Does chatting online with friends, playing video games, using social media sites, and watching television outside the classroom have a negative impact on students inside the classroom?
Mashable shared findings in a recent study by Common Sense Media that suggest heavy media use by children is impeding their ability to perform well in the classroom.
The study reports that 71% of teachers say media use hurts children’s attention spans, and students themselves report that media use harms their ability to communicate face to face and has had a negative impact on their writing skills. Teachers also report that the now 7.5 hours (on average) of daily media use by children for entertainment purposes impedes their ability to complete homework timely and effectively.
However, the study reveals that media use is not all bad. The report suggests that 63% of teachers indicate that media use allows students to find information more quickly and efficiently, and that some teachers believe media use has a positive impact on children’s ability to multitask.
To read Mashable’s article, and for a link to the full study, click here.
What do you think? Is media more helpful or harmful when it comes to children’s study/school habits? Leave us a comment!
Read More »
By now, the importance of summer learning is well known. Students of all ages need to keep the cognitive wheels turning in order to maintain their learning momentum and not experience the backward summer slide.
There are an entire summer’s worth of ideas available to keep kids busy all summer long–the sky’s the limit! But don’t let all the options overwhelm you. We’ve chosen our top 3 simple summer activities that should be on every family’s To-Do List. Maintaining academic momentum over the summer has never been easier!
1. READ! READ! READ!
Put less focus on WHAT is being read and focus on making regular, habitual reading part of the daily summer routine. Novels, comics, magazines, blogs… it doesn’t matter so long as you’ve got a reading routine. Want to take it to the next level? Talk about what you have just read. Make connections, and look up unknown words. Research the book online, or draw illustrations for what you’ve just read—the key is to think actively about the reading.
Writing is an extension of reading–they go hand-in hand. Whether it’s keeping a scrapbook, writing in a journal, or blogging online, daily writing helps to develop those critical communication skills that lead to great essays and even better grades. Need some ideas about what to write? Start a short story and add to it every day, or simply recount the day’s activities. It doesn’t have to be well-crafted literature to help keep skills sharp. So pick up a pen, and grab some paper and write someone a letter, even if it’s only to yourself.
Don’t underestimate the value of old-fashioned board games and puzzles. Whether it’s Sudoku, Crosswords, or traditional jigsaw puzzles, games teach necessary higher-level thinking skills such as strategy and planning. Plus, they help develop focus and attention, and often incorporate critical school skills such as math and reading. Best of all, they can offer hours of family-friendly fun with a little bit of learning mixed in.
Read More »
Call it what you want—script, cursive, handwriting, cursive writing—School boards in Indiana and Georgia now have the option to eliminate it from the curriculum.
But, do we even care? In today’s techno-literature culture, where kids can operate computers before they can read, is teaching cursive writing a nostalgic throwback to a bygone era?
Some school boards think yes: they’d prefer to use the class time—which is at a premium—to focus on keyboarding skills.
However, what about those times when technology isn’t available to us, and we have to rely on our foundation in the educational basics—reading, writing, and aRthimatic? If kids were to find themselves in a situation where they had to leave a handwritten note, wouldn’t a printed note suffice?
Do kids need to use in-class time learning script?
Cursive supporters say, yes, it’s still a needed skill, especially when it comes to writing tests and in-class essays. Cursive is fast, fluid, and more automatic than printing due to there being less stop and starting, and it tends to lead to more creative expression in written essays.
If time is of the essence when writing essays, then cursive is quicker. But in order to get a point across, handwriting needs to be legible, or students can lose grades. So students still need to practice their penmanship; after all, if a teacher can’t read it, it can’t be graded.
And, there is evidence that the manual act of writing helps to stimulate cognitive processes.Wheter it’s printing or cursive, the pen-to paper act of physically writing helps the cognitive processes and can improve memory.
Researchers say that this might be because forming the letter by hands requires more steps than simply recognizing a pre-formed shape on a keyboard—it requires a more dynamic mental process.
However, if teaching your tech-savvy kids a scrolled script using pen and paper seems too low-tech, well, there’s an app for that. Students can practice their cursive using a stylus on iPads and iPhones.
The irony of using technology to practice a supposedly out-dated skill is duly noted.
Read More »
Time they are a changing…especially in classrooms
Today’s students don’t send notes, they text. And, they don’t need to cart heavy textbooks around. They can download their class notes off the Internet.
They use iPads and other hand-held technology in class. They don’t need to go to class to “hand-in” an assignment when it can be emailed, or uploaded to a class page. They use social media to confer about homework, and gadgets of all sorts to research.
New technology has ushered in not only new ways to communicate, but also new words to talk about this communication. Lingo formerly used in texting has gone mainstream–they have made their way into the lexicon and are widely accepted. In fact, the OED has added “initialisms” such as lol and imho to the acceptable lexicon.
Language and education are changing rapidly… but it’s where these two intersect that is slower to adapt: grammar.
Educators and grammarians (and purists) still cling to tried-and-true rules of grammar—they way things always have been. And students, who are masters of communication outside the classroom are struggling to conform to a rule set that doesn’t seem relevant.
The rules of grammar are based on rules that were created decades ago. When it comes to grammar, unlike when it comes to words, change does not come so easily or with as much acceptance
However, maybe it’s time to accept that some of the hard-and-fast rules are ready to be bent, or at least ready for a classroom update as well?
If the goal is teaching students how to express themselves clearly—even display some style—using today’s technology and lexicon, then it’s quite possible that the “old” rules might not be appropriate anymore.
Outside of the classroom, in much of the printed material that students encounter, the “rules” are being broken—even encouraged. Some of the most common “broken rules” that students will come across in books, blogs, magazines, and across the Internet in general include:
• Starting sentences with AND or BUT.
• Splitting the infinitive
• Sentence fragments
• Ending a sentence with a preposition
• Turning nouns into verbs.
However, students still need to know the rules in order to communicate clearly and effectively. Grammar sets the rules of our language and provides parameters to guide comprehension.
Don’t fail that English test! Understand the basics first, and then add in style and creativity. Start a sentence with a conjunction (but know what a conjunction is). Use sentence fragments—they add punch. Impress your teacher. Break the rules, but be smart about it.
Just don’t write lol in your essay. The OED may have accepted it, but it’s doubtful that teachers will.
Need help developing grammar skills? A program at Oxford Learning can help! Contact your local centre and learn those grammar rules inside and out! Begin today!
Read More »
Children don’t have to be in a classroom to be learning! In fact, some of the most important lessons in life are learned outside of school.
That’s one of the positives about summer and time off from school—it’s a great opportunity to gather plenty of life experiences. In the summer, life experiences are almost free for the taking! In fact, the opportunity to learn and grow as a person during the summer is one of the best things about summer vacation.
The trick is to know how to harness the learning opportunities that are happening all around, and how to turn those experiences into valuable, useable summer learning that challenges the brain.
Learning doesn’t have to be formal to be rewarding—even the simplest summer activity can be a “learning moment.”
- Read. Active reading—think about the story, the words, and the meaning. Don’t just move your eyes over the page. This keeps the mind sharp and helps develop vocabulary.
- Write a little every day. Keep a journal, create a scrapbook, or write a short story.
- Play games. Games like Sudoku, crossword puzzles, or word games like Boggle, Scrabble, and Upwords are great to challenge the mind. Discuss any strategies used to reach a solution.
- Play a memory game. Gather up a random assortment of items, anything collected from around the house or yard will do, study them for a short time, then cover them up and try to remember the most items. Develop a strategy to help with recall like grouping items by color, or category.
- Recite Alphabet Game. Select a category (e.g. fruits and vegetables) and begin listing items according to the alphabet. The first person gets A (apple), the second B (beets), and so on. Try not to be the first one who can’t think of anything.
- Plant and Grow. Take advantage of the warm weather and plant some seedlings and watch them grow. Create a chart and track their growth schedule.
Read More »
According to just released results, almost a quarter of high school students in Ontario are not passing the standardized literacy tests that are given in grade 10.
While that may seem like a shocking figure, if you look at it another way, more than three quarters of all high school students are passing literacy tests on their first attempt.
Literacy tests assess student’s familiarity with reading and writing skills, as well as general familiarity with the standards of the English language, up to the grade-nine level (in Ontario.)
Students that don’t pass the test on their first attempt are given a second, and even third, attempt to write the test.
What is worrying is that a portion of the students that re-take the test are not passing, even on their second attempt.
Given that literacy is a foundational skill that is very important to everyday life, it is no wonder that it causes some concern when high school students at the tenth grade level are not functioning at a consistent fluency.
Aside from obvious reasons such as learning disabilities or non-native English speakers, one of the major reasons could be that the formal rules of English grammar are not taught beyond the early elementary grades.
While students use grammar in their everyday life, by the time that students reach high school, the rules are no longer familiar. Their language is second nature, so when students are asked to draw on rules that they were taught, five or so grades previously, it can be challenging.
That’s why all students, not just those who find grammar challenging, should take a refresher course—Oxford Learning has a great program to help students hone their grammar, improve their writing, become critical thinkers, and get test-taking tips to boot.
For students entering the 10th grade, the summer presents a perfect opportunity to tune-up grammar skills before taking the standardized literacy test.
Like with any test, preparation is key. Students who take the time to review and prepare before a test will perform better and with less stress than those who are not prepared.
Consider an Oxford Learning program for your teen. It will mean better marks on not just the standardized literacy tests, but on all tests. Better marks equal happier students, happier parents, and happier school boards. It’s win-win-win.
Read More »
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Like so many other things in life and in school spelling is a learned skill. And, like almost anything that you learn, the more practice you put in, the easier it gets. You have to practice the piano until you can play a song correctly, and you have to practice cursive handwriting until it comes naturally, so why should spelling be any exception?
The more effort that you put into something, the more that you will get out of it!
Luckily, strong spelling abilities are worth the effort as they come in handy almost every single day of your life.
While a person’s spelling abilities is not a definite measure of his or her intelligence—some of the smartest people have been poor spellers—you can’t get high marks in school if your essays are full of misspelled words.
Read More »
Reading, writing, and spelling go hand-in hand. The more you read and write the more that spelling improves; the more that spelling improves, the easier it is to read and write!
Pick up a pen and write. Write about anything or nothing at all. Look up a challenging word and write it over and over until it is ingrained in your brain. Then pick a book and read. The more that you read and write, the more that spelling will improve. After all, research has shown the interdependence of reading, writing, and spelling. It’s win-win-win!
Read More »
Know Your Roots!
Daily Writing Tips.com suggests that learning the root of the word can help writers better understand how words are written. After all, words are made up of pre-fixes, roots, and suffixes. Recognizing a familiar part of the word will help spellers not only identify a familiar part of the word, which makes spelling that much easier, but it helps them have a better sense of what the word’s meaning.
Read More »
Identify Your Own Trouble Words
Keep a list of the words that your frequently misspell. Grammar guides and reference manuals have lists of these words, but it is more helpful to know the words that you have the most difficulties with.
Another great tip comes from Spellingfun.com (a site that sells a spelling system, but has many great tips on spelling) is to know the 100 most commonly used words in the English language because these words are used 70% of the time. If you know these words, then you are ahead of the game!
Read More »