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In The News

Founder's Message
We have just cleared out from a blizzard and the sun has come out for awhile this afternoon. The air is crisp and biting, but one wants to get outside to loosen the limbs and stretch. On my drive home last evening, children were playing in the snow, building forts and shoveling. Our capacity to grow and stretch, to change with the seasons and to find enjoyment out of life makes us interesting as human beings. e-Tutor is going through some dramatic changes of its own. Over the past several months we have had to evaluate who we are and to restructure our operations. At times it has been difficult.

We have experienced all of the highs and lows of a young company. We have had to think outside of the box rather than concentrate on how we "know it to be." It has become obvious that what we know and are comfortable with needs to change. So as we contemplate an untried way and a new direction, we are experiencing great ambiguity and uncertainty. Our ability to cope with the needed changes will be the true test of our strength as a company. We will continue to keep you informed of our progress and hope you will provide us with your ideas also. We wish each of you peace and joy at this special time of year.

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The Ability Grouping Debate
It usually starts in first grade, when students move their tiny chairs into small circles to form reading groups. This grouping by ability has been practiced since the turn of the century as a way to enable fast learners to proceed at a quick pace, while offering slower ones extra2.gif (5342 bytes) help and reasonable expectations. While grouping is usually confined to reading and math in elementary school, it can expand to include science and foreign language in middle school. By high school, what previously had been labeled advanced, average and remedial classes becomes the equivalent of grouping for college, general or vocational-oriented coursework.

Although students sometimes want to stay in a lower group where they can get better grades, colleges are usually more impressed by good grades in top-level course than by higher grades in lower-level classes. Certain subjects are cumulative, where each course is a prerequisite for the next. A student who does not take algebra until the ninth grade will probably not be ready to take calculus when he is a high school senior….a subject which is a prerequisite for entry to most technology-related majors in college. But the important thing is to do what is best for each individual. All students do not belong on the advanced track. Parents should watch for signs of a potential problem with their child’s ability grouping at school:

  • Consistent high or low grades. All A’s in an average class could mean your child should be in a more advanced class; while regular D’s or F’s could mean a move to a remedial class is warranted.
  • Lack of motivation. A student who knows she is in the "slow" group might give up trying, since she feels she will never improve. Help your child by praising her efforts, not just her achievements, in after-school as well as academic pursuits.
  • Failure to do homework. Students who feel overwhelmed in a subject often avoid tackling the homework, while those in a class below their ability might feel they don’t need to do the homework to succeed.
  • Truancy. Students often skip school because of low self-esteem about the subjects they are taking.

Some schools have been experimenting with alternatives to tracking such as cooperative learning, individualized or whole-class instruction, team teaching a a thematic approach. For the majority of schools which use grouping, it seems like a worthwhile way for a teacher to gear his or her instruction to the ability level of a smaller group of students. However, as the debate goes on, new questions are being raised about the effectiveness of the practice. Parents, working together with the school, can help ensure flexibility so their son or daughter is always on the "track" to success.

Most of us will never do great things, but we can do small things in a great way.

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A Better Way to Do It
Do you want to develop the best ways to do things? Ask yourself the following questions to eliminate things that get in the way of your productivity.
  • Look at what you….not others do every day. Keep asking yourself: Why am I doing this?
  • Ask if this is necessary.
  • Does it meet your needs? Does it need to be done at all?

After answering the question you will know if an activity should be changed or eliminated. Adapted from Communication Briefings,
April 1992

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A road map will tell us everything we want to know except how to fold it up again.
The ABCs of Conversation
To keep a conversation alive, try using the ABC method….Angles, Bridges and Catapults.
  • Angle: Look for a new angle on the topic, one that offers a fresh view point.
  • Bridge: Find a way to connect the current topic to one that’s related.
  • Catapult: When the conversation lags, just jump to another topic, one that’s unrelated. Wait about six seconds, though, before changing the topic.

Great Connections, Anne "Baber, Baber & Associates

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When Obstacles Get You Down
Do obstacles get you down when you are trying to get something done? An excellent book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, asks you to consider the following:
  • After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, a 1933 memo from the MGM testing director said , Can’t act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." Astaire kept that memo over the fireplace in his Beverly Hills home.
  • An expert said of famous football coach Vince Lombardi: "He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation.
  • Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was advised by her family to find work as a servant or seamstress
  • Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer.
  • The teacher of famous opera singer Enrico Caruso said Caruso had no voice at all and could not sing.
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for lacking ideas. He also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.
  • Eighteen publishers turned down Richard Bach’s 10,000-word story about a soaring seagull before Macmillan finally published it in 1970. By 1975, Jonathan Livingston Seagull had sold more than seven million copies in the U.S. alone.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit

Natural Talent, intelligence, a wonderful education…none of these guarantees success. Something else is needed: the sensitivity to understand what other people want and the willingness to give it to them. Worldly success depends on pleasing others. No one is going to win fame, recognition, or advancement just because he or she thinks it’s deserved. Someone else has to think so too. John Luther
Double Your Brain Power
You probably sometimes wish that you could think faster; grasp new information quickly and recall more of what you read and hear. If so, you will find help in Double Your Brain Power, by Jean Marie Stine. Some examples include:

Tackle information you ant to commit to your short-term memory in the morning. Reasons: The brain section that stores short-term memory items performs about 15% better in the morning. But switch to the afternoon for items you want to keep in your long-term memory because that part of your memory bank hits its stride later in the day.

"Reverse and rephrase" to overcome negative thoughts about your ability to learn something new. Example: Instead of " I won’t remember what I am learning" tell your brain "I’ve already learned to recall many things…names, dates, computer commands. So I can and will remember this."

Plan for an upcoming learning event by selecting a reward you will give yourself afterward. Pick something you would not usually buy or do. Picture yourself enjoying the reward just before the learning event starts. Repeat the process whenever you feel anxious about learning the information. Note: No matter how things turn out, give yourself the reward.

Answer these questions after you read something that you want to remember: What was it about? What parts of it were most important? What opinions, if any, did it contain? What is my opinion of it? What element makes it unique? Note: Do this mentally or in writing….whichever works best for you.

Rely on graphic devices to increase your reading speed and to help you zero in on the main points in books and other publications. Examples: italics, boldface, underlining, bulleted lists, charts, graphs, etc. As you go through pages, ignore regular text and scan only for these devices. When you find one, slow down and read those sections more carefully.

Boost your thinking power by taking the time to really think about the answers to these questions about a situation, some information or a problem: What seems to be the key idea here? Does this resemble or parallel anything I’ve already learned or experienced? Do I still have a nagging question about any part of this? When I put everything together, what do I see as most important.

Double Your Brain Power: Increase Your Memory by Using All of Your Brain All the Time by Jean Marie Stine, Prentice Hall

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try. Beverly Sills

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Who Is Doing Homework Tonight
Homework doesn’t have to be a hassle. When you and your child tackle the how-to’s of building a positive homework partnership together….you will have a more willing learner, a more successful student and a happier relationship.

Make homework a "given" in your household. While homework is your child’s responsibility, all students benefit from a parent’s thoughtful guidance. Your child’s school is an important part of your partnership. Keep in touch with your child’s progress. Remember…teachers want your child to succeed.

Did you know…

  • Students in the United States spend less time doing homework than students in any country in Western Europe.
  • Research shows that girls spend considerably more time on homework than boys…doing both more assigned and unassigned study.
  • The top 5% of students in the United States do less homework than the average Japanese student.
  • Time spent doing homework is positively related to higher achievement test scores.
  • Low ability students are able to achieve grades on a par with brighter students if they increase their study time.
  • Students who come from homes with an abundance of reading material…and watch little television (less than 2 hours)…achieve at higher levels than students who have little reading material…and watch a great deal of T.V. (more than 6 hours).

Institute for Educational Research

If you were to write down all the possible ways to motivate people to do better work, friendly praise would have to come near the head of your list.

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Great Winter Links

Engines of Our Ingenuity
This site features nearly 1500 five-minute radio broadcast episodes on how various technological advances, art forms or ideas have shaped us.

The Medieval Source Book
This site is a true treasure trove for anyone studying the period between the end of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. The site is an enormous collection of primary sources and other material for medieval studies.

Colorful Mathematics
Can you prove that no more than four colors are ever needed for any map? Sounds simple but, like many simple questions, in fact it's a lot more complicated than it seems. Finding a simple proof of the 4-color theorem is one of the toughest unsolved problems in mathematics today.

Journey North
This site is a wonderful interactive online project involving animal migration and seasonal change.

LOL (Laugh Out Loud)
This site will get you laughing. The site is the brainchild of three high-school students from around the world who have never met each other, but who worked together to spread humor for the sake of good health.

Funding for Schools
This site offers a database of K-12 funding opportunities, as well as tips on how to increase your chances of successfully securing a grant.

The World of Beatrix Potter
Step into the world of Beatrix Potter and all of her characters. This graphic/audio intense site features fun online activities and reading for children.

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