Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So - How do I help with Maths?

Children build their understanding of Mathematics, like all things over time, through experiences they find engaging or motivating. I have outlined some of the ideas I think are important. It is certainly not an exhaustive list, but just a few ideas of things that can be done at home to support the learning taking place at school.

1. Create a daily routine for homework. The start of the school year - i.e. NOW is a great time t develop a timetable o the students activities and homework commitments. Apart from being a good maths lessons in itself, a pre-determined routine will allow your child to apply themselves to the task immediately. Also, decide where you child is going to do their homework - in front of the TV is probably no ideal.

2. Most Maths homework is designed to review concepts already covered in class. It is also designed to build upon the skills that students already have. Therefore, it is a great way to keep track of any concepts that appear to be causing difficulty for your child. This is also a great way of you checking that you understand what they are completing in class so you can help them out when they need it.

3. Know and Understand the Grade Level Expectations and Curriculum Being Used to Meet These Goals. Visit the NSW Board of Studies Website and read over the Foundation statements. They are a snapshot of what students in each stage of learning should be able to complete. You can also have a look t the K-6 Maths Syllabus and get even more detail about the content of Mathematics lessons in your child's classroom. By understanding their learning journey better, you will be more informed to support this journey.

4. Maintain Open Communication With Your Child's Teacher. Remember, your child's teacher has many students he or she must attend to throughout the day. If you or your child do not understand a concept ask a question. It is quite possible that your child has enough understanding of a concept to complete work when supported in class, but not when working alone. This information is valuable and vital to addressing your child;s learning needs. If you feel that your child needs additional assistance beyond what you are capable of providing - be it remedial or enrichment work - begin by asking the classroom teacher for guidance.

5. Ask Your Child Questions. Spend time with your child talking about Maths. Ask questions about the steps they used to solve different problems. This will often give you a first-hand understanding of their level of mathematical knowledge and development. Do they truly understand the process they used for solving the problem, or have the simply memorised and regurgitated a formula? This will also give you the opportunity to correctly identify any breakdown in understanding.

6. Review Language. Use the appropriate mathematical language in your discussions of Maths at home. Find a good Maths dictionary that uses language consistent with your child's school experience. Spend time looking up terms and concepts that come up in your child's homework that you are unfamiliar with. You may even wish to help your child create his or her own mathematical dictionary, to keep track of new terms, rules and concepts.

7. Share Real-life Math Situations. Encourage your child to think about how Maths fits into their everyday lives - while doing jobs, at the shops, in sports activities, during regular pla
ytime, in the kitchen, and so on. Then, take it one step further by requiring them to use their mathematical knowledge to solve real-live problems: How many tablespoons are in 1/4 cup of butter? Can you sort your socks by colors? Since there are nine lollies left - how many will you and your two sisters each get so that it is a fair share? These are very simplistic examples, but give you the basic idea.

8. Play Games That Encourage Mathematical Thinking or Reinforce Skills. Playing math games is a fun way to again improve math skills, and make real-life connections. Most classes play Maths games as part of the teaching and learning program, so ask your child to teach you some. When in doubt, just enjoy a good game of Yahtzee, Chess, Checkers, UNO, Battleship etc. etc.

9. Encourage Mathematical Exploration. There are toys, products and gadgets around your home that provide students with the opportunity to improve their mathematical understanding. Like what? How about

•a home calendar
•a watch
•a map or globe
•a book of mazes of puzzles (like Sudoku)
•a ruler or tape measure
•a compass
•a measuring cup
•containers labeled by size
•a scale

Helping your child with math at home is easy, fun and will make their learning meaningful. Above all, remember that by working to improve math skills, you are preparing your child for future success!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Helping your child learn to read.

Child starting school? Child struggling with reading? Know someone who is?
It's time to take a break from the heavy issues in education at the moment and instead look at what we are actually best at doing - preparing children for tomorrow. The most vital of all skills is Reading. So, how do we help at home?

Allow time for self correction
If your child makes a mistake, don't correct them immediately. Give your child every opportunity to self correct. Prompt your child by holding your finger under the word. If your child does not say the word after a few seconds, say the word.
Assist your child to decipher words by giving them clues when necessary. Ask questions referring to the picture cues e.g. 'What is the boy holding?' or compare the word with a word they know e.g. 'it rhymes with cat.' Ask your child 'Does that make sense? What word would make sense?' Your child might also be able to decipher a tricky word if he or she reads to the end of the sentence.

Check for comprehension
Discuss the story at the end. Ask your child 'What did you like about the book?' Ask questions about the content of the story. Make comparisons and let your child make comparisons, 'that's like..' Your child is more likely to identify with the story if he or she can compare it to something familiar.

Have fun with reading
Make reading fun! Choose engaging texts and use different mediums such as books, magazines, the internet, computer programs and interesting photographs and snippets from the newspaper. Read with enthusiasm and do the voices. If the text is - "'Be quiet' she whispered", whisper the words 'Be quiet'. Allow toys to participate in reading by letting the toys take turns at reading. If toys become a distraction, remove them. Play reading related games, such as 'I Spy' and rhyming and spelling games. Use time spent travelling in the car to play such games. When friends come to play, read a story to the children about characters they like and you might find that they incorporate the story into their play later.

Use reading opportunities
Words are everywhere - on signs, at the supermarket, on packages, on TV. Use these as reading practice. Your child will quickly learn that words have a practical purpose. Looking at the back cover of a DVD or navigating through a computer game can motivate a child to read.

Build and use a collection of favourite stories
Collect stories that you can read and reread. Books with collections of stories can be used again and again. Book series are useful, as your child can collect the whole series. Select book series about characters your child likes. Your child will enjoy building a collection and seeing his or her collection grow. Ordering and sorting is a powerful mechanism of learning. Your child will also enjoy hearing those stories read again and again as your child knows what happens next. Read favorite stories regularly to build your child's confidence. As your child's reading improves he or she will be able to read some of these stories to you.

Find material that interest your child
If someone gave me a book to read on 18th Century Ballet training and techniques, I would not be motivated to even open the cover. Now, although this example is a little extreme, it is important to tap into what your child is interested in. Although the subject matter may be limited in the early stages of reading, there are books on just about everything these days. Use one of the best tools available to you in the quest to find something that interests your child - talk to your local librarian. Their eyes light up when someone asks them a question about finding reading material for their kids in stead of complaining that the photocopier is broken!

Model reading
We have all seen time and time again how good children are at imitating their parents - and they don;t always choose the right behaviours to copy. So why not use this powerful bond for good. Read the paper, turn the TV off and read a book for 10 minutes. Repetition of this behaviour is sure to form a very positive image in your child's mind.

Develop your child's vocabulary
Focus on common words first, as knowing these help improve reading fluency. There are also books and resources on the internet which list common words. Use a rich and varied vocabulary. Use words from stories you have read, so your child learns how to use those words in conversation. Another important aspect of developing vocabulary is exposing children to a variety of texts instead of books from the same series by the same author. Although we all have our favourites a good balance between fiction and non-fiction and a range of style of books will assist your child to learn new and exciting words and they way they can be used.

Any reading is Good Reading
One of my strongest beliefs about reading is that any reading is good reading. If you have a reluctant reader, would you rather they read a comic book or the sport section of the evening or nothing? Use their interest in reading these materials to gradually broaden their reading experiences. Trying to force them to read material that they do not wish to will only lead to a return to their reluctant behaviours.

If you have concerns about your child's reading talk to your child's teacher. Your child may need more time or may need extra help. Don't delay - if extra help is required, early intervention is best.

Hope it helps!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jane Caro and Chris Bonnor's Article

I can't take credit for this, but as it is related to my last post - I thought you might be interested. Just another anomoly with the new My School Website. The article is from the Herald.


February 1, 2010

*My School has highlighted vast gaps between private and public
education, write Jane Caro and Chris Bonnor. *

The Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has encouraged parents to use
the My School website to hold schools and teachers to account.

We, too, joined the rush last week to look at what all the fuss was
about. After digging around the website for just a few hours, we would
humbly like to suggest that accountability could go a little further up
the food chain.

Here's what a few hours work uncovered. According to enrolment and
staffing stats for a selection of more than 20 large (mostly 1000-plus
enrolments) metropolitan schools taken from the My School website, to
get a teacher at a large, metropolitan non-government school you need to
have about 10.1 students. To get a teacher in a large, metropolitan
government school you need 14.8 students.

In terms of non-teaching staff in schools - those employees who relieve
teachers of administrative and other support tasks - you need 21
students to get a support staff member in a large, metropolitan
non-government school and a staggering 84.4 students in a similar-sized
government school.

But, like all comparisons between schools, these stats - while revealing
- must be taken in context. The schools compared are similar in total
enrolment and geographical location, but many of the non-government
schools are K-12 schools that cater for boarders.

To check for this, Hurlstone Agricultural High School, a government
boarding school, was included in the selection, even though it is a
little smaller in enrolment size. It has 14.1 students for each of its
teachers and 60.3 for each of its support staff. A smaller
non-government school that also caters for boarders, Tara Anglican
School, has 10.6 students per teacher and 16.3 students for each
non-teaching staff member. And, as a further check, Australian Bureau of
Statistics data on student/teacher ratios back up these statistics.

So, if, as Gillard advises, there are any lazy teachers needing a kick
up the proverbial, don't look for them in a government school. Clearly
if the website is correct and government schools are, on average,
outperforming many of their fee-charging equivalents, then government
school teachers must be working very hard indeed, against the odds. They
not only teach more students, they are given vastly less support to do so.

The urgent question is: how long can they maintain this performance in
the face of such skewed staffing handicaps?

Some may point out that it may be private resources that are going into
paying for this extra staffing in non-government schools, but that still
raises the question of why we continue to generously publicly subsidise
such well-endowed schools when so many government schools are doing it
tough. Private funding drives divides between schools the world over
but, as the My School website so tellingly points out, should it be the
role of government to continue adding fuel through its funding policies?

Public school supporters and communities should be grateful that the My
School website, despite its anomalies and limited perspective, has shone
a bright light on to this glaring inequality.

It provides a clear and transparent direction about what needs to be
done to maintain, support and improve Australia's education performance,
particularly for the 70 per cent of students who attend public schools -
a direction that is not about bricks and mortar or even technology and
computers, but about teachers and the support they need to do their job
properly and help kids learn.

Government schools urgently need not just more teachers, but more
support staff.

Given the comparisons above, even if we doubled the number of support
staff in most public schools tomorrow, they still would not come within
cooee of many of their large private school neighbours.

Given such clear information and their stated commitment to an education
revolution, we confidently expect the Rudd government to make correcting
this glaring staffing imbalance its first priority. Otherwise, all
Australians should hold them to account.

*Jane Caro and Chris Bonnor wrote The Stupid Country: How Australia is
Dismantling Public Education.*