10 Tips to Help your Child Become an Independent Learner

10 Tips to help your child become an Independent Learner written by Angela Giglio of Kip McGrath Musselburgh in East Lothian, Scotland. This is a fantastic article for parents on how to encourage their children to become independent learners. Excellent advice for parents.

Kip McGrath Musselburgh blog

 

I’m up early this morning planning for my sessions down at Kip McGrath Education Centres in Musselburgh. Thursday is a busy day for us and I’m very much looking forward to tutoring English, French and Maths to all our wonderful Primary and Secondary students. Can’t wait to see 8-year-old Becky beat her times tables record again. She’s become so confident with the table she’s been practising that she’s even beating the Secondary kids! Way to go Becky!

 Independence in Scotland

The news in the background that Prime Minister David Cameron is visiting Edinburgh today to discuss the issue of Scottish Independence, has reminded me that I need to get back to one of my parents with a few tips on how to help her little boy become  more independent with his homework. As a former Head of Department, transforming children into independent learners was always high on the…

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Power of Practice – Is talent or hard work the answer to succeed in Education?

We previously posted a blog on “How to help your child reach their full potential in life” in 2011 which was written by Angela Mitchell, a teacher and Director of Kip McGrath Cambuslang.

In our blog, we referenced an article by Mathew Syed, former three-times Commonwealth table-tennis champion.  Mathew Syed has now a best selling book called Bounce based on his view that everyone can succeed if you put in the hours and work.  He refutes the myth of the “child prodigy” and “child genius” and is adamant that practice and hard work can make any child a success, whether that be academic or sports related.

I subscribe to an excellent education blog written by Bill Boyd whose blog is at literacyadviser.wordpress.com and tonight he posted an article based on Mathew Syed’s new book called “Bounce -The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice“.  This has prompted me to re-post our earlier blog.

We would thoroughly recommend reading this book and truly believe that born talent is a myth – the key to success in all aspects of life is not ‘born talent’ but is down to hard work and practice.

However, when we are dealing with children, this advice is only good if a child is receiving support from parents at home and teachers at school.  Many children are slipping through the cracks in education and not being engaged or encouraged to reach their full academic potential.  I despair at the number of children coming to me in primary school who cannot read properly.  How can children progress to Secondary School and learn and progress if their reading and writing skills are at P3 level?  Teachers are doing their best but with class sizes so big there are always going to be children with potential who are not achieving. What do we do?

This is our original blog post from 2011. I would like to mention Carol Dweck’s input from her link http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/index.html

Praise Your Child’s Efforts

I read an interesting article the other day, written by Matthew Syed, a former table tennis champion, about how we can possibly hold our children back with the words we use and set them up for failure in the future both academically and personally.

We’ve all heard a phrase like”my daughter is not very good at maths or sports – she takes after her mother!”  People assume that talent is all about genetics and parents can unintentionally influence their childrens’ achievements by repeating this type of phrase to spare a child’s feelings if they struggle in a particular area and praise their children highly on achievements and results.

However, there has been lots of research into this subject (see link below) and it shows that every child has the potential to excel in all areas whether it be Maths, English, Science, Sports, Arts etc regardless of genetics.  The brain has the capacity to learn and excel at anything, as long as the effort is put in and encouragement given in the right way.

We need to remove the mindset in children that they have talent for certain things like sport but are not academically gifted.  This is not necessarily true – every child has the potential to be an academic given the correct teaching methods and putting in the effort.  It is very important that a child has the correct mindset and realises that effort will bring them to the top in any field, not ‘talent’.

My view as a Parent

As a parent I quickly became aware of the value of commenting on behaviour as this was something my children viewed as changeable.  They knew I was angry with the negative behaviour and I praised their effort for trying hard to change it.  Something as simple as teaching them to ride their bikes meant commenting on how hard they were trying and with practise/effort they could achieve their goal of no stabalisers. Shouting to remind my oldest about a previously learned skill, such as timing it right to put both feet down after breaking, saved her from smashing head first into a tree in the park, then praising her for working hard on this –  previously she fell off every timed she braked and nearly killed off a few cats in the process!

My view as a Teacher

As a teacher, you have to get to know the children you work with and build up a relationship with them.  However, the last thing you want is for them to perform a task just to receive praise from their teacher.  Praise can either be a bond or barrier.

Allan McLean, ‘The Motivated School’ (2010) talks about contaminated praise where a teacher gives praise with the add on of ‘but I wish you could do that all the time’ or ‘why can’t you always..’  McLean states that praise should be relevant, specific and immediate.  Praise for effort encourages children to concentrate on their learning as opposed to showing off their ability.  It teaches values and builds confidence and much research points to the fact that it is related to self-esteem.  It is important to be confident in your ability to deal with difficulties and to know you will progress if you work hard and use the correct approaches, especially when the going gets tough. Confidence in ability is only useful when pupils are doing well, therefore, praise for effort changes their mindset to cope when they come up against a challenge.

This links with Carol Dweck’s research where she states that praising effort and not talent encourages children to view challenges as learning opportunities rather than threats.  Hers and McLean’s research impacts on our beliefs about talent and influences the way we respond and think.  We need to promote the view that IQ is not fixed and the brain is like a muscle – the more we exercise it the more it grows and our skills expand with practise.

My experience at Kip McGrath Education Centres

The foregoing is at the heart of the Kip philosophy and the materials we use.  As tutors we have to remind ourselves the impact words have and can either hold back or encourage an individual.  The materials provide students with skills practise and as they move through the programmes they can experience first hand how their efforts reap rewards.

For example, I have a young student who is dyslexic.  The computer programmes use a multi sensory approach where he hears, sees, touches and responds.  The written materials provide practise and the tutor teaches the skills and approaches to use when meeting new challenges.  He told me he hated language work in school but after coming to Kip for a while he now likes to read books and enjoys sitting in the library corner at school.  He knows he finds reading challenging but now has the confidence to use his skills and knowledge about language to tackle words when reading.  His mindset has changed.  He views himself as a reader and believes if he works hard and keeps practising his skills will expand.  He no longer believes he can’t read because he is not as clever as the other children in his class but is something he can work hard on.  His mum told me today that his class teacher can’t believe the difference in his attitude.  He contributes in class, asks for help and is determined to succeed.  He still has many challenges to face but with the support of his tutor, the Kip materials and praise targeted to his effort he has the capacity to deal with the learning challenges he faces.

Getting it Right

As a person I am not saying I am perfect.  It has taken me years and lots of courses, assignments and analysing my behaviour to make sure the impact I have on children/students I teach is a positive one.  Sometimes I get it wrong and feel like kicking myself but self-reflection is a great tool to put you on the path to getting it right.

Angela Mitchell (right) runs the Kip McGrath Education Centres in Cambuslang together with Lesley McAteer (both fully qualified teachers).  To contact us, please click on the photo to take you to our main website or call us on 0141 646 2314.

Sources and useful links for this Blog

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/3546553/Praise-your-kids-for-effort-not-being-bright.html

http://mindsetonline.com/

http://www.themotivatedschool.co.uk/

Helping Children Deal with Disappointing Exam Results

Our guest blogger this week is Angela Giglio, Centre Director of Kip McGrath Education Centres in Musselburgh, Edinburgh East

After many years of thinking about it, I have finally taken the plunge and am writing my very first blog!  Like many novices, I am dipping my toes into this unknown ocean with a certain amount of trepidation. One wonders what to write about and whether indeed anyone will be interested enough to read on. There are so many “experts” out there and it seems that the whole world and his dog know all there is to know about mostly everything. What if my work isn’t as good as others? What if after all the hours of research and effort I don’t get the results I want or perhaps deserve? What if I am disappointed?  What if I have poor results?

This got me thinking about all the teenagers who will shortly receive that long-awaited envelope containing their SQA exam results and how they might be feeling. Inside, a piece of A4 card from the Scottish Exam Board will make a judgement about their academic ability and announce its findings to the world Young hopefuls will be admitted or not to Higher or Advanced level courses. Dreams of gaining a university place and pursuing life-long ambitions will become reality or end up crushed. Doors will be opened and others firmly shut.

The more self-confident will no doubt rip the envelope open straight away and face the music whilst others might hold it in their hands for hours, just staring at it, in the hope perhaps that prayers or sheer will power might somehow make the print say what they want it to say. What an anxious time this is for parents and teachers too. Everyone has had a part to play in the preparation stages and we desperately want our youngsters to do well. If I can make one suggestion to parents, no matter how much you are itching to do so, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not open the envelope for your child! Unless specifically asked to do so, let them do that for themselves. One of the worst feelings in the world is trying your hardest at something but still falling short. How much worse is all of this in the modern world when not only do you have to share bad news with your parents but perhaps broadcast it on Facebook or tweet about it too?

Sometimes, when things don’t quite go our way we realise that we could have done things differently. But life isn’t always fair and we might have deserved better. This can make the bitter pill of disappointment even more difficult to swallow and cope with. In the case of school work, studying for months on end yet bringing in disappointing grades may make many students feel hopeless or helpless even though this is far from true. Everyone responds to disappointment in different ways. Identifying how we respond when the going gets tough helps us identify our strengths and weaknesses and equips us to face the future. Parents too may find it difficult to hide disappointment or anxieties but now more than ever, it is important to be strong and show support, encouragement and unconditional love.

The crucial thing is to act fast. If the results haven’t gone completely as we hoped, it is important to step back a bit and see the wider picture. What has happened has happened and we can’t change the past. What we can and must do is concentrate on the positive, learn from our mistakes and plan a future course of action. Look not just at the overall mark. Have we passed part of the paper or passed some of the internal assessments? We must be rightly proud of ourselves for the elements that we have passed but be determined to identify where we went wrong and make amends in future. Consider how much of what has happened was within our control and how much beyond it. Many Heads of Department or careers staff will be in school when the exam results come out and will probably be happy to give advice. If not, go and see them as soon as school starts up again. Overcoming the initial disappointment might seem tricky but the sooner you start focusing on your next steps the sooner you will start to quickly move forward and feel better.

If your child is feeling very low, try and help them to identify all the things that they have achieved in life so far. It sometimes helps to list these things and display them somewhere visible. Success is a mixture of many things and academic qualifications are just a small part of our worth as human beings. Is your child sporty, hard working, polite, kind, generous, tidy, fun to be around? Did they put effort into their exams, try their best and listen (even if was later rather than sooner) to advice? You could make up a family award for them so that they feel loved, valued and hopeful about the next steps. If you have more than one child taking exams, make sure to celebrate every child’s achievements to the same extent. Self-esteem may be very fragile at this time and it is important to boost it.

Okay, the results are what they are, we have celebrated or shed some tears, so what do we do now?

Worried about exam results? Childline can help.

In my experience successful students are those who strike a good balance between optimism and reality. To achieve your dreams it is important to make changes to what you do and how you challenge yourself. As the saying goes, if you always do what you have always done, you will always get the same results. The good news is that there is a great deal that you can do to turn your dreams into reality. They key to changing the future lies in planning for future success and then following through. Act fast and act now. If you found the subject difficult, get help.

At Kip McGrath we help thousands of children all over the world every day to achieve success in exams and we see first hand how easy it can be, given the correct support, to turn things around. If you didn’t really know how to prepare for your exams consider enrolling on a Study Skills course and learning how to learn effectively. Organise your space, make sure that you start your revision as soon as the new academic year starts – don’t let the work pile up and overwhelm you. Use the last few weeks of the summer holidays to start preparing for the next level. The leap can be huge! Go seek help the very moment you begin to struggle and don’t leave it until the first internal assessment or mock exam. Perhaps a gap year would give you a chance to research your options and take a breather. Just think of all the new and exciting pathways that may be open to you as you start again on a wonderful learning adventure.

But what if the exams have gone exactly to plan and you’ve got brilliant grades? First of all celebrate your success! Congratulations! You have achieved your objectives and should be rightly very proud. However, once you’ve done that, here’s a wee word of warning. Don’t rest on your laurels. My advice on planning applies to everyone. Start preparing for your next success now and like our Kip students make sure you get the new academic year off to a great start.

As I come to the end of my first blog, dipping my toes into the cyberspace wasn’t quite as scary as I first thought. The hardest thing was taking that first step and luckily, I know who and where to turn to for expert advice and support when I need it. As I continue my own learning journey, I will no doubt get feedback on my efforts and take action to learn from any mistakes. Learning is fun and even though occasionally there may be disappointments or setbacks along the way, the rewards we reap for persevering far out way any pitfalls.

At Kip McGrath our philosophy is that anyone can learn given the correct expertise and resources and I would like to wish all the young people out there, the very best of luck. Learning is a life-long journey and one that I hope you will travel long and successfully no matter what comes out of those little brown envelopes.

Angela Giglio
Centre Director at Kip McGrath Musselburgh

What kind of learner is your child?

Understanding your learning style can help you to learn your spellings!

This article was blogged about by a colleague of mine in Lisburn, Northern Ireland and I thought I would share.  To read the original blog go to http://kipmcgrathlisburn.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/what-kind-of-learner-are-you/

Learning to spell can be very difficult for some people.  Time, patience and practice all help!  There are many ways of practising spellings and what works for one person might not work as well for another.    Many children rely heavily on one strategy to learn their weekly spellings as a list and use them in their own writing.  Some children learn effectively in this way, but for many children one way of learning is not enough because they memorise words for the test and then forget them later or struggle to learn the words in the first place.  Most people will find that a multi-sensory method works best, i.e. using senses like eyes, ears, voice and hands.

Look at the following learning styles and see if you recognise your own or the one that best describes your child.

Visual learners:

  • Neat and orderly
  • Speak quickly
  • Are good long range planners
  • Good spellers and can see words in their minds
  • Remember what was seen, rather than heard
  • Are not distracted by noise
  • May forget verbal instructions unless written down
  • Are strong fast readers
  • Would rather read than be read to
  • Doodle during conversations
  • Forget to relay verbal messages to others

Auditory learners:

  • Learn by listening and remember what was     discussed rather than seen
  • Talk to themselves while working
  • Are easily distracted by noise
  • Find writing difficult, but are better at telling
  • Move their lips and pronounce the words as they read
  • Enjoy reading aloud and listening
  • Are talkative, love discussions and go into lengthy descriptions
  • Can spell better out loud than in writing

Kinaesthetic learners:

  • Learn by manipulating and doing
  • Want to act things out
  • Speak slowly
  • Touch people to get their attention
  • Stand close when talking to someone
  • Are physically orientated and move a lot, gesture a lot
  • Memorise by walking and seeing
  • Can’t remember geography unless they’ve actually been there
  • Use action words
  • May have messy handwriting
  • Like involved games

It is highly likely that the majority of children will exhibit some aspects of more than one learning style.  However, if you feel that your child shows a particular learning style, try the activities in the appropriate section below.  If no one style is obvious, try a few activities from each section and see which is most successful.

Suggested activities for the different learning styles:

Visual learners will want to learn by:

  • Looking at words and noticing patterns
  • Saying or repeating words
  • Listening to syllables
  • Copying or tracing words
  • Look Say Cover Write and Check words
  • Writing a word in the air using a finger or a wand
  • Writing a word on your back
  • Writing in large felt tip pens
  • Posting notes around the house
  • How many words can you find in this word?
  • Flash cards of spellings

Auditory learners will want to learn by:

  • Speaking aloud or saying it strangely e.g. weather becomes we-at-her
  • Singing spellings
  • Breaking words down in parts
  • Recording their spellings onto tape
  • Rhythms and tapping to spellings
  • Follow me – you say it, they say it
  • Saying spellings as a ‘rap’

Kinaesthetic learners will want to learn by:

  • Writing in sand or sugar
  • Feeling you spell the words on their backs
  • Making words with pipe cleaners
  • Making words with play dough or clay
  • Visualising letters as picture clues that link into a story
  • Mnemonic – make a silly sentence/draw pictures e.g. SAID becomes:  Sad  Ants  In  Dustbins
  • Writing using different colours

Whatever you choose to do, learning spellings can seem a boring process when it requires so much effort from a child.  Make it as much FUN as possible by using a variety of materials and activities.

By Clare Rimmer, Centre Director, Kip McGrath Education Centre – Lisburn

How to help your child achieve their full potential in all aspects of life.

Praise Your Child’s Efforts

I read an interesting article the other day, written by Matthew Syed, a former table tennis champion, about how we can possibly hold our children back with the words we use and set them up for failure in the future both academically and personally.

We’ve all heard a phrase like”my daughter is not very good at maths or sports – she takes after her mother!”  People assume that talent is all about genetics and parents can unintentionally influence their childrens’ achievements by repeating this type of phrase to spare a child’s feelings if they struggle in a particular area and praise their children highly on achievements and results.

However, there has been lots of research into this subject (see link below) and it shows that every child has the potential to excel in all areas whether it be Maths, English, Science, Sports, Arts etc regardless of genetics.  The brain has the capacity to learn and excel at anything, as long as the effort is put in and encouragement given in the right way.

We need to remove the mindset in children that they have talent for certain things like sport but are not academically gifted.  This is not necessarily true – every child has the potential to be an academic given the correct teaching methods and putting in the effort.  It is very important that a child has the correct mindset and realises that effort will bring them to the top in any field, not ‘talent’.

My view as a Parent

As a parent I quickly became aware of the value of commenting on behaviour as this was something my children viewed as changeable.  They knew I was angry with the negative behaviour and I praised their effort for trying hard to change it.  Something as simple as teaching them to ride their bikes meant commenting on how hard they were trying and with practise/effort they could achieve their goal of no stabalisers. Shouting to remind my oldest about a previously learned skill, such as timing it right to put both feet down after breaking, saved her from smashing head first into a tree in the park, then praising her for working hard on this –  previously she fell off every timed she braked and nearly killed off a few cats in the process!

My view as a Teacher

As a teacher, you have to get to know the children you work with and build up a relationship with them.  However, the last thing you want is for them to perform a task just to receive praise from their teacher.  Praise can either be a bond or barrier.

Allan McLean, ‘The Motivated School’ (2010) talks about contaminated praise where a teacher gives praise with the add on of ‘but I wish you could do that all the time’ or ‘why can’t you always..’  McLean states that praise should be relevant, specific and immediate.  Praise for effort encourages children to concentrate on their learning as opposed to showing off their ability.  It teaches values and builds confidence and much research points to the fact that it is related to self-esteem.  It is important to be confident in your ability to deal with difficulties and to know you will progress if you work hard and use the correct approaches, especially when the going gets tough. Confidence in ability is only useful when pupils are doing well, therefore, praise for effort changes their mindset to cope when they come up against a challenge.

This links with Carol Dweck’s research where she states that praising effort and not talent encourages children to view challenges as learning opportunities rather than threats.  Hers and McLean’s research impacts on our beliefs about talent and influences the way we respond and think.  We need to promote the view that IQ is not fixed and the brain is like a muscle – the more we exercise it the more it grows and our skills expand with practise.

My experience at Kip McGrath Education Centres

The foregoing is at the heart of the Kip philosophy and the materials we use.  As tutors we have to remind ourselves the impact words have and can either hold back or encourage an individual.  The materials provide students with skills practise and as they move through the programmes they can experience first hand how their efforts reap rewards.

For example, I have a young student who is dyslexic.  The computer programmes use a multi sensory approach where he hears, sees, touches and responds.  The written materials provide practise and the tutor teaches the skills and approaches to use when meeting new challenges.  He told me he hated language work in school but after coming to Kip for a while he now likes to read books and enjoys sitting in the library corner at school.  He knows he finds reading challenging but now has the confidence to use his skills and knowledge about language to tackle words when reading.  His mindset has changed.  He views himself as a reader and believes if he works hard and keeps practising his skills will expand.  He no longer believes he can’t read because he is not as clever as the other children in his class but is something he can work hard on.  His mum told me today that his class teacher can’t believe the difference in his attitude.  He contributes in class, asks for help and is determined to succeed.  He still has many challenges to face but with the support of his tutor, the Kip materials and praise targeted to his effort he has the capacity to deal with the learning challenges he faces.

Getting it Right

As a person I am not saying I am perfect.  It has taken me years and lots of courses, assignments and analysing my behaviour to make sure the impact I have on children/students I teach is a positive one.  Sometimes I get it wrong and feel like kicking myself but self-reflection is a great tool to put you on the path to getting it right.

Angela Mitchell (right) runs the Kip McGrath Education Centres in Cambuslang together with Lesley McAteer (both fully qualified teachers).  To contact us, please click on the photo to take you to our main website or call us on 0141 646 2314.

Sources and useful links for this Blog

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/3546553/Praise-your-kids-for-effort-not-being-bright.html

http://mindsetonline.com/

http://www.themotivatedschool.co.uk/