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5 Ways To Help Students Struggling With Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension isn’t about being able to string words together, it’s about deriving meaning from the text. In other words, just because a child can read a text doesn’t mean they truly understand it.

It’s the difference between reading Shakespeare and getting Shakespeare.

But the implications go far beyond appreciating literature. Comprehension is about reading between the lines, understanding vocabulary and figurative language, inferencing, verbal reasoning, grammatical development, and oral expression. It’s about being able to understand the reason something has been written, or what the stance of an author is on a particular subject. 

In this day and age, the ability to comprehend text is more important than ever. Being able to look beyond the written words of a text can, for example, help a reader differentiate between fake news, biased news, and genuine news.

Catching a struggling reader early is relatively easy, but students who have trouble with comprehension may go under the radar and only be found when they fail standardized comprehension tests. But all hope is not lost. This post is going to give you five ways to support students who are struggling with reading comprehension.

1. Try different subjects

Sometimes all it takes to get a student to comprehend what they’re reading is to get them to read something they are genuinely interested in. Feel free to look beyond what is traditionally considered “school material”. It could be fiction, it could even be a comic book. The point is to see if they are really able to absorb the matter.

Ask your child to pick some reading material for themselves, and get involved with their reading. Younger students may also be open to reading aloud for you. Every now and then, under the guise of curiosity, interject a question that will ask them to think about the meaning of the text. This will give the student an opportunity to become “the explainer” and subtly ask them to practice comprehension.

2. Teach vocabulary

One of the most basic ways to make for a richer reading experience for your child is to bolster their vocabulary.

Get a word-of-the-day calendar, use flash cards, or anything else—there are dozens of ways to help improve a students vocabulary, more than we can cover in this post. A simple game that you can play almost anywhere is to say a simple definition of a word and ask your child to identify the word.

Additionally, a strong vocabulary enhances fluency. We’ve all experienced it— we come across a new word, and that interrupts our reading flow. This can be especially frustrating for a child who is already having trouble comprehending a text.

So the other side of teaching vocabulary is to frame these instances as positive. Assure your child that even you don’t know all the words. Encourage them to view these instances as an opportunity to learn a new word.

3. Oral essay questions

Older students may not be comfortable reading out loud for you, but there’s more than one way to get involved in their reading.

Get your child’s buy-in to do this exercise—it could be seen as an invasion of privacy if you just dip into their reading material, no matter how good your intentions, and that will be the end of the whole thing right there.

The point of getting into their reading is to pose essay type questions now and then. Dig into the “why” of something that happened, what does your child make of a certain event or certain action that a character took, what real-world parallels can they draw, and so on.

A word of caution, however: be sure never to give spoilers. Nothing is worse for a child reading a beloved book.

4. Urge note-taking

This is a practice that we use even as adults. Any time we see something interesting, we mark it. If we come across a passage or term we don’t understand, we highlight it so we can come back and look it up. We jot down points of interest that will help us summarize a text for a presentation. We are always taking notes, in some form or another.

Urge your child to take notes and make marks when they need to read for comprehension, no matter how trivial the text may seem. This will get them into the habit of looking out for and identifying pieces of text that could be important for its comprehension. There is no shame in writing in the margins, and in fact it’s a skill they will use more and more as they progress through life.

5. Summarizing

One the best—and simplest—ways to test comprehension is to ask your child to summarize a text.

Ask for a 1-page book report on whatever they are reading. It doesn’t even have to strictly be a book. But you’ll be able to judge if:

  • They can identify the main points of interest.
  • They can tell you what the text is about.
  • They can draw out the meaning or intent behind the text.

You can make it a fun experience with a little bit of gamification and some kind of reward mechanism. For example, 5 satisfactory summaries earns a special treat.

Final thoughts

As with any method to help a child, the main thing to remember is to be patient. Remind your child that struggling with reading comprehension is merely a facet of processing information, and not of intelligence. Like all subjects, any child can get better at it with practice.

The best thing you can do is try to bring the areas your child is struggling in into daily life. Take it “out of the classroom” and give it real world context. You can test comprehension on a movie, or an episode of a cartoon. If they are watching the half-time analysis of a basketball game, you can ask them to summarize the main points. Make it fun and relevant to your child and you will see them develop the skills they need to succeed in school.

7 Important Learning Habits To Build In Your Child For Success

Many of the habits that we carry throughout life, for better or for worse, are developed in childhood.

American philosopher William James wrote, “Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state.”

But what does a child know about these matters? They can’t possibly know what they’re getting themselves into. They merely observe their environment and adapt accordingly from a very early age. In fact, research has established that many fundamental processes that have to do with thinking, reasoning, and learning are present and fully functioning at birth or develop by the time a child is 4-5 years old (Goswami, 2008).

As parents, we need to help inculcate good learning habits in our children. It’s not only about doing their homework every day, which is no doubt important, but also about how they learn. After all, homework will one day end, but learning never does, and developing a positive attitude towards learning is paramount for them to have a successful life.

Habits form early in a child

Habits form and get entrenched in the human brain automatically based on an individual’s environment unless there is a conscious effort to shape them.

Once habits set, they are very difficult to break, because repeat habits set up a dopamine release loop in the brain which creates a feeling of pleasure and strengthens the habit.

When it comes to kids, you need to catch them while they’re young—research shows that children develop habits by age 9.

But that doesn’t mean you should wait until you think they know what you’re talking about. Kids pick up on more things than we realize, and as mentioned above it starts from an early age.

While study habits can be built later in life, start with teaching your kids self-control. Research has shown that children who learn self-control at an early age are set up for more success later in life. Children who exhibit tendencies like impulsivity, aggression, and hyperactivity struggle emotionally, socially, and academically throughout life (Spira & Fischel, 2005).

However, this post is going to focus specifically on developing successful learning habits in young school-going children.

Habits take time to develop consciously

It’s a popular internet-fuelled belief that it takes 21 days to form a habit. But a study out of University College London suggests that the truth is not so simple.

While the 21-day rule may be applicable for simpler habits, like drinking a glass of water after breakfast, a more complex routine can take the better part of a year to cement itself.

As you work with your children to develop the following habits, understand that it will probably take some time for them to stick. Forming a habit isn’t easy, but once the initial inertia is overcome your child will benefit from it for the rest of their lives.

Now let’s get into the 7 essential learning habits that every child should develop.

1. Designate a study area for your child

Help your child create a study area, a place that is dedicated to school work and projects. As they become habituated to this space, it will help set the tone for concentration and productivity.

The “real” study area is, of course, in their mind. The ability to dip into and out of “focus mode” will serve them immensely later in life.

2. Keep short breaks between bursts of concentration

Sometimes referred to as the “Pomodoro technique”, this famous and well-loved productivity technique recognizes that the human brain cannot focus for too long without getting exhausted. It’s just nature.

Instead, your child can focus for a long period, typically around 25 minutes, followed by a short break of 5 minutes to allow the brain to rest and recuperate for the next burst of concentration. After 3-4 cycles like this, a longer break of usually 15 minutes follows.

Having to sit and concentrate for hours together can feel like a daunting task. This method, among other things, tricks the brain by setting a shorter time limit. 25 minutes doesn’t seem quite as long as 2 hours, so it doesn’t feel as daunting. The short break then rejuvenates the mind and makes it easy to keep going.

3. Understand how long work will take and prioritize

Encourage your child to learn how much time a particular task will take for them. They need to familiarize themselves with their working styles (while always improving simultaneously).

Then they can prioritize their tasks. Perhaps they want to do the ones that will take longer earlier in the day, and keep the shorter ones for later when they will have less energy.

We often don’t worry about these skills until we are in a professional setting, so helping your child form these habits will give them a massive head start.

Additionally, by developing learning habits that enable them to be in control of their work, you encourage them to realize what they actually enjoy more. This will help them make a more carefully considered career choice later on.

4. Let them solve things by themselves

It’s a natural tendency for parents to “come to their child’s rescue” whenever the child is faced with a problem. But doing this too much will make them over-reliant on outside help.

Instead, get them into the habit of solving things for themselves. Don’t just hand them solutions, guide them. A major part of learning—and life in general—is experimenting with solutions, figuring out what works, and even sometimes failing.

This kind of habit also can also help spark a natural curiosity in your child.

5. Build a growth mindset in your child

This mostly has to do about how you praise your child. We have covered this topic more extensively in our post on growth mindset, but here’s the gist:

  • Overly praising them for doing well can make them think that everything should come easy to them.
  • Overly praising their effort can also be damaging. 
  • Instead, focus on praising the process. It’s not so much about the result, it’s about how they achieved it.

Promoting a growth mindset produces in your child an attitude that intelligence, creativity, and personality can be cultivated through effort, makes them resilient to the specter of failure, and emboldens them to face challenges.

6. Foster creativity and curiosity

Creativity and curiosity are not always innate characteristics. Sure, kids like to explore and discover things when they are young, but some researchers believe that this is not indicative of inherent creativity.

Encourage your children to seek new forms of stimuli. Show them the thrill of discovering something new. You might even share some of your own hobbies, if only to show them how much joy it gives you.

Creativity and curiosity do occur naturally in spades in some children, but they are also habits that can be developed with constant stimuli.

7. Help them to be gritty

As an adult, you know that to succeed in life you have to invest a lot of time in what you do. This takes grit and determination. It’s very important to develop this habit in your child, especially since we live in an age of instant gratification.

Grit can be defined as “passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals.” Research from psychology Professor, Angela Duckworth found a correlation between grit and rank in the US National Spelling Bee, educational attainment, grade-point average in Ivy League undergrads, and retention of West Point cadets.

It’s easy to be interested in something initially and then quickly lose interest in it. But if your kids want to see the rewards, they have to stick with it. They’ll be naturally inclined toward certain things, so help them connect a purpose to their hard work in that area.

The best habit they can have

The habits discussed in this post are all geared towards making your child a resilient and strong learner.

It is important to build these habits in your child from an early age when their brains are still very impressionable. At that age, it’s far too easy to fall into bad habits that can stick around for a long time (possibly their entire life).

It’s paramount that parents guide their children. But we aren’t the only influences on our child’s mind. Our children’s minds are constantly bombarded with input from the media, other kids at school, their teachers, and other adults. There is no stopping this, whether we like it or not.

So the best habit you can give your child is to question everything. 

They might be influenced by something they saw on TV or something someone said at school, and they can’t possibly have the knowledge and experience to inform them of what they might be getting themselves into.

Teach them that this is OK, and in fact completely normal. Teach them that no one has all the answers, not even you, and that life is about figuring these things out bit by bit. Ensure them that when they have a question, they can rely on you to figure it out together.

After all, life is a constant game of learning. 

The habits discussed in the post, taken together, will give your child the tools they need to maintain curiosity, spark creativity, and find success in life—whatever that winds up meaning to them.

Addressing Technology Addiction In Your Kids

Kids these days have it way different from how we had it.

Most notably, they have a tiny rectangle that fits in the palm of their hand that gives them access to all of recorded human history and culture… and this is a gift and a curse!

Poetic musings aside, we do need to talk about a serious problem that many kids born in the digital age may face: technology addiction.

How does Technology Addiction happen?

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and this applies to technology as well.

Technology addiction forms the same way all addictions form: through over-reliance on a chemical release. This may apply to you as well.

Essentially, we get a small release of dopamine through many of the actions we do through our technology. When we receive/send a message, when we get new likes on our latest post, when we beat the next level on Candy Crush—all of these actions release dopamine.

The problem is that these actions are so easy and so innocuous that we can get addicted to the dopamine release cycle without even noticing it.

Harmful effects of Technology Addiction

With every experience that we have, neurons are fired in the brain.

Every repeated experience fires the same neural pathways. The more frequently these neural pathways are fired, the stronger they become. This affects the physical structure of the brain. This is why when we practice something a lot we can seemingly do it “without even thinking about it”.

You can begin to see how important this is for a child, because their brains are a relatively fresh slate, and hence highly impressionable.

Areas of the brain that get used more often become stronger. Similarly, areas of the brain that are not regularly used can fall out of practice. These neural pathways can even stop firing at all.

For example, consider the difference between reading a story to your child and letting an app read them a story. In the former, they are forced to process your voice into words, follow the storyline, and create their own visualization. In the latter, they are spoon-fed images and words, they can go back and forth as they please, and it turns out to be a very passive activity for them. It doesn’t exercise their creativity at all.

Some of the common problems exhibited by children who develop a technology addiction are:

  • Poor face-to-face communication skills
  • Attention deficiency
  • Trouble making friends 
  • Self-isolation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Difficulty sleeping

Does my kid have a Technology Addiction?

It can often be hard to pin down. As parents, we may even feel inclined to lie to ourselves about it.

But we have to be vigilant. Look for the following signs of possible dependency on technology in your kids.

  1. Lack of interest in other activities. They are unable to find entertainment in activities that don’t involve technology. Or they used to enjoy things that they don’t seem to anymore.
  2. Displaying problematic behavior when they can’t access their devices. They throw excessive tantrums or become uncharacteristically aggressive.
  3. Displaying withdrawal symptoms when they can’t access their devices. They seem anxious or upset, and might only become calm when they get their devices.
  4. Constant distraction by technology. You find it difficult to communicate with them or get their attention when they are using their devices, or they always seem to be waiting for the next time they can get online.
  5. Constant talking about screen-time. When they are not using their devices, they are referring to them in one way or another.

Addressing Technology Addiction in your kids: The DOs and DON’Ts

OK, so you’ve detected a problem. Now how to fix it?

First and foremost, take a step back and realize that you don’t know what it’s like to be in their situation. All of this wonderful technology—smartphones, broadband internet, social media, and so on—came to us at a time when we were already relatively mature. Our kids, on the other hand, were born right into this world. While we knew a pre-digital world and can compare today with that time, kids have no such standard—what they know today is their complete reality.

Be sensitive and kind. Remember to treat them as equals. Coming off a technology addiction is difficult, and there may be moments of strain.

And finally, you will need to be present and set an example.

That being said, let’s get into the DOs and DON’Ts of addressing technology addiction in your kids.

DO #1: Address the problem

The first step is obvious, but approach is everything.

Think about the issue, what the problem is, and what your goals are.

In a two-parent household, both of you must be united and agree on common goals. You probably know what happens if you are not united on an issue—your child takes the soft corner and gets their way.

DO #2: Show your child that you care

When you broach the subject, do not make it sound like a punishment or like you are leveling an accusation. You are bringing it up because you care—that needs to show through. 

Children often view questions about their behavior as a condemnation of sorts, so you need to reassure them that this is not the case.

A child who has a technology addiction may feel threatened by this kind of talk, so be prepared for all kinds of emotional outbursts, accusations, and tirades meant to make you feel guilty. This kind of response is natural.

Your best line of defense? Don’t respond to the emotion. Acknowledge their feelings, but stay focused on the issue.

DO #3: Decide screen time limits

Implement limits with kindness, but also with firmness. And remember that there are a number of ways to implement screen time limits.

One way is setting boundaries, like no screen-time during family-time, or before bed.

You can also make a hierarchy of screen-time. For example, allocate some time to educational apps or communal screen time, and reserve the rest for free-time or individual screen-time.

Involve your children in the decision of screen-time limits, but remember to be firm.

DO #4: Get them outside more often

Take them on a walk around the block, or a hike through the woods.

Take them on a trip to the store without their devices.

Whatever you do, get them out.

It doesn’t have to be every day, but build a habit in your kids to spend some time outside without their devices, especially in nature.

DON’T #1: Don’t shout, lecture, or blame

As you are coming from a position of care, refrain from these actions.

It’s difficult for kids to understand that they have a technology addiction. They cannot see the situation from outside of themselves.

This might call on you to show immense patience, but this is better than condemning your child and causing them to build resentment or self-hate.

Bring the conversation to concerns that you have, and highlight those concerns—it might be fatigue, declining grades, giving up hobbies, social withdrawal, etc. Assure them that you will take the journey with them, so they don’t feel alone. 

DON’T #2: Don’t get them to quit cold turkey

A sudden transition will feel more like a punishment than anything else, and is likely to exacerbate any withdrawal symptoms.

Take a staggered approach. Outline your ultimate goal with them (say, reducing screen-time to 1 hour per day), and gradually work towards it.

Have regular check-ins with them to ask them how they are doing and to give them encouragement, and also to praise their commitment. A little bit of positive reinforcement can go a long way.

DON’T #3: Don’t fill in the gaps

Your kids may experience a void left by the absence of their devices. Parents sometimes tend to feel a responsibility to then structure their child’s time so that they don’t feel upset or bored.

This amounts to a form of rescuing your child. You don’t need to do that.

Trust your child to deal with the boredom and frustration. Let them figure it out! The experience will give them the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and resilience.

DON’T #4: Don’t use a device as a shut-up toy

Although this is more of a preventative than a curative measure, it’s worth mentioning.

Don’t use the device as a bargaining chip or a distraction to get unruly children to behave or sit quietly. This is enabling behavior.

DON’T #5: Don’t overuse your own device

As with all other behaviors, the most effective thing you can do to influence your child’s relationship with technology is to set an example.

That might mean overcoming your own desire to keep checking your devices.

If you have designated family time, strictly keep your own devices away. That email from the office can wait, especially if it’s after work hours.

Let your kids see you doing other activities in the evenings. For example, the best way to instill a reading habit in them is to let them see you reading.

Set high standards of device independence for yourself, and your children will follow your lead. This can only be good for both of you. 

A technology addiction, like any addiction, is a serious issue. But that doesn’t mean that it should be a cause for panic.

Modern technology is a wonderful ally that enables us to do amazing things when used in moderation.

Keep a vigilant eye on your child’s technology habits, and don’t be afraid to have a difficult conversation if you see signs of a technology addiction.

Also keep an eye on your own technology habits! It will be impossible to get your child to follow your rules if they constantly see you breaking them. This is a journey that you will need to help your child with. You’ll need to lead by example and show a lot of care. But with technology becoming ubiquitous in ways we have never expected, the ability to use technology consciously will help your child immensely.

Announcing Georgia Test Prep

It is with great pleasure we announce that today we have launched Georgia Test Prep, an online solution to help parents and students of the state of Georgia create a solid foundation in Georgia Standards of Excellence.

Georgia Test Prep is meant to supplement a child’s school learning by providing a place to practice thousands of Georgia standards based math and ELA questions online, from the safety and comfort of home. Parents and students can easily track students’ progress and eliminate the need for purchasing a number of costly practice books or spending endless hours searching for worksheets and then checking them, because all of the content is digitally available.

Why Georgia Test Prep?

Georgia educators are doing an outstanding job of teaching the standards set for Georgia’s curriculum in school. But there isn’t enough opportunity for the repetition of concepts. For students to truly retain what they learn, they have to continuously practice answering questions on a topic they want to master.

So a team of parents of school children and Georgia state teachers got together to solve this. And thus Georgia Test Prep was born.

Georgia Test Prep Benefits Students and Parents

The content has been specifically designed to be aligned with Georgia school curriculums. It is made in Georgia, by Georgia teachers, especially for Georgia students.

Parents can use the tool to assign homework to their kids, and parents and students both get a dashboard to monitor the student’s progress. The entire bank of questions is being made available for less than ten cents a day.

Georgia Test Prep makes it easy for students and parents because:

  • All the material is available online.
  • The tool is available wherever the student is, all they need is an internet connection. There is no need to carry around cumbersome books or worksheets.
  • Parents don’t have to invest in multiple expensive books that soon become obsolete.
  • Parents can spend time helping their children strengthen their basics rather than checking the answers, since the web application does it automatically.
  • Since the content is developed based on Georgia school curriculums, you can be assured that it is an effective tool that addresses what students are expected to know by GSE.

Georgia Test Prep is a great ally for parents to help their kids get an edge in their education and an easy tool to help kids practice math and ELA questions closely aligned to the Core curriculum and GSE. It is available today at https://georgiatestprep.com/.

The Issues Parents Have Been Facing With Virtual Learning

School districts have done their best to plan learning contingencies due to the COVID situation. Some schools have opted for virtual learning to keep children and staff safe, and this is an entirely new paradigm for everyone involved– the teachers, the students, and last but not least: the parents.

We are all figuring it out as we go along. It’s a bit like building the plane as you’re flying it.

Everyone is going through an abrupt change, and this is bound to produce anxiety in everyone. The idea of virtual learning is new and possibly intimidating for many parents. Many families may additionally be undergoing financial stress, employment flux, or pressures of home-working as a result of the pandemic.

The fact of the matter is that every parent wants their child to do well in school, even in the face of mitigating circumstances.

In a study by McAfee, Distance Learning Challenges, taken in April 2020, the following were found as the top five difficulties faced by parents (of kids in K-12) with virtual learning:

  1. Keeping their children focused on schoolwork (instead of other online activities) – 50.31%
  2. Establishing a daily routine – 49.26%
  3. Balancing household responsibilities and teaching – 41.83%
  4. Establishing a wake-up and bedtime schedule – 33.40%
  5. Balancing working from home and teaching – 33.31%

Whether they have kindergarteners or high school seniors, parents are sharing many of the same pains. 

There is no easy way to overcome the issues that parents are facing with virtual learning. We’re all learning how to manage our day and to make the best of learning at home in the most challenging of circumstances. This will require a learn-as-you-go approach, adapting to your child’s specific needs, and working with them as co-stakeholders in their success.

But just know that you are not alone. The task may seem daunting at times, given all the other things that you are juggling, especially if one of them is a job that requires you to be out of the house. We hope that knowing all of the major difficulties that parents are facing in these novel times will help develop a sense of solidarity and provide some comfort in knowing that we are all figuring this stuff out together.

Biggest Issues Faced By Parents with Virtual Learning

Parents are unsupported with the tech

A study by edtech company Promethean found that only 5% of teachers feel like they’re receiving full training and support for edtech in their schools. It shouldn’t be a surprise then if you as a parent feel unsupported.

Everyone is getting used to the virtual learning interface that their child’s school has provided, and many parents are likely to run into issues. But if you are running into issues, then many other parents probably are too.

Consider creating a WhatsApp group or other line of communication with other parents to share problems and fixes. We need to help each other as much as we can. For persistent issues, reach out to the school.

Students may not ask for help

Schools that are offering virtual learning are largely relying on students to self-learn. Students are expected to read the course material, watch a few videos, and print some learning material to study from. There is minimal instructor-led training to explain the content, though there might be a couple of help-sessions for those that need it.

However, a lot of children shy away from asking for help or do not know what to ask for. In that case, there will be gaps in the student’s learning which will give them a shaky foundation and have long-term repercussions for their education.

This is where the parents’ involvement is key. One thing that will help parents in this is giving the student a platform to practice questions based on their lessons. This serves a dual purpose:

  1. The results of the practice questions will help identify where the student needs help.
  2. The practice of answering questions will help create a stronger foundation and build the confidence students need during exam time.

Reducing distractions

There’s a number of distractions available to students in their home environments.  You can put them in front of the computer, but kids are kids – it’s not a stretch of the imagination to suppose they might switch over to a game at some point.

A 2016 report found that students check their devices for “non-class purposes” 11.43 times a day on average. And that was in an environment where a teacher could walk around and monitor what’s happening, and keep them engaged. The ease of that proximity is lost with virtual learning.

Creating an academic environment at home 

Home is home, and school is school. Both places have a very different vibe, and yet students are now being asked to get into the school mentality at home.

This can prove to be difficult, especially if everyone is at home for 24 hours. And a bustling household can be very distracting indeed. 

Parents need to do what they can to provide a quiet space for their kids, and help them mentally demarcate that as a learning space.

Investment in technology

Some families may find the investment in technology a little taxing. At a minimum, a high-speed internet connection is required. For families with multiple children and a single screen at home, this can present a real conundrum – on the one hand, it’s unfair to their kids; on the other hand, it may be financially prohibitive to invest in another machine. 

Devices like a Chromebook, noise-canceling headphones, an extra, larger monitor are all great additions that could enhance a child’s learning experience, but may not be within everyone’s budget.

Malfunctioning technology

There is little that parents can do if the school software itself crashes. And many school districts across the country experienced exactly that as they tried to kick off virtual learning this year.

School-issued Chromebooks in Maryland would not load on the first day. A ransomware attack in Hartford, Connecticut forced schools to postpone the start of online classes. A Zoom outage in Seattle forced schools to shut down for more than two hours. Online learning programs around the nation are crashing. And this is just in the first couple of months!

Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do in these situations but be patient and help our children be patient. It’s definitely going to be hard on them, but if we remain calm, then they are more likely to do so as well.

Motivation needs monitoring

Classroom environments are explicitly designed to support learning, whereas bedrooms and kitchen tables are not. Those are comfort environments, and it can be difficult to get into “school mode”. 

Sustained motivation needs monitoring. A teacher on the other end of a Zoom call can’t really do that, so it often falls to the parent. Between doing their own job and running the house (making sure everyone eats on time, and so on), it’s asking a lot.

One of the best things parents can do is set clear, measurable goals with their children, and set them regularly so that students have something to focus on. Check in on them periodically to see if they are on course to reaching their goals.

Sometimes a student can’t stay engaged

Sometimes a student just can’t get into a certain lesson, and without a teacher to intervene with personal guidance, it can become a real hindrance to progress.

There’s no quick fix to this, but there are things that parents can do over time that will help students get unstuck and develop a growth mindset towards facing problems like these.

Parents can also get involved more directly to help students stay engaged. One analysis showed that school children benefit from discussions about learning and school-related issues with their parents and from joint readings. 

Children need to move

Children just aren’t used to sitting in one place for extended periods of time, and we may forget that. At school they had a structured schedule that gave them a lot of movement in recess time, walking through the hallways, talking to classmates, and a lot of other ways that are lost in virtual learning.

It’s not healthy to spend excessive time sitting (which is something that we parents would also do well to remember).

Make sure your kids are getting some movement throughout the day. Mid-lesson stretching and walks around the house are good enough to start with. They should also be encouraged to get some strenuous physical activity after school hours.

Brain breaks for virtual learning

Students all have different attention spans. This is really put to the test in a virtual learning setup. 

Additionally, paying attention on a Zoom call, which lacks many of the emotional and physical cues of in-person instruction, puts a heavier cognitive load on students.

Make sure your child is getting “brain breaks” between lessons. This time lets their minds relax and refresh.

Student’s physical health

Virtual PE classes are perhaps a bit of a force-fit, but it’s about as best as schools can do. But it’s not enough. And as we stated in a previous point, children aren’t getting nearly as much movement in virtual learning as they were getting in school.

Lack of physical exercise can lead to physical ailments, and reduced attention spans and cognitive function. On the other hand, repeated physical activity during school can improve children’s attention.

Encourage your kids to get some exercise before starting learning, and definitely after school hours. It might be a bit of a fight, because they may feel like jumping on video games as soon as school instruction is over. But sitting down to stare at a screen after a full day of doing exactly that is not ideal!

Feelings of isolation

Many students will miss school. The buzz of the classroom, meeting their friends, the daily activities of school life – everything they are used to has been replaced with sitting in front of a computer screen in their own house. Under these conditions, students can begin to feel a sense of isolation that affects their ability to learn. 

Keep an open dialogue with your child about their feelings. If possible, help them stay in touch with their friends (though let’s face it, their generation is way ahead of us when it comes to that). The point is to be present, be patient and understanding, and be as helpful as possible.

Getting the most out of virtual learning

Virtual learning has laid a plethora of challenges on students, and naturally, this has passed on to parents as well. Along with everything else, we have a responsibility to make school a priority and keep our kids from treating virtual learning as a vacation.

But we are all in this together, and we are all learning together. Regardless of what specific issues you might be facing, the following bits of advice should be the general program to follow:

  • Provide positive feedback.
  • Be patient and flexible.
  • Avoid disciplining children during school activities, especially if children are used to having teachers who use positive reinforcement rather than scolding.

Virtual learning may have its limitations, but dedicated practice testing will help students retain more and solidify concepts. Georgia Test Prep is committed to providing an excellent practice testing tool to help students excel at their studies and ease the burden on parents. With the Georgia Test Prep tool:

  • You will get thousands of questions for grades 3-8 written by Georgia state teachers, based on the Georgia school curriculum, specifically for Georgian students.
  • Questions are organized according to the lessons that are taught in the classrooms. You don’t need to search for the “right questions”, all you have to do is find out from your child or their teacher which topics are being covered from the Georgia standards.
  • You can take control of the learning. While the school will handle the classroom teaching, parents and students together can set out their practice testing plan.
  • You can immediately track the student’s progress as they are completing the practice questions, rather than waiting for school assignments to be checked. You can then focus on areas that need to be strengthened.
  • When practice testing is supplemented with classroom learning, it increases long-term retention of information and concepts. Even 30 minutes of practice testing a week has been found to be effective.
  • There are no additional infrastructure requirements or books needed. The tool is online and goes everywhere the child goes.

5th Grade Tests and Assessments on Georgia Test Prep

“Am I doing everything I can to help my child prepare for the Georgia Milestone Assessment exam?” is what every Georgian parent is asking themselves.

We know the teachers are doing a good job of teaching the curriculum, but we also know that just going to school isn’t enough to ace the exams. And the Georgia Milestones Assessment System is going to test your child every year to see if they are on course with national education standards.

That’s exactly why we created Georgia Test Prep, a tool for parents and their kids to take 5th grade online assessments from anywhere, at any time.

Practice testing is the key to long-term retention of subject material and concepts. This is proven by science, and is called the “testing effect”. Forcing the brain to recall information makes it stick for longer. The way to do this most effectively is to do practice testing in parallel with normal studying.

And Georgia Test Prep isn’t just a bunch of random 5th grade questions! Our bank of thousands of math and ELA questions are designed by Georgia teachers and based on the current Georgia state curriculum.

Georgia Test Prep is also a very convenient tool. Forget about buying and lugging around several 5th grade math practice workbooks, our entire question bank is online. It fits into your kids’ hands and goes with them wherever they go. Practice at home, on vacation, or in the car on the way to the grocery store.

Also, there’s no point in simply testing if you don’t know if your child is improving. That’s why we’ve implemented a dashboard for both you and your kids, so you can both track your child’s progress together. Everything is easy and contained within the app itself.

Here’s an example of the 5th-grade math practice and ELA practice questions that we’ve got in store for you:

Our math bank of questions tests students on all the math concepts they are learning in the 5th grade.

Our ELA bank of questions tests students on concepts of English language and grammar, and reading comprehension.

Georgia Test Prep is the premier 5th grade GMAS study companion that your child needs. To wrap up, the benefits of the tool are:

  • It will help you test quickly after learning a topic.
  • It will help you test frequently.
  • This will improve long term retention, which will help students do better on the final GMAS tests.
  • It’s easy to use and to track your child’s progress.
  • Everything is based on the Georgia state school curriculum, so questions are based on what your kids are actually learning in school.

And all of this is available for less than $0.10/day. That’s less than a Jolly Rancher lollipop, and it will last a lot longer too!

 Sign up for the free and get access for less than 10 cents per day!

Everything You Need To Know About the Georgia Milestones Assessment System

If you’ve got a child in the Georgia state school system, then you’ve probably heard of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System and how important it is. They can indeed influence how your child progresses through school. But what exactly is it, and what does it mean? And as a parent, how can you help your children do well on it?

This post is a comprehensive guide on what the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (GMAS) is all about.

What is the GMAS?

Simply put, the Georgia Milestones is an assessment program for school children from grades 3 through high school.

The tests provide information about whether students are grasping their subjects according to the state-adopted standards in the core areas of English language arts (ELA), math, science, and social studies, and whether they are ready to progress to the next grade.

They offer a “snapshot” of what students can do in those subjects. But they are also important for school and district accountability. Informing the students, parents, educators, and the public about how well students are learning important content is an essential aspect of any educational assessment and accountability system.

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) is the authority for Georgia Milestones.

History of GMAS

The Georgia Milestones Assessment System was introduced in 2014-2015 to replace former state assessments which were setting lower standards for students.

In fact, the old tests – the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) and high school End of Course Tests (EOCTs) –set some of the lowest expectations for student proficiency in the nation.

The Georgia Milestones are more rigorous and more in line with the rest of the country. In that way, they are a better system because they urge our students to do better. 

Part of what makes them a better assessment than older tests is that they require “constructed responses,” meaning students must provide the correct answer instead of selecting it, or they might have to explain how they got the answer or even explain why a provided answer is wrong.

Features of GMAS

  • Items in ELA and math are open-ended, i.e. they are constructed-response types for all grades and courses.
  • The ELA assessment has a writing component that is in response to passages read by students at every grade level.
  • All content areas and courses have norm-referenced items to compare how students fare at a national level (see National Percentile in Grading).
  • The number of questions in the tests (30-60) and the allotted time to each test (60-90 minutes with breaks between sections) vary by subject.

Educators say that the GMAS isn’t the kind of exams students can study for with a cram session the night before the tests. It takes a sustained effort over the school year and requires students to pay attention in class and as they do their assignments.

We’ve covered in an extensive article what parents can do to help their kids prepare for the GMAS. If you find your child is getting stuck often, there are things you can do to remedy that as well. Check out the rest of our blog for more tips and information.

Who takes the GMAS?

All students from grade 3 all the way up to high school take the GMAS. 

Grades 3 – 8 will take the End of Grade (EOG) assessment.All students who are enrolled in high school courses will take the End of Course (EOC) assessments.

Middle school students who are enrolled in a high school course are required to take the EOC assessment for that course and not the EOG assessment.

  • Grades 3, 4, 6, and 7 take EOG assessments in ELA and math.
  • Grades 5 and 8 take EOG assessments in ELA, math, science, social studies.
  • High School students take EOC assessments for each of the ten courses designated by the State Board of Education across four content areas (listed below).

The EOC tests are administered at the completion of the course for all grades. Additionally, since the 2015-16 school year, these test results serve as the final exam for their corresponding course, and contribute 20% to a student’s final course grade.

Language Arts

  • Ninth Grade Literature and Composition
  • American Literature and Composition

Math

  • Algebra I/Coordinate Algebra
  • Geometry/Analytic Geometry

Science

  • Biology
  • Physical Science​​

​​Social Studies

  • United States History
  • Economics/Business/Free Enterprise

Why the GMAS matters

The GMAS is important for all the stakeholders, i.e. students and the schools.

These tests determine if the student has understood the curriculum as per state standards, because they are pegged to Georgia’s new academic standards, which are guided by the Common Core, a national consensus of what each child should learn in each grade level. 

They are also used to determine whether students in certain grades are promoted or retained:

  • 3rd graders must pass the English subject test to be promoted to 4th grade.
  • 5th and 8th graders must pass the English and math portions to be promoted to the next grade.
  • For high school students, each EOC score counts as 20% of their final grade in that course.

The GMAS tests are also used to determine the state’s rating system for its public schools because they are part of the formula that produces the College and Career Ready Performance Index.

When is the GMAS taken?

Grades 3-8 take the EOGs annually in the spring, typically in April. 

Middle and high school students who are enrolled in a course that has an EOC will take the EOC when the course is completed, regardless of the grade level. 

Retest for the GMAS

Should students need it, a retest is available during the summer. Check with your school for the exact schedule.

Generally speaking, the following students can take a retest:

  • Students in grades 3, 5, and 8 who score Below Grade Level on the reading section of the ELA EOG test.
  • Students in grades 5 and 8 who score at the Beginning level on the Math EOG test (see more about scoring levels later in this article).
  • Students who earn a grade conversion score below 70 on a high school EOC test may retest during the next mid-month testing window, or during the summer if the first test was taken in the spring. 

How is GMAS taken?

The GMAS is taken online unless students cannot interact with a computer due to their disability and their Individualized Education Plan requires a different accommodation. The state’s education department mandated online tests for all of its standardized tests from the 2018-19 school year. 

Grading of the GMAS

Achievement Level

The achievement levels describe how well students have learned the knowledge and skills in the subject as per Georgia’s content standards, and give an indication of how ready a student is to move on to the next grade level. They also indicate how much academic support is needed to prepare the student for the next grade level or course and to be on track for college and career readiness. 

Georgia Milestones reports student achievement in four levels:

  • Beginning Learners: Proficiency in the course is not demonstrated. Substantial academic support needed.
  • Developing Learners: Partial proficiency in the course is demonstrated. Additional academic support needed. 
  • Proficient Learners: Proficiency in the course is demonstrated. The students are prepared for the next grade level or course and are on track for college and career readiness.
  • Distinguished Learners: Advanced proficiency in the course is demonstrated. The students are well prepared for the next grade level or course and are prepared for college and career readiness.

Lexile measures

A Lexile measure is an indication of reading level. It is a standard score that matches a student’s reading ability with difficulty of text material.

It can be interpreted as the level of book that a student can read with 75% comprehension. Experts have identified a 75% comprehension level as offering the reader a certain amount of comfort and yet still offering a challenge. 

The Lexile scale ranges between 200L and 1700L. However, some students may score a Lexile reading of below 200L for some reading material and may have a code of BR* for “beginning reader”.

Many books have a Lexile measure to identify material that is at an appropriate reading level for a student or to identify material that would provide a challenge to improve their reading skills.

National Percentile

The EOG assessments include a small number of questions in each content area that are used in assessments nationally. These items give a general snapshot of how a student’s answers compare with students nationally. The percentile number indicates that your child performed as well as or better than that percent of the national sample.

Here is a sample of an Individual Student Report for the GMAS, and a parent’s guide to the Individual Student Report.

The Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA)

The Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA) is a key component of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System. It is for students with significant cognitive disabilities, and is an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards, as determined by the students’ IEP team.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states must ensure that all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, be taught a curriculum that represents sufficiently challenging academic standards. 

What’s in store for the 2020-21 school year

As things stand, the GMAS is most likely going to be conducted for the 2020-21 school year. Although the state of Georgia had moved for the suspension of the 2020-21 GMAS and CCRPI school and district rating, the official word from the U.S. Department of Education is that there is no plan to grant federal testing waivers for the 2020-21 school year.

This is the first school year since the COVID -19 situation, and we know that this is going to be a tough and unprecedented one for students, teachers, and parents. Nonetheless, we will have to prepare for things as per the decision of the U.S. Department of Education. Please follow the official Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) site for the latest updates.

As parents, what we can do is commit to continue practice testing to ensure that our children are prepared. Given that schools will be hard pressed as it is to make sure that classroom instruction is adequately given, extra practice testing becomes even more important. It’s also worth noting that science has shown that practice testing is an essential part of learning and increases long-term retention of subject matter and concepts. Practice makes everything stick. 

Georgia Test Prep is an online practice testing tool to help your kids test themselves on what they learn in school. It’s designed by Georgia teachers and based on the Georgia school curriculum, so it’s super relevant to what your kids actually learn. Get access to thousands of questions for less than ten cents a day, and give your child a jump start on their success.

How to Get the Most Out Of Practice Testing

Imagine taking an archery workshop. A trained guide gives you a brief history of archery, shows you how to hold a bow and notch an arrow, and teaches you how to fire an arrow. Does that make you an archer?

No! It will only provide the base. What will make you an archer is your ability to hit the bulls-eye, and that will only come after practice, practice, and more practice.

This is how human beings are wired. It applies to any kind of skill in life, including how well your kids do on their exams! It’s not enough that they pay attention in lessons at school and in their homework. In order for concepts to really stick kids need repetition. It’s the only way to ensure they hit their targets.

The notion that practice makes perfect isn’t just an intuitive one when it comes to testing – it’s backed by science. In fact, there’s even a word for it: it’s called the “testing effect,” which refers to the finding that long-term memory is often increased when some of the learning period is devoted to retrieving the to-be-remembered information.

Numerous studies since the early ‘90s have shown that learners who tested their knowledge during practice later remembered more information than learners who spent the same amount of time studying the complete information. This makes practice tests not only an assessment tool,but a crucial part of the teaching toolkit.

Read it again: Practice tests will help increase your kids’ long-term memory recall of the subjects practiced.

Practice testing basically exercises the brain like a muscle. Every time you retrieve information, you build new connections between synapses in your brain, strengthening the connections and consolidating the memories. This, in turn, enables you to more easily access the information in the future.

So, as parents, we definitely want to implement practice testing at home. But we want to do this effectively, without overloading our kids and thereby undoing any potential good effects it can have. How do we get the best out of practice testing? Well, science has some pointers.

How long to dedicate to practice tests?

Answer: At least 30 minutes practice per week

In order to get the benefits of practice testing, ensure that your kids are getting at the very least 30 minutes of practice on online programs every week. Multiple studies (including a peer reviewed study by Edmentum, an eLearning solution) have shown that students who spend at least this much time per week practicing online experienced significantly more growth than those who did not.

This finding is also backed by a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of educational technology applications published by Cheung and Slavin in 2013.

How long should practice sessions be?

Answer: Distribute practice over several sessions

For maximum effect of these online practice sessions, stick to several short sessions rather than really long blocks of time. The study mentioned in the previous point has also shown that students who have one session of 15 minutes or longer as a part of their 30 minutes of practice each week achieved the best results. The technique of spacing out short practice sessions over time is one of the highest-utility learning techniques according to leading research.

However, remember that longer sessions help students to build their stamina and focus their efforts on a single topic for a longer period of time. Work with your child to strike the right balance.

What kind of question formats to practice?

Answer: Different types of test formats

A 2017 meta-analysis of 118 research articles found the following regarding retention of information with different test formats for practice tests:

  • The most effective type of practice test was mixed format practice tests, which have more than one question type. This is perhaps because different question formats require students to load different cognitive processes and resolve the interference between them, leading to better long-term retention and transfer. This is due to a process called interleaving, and this strategy is particularly useful if you’re studying something that involves problem solving, like math practice.
  • The best single-format tests were multiple-choice practice tests. This may be because MCQs are easier, and research suggests that less demanding retrieval practice activities promote stronger retention because they allow students to focus all of their cognitive energy on a simple task.

What does this mean for test day? It means that it is of absolute importance to practice all the different formats. Memories are easier to retrieve when the retrieval process is similar to how they were encoded during an initial learning activity, due to a phenomenon known as Transfer-Appropriate Processing. So mix it up and make sure your kids are exercising all of their test-taking abilities.

Final thoughts

Practice testing is one of the easiest and most effective things you can implement at home to help your kids do well in school. And Georgia Test Prep has a comprehensive bank of GSA questions designed by Georgia parents and teachers to help you do this. 

The right online tools can be a big help in designing a rigorous and effective test preparation program for your child without taking up all of your time. Georgian Test Prep has your back with a tool that is created especially for Georgia state students.