Tag Archives: feedback

How can I improve my essay grades? Students, writing is drafting

student writing an essayWith academic writing or other research projects, student improvement has a single source: drafting. Students will always score a better grade if they don’t hand in a “first draft” to the teacher.

Think of handing in an unrevised paper as “going in blind.” That means that no one else, including the author, has looked it over. A fully revised paper or project is one that has been looked over — and over again, hopefully also by a second pair of eyes – revised, sat upon, and revised again.

The great writer and critic, Evelyn Waugh, advised* : Continue reading

For math success: guided and independent practice empowered by effective feedback

Help for students struggling with math: “guided” v “independent” practice

At the A+ Club we often hear from parents that their child is struggling in math.

Sometimes it’s, “she never does well in math” or “he does his math homework but scores poorly on quizzes and tests.”

Why students struggle in math: guided v independent practice empowered by feedback from The A+ Club on Vimeo.

Guided practice” is when the teacher shows or “teaches” a new topic or skill.

Independent practice” is when the student engages it by him or herself.

Effective teaching develops learning through a deliberate combination of guided and independent practice, where each builds upon the other. However, if the two are disconnected b an absence of effective and direct teacher to student feedback, then learning doesn’t happen.

This is why kids often say, “I get it when my teacher explains it, but I can’t do it on my own.” When your child complains that he or she “doesn’t test well,” it’s because your child is not receiving effective feedback to empower the independent practice required for learning.

This process is the same for all courses and subjects, but it more frequently manifests in math classes because math learning is not as easily processed through “guided practice” as other subjects.

In our A+ Club academic program, we engage students in effective learning techniques and provide guidance and direct math tutoring and in all subjects for overall academic success.

– Michael

Megan Rocks! How the A+ Club assignments and grades updates help students and parents find academic success: Student Success Podcast no. 25

Megan Rocks! Megan and Michael discuss how the A+ Club helps students, parents and teachers.

Featuring Megan Schneider, Office Manager at School4Schools.com LLC

Megan manages the A+ Club service that provides assignment, grades and missing work updates and notifications, essay review and all-round student help with homework, due dates, studying, grades to build academic awareness and relevancy.

Student Success Podcast No. 25, Jan. 22, 2016

See also Megan’s interview clip

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Mentoring students is an all-time thing: mentoring is not just an occasional conversation with a guidance counselor or mentor

Student MentoringAt the A+ Club, we make strong claims for the power of mentoring. We believe that consistent, positive feedback from caring, experienced, and non-judgmental educators empowers students by building lifetime skills and habits of reflection, goal setting, and general self-betterment.

A Gallup-Purdue study of the impact of mentoring on college students in post-graduate job success and all-round well-being already proves our theory (see Mentoring Students for a Lifetime of Success). What the Gallup-Purdue study doesn’t say but is implicit to the results is that mentoring is neither casual nor predetermined.

Note that the study did not point to “advisors” or “guidance counselors” for impact on students. In fact, the absence of those terms in the study is significant. Mentoring relationships are not appointed, they are not pre-selected or administered from above. They develop organically through sharing, trust, care, expertise, authenticity, and constancy.

Mentoring is…

  • Sharing: effective mentoring is empathetic.

  • Trust: mentoring without trust is just more random advice.

  • Care: the effective mentor is selfless, non-judgmental, patient, and caring.

  • Expert: the effective mentor delivers something of value.

  • Authentic: effective mentors don’t condescend or merely guide from above; their mentoring comes from the heart.

  • Constant: effective mentoring is regular, not occasional or random.

Why Guidance Counselors Aren’t Mentors

Imagine that a high level executive at a major company mentors up-and-coming professionals. Imagine that some of these protégés ultimately report to that executive, if not directly, then through other chains of command. If so, there is with great difficulty any mentoring, as it’s just another power-relationship, however well-intentioned.

Now, imagine that a high school student receives mentoring from an educator at the school. We call those “Guidance Counselors,” and they have no less administrative weight than does our executive. They are both firmly a part of an institutional power structure and are therefore inherently judgmental and authoritative.

This doesn’t mean an executive or a guidance counselor can ‘t be an effective mentor — it does mean that each has the burden of authority to overcome in order to deliver mentoring that is authentic and trustworthy.

So, yes, we can imagine that executives or guidance counselors can make effective mentors. Absolutely. But it is harder to imagine that they can be effective mentors to more than a few protégés or students with whom they can create authentic relationships.

They not only have to overcome the burden of authority (which severely challenges authenticity), they have to overcome the burden of a strained caseload. Thus the largest reason that guidance counselors don’t make good mentors is that, according to Time,

A public school counselor in the U.S. now has an average caseload of 471 students….

(from The High School Guidance Counselor Shortage,

Try being caring, empathic, authentic — and constant — with 471 students! Not possible. A guidance counselor can mentor some of the students some of the time but none or a very few of them all of the time.

A+ Club Student Mentoring

Our view is that effective mentoring starts with the student, not the mentor.

When we take on a student, it is by student choice. We cannot mentor a student who is not interested in self-improvement, and we don’t. We don’t get past a first conversation with such a student (and I’ve only run into 2 or 3 over my three years in this business).

The only way we can start with a student is if that student sincerely wants academic improvement. And we never define it for our students: it’s up to them what that means. Once we have established goals, then we can work on deliberate, realistic steps towards them with confidence, trust, and care.

Our authenticity comes of the concern we show and the expertise we bring. Our teachers — whom we call “Student Supporters” — are experienced, active educators, and they only do this work because they care, because they enjoy establishing a relationship with a student whom they do not grade, whom they do not judge. Freed authority, they are free to care without judgment.

Once our teachers have established that trust, once they have established their care and expertise, then they have an authentic relationship. Then the only missing ingredient for effective, powerful mentoring is constancy, which they bring through scheduled, weekly or more reflection, goal setting and problem-solving conversations .

Our teachers love this work. And they also know how emotionally taxing it is, for they care so much for each child. They only take on a few, some choosing to work with only one student, and the rest taking on no more than a few to work with, guide, counsel, and help along towards a brighter future  each and every week.

We know it works, and not just because our kids do better in school. We know it works because our students are ready and eager to take that mentoring call every week.

– Michael

What’s your student’s emotional IQ? Maturity, Emotional Intelligence & Salesmanship

So your child is that smart, a high-riding, high IQ, straight A’s academic cowboy!

Cool that, but how’s that maturity thing going?

The peak age for absorbing new information is age 18. The peak age for assessing the emotional state of others is 40.

It makes sense, as our developmental years are for learning, testing, and expanding our bodies and mind and testing how they interact with the outer world. Our adult years are for organizing and evaluating ourselves within the larger world.  (Here for How Intelligence Shifts With Age)

So perhaps we can measure our children a bit differently from ourselves?

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The Late Work Game: teachers, do you want missing work, late work — or no work at all?

Welcome back to the late work game!

First semester is up and teachers and students across the country are recovering from that last minute freak out: get that missing work in!

Stressed kids near collapse trying to dig something out, anything to get the grades up. Desperate teachers giving up all pretense of syllabus rules and pushing, pulling, and excusing the kids across the finish line. Vice Principals peering over their shoulders, demanding mounds of paper work to justify failing this and that kid. Now into the new semester and it’s starting all over again. Continue reading

Teaching or learning pt 2: textooks are for teaching or for learning?

The Textbooks dilemma: are they for teaching or learning?

A student told me today that he prefers a certain teacher over the others because that teacher doesn’t use a textbook.

Wow, that’s cool, I say.

“So why do your other teachers use textbooks?”
“I have no idea.”
“And what do you learn from them?”
“I have no idea.” Continue reading

Teaching it twice: ask your teachers to explain it again & in a different way

Can a teacher really expect you to learn it the first time?

Teachers forget that what they’re teaching they already know and that it’s usually the first time you’ve ever heard it.

This is why when a teacher is making sense to you it’s probably because  you already know it. At the A+ Club we call it, “PK” for”Prior Knowledge.” Learning is the process of turning new information into PK, and it takes explanation, practice, and application.

And you need to build that knowledge in steps, turning each new thing into the Prior Knowledge you need to understand the next.

Some teachers are good at engaging students in this process; others not so good. But don’t depend on good teachers alone: please, please don’t let your teachers get in the way of your learning. It’s your grade, not theirs, so don’t just accept “I don’t get it.”

The Most Important Thing in the World (to a teacher)

Teachers love their subjects and speak its language. To them it’s the most important thing in the entire world, and you’d better know it, too, or else your life will be ruined, or worse.

They forget that you have six other subjects and personal interests that have nothing to do with their subject. And you ought not forget that you don’t pay their salaries. You’re not going to get your teacher fired, and your not going to reduce their pay if they’re not doing a good job.

What you can do is take control of the teacher yourself.

Take control of your teachers!

As Master Teacher Liddy Allee-Coyle, reminds us, teachers need to be reminded that students don’t always follow what they’re saying.

By the time you’re hearing it, the teacher may have taught it three times that day, or if it’s the first, the teacher may not yet have figured out the best way to present it. Either way, teachers are going to do what they always do, and if that isn’t what you need, then you need to speak up.

Here are some things you can do to get in control of your teachers:

  • Insist that  your teacher explain it slowly, clearly, and in different ways. Say,
    • “Please repeat that, only use different words this time.”
    • “Can we practice that together before we move on?
  • Ask your teacher to allow the students to explain it to each other.
    • Maybe your neighbor gets it and can say it in a way you’ll understand.
    • If you can’t explain it to someone else, then you don’t get really it yourself.
  • Insist that your teacher allow you to learn it and not measure you on that learning just once on a quiz or exam.
    • If it’s so important, don’t they want you to really learn it?
    • Remind them.
  • Above all, ask them to explain it again, and differently, this time

Remember, it’s your education, your grades, and your future at stake here. Don’t give in to not knowing.

Just ask your teacher to say it one more time.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Self-advocacy & the missing work trap: why so many zeroes?

So your teacher posted a grade report and you have no idea what those missing assignments are?

Problem or no problem? Well, you have no idea what that work was, anyway, so there’s nothing you can do. Problem solved.

A couple things are going on here:

  1. The teacher is using code for the assignments
  2. The key to the code is in code
  3. The items your teacher posted have nothing to do with the homework assignments your teacher gave you and you can’t figure out which is what.
  4. You’d rather just not deal with it.

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Scaffolding students out of procrastination: teacher interview with Mike Cahir

Scaffolding students out of procrastination: teacher interview with Mike Cahir

Student Success Podcast No. 16
Feb. 10, 2014, recorded Feb 8, 2014

Today’s Guest: Mike Cahir, Teacher and Department Chair, English Department, Archbishop Carroll High School, Washington, DC

In this interview, Mike rejoins us to discuss procrastination from the point of view of a high school teacher. I ask him about his take on procrastination, and then I review some of the ideas that we are learning from Dr. Pychyl of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University. Mike processes this new information through delivers his own experiences and offers ideas and advice for both students and teachers. Continue reading