SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

Pros and Cons of Flipped Classrooms

Many teachers have flipped their classrooms. What was once taught in class is now homework, and what was once homework is completed in class. Teachers videotape their lessons, and students watch the lessons at home. In class the next day, students can work on their homework when their teacher is there to help. There are many advantages to this approach, the biggest of which is that students can do their homework without asking parents to help them. There are disadvantages as well, though, since not every child has access to a computer and the Internet at home.

Flipped classrooms are successful for a number of reasons. Teams of teachers can work together to create excellent videos for their students to watch. Students can watch them in a distraction-free setting at home where they can get more from the lesson than they could when there are other students around to distract them. Students who need to hear a lesson more than once can watch the video as many times as they need. They can stop it and think about what was said or to look up information in their textbook. Many students learn well when concepts are presented visually.

When students are asked to answer questions or work math problems at home, they often struggle. They need their teacher’s help, but their teacher is not available. With the flipped model, the teacher is present when students need them the most. When it is time to study for a test or exam, students can return to the videos that cover concepts they are still having trouble with. And last, students may be able to watch their lessons even when they are absent from school.

Even though there are many advantages to flipped classrooms, there are some risks. A huge concern is that not every child has access to the Internet at home or there is competition between siblings for one family computer. When students watch their lesson online at home, they do not have the ability to ask their teacher questions along the way. Teachers normally see how well their students are learning in class and adjust their instruction immediately to meet the needs of those students who are not getting it. With this model, there are no students to give the teacher the necessary feedback. If a student does not watch the video for homework, he is totally unprepared for class the next day. Finally, not every student can learn from videos. Without the social interactions in the classroom, these students zone out while trying to pay attention.

If your child’s teacher is flipping his classroom, you should check out Videonot.es to provide an easy way for your child to take notes as she watches her lessons. Videonot.es works with several commonly used video formats that teachers use. It can help your child focus her attention and stay engaged as she watches.

Even though there are some negatives when flipping a classroom, many teachers have had a lot of success with it. Parents like it too, because they are less involved in helping their children with their homework. Most important, students are learning a lot in flipped classrooms, perhaps more than they would have in a traditional classroom.


> The Flipped Classroom: What It Means for You and Your Child

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Kindergarten Math: The Common Core Standards and 4 Geometry Activities

Math being taught in kindergarten classrooms today includes geometry as children learn about different geometric shapes.

This is due to the establishment of the Common Core Standards for Education, which was developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

These standards affect both English and math curricula. The Common Core Standards are specific, purposeful instruction to promote student understanding and achievement in grades kindergarten through 12.

Simply put, the Standards are the way to ensure that American students will have access to a quality, equitable education.

In kindergarten, an important element of the Common Core Standards for Mathematics is the recognition of geometric shapes, and how they relate to the physical world. The ability to identify, name, and describe 2- and 3-dimensional shapes, in kindergarten, is a distinct advantage in understanding math concepts.

Some examples of 2-dimensional shapes are circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, hexagons, and a rhombus (diamond shape.) Some examples of 3-dimensional shapes are cones, cylinders, cubes, and spheres. Have your child learn some of these shapes by using SchoolFamily.com's Geometry Printables.

In addition, here are 4 easy activities to help your kindergarten child understand and make connections to these math shapes:

  • Purchase an inexpensive Hula Hoop. Use this as a large circle for spatial games. In the back yard, lay the Hula Hoop flat. Help your child practice moving inside, outside, above, below, beside, and near the hoop.  Have him practice until he can easily follow the spatial direction. For fun, let him practice the correct spatial words by giving you directions to move about the hoop!
  • Use Play-Doh, rolled into long “snakes.” Form the snakes into circles, squares, triangles, etc. Talk about the shapes that have “corners and sides.” Talk about what makes some shapes different, and what makes some shapes alike.
  • Build shapes, with sides and corners using Popsicle sticks. Glue them to 8 pieces of ½”x 11” colored construction paper. Print the words naming the shapes on the bottom of the paper. Be sure to use lowercase letters. To construct a circle, run a steady bead of glue around the middle of a piece of construction paper, giving the circle about a 5” diameter. Cut a piece of yarn or string and set it on the glue circle. Let it dry thoroughly overnight.  Hang up all the different-shaped papers in your child’s room, where she can easily see and reference them.
  • Go on a three dimensional shape “hunt” in your house. Look for tennis or soccer balls (spheres,) sealed soup, tuna or other cans (cylinders,) and cones and cubes. Offer a treat, sticker, or some other reward for each shape found!

Knowing geometric shapes can help your young child better understand his physical world—and be on the right track in kindergarten math.

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Help Your Beginning Reader Become a “Decoding Detective”

 To increase reading levels, beginning readers need the confidence to decode new and unfamiliar words.  A simple way to do this is by building on words they already know.  Teach your beginning reader the fun of becoming a “Decoding Detective:”


  • To sound out a new word, encourage her to look for the “little words inside the big word.” For example, if she’s stuck on the word “together” break it into small parts.  With your finger cover the “gether” part of the word and have her say “to.”  Next, with two fingers cover the “to” and “her” parts and have her sound out “get.” Then, cover the “to” and “get” parts, for the word “her.” Blend the three little words, to-get-her, for the new word “together.”


  • Look for the pattern in sight words.  If he knows the word “the” build on that word.  “The,” with an “n” becomes “then,” “the,” with an “m” becomes “them.”  “The,” with a “re” is “there.”  “The,” with a “y” is “they.”  When she knows the sight word “could” look for the pattern to learn “would” and “should.”


  • Look for “word family” words and show her how to change the word with a new beginning or ending letter.  “An” with a “c” in front, becomes “can.”  “An,” with a “d” at the end becomes “and.”


  • Start with a simple blend.  When he knows the word “tree,” for example, use that familiar “tr” initial blend for other words that begin with “tr” such as train, track or truck.


Once your child learns to decode new words, by building on what they already know, their confidence and reading comprehension will soar!

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Basic Student Skills: 5 Ways to Learn to Be a Proactive Student

 Often when we get a new student at our school who is learning disabled (LD), we say something like, “She hasn’t learned how to be a student yet.” What we mean by this is that she has not yet realized that good students take an active role in their learning. Good students do certain things automatically, and she has not yet figured those things out.


Parents may be able to help if they have a child who is like this. Here are 5 things “good” students do automatically that LD students may not yet know how to do:


1. Bring pencil, paper, notebook and other necessary supplies to class. Parents can help by making sure their child has these supplies in his book bag, and has an appropriate storage space for them. For some suggestions about this, see A Notebook System that Aids With Organization.


2. Complete all homework, print it out (if needed), and bring it to class. LD students need to have a system in place that assures they know what is due for each class. If a child’s school has an online system where teachers post their assignments parents can make sure their child knows how to access the system. Many LD students forget how to logon or forget their password, so parents can assist with this until their child becomes comfortable. If the school does not have an online system, teachers might provide assignment sheets or assignment calendars/notebooks. Many LD students need help recording what their assignments are, so parents may have to contact the teacher to ask for help. See When to Talk to the Teacher if your child’s homework struggles are keeping her from succeeding in school.


3. Look at the teacher and take notice when he says certain words like “listen up,” or “this is important.” Parents can practice using teacher language with their child at home. For example they can walk up on their child when she is playing and say, “Listen up!” to get her attention. Students also need to take notes on what the teacher has identified as important. Some students can benefit from technological assistance such as the Livescribe Pen.


4. Dress neatly and act in a manner that shows you care about being in class. I am not sure all students understand that appearance does make a difference. If a student looks neat and clean and is looking at the teacher, then the teacher will see that and give the student positive attention.


5. Participate by asking and answering questions. A student should ask for help when confused. This also shows that he cares about what is going on in class. If the teacher feels that he cares, she will make an extra effort to help when needed.


This is a lot to take in at once! I suggest that parents identify an area where their child is struggling. They should make a plan with their child for how to fix the problem, and work on that until it is mastered. Then, they should select next problem area to work on.


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Valentine's Day Activities and Crafts To Make With Your Kids

Looking for a special Valentine’s Day activity or craft for your children to make or for you to make together? Look no further—we’ve compiled a variety of gift ideas through images we’ve pinned to our SchoolFamily.com Pinterest page. They’re just right for your child’s classmates, teacher, or that very special someone. Best of all, only a few of them contain sugar!


While many schools have banned the exchange of sugary Valentine’s Day treats, giving out candy-free cards and small gifts is typically acceptable in schools (best to double-check with your child’s school, however). Just be sure there are no hurt feelings by insisting that your child create a Valentine for each child in her class—or, have her plan to exchange Valentines with select friends outside of school.


Gifts For Your Child’s Friends and/or Classmates

Since we’ve already established that Valentine’s gifts for the class must include every student, these crafts, while simple, will take your child a bit longer to create. When I did these types of Valentine’s gifts with my children, I’d plan ahead and have them do a few each night. That way, the kids wouldn’t get tired and bored, yet the gifts would get finished without me making them all at the 11th hour!


How about custom-made Friendship Bracelets for everyone in the class? These are simple to make, differentiated for girls and boys (to compensate for the boys’ potential yuck factor—“Ick, a bracelet?”), and personalized. You and your child can create your own hand-written verse, written or printed on small cut-out cards (how about heart-shaped?), or you can download the blogger’s pdf template with the verse, “Our class would knot be the same without you.” Braid some brightly colored string (or save time by using single strands of colored ribbon), and weave them through the cut-out cards. Have your child sign each one, i.e. “From Jonathan,” and you’re done. These are sure to be a real crowd pleaser.


Valentine’s Day Crayon Cards might be one the most clever crafts I’ve seen in some time. When my kids were little, I always seemed to have broken crayons lying around, and I’d find them in the weirdest places—under the baseboard in my kitchen, under my kids’ beds, under our baseboard-heating units, in planters—you name it. And that’s not counting the mashed up broken crayons pieces at the bottom of our crayon container. Well this craft activity finally finds a good use for them. Read the directions for this simple project: dice up the crayons/pieces; bake them in heart-shaped molds (!); attach them to small decorated cards, and your child has beautiful, colorful, personalized Valentines for the whole class.


Teacher Gifts

If you’re never made (or seen) one of these Candy Bar Poem cards, you’re in for a treat. Depending on your child’s age, he can create most of this gift by himself, writing the words and then gluing the wrapped candy bars in the right places (you might need to watch and be sure he leaves enough room for the size of each candy bar).


Another adorable (and tasty) teacher gift is this wide-mouthed jar filled with homemade cookies. It’s easy to make and carries a personal message when you attach a gift tag created by your child (or save the step and download pretty tags from this template. Use a heart-shaped hole punch to make a hole at the top of the tag, and attach the note to the jar with brightly colored string or ribbon and Voila! you’ve got a lovely gift for your child’s teacher.


If your child’s teacher is known to have a sweet tooth, this easy-to-make gumball or candy-dispensing machine is for you. Created by painting and decorating an inverted small or large clay pot and matching saucer, this little machine will get a workout on the desk of your child’s teacher.


A Gift for the Birds (no, really!)

Anxious to avoid the commercialism of the day? Make this Valentine's Day craft with your child and feed the birds at the same time. This activity takes more time and requires a few days for the finished product to be complete, but once done, you and your child can hang these heart-shaped treats made of birdseed on branches throughout your yard. Perhaps you could obtain permission for your child to bring some to school to hang on branches outside student classrooms? Read the clearly written (and super easy) directions and have fun!


Just the Chocolate, Please

Let’s face it: For many of us it just isn’t Valentine’s Day without receiving—or giving— something chocolate. To satisfy that craving, we have a variety of sweet Valentine’s treats. How about Conversation Hearts on a stick, made of red velvet chocolate cake; Outrageous Chocolate Cookies; Cookie Kisses made with heart-shaped Dove chocolate treats instead of chocolate kisses; and Cake Pops, easy to make using chocolate cake mix, to name a few.


If chocolate’s not your thing, how about some Raspberry Cream Cheese Heart Tarts?


Not into sweets at all? Okay, place your Valentine’s Day order in advance so your kids can make you this Valentine’s Day Egg in a Basket for breakfast!


A Healthy Valentine’s Day Snack

Strawberry Marshmallow Fruit Dip will have your child eating fruits and getting protein and other nutrients from reduced fat cream cheese and fat-free Greek yogurt. (Okay, there’s also marshmallow crème, which isn’t especially nutritious, but it’s for Valentine’s Day, after all).


Go wild with heart-shaped fruits and veggies, served on popsicle sticks, along with fat-free or lowfat dip. Or this healthy Sweetie-Tweetie sandwich. For breakfast, stir things up by making this heart-shaped hard-boiled egg!


What other crafts are you making with your kids for Valentine's Day? Share your Pinteresting activities below in the comments!

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In Praise of the Average Reading Student

I’m writing this week in support and recognition of all the wonderful young students who fall into the under appreciated category of “average” when it comes to their reading.


Average means that a child is doing on-level work for their grade. This category represents the vast majority of school students, often in excess of 70 percent of a class.  


Guess what? It’s OK for a student to be average and to be an average reader! Many influential world leaders, thinkers, and doers started off as average students—Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison are just a few. What’s important is that average students be encouraged to always do their best.


Here’s what you can do to help your average reader reach his or her maximum potential:


  • Read every night with your child. On-level readers need constant practice to maintain vocabulary recognition, fluency, and reaching the next level.


  • Avoid the temptation to push your child to a higher-level book. This can often frustrate and discourage him, which could cause him to give up trying.


  • Practice “word-family” words. That means rhyming words with different beginning sounds. Use this SchoolFamily.com printable worksheet to Practice short vowel and long vowel words, such as: at, bat, cat, rat; or bike, hike, like, etc.


  • Keep practicing “sight” words. Sight words are words that cannot be “sounded out,” they just have to be known.  Use these printable worksheets from SchoolFamily.com to help your child with word recognition and common sight words.


Uncover your child’s “passion.” Find things that she really loves and work these things into her academic practice. Reading about snakes or butterflies may be a lot more exciting than reading “Dick and Jane!”


Who knows…the constant encouragement you give to your average student today, could lead to tomorrow’s Steve Jobs or Sandra Day O’Connor!

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Are You Welcome In Your Child's Classroom?

Have you ever attempted to sit in on one of your children’s classes at school and been turned away? If not, and if you were actually welcomed into the class by school officials, consider yourself lucky. Even though the ability to do so is a central tenet of No Child Left Behind, many schools put up roadblocks when parents want to sit in.


According to Jay Mathews, education columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, it’s a fairly frequent practice even when it may not be a school’s policy: “The resistance to parent observations,” he writes about schools, “is not so much a policy as an unexamined taboo.”


In the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which expanded upon the 1965-enacted Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a section called “Parental Involvement” includes provisions for “shared accountability between schools and parents for high student achievement”—an aspect of which includes having parents be present in their child’s classroom.


“Volunteering and observing in their child’s classroom is an important activity for parents’ shared responsibility for high student academic achievement and is also one that helps both the school and parents build and develop a partnership to help children achieve the state’s high standards.” [NCLB, Section 1118(d)(1), ESEA.]


Yet many school districts remain virtually cloistered when it comes to allowing parents to step inside. And among the reasons given to parents for being kept out is that their presence would create a distraction.


It appears that legislative action might be required to mandate that schools open up. In Virginia, Mathews writes about a father who enjoyed spending an hour at his daughter’s school, observing her during reading practice. Later, after seeing some of Mathews’ columns about parents being denied access to their children's classes, he used his authority as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates to add a provision to pending education legislation. If it passes, which Mathews thinks is unlikely, local school boards would be required to “adopt and implement policies” allowing parents to be observers in their children’s’ classrooms.


Are you able to volunteer and/or observe in your child’s classroom without any resistance from school officials? Please share your experiences with us.



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Why laptops aren't good for all students

One-to-one Laptop Schools—those schools that provide each student with a laptop or tablet computer—may be good for some learners, but not for all. Many schools are also issuing digital textbooks along with laptops to all students. I recently had an opportunity to tutor a student who was in one of these schools. It seems like such a good idea, but for many students there are problems with working this way. The issues I saw with Marcus (not his real name) were significant and he was not doing well in school partly because of it.


First of all, Marcus needed to be able to move easily between his book, homework assignment, notes, and the Word document where he was actually working. Marcus was pretty good at this, but he had trouble holding everything in memory in order to accomplish the task at hand. He could have arranged a split screen, but his laptop screen was small and this would have made everything too small to work with. In order to work with him during our tutoring sessions, I would print out at least some of what he was working with, so he did not have to hold so much in memory.


Secondly, Marcus had trouble keeping up with notes during class. The notes were given to the students as a Word document. They had blanks where students were supposed to add information. Marcus’ job was to fill in the blanks as they went over them in class. Marcus said his teacher typed the answers in so he could see them on a screen, and he was supposed to type them. Marcus was very slow at typing and when he would arrive to our tutoring sessions, his notes were inaccurate. They might be only partially filled in, or the answer for one blank was typed in a different blank. We spent a lot of our time correcting his notes. A student with far-point-copying problems would also produce incorrect notes using this teaching strategy.


Finally, unless Marcus is somewhere he can access the Internet, he is not able to get to the teacher materials (such as videos and animations) to review what he learned that day in class. When Marcus leaves school and goes to after school care, he does not have access to what he needs in order to do his homework. This was also true for Marcus when he was working with me. His laptop was set up to access the wireless at school, but where we worked there was no wireless available for him to use. Therefore, Marcus did not have access to his textbook or teacher’s materials he would otherwise have had.


These issues are every day examples; none of the above addresses the problems that come up when Marcus begins studying for a test. He has even greater problems when it comes time to pull everything together for a unit test or exam. If you have a child like Marcus who struggles with having everything in digital format, schedule a meeting with his teacher to find out if there is the possibility of getting a textbook (the old fashioned kind) to keep at home for him. I use a lot of technology with students, but I will not give up the textbooks for my students—at least not willingly! I think many students really need to have a book in their hands.


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Should Parents Get a Say in Their Child's Curriculum?

Do you think you should have say in any—and every—aspect of your child’s school curriculum?


What about your neighbor? Or how about the crank who shows up at every school committee meeting, complaining about everything in the curriculum?


In N.H., that may begin happening soon. The state Legislature recently approved a new law that allows parents to challenge any aspect of a school’s curriculum they disagree with, and request the substitution of lessons they prefer.


The substituted material must be approved by the local school district—and the parents in question will have to foot the bill for the materials.


What do you think of this N.H. law? Do you agree with it, as did the majority of the state’s legislators who approved it after overriding the governor's veto? Do you think it’s opening a can of worms for teachers, schools … and students? Let us know by speaking out here!


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Rewards, Movies, and Holiday Parties? Oh My!

Is any work getting done in school during the holiday months?

I recently came across a Facebook group discussion about using classrooms using movies as a reward for everything from meeting accelerated reader (AR) reading goals to good behavior. The main complaint was that movies chosen seem to be mindless. And one mom complained that it was the second movie her kid had watched in two weeks (as a reward for “good behavior” the first time.)

This former PTO president wondered why the reward has to come in the form of a movie. Mr. Bean’s Vacation is worse than mindless and certainly isn’t teaching kids anything but pop culture pointlessness.

Plus, realize that this “reward party/movie” comes on the heels of November, a month where there was only one full week of school! Do the kids really deserve a “break?”

December has only a few weeks of school time as it is. Add holiday parties and probable breaks and “reward” days and you might not see even half the days in December instructed either.

Personally I absolutely think kids deserve breaks during the school year, and “reward parties” are certainly a viable way to encourage reading and good behavior.

But maybe it’s time to brainstorm with your school about ways to better celebrate an achievement.

My 6 Alternatives to Mindless Movie Rewards in School

  • An extra art day
  • Going for a nature walk/hike
  • Educational or historic movies
  • Working on a service project
  • Read-A-Thon afternoons
  • Extra recesses

What types of breaks would you suggest as rewards for kids during the holidays—or year round for that matter!? Does your school overdo the break/reward system? How do you feel about movies as rewards?


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What If My Child Refuses To Do Homework?

More than once parents have asked me what to do when their child refuses to do her homework, with a refrain that goes something like this: “This math is stupid. When will I ever use it? I’m not going to do it.”

I believe that students naturally want to learn. Therefore, when I hear a child say this, I automatically think he is having difficulty doing the work. It is likely he is trying very hard (or has been trying), but does not know how to do it. It is much easier to say, “I don’t care,” or “This is stupid,” than, “I am trying very hard, but I can’t do this.”

Children in this situation feel like they are stupid and a failure.

I believe the first step for helping your child who is refusing to try is to help her understand that it is okay for some things to be very hard to do. I have been working with a student who was saying very often, “I am stupid. I can’t do math.” First, I told her that she is not allowed to say that any more—and gave her a list of alternatives she can say.


It's okay to say:

  • “Math is hard for me.”
  • “I am not good at math.”
  • “I hate math.”
  • “I have to work harder at math than anyone else in the world.”

It is not okay to say:

  • “I cannot do math.”
  • “I am stupid.”
  • “I am a failure.”


The second step, after doing the above to help the child change her mindset, is to get help. The student I am working with is now getting tutoring in math. She talks out loud when she works through math problems. And, she has the opportunity to redo assignments that she fails. With these accommodations, she is learning and feeling a little bit more confident. She still hates math and probably always will. But, she is making some progress and will probably pass for the year.

For more suggestions about what to do when your child is having homework difficulties, read “What If My Child Can’t Do the Homework?”

To learn more about changing the mindset of failure, read “Change How You Praise Your Children to Assure They Reach Their Potential.”

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Article Shows How My Daughter Will Study From Now On

The other day, an email arrived from my friend Cindy, with a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal. No, it wasn't about finding the best hedge fund manager or advice on what to do when the stock market takes another nosedive.

Instead, it was an article about new research findings for the most productive ways students can and should prepare for exams. And if I have any say about it, it's going to change the way my daughter studies for the exams she'll face in her 1 1/2 years left of high school, not to mention her upcoming SATs and the ACT. For her sake, I only wish I'd read it before the math exam she's facing today.

The article, which can be found here, covers everything from how to study effectively, to the type of sleep a student should get the night before an exam, and even the type of breakfast she should eat. 

Turns out that those of us (present company included) who pulled all-nighters in college shouldn't have bothered. According to the article, a 2008 study of 120 students showed that those who crammed the night before an exam scored lower than those who prepared  ahead of time. Further, it showed that an all-nighter "impairs reasoning and memory for as long as four days." Wow. Talk about a studying hangover.

As for how to successfully prep for an exam, the article confirmed what we' at SchoolFamily.com are hearing more and more—repetition and practice, practice, practice are the best ways to learn and retain information. A student preparing for an exam should test himself repeatedly to teach his brain to retrieve and apply knowledge, according to the WSJ article. This is the method also recommended by SchoolFamily.com blogger and full-time educator Livia McCoy. Read McCoy's blog post on the topic from earlier this week here

So we now know that repetition practice and self-testing are the ways to study, but how about the best time to study—or does it even matter? It definitely matters, according to the director of a sleep and research lab who is quoted in the article. He says students should study the most difficult material immediately before going to be the night before the exam, which apparently "makes it easier to recall the material later." He cautions against waking up earlier than usual to study, saying this compromises needed rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep.

Okay, so what about breakfast? A hearty morning meal of sausage, eggs, and bacon? Or perhaps a quick granola bar or a bowl of cereal grabbed on the run? WRONG. Students facing an exam should enjoy a breakfast full of carbohydrates and fiber. This combination, found in the form of, say, oatmeal, offers slow digestion and therefore a longer feeling of fullness. But the article also reports that what a student eats in the week before the exam also matters. In one study, students who ate a "high fat, low-carb diet heavy on meat, eggs, cream, and cheese" for five days before a test, performed poorly as as compared to the scores they received on the same exam after eating the recommended high-carb, high-fiber breakfast.

So long, Frosted Flakes. Hello Quaker Instant Oatmeal. 

Finally, in a recommendation that I found especially helpful (and that I appreciated as a nod to the significance of a student's emotional state before an exam), experts in the WSJ article offered an easily learned "calming tactic" for students to use before a test. Students are asked to imagine themselves in a pleasant yet "challenging and invigorating" situation, giving the example of kicking the winning goal in a soccer game. Once students have their image in mind, they are told to immediately switch that image to the room where the exam will take place, such as their math classroom. With practice, the experts say, students will be able to do this successfully on the day of the test.  

An even easier method (which speaks to me as a writer, and validates my propensity for making PRO/CON lists when faced with something I'm anxious about), is to have an anxious student use the 10 minutes before her test to write down her worries. In a study of college students, those who did this exercise scored the same on the test as the students who weren't feeling anxious about the test. In other words, confront your biggest fears and put them down on paper. Come to think of it, this exercise might work for any anxiety-inducing situation students, or adults, might face in life.

So, tonight I'll hear from my daughter about how her dreaded math test went today. And for  future exams, I'll encourage her to follow these guidelines and studying smarter, not harder.





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New iPhone Apps Help Parents Receive School Notices, Deal With Head Lice, and Find the Nearest Restroom

"There's an app for that." Are you familiar with this phrase? Perhaps it's one uttered by your kids on occasion (or on a daily basis). It's a phrase my daughter says frequently right before she sighs and gently gives me one of those "Mom, you're such a dinosaur" looks. Apps are application software programs that address  almost every subject imaginable. First created for the the Apple iPhone, more and more apps are becoming available for the BlackBerry, the Droid, and many other smartphones.

There are a couple of new iPhone apps that caught my eye recently. One is called ParentLink Mobile Parent. It's an app that allows you to receive automated calls from your child's school sent directly to your iPhone. These calls are being made by most schools today, and inform parents of everything from the opening day of school to emergency school closings. This free app is available from ParentLink.net, also allows parents to update their contact information with their school's automated call system directly from their cell phones. 

An app I hope I never have to use is The Facts of Lice by Fairy Tales Hair Care. Yes, this app helps parents whose children have been infected with head lice. Not only are head lice pesky to treat, their presence means kids can't be in school as long as they have "nits" in their hair, these being the eggs laid by active lice (note: You may want to check to see if your child's school has a "No Nits" and/or a "No Lice" policy). Be aware that the company is plugging its own line of lice treatment and prevention products, and includes a salon locator where the products may be purchased locally. That said, the app also includes helpful, general information about lice, as well as a way to track an outbreak and be notified of outbreaks in your area. 

Finally, an iPhone app that no pregnant woman or mother of small children should be without: Where to Wee. My daughter told me about this site (since she complains that I use the ladies room "all the time"), and I'll admit it's come in handy more than once when we've been traveling. The app allows you to find the nearest restrooms - especially critical if you're potty training little ones - and rate bathrooms on cleanliness, and the availability of soap and paper towels. In addition, for some hilarious reading, check out the Where to Wee blog.



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Sex Education Now Mandatory in New York City schools

Teenage students returning to school soon in New York City will find an addition to their academic curriculum: mandatory sex-eduction classes. The New York Times reported this week that all middle and high school students in the city's public schools will take the mandatory sex-education classes this year, and again, one to two years later.

The classes will be taught in either 6th or 7th grade, and again in 9th or 10th grade.

Citing research from the Guttmacher Institute, which studies sexual and reproductive health, the New York Times reported Tuesday, Aug. 9 that "Nationwide, one in four teenagers between 2006 and 2008 learned about abstinence without receiving any instruction in schools about contraceptive methods."

Parents, how do you feel about this? Has your child already had a sex-ed class? If so, what did you think of the teaching methods and curriculum? For those whose children haven't had a sex-education or "health" class yet, how do you feel about what your school offers? Will you send your child to the class or will opt your child out?

Some believe that New York City Public Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which reportedly pushed for the mandate, have jumped headfirst into a sure-to-be controversial area. Others, however, are applauding the city's tough stance on sex-ed. 

Let SchoolFamily.com know where you stand on this important issue! 

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The Arts in Education: Essential or Not?

Every time I scan the news I see another article about cutting the arts from education. It saddens me. Deeply. I know that budget cuts are very real and that there are no easy decisions or answers.

Here's the thing: to me, the timing could not be worse. School systems are being forced to put more and more emphasis on standardized tests. The result: the creative process is getting the squeeze. At home, technology has taken over. Instead of playing outside, building forts, or inside, drawing or painting, many kids are playing on the computer, gaming system or i-touch instead. So much is lost due to the absence of art.

When kids experience the arts they develop the following essential skills and qualities:

  • Imagination
  • Cognitive skills
  • Creative abilities
  • Problem solving
  • Fine motor skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Language development
  • Social skills
  • Sense of time and place
  • Focusing
  • Listening
  • Risk taking
  • Tolerance
  • Uniqueness

Just came across this article about a school that is doing their part to keep the arts alive at their school. I loved watching the video footage of the kids. Would love hear if your school has come up with some creative ways to preserve the arts at your school.

One last thought: March is youth art month -- hope that you'll do you part to foster the love of arts both at your child's school and at home.

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UK proposed curriculum includes Twitter and blogs for primary students

Interesting article out of the UK about schools looking at adding Twitter and Blogs to the curriculum for primary students. The proposal would require:

Children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication.

On a related note, a friend of mine thought it amusing that when she told her 4 year-old a particular movie wasn't available in the video store yet, her daughter replied "just download it mom". Kinda makes me wonder if these tools need to be included in the school curriculum or if they'll just naturally be picked up by kids growing up as digital natives.

Now for a bit of fun. Guhmshoo's Weblog has a great Education 2.0 cartoon - https://guhmshoo.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/education-20/

(Hat tip to Judy Gombita for sending me both the article and cartoon. Thanks!)
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Helping Parents Support Their Children in Today's Schools

This is a guest post by Cindy Golden from www.omacconsulting.blogspot.com. Cindy is a Special Education Supervisor with the Cherokee County, Georgia School District. She has been in special education for the last 26 years. Cindy was employed as a Psychologist, serving several schools K-12. She also served several years as the Psychologist in a psychoeducational center which served students with severe emotional and behavioral disabilities in addition to Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Cindy is the author of a popular blog: www.omacconsulting.blogspot.com which focuses on the education and parenting of students with autism. Cindy also has a book on autism that should be published soon.

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Remember that line? Well, if you have walked into today's classrooms, you might very well be echoing that sentiment. Things are not the same as when you grew up. Still, in order to help your child be successful in school, you have to understand today's classroom.

In order to understand today's classroom, you have to be informed and be involved.

Here's what you need to do to be informed:

• Know the Standards

Teachers' plans are based on state standards and the students' standardized testing is, of course, also based on standards. Do you know the standards on which your child's academic day is based? There are ways to find these. You can contact your school district or your state's Department of Education website for a copy of these standards.

• Understand the Curriculum Map

Do you remember getting your new books at the beginning of the school year? As children, we would flip through the books, scanning the chapters and what we were going to study. The teacher's goal would be to complete the book by the end of the year - not before - but timed perfectly to the end of the year.

Well it isn't done that way anymore. Today, curriculum is based on standards and not the textbook. Teachers use a plan or a map to accomplish the standards, hence the name 'curriculum mapping'. Ask your child's teacher for a syllabus or plan for each subject for the year. It helps you to know what is coming up and when.

Now here's what you can do to get involved:

• Get a copy of the standards for your child's grade
• Create a calm, peaceful home area in which your child can do schoolwork
• Establish a routine
• Be available to assist your child with schoolwork
• Plan ahead with your child for upcoming projects and tests
• Don't do anything for your child that he or she is capable of doing
• Be in weekly contact with your child's teacher.
• If your school district has an online website that enables you to track your child's grades, learn how to use the website
• Get involved in your child's school
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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

No - 37.4%
Sometimes - 25.4%
Yes - 31.6%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016