3 NAPLAN Myths Busted: Demystifying Common Misconceptions About the NAPLAN Test

NAPLANJust hearing the word ‘NAPLAN’ is enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure; images of stressed out kids, parents and teachers spring to mind. Since 2008 the NAPLAN tests have been measuring the reading, writing, literacy and numeracy skills of Australian children, and for hardly a moment without controversy. The constant media attention and politicization of the yearly NAPLAN results can lead to confusion and some misunderstandings about what these results really mean, both for individual students and across the board for Australia.

We have talked about the issues with standardised educational practises before, NAPLAN epitomises this problem.

But for now, let us demystify and debunk 3 common myths about NAPLAN, as it stands in 2018.

MYTH 1. ‘My child did not meet the national minimum standards for year 9 NAPLAN in some areas, so they will not be able to graduate with a HSC.

Myth 2 NAPLANNot anymore. The controversial move in 2016 to prevent students graduating with a HSC if they had not achieved the national minimum standards in their year 9 NAPLAN test has been revoked as of February this year. This move came after an outcry from parents and teachers who found that this had put unnecessary pressure on students at a young and vulnerable age and made the focus of education about passing tests rather than teaching skills and building up strong learners; an unfortunate downside of standardised testing.

Disentangling NAPLAN from the HSC removes that extra stress of potential long-term impacts of the NAPLAN results.

MYTH 2. ‘The national average NAPLAN results keep getting worse and worse, Australian kids are getting dumber.’

This year’s national average NAPLAN results did not significantly differ from 2017 in any field. Over the past decade of testing the results have shown some small improvements in numeracy, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and reading. The only area of concern is writing, where there was a decrease in ability across the board in most states and year groups between 2008-2017. The good news is that in 2018, the number of students meeting national minimal standard requirements for writing has not changed.

Table 2-1 Table 2-2

Examples of the number of students meeting national minimum requirements between 2008-2017, and 2017-2018 (Image from ACARA). The black dot shows no change, clear arrows represent a small increase or decrease in numbers. Data is per state. For more information check out http://reports.acara.edu.au/NAP/TimeSeries

However, results did not significantly improve in the past year either (pictured above, the black squares represent no change) The improvements across the previous decade of testing have been small, which begs the question; for all the added time, money and stress expended in the pursuit of better NAPLAN results, why haven’t we seen massive improvements in performance across the board?

NAPLAN tests are primarily diagnostic tools for teachers, schools and the education department to identify areas of weakness, and they should be viewed as just that. It would be negligent to never check in on the standards of education in Australia, but the huge focus placed on the NAPLAN tests is not making the difference in improving outcomes that would justify the pressure placed on students, and the time and money focused on this one aspect of their education.

MYTH 3. ‘NAPLAN results are the best demonstration of my child’s progress and the best predictor of their future success at school.’

NAPLAN Myth 3There are so many factors that can affect a child’s outcome in an individual test. It could simply mean your child had a bad day on the day of testing! They may have been overcome by test anxiety, such that they performed significantly below their ability level; a common response to the mounting pressure placed on students by standardised testing.

Assessing your child’s progress should be done through a combination of test results, reports and in one-on-one consultation with teachers. Standardised tests alone cannot reveal the unique abilities of every child, they simply aren’t designed to do so.

NAPLAN ResultsNAPLAN results may help identify areas your child may need more support in. Our tutors are there to help fill those gaps that may have been identified. They can also help mentor your child in exam taking preparation and teach them how to reduce test anxiety. Most importantly however, we aim to encourage each child’s strengths and empower them as individual learners, teaching them thinking and problem-solving skills to be able to overcome many challenges. And that’s an outcome you simply can’t measure in a standardised test alone.

This article was written by Anne Gwilliam, one of our tutors. 

Balanced Life During Christmas Holidays

The Christmas Break…A Time to Study? Ho ho…No!

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!

Family Christmas crafts: http://mumsgrapevine.com.au/2011/12/25-fabulous-christmas-crafts/
Shopping at Christmas: https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/tools-and-resources/news/12-money-tips-for-christmas

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

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!