The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: August 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Contests for Kids - Part II

Here is the next batch of awards I found for young contenders.  All are particularly good for after school and enrichment programs.  (Note: each title hyperlinks to the contest.  I added other helpful links)
  • Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes
    The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes is awarded annually to ten US and Canadian students, aged 8-18, who have developed an extraordinary service project that helped people and the planet. The website has lots of resources.  Students must be nominated by an adult.
  • Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest
    The Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest is open to children who are age 6 to 12.  Deadline October 12, 2011: http://contests.about.com/od/cashsweepstakes/p/111012-jif-most-creative-peanut-butter-sandwich-contest.htm
  • Kohl's Kids Who Care Program
    The Kohl's Kids Who Care Program (www.kohlskids.com) honors students age 6-18 who are involved in community service. Candidates enter by being nominated by an adult age 21 years or older. Nominees are considered in two age groups, 6-12 and 13-18, with three prize levels within each group.
  • Letters About Literature
    Letters About Literature is a national reading/writing contest sponsored by the Center for the Book in the US Library of Congress in partnership with Target Stores. The contest is open to US students in grades 4-12. Entries consist of a personal letter to an author, living or dead, from any genre, explaining how the author's work changed the student's way of thinking about the world or themselves.  Info about this year's competition:  http://www.lettersaboutliterature.org/
  • MATHCOUNTS
    MATHCOUNTS is a national math competition for middle school students (grades 6-8). Individuals and teams of four mathletes from each school compete on a local, state and national level.
  • National Marbles Tournament Scholarships
    The annual National Marbles Tournament awards $5,000 in scholarships to mibsters (marble shooters) aged 8 to 14. The tournament is held in June each year.  What fun!
  • National Geography Bee
    The National Geography Bee is sponsored by the National Geographic Society. It is open to US students in grades 4-8 who are age 15 or younger by the date of the national competition. The National Geography Bee is a three stage competition, starting at the school level (competitions from mid-November through mid-January), followed by state competitions in April and the national competition in May.
  • National High School Oratorical Contest
    The National High School Oratorical Contest is sponsored by the American Legion. It is open to US students in junior high school or high school (grades 7-12) who are under age 20 as of the date of the national contest. State contests are held no later than mid-March, and the national contest finals are held in April. The American Legion pays for the travel and lodging expenses of the state winners and their chaperones.
  • National History Day Contest
    The National History Day Contest is open to students in grades 6-12 in the junior (grades 6-8) and senior (grades 9-12) divisions. The projects relate to a specific historical theme or topic.  This year's theme is Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History.
  • National Spelling Bee
    The National Spelling Bee is sponsored by the E.W. Scripps Company. It is open to students in grades 1-8 as of their school finals (February 1) and who are under age 16 as of the date of the national finals (June 1).
  • NewsCurrents Student Editorial Cartoon Contest
    The NewsCurrents Student Editorial Cartoon Contest is sponsored by Knowledge Unlimited, Inc. and is open to students in grades K-12. There are three divisions: grades K-6, 7-9 and 10-12.
That's all for today.  Look for the rest of the list tomorrow.  I hope you find something of interest for your students.

Happy Parenting, Happy Teaching, and Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Contests for Kids - Part I

Contests provide awesome motivation for children to learn new skills or hone already strong skills.  Here are a few contests for young entrants.  Most are for middle school students, but some apply to lower elementary and high school.  All have a very late in the school year deadline so you have time to work on them with your children.
  • Action For Nature honors the work of young people between the ages of 8 and 16 who have done creative environmental projects. The winners of AFN’s International Young Eco-Hero Awards program receive a cash prize and a special certificate, as well as public recognition on their web site.  Here are the 2011 guidelines, but the website says that the 2012 guidelines will be available very soon: http://www.actionfornature.org/eco-hero-awards/2011-application-guidelines.  Also check out past winners to see what the contest judges look for: http://www.actionfornature.org/eco-hero-awards/past-winners/2010-winners
  • The Angela Award honors one female student in grades 5–8, who is involved in or has a strong connection to science. It is sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association.  Deadline is November 30 and the guidelines are here: http://www.nsta.org/pdfs/awards/Angela.pdf
  • BattleBots Awards is a robot building contest for teams of middle school, high school, and college students: http://www.battlebotsiq.com/BattleBots.com/Home/Home.html
  • The BRICK Awards by Do Something provide community grants and scholarships to "change-makers" age 25 and under who work with Do Something to improve their communities. They will post their 2012 guidelines soon, but you can see who won this year's awards here: http://www.dosomething.org/programs/awards
  • The Christopher Columbus Community Service Awards are open to teams of students in grades 6-8. The competition focuses on using science and technology to solve real-world community problems. The deadline is the second Monday in February.  Details here: http://www.christophercolumbusawards.com/
  • Davidson Fellowships are awarded by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development to US students under age 18 who have completed a significant piece of work in the fields of Mathematics, Science, Technology, Music, Literature, Philosophy or Outside the Box. The significant piece of work should have the potential to benefit society. The focus of the program is on gifted and talented students. There is no minimum age for eligibility.  Deadline is February 1.  Click here for information and previous winners: http://www.davidsongifted.org/fellows/
  • Dick Blick sponsors an annual contest for block prints made from linoleum. There are three divisions: grades 4-6, grades 7-9, and grades 10-12.  Info from last year's contest; new guidelines soon: http://www.dickblick.com/blockcontest/
  • This is my personal favorite: Google is famous for the doodles that occasionally replace the Google logo. The Doodle 4 Google competition challenges children in grades K-12 to create their own play on Google's logo. Doodles are judged in four grade groups: K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12.  Look for new guidelines soon at http://www.google.com/doodle4google/press.html
  • The DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition is sponsored by the DuPont Center for Collaborative Research & Education in cooperation with General Learning Communications. The competition is open to US and Canadian students in grades 7-12 inclusive. The competition involves writing a 700 to 1,000 word essay about a scientific or technological development, event, or theory chosen by the student. Sign up here to get notification of new guidelines: http://thechallenge.dupont.com/entryform/
  • The Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Award Program is open to girls age 12 to 18 who demonstrate entrepreneurship and make a difference in their schools and communities. Info here: http://www.girlsgoingplaces.com/
More tomorrow.  This is just the list from A-G!

Happy Parenting, Happy Teaching, and Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dragons and fears

Children have many fears - bathtubs with swirling drains, thunderstorms, toilets, dogs, bees, and the list could go on and on with each child.  How can you help your child overcome some of their more irrational fears like monsters in the closet?  Try making a dragon box.  Here's how you do it:
  1. Explain to your child that dragons eat things that scare little boys and girls. 
  2. Transform an ordinary shoe box or egg carton into a dragon: Cut one end open for the mouth, then let your child paint the dragon any way they want.  Use buttons, beads, or pompoms for the eyes.  Add construction paper scales and tail.
  3. Identify the fear.  Let's say it's the toilet with a self-flushing mechanism (which frightens my granddaughter when she goes to public places.)  Find a picture of that device online  Print it out and let your child crumple the picture as if it were trash.  Then "feed" it to the dragon.  The next time, your child exhibits a fear of something, remind her that the dragon is taking care of it for her!
  4. Repeat the process for other fears by having your child draw a picture of the monster in the closet, etc.
  5. Place the box where you child can easily insert fears, but not in his bedroom where they will be a constant reminder of what's inside the box!
Naturally, you don't want to destroy healthy fears - strangers, snakes, and water.  But this tactic works well for those irrational fears that children are so fond of embracing.
    Happy parenting!

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    For reluctant readers

    In a recent interview, Rick Riordan and James Patterson discuss reluctant readers. (Click the link to view the video) They are particulalry interested in re-energizing young boys to read.  However, if you aren't a rich and famous author who writes for this age in addition to writing for the adult market, here are some tips for engaging your own reluctant readers at home and in school:
    • Required reading turns off reluctant readers.  Find their interests and then relate those interests to books on the topic.  Mix fiction with nonfiction to find out which is more appealing to the reluctant reader.  More and more children are finding that they prefer to read nonfiction!
    • Help the reluctant reader to choose books with fewer than 120 pages and a reading level that does not challenge his or her ability.  Gradually build up to a higher reading level rather than offering a frustrating challenge at the outset.
    • Read the book first.  This has two advantages: (1) You can have a book discussion after your child reads the book, too, and (2) You can see if the content and style is appropriate.  Find books with fewer than four characters.  Too many characters and too many subplots confuse the reluctant reader.
    • Offer incentives.  I like stickers as incentives becuase they are inexpensive and calorie-free :).
    • Record finished books.  Many times, children will begin a book, put it down, and then never return to it again.  When I was a kid, my favorite reading activity was to create a little 3x3 inch construction paper "book" (picture a 3 x 6 piece of paper folded in half).  I wrote the title and author on the cover and then a very brief summary on the inside.  Since I was in school, I added my name on the back.  Then I added it to my "pocket" that the teacher had set up in the front of the room to show all the books everyone had read.  I looked forward to finishing a book so I could add a different colored "book" to my pocket.  What fun!
    Reading opens worlds to children who tend to have tunnel vision.  Even reluctant readers can see beyond their own back yard with appropriate books for their interests and abilities.

    Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!
     

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    End of Summer Sendoff Party

    Here it is, the end of summer and the the beginning of a new school year.  Some of you have already returned to school; others look toward another year of working toward a common goal - your children's education.  So, instead of bemoaning the loss of summer freedom, here are some things you can do to celebrate the new school year:
    1. Have a summer sendoff party.  This can be Labor Day weekend or a casual Tuesday afternoon with friends and family.  Have "Cafeteria" hamburgers (hopefully not as dry!), fruit salad (separate the components and categorize by color?), and Apple-for-the-Teacher pie for dessert. 
    2. Assemble an old-time school days puzzle.  Puzzles are relaxing, non-competitive ways for families to enjoy their time together before the insanity of homework, soccer practice, and piano lessons begin again.
    3. Make a list of goals for the coming year.  What do you and your children hope to accomplish?  Encourage them to discuss how they will meet those goals.  Then post the goals in a prominent location.  Remember - don't dwell on them.  Simply posting them is enough to remind even the most reluctant learner.
    4. Do some refresher activities - math problems, reading comprehension questions, etc.  You can find refesher books for all grades at your local bookstore.  Offer incentives like stickers or checkmarks on an accomplishments list.  Then celebrate the completion of these activities with an ice cream party.
    It's also important to ease gradually back into the routine.  If the kids have been going to bed at 10:00 instead of 8:00, work back a half hour each night until they get accustomed to going to be earlier and getting up earlier. 

    Happy Parenting!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    How to handle a bully

    My daughter told me about her nephew...  There's a bully in his school (no surprises there, unfortunately) who found out his pet nickname and decided to use it against him.  Her nephew's name is Dustin and when he was little, everyone called him Dust-Bunny.  At three, that's cute; at ten, it's not so appealing.  Anyway, the bully started calling him Dust-Bunny in school.  Dustin didn't care because he said, "It doesn't matter.  I can't change what he thinks, so I just left him alone."  WOW!  What a mature attitude for a ten-year-old.  How often have you told your kids to simply walk away when someone bothers them?  And how often did they listen to that sage advice?  My daughter's nephew is wise beyond his years. 

    How can you teach your child the same attitude?  Try helping him or her to understand the nature of a bully.  And then offer your child these explanations:
    1. Bullies behave that way because they want attention.  By walking away, you deny them the attention they want.  
    2. The only attention a bully gets at home is generally negative attention.  To change the bully's attitude, everyone must begin to give him attention for the good things that he or she does.  It may be hard to find that spark of goodness, but it's worth the effort to help the bully feel needed and wanted for something in his or her young life.
    3. Sometimes it isn't enough to ignore the bully.  Occasionally, the bullied child needs to gently and respectfully confront the bully by saying, "Why do you want to do that to me?  What did I do to deserve that?" 
    4. Humor defuses most situations.  Teach your child to laugh and say, "Hey that was funny!  But don't do it again."  The bully will likely take one step backwards and then go the other direction!
    What you DON'T want your child to do is confront the bully with more anger and more negative attention.  That will almost always lead to a fight where someone gets hurt.  Bullying is a real problem in schools, but with education and perhaps practice at home, your child can have the emotional armor to protect him or herself from the inevitable bullies.

    Here are some resources to help you and your child confront bullying in school:
    Happy parenting and happy teaching!

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Cut the Carbs

    In an age when childhood obesity has hit an all-time high and adult obesity has spiraled out of control, I think it's important to consider the underlying cause for this problem.  It may be the sedentery lifestyle we all now lead - we use the remote instead of getting up to turn the channel, we park as close to the building as possible instead of walking a few extra yards for exercise, and we use "labor-saving" devices to make our lives easier.  But I think that's only half the problem.  The other half relates to the amount of carbohydrates we ingest. (Do you want to supersize those fries?)  Since retiring two years ago, I've lost 60 lbs by eliminating most carbs from my everyday diet.  That means I have a bowl of cereal for breakfast as a jumpstart, a half sandwich on whole wheat for lunch, and a small serving of a carb with dinner.  And that's pretty much the only change I've made to cause such a difference in my weight and overall well-being.  No more breaded foods, huge hamburger roles, bread with dinner, etc. etc. etc.  My diet now consists of protein, lots and lots of veggies, some fruit, and some dairy.  And I feel great! 

    So how does this information impact your children?  If my kids were in school now and I had this diet revelation, I'd pack their lunches every day rather than sending them off with the easy money for high-carb school lunches.  Carbs are cheap!  Healthy food is more expensive.  So the schools pack their lunches with carbs to fill the kids and stay within budget. What a horrible trade-off!  Instead, fill your child's lunch with healthy alternatives: half sandwich or a full sandwich on thin bread, a piece of fruit, a dairy product (yogurt, cheese, etc.), and a healthy beverage.  That should be enough to keep any child's energy meter on high from lunch to the inevitable snack at home.  Remember to keep healthy snacks at home (no chips!) so they can make good afternoon food choices.  Healthy children are happy children.  Healthy parents are happy parents!

    And teachers ... what does your lunch look like?  Don't be like me - I packed on a ton of weight buying school lunches when I was too busy to pack my own food.  Bring your lunch and you'll stay in shape, feel healthier, and cope with everyday pressures much better.

    Happy parenting!  Happy teaching!

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    What Kids Need Most

    Chad Lucas writes a regular column in USA Today.  In the August 8 issue, his headline reads: "What my kids need most is my full attention."  What awesome advice!  In a nutshell, he says that raising four kids, managing a household, and holding a full-time job is a juggling act worthy of any CEO.  However, what's most important is his ability to drop whatever he's doing and concentrate on one child at a time when needed.  The challenge, he adds, is that all four of the children usually want different things at the same time.  That's not an easy job even on the best of days!

    He also cautions parents to avoid being a "Blackberry Parent."  On a recent visit to a fast food restaurant, I saw one mother with two young children eating their lunches.  The kids had their smiley meals while mom casually sipped a coffee and texted on her phone.  ACK!  Where's the attention?  Where's the interaction?  Why is she even there with them?  Why not just leave them unattended?  What was she thinking????

    Multitasking has become the bane of the modern family.  Families eat while watching TV, kids do homework on the way to soccer practice, we text or talk on the phone while driving (really, folks?), and we listen halfheartedly to a child's account of his day at school while we prepare dinner, fix the toaster, or glance through the paper. 

    In some elementary schools, they have a DEAR program - Drop Everything And Read, so the students have an untinerrupted block of time to read what they want to read, not a required passage.  This makes the reading time fun and fosters further reading time at home.  I say parents need to have a DEAL program - Drop Everything and Listen.  Because when you truly listen to your children and look for the underlying motivation or message, you'll get to know them a lot better than if you multitask during "quality" time together.

    So, my final words for today are: Give each child your undivided attention at least once every day so they understand that they are the most important person in your life at that moment.  And isn't that what we all want from life?  To feel important to someone else.  Ahhhh.... such a warm, fuzzy feeling :-)  Thanks, Chad Lucas, for being a dedicated dad!

    Happy Parenting!

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    On Creative Discipline

    Over my many years of teaching, I reminded my students that the key to successful child care is a creative view to discipline.  It's not enough to put a child in time out to "think about what he's done wrong" because I'm pretty sure that's not what's going to happen.  It's certainly not acceptable to spank, slap, or verbally abuse a child when she's done something wrong.  So what's a parent (or teacher) to do?  Here are some creative discipline ideas that I've used or have heard about ....

    1. Write a letter of apology to the person who was offended by the behavior.
    2. Use a time-in/ time-out philosophy.  If a child breaks a vase and you must take your time to clean it up, then he must use some of his play time to help around the house somehow.
    3. Sit down and read a story (or make up a story) about a child who learned his lesson.
    4. Jail time - this is similar to the time out theory, but with a twist.  Sit a young child in a laundry basket for a specific period of time (no more than 10 minutes because little kids don't understand time).  During this time, walk away and don't pay any attention to the tantrum or other attention-getting devices.
    5. Payment.  Have a discipline jar where you add money from the child's personal account for things he has done wrong.  The money in that jar should be designated for needy children.
    6. Let them decide when they're going to be good.  This one usually works better than you think it will.  Simply say, "Let me know when you understand how to behave."  Walk away, and I can almost guarantee that your little felon will come back with his understanding of the situation.
    What other creative discipline ideas can you share?

    Happy Parenting!

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Iodine deficiency in pregnancy

    According to researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute, iodine deficiency is the single most common cause of preventable mental retardation and brain damage in the world.  Children with IDD (Iodine Deficiency Disorder) can grow up stunted, apathetic, mentally retarded and incapable of normal movement, speech or hearing. IDD in pregnant women cause miscarriage, stillbirth and mentally retarded children. IDD affects 50 million children around the world. A teaspoon of iodine is all a person requires in a lifetime from iodized salt or naturally occuring iodine in food. This costs only  $0.04 per person annually.  So why is iodine deficiency such a problem?  Globally, 2.2 billion people (38% of the world's population) live in areas with iodine deficiency and risks its complications. Iodine deficiency was once considered a minor problem, causing goiter, an unsightly but seemingly benign cosmetic blemish. However, it is now known that the effects on the developing brain are much more deadly, and constitute a threat to the social and economic development of many countries.

    In the United States, iodine has been voluntarily supplemented in table salt. Salt was selected as the medium for iodine supplementation because intake is uniform across all socioeconomic strata, intake is uniform across seasons of the year, supplementation is achieved using simple technology, and the program is inexpensive.  Additionally, iodine naturally occurs in marine fish, which concentrate the mineral from seawater.  So, if you live in an area of the country where your grazing or growing land was not a sea bed at one time, you would be at risk for iodine deficiency and should use iodized salt for cooking.  It's as simple as that!

    Proper nutrition is valuable for a healthy body and a healthy baby.

    Happy parenting!

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Something for PTOs

    My friend made this as a raffle item for her PTO.  What an awesome idea for teachers!  It's easily made using smaller and smaller styrofoam rounds and a dome on top.  Simply wrap the rounds, add the supplies, hold together with giant rubber bands, and Whalla!   Post here if anybody decides to replicate this great idea.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    PowerPoint Posters

    When my daughter got her syllabus for a master's level course, the instructor required a poster illustrating her group's research and results on alternative forms of energy.  While the topic was mildly interesting to me, the method of presentation intrigued me! 

    Here's what you can do to create a poster for your room illustrating any concept you want with a minimum of time and money (unless you want to go to Staples and have them print the poster for you for about $45 on one large sheet of 3'x4' paper.  Allow enough time because they'll charge an additional $40 for a rush job!):
    1. Download the FREE PowerPoint Poster template from this website depending on your version of MS Word: http://www.posterpresentations.com/html/free_poster_templates.html Choose the size that you want to fill the space available.
    2. Manipulate the sample information and illustrations as you want, similar to what you would do for a regular PowerPoint presentation.  Remember that the font should be rather large because you'll be covering a larger area.  (In other words, carefully read the instructions!)
    3. When you're ready to print, again follow the directions, but this is basically what you do: Convert the poster to a .pdf using the Save As feature.  Here's where you can save it to a thumb drive and take it to Staples to have the poster printed.  OR... you can manipulate the page scaling feature on the print menu and drop down to "tile all pages."  This will show you how many 8.5 x 11 sheets will print.
    4. After you've printed out all your pages, tape them together and place your poster on its bulletin board.
    Yes, this is a bit of work for one bulletin board, but if you do it now before school starts, I think you'll find the process rather fun.  Also, if you do a particularly stellar job, let Staples print and laminate your work for succeeding years :-)

    Happy Teaching!

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Take a Crash Course in the Business of Children's Publishing

    Many people talk about writing and publishing. Some actually sit down to write. Few take the steps needed to understand how the publishing industry works as I did in 2000. Those few save themselves years of trial and error. Instead of looking at a list of job titles and names in a writer's guide, they learn who actually does what at a publishing company. They get the inside scoop on which kind of editor will most likely read their manuscripts. They look for ways to advance their own careers. And they make connections in the publishing field, getting to know people who actually work in the industry. They believe in their work enough to invest in the success they envision.

    If you're determined to write for children—whether you're just beginning to think about submitting your work or have been submitting hit-or-miss for years—A Crash Course in the Business of Children's Publishing will tell you what you need to know to make informed decisions about how to advance your career.

    Join seasoned children's book pro Clay Winters for a weekend that could save you years of struggling to figure out how the industry works. Clay has served in almost every job imaginable connected with trade publishing. He has sold and marketed books as a retailer, wholesaler, and representative of trade publishing houses both giant and modest. He cofounded Boyds Mills Press with Kent Brown and Larry Rosler. Clay has developed many talented publishing people—including legendary Philomel editor Patricia Lee Gauch—and his upbeat personality makes him a favorite of writers. Now Clay is looking forward to mentoring you!

    On September 30-October 2, 2011, Clay will be joined by National Geographic Kids executive editor, Rachel Buchholz; author and former vice-president and editor of Philomel Books Patricia Lee Gauch, author-illustrator Lindsay Barrett George; children's book consultant Bobbie Combs; independent editor and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing, Harold Underdown; and Boyds Mills Press art director Tim Gillner and editorial director, Larry Rosler.

    These publishing pros won't stand behind a podium tossing out a few tidbits. They'll sit down with you in an intimate setting to discuss their jobs and your writing goals. You'll share gourmet meals, get to know one another, and have time to ask all those questions about children's book and magazine publishing that are bubbling in your mind.

    To secure your spot, or for more information, contact Jo Lloyd at 570-253-1192, e-mail jo.lloyd@highlightsfoundation.org, or request an application online.

    Highlights Foundation Founders Workshops take place near Honesdale, Pennsylvania. You'll stay in a cozy cabin, surrounded by 1,300 wooded acres and hiking trails. Workshop fee includes lodging; all meals (provided by a top-notch chef); airport pickup service, if needed; and an intimate teaching setting at the homeplace of the Founders of Highlights for Children.

    And in case you're wondering, I don't stand to gain anything at all from this little advertisement.  I just know that what they teach in these workshops really do give you a jumpstart into the industry.


    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    On a love of teaching...

    From Matt Damon (I have bolded the more significant portions):

    "I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents. I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that this has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me. "

    I couldn't have said it better myself!  How wonderful it would be if we could concentrate on developing a love of learning rather than the scores on standardized tests.  Maybe some day (not in my lifetime, and probably not in my grandchildren's lifetime) we'll learn to "test" children on their appreciation for the learning process and the ability to solve problems through exploration rather than their memory on standardized tests.  Ahhh....

    Happy Teaching (anyway!)

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Get those kids moving!

    According to Science Daily, "researchers have found an association between physical fitness and the brain in 9- and 10-year-old children: Those who are more fit tend to have a bigger hippocampus and perform better on a test of memory than their less-fit peers."  In their test, The children who were in better physical condition also did better on tests of relational memory -- the ability to remember and integrate various types of information -- than their less-fit peers.

    No surprise there!  I've long advocated that students in classrooms don't need to sit in nice neat little rows, copy notes from a blackboard or lecture, and then regurgitate that information two weeks later on a test.  (Excuse my yawn!)  Oh, right, that yawn was my body's way of getting more oxygen to my brain.  Here then, are some ideas for getting more oxygen into your students' brains throughout the day.
    • Give them a true "activity" several times during the day to get them moving out of their seats.  Have them find clues you've hidden around the room, or ask them to stand up and join you around a table for a demonstration, for example.
    • If you have long periods of time where they must stay seated for a test, give them physical exercise both before and after the test.  The first exercise (touching toes ten time, perhaps) gets the oxygen to their brains.  The sceond exercise gets the kinks out of their muscles and uses up some of that youthful energy.
    • Establish active routines.  If kids know that an exercise session is approaching, they'll be more likely to endure the sitting time.  This is especially important for your little AD/HD learners.
    • Add dance to your curriculum.  This links the kinesthetic intelligence with the musical intelligence as your work on their language and logic intelligences :-)
    • Play active games.  Here are some marvelous ideas: http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip69.html
    Happy Teaching!

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Faculty Room Chatter

    "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." 

    How often have we repeated that adage to our children?  But how often have we heeded that advice ourselves?  Many times, I would walk into a faculty room conversation that maligned a student who had just acted up in someone else's class.  Or I would overhear a hushed conversation about another teacher who was dating a married man.  ACK!  If anyone reading this worked with me, you'll understand now why I didn't frequent the faculty room.  Many years ago, I figured out that when I didn't add to that conversation, or worse, begin one about someone else, my life seemed to run smoother.  Why?  I don't have a good answer for that, but I definitely saw a connection between good things happening in my life and refusing to talk about another human being in a negative manner.  Maybe it was the universe gods (or God if you're a believer as I am) that showed me the error of my ways.  As a related sidenote, many years ago, I used a funny expression to describe my grandmother because she was "all bent over like a question mark."  Well, the universe gods got even with me for making fun of her because now in my 62nd year, I struggle for that erect stance I had in my 20s.  Oh well, lessons learned late are better than lessons never learned at all, I suppose. 

    This blog post has turned out to be a bit of an Internet homily, and I apologize if I've offended anyone in the process.  However, I think it's important that we treat everyone with respect whether it's the nuisance kid in the back of the room, the back-stabbing colleague, or the needling administrator.  Do you agree with this logic?  If so, then either redirect the negative conversations you hear in the faculty room, or leave as I did to the sanctuary of your own room.  It's your choice!

    Happy Teaching!

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Shelfari...

    What fun!  I recently joined Shelfari where I can posts the books I've read.  If I find time, I'll actually add a reveiw, but I've found that with the exception of one book I've reviewed before (Water for Elephants), I agree with the other reviews.  If it's on my list, I consider it a strong favorite. Here is why I've included it in my Parent-Teacher-Child Connection blog...

    Teachers can "Start a New Group" and then add classroom books to the list - either required reading or for extra credit.  Add your students' email addresses to the group and you have an instant discussion group that can only be read by members of that group.  Only the administrator (you!) can add members.  And the administrator can monitor the posts for appropriate comments. 

    Listen to how Shelfari actually began for classroom use: http://teachersteachingteachers.org/?cat=309 and a slideshow on the benefits of Shelfari: http://www.slideshare.net/eafinley/what-is-shelfari

    Happy Teaching!

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Feng Shui Your Classroom

    Some of you have already returned to the classroom (ACK!), others will be there in a few weeks, while a few lucky ones have one more month of summer vacation left.  Now is the time to think about how you can prepare your classroom according to Feng Shui to make this year's environment the best ever.  As a result of your efforts, you should have the best educational year ever, too!  Here are the steps:
    1. De-clutter.  The custodial staff probably left your room in a shambles after they cleaned and polished the floors.  Now is the time to toss those aging posters and unused files into the recycling bin. 
    2. Follow the bagua.  Look at the bagua at the bottom of this blog and energize those areas of your room with the appropriate chi-friendly items.  For example, to energize the chi in the creativity area, you might use an aluminum foil background for the bulletin board with 7 affirmations for creativity written on it.  Or, to energize the self-worth area, place four plants there.  Remember to rotate your bulletin boards and water your plants!  Attack the other areas of the room in the same manner, always considering how the chi would want to move from one area to the other as it energizes your students in the middle.
    3. Remember Yin and Yang.  Most classrooms are way to yang (loud, noisy, bright).  So tone down the yang with some yin by lowering the lights, closing the shades, and adding incandesent rather than flourescent lights.  It's all about the balance!
    4. Energize missing areas. If your room is not square or rectangular, consider what area is missing.  Add the appropriate elements to help the chi adjust to that missing corner.  For example, if you are missing. the "helpful people" area, you might find that your students are less than cordial to each other.  Energize the area around this missing corner with a gray earthenware pot that containes six wrought iron designs (think flowers!) of some sort.  Yard sales are wonderful places to find treasures to Feng Shui your classroom.  However, be careful that you don't bring other people's problems back with you.  Cleanse the items either physically with soap and water or metaphorically with incense before placing in your classroom.
    5. Work on odors and ions.  When I was teaching, I ate an orange for lunch nearly every day, and then placed the peelings in a bowl near the door.  The natural orange scent welcomed students into the room and masked some natural teen odors!  Also, I absolutly love this Himalayan Salt Crystal Lamp because it acts as a natural air purifier.
    For more tips, read my book Feng Shui for the Classroom.

    Happy Teaching!



      Monday, August 1, 2011

      Educational Games

      I was browsing Amazon the other day and found that there are many new educational games for the 2nd to 5th grade crowd.  If I were a kid, I'd enjoy playing these games:
      1. Rory's Story Cubes - The writer in me loves this game because it involves creating stories from key words on the cubes.  It's also very similar to a game I played with my own kids years ago where we would take turns adding parts to a story while we drove on long trips.
      2. ThinkFun Math Dice Jr. - The puzzler in me loves this game because the object of the game is to combine several numbers using any operation to get the key number on the white dice.  While this may not sound like fun in the true sense of the word, it will challenge young mathematicians to be creative in solving number problems.  This also an older version for more advanced students: Think Fun Math Dice
      3. Angry Birds: Knock On Wood Game - I admit I'm addicted to the Angry Birds game on my tablet.  However, this real-life wood and slingshot version is definitely educational because the players must copy the structure shown on the card and then consider the most effective means of destroying it with the bird and slingshot. Make sure your kids play this on a carpet to keep down the noise level and that you have lots of room for flying wood :-)
      4. Scrambled States - More than a simple map/puzzle game, this game gets participants noticing everything from colors and ABC's order to  comparisons and contrasts.  Players must find the right state in their pile that has a capital with three three syllables, for example.  A great American geography game and early SAT prep strategies!  This games links to the book The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller.
      5. Totally Gross The Game  - This isn't your average party game, but it sure looks fun for the younger crowd who delight in gross stuff like vomit, toe jam, and ear crud.  However, tossed into the hilarity of the game are cold hard science facts that are difficult to forget.  The games covers all the major sciences, not just human anatomy and comes with a container of slime, which you stretch in a number line each time a player answers a question correctly.  Tons o' fun!
      I'm sure there are plenty of other educational games out there, but these seem to be the newest of the new and provides a cross-section of curriculum-related topics for parents and teachers.  Post here if you have any other educational games you and the children in your life enjoy playing. (PS - just for the record, I totally dislike games with timers because they force the players to think rapidly rather than consider all alternatives, which to me is a more desirable life skill... just sayin'!)

      Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!   
      Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog