Teacher appreciation week is May 1-5, and it gives parents the opportunity to thank their children’s teachers for the hard work and dedication they show all year long. This year, show your thanks and appreciation with these simple and creative ideas.
1. Send in breakfast. Sending breakfast to school one morning is an easy way to say “thanks.” Kids will love the opportunity to pick out muffins, bagels, or doughnuts for their favorite teachers. To make an even bigger impact, get a group of parents to chip in to buy breakfast for the whole staff!
2. Collect their favorite things. Create a personalized gift basket for your child’s teacher by curating their favorite things for them! Include a favorite soda or drink, salty snack, sweet treat, or even a gift card to their favorite restaurant.
3. Restock their classroom supply closet. By the end of the year, many teachers are running low on staples such as crayons, glue, pencils, and even copy paper. For the extra creative parent, create atiered “cake” using layers of supplies; this beautiful and practical gift is sure to wow your child’s teacher!
4. Take over their duties. Many teachers have recess, lunch room, or before and after school duties in addition to their regular school day. Find out if you can take over a few of their additional duties one day. Teachers will appreciate the extra time to themselves! Likewise, volunteering time in the classroom is another way to provide greatly appreciated support to most teachers – as well as spend additional time with your child.
5. Hand write a note. While gift cards and candy jars are always appreciated, handwritten letters and cards stand the test of time. Thank you notes don’t just have to be written by children; take a few minutes to sit down and write a short letter to your child’s teacher, expressing your appreciation at how much your child has learned and grown.
With summer vacation just around the corner, most high school students are already looking forward to the long weeks free from homework, tests, projects, reports, and papers. Although it can be tempting to veg out and turn off for the summer, high schoolers should try to use the time to their advantage. Whether it is a part-time job, volunteer experience, or an internship, there are a number of ways high school students can have a productive summer!
Deciding how to spend the summer
With a few months to go before school ends, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what to do over the summer. Before making plans, students should ask themselves two questions:
1. What are my future goals? Think about long term, big picture goals: do you want to go to college? What will your major be? What future career do you want to have? Once you’ve started answering those questions, consider what steps you can take now to achieve those goals. That might be a part time job to save money for tuition, an internship to gain experience, or volunteering to build your resume.
2. What do I enjoy doing? While summer vacation may give you time to sign up for plenty of resume boosting activities, you also don’t want to be miserable. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing most and try to find activities that support your interests. If you’re the queen of Instagram, consider taking a photography class to learn more about color and composition. Sports fans might be interested in volunteering as a youth coach.
Five great options for summer
The following are five great ways that high school students can spend their summers.
1. Part-time job: Having a job gives teenagers the opportunity to earn their own money and add to their resumes. Common jobs that are readily available for high school students include lifeguards, cashiers, tutors, baby sitters, camp counselors, and more. Many companies start hiring in the spring for summer positions, so start looking for available jobs sooner rather than later.
2. Short-term internship: While the vast majority of internships are unpaid, they are a great way to get real-world experience in your future career field. If you’re interested in being a doctor, see if you can shadow or intern at a local hospital or clinic over the summer. Internships can also be a good way to show colleges you are committed to your area of study – or to discover it might not be for you before you get to campus.
3. Volunteering: While volunteering may seem similar to internships, they’re often easier to get and offer more flexible schedules. A huge number of groups look for volunteers, especially over the summer. Animal shelters, senior centers, museums, schools, and more are just a few ideas for volunteer opportunities.
4. Summer Sessions: School over the summer can be an excellent way to help improve your GPA and boost your learning. RBEF offers summer sessions, and you can sign up here: http://rbef.org/summer-sessions-2017/
5. Summer camp: This traditional – and fun! – way to spend summer vacation has never gone out of style. Whether it is during the day or away from home, there are camps dedicated to sports, academics, the arts, and more.
Reading a book as a family can often serve as a conversation starter when it comes to tough or hard to address topics. The following children’s books can serve as family conversation starters!
• Moving: Boomer’s Big Day by Constance W. McGeorge
Moving to a new house can be a difficult transition for many children. Told through the eyes of a dog, Boomer of Boomer’s Big Day is not sure what to think when all his favorite toys are packed and the movers show up. However, when he arrives at his new house, he finds all his things are still there – as well as lots of new friends. Other books about moving include Berenstain Bears Moving Day by Stan Berenstain, Who Will Be My Friends? by Syd Hoff, I’m Not Moving Mama! by Nancy White Carlstrom, and A Tiger Called Thomas by Charlotte Zolotow.
• First day of school: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
The first day of school can be nerve-wracking for students of all ages – particularly young children in their first few years of school. In The Kissing Hand, Chester Racoon is nervous about starting school, so his mother teaches him the family story of the kissing hand to reassure and comfort him. There are plenty of books for dealing with the first day of school including I Am Absolutely Too Small For School by Lauren Child, A Pirate’s Guide To First Grade by James Preller, First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, and The Teacher From The Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler.
• Bullying: The Bully Blockers Club by Teresa Bateman
While most schools have become more proactive about identifying and intervening in bullying, the presence of a bully can put a damper on your child’s school year and learning experience. In The Bully Blockers Club, Lotty is excited to go back to school – until Grant Grizzly begins bullying her. When she notices other kids being bullied too, Lotty and her classmates form a group called the Bully Blockers Club. Other books that deal with bullying are Bye Bye Bully by J.S. Jackson, Bystander Power: Now with Anti-Bullying Action by Elizabeth Verdick and LMSW, Phyllis Kaufman Goodstein, Desmond And The Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams, and Bully 101 by Doretta Groenendyk.
• Differences and diversity: The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi.
When children so desperately want to fit in with their peers, accepting their differences can be difficult. In The Name Jar, an immigrant named Unhei learns to navigate her new school and accept her Korean name. Other books about accepting our differences are Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson, and Wonder by R. J. Palacio.
Looking for more ways to start conversations as a family? Try games like Table Topics, which provide fun and interesting questions to spark conversations around the dinner table!
The struggle to get homework done can turn into a battle for many families. Time spent working on even small assignments can stretch into hours, leaving both parents and children upset and frustrated! Creating family homework rules can help families overcome frustrations and alleviate power struggles. The following tips can help you create guidelines for completing homework that may help make evenings more pleasant for the whole family!
1. Work with your child to create guidelines. Discussing homework issues with your child can help them feel involved in the rule-making process – and more likely to follow the guidelines you create. Begin by taking your child to a bookstore, park, coffee shop, or another quiet place where you can sit down and talk. Make sure to emphasize that they aren’t in trouble and that you simply want to discuss how you can better get homework done.
2. Discuss previous homework problems. Ask your child questions about past problems they may have had doing homework, making sure to cite specific examples. Then, use these examples to create new homework rules. The following sample discussion questions can help you and your child create a homework plan together.
• Time: What time should homework be started? Are breaks allowed during homework time? How many and for how long? How late is too late to continue homework time? When should homework be started on the weekends?
• Place: Where can homework be done? Where can it not be done? Can you listen to music while working on homework?
• People: Can friends come over to work on homework together?
• Problems: What happens if homework is not completed?
3. Create a written plan. Writing down the homework plan your family creates gives everyone a visual reminder of the rules. Place a copy on the fridge, where you child works on their homework, and even in school binders or folders. Kids may enjoy creating or decorating a fun poster themselves.
4. Make rules for the whole family. Even if only one child in the family has struggles getting homework done, rules should be applicable to the whole family. Having rules that every child can follow will keep any children from feeling singled out, as well as ensure the rules can grow with your child from year to year.
5. Enforce the rules! Creating thoughtful rules is important, but following through and enforcing the rules is the most important part of any homework plan! Do not create rules that are impossible to enforce. Instead, creating realistic expectations can make homework time more enjoyable for the whole family.
Few students are neutral on writing; most either love or hate the subject. Unfortunately for students who don’t enjoy it, writing is too important to be ignored. Writing is a skill that is used in every single subject in school, and will continue to be useful in the work place. Here are some tips on how to encourage a reluctant writer!
Two types of reluctant writers
Most reluctant writers can be divided into two categories. First are students who struggle with assigned papers and topics, but are happy to write projects they choose themselves. Second are students who are reluctant to write anything at all, struggling equally in all academic areas; these students often need the most instruction, support, and encouragement in the writing process.
Encouraging reluctant writers
The following five tips can help encourage reluctant writers.
1. Build writing stamina. A reluctant writer may balk at the idea of 30 minutes or more of uninterrupted writing time. Help build their writing stamina by working in small bursts, slowly increasing the amount of time spent writing. Word sprints like seeing how many words you can write in a certain number of minutes, or word wars like seeing who can write the most words in a certain number of minutes, are fun and fast drills that can get students writing a lot in a small amount of time.
2. Brainstorm together. Many reluctant writers struggle getting their thoughts down on paper in an organized way. To combat this, brainstorm ideas or topics together to create an outline; students can then use this outline as a guide to help them as they write, keeping them focused and on track.
3. Share often. Give students the opportunity to share their work. Reading aloud from class assignments, writing a post for a class blog or website, or sharing a poem or short story are all ways to encourage students to write. Likewise, receiving positive feedback from their peers can help inspire students to keep writing.
4. Write outside of the notebook. Elementary students in particular can benefit from writing with materials other than paper and pencil. Dry erase boards, chalk, markers, legal pads, and copy paper are examples of different materials that create different styles of writing. Changing the tools of writing can be particularly helpful for students struggling with handwriting. Likewise, writing activities such as scribing – when one students dictates and the other writes – can be a fun partner exercise for reluctant writers.
5. Allow free choice. Especially important for those unwilling to do class work, allowing students to choose their own topics or writing projects can encourage reluctant writers. Writing a short story, crafting a poem, creating a comic, or using words in an art project are all unique ways to encourage kids to get writing!
With the academic pressure on students today, the arts often take a backseat to math, reading, and other main subjects. However, cutting out music may actually harm your child. Years of research support the importance of music to children’s development – and academic success. The following are just a few ways that music lessons benefit children!
1. Improve academics. In addition to positively impacting academic performance, learning music can teach a number of valuable skills. Reading music, learning notes, and following a beat can help children better understand fractions and recognize patterns. Learning and repeating musical pieces can also help improve both short and long term memory.
2. Build coordination. Playing an instrument may not be as physical as many sports, but it certainly requires coordination and physical strength. In addition to learning fine motor skills, hand and finger positions, or left and right hands moving at the same time—large, heavy, or cumbersome instruments also require effort to position and hold. Active instruments such as percussion that require moving hands, arms, legs, and feet together are ideal for active or high energy kids who may not be able to sit still with other instruments.
3. Cultivate social skills. Taking a class or playing as part of an ensemble requires students to work together, teaching them valuable social skills, particularly how their actions impact others. Playing too loud, too soft, too fast, or too slow can all impact how a piece sounds. When playing with others, students can learn how to work together as a team to achieve a common goal.
4. Learn discipline. Learning a musical instrument doesn’t happen overnight; it takes years of practice and patience to master a new skill. This means students must set aside time each day for lessons, classes, performances, and plenty of practice. Violin students, for example, will spend their first lessons learning how to hold the violin, position the bow, and place their feet – all before they even begin playing the instrument itself. This teaches discipline, delayed gratification, and self-control as students work to improve.
5. Boost self-esteem. Working hard towards a goal, succeeding at a new skill, and receiving positive feedback are all good ways to build a child’s self-esteem. For shy children or those who do not enjoy being the center of attention, performing as part of a group can help them get over their fear of being in the limelight.
The internet can be a wonderful educational tool for children; however, it can be difficult for parents to sort out games that help their children learn from those that are purely for entertainment. Luckily for parents, there are now online games that combine fun and exciting activities with learning that can help your child excel academically. The following are a few educational online games for children!
Fun Brain is the internet’s #1 site for educational online games. With age-appropriate games for kids in Kindergarten through eighth grade, there is something for everyone to enjoy. There are specific activities for math and reading, animated videos explaining concepts such as addition and rulers, as well as a fun arcade with challenging strategy games. Parents will be happy to let their kids spend time playing on this site!
These educational games for kids combine learning and fun as they teach math, reading, and more. Suitable for children from 3-8, these early education games make screen time into learning time. The games are designed to be used on phones and tablets, making it easy to keep kids entertained – and learning – on the go.
• PBS Kids
Kids will forget they are learning as they play games with their favorite PBS pals. From Curious George to the Wild Kratts, the games from PBS Kids are designed for young children to learn while they play with their favorite characters. With topics including holiday games, counting, ABCs, rhyming, and spelling – as well as hard games specifically designed to challenge older children – kids can happily play for hours.
With more than 7,000 games and activities for early learners, ABCMouse.com has eight levels with more than 650 lessons. This ensures that children never feel frustrated by a game or activity they cannot complete as the program naturally progresses. While the site does require an annual fee to use, parents can try it out for free for 30 days before committing to the website. However, many parents feel the cost is worth it as it is a structured program that operates on a child safe website. There are no ads, pop ups, or external links for curious children to click while they are playing.
One way to help prepare your student for the college admissions process is by creating an action plan. An action plan is a guide that helps ensure one is staying on track in preparing for college and is doing the necessary classes, admission tests, and extracurricular activities.
The following is a general action plan for students starting in eighth grade. Students should work together with their parents and teachers or guidance counselors to create a more personalized action plan that meets their academic goals!
• Eighth grade. Enroll in advanced classes such as Algebra I that are prerequisites for many classes in high school. Consider what classes you’d want like to take or other activities you may want to participate in.
• Ninth grade. Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor to create a general academic plan for the next four years. Plan to take classes that not only seem interesting, but are also challenging enough to stand out on your college applications. Ninth grade is also the perfect time to get involved with clubs, sports, and other activities. Try out for a sports team, sign up for newspaper, or get involved with an academic club at school to help boost your resume.
• Tenth grade. Prepare for college admission exams by signing up to take the PSAT/NMSQT or PLAN. While PSAT scores won’t count towards National Merit scholarships this year, it’s a good way to familiarize yourself with the exam. Think about how you’d want to spend your summers. If possible, sign up for summer classes, take on a volunteer opportunity, or work in an internship.
• Eleventh grade. Sign up for the PSAT/NMSQT in October, the ACT in February, and the SAT in March. Take the time to study for the tests in advance as they can affect your college admission. Likewise, scoring well can qualify you for a number of scholarship opportunities. Taking the tests at this time will give you time to retake the ACT or SAT if necessary. Begin narrowing down schools you may be interested in to 15-20 colleges and universities. Research their admission processes, costs, prerequisites, and other information to prepare yourself for applying next year.
• Twelfth grade. Meet with your guidance counselor again to make sure you aren’t missing any classes, tests, or other requirements for college admissions or graduation. Create a calendar that has all of the deadlines for applications, letters or recommendations, testing, transcripts, and other documents that need to be sent to schools you are applying to. Take note of the different deadlines for each university. When the acceptance letters start arriving, congratulate yourself on a job well done – but don’t give in to senioritis! Final transcripts will need to be sent to your school of choice at the end of the year.
The college admissions process can seem intimidating, but by creating a yearly action plan you’ll be more prepared when the time comes around!