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Tutoring For Your Needs • Passion For Education

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Aug 082012
 

David Dillon - Winner of $100 Facebook Scholarship Contest and the $250 Share Your Passion Scholarship

Education, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction.” With that definition, one can see that there exist two roles in the education system: receivers and distributors. It is the responsibility of teachers to distribute information to their students, the receivers, in as lucid a manner as possible; however, as receivers, it is the students’ responsibility to be receptive of what the teachers distribute. In an academic environment, cooperation is required between both parties for complete success to be achieved.

Based upon statistics and common knowledge, there are students who enjoy learning and students who need some sort of incentive to delve into the learning process. Due to this fact, it is up to the teachers to create an inviting educational environment, a place where the retention of knowledge and abstract thinking is encouraged. Alongside that, teachers must be open to the different manners in which students learn, so that every student has a fair opportunity to comprehend the teacher’s instruction. Once an encouraging environment has been established, the student has the responsibility to be receptive of the teacher’s material. If the open environment still is not sufficient encouragement for the student, then that student must become self-motivated. In my case, when I feel that the style in which the teacher delivers information is not compatible with my way of learning, I have to do what I can in order to understand the material. If that means independently studying at home, asking questions, or seeking tutoring, then I have to take that upon myself and do so.

When I find myself uninterested in a specific topic, I do my best to apply it to something that I am interested in so that I can not only stay focused, but actually understand the material. For instance, I initially did not understand the purpose of physics and analyzing free-fall acceleration until I applied it to breakdancing. I realized that an upward force has to be greater than the natural downward force of gravity in order to remain in the air for a given amount of time, causing me to look again into how I executed certain movements. The application of uninteresting information to interesting information amplifies one’s understanding of the interesting information, inherently making both more comprehensible.

One way to conquer an array of learning styles is through flexibility. Each participant in the education system has to be willing to accept a method that may be foreign to them, including the parents. The parents play an interesting role because they are not in the classroom with their students; they do not see the everyday classroom procedures. The parent/guardian’s responsibility, even outside of the realm of education, is simply to encourage the student. When the student is struggling with a specific topic, the parent should be there to let the child know that they are able to accomplish any task as long as they work for it. Dually, it is the parent’s responsibility to discipline the student in a way that the teacher cannot. The parent is there when the teacher cannot be, and knows the student better than anyone else; therefore, the parent must be sure that the student is staying on task and completing his or her work at home so that they can get the most out of their education.

Ultimately, practice makes perfect. Motivation is the key to success in the education system, whether it comes from the teachers, the parents, or the students themselves. With motivation and diligence, anything can be accomplished, even getting accepted to one’s dream college.

May 102012
 

As we probably have all come to realize, we do not all learn the same way and with the same techniques.  Some individuals learn by doing, others learn by simply listening, while others learn by looking.  We are all unique individuals, and as would be expected, our learning styles are unique as well.  The three most common learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile learners.  Knowing what time of learner your child is is essential in understanding how to present new information in order to ensure they will retain it more effectively.

  • Visual learners – These types of learners process information best through sight; they need to see someone else do the activity in order for them to gain a better understanding of how to do it.  Visual learners also like to be presented with images, graphs, or videos and they like to highlight information (either with a highlighter or by underlining it with a pen) and they also like to read information in order to understand the information that is being presented.  These types of learners learn best when presented with images – they are typically unable to learn by simply hearing information.
  • Auditory learners – These individuals learn best when they hear or speak information.  They gain the most benefit when they discuss certain information with others, or when they hear a lecture – they don’t retain information as easily if they just see it written on a piece of paper.  Auditory learners also understand the information presented in a book best when they read that information aloud or when it is read out loud to them.
  • Kinesthetic/tactile leaners – These learners are the type of individuals that are very hands on.  They need to try something out for themselves in order to understand the information.  These individuals are usually harder to teach, because they feel a constant need to be moving around and exploring their surroundings, and most lectures are not taught in a tactile way – most lectures are geared towards the auditory and visual learners.

Understanding what kind of learner your child is might be the trick to helping them understand the classroom information, that they are having a hard time with, more effectively.  Although most children are able to learn in more than just one way, it is important to understand which way is the most effective in order to tackle those harder topics and to present information in a way that will be the most effective for your child.

We are passionate educators and we work hard to ensure that the students we tutor gain a love of education and learning.  Give us a call and let us help your child become an avid learner for life.

Apr 242012
 

What is critical thinking? There are many different definitions on what critical thinking is; however, to sum it up in the broadest form, it is a learned skill in which the critical thinker is able to dissect, conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information and use that information to solve a problem, reach an answer, or come to a conclusion.  Critical thinkers, not only use the information presented to them, but they also use past acquired knowledge or experiences and they are able to skillfully “read between the lines”.

Why it helps – You will find that most of the kids that are in honors classes, AP classes, or other advanced placement classes, are typically children who have their critical thinking skills refined.  These kids typically are able to look at things in more than just one way and they are able to dissect information more critically.  Most of these children receive high grades and perform very well on exams.  Although these individuals were born with many of their intellectual abilities, a lot of their skills were also learned and perfected.  Therefore, any child can improve her or his critical thinking skills and improve their understanding of the material presented to them in and out of school.

Activities to do to help your children – During the long summer break, don’t just let your children spend all their time watching TV or playing video games, assign them work (hiring a tutor might be a good solution to helping your children improve their critical thinking skills).  Assign your children work that will help develop their critical thinking skills.  The following are just a few examples.

  • Read and analyze a book together – Have your children read a book, that is appropriate for their age and reading level, then have them write a book review in which they state what they liked or disliked about the book and why.  The “why” is the most important aspect, because it causes your children to think more critically about their views and why they formed such views.  You or the tutor should have read the book as well.  Make sure to discuss different elements the author used to get their point across – i.e. analyze the information presented and the different techniques used by the author like symbols, metaphors, foreshadowing, etc.
  • Assign your children an argumentative research paper, but with a twist – Have your children pick a semi-controversial topic (you might want to pick the topic for them), then have your children write, as objectively as possible, why they are for it, then have them write another paper arguing why they are against it.  Once your children are done writing both papers, have them reveal to you what they learned while writing them.  Then work together to improve their papers – provide constructive criticism, while acknowledging the positives as well.
    • Make sure to remind your children that there are different ways of looking at things and that they should learn to take in information with a critical eye and not to allow emotions to dictate their views.
    • Objectivity is essential in becoming a critical thinker; emotions can oftentimes hinder us from thinking objectively.
    • The best argumentative papers are those in which the writer is able to predict what the opposing side will argue, in order to make their point, and is thus able to take on those arguments head on.
  • Analyze the source – Read a research article with your children.  As you read it have your children analyze what the writer’s argument is – is the writer trying to convince you of something?  Make sure to take note of the sources provided by the author, taking into account if they are reliable or not and why that is.  Also be sure to point out flaws or contradictions found in the paper.  Is the paper mostly opinion based?  Or does the writer provide enough factual and objective information to prove her of his point?  Help your children to critically and objectively analyze the information presented; let them know your thought process as you work through analyzing the paper.  Be sure to point out any obvious biases or opinions that diminish the credibility of the article.
  • Analyze a work of art – Have your children analyze an important piece of art.  Ask your children questions about the piece that will allow them to think critically and to view art in a new way.  What is the point of view? Was the painting effective in presenting the desired point of view?  Why or why not?  Make sure to read the caption that goes along with the art piece or any other relevant information in order to gain a better understanding of the artist and their work.  Keep in mind that art is very subjective; the main idea is to get your child to try and interpret an image in a critical and new way.

If you want your children to benefit from summer tutoring and want to help them develop their critical thinking skills, please give us a call or send us an e-mail, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

Feb 082012
 

The most difficult part of tutoring has got to be hearing that your student failed their test even though they were doing the problems perfectly for you the night before. When I heard this story from a student of mine in Rancho Cucamonga for the third time, my brain started whirling: “What went wrong? How could you fail another test? What are we going to do?!?”

 

What went wrong? Test anxiety! Test anxiety is a common problem that can have negative effects upon students including poor performance and poor grades, which can in turn decrease their self-esteem and motivation. Furthermore, it can lead to unfavorable opinions about school and learning. The question that we come to is “what can we do to combat test anxiety and help our students enjoy their education?”

 

While a little bit of anxiety is healthy and improves students’ performance too much leads to poor performance and poor grades. One of the most difficult things about test anxiety is that it gets worse as the expectation of the student increases. Basically, test anxiety hits the hardest when it counts the most, which explains why some students always bomb the big test. Nonetheless there are things students can do to combat the harmful effects of test anxiety.

 

The best thing students can do is be prepared. Preparation includes studying well in advance to avoid last minute cramming, which can be a stressful ordeal in itself. Preparation also includes, getting and staying organized so they know how to best manage their time during the test and practicing answering questions of the type they will encounter when the big day arrives.

 

During the test, students can also use a few tricks to help keep their anxiety in check. First and foremost, they need to keep their head in the game and avoid daydreaming and needless worrying. To avoid becoming overly anxious, students ought to start with the easier questions and go back to trickier questions after they’ve gotten a few correct answers under their belt. A good way to keep from getting overwhelmed is to break tough problems into manageable pieces.

 

When in the grips of anxiety, it may be difficult, but it is helpful to stay positive and use uplifting self-affirmations. Students can remind themselves “I did this type of problem perfectly all week” or “I am a smart person.” Finally, they need to remember to breath. If your student gets completely overwhelmed, tell them to stop, put their pencil down and take three deep breaths before continuing.

 

If you or your child is struggling with study habits, test preparation or suffers from test anxiety, please call The Tutoring Solution at 909- 973- 9089. Our passionate, experienced tutors can help!

 

Feb 022012
 

Every Tuesday evening I drive to Rancho Cucamonga to tutor a student, and after our sessions I spend another fifteen minutes driving back to Upland.  On the drive over, I rehearse my lessons and try to come up with the right way to explain the quadratic equation or remember the order of operations. By the time I get to my student’s house, I am pumped to start because I am ready to help him tackle any tricky problems his Algebra homework can throw at us. Usually we are successful and can even pin those word problems down with the help of some equations and diagrams. On the drive home, I am always amazed at how much I learned from his way of approaching the problems.

I am so grateful to my students for showing me news ways to view the world. As a tutor, my job is to come in and assist students in doing things the right way. I help them read the right way, do their math homework the right way, remember the water cycle the right way and spell words the right way. I take this task seriously because there’s a lot to be said for the right way!

Still, with all due respect to the right way, my favorite part of tutoring is asking students why they did something their way. When it comes to algebra problems, their way often means a negative sign was ignored, the order of operations was confused or an arithmetic error was made, but sometimes they invent a new way of approaching a problem. Usually, their way shows you what they know. Frequently, I see students approach a problem by drawing on skills they’ve already mastered and combining them in new and interesting ways.

With beginning readers, this often manifests in their spelling. I had a student who loved silent e’s. Once she understood what a silent e was, every word with a long vowel got a silent e at the end. While I eventually worked with her to get beyond her silent e obsession, I loved to see her enthusiastically using silent e’s. Her way showed me that she had developed good phonemic awareness, she understood the concept of vowels and that they have both a long and short sound
and that she understood how to use silent e’s. Furthermore, her silent e’s spellings often made more phonetic sense then the bizarre rite right way .

Whether I am driving home from my students in Chino Hills or Alta Loma, I am always grateful for my commute because it is my time to remember that I may teach them the right way, but what they share with me is the wisdom to see all the ways that are possible. My students help me remember to take risks, to use what I know in new and creative ways and to sometimes question whether the right way is the best way or the only way.
Jan 252012
 

Research shows that alienated extrinsic motivation—extrinsic motivation that is completely external to the actor (the stars on my chore chart)—leads to surface level learning. Students focus on learning outcomes such as grades. They learn to use tools such as rote memorization to recall or reproduce what has been said. These students have the ability to pass and even do well in classes, but never really engage with the material. This type of motivation is great for success on standardized tests, but it leaves little room for students to grow intellectually and it does not inspire them to discover and explore their passions.

The more extrinsic motivation becomes self-regulated by the student the deeper his or her learning is likely to become. Extrinsic motivation is often the starting place that hopefully leads to genuine interest. Once the student is interested they will integrate the new knowledge, concepts and skills they are learning with their existing knowledge base. Integration will not only help them remember facts, but it will also lead to deeper processing of the information. Interested students are more likely to make connections between different topics and subjects, to relate concepts to their lives and to feel that what they are learning is meaningful and useful.

Some practical, but maybe not very intuitive, research results suggest that teachers should give students praise instead of tangible rewards. Praise, whether it is contingent upon completing a task or spontaneous, increases students identification with the information and thus increases their likelihood of becoming intrinsically motivated to learn the content. On the other hand, task-contingent tangible rewards decreases interest in activities and information. If students get a reward for completing an activity, research suggests, that the students complete the activity for the reward. If no reward is offered they are more likely to do the activity in order to learn or master the concepts or skills. Spontaneous tangible rewards do not seem to affect students’ motivation or interest. What this research means for educators is that you should use verbal rewards over tangible rewards when possible. If you need or want to use tangible rewards be aware of how you are using them. Tangibles are very effective in classroom management, but if you are using tangibles to encourage learning though make sure it’s spontaneous, not contingent upon a task. Instead of putting stickers on their tests, given your students stickers one day simply for showing up.

As educators we have a responsibility to help light the fire within each of our students. Sometimes it is difficult to know the best way to go about it, but research on topics like motivation can help us understand the most effective ways of inspiring our students to find and pursue their passions!

References:

Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125(6), 627-668.

Ryan, R. M., and Deci, E. L. (2002). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, (25), 54- 67.

 

Jan 232012
 

While motivation is usually split into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, a better way to conceptualize it maybe to think of motivation as a continuum with amotivation or apathy at one extreme and intrinsic motivation at the other. Amotivation occurs when someone is stagnate and no amount of reward or punishment will encourage them to act. Intrinsic motivation is where someone is driven to do something because they enjoy doing it and nothing can stop them. Extrinsic motivation occupies the area between these extremes. Sometimes extrinsic motivation has a somewhat compulsory aspect to it, but other times actions can be instrumental in the broader scope of achieving goals that are intrinsically important to someone.

For example, a gold star can motivate to varying degrees. Sometimes a gold star is a completely external reward to encourage a behavior, other times a gold star is a tool used to help achieve one’s self-identified goals. Think about the difference between the gold stars I got to put on the chore chart for taking out the trash and Glee’s golden star Rachel Berry.  When I took out the trash, I only cared about getting a gold star because that was one star closer to my allowance. The gold star was tool to motivate me to do something I had no desire to do; thus, the star had merely instrumental value. On the other hand, for Rachel, gold stars are a metaphor for her life’s ambition of being a star, a goal that she completely identifies with. Giving herself a gold star for winning the lead in the school musical has instrumental value because it comes from an external source, but it is closer to the intrinsic side of the spectrum because she is regulating her own actions.

In terms of education it is vital to conceptualize motivation as a spectrum or continuum. Most students fall somewhere in the middle area and are in need of extrinsic motivation to give them the push they need to be successful in school and in finding and pursuing their passions. Our goal as educators is to find the right degree of extrinsic motivation for each student.

 

Jan 182012
 

Motivation is the cause of actions. It is what drives behavior. In the world of education, understanding motivation is the necessary starting place. The methods don’t matter if students don’t want to learn, so how do we increase students’ desire to learn? Let’s start by learning about motivation itself.

Traditionally, our understanding of motivation has been split into two categories: extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation derives its power to compel action from external sources. Extrinsic motivation is most simply seen in rewards and punishments used to increase or decease specific behaviors. In most educational settings, extrinsic motivation is widely used for classroom management. The use of sticker charts, pizza parties, and extended recesses are examples of rewards given to increase positive behaviors. Punishments—such as, no recess, time outs and bad grades—are sources of extrinsic motivation used to decrease undesirable behaviors.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is a property of a behavior that is rewarding in and of itself. When it comes to intrinsic motivation, we are not concerned with positive or negative outcomes; we simply enjoy the activity. In most educational settings, intrinsic motivation is difficult to nurture. Some students love to write, others love to draw, some students come to school for gym, while others can’t wait to go to science. The normative, structured nature of classrooms and schools make it difficult to allow students to pursue activities that are intrinsically motivated.

If learning is our desired outcome, how do we find the best balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation? Is one better than the other? How do we deal with the practical realities of the typical classroom?

 

Sep 162011
 

They say, “practice makes perfect,” so let’s practice what they preach! Often the simple solution seems too obvious to be effective, but when it comes to reading comprehension usually that’s precisely the place to start. Read, re-read, then read it again! Many of us may avoid this approach because it’s boring. I get it! Most students are not thrilled by the idea of re-reading that sentence, paragraph, chapter, let alone being asked to read it three times. Nonetheless, it is often very effective. The first read through many students do comprehend what they’re reading, but they simply forget what they read in the beginning. The second reading will increase both comprehension and memory, and as they say “the third times the charm.”

Read, Re-Read, Then Read It Again

So how do I motivate kids to actually read something three times (or more)? Different methods are effective for different ages and different personalities. For older students, space it out. Have your student read something, then work on their math homework. Once math is done re-read the article and discuss it. Ask some questions to assess their level of comprehension, then give them a highlighter and have them read it again highlighting the most important points (or they can put stars in the margin, whatever makes it fun!).

Also don’t forget about reading aloud. You can read to your student or if your student isn’t embarrassed ask them to read to you. I suggest reading aloud for two reasons. First, different students learn best through different modalities. Auditory learners will comprehend the information better if they hear it. Also, having your student read aloud will allow you to assess their fluency. All too often comprehension problems are really just the result of fluency problems.

With younger children, I use all the previous advice and get goofy! I guess you can get goofy with the older ones too, if they don’t think you’re a total nerd. The first pass can be normal reading, then read it in a funny accent, act it out, make it into a song, draw pictures as you go along, take breaks to talk about the characters. Switch between having the student read aloud and reading to himself or herself. Once again, be aware that fluency may be the root of the problem.

If repetition isn’t working their maybe a larger underlying problem, but start simple. It is worth taking the time and effort to practice, practice, practice before diagnosing or labeling your student.

 

 

 

I am a student at Claremont Graduate University, studying positive developmental psychology. The psychology of what is right with people. My studies permeate her philosophy on education and my tutoring style. I believe a good education is the ticket the success and happiness, and the first step to receiving a quality education is desiring one. My goal as a tutor is to help make learning intrinsically rewarding.