2014):
tiered and levelled activities
problem-solving and challenge-based learning opportunities
collaborative and individual learning
teacher/student dialogue around learning activities
Tutors, such as those on our team at Nepean Tutoring, are highly experienced in providing individualised, focused learning opportunities. In a tutoring setting, students have the opportunity to learn one-on-one, or in a small group. Programs are tailored to their own specific needs and are free from the distractions and competing requirements of other students in a large classroom. Furthermore, our tutors can fill those gaps in knowledge, support students to learn classroom content at their own pace, and find an approach that allows each student to be challenged and grow from their learning experience, without feeling overwhelmed. This facilitates student/tutor discussion and encourages learners to generate their own ideas and questions about content, an important learning process that leads lead to further investigation – that is, further learning. At all times, our tutors ensure students’ needs and interests are at the centre of learning opportunities.
While classroom learning often assumes that students are the same, the individual nature of tutoring recognises that this is a myth. Difference should be valued, and used as a means to help students grow.