Have you ever heard your child's teacher say, "They just need to read more. They need to read every night."
For a struggling reader, it is not as easy as that. Struggling readers have a difficult time decoding words, so when they start reading books that have many words they cannot decode, they just become frustrated. They start guessing words, leading to poor reading skills.
Struggling readers need to start reading decodable readers and not levelled readers that are filled with so many words that children cannot sound out. With decodable readers, phonics rules are reinforced; children learn decoding skills; fluency improves; the learning gaps begin to fill in; and, most importantly, a child's confidence increases. Confidence is the magic ingredient when it comes to improving reading fluency and comprehension skills.
I am not suggesting that levelled readers do not have their place. They offer more vocabulary and are, most of the time, more interesting to read. However, to expect a struggling reader to benefit from a levelled reader by just reading more of them every night, is actually setting your child up to struggle more and to start to hate reading.
You can find many decodable readers online, and you can find many decodable chapter books too. Beware though. Often times decodable readers are marketed as being solely for dyslexic children, so parents will stay away from these readers. This could not be further from the truth. While these type of readers are great for children diagnosed with dyslexia, they are also the best readers for early and struggling readers. The phonics way of learning to read is simply the best way.
This is the system we use at Tutor Tots, and if I could share the smile on every child's face after they successfully decode and read a short story for the first time, you would understand why decodable readers are the right choice for your struggling reader.
It's not as simple as reading more. It's about choosing the correct type of reader for your child.
Is Breakfast Important?
Most of you know me as Ms. Angela who tutors your children in our family owned tutoring business. What you might not know is that I am also a Nutritherapy Practitioner.
As predominantly a behavioural nutritionist, I have helped many people understand their relationship with food, putting them on the path to better nutritional choices and better health. Today, I am going to share with you my thoughts about whether or not your child (or even adults) should eat breakfast.
Studies overwhelmingly show that when children eat breakfast their concentration improves; they get better test scores; they have increased energy; they are more likely to enjoy a healthier body weight; and they are more likely to participate in physical activities.
Did you know that half of a young student's energy is used by the brain?
Children have a high metabolic turnover and a rapid growth rate. In addition, children tend to sleep longer hours than adults, so they are in a fasting state for a longer period of time. Consequently, they need breakfast to do exactly what "breakfast" means and that is "break the fast."
Numerous studies have shown that skipping breakfast can lead to an increased risk of obesity with that obesity extending into adulthood. Obesity in adulthood, as we know, can lead to many problems such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, et cetera.
Are all breakfasts equal? No, they are not. Always include a healthy source of protein. Protein helps build and repair cells. It is important for growth and development. It also helps you feel full longer (satiating). If you don't get enough protein you might feel more fatigued and have poor concentration.
Also, choose foods higher in fibre. Not only does fibre aid with digestion, but it also helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels steady. Too many simple carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta, plain sugar, sugary foods (pastries, muffins, sugary cereals) cause the body to think that it has too much energy (increases blood sugar and insulin levels) because these foods are rapidly digested. The body uses the energy it needs but converts the rest to fat. Because higher fibre foods are not easy to digest, blood sugar and insulin surges do not happen.
Want to keep your child enthusiastic about breakfast? Don't serve the same breakfast everyday. Get your child involved in the preparation process. Make sure your child wakes up with enough time to sit and eat. Get your child's input on what he/she would like to eat. Find some make-ahead recipes that you can make with your child, freeze, and then reheat when needed.
I say yes to breakfast.
Wishing everyone a wonderful school year.
Does My Child Need a Tutor?
Tutoring is definitely an investment, in terms of both time and money. If you are considering tutoring, ask yourself:
1. Is my child struggling? If your child is struggling with any aspect of the curriculum, it's probably time to get some help.
2. Is my child not reaching his/her potential? Tutoring is not just for struggling children. Even children with good grades may not be reaching their full academic potential.
3. Is my child asking for help? If your child is asking for help, this is a sign that he/she is motivated to learn.
4. Is my child shy or self-conscious? Does he/she have low self-esteem? A tutor can help build your child's confidence and self-esteem so that your child can be confident in group settings and ask for help without feeling he/she will be judged or ridiculed by his/her peers. Shy and self-conscious children will often suffer academically because they withdraw. What may appear to be an academic issue may actually be a self-esteem issue.
5. Is my child eager to learn more? In this case, a tutor can help the child work ahead in order to enhance learning and keep your child engaged.
6. Does my child have a learning disability? Extra support can not only be helpful to improve academic performance, but it also can help teach other necessary skills like test/exam preparation, time management, and organization.
7. Is my child consistently confused? Often children underperform because they simply do not understand the homework. Sometimes the pace at which a teacher moves through a subject can be a problem for a child. Children do not learn the same way, so, in this case, a tutor can help your child comprehend the material by teaching them the subject material the way the child learns.
8. Are commitments outside our home increasing? In this case, it may be impossible to maintain the same level of homework help. As your child ages, their school workload will increase. With subjects like math, which are cumulative (building upon earlier concepts and already mastered skills), this can be a problem. A tutor can help to ensure your child has learned all the fundamentals required to achieve good marks in their current grade level and successfully apply those fundamentals to the next grade level.
If you have answered yes to any of the above, hiring a tutor may be the answer.
Ontario's Math Problem
In 2004, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced major policy and curriculum changes in an attempt to fix a broken education system. For example, for the previous five years before he took power, EQAO testing revealed that students had been receiving math marks between 46-54%.
We fast forward 14 years to 2018 and reading and writing scores are better. However, for the past two years the provincial standard for math has been around 50% for Grade 6 students. What is even more disturbing is that the percentage of students who met the math standard on Grade 3 EQAO testing did not do so in Grade 6. This suggests that students in the lower grades are not being prepared to handle more difficult math concepts.
Critics of the current math system in place admit that if not for the private tutoring industry, these marks would probably be significantly lower. The problem is that not everyone can afford tutoring, so it means that some will get the help and others will not. The biggest problem though is that no one is really addressing the problem.
While some strategies were put in place in September 2017, our students are still struggling. As Wilfrid Laurier professor Donna Kotsopolous said, teachers need to get back to teaching math basics. "If students practise math, and learn things like multiplication tables, they will better understand math...The way fractions are being done in Ontario, it's being skimmed over, the topics are left too late...If students don't get that extra help in elementary school, once they hit Grade 9, they find it a huge challenge."
With math being cumulative in nature, students cannot successfully learn new math topics that rely on topics that have not yet been mastered. That's why is so important to get math right when children are young.
With Premier Doug Ford spending time and energy on tackling the "sex education curriculum," it doesn't seem likely that anyone is going to be solving Ontario's math problem any time soon.
Brain Food for Young Minds
As well as being a tutor/teacher/mentor, I am also a registered nutritionist. So, I put together this list of brain foods that may help, if your child is having problems concentrating or if his/her energy is low.
Eggs: The protein in eggs helps children concentrate. Scramble some up into a whole-wheat tortilla.
Whole Grains: Our bodies need a steady supply of glucose (sugar) for energy, and our little ones are no different. In addition, the fibre in whole grains will help prevent the blood sugar spikes experienced with non-whole grain foods like white bread.
Berries: Berries contain high levels of antioxidants, especially vitamin C. Remember, the darker the berry the more nutrition in the berry (i.e. blueberries).
Greek Yogurt: Packed with protein, but don't choose the fat-free kind. You want the fat, as it is important for brain health. In addition, fat-free usually means more sugar. Top off the yogurt with high fibre cereals, dark chocolate chips or blueberries.
Greens: Full of folate and vitamins. Kale has actually been shown to help new brain cells grow. Remember, if you're giving your child a salad for lunch, don't forget to add some protein. Protein is satiating, so a salad all on its own won't keep your child feeling full.
Fish: Salmon is rich in omega 3 and vitamin D. Omega 3 is great for brain growth and function. While tuna does contain omega 3 and vitamin D, salmon is the better choice.
Nuts & Seeds: Packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals. Studies have shown that they may actually help boost your mood. Peanut butter contains thiamin to help the brain and nervous system.
Colourful Veggies: Packed with antioxidants. Try some baked sweet potato wedges or some carrots with dip.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal provides excellent fuel for the brain. It is protein and fibre-rich. A study showed that children who ate sweetened oatmeal in the morning actually performed better on memory-related school tasks that those who ate sugary cereals.
Apples: We all crave sweets when we are feeling sluggish, even our kids. Munching on an apple will provide the sweetness and boost energy. But leave the skin on because that's where all the good stuff is. The fibre in the skin will help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Say yes to brain power!
Mother. Wife. Sister. Friend. Teacher. Tutor. Nutritionist. Mentor. Speaker.