For many families, middle school marks a transition from dependence to independence. Parents become less involved in their students' schooling, leaving students responsible for managing their time.
While it's important for students to build responsibility and independence, the transition from elementary to middle school can feel overwhelming. Middle-schoolers are confronted with new school buildings, new classmates, new teachers, new procedures and new expectations. They need parents' support to navigate these changes successfully.
Moreover, middle school is a critical time in students' academic trajectories. The math and language skills built in middle school determine students' eligibility for advanced high school coursework. Additionally, middle-schoolers who build strong study skills are better positioned for success in high school and college.
Your student's day-to-day experience in middle school will be profoundly different from elementary school. She'll have different teachers for different subjects, her own locker and a larger building to navigate.
Help her prepare by talking about these changes beforehand. Teach her how to use a combination lock and a school email account. The more she knows about these new experiences, the less intimidating they will be.
Here are some ways to help your student adapt to day-to-day changes in middle school:
Middle school is much more academically rigorous than elementary school. Students have more homework, more classes and fewer breaks. They start building essential skills for accelerated courses in high school. They also choose their own elective classes.
When it comes to electives, students must choose strategically. A computer science course, for example, is more beneficial than woodshop if your student is college bound. Additionally, many colleges require two years of foreign language study for admission, so starting in middle school is advantageous.
Here are some way to help your student adjust to the academic demands of middle school:
If your child's school offers a transition program, it likely focuses on the procedural and academic changes between elementary and middle school. However, the social changes are often the most pronounced.
Children entering middle school are going through big emotional, cognitive and physical changes, and those changes often affect their social lives. Their developing social skills make them more aware of other people's thoughts and opinions, and, while that awareness helps them in many situations, it also causes stress.
Many incoming middle-schoolers have anxiety about building new relationships, since they are in class with so many unfamiliar students and teachers. Talk to your child about the best way to make new friends, as well as how to identify toxic friendships and group dynamics.
Here are some ways to help your student prepare for the social challenges of middle school:
College Planning in Middle School
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You've likely heard the term "emotional intelligence" (or EQ), but do you understand its importance to your child's academic and social success?
Experts agree that EQ skills are more important to a child's future achievement than his grades or intelligence. Many public schools include emotional goals alongside grade-level academic benchmarks, and some even have targeted programs for building EQ.
As we learn more about emotional intelligence, it will become an increasingly valued skill in the workplace. Here's how you can help prepare your child.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and understand emotions - in oneself and in others. Some skills typically associated with emotional intelligence are:
Much like IQ, we're born with a certain level of emotional intelligence. However, learned behavior is also a large component. People of any age can build their emotional intelligence skills for increased productivity, better relationships and healthier choices.
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Studies consistently show that EQ is a better predictor of a child's career success than IQ. In fact, EQ skills account for 54 percent of the variation in adults' level of success, one study found. Additionally, children with strong EQ get higher grades, earn more advanced degrees and make healthier life choices.
The benefits of high EQ have become so lauded that many top-level companies - like Google, American Express and FedEx - now use EQ testing as part of their interview processes for new employees. In collaborative, fast-moving corporate environments, the ability to work successfully with others is often more important than pure smarts.
With schools and companies increasingly recognizing the importance of EQ, it's often parents who are behind the curve. Many parents push students to earn high grades but pay little attention to emotional development. Even more fail to notice small opportunities to build emotional skills at home.
How to Build Emotional Intelligence
The best way to foster emotional intelligence is to model it. Take some time to evaluate the way you express your emotions. When you have a negative emotional response, do you label it honestly and express your underlying frustrations? Repressing negative emotions usually causes them to leak out in unhealthy ways, like resentment, explosive anger or nervous habits.
If you have room to improve when it comes to modeling emotional intelligence, don't fret. These skills are challenging, and people of any age can work on them. As you talk more openly about emotions at home, your child will become more empathetic and more self-aware.
Here are some other ways to build EQ at home:
Stories are how we make sense of the world around us. For children, this is especially true. Make sure your child has ample opportunities to read on her own. This may mean weekly trips to the library or limited screen time.
While your student will be assigned books in school, this obligatory reading should not be the only reading your student does. Help him discover his own literary interests, whether that's science fiction, comic books, graphic novels, fantasy or biographies.
Reading is the best tool for building empathy because students experience the world through the eyes of characters who are different from them. In fact, reading is the only self-guided way for children to get inside someone else's head.
Strong empathy helps students build supportive friendships, connect with bosses and coworkers, and avoid off-putting or antisocial behaviors.
2. Acknowledge Emotions
Understanding and labeling emotions is a huge component of self-awareness. Toddlers throw tantrums because they don't have the language skills to express themselves. As children age, it's important to help them develop those skills and accurately label their feelings.
Here are some example statements for constructively labeling emotions:
"You wanted a popsicle, but you can't have one before dinner. You feel so frustrated."
"It's tough for you to brush your teeth when you don't want to, but it's time now."
"You're disappointed that we can't go to the pool today."
"You're mad that Anthony isn't sharing his toy!"
"You get to stay up late with your brother. You're so happy and excited!"
3. Encourage Self-Expression
Do you often find yourself saying things to your child like, "Don't be upset," or, "Stop crying"? While this is a natural response to seeing your child upset, it's beneficial to let him express his emotions instead of correcting him. If children feel ashamed of their emotions, they repress negative feelings and fail to develop helpful communication and coping strategies.
Always listen to your children and affirm their emotions before offering advice. Affirming their emotions does not mean that you condone their behaviors - it's simply a way to let them know you care and that their feelings are valid.
When you do give advice, guide your child to her own conclusion, rather than offering your own. This helps her build interpersonal problem-solving skills (which can be tough to develop in the age of social media). If your child is being mistreated by a friend at school, you might ask, "What could you say to Angie that would let her know how you feel?"
Here are some ways to encourage healthy self-expression:
"You're feeling very angry that you're not allowed to go to the party, but slamming your door is not allowed. Tell me in words how you feel. I will not change my mind, but I will listen."
"What a terrible day! Of course you're crying - your friends made you feel embarrassed!"
"It seems like you're anxious about your test today. I get nervous before tests, too. Do you want to talk about it?"
4. Pretend Play
For small children, pretend play is an excellent way to process the surrounding world. (All species use play for this purpose!)
If you notice your child struggling with a particular social dynamic or negative emotion, try to incorporate it into your next play session. Here's the kicker: Instead of minimizing or dismissing their emotion in your imaginary world, make it more pronounced.
For example, if your child is jealous of his brother, play a short game where no matter the outcome, his brother is declared the winner. Let your child be in on the joke - let him protest dramatically and fall over in despair. Children love repetitive games with a recurring "punch line." By acknowledging a negative emotion while still making your child the "star" of the scene, you bring the unhealthy dynamic to light and let it dissipate.
Reading for EQ
Wondering how to help your elementary student build emotional intelligence through reading? Call us at 847-834-0791 to learn more about our expert elementary language arts tutors.
Has homework drama wormed its way into your nighttime routine? Never fear! With a little structure and planning, homework time can become a chance to check in with and support your student. Take the stress out of weeknight homework with these easy tips:
1. Set a Routine
Setting a consistent nightly routine is the first step to making homework time less hectic. When students know what to expect, it is easier for them to transition between activities and focus. It also builds strong study habits, which will be essential when their coursework becomes more challenging. Furthermore, a designated "homework time" each night makes it less likely that assignments will slip through the cracks.
2. Create a Helpful Homework Space
A noisy or cluttered homework space can make it tough to get things done. Find a quiet (and TV-free) spot where your student can work without interruption. Make sure she has access to the materials she needs to complete her assignments - like pencils, paper, a calculator or a computer - before she starts. For some reluctant studiers, the hunt for a pencil can spiral into a major distraction.
3. Build an Assignment Calendar
Writing upcoming assignments out in calendar form helps students visualize their weeks and manage their time effectively. Two weeks may sound like plenty of time to finish a large project, but once you break it up into manageable chunks and add it to the calendar, your student can see the benefit of starting early. For children (and many adults!) remembering due dates can be a challenge, so writing down each assignment helps prevent last-minute panics.
4. Set a Timer
Nobody wants homework time to drag into the night. But if you have to hover over your student to get him to work, he can't develop the necessary self-motivation to succeed in high school and beyond. Work with your student to determine a suitable time limit for each assignment, then set a timer she can see. The "ticking clock" adds structure to homework time and motivates her to work efficiently.
5. Create an Incentive
Homework incentives don't have to be rewards. This could be something as simple as putting a sticker or check mark on a daily calendar. The point is to create a sense of accomplishment and finality at the end of each homework session. Your student has worked hard, so take a moment to acknowledge that together before bed.
6. Use Visual Aids
A visual aid could be a chart, graph or diagram - or even something as simple as colored highlighters. Organizing information into a visually engaging whole helps students retain what they learn. Additionally, creating visual aids builds important data analysis and organization skills. Here are some ideas to get you started:
7. Communicate with Teachers
Students can't always be trusted to keep track of their assignments and keep you in the loop. Use a syllabus or curriculum guide to maintain a general idea of what's happening in class, and check in with teachers every so often. If your student's teacher does not use a website to share grades and assignments, a short email will do.
Remember that, as a parent, your job is to support the work a teacher does in the classroom. When you contact a teacher, make sure that your tone is collaborative and that you leave room for your student to advocate for herself, when necessary.
8. Cut Yourself a Break
You've got enough on your plate without stressing over how to multiply exponents. If your student's homework surpasses what you remember from school, no worries. There are plenty of affordable, qualified tutors (as well as school resources) that can help your child complete assignments and master new concepts.
For more information on iLearn Academy's Homework Help program, call 847-834-0791.
The modern math class is deeply reliant on technology. Many lectures are online, and much work is submitted online or graded by computer.
This new approach has many benefits. Students can experience moving graphic displays of mathematical concepts, many that they can manipulate themselves to get a better grasp of new ideas. Students also get instant feedback on their answers with online homework and don't have to wait for a teacher's corrections.
However, there are drawbacks, as well. Students can repeatedly get questions incorrect due to small input errors, like a missing bracket or period. For other questions, students can simply click their way to a correct answer without actually doing any math.
Overall, technology is simply another tool to help students learn. Technology doesn't replace the tools that are tried and true: paper and a pencil.
Don't be fooled. The world still has pencils! Use them. Writing is important for students to memorize math concepts and techniques. Showing work gives students a record of what they have done and what they understood. Additionally, by showing work for previous assignments, students are making themselves an instant study guide to use for later exams.
The scientific evidence is clear: Writing helps memory. Those who write their notes learn concepts quicker and remember them longer than those who type or take pictures of notes. Some studies attribute this to the many different parts of the brain that are engaged while taking notes. When students take notes, they must take in visual and auditory information and reinterpret it as written symbols. In the process, this information passes through many crevasses of a student's mind (auditory while listening, visual while reading, symbolic while interpreting, tactile while writing). Later, when students go to recall the information, their minds have more places to draw from.
Other studies claim the mere inefficiency of writing forces students to choose important information to transcribe. Students who take pictures or type notes can record everything verbatim. Then, they try to memorize every word when it comes time for a test. No easy task!
Writing is slower. So, students who write are forced to learn what primers help them remember. Because of this, their notes are more helpful . In other words, they must actively process and filter information to choose what is important enough to write down.
Whatever the reasoning, study after study finds that writing by hand is the best route to remembering. When students do homework on a touch screen or keyboard, the writing element is lost. This makes it hard for students to remember solving the problem in the first place, let alone how to do it again.
It is important that students write down every problem they encounter online and work it out on paper. Writing out work gives students a record of what they did and what they understood. This is helpful in many ways. Firstly, it saves them time and missed points on homework and tests. For online homework, for example, if students miss an answer, they can simply look through their written work to find their error, fix it, and resubmit, rather than doing the entire problem again.
Writing helps with human graders, too! Written work gives teachers the chance to reward students for showing understanding, even if an answer is wrong. Secondly, writing out work helps students notice common mistakes they make. If a student has one step in a problem he cannot do, writing will help him notice that and get the needed help. Similarly, teachers can quickly identify the source of an incorrect answer and help students with that step of the problem.
Who needs a study guide when you have all this nice written work? When students make it a habit to show work, they automatically accrue a wealth of resources to study later:
With all this, students will not have to seek out new materials to study. They can refer back to work they're familiar with. There's no better way to master skills!
In summary: Please don't forget about the pencil. A pencil is a math student's best friend. Simply put, if students cannot solve a problem with a pencil, then they don't know how to solve the problem.
Writing helps us remember. Writing helps us communicate what we know. Writing gives us the best resource to refer to later. No matter the medium, if a student is trying to learn or remember any math concept, writing will help. Whether watching a video, solving problems on a screen, working in a book, doing a worksheet, or taking a test -- write.
Want to help your student master math concepts and build strong study skills? Schedule a sample session with one of our expert tutors.
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