With summer getting closer, parents start to question how their child will maintain the skills they gained over the school year during their break, or if their children are at the right level for next year. The prominence of texting and social media in students’ lives makes proper writing increasingly important for parents, educators, and students themselves.
While many parents and educators emphasize improvement in math or reading skills over the summer, improving writing skills is equally as important. Those with good writing skills are able to express their thoughts, knowledge, opinions, and creativity much better than those without good writing skills. Improving writing improves thinking – writing allows you to state your thoughts interestingly and with precision. Sylvan Learning offers some suggestions for helping children improve these invaluable writing and communication skills over the summer, the first of which is to keep them reading.
One of the best ways for your child to improve their writing is to read more. By reading, children are immersed in the various writing styles and story types of different authors. Sylvan Learning suggests reading with or to your child, and encouraging them to read to you with expression. You could also talk to your child about your favorite books from when you were their age. Other tips include going to the library often, and checking out Sylvan Learning’s free reading motivation website, Book Adventure .
Another helpful tip is to make this reading, and the subsequent writing, a ritual. Routines are important for children- set up a simple daily ritual for them to write a bit, and it will become an expected part of their routine. If writing is something that occurs in “real life” as well as in school, it will take on a natural relevance for them.
If your child is stuck while writing, or if you want to give them some directed fun, provide them with a prompt - help your child be creative with some fun topics to write about. Children love to use their imaginations and create fantasy worlds where their dreams come true. Helping children make up adventures – exciting ones, spooky ones, standing-up-to-bullies ones – and asking them to write these stories down is a great way to have summer adventures and get them writing over the break.
Interviewing people is also a great prompt. Help your child come up with good questions to ask family members, neighbours, or friends, and then write a story or article about that person. This is a good way for them to develop writing skills and communication skills, and can double as a history lesson.
Sylvan Learning also suggests setting your child up with a pen pal. Even in an age where electronic communication is so popular, children still love getting letters in the mail. Helping your child get a pen pal will encourage them to keep up not only a correspondence with this pen pal, but their writing skills too.
Keeping a summer journal or scrapbook is an interactive way to encourage your child to write. The resulting family summer journals or summer scrapbooks, with everyone contributing a little something each day – photos, drawings, poems, stories – quickly become family keepsakes. Not only are you writing, you are writing together and creating shared memories.
Writing reviews is another way Sylvan Learning suggests getting children to write in summer: everyone is a critic. Have your child read some professional reviews online or in the daily paper to get the hang of it, and then encourage your child to write their own. The possibilities in summer are endless: a child can review the places you have visited, movies you have seen, new video games they have played, or experiences with new friends they have made.
Sylvan also suggests getting your child to research and write about something. Children love to look stuff up, especially the stuff they are really interested in. Help them narrow their interests to a topic such as sports, interesting discoveries, heroes, or a fascinating new hobby. Let them use the internet or bring them to the library to research their choice. If your child is online, monitor their use, but let them see how one discovery leads to another.
Another important tip offered by Sylvan Learning is to work on spelling, one of writing’s most basic skills, through these activities. Parents can also make mastering spelling fun with informal spelling challenges, rewards, or by letting children quiz others with their new spelling skills.
The most important tip Sylvan Learning offers is to get a tutor. If you saw your child struggling with writing during the school year, notice it during these activities, or simply want them to improve, summer is one of the best times to get a tutor and get help. Sylvan Learning’s Ontario Certified Teachers can create a personalized plan for your student to help them overcome obstacles, and engage in future writing wholeheartedly.
Remember, the goal of summer writing is to keep their brains working, their fingers typing or printing, and to have fun while doing so. Parents should have fun too; you are role models, so you should write a little yourself. By engaging in these activities, children (along with their families and friends) will not only improve their writing skills, but also have lots of summer fun.
Summer is getting closer! As the end of this school year approaches students and parents are preparing for the transition from not only one grade to another, but also preparing for the shift from learning in the classroom to the learning that takes place outside of the classroom through summer activities.
At this time of year Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels, advises parents to focus on three areas — helping their child make the most of the final weeks of school, knowing what the next grade level will bring, and looking for ways to inspire learning during the summer break:
Make the most of the final weeks of school.
You can help your child review by asking about what was learned in school or by working through homework problems together.
Schedule a last meeting or discussion with your child’s teacher. Identify successes and challenges.
Put a reward system in place to help your child stay motivated about school and gain the full benefit of the final days in the classroom.
Know what the next grade level will bring.
Speak to your child's current teacher or a teacher in the next grade about the upcoming curriculum.
Ask about new subjects and changes in focus. For example, in 4th grade, students usually begin to “read to learn” rather than “learn to read.” If your 3rd grade student is struggling with reading, this summer would be a good time to focus on improving reading skills (also, see our post about grade 3 EQAO)
If the next year will mean a change in schools — such as entering high school — take advantage of orientation sessions where student and parent can learn more about the new school.
Inspire learning over the summer break.
It's important to enjoy time off, but you can also learn as you have fun. In fact, the best learning occurs when children don't realize they're learning.
Parents can design summer activities that are both fun and educational, such as going to museums, zoos, or engaging in a reading program at the local library.
If you know your child needs something more structured, want them to get ahead, or noticed them struggling during the school year, summer is a great time for them to catch up or get a head start. Sylvan Learning offers ten reasons why summer tutoring can benefit your student, regardless of skill level:
There’s only so much free time in the summer. Face it, even if you’re filling your days with worthwhile activities there comes a day when even the most motivated children will get bored. A little structured time with a tutor can not only keep your child busy, but more importantly a personalized summer learning plan can build the skills, habits, and attitudes they need for lifelong success.
It works. There’s no question, Sylvan tutoring works. Every child needs some help from time to time. Working with a caring, competent, and certified tutor can give a student the leg up needed.
It raises confidence. Practice makes perfect. A little tutoring time in the summer gives students the practice they need to make their school skills second-nature. Knowing how three-digit multiplication works, where that apostrophe goes, or when to make an educated guess on a multiple choice test raises confidence.
Improves parents’ lives too. Ensuring children have the skills they need for academic success in September makes homework time routine, report cards less stressful, and turns student and parent frustration into victory.
It improves study habits. Sometimes students need tutoring not in academic subjects but in academic habits. Study skills can almost always be improved. A tutor can help improve time management, test preparation, organization, study habits, note taking, reading pace and accuracy, and listening skills.
It strengthens skills. A student’s skills become stronger when a tutor assess their needs and works on the areas that need strengthening. A tutor will help a student learn ways to study more effectively, and to remember helpful rules.
It prepares students for school in the fall. They will not admit it, but children are thinking about the new school throughout the summer. Help them be prepared for it, especially if you suspect they have an area that needs some special focus.
It helps you set goals for the year. Together, you and your child should set goals each school year; for some children, more frequent goals will benefit them. Use the summer tutoring experience to set the stage for fall success.
It puts you and your child in charge. Nothing is worse for a student than to feel out of control of their learning. Tutoring provides a student with the skills to be back in charge of their learning, the bold assurance of successfully tackling a challenge, and the victory of being back on track.
It shows your value for learning. Helping your child get help or get ahead in school shows that adults care about learning. Adults can give no better gift to children than letting them know they come from a family that values education.
Combine tutoring with fun, educational activities that you can do at home (Sylvan Learning – Summer Learning Tips) and your child can not only keep up, catch up, or get ahead, but also foster a love of learning over the summer. For more information on summer tutoring at Sylvan Learning, see Sylvan’s summer programs (Summer Options 2013).
In their first two years of high school, students write two important tests administered by EQAO (the Education Quality and Accountability Office): the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics, or Grade 9 EQAO, and the OSSLT (Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test), written in grade 10. These tests are incredibly important as the grade 9 EQAO can, at the discretion of the school, determine a part of your child’s final grade while the OSSLT is necessary to pass for graduation.
What is the grade 9 EQAO?
It is a test that, “measures the math skills students are expected to have learned in Grade 9” (Guide to EQAO tests in Secondary Schools). It is taken by all grade 9 academic math or grade 9 applied math students in either January or June, depending on the semester of their math course. There is a different version of the test for academic and applied students.
This test is not only important for tracking the progress of Ontario students’ math skills throughout their schooling, but also because, “At the school’s or board’s discretion, teachers may mark some or all of this test and count it toward students’ grades” (Guide to EQAO tests in Secondary Schools), affecting their final mark.
What is the OSSLT?
The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test is written in the second semester of grade 10. It measures, “whether students are meeting the minimum standard for literacy (reading and writing) across all subjects up to the end of Grade 9” (Guide to EQAO tests in Secondary Schools).
The OSSLT assesses two skills: Reading and Writing. Reading is defined by EQAO as, “the process through which a reader actively constructs meaning for a variety of written texts” (EQAO Information Bulletin). The OSSLT determines a student’s ability by assessing three skills in two areas; reading and writing:
o Reading Skill 1: understanding explicitly stated information and ideas
o Reading Skill 2: understanding implicitly stated information and ideas (i.e., making inferences)
o Reading Skill 3: making connections between information and ideas in a reading selection and personal knowledge and experience (i.e., interpreting reading selections by integrating the information and ideas in a reading selection with personal knowledge and experience) [EQAO Information Bulletin]
EQAO defines writing as, “the constructive process of communicating in various written forms” (EQAO Information Bulletin). This constructive process is tested through three writing skills:
o Writing Skill 1: developing a main idea with sufficient supporting details
o Writing Skill 2: organizing information and ideas in a coherent manner
o Writing Skill 3: using conventions (i.e., spelling, grammar, punctuation) in a manner that does not distract from clear communication (EQAO Information Bulletin).
Demonstrating an adequate understanding of and capability for these math, reading and writing skills on the grade 9 EQAO and OSSLT are necessary to graduate.
The content of both the Grade Nine Assessment of Mathematics and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test is “based entirely on The Ontario Curriculum, the tests should not require special preparation. Students are simply asked to demonstrate the curriculum-based knowledge and skills they have developed through their regular classroom work” (Guide to EQAO tests in Secondary Schools). While these tests are intended to be at the same level as the tests students have been taking throughout the year, they can still be daunting, especially for students who may be struggling with the curriculum. Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages and skill levels, offers the following five tips on preparing for EQAO tests:
- Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. As with class tests, students should prepare separately as well as in class for these tests. Preparation is the most important behavior that affects your test-taking, as well as the one over which you have the most control. Remember: cramming does not work.
- Keep up with your studies. Go to class, take good notes, ask questions when you need something clarified, participate, and do the assignments.
- Study with others. Studying can be difficult, so if you’re able to study with friends and classmates who are equally motivated you’ll be doing yourself and the others a favor. Keep each other on schedule, stay with it. Quiz each other, share your knowledge, and be a team. You will all win.
- Review your past test results and know what to expect for EQAO tests: Forewarned is forearmed. How did you do on other tests this year? For a standardized test it is important to become familiar with its format (will there be multiple choice, short answer, an essay?) so you will know what to expect. Ask a teacher or check out these links online for more information on the Grade 9 assessment and Grade 10 OSSLT formats, as well as additional tips for improving math and literacy.
- If you’re falling behind, get help right away. The longer you wait, the more behind you’re going to fall. If your study buddy can’t help, ask your teacher for some extra time, or get a tutor. Get the help you need.
This last tip is incredibly important: while schools may prepare students for these tests, if students have been struggling with the concepts and content of everyday math, reading, and writing in class, these EQAO tests will go poorly. A Sylvan tutor can help keep this from happening. With individualized programs taught by Ontario Certified Teachers, and easy access to online resources, Sylvan can assess and address where your student needs to improve in math, reading, or writing and work with you to prepare for the Grade 9 EQAO and the OSSLT.
Math is a subject that frequently intimidates people of any age. It elicits feelings of being inherently “not good” at it. Beginning as early as elementary school, these feelings can haunt people for the rest of their lives, and the anxiety is renewed when children bring home math homework. Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages and skill levels, commissioned a report in 2011 regarding math anxiety in parents. This report revealed that, “97% of parents feel more prepared to discuss alcohol and drug use with their children than to help with algebra and math homework”, while “70% believe that helping their kids with algebra and math is harder than teaching them how to drive,” and “four in five parents reported…that they’d make more mistakes on the algebra and math problems their children bring home than on their own tax preparations”.
For parents and children alike, the anxiety that builds around math can be debilitating. However, this anxiety is also easily extinguished. Sylvan Learning offers ten tips for parents to help their children (and themselves) turn math anxiety into academic confidence:
- What you say matters. While many adults think its “cute” when a child says “I’m just not good at math”, children are listening and need to hear that they can improve.
- Recognize your math skills. You know math better than you think. Notice how many times a day you use your math skills, such as when you go shopping, measure something, buy gas or try to find the best bargain. Once you realize this, your fears surrounding math will diminish, allowing a confidence to grow that you can pass onto your children.
- Show children math in their lives. Just as your life involves a lot of math, your child’s life does, too. Show them the math in the sports or games they play, measure their growth spurts, or figure out grade averages. A child’s day is full of math.
- Practice. Even when children don’t have homework, practice math skills with them. Make some simple math facts flash cards or play a math game; encourage them and provide congratulatory treats. Practice eliminates anxiety, and helps classroom participation grow. Knowing math facts effortlessly and without hesitation is the first major step in mastering math.
- Have study buddies. Encourage your child to have a couple of friends with whom he can ask questions about homework and study for quizzes with. Children like learning from and celebrating successes with each other.
- Don’t forget routines. Routines are important in a child’s life; Routines provide stability and consistency. Implementing math practice into a regular routine will not only teach good study habits, but will also improve their math skills.
- Stay positive. Show your child that math is important to you and that you want her to be successful. When she does well on homework assignments and tests, praise her. When disappointments occur, show her that she can learn from her mistakes and start fresh.
- Don’t Pressure. Adding pressure to already-anxious children doesn’t do anything but embarrass them and create a greater aversion to math. Instead, provide the necessary support, routines, and study habits that lead to confidence. Confidence beats embarrassment every time.
- Involve the teacher. Teachers have insights into our kids. During back-to-school or other teacher-parent conferences, tell the math teacher that math improvement is one of your child’s goals this year. Ask her if she can provide some practice tips that could help. Take advantage of a professional’s perspective.
- Get help. If you notice your child needs help in math (or any other subject), get help right away. The longer you postpone help, the worse the problem gets. Sylvan Learning has been helping kids catch up, keep up, and get ahead for over thirty years.
If you feel your child needs help beyond what you can give at home with these tips, Sylvan Learning can help. The most important tip Sylvan Learning suggests is to get help, and to get it right away. As Dr. Rick, an educator of over 40 years, says: “Postponing academic first-aid makes as much sense as putting off medical first-aid; the longer you postpone help, the worse the problem gets”. With individualized programs taught by Ontario Certified Teachers, and easy access to online resources such as MySylvan and Sylvan Math Prep, Sylvan Learning improves math proficiency while defeating math anxiety and instilling confidence.
Report card time can stir up a range of emotions for students and their parents. While both can be surprised by the grades they see on the report card, this response can be lessened by effective organization and constant communication with each other. By keeping up to date on students’ efforts, the grades they’ve gotten on assignments and quiz’s, and whether or not they’ve been completing their math homework, both students and parents can ensure that if there is a surprise, its a pleasant one.
To replace the anxiety of report card time with happy anticipation, Sylvan Learning offers a few suggestions. Here are ten tips based on communication and organization to make the next report card a good one:
- Learn from your children and stay involved. Know what’s going on in their school life. Talk to your children every day about school. Let them know you’re interested and involved: ask plenty of questions about their classes, teachers, friends, assignments, and activities. Listening alone can be a big help.
- Learn from their teachers. Never stop communicating with teachers. You can email them, or write notes. Teachers like when you’re interested in what’s going on in the classroom, and want your kids to succeed.
- Help your children to stay organized. If students learn how to plan their study and homework time, keep their study areas neat, and break down big projects and assignments into smaller ones, then you will have taught them a valuable lifelong lesson.
- Have short and long-term goals. Talk to them about what they want to accomplish this report card period, this semester, this year. Then support them, encourage them, and celebrate with them.
- Learn from mistakes. Teaching children how to learn from mistakes can ensure future success. Disappointment from an unexpected grade can be a starting point for future improvement.
- Be a good example. Children learn from watching us. Are you organized? Punctual? Serious about your responsibilities? Children notice.
- Don’t forget those routines. Children rely on routines – for play, study, homework, meals, bedtime reading, wake-up time – and those routines make them feel safe and grounded.
- Stay supportive and positive. Children need our encouragement. A simple “Good job” or “I’m proud of you” can be inspirational and reinforce good habits.
- Celebrate progress. When they achieve a goal, like a good report card, celebrate with them. When things don’t go so well, make a plan for improvement together
- Get help immediately if you see a problem. Even when children want to do better, there may be educational gaps that they are unable to close without the help of a tutor.
It is also important is to remember to keep report cards in perspective. Remember that a report card is only a measure of how your child is doing in a brief period of their education. If, however, through communication and observation you determine your child is struggling with school, tip number ten is vital: seek a tutor. At Sylvan Learning, your child’s program is tailor-made for them. This program is also taught by certified teachers to help your child finish the school year strong!
For more on communicating with your child, see Sylvan’s Report Card Guide online, which offers seven key pieces of advice to help them achieve academic success and ensure your child’s next report card experience is a positive one.
Reading is essential to a good education and parents and teachers can help inspire kids to develop a love for reading. Here are 12 Tips to inspire your child to read:
- Expect it, encourage it, model it. Let kids know early on that reading is valued in your family. Support, motivate, and encourage their reading habits. Show them that you read – for information, for directions, for pleasure.
- Do family read-aloud nights. You have game nights and pizza nights. Why not read-aloud nights? Everyone comes prepared to read something from a favorite book, say, or something he or she’s found interesting lately and wants to share. Kids love to show off their skills, especially if they’ve had a chance to practice. Serve treats.
- Remember the library. Make the children’s librarian your new best friend. She or he will know what kids are reading now, what’s popular, what’s coming up. Make visiting the library a cherished routine, some quality time with you, a chance to have an outing together.
- Ask other parents for ideas. What are your neighbors’ kids reading? Do they have favorites you’ve never heard ofAsk what they do to encourage reading. Share your ideas with them; they’re wondering how to get their kids reading, too.
- Become familiar with BookAdventure. BookAdventure is my favorite kids’ reading motivation website. Answer a few questions about your favorite kinds of books, your grade in school, and your preference for “easy” or “hard” books, and BookAdventure gives you a personalized list of suggestions. And, some cool prizes for when you’re finished.
- Be creative. Let your family’s imagination take over. Together, write alternate endings for your favorite stories. Write songs about favorite characters. Act out scenes, complete with quick improvised costumes. Record audio scenes and send to Grandma. Be expressive!
- Share stories and books. You tell about your favorite stories from when you were a kid. Then let them tell you about theirs. During the next week or so, read each other’s. Talk about them.
- Don’t forget bedtime reading. Bedtime is important for lots of reasons. For calming, for bonding, for quiet conversation, and for reading. Choose favorites for going to sleep. Chapter books with exciting chapter endings are enticing for getting ready for bed.
- Illustrate scenes. Kids love to draw. Select scenes and illustrate them. You select a scene and illustrate. He selects a scene and illustrates. Share. Display on the refrigerator. You can just feel the warm memories being created.
- Read to others. Nothing builds reading skills like reading aloud. (Plus, nothing lets you know how your kids are progressing with their reading skills than listening to them read. It’s worth a thousand tests.) Appreciative audiences include younger kids and older adults, like Grandma and Grandpa. Don’t forget to encourage practice, which gives confidence.
- Read the book, watch the movie together. Some folks like to see the movie first to motivate further reading. Others like to read the book first and then compare and contrast the movie. Your choice.
- Check out the Caldecott and Newbery winners. Caldecott winners are the year’s top children’s book illustrators. Newbery winners are the year’s top children’s book authors. Take a look at the Caldecott and Newbery winners of the past couple of years.
Encourage and promote reading by setting an example. For more reading articles, you can visit Dr. Rick's Blog