Psych Central

Tutoring Articles

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

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

P8020099Dear 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.


Is Your Student “Pumped Up,” or “Deflated”?

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

PTown New Years Weekend 2011 027Last week I wrote about the demonstrably positive effects of longer-term studying. Kids who begin studying several days before a test and who study consistently and to the point of mastery get high grades.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? So why don’t more kids do it?

One reason is that fear and anxiety hamper people’s ability to think straight and organize themselves. (We talk a lot about executive function issues in kids, but these are problems all people of all ages experience)

As part of his research with couples, John Gottman attached heart monitors to his subjects, and he discovered that when people become emotionally agitated, their systems “flood” with adrenaline and their heart rates elevate. A heart rate above 95 beats per minute signals that a person’s listening, planning and reasoning skills have broken down.


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!


Helping Your Student Face Test-Prep Fear

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

P9160358I’ve been a test-prep coach for decades, tutoring students for the SSAT, ISEE, SAT, and ACT, and of course I’m very comfortable with the material by now.

Last month, my own daughter was getting ready to take the LSAT (the law school entrance exam), so I tried a few practice LSAT sections myself…and, guess what?

I found them stunningly, amazingly difficult! And, I made TONS of mistakes!

For example, on my first reading passage, I answered the eight questions, and got SIX of them wrong!!! 

This was an excellent experience for me, because I felt something I’ve lost touch with: I felt a sinking, dizzying fear of this difficult material.


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.


Do Kids Know How to Use Educational Videos?

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

P7180052Khan 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.


Does Your Student Know About Khan Academy?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

P7150013When I taught my SAT class this summer, I asked students to raise their hands if they used Khan Academy; only half the class had even heard of it!

Khan is a powerful, free resource for help in math, science, history, and SAT prep. Please do go to www.KhanAcademy.org and familiarize yourself with all Khan has to offer (including topics of interest to parents such as medicine, banking  and art history), and then make sure your child knows how to navigate the site.

Here are some Khan Academy highlights:


Can Writing The College Essay Have Mental Health Benefits?

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

P8020181The new Common Application prompts were revealed on Aug 1, and forward-thinking high school seniors are already brainstorming for what to write and attempting some rough drafts.

The prompts are listed below; notice how they are all designed to get students writing about their unique identities, character strengths and core values.

  1. Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Follow Along with My SAT Class for Free

Monday, February 4th, 2013

I’ve been teaching an SAT preparation class at one of my local community colleges.

It’s my third time teaching this class, and I’m finally feeling like I’m getting the curriculum shaped into a form I like a lot.

I’m trying to create something more than just an SAT class:  I blend in research-based study tips, plus I’m trying to get my students embarked on some good habits that they’ll need to succeed in college and in life:

  • Studying with focus (which includes doing without cellphone and music)
  • Studying consistently, over time (not cramming the day before the test)
  • Keeping a Study Journal so as to plan, track progress, and stay motivated
  • Practicing by writing (annotating, working math problems on paper) not by just looking over one’s notes (a very ineffective method)
  • Quizzing and testing oneself as a study method, as well as to assess progress (good old-fashioned flash cards are a great learning method, because the brain learns best with quizzing and repetition).

After each class, I’ve been posting on my website my outline, notes and assignments.

I’ve also inserted links to many useful and free online videos, worksheets and interactive practice. My students use these posts for review or to catch up if they miss a class, and…

Anyone who wants to follow along at home each week is welcome to access all of these materials and use them as a FREE do-it-yourself SAT prep class!

We’ve had two classes so far (there will be six in all):

Session One (January 26)

Session Two (February 2)

I will post notes for the remaining classes after I teach them, on the following dates: Feb 9, 16, 23 and March 2.  Just go to my website, www.LeighCousins.com, click on the “Tests” page, and visit the purple box.

A student who follows my notes and does the work ought to be well-prepared for the March 9 SAT or any other SAT this year. (Make sure and register soon for the March 9 exam!)

It would thrill me to have any or all of you …


I’ve Told My Kid 1000 Times!!!

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Why don’t kids take our good advice? Why don’t they do the things we suggest, things that would obviously help them?

Why don’t they listen to us?

Along with academic tutoring and test preparation, I teach study skills: how to study for a biology test, how to write a term paper, how to learn vocabulary words.

Parents are eager for these lessons, and also jaded.

  • He knows this stuff already.
  • Her teachers repeated this over and over all last year.
  • I’ve already told him a thousand times!!!

 

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