School Articles

Why Vocabulary and Facts Are So Important

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Getty Center July 17 2010 024How do you know all the words without looking at the back of the cards? 

A fifth grade student was amazed that I knew every word on the American Heritage Dictionary’s Top 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know  list. She only recognized five.

I assured her that soon she would also know these words, because we were about to begin learning them now.The authors explain why knowing these words is so important:


Don’t Fall Off the Physics Bus!

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Group 1 020My kids attended Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama, where their wonderful physics teacher started off every school year with his infamous warning: Don’t fall off the physics bus!

He was playfully reminding students that physics is a cumulative subject, in which you’ve got to make sure and master the material all along the way.

If you don’t thoroughly understand and gain fluency in each chapter, especially the early ones, you won’t have built up the foundation of knowledge and skills needed to handle the later material. Month after month, chapter after chapter, that physics bus will keep on rolling down the physics road, and if you fall off you’ll have a heck of a time catching up with it.


How to Study: 5 Basic Practices for Academic Success

Friday, October 24th, 2014
Fall is the time when first-quarter grades come out, and many students would like to improve.

Fall is the time when first-quarter grades come out, and many students would like to improve.

Many students complain that they don’t know how to study, so I’ve compiled this short and sweet page of the basics.

Perhaps now, as the first grading quarter winds to a close, is a good time to read down this list and get back on track with these five essential good-student behaviors:
How to Study
Five Basic Practices for Academic Success

  1. Do all your homework, on time, every day. Teachers assign homework so as to give you the practice you need to learn and remember the material. The single most important thing you can do to understand better, remember more, and score higher grades is to always do all your homework thoroughly (even the “optional” stuff) and on time.


So I Got My Test Back; Now What?

Monday, September 1st, 2014

P9160353Dear Friends,

It’s such a shame that in our culture testing has such a bad name.

The dad of one of my students is a physician; he recalls that:

Medical school is all about being tested. We were constantly quizzing, taking tests, and flipping flash cards (each flash card is a tiny test). We were tested multiple times every day. All that testing made our minds sharp, plus it kept us aware of the areas we still needed to work on. It was a powerful way to learn.


The Back-to-School Fresh Start

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

P9160357Dear Friends,

Back-to-school time is the perfect time to start fresh routines and establish healthy habits. These are the ones parents and I have been talking about the most:

  • First of All, Plan for Adequate Sleep: Most kids don’t get enough sleep. Students learn better, feel better and behave better when they’re properly rested. Check with your pediatrician and find out how many hours of sleep your child ought to be logging per night (chances are good you’ll be shocked at the large number), and then set the appropriate bedtime and enforce it.
  • Limit Electronics: Computers and cellphones and anything else with a glowing screen (including TVs and video games) need to be turned off one hour before bedtime to allow the mind to calm down for good sleep (this applies to adults, too!). And do establish cellphone-free chunks of time during the afternoon and evening; students need to read, study and eat dinner in peace. Interestingly, parents have been telling me that their kids often seem relieved to be given breaks from the relentless social pressure and privacy invasion of social media. I also felt this from my SAT class; students seemed to like my rule of collecting their cellphones before class!
  • Establish the Reading Habit: Before the school year becomes super-hectic, build in the habit of quiet reading for 20-30 minutes before lights out.
  • Don’t Overschedule: Too many sports and extra-curricular activities aren’t fun; they’re stressful!

Sneaky Studying and the Pretend Cheat Sheet

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
Summer is coming, but first, EXAMS!

Summer is coming, but first, EXAMS!

Dear Friends,

Students, teachers and parents are all feeling the end-of-year time crunch; between sports, proms, plays, high stakes exams and piled-on schoolwork, it can be hard to imagine where to find those blocks of study time.

It’s time to resort to what I call Sneaky Studying. The key is to stop waiting and hoping for those big chunks of uninterrupted study time, because they ain’t gonna happen!


The Textbook Is Still A Great Learning Tool

Friday, January 24th, 2014

cats in the snow  Jan 27 2011 012It seems like every year my students use their textbooks less and less.

Teachers still hand out textbooks in September but then so many (I’m tempted to say MOST) teachers rarely assign readings or homework from them, instead supplying students with hand-outs, worksheets and powerpoints.

Commonly, students claim that their texts are “up in my bedroom somewhere,” never to be opened!

Yet textbooks can be wonderful tools for learning and for exam review.


Getting Students Organized for Exam Review

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

cats in the snow  Jan 27 2011 009

Here in my school district, mid-year exams are on the horizon, but still far enough in the distance so that there’s plenty of time for students to prepare thoroughly and well.

This is a golden opportunity for kids to learn how to make an action plan so that daily review happens.

I always start by asking students to come up with a list of what they’ll need to do in order to be well-prepared for their exams, and most kids are pretty good at this part. Here’s a real-life, anonymous sample:

For chemistry I’m going to make flash cards based on the test study guides and my notes/worksheets. For history I will review my hand-outs and practicing writing some essays. For English I’ll have to refresh my knowledge on the books we read and their themes. In math I’m going to look over any old tests and quizzes as well as do the activities my teacher has on his website. For Spanish I’ll look at old quizzes and review the vocabulary and conjugations.

I hope you will agree that this student clearly knows what he’s got to do, and is off to a great start.

But now here comes the hard part: Notice how vague and unspecified this list is? It’s full of phrases like “review,” and “look over,” (what, exactly, does he have in mind to do? What, for example, does he mean by “look over”?) and it doesn’t specify WHEN he will do these things, HOW MANY flashcards he will create per day, and so on.

This list now needs to be converted into a daily action plan, including specific, quantified activities that will be completed each day.

Here’s my own hypothetical example of an action plan for this student:

  • Monday: Create 20 chemistry flashcards, locate history hand-outs and spend 15 minutes reading them and highlighting important information, locate English notes and spend 10 minutes highlighting important information, redo one math test and highlight questions to ask the teacher…
  • Tuesday: Create 20 more chemistry flashcards, write one history essay, re-read English handouts and highlight important info, redo another math …

My Experiment Shows: Longer-Term Studying is Better

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

PTown New Years Weekend 2011 010Students typically wait until the last minute to begin studying for tests, and many parents support this practice, fearing that their kid will forget the material if they review it too early. But decades of tutoring as well as personal experience has taught me otherwise: Consistent, deliberate practice over time is the way to master material.

I have 30 tutoring students, and bunches of them go to the same schools and are in the same classes. This means that I often have multiple students taking the same test on the same day.

Recently, I was working with a number of students who were all getting ready for the same Monday algebra test (the test was being given by more than one teacher at the same school). My weekend schedule was so hectic that, in order to find enough time for everyone, I met with some students after school on the Friday before the test (my least popular time slot as you can likely imagine). The rest of the kids reviewed with me on Sunday.

This arrangement accidentally created a nice mini-experiment, with interesting results!


Parent Involvement in Kids’ Homework: Important and Difficult

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Getty Center July 17 2010 024As a tutor, the most exciting, emerging area of my work is parent involvement. More and more parents are reaching out to me for information, skills and tools they can use in supporting their children’s learning. And, I am always encouraging parents sit in on tutoring sessions so they can refresh on the subject matter and learn new strategies.

All learning, including tutoring, is most effective when it’s backed up with daily, active involvement from parents and/or other caring adults.


 

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