Test Anxiety Tips: What is Test Anxiety and How to Avoid It
The difference between being nervous before or during a test and having test anxiety is that test anxiety interferes with a student’s ability to do well on a test. Nervousness can be productive. Test anxiety, however, is not.
Even for a student who does everything she can to prepare for a test — take detailed notes, study often, do all assigned readings and homework — test anxiety can cause her to underperform.
Standardized testing anxiety can be particularly detrimental to a student’s education. Students with standardized testing anxiety experience anxiety when doing standardize tests like the SAT or MCAT, which are an important gateway to success.
Test anxiety can be experienced by many different types of learners — the experience is not limited to one type of student.
Symptoms of test anxiety can be behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and physical. Some of these include:
- loss of focus
- inability to remember information
- negative self-talk
- increased heart rate or heart palpitations
- muscle tension or soreness
- shortness of breath
- stomach pain
A less common, though severe, symptom is selective mutism, whereby a student becomes unable to speak while taking an exam.
Students preparing for online tests will benefit from understanding what testing anxiety is and what they can do about it. Test anxiety is a serious obstacle, but it’s an obstacle that can be overcome.
What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a psychological condition that shares many of the same symptoms as anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia.
Commonly experienced among those who suffer from anxiety, including test anxiety, are anxiety attacks and panic attacks. (The chief difference between anxiety and panic attacks is that anxiety attacks build gradually while panic attacks happen with little to no warning.) These attacks can be both frightening and debilitating. A student who experiences one of these attacks during an exam may be unable to complete it.
Test anxiety manifests differently in every student who experiences it. For some, symptoms may be mild. For others, symptoms may be extreme. To make things even more complicated, children with testing anxiety may not know they have it. They may confuse it with simple nervousness, or believe they’re afraid of tests because they’re not good enough.
Other students may recognize their anxiety but refrain from speaking about it for fear of being negatively perceived or made fun of.
Although test anxiety is common, it’s not a widely understood condition. Teachers and parents with testing anxiety may not be able to identify it in their students if they are not adequately informed.
Unfortunately, some teachers and parents may even believe a student with testing anxiety does poorly on exams not because he has anxiety but because he is underprepared, uninspired, or even lazy. Students who are perceived in this way may come to perceive themselves in this way — which only leads to more anxiety, fear of failure, or humiliation.
Causes of Test Anxiety
Test anxiety can be a symptom of an overarching anxiety disorder. On its own, test anxiety is considered a form of performance anxiety. Performance anxiety is a fear about one’s ability to perform at a specific task.
For this reason, test anxiety has the potential to become a vicious cycle. Because students suffer anxiety during an exam, they come to associate exams with anxiety, and become even more anxious during exams. As a result, they may feel that they have no control over their anxiety, and stop trying to overcome it. This can lead to a state called learned helplessness.
If students don’t learn to recognize their anxiety for what it is, they aren’t likely to seek help. And if they don’t seek treatment, they’re not likely to overcome their anxiety. On the contrary, their anxiety can become worse.
Due to test anxiety, even the most dedicated and promising students can become so distressed by tests, or so humiliated by what they perceive to be personal shortcomings, that they will become fearful of school and fall far short of their academic potential.
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Test Anxiety Tips and Help
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome test anxiety. The first step is to identify test anxiety; the second is to seek help. Prep Academy Tutors can identify test anxiety in their students and help them overcome it in order to become the kind of students they have the potential to be.
Parents living in Ontario may look at tutoring services in Ontario. Parents living in New York may consider private tutoring in NYC — although online tutoring services are available to anyone anywhere.
In addition to enlisting the help of tutors, parents may also seek help for their kids from mental health professionals.
Medication is an option. So too is counselling and different kinds of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and exposure treatment therapy.
Natural remedies are another option. These include:
- avoiding stimulants like energy drinks or coffee
The goal is to find the sort of help that best suits your child’s needs.
If you think your children may have test anxiety, it’s important that you communicate with them and help them understand that test anxiety is neither permanent nor inescapable.
There are questions you can ask your children to find out whether they have test anxiety:
- Do you worry about taking tests?
- Do you feel different when you take tests?
- When you take a test, do you feel like you know as much, or remember as much, about the subject as you do when you’re not taking a test?
- Do you find that, when you take a test, you suddenly forget what you’ve learned?
- Do you find it tough to concentrate when you take a test?
- Do you experience physical symptoms while taking a test that you tend not to experience otherwise?
As parents, another beneficial thing to do is talk to your child’s tutors and teachers. They may be able to tell whether your child behaves differently during tests, or seems to underperform compared to their performance in class or on homework assignments.
For example, if a teacher notices that your child doesn’t fidget during class, but does fidget during tests, this might be a sign that your child experiences test anxiety.
Test anxiety damages students’ self-confidence in their ability to do well in school. Our certified tutors understand how to identify test anxiety and teach coping strategies that boost confidence and in turn improve students’ academic performance.
Keeping Students Focused with Homeschooling
Online learning and homeschooling are our new normal, which is why it’s essential to ensure that students have all the tools and resources they need to thrive in a remote learning environment.
As it stands right now, primary students and their parents are choosing between in-class and online learning. Prep Academy Tutors offers online tutoring services and small group tutoring to help students adjust to this new normal.
The reality is that parents are at different comfort levels when it comes to sending their students back to school, and more are turning to learning pods and other homeschooling alternatives to help continue their child’s educational journey.
Addressing the Question of Distractions
Distractions are not exclusive to home learning, as students can get distracted both in-class and at-home. Distractions are everywhere, which is why we provide personalized tutoring services. Our tutors teach students in a way that they will understand and provide them with the tools they need to set and reach their academic goals.
It’s a common misconception that homeschooling or online learning is ineffective due to home distractions. The reality is that all students learn differently, and many can thrive learning in a more flexible, remote environment.
While there are distractions everywhere, the home does pose some unique distractions for students. The good news is that, with the help of parents, teachers, and tutors, students can learn to focus and stay on task despite these environmental factors.
Some of the common distraction’s students experience learning from home include:
Electronics: Students have more access to technology when learning at home. It’s important to monitor access to technology and set boundaries.
People: Having everyone at home —parents, grandparents, and siblings alike — can distract students who want to spend time with their family or find it hard to focus when others are around.
Procrastination: When students procrastinate, even leaving a room to get a glass of water can be a distraction. When procrastinating, students will use everything as a reason not to tackle the task at hand
Noise: While some students may learn well with background noise, others can get distracted by noise from the television, room chatter, or general bustling. Consider the ways you can accommodate for the noise level that your student requires to be productive.
Limiting Your Student’s Distractions
The good news is that long time homeschooled students, and remote workers alike, have learned how to best combat the common distractions experienced at home to maximize their productivity.
With the right tools, students can thrive by learning at home. A CCHE study revealed that homeschooled students score 15 to 30 percentile points higher than public school students on standardized academic achievement tests.
Technology is becoming essential to students’ everyday learning due to the new normal of online education. That said, being on the computer can cause a student’s attention to waver.
The good news is that there are a few ways you can limit this distraction. Depending on how your student learns best, you can either block certain websites for specific periods or allot break times so that your child can look forward to 10 to 15 minutes of free time on the internet at certain hours.
It is up to you how you limit your child’s internet usage. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so work with your child to identify the most effective solution for them.
Establish Set Working Hours:
A lack of structure can be distracting and make it hard for students to focus on a task. Allotting specific hours to work can help students better focus, as they will know to dedicate the time to schoolwork.
Setting this schedule can also help other family members to better plan their routines.
Establish a Workplace Set-Up:
One of the best ways to prepare your student for online learning and uninterrupted homeschooling is to ensure they have everything they need at their desk.
Consistently leaving a work area to find resources like textbooks, calculators, or water, can be distracting and hard for students to sit and dive into their work. Establish a workstation away from common areas with all the resources your student needs to work and be productive.
The adjustment to what education and learning are looking like in our new normal can be daunting and, in many ways, distracting for students.
Working with a private tutor like Prep Academy Tutors can help provide your student with the resources they need to fill in any gaps in their knowledge, form good habits for learning at home, and help them better adjust.
We offer flexible and personalized tutoring that caters to the needs of your student. We like to act as a smart friend who can relate with your student and explain things in a way they will understand.
Prep Academy Tutors Private Tutoring Services
Prep Academy Tutors is your source for professional private tutoring services across Canada. We know that the transition to remote learning is challenging for students, which is why we offer personalized tutoring services to ensure that every student is getting the tools and resources they need to succeed academically and maintain confidence in their abilities.
Remote learning offers ample flexibility. Our tutors work with your schedule to ensure that your student is getting the educational support they need when they need it — including tools to adapt to our new normal.
We accommodate your needs and can provide either online tutoring or small group tutoring based on your schedule. Consider how private tutoring can help your student succeed in a remote online learning or homeschooling environment.
Get in touch with Prep Academy Tutors today to get paired with any of our experienced tutors. Our tutors are certified teachers and subject matter specialists who teach based on the current curriculum.
The 4 Habits All Successful Students Share
The way we learn new information and skills may have changed significantly over the past twenty years, but no matter how many new technological tools we acquire, basic study skills are still a central part of education at all levels.
Consistently, the most effective students — the ones able to rapidly master new disciplines and incorporate new information into their understanding of the world — are those who have built a reliable set of habits that help them synthesize new information quickly and to retain what they have learned over the long run.
Good study habits can:
- Make studying easier
- Make studying faster
- Reduce the time needed to synthesize new information
- Improve grades
- Lock information into the long-term memory
So what are these habits, and how can students who want to study more efficiently acquire them?
In this article, we’ll go over four of the most important study habits a high school or college student can develop and explore some of the strategies that can help you make them part of your daily life.
1. Regular Goals
When you start out in a new subject or discipline, learning is often stimulating and fun — after all, it’s empowering to discover new things about the world. But once the initial excitement wears off and your realize just how much you don’t know, it’s easy to get discouraged. Learning a handful of words in Japanese makes you feel smart and accomplished: putting in the hard work to master the language’s complex grammar is another thing entirely.
We often imagine that the thing that separates students who learn a few words and then give up from those who go one to achieve a degree of fluency is simply a matter of motivation and dedication. But motivation is about more than just drive, and motivated students tend to be good at providing themselves with incentives.
Setting regular goals is an essential part of this, because regular goals help students to feel that they are making a progress. Learning a language or mastering calculus takes a long time; if you are constantly measuring yourself against some kind of perfect ideal, it will be hard to stay the course.
But if you find ways to set regular goals — learning a cluster of words every week and a grammatical tense every month, for example — you can measure your progress more effectively.
Having outside help can make this a bit easier, which is why you might want to find a tutor near you if you’re worried that you won’t be able to hold yourself to your stated goals on your own.
2. Good Time Management
We tend not to think of time management as being a studying skill, per se, but effective studying is all about making the most of the hours available: the problem most students face is not that they can’t master the material, but that they struggle to balance all of their different time commitments, and can’t dedicate the time a given learning task requires.
For this reason, becoming a better student typically means finding ways to use one’s time more efficiently.
One common problem students run into with time management is that they aren’t sufficiently realistic about how long certain tasks will take. This leads to forms of magical thinking whereby students convince themselves that they can do more with their study time than is actually possible.
It is important to find out how long certain routine learning tasks actually take (how long, for example, does it take you to read a page of a history book, or write a thousand-word position paper), and then base your study plan on realistic metrics regarding what you can accomplish with the time you have.
Time management isn’t just about allocating yourself enough time to complete a learning object, however. It’s also about using that time strategically.
Cramming is an excellent example of where this often goes wrong: if you have four hours to prepare for a major test, that time will be far better spent in half hour or forty-five minute blocks of studying time spread out across the week, rather than a single intensive session the day before the test.
While certain mnemonic techniques can help you remember key information more easily, scientists who study how memory works know that there are no real shortcuts for mastering complex material: you need regular exposure over time in order to lock major and minor details into your long-term memory.
Again, when you find your local tutor they may be able to help with time management simply by virtue of requiring you to do regular, weekly work, thereby keeping you on task and not giving you a chance to fall behind in your studies.
3. Willingness to Use the Resources at their Disposal
We are living in a time of unprecedented access to educational tools. Companies like Udemy, Duolingo, Masterclass and other online learning sites have all become massively popular by making learning software, games, and lectures widely available to the public. You can now receive high-level instruction in everything from German and literature to cooking and coding on your phone.
And the resources that are available are not only digital — even small Canadian cities now feature thriving innovation hubs that can help students of all ages connect to quality instruction and learning opportunities. And of course, tutoring services like Prep Academy Tutors can help students get hand’s-on help with English, French, math, science and other challenging subjects.
The most effective students don’t just set regular goals and manage their time well — they also look beyond the textbook to find resources that can help them learn more effectively.
Studying is, for many people, a deeply social act, and using the resources other people provide to make learning easier is an important way to make the information really stick. After all, a student who is regularly meeting with tutors and peers will have new material regularly reinforced, which plays an important role in locking it into the long-term memory.
If you want to find out how tutoring can help you meet your learning goals, contact us to learn more about our tutoring services or take a look at the tutoring opportunities we offer in your city or community.
Study habits are just that: habits that form an almost unconscious part of our everyday lives. The routine nature of habits is part of what makes them so effective. Once you have developed good study habits, it is easy to make learning a regular part of your life even when you aren’t preparing for final exams.
But developing good study habits is easier said than done, especially for busy high school or college students who have a lot of activities to schedule in every week. For this reason, building these studying routines into your life requires an intentional and strategic approach, one that avoids overly optimistic thinking and focuses on what is doable.
There are plenty of tools online that can help you create a study routine that works for you, but here are five easy steps that can get you started:
- Make a list of your learning goals for the month.
- Determine how long each of these goals will take to complete — and be realistic.
- Sit down with your calendar and map out what your week and month look like. What activities and events are locked in? Where do you have time to spare?
- Portion out your study time into twenty-five minute blocks, with five minute breaks between, and see how many blocks you have over the course of the week.
- Allocate the tasks you need to complete to these time blocks, being sure to spread out major tasks like exam prep over a few days.
Like many things in life, there are no shortcuts when it comes to studying. If you want to see positive results, you just need to put the hours in.
But this can also be a liberating thing to realize. After all, if acquiring a new skill, learning a new discipline, or mastering a new language is simply a matter of studying smart enough and long enough, then the only thing holding you back from achieving your goals is proper planning.
One of the most important benefits that comes with professional tutoring is the feeling that you are not alone. Intellectual work can be tiring and isolating, and working with a tutor is a great way to feel not only that you have the expert help you need to overcome the obstacles in your path, but also have the human support you need to stay motivated.
If you want to overcome your personal learning challenges in 2020, get in touch with Prep Academy Tutors today and find the tutor in your city who is right for you!
How Students in Ontario Can Master High School French
Because Canada is a bilingual country, acquiring a high level of French fluency while in high school can be an essential stepping stone toward careers in politics, public service, academia, law, and medicine — not to mention unlocking incredible opportunities for travel and personal development outside of work.
But for parents raising kids in heavily Anglophone parts of the country, like Western Ontario, it can be hard to know how to make dreams of bilingualism a reality.
After all, the nature of Canada’s education system is such that the resources available in some areas — French immersion programs and robust community support for language learning — simply aren’t available in others.
If you want to help your high schooler get the most out of their French curriculum and achieve the kind of fluency that will prepare them for success in university and the workplace, here are four ways you can help them tap into their full language-learning potential.
1. Get Extra Support
Probably the first thing you need to understand about your child’s high school French curriculum is that it is not really designed to produce students who are able to communicate like native French speakers. Instead, it is meant to provide a strong foundation in the kind of skills students can learn most easily outside a French-speaking context — grammar and writing being the most significant.
This means that helping students really master French is generally going to require doing additional language-learning outside of school.
This isn’t always easy: in Toronto’s downtown core, there is significant access to French language cultural institutions that can help you enhance your child’s education prospects, but in other parts of the GTA they are not so readily available.
For this reason, you may need to consider engaging private help to provide the educational boost that one-on-one conversation and grammar work with a French expert can provide.
A private tutor can provide many benefits for people learning French as a second language, including but not limited to:
- Targeted support that deals with individual learning obstacles
- One-on-one help that lets students move at their own pace
- A safe environment where students can make mistakes and build their confidence without fear of judgement
- Expert education help that understands the pedagogy of linguistics and can incorporate modern methods for language acquisition into private lessons.
Fortunately, if you are looking for a French tutor in Mississauga we can put you in touch with highly qualified instructors who can help your child get the extra support they need.
2. Understand the Difference Between Academic Success and Fluency
In Ontario, most students who are not from Francophone families will first encounter French when they start school. While access to primary and secondary education in the French language is one of the key benefits of living in a bilingual country, the downside is that young students quickly come to think of French as a subject of study rather than a mode of communication.
While it is certainly true that academic success in French is extremely important — and language acquisition unquestionably relies on intensive, rigorous study — a language is a living thing, and simply memorizing vocabulary and conjugation patterns will never get you to full fluency.
This is why it is important to find opportunities for more creative language use outside of school. This could mean getting involved in an extra-curricular language club, or it could mean finding a pen-pall to communicate with via social media.
One of the major advantages of learning French in the twenty-first century is that it is easier than it has ever been to find authentic French language resources on the internet, and to gain exposure to French film, television, and news outlets online, no matter where you live.
If you want to augment your school’s language curriculum and go beyond academic mastery of the language, here are a few helpful tips for engaging with French on your own time:
- Public screenings of French films (or watching French movies online)
- Following French language accounts on social media
- Reading national news stories in both languages
- Reading French translations of your favourite books
A good education plan will involve both tips to improve your SSAT scores and maximize your chances for getting into a good post-secondary program and providing you with the tools you need to communicate effectively with native speakers.
3. Make it Social
Unless you’re studying a dead language like Latin or Ancient Greek, you will never be able to attain fluency on your own. Languages are inherently social, and language acquisition relies on a number of social factors — not least of which being a student’s opportunities to engage with other people who speak the language they are trying to learn.
Students now have an unprecedented number of options for learning not just French, but any major language they have an interest in. Education apps like Duolingo and Busuu make it possible to study your language of choice in engaging and stimulating ways whenever you want, wherever you want.
But while these apps can play an important role in increasing exposure and helping you master new vocabulary, without regular interactions with other language students or native speakers, there is a hard ceiling limiting how far you can go if these are your only language-learning tools.
This can pose a problem, especially for students who don’t have the option of spending summers in a French-speaking environment or attending French-language summer camps. As many experts have noted, because of the social interactions that come with it, immersion plays an outsized role in helping students become confident and practiced in a new language.
Without opportunities for immersion, it can be extremely difficult to truly attain fluency. So what should people with limited options to use French in their daily lives do to overcome this obstacle?
There are no easy answers to this question, but it is important to remember that fluency and academic success is a team game — and if you’re going to succeed, you need to find a team. Tutoring is helpful not just because it gives kids an opportunity to correct their mistakes and practice their speaking, but also because it can help them plug into a wider network of language learners who can help them find out about French language speaking opportunities that exist in their own communities.
Languages are social tools, so building a community of language learners who will help you use that tool in social ways is essential if meaningful language acquisition is actually to take place.
4. Do a Little Every Day
Probably the best piece of practical advice for language learners is also the simplest: do a little bit of work every day. Time and time again, research has shown that there is simply no substitute for steady, incremental progress in language learning, which is why it is so important that students practice their French every day — even if it is only for fifteen minutes to half an hour.
When you learn a second language, you are essentially reprogramming your brain, and this takes time. Apps and services that promise to help you become fluent in a matter of weeks are making an impossible pitch, for the simple reason that it takes most of us years to be able to meaningfully communicate in our own language, let alone a second one.
This shouldn’t be discouraging: like physical fitness, the key is to make language learning part of your routine, so it becomes as familiar and comfortable as the drive to school. Just like exercise, problems tend to come when the routine is disrupted.
One of the reasons why tutoring has proven to be such an effective method for helping people learn new languages is that tutoring builds language learning into the schedule of every week, increasingly the likelihood that students will keep up with their homework and continue to learn a little bit every day.
If you want to learn more about us and how our approach can help your kids improve their French, and even achieve fluency by the time they graduate, get in touch with us today to find out how our unique, hand’s-on approach helps students build confidence and master the studying techniques that will help them become independent learners.
More than simply increasing earning potential or giving students a shot at getting into better schools, learning a second language is one of the great intellectual pleasures of a fulfilled life — a good that is worth pursuing for its own sake.
If you want to give the gift of bilingualism to your children but are worried that you don’t have the necessary skills or tools, call Prep Academy Tutors today!
How Montreal Parents Can Promote Literacy at Home
There is no city in North America quite like Montreal. Famous for its relaxed pace of life, romantic architecture, and refined culture, the city’s bilingualism and biculturalism help it to stand out in a country where English and French tend to be geographically divided. No wonder Montrealers are so fond of their home!
But while Montreal can be a great place to raise a family, parents in bilingual cities like Montreal face special challenges — especially if they are part of the Anglophone minority. That’s why Prep Academy Tutors works with a number of talented and professional literacy specialists in Montreal who can help you make sure your children develop strong reading and writing skills early in life.
For most people, developing literacy skills is a lifelong process, one we never really stop working on, which is why it is so critical to give kids a strong foundation they can build off of. If you are looking for ways you can promote literacy in your own home, here are a few of the things you can do to help give your kids a head start.
1. Model Good Reading Habits
As any experienced English teacher will tell you, it’s easy to tell the difference between kids who read at home and kids who don’t. The single best way to develop strong literacy skills is to spend a significant portion of time every day reading, and kids who read for pleasure will have a natural advantage over those who don’t.
And if you want to get your kids to pick up books — especially if they are between the ages of five and ten — one of the most effective ways to do that is to read yourself. Young children will often mimic their parents’ behaviour as they explore the world around them, so if you want your kids to have good reading habits, normalizing reading as a leisure activity can have a powerful impact.
Parents are busier than ever, of course, and it isn’t always going to be possible to spend as much time reading as you might like, but even half an hour a day can make a difference by showing your kids that there are entertainment alternatives to watching television, playing computer games, or spending time on one’s phone.
But if you have young children at home and really want to get them hooked on reading, there is simply no better way to do so than by reading to them before bed. Scientific studies have shown that this has value far beyond helping to cultivate literacy: it also helps them developing longer attention spans, feel more connection to you as a parent, and improves behaviour.
2. Talk About What You Read
Getting your child to read is the first part of the battle, but it isn’t he entirety of it — if you want to help them develop the kind of critical reading skills that will help them succeed in school and in life, you also need to find ways to encourage them to interact with the material they are reading.
Checking in regularly about what books they are reading and what they think of them is an easy and practical way to help them think through what they are consuming. This can be as simple as asking them to recount the major plot points of a the story, or can involve detailed discussions about how the stories make them feel and what they like or dislike about what they’re reading.
In some families, this happens fairly informally — around the dinner table, perhaps, or while commuting to and from school or after-school activities. But if this kind of conversation doesn’t come naturally to your kids, you can make it an aspect of the daily routine to ask them a few questions about what they have read, what they have liked, and what they think about it.
Not only will this serve as a good way to develop critical reading skills, it will also help them express their opinions in constructive and thoughtful ways, and develop confidence in their own ideas.
3. Encourage Your Kids to Express Creativity Through Writing
Most advice about cultivating literacy in children focuses heavily on reading, the assumption being that learning good reading habits will naturally impact one’s abilities to communicate using writing. And while it is certainly true that kids who read tend to find that writing comes more naturally, it’s no substitute for time spent actually writing.
But how do you get an active child with so many other distractions in their life to sit down and start composing? If it can be a challenge to get kids reading, getting them to write something of their own should be next to impossible, right?
Fortunately, the technology-saturated world of the twenty-first century actually offers a lot of opportunities for kids to develop their abilities as writers and their own distinct writing voices. Thanks to text, chat, and internet apps, writing has remained an immediately applicable skill, and getting a young person to write more doesn’t necessarily mean sitting them down to compose something longhand using paper and a pen.
But one of the best ways to make writing more appealing to young children is to encourage them to see it as a means to expressing themselves and exercising their creativity. Writing their own stories and poems, creating captions for pictures online, and even writing plays they can perform with their friends are all ways young kids can develop an appreciation for the beauty and complexity of written language, an appreciation that will make them more likely to spend time on activities that will improve their abilities as written communicators.
4. Get Help from a Private Tutor
While there are lots of things you can do to make reading and writing a bigger part of everyday life for you and your kids, sometimes there is no substitute for structured education, especially if your child is facing particular struggles mastering the basics of reading and writing.
In situations like this, hiring a private tutor in Montreal with experience teaching and a strong knowledge of the pedagogical tools that can be used to help develop literacy skills can be the most effective way to get your kids reading and writing as soon as possible.
One of the most common challenges students face when learning to read and write in the classroom is accessing the kind of one-on-one help that is essential for helping students overcome their own particular struggles, and while Quebec’s education system remains one of Canada’s strongest, the teacher shortage is having an impact on the amount of hands-on instruction individual students can expect to receive. Hiring a tutor can provide students having difficulties mastering the English curriculum with a vital life-line that can mean the difference between a passing grade and a failing one.
At Prep Academy Tutors, we champion a one-on-one approach designed to target the particular problems individual kids are facing. We also understand that tackling difficult subject material can be a little scary, especially for younger children, which is why our tutors offer lessons in your home, where students will feel more relaxed and comfortable. If you want to learn more about how we work you can get in touch with us about our Montreal English tutoring program today.
There are many benefits to raising your children in a bilingual environment. Not only will it give your child the natural advantage when it comes to picking up a second language, according to some scientific studies, it can also make it easier for children to switch between tasks and learn other languages later in life.
But one of the drawbacks of growing up bilingual can be a lack of full proficiency in either language. If a child only speaks English in the home but goes to a French-language school (or vice versa), they will tend to have a bifurcated vocabulary in which their language proficiency changes depending on the context.
For example, a child might be completely comfortable discussing domestic or family-related matters in English, while not being able to talk in any great detail about work-related issues for which they only ever use French.
If you are concerned about ensuring that your child develops the literacy skills they need for effective communication in English, call us to learn more about how we can provide the kind of personally tailored approach kids need in order to master reading and writing.
Whether you are looking for tutoring support for high school students preparing for admission to one of Montreal’s prestigious universities, or want to make sure your children get a head start on reading and writing at the primary level, Prep Academy Tutors can get you the teaching help you need to set your kids up for a lifetime of academic and personal success.
The Benefits of Tutoring for Elementary School Students
How early should tutoring begin? How do you know when tutoring is necessary? Should elementary school children receive tutoring if they aren’t facing major learning struggles?
If you have young children, you have probably been confronted with one or all of these questions at some point in the past couple of years. Responsible parents often struggle to discern whether a period of lacklustre academic performance is something that can simply be rectified by spending a few more hours per week on homework, or whether it speaks to a deeper struggle to understand and keep up with the material.
Because tutoring is often associated with overcoming major learning struggles, parents may be reluctant to bring on a tutor if they don’t think the problem is sufficiently serious. And while most parents understand that the elementary school years are absolutely critical for setting up academic success later in life, they may also feel that childhood years are a precious opportunity for learning through play, something that is made difficult if children are spending long hours being tutored after class.
But there may be less of a reason to be concerned than many parents believe. Tutoring doesn’t need to involve intensive daily sessions to be effective, and even students who are performing well in school can often benefit from the added support that tutoring professionals can provide (you can click here to learn why).
If you have children enrolled in elementary school and you’ve been wondering whether or not they could benefit from extra tutoring, here are three ways that experienced tutors can help elementary school-aged children thrive.
Tutoring Provides Support During Key Periods of Development
Between the ages of six, when Ontario law requires children to enter Grade 1, and the age of eleven, when most of them will enter middle school, kids undergo one of the most profound periods of intellectual and social development they will experience in their lifetime. And it is during the course of these years that children will learn the basic literacy and numeracy skills they will rely on in order to navigate the world around them and succeed in their professional lives.
Unfortunately, as The Globe and Mail reported last year, one in four Ontario postsecondary students lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. While these shortcomings are likely due to a wide range of factors, this depressing statistic underscores that parents can not necessarily rely on the provincial education system alone if they want their children to be prepared for academic success.
One of the greatest benefits that come with hiring a tutor to help your child work on their reading, writing, and arithmetic in these crucial elementary years is that tutors provide much-needed extra support as they try to master key skills they will rely on for years to come.
Tutoring Helps Build Confidence
Researchers who study the impact of confidence on learning outcomes often point out that there is a difference between self-esteem and confidence. Teaching children to feel good about their performance isn’t as helpful as some teachers and parenting gurus suggest, but helping them boost their confidence actually does have a tangible impact on performance.
This is in part because making mistakes is essential to the learning process, and more confident students are more likely to bounce back from making a mistake to try again.
Imagine there are two students, one of whom is more confident than the other. Both are being taught a phonics approach to reading, which involves “sounding out” words on the page basic on the sound that each letter makes. The more confident student, upon making a mistake, is more likely to keep going and eventually get the word right. The less confident student, on the other hand, is more likely to become discouraged by their lack of success and give up.
Both students have learned a lesson: the more confident student has learned that perseverance is rewarded, and the less confident student has probably concluded that reading is really difficult and not worth the effort.
One of the ways that tutoring can help build confidence is by giving children a safe space in which to explore ideas and concepts, and to practice their skills without fear of looking foolish. The more exposure they get, the more they will realize that persistence really does pay off, and their confidence will grow accordingly.
Tutoring Can Build Skills for Life-Long Learning
Tutoring doesn’t just help your child master the particular curriculum they are studying — though at Prep Academy Tutors we do train our tutors to incorporate curriculum goals into their instruction. Tutors also help prepare students for long-term success by teaching them good study habits that will stand them in good stead for years to come by giving them the tools they need to overcome future learning challenges on their own.
For example, one of the most important study tips a child should master during their elementary years is an understanding of the study cycle and the role that repetition and rest play in the learning process.
A lot of bad habits like procrastination and last-minute cramming develop as children start to take a more independent role in their learning around the age of nine or ten. Bringing a tutor on at this point to help students learn how to study smart will pay dividends in the years to come as homework burdens increase and the old strategies of cramming and leaving everything to the last minute start to pay diminishing returns.
If you want to find out how you can get a tutor for your elementary-school-aged child who can around your schedule and offer tutoring services in your home, call us to learn more about Prep Academy Tutors and how we can help your child meet their learning goals.
Starting in Grade 1, your child will be introduced to the essential skills they will need to master in order to work a rewarding job and participate in Canadian society as a responsible citizen. Providing your child with the extra help they need in order to keep up with the curriculum and develop strong literacy and numeracy tools starts early, and tutoring is one of the best ways to ensure that they have the support and confidence they need to succeed.
If you have any questions about how Prep Academy Tutors can help your child this summer or fall, get in touch with us about our tutoring options today.
Why Academic Success is a Team Effort for Toronto Parents
When most people think about education, they think about schools. But the reality is that while primary, secondary, and tertiary schools are where the bulk of formal education happens, children learn just as much if not more outside the classroom — from their parents, their peers, recreational activities like sports and music, and even the books they read in their leisure time.
This extracurricular learning feeds into mainstream academic success, which means that if you want your child to succeed in school, you need to conceive of their education as a team effort that involves not only you and your child’s teacher, but also their coaches, other instructors, and tutors.
Understanding education as a team exercise is particularly important for Toronto parents concerned about how deep education cuts are going to effect their children’s opportunities in life.
One of the reasons parents get in touch with us at Prep Academy Tutors is simply to find out what kind of options exist to expand their child’s academic horizons and make it easier for them to chart a way forward at a time when public education is facing significant cuts across Ontario. All parents want their children to do well, but the unfortunate truth is that many schools lack the funds and resources to ensure that all children get the support they need for academic success.
The good news is that there are many ways that tutoring services in Toronto can serve to provide exactly the kind of extra help parents and primary and secondary educators in Toronto need in order to provide children with the best chance of success.
If you want to know how tutoring can play a role in the team effort that is your child’s education, here are three things to keep in mind.
Tutoring Builds on Your Child’s Current Curriculum
There is a common misconception that tutoring largely exists to respond to individual problems (overcoming math anxiety, for example). And while tutors can be highly effective at strategic interventions related to specific performance concerns, many families hire tutors to work alongside their children through their regular curriculum, checking in every week to provide the extra support kids often need to process the material they are learning day-to-day.
Tutoring that is specifically meant to complement your child’s curriculum is particularly useful in times when large class sizes make it difficult for them to get the kind of one-on-one attention most children need to master difficult concepts from their teacher.
Because many of the tutors we hire have extensive teaching experience themselves, they are uniquely positioned to help your children work through the provincial curriculum for whatever subject they are struggling in. If you need an accounting tutor in Toronto for example, we can connect you with a qualified teacher who, in addition to being accredited to teach math and physics, has also taught accounting within the private education system in Ontario and knows its requirements well.
Tutors Improve Overall Confidence
One of the central goals of any education program, formal or informal, should be to help people of all ages develop the confidence and skills needed to engage with the world and solve problems on their own.
There is a growing body of academic research linking self-confidence to performance and achievement, and one of the most important things that primary education in particular should impart is confidence in one’s basic abilities to overcome learning difficulties with sufficient work and effort.
This is an area of education that Ontario’s schools — and schools in some parts of Toronto in particular — are not always well positioned to deliver, due to constraints on resources and the time teachers can spend with each student. While extra-curricular activities play an essential role in building confidence for children of all ages, it is still important for parents and tutors to help channel that confidence into academic performance as well.
One of the ways you can ensure that your child builds the kind of confidence they will need in order to succeed in university and later the workplace (where they will have to function more independently) is by providing tutoring help specifically geared toward helping children learn the skills and tools they need for independent learning.
Tutoring Gives Your Child Room to Take Risks
It is a truth universally acknowledged that in order to learn, you must make mistakes. But making mistakes in front of a classroom of other kids can be incredibly embarrassing, and shy or sensitive children may opt to stay quiet rather than risk getting a question wrong.
While it is an understandable impulse, over the long term this can have deeply negative consequences. Learning that taking a chance is sometimes rewarded — and learning how to deal with failure when it isn’t — is a necessary parts of any modern education, and if kids are reluctant to take these chances in class, parents need to find other, safer, ways for them to take risks.
If you want to learn how tutors can play a role in providing your child with a safe learning environment where they can explore ideas and concepts without worrying about looking foolish in front of their peers, contact us today to learn more about our teaching philosophy. Our tutors can offer instruction in your home, which means that your children can face the challenges of learning in a familiar and supportive environment.
The tutors we work with understand that the role they are playing is not merely academic, but also about building up confidence and skills in the kids they are working with. Perhaps more importantly, they understand that they are part of an educational team that includes you, the teacher, and a whole number of other people who are all working together.
For parents who want to make sure that their children will still get the best education possible, regardless of what future cuts may be coming to Toronto’s public education system, adding a tutor to your child’s education team is essential.
How to Improve Your Child’s Reading Comprehension
Knowing how to read, and knowing how to understand what you have read, are vital skills. According to a recent study, a shocking twenty-three percent of students who had a below basic reading level in third grade did not graduate high school by age 19. Students who were in the top tercile, on the other hand, not only did better in language arts, they also did better in science and math.
Clearly, a student’s reading comprehension is strongly correlated with academic success in general, which is why improving your child’s reading skills is essential for preparing them for long-term success not only in academics, but in every area of life. But what is reading comprehension, and how can students cultivate this skill?
Reading vs. Reading Comprehension: Understanding the Difference
By the time they are in middle school, most Canadian children are relatively fluent in reading and writing. Despite recent slippage, Canada still has a relatively high literacy rate when compared to the rest of the world, and it is rare for students to pass through the education system and not emerge with some basic ability to read and write.
But fluency is not the same as comprehension, and a person who can read a text may not necessarily be able to grasp much of what it communicates. Reading comprehension is the cluster of skills that allow a child to work their way through a text and understand both particular details and the bigger picture, and it is essential for doing everything from filling out a form at Service Ontario to composing a university admissions essay.
Reading comprehension is hard to quantify, but it is something that many students struggle with right up to university. And because reading is the bedrock skill on which just about every other aspect of education rests, comprehension is arguably the most important skill a child will acquire in their first decade of schooling.
So how do you help your children become more analytic readers? One of the first things you should do is keep your child reading this summer — the easiest way to help children develop reading comprehension skills, especially at the elementary level, is simply to get them to read as much as possible.
But if your children are already reading regularly, or if you have a hard time getting them to actually engage with what they are reading, there are things you can do help them sharpen their ability to grasp the full meaning of a text.
4 Strategies for Developing Reading Comprehension
Unlike fluency, reading comprehension isn’t simply about learning to translate the words into writing. That means that when it comes to improving reading comprehension, you need to use a variety of different approaches. Here are four strategies that are proven to be effective.
- Engage your children about what they are reading. As cognitive psychologists like Teun A. van Dijk and Walter Kintsch discovered in the 1970s, being able to succinctly restate the main points of a text or story is an essential component of comprehension. By encouraging children and teenagers to talk about what they are reading, you will activate the parts of their brain engaged in processing a text.
In particular, getting them to summarize a book or story they have read is a great way to sharpen the critical faculties on which comprehension relies.
- Incorporate a range of tools. All-too-often, reading comprehension practice is about little more than answering questions about a text. While questions can be a useful way into a story, and especially for more advanced readers may be an essential way to tease out nuance, for plenty of children, this text-heavy approach is not particularly helpful.
Using diagrams, story maps, and visual images can help students understand the story in a way that makes sense for them. Trying out a variety of different tools also helps children to understand that comprehension is not simply about finding the right answer, but about creating an integrated understanding of what is going on in a given text.
- Get tutoring help. Helping students develop their reading comprehension skills is hard to do without one-on-one feedback and support, and in today’s crowded classrooms this is in short supply. The brightest students in the class often lead the way with reading comprehension, and can make slower and more methodical children reticent to speak up if they are afraid that they will expose their ignorance by doing so.
Giving your child the opportunity to work through a text with the help of a tutor who knows how to implement effective pedagogical strategies while also being a friendly and non-judgmental presence can go a long way toward helping develop their understanding and their confidence. If you want to find a local tutor today and you live in the Greater Toronto Area, Prep Academy can connect you with tutors who can help your child develop their reading comprehension skills at home.
- Make reading social. You can’t make your child enjoy reading, but you can create the conditions in which a love of reading is more likely to bloom. If your children are still quite young, reading to them before bed is a great way to normalize reading and encourage them to view reading as a legitimate form of entertainment, and also gives you the opportunity to make it an interactive experience by asking comprehension questions. If you have older children, reading the same books as them will give you an opportunity to engage them in conversation about what they are reading and what they think about it.
While it is never too late to improve reading comprehension, establishing good reading habits and strong analytic skills early provides children with a huge advantage.
If you want to make sure your child’s comprehension abilities don’t flag over the summer, employ these four strategies to make sure they continue to build on their knowledge of reading, and get in touch with Prep Academy Tutors to learn more about how tutoring can help children who are struggling with a broad range of literacy problems.
Exam Study Tips That Can Really Make a Difference
The further along in their education a child progresses, the more essential for developing the skills to do well on exams becomes. Exams are a central part of the curriculum in middle schools and high schools across Ontario, and in many cases, a significant portion of a student’s final grade will be a result of how well they do on mid-term and final exams.
This is not only true in the sciences and math, where exams are the main method by which competence is measured and judged, but even the curriculum of more composition-oriented disciplines like history, social studies, and literature.
For this reason, one of the most important skills a young student can learn is how to prepare for exams in a way that helps ensure a positive outcome without requiring an overwhelming investment of time.
Don’t Just Learn the Material, Learn the Test
It is a truism in the world of education that exam taking involves two separate competencies: not only do students need to understand the particular material about which they are being tested, they also need to understand how to excel in the test format itself.
While looking at exam preparation study tips can be incredibly helpful in terms of helping students study effectively, it is also important for students to be able to read a test with an eye to understanding what kind of answers it is looking for, and how they can provide them.
A student who has a deep knowledge of the course material can still do poorly on an exam if they are careless about time management, or if they do not understand the particular requirements of different portions of the exam itself. Test taking is itself a skill, and one that students should work to develop early on in their academic careers.
While we have offered must have study-tips on this blog in the past to help students use their study time more effectively, today we have prepared some new tips specifically designed to help students sharpen their test-taking skills. While there is no magic formula to test taking — and there is no substitute for the hard work of studying — there are a few things every student can due to improve their effectiveness as exam-takers.
1. Start the Exam by Reviewing Each Section
One of the biggest problems students run into when taking long exams is that they often give themselves insufficient time for each section. Two or three hours may seem like ample time to get through all the material, but at the high school level most exams are designed to take up the entire period, so budgeting your time carefully is essential if you don’t want to run out of time.
In most subjects (especially in the academic stream), tests will be divided into multiple choice, short answer, and long answer sections. In chemistry, physics, and biology, you may also need to identify the parts of a diagram or plot formulas on a graph. Calculating how long each of these sections will take and then divvying up time accordingly may take a few minutes at the top of the exam, but it will pay dividends later on by helping to ensure that every section is completed in a timely fashion.
2. Get Test Prep Help From a Tutor
While students are on their own when it comes time to actually take the exam, having some extra help in the weeks leading up to it can have a huge impact, especially if they have access to a tutor who can help them work through practice exams and provide them with helpful pointers on how to manage their time.
Engaging a tutor isn’t just useful if you have a child who is struggling in school; tutors can be great coaches for any student who wants a little more help sharpening their test taking skills so they can reach their full academic potential. For information about how you can find a tutor in your area, contact us to learn more about our tutoring philosophy and the different ways our tutors can help with test prep.
3. Do a Memory Dump
A memory dump can be a helpful way to start an exam with the knowledge you need in front of you. In a memory dump, you start the exam by writing out some of the key information you believe you will need to have at your fingertips.
Once you’ve reviewed the different sections of the exam and know how long you need for each, you can write down the formulas, terms, or even quotes that you plan on using in your answers. This will help stimulate your memory, and can organically lead into answering some of the harder questions while the knowledge is fresh.
4. Focus on the Curriculum
Exams exist to test students on what they’ve learned, so the best way to prepare for an exam is to think critically about what the main learning objectives of a unit or course have been. For example, if a language arts class spent a lot of time focussing on the classic five-part essay structure, there is a good chance that students will be expected to reproduce this information on the exam.
This means that a question asking students to write an essay comparing 1984 to Brave New World is really asking students to demonstrate their understanding of this five-part structure, rather than testing them on their in-depth literary knowledge of these novels.
Test taking is, for most students, a stressful experience, but according to some experts, levels of anxiety around test taking among students are rising. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given how much is riding on this one measure of academic ability.
Fortunately, as with things like math anxiety, there are ways to help students prepare themselves in advance so that they feel more in control of the situation, and better able to perform. It is important to remember that most students who attend class and do their homework will actually have a fairly good command of the information they are being given — the challenge is in demonstrating this knowledge in the high stress conditions of an exam.
By learning to allocate time strategically, do memory dumps, focus on the curriculum, and work through practice tests with a tutor, your child can develop the practical skills that will help them build their confidence and unlock their academic potential.
Helping Your Child Understand the Difference Between Median, Mean, and Range
In 2017, The Globe and Mail made waves by publishing a story reporting that half of all Grade 6 students in Ontario failed to meet provincial math standards as measured by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. These statistics showed a general decrease in math literacy across a range of different cohorts, and confirmed what many parents and educators already feared: that today’s children are falling behind when it comes to basic skills.
While it is hard to ascribe any single cause to such a notable dip in education outcomes, it is clear that the students of today are suffering from cuts to education and an increasingly sharp divide between schools that have adequate resources and those that don’t.
When you factor in the challenges many students already deal with when it comes to mastering the math curriculum (math anxiety is a problem that continues to affect a significant percentage of students), it is perhaps unsurprising that performance in math is starting to slip.
And while there are things you can do if you want to know how to overcome math anxiety or help your child engage with the math curriculum in more productive ways, improving your child’s math skills requires more than just exposure therapy: it requires intense one-on-one support that can help get your math questions answered so your child can learn to apply basic arithmetical concepts.
Tips for Teaching Median, Mean, and Range
One particular concept younger children are most likely to struggle with is the difference between median, mean, and range. One of the expectations set up by the Ontario math curriculum is that by the end of Grade 5, students will be able to calculate the mean, and understand how it relates to the median and range of a set of numbers. Not only is this a key part of the Grade 5 curriculum, it also features on the Grade 6 EQAO assessment of reading, writing, and mathematics.
Helping your child understand what these terms mean and how to apply them to problem solving is essential for their academic success, so if you they are having a hard time grasping these concepts, here are a few ways you can help them understand the difference between them.
For most of us, the concept of the mean, or “average,” is so familiar that it needs little explaining. But the concept of the mean isn’t nearly as intuitive for children, and helping them learn not just how to calculate the mean, but to understand the underlying principle, can take some work.
For example, if you have a set of six numbers (8, 12, 16, 14, 19, 7), you calculate the mean by adding these numbers up and then dividing by six. This will give you the average of the six values, 12.66. Children are often confused by the fact that this number is not part of the original set, which is why it is important, when teaching the mean, to stress that the average may be a seventh number that doesn’t appear in the original set of six.
In some ways, the median is easier to understand, as it takes fewer steps to arrive at the median than to calculate the mean. The median is simply the middle value in a sorted list of numbers, so to find the median all you need to do is arrange the numbers in order from smallest to greatest, add up the total number of numbers, and count up to find the middle number.
The challenge when teaching median is often more about helping kids focus in school than it is about particular difficulties with understanding the topic. It is common for children to confuse mean with median simply because the sound similar, so remind you child that the mean is the “mean old average” while the median is the mid-point.
Simply put, the range of a set of numbers is the difference between the highest number and the lowest, and can be found by putting the numbers in order and subtracting the smallest value from the greatest.
When teaching the range, it is often easiest to compare it to a “window.” The numbers in the range are what you can see out of the window, and the range is the size of the window.
The Role of Tutoring in Improving Competence in Arithmetic
Concepts like mean, median, and range are foundational tools for understanding mathematics, and if your child is going to be able to keep apace with their curriculum, they will need to be able to master them early on.
Unfortunately, the most effective way to lock these concepts into long-term memory is by repeated exposure. While math tends to be a skill that relies heavily on logical thinking, understanding the terminology of math is a matter of memorization, and tutors can play a helpful role in providing your child with extra help in fully understanding the ideas behind mean, median, and range.
Because tutoring allows children to encounter concepts on their own terms, without the fear of looking foolish for getting a question wrong, it can play an important role in helping children come to grips with difficult material. And if you learn about our educational philosophy you will know that we encourage our tutors to see themselves as smart friends coming alongside students to help them learn at their own pace and in their own way.
Math is one of those skills that your child is going to use every day of their life, and basic numeracy is as important as literacy in terms of helping your child land a good job. Students who excel at math have a head start in the job market, and according to one study undertaken by researches at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody School, mastery of arithmetical concepts early on is a major predictor of success later in life.
If you want to make sure your child is able to buck the trend of declining math scores, call Prep Academy Tutors today to make sure they have the support needed to master their curriculum.