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Schooling at home during Coronavirus: 4 Tips to Make It Easier

Schooling at home is hard. Yes, you get to be an active part of your child’s education, and you get to spend a lot more time with them (those being just a couple of the many benefits), but…

But you’re suddenly in this dual role of both parent and teacher. Not only does it take a lot of time and effort to do both, but you also need to work on separating these roles. Otherwise, the teacher in you may end up shortening the classes and canceling some difficult ones!

Now, if you’ve been doing it for a while, you’ve probably gotten the hang of it. But if you’ve been thrown into it after the pandemic hit, you may be struggling, along with so many others. As I said, it’s anything but easy and simple! And it’s not only the classes themselves, but the fact that you need to keep your and your kid’s motivation high in the midst of all the panic surrounding you.

We’re here to help, so without further ado, here are four things that can make homeschooling easier for both of you.

No.1: Talk About Your Fears and Expectations.

By assuming we know what our kids think, we’re robbing them of the chance to share their actual thoughts and emotions with us, and we’re damaging our communication. So don’t start from a place of, “They’re already hearing enough about this, let’s just jump straight into the equations”. Talk with them openly.

Start by sharing your fears, hopes, and needs first. Parents often think that by doing this they’re scaring the kids further, but all they’re doing is showing them that it’s okay to be scared and not feeling very productive. This way, they won’t end up covering up their feelings because they don’t want to scare you and make you sad! Kids need a safe zone for that, and what better place than at home, with someone they trust?

You should also tell them what you expect of them, negotiate some goals for every class as well as every week, and let them know that being unproductive and not motivated at all right now is understandable and that you’re there to help them through it by making it an interesting experience.

No. 2: Use Project-Based Learning – a Lot!

And here’s the answer to the question you were probably going to ask anyway!

“Make it interesting for them? How am I going to do that?”

Here’s a question right back. What are your most memorable learning experiences from school? Was it hours upon hours of rote learning, or those chemistry experiments and science fairs? My guess is the latter, and for a good reason: you got the chance to learn something by doing it yourself and understanding how it happens in real life.

So instead of “when am I ever going to need this” you were thinking “this is so cool, I want to do more of it!”

And that’s where project-based learning comes into play. You can learn all about it from one of our previous articles. And for the actual projects, here are some ideas to get you started.

Now, having a project at home when it comes to science is fairly simple, but what about, say, literature? Well, the great thing about PBL is that you can always create your own projects – all you need is a plan and a goal! For example, instead of a regular literature class, you can form a book club so it doesn’t feel as school-y to your kid. For history, you can dress up as famous people and re-enact certain parts of history together – and you can bet they’ll remember it much better than they would from a book!

Remember King Hedgehog of Gardenia?

You can find a complete list of resources to help you out with schooling at home in one of our previous articles.

It’s okay if you don’t feel up to task for certain subjects. Our tutors are very experienced and have a unique approach with every student. Schedule a free first class with one of them today:

No.3: Schedule Matters

Remember when I said that one of the hardest parts of homeschooling is having to juggle between the two roles? Sticking to a schedule is where they’re likely to clash from time to time, so what you need are firm boundaries. After all, would a teacher let your kid go home early because they don’t feel motivated to learn? It’s highly unlikely! But…

Yes, there’s a “but”. The great thing about homeschooling is that you can negotiate the schedule together so they have an active part in their education as well! If they learn better around noon, then why not start their classes then? After all, it’s been shown that most schools start too early, at least when it comes to adolescents.

However, once you both agree on a schedule, you need to stick to it. I’m not saying that no matter what, that math class has to be finished according to schedule, even if they’ve got a splitting headache! But you should stick to it as much as possible because it will create a routine, and a routine helps raise focus and productivity.

No.4: Understand How Your Kid Learns Best

Some kids prefer working alone, so once they get a certain task from you, it’s best you leave them to it. Others learn better in a group of peers, so organizing group sessions through Skype or Zoom is a fun idea that can really benefit their learning. You can also sign them up for our international STEM camp where they’ll be learning to code and practice teamwork with peers from other countries!

As I already mentioned, some kids function better in the morning, and others – not at all! One child may thrive in absolute silence, while another needs some light instrumental music in the background (I know, because that was me growing up – shoutout to all those chill music YouTube compilations!)

Get a home classroom going, but make sure it’s their learning space, rather than what you think it should look like. If they like a messy desk, let it be messy! You have a unique opportunity for an individualized approach that can help your kid make the most of their education, so don’t be afraid to try it.

 

I know it’s scary, and at times, you’ll be wondering whether you’re doing a good job, but as long as you’re both open about your expectations and struggles, negotiating, and doing your best, I can tell you honestly – you’re on the right track.

How to Help Your Child Prep for the SAT

Your child is taking the SAT and you can see that they’re stressed. But are you stressed even more than they are? We believe the advice people usually get – don’t worry – doesn’t work. Therefore, we’re offering you ways to help with preparation for the upcoming SAT exam.

We’re sure your child already has a study plan. However, even though a student knows a great deal, their fear of failure can impair learning and hurt test performance. So it’s important to be mentally prepared for taking the exam.

Facts about the SAT

Before going through our suggestions for making preparation for the SAT easier and helping your child have a higher score, let’s review some important facts about it.

did you know infographic

Did you know

The March SAT is just days away now and pressure increases every day. The fact we need to keep in mind is that the SAT is a test, as are AP tests, EOC, PSAT, and ACT. The score your child gets by taking some of these may be important for college admissions but is not defining their future. Also, many schools all over the U.S. dropped the SAT/ACT testing requirement.

Do these facts reassure you?

Still, you want your child to have a high SAT score. How can you help them?

Four ways to help your child be prepared for taking the test

  1. Start early

Oh, if I’ve had one more day, I’d…

How many times did you have a thought like this? Starting early gives your child a buffer to try a few study approaches and get comfortable with the test content. And if they start early, it’ll be easier – they can study one hour a day instead of six, and still cover everything. Plus, knowing that we have plenty of time to do something makes us less anxious.

Is starting three months ahead too early? Is it possible to do well on the SAT with only one month of studying?

Answers to these questions are not universal. It depends on whether your student is motivated, has test anxiety, a study routine they already follow, their schedule, etc. In any case, it would be great to add an extra week or two to the time your kid estimated to be enough.

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However, if you think you’re running out of time and your teen is still struggling with the preparation, you can ask for help. We’ve worked hard on finding tutors who can give your student the best chance of succeeding. All our tutors are highly knowledgeable, they pay attention to every individual student, and are able to adapt their approach to the student’s needs.

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  1. Help them develop test-taking skills

As we’ve already emphasised, the SAT is a test. Therefore, developing good test-taking skills helps your child answer faster and perform better.

Talk with them about reading the directions carefully – we all tend to skip over directions sometimes. Also, if they answer questions they know first and after that return to the more difficult ones, they’re going to be faster and motivated. You can find some tests online and help them practice this skill.

  1. Encourage your child

Giving your student lots of praise and encouragement will make them look forward to learning activities. Praise their efforts and the time they devote to preparation. Don’t focus on results. Also, help them understand that their self-worth is not defined by the score they get.

  1. Help them stay healthy

If a kid is physically or emotionally exhausted, it will be more difficult for them to handle stress and anxiety.

So, pay attention to their sleep hours and assist them in preparing healthier meals. Exercising can help them deal with stress and focus better, too. Don’t forget to allow them personal time – a break and relaxation are necessary.

P.S. Don’t forget your own me-time! Your mental health is just as important.

 

Note: don’t push it too hard

 These four suggestions can certainly be a big help in dealing with the SAT or any other exam. However, despite good intentions, some parents are so focused on getting a high score that they push their child too hard.

Now, helping your child is great but pushing them hard may hurt and hinder them. Imagine how they’d feel if you were to tell them to work harder when they’re already doing the best they can. You’d be invalidating  their efforts and killing their motivation.

Always remember that your student is taking the test and not you. Talk to them about their study routines, how much they know, etc., but always encourage them to tell you about their challenges and  the best way to help them.

If you still worry your efforts are not paying off, our Coaches are here for you. They work with the student but also help family members to deal with the challenges they face.

family looking at the laptop

You’ve got this!

Math Is Difficult, but Far from Impossible

Maryke K. is a  Nobel Tutor. She knows a lot about Chemistry, Physics, English Language, and Statistics, but one of her greatest loves is Math! She makes math fun (yes, it’s possible!) and finds the best way for students to learn it. Here she answers common questions about math and shares her personal experience in learning it.

 

Question: Let’s begin with fun stuff. What is the best math joke you’ve ever heard?

Maryke: What do you get when you cross a mosquito with a mountain climber?

You can’t cross a vector and a scalar… (laugh).

 

Q: Can you tell us how did you end up falling in love with mathematics? How did you become the math tutor?

M: From an early age, math has been fascinating to me. Because of that, I focused on it and worked hard. As I began sharing my knowledge with others, I discovered that mathematics was a path to helping people, and that’s what I love to do! And that’s why I became a tutor.

 

Q: Even though some people, like you, enjoy mathematics, there are others who find it hard. Based on your experience, why do some students fall behind in math?

M: Some people have a natural aptitude for mathematics, but that’s not the reason why others fall behind. I think the reason they do fall behind is they need it explained in a different way and there isn’t always time to do this in a classroom setting.

That’s why math tutoring exists! Not because you don’t have the ability to do math, but because a tutor is usually a few years older than you and they were in your shoes a few years before. So it’s easy to relate and find a great way to explain the unexplainable.

 

Q: Is there anything you’d recommend to those students? How should they study math?

M: If you don’t get math, just like anything else you don’t like, you’re going to have to motivate yourself.

Still, what I used to do is play. When I was younger, up to 6th grade, I would use computer games. I played educational games which meant I had to constantly do math in my head. Because of that, and by really putting thought into it, I made math fun, linking it to games.

So how you should study math? You find the fun in math and keep practicing. If you’re not good at it, practice is the only way to fix that.

 

Q: You’ve already mentioned teachers. Do you think that if you don’t understand math, maybe you have the wrong teacher?

M: It’s not about the teacher all the time, it’s usually about their workload. You can’t put a workload of 40 students on a teacher and expect every one of them is going to be catered to.

I think that everybody should be able to get tutoring. But since not everybody can afford a tutor, perhaps ask a friend who’s good at math to help you with the things you’re having difficulty with. You just need to have the additional help.

I come from a very humble background. I begged my parents to get me tutoring because despite having good grades, I needed even better grades to enroll in this program I wanted to get into. But we couldn’t afford it. The only help I had was reading math books and learning it by myself. That still wasn’t enough. I feel that if I had been in a smaller class, if my teachers could have catered to me specifically, then I would’ve had even better marks.. But it just wasn’t in the cards.

So I worked with a friend who was good at math and we made sure we helped each other. I did that my whole university career – we’d teach each other those concepts that we mightn’t otherwise understand.. We’d just work together and help each other. I feel everybody should do that because there’s always something that you don’t understand. So let the students be the teachers, as well.

 

Q: Some people believe that being good at math is a natural ability. What do you think about that? Can anybody be good at math?

M: I don’t think everybody can be good at math. However, I think everybody can do it. You just need the right way, the fun way to approach it.

There’s always going to be someone who gets 100% no matter what – someone with the natural aptitude. It may seem like you’ll never be as good as that person, but you can do it! You just need to accept that you have to practice a lot more than they do.

So, you can be good, but you have to practice. Practice as much as you can and eventually results will come.

 

Q: Natural talent vs. hard work. Do you think that people who aren’t naturally good at math but practice a lot eventually can become better at it than people who are naturally good but don’t practice?

M: Yes, that was me! I fell behind in my first year of engineering because I was like, This is going to be so easy! And all those people who were a little bit weaker than me in high school, were surpassing me. They were doing so much better than I was!

That’s because at some point math catches up with you. You might think it’s easy now, but there will be a time when you don’t understand anything. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so you don’t need to.

 

Q: What is your approach to teaching math?

M: Making it fun. I’m a very outgoing person and I always try to make people think of a fun way to go about something. I use visuals, I use tricks, I use anything that might make something entertaining and interesting!

No matter what your learning challenge is, what your skill is, it has to be fun!

 

Q: How do you choose between being an authority figure and a friend?

M: I think balance is the key. You need to be both an authority figure and a friend. I do believe my students respect me, but I also believe I open this door into letting them talk to me about their personal problems, not just focusing on math.

You need to listen to the challenges they have as that can affect their learning as well. For example, if their dog dies and they just don’t feel like doing math today, take things easier.

Being their teacher doesn’t mean you can’t be their friend. You just need to evaluate when that is appropriate. They’ll learn to trust you, and then they will respect you.

MAKE MATH FUN WITH MARYKE

She can’t wait to meet new friends!

 

Q: Does fun make math easy? Do you find mathematics easy overall?

M: Math is never easy. I have an engineering degree and when I was doing models I failed the math model. Yes, that thing destroyed me (laugh).

Now I’m doing a mathematics degree. I’m in my final year now and I’m realizing that math is always difficult. If you’re in that spot, it’s going to be hard. Right now, final-year math is unbelievably difficult, but first-year math was also unbelievably difficult. Math will always be difficult. It’s up to you to practice and find a way to understand it. So practice, practice, practice.

 

Q: Do you have any advice for parents to help their students with math?

M: Don’t start too late. I wish my parents had started earlier in letting me have fun with mathematics. I did start early, earlier than most people. But if they’d started even earlier, I feel that I would’ve been further ahead right now.

You need to make sure your kids are exposed to this environment. Let them play puzzles, let them play logic games when they’re very young. Because it opens a door for problem-solving skills and so on.

Make it fun and start early. But don’t overdo it. so that they start to hate it. Like anything, if you push your child too much, they’re going to resent it. Make sure you strike a balance between giving them constant stimulation and not overworking them. A great tutor would know how to help in that area, for sure.

 

Q: And if I’m a parent of a student with learning challenges (ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia…), what approach would you recommend for me to help my students with math? What should I do?

M: We all have those times when we’re faced with difficulty that causes anxiety. So did I. I know it’s not the same as ADHD, but it does pose a challenge when it comes to learning. One way to deal with it is to learn how to study despite the difficulty. Wishing it away won’t help, but finding a way to figure things out will.

What I would actually do was enjoy some free time but then dedicate 10 minutes to some math homework. It forced me to think about it, but not overwhelm myself. Of course, if you have a lot of homework you might need to up that to 15, 20 minutes. Some people will go up to 30 minutes or more, but if you constantly push a child they’re just going to completely resist.

If you’re helping your child with math, you need to make sure they’re not overwhelmed and that you are making it, again, fun. They need to have that feeling of I really want to solve these logic puzzles.

Also, I’ve always told my mom she needs to reward my brother, because my brother was a very, lazy boy when it came to math.The way she got him to finish his math was by giving him rewards. He has ADHD, and the reward for finishing was time playing computer games. And he would be so excited! Because that’s what children like to do, including me (laugh).

So,give them rewards, make it fun, and don’t make it too intensive!

 

Q: Why do we need math? Do we really need to know algebra, geometry, integers..? Why does math matters in the real world?

M: The things you’ll use depend on the field in which you’ll work. I don’t think you’ll need all the complex formulae and stuff.

But the basic reason everybody needs math is for logical reasoning. If you know math, you build a certain skill when it comes to reasoning with people, when it comes to logical thinking, solving problems at work in the future… So even though you don’t need quadratic equations, you still need to build these skills to be able to function in life and today’s world.

Long answer short, reasoning in real life and problem-solving skills.

 

Q: What are the uses of math? Are there any benefits to knowing math for a future career? What are applied-mathematics jobs?

M: As I’ve said, reasoning and problem-solving but not just that. For example, you’ll use it if you’re an animator. You’ll need math to put things together in a program and work through possible problems you might encounter when you animate different things. The same would apply to working as a game designer, It doesn’t mean that if you’re not good in math you can’t go into these areas. However, knowing math can be helpful.

Additionally, think about engineering, architecture, law… each requires logical reasoning, (especially law) and a background in mathematics.  Computer science, astronautics, the visual arts (such as painting).

 

Q: What message would you like to leave with our young readers?

M: Mathematics is always useful, so practice it and study it. You’ll use it in any career you choose. You’ll use it in the future just by practicing reasoning and in everyday activities that you need to think about.

However, if you’re not good at math, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful. If math is not going to be your career, you just need to find someone who can help you with logical reasoning so you can have a foundation to build on in your future life.

Math can be very useful and if you can’t figure it out on your own, there are great tutors to help!

IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP WITH MATHEMATICS OR ANY OTHER SUBJECT, OUR EXPERT TUTORS ARE HERE FOR YOU

 

The Pygmalion effect – How Teachers’ Expectations Affect Students’ Achievement

The Pygmalion effect describes how a teacher’s higher expectations lead to the student’s higher performance. If a teacher believes that certain students are late bloomers, there’s a good chance that they will become exactly that.

Pygmalion effects in the classroom

This effect can be found in different settings, but here we’ll focus on the classroom and the discovery by two American psychologists, Rosenthal and Jacobson, who conducted a study to test if children could be brighter when expected to be by their teachers. In another words, whether changes in teacher expectations produce changes in student achievement [2].

In their study, at the beginning of the school year, all of the children in the study were given an intelligence test, which was disguised as a test that would predict intellectual “blooming”. About 20% of the children were chosen at random and the teachers of these children were told that their scores on that test indicated they would show surprising gains in intellectual competence during the next few months of school. The important thing to remember is that the only difference between those children was in the minds of their teachers.

At the end of the school year, all the children were re-tested with the same test. The children from whom the teachers had been led to expect greater intellectual gain showed a greater gain than did the other children.

girl thinking positively about studying

How to use these effects to achieve better performance among students?

Teachers, but also parents, influence whether children will have higher or lower achievement. So, now when we are aware of the power of our expectations, one question arises – how can we help our children?

  1. Look for the good and positive things in each child. Find something to like or appreciate about every child, even if it’s their independence and tenacity. The teacher’s behavior is important. However, there’s more to it than that – it’s about the way you think about the child.
  2. Be aware of your effect. Teachers should always bear in mind that their behavior can affect a student’s performance. Although it’s impossible to like all students equally, it is imperative that they are all treated equally.
  3. Reconsider your treatment. Think about how you treat students you find smart/charming and compare that treatment to the way you approach those you find uninteresting/annoying. Who do you criticize more? Who receives more attention?
  4. More positive treatment. Try to give more attention to students you neglected before. Also, reinforce them if you see them struggling or feeling unsure. This way they’ll be more motivated to raise their hands and ask questions. Consequently, they’ll work harder at your subject and do much better in it.

We, at Nobel Coaching and Tutoring, believe in your student! Achieving better performance demands hard work, but with our help it is much easier and faster. Therefore, there’s one more way to help – you can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our Coaches HERE.

References:

[1] Babad, E. Y., Inbar, J., & Rosenthal, R. (1982). Pygmalion, Galatea, and the Golem: Investigations of biased and unbiased teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology,74(4), 459-474. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.74.4.459
[2] Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The urban review, 3(1), 16-20.

Back to School: How to Be Prepared

It’s that time of year already! Whether you’re ready or not, summer break is over and school has started. Since going back to school is often a bit scary, we want to help prepare you to crush this school year!

How to prepare for going back to school?

So, how can you ready yourself mentally and physically for a new, successful school year?

Get enough sleep.

Sometimes we underestimate the value of sleep but sleep has effects on performance. It involves a range of complex functions associated with memory, the ability to learn, brain development, immune functioning, etc. So try to sleep at least eight to nine hours every night. While this might not always be realistic, do try to respect your sleep schedule!

Prepare everything you need the day before.

Pack your bag and choose your clothes the day before, so you don’t have to worry about it next morning and won’t have to rush. You’ll have time to think about the things you want to do that day, have breakfast, and get ready on time.

Be there 15 minutes early.

And while we’re talking about time… Don’t be late! It’s an annoying habit and you know that. The best way not to be late is to get to school 15 minutes early every day.

Study routine.

Establish your studying/homework routine. This will help you concentrate, memorize, and recall information faster and more effectively.

Be organized.

Write down all your due dates on a calendar template and review it daily as a study guide. Make a plan for how you’ll achieve everything you want to and stick to it. This helps with focusing time and energy on tasks you need to complete, and you can track your progress and make adjustments as necessary.

Planner and a yellow marker pen

It’s okay to be afraid

Have you had negative thoughts – for example, of having a test you didn’t study for that are coming back all over again? Do you have trouble falling asleep or you’re waking up frequently during the night? What about nightmares? Maybe you have none of these symptoms, but you still feel school-related nervousness.  However, there are ways to beat it!

Remember you’re not alone.

Many students feel that way and have the same worries that you do. It’s not unusual to experience some anxiety facing the new school year, even more so if you’re moving up to middle school, high school, or college. These “big changes”can be really difficult, but certainly manageable.

Don’t forget to breathe.

If you feel very anxious and don’t know what to do or how to stop it, just breathe. Try to find a place where you can be alone, close your eyes, and breathe slowly. Here’s a good exercise that is called 4 7 8 breathing:

  1. For 4 seconds inhale silently through your nose.
  2. Then, count to seven as you hold your breath.
  3. Next, exhale completely through your mouth for eight seconds.

You can also use this exercise if you have trouble falling asleep.

Talk about it.

Sometimes the best way to face a fear is to say it out loud. So if you have any fear, or you feel nervous, anxious, and/or sad, share it. Share your feelings and your fears with someone you’re close to. For example, a friend is a good choice – they might be feeling the same way and you can talk it through together.

However, if you have trouble adapting to school for more than the first week or two and it’s affecting your everyday life, talk with your family and friends and consider asking for help.

School is cool

Even though you’re a bit nervous and a little bit fearful facing a new school year, you can also look forward to some great new experiences. These are a few reasons why School is Cool.

  1.      New people.

The new school year is a good chance to meet new people! Why is that so good? Those people may become your friends (or a crush, right?).

  1.      Friends.

Seeing classmates after a few months is great, isn’t it? You can finally hug them and talk about how you spent your summer break and what’s new. Friends are also a great support that all of us need from time to time. Even if you experience some anxiety in social situations, you now have a fresh chance to make connections and to work on maintaining a sense of calm while joining in new experiences.

  1.      New, interesting things to learn.

There’s plenty of new things to learn and you may be surprised by what you’ll find to interest you! Also, there’s a wide variety of opportunities available for you at school which may be beneficial in your future career. Leadership in a student organization is a good example of that.

  1.      Extracurricular activities.

Have you already found your favorite one? If you did, congratulations! Keep doing a great job! However, if you didn’t, here’s a chance to try different extracurricular activities and find out what you like and what your passion is. There are many benefits to joining a choir or a basketball team. Also, you can meet new people and learn many interesting things there!

Arts in Education Week: 51 Reasons to Shout About It

It’s National Arts in Education Week: a time to unite and celebrate the life-transforming and life-affirming power that the arts can have on children’s lives.

But while it’s a time to rejoice, the sad truth is that Art Education is beginning to find itself on the chopping room floor.

As school budgets get squeezed, the typical curriculum is getting narrower. Principles are feeling pressured to focus on a tighter set of ‘core academic subjects’. This comes as little surprise in a culture where success is often measured purely on academic outcomes.

But here’s the thing:

Art Education is vital. For a start, there is mounting evidence that it enhances academic results. But more importantly, learning arts cultivates cognitive abilities, nurtures positive character traits, and fosters critical thinking. It expands awareness, increases empathy, and develops an array of social skills. And that’s just the start!

Here is a list of 51 evidence-based benefits that Arts Education provides for children and young people:

importance of arts education

Our children deserve to be immersed in a learning environment that is rich and balanced. One that attends to mind, body, and wellbeing. As adults we know how essential this is for happiness as well as productivity. Why should it be any different for our children?

Arts Education provides kids with unique experiences which help then to develop a sense of self and identity. It nurtures their confidence and expands their worldview. It may also lead to a lifelong passion or creative career.

And here’s the kicker:

Even if a young person has their heart set on an academic or technical career, still, integrating arts into their learning can raise it to the next level.

When kids have an arts lesson or their teacher simply incorporates arts within regular STEM subjects, this has a powerful disrupting effect on their day; it can feed their imagination and fuel their joy, breaking them out of the treadmill of core academia. The result: young minds refreshed and ready to tackle their Math and English with vigor and wonder.

TEACHERS: Four Easy Ways to Address Your Students’ Visual and Verbal Learning Styles

Each teacher is unique and has their own particular teaching style. “Teaching style” refers to the way one prefers to teach and is illustrated in instructional behavior from which a teacher will rarely deviate [3]. Despite the fact that teachers seldom, if ever, change their style, they may vary their teaching strategies depending on the nature of the subject, requirements of the course, common learning styles, and other factors.

Understanding one`s teaching style can serve as a foundation for the improvement of instruction and enhancement of the learning experience [2]. How much a given student learns in a class is governed in part by the compatibility of the instructor’s teaching style and the pupil’s learning style [1]. However, although each teacher may consistently embrace one predominant learning style, students will experience various teaching styles as they encounter different teachers. Both students and their teachers can therefore benefit from understanding variations in teaching and learning styles [2]. This awareness can be the means to achieving the highest possible effectiveness.

This article can help you become aware of your teaching style, understand its relationship to learning styles, and how to easily customize it.

Visual and verbal learning styles

Students learn in many ways. There are visual, verbal, and kinesthetic learners. Most children learn most effectively with one of these three modalities and tend to miss or ignore information presented in either of the other two [1]. In current educational practice, we have tended to distinguish principally between visual and verbal learners, although much more attention is now, appropriately, being focused on kinesthetic learning as well.

Visual learners remember best what they see. They prefer using pictures, images, demonstrations, etc. Verbal learners remember best what is explained in words or written and they learn best from books and lectures.  In the article Are You a Visual or a Verbal Learner you may find out more about what suits each type of learner best.

Most learning and teaching style components parallel one another [1, 5]. So, for example, the student who favors visual perception would be most comfortable with an instructor who uses charts, pictures, and films.

The mismatch between teaching style and students’ learning styles

The most common learning style is visual while most teaching is verbal [1]. Educators present information predominantly verbally through lecturing or words/symbols written in texts and handouts or on a chalkboard. Accordingly, there can be a mismatch between the preferred presentation mode of educators and the preferred input modality of most students, which may lead to serious consequences.

Students may become bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about their courses, lose motivation and the desire for achievement, and in some cases, even drop out of school. Educators are confronted by low test scores, unresponsive or hostile classes, poor attendance, and dropouts. They also often become frustrated, because they realize something is not working [1]. 

Teachers can’t adapt to all the students they teach

In the classroom, there’s usually only one teacher and many students. Do you ask yourself Should I adapt my teaching style to the students’ learning styles or should it be vice versa? There are arguments and evidence in favor of both sides [4]. However, if we think about it, we may conclude that it’s impossible for one teacher to adapt to all the students they teach! But there is something teachers can do.

The adoption of a few teaching techniques may help teachers meet the needs of most or all of their students. They can keep their particular teaching style and at the same time find ways to reach students whose preferences differ from their own.

Four easy ways to address your students’ learning styles  

Motivate learning.

If you motivate your students, they will learn more easily and retain information, regardless of the way it’s presented. For that reason, relate the presented material to what has come before and what is still to come in your course, to material in other courses, and particularly to the students’ personal experience. You can even ask some students to present the same material you’re teaching in a different way to the class, you may be able to learn a new technique while motivating students with different learning strategies to pay attention!

Combine visual and verbal presentations.

Irrespective of the extent of the match or mismatch, presentations that use both visual and auditory modalities reinforce learning for all students. Before, during, or after the presentation of verbal material, you can use pictures, schematics, graphs, or simple sketches. The way to encompass both visual and verbal learners is to show films and provide demonstrations, followed by discussion.

Talk to students.

Try to find out what their academic difficulties and learning preferences are, so you can help them. You can demonstrate various learning styles by using the same content presented in different ways and ask them which one they prefer. Sometimes, explaining the way to learn most efficiently to a student who is struggling is a great help – that way they may reshape their learning experiences and be successful. You can also learn about tips and tricks they use to help themselves, so you could recommend those later to someone who has learning difficulties.

Teach students to help themselves and to seek help.

You don’t have to do all the work! For example, teach students to look for alternative sources of information that suit them better or explain to them the benefits of learning in groups. Check in with them to see if they were able to find something that would benefit the entire class. They may feel like the task is more purposeful if they feel is it able helping others.

Utilize brief formative assessments of your students’ learning by quickly surveying the students about their understanding of the material. This will help you figure out if how your teaching is meeting the needs of your students’ learning styles. If a student continues to struggle, we have Coaches and Tutors who can help them overcome academic and learning difficulties, look us up for ways to refer families to our services.

Resources:

[1] Felder, R. M., & Silverman, L. K. (1988). Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering education, 78(7), 674-681.

[2] Heimlich, J. E., & Norland, E. (2002). Teaching style: where are we now?  New directions for adult and continuing education, 2002(93), 17-26.

[3] Silver, H. F. (2003). Teaching styles and strategies: Interventions to enrich instructional decision-making. Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ: Thoughtful Education Press.

[4] Thompson, T. C. (1997). Learning Styles and Teaching Styles: Who Should Adapt to Whom? Business Communication Quarterly, 60(2), 125-127. doi:10.1177/108056999706000212

[5] Vaezi, S., & Shahroosvand, H. R. (2015). Iranian EFL Learners and Teachers Sensory Preferences and the Learners Speaking Ability. International Journal of English Language Education, 3(2), 14. doi:10.5296/ijele.v3i2.7627

 

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Are You a Visual or a Verbal Learner?

The presentation of information can often be more impactful than the content itself and is directly instrumental in its retention. During instruction and practice, students employ various learning styles. The term “learning styles” refers to the idea that different modes of instruction are more effective for different people. There are several different learning styles. If we take the way people receive information as a criterion, we have three common categories of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. However, the most frequently used distinction is between visual and auditory (verbal), as those are the modes of instruction most commonly employed in schools. We shall address kinesthetic learning in future articles. The goal of this current article is to help you find out if you are a visual or a verbal learner.

What would you say if somebody asked you, Which presentation style do you prefer – pictures or words? By understanding what kind of learner (visual or a verbal learner) you are, you can gain a better perspective on how to implement these learning styles into your study techniques.

Visual learners

I often think in mental pictures or images.

My powers of imagination are higher than average.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

If you agree with these statements, there’s a good chance you’re a visual learner.

Some students remember best what they see, so they prefer pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, films, and demonstrations to access and understand new information. Sometimes they have trouble learning information presented through words. It is more effective for everyone to absorb information when it is presented both visually and verbally, but what if the lectures consist of speech only?

Here are a few ways to help yourself if you are a visual learner:

  1. If the course material is predominantly verbal, try to find diagrams, schematics, photographs, flow charts, or any other visual representation. If you can’t find anything, try to make your own.
  2. Find videotapes, CDs, Youtube videos, or video podcasts about course material. You can ask your teacher to help you or consult a reference book.
  3. Make a concept map where you’ll list key points, enclose them in boxes or circles, and draw lines with arrows between concepts to show connections.
  4. Color-code your notes with a highlighter. You can choose different criteria for this – for example, everything related to one topic could be yellow. Stickers in different colors are also a great way to present the material so it suits you better.

Verbal learners

I can`t imagine thinking in terms of mental pictures.

I prefer to read instructions on how to do something rather than have someone show me.

I have better than average fluency in using words.

Do you think like this? Do you consider yourself a verbal learner?

It seems that there are people who study better when the information is presented through words, by reading or listening. They prefer written or spoken explanations. If this describes you and you’re struggling with learning or recalling the material, try these tips to make it easier for yourself:

  1. Write summaries or outlines of course material in your own words. By adapting the material, you will understand it better and could save yourself some time in the long run.
  2. Working in groups can be effective: you gain understanding of material by hearing classmates’ explanations and you learn even more when you do the explaining. Also, you don’t have to choose between friends and studying. You can have both!

If you are interested in knowing more about balancing between these two, read our article Balancing Homework And Friends After School.

  1. Use repetition as a study technique. It is most effective when there’s a short time interval between repetitions at the beginning and then you prolong it every time you successfully remember the lesson.
  2. Make associations of words or information that are hard to remember. For example, you can use some song lyrics as a memorization tool and link them with that information. This could be fun!

Why is it important?

Students who recognize their learning strengths (and limitations) have an advantage over those who don’t. They know how to help themselves, and when and how to seek help. Learning styles may affect learning and eventual outcomes. Since teachers can`t take care of every individual’s needs and preferences, it helps if you know your own strengths. For example, although most students are visual learners, students in most college classes mainly listen to lectures and read material written on chalkboards and in textbooks and handouts. In that case, you can study the content using your preferred learning style, so that it is easier for you to understand and remember.

Learning styles continuum

People sometimes think that you are either a visual or a verbal learner, but it’s more of a spectrum. The best way to understand this is to imagine it as a continuum, a line where on the left is 100% verbal learner and on the right is 100% visual learner. The trick is that neither one of them exist in real life – everyone is a combination of not only those two but many different learning styles.

What characterizes good learners is that they are capable of processing information presented either visually or verbally. This means you can enhance all your skills, not only your strengths!

As already mentioned, visual and verbal are not the only learning modes. People usually think in terms of visual and verbal learning styles only, so kinesthetic learners can be unfairly neglected. If you want to learn about kinesthetic and other types of learning styles, stay tuned – some of the following articles will deal with them.

Actively engaging in your education by understanding your learning preferences and supplementing material not presented in your preferred learning style will help you attain and retain the information you need to remember. If this is difficult for you, we have coaches and tutors who can help you assess and enhance your strengths, so you can be successful in any learning environment.

 

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Benefits and Risks of Social Media

Children nowadays have a way of connecting and interacting continuously with friends. They use various electronic gadgets, play games with people from other countries, have live face-to-face conversations via Skype, etc. It’s hard to even imagine a childhood without the internet and social media.

In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2015, 89% of teenagers reported using at least one social media site such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. At that time, the most popular was Facebook, with 71% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 reported using it [1]. In a more recent study conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in December of 2016, Instagram and Snapchat led, with about 75% of teens reported using them, while Facebook usage declined slightly to 66%. However, the use of social media in general was on the rise, as 94% of teens age 13-17 reported using them [2].

 

Benefits of Social Media

1. Making Social Connections

Social media provide a convenient way for children to connect with their peers and keep in touch with friends they already spend time within the offline world. This mutual, constant availability can lead to the strengthening of these relationships – they have someone they can share their problems with and ask for advice, or just chat with if they’re feeling bored. Furthermore, they use social media to explore their interests and connect with their community, which helps them further develop existing relationships with like-minded peers. Researchers from the Netherlands found that children between the ages of 11 and 14 who use social media report a higher level of friendship quality. Even though this study focused on their version of Facebook, authors believe their findings can be generalized to users of other social media beyond the Netherlands [3].

Social media also makes it easier for children to make new friends, as they don’t have to deal with the stress that comes from meeting new people face-to-face. For example, they don’t have to worry about being faced with an awkward silence when they feel pressure to speak but aren’t quite sure what they should say next. Texting doesn’t always require an immediate response, so children with less confidence in their social skills can take the time to come up with an adequate answer and reply with less pressure than in a face-to-face situation. In a longitudinal study, researchers concluded that instant messaging increases the quality of existing friendships because adolescents feel less inhibited and disclose their inner thoughts and feelings to one another earlier on, which enhances the relationship [4].

One of the undisputable benefits of social media is the ability to overcome geographical barriers. Using social media to keep in touch with friends who live in a different city, state, or country is a great way of ensuring a relationship doesn’t suffer because of distance. Two kids from Argentina and Iceland can communicate online just as easily as two kids who live in the same neighborhood. And, social media can help bring together diverse groups of children. Having contact and communicating with children of a diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious background can be the key to developing tolerance and respect for different groups of people.

2. A Helpful Tool for Dealing with Problems

There are many ways in which children can communicate online while staying anonymous, i.e. joining Reddit. Shy children, who often feel socially awkward, might use this controlled environment to express themselves and speak their mind without the fear of negative offline consequences or of being stigmatized. This gradually leads to the development of higher self-esteem. On social media, it’s easier to find someone who’s got the same problems and with whom one can talk and be listened to. Reading about the experiences of children who are dealing with the same issues as you are is an invaluable basis for evaluating your own problems.

The internet in general is a place where children can easily access online information about their health concerns, or, for example, a proper diet. Health resources are increasingly available to youth online, but social media can provide even more health information, as users share medical information online with each other [5, 6]. Also, children with chronic illnesses can join supportive networks of people with similar conditions. People with diabetes, for example, often create online communities, which allows them to connect to one another and to members of the healthcare community [7].

3. A Useful Resource in Education

Students often use social media to share information about school assignments, as well as to organize their time in accordance with their homework. Facebook groups, for example, present a common mode of communication and for the exchange of ideas. There are even schools that embrace social media as a teaching tool and find that it’s a necessary resource in education. However, there are some disadvantages when it comes to using technology and social media in the context of education. If you want to learn more about that as well as how children can best use the internet for their educational benefit, you should take a look at our article on this topic.

 

Potential Risks of Social Media

1. Social Media Addiction

All those likes, comments, pictures, texts, etc. can be overwhelming for children. As previously noted, children can reap many benefits from social media, especially in the area of socialization. On the other hand, constantly being online and on-call for friends can inevitably lead to sleep deprivation, which can cause further problems. It’s important not to become dependent on quick replies and a blizzard of instant messaging. If children are spending all that time on social media they’re probably neglecting other commitments at home and school. This also leaves them with less time for those necessary and irreplaceable face-to-face interactions with others.

2. The Burden of Comparisons with  Idealized Depictions of Others

Despite the upside of having a large amount of information available online regarding health and other issues, there’s clearly a downside. Much of what children might see on social media is a calculated and idealized picture someone is trying to present. Most people don’t post photos of themselves on Instagram when they’re sad or angry. You usually only see happy moments, such as them enjoying a party, or going to the movies with lots of friends, which seems to suggest they have a perfect, worry-free life. When children see the idealized life someone they follow on social media appears to be leading, they might ask, “What am I doing wrong?” and “Why is my life not like that?”, and feel like failures.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not hard to stumble upon complete disinformation online regarding an issue that’s important to children. Sometimes it’s challenging for even the most experienced users to tell if a source is accurate or if there’s a hidden agenda behind the information.

3. The Dangers of Disinhibition and Cyberbullying

Improper use of social media and a lack of restraint in online interactions can lead to the development of behavior patterns that aren’t commonly a part of life in the offline world. Anonymity is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it can help children overcome shyness and social anxiety, but it can also stimulate unwanted reactions, such as hostile or aggressive online behavior, potentially lead to cyberbullying. Bullying and cyberbullying have some elements in common, such as aggression, power imbalance, and the repetition of this type of behavior [8]. Researchers believe we should look at these two as distinct phenomena. Someone who is cyberbullying doesn’t have to be physically stronger than the victim, and usually doesn’t get to see the effect his or her behavior had on the victim. Another difference is in accessibility of the victim. Whereas bullying mostly happens at school, cyberbullying can be engaged in at any time and reach a much wider audience, which makes it potentially even more dangerous [8].

4. Invasion of Privacy

From the moment children start using social media and spending time on the internet, they start making a digital footprint. This can have ramifications for their future personal or professional life. One part of the problem is sharing too much information, which can be used by advertisers or third parties. About 90% of boys and girls share their real names and photos of themselves on social media. Most of them also share their birthdate, interests, city where they live, school name, etc. [9] We’re also witnessing people revealing personal information on Facebook posts, sharing their personal photos on Instagram daily, or indicating their political views on Twitter.

Besides the negative consequences of posting too much information about themselves online, potential threats for children also include security attacks such as hacking, malware, or even identity theft. A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that internet users are able to answer fewer than half of the questions when asked about their knowledge of cybersecurity [10]. Although this research was conducted on adults, we have no reason to believe children would be any more informed. This makes children vulnerable to scams and invasions of privacy, especially if they didn’t get adequate education on these topics.

 

What Can Parents Do?

Let’s face it – most children nowadays can’t imagine life without the internet. As we’ve seen, social media is a helpful tool in many aspects of children’s lives, when used properly. On the other hand, if used recklessly, they can cause more harm than good. With this in mind, we’ll now go over a couple of practices that can help parents ensure their children use social media to their advantage.

– If your children are spending too much time on Facebook or another social media app, you should help them find some other activity to fill in their time. Try talking to them and seeing if they’re interested in taking up a hobby, or a sport.

– Try to set an example for your children and don’t use your cell phone too often. As a matter of fact, don’t use it at all in front of them, especially not for endlessly scrolling through social media, reading the news, etc. Use the free time you have together to connect and bond. Make a rule for everyone in your household – for example, that no one should use their phone during a meal or while having family time in the living room [11]. This will help them realize that the outside world is more important than the online one, and hopefully, they’ll understand that they aren’t going to miss anything important if they don’t reply to a text message right away.

Don’t invade their privacy! One study suggests it may not be the best strategy to intervene in your children’s use of social media [12]. A better approach for children’s online safety implies not necessarily intervening, but mediating their online behavior. For example, you should occasionally monitor the information they post online and talk to them about it, but you shouldn’t read their private conversations or use parental monitoring software to block content that contains online risks. If you merely reduce their exposure to online risks, they won’t be able to learn how to effectively cope with them. The suggested approach is to provide children with more autonomy to take risks, as well as for parents to take corrective action to mitigate those risks [12].

– Make sure you help your children learn not to evaluate themselves in comparison with an idealized image someone presented on social media. Let them know that they should be what they feel and think they should be, and not be driven by their perception of unrealistic depictions of others.

– You should suggest your children make their profiles private on social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, so that their posts are only visible to their friends. Educate your children to cautiously and more securely access the online world. Think about enrolling them in one of the many interesting upcoming projects here at Nobel, such as the one concerned with teaching children about networking, firewalls, ports & internet security, etc.

 

References:

1. Lenhart, A., Duggan, M., Perrin, A., Stepler, R., Rainie, H., & Parker, K. (2015). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015 (pp. 04-09). Pew Research Center [Internet & American Life Project].

2. http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/Instagram-and-Snapchat-are-Most-Popular-Social-Networks-for-Teens.aspx

3. Antheunis, M. L., Schouten, A. P., & Krahmer, E. (2016). The role of social networking sites in early adolescents’ social lives. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 36(3), 348-371.

4. Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2009). The effects of instant messaging on the quality of adolescents’ existing friendships: A longitudinal study. Journal of Communication, 59(1), 79-97.

5. O’Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800-804.

6. Moorhead, S. A., Hazlett, D. E., Harrison, L., Carroll, J. K., Irwin, A., & Hoving, C. (2013). A new dimension of health care: systematic review of the uses, benefits, and limitations of social media for health communication. Journal of medical Internet research, 15(4).

7. Cotter, A. P., Durant, N., Agne, A. A., & Cherrington, A. L. (2014). Internet interventions to support lifestyle modification for diabetes management: a systematic review of the evidence. Journal of Diabetes and its Complications, 28(2), 243-251.

8. Kowalski, R. M., Giumetti, G. W., Schroeder, A. N., & Lattanner, M. R. (2014). Bullying in the digital age: A critical review and meta-analysis of cyberbullying research among youth.

9. http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/05/21/what-teens-share-on-social-media/

10. http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/03/22/what-the-public-knows-about-cybersecurity/

11. https://childmind.org/article/how-using-social-media-affects-teenagers/

12. Wisniewski, P., Jia, H., Xu, H., Rosson, M. B., & Carroll, J. M. (2015, February). Preventative vs. reactive: How parental mediation influences teens’ social media privacy behaviors. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 302-316). ACM.

 

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Extracurricular activities – how (many) to choose?

The Romans had a saying – Mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body. And they practiced what they preached. In ancient Rome and Greece, it was expected that students not only give their all in philosophy and mathematics; they were similarly required to practice gymnastics – what we would now call “athletics”.

Nowadays, we tend to have a different view of what’s necessary for an adolescent. We often expect them to figure out their own particular interest or vocation and to channel their energies exclusively into that one thing.

However, attitudes are changing.  We’re beginning to acknowledge that adolescents need more than one narrow focus and we’re encouraging their participation in extracurricular activities. And that’s a good start towards fostering a multi-oriented young person with a wide variety of interests and skills.

Unfortunately, society dictates a lot of the choices adolescents have. There are certain labels that, once established, can be very difficult to shake off. We have “jocks”, “nerds”, “cheerleaders”, etc., – and their peers (and adults alike) tend to see them as one-dimensional. For that reason, “nerds” will go for chess club rather than trying out for the football team where they might not be easily accepted. But why shouldn’t a young person who has both the interest and skills go out for both – as unlikely a combination as that might appear to some? It’s up to us to encourage them and teach them that it’s okay to do well academically and be a good athlete at the same time.  Not only is it okay, it’s very good for both their mental and physical well-being!

So, how do we recognize which extracurricular activity is right for a particular adolescent?

Here’s some questions whose answers might offer a solution to that dilemma

1. What is your child interested in?

Even though adolescents spend a lot of time with their friends, parents have obviously been with them far longer. They’ve watched them grow up, playing with the same toys for hours and begging for that soccer ball until they finally got it. You are clearly the ones who can best try to answer this question – what is it that always interested my child? Sometimes, girls will be interested in new technologies and dream of becoming a programmer or a game developer. But once they enter high school, they’re told that it’s a man’s field and they might be encouraged to go for soft skills instead. The same goes for boys and, say, dancing. But if these kids had spent years practicing different programming languages or dancing in their room, you should talk to them about it and try to convince them to pursue their passion by joining a computer club or a dance troupe. Just make sure to be as objective as possible. Try to remember those early occasions when your child asked you for something, not when you bought it for them without asking first. It’s important (and not always easy) to distinguish between your child’s and your own interests, as parents often see themselves reflected in their children.

Extracurricular activities shouldn’t be there to fill in their free time with just anything – they should offer children a unique chance to develop, to find something they are passionate about and, who knows, maybe make a living out of one day. Adolescents who work at something they’re interested in and motivated by tend to have more success in that field than their peers, as well as being happier and more fulfilled. [2]

2. What are they good at?

Another important thing to consider is not only what children like, but also what they seem to be talented at. If they choose to engage in activities they already have a gift for, it will significantly elevate their fragile self-esteem. [1] Adolescence is a time when it’s important to develop a sense of self and confidence, and for most, years will pass before they master this. So being very good at something and having the opportunity to prove oneself might be extremely beneficial. That being said, the chosen activity should still be sufficiently challenging – they might not enjoy “easy wins”.

Now, if what interests them and what they are good at are one and the same, they’ll have the perfect extracurricular activity. But what if it’s not one and the same? What comes first? Should they choose what interests them or what they’re good at?

Well, there’s no reason to choose. There’s nothing wrong with participating in several organized activities in one’s free time.  And when they’re involved in more than one extracurricular activity, adolescents tend to like school more and do better academically than their peers who only follow one. [3]

3. Do they enjoy socializing or are they shy?

So far I’ve been arguing that extracurricular activities should be tailored to the child’s interests, but there’s definitely more to it. Different activities offer different possibilities, and if they choose the right one, children can develop all sorts of skills. For example, if an adolescent prefers doing things alone – not because they are shy, but because it’s simply their preference – joining a math club or chess club may be the right thing to do. However, if you’ve noticed that your child wants to socialize but feels too shy to attempt it, a team sport could help them enormously. Of course, it might be difficult in the beginning. Trying new things usually is. But as time goes by, spending hours of their free time in a structured environment with their peers learning responsibilities and team spirit will start reaping benefits, and you’ll soon see them turn from shy to sociable.

4. What are their priorities?

It’s good to encourage adolescents to try many different things. But occasionally, you’ll find children who’ve been obsessed with a only one activity since their earliest years. They may see themselves only as dancers, or actors, or game developers, and they focus all their efforts on becoming better at that one particular thing. In that case, it’s okay to remind them there are other activities out there, not just drama or computer club. It is up to them to decide whether they’ll give them a try or not, though. If they identify strongly with the activity they’ve chosen, they might see other activities as a waste of the time they’d rather be spending practicing what they enjoy most. [3] However, bear in mind there are certain caveats here. If their action-of-choice is a physical thing, such as football or dancing, go for it! But if the activity they’ve chosen is sedentary, it might affect their physical and mental health negatively. Since most school activities are done while sitting down, going to a computer club just to sit some more could carry certain health risks. This is why it would be good to encourage them to practice a variety of extracurricular activities. [4]

Mixing it is best!

Adolescents need to be stimulated both in terms of learning and physical development. Their brains and bodies alike are undergoing a lot of changes that are sometimes confusing and not easily understood. It definitely helps if they can hold on to something throughout these changes.

School tends to focus on academic achievement, be it through math, languages, or science. That’s far from a bad thing, but it’s not enough for a developing young person. And even though they have the opportunity to practice PE, its benefits are easily diminished by the overwhelming amount of time spent sitting, studying, and doing homework. So, if your child wants to only do things related to athletics outside of their school time, it’s okay. School will deal with their knowledge and learning habits, and athletics will help with that, too.  Children who engage in physical activities such as sports or dance have shown greater liking for school and enhanced learning ability, probably because physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, making it more active and alert, which positively influences their attention. [4]

What are their choices?

Up until now, I’ve been separating extracurricular activities only into academic and athletic, but there are at least two more types of activities a child might want to try – performance arts and prosocial activities. If they are interested in performance arts, they might want to join a school band or a drama club, for example. The children who will go for these are usually those who enjoy being in front of the audience, but shy children can benefit from participation as well; performing is good practice for the future, as they may one day be required to give a speech or hold a presentation. And there’s the added benefit of the built-in socializing factor that goes along with it. Just keep in mind that it’s up to you to encourage your child to try something, but in the end it’s up to them whether they feel comfortable enough to do it.

Finally, we have the so-called prosocial activities –  the one most commonly practiced being volunteering. This one is very important, as doing something for the community helps an adolescent feel more a part of things and gives them a sense of belonging. Not only that, they become part of a social network of both peers and adults who could potentially give them useful advice and teach them new things.

The important thing is that all of these activities have a lot of pros – they all lead to better grades and a higher college attendance, while prosocial activities and performing arts also help prevent potentially risky behaviors. Now, I’ve mentioned previously something along the lines of “the more, the merrier”- but there’s a limit to that. So where do we draw the line? At what point do we tell them they’re putting too much pressure on themselves? How many activities are enough and how many are too much?

Magical number 5-19

Different cultures have different expectations for their children. In Europe, students are expected to have high grades, while volunteering is looked upon as a plus. Anything above that is a bonus, but not necessary for success. In many countries in Asia, they have a different outlook. From a very early age, children take on piano lessons, English classes, swimming, baseball, art… And that’s just for one child. Children who have too many responsibilities and too little free time growing up tend to be very stressed-out, not only as adolescents but also later in life. However, children who have few commitments and challenges during their school days also tend to be under a lot of stress once they get a job and responsibilities, since they’re not used to the pressure and not well equipped to deal with it. So what’s the solution? Moderation. Children whose parents’ expectations for them are moderate tend to go on to lead more fulfilling, healthy lives while still managing to succeed in their chosen area.

But what exactly constitutes “moderate”?

It’s been shown that adolescents who spend between five and nineteen hours a week doing extracurricular activities are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Anything above nineteen hours has either no effect or a negative one, as it leads to adolescents being under too much pressure and resorting to risky behaviors to try to find a way out of anxiety or depression. [3]

So, what can we conclude?

Encourage your children to try different things. If they are shy, a performance art might help them. If they feel like what they love doesn’t fit their perceived role in society, urge them not to give up on their passion. If they are only interested in academic or prosocial activities, help them fit a physical activity into their schedule. If you’re not sure what they are interested in, feel free to recommend them one you’re interested in or have experience with, as long as you don’t push it on them. It will give you some extra time with your teen that they might otherwise prefer to spend with their peers.

And last, but not least – don’t let them over-commit themselves. They still need some unstructured, free time with their peers or alone.

by Jelena Jegdić

References:

  1. Eccles, J.S. (2003).  Extracurricular activities and adolescent development. Journal of social issues, Vol. 59, No. 4, 2003, pp. 856-889
  2. Holland, A. & Andre, T. (1987). The Effects of Participation in Extracurricular Activities in Secondary School: What Is Known, What Needs To Be Known
  3. Farb, A.F., Matjasko, J. (2005). The role of school-based extracurricular activities in adolescent development. Review of educational research.
  4. Biddle, S. J. H., & Asare, M. (2011). Physical activity and mental health in children and adolescents: A review of reviews. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45, 886-895 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090185

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