Reports

The Dreaded Reports

Reports…ughhh. Every teacher’s most dreaded time of year and a time when parents anxiously await to find out how their child is doing at school. Twice a year teachers prepare reports to allow parents to see the progress their child is making at school.

 

“Why did you only get a C? I thought you said you have been working so hard and doing all of your homework!?”

“But my teacher said I should be proud of my grade Mum.”

“You only got a C though? Why aren’t you getting A’s”

 

Different Reporting Structures

Schools all differ in their reporting structures and it is often confusing for parents to understand what grade is representing what level of achievement. Some schools use A-E grading, some use working towards-achieved-high, some use beginning-developing-achieved-extended.

Image result for report card

 

Whatever structure the school uses, it is important that parents are informed and understand what grade shows the expected level of achieved outcomes. Before flicking through your child’s report and having a mini meltdown when you come across a C-E or a developing, make sure you read the front of your child’s report and understand the key which will explain what each grade is representing.

For some schools a C is what students should be aiming to achieve. A C may show that students have achieved taught outcomes over the course of the semester or year.

 

Reports Shouldn’t Shock You Or Your Child

Reports should also not come as a complete shock to parents or students. Your child spends on average 6 hours a day at school, 5 days a week. You should always make sure that you have a good relationship with your child’s school and their class teacher. It’s a great idea to make the effort throughout the year to check on your child’s progress. A quick chat to the class teacher when you pick up or drop of your child is a great way to stay on top of their progress.

Image result for report card

 

Parent-Teacher Communication Is The Key

Teachers and parents are both so time poor but it’s vital to keep on top of any concerns before they turn into difficulties or problems. It is much easier to give your child extra assistance at home or with a tutor rather than leave it for a whole semester and have to have your child play catch ups.

Parent teacher interviews are also a really important for parents to attend. As teachers we know that parents often work and can not attend but if that’s you, then try to organise even a 5 minute phone call with the class teacher. We also know that sometimes parents don’t like to attend parent teacher interviews because they are embarrassed with their child report or they think that the teacher is just going to comment on their bad behaviour. Remember teachers spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week with your child. They play a crucial part in the growth and development of your child, not only academically but also mentally and socially. It is so important that parents and teachers are both on the same page and can work together to positively assist the child’s development.

 

Remember…

Reports are only one form of communication between teachers and parents. They provide an opportunity for teachers to give feedback to parents regarding the outcomes they have achieved at school. They are not, and, should not be the only communication you have with your child’s school.

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Why you shouldn’t quit sport for homework

How to keep your senior student doing the activities they love while achieving at school

Homework time available
The week of a busy Year 11 student broken down...17.5 hours were available for study
I was recently reading an article that our friends at Dance Sensations shared called ‘Don’t make your kids quit dancing to study’.
 
It highlights an area that I believe is becoming increasingly important to young people these days. Too many students believe that they need to give up their after school activities to ‘focus on their studies’ in Year 11 and 12.
 
This can too often be counter productive for a lot of students.
 
Having a positive outlet where students can release energy and stay healthy has major benefits on their health and well being. With the rise in anxiety and mental health issues facing students these days, this has never been more important.
 
Exercise as a part of this outlet leads to increased focus and improved results when they are studying. There is more and more research out there showing the positive links between exercise and memory. Students can be very successful at school, have plenty of time for homework and still be involved in a wide range of outside activities.
 
To do this you will need to help your child with 2 main things:
  1. Helping your child develop time management skills.
  2. Understanding that the intensity of their homework and study is as important as the amount of time they spend doing it.
This blog will outline some ideas to help your student with the above 2 points. A word of warning…it will take some effort and time to set up. But this time will prove invaluable when you have a happy and healthy student with great academic results at the end of the HSC.

Doing a time audit

 
I used to do this with students at school who would claim that they ‘didn’t have enough time to do their homework and assessments. We would sit down and map out every single hour of their week.
The the results were quite interesting. The example at the top of this Blog was from a student who was a talented basketballer. We started with the amount of hours in a week (168) and allocated time for everything we could think of:
 
  • Sleep – 9 hours a night
 
  • School – 6 hours per day Mon – Fri + 1 hour travel time each way
 
  • Meal times – 30 mins per meal (lunch break at school already counted)
 
  • Time to get ready each morning
 
  • Basketball – Training, game time, travel to and from games, fitness training
 
  • Job – was working 8 hours per week in a casual job
 
  • Free time – vitally important…the 14 hours here is pretty generous too.
 
So after all of this, we had identified that the issue was not that he didn’t have time to do homework and assessments. 17.5 hours per week was more than enough time to complete his homework. The issue was that he was not effective at time management.

Setting a weekly schedule

 
Once you know how much time they have to allocate to homework and study, you then have to help your child put that time into a weekly schedule. The key points to remember here are:
 
  • Make sure it is realistic…e.g don’t put a 3 hour study session on a Friday night. No 17 year old is doing that!
 
  • Identify times when they will be most productive
 
  • They will need help following this to start with…be hard on them.
 
  • All school work is social media free time…leave their phone in another room.
 
Continuing our example from above…we knew that we knew he had 17.5 hours to do his homework we had to identify the times that he had available to do it in.
 
We agreed that we’d aim for 15 hours of scheduled homework time per week.
 
The key here was to be as specific as possible and to set a schedule that was realistic and achievable. For example he was usually pretty fatigued after his Tuesday basketball training session. This meant that doing homework after this time would not have been productive. It was important then that he made full use of the 2 hours at home before heading to training. All of our days were designed with these sort of things in mind.
 
As you can see, this made his week seem pretty full on. It was busy yes, but it allowed for a balance of schoolwork, free time, a part time job and still allowed him.to pursue his passion of basketball. We discussed the importance of sticking to this schedule, and getting his parents to help him out with it. Using his free time and socialising as a reward for completing his designated study time on a Friday arvo.
 
Switched On Education personalised study timetable

Getting the wheels in motion

 
Doing the time audit and the schedule is the easy part. Actually sticking to it and following through is waaaaaaaaaaay harder. This is where you as the parent need to help and support them. Beware, it is going to take some tough love, and possibly a few shouting matches. Most teenagers need a lot of help in getting started on something like this. They need you to constantly check on them, challenge them and call them out if they’re not following through.
 
By structuring their time better, they will become more organised and diligent students. Effective time management is a skill that is in high demand in the workplace and is necessary for higher studies if they choose that path.
 
Most importantly though, your child will stay happy and healthy by being able to pursue whatever sport or activity gives them a break from all the study.

Over to you

 
If you liked this article please share, and if you need any advice or help in setting up a study schedule for your senior high school student, please give us a call at Switched On Education. To read our other blog posts please click here.
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Fixed Mindsets – Are you passing one on to your child?

In our first mindset blog we looked at what growth and fixed mindsets are. Now that you understand what the different mindsets are, we are sure that most would agree it is vital to foster a growth mindset in children. This is particularly important in school subjects like Maths, English and Science, as well as in everyday life.

Once a fixed mindset has been developed it is harder for a person to change their thinking to allow for a growth mindset.

Fixed Mindsets in Maths

Let’s use maths as an example. As teachers we have heard parents say thousands of times,

I don’t have a brain for maths”

“I have never been a maths person”

“I’ve never been clever enough for maths”

“I will never be good at maths”

Is this something you have heard yourself or someone else say?

These comments show a fixed mindset and one that is so easily passed on to children. If a child is hearing their parents say,

“I’ve never been good at maths, maths is just never going to be your thing”,

then the child is automatically going to say to themselves,

“Well why should I even bother trying in maths if I’m never going to be good at it?”

This fixed mindset that the child has now developed for maths can be easily transferred to other things that the child is not good at straight away. This mindset is teaching kids that success in certain subjects or sports is only possible if you are born with the abilities needed.

We need to foster a growth mindset in children by giving children opportunities to develop an understanding that effort and the process of learning are ultimately the things that allow us to succeed.

Our brains grow by learning and as teachers and parents we need to show children that effort and hard work are the keys to success not just an innate ability.

Check out this video which shows how a fixed mindset can be detrimental and cause anxiety for children in maths.

 

Keep an eye out for part 3 of our mindset blog and in the meantime try to make a mental note of how often you hear a fixed mindset comment, we think you’ll be sadly surprised at how often you hear them.

 

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But when will I ever use this?

Is the most common question that maths teachers get asked. The question is usually raised in an exasperated tone (bordering on whingey) by a student who is struggling to see any applications of the challenge in front of them. To be honest, some of the times the question is very justified. It is extremely hard to rationalise to a Year 8 student where adding and subtracting like terms is gonna come in handy. I mean, it’s hard to envisage the scenario where a desperate bystander runs up to them in the street screaming
 
‘…my gosh it’s a matter of life and death, the fate of the free world depends on your answer…what is 5a + 3a?’
 
As teachers part of our role is to be able to relate the seemingly abstract concepts in mathematics into situations and problems that students can make meaningful connections to. There is massive amounts of literature out there in how to construct and deliver these lessons to students. My favourite educator who spends large amounts of time researching and developing these types of problems and lessons is Dan Meyer. His blog series on Fake World Maths wonderfully outlines the issues facing maths educators today around the ‘where will I ever use this’ question and has some awesome lessons plans and ideas. There are obviously massive benefits to exposing students to these types of lessons and the problems within it, but also challenges to doing so.
 

Benefits of ‘Real-World’ problems and lessons

Increased engagement

This is a fairly obvious one. Students that can see some sort of point or use outside of doing well on the next assessment task will automatically be more engaged in the topic.

 

Develops critical thinking and problem solving skills

In a world where more and more tasks and roles processes are being replaced by machines, students need these skills more than ever.
 

Allows students the chance to be wrong

Yes, wrong! Our syllabus in NSW has far too great of a focus on the answer. It treats maths problems as binary…you are either right or you are wrong, with far too much emphasis being placed on the answer. By the time students reach the early years of high school the fear of being wrong stops students exploring problems and challenging themselves. Practical problems allow them to discover the imperfections of maths and the learning that comes from getting the wrong answer and refining your next attempt.
 

Issues surrounding ‘Real-World’ problems and lessons

Time

This is the biggest challenge by FAR. These immersive, Real-world problems are fantastic, but they generally take a large amount of lesson time. With the absolutely jam packed syllabus that maths teachers must deliver this becomes a challenge. The benefits gained by these types of lessons are often negated as teachers have to rush through subsequent lessons to finish off a topic in the prescribed time frame. It is a massive catch-22 that teachers face.
 

Getting students on board

Students are so comfortable in how a maths class operates that there is often a resistance to something new. Even when the benefits are easy to see, this can still be a struggle. Those teachers who have the confidence to persist through the first couple of rough attempts come out the other side with happier, more engaged students.
 
Switched On Education's real world maths problems

credit: https://emergentmath.com

Getting students to think critically and become engaged in mathematics is key to preparing them for their futures. Hopefully in time, we will see those in charge realise the importance of this, and reduce and refine the syllabus to allow for more exploration of mathematics.
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Helping your child with their homework – Year 3 to 6

Part 2 of our homework tips for parents looks at how to help our students as they move into the later years of Primary school and are getting ready to take the big leap into high school!  You can also head over to read our first set of tips for K-2 students.

This is where a lot of parents find it difficult to help their children with their homework. It is obviously not because the parent struggles with the simple content, but because the way that mum or dad knows how to solve a multiplication problem is so different to how their child has been taught.  It sometimes feels like you are teaching them in another language! This can often lead to frustration from both sides and can see the homework session descend into an argument or tantrum…from the student or the parent :-p.  This video below by our Primary Tutor Shanae, shows how students are being taught multiplication algorithms in class today.

 

Don’t do homework for them – let them experience failure

It is ok to not know the answer RIGHT NOW, which is a valuable lesson for students to learn.  It is OK for them to return to school with their homework incomplete, and for them to see their teacher (before the homework is due) and have them respectfully ask for some extra help. Model the conversation they are going to have with their teacher the next day.  It may require them to give up 5 mins of their lunchtime, but the lesson of being responsible and proactive and seeking advice and help from their teacher will help them in many other areas.

One of the biggest things to try and avoid with this age group is to do too much of the work for them.  It is such a fine and difficult line to walk between helping and guiding them through their work and doing it for them. Boys at this age are the masters of getting by doing the minimum effort possible…they understand how you work a LOT better than you think. They might not remember where they left their footy boots, or to clean their room, but you can guarantee they remember that time last year when they sat blankly staring at their project for an hour (after leaving it till the night before). They will remember that you swooped in and all but did it for them and they turned up to school the next day with a smile on their face and a kick ass project to hand in. So guess what they’ll do next time? It’s tough, but it’s easier to break the cycle now than in a few years.  It’ll go against all your parenting instincts…but let them fail! Sure, when they’re staring blankly at the paper the night before, you’ll help them a little.  You’ll chat to them about it, and offer some guidance and direction. But you won’t write a single word, glue and single picture onto the cardboard or anything else that is DOING their assignment for them.  They will be confused…they might even scream and shout…and there is a good chance they won’t have anything meaningful to hand in.  It’ll be a tough lesson for them, and hopefully they’ll have to face some consequences at school which you will fully support.  But it will be worth it in the long run, they will learn 1000 times more from this scenario than by you doing it for them.

Even if your student has been working really hard at something.  We’ve all been there…feeling like we’ve been sitting doing this freaking year 5 assignment with them for 100 hours…they’ve had a good go, they’re a great kid…it’ll take me 5 mins just to finish it off and they can go to bed for some well earned sleep (I can see you nodding).  Even though you think you are helping them, and you are in the short term, they will gain much more from handing in something that is 100% theirs.  It is ok for their project or assignment to look like it was something a 10 year old could do…because…well…they are a 10 year old!  At home projects or assignments are a great way for you to teach the most undervalued thing of all to your child, TIME MANAGEMENT.  You usually have a couple of weeks notice for a project or assignment.  Sit down with them and map out some time over the next 2 weeks to work on this.  Talk about it with them, guide them along, but resist actually DOING the assignment for them.  They will appreciate the structure and routine around doing this and with consistent work will more than likely turn in something that they are really proud of.
It’s a tough time for parents of students in this age group as the pressures of school work can show and as the kids take on more after school activities (which are extremely valuable).  Now, more than ever it is vitally important to help teach them time management. They shouldn’t be doing mountains of homework, and they should be enjoying being a kid, but some simple time management and a regular homework routine during the week will help them not only now, but will be vital as they move towards high school.  At Switched On Education, we are always happy to discuss homework skills and strategies with all of our students.

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What your child is learning in ‘literacy’

The way literacy is being taught at school is forever changing and it is often difficult for parents to understand where their child is at and what they will be learning next. Literacy underpins all learning areas and in primary school it is vital that students learn the fundamentals of reading, writing, speaking, spelling, grammar, phonics and comprehension.

Primary school teachers spend 2 hours a day focusing and teaching a structured literacy block. In our forever, developing world of technology it is also important that students learn how to use technology efficiently and so activities using a computer or iPad are often included within a literacy session. Schools do differ in their approaches to a literacy block and it also depends on what programs schools have in place such as L3(Language, Literacy and Learning). If you are a parent who is unsure of where your child is at or are concerned that your child is falling behind try to organise a time to talk to your child’s classroom teacher. Often even a quick phone call or a quick chat with the teacher after school will help you understand how your child is doing.

 

 

No matter what level your child is at, it is important that parents assist their child in developing their literacy skills. You don’t need to spend hours at home forcing your child to read chapter books or writing essays, you don’t even need your child to know that you are helping them with their literacy. Check out our homework blog which will also give you some tips for things to do at home. Some examples of easy activities at home that assist your child in literacy are:

  •      Writing down the shopping list.
  •      Drawing a sequence of events of what they did at school.
  •      Practice writing their name.
  •      Reading a book or read a book to them.
  •      Drawing or writing about the TV show or YouTube video they watched.
  •      Writing down the ingredients or a method of what you are having for dinner.
  •      Drawing a picture and explaining/describing to you what the picture is about.

Parents often don’t understand why so much time and emphasis is placed on  literacy at school but what parents don’t often realise is that literacy is the ability to read, view, write, design, speak and listen in a way that allows you to communicate effectively. It is up to parents and teachers to make sure that we are doing everything we can to assist our students in developing literacy skills.

*Check out our homework blog which will also give you some tips for activities to do at home which help build a homework routine.

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Mindsets

Here at Switched On Education we have a strong belief in fostering growth mindsets in our students. If you are not sure what growth mindsets are, you are not alone. A significant number of teachers and parents fail to understand the different mindsets and the impact mindsets can have on their children. This is our first blog post in a series of posts dedicated to assisting parents in understanding what growth mindsets are and how to foster growth mindsets in their children.

Carol Dweck is a world-renowned Standford University Professor who is famous for her decades of research into the idea of mindsets. Throughout our mindset blog series we will refer to Dweck’s work to help you grasp a deeper understanding of mindsets and to help you avoid the development of a ‘false growth mindset’.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what growth mindsets are, you first must understand what mindsets are. Mindsets are defined as the set of attitudes held by someone. They determine what you believe and how you perceive yourself. The impact mindsets can have can affect your personality, your intelligence and your talents. The two mindsets that are most often referred to are, fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.

 

 

To help you get a better understanding of both, we first ask you to think about these statements and whether you agree or disagree.

  • You are born with a certain amount of intelligence and it is something that can not be changed.
  • You can learn new things but you can’t change the level of underlying intelligence.
  • Talent is something you are born with not something that you can develop.
  • People who are good at a particular skill were born with a higher level of natural ability.

If you agreed with these statements it is most likely that you have a fixed mindset. 

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”– Carol Dweck.

Is this fixed mindset the mindset you want your children to have? Is it the way you want your children to think about themselves or do you want your child to believe they are capable of achieving and developing through the process of learning? If you want every success for your child and you want them to continue to develop through a passion for learning then you want to assist your child in developing a growth mindset.

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” -Carol Dweck.

 

 

If you’re still struggling to understand the impact of mindsets check out this simple video aimed at kids.

https://ideas.classdojo.com/f/growth-mindset-1

This video uses an everyday classroom example of wanting to give up when things get hard but shows how a growth mindset changes the way students view challenges.

Remember, you are never too young or old to develop a growth mindset! Keep an eye out for our next mindset blog post where we will begin to take a closer look at growth mindsets and how you can help your child to develop a growth mindset.

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Homework Help – Early Primary

One thing that parents are always asking us for tips on here at Switched On Education is how to handle and manage homework and home study.  This blog post is the first in a series dedicated to how to best prepare your child to be a successful and independent learner outside the classroom, providing you with tips on how to start them from an early age.  As a high school teacher, I often see students in Year 9, 10 or 11 try and ‘knuckle down’ and start doing their homework and study.  Whilst this is great, it is often not met with great success, as trying to change 10 years of after school habits can be a tricky thing to do! Your children will need a lot of help with this, and yes, at times there will be arguments.  But it will be worth it, and they will thank you for helping them at some point along they way.

Do your attempts to help your child with their homework end up like this?

Kindergarten – Year 2

Let’s be honest, it is counterproductive to expect students of this age to engage in much (if any) homework without it erupting into something that is not enjoyable for the student or the parent.  Many of them have been fighting their natural instincts to run around and play for a large part of the day, and the idea of doing too much structured homework could have a negative impact.  Getting them involved in some after school activities can be just as beneficial to their development and well being at this age. Whether it is structured activities like dancing and sport teams, or going walking or swimming with you for 30 mins, something that will help them burn off the energy they need to and keep healthy will probably end up seeing them improve their schoolwork.

In saying all of that, it can only be beneficial for them to learn that going to school means that we have to do some sort of work when you get home.  Doing any sort of reading with your child for 15 mins is invaluable, whether it is their home reader from school or a book from home.  We keep hearing feedback from parents, that they often struggle with how to best go through a home reader with their child.  Stay tuned to our Facebook page to see our Primary teacher Shanae’s guide to helping with home readers.  Apart from that, you can dress up anything to be ‘homework’.  The main focus here is getting them in the routine of sitting and completing a task uninterrupted for 15 minutes or so. I know it can be crazy in the afternoon, trying to get all the kids to the 100 different after school activities, but you will find that setting aside this 15 minutes will prove invaluable in helping created a more independent learner. Activities that you could consider ‘homework’:

 

  • helping you cook dinner – reading a recipe develops literacy, measuring the quantities is great for numeracy.
  • Packing their bag(s) for tomorrow’s school and afternoon activities – great for developing their planning and organisational skills.
  • Sit down (or go for a walk) for 15 mins and get them to tell you everything that they did at school that day.  This is great for developing their thinking skills and vocabulary and sentence structure.  It might take a little bit to build this exercise, you may have to push them to get answers that are longer than 1 – 2 words, or answers that aren’t ‘nothing’…but it will be worth it in the end!

Key Points

  • Keep it simple and fun.
  • 15 mins 2-3 afternoons a week is plenty.
  • In today’s world, being able to stay on task for 15 minutes is a big skill to have.
  • It’s about building habits and routine NOT content.
  • They still need plenty of time to be kids.
  • Extra activities are important at this age.

Starting them in good after school habits in these early years will pay massive dividends for both you and your child as they progress through school.  They will be more independent learners both at school and at home and you will have to argue less with them about homework as they get older…a win/win for all!

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