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SchoolFamily Voices

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

Vacation Fun, No Reservations Required!

School vacation can be a great time for family fun. Here are some simple ways to keep young children productively engaged, using all five senses (note that these activities can be enjoyed either at home or away on vacation):

 

If at home, check the schedule at your local library. Many have special reading events planned, or other activities that could be of interest to your child.  

 

On your cell phone, or other recording device, let your child read and record a short story or poem for you, a grandparent, or other family member.  This helps a young reader hear his own reading fluency.

 

If weather permits take a “nature walk” in your neighborhood, local park, or vacation destination. Gather samples of leaves, pinecones, acorns, flowers, shells etc., and glue them to construction paper for a nature collage.

 

With small objects such as Legos, pennies, or small rocks, play with the different ways to make a total of “10.” (9+1; 5+5; 6+4; etc.). When she masters the various ways to make “10,” addition and subtraction will become much more automatic.  This dramatically helps improve math fluency and accuracy.

 

Play a guessing game. With eyes closed have him guess what an object is by its smell. Scratch an orange, peel an onion, squeeze a lemon, unwrap a Hershey’s Kiss, or sniff a favorite pickle! Tally his correct guesses.

 

Keep a daily “vacation journal.” In a small notebook, paste post cards, photographs, or simply draw pictures of your family’s activities for that day.  Next, have your child write short sentences to describe the pictures. Help her write the sentences, if needed. This can become a treasured family vacation keepsake.

 

With simple creativity, winter break can be a fun yet constructive week for young students!

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This Valentine’s Day, Keep Sugar Levels Low and Math Levels High

Young students love Valentine’s Day and all the treats that go with it. This year try something different. Instead of letting your child eat those small Conversation Hearts, use them for some easy, fun, and colorful math practice! Here are four ways to practice “Heart Candy” math:

 

1. Estimation. Empty a bag of small Conversation Hearts onto a plate or into a small clear jar. Have your child guess how many there are. Write down her guess, and let her count to see how close she came to the correct amount. Help her count if she has trouble. Then go to…

 

2. Skip counting. Put the hearts in sets of two. Let your child count by “two’s” to get the total. Ask him to tell you if the total is “odd” or “even.” Then take some away. Next, have him put the hearts in sets of five. Count by fives to determine how many are left. Take some more away. Finally, put the remaining hearts in sets of 10. Count by tens to get the new total.  Ask, “What was the fastest, most efficient, way to count the candy?” Counting by tens, of course!

 

3. One More, One Less. Use the sets of 10 hearts to help your child visualize easy addition and subtraction. Count the hearts by 10. Count forward to practice plus 10, and then backward to practice minus 10. Then try “one more, one less.” For example, if 20 plus 10 hearts equal 30, what would 20 plus 11 be? (20 + 10 =30, so 1 more = 31) Move the hearts to show the new answer. Conversely, if 20 plus 10 equals 30, how many do I have left if I give you one? (20 + 10 = 30 – 1=29.) Take one away to show 29.

 

4. Graph It. Group the remaining hearts into colors. Place one of each color across the bottom of a piece of paper. Stack the same color hearts above each other, in a column. When done, check the graph to see which color hearts were the “most,” and which were the “least.”

 

Use Valentine candy as an educational tool to help keep sugar level intake low, and math levels very high!

 

 

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SchoolFamily.com's Favorite School and Education Videos From 2011

Sometimes kids learn best when music and fun are part of the equation. One way that’s been accomplished by many school districts is through the use of student-performed videos that are created locally and then uploaded to youtube.com.

Here are a few of our favorite school-related videos from the previous year. What were some or your favorites? Is your school working on an education-related video? Let us know!

Addressing the issue of bullying, four young women from Reynoldsburg, Ohio who call themselves the DHJK Gurls—and include friends Daryn, Joy, Hennessey and Kennedy—produced this video called “Inside Voice,” which became a hit on YouTube.

In this video, students at the Ocoee Middle School in Orange County, Florida sing the praises of reading“Read a book, plant a seed, grow your world”—in their performance called “Read A Book.”

At the Hope School-Fortis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, students used the wildly popular video “Friday,” created by Rebecca Black, and made their own version, which focuses on school and learning and is called “Monday.”

And even though this video is from 2009, it remains one of our favorites. Here, the Scholar Ladies from the Hope School–Prima, also in Milwaukee, sing about homework, studying, and grades in “Scholar Ladies (Get An A On It),” their remake of Beyonce’s hit “Single Ladies.”

 

 

 

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3 Activities to Help Your Child Become a Better Math Student in 2012

Connecting math to everyday life makes math real and purposeful for your child. Here are 3 easy activities to help your young child improve their math skills in the New Year:

  • Make math “tasty.” Cook a simple recipe together. Let him measure small amounts of ingredients, or count eggs. Talk about the degrees of heat on the oven dial, and how to use the timer. Or, make simple sandwiches for lunch and cut into triangles, rectangles, or squares. Make a pizza and discuss how to divide it equally with your family. When reheating in the microwave have him countdown with the timer for practice counting backwards.
  • Toss some dice! With a very young child use one die. Roll and count the dots for one-to-one correspondence. This means correctly counting objects (the dots) to represent a numeral. Or, have him roll dice and choose the die that shows more (or less.)  For a kindergarten or 1st grader use dice for addition and subtraction. To practice addition, have him roll the dice and add the dots. For subtraction she can roll the dice, find the total, and then take one die away to see the remainder.
  • Play some simple card games with your child. Games such as, “Concentration,” “Go Fish,” “Crazy Eights,” “War,” etc., are great ways to refine math skills. The cards visually reinforce numerals and their value. These games promote number recognition, number value, more than, less than, and help her increase number fluency.

For more suggestions and directions, simply Google “Easy card games for kids.”

 

 

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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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Why Your Teen Needs to Care About Math

This week, SchoolFamily.com presents a guest blog authored by Clare McIlwraith and Chris Whittington, a.k.a The Study Gurus. This dynamic duo specializes in teaching student how to study effectively. They share their years of studying and tutoring experience at thestudygurus.com.

Is your teen uninterested in math?

Do you know they could do better in it?

You’re not alone. Math is by far the most unpopular subject in high school.

Fortunately we have a solution for your teen that will help them break out of their “I hate math” funk—and we’re not even going to mention a single math formula!

 

Why teens hate math so much

It’s a defining trait of human behavior that we simply don’t do something if we don’t have a reason to. (Or sometimes if we don’t have a good enough reason not to—in the case of procrastination!)

For a lot of teens math seems like a pointless exercise. While this is terribly frustrating for so many parents, we can’t blame our teens, because in most cases no one has actually bothered to explain to them why it’s important.

 

If your teen doesn’t know why he needs math, then why should he care what X equals?

Some teens are just naturally motivated to want to do well at school—even in math! But probably the majority of students aren’t—and they need to know why the subject is important in order to get motivated about it. Otherwise, their understanding will suffer, along with their grades…

 

What can you do to help?

You don’t have to force your teen into studying. Or have yelling matches about why she should care more.

The best thing to do is to just have an open and honest chat with her about the importance of math after school.

The point of this conversation is not to transform your teen into a math-loving mini Einstein overnight. It’s to plant the idea that math isn’t taught to torture them, but because it’s an incredibly important aspect of life in the ‘real world’.

It is used daily by pretty much everyone who has a career that isn’t flipping burgers.

 

How should this conversation go?

If you have some, you could start by sharing how you use the math you learned at school on a daily basis. Or maybe how you sincerely wish you had tried harder and done better at math because then X, Y, and Z would be so much easier.

Another approach could be for you to talk about all of the professions that use math every day, because there are a LOT…

Not just the obvious ones—engineers, architects, and accountants; how about doctors, builders, teachers, electricians, computer technicians, scientists, nurses… the full list is long!

The fact of the matter is that most (if not all) satisfying and well-paying professions require a reasonable level of math.

You don’t want your teen to learn this the hard way—when it’s too late and their hopes and dreams are dwindling down to the size of a Big Mac.

Now is the time for them to make the most of school and seize the day—even when they have math class.

For more math advice, visit The Study Gurus website.

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Consequences of a Zero: How One Missing Grade Makes a Huge Difference

Many students do not understand how important it is to complete (and turn in) every single assignment. They think that missing a paper or two does not make much difference in their overall grade. I have tutored students before who were failing in a course who really weren’t doing that badly on the work they did. They seemed to understand the concepts as we worked through them. But, because they did not do all the work, their grade was terrible.

 

Help your child understand this concept. Show them how to calculate an average (add all their grades together and divide by the number of grades). Then do some pretend calculations to show them the difference between getting an 85, 79, 90, 88, and 100 (average is 88.4), versus getting an 85, 79, 90, 0, and 100 (70.8 average!). At my school the 88.4 is a “B” and the 70.8 is an “F.” 

 

One missing grade makes a huge difference.

 

Sometimes, the issue is not that they did not do the work. It might be that they forgot to print it out, lost it between home and school, or put it in the wrong notebook. Parents can help with this, too. If these are issues for your child, they might need an organization system to help them keep up with their work.  Check out A Notebook System That Aids With Organization for an idea that might help them keep up with their homework.

 

Or, they might need a checklist to use before leaving home in the morning. Organization Tips to Eliminate the Forgotten Homework, Lunch, Sneakers… provides you with one method that has worked for many students.

 

 

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Use Estimating Fun to Educate

Take advantage of your young child’s natural curiosity by using estimation! It is a great way to help your child improve her overall math skills.

Estimating gives a child the opportunity to “guess” a math answer, using his prior knowledge of numbers.  It’s a useful tool to get your child thinking about a math problem before actually solving it. 

For a young child it’s best to start with a visual.  Here are some simple ways to incorporate estimation into your child’s thinking.

•  Fill a small, clear container with pennies, M & M’s, Legos, or any other small objects.  Keep it on the kitchen counter, or some other place where it’s easily visible.  Let her hold it, shake it, try to count through the container wall, etc. Have her guess how many objects are in the container. Delay opening the container and counting the objects right away.  It’s okay if she changes her guess a number of times.  After a day or two, open the container and count the objects together to see how close she came to the correct number. Refill the jar with different objects and keep practicing until her guesses are very close to the actual number.

Take an estimation “walk.” For example, let your child guess how many heel-to-toe steps he will have to take to walk from the kitchen to the computer.  Then have him walk and count the actual steps. For fun, have him guess how many steps it will take you to do the same walk! Talk about why you, as an adult, would use fewer steps.

Have your child grab a handful of pennies, raisins, Goldfish crackers, or other small objects. Let her estimate if the number of objects she has in her hands is “odd or even.” Help her arrange them in pairs to find out. “Even” numbers will always be in a pair. “Odd” numbers will always have one left over.

Simple games like these give you the opportunity to create an environment that puts the “fun” in math fundamentals!

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How to Help your Child Make Math Connections

Grocery ShoppingWe use math skills each and every day. We follow a pattern when we commute to work, when we calculate change from our purchases, or when we check the temperature, etc.

The key to helping your young child understand math is to make math part of their everyday life.

Here are six simple ways to practice skills and incorporate math in your child’s daily life:

  • Together look for visual patterns in your home or neighborhood, such as tile in a bathroom, or bricks on a walkway.
  • Have your child practice counting forward. Count 0-50 for Kindergarten students, 0-100 for First Graders. Once your child can say these numbers easily, write the numerals on a 4x6 index card, one card for each number. Then have your child read the cards and place them down in order, as she says the numbers.
  • Once your child is secure in counting forwards, practice the pattern of counting backwards. Confidently counting backwards helps your child understand the concept of comparing numbers and the relationship between numbers. For example, 20 is more than 18, or 9 is less than 12.
  • Have your child practice recognizing and identifying shapes. You can do this at home or just about anywhere you are together. Use describing words, for example a triangle has three sides and three corners, a circle has no sides and no corners.
  • Help your child understand addition as "putting things together", and subtraction, as "taking things apart." Practice this by using small objects such as pennies, cheerios, raisins, etc. "If I have 3 pennies and I add 4 more, how many do I have now? Conversely, if I have 12 cheerios, and I eat 7, how many do I have left?"
  • Practice "skip counting" together. Count by 10’s, 5’s and 2’s, both forward and backward until your child is comfortable with the pattern for each.

Math is everywhere! When you follow a recipe, buy groceries, or put fuel in your car, you are using math skills. Helping your child make a math connection to daily life gives math importance, meaning and purpose.

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Learning to Accept Help

Some of my summer school students feel like accepting my help means I am doing the work for them. They would rather turn in lower quality work and do it totally by themselves. This is admirable -- that they want to do the work all by themselves -- but there are times when accepting help is the right thing to do.

When should you encourage your child to accept help?

  • If a skill deficit is keeping your daughter from showing how much she knows, she should get help to accommodate. For example, while reading and writing skills are being remediated, it is appropriate to read and take dictation from her for tests and projects. If she has a summer reading project to complete, perhaps taking dictation on it is appropriate.
  • If reading comprehension is low, having a book read to your son is appropriate. An alternate way to help is for him to use text-to-speech software or an audible recording of the book. (My Kindle will read some books and others are available as audible recordings that the Kindle will play.) Many of my students use text-to-speech readers to help them do their summer reading book. What most people do not realize is that this actually takes longer than for a good reader to read silently! These students are actually working harder to achieve at the same level as others who have better skills.
  • Unless prohibited by the teacher, it is okay to help your son spell words. Many teachers do not mind their students getting help with spelling. This encourages them to use their good vocabulary rather than reverting to simple words they are sure they can spell.
  • It is okay to use a calculator to help work problems in math as long as your daughter continues to drill basic facts in order to learn them. Use time this summer to drill basic facts so she will be able to be more efficient solving math problems when school starts. But, in the meantime the calculator can be helpful.

A simple rule of thumb is to make sure that whatever help your child gets, they are doing their own thinking. As long as what you are doing is helping them overcome a skill deficit, it should be okay. Hopefully, it will lead to more success in school and better grades. If you are not sure, give your child's teacher a call.

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Educational Uses for Sticky Notes

Sticky NotesI think "sticky notes" are one of the world’s greatest inventions! Their educational uses can be fun and creative. Young children love working with them. Here are four ways to use these helpful notes to inspire reading, writing, and math skills.

For reading:

  • They make great bookmarks. The notes can be easily moved from one page to the next as your child progresses through a book. Best of all they don’t fall out!
  • They can be used to eliminate the "Oh, I didn’t hear you" excuse. As your child begins to read, use them for simple reminders of chores or family rules. For example, stick a note on the TV screen that says, "No TV until after homework."

For math:

  • They are great for making large, visual bar graphs that young children can easily understand. For example, after visiting the zoo, write the name of five animals that your child saw on the bottom of a poster board. Above the animal’s name, put one sticky note for each of the animals observed. Three lions, three notes, one above the other. When the chart is complete, your child will clearly visualize the total number of animals seen and start to comprehend the concept of graphs. Use the graph to compare "most," "least," or "How many more monkeys did you see than lions?"

For writing:

  • Make a simple "flip" book with about 6-10 sticky notes. Place the sticky side of the notes to the left. On the bottom of each note, write a direction word, "up," "down," "over," etc. Have your child make a small picture to show the word. Stack the notes together, and hold them on the left side. "Flip" the pages for a simple animation book that your young child will love, and want to "read" again and again.
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Helping Kids Make a Reading and Math Connection

Boy with piggy bankAlthough reading and math are two separate subjects there is a strong connection between the two. Helping your child improve their math vocabulary will in turn help them improve their math comprehension.

Here are three easy suggestions to help improve your young child’s math vocabulary:

  • A number word is one of the first things you can help your child master. On 4x6 index cards write the numerals 0 through 20 on the top of the card. On the bottom of the card, print the number word that belongs to the numeral. For example, "2" on top, and "two" on the bottom. Be sure to use lower case letters. You can then use them for flash cards. When your child can easily say them in order, mix the cards up to increase the difficulty. Cover the numeral at the top with your hand, so that only the number word is visible. Keep practicing until your child can easily recognize the number words.

  • In a small notebook make an "ABC" book using math words. For example, put the word "addition" under letter "A," "equal" under letter "E," or "pennies" under letter "P." Your child can illustrate the page. As he learns new math words add them to the notebook page with the corresponding first letter.

  • Make up simple math/word problems. "If I had nine pennies, but I lost six, how many do I have left?" Or, "Sue gave me three crackers. Mom gave me four more. How many crackers do I have now?" Let your child use actual pennies, crackers, or other household objects to figure out the answers.

A strong reading and math connection will enable your child to have the confidence to solve everyday problems.

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School Vacation Games for Fun and Learning

FunLooking for fun ways to keep your young child actively engaged in learning over February vacation? Here are two simple activities for you. One will help with reading skills, and the other is for math. While these activities can take as little as 10-20 minutes to do, the creative and fun aspects will keep your child productively busy while reinforcing skills.

For Reading:

"Stitch a Word"

Purpose: Helps to build a sight word vocabulary

Materials: Index cards, marker, a hole puncher, tape, yarn or ribbon.

Directions: Write some simple words on the index cards with the marker. Start with five or six cards. Be sure to use lower case letters. Make the letters approximately three to four inches in height, depending on the length of the word. With the hole puncher, punch holes around the letters of the word, about ¼ inch apart. Cut a piece of yarn or ribbon approximately 30 inches long for each card. Tie a knot on one end, and wrap tape around the other end to make a "needle." Have your child "stitch" the word with an in and out motion. Cut off excess yarn and tape the end to the back of the card. Practice until they can read the word to you. To increase the difficulty, have your child close their eyes and "read" the word by feeling it. Store in a zip-loc bag and periodically sew and add new word cards.

For Math:

"Find Ten"

Purpose: Helps practice addition sums to ten.

Materials: Ten small objects such as checkers, crayons, pennies, M & M’s, etc., and a letter size piece of computer or construction paper.

Directions: Have your child count the ten objects. Then have your child close their eyes or turn away. Put a few objects under the paper, leaving the rest visible. Have your child look at the visible objects, and guess how many are hidden under the paper. For example, hide three objects so that your child will see only seven. Repeat with different combinations to the sum of ten. If your child is having difficulty, have them count the ones they can see and then uncover the hidden objects to continue the count to ten. Keep practicing until they can easily identify the number of hidden objects that add up to ten.

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Basic Math Facts are the key to Success in Higher Level Math

If your adolescent is struggling in math you need to know for sure that he knows his basic math facts to an automatic level. By “automatic level,” I mean he does not have to expend mental energy remembering them. If he does not, then he is unlikely to do well in higher level math courses like pre-algebra and algebra.

When he begins using integers, he must learn the rules for using both positive and negative numbers when he adds, subtracts, multiplies, and divides. If the number facts are automatic, then he will only have one level of thinking to do. (How does this negative sign change the way I work with these numbers?). But if he is still struggling with the basic facts, he must think on two levels. (What do these numbers mean? What do these signs mean?) He may wind up making errors he might not otherwise make.

When dealing with basic math facts, a calculator will not solve the problem. The calculator just adds yet another level of thinking. (What do these numbers mean? What do these signs mean? How do I enter this into the calculator?) He is better off without the calculator.

Test your child’s skill with basic facts. See how long it takes him to go through a stack of multiplication flash cards answering each one correctly. If he takes a long time to get through the stack, he needs to practice some each day. He needs to be able to answer them quickly almost without thinking. This is true for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers up to twelve. Continuing to practice—even five minutes a day—will increase his speed. This will help him tremendously in whatever math course he is taking.

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Think like a Student to Improve Math Fluency

Colorful NumbersThis past week I got to be "a student." I took an intensive math course, outlining ways to help my first-graders streamline their math skills. It gave me the opportunity to be in the position of learning new skills and information, much like my students do each day. Wow... I had forgotten how uncomfortable and scary that can be!

The easier, or more automatic your child can recall numbers, the better their math comprehension will be. Here are two simple, yet key activities to improve your young child’s math fluency. These are great activities to do when in the car.

  • Counting forwards crossing "decades." Simply put, this means starting a count midway rather than by 1. For example, ask your child to count forward, starting at "23" and have them stop at "41." Crossing "decades" means that while counting forward your child has to cross over 10, 20, 30, 40, etc. With younger children start with single digit numbers until they are comfortable. Then move on to double digit numbers.
  • Counting backwards crossing "decades." Most children are champs at counting forward... but often stumble when counting backwards. However, counting backwards is a key element to math fluency. It helps a child automatically know the number that comes right before any given number.

Educators often stress the importance of reading fluency for comprehension. This is also true for math. Fine-tuning these two crucial math skills will give your child a "leg-up" on their way to math fluency.

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Make Math Facts More Automatic With Simple Math Games

DiceThe more "automatic" your child can be with basic math facts, the more he or she will be able to easily recall them. This recall can then be applied to more difficult math calculations. In education, we call this math "automaticity."

Here are two simple ways to help your young child increase their math automaticity.

  • Start this activity using one die from a pair of dice. Directions: Have your child roll the die, count the dots, and tell you the number. Then ask, "What is the number that comes right before? What is the number that comes right after?" This game should be played for about 10-15 minutes at a time. Revisit the game often, eventually using up to four dice. You will be able to tell when to use additional dice by the ease of your child’s answers.

     

    When you use two dice, add the dots for the total number then have your child tell you the number that comes before and after. Using dice (two or more) involves addition, as well as number sequence. This practice helps your child know sequential numbers without having to go back and count, or use a number chart.

  • Young children love knowing "tricks." I taught my own children and my students the "1’s" trick and the "0’s" trick. Simply put, the one’s trick means when you plus one (+ 1) the answer is always the number that comes right after, or next. (For example (5+1=6) When you minus one (-1) the answer is always the number that comes just before. (5-1=4)

     

    The zero "trick" is that when you plus (+) or minus (-) zero the other number in the equation always stays the same.

Simple games like these make learning math facts fun!

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Household Items That Help With Homework

Having the right tools in one place can make homework less of a struggle. At a PTO meeting last night two colleagues and I addressed parent’s concerns about homework.

Mrs. Monteiro, a third grade teacher, told parents about making a "Homework Box." Her model was a large shoe box, decorated by a child and filled with basic tools needed to complete homework. Some of the tools were pencils, a sharpener, a glue stick, scissors, ruler, tape, small calculator and for older children a pocket dictionary. A small tote bag could also be used. The purpose is to keep needed supplies handy, for completion of homework. These supplies are used for Homework only, and kept in the same place for easy access.

I spoke about using household items to make homework easier for younger children.

  • Highlighters can be used for isolating important words in directions. For math addition and subtraction problems highlight the sign (-.+) so your child does the proper function.
  • Craft (Popsicle) Sticks can be used to demonstrate counting and solving math problems. They can also be used to build tally marks.
  • A jar of mixed coins is helpful when doing "money" homework. Using actual coins can make an abstract mathematical concept real to a child
  • When children have trouble sitting still try a different setting. Let a child work on the floor or bed with a clip board.

Mrs. Henneous, a third grade teacher as well, talked about the importance of reading to and with your child. She recommended using a small note book or journal to keep a "reading log" of books your child has read. She suggested while reading with your child to stop and ask questions about what is happening in the story. Use "sticky notes" to write down the answers, and keep the notes. When your child has a book report due the sticky notes can be put in order to help them organize and complete the report.

Homework reinforces what your child is learning at school, and ordinary household items can help speed the process!

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Educational Gift Idea Your Kids Will Love- Seriously!

When you ask a child what they would like for Hannukah or Christmas chances are they are going to tell you something (or a lot of things) technology-related. What's that -- your kids don't say, "What I'd really love is a gift that is educational??"  Oh, shock and horror.  Don't tell them I told you, but I know of an amazing gift that is educational and they won't even know that they are learning. It's that old-fashioned gift called wooden building blocks. The benefits are many. 

Blocks:

  • encourage creative play and social interactions
  • spur your child's imagination (and yours!)
  • sharpen fine motor skills
  • teach patterning, physics and pre-geometry 
  • increase spatial awareness
  • promote higher reasoning and math skills

Those are the educational benefits -- but for me, it's the  parent perks that make the difference. I would choose building with blocks over playing a video game with my kids any day of the week. The other wonderful thing about blocks is their shelf life or relevancy in your home. You can buy wooden blocks for a toddler and they will still take them out and play with them 8 years later. There are not many gifts you can say that about. 

Hands down, the favorite blocks in our house are Kapla blocks (see photo). I cannot say enough good things about these uniform wooden planks. They fall into to the category of so simple it's brilliant.  My kids spent hours with these blocks; building things from the instruction booklet, making up their own elaborate creations and making complicated "domino" courses. There was a time when we had as many photos of Kapla creations as we did of our family.  The pride my kids felt for their creations spoke volumes.  My kids are in high school now but we still have the Kaplas handy for when our friends with younger kids come to our house. 

What are your kids asking for this holiday season? Do you have an educational gift that you are excited to give your kids?

 

 

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Help Your "Hands-On" Learner with Reading and Math Skills

Your "Hands-On" learner is the child who can put things together, or take them apart. This is the child whose favorite activity is blocks, clay, Legos, or digging. They are the children, who at the end of the day have the dirtiest hands, face, and clothes! They need to move when working, and be able to "touch and feel" what they are learning.

Reading and Spelling

  • Have your child close his eyes. Practice letters or spelling words by "writing" them on your child’s back. With your index finger trace a letter or word on their back, over a shirt or pajama top. Your child can guess the letter or word by "feeling" the letters. Let them have a turn writing a letter or word on your back.
  • Roll out thin strips of clay or play dough and use them to form letters. Once your child knows the letters roll out more to form simple words.
  • Have her use a highlight marker in magazines or books she owns, to find words in stories. For example, highlight all the words the start with the "Bb" sound on a page. Or, highlight the short "a" words.

Math

  • Use Legos or colored blocks to create patterns. Start with a two-step pattern, for example place a red, then blue, red, blue, etc. Then increase to a three-step or more sequence.
  • Roll a pair of dice and count the dots on each die for simple addition. Help your child write the number sentence that goes with the roll. For example, if he rolls a six and a two write: 6+2=8.
  • Put some pennies and nickels in a brown lunch bag. Have your child put her hand in the bag, without looking, and grab one of the coins. Have her guess the coin by feeling it. Take it out. If she guessed correctly she can keep it. When the coins are all out of the bag count the nickels by 5’s and the pennies by 1’s for the total.
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Help Your Auditory Learner with Reading and Math Skills

DrumsYour auditory learner is usually a good listener. This is the child who says "But Mom you said...!" They are the children who follow spoken directions, love rhymes, music, listening to stories or listening to audio books. They need a quiet spot to work and love wearing headphones that block out other noises. You can tap into this learning style with the following easy ideas and activities.

Reading and Spelling:

  • Read to your child as much as possible. When your child begins to read encourage their reading out loud to you or an older sibling. Hearing the flow and rhythm of their voice is beneficial to increasing reading fluency.
  • Introduce letter sounds or spelling words using one of your child’s favorite songs or rhymes. For example, in our class we do a vowel song to the tune of "Skip to My Lou."
  • If you have a child friendly recorder, (Fisher Price for example) help your child use it to study spelling words. Record the list of words in this order; "Say it, spell it, say it." Study by playing back the words for practice, until the Spelling Test.

Math:

  • Have your child count out loud while pointing to the numbers on a calendar or number grid. Make sure to practice counting forward and backward!
  • Practice math with a small drum, pan or wooden spoons. Say a number and have your child "tap it out" to hear the sounds of the count. To increase the difficulty say a number, then ask him to "tap-out" the number before, or the number after.
  • Play a clapping game with numbers. Have your child shut their eyes. Say "Tell me how many claps you hear." After listening to your claps, have your child tell you the total number. For addition practice, clap three times, pause then clap two more. Ask, "How many claps all together?" Continue with your own number variations.
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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

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

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