Thursday, August 21, 2008

Math Memory Game

Preparation: On 3x5 inch index cards, write out 12 or 16 equations appropriate to the level of study. Each equation should be different, but pairs should have the same solution (eg. 4+8 / 15–3).

To Play: Place the cards face down in rows of four. Take turns turning up two cards at time and reading the equations aloud. If the solutions to the equations on the two cards are equal, the player keeps them and takes a second turn. If they do not match, the cards are replaced face down in the same position and the next player takes a turn. Don’t tell the players if they have a match. It is important that the players recognize matches themselves. Play until all the cards are matched. The player with the most pairs wins.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How To Help Failing Students

This advice is directed at teachers, but it is also useful to tutors and parents.

Identify problems as early as possible. In the first week of class, assess all students’ needs through testing, in class writing, and interviews.

Meet privately to discuss problems with students. Show the students the problems you have found in their work. Then, let students tell you what they think their problems are, why they have those problems, and what they think should be done to solve the problems. If they deny there is a problem, be firm and go through their work with them to provide specific evidence for your concern. Students must recognize their problems before they can be fixed.

Listen to what students tell you. You can learn a lot about students’ problems simply by listening attentively and paying close attention to body language. Your assessments may have only revealed the symptoms of their problems, but not source of the problems. Show the student that you are interested, and be open and honest with them.

Work with students to create a plan of action. Help students to determine the best starting point, and to set goals you both agree are realistic. Then, work together to plan reasonable steps to reach those goals. It’s important that students think of this as their goals and their plans. Later, you can use these plans to remind students of what they said they wanted to achieve and offer support and encouragement through each of the steps.

Become a resource for students. Make yourself available for additional instruction and provide extra material at an appropriate level for each student’s needs. Offer to locate other resources such as tutoring ( or community services which can help the students.

Vary your approach in class to accommodate all learning styles. This is something that all the students in your class will benefit from. Because each student takes in information differently, a varied teaching style will allow different groups of students to display their strengths at different times. However, don’t tailor your classes for those weaker students at the expense of the stronger learners.

Offer encouragement. Meet with students before major tests or assignments to listen to their concerns and help them develop a positive attitude. Even when students do poorly, stress the areas where they have improved and help them to learn from their mistakes. Try not to pass students for effort, though, as that will not give them a realistic understanding of their results.

Don’t take your students failures personally. Sometimes, despite all your best efforts, a student will still not improve. Don’t blame yourself; in the end, students are responsible for their own successes and failures. Console yourself by saying that you did everything that you could.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tips for Writing Opinion Essays

Like a hamburger, an essay has several layers. Divide the essay into sections and develop each section separately over time.
    The Introductory Paragraph
    • The opening paragraph not only introduces the topic, but shows where you are going with it (the thesis). If you do a good job in the opening, you will draw your reader in. Just like in everything else, first impressions are key to winning someone over

    • Write in the active voice rather than passive voice because it will make your essay much more powerful. Also, unless you are writing a personal narrative, avoid using the pronoun "I."

    • Write more than one thesis. Even if you think your first idea is brilliant, try to come up with at least 2 more theses. You may surprise yourself with an even better idea.

    • Vary your sentence structure and vocabulary. Try to avoid the same sentence pattern--especially SVO--and review your writing to make sure you're not using the same expressions over and over. This is something that you will carry through the whole essay.

    • Plan your essay before you start. Make sure you are using the best supporting ideas and have a reason for putting them in the order you will use. An unplanned essay will always present an ineffective argument.
    Supporting Paragraphs
    • Each paragraph is like a mini-essay in of itself. Make sure each paragraph has a clear topic sentence that is obviously connected to your thesis, supporting details that are clearly related to the topic sentence, and a poweful final statement that closes the argument.

    • Use transitions to show the relationship of each paragraph to the one that came before it. Each paragraph has to flow, one to the next. It's not enough to just have a plan, but you must tell the readers what your plan is throughout the essay. The transition can be included in the topic sentence.

    • Use specific support. The best arguments are the ones that the readers not only can understand, but can see. Answer Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? for each supporting detail.
    The Concluding Paragraph
    • Many essay writers torpedo a good argument with a weak concluding paragraph. This is the second most important paragraph after the introduction because it will create the impression the reader will take away from the essay. Write the conclusion carefully.

    • Restate the thesis with originality. Do not simply copy it.

    • Summarize your argument with authority. The reader should have no doubt about your position or conclusion of logic.

    • Leave the reader with a powerful thought-provoking last thought. You want the reader to finish the essay thinking, "That was good!"

    Edit and Revise

    • Review individual sentences for spelling, grammar, and consistency. Use the spelling and grammar check in your word processing program. Avoid repetition of sentence structures and phrases.

    • Reanalyse your argument. Make sure the ideas flow logically and there are no gaps or repetitions.

    • Ask a knowledgeable friend to review and comment on your essay, and to repeat back what the essay says. You may be surprised.