Thursday, November 29, 2012

How a Math Tutor Can Help Your Child

At Tutoring For Success, math has always been our most requested subject. With the right tutor, many students who struggle with math can overcome blocks, become more adept in any level of math, and even learn to enjoy it.

Math is a cumulative process.  If you did not learn your multiplications tables fluently, you will have difficulty with fractions.  If you did not learn your fractions fluently, you will have difficulty with algebra.  A gap in one or more of the basic math skills can cause a variety of difficulties later on.  Here are some ways that a math tutor can help:

1.      Address gap areas that are not fluent or causing confusion.

2.      Clarify and more thoroughly explain concepts that the teacher has not adequately explained

3.      Provide short cuts to help complete math problems quicker and more efficiently

4.      Work with the student to come up with an effective study strategy to prepare for tests

5.      Offer real life examples to make math more relevant

6.      Teach special strategies for acing the SAT or ACT

7.      Find ways to make math interesting to improve motivation

8.      Help the student catch up when he or she has missed class due to illness

At Tutoring For Success, we choose our math tutors very carefully.  They have significant teaching experience, patience, and a variety of ways to teach the concepts.  Many of them have math related careers and can easily come up with real life applications.  To really be proficient in math, you should know several ways to solve problems.  It needs to all make sense.

While not every student needs a math tutor, if you see your child struggling, don’t wait too long for problems to resolve themselves.  Because so much of math is cumulative, without intervention small problems now can become bigger problems later.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gearing up for the Next Quarter

If you’re like me, the onslaught of homework seems relentless.  Because of the two days off at the end of the first quarter, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy, there seemed to be no break between the first and second quarters.  However, the second quarter is now in full swing, and this is a good time to help your children evaluate and regroup.  Our goal?  Better grades, yes, but in our family, the more important tasks are to improve time management of homework and long term projects, to become more organized, and to reduce stress, all of which will also improve grades.

Gearing up Strategies
·         Blackboard: Many teachers use Blackboard to list assignments, provide study guides and resources, and share pertinent information.  To stay on top of things, your child should check Blackboard every day.  Parents can get on Blackboard too, but in our family it is the students’ job to check in.
·         Organizing supplies:  Our rule is that the backpack may not contain loose, wrinkled papers; I do periodic spot checks for this.  Every paper needs to be filed in the appropriate place.  Some students prefer binders, which require hole-punching, while others prefer folders. There should be a separate folder for each subject or two, and maybe another one just for homework. Now is a good time to get rid of papers that are no longer needed.  Some can be recycled and others can be stored in folders at home for later use.
·         Schedules:  If homework is not getting done in a timely manner, work with your child to set up a schedule.  Estimate how long each assignment will take, and incorporate extracurricular activities and instrument practice time.  Also allow time for reading for pleasure.  Daily pleasure reading does as much to improve your child’s academic skills as homework.  Short breaks are OK, but more extended leisure time is best saved for after homework and reading are done.
·         Long term projects:  It is easy to procrastinate.  These should be written down in a prominent place, either somewhere in your house, in an assignment book, or both. You can use a calendar to plug in parts of the projects that should be worked on periodically, so that the due date doesn’t come along too quickly.
·         Tests:  Students: Do not wait until the day before a test to study!  Get a study guide from the teacher.  Most study guides include almost everything that will be on the test.  The best ones require active studying, such as requiring the student to research the information or do practice problems.  If you are not sure, ask the teacher what will be on the test, what the format will be (multiple choice, short answer, or essay) and how she recommends you prepare.
·         Reducing stress:  Students: If you are organized, have a plan, stay focused, and don’t procrastinate, your stress level will be reduced (and your parents’ stress, too).  Also, get enough sleep, find time to exercise, and take short breaks to play with friends, play your favorite computer game, or watch a favorite TV show.  Finally, don’t forget family time.  Family dinners and outings, and promoting positive interactions and laughter will improve your whole family’s well being.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Preparing for Teacher Conferences

Preparing for Teacher Conferences
If you have a child in elementary school, you are probably preparing for a conference next week.  If you have a child in middle school or high school, you may not have a scheduled conference, but now is a great time to schedule one. You can do so with one or two individual teachers or with the whole team.  Below are some tips on how to make the most of your parent – teacher conferences:
·         Have a plan before you go.  Your conference time is short, and the first half will be the teacher’s agenda.  You should talk to your child in advance to find out if he has any problems or concerns.  Academics are important, and so are social aspects.  You can ask the teacher about your child’s behavior in class as well as at lunch and recess.  If you have been looking at graded assignments all quarter, you may have some questions about expectations.  You can also address the volume and type of homework, the teacher’s recommended way to study for tests, and your child’s state of mind concerning school.
·         Share with the teacher any family or social dynamics that may impact your child’s behavior and academic success.  If your child struggles with anxiety, extreme moods, depression, attention issues, or hyperactivity, bring this to the teacher’s attention.  If your child’s school situation causes him anxiety in any way, be sure to share this with the teacher as well.
·         Start positive.  Compliment the teacher on anything positive that your child has shared with you.  This will get your conference off on the right foot.
·         After you have shared information with each other, set up a plan of action.  There may be more you can do at home to improve your child’s success.  There may also be more the teacher can do at school to enhance your child’s performance and overall well being.
·         Ask the teacher if your child is on the right track, needs extra help, or needs enrichment.  Then follow up.
·         Don’t forget to bring written questions with you and take notes for future action.  The time will go quickly, and you need to be as efficient as possible.
·         After the conference, share with your child what you and the teacher discussed. Be sure to start positive.   If appropriate, set up a game plan, based on the conference.  Keep in touch with the teacher on a regular basis. Email or phone calls right after school usually work well.
November is an excellent time to assess your child’s progress and adjustment, and sharing information at a conference can be invaluable.  You and the teacher may learn something surprising and helpful to promote success throughout the school year.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Low Key Way to Prepare for School this Summer

1.      READ – The very best preparation is to read for pleasure every day, or close to it. What should you read?

·         Fiction – ask your friends what they are reading, or check out the following reading lists:

·         Nonfiction  - Read what interests you.  Surfing the web is great, but a book will explore your subject in more detail.

·         Magazines -  Order a subscription to your favorite magazine or read it online

·         Web Surfing – Yes, that’s reading, too.

2.      WRITE – If you don’t practice at all this Summer, it will take awhile to get back into it in the Fall.

·         Letters - Texting is fun but due to all the abbreviations, this doesn’t improve your writing.  Try old fashioned letter writing, with a good friend or grandparent.  Then you can include pictures and receive mail in your mail box.

·         Short stories, poems, journal entries

·         Publish a book review for Amazon

·         Start a web site or blog

3.      MATH – Practice what you learned last year

·         Get a workbook that focuses on word problems

·         Practice multiplication tables in the car

·         Make up and solve funny and creative problems with your family

4.      TEST PREP

·         Summer is the best time to prepare for Fall SAT and ACT.  If you aren’t yet ready to officially start preparing, set up problems of the day on your computer.

·         Set up word of the day on your computer for to improve vocabulary.

·         To further improve vocabulary, your e-reader allows you to quickly look up words as you are reading.

When?  Put aside an hour or two each day to focus on academics and reading.  Parents can participate as well.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Reading With An eReader

Reading is changing in a big way! Now, more than ever, people are using eReaders such as Nooks, Kindles, and iPads to read their favorite books, and children are no exception. If your child struggles with reading, getting an eReader device for him might be something worth considering. Here are just a few of the benefits:

·         Every eReader offers a wide variety of free books, many of them Classics, that your child can read free of charge! They also offer free samples, usually the first 30 pages, so you can be sure the book you buy is something you really want to read.

·         While some books are small and relatively portable, there are certainly plenty that are not. An eReader is compact and lightweight, and will always fit neatly in your bag or backpack.

·         Just finished a great story and can’t wait to share it with your friends? Most eReaders have applications that allow you to lend or share already purchased books instantly with other eReader users.

·         While Kindles and Nooks are the most common eReaders, many smart phones and tablets such as Androids, i Phones and i Pads come with free apps for these programs, too. Download them for free and begin reading wherever you are.  You can also read magazines and newspapers on eReaders.

·         When enjoying a book, does your child ever come across a word she doesn’t know? Instead of taking the time to look it up in the dictionary or online, Kindles and Nooks have a feature that allows you to look up the definition of a word instantly, right there on the tablet. This is an excellent tool for improving your child’s vocabulary.

·         Instead of running out to the bookstore or library to get that next book in the series you love, download it right away to your eReader and continue on with the story. No more waiting!

·         Just like with downloading music, purchasing eBooks is significantly less expensive than purchasing the book itself.

·         If you have a hard time getting your children interested in books, an eReader might help to change their minds. Using the same kind of device to read that they use to play games and surf the Internet could turn reading into a fun, interactive activity instead of something they have to do for school. 
While electronic readers may not be the perfect fit for everybody, there are certainly many benefits that come along with owning one. If you are looking for a way to make reading fun and accessible for your children, consider switching to electronic reading!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why Summer Tutoring?

Whether you have plans for camp, going to the pool, and taking trips this summer, or you’re just planning to relax, summer tutoring is an option that will fit into your schedule and prevent your child from losing knowledge and skills that he has worked hard to gain all year.  According to the National Summer Learning Association, “Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).”  In addition, “most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months.”

School is not in session for 11 weeks during the summer; that’s nearly 3 months, or ¼ of the year.  During this time, learning loss is serious business.  Here are just a few ways that summer tutoring can help prevent your child from falling behind:

  • The tutor will encourage fun and interesting reading for the whole summer and discuss the materials with the student.
  • The tutor will help the student improve writing by helping her brainstorm interesting topics, write persuasive essays, use varied vocabulary, and insert effective transitions. 
  •  The tutor will help review learned math concepts in order to retain this knowledge.  The tutor can also evaluate the student to find any gaps and fill them, which will predict a successful year this coming fall.
  • Summer is a great time to prepare for fall SAT’s and ACT’s, before the bombarment of school and homework. 
  •  Summer tutoring will result in an easier adjustment once school starts.

We at Tutoring For Success know that your summers are busy.  That’s why our tutors will be flexible in planning tutoring sessions around your vacation schedule.  We are also offering a summer discount of $65/hr for a 10 hour package; the 10 hours can be used any time during the 11 weeks of summer.  To prevent summer learning loss, we recommend at least 2 hours a week during the weeks that you’re in town.

Have a wonderful and relaxing summer, and don’t forget to always continue to read and learn.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips for Fantastic Finals!

Finals time is rapidly approaching, causing many students to feel anxious, stressed, and over-worked. While you can’t take the tests for them, you can build their confidence by encouraging smart study habits. Here are just a few tips for Fantastic Finals:

1.)    Get plenty of sleep. Your brain can’t work properly if you’re overtired, so give yourself the rest you deserve.

2.)    Have someone test you. Use flashcards or homemade study guides to easily condense important material.

3.)    Explain the material to someone else. If there are any areas that are difficult to describe, you will know that’s what you need to study.

4.)    PRACTICE math problems. With a subject like math, practicing ways to solve a variety of problems is the best way to prepare your brain.

5.)    Budget your time – Do not try to cram everything into one day. Cramming can leave you exhausted and frustrated; it is easiest to learn things at a steady pace, over time. You will also retain the material better afterwards.

6.)    Make a snack – Don’t study on an empty stomach. Proteins, fruits and veggies, and nuts such as almonds or walnuts are all great examples of Brain Food.

7.)    Take a break every 30-40 minutes, and so something physical if you can. Go for a quick walk, do some jumping jacks, or just sit outside and breathe some fresh air. Give your mind a chance to reboot.

8.)    Create study groups with friends and classmates. If you aren’t able to meet with friends in person, try getting together on Skype or FaceTIme for study sessions.

9.)    Break down the material into small groups, and study one group each day. This will give your sessions more focus.

10.)  Ask your teacher questions about what the test will cover, and what kind of questions to expect. You will be grateful for the guidance.

These are, of course, just a FEW things you can do to make your study sessions less painful and more productive. Talk with your child and see if you both can come up with your own ideas. As always, getting a tutor is a great way to make sure students are getting the appropriate instruction, even if it’s just to reinforce existing skills.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The SAT vs the ACT: How to Decide, and Prepare

Test preparation can be confusing and intimidating; even the best students may find the SATs or ACTs overwhelming. This is due largely to the (incorrect) assumption that there is simply no efficient way to study for either of these tests. Today, however, there is an overwhelming amount of preparation material for both the SATs and the ACTs, and in fact most students seek out some kind of assistance when studying. As students are ranked on a percentile score which compares them to one another, not receiving the same level of preparation as other students can put your child at a serious disadvantage.

The first step is deciding which test your child should take. The differences between the SATs and the ACTs  are distinct; do not make the mistake of assuming that because the SATs have been around longer that they are preferred by most colleges. Both tests are credible, and simply offer alternate ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge. Here are a few critical differences between the two:

The SAT:

Gives you the math formulas: The SAT math is primarily based on logical reasoning, so the formulas are provided.

Penalizes wrong answers: The SAT discourages guessing by deducting points for wrong answers.

Uses sentence completions: The SAT tests vocabulary through sentence completions.

Splits test sections up: The SAT is split into 25-minute chunks, with a short break after every hour of testing.

Is scored based on a composite: Each SAT section is scaled on a score from 200-800. These scores are added together to make a final composite score.

The ACT:

Requires you know the formulas: ACT math is based on knowledge as much as reasoning. The ACT also requires knowledge of more difficult math (trigonometry) than the SAT.

Does not penalize guessing: Wrong answers do not count against a student on the ACT. Thus, the percentage of questions students answer correctly tends to be slightly higher than average SAT scores.

Does not test vocabulary: Beyond context-based questions in reading passage (which the SAT also uses) the ACT does not cover vocabulary.

Does not split sections up: ACT sections run from 45 minutes to over an hour.

Is scored based on an average: The ACT is scored on a 1-36 average of each of the four sections. This can make it more difficult to increase an overall ACT score.

Ideally, students should begin preparation at least six to eight weeks before the test, but additional prep time is always beneficial. Some begin studying as early as twelve weeks before they are scheduled to take the exam. Getting your child a tutor is always a good idea, as they can provide guidance, structure, and the appropriate materials necessary for effective studying. The more time you can set aside with a tutor, the better. Tutors can also help diagnose potential problem areas, and focus on strategies that minimize these problems and help to buffer strengths.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reading for Pleasure

Reading for Pleasure

What do you and your kids do for fun?  Texting?  TV?  Computer games? Facebook?  Going to the movies and out to dinner?  Bike riding?  Soccer?

All of these are great activities!  Not including school assignments and various e-messages from friends, how much time do you spend per day reading, just for fun?

Reading a book, usually fiction, has been my favorite leisure activity ever since I learned to read.  I love to get in the lives of other characters, and see how they tick.  I love to vicariously live their adventures.  While I also enjoy TV shows and movies, reading lets you imagine how everything is, and the stories last much longer.  After lugging a large book to Boston, I am finally planning to get a convenient e-reader.

The great thing about reading books is that it is not only fun but has the added benefits of increasing vocabulary, spelling, writing, and of course improving reading skills.  I would even argue that reading for pleasure does all of these things even better than assigned reading because you actually want to be there. Here are the overall benefits in a nutshell:

1.      Reading is relaxing and fun.  You have to pick out your own material, though.  Read what you love!
2.      Readers effortlessly improve their comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and writing.  This way, you can practice your whole life for the SAT and ACT verbal and writing sections.  As an added bonus, it is super easy to look up vocabulary words on e-readers, if you happen to own one.
3.      Reading stimulates the imagination.
4.      Reading expands the mind by exposing you to different cultures, different walks of life, different personality types, and useful information.  Find history books dry?  Try historical fiction!
5.      Reading for pleasure improves standardized test scores.
6.      Practice is the only way to become an excellent reader.
7.      Once you are an excellent reader, you can advance to more difficult material, understand everything you are learning at school, and even develop a desire to read and learn in greater depth.

How to promote reading for pleasure

  1. Make reading a priority for all family members.  Do not over-schedule other activities; limit TV and computer time.  Consider having a family reading time each day.
  2. Do not force young children to read before they are ready.
  3. Read aloud to your children, even after they learn to read.
  4. Encourage fun reading, such as magazines, comics, and series books.
  5. Read the books your children are reading, and discuss them together.
  6. Help your child find what interests him and choose reading material accordingly.
  7. Allow your child to read easy material, as it will be more pleasurable for him.
  8. Make reading relevant. Follow directions for a recipe or model building.
  9. Take regular trips to the library and book store.
  10. Let children read in bed after “lights out.”
  11. Listen to recorded books on car trips.

This summer, the best thing you can do to prepare for school next year is read for pleasure all summer long.  If your children are young, you can join the library summer reading program and get coupons as a reward.

Happy reading!

Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ways to Boost Your Grades This Spring

Are you feeling stressed by the end of the school year?
Do you need a little extra encouragement to keep yourself going through June?

Here are some simple tips to keep your grades (and your confidence!) up this Spring:

Here are some tips to share with your children:

  • Ask your teacher what you can do to increase your grade. It might be easier than you thought.
  • Make a schedule of your tests and quizzes in January. Then map out time in your schedule to review material. Avoid cramming all in one night.
  • While reviewing material (in advance), you may notice topics that you don’t understand. Go see your teacher for help during study hall or after school.
  • You can learn and absorb more by studying with a friend. This is now easier than ever to do with Face Time or Skype.
  • Map out long term projects that are due at the end of the quarter. Divide tasks into days, and enter in a calendar or planner. Teachers expect you to put time and thought into long term projects.
  • Be sure to look at the rubric for each project and check to make sure you complete each item thoroughly.
  • If getting good grades is important to you (I know it’s important to college admissions counselors) some focused planning at the end of each quarter can really make a difference.

Tutoring for Success offers Academic Coaching if you feel it will help, give us a call today.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Some Interesting Facts About the Teenage Brain

Who do you think is responsible for the following quote?

"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food and tyrannize teachers." (The answer is at the bottom of this article.) *

Did you know that the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for decision making, problem solving, planning, and self regulation, does not fully mature until the age of 25? This can affect impulsivity, emotions, and overreactions. Well, that explains the stupid choices I made in high school and college! It also explains why auto insurance is higher for teens, and why you have to be 25 years old to rent a car. So even if your teen seems responsible and mature, beware! Did you also know that teens tend to misread facial expressions? Did your teen ever accuse you of yelling at her when you were actually just talking?

Here are some ways you can influence the positive emotions in your child:
  • Emphasize and capitalize on positive events.
  • Focus on what is new and good.
  • You're never too old for hugs.
  • Focus on gratitude for what you have.
  • Emphasize the present rather than rehashing the past.

On the bright side, teens are fully capable of abstract thinking and can shine intellectually when motivated.
Source: Presentation by August Frattali, Principal of Rachel Carson Middle School

*Answer: Socrates, 5th Century BC

Friday, April 27, 2012

Could Your Child Have a Learning Disability?

Sometimes, you have a hunch that something isn't quite right with your child. For example, Jared is in 3rd grade and is still not reading fluently. Because he struggles to sound out so many words, his comprehension is shaky. Emma is in 4th grade and panics when asked to write. She will find any excuse to procrastinate. When she finally gets started, she cannot put her thoughts together to write a coherent paragraph, though she has no problem telling you a story. Although Adam is in the 5th grade, he still struggles with remembering multiplication tables, but he understands math concepts at his grade level. Sharon is in 8th grade and cannot understand her science textbook because of her poor vocabulary and reading skills. However, if you explain scientific concepts orally or give her a simpler book, she understands the concepts perfectly well.

What these children have in common is their average or above average intelligence and a suspected learning disability. If they can get formally evaluated and are shown to have a learning disability, they may be eligible to receive accommodations in school under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or special education services provided to children with disabilities under the reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

What should you do if you see your child struggling? This article was published in the April, 2012 issue of Washington Parent Magazine. To view the entire article, click here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Math Tutoring

Is math a thorn in your child’s side? A kid who's struggling with math or science might refrain from talking about these particular subjects.  How do you know when it's time to get a math tutor? Here are just a few indicators:

·         Doesn’t understand the concepts on a regular basis

·         Understands concepts but doesn’t do well on tests

·         Has difficulty with math problems due to gaps in prior knowledge, such as fractions

·         Has trouble with word problems

·         Is reluctant to do math homework

·         Takes too long to complete homework

·         Dislikes math

When math makes sense, it can actually be fun for students to easily do the problems and see them come out right. Everyone can become better at math with more practice and extra help. These are some ways in which a math tutor can help:

·         Discover gaps that are preventing the student from understanding new concepts

·         Break down steps into smaller chunks

·         Find a commonality for mistakes

·         Provide the extra time and patience that is unavailable in a class setting

·         Show multiple ways to solve problems

·         Demonstrate real life applications of math concepts

·         Show students that they can be successful

As the school year is coming to a close, this is your chance to boost grades.  Don’t let math get you down!