Archives for Teaching

Education

Is Math Acceleration A Good Idea?

Way back when I was in school, Algebra I was considered a ninth grade course, and it was only a handful of "honors" kids who took it as eighth graders.

Since then, there's been a trend towards introducing algebra material to younger and younger students, in the hopes that by getting them primed earlier for algebraic thinking and giving them more years of algebra instruction, more students...
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Education

Why Vocabulary and Facts Are So Important

How 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:
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Education

Priming the Brain’s Learning Pump

Dear Friends,

Each summer I teach a low-cost SAT class at my local community college, and during each session I present various learning and study tips based on brain science. These are pointers that apply to ALL learners, of all ages!

We started with our study of the 100 Most Common SAT Vocabulary Words (which is a wonderful vocab list for ALL students grades 8-12 and beyond, not just those prepping for the SAT).

I wanted to demonstrate this powerful learning technique: 

Always preview and take time to wonder over and form questions about any new material, because your brain will begin to unconsciously prime itself to remember the answers.
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General

Picking Up That 100-Pound Pencil: Students and Cognitive Miserliness

Dear Friends,

I've so often wondered why so many students haaaate writing down their math steps, insisting instead on trying to do the work in their heads or on their calculators. Perhaps they feel as if writing is slowing them down, or maybe they dislike the scratchy feel of pencil on paper. (Whenever I've asked, kids invariably say “I don’t know).

Meanwhile, kids who don’t write out their math steps, skip copying down formulas and refuse to draw and label diagrams, make a lot more mistakes and also tend to be way more confused. They'll stare at a problem and then give up, without ever making a mark on paper.
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Education

My Experiment Shows: Longer-Term Studying is Better

Students 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!
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Education

Parent Involvement in Kids’ Homework: Important and Difficult

As 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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Education

Do Kids Know How to Use Educational Videos?

Khan Academy is one example of a terrific online learning resource, a huge collection of short, specific video lessons on all kinds of math, science and history topics. I'm also a fan of the free Kaplan videos for SAT and ACT lessons.

But I find that kids need to be taught how to use these videos.

When Khan Academy first came out, I eagerly recommended Khan videos to students, only to have many report back that "I didn't get it," or "It was confusing."

I wound up sitting next to students and watching them watch!...and I discovered that the kids who didn't get much out of the videos didn't know how to use them in an active way.
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Education

What’s Going On Inside Your Kid’s Head?

And how often do you ask them?

Elena is a beautiful 16-year-old who blithely drifted in and out of my English II classroom this year without any materials.... Over the course of eight months, Elena continued to leave assignments incomplete and did little class work... She lost study guides, lost materials, and lost interest in editing and revising her work. 

So writes Colette Marie Bennett, veteran teacher and department chair, in a very good article for Education Week Teacher entitled To Pass or Not to Pass? The End-of-Year Moral Dilemma.

....On the rare occasion when Elena turned in work, she demonstrated that she was capable of writing on grade level. Numerous common assessments taken in class indicated that her reading comprehension was also on grade level...

Now, as the grades are totaled in June, I wonder: Do I hold her accountable for work left incomplete? ...If I exempt her from less important assignments, am I reinforcing her lack of responsibility? Finally, is passing her fair to the students who did complete the assigned work?...Will re-enrolling her in 10th grade English bare a different result? Is she prepared or unprepared to meet the rigors of 11th grade English?

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General

Better Math Instruction, Fewer Learning Issues?

I'm hoping that as math instruction improves and becomes more "brain-friendly," we'll see fewer kids struggling in math.
When I was in my doctoral program, I was amazed at some of the research coming out on kids’ understanding of math concepts. We assume that children all learn pretty much the same math at roughly the same ages, and that they learn these concepts in math class.
In fact, there’s a wide natural variation, and not necessarily a lot of correlation between the math kids are taught in school and the math they actually know.
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