SchoolFamily Voices

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

A Simple List System for Managing Time and Assignments

Many of my students have trouble managing their time. They come to school without their homework and especially long term assignments they have known about for a long time. All of them have digital calendars, apps on their phones, and planners provided by the school. Despite these tools, managing their “to do” list is still a problem. I think the problem might be they have too many tools to use, and they don’t use any of them well. They need something easier.

Since I am good at juggling a lot of deadlines and details, I thought students might be able to benefit from my strategy. Here is what I do.

  • In a small journal that goes with me everywhere, I jot down a few words to remind me of each task I need to do. For example, if a student asks me for another copy of our syllabus, I write “Mary-syllabus” in my journal where I keep a running list of everything I need to do. A student in science class can simply write “science.” Later, when doing homework, she will see that she does have science homework to do. (This assumes that she has a syllabus or online source with the details of what is due for science.)
  • When I get a few minutes to go over my list, I do everything I can do quickly right then and check it off the list. If a task will take some time, I enter a deadline when it needs to be completed into my calendar app with a reminder that pops up several days ahead of time.
  • At the end of the day, I spend just a few minutes going over the list to see if there is something important I need to do before stopping for the day. I start a new page for the next day by copying remaining tasks onto that page.

If your child has difficulty managing his time, this simple strategy might work for him. Combine this with an organized notebook system, and he just might be able to get his work turned in on time! It does require diligence to do it every single day, but since it requires less time than other strategies, he may be more willing to give it a try.

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Music and Movement Can Enhance Reading Skills

Listening to children’s music is a fun way to help your young student make connections needed for reading. These connections include:

  • listening
  • memory/recall
  • rhyming
  • language skills
  • focus

It can also be a great enrichment for children who need English language acquisition help. When you combine music with movement, you help a young child develop:

  • rhythm and beat
  • left-to-right progression (needed for successful reading and writing)
  • spatial sense
  • gross-motor skills
  • self-control

Practicing these skills can help a child understand patterns, time, and shapes, as well as adding and subtracting. Conceptualizing these readiness skills can help a young child increase her ability to make connections and problem-solve in reading, writing, and math. Music can also be helpful in boosting social skills, such as:

  • kindness
  • sharing
  • cooperating
  • responsibility
  • friendship

Some favorite children’s CDs, which I use in my classroom, are by the artists Hap Palmer (Parade of Colors), Laurie Berkner (Clean It Up), Bill Harley (Down in the Backpack), and Steve Roslonek (Kindness).

Music and movement are fantastic ways to incorporate fun while learning and reinforcing important skills necessary for school success!


> Simple Rhyming Songs Can Enhance Early Learning

> Art & Music Worksheets

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Ease the Transition From Middle to Upper School

Transitioning from middle to upper school is difficult for many students. In my area of the country, 9th grade is considered upper school. Often students are not aware that grades in upper school are more important than they were before. They are used to calculate the GPA that colleges use to decide acceptances, and prospective employers may look at the GPA to determine the best candidates for their open positions. School suddenly becomes more serious, and this is scary for some kids. Here are some things to discuss with your child regarding the move to upper school.

  • It is important to seek help quickly when things are not going well. Your child should not put off asking for help until he has gotten so far behind that it is impossible to get caught up. Many concepts build upon earlier concepts, so the sooner he meets with his teacher to get clarification, the better.
  • Certain grades are more important than others. In many school districts, the semester and year-end grades are the ones that factor into the GPA. Therefore, if your child has a low grade for the first marking period, she still has time to raise it before the semester ends.
  • Exams can be helpful in raising grades. Types of exams, which classes give exams, and the weighting of exams in the final grade vary from school to school. In schools where exams make up a significant percentage of the semester or year-end grade, doing well on exams can raise the grade up a whole letter grade, at times.
  • One bad semester (or even year) does not mean college is out of the question. Colleges look at the big picture. If your child has one bad year followed by three much better ones, they will be impressed that she turned it around.

If your child is moving into high school now, encourage him to focus on working hard. Remind him that success in school and life is nearly always the result of a strong work ethic rather than being the smartest person in the class.

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Teach Temporal Words for Better Reading Comprehension

Knowing and understanding temporal words are key factors in helping young children sequence events in stories. Temporal words are words that relate to time. Twelve examples for young readers to know and practice are:

  • once
  • first
  • next
  • then
  • before
  • while
  • after
  • on
  • by
  • following
  • last
  • finally

Recognizing these important words helps a young reader begin to mentally “organize” events in the story. This organization can clarify story sequence, improving overall reading comprehension.

You can help your child become familiar with these words and practice them while reading together. Here are two simple ways to do this:

  • Point out these words when reading together, and reinforce their importance. If you’re reading The Three Little Pigs together, for example, you can clearly help her understand first (house of straw), next (house of sticks), and last (house of bricks).
  • Stop and ask simple questions after reading. If you’re reading the rhyme “Jack and Jill” together, ask your child “What’s the first thing Jack and Jill wanted to do?” (Run up the hill to get water.) “What happened next?” (Jack fell down.) “Then what happened?” (Jill came tumbling after.) “Finally, what do you think happened to the water?”

When reading together, always emphasize temporal words. Let this become a good reading habit. Before you know it, your child will be recognizing these important words on her own!


> Four Simple Strategies To Build Reading Comprehension
> The Five Steps to Phonemic Awareness

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Teach Kids To Be Active Listeners

In Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives, Peter Johnston suggests a technique for teachers to use that is meant to help students listen better, become more socially aware, and possibly more empathetic towards other students’ viewpoints.

Johnston describes a situation where he watched students discussing their ideas about a question with a partner. The students were then asked to tell their teacher what their partner thought about the question. In many cases, the children could not say what their partner thought because they were thinking only about what they wanted to say. Their teacher then sent them back to their partner to find out the answer. In this way, students were encouraged to really hear and understand what their peer had to say.

I wonder whether this would work in other situations such as when siblings get into an argument about something. Your daughter often complains to you about what her brother is doing. You could ask, “What does your brother think about that? Why is he doing it?” You could then encourage her to find out from him why he was doing it. They might even have a conversation about it that leads to resolving their differences without parental involvement.

The technique of asking children to truly understand what another person thinks by listening and asking questions can be a powerful tool that leads to better communication, greater empathy, and the ability to listen intently to another person. These social skills are extremely important and lead to success in school and later on the job.


> Simple Activities To Improve Your Child's Listening Skills

> Simple Tools for Sharp Listening Skills

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10 Simple Skills for 1st Grade Readiness

Each time I start a new school year, I can’t help but wonder how prepared my students are for the challenges of 1st grade. When a child comes to school with background knowledge, educational experiences, and basic skills, that student is better equipped for understanding grade-level reading, comprehension, and math.

Here are 10 ways to help your child increase school readiness:


  • If possible, visit the zoo, a farm, children’s museum, the library, etc. Experiencing different life settings will help him make important self-to-text connections when reading and listening to stories.
  • Help her identify all capital and lowercase letters, both in and out of sequence.
  • Have him identify the letters in his entire name, and practice writing them. Be sure the first letter of each name is a capital letter and the rest lowercase.
  • Practice consonant sounds, both at the beginning and ending of words.
  • Read and practice rhymes. Make up your own silly rhymes together.
  • Help her recognize the eight basic color words; red, blue, yellow, green, brown, black, orange, and purple. Use my printable Color Words Pizza Wheel to help your child learn her colors.
  • Practice together counting orally, 0 to 50, both forward and backward.
  • Have him practice writing numerals 0 to 30, and recognizing the numerals out of sequence.
  • Make sure she knows her full name, your full name, address, phone number, and birth date. Make sure your child knows where she will go after school each day, and what type of transportation she will be taking.
  • Every morning be sure he knows if he will be bringing his own lunch, or getting it in the cafeteria. Make sure he can identify, and take responsibility for personal items such as, lunchbox, backpack, pencil box, sweatshirt, etc.

Knowing these simple 10 skills can help ease your child’s anxieties and propel 1st grade success!


> 1st Grade Academics: What To Expect
> Help Teach Your 1st Grader To Listen and Speak Well

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The Fundamentals of School Success

Educators often use terminology that really doesn’t mean a lot to people who are not in the business of teaching children. Terms like “working memory,” “executive functioning,” “attention deficit,” and many others can confuse parents and some teachers not familiar with them. There are a few fundamental strategies, however, that help all children be more successful in school. These guiding principles are helpful and lead to success in school.

  • Praise should be genuine and deserved. If parents and teachers praise children for work that isn’t done well, children feel they do not need to work hard to succeed. This does not have to be at the expense of your child’s self-esteem. Instead of praising, ask him questions about his work. “How did you do this?” “Can you work any more on this to make it even better?” These comments do not hurt feelings, and encourage him to keep working. They also help him to connect his success to hard work.
  • All children benefit from structure and routine. School days should be predictable with homework times, meal times, bath time, and bed time as close to the same every day as possible. Routines reduce the amount of arguing because children know what to expect.
  • Your child should be held accountable for her own actions. Consequences should be reasonable and related to her actions. If she gets up early, makes up her bed, gets ready for school, and helps you with breakfast, she should be praised for her efforts. On the other hand, if she is uncooperative while getting ready for school, her consequence should relate directly to the problem. Perhaps she needs to wake up ten minutes earlier each day, so she will have time to make her bed and help you prepare breakfast.
  • Your child needs to feel his parents love him and are on his side. School days should start with encouraging, positive words from you. This helps to establish a relationship of trust so that when things are not going well, he will feel comfortable talking with you about it. Together you can figure out how to solve the problem.

The beginning of the school year is the best time to establish positive routines that help children get off to a good start. Teaching kids to connect success to their hard work and holding them accountable for their actions will lead to success in school and life. And, as always, make sure to tell your children how glad you are they are a part of your life!

I hope this school year is the best ever. I am so glad to have my students return this week! The building is much too quiet while they are away for summer.


> 3 Keys to School Success

> The Keys to Success in School

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Instilling a Love of Reading at Home

Reading enjoyment begins at home. Parents can be a powerful influence on ensuring their child has a lifelong love of reading.

Here are 10 easy steps to subtly reinforce the joy of reading:

  • Set the example. Each time a child sees a parent, grandparent, or caregiver reading for pleasure, that child recognizes that reading is important.
  • Set aside at least 15 minutes a day to read aloud with your child.
  • When reading with a young child, use your index finger to “sweep” under the words. This trains the child’s eye to read in the proper left-to-right progression.
  • Add to the enjoyment and excitement of a good story by using different voices for different characters.
  • Pay attention to punctuation. With your voice, emphasize question marks and exclamation points at the end of sentences.
  • Help your child find books about a favorite animal, interest, sport, etc. A subject of interest will spark a desire to read and learn more about it. Baseball cards, comic books, recipes, newspapers, magazines, and the like all offer alternative ways to practice reading.
  • Co-read—take turns reading pages to each other. This will hold your child’s attention, especially with a book that might be longer than she usually reads.
  • Ask questions that help predict outcomes, such as “What do you think will happen next?” Or, “If you could write a different ending for the story, what would it be?”
  • Reduce distractions. Turn off the television and computer. Turn house and cell phones to silent when reading together.
  • Have a family DEAR night—“Drop Everything and Read!”

By incorporating reading as part of your family routine, you can get your child hooked on the joy of reading!

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Emotional Awareness: An Essential Tool for Back to School

by Eve Sullivan

Getting kids ready to start school may have been simple in the past, but not today. Ads scream “Order this…buy that…and your child will be safer, smarter, happier!” And young people, like retailers, play all too well on our hopes and fears as parents and caregivers.

An essential tool for your child’s back-to-school toolkit, however, is one that money can’t buy, and one only caring adults can provide: emotional awareness. The things our children have—backpacks, lunchboxes, sneakers—and the things they know—which bus to take, the new teacher’s name, where to wait for dad to pick them up—all these are easier to track than what our children feel. Yet feelings may be the most important part of their experience, both in school and out.

Children learn to recognize and manage feelings through interactions with parents and other family members starting from birth. Schools can support this process through educational programs in social-emotional learning, or SEL. Their value is well-documented. As the Social-Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts explains, SEL programs increase adults’ and children’s ability not only to recognize and manage emotions, but also to:

  • develop care and concern for others,
  • establish positive relationships,
  • make responsible decisions, and
  • handle challenging situations constructively and ethically.

Research shows that effective social-emotional learning promotes the “good stuff” as it increases:

  • academic achievement by 11 percent,
  • positive attitudes about self and others by 9 percent, and
  • positive social interactions and social behavior by 10 percent.

And SEL discourages the “bad stuff” as it reduces:

  • behavior problems by 9 percent and
  • emotional distress by 10 percent.

While some schools have initiated SEL programs after cases of bullying (a few with tragic outcomes), the reasons can just as well be positive: “We have a great school and a caring community, and let’s make it even better!”

If you are a parent group leader, ask the principal—perhaps at your first one-on-one meeting—what the school doing in the area of social-emotional learning. Don’t stop, even if the answer you get is that the school is taking care of it. Parents as well as teachers need support in this area as much as (and sometimes more than) students. Parenting education is something schools can and should make a normal part of the menu of parent activities, right along with math night and the annual playground carnival.

It is essential, too, to practice your own emotional awareness. Empathy, like a muscle, may lose strength if it isn’t used. If the back-to-school craziness starts getting to you, give yourself a little time out. Ask for help. Remember to breathe.


Eve Sullivan is the founder of Parents Forum in Cambridge, Mass. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is another great resource for information on SEL, as is The Parent Toolkit, with a social and emotional development section launching in October.

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Should Kids Get an Allowance?

Parents often ask me about whether they should give their teens an allowance. Some feel that children should do their chores because it’s the right thing to do, and they should not be paid for it. Others think giving them an allowance is a good way to teach how to save money. As with many topics, there is a middle ground—where children can learn to contribute to family life without being paid for it and also learn about the value of money.

It might be a good idea to have a list of chores that everyone in the family is responsible for doing without expecting money. This could include making their own bed, putting their dirty clothes in the laundry room, and putting away the things that belong to them. Other chores could be offered as ways to earn money (vacuuming the den, dusting, washing windows, or working in the yard). You could use an app like Allowance Manager  to keep up with how much each child has earned. Some chores can be available to your children if they want to do them, and others can be required chores. You and your children can decide who does what to make it fair to everyone in the family.

There are a few key points to think about when making the decision about whether to pay your children for working around the house. First, consider that earning an allowance is one way to teach them about saving money. Kids should not be handed money for every game or electronic gadget they want. They should have to work for it.  A second thing to consider is that children should not be paid unless they do their chores well. They need to know that the quality of their work matters. Finally, make sure to set up a schedule of expectations for what needs to be done and when it should be completed. You will need to be clear when payday is and be consistent about giving them the pay they earned.

In my 30 years of teaching adolescents, I have noticed that the students who have the best work ethic at school are the ones whose parents required them to help out at home. Having a strong work ethic is connected to success in school and later in life.

You might also enjoy reading Summer Chores Teach Kids Responsibility  and Should Parents Pay their Children for Good Grades?

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5 Back-to-School Organization Ideas for Kids and Families

Help your child begin the school year with some simple organizational skills and family routines to encourage school success, right from the start.

Here are five easy ways to help your family keep school priorities on track:

  • Have one large family calendar for all your school children to utilize. Keep it in a convenient place. Record school notices and important meeting dates. Pencil in when all assignments are due. Write the day of the week for gym class, so your child will be sure to wear her sneakers. Get her in the habit of checking the calendar before starting homework and before leaving for school each morning.
  • Together, agree on a specific homework spot. It should be a clean, flat surface, with adequate lighting and free of distractions. Do all homework assignments there each afternoon or night. On nights where there is no homework, have your child read, or read to him at least 15 minutes before bed.
  • Keep homework supplies together in a convenient spot, such as a shelf in the kitchen, or near the homework spot. You can use an empty shoe box or small basket to store pencils, a sharpener, crayons, scissors, and glue sticks.
  • Keep backpacks and lunch boxes in a designated place, and help your child remember to store them properly, right after school. Empty and inspect backpacks together at the same time each day, such as right off the bus, or right after supper.
  • Help her remember to put completed homework into her backpack each night before going to bed, so she will get credit for work well done!

With families’ busy lives, simple organizational steps can make for a smooth and stress-free home-school transition.


> Organization Tips for Back-to-School Time

> More Back-to-School Resources

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Homework Help for the New School Year

Recently, I wrote about some back-to-school organization tips to help students who are disorganized or have problems managing their time. A daily routine that includes time for getting ready for the next day is very helpful. Most students benefit from structure and planning ahead. Another important part of the day that proves to be difficult for many students (and consequently for their families) is homework time.

There is not one perfect time of day to do homework that works for every student. Your child may need to have some exercise time when he first gets home from school. If he has ADHD, he exerts a great deal of emotional and physical energy trying to remain seated and quiet in school. She, especially, needs to have very active time when she first gets home from school.

Perhaps right after dinner is a good time for your child to settle in to do homework. (If possible, homework time should be the same every day.) He needs a distraction-free, well-equipped place to work. His phone, television, and video games should be put in a place where he will not be tempted by them. Multitasking between homework and phone (or anything else) is a poor use of time. Human brains can only concentrate on one thing at a time. So if he is texting a friend in the middle of doing homework, he switches his thinking back and forth. Every time he switches, he loses his previous line of thought. He has to go back and reread the question or rethink what he was writing or doing. The end result of the multitasking is often poorly done work or only halfway completed assignments.

Your child should have a comfortable place to work with all the normal school supplies handy. She may work well at the dinner table where you can keep an eye on her. School supplies can be stored in a plastic shoebox and stored nearby. Many teachers post homework assignments online, so if she does not know what she needs to do, encourage her to look online. If she uses her computer to complete homework, make sure she has paper and ink for the printer. The most frequent reason my students give for not turning in homework is “my printer isn’t working.” The second most frequent excuse is, “I left it at home.” So, she needs to have a safe place to put her homework in her binders to make sure it gets to the teacher on time.

It is easy for me to say your child needs to have a set time each day that is devoted to homework completion. In reality, it can be very difficult. Many families have more than one child, and each has after school activities that pull the family in many directions. Homework completion, however, remains a major concern for many students. If this is true for your child, establishing a routine that includes when to do homework, and having a well-stocked, distraction-free place to work can be very helpful. If homework is a major challenge, ask to meet with your child’s teachers or the school counselor to try to figure out what is causing the problems.


> 7 Strategies for Successful Homework Routines

> Printable Daily Homework Tracker

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6 Easy Ways To Volunteer in Your Child’s Classroom

Very often parents want to volunteer in their child’s classroom—and that’s a great idea! Classroom involvement is beneficial in many ways. When you volunteer, you:

  • subtly reinforce the importance of school for your child.
  • greatly help your child’s teacher.
  • see, firsthand, how your child interacts with other children in a classroom setting.
  • get an overall feel of how reading and math are taught and learned, which guides you when helping with your child’s homework.

Due to parents’ own schedules, volunteering can be difficult during the school day. But please know that most teachers would welcome any help, even a few minutes, and it does not have to be during school hours. Here are six productive ways to be a classroom volunteer, even if your schedule limits your availability:

  • First, join the parent group (PTO, PTA, and the like) at your child’s school.
  • Next, check with your child’s teacher to find out what kind of help she needs.
  • Let the teacher know your strengths and abilities. Inform her of your availability. You may be able to help during your lunch hour, after school, or by doing simple projects at home in the evening hours. These could include collating worksheets, making math cards for group practice, or contacting other parents to coordinate a class event.
  • If you do find that you can visit the class during the day for a short period of time, you could read a book to students, or have an individual, or a small group of students read to you. This fosters word and comprehension skills.
  • You might scribe kids’ stories—they speak, and you write. You can then take the stories home to “publish” them on your computer and return the published books when complete.
  • You could help practice math facts, identify geometric shapes, or play a math game with cards or dice.

Even a small amount of your time can make a big impact on your child’s classroom, and your child’s ultimate school success!


> 5 Reasons To Get Involved

> What Does a Room Parent Do?

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Establishing Back-to-School Routines for Kids With ADHD

Adolescents with ADHD or working memory problems often have trouble getting ready for school in the morning. They often forget to take important things to school like their book bag, homework, and clothes for gym. Mornings are chaotic and create stress for both parents and children. Morning and evening routines at home can help, and the beginning of the school year is a great time to establish those routines.

The goal is to have your child ready to leave for school with everything he needs when he gets there. The first step is to determine what he will need for school. This might be best accomplished the night before as part of his bedtime routine. Until he is able to do this for himself, you will need to help. Ask him about each of his classes to determine if there is homework or a project due. Discuss extracurricular activities such as sports to make sure he has completed everything he needs or has the appropriate supplies or equipment ready. Organize everything and place it beside the door or in the car, if appropriate. He should go to bed at the same time each night knowing he is ready for the next day.

Your child needs to wake up to get ready for school at the same time every day. The morning routine should stay the same to the extent possible, and she should be ready to leave for school with some time to spare. Since the evening routine included getting everything ready to take to school, the morning routine can focus on getting ready and eating a nutritious breakfast. Plans for lunch need to be settled before she leaves, as well.

Routines like this lead to forming habits that can last a lifetime. For children with attention or working memory problems, good habits are extremely important. They need to do these things by themselves without even thinking about it, but it will take a lot of help from you to get to that point. Each child is unique and the time it will take to change these evening and morning routines into habit will vary. You can begin by giving oral instructions (one at a time) each day and then later move to checklists that your child uses on his own. Much later, after a great deal of practice, he may be able to manage without help. Keep in mind that there are plenty of adults who rely on checklists, and there is nothing wrong with it!

Establishing routines that form into habits can lead to success in school. The morning and evening routines help students get to school on time with everything they need. I will write soon about homework completion, which is another important part of every teen’s day during the school year.

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Two Fine Motor Activities To Develop Math Skills

Using fine motor activities involving hand and finger movements is a great way to get a young child to practice and remember number concepts.

Here are two easy ways to mesh fine motor and simple math readiness skills for your kindergarten or 1st grade student.

Activity 1
You will need four items: index cards, any color marker, glue, and salt (or sand or sugar)


  • Use one index card for each number.
  • Write the numbers 0 to 10 with the marker in the middle of the card. Make the numbers large enough to be seen easily, about 4 to 5 inches.
  • With the glue, make a glue line to cover the number.
  • While the glue is wet, sprinkle the sand, salt, or sugar over the card. 
  • Set the cards aside to dry overnight.
  • When completely dry, shake any excess salt off the cards.
  • Have your child close her eyes and trace the number to identify it.
  • When she can easily “feel” and recognize 0 to 10, repeat the process for numbers 11 to 20.

Activity 2

You’ll need index cards or strips of construction paper, a handheld hole punch, and a pencil.


  • Write a simple addition sentence on the card or paper strip, leaving a line at the end for the answer. For example 2 + 3 = __
  • Using the hole punch, direct your child to squeeze the correct number of holes under each number—two holes under the 2, three holes under the 3.
  • Have him count the total number of holes to find the answer to the addition sentence, and then print the numeral 5 with the pencil on the solution line at the end.
  • Adding math to fine motor activities subtly reinforces facts while strengthening the small muscle groups of a young child’s hands and fingers.


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Help Your Child’s School Win $4,000 From Frigo Cheese Heads Snack Cheese

Are you a parent who can think of something your child’s school could use? Could you describe it in 50 to 200 words?

Build a Bright Future PromotionThen you have a chance to win $4,000 for your school in the Frigo® Cheese Heads® Build a Bright Future Promotion.

The promotion entry period runs now through Sept. 30, 2014. Five schools will be awarded a $4,000 prize to be used toward the purchase of an enhancement for the school. Parents, teachers, and adults over 21 years old can nominate a school with a short essay of between 50 and 200 words that creatively describes something that would benefit students.

The trick is to nominate a school with an idea that is interesting and also feasible with the $4,000 prize.

The nomination period ends Sept. 30. Judges will select 10 entries as finalists. The public will have an opportunity to vote on the finalists on Frigo Cheese Heads’ Facebook from Oct. 13 through Oct. 31. Winners will be announced in mid-November. In addition to five schools winning $4,000, an additional five schools will win $1,000 prizes.

So put on those thinking caps and get creative! Tell your friends and other parents about this promotion because the more nominations a school receives, the better a chance it has at winning. You could turn an idea into a reality for your child’s school!

Good luck!

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Organization Tips for Back-to-School Time

Some of the schools near me start in two weeks! It is hard to believe the summer is almost over. If your child is disorganized and has trouble keeping up with everything and managing his time, you might be able to help. While shopping for school supplies, keep in mind that a strong organizational system is important. Tabbed dividers, labeled tabs, zippered pockets, and time management apps may help. Consider the following.

  • Students in middle and upper school are often told by each individual teacher how to organize for their class. These kids are trying to manage five or six different “systems,” and it is very hard for them to keep everything straight. You can help by looking for ways to create consistency across subjects. For example, each binder can have tabs or divider pages to mark specific places to put today’s homework, graded work that needs to be saved (including tests and quizzes), and a place to write notes. An earlier blog, A Notebook System That Aids With Organization, offers more information about coming up with a notebook system. If your child receives accommodations, this system can be included in his IEP or 504 Plan.
  • When I ask my students about how they use their locker, they frequently answer that they don’t use it at all. My students prefer to carry everything they need in their book bag. If your disorganized child does this, she may need assistance keeping the bag organized with necessary supplies handy for class. Depending on how much of a problem this is for her, you might need to set aside a daily time to reorganize the book bag. Her binders for every class must fit into the bag. She needs to have a specific place for her pencils, calculator, and whatever she uses every day. Some small zippered bags or plastic boxes can help with this.
  • Your child needs to know how to use an electronic calendar to help manage his time. This does not have to cost money if he already has a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. He needs to record which classes will meet each day and whether there are special assignments due soon. This is another area where many disorganized kids need help. He can learn to use Google Calendar or try an app such as those described in A Free App To Help With Time Management. If a tablet or computer are not available, your child will need a planner where he can write upcoming assignments and events.

Keep time management and organization in mind as you and your child shop for school. Purchasing the right organizational supplies is important and can lead to success, but using these tools does not come naturally to many students. It takes some time to learn how to use them and a considerable amount of time before they become habit. For truly disorganized kids, a daily routine of going through the book bag, each binder, and checking the planner/calendar will likely be necessary. Parents should gradually turn over this responsibility to their child, but in the beginning will need to be very involved.

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Staying Healthy at Back-to-School Time

When kids go back to school, it often isn’t long before the first sniffles and colds arrive. Parents can’t stop their kids from getting sick, but there’s plenty they can do to help them stay healthy, and if they do catch a cold, to ease the symptoms as much as possible.

One company that understands this well is one of our sponsors, Hyland’s Inc., which has been making cold remedies for more than 100 years. Just one example: Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ’n Cough is made with natural active ingredients that ease common cold symptoms, including sneezing, coughing, and sore throat. It’s an option for parents looking for a safe and effective product with no stimulants, sugar, dyes, or artificial flavors.

Medicine like Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ’n Cough can fit into an overall plan to keep kids healthy so that they thrive during back-to-school time. Other steps parent can take include:

  • Stress basic hygiene rules to your children so they can avoid the common cold or passing it along. Simple steps like not sharing utensils or drinks will go a long way.
  • Remind kids of the importance of hand-washing. Often, they are just too busy to remember. We have printables and mini-posters that you can download to help remind your kids of the importance of this task.
  • If you aren’t sure whether your child should stay home, check this article that provides general guidelines for a sick day. If your child has minor cold symptoms without a fever, then chances are he’s good to go.
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10 Things To Practice for Kindergarten Readiness

When I first began my teaching career, kindergarten was a half-day program and primarily focused on play and socialization. Wow, have those days changed!

Today, many kindergartens are on a full-day schedule and are much more academic and structured. Kindergarten readiness is not the simple transition into elementary school that it once was. Common Core State Standards and children’s preschool experiences make modern kindergartens the true start of a child’s elementary school experience.
If your child is entering kindergarten, here are 10 simple things you can practice beforehand to help him face the challenges of a modern kindergarten classroom.

  • Practice upper- and lowercase letters as “partners.” That means learning “Aa, Bb, etc.” together, rather than all capitals. And practice until he can recognize them out of sequence.
  • Hear and recognize rhymes. This promotes phonemic awareness and is a precursor to reading.
  • Start to recognize the sound of letters in the beginning of words. For example, knowing that “bunny” starts with “b” and “sun” starts with “s.”
  • Write his name, using one capital letter and the rest lowercase. One way to practice this is for an adult to print the child’s name with a highlight marker (any color but yellow, since it’s too light) then have him trace inside the highlighted letters with a pencil.
  • Count numbers 0 to 20, and recognize those numbers in and out of sequence.
  • Encourage playing well with others. If possible, arrange play dates, visits to local parks with other children, or library group story hours.
  • Know and be able to draw four simple geometric shapes: circle, square, triangle, and rectangle.
  • Know the days of the week, starting with Sunday.
  • Be able to draw a simple person, with recognizable arms, legs, and facial features such as eyes, nose, lips, ears, and hair.
  • For safety reasons, young children should know their full name, address, and telephone number.

Having knowledge of these simple skills can help your child transition into kindergarten with ease and with confidence.


> Kindergarten Social Changes: What To Expect

> Kindergarten Academics: What To Expect

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Using Praise Effectively Helps Self-Esteem

Parents are rightly concerned about the self-esteem of their teens. It is important to feel confident and self-assured. Equally important, however, is the need to learn to accept and benefit from constructive criticism. You can help your child develop this skill without damaging her self-esteem.

First of all, it is important to use praise effectively. When you praise your adolescent, it should be when he does something praiseworthy. Teens actually lose confidence when praised for poor quality performance. For example, if your son skips baseball practice the day before an important game and consequently plays poorly, he should not be praised for it. If you say, “Sorry you lost. You did your best,” he will think he must be a really terrible player. He knows he did not play his best, but you just told him he did.

Second, your child needs to connect his success to how hard he works. If he really feels he is a terrible player, then he has no motivation to work to improve; but if he connects his poor performance to the fact that he didn’t practice enough, he will want to work harder. Rather than telling him he did his best, ask him, “How do you think you played today?” Follow that with a discussion about how he can improve next time. In this way, you are teaching your child to accept constructive criticism. If he attends all practices and works hard, his skills will improve, and he will play better.

It is important to be able to accept suggestions for improvement. Obviously, it helps in school when teachers ask for better work. It might not be so obvious that it also leads to higher self-esteem. The secret is in the effective use of praise (only when deserved) and helping children connect their success to their hard work.


> How To Help Struggling Students Build Self-Esteem

> 6 Tips To Help Kids Develop a Positive Body Image

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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