NAPLAN: To prepare or not to prepare…

NAPLAN: To prepare or not to prepare…

NAPLAN is not the be-all and end-all of a student’s learning career, but it does provide a helpful indication of those areas in which they require some extra attention. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) who facilitate NAPLAN do not recommend excessive preparation for the tests as this can contribute to unhelpful exam anxiety and can even cause students to feel as though they are not good at a certain subject because they did not achieve their desired grade.

The ultimate goal of school is to teach students how to learn, so that they can become curious, open-minded, and discerning citizens, which is increasingly valuable in a technology-driven global economy.

Commencing a regular tutoring routine is an investment in your child’s learning because it gives students the one-on-one time they need to address the areas they struggle with. At Nepean Tutoring, our tutors aim to do far more than bump up a NAPLAN score. We can help to familiarise students with the exam format and complete practice papers, but our main focus is to empower students to be engaged and interested learners, who develop literacy and numeracy skills that they will use for life.

Its not too late to Contact Us to see how we can support your child for NAPLAN and beyond.

Found! A Remedy for the Literacy Crisis…

Found! A Remedy for the Literacy Crisis…

“Don’t worry about spelling and grammar.

The future will be digital!”According to Prof. Pamela Snow, 1 in 7 fifteen-year-olds do not meet OECD reading standards. The OECD is an international organisation focused on facilitating a global economy. Part of this includes researching and determining international education norms and sharing successful teaching practices from other countries.

The minimum national reading standard for Year 9 students is roughly equivalent to the average Year 5 reading level. According to prevent NAPLAN statistics, 20% of Year 9 students are at or below this level. That Australia’s literacy and numeracy averages rank below several developing countries is concerning for many politicians, educators, and parents because many of the jobs which were once termed “low-skilled” (jobs where workers were not required to have above average literacy or numeracy levels) now have minimum literacy requirements. This means that now more than ever, preparing our children for future employment necessitates giving deliberate attention to developing sound literacy skills.

Have you ever considered the power of words? Words can be used to rally supporters, inspire nations, change opinions, sell products, and guide emotions, all though the use of vocabulary and tone. Literacy, quite literally, can empower your child to change the world! And the good news is, reading is a skill that can be taught, practiced and learned.
Teachers play a fundamental role in introducing students to subjects, words, and ways of sounding out and recognising words. However, in the classroom, a teacher can have up to 30 students to teach, mark homework for, and write reports for. It’s impossible for them to give struggling students all of the time they need to learn how to read, write, and handwrite.
Whether your child can read well or struggles, transforming your home into a word-friendly environment is a key step you can take to foster an enthusiasm for learning to read and write, and to extend vocabulary and writing skills. Here are a few successful habits you could consider adopting in your home:

  • Read aloud together regularly. This could be one page a day over breakfast, or reading a chapter together before bed. Children copy what they do, so if you are enthused about reading and spending time with them, they will be too.
  • If your child is able to read independently, continue this habit by spending time reading silently in the same room and then discussing what you are reading.
  • Engage children in reading activities as part of everyday life. Ask them to read the recipe while you’re cooking, street signs in the car, grocery store catalogues before you recycle them, or the instructions for your new IKEA furniture. Pictures and illustrations prompt children to make an educated guess about words by looking at their context.
  • Encourage children to write regularly. Ask them to write the shopping list (even if you dictate the items so you don’t end up with 5 boxes of Coco Pops!), write on birthday cards or postcards, or write reminders for themselves to remember their PE gear on Tuesdays.
  • Make regular family excursions to your local library. Allow your children to feel empowered by pick and choose what they would like to read. Most library memberships are FREE if your child goes to school in the local government area.
  • For extra support, consider private tutoring for your child in the comfort of your own home. Tutoring is an investment in your child’s learning, giving them personal, one-to-one support to address their struggles and help them to develop confidence in their ability to learn and see improvement.

It has never been more important to learn how to read and write, and the good news is it’s never too late to start! Contact Us today to see how we can help to inspire your child’s passion for literacy and learning.

To watch the Four Corners “Digi Kids” episode, head to: https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/digi-kids/11693706

School’s Out, Reports are In

School’s Out, Reports are In

It’s the end of another busy school year and our students are settling into a well-deserved break. But beneath all the excitement of summer holidays lurks the bi-annual report card anxiety.

As parents and carers, we might look forward to seeing where our children have improved since their mid-year reports and see what they need to focus on next year. Others of us dread reports because we have seen the same comments year after year and feel at a loss as to how to change them. Sometimes it seems as though conversations with our children about talking less in class, doing their homework, or participating more in class discussions are falling on deaf ears.

Reports are a useful communicative tool between teachers and caregivers, and are an excellent guide for measuring a student’s progress and working out the most effective ways to support their learning.

Here are a few tips for tackling report card conversations:

  1. Praise Progress

    Start discussions with a note of encouragement. Congratulate your child on completing the year and giving it their best shot. Recognise their achievements, whether or not they received any awards.
  1. Effort Counts

    Grades are important but so is a child’s attitude towards their classes. Outside the classroom, life-long learning happens though fostering curiosity and engagement with areas of interest, which isn’t so easily measurable. Encourage their efforts and nurture their passions.
  1. Notice Likes and Dislikes

    What patterns do you notice between effort and grades? Does your child love Maths and excel easily? Do they invest significant effort but don’t achieve the marks they were striving for? Are they apathetic towards any subjects? Understanding the student’s likes and dislikes allows you to extend their knowledge of that subject, as well as use examples from the subjects they enjoy to increase the relatability of more challenging subjects.
  1. Build Relationships

    Ask your child to assess their teacher’s comments. Do they agree or disagree? Can they identify areas where they want assistance or specific changes they need to make? Let them know you care about them as a person as well as a student and use these reflective conversations to encourage the student to suggest solutions.

“We’ve had the talk. Now what?”

  • Do you want to challenge your child to expand their skills in their favourite subject?
  • Does your child need help to develop the self-confidence to conquer challenging content?
  • Do they need assistance with study skills or motivation?

Nepean Tutoring boasts an extensive team of tutors experienced in primary, high school and tertiary coaching. Spaces for 2020 are filling up fast, so now is the time to contact us to see how we can help you and your child to achieve their learning goals.

If you would like a tutor to commence in the summer holidays, simply let us know and we’ll match you with the best tutor for your requirements.

If you have any questions, please contact us and we would love to have a chat.

Children’s Writing, Creativity and Exam performance

Children’s Writing, Creativity and Exam performance

We receive lots of inquiries about students and their problems with writing. The connection between the tech age and writing is apt in this instance. We have great tools to enhance children’s learning, however while these tools are a standard in classrooms, how much time is actually spent in the quiet contemplation of writing by pen and hand.

As I search for images of children writing, the most appealing are those taken outdoors surrounded by nature or in a warm cosy corner of a house.  To me writing is an art form and one that has been forsaken in favour of technological tools that  thrill a child’s visual senses. However are their senses being awakened to the detriment of an inherent creativity that lies within all of us.

As a child I was an avid reader and writer.  Without realisation, they provided me with priceless opportunities to grow in areas of self discovery, contemplation and self expression.  As  I speak with parents on the subject of the child’s reticence to write,  I am grieved by the lack of emphasis on this skill in many classroom settings and carry a concern that it is a dying art.

The huge issue however is this; children falter in their enjoyment of writing, they struggle with the development of ideas and an understanding for the structure of writing and how to engage the reader. How does this really affect a student’s performance at school?

For many who read this short expose, they will wonder why it is so important to be a skilled craftsperson of pen and paper writing. My answer will always be twofold. On a personal level, handwriting is a creative act that uses a part of the brain that will be lost if not used. On a practical level, it is the medium by which we expect our children and youth to perform in examinations and thus the reason for the many inquiries I receive on this subject – children struggle with short and extended written answers in pen and paper examinations and how can WE help.

For further support and an understanding about methods you can use to assist your child OR how Nepean Tutoring can offer blocks of lessons to bring the writer in your child to the fore, you will find me excited to discuss this topic with you.  Access the contact form at  https://nepeantutoring.com.au/contact-us-2/ and I will schedule a time for a no obligation call.

Sleep to live and learn

Why good sleep is essential for health, wellbeing and even academic success.

It’s already more than half way through term one, and the heat is on for students in years 11 and 12. Assessments pile up, test times loom and the realities of senior years stress start to set in.

While we always encourage our students to do regular revision and practise, sometimes the combination of super high expectations, tougher subject content and assessments can be truly overwhelming. At these times -more than any other- maintaining good health is essential. Having regular breaks, socialising, exercising, eating well, and of course getting enough sleep are essential to health and wellbeing.

Sleep is one of the most important correlates in determining health, success, and mental wellbeing. Sleep is important for memory and learning. When we sleep our brain processes information from the day before and stores knowledge in our long-term memory. Additionally, a well-rested mind is a better functioning mind the next day; the better rested you are the better you can reason, think, remember, and process new information.

To read more about the importance of sleep especially for teenagers (https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/sleep-newzzz/201901/what-modern-science-says-about-teen-sleep)

Here are some simple tips for parents, or students who may be struggling with sleep…

Create a relaxing evening routine that works for you.

This is something you should develop for yourself, we all have different needs, and it can take some time to find what really works for you.

A relaxing bath, herbal tea, journaling or stream of consciousness writing (a technique where you write any and all words that come to mind without any self-editing), a podcast, guided meditation, yoga or cool evening walk can do wonders for clearing the brain and letting it know that now is the time to relax and get ready for rest. Start by imagining what things truly make you feel relaxed and see how you can adapt them to realistic nightly additions that work for you.

Over time as these activities become habits, you will start to slip into a more regular routine with sleep. These activities will start to become triggers that let your brain know it is time to get ready for sleep.

Ban the blue!

You’ve heard it a hundred times before, but the evidence is overwhelming(https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep) ; avoiding any blue light from phones laptops or TVs for at least an hour before you attempt to go to sleep is ESSENTIAL to having a solid nights zzz’s.
The challenge is that our devices themselves are often used as a method of relaxation, and a way of easing stress. If we just check our calendar, our emails, or our social media accounts we can rest easy knowing all is sorted for today… right?

The trick is to try and put these worries to bed, so to speak, well before you put yourself there. Physically tick items of a paper diary, to feel the sense that you have achieved what you needed to today, or at least have scheduled a time to do them in the future. Try an app blocker and/or website blocker for social media. There are many options that allow you to block these at only certain times of day, so you can still get your social fix without it upsetting those all-important twilight hours. And try journaling to get all those worrying thoughts out of your head so it can hit the pillow lighter tonight.

While these cures may not work overnight – pun intended – with patience, practise, and most importantly self-kindness, eventually you will start to adapt to a routine of relaxation and device free evenings, allowing your body and mind to adapt a new natural rhythm towards sleep.

– Anne Gwilliam

Help Your Child Improve Their School Marks and Confidence: Adopt a Growth Mindset

A ‘growth mindset’ is the belief that abilities are developed over time, and any skill or area of knowledge can be developed with hard work and perseverance.

Improve marks and confidenceA term coined by educational psychologist Dr Carol Dweck, growth mindset contrasts to the much more common ‘fixed mindset’ where we believe that abilities, cleverness, or knowledge is innate, fixed or stuck. “I’m a maths person” or “I just can’t do art”, are examples of a fixed mindset; regardless of whether the belief seems to be positive or negative the defining feature of a fixed mindset is that you believe your abilities are fixed or unchangeable with effort.

You could think of a fixed mindset as a self-fulfilling prophesy. A child who doesn’t believe they can improve at maths has that hanging over their head in every maths class. Alternately thinking they can learn new things and ‘grow’ (growth mindset) will see them approach new information and classes with an open mind and positive attitude, setting them up for success with that new content, which in turn will reinforce the belief that they can do it.

There is strong research to back up this theory. You can read more about it here or for a longer more in depth look, access to a book by Dr Dweck herself can be found here.

Impact of a Growth Mindset InterventionThe nutshell version;

Students were taught to hold a growth mindset for maths learning. Compared to the control group they showed a significant improvement in their actual maths ability over time. To read more about how to help students with maths in particular click here.

Growth mindset is also essential for high achievers, despite currently doing well in school these kids often show the strongest fixed mindsets of all. They have been taught to believe their smartness is inherent, rather than earnt through hard work. The tragedy is that eventually everyone faces challenges and without the belief that they can improve and the resilience a growth mindset gives, they crumble under pressure.

With a growth mindset, you believe that you can improve, not that you are ‘smart’ or ‘gifted’, and in fact regardless of what level you are at or what hurdles you face, you believe you can improve and overcome.

 

Impact of Praise on Performance After a Failure

Students praised for hard work and effort (growth mindset) have been shown to persevere past failures, attempting more questions and showing more resilience than students praised on their intelligence levels alone (even if those students did better to begin with).

 So, what can we do to help students adopt a growth mindset?

1. Change your language;

As teachers, parents, or tutors we need to consider the language we use. Are we building a growth mindset, or a fixed one?

 Avoid any language that implies that skills, knowledge, and abilities are fixed.

Instead of

Try

“You’re so smart”

“Great work!”

“You are so good at science”

“Wow, you worked so well this year, great job!”

 

Encourage children to change their own language and beliefs;

Instead of

Try

“I’m just not a maths person”

“I haven’t learnt that maths yet”

“I can’t do it”

“I can’t do it yet”

 2. Encourage mistakes

Making mistakes is not only fine, but essential to the learning process. It is so common to see students (and sadly commonly girls) unable to bounce back from mistakes, being their own harshest critics and seeing every perceived ‘failure’ as evidence that they just can’t do it.

Mistakes are part of the process of learning. It is normal to make mistakes, what makes someone ‘smart’ or good at a certain skill is only that they persisted through mistakes until they had mastered the skill!

3. Challenge your own beliefs;

The simplest change we can make is in our language, and our own attitudes. Children pick up on our true beliefs and behaviours. If they see you challenge yourself, make mistakes, recover and learn, they might just do the same. The language we use to describe ourselves and our own beliefs about our abilities is so important too. Remember, it’s not that I can’t do that, I just can’t do it YET.

It can be difficult to make this radical change in thought, or help a child to change their mindset, especially after experiencing failures in the past. However, it’s this radical shift we need to adopt in society and in education to enable the next generation of learners to hold strong growth mindsets – set to learn and grow for the future. To accomplish anything!

Challenge Your Own Beliefs

Mindset works have a great tool to think about and assess your own mindset right now, try it out here.

Written by Anne Gwilliam