Thursday, 30 March 2017

How I am preparing Kate to do school

Right from my eldest child, I've always believed in real learning, not just drilling them with content or making them good test-takers. I've come a long way in envisioning something beyond what our schools can offer and am now able to give kids that headstart at my enrichment centre.

Having Kate go through our programme, my insight into kids and learning has risen a notch! It is amazing how every child has different strengths and giftedness yet even the bright ones have their own unique learning issues.

In Janaury, Kate had The Executive Assessment (TEA) done and I expected her to score well as she speaks fluently and seems smart enough. However, I was surprised that her TEA score was 10 out of 21, and it was an eye-opener to discover her weak areas.
The Executive Assessment
I have sat through countless parent-teacher meetings with my 5 older kids but have never received a holistic assessment of their learning. In pre-school, feedback was usually about whether they were well-behaved (my 4 girls) or mischevious but creative (my son), and I would be updated about their reading and writing progress. In primary school, the focus would shift to their grades, on matters such as if homework was handed in on time and about their general behaviour.

On several occassions, teachers tell me, "Your child is smart, but if he can focus better/be more motivated, he will be able to reach his potential."

But nobody tells us exactly how to do that!

With her assessment done, Teacher Jim was able to zoom in on her gaps and guide Kate to bridge them so that she can get the most out of whatever she is learning, both in school and in her other enrichment classes.

I found out that despite her chattiness and street smarts, she is not a strong learner and these are the foundational skills she needs to develop to prepare her well to cope with the demanding curriculum in primary school.

Increase her attention span: The most basic requirement to learn well is to have a good attention span to stay on task. She did not manage to complete some of the activities as she gets easily distracted by others or her mind will wander. The demands of K1 is increasing and she needs to concentrate well to absorb what is being taught in class. By disguising our activities as play, Kate happily undertakes them and manages to stay focused longer each time.

Train up her cognitive processes: In the animal stroop activity, they were instructed to say the colour of the animals in time to the metronome beat, but halfway through, she drifted from colour to name. With weekly practice, her processing speed and mental stamina will be enhanced and she can take on higher levels of difficulty.

Improve her working memory: Kate has no problems with her memory and can remember places we've been to and recall incidences, but I've never tested her working memory. Now that I'm aware it is weak, we need to tackle this if not in primary school, by the time she finishes reading the math problem sums, she would have forgotten what the question was asking for.

Develop her ability to self-monitor: After each activity, they are asked to reflect on how they had done and ways they can improve. Kate would gayly declare that she did fine even if she had gotten most of it wrong. I do love her positive and happy attitude though! Hopefully she will inculcate good habits of being able to check her own work and spot mistakes so that she does not need to constantly rely on her teachers (or me).
Growth mindset?
Develop a Growth Mindset: Sad to say, Kate has a fixed mindset and gives up easily. I assumed that since I have more of a growth mindset, so will my kids! Faced with a difficult activity, she simply said, "I don't know. I don't want to do it anymore" and refused to try. When Teacher Jim asked the kids, "Who is ready for a challenging round? Thumbs up if you are!" The other kids enthusiastically raised their hands, except for Kate. Finally she managed a half-hearted thumbs up, seeming to say fine, I will give it a go. Still, baby steps!

Term 1 has just ended and we're heartened to see good progress in most areas. What's more interesting is that Teacher Jim has unearthed some of Kate's deep-seated habits and attitudes and is working on guiding her to un-do them.

She doubts her own ability and often cannot resist giving herself an advantage by peeking at others instead of thinking and being confident of her own answers. So much so that she has honed the skill of being able to copy discreetly. At 4?? Gasp. (And yes, I managed to catch a shot of her in action. I couldn't quite believe my eyes.)

He also noticed that whenever a question is asked, Kate waits for others to answer and immediately follows and shouts out the answer as her own. No wonder we always thought of her as a smart child! Aware of this, he encourages Kate to think carefully and come up with an answer, to build up her confidence in her own ability.

Her strengths and weaknesses are clearer to me now and with awareness, I can work hand in hand with her teachers to guide her to reach her learning potential.

At times, I will hear her spontaneously chirp, "Don't give up! Keep trying!" while sticking with a task and I can see the growth mindset slowly being internalised.

It will take time, but I'm glad she's only 4 and already on the path of closing her learning gaps one by one and building a strong foundation of positive learning habits to excel in school.

Trial classes at The Little Executive are conducted every Saturday which includes The Executive Assessment.

Trials at $48
Suitable for N2-P2
1.5 hour session
Trial classes are parent-accompanied.

The Little Executive
144 Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 229844
(between Newton circus and KK Hospital)
www.thelittlexecutive.asia
Tel: 6908 1889
Email: knockknock@thelittleexecutive.asia


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

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