Saturday, 13 April 2013

To accelerate or not to accelerate!

Ok back to my friend Linda with her gifted child Liam. You will remember from an earlier blog how he wasn't engaged in his first year of school and her and her husband were not sure what to do with him. Liam had gone from being a well behaved child who loved to learn to a boy who didn't want to go to school and was playing up in class.

The advice was to get him tested. From the testing they gained useful information that identified him as gifted. Once the school were presented with this information they began to put different practices in place like taking him out for reading with a small group of students and giving him mathematical work pitched at a child in year 2.

Now Liam is in Year 2 and has just finished his first term. Half way through the term he began becoming extremely angry with his little brother and having outbursts over the littlest of things. Linda also noticed that he was beginning to become uninterested in things that he previously had loved and she was concerned that he was depressed. It was building up to become similar to his first year at school as once again he didn't want to go to school.

As her and her husband had been there before they knew that they needed to do something earlier then they had previously. The straw that broke the camels back was him wetting the bed- at 7. He hadn't done this since kindergarten.

The first thing they did was look at and talk to different principals at the surrounding schools. One particular principal had said that on the evidence that she could see that she would be happy to accelerate him straight into year 3.

The dilemma that now faced them was to accelerate or not to accelerate? The topic is hotly debated with people who aren't faced with this dilemma also believing they are an expert!

The main thing people say is that students shouldn't be accelerated as they wont be able to drink when they finish school. To me this particular comment is irrelevant. What should Linda do? ignore that her son was showing signs of depression? To me this may lead to him eventually becoming so disengaged that he doesn't make it to the drinking age.

Anyway they approached the school and voiced their concerns and emphasised that there needed ot be a change as he was not interested in school. They also let them know that he liked his teacher and they know that the school was doing a lot to differentiate the curriculum for him. It is important to let the school know what they are doing right and not just launch into what they aren't.

At the meeting there was the school's assistant principal and Liam's class teacher. At first they stated their point of view that they didn't believe that Liam would benefit from acceleration as socially he wasn't ready. I am not sure how they would know if he socially was ready as they hadn't made any attempts to see how he interacted with older children. They also stressed how they had been extending him in maths by bringing in some other high achievers in maths. Linda pointed out that this was great BUT that was only one lesson in Liam's day and wasn't enough to keep him interested.

Linda pointed out that her and her husband wanted Liam to experience failure so that he learnt new things. School shouldn't be a babysitting service but rather a place of learning for all children and this would be easier for teachers to do if they have other children at the same level. Linda also pointed out that Liam had made the comment that he didn't want to be the kid in the class that everyone wanted to be friends with so that he would help them with their work. And frankly that isn't his job!

Eventually they reached a compromise. For the rest of the term he would go to year 3 for the reading and writing part of the day. For maths he would continue to work with the group of students that had been selected.

So has there been a difference? Yes in such a short amount of time he is finding things challenging and is already 20 times happier. The plan is for next term for him to also do his Science with year 3.

The question is then is acceleration going to be right for my child? below are some links on the topic that are well worth looking at for anyone considering this. The thing that you also need to take into consideration is if the child wants to move a grade.

I like how the school didn't just give into the parent and place the child straight into Year 3. This gradual move allows the student to get used to the new arrangement and see if it is going to work. So far in this situation so good. The year 3 students have accepted him and are even playing with him at different times throughout the day- lunch and after school.

Research show that failed acceleration usually occurs when the proper preparation hasn't been done. The child has to be the centre of the whole thing and should be consulted throughout the process. They need to be checked on to see if they are comfortable and everything is going well.

Some students may need to be accelerated in just one subject. In Liam's case he is only 6 months younger then most of the kids above him and therefore it takes away the social aspect as he already has friends in the older grades.

In the end you need to do what is right for your child and not worry about what others think. Because they don't know your child as well as you do. Sometimes you just need to push for what you need.

Different links to help you are

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Help me with Homework!!!

My son this week came home with his spelling words...well 2 of the 10. He obviously thought if he only writes down two then he only has to learn 2 words. Sneeky!

Even though I am a teacher I find myself often pulling out my hair to get homework done. Often parents clash with their children when it comes to homework. There are a couple to reasons for this.

a) you are too much like your child and easily push each others buttons
b) children are constantly testing the boundaries- seeing how far they have to push to get out of doing something...
c) it is too hard or they don't have a long attention span

Here are some useful tips to try to help you  get through the homework witching hour!

1) Remain calm! Even if your inner temperature is set at explode try as best you can to bite your tongue. Leave them for a moment or two if need be. (Yes easier said then done!) Children will see how far they can push you.

2) Ensure you child and you both understand the what is required with the homework. If you are not sure ask.

4) Make sure your child is not too tired. You need to remember they have had a long day at school so adding homework on top of that day is going to a failure before they start. You may find that having some afternoon tea and a bit of TV for half an hour first will help rejuvenate them.

5) Make sure the homework is in achievable chunks. If a child sees they have a whole page of work to do this will instantly stress them out. Try starting with the hardest activity letting the child know that you are doing that and at the end they can do something they like to do- computer game?

6) See what parts of the homework you can combine. When it comes to having to write spelling words into sentences I get my son to see how many he can put into a sentence. This then reduces how many sentences he has to write. Try not to do the sentences for them and don't worry if their sentences are too basic. You can always suggest some other words to add to their sentence to make it more interesting for next time.

7) Eliminate what you know they don't need practice at. With spelling words at the beginning of the week I ask my son to spell them to me out loud and I tick which ones he gets right and these ones we don't need to learn. If he has to write them out each night I make him do it as handwriting practice.

8) Try to have no distractions, no TV. Noisy siblings. Some music in the background down low may work for some children too.

9) Be positive and keep reinforcing what they have achieved in the time you have had not emphasis what still needs to be done.

10) Negotiate with the teacher- what is really important to get done and what is less important. For those weeks where it doesn't seem like you are winning the battle just do the bare minimum.

11) One complaint about homework from parents is that it is taught differently from when they were at school or they don't understand the teacher jargon. You tube has a wealth of videos demonstrating how to do almost anything.  The website schoolatoz has a wealth of useful information. This link will take you to the teacher jargon page. You may also like to check out a free mathematic library.

All I can say is goodluck...some friends have taken the pressure completely off and have hired people to do the homework with their children. Maybe an option for some?

This looks like a good book!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Jump Starting Reluctant Boys to Read

Recently at parent teacher interviews a huge number of parents said that one thing they would like for their children this year was for them to read more.

So the question is how do we get our children hooked onto reading. The answer is simple choose books that are engaging and at their level. Below are some books that I recommend for different ages.

The first group of reluctant readers I hear from parents are younger boys. Homework can be like pulling teeth! I find that often boys get switched off reading from an early age and why? well it is simple they don't want to be reading about fairies or fluffy animals or baby books. Boys want boys books with adventure etc. I would also suggest that you should read a page and then get them to read a page (or paragraph). This may take 20 minutes of your day- well worth it.

These two books could just do the trick: 

Hey Jack! : The Circus Lesson - Sally Rippin

1) This series of books is good for boys who are struggling with their reading but are wanting to read chapter books. (check out Booktopia or Amazon Books for more selections). This series of books are written just for boys and are full of down to earth stories that are imaginative and fun. The text is broken up with pictures throughout the book which makes a page not such a daunting thing.

Zac Power Test Drive : 10 Books in 1 - H. I. Larry

2) And one of the most popular series of books that has a range of levels is the Zac Power Series. The series is based upon the adventures of Zac Power, a twelve-year-old boy, and his fifteen-year-old brother, Leon. Zac is a secret agent for the fictitious Government Investigation Bureau (GIB), and Zac's adventures frequently see him saving the world.

Find the series at Booktopia or Amazon Books

Over the past few years there has been a lot more books written for our boys. For those students in Year 3 and 4 there are also a few choices to look at:

Diary of A Wimpy Kid : Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series : Book 1 - Jeff Kinney

1) The Diary of a Wimpy kid is perfect for this age group. There are 7 books in the series and seem to engage reluctant readers. They are filled with hand written notes and simple drawings of his day.

Kids also love these books due to them being made into movies.
The Birthday Party of No Return : Goosebumps Hall of Horrors Series : Book 6 - R. L. Stine

2) The Goosebump series of books. These are oldies but goodies. They are simple to comprehend and a quick read for boys. Perfect. There are over 60 books in this series. Boys also love them because they are full of horror, humour and supernatural themes.....wooooooooooohhhhhhh!!

And then there are the big boys. There are two books that I have used in my class over the last couple of years that I find are infectious and once one boy raves about them I find the whole class wants to read them.

1) Holes by Louis Sachar. This book has also been made into a movie. I find that kids that have seen the movie also like to read the book. The main character is Stanley. Holes is about how he overcomes his problems, both those created inside of him and the ones imposed upon him at Camp Green Lake where he is sent after allegedly stealing a pair of running shoes. He grows stronger, physically and emotionally, and emerges a happy, confident young man. Boys and girls love this book. My class are begging me to buy the sequel Small Steps....which I must do this week and will let you know if I think it is as good.

Trash2) The second book that my boys love is Trash by Andy Mulligan. This book has really got the boys in my class hooked into their reading- every spare minute they have it out and are reading! I hooked them in first by showing them a book trailer from youtube. They straight away wanted to start reading. I loved reading this book too! It is about a boy who lives on a trash dump and how life changes when he discovers something important in the Trash. He and his friends take it in turns to write a chapter from their point of view and the adventure that unfolds from finding a bag. They know that it is important as the police are way too interested in it. 

I hope this helps. I will add to my list as I find other little gems that capture the imagination of our boys!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 great place to find the book you have been searching for!

Should I teach my child how to read before school?

We live in a very competitive world. Every parent wants to give their children a start that they didn't have.
As a teacher you see the extremes in parenting- from the Helicopter parenting style  through to parents that don't seem to take the time to care style.

At times parents are unsure of what they need to do academically for their children so that they are not behind before they begin school. I think at times the parents are far more anxious then their kids.

A lot of parents face the dilemma of whether or not they should teach their children to read before they start school so here is my advice from what I have observed from teaching.

All children learn at their own pace. This cannot be rushed. It can be facilitated but not pushed. The best thing that you can do for your child is to immerse them in rich text. Give them a love for reading by choosing books that they enjoy and want to have read over and over again.

I found with my own children that Dr Suess books worked a treat. Our boys would frequently request them and often finish off the sentences. There most favourite books were Green Eggs and Ham (of course!) and The Sneetches.

Lynley Dodd's books are also all time favourites in our household. Harry Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy is very catchy and fabulous for boys with all the different dogs he meets on the way!

Check them out these books and others at booktopia

Once students are immersed into books often they will start to want to read. This can vary with a wide range from 3 through to 7. Not wanting to read early doesn't mean that your child will struggle at school or wont be academic. The whole process is about going gently so that your child becomes a lifelong reader, not a I have to read reader. You need to make sure that you never push your kids. This 99% of the timewill backfire. You don't want to stop your child from reading before they even start.

Internal motivation is the key. Ensure you choose books that your child is passionate about. One mother this week had her three year old sound asleep in his pram clutching to a book about wind mills, a wind mill made out of straws and a stuffed toy. She has searched everywhere for books about windmills to satisfy his interests. He is so into this theme that at his daycare they have begun to do a unit on it.

It reminded me of eldest son, Max when he was 4 and his love for Dr Suess books. He painted a picture of his own version of a Dr Suess character. Max then made up a story that went along with it.

Some children are however very ready to begin reading. Max was ready to learn how to read before school. So what did I do? We purchased some books from the Reading Eggs. They started very simply and gradually moved on.

What I liked best about this series of books was that they don't just focus on the written word but more importantly their ability to comprehend what they have read. They are bright and colourful and have a website link if you want to sign up.

So should I teach my child how to read before school? In short ask your child if they want to...look for the signs of engagement and most importantly give them a lifelong love of reading!

Friday, 22 February 2013

So is my child gifted? Part 2

Liam may be a special case and be higher then most students but the same problems occur constantly in classrooms all over the world. Disengaged children will play up or will simply start to retreat. This is not what want for any of our children.

In my last post I spoke about a checklist that I give to parents. It sets out clearly the differences between being gifted and being bright. I often say to parents that there is nothing wrong with being bright. In actual fact in a lot of cases this is a much easier road for children to go down. It is our gifted students that are often the ones disengaged in the classroom and often later in life don't reach their potential.

This is the checklist. Please note that your child does not to have ticks in every box to be gifted. Bright vs Gifted.

Another thing I use to help identify potential Gifted and talented students at my school is Michael Sayler. You need to ensure that you are really honest with this checklist. Take your time to really think of specific examples of your child demonstrating some of these characteristics. Some parents often feel they have to fill in every section with a 10. The reality is that not even the identified gifted will get perfect 10s. This wont help you either as giftedness is complex and some students will be gifted in one area but not in others. Depending on the age of your child will determine which checklist you should use:  Things my Young child has done or Things this child has done.

In the end it doesn't matter if your child is bright or gifted. It is about working hard to reach their potential without turning them off the love of learning which I see too often.

My advice to any parent is not to push your child. My many years of teaching have taught me that all children do things at their own pace. Children need to at some point to work out how to satisfy their hunger for knowledge and be equipped to find the answers to their own questions.

If you do believe that your child is gifted and want to know more I would suggest reading up on what gifted and talented means. The best person to explain this is Professor Fraccoys Gagne, a French Canadian from Montreal, Quebec. In very simplified terms, he explains how identified gifted students have a potential of doing amazing things. There are different factors that can hinder and mask this. Those that do reach their potential are talented. Read more about this by following the following links:

  1. Gagnes Model of Differentiated Model of Giftedness- Visual
  2. Gagnes Model of Differentiated Model of Giftedness- Written explanation
  3. Definitions from NSW Australia Curriculum Support

I hope these links in some way help you with your journey of identifying if your child is gifted or not. Please feel free to ask any questions.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

So is my child gifted? Part 1

Every parent believes that their child is the best thing since sliced bread. We all get excited and proud when they do something new.

The question though is Is my child gifted?

There is a checklist I give out to parents who are pondering this very question. Wanting to know if their child is gifted or bright.

A friend of mine, Linda, always knew her son was bright as his vocabulary was far superior then his peers. He was talking in sentences from a very early age. Liam was always an extremely well behaved boy, never in trouble....except for the occasional I want this and don't want to do that. This never however lasted for long and as for most kids this was more a home thing. Liam however was always well behaved at preschool.

As most kids Liam was very excited about starting school. There was a big lead up to it.

On the day he started, amongst the kids clinging to their parents and hysterically in tears, Liam casually waved to his parents and said goodbye! Excellent we have nothing to worry about! But this unfortunately didn't last.

A couple of months into the school year things began to change. This once calm and well behaved child began to be in trouble in class. His mother would dread the pick up from school and the teacher looking at her and using her finger to call her in. One day his teacher trying to get his attention  said "Liam" to which Liam said, "Liam"

Teacher: Don't do that
Liam: Don't do that
Teacher: Liam! stop doing that
Liam: stop doing that I am a parrot I am a parrot!

Yes a little bit funny however his teacher was not amused!

Liam's mother spoke to him and explained how this wasn't the appropriate behaviour to have in class. She also explained how not everyone has the same sense of humour as us. This worked well and he did begin to behave in class. Looking back now his mother says she doesn't think he realised he was even begin naughty until it was pointed out.

Things a month or so later turned again when Liam was hysterical every morning and didn't want to go to school. He also began to wet the bed. Something he had never done, even when he was being toilet trained. When his mother had said to him at 2 and half I think it is time you stopped wearing nappies he simply said no when I turn 3. And like he said at 3 stopped wearing nappies and never had any accidents at night.

Liam's mother asked for my advice as she was unsure of how to get Liam to want to go to school and get him to not lose his love for learning....

She was also concerned that some children were being taken out for special extended reading classes but he wasn't. Before he started school Linda had decided that because he had such a love for books- to the extent that there had to be a 3 book a night was probably time to teach him. She borrowed a couple of books from the local library. Liam picked them up and read them to her....wooh!! So therefore imagine her not being the expert in education finding out that the other children that could read were being taken out but Liam wasn't...maybe she should have encouraged him to muck up instead of discouraging it...maybe then he would have been noticed.

My advice to her was that she needed to get him tested. She did and even though she knew he was smart she hadn't realised to what extent. When tested Liam's results placed in the 99.9th percentile. Once armed with this the school then listened. All of the sudden they did their own testing and realised that he was reading at least a level 27 at the mid of kindergarten. His maths placed him at the level of a bright year 2 student.

So in part 2 I will explain how to identify you child as gifted and the steps you can take....and Liam will crop up again soon stay tuned!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Advice on what to do about your child

The reason for this blog is to help answer questions that parents are wanting answered. At times parents are not sure how to go about asking their child's teacher or school certain things. There are many reasons for this be it they don't want to be "one of those parents" that look like they are being difficult. They don't want to make things more difficult for their child in the classroom. Whatever the reason may be this blog will attempt to guide parents in how and what they need to do to not be "one of those parents"!

I will start with a conversation I had recently. One of my good friends rang me one Friday afternoon in regards to her son who has just started kindergarten this year. We had had a lot of conversations up to the lead up of him going to school as he is a little immature for his age and doesn't speak much. He is however a big kid so there would be no point keeping him back for a year otherwise he would stand out even more the following year. Anyway setting the picture my friend who I will refer to as Barb was already quite worried about how little Stan would do at school.

When I recieved the call Barb seemed quite upset as she told me how Stan had gone missing at school. At the particular school that he goes to they have floating classes for the first few weeks. All the students are split into groups and given a colour. As Barb waited outside his classroom on the Friday afternoon she peered into the classroom to take a sticky beak. She couldn't however see Stan. That was OK he may just be somewhere she couldn't see him in the room. The next thing along came a teacher with Finn from another classroom. Oh she thought he must of needed to go to the toilet or something. When he got to his classroom door the teacher he had for the day went "Oh Stan where did you get to?"

The disturbing things about this were:
a) The teacher hadn't realised she had a missing child
b) The other class he had been in didn't realise she had an extra child....who's name tag had a different colour on it??

The teachers then that afternoon called her into the classroom for a meeting. AAt the meeting they didn't attempt to explain how long he had been missing or say  how it had happened. Instead they laughed it off and began to say they thought he should be assessed because he doesn't listen. Now that may well be true however he is only 4 and he had been at that time at school for a day and a half. Pretty quick assessment I think!

Barb wanted to know what she should do. So this was my advice.

She needed to contact the principal and voice her concerns about Stan going missing and an explanation of how long he had been gone for and that she needs reassurance that it wont happen again. Barb also needed to make sure that she said that she was happy for him to be assessed as she is happy for teachers to do what they believe is best for her son. She needed to emphasis that she would do anything for her sons.

I told her to make sure she took all emotion out of what she said (which is not an easy thing to do!) and keep to the facts. In doing this Stan would instantly be on the radar of the school.

The outcome of all this was good. Barb decided instead of making a meeting with the principal she would instead send an email. In doing this she was able to take the emotion out and didn't miss out on anything she wanted to say. She sent the email on Saturday afternoon and the principal promptly replied easing all her concerns.

The good thing about Barb voicing her concerns was that even though Stan had not left the school another child may have not been as sensible. Apparently what had happened was that the kinder kids were in classes being taken for a tour around the school. One teacher who wasn't Stans but has a very big voice said "Ok kindergarten lets go". Stan therefore wanting to do the right thing  and not get into trouble stood up and followed her. This was an hour or so before the end of school....Anyway it all worked out Ok in the end.