Super Fun Science Activities

images (18)Super fun science activities to do with your kids! These are some old favorites that your kids are sure to love this summer!

Advertisements

Why Schools are Failing our Boys

images (3)

This is a very heart-felt article by a mother, Jennifer Fink, concerned about the way we are educating boys. She discusses the need for boys to have physical activity and a chance to do meaningful work that will benefit their families and society-before they reach age 18.

As a teacher, I whole-heartedly agree that boys (and girls) need way more physical activity than they are getting in school. Of course, it is not the teachers’ choice that students only have recess for 15 minutes a day or that they can’t go outside because of the weather. It is also not the choice of teachers that the students only have PE once or twice a week now. We need to look to the policy makers and the writers of standards. We need to insist that kids be allowed to, and encouraged to, move quite a bit during the school day. I’m not sure we will see that change in the near future. For now, all I can do as a teacher is offer lots of movement activities inside my classroom so that I can get the kids moving and get their brains learning too.

THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE PARENTS MAKE ABOUT READING TO THEIR CHILD Aisha Sultan

imagesBVIAWKEO

“40 percent of children who are no longer read to aloud say they wish their parents had continued. Their No. 1 reason was because “it was a special time with my parents.”

 

Wow, if only we could listen to our kids more, we would help them read and feel close to us all at the same time. This article is a fantastic read. It discusses the most common mistake parents make dealing with reading.

When our kids are babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners, we read to them any chance we get. We know they are learning so much about the world through books and that they can’t read them by themselves, so we read to them. But, what happens as soon as your kindergartner learns to read. Reading becomes homework or a timed activity that must be completed, rather than engaging, quality time with books and parents.

At a reading conference I attended last year the speaker spoke about this topic. I was so happy that she did. At the time I was teaching third grade, and it was nearly impossible to fit in everything I was supposed to teach in a day. However, even with my very tight schedule, I still made time for read aloud every day after lunch. Now, some days it was only 5 minutes and other days it was a little longer. But, I cherished that time and would not let anything stand in the way of reading to my class. Yes, they all knew how to read and were very good at it.   But, as I read to them, we went on adventures together, learned about new things, and shared quality time as a class. That time with my class was so valuable.

Be sure to make reading with your children a priority at home. Don’t make it about school, and timers, and homework. Make it about spending quality time with your children learning and exploring books together.

The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten

untitled (52)

The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten is a very interesting article. As a Kindergarten teacher, I can relate to everything the author, Wendy Lecker, is writing about. The first part of my day is spent observing the children playing in dramatic play, playing with legos, creating with art supplies, and building with blocks. I consider this a very valuable teaching time with my students. They are learning how to use language to communicate with one another. They are learning how to use their thoughts to create something new. They are learning how to work and play well with one another. However, this is not a time that is valued much anymore in education. Teachers know how important this time of play is, but the policy makers don’t seem to understand. Once my class starts “school time,” we are back to whole group instruction and then small guided groups. They have some choice in their centers, but most choices are made by the teachers in the room.   It is hard for me to teach the whole group lesson to students whom I know are on all different levels-some ready for what I am teaching and some not. But, since I have standards to meet and they will have tests to take in later years, I am forced to teach them all the same skills at the same time. I’m not sure what to do to make things better and easier for the students, but I think the policies need to change so the students can learn how they need to learn.

 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article.

“They (education reformers) are hyper-focused on how students perform, but they ignore how students learn.”

“If we teach reading, writing, subtraction and addition before children are ready, they might memorize these skills, but will they will not learn or understand them. And it will not help their achievement later on.”

“Child development experts understand that children must learn what their brains are ready to absorb. Kindergarten is supposed to set the stage for learning academic content when they are older.”

“Play is essential in kindergarten.”

“The drafters of the Common Core ignored the research on child development. In 2010, 500 child development experts warned the drafters that the standards called for exactly the kind of damaging practices that inhibit learning: direct instruction, inappropriate academic content and testing.”

 

What do you think? Should we go back to a more play-based kindergarten or keep pushing kids as fast and as far as we can?

 

 

Tips for Helping Students Stay Focused

untitled (50)

I saw this article on focus and organization recently. There are some really great tips for helping students stay focused and organized. I really like the idea of having your students think of their “mind-wandering” thoughts as “monkey thoughts.” Just like monkeys leap from branch to branch running around the jungle, some of our students’ minds jump from topic to topic as they are trying to learn new things.

Another great tip is using a Time Timer. This great timer shows students how much time is left to complete an activity. Knowing how much time is left to finish a writing assignment or get the room cleaned up is so helpful to students who don’t have a clear idea of how much time things take to do.

Is it OK to let your child fail?

untitled (43)

I recently read this article on Facebook. It is written by Kelly Wallace, a CNN digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life.

I wondered what parents thought of her article. She had some really good points about why parents should not always come to their children’s rescue. For instance, she quoted another columnist who said, “Every single time we turn around and say, ‘I’ll just do that for you’ or ‘Here let me help you with that,’ we are saying to them, ‘I don’t think you can do that for yourself,’ ” said Lahey, who is also a columnist for The New York Times and a contributor to The Atlantic and Vermont Public Radio.

I found that very interesting. As a teacher, I know the importance of letting kids do things for themselves. It gives them greater confidence and allows them to learn through mistakes. However, I had never reflected on the fact that doing something for a student would be saying, “I don’t think you can do it yourself.”

Lahey also said, “Giving kids the opportunity to problem solve when something goes wrong, there’s nothing better than that and when we take that away from them, it’s a real tragedy.”

Again, in my career as an educator, I encourage problem solving throughout the day. I want my students to grow up to be thinkers. If I do things for them, then I am taking away their learning opportunity.

The article made several other really good points and had some parent perspectives. It’s definitely worth reading.

 

“You literally saved my son’s life…”

untitled (39)

This is a great article someone passed on to me through Facebook. It really shows the importance of seeking out help for your child. This article specifically talks about how Learning Ally and a Barton tutor saved a third grader’s life. I know that a lot of times it is hard work and takes a lot of time, but finding good programs and good tutors will help your child with much more than just academic success. As stated in the article, the program and the tutor also helped her son gain back confidence in himself. If your child is struggling at all with academics or confidence at school, please seek out a tutor to help. That is what we are trained to do.

If you live in the Colorado Springs area and need a tutor, please contact me at madrake44@yahoo.com or 760-672-8668.

How to Get Kids to Open up About Their School Day

images (17)

I love the ideas in this post by Michele Borba, Educational Psychologist. I would like to give parents some more specifics in regards to a couple of her points.

 

Point 1-Wait at least half an hour

This is a great tip as kids are exhausted and overwhelmed by the time they get home. Give them some down time and a really healthy snack. A snack of nuts and fruit and cheese will give them some energy for tackling homework and answering questions.

Point 2-Don’t turn questions into a third degree

This is so true. It’s easy to ask and ask and ask. If your child is not answering your first question or two, give him some more time to decompress. He’ll probably talk more later.

Point 3-Look interested

This seems easy, but sometimes a parent might be asking questions while doing some other chore. Stop and take time to sit down at the table or on the couch with your child while you talk.

Point 4-Ask questions that require more than a yes or a no

This one is probably the hardest because yes/no questions are the easiest to ask and the ones we think of first. So, instead, ask something like “What homework do you have tonight?”, “What did you and your friends do at lunch today besides eat?” “Who had the tastiest/healthiest lunch today?” See my blog for more specific questions to ask before and after school.

Point 5-Don’t use the same questions

This goes back to point 4 and being creative with your non-yes/no questions. Again, see my blog for specific questions.

Point 6-Stop and listen

Great point! Your child might not answer questions when you ask, but he might volunteer information on the drive home, during dinner, or right before bed. Take time to stop and listen when your child is ready to talk. You never know when he might want to share information again. Seize the moment.

Point 7-Stretch conversation with “Invitation Openers”

Sometimes it’s better to just listen, and sometimes it’s good to say things like “Wow” or “Tell me more.” You know your child the best and you know what will keep them talking.

Point 8-Repeat “talk” portions

This is similar to point 7. Do what works for your child.

Point 9-Make your house kid-friendly

Absolutely! If all the kids are at your house, you will definitely hear more about your child’s life in and out of school. Besides, if everyone is at your house, you always know where your child is.

Point 10-Get on the school website

This one is the most frustrating for teachers. We spend a ton of time updating our websites to keep parents informed, but when we track it, we find that parents don’t even look at the website. Please, please, take time to read your child’s teacher’s website. You can learn so much about what your child is doing at school. This will give you more information and more ideas about what questions to ask your child. We always say, if you have time to check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you have time to look at the teacher’s website.

Grandfather’s To-do List

images4GHK25BZ

 

This article in Dear Abby is such a great way for grandparents to be involved and have fun with their grandchildren. Kids love making lists, following lists, and crossing things off of lists. This grandfather had a wonderful day with his granddaughter by doing just that.

To make it a little more educational, the grandfather could have had his granddaughter help him write the list. They could have worked on spelling, capitalization, and punctuation while making the list for their day.

Balancing Presents and Gratitude

untitled (28)

 

Some of you have probably already started Christmas shopping for your kids. Others of you may just be thinking about Christmas shopping for your kids. As you are shopping or thinking, you may be wondering whether or not your kids really “need” all the presents you are buying and whether they will appreciate them all.   This article from Better Homes and Gardens will help you to teach your kids about gratitude at Christmas and year round.