Top Ten Tips for doing Homework

Top 10 Tips for Doing Homework without Tears

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Is homework time an unhappy time in your household with nagging, yelling and crying? It doesn’t have to be that way if you can develop a system with a few simple guidelines  to make this time as stress-free as possible. Vijay Naidoo, principal of the Kip McGrath Education Centre Mudgeeraba, Gold Coast, gives us her top 10 tips for stress free homework.

  1. Replace the word “Homework” with the word “Study Time”

For as long as we can remember, homework has always been the dreaded word. As humans, we naturally gravitate towards pleasure instead of pain so we would rather play games, watch TV or socialise instead of being bogged down by what is considered to be more “boring, school stuff”. The other challenge is that most kids say that they have “no homework” for the day. Call this time, STUDY TIME. In this way, if they don’t have homework from school, they can still engage in a study activity like reading, engaging in some research or handwriting activities.

 2.   Set a regular, study time.

When the study time fits into a structured time frame, the children are expecting it and therefore don’t kick up a fuss. Stick to this time slot for a month and it will become a habit. It will be hard work but persist and your child will see that you value education. They will get ready for this time just like they know when it is breakfast or dinnertime. It’s not advisable to do it straight after school as the kids need a break from academic activities. Choose a time together with your child that they would feel rested and enthusiastic to study. It could be after dinner, before dinner or for some kids in the morning. Whatever it is, it must be the same time every day. Remind your child to start getting ready for this time by announcing “10 minutes more before study time!”. As a rule of thumb, Grade 1 kids should do 10 minutes a day and then add 10 minutes more for each school year. So a child at Grade 6 should be doing at least an hour.

 3.   Create a learning environment that is free of distractions.

Show your child that this is an important time so clear out everything that may distract your child: turn off the tv and the radio, put the family pet in another room, a little sibling should preferably be out of the way. Ensure the learning space is not in front of big window that looks out on the other neighbourhood kids playing. As far as possible block out this time to invite visitors, turn your facebook and email alerts off and put your home phone on answer service. Study time is a family commitment so don’t expect your child to study while you watch TV or have a long chat on the phone.

 4.   Create a special study space.

This should be a specific space that is used for study time every day. It could be in the child’s bedroom, on the dining room table or on the kitchen bench. It doesn’t matter where it is as long as it is quiet, clutter-free, without distractions and is the same space used for study time. The child can choose the study area – they just do not get an option whether they have to study or not.

 5.   Have the right equipment at hand.

If all the equipment your child needs is at hand, it will go a long way to minimise distractions and will actually help your child to concentrate and to focus on the task at hand. Take your child on a shopping spree and get stationery that they love to work with like coloured gel pens, trendy coloured pencils, pens, erasers, novelty sharpeners and rulers, calculators, and other bits and pieces like scissors, stapler, paper clips, sticky tape, usb’s and whatever else your child might need to make homework, sorry, I should have said study time, as much fun as possible. After study, get your child in the habit of putting all equipment away and clear the study space so it is ready for use for the next day.

 6.   Be a positive role model and provide a supportive role.

Be patient with your child and let them to do the study. It is their job to study and you are there to provide a supportive role. If they do not understand a task, don’t try and do it for them. Rather, encourage asking instead of telling. For example, if your child doesn’t understand a question, you could help by asking: “ So, which part exactly do you not understand?” or “ Do you want to check in a dictionary what that word means?” or “Do you want to google it to get some clarity?” Remember, children need to go through the process of learning but many parents are tempted to give their children the product of their learning by doing it for their kids. Teach your child how to access information instead of telling them the answers. Encourage your child to problem solve instead of providing solutions for them. It’s a good idea to be nearby and do the tasks that you don’t look forward to doing like the laundry, the bills or even catching up with your own reading. In this way, your child will realise that you have your own work to do and will not be expected to get help every minute they are faced with something that is challenging. It also helps the child to work independently.

 7.   Plan study tasks to minimise stress.

The best investment you can make in terms of your child’s learning is to get a year planner that is put up near the study area. On this planner, you can enter important events like tests, exams, due dates for assignments, dates for oral presentations and school term opening and closing times. When you are aware when something is due, it allows you to plan and thereby to minimise stress for the whole family. For example, if your child needs to complete reading a novel in five weeks and there’s 300 pages to read, this can be broken down into a weekly reading goal of 60 pages  and then a daily goal of 12 pages (if we study just on school days). Similarly, oral presentations, projects, essays and long assignments can all be completed on time without undue stress if the time is managed well by breaking them into bite-sized chunks.

 8.   Communicate with the class teacher.

It is good to work with the class teacher and ask them what you could do at home to support your child’s learning. Learning usually occurs in three phases: firstly, learning a concept; secondly, consolidating that concept with an exercise and thirdly, applying that concept. So, for example at school, your child could be learning about measurement and they could be working on volume. The first two phases are usually handled by the teacher in the classroom when they explain the concept and give an exercise on unit conversions  but often the last phase is not handled at school because of time constraints and this is a perfect way for you to become involved with your child’s studying by exploring this concept further and applying it at home in the form of cooking like using 250ml of milk or a litre of water for a recipe. Teachers are usually quite happy to email you a list of topics they would be handling for the term. If they are doing the federal government structure at the end of the term then you can plan ahead and talk about this topic with your child when they appear on TV or other print media. Sometimes, a teacher will assist by giving your child homework that is more in keeping with their ability level especially if your child is a high-flier or a struggler.

 9.   Reward your child’s efforts.

Acknowledge your child’s good efforts by telling them how proud you are of them for putting the effort and completing their work in time. Replace extrinsic rewards like money and a trip to the movies with encouraging words of praise like “You took a lot of time with your handwriting and look how neat your work is presented” or “Your essay is bound to achieve a high grade because you took the time to proofread and edit your work on your own.” External rewards are short-lived and only works when you are around. The aim of putting good study habits in place is to foster a love for life-long learning. Threats like “Do your homework or you don’t get to watch TV” or “You are not going to your mate’s house, if your homework is not done” does nothing to nurture good study habits. If you have to discipline your child about not committing to their scheduled study time, let them know about their consequences before you start the study program and not in the heat of the moment.

  10. Seek help if your child is frustrated

Sometimes, we can provide the best support but our child still gets frustrated. As parents we have an intuitive feeling that there is something “wrong” when our child still bursts out in tears because studying “sucks”. It could be that the child has an underlying problem with reading, maths or essay writing. In this instance, it is advisable to get professional help because when the underlying problem is taken care of, study time can prove to be an enjoyable time.

Remember, study time is not negotiable. Your child must commit to it. However, we as parents can assist with strategies to make this time as pain free as is practical. The earlier you get your child used to good study habits, the less tears you have to contend with. It’s not easy but persist and you will reap the benefits of a happy, successful child.

Vijay Naidoo – Kip McGrath Education Centre Mudgeeraba

Professional tutoring in maths, reading and English

https://www.facebook.com/KipMcGrathEducationCentreMudgeeraba

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Fun way to teach the Parts of Speech

PARTS OF SPEECH POEMS

Most children often struggle to remember the different parts of speech no matter how many times they are taught. What kids do find quite easy though is to learn a rhyme or a song. I just love these two parts of speech poems that I found. I use it with much success as I just ask the kids to memorise it and, when in doubt about any parts of speech, to simply just recite the poem. To me, the parts of speech poem is like the timetables in maths. It’s a good idea to enlarge the poems, laminate and use as a placemat or even as a poster so that the kids see it all the time. I would recommend that the child choose ONE poem to learn as learning two may cause confusion.

1. The Parts of Speech

Every name is called a NOUN,
As field and fountain, street and town;

In place of noun the PRONOUN stands
As he and she can clap their hands;

The ADJECTIVE describes a thing,
As magic wand and bridal ring;

The VERB means action, something done-
To read, to write, to jump, to run;

How things are done, the ADVERBS tell,
As quickly, slowly, badly, well;

The PREPOSITION shows relation,
As in the street, or at the station;

CONJUNCTIONS join, in many ways,
Sentences, words, or phrase and phrase;

The INTERJECTION cries out, “Hark!
I need an exclamation mark!”

Through poetry, we learn how each
of these make up THE PARTS OF SPEECH.

 

2. The Nine Parts of Speech

Three little words you often see,
Are articles- a, an, and the.

A noun‘s the name of anything
As school, garden, hoop, or swing.

An adjective tells the kind of noun-
Great, small, pretty, white, or brown.

Instead of nouns the pronouns stand-
Her head, his face, your arm, my hand.

Verbs tell of something to be done,
To read, sing, jump, or run.

How things are done the adverbs tell,
As slowly, quickly, ill, or well.

Conjunctions join words together,
As men and women, wind or weather.

The prepositions stands before
A noun, as at or through the door.

The interjection shows surprise,
As ah! How pretty- Oh! how wise.

The whole are called nine parts of speech,
Which reading, writing, speaking teach.

Vijay Naidoo – Principal: Kip McGrath Education Centres

Mudgeeraba (5530 4944)     Robina (5535 5002)   Mobile: +61 435 784 775

www.kipmcgrath.com.au/Australia/Mudgeeraba           Facebook: vijay.naidoo1

vijay_naidoo@hotmail.com

 

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Parent Teacher Meetings

Parent Teacher Meetings

Parent- teacher interviews are held 2 or 3 times a year and at barely 15 minutes a pop, it’s worthwhile knowing how we can get the best from these meetings. I am a mum. I am a teacher. I can tell you one is just as nervous in either hat! However, both parents and teachers should see these meetings as an ideal window of opportunity to identify problems and to celebrate the good. Here’s a list of things to help parents make the most of this meeting.

1.   RSVP promptly

When the teacher sends the invitation to a parent-teacher meeting, make sure you send in the note as soon as is practical. This prompt response will not only get you your preferred time slot but will signal to the teacher you are really interested in discussing your child’s progress. It is not often possible for both parents to be present because of work constraints but if both spouses were available for the meeting, it shows further that you really take your child’s education seriously.

2.   Arrive on time

Usually these meetings fit into 15- 20 minute time-slots and it’s important to respect the teacher as well as others who are after you. Some teachers will finish off the interview on time because they have a class to take care of or they have to see another parent – you lose out precious minutes if you are late!

3.   Talk to your child before the interview

Talk to your child about their classroom experience. What activities do they enjoy? What makes them unhappy? Is there anything that they wanted to ask the teacher but was afraid to ask? What would make the classroom a better place for them? What do they do that makes the teacher happy? Ideally, your child should not be present at the interview so that the adults are able to talk freely and honestly about the child.

4.   Prepare your questions

We often think that we will be able to remember all the questions we need to ask but as it so often happens, we leave the meeting and then remember pertinent questions we should have asked. Write these questions down in a little notebook (I use the Notes feature on my iPhone). Have a look at your child’s latest report or national test results and frame questions around these. As suggested, write questions from your child too.

5.   Ask questions

Ask your questions in a polite and nice manner. Phrase it in such a way that it doesn’t come out as if you are accusing the teacher but you are just sincerely concerned with certain issues. Some questions that you may ask could be:

  • What aspects of the curriculum is my child good at?
  • In which areas does he need to improve in?
  • Does my child get extra help in any subject?
  • What is your homework policy?
  • Is my child’s homework of a satisfactory standard?
  • Is there anything that I could do at home to support you?
  • How does my child participate in classroom activities?
  •  How does my child interact with his peers?
  • Are there things about my child that surprises you?
  •  For the future, what is the best way and time to contact you should I have more concerns?

6.   Adopt a pleasant manner

Most of these meetings are held before or after school hours and we ought to be thankful to the teacher for giving off their free time. In this light, even delicate questions can be asked in a polite manner. If you perceive that the homework your child brings home is not enough or not of the appropriate level, instead of becoming antagonistic and saying “I really don’t like the homework that Jamie brings home. He finishes it in five minutes flat. Couldn’t you give more?” These kinds of attacks immediately put the teacher on the defensive and nothing constructive is gained. Rather, you could say something like:”How much of time would you suggest that Jamie spends on homework?” and then address your concerns.

7.   Brickbats and bouquets

Inasmuch as you are displeased about certain aspects of your child’s classroom, there are a lot of fantastic things that happens there too. Make sure you mention the positive things that you have noticed or your child has mentioned and praise the teacher for these. In that way, you imply that you are taking an objective view. So, when you broach your displeasure, the teacher doesn’t get defensive.

8.   Convey relevant home news

If there is anything out of the ordinary happening at home that may adversely affect your child’s performance at school? If so, it’s important to convey this to the teacher. For example, their grandparents have come for a visit from overseas after ten years and all routines have gone through the window! Or the new baby is keeping everyone awake at all hours of the night. These disruptions can affect your child’s learning at school and if the teacher knows what’s going on, then it would make sense to them why your child is a bit “off-colour”.

9.   Work as a team

The purpose of the parent-teacher interviews is to cement the essential link that needs to be strengthened between the school and the home. It’s a wonderful opportunity to identify concerns about the child and for both parent and teacher to work as a team to put a plan of action to help the child so that their time at school can be a happy one.

10.               Follow up

Sit your child down and mention all the good things that the teacher has said about them. Then mention those things that the teacher said that could be improved on. Discuss how you and the teacher are going to work together to help them reach their goals. Refrain from talking negatively about the teacher to your child – your child needs to respect the teacher so that he can be an effective classroom member. If you and the teacher have concerns about your child, schedule a follow-up meeting so that you can plan specific goals and set in place a plan of action. If there were some suggestions made by the teacher or yourself concerning your child (like placing them in the front of the class), contact the teacher after a few weeks to see whether this is working.

Parent – teacher meetings can add lots of benefits to your child’s developemnt if handled the right way. All the best at your interview.

Written by Vijay Naidoo

Principal of Kip McGrath Education Centres (Professional Tuition for maths and English)

Catch up, Keep up or Get Ahead with our individualised learning programs that caters for all learning styles and abilities from Prep to Year 12.

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NAPLAN RESULTS – Parents, the buck stops with you!

The 2011 NAPLAN test results have just been released and with it comes the usual ‘hurrahs’ and the ‘ouches’. And all over Australia two disparate scenarios are being played out: students, teachers, schools and parents that are linked to above average to excellent results glorify the ingenuous NAPLAN testing system while, similarly, people who are associated with mediocre to poor results, cry out at the indignity and inefficiency of this diagnostic instrument. So, whose voice is valid?
Since the introduction of NAPLAN testing, the call to scrap it has been far more vocal than the minority who applaud it. Resistance to the NAPLAN tests include reasons amongst others like:
• Under-funded schools do not have the necessary resources to improve students’ results
• Subjects like art, music, physical education and drama become lesser valued when the focus is on drilling for numeracy and literacy tests
• Teachers are subjected to more red tape, more job stress and more blame
• Results takes too long to be processed so the feedback does not have any value
• It is particularly damaging to children with English as a second language and children from low socio-economic backgrounds

The above disadvantages of the tests are the most often mooted but there are hundreds more variations of these. It is not the intention of this discussion to agree or to refute these claims. Rather, it is to simply air my personal views, as an educator and a parent of three school-going children, on this contentious subject.
As was intended, the NAPLAN tests are diagnostic tests for schools, parents and authorities to see how children are performing in numeracy and literacy. These tests are neither pass nor fail but it serves to identify those students and schools that are lagging behind in the basics of reading, writing and numeracy so that they could be offered the help that they need.
While statisticians busy themselves deconstructing the results to suggest emerging patterns like private schools out-performing their public school counterparts, kids from affluent areas producing better results than kids from low socio-economic suburbs and students from city schools faring better than their country cousins, I believe that parental involvement and interest in their child’s education is directly linked to their child’s academic success.
Coming from an under-privileged background as a reason why some children lag behind, really doesn’t cut the mustard. I attended and taught at South African schools whose only educational resources were the blackboard and chalk (and perhaps the hand-held school bell!!) and yet these learning institutions produced outstanding results in national exams year after year. Their parents realised the value of education as a passport to a brighter future and threw their lot behind their children. Often, this meant cutting down on luxuries so as to assist their kids with support in their learning.
Also, in true Aussie style, I’m all for developing the balanced individual and nurturing artistic and physical talents. But when road meets rubber and young adults are competing to secure placements at a tertiary institution, it’s not a fancy pirouette, a rendition of Brahms’s concerto or freakish footy moves, for that matter, that will get them university entrance. It comes down to their aptitude in literacy and numeracy.
If, you as a parent, value education and believe that it is your moral obligation to equip your child with basic numeracy and literacy skills so that your child will occupy their rightful place in society, then you do something about it. Reading and communicating with one’s child from a young age as well as parental style and expectations have a greater impact on student educational outcomes than state-wide differences or the divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Private school students do not achieve better results purely because they are enrolled at a private school. Rather, their parents who usually have tertiary qualifications value education and have high expectations of their children. It is little wonder that an overwhelming majority of children that are involved in after-school tuition come from private schools.
All too often, a child’s failure to meet accepted norms in English and maths is laid squarely on the shoulders of their “lazy” teachers. This is grossly unfair when one knows that the teacher has to deal with 25- 30 students per class with not only differing levels of aptitude but also with different learning styles and needs. Ill-disciplined students further exacerbate the already over-worked teacher.
Admittedly, although the NAPLAN results are released about four to five months later, it still has enormous value. The results suggest the child’s weaknesses and strengths and even as late as the last term of school, there is still enough time to begin a catch-up program which can be effectively extended to the summer holidays. Sadly, students in higher primary and junior secondary levels would need much more than a term’s work to come to speed to the acceptable norms. Getting immediate remediation is a far wiser option than adopting the “she’ll be right” attitude.
So, as a parent, if your child performs poorly in the national tests, you have two choices: you could choose the easier and more palatable option that “these tests have no educational value and really does not reflect your child’s ability” as some low-achieving schools purport and do nothing about it or you could acknowledge that your child needs some support in reading or maths and take some concrete action to address the situation.
If the government is serious about the poor results and intend to spend money to address this issue, it has to be with after school and holiday programs where children are given individual support so that they could improve their skills in the three R’s. It is the similar support that is given by affluent parents as early as pre-school.
Pouring money into states and schools that produce undesirable results in a noble attempt to level the playing fields, is a wasteful, impractical and futile exercise. A child’s low achievement in NAPLAN tests has nothing to do with inept teachers, underfunding, socio-economic status or problems in the test or testing procedures. It has everything to do with whether you as a parent recognise your child’s weaknesses and want your child to reach or exceed the national bar that has been set for reading, writing and arithmetic.
After all, we don’t have a second go with our children, do we?

By Vijay Naidoo
Kip McGrath Education Centre – Mudgeeraba, Queensland, Australia

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Is your child a Looker, Listener or a Mover?

Is your child a Looker, Listener or a Mover?

Every child has a preferred learning style which they usually adopt from one or both parents. Learning styles are simply different approaches to learning such as visual(looking), auditory(listening) or kinaesthetic(moving or doing). Knowing and understanding your child’s preferred learning style is so powerful because it ensures successful learning outcomes. When you know your child’s preferred learning style, you can match the learning activities to suit their particular style so that learning suddenly becomes meaningful to them. Children have different ways of learning so therefore they must be taught differently.

 

The Looker

The looker or the visual learner learns through seeing. They enjoy reading books or looking at pictures. They have a very strong visual memory and therefore are able to recall what they see and will prefer written instructions. These children are especially good with sight words and able to spell big words like “comprehension” or “difficult” but yet struggle with simple words like “bun” and “summer”. They usually like things to be orderly. They are often the quieter students in class who enjoy reading silently or working on puzzles. These learners prefer sitting in front of the class to avoid visual obstructions like other students’ heads. During a lesson, visual learners will often take detailed notes to absorb the content of the lesson.

Important tips to keep in mind when teaching a visual learner are:

  • Provide a tidy learning area taking away all visual distractions
  • Study area must be quiet and far from all noise sources
  • Write instructions down or give one step at a time if spoken
  • Use colour to organise written information or highlight important points in a text
  • use visual materials like pictures, charts, maps, graphs, posters
  • illustrate ideas as a picture or brainstorming
  • take notes or have written hand-outs
  • sit in front of class and have clear view of teacher’s body language and facial expression
  • use  computers, videos, films, cartoons, to enhance learning
  • visualise information as a picture to aid in memorisation

 

The Listener

The listener or the auditory learner learns through listening and speaking. They also tend to talk a lot! They enjoy telling jokes and stories and are very good at remembering things that are spoken to them. They learn best through lectures, discussions and talking things through. The words on the page or screen have little meaning to them unless it is spoken. These learners often benefit from reading text out aloud and prefer oral instructions. They can memorize things easily, including all the words to songs that they hear. They are phonetic readers who enjoy oral reading, choral reading, and listening to recorded books. They struggle with sight words as they tend to spell words phonetically. Auditory learners are generally very good at interpreting underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances.

When dealing with an auditory leaner, the following tips will help:

  • provide a quiet place to work without any verbal distractions
  • should be encouraged to read and study aloud
  • whenever possible, encourage spoken answers instead of written answers
  • use of recorder to take notes instead of writing notes
  • allow participation in class discussions
  • see evidence of their learning in oral presentations like speeches
  • participate in class discussions/debates
  • create musical jingles to aid memorization
  • create mnemonics to aid memorization
  • discuss your ideas verbally
  • use verbal analogies, and story-telling to demonstrate your point

 

The Mover

The kinaesthetic learner learns by moving, doing and touching. They need to involve their whole body in learning. They learn best by the hands-on approach, actively examining the physical world around them. These students are generally your “energetic” students who struggle to sit still for long periods. They are easily distracted and constantly feel the need for activity and exploration. These children are tactile learners who can easily take things apart and put them back together again. They are generally good at sport and other physical activities where they can touch and manipulate things. They remember best by acting things out.

Important tips to keep in mind to enhance the kinaesthetic learning are:

  • use activities that allow for lots of bodily movement (this could include standing at their desk, fiddling with their pencils etc.)
  • brighten workspace with posters or even have an exercise bicycle for reading
  • chew gum while studying
  • take frequent study breaks
  • use concrete material to teach concept – like modelling clay to teach a concept
  • use a timer to help child stay focussed with task at hand
  • keep focus periods to 10 – 15 minutes activities
  • use bright colours to highlight reading material
  • skim through reading material to get a rough idea what it is about before settling down to read it in detail
  • draw to teach or learn concepts
  • play board games
  • make dioramas
  • set up experiments

 

 

The child learns best when information is delivered in such a way that it suits their learning profile. Most children have a dominant learning style and a secondary learning style. In rare cases, a child may show equal preference for both learning styles. Knowing what learning style a child has early on in their school years is helpful in knowing exactly what is the best way to create a learning environment  which allows a child to learn and retain more information.

 

 

 

 

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Top TenTips for Reluctant Readers

  1.  Encourage your child to choose books for themselves
  2. Get the book version of a movie your child enjoyed
  3.  Familiarise your child with a “book environment” by visiting the library regularly
  4. Get out an audio-book – great for kids that lack reading skills
  5. Provide a wide range of reading materials like comics, magazines, picture books, eBooks, sub-titles on movies
  6. Get out a book that deals with your child’s special interest
  7.  Don’t set adult standards for reading – if child enjoys comics or picture books, let them read that until they build more confidence
  8. Just focus on the reading and don’t have them commit to book reports, journals, reading aloud or book discussions.
  9. Create a learning maze of reading material of books and magazines in your home so they are easily accessible
  10. Children need to see their parents engaged in the reading activity “monkey see, monkey do”

By Vijay Naidoo

Kip McGrath Education Centres – Mudgeeraba

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