Monday, 31 December 2012

Do handwritten thank you letters still have educational value in this age of technology?

Post-Christmas bribery sees many a parent nagging their brood to put pen to paper and write notes of thanks for presents received from an eclectic mix of relatives and friends. Thx 4 a gr8 gift. With youngsters now communicating via text message and email, is there still educational value in writing good old thank you letters? Though I can’t confess to have been aware of the reasoning behind this at the time, reflection on personal childhood experiences highlights what I believe are important social and practical skills learned.

During the excitement of opening a pile of gifts on Christmas morning, there is nothing like the knowledge that thank you letters lie ahead, to encourage children to read the gift label and remember where each one came from. Encouraging children to gain some sense of the value of the time, thought and cash that has been invested will surely lead to their being more socially conscious adults.

Handwriting a legible, interesting or entertaining letter without the ability to spell-check, Google, copy and paste or delete mistakes practices valuable composition skills which, though still crucial for performance in examinations, some may argue are declining thanks to technology. Creativity and imagination, as well as the occasional and justifiable diplomatic white lie, are essential skills for composing enthusiastic comments about a gift which may not be entirely what was expected or desired.

Creating something tangible that will be treasured, filed-away and re-read by proud parents and grandparents in my view offers the most important lesson of all. Putting time and effort into writing a few carefully chosen words purely because they will make someone else smile.

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Friday, 14 December 2012

Securing work experience needs proactivity, persistence and enthusiasm

Securing work experience to support future university applications or career and employment ambitions may well be the 2013 New Year’s resolution for many teenagers. Youngsters often rely on parents to make this happen. However, being proactive in investigating and securing opportunities independently will result in a far better grasp of life and employability skills for the future.

Firstly, identify what you plan to achieve through the placement. Do you wish to understand more about a specific career, develop employability skills, independence and confidence, link school subjects of personal interest with a potential work environment or explore local job opportunities?

Once your aims are decided, speak to your school to see if they have access to opportunities that meet your objectives. Let family and friends know what you are looking for in case they have contacts that can help.

Use the internet and local papers to research potential opportunities within your field of interest. Research the companies you have short-listed to approach thoroughly so you can appear knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Prepare a good CV highlighting your key interests, relevant experience and skills.

Make direct contact either by telephone or even better, by calling in with a copy of your CV. Explain briefly what you are seeking and ask who you might leave a copy of your CV with, should opportunities come up in the future. If possible ask for an appointment, so you can return at a more convenient time and tell them a bit more about yourself and what you can offer.

Persevere! You may have to drop off lots of CV’s to get the one opportunity you are looking for.

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

What is your child's individual learning style?

Understanding how your child learns allows you to offer more effective help with homework or revision planning for school or public exams.

Psychologists categorise learning styles in four ways:

A visual learner memorises through pictures. They enjoy drawing, reading maps charts and diagrams, doing jigsaw puzzles and construction tasks. They like to visualise a story while reading and can often be a bit of a day dreamer. Using different coloured ‘post it’ notes or coloured highlighter pens, as well as creating mind maps of key facts are effective ways to support a visual learner. Reinforcement of what they need to know through watching films or plays works well.

A kinaesthetic learner processes knowledge through physical sensations, is active and not able to sit still for long and often communicates through body language and gestures. Prefers to demonstrate, rather than speaking or writing what they know. They enjoy sports and being actively engaged in tasks, rather than listening. Hands-on practical activities, walking around while studying, chewing, doodling and fiddling, all help these children to learn.

An auditory learner thinks in words and verbalises concepts, has an excellent memory for words if presented phonetically, is often musical and good at word games. Dictation or recording work to be memorised, so it can be played back is effective, as is reading aloud or listening to audio books.

A logical learner thinks conceptually, likes to explore patterns and relationships, does mental arithmetic easily, is often inquisitive and asks lots of questions. They prefer routine and consistency, but are not so strong on the creative side. They enjoy computer aided design and games of strategy or experiments with a purpose. Non-fiction books will appeal, as will word and number puzzles.

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