23 October 2007

Discipline without yelling or spanking

Lynne Reeves Griffin, author of the new book ‘‘Negotiation Generation: Take Back Your Parental Authority Without Punishment,’’ doesn’t believe in spanking, yelling, negotiating - or even giving children time outs. Griffin doesn’t think any of these punishments work. It may sound as if Griffin advocates a hands-off parenting approach, but her strategy for getting kids to behave is exactly the opposite.

According to Griffin, parents need to set firm non-negotiable limits for their children, explain to their kids what those limits are and then help them follow through. And if kids try to test those limits, parents shouldn’t talk. Instead, they should avoid discussion, expect their kids to behave and take action to make sure they do. For example, if a child is supposed to turn off the TV and come to dinner, for example, don’t call him 10 times and tell him repeatedly to turn off the television. Tell him once and then step over and turn off the TV, Griffin said.

Let's try it out to see if this suggestion works.

22 October 2007

How can I work with the school to make sure my child gets the most out of math? Just like your child, schools need your support—especially in the middle school years. Since choice made in middle school determine high school courses that either increase or limit future eduation and career opportunities, your participation is critical.

One person that you should get to know is your child's math teacher. Working with you and your child, the teacher can help you decide how the best way forward for your child to learn mathematics. Let them know that you want to participate in making decisions. How do you begin? Ask questions. After all, you have a right to know. Find out if your child is getting the same opportunities in math as everyone else. Ask if a plan is already in place for your child's future math classes.
• What textbook and other materials will you use this year?
• How much homework can we expect?
• Is it okay if my child works with other students on homework?
• How should my child make up work after an absence?
• How do you determine grades?
• What graded work will be sent home?
• How often and when will you send home a formal report about my child?
• How do I schedule a parent-teacher conference?
• What, if any, standardized tests in math will my child take this year?
• What can I do to help you?
• What math classes are available?
• Do all students take the same math classes? If not, how are students placed in different classes?
• What's the next math class my child will take?
• Will this class prepare my child to take challenging math each year in high school?
• What math classes are offered in high school?
• What math classes will my child be ready to take in high school?
• How many students are in each math class?
• When are schedules made for the next year? How are families involved?
• What technology is available for students in math classes?
• What is the background and experience of the math teachers at our school?
• Does our school have a math club?

• When and how will I know if my child's having trouble? What should I do then?
• Is there any tutoring available before, during, or after school? on weekends?
• Do you offer help on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting? When?
• Is peer-tutoring available? If so, how does it work?
• Can you recommend any tutors outside of school?
• Where can we find more problems to use for practice?
• Are there resources listed in the text book or anywhere else that would help?
• Is there a Homework Hotline we can use?
• Do you know any math websites we can visit?
• Does our school offer programs for catching-up or enrichment?
• Does our school participate in any math competitions or contests?
• Do nearby colleges or universities offer any enrichment programs?

Pragmatic approach in learning

If you don't recognize the math in your child's homework, think about how the world has changed since you were in school. The math looks different because the world is different. For instances, the approach of using diagrams or models in solving problem sums is something new to me.

I felt embarrassed when my son asked me to help in a problem that required the use of the model approach. I told my son that I really had no idea in what he was talking about. He replied" Have you forgotten what you have learnt at primary school? Were you paying attention in class?"He was using some of my oft-comments about him on me. But I promised him to find out more about this approach and bring myself up to speed to do problem solving with him. I did that not because I thought I could do a better job than professional tutor. Rather, I was trying to involve myself in his learning activities to encourage him.He has his own tutor in mathematics.

There was a learning point for me in that episode. Advances in science, technology, information processing and communication, combined with the changing workplace, make it necessary for all students to learn more math. The parameters are changing. Basic skills, although important, are no longer enough. New approaches to learning are necessary. Business and industry demand workers who can solve real world problems explain their thinking to others identify and analyze trends from data, and use modern technology.

Instead of worksheets, your child may bring home problems to investigate that are related to real life tasks. These include working out the total cost of grocery shopping mentally. Figuring out the unit cost of items bought. Planning what to buy with a given budget etc.

17 October 2007

Preparing for Examinations - Be Cool!

Semestral Assessment 2 is around the corner. Parents and students alike are franctically trying to cover as much as possible in preparation for the examinations. Some could be well prepared so they can afford to relax a little. But the majority would burn the 'midnight oil' trying to cram in as much as possible. A trademark of Singaporeans in doing the best and nothing less.
It's good to be concerned about taking a test. It's not good to get "test anxiety." This is excessive worry about doing well on a test and it can mean disaster for a student. Students who suffer from test anxiety tend to worry about success in school, especially doing well on tests. They worry about the future, and are extremely self-critical. Instead of feeling challenged by the prospect of success, they become afraid of failure. This makes them anxious about tests and their own abilities. Ultimately, they become so worked up that they feel incompetent about the subject matter or the test.
It does not help to tell the child to relax, to think about something else, or stop worrying. But there are ways to reduce test anxiety. Encourage your child to do these things:
  1. Space studying over days or weeks. (Real learning occurs through studying that takes place over a period of time.) Understand the information and relate it to what is already known. Review it more than once. (By doing this, the student should feel prepared at exam time.)
  2. Don't "cram" the night before--cramming increases anxiety which interferes with clear thinking. Get a good night's sleep. Rest, exercise, and eating well are as important to test-taking as they are to other schoolwork.
  3. Read the directions carefully when the teacher hands out the test. If you don't understand them, ask the teacher to explain.
    Look quickly at the entire examination to see what types of questions are included (multiple choice, matching, true/ false, essay) and, if possible, the number of points for each. This will help you pace yourself.
  4. If you don't know the answer to a question, skip it and go on. Don't waste time worrying about it. Mark it so you can identify it as unanswered. If you have time at the end of the exam, return to the unanswered question(s).

16 October 2007

Activities to encourage a child to write

Your child needs to do real writing. It's more important for the child to write a letter to a relative than it is to write a one-line note on a greeting card. Encourage the child to write e-mails to relatives and friends. Perhaps your child would enjoy corresponding with friends at school through the e-mail.

Encourage your child to take notes on trips or outings and to describe what (s)he saw. This could include a description of nature walks, a boat ride, a car trip, or other events that lend themselves to note-taking.

Talk with your child as much as possible about his/her impressions and encourage the child to describe people and events to you. If the child's description is especially accurate and colorful, say so.
Keeping a journal is an excellent writing practice as well as a good outlet for venting feelings. Encourage your child to write about things that happen at home and school, about people (s)he likes or dislikes and why, things to remember or things the child wants to do. Especially encourage your child to write about personal feelings--pleasures as well as disappointments. If the child wants to share the journal with you, read the entries and discuss them--especially the child's ideas and perceptions.
My son has a blog on his favourite cartoon character Ben 10. He requested me to create an account for him. What he has been writing about different aliens and their supernatural powers. Apart from enjoying this activity, he is also becoming more competent in putting his thoughts and feelings into words.
There are also numerous games and puzzles that help a child to increase vocabulary and make the child more fluent in speaking and writing. Remember, building a vocabulary builds confidence. Try crossword puzzles, word games, anagrams and cryptograms de- signed especially for children. Flash cards are good, too, and they're easy to make at home. My son loves Boggle because it is simpler and easier to play as compared to other word games like Scrabble.
There was a game that I learned from my son. He picked it up from his school. It is called the "Hangman". Played with 2 players and a white board, one would write a word with missing letters on the baord and the other must attempt to guess what these missing letters were. Each mistake will result in one part of a human body being drawn starting from the head. Once the entire outline of a human is completed, it is considered hanged and the one guessing the missing letters lose the game.

Most children like to make lists just as they like to count. Encourage this. Making lists is good practice and helps a child to become more organized. Boys and girls might make lists of their records, tapes, baseball cards, dolls, furniture in a room, etc. They could include items they want. It's also good practice to make lists of things to do, schoolwork, dates for tests, social events, and other reminders.