logo

SchoolFamily Voices

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

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.schoolfamily.com/

Accurately Filling Out Forms: A Lost Skill?

There are some fundamental skills students need to learn that aren’t normally taught in school. On several occasions through the years, I have been responsible for collecting forms for an event such as a field trip. Typically, the forms ask for specific information such as the student’s name, address, and telephone number, as well as a person to contact in the event of an emergency. Students often select from a list of choices and sign the form stating they are aware of safety concerns. Normally, the parent or guardian also needs to sign the form. I am always surprised at the number of middle and high school students who do not correctly fill out the forms. They forget to fill in important information or forget to get the appropriate signatures. Additionally, they fail to meet the deadline for turning in the form.

While these forms may seem trivial, they are not. Teachers spend hours going through them before taking a field trip with students. They make phone calls, email parents, and look up the missing information. More important, these skills are necessary when filling out a job application or an application to college. Because jobs are scarce, a mistake like leaving out information can make the difference in whether an applicant is considered for the job or not. And it would be a shame to miss getting into a specific college because the application is not complete!

As a parent, you can help. Your child should fill out these forms himself. If he does not know specific information, rather than telling him, suggest where he might find the information. Teach him that he should not sign his name without reading what he is signing. Encourage him to write legibly (including his signature). And tell him that every piece of information must be filled out even when it requires him to do some research to find it.

It can be a nuisance to have to fill out forms for school events, but think of it as a teaching opportunity. The skills are important even though it might not seem so at the moment!

 

> Make Sure Teens Know How To Fill Out Job Applications

> Take Advantage of Real-Life Learning Experiences

Continue reading
  4755 Hits
  0 Comments
4755 Hits
0 Comments

Encouraging "Deeper-Level" Thinking in Young Children

Asking and answering questions has been a staple of teacher and student interaction for centuries. A big shift in today’s classrooms is for teachers to challenge students with “deeper-level questioning.”

This means getting away from short one- or two-word answer that come only from recall. Examples of short-answer questions are “What color is the snow?”  or “Can you point to the car in the picture?” To answer these low-level questions, students only have to have the ability to accurately recall facts.

While recall of facts is a good place to start with young students, parents can help take this process to the “next level."

Here are four easy steps parents can use when asking about reading, writing, or math to develop deeper-level thinking in the minds of young students.

Comprehension/understanding:
Have your child paraphrase, or put things in his own words. For example, “Why do you think Jack wanted to climb the beanstalk?”

Drawing conclusions:
If you know that 1+1 = 2, what does 10+10 equal?

Connecting information or recognizing patterns:
If the sky is usually blue, why does it sometimes look gray?

Creative thinking:
If you were Jack, how would you have taken the goose and golden egg?

By helping your child become a deeper-level thinker, you teach her to understand in ways that result in multiple correct answers. This greatly enhances her problem-solving skills. These are attributes that will benefit your child for life.

 

> Critical Thinking Skills Printables

> Open-Ended Questions Stretch Your Child's Thinking Skills

Continue reading
  4544 Hits
  0 Comments
4544 Hits
0 Comments

Ways To Motivate Students To Do Their Best

One of the most difficult parts of raising kids is motivating them to do their best work. Adolescents can be externally motivated (like when you take their smartphone away from them until they get their grades up to an acceptable level). You are the source of motivation in that scenario. But it is much better if they are internally motivated—when they want to do their best regardless of what others think.

There are many theories about motivation; they are difficult to prove, because there are so many variables involved. There are some things, however, that are common sense and mostly supported by research. We know that students are more motivated when they have a personal interest in a subject, they like the teacher, they feel like the adults in their life care about them, and their basic needs are taken care of (like food, sleep, and shelter).

What can we do as parents and teachers to encourage self-motivation? What I am going to suggest here is primarily based on my own experience working many years with middle and upper school students, but there is research supporting it.

  • Praise your child only when she is working hard and doing her best. Somewhere along the way, we got the idea that children need constant praise in order to raise their self-esteem. When we praise them for work that does not deserve it, they are not motivated to try harder, and it does not raise their self-esteem. It just gives them a sense of entitlement—“I deserve praise no matter what I do.”
  • Let your child do his own work even when it is really hard for him to do. If parents rescue their children from all failure, what the child learns is that he is not capable of doing it himself. This completely destroys the motivation to try at all.
  • When your child is given the appropriate level of work to do, he is more motivated to give it a try. He should not take an honors level class when the work is really too hard for him. The opposite of this is true, as well. When he is placed in a regular level class but belongs in honors, he will not be motivated because the work is too easy. Interestingly enough, in either situation he will report that he is bored in class (either in a class that’s too hard or in a class that’s too easy).
  • Nothing motivates your child as much as success. This relates to the last point because she is more likely to succeed when in the appropriate course. The level of work given to her should be challenging but she should be able to successfully do most of it if she tries hard. She should be offered multiple ways to show what she knows. Some students will make amazing videos; others shine when they get to perform a skit. This success is motivating and makes her want to do better on other types of assignments.


The final point I want to make is that children believe what they hear the adults in their life say. Tell your child that you love him no matter what, and you are so happy to have him in your life. Countless times in my career, I have heard kids say, “No matter how hard I try, it’s never good enough for my parents.” Your words are important and can either motivate or discourage.

Continue reading
  10157 Hits
  2 Comments
10157 Hits
2 Comments

Simple Rhyming Songs Can Enhance Early Learning

Music is a powerful tool to help a young child learn. It blends movement and rhythm with words and rhyme to increase phonemic awareness.

Music helps young children naturally cross “over the midline” to understand left-to-right progression, a key element for reading and writing successfully. Music also helps the brain enhance memory.

Putting music to rhymes can help with gross and fine motor skills as well as math practice.

Here are two simple and easily recognizable songs to boost rhyming, early reading, and counting skills:

This Old Man
This old man, he played one
He played knick knack on his thumb
With a knick knack, paddywhack
Give the dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

Examples of the sequential verses are “two shoe, three knee, four door, five hive, six sticks, seven heaven, eight gate, nine line, ten pen.”


Down by the Bay

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow,
Back to my home,
I dare not go,
For if I do
My mother will say,
Did you ever see a whale, swishing its tail…down by the bay?

Additional rhyming verses are “Did you ever see a pig, dancing a jig? Did you ever see a goat, sailing a boat?” Or you can use any funny animal rhymes you can create together.

Little students love songs and movement. Incorporating music helps make learning fun and memorable!

 

> The Five Steps to Phonemic Awareness

> Teach Your Child To Love Reading

Continue reading
  4845 Hits
  0 Comments
4845 Hits
0 Comments

The Olympics Teach Valuable Lessons About Perseverance

Singulyarra/Shutterstock

Many families are spending hours watching the Sochi Olympics. It is amazing to see world-class athletes from so many different countries competing against one another. Several of the medal winners relate how important it is that they did not win when they competed in the previous Olympics. They say that losing is why they got better. They were able to concentrate on their weaknesses and work to improve them. They say losing is what made them come back four years later to win a medal in Sochi. I have written about the importance of failure before. Failure is important, but there is more to learn from these Olympic athletes than knowing their past failure led to their current success. It is what happens in the years between failure and success that makes the difference.

These athletes first had to identify where they were weak. Then they had to work really hard to improve the weak areas. As a student, your child may have weaknesses in basic study skills, knowing how to be a student, focusing her attention in class, completing homework on time, or managing her time wisely. Figuring out where she is weak is the first step to improving. Once the weak areas are identified, she needs a plan of action for how to get better in those areas. Finally, she needs to get down to work. It is work ethic and perseverance that lead to success.

Nick Horton, an Olympic coach, tells of others who became successful after going through very difficult situations in Failing Forward: 7 Stories of Success Through Failure. When your child goes through tough times in school, remind him that he can turn it around. It is up to him to change his failure into success.

Check out these related printables about study skills and have your child read about how to become a proactive student.

Continue reading
  5025 Hits
  0 Comments
5025 Hits
0 Comments

Play “Friends of 10” for Easy Math Practice

Understanding addition and subtraction and strategies involving the number 10 are crucial components of Common Core Math Standards. Easy recall of various ways to add and subtract 10 is also an important part of early math fluency.

“Friends of 10” is a simple game to help a young student practice these skills and have a little fun in the process.
You will need:

  • Either a plastic or paper plate. If you don’t have a plastic or paper plate handy, use a napkin or folded-over paper towel.
  • Ten small, somewhat flat and uniformly shaped objects. For example, 10 of the same coins, Cheerios, Lego rectangles, etc.

To play:

  • Lay the 10 objects on a table or counter top.
  • Have the student count the objects so he knows there are 10.
  • Ask him, “How many objects are here?” He answers “10.”
  • Cover the objects with the plate, or whatever cover you are using while he watches. Then ask, “How many are underneath?” He’ll answer, “10.”
  • Have him turn around and close his eyes. Take a few items out from under the cover and put those on top. For example, put three on top, leaving seven hidden.
  • Have him turn back around. Ask, “How many do you see on top?” He’ll say, “3.” Then ask, “If we started with 10, and you see three on top, how many are still hidden?” At first, he may have to count on fingers to get the answer.  The more you play, the more fluent he will become with all the different combinations of 10. 
  • Vary combinations of 10 each time you play.
  • Don’t forget to include zero. Try placing no objects on top, leaving 10 underneath or 10 objects on top for zero hidden.

 

If starting with 10 objects is difficult for your young child, you can begin with five objects for “Friends of Five.” Once “Friends of Five” is mastered increase the quantities, one object at a time, up to 10.

Young students love playing this game. It uses visual, auditory, and hands-on modalities to help all types of learners master the various combinations of 10!

 

> An Easy Game To Help Kids Practice Important Math Skills

> Improve Math Skills With a Deck of Cards

 

Continue reading
  4648 Hits
  0 Comments
4648 Hits
0 Comments

Adolescents Should Solve Most of Their Problems Themselves

In nearly 30 years of teaching school, I have seen hundreds of cases where parents involve themselves in their adolescents’ problems. Sometimes, that’s the right thing to do because the problem is too great for a teen to handle alone. But most of the time, the problems are minor—like when to start doing homework, whether to go to the late basketball game, or who to take to the dance. If kids are allowed to make decisions on their own and suffer the natural consequences of those decisions, they will be better equipped to handle bigger problems when they arise (like whether to smoke that cigarette or drink that beer).

Let’s pretend that Maria decides not to wear leggings, boots, and a heavy jacket to school because she is hoping for warmer weather in the afternoon. The weather does not get warmer. Instead it gets colder and windy. Maria gets chilled when she goes outside. This is the natural consequence, and it will not hurt her. Next time, she is more likely to pay attention to the weather forecast when getting dressed for school. (By the way, it is a myth that you catch a cold from getting chilled. Colds are caused by a virus.) Parents often involve themselves in these decisions which lead to arguments in the morning before school, and their children do not learn about consequences of their actions.

A few weeks later, Maria’s friend Alex tries to talk her into leaving campus during lunchtime even though it’s against the rules. Because Maria’s parents have allowed her to make lots of decisions by herself (like what to wear to school), she thinks through the possible consequences of going with Alex and decides she doesn’t want to take the risk. If Maria’s parents make all her decisions for her, she might not think about consequences of her actions.

The most frequent parental involvement I have had as a teacher is after a student does poorly on a test or project. The parent will call to find out why. This is a student and teacher issue, and in most cases the student should handle this by himself. Instead of getting involved, encourage him to go talk to his teacher himself. It is fine to coach him on how to do it. He should make an appointment to talk to the teacher alone instead of when other students are around (perhaps before or after school). He should ask for help to understand what he missed and why he missed it. He might ask if his teacher can show him an answer that got all the points. He should tell his teacher he would like to do better next time and ask for advice on how to improve. This approach teaches him that he can solve problems on his own. He is a capable person who can figure out how to do better in school. He will earn the respect of his teacher who will be impressed with how mature he is. He is a step closer to independence and self-discipline.

Continue reading
  5106 Hits
  2 Comments
5106 Hits
2 Comments

A First Step in Helping Reluctant Readers: See the Doctor

Recently, a mom shared with me that her daughter was showing signs of being a “reluctant reader.” As an avid reader herself, the mom had difficulty understanding why her child wasn’t embracing books and stories. She was worried that there could be underlying causes that might be hindering reading progress. She asked for suggestions to help her daughter become a better reader. I told her that in evaluating reluctant readers, I always suggest looking into physical causes first. I suggest this because:

  • Young children have no basis of comparison. In other words, they think that everyone sees and hears the way they do.
  • They don’t yet possess the language to describe what might be hindering seeing or hearing properly.
  • They don’t even know they have a problem!

 

Most adults think that reading glasses are for older people. But beginning readers often need these corrective lenses, sometimes just for short periods of time. I know this is true because this happened to my own children.

Also, if a young child is prone to ear infections, that fluid build-up can distort hearing sounds needed to decode words. Once, a doctor described this fluid build-up to me as if “hearing with your ears underwater in a bathtub.”

So if you are concerned that your child may be a reluctant reader, my first advice would be:

  • Have his eyes tested by an optometrist who specializes in children’s vision.
  • Have his ears tested by a pediatric audiologist.

 

During my 25 years of teaching 1st grade, this advice helped many children and their families. Some students did indeed need glasses, which helped them see clearly and become good readers. Others needed to have fluid removed from their ears, which helped their phonics, fluency, and listening skills. This advice sometimes helped entire families, as parents had siblings checked as well.

So before you panic and imagine deeper underlying causes for reading reluctance, rule out the physical first!

 

> Teach Your Child To Love Reading

> How To Read With Your Child

Continue reading
  3645 Hits
  0 Comments
3645 Hits
0 Comments

The Link Between TV Time and Brain Development

Scientists have known for a long time that children who are raised in a stimulating environment learn more easily than those who are not. Children need toys to play with, puzzles to solve, and to interact with other people. As children learn new vocabulary and skills, scientists can use imaging techniques to see that their brains change. Neurons form new connections and grow stronger, while other neurons die and are pared away. This is normal brain development that occurs throughout childhood and adolescence. (For a more thorough understanding of what we know about the brain, read The Brain: Our Sense of Self from the National Institutes of Health.)

Scientists have long suspected that watching too much television can have negative effects on children. A new study of children between the ages of 5 and 18  supports this by linking the amount of television children watch each day to brain development. There was a link between the amount of television watched and the amount of brain tissue present in the brain. As children grow and learn, scientist should notice that there are fewer neurons in the brain (with the remaining neurons becoming larger and stronger). There also should be many new connections between the neurons. In this recent study, those who watched the most television had too many neurons! This is evidence that their brains were not developing the same as the children who did not watch television very much.

This study does not prove that television causes the problem. It is possible that the cause of the lack of brain development is that the children are not spending time playing games, going to museums, socializing with others, reading, or solving puzzles. It might not have anything to do with television. But if your teens are spending more time in front of the television than they are doing all the other things adolescents should be doing, then you should take this study seriously.


> What Is "Too Much" When It Comes to Young Children and Consumer Electronics?

> Children, Sleep, and Long-Term Memory

Continue reading
  4837 Hits
  2 Comments
4837 Hits
2 Comments

7 Strategies for Successful Homework Routines

Homework is a part of every student’s school experience, starting as early as preschool. Yet sometimes it can be a source of stress for busy families.

Here are seven strategies to help alleviate that stress and create smooth homework routines:

 

  • Create a comfortable, quiet, and regular work environment. Two suggestions might be a small desk or table in your child’s room, or working together at the kitchen table. If possible, try for a consistent time that works best for your family.
  • Make sure distractions like the TV or video games are turned off.
  • Read the directions to your child, and then listen to her retell the directions to make sure she understands.
  • If your child is reluctant to start because the task seems overwhelming, break it into smaller elements by using a timer. Have him work for 5 minutes. When the timer rings, he can take a 3-minute break. Keep working with the timer, in 5 minute increments, followed by a 3-minute break, until homework is complete.
  • Offer encouragement and praise, especially when your child shows good effort.
  • Go over each completed activity. If errors are found, help your child self-correct.
  • Make sure completed homework goes right back into the homework folder and backpack so it arrives safely at school the next morning. Getting credit for hard work reinforces a willingness to complete new assignments.


On nights when there is no assigned homework, make it a policy to read together for at least 15 extra minutes before bedtime.

By providing young children positive encouragement, an organized work space, and strategies to complete homework you are motivating them for school success—and the pleasure of experiencing the feeling of a job well done.

 

> Less Homework Stress

> Daily Homework Tracker

Continue reading
  5828 Hits
  0 Comments
5828 Hits
0 Comments

Machine-Scored Bubble Forms Can Cause Problems for Some Students

Multiple choice and true/false tests are often evaluated using bubble-type, machine-scored forms. This is extremely helpful for teachers who have lots of papers to grade. But students who have visual-motor integration problems might have trouble using them and make errors putting answers in the correct spot on the bubble form. They might put the answer to number five on the form where number six is, or they might bubble in the letter “B” when they mean “D.” They might start bubbling in their answers in the wrong column on the form. When these errors happen, the student gets a very low grade that does not reflect how much they actually know. Here are some strategies to try if using these forms is a problem for your child.

  • Ask the teacher if it is OK for her to write answers on the test page before transferring them to the bubble sheet. This might help for two reasons. First, bubbling in the answers is a single step that does not require holding the question and answer in working memory. All your child has to remember is the question number and the answer she needs to bubble in. That reduces the likelihood of errors because of trying to hold too much information in memory at once. Second, if she does make an error transferring the answer, she can always check the answer against the actual test where she first answered. She can show her teacher that she really did know the answer but made a mistake putting it on the form.
  • If your child has a visual-motor integration problem, he might not be able to keep his eyes going in a straight line. He should use a blank index card or a ruler to keep his place on the bubble form. The index card can help make sure he does not skip down a line or number. If he lines up the card with the correct number on the form, he should make fewer errors.
  • Your child might need to cover up everything she is not currently working on with a clean sheet of notebook paper. This helps focus her eyes on what is important for the question.
  • If she makes a mistake on the form, she needs to be sure she erases completely before bubbling in the correct answer. If she does not, the machine may count the answer wrong even though she bubbled in the correct answer.


All of these strategies are easy to implement. The teacher needs to know why your child needs the strategy, though. It would be easy to think a child is planning to cheat if she comes in to take a test with a sheet of paper or index card. These strategies can be allowed as accommodations on a child’s IEP or 504 Plan, as well.

If these strategies do not help your child, she can also be exempted from using the machine-scored bubble forms. If that is the case, the teacher needs to know why it’s necessary. You can say something like, “My child makes lots of mistakes using a bubble sheet.  If you want to know how much she knows, it is better to allow her to write her answers right on the test. If she has to transfer to the bubble form, what you will find out is how well she can bubble in the answers—not what she has learned from you.”

Continue reading
  3993 Hits
  0 Comments
3993 Hits
0 Comments

Inside Learning Games That Are Fun and Easy

Are your children stuck inside because of cold weather? Had enough of the TV and video games?

Here are two simple activities to promote learning while having fun. And if you live in a warmer climate, these are great for outdoor learning fun, too!

Inside “Basket” Ball Math

Materials: A large ball and an empty laundry basket.

To play: Place the basket in a clear, central area of a room. Have your child take a few steps back from the basket.

He softly tosses the ball while counting to see how many baskets he can make. Missed baskets don’t count. Set a goal for younger children to make (and count up to) 10 baskets. When that goal is reached, start a new one. For example, have him start counting baskets at 15 and count up to a goal of 30. To increase the difficulty, toss the ball in the basket while counting backwards! Start counting at 25 and set the goal to correctly count backwards to 10. When reached, set a new backward goal. Or skip count by 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s each time a basket is made. This game promotes forward and backward counting, increases eye-hand coordination, and uses visual, auditory, and tactile ways to practice numbers.

“Sugar” Shapes
Materials: A simple beige file folder or some index cards, glue, sugar, or salt

To play: Open the file folder. An adult draws a bead line of glue to form different shapes on the folder; for example, a circle, square, triangle, rectangle, or diamond. This can also be done on individual index cards. While the glue line is wet, sprinkle sugar (or salt) over the glue line shapes. Let the shapes dry overnight. When dry, invert the folder or cards over a waste basket to remove the excess sugar or salt. Have your child close her eyes and try to guess the shape by feeling the rough sugar (or salt) shape. To increase the difficulty, this can be done to practice letter recognition or spelling words.

These types of activities can help increase a child’s analytical skills by encouraging the use of other senses, and promoting a more enriching learning experience.

 

> Make Learning Fun With Classic Childhood Games

> Creative Play Leads to Learning

Continue reading
  4567 Hits
  0 Comments
4567 Hits
0 Comments

You Can Be Good at Math, Too!

Most people feel strongly that they are either good at math or that they are terrible at it. They think that math ability is genetic and cannot be changed. An interesting new research study suggests that this might not be true.

Scientists tested students on a variety of math concepts. They tested some of the same concepts with number problems and word problems. Many times the students could work the problem if it was just a number problem, but they could not work it if it was in a word problem. The data also shows that there was not much correlation between various concepts in math. This means most people could easily work certain kinds of problems and not others.

Research like this often creates more questions than it answers. For example, why could a person work number problems but not word problems that require the exact same math concept? (Could difficulty with reading be the issue? Was it too much information to hold at one time in working memory? How can someone be good at working algebra but not geometry? Is it because the two types of math are really very different from one another? Is it because some underlying knowledge needed in the geometry is missing?) These questions are not specifically answered in the research, but it does offer some interesting findings.

The researchers feel their research gives hope to those who feel they are not good in math. Many students in their study could do some kinds of math but not others. The researchers believe this relates to how much time and practice the students had on the various concepts. They believe that most people can do well in math if given enough time to practice. They do not feel it relates to genetics. You are not born good at math; you get good at math with practice.

I suggest that students should keep practicing math problems from the various types of math. There are many apps available for free or very little money. Here is a review of five apps for middle school students, and here are some for upper school students. Find an app that is fun to use that keeps earlier math skills fresh. There is a good chance that you will become a better math student if you are willing to do some additional practice.

 

Continue reading
  5237 Hits
  0 Comments
5237 Hits
0 Comments

3 Essential Questions for a Midyear Check-in

For most school districts across the country, January is the halfway mark of the school year, even if your district follows a trimester model. Most important, it’s the perfect time to have a “check-in” with your child’s teacher, whether or not this is a planned conference time.

The check-in can be a scheduled meeting with your child’s teacher, a phone call, or even an email. To start the conversation, here are three simple yet essential questions to ask the teacher:

  • Is your child’s reading on grade level at this point in the school year?
  • Are his math skills where they should be now?
  • Is his social and emotional development on par with other students in the class?

 

The answer to these three questions will give you a blueprint on how to proceed with the remainder of the school year. From January to the end of this school year is a very large block of time with few interruptions. Much can be accomplished to ensure grade-level success.

Key information you want to know includes:

  • If your child is on grade level, keep doing what has worked at home to support this success.
  • If she’s above grade level, ask the teacher for suggestions to enrich reading or math at home.
  • If she’s below grade level, ask the teacher for ideas to help fill in missing gaps. Also ask about the possibility of getting extra help or support from within the school.


The academic rigors of Common Core State Standards makes it important to have this information now. This allows you and the teacher time needed to support, enrich, or help your child catch up before the end of the school year.

 

> 6 Questions for a Successful Parent-Teacher Conference

> 3 Skills Critical to Common Core Success

Continue reading
  6298 Hits
  0 Comments
6298 Hits
0 Comments

The Parent-Teacher Partnership: A Critical Connection

Michael Thompson is one of my favorite educators. He advises teachers to ask their students’ parents what they hope for their child in the future. I have started asking this question when I have a chance, because it allows me to learn a lot about my students and their parents. Nearly every parent I have asked says they want their child to be happy, self-sufficient, well-educated, in a successful career that they enjoy, and healthy. I am hopeful that I can support these goals by holding high expectations of my students.

When I give a homework assignment or long-term project, I am teaching my student skills she will need for success in higher education or on the job. She learns to work independently, manage her time, stay organized, and rely on all of her resources (books, notes, teacher, etc.). She is responsible for thoroughly completing the assignment and turning it in on time. If I allow her to make excuses for why she did not complete it or if parents make excuses, then I am not supporting educational and career goals.

In order to be healthy, kids need to learn to eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and lead a balanced life. As their teacher, I encourage these things and try to model them, but much depends on parents monitoring their child’s activities. One of the biggest issues for current students is the amount of screen time they spend each day playing video games, text messaging, watching television, social networking, etc. This not only affects daily activity but also keeps them up too late at night which affects learning and memory.

Parents and teachers have to work together to help kids grow up to be productive and happy. Parents can support teachers by allowing their children to accept responsibility for their actions. Teachers can support parents by holding high, but reasonable, expectations for their students. Parents and teachers have to form a partnership of support and encouragement.

Continue reading
  4712 Hits
  0 Comments
4712 Hits
0 Comments

A Great Tool To Help Students Organize Thoughts and Ideas

A graphic organizer is a simple paper tool that uses drawings or words to express knowledge, thoughts, or ideas. They are particularly helpful for young students to organize and sequence facts, concepts or steps for problem solving. Here are some templates for graphic organizers.

When you help a young child organize a story he is reading, you greatly increase his comprehension. When he’s working with nonfiction or informational text, a graphic organizer can help him understand and apply facts and information. They allow him to visualize thoughts about characters, actions, and settings in stories, or pertinent and important facts that need to be remembered from nonfiction. Graphic organizers can be used:

  • Prereading, to help a child predict what might happen;
  • During reading, to help him keep the story in sequence;
  • Post reading, to check for her comprehension, or to go back to the text to look for evidence.


Graphic organizers are wonderful for writing and math, as well:

  • A story map can help your child write the correct sequence of her thoughts to paper.
  • A simple Venn diagram can help him organize odd and even numbers to 21.


Using graphic organizers is a perfect way for parents to assist their young student with reading comprehension, sequencing events for a writing assignment, or outlining math steps.

Continue reading
  5311 Hits
  0 Comments
5311 Hits
0 Comments

Adolescence: A Time of Change and Self-Doubt

Most adolescent students have doubts about themselves. Your child may feel that everyone around him is smarter, has more friends, looks better, or is a better athlete. He might think he doesn’t have much chance of succeeding in life. You can help him learn how to handle these feelings and gain more control over what happens to him.

Adolescence is a time of change. It is when your children change from being dependent on parents or guardians to being self-reliant. It is difficult, and often teens feel inadequate. But even though they feel awkward and ugly, others see them quite differently. This is a time when parents can be most helpful, yet teens often do not talk about their concerns. Parents can initiate this discussion and can assure their teens that their feelings are normal.

I have written many times about success in school and life. If your child is willing to work hard, study, and turn in all the work she owes, it is very likely that she will do well in school. It is important that she accepts responsibility for her actions and acknowledges when she makes a mistake. If her first thought is "My teacher didn't tell me," then she needs to give some thought to what determines success. Parents can help her to understand the importance of a good work ethic. Parents should also allow her to suffer the consequences of her actions by not rescuing her from failure. The same is true whether talking about success in academics, sports, art, music, or even friendship. (On the other hand, if your child is working hard but still not succeeding, then it may be time to seek help.)

When you hear your child say disparaging things about herself, encourage her by explaining that her feelings are quite normal and a part of adolescence. Help her to be her very best and encourage her to take charge of her life and work. Help her to connect her hard work to success by praising her efforts rather than her intellect. In this way, she will be successful now in school and later in life after school. She will gradually feel better about herself and realize how special she is to many people.

Continue reading
  5592 Hits
  0 Comments
5592 Hits
0 Comments

Are All Parents Happy With Common Core?

A very subtle shift is happening in my hometown. Interestingly, a small group of parents have organized and convened a meeting they called “Repeal Common Core: Reclaiming Local Control in Education.” About 20 parents and some educators attended the meeting.

The Common Core State Standards are national educational standards that have been adopted by 45 states. They were constructed as part of a nationwide initiative to improve and equalize US education, so that students achieve as well as other high-scoring nations around the world.

From what I understand about the controversy, the main issues of my hometown group are:

  • Everyone is in agreement that there should be high standards.
  • They feel that Common Core is too focused on benchmarks and standardized testing.
  • These parents feel that constant testing is stressful on students and teachers, and doesn’t address the needs of gifted or special-needs students.
  • They also feel that since tax money is paying for this, local districts should have had input.


The group feels that the best thing to do now is ask questions and learn more about Common Core at the local level. It then hopes to organize a petition drive. They envision that their small steps now might grow into a grassroots movement that could modify, or even repeal, Common Core State Standards.

As an educator, I like the equity and rigor of Common Core. In my opinion, higher expectations for students are a very good thing. They better prepare students for college and the workplace.  I do understand the group’s concern that there seems to be lot of testing. Yet for lesson planning purposes it is important to access what students have learned, and construct new lessons, moving forward, from that point. We have to think of the Common Core standards as a solid foundation, where students are challenged, yet supported while achieving more.

Is anything like this happening in your area? What do you think?

> Coming Soon to Your School: Common Core State Standards

> Common Core on SchoolFamily.com blog

Continue reading
  2994 Hits
  0 Comments
2994 Hits
0 Comments

The Keys to Success in School

In my nearly 30 years of teaching, I have worked with many students who are struggling and anxious. There are times when these kids are their own worst enemy. The choices they make often exacerbate the problem. Here are some choices students make that affect their success in school.
Do I feel well enough to go to school today? Encourage your child to strive for perfect attendance. The amount of work he does in a day at school is pretty daunting. He spends 45-plus minutes in each class discussing new concepts, taking notes, practicing problems, writing essays, or doing group work. Activities like class discussions and group work cannot be made up after an absence. He normally has homework assignments that relate to the class work. Unless he was there, he cannot do the homework. Each day he misses adds tremendously to his struggle and anxiety about school. There are times when missing school cannot be avoided (such as, he has a virus or is running a fever), but unless that’s the case, send him to school. For more about attendance, see “Student Absences: They Hurt Learning More Than You Might Think.”

Should I work on my homework right now?
Teach your child that school is hard work that takes a lot of time. A strong work ethic is more related to success in school and life than is intelligence. She needs to set aside plenty of time each day to complete the work that is due the next day. She also needs to complete some portion of any long-term projects she has been assigned. This prevents her from being caught trying to do a project that was supposed to take two weeks on the night before it is due. To make sure she does not forget something, she needs to have a planner where she writes down everything that is due (including the chunks of each project) and checks each off as she completes it.

Should I study for my English test tonight?
Your child needs to understand that studying takes time and works better when spread over several nights. Reading through his notes is not studying. It is a good thing to do, but it does not assure that he actually knows the concepts and can recall them on a test. Read “Teach Your Kids How To Study” for help knowing what studying really is.

I was talking to a colleague who said that he puts a question on every test that asks students to tell him how they studied for it. He said that kids are pretty honest about answering it, and it gives him the opportunity to ask them whether they think that was a good choice or not. I might add two more questions. How many days of school did you miss during this unit? Did you complete all your homework and projects? Parents can ask these same questions and encourage their children to improve in these areas. Attendance, daily work ethic, and study skills are keys to success in school.

Continue reading
  5195 Hits
  2 Comments
5195 Hits
2 Comments

New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

At the start of a new year, adults often take time to reflect and think about positive changes they want to make in their lives. This is a wonderful time for children to do the same.

Here is a list of 10 simple resolutions that young students can choose from to increase their academic, physical, and social/emotional well-being for the new year.

Students should choose at least five that work for the family:

  • Read (or read together) at least 15 minutes each night.
  • Do a specific chore. On a daily basis, make the bed or take out the trash, match the socks from the clean laundry, feed a pet, etc. A consistent, simple chore helps a young child learn responsibility.
  • Write a short letter (with help, if needed) once or twice a month to a grandparent, favorite aunt or uncle, cousin, or friend. This is purposeful practice of a needed skill while bringing joy to a loved one.
  • Pick up toys. Help your child understand the importance of everyone cleaning their own mess.
  • Drink more water, instead of fruity or sugary drinks.
  • Say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” more often. Help him understand that good manners count.
  • Share more. Let a brother or sister use toys, books, crayons, etc.
  • Start a word jar. Pick a new spelling word, or word from a story. At least once a week, write the word on a small piece of paper and add it to the jar. Periodically pick a word from the jar, and have your child use it in a sentence.
  • Always brush teeth before bed and wash hands after using the bathroom.
  • Save coins in a jar or piggy bank. Once a month, empty the jar and sort the coins. Then count the coins to find the total number.

 

By helping children make realistic and attainable resolutions, you’re also teaching them a lot about goal-setting and self-discipline—skills that will serve them well their entire lives!

Continue reading
  9535 Hits
  0 Comments
9535 Hits
0 Comments
Advertisement
Advertisement

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