[Students Only] Active Listening Skills

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Active listening is one of those study skills that students actually use in everyday life. Active listening takes practice, discipline, and commitment. And, the rewards pay off, and not just the next time there’s a pop quiz. Students who are able to actively listen in class feel more engaged, less distracted, retain more information, and enjoy the classroom experience more so than students who just let information go in one ear, out the other. We all know that class is much less boring when you’re an active participant. Hey, we all love to hear ourselves speak, right? As an active listener, you are also hearing yourself think.

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Tips For Active Listening:

  • Summarize nuggets of information as they are presented to you.
  • If you are having trouble summarizing information, perhaps you need to a clarification. If so, jump in with a question, or jot one down until the speaker breaks.
  • Take notes: bullet points are fine. Keywords or key phrases work as well
  • Ask yourself: is this information a main idea? Is it a fact? A detail? An inferential thought? As you categorize information, you take the first step in really learning it.
  • Apply the nugget of information to another scenario. Does the idea translate?
  • Try to predict what the speaker is going to say next, but don’t go too far ahead, just far enough to come up with the next step in the argument.
  • Resist the temptation to interrupt the speaker. Anticipate pauses and then ask a question or make a comment.
  • Reflect personally on each nugget of information.
  • Engage in non-verbal cues like eye contact, nodding, smiling at the speaker.
  • Be in the moment. Mindfulness is key to being an active listener. If you are emotionally, physically, or mentally preoccupied, it will be difficult for you to actively listen.
  • Assign value to what you are listening to. Remember, you are in control.

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[Parents] How To Help Your Kids Develop Social Skills

Illustration ©Megan Fisher

Illustration ©Megan Fisher

Children and adolescents often find it difficult to communicate with their peers or adults in an effective manner. Because school is the place your child spends the majority of his or her day, it is where he or she will develop social skills and acquire a social status or identity. Psychologists have written extensively about social status and its imprint on a child’s identity. Below is an excerpt outlining a general spectrum of social statuses:

“Some children are well endowed with social skills. They are popular and very well liked by all or most of their peers. Some seem to have a knack for making friends and getting along with others. They are very friendly and outgoing and always seem to be at ease around people. Other children are popular because they are on the school football team, play in a band, can draw very well or are really good-looking. Popular students are typically the leaders at school. They are self-confident and influential.

Many students are not really considered popular but are pretty well-liked by their peers and have a number of friends. This group of children usually comprises the majority of the students in a class. These likable children feel good about how they relate to others but may, at times, worry about what their classmates think of them. Some children are shy, quiet and timid. They may have one or two close friends but not a large group of friends. While other students like them, they do not get involved in many activities in or out of school. They tend to feel awkward or uncomfortable around people they don’t know very well. Shy children usually aren’t unhappy about how they get along with others but wish that they could feel more comfortable and be more involved. Some shy children become anxious in social situations.

Other students are ignored or unnoticed by their peers. No one really dislikes or likes them. These children are not the ones picked first for activities, but they are not the ones that are teased or bullied either. They are usually social adept. Some of these children don’t like being ignored but others don’t mind because they are more interested in solitary activities or prefer interactions with adults more than with peers.

The children who have the most social difficulty at school are those that are rejected by their peers. Other children really don’t like them and may not treat them well. Rejected children are those that are picked on, laughed at, talked about, teased and bullied. They are widely disliked, excluded from activities and may be ostracized by their peers.” – Candy Lawson, Ph.D. “School and Social Skills”

Does your child have difficulty approaching new groups of children?  Is it a challenge for your child to make friends due to his or her shyness?  Are social situations a scary prospect for your child?  Is problem-solving in the classroom or in everyday life an issue? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then you might be interested in enrolling your child in a social skills class. Holly Reichlin, a colleague of mine who is a certified speech pathologist, educator, and learning expert in private practice, is running a Brooklyn-based social skills group for children of varying ages. Her social skills groups explore the nature of peer relationships through the use of plays, book making, and games designed to nurture verbal and non-verbal communication and social skills.

Groups can be an ideal way to address social skills in young people because they foster a supportive, collective, safe, yet simultaneous “real world” setting for children to practice adaptive social skills. Says Holly, “I’d like to see your children become detectives. Through a process of role playing and problem solving, they can unveil the mysteries of the social spectrum.” Social skills like confidence, curiosity, cooperation, and communication are essential to learning and go hand-in-hand with developing resilience, and scholastic success.

Holly’s social skills classes address children of different ages (5-8; 8-10; 10-13; adolescents) and distinct interpersonal needs. Please contact her directly for more information.

il_fullxfull.214758801Holly Reichlin is a certified speech language pathologist who has had a school-aged private practice in Brooklyn Heights for over 20 years. She has also been a teacher of the speech and hearing handicapped in the public schools for over 30 years.  She has collaborated with parents, teachers, school psychologists, learning specialists and counselors when treating her clients. You can contact her at speech@pegas.us

The Value of Resilience

One of the most important skills we can teach our children is the value of resilience. What exactly is resilience? According to psychologists, some of the factors that make someone resilient include a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after a misfortune, blessed with such an outlook, resilient people are able to change course and soldier on. (Psychology Today) We all experience setbacks, disappoints, and failures — perceived or real. Resilience is the quality to rise up and come back more determined than ever.

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I’m not going to sugarcoat the reality of our culture today. Kids (children and teens) must confront myriad stressors: at home, in school, in their social lives, from the media, and most of all from themselves. And you can bet they are internalizing these pressures to be “perfect,” regardless of how amazing we tell them they are. We live in a culture of comparison, where at every turn we seem to measure success by achievements. Now, I’m not saying that ambition is a negative thing. By all means, we want our children to  set high standards for themselves and do everything possible to reach those goals. But as parents and educators, it is tantamount to give young people tools to cope with disappointment (when they can’t meet their goals, or if meeting their goals does not give them the pay-off they imagined). Expectations are suburb: but children need strategies to manage expectations lest they become all-consuming. Everyone faces challenges that are out of our control, but the trick is to reclaim agency and build a strong sense of internal character.

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Here are some ideas and tips on how to build resilience in your child or teen at home and at school. I can’t think of a better way to start off the New Year!

  • Encourage Mentoring Relationships. Help your child to develop a mentoring relationship with an adult who is outside of your immediate family. This will build positive connectedness with the world and a vision of the world as a place for growth and opportunity.
  • Build A Sense of Agency. The more a child feels in control of his or her actions, the more he or she will build a sense of internal control, even in a world where ultimate control is an illusion. By making decisions on their own, children will understand the nature of consequences — positive and negative, and little by little they will develop a sense of agency.
  • Teach Children To Manage Expectations. Expectations are a natural part of existing in the social and scholastic world. And while a holistic approach to managing expectations promotes individual expectations over collective ones, the reality of life is that students must deal with external expectations at some point. Work at home or with an outside professional to develop strategies on how to teach your child ways to effectively manage expectations without letting them be all-consuming.
  • Limit Social Media. While children (and adults too) might find it impossible to live in the world without engaging in social media, it is completely possible! We are all aware of the studies that link social media with depression and anxiety, especially in females. Social media fosters what is known as a “cultivated self” — as people get to handpick the aspects of themselves to create a profile, which essentially is an illusory self. This is a hard concept even for adults to grasp, let alone children. The expression, FOMO (fear of missing out) is one result of social media infiltrating the minds and souls of children and teens who engage with it regularly. Many of my students tells me they use social media to help keep up with assignments and work “virtually” with their peers on schoolwork. I completely believe them. But social media can suck away a student’s precious time, and in many cases can become addictive and foster competition and feelings of low self-esteem. By “snooping” on other people’s lives, social media can trigger feelings of resentment and envy. You might want to suggest that during periods of stress, or especially intense times at schools, that students deactivate their accounts (temporarily) to avoid the temptation of logging on and getting distracted from the realities of their own lives. Encourage activities outside the house, and talk with your children about the difference between perception and reality.
  • Advocacy. Encourage your child or teen to become involved with an advocacy cause. By standing up for the rights of others, students will feel empowered and worthwhile and think outside of themselves.
  • Mantras and Affirmations. We are becoming a nation of slogans. Unfortunately, people often repeat slogans without fully understanding them or making them personal and relevant. But, by making your own mantras or affirmations, you can reclaim a slogan and make it meaningful. Encourage your child to come up with a positive slogan to start each day. Words are powerful, both consciously and unconsciously. Saying is believing!
  • Model Resilience. Parents and educators are humans, and it is impossible for us to model resilience all of the time. However, we must do our best not to berate our failures (perceived or real) because children and teens are watching our every move, even when we think they aren’t (or even when they roll their eyes at us). The more open you are to the world as a positive place despite the inevitable disappointments, the more your child will see it as one.

For strategies on how to foster resilience in children and teens, check out this fantastic book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots by Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, FAAP.

[Parents] No School = A Stressed Out Kid? Holiday Break Survival Guide

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They might not admit it, but kids (children and adolescents) crave structure. Though they might fuss and fight about the monotony of school, young people enjoy the stability and comfort of routines. (American Psychological Association). School — regulations and all — provides both structure and routine. “The holidays can be a very stressful time for everyone,” explains Sara Listas, LMSW. “With teens in particular, you might see an increase in ‘acting out’ behaviors. This might be due to unconscious anxiety that comes with a break in the routine. Adolescents might not be aware of it, but they know they are going to be out of school in an unstructured environment.” Even in my college lit class, my students like to sit in the same seats each session, and will tell their peers to move if someone sits in his or her spot.

So what happens when the routine is broken, even for a short holiday hiatus? Here are a couple tips to help parents ease the school-free days to come.

  •  Understand that a change in behavior (and often not a pleasant one) is not personal. As Sara Listas, LMSW explains, unconscious anxiety comes with a break in the routine.
  • Keep children and teens stimulated, mentally and physically. Of course they will want to sleep, hang out with friends, and do all kinds of unstructured activities, but try to plan outings that require active participation. Rather than focussing on saying “NO” to TV or video games, organize museum visits, playwriting and performances, cooking, craft projects, yoga classes or any type of participation in a team sport.
  • Encourage children of all ages to read and/or host book parties and salons to chat about what they’re reading.
  • Volunteer work during a holiday break is a fantastic (and philanthropic) way to keep teens engaged with the world (and help them build their college resume).
  • When visiting relatives, encourage children and teens to interview family members or look through mementos and keepsakes. An added bonus will come when students realize that history isn’t just a class, but an integral part of the human experience.
  • This recent New Yorker article disputes the reliability of brain games to improve attention (especially in young adults with A.D.H.D.) and boost I.Q. levels, but they are better than GTA 5.
  • Use the break to assess progress and create realistic goals. Often times, students (and parents) don’t realize how far behind they are until the end of a semester or time right before a holiday break. School reports and grades usually precede a break, so expect the results to come while you’re on holiday. If the results come as a total shock, don’t freak out. Breathe and reboot. Now is the time to strategize how to catch up. If a student is behind in more than one subject, divide and conquer. Remember, as a parent, you model behavior for your child. And chances are that if a student is behind and not telling you, he or she is overwhelmed and not sure how you will react.If a student is all caught up with his or her work, you may want to assess what to do with this time. Our achievement-driven culture tells us to ignore down time. But, I say, rethink what constitutes achievement. In fact, why not pose that very question to your child? The best academic success happens when students set their own goals and regulate their own motivation. Of course they might need some nudging, but the more agency they take in their achievement, the better the results.

[Students Only] Study Habit Tip

Study Habit Tip: Work uninterrupted for 30 minutes, then take a break. Turn off all sensory devices. Why dangle temptation in front of you when trying to get work done? No Facebook; no texting; no TV. Time yourself using an egg timer (because you’ve purposely left your phone in the other room; don’t worry, nothing so important is going to happen in 30 minutes, and you don’t want FOMO to ruin your scholastic success). If you monitor yourself accordingly, parents will respect your work habits rather than threaten to take away privileges. And after you’ve worked for 30 minutes, give yourself a reward. You are in control of how you work. Remember, actions speak louder than words. Word.

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Find Your Optimal Learning Style

What makes you tick? How do you learn best? Take our diagnostic quiz and find out.

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To get the most out of studying, first figure out how you learn best. Things like environment, motivation factors, and personal preferences can affect how you work. Keep track of what cues enhance your performance, and be sure to update your study plan accordingly.
1. Noise Level: Music / Quiet
2. Light: Bright / Dim
3. Temperature: Warm / Cool
4. Atmosphere: Formal / Informal
5. Rate your motivation: High / Low
6. What motivates you more? Parent / Teacher
7. Rate your persistence: High / Low
8. Do you like a lot of structure in an assignment? No / Yes
9. Do you like to work in groups or alone? Prefer Group /Prefer Alone
10. Do you like to have an authority figure: Present / Not Present
11. Are you an auditory learner? (You are a good listener, you respond to books on tape, you understand best when you read aloud)
12. Are you a visual learner? (You use diagrams, maps, and webs to help you sort information and label ideas)
13. Are you a tactile learner? (You respond well to learning tools like puzzles and flash cards)
14. Are you a kinesthetic learner? (You have good hand-eye coordination, you like to do experiments, you respond well to activities)
15. You work best in the: Morning / Evening

 

Why Tutoring?

Why Tutoring?

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The road to academic success can be exasperating for students struggling to develop effective strategies to read, write, think critically, or even stay organized. Does your child seem to get it in class, only to come home and feel lost and frustrated? Do you find yourself criticizing your child’s study habits? Are you looking for someone to mitigate scholastic anxiety?

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Individual instruction relies on communication and trust, and simultaneously builds confidence in even the most reluctant students. At Brooklyn Bridge Tutors, we will design a learning strategy specifically for your child, based on his or her learning style. As an experienced educator, student advocate and counselor, the director of Brooklyn Bridge Tutors, Jill Di Donato, often works with students who have learning differences and school-related anxiety, as well students who just need a little boost in self-confidence.

Students who’ve worked with Jill have gone on to attend premiere NYC middle and high schools, from private schools to exclusive-entrance public schools like Stuyvesant, Hunter, Bronx Science, NEST + m, Beacon, Bard, and LaGuardia as well as top colleges like Brown, Mount Holyoke, Columbia, Barnard, Princeton, NYU, Northwestern and many more!

About Jill: Jill Di Donato is a writer and educator in New York City. Her debut novel, Beautiful Garbage about the New York City art scene in the 1980s is available on Amazon. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Liberal Arts Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology and teaches fiction and nonfiction workshops in Barnard College’s Pre-College Program.

In 2006, she founded Brooklyn Bridge Tutors, a holistic approach to learning that offers individual student tutoring, student advocacy, small writing salons, parent seminars, as well as expert guidance in the middle, high school, and college entrance process. As a learning expert with pedagogical training from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, Jill has over 10 years experience in student advocacy and offers a holistic approach to learning. What does that mean? She will work individually with a student to diagnose his or her learning style and tailor an approach that meets each student’s needs. She uses a mindfulness practice to help students alleviate academic anxiety, and has piloted writing programs that activate agency through the discovery of voice.

Her services include subject tutoring, (fluent in private and public school curriculum grades K-12) essay writing support, standardized test preparation, (state tests in math and ELA, ISSE, TACHS, SSHAT, SAT I and II, ACT) study skills, academic advisement, school entrance support and counseling, as well as mind-body strategies to relieve academic anxiety. She is an expert in working with students with learning differences and disabilities, and maintains strong relationships with parents, school administrators, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and community outreach programs.

To consult with Jill or to schedule an appointment contact didonato.jill@gmail.com or call 917.655.8290