How to get your child to read?

Often have I heard parents complain about their child’s lack of reading story books. In Singapore, this is made worse with electronics like games and smartphones becoming a staple in everyday activities of our children. Texting and all that distraction becomes the scourge of the millennium to some parents. Made worse with social media and the need for kids to fit in with their peers.

So how do we change the tides and make the kids read?

reading as enjoyment 

First and foremost, reading has to be enjoyable to our children. It has to be fun, and definitely a million miles away from being a chore. That is the key to starting them on the right path. So let’s see what we can do to make this fun.

information information information 

Children are naturally inquisitive. They crave information of the world they are in.  They are natural learners and if you can light the spark of curiosity, they will carry that spark and more often then not, you will not need to do anymore from then on. One way I create curiosity in my students are to tell them stories. Stories of great people like Julius Caeser and how he is forever remembered in our month July named after him. Stories of how our forefathers struggles lead us to where we are today. Make sure its fun, and something amazing and once you catch their attention, they will want to know more, after which, I print out relevant articles of that story, and they will start reading. With much curiosity.

The idea is to seed their imagination, and slowly they will latch on and take it upon themselves to find out more. And that’s where we welcome in the 21st Century. The internet is a fabulous playground for the child. Google their curiosity away and make technology you were lamenting turn to your favour.

Bear in mind, some stories works wonders to certain groups of students, some not so much. Which leads us to the next point.

customise your reading

Recognise that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. There is an art in tailoring materials that suits your child. More often than not, you probably know what your child likes. Every kid is unique, and what might work for one, will probably not work for another.  Recognize that if you like Lord of the Rings, might not be what your child will naturally take after.  Harry Potter perhaps, or even the great Classics.

Make sure they find it new and relevant, and something they don’t find old fashioned. Nothing stops them dead on their tracks faster than information that is irrelevant and old. Its like owning an old beat up car that you won’t want to show off to your friends. Information that is old makes kids feel like they are learning something that everyone else knows, pretty much like an old beat up car.

the story doesn’t stop there

Support your child’s interests by researching not just the topic itself, but everything else that surrounds the topic.

Transformers the movie comes along and you can start talking about Transformers. Wikipedia has articles about Transformers. Why? How? What? Who? Talk about Peter Cullen and how he got to voice Optimus Prime. Talk about your own experiences about Transformers in your childhood.

The innards and the stories surrounding a story makes it more interesting for your child. Its like a secret that no one else knows. Sssshhhh….. let me tell you something special… and they get all tingly because it makes them special.

be the pillar of knowledge

This is probably a good way to make a child read. Children usually learn more when they find a role model to emulate. Tell them things that we know. Our own stories, knowledge, and pass it on to them. When we tell them so much information, they will want to be exactly like us. And when they find out that we got our knowledge from reading, they will definitely want to do the same too. Birds of a feather, flocks together.

library vs bookshops

Again, technology is starting to be wide spread in this arena. Libraries are finding ways to keep up with the times and don’t forget Amazon’s kindle which is an electronic book. We can easily buy a book off the internet, or even download one of the many free ebooks that are available. iPads are starting to get into the act too with lots of free downloads. The thing is, do what your child likes. Bring your kids to the library, see if they like reading by borrowing books, or try to get down to a bookshop and let them have their fun browsing. Also, go to different libraries as some are swankier than the others. Like us, kids likes new places. And look good too doing it.

So there you go, it takes a bit of effort to start your child on the track. But once you unlock their potential, they will fuel their own passions. All we need is just to kickstart them onto the right path.

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Optimism and its role in studying

There is a direct correlation between the optimism in a student and the success in studying. Just like the answer to the glass is half full or half empty, this concept is very much a question about the outlook and confidence of the individual. The optimism of students to how well they fare in their studies cannot be quantified easily but like with everything, it is always a matter of perspective.

So what is it about optimism?

Optimistic individuals tends to see the light. The light at the end of the tunnel. This tunneling effect blocks out all the other distractions and pains that comes packaged into an examination. This is akin to a 100m race and its training requirements. An athlete competing for a 100m race hits the gym, trains on the same 100m strip for years, only to feature in a race that lasts less than 10 seconds. Yes, other aspects of characteristics like determination, talent, etc is needed, but the optimist will definitely have an edge over the one that is pessimistic in this, who would have given up long ago, unable to see why one would go through it at all. It is about aiming for the light at the end of the tunnel and knowing that everything else will fall into place that gives the athlete a spring in their steps.

The same can be said for students who knows what they want. Aces in exams? Sure! Let’s go for it. Blocks out all the other distractions, and confidently knowing that it can be done.

How to keep a student optimistic?

Perspective. The ability to see it half full. Generally, the student that are optimistic tends to ask more questions and this is where teachers, tutors, and parents are required to be patient and explain without getting angry nor frustrated. How many students have tried asking but gave up the second time round knowing full well that their teachers will get angry if they didn’t get it the first time hands up! Yes, encourage students or your child to ask, and do not get angry if they don’t get it. Learning is heuristic in nature and requires students to gain the experience to attain mastery. If the student fails to experience it the first time round, it does not mean they are slow, it just means they are trying.

And trying is the best ingredient to success.

No one wants to be scolded. Especially if they are trying to learn something. And being scolded during their formative years are just sending out the wrong messages that will hinder their development.

In any learning environment, the basis of an education is the interaction between teachers and students. And the trust between students and teachers must be there to foster a strong bond in learning. The job of a student is to learn, and the job of a teacher is to teach. Failure to do this most basic requirement is usually the reason for an unsuccessful stint in school. A patient teacher who teaches properly but also encourages questions or repeats themselves to make sure their students gets it creates students who is unafraid to ask if they don’t get it. This creates a calm and trusting environment to study in.

With trust, confidence grows. With confidence, optimism grows.

written by 
Wong Kin Leong

How to improve discipline in a student

Discipline, the main ingredient to success. Sprinkle with concentration, a dash of  determination and double boil with patience. That’s the making of a properly executed education. In every education system around the world, the recipe above are quality prerequisites because students spends years in school before gaining their certification and joining the workforce. The need to have the discipline to stay on course, and the patience to knock in the hours (or in fact the years before they reach university and graduate) are what causes only a small percentage of students that can reach their goal of obtaining their degree. Even though over the years, this percentage has grown in Singapore, it still takes a lot of effort and consistency to win this studying game.

So what separates the wheat from the chaff?

Take the recent GCE “O” level results and ask the successful candidates what they did in preparation for their examinations and you will get the common reply of countless studying hours, sitting themselves down by their quarters. That takes discipline, and a matured mind. Its the ability to do more than just the ordinary, the discernment that the future grows brighter with a better education, and to find the energy locked within to do that extra mile. Again, this takes discipline. They could have been out playing, watching a movie, hanging out with friends or god forbid, playing computer games. Instead, they took the back-breaking path and stood firm in the face of distractions.

So how do we cultivate discipline and reap a successful harvest?

One of the most important ways to cultivate discipline is to complete tasks. And start when they are young. Tasks don’t have to be onerous, or even exacting as this will put the child off. It does not need to be annoying too, like taking out the trash or washing the dishes. It could be something fun, like games, or doing jigsaw puzzles, or even reading a book. The idea is to teach your child that whenever you set about a task, you should complete it. Think of what goes through the mind of someone running a marathon. Grueling, definitely. But add the sense of self accomplishment at the end of the race, and it all makes it worth it. That’s what we should help the child feel. That once you complete the task, no matter how arduous, the triumphant result outweighs its tribulation.

There are many times that children gives up too easily, and parents lets them do so. And, the parents completes it for them, or it just stops altogether. Its easy to see why this gives out all the wrong signals to the child. Inability to complete the job and see through the full cycle means that the child does not learn anything from that job. This could lead to pessimism that things cannot be done, laziness creeping in, and an unproven bout of self censure.

Its like baking a cake. Do up the dough, all the ingredients nicely folded in, let it rise, into the oven at 350, and out it comes. If you don’t try the cake yourself at the end, you will never know if you succeeded in baking a tasty cake, or it could be just a ho-hum piece of dough that you just created. Its the last steps that makes all the difference, self evaluation. When you are learning how to bake a cake, you have got to eat it too. Try it out, see if its any good, evaluate the outcome to see if its a success or failure, take notes on how it looks and tastes, and think of how the baking can be refined. Then set off and bake another cake, now improved, and that process gets repeated until you have a proud product that can win the hearts of many. (Nevermind if your kids complain of the copious amounts of cakes they have to eat before you get there) A healthy postmortem documentation of the process by oneself creates a greater self upon further refinement, an intimate knowledge of what has been done, and what else can be improved.

In every process of learning, there needs a leverage of self evaluation on the completed cycle. Students are taught by a teacher, learns it, understands it, practices sums of it, memorizes it and finally, gets tested on it. Something is missing from this formula. and that is “self evaluation”. For a good score in the final test, there is a need to self evaluate before being tested. To see if all the fundamentals of the class are properly digested. Much akin to the baking process, a baker who never tastes their own cakes, will never have a winning product. How can one sell something that doesn’t know how their products tastes? Its just silly. And that is what students must do too. To complete the cycle, a student must always evaluate themselves and improve themselves before they finally go for their finals. Making sure of this is imperative to a successful candidate. Knowing where went wrong, and correcting themselves gives them the confidence they need to attempt a major examination.

Again, that is where discipline comes into play. It takes discipline and determination for a child to sit down and study the needed hours but more if the child wants to complete every task and evaluate themselves to know if they are doing it right. Methodology, and creating an efficient learning program will help too in this case.

Generally, completing a task like a major examination takes years for the students and the daily grind of school could take the wind off of their sails by the time the examination approaches. There needs a steely determination and the discipline to keep themselves on track, with their heads up high and constantly be above of their curriculum to perform well. But if they complete their daily tasks consistently, eventually, they will complete their examinations with ease. Like a very popular Malay idiom, “sedikit, sedikit, lama lama menjadi bukit” (little by little, a long time later, makes it into a hill), doing well in their final examination is the culmination of all the small tasks that were completed earlier on in their studies. And sweet old Mr and Mrs Discipline gets you there.

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Doing well in the PSLE of Singapore

PSLE. Primary School Leaving Examination are the first educational hurdle of all Singapore students and has been a staple of our enduring educational system since its inception. So what’s all the fuss over the PSLE’s? First and foremost, it dictates the secondary schools that a child can go to. Secondly, it dictates the stream that a child will be studying as well. The current secondary school streams are Express, Normal Academic and Normal Technical.

So how do you support your child in this endeavour?

I’ve been tutoring kids for the last 15 years and there are 4 main categories that characterizes a successful PSLE candidate.

  1. Intelligence
  2. Gumption
  3. Stamina
  4. Determination

Intelligence

Developing the intelligence of a child. What are the do’s and don’t’s? The first thing I find that a child do very well is the ability to acquire information. Their rate of learning is ferocious as compared to us adults. I always find that the weaker students has parent’s who underestimate the learning velocity and potential of their child. Quality of information, and the rate of disbursement of information to the child are important for the development of the intelligence of the child. Useless information leads to refuse in the brain. And a slow learning rate makes them lag behind their peers. Things parents need to avoid like the plaque. The PSLE score is heavily linked to the intelligence of a child. And rightfully so.

How do we develop the intelligence of a child?

  1. The simplest and cheapest ways to teach a kid is to go to a library. Instill the virtues of the public library system. This old school method still has a few tricks up its sleeves and are still a viable way of acquiring superb materials. Enrol your kids in interactive courses organized by the library. They generally have reading classes for kids, or introduces new interesting books to make a bookworm out of your child. These classes also tend to involve socializing for your child, and that is an awesome by-product of making more friends and learning social skills.
  2. Read to your child every night. By far, the most effective way of disbursement of information. Take 20 mins out of your hectic lifestyle. Pick any topic and start reading. Your child will learn diction, as well as gaining knowledge in the process. Therapeutic, and bonding with your child as the by-product which works in your favour far down the path of a healthy relationship with your child. What else can you ask for?
  3. Games. I have always heard parents tell me that their kids play too much games and not studying enough. True enough. But I have to say, in moderation, games does provide an intelligence boost that cannot be acquired otherwise. Games can be divided into three distinct forms. Traditional board games, computer games and physical games like basketball. They all have their merits and again, used in moderation, gives an edge to children both mentally and physically. Games teaches kids a passion to persevere, to win or to lose gracefully, to solve problems, to improve hand-eye coordination, etc. The list is too long to talk about here but I think you get the picture.
  4. IQ tests. These are the tests administered by MENSA. We don’t need to test our kids IQ, we just want them to acquire a love for solving IQ tests. Just like in the show “The Da Vinci Code” where Dan Brown weaves his tale out of codes and IQ type of quests, the mystery and intrigue can be intoxicating to your child. IQ questions tends to develop a heuristic skill that requires out of the box solutions. Again, we are living in a highly paced evolving society that requires this skill set to properly survive as we can never anticipate what will happen tomorrow. So, definitely a worthwhile skill to have for you child.
  5. Music and the arts. I have never once thought that music nor the arts can be bad for anyone. Economically, it might be a challenge. But intellectually, it can be stimulating and promotes creativity. Singapore have invested heavily into the arts in recent years. New museums, galleries, art schools as well as a budding local arts community are starting to transpire our 20th century Singaporean hardwork into a 21st century First World culture. Take your child to an art museum, go for a musical, enrol in an arts class. Get the creative juices going and maybe find a hidden Michelangelo or Yo Yo Ma in our midst.
  6. The News. How current is your child to the news? Current affairs are an important but often neglected development in a child’s scope of education. Ask your child what happened today and involve them in the latest developments of the world. In this decade, the internet has linked our lives into current affairs that we cannot let our child be ignorant in this topic. Twitter and facebook dictates so. Social networks are abuzz with the latest news and links people tighter than ever. If we don’t know what happened today, we are just simply a non-participant in the society. And that is where our child needs to be. To be a participant in our society and have a voice in this world. It is simply not enough to just exist anymore with our global connections.
  7. New technology. Ever heard of first adopters? These are a bunch of people who live to buy the latest technology. It is obvious how techonology can help making your kid smarter. The latest technology always creates high interests in the minds of children. Since kids are pretty new to this earth, its only natural that they should get the latest. They also seem to get it faster than we do don’t they? As in, kids always seem to get a gadget running in no time, whereas adults takes forever. Now how do we switch this on again? Buying the latest technology and making it available for children to use creates a culture of always knowing what is the latest. Having the latest technology always creates winners, and don’t take my word for it, most wars are won by countries that have the latest technology of their times.
  8. DIY. Do-It Yourself. How many times have you let your child do something and you not interfere? For example, get an order at McDonalds for the family? Sometimes, parent’s have a tendency to over-protect their children. You have all the right to, but draw a line to where that should stop. One day, your child will be a father/mother. How do we teach them to become one? By letting them do things on their own. And insist that they finish the job. But start them off slow and only on the right attitude. Don’t make them do things they don’t like. Dishes, laundry, taking the rubbish out. Or things that are dangerous. Boiling water, drilling, sharpening the knife are a definite no-no. That’s just counter-productive. Let them do things that make them feel like they are adults. Children loves to be mini-us, and takes pride when we approve of it and respects them as one. Let them order what they like, give them tasks that makes them excited. They might not do it well right off the bat, but hey, its their first time so give them some slack. They’ll get it right soon enough. And yes, they’ll turn out to be excellent parents because you showed them how to be one.

Disclaimer: The above can be applied to any child doing PSLE in Singapore. When I am talking about intelligence, I am not talking about gifted children whom are naturally intelligent. There are such kids but I have often been asked why some gifted kids don’t do well in the PSLE, and some do pretty well. I shall explain this later but the intelligence I am talking about are more generalized.

Meaning, any child who are capable of solving mathematical sums, understand scientific fundamentals and are capable of holding a conversation with their peers in a common language. This generally means almost 95% of PSLE participants will have the intelligence to pass the PSLE well. However, in the last 15 years being a tutor, I have seen these 95% and there are a wide varience in the ability to perform well due to external factors that are beyond their scope of intelligence. These variance can be due to parent’s educational background, the way they are brought up, their peers and simply, the schools that the child attend and the culture of their schools plus teachers and principals.

Gumption

Initiative and resourcefulness. These are the qualities that will create intelligence in a child. Students that show gumption generally do much better in their PSLE. Simply because they seem to find out more than their peers, as well as makes the best use of their time. Initiative creates students who study by themselves, find the relevant information by themselves and start their own studying when the need arises. Autonomy to operate before you tell them to do it. Resourcefulness on the other hand is to find what they need by themselves. Or make things happen with whatever resources they have. A real life MacGyver.

So how do we cultivate gumption in students?

We create a reason for them to start being serious with their studies. Prompt them of what they need to do. Give them a timeline of when they should start. I got a new Primary 5 student a year back. She had a bad mentality towards studies. When I asked her how come most of the question she did was wrong, she replied, “You mean I must get them all correct?” She did not care if she did well in her studies and had no idea what PSLE entailed. As far as she was concerned, computer games was her be-all-and-end-all. Then slowly, I slid in reasons why students should do well in PSLE during her classes. How a failure could mean a disastrous career in Singapore. And most importantly, what Primary 6 students do to get good grades in PSLE (meaning, 6-10 hrs of studies a day is a normal occurance) and when will they start preparing to do so much work. That was one year back. So its January now and she is still a student of mine. Guess what? She put her hand up the other day, and asked, “Can you print out more questions for me to do and I do it with my friend? And can I come over to ask questions if I don’t know how to do the sums?” And guess what? She did come back for extra lessons with me this week. Very encouraging indeed.

So what transpired? She woke up somewhere down the line last year and said to herself that she needed to do something about it. I am pretty sure she put a time she started to work harder. All I did, was to seed that thought that she needed to do something and a timeline of how it should be done. Very Inception indeed. But it worked. I don’t think there is a point in telling off children if they don’t study. They respond much better if they saw the need to do it themselves. The fire within will always burn hotter than the fire without.

Stamina

Stamina refers to the ability to put in the miles. Psst, the secret to awesome PSLE scores? 6-10 hours of pure studying. No complaints. No discomforts. Full focussing. So how does a child sit there relentlessly for the whole Primary 6 and knock in 10 hours of studying time? By starting them off young. The analogy to a marathon makes this easy. No one can run a full marathon without training and gaining stamina. This accumulation of stamina comes about by running 1km, increasing it to 2km, and then 3km, gaining higher endurance along the way, over months and years, and keep on moving the ante up till you hit the full monty. There’s is no other way of saying this but, for any child to do well in PSLE, they need to put the miles in. And the magical number is 10. 10 hours of studies every day. So start with 1-2 hrs during their Primary 5 holidays, then move it up to 3-4 hrs and keep on increasing this till it hits 10. Here’s a warning, don’t expect this to happen every day. Have some rest days and keep their mind fresh by doing something fun. They are afterall kids. They do much better if you start this regime earlier, during Primary 2-3. As with more practice and consistency, they tend to get better at keeping their energy high when they reach Primary 6 and need to clock in the hours.

Determination

All the above comes to naught without determination. The belief that it is possible to score high in PSLE is more important than everything that I have said so far. I have taught students that are very determined and some that aren’t. The first group tends to score higher, with all other factors being equal. Children tend to do well in things that they can believe in. They see a reason to aim higher. Nevermind if they don’t hit the mark, but aiming high at least gets them a better grade than one that aims low or worse, don’t have ant aim to begin with. So we have to be careful of the things that we say to them. Positive reassurances are a must. Its not good enough that we say it, we have to actually believe in it too. Optimism always trumps pessimism when it comes to studies.

So how do we instill determination in a child?

2 important skill sets has to be introduced to the child. A challenge. And the need to complete the challenge. Again, the methodology is much like the same as the stamina methodology. Start off with small challenges. But make sure the child does not give up. When they succeed, acknowledge them. If they fail, analyze the reason with them too. The important thing is not to give up till they suceed. Move up the ranks to harder challenges and soon enough, they will be determined enough to make sure they complete their own challenges.

In summary, the PSLE awards those who deserves it. With proper preparation and planning, it can be triumphed. I do believe all candidates can achieve a good PSLE grade. The reason for any divergence can only come from a lack of those qualities mentioned above. Of course, there are some factors beyond control, but I have seen students who started off wrong but finishing strong for the PSLE. Proper guidance and advice where it is needed is important to correct what is wrong.

What else?

We can help by making the environment conducive for the child to study in. A well lit, quiet and ventilated room. A properly organized study with all materials in easy reach. When every second counts in Primary 6, efficiency is everything. Keep a healthy diet and before you know it, the PSLE’s over.

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the 4 pillars of learning

So with the need in the 21st Century to be highly educated comes the need to provide an education that befits the dynamism of such an aim.

Society changes rapidly, with the industrial revolution going the way of the dinosaurs, the digital revolution maturing and now, the social revolution is upon us with Facebook, Twitter and forums gathering no moss with such an aggressive momentum onto our current lives. Everyone is a friend of someone now, and information travels around the globe faster than the blink of an eye.

Students are starting to mature in this age as well, incorporating digital elements early in life to be social individuals, exchanging thoughts and communicating with these tools. No longer are we surprised that our students approach us and know so much more than yesteryear. No longer are we surprised that they gulp information and understand the intricacies of the fabric of life.

So what do we do with such changes? It would be foolish not to keep up and make changes that would take advantage of these changes. Never sit still and let technology overcome us, and turn us into the relics that would make age gaps look ominous, outcast adults from their children and have our society alienate itself between the young and poor. This is where a page from United Nations website started looking very relevant to our lives, which I have included in this article as follows:

The following are an extract of an outline with regards to education as stated in United Nations website:

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/networks/global-networks/aspnet/about-us/strategy/the-four-pillars-of-learning/

“The four pillars of learning are fundamental principles for reshaping education:

Learning to know: to provide the cognitive tools required to better comprehend the world and its complexities, and to provide an appropriate and adequate foundation for future learning.

Learning to do: to provide the skills that would enable individuals to effectively participate in the global economy and society.

Learning to be: to provide self analytical and social skills to enable individuals to develop to their fullest potential psycho-socially, affectively as well as physically, for a all-round ‘complete person.

Learning to live together: to expose individuals to the values implicit within human rights, democratic principles, intercultural understanding and respect and peace at all levels of society and human relationships to enable individuals and societies to live in peace and harmony.”

That is where we have to take note, to participate in the global economy and society, we have to keep ourselves not only mentally challenged, but physically fit as well. To keep upgrading ourselves to the new tools and skills, and never to stop changing ourselves, i.e to move with the times. Evaluation is the reset button of our lives. Re-evaluating our worth, our knowledge, and what new skills we need to keep ourselves relevant are the important points of what is written above.

So what are we doing at eduKate? We have never once stopped evaluating our skills and upgrading our techniques and tools. In 2014, there will be another suite of changes that will be implemented from Nov 2013 all through to Feb 2013. These comprises with a move to a new premise, new equipment for the students, and also new ways of teaching. Again, evaluation is the reset button we have, which means, we will move ahead with what works, and delete those that don’t, which was exactly what we have done in 2013. With positive outcome for our students and resulting with a group of positively happy parents.

Of course, the academics are not the be-all and end-all of a holistic education, which we are all too aware of. That is where we strive to keep our students well rounded and relevant, for the future is a constant question mark, and the best the students can do, is to be fleet footed and all ready for what is about to happen.

Contact Us

eduKate Tuition Centre: For tuition classes on PSLE Syllabus, GCE O levels, IGCSE, IP, IB Subjects Maths, English and Science at Tampines Tuition Centre, Punggol Tuition Centre, and Marina Bay Tuition Centre, kindly contact:



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Our addresses for eduKate Tuition Centre:

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