A few weeks ago, we wrote about what really matters when you're choosing a tuition or enrichment centre for your child. You enrol your child in an enrichment class to see a difference in his or her results; and the three most important factors are dedicated and skillful teachers, small class size, and well-designed learning materials.
Knowing what impacts your child's results is the first step.
The second step is knowing specifically what to look out for in each factor.
(1) Worksheets that tie the means to the end
When scrutinizing a set of worksheets, you should be able to understand the learning objectives of the lesson and the means used to achieve them. Here's an example from our creative writing class - The Thinking Writer.
Almost every creative writing class will ask students to use "vivid descriptions". Giving Primary School level students a loaded instruction such as this is not very useful. Few students intentionally write descriptions that aren't vivid. What we realised was that we have to break the idea down further into several concrete components, such as emotions and sensory details.
Most students have been exposed to the idea of using the "5 senses" technique in their writing, so why don't students routinely employ this technique? Oftentimes, this is the result of poorly-structured or even unstructured ways of doing so. So we designed a series of lessons for The Thinking Writer that explicitly provides guidance to students on what they could write about for each sensory detail. For example, when painting a visual landscape, a writer could choose to describe the facial expression and physical appearance of a character, a striking element in the setting, or a dramatic action that is being performed. When describing sounds, a writer could highlight the tone of voice, or the volume and pitch of a noise.
Tying the means to the learning objective ensures that students achieve the maximum benefit from every lesson.
(2) Dedicated and focused attention
Yes, a small class size means that the teacher can give quality attention to each child - but what does that really mean? It's not just about giving some facetime to each student. It means understanding what motivates each child, what each child fears, and how each child learns. Attention means building bridges to connect with the student.
Only when personal connection to a student is established will a teacher be able to truly motivate him or her. Most teachers can identify weaknesses and provide suggestions for improvement. But to create that sort of self-directed desire to improve - it's not easy. Students can sense when a teacher genuinely wants to help.
So when our Primary 6 English students came for their post-PSLE bridging classes last year, Ms Ligaya Ong took the lessons one step further. She invited her former student to give a talk about secondary school and the challenges Secondary 1 students would face. There was even a Q&A session for students to ply their senior with questions about secondary school life.
Children can tell when a teacher really cares; whether it's tough love or when the teacher offers a listening ear. This is what dedicated and focused attention really means.
(3) A teacher that communicates openly with parents
A student's learning journey isn't dependent on teachers alone - parents play a big part in helping a child improve. However, it's not always easy for a teacher to explain a child's strengths and weaknesses to a parent. It takes experience and skill to articulate the ways in which a parent can help.
Since a student spends most of his or her time at home, a two-way communication between the parent and the teacher is important for both parties to keep track of the child's progress. A parent might share information about the child which gives the teacher some insight into how best to help him or her improve, or a teacher might update a parent on how the student is coping in class.
That's why Primary Science teacher Mr Mag maintains a good relationship with parents. Being a parent himself, he knows the importance of trust between parents and teachers. He even bought pizza for an informal "parent-teacher meeting" after the last Science lesson last year as a treat for his students!
It's not often that you find a teacher that establishes this sort of rapport with parents and students.
I've covered the factors that drive improvement in results and provided examples of them in this newsletter. Click the share button below if you found this useful!