Sunday, 24 February 2013

Unscramble the Toolbox in the Brain

A toolbox can be messy, confused and quite impossible to find anything in. On the otherhand it can be a well organised place where items are filed and easily found. As we learn, study and try to retain information our brains can be places very similar to a  toolbox, cluttered or well organised, it's all in how we train it.

This week as our youngest son started University in earnest, we sat down with him to go over his study habbits. So I thought perhaps it was a pertinent time to refresh the teenagers in your families of a few study techniques that have worked in our house over the years.

Organisation from the outset is the key. Make good use of an organised desk, book shelf, filing system, whatever is available.
A folder for each subject to file your daily notes, whether that is paper or electronic, whichever suits you best is essential. Make sure your notes are revised and filed. I'll come back to revision in a moment.

Each subject should have a course outline. If you don't have it, get it! From each of these you can see exactly when assignments, oral presentations, creative work and exams are due. Draw up a chart of how long the term or semester is and plot each due date on it Then using a bar graph in different colours for each subject work out how much time you need to complete each task. You will have a pictorial chart in front of you to see exactly how much time you need to spend on each subject each day and week to complete everything on time.
eg.       Week 1     2      3       4     5       6       7       8        9       10
Maths                                           Assignment                            Exam
English                         Oral                   Essay                  Creative
Science                                         Assignment                            Exam
IT                                                                            Assignment Exam

There is nothing like a visual chart to help keep you on task.

Revision for exams is one thing that has cluttered the toolbox of many minds for centuries. To start with if assignments are organised and time is planned and well spent, you are more relaxed and able to cope more effeciently.

Another helpful tip however is to be organised right from week one. Start your revision from the beginning.
Here comes another chart, but I promise it will be the most useful tool in your room.

You will need a seperate sheet for each subject. Label the subject title at the top.  Down the side list the number of weeks. Beside each week write the topic studied. Beside that add in the equation or key notes for that topic.

eg  Maths
week  topic     equation
1     algebra    a2 + b2 = c2

Stick the charts on your bedroom wall or mirror, or the back of the toilet wall, anywhere that you see them every morning when you get up. You will read them every day and it will only take a few moments, but if you keep them up to date by the time you get to the end of term, you have revised all the key formulas everyday of the term. They will be so familiar the exams will come naturally and stress free!

Reading text books! How often do you pick up a text book, open it up, read the first page, yawn, scratch, flick through to see the unfathomable amount you have to get through, then decide you need a snack or a better still, a nap? Try power reading the text book first. Read the cover, the blurb and the index or contents page to get an idea of what the text is all about. Now see if you can draw a mind map to remind you of the title and some of the chapter headings. A mind map is a pictorial recognition of key words to help you quickly register something you want to remember. For example for "mind map" itself if asked I might draw a brain and a trasure map with an x that marks the spot. Someone else may come up with a completely different idea, but it gets you thinking, the brain is stimulated and now you are curious to continue on with reading further into the text book. Don't forget as you read in more depth to continue making notes and more mind maps, they really do help you remember key notes.

To all those high school and Uni students out there, don't stress, you've come this far, be organised, file the cabinet or toolbox in the brain neatly. Keep it ordered and unclutterd and good luck this year.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

From Boys to Men

Raising boys can be quite a challenge, enticing them to read can be even more difficult.

Boys are finicky, wiggly, busy creatures no matter what their age. Inquisitive, imaginative, and ready to explore the world. They don't have much time to sit still and read a book. This can still be true when they become adults unless you form good reading habits at an early age.

As parents and teachers we need to harness some of that energy to be able to channel it into reading so that they can learn more that will enable them to investigate and grow with the world around them.

Find books that will intrigue their natural curiosity. My middle son grew up with a fascination for all things Star Wars. So the books I supplied were filled with all the technical drawings of the Millenium Falcon, the X-Wing Fighter etc in books like "The Incredible Cross-Sections.". I left them lying around on the coffee table, it didn't take long for him to pick them up and start pouring through them. Then I added a few of the illustrated Star Wars cartoon books and before long he progressed to the chapter books that happened to find themselves in the pile.

Sometimes subtly takes awhile to sink in and you may need other strategies. Try reading a joke book or something funny to yourself. When he hears you laughing, natural curiosity will take over. He'll just have to join in and start reading whatever you are reading. Some of our favourites were from Paul Jennings series such as the Rascal series, Gizmo and Singenpoo. Andy Griffiths produced some really funny books too, my boys really enjoyed the "Just" series, Just Disgusting, Just Tricking,Just Annoying etc.Morris Gleitzman with Toad Rage and Toad Heaven were also fantastic reads that kept our boys laughing all the way to the end. If you are looking for something new to read, I haven't met a boy yet that hasn't laughed all the way through my book Gingerbread Aliens. I have been told of boys that usually don't bother with books have found it lying around, picked it up out of curiosity and not been able to put it down. This is music to my ears, I reached my goal!

If quiet reading and uproarious laughter don't hook him, try reading a chapter out loud at bedtime to him. Make sure you end on a good hook and leave the book on his bedside table Don't be surprised if the light is still on when you go to bed as he just couldn't resist finding out what happned next?

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Teachers are like Gems, precious and worth holding onto.

This week the youngest reader and achiever in our house is heading off to University, yet it only seems like yesterday he was heading off to his first day of Kindergarten.

As he drives off to campus strong and independent, I am secure in the knowledge that myself and the teachers he has encountered along life's journey so far, have given him all the tools he needs to prepare him for a successful career wherever that path may lead him.

I remember that first day thirteen years ago so clearly. Being the youngest of three boys he was so keen to start school and learn to read. He expected to come home with  homework that very first day. He didn't cling or cry, it was me that had a tear in my eye, so hard to let go of my last one! He waved goodbye and raced straight inside to "learn".

The class was a Kinder/Year One composite which couldn't have proved more perfect. My son thrived in the learning atmsophere, soaking up every letter, sound, word and number he could. It didn't take long before he was not only bringing home sight words to learn to read, but spelling lists as well!

The teacher was so wonderful and patient with all of them no matter what their level of ability, and believe me, there was quite a range in a group like that! She set a challenge word or two in each weeks spelling list, mainly for the year one students, never expecting the Kindies to take up the gauntlet. Son number three and his mate were always up to the challenge though, even when she put in the word "photosythesis". They could both spell it and explain what it meant!

She set a great example to the start of his learning career. Always challenge yourself, nothing is ever too monumental if you put your mind to it.

There have been other great teachers along the way. The Year One teacher that was originally a high school science teacher. He brought science experiments into the classrom. Blew up volcanoes, made sherbert and honeycomb. Had an monumental effect on son number one. That son found an immediate thirst for chemistry and geology. Couldn't read enough about volcanoes, the earth, tornadoes, climate change etc. He now has a Geology Degree and is working very happily in the field. That teacher taught the essentail lesson of finding a passion in life, hang on to it, read and learn all you can about it and one day you can make it your career.

Two special teachers saw the compassionate, gentle side of my middle son. His teacher in the International school in Thailand where he was surrounded by fellow students from a myriad of nations and became friends with every one of them, to his teacher on return to Australia where he had to adapt back to life in the suburbs where everyone was the same. He learnt a very important life skill, that differences should be not only tolerated but embraced and celebrated.

There have been many gems in our lives over the eighteen years since my firat son started school til the youngest finished. Far too many to mention. Hang on to the ones you find. Treasure them, they are worth their weight in gold! Your children will remember and value them and so will you.

Monday, 4 February 2013

A Renovator's delight - Writing.Com

 For those kids a little older that might like something a little scary to read. Be warned it might give you goosebumps! 

This story won first place in the 2011 Halloween Contest against some terrific writers on, I must admit I was very proud and honoured to win this award and am pleased to share it with you now.

When you are at school this year and your teacher asks you to write a story, remember the best stories come from writing about what you know. Things that are familiar to you are always easiest to write about and are the best place to start.

"A Renovator's Delight" came from a true ghost story told around a bon fire one night. It actually happened!!!!
Someone did buy an old English pub to renovate and they did experience all the things I mention in the story. I just embellished the story to fit in with the Halloween theme and brought it all together so that the events occured in one evening instead of over several nights.It's amazing how with a little imagination you can stretch the truth into a spine tingling tale that just might keep you awake at night!

A Renovator's delight - Writing.Com

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Roo's Tale - Writing.Com

With the school year starting once again in most States of Australia, I thought I might give a little encouragement to start reading again with one of my short stories.

It's the tale of a little kangaroo who quickly learns through his mischief and fright that perhaps he should listen to mum afterall! Hope you enjoy. :)

Roo's Tale - Writing.Com