Tips to end the school year on a high note

With summer vacation just within reach, even the best students can lose motivation as the school year draws to a close. Instead, stay focused through the chaos to end the year with a bang – rather than a shudder. The following tips can help parents and students end the year on a high note: 1.      Stay on the same schedule. While the last month of school is an extremely chaotic time for most families, it is important to keep a regular schedule as often as possible. Not only will this keep a sense of normalcy in the house, but it also gives children a sense of security in their daily routines. 2.      Reflect on the school year. Sit down with your child and reflect on how their school year went. Ask them questions about what they liked, didn’t like, and would want to change. Doing this helps children recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify the learning styles or activities that did and did not help them during the year. 3.      Create a keepsake. With a pile of papers a mile high, it can be hard to know what to keep and what to recycle. Have your child help you sort through their work, selecting a few papers, projects, or tests in each subject they were particularly proud of. Tuck these special projects into a keepsake folder or box to save for the future. You can even record information about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests specific to this school year. 4.      Say thank you to teachers. The end of the school year can be just as tough on teachers as it is on students. Take time to say “thank you” to the teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and other school staff who have helped your child this school year. Showing appreciation doesn’t have to take the form of a gift; a sincerely written letter or handmade card often means more to a teacher than any gift card would. 5.      Don’t be afraid to say no. The final few weeks of school can put extra time constraints on families. Between awards banquets, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year parties, and a myriad of other activities, your calendar might seem fuller than at any other time during the year. Don’t be afraid to prioritize activities and say no to those that are less important. Doing so will leave you with more family time – and your sanity – during this often stressful time.

With summer vacation just within reach, even the best students can lose motivation as the school year draws to a close. Instead, stay focused through the chaos to end the year with a bang – rather than a shudder. The following tips can help parents and students end the year on a high note:

1.      Stay on the same schedule. While the last month of school is an extremely chaotic time for most families, it is important to keep a regular schedule as often as possible. Not only will this keep a sense of normalcy in the house, but it also gives children a sense of security in their daily routines.

2.      Reflect on the school year. Sit down with your child and reflect on how their school year went. Ask them questions about what they liked, didn’t like, and would want to change. Doing this helps children recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify the learning styles or activities that did and did not help them during the year.

3.      Create a keepsake. With a pile of papers a mile high, it can be hard to know what to keep and what to recycle. Have your child help you sort through their work, selecting a few papers, projects, or tests in each subject they were particularly proud of. Tuck these special projects into a keepsake folder or box to save for the future. You can even record information about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests specific to this school year.

4.      Say thank you to teachers. The end of the school year can be just as tough on teachers as it is on students. Take time to say “thank you” to the teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and other school staff who have helped your child this school year. Showing appreciation doesn’t have to take the form of a gift; a sincerely written letter or handmade card often means more to a teacher than any gift card would.

5.      Don’t be afraid to say no. The final few weeks of school can put extra time constraints on families. Between awards banquets, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year parties, and a myriad of other activities, your calendar might seem fuller than at any other time during the year. Don’t be afraid to prioritize activities and say no to those that are less important. Doing so will leave you with more family time – and your sanity – during this often stressful time.

Safety tips for your student on social media sites

Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat, kids – and their parents – are spending more time than ever before on social media. More than 60% of teens have at least once social media account, with the majority sharing their lives on more than one account. While social media gives us the ability to connect with friends no matter where they are, it also creates some serious safety concerns for parents. “The digital world is an evolving landscape that parents have to learn to navigate,” says Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, M.D. of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The following tips can help students safely use social media, sharing with their friends without exposing themselves to the dangers of the digital world. 1.      Don’t post the Big Five. Most of us have fallen prey to oversharing at one point or another. However, there are cases when posting TMI can endanger your safety. Parents should teach kids about the “Big Five,” or the five pieces of information they should never share online. The Big Five are their home address, home or cell phone number, social security number (even the last 4 numbers), birth date with year, and current school or city. All of this information can be used to steal your identity online – as well as provide information to predators about your children’s whereabouts. While sites such as Facebook require information such as birthday, school, or city to create a profile, who can access this information can be adjusted in privacy settings. 2.      Create the right privacy settings. Social media sites allow us to control who has access to our information. Help your child set the appropriate security and privacy settings on their accounts. Doing this helps control who can see their information, and find them online. Limiting who can send friend requests or setting accounts to “friends only” are two ways to protect your child. 3.      Keep an open dialogue. Parents cannot “set it and forget it” when it comes to online safety. Instead, create an open dialogue around social media. Doing this allows your child to feel comfortable coming to you if they become the victim of cyber-bullying or other forms of online harassment. Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s online profiles and messages; doing this is a personal choice that often depends on the age and maturity of your child as well as their online history and experience.  When it comes to students and social media, there are no easy answers. By teaching children to be safe and make smart decisions about what they post, parents can help ensure their students are protected in the digital world.

Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat, kids – and their parents – are spending more time than ever before on social media. More than 60% of teens have at least once social media account, with the majority sharing their lives on more than one account.

While social media gives us the ability to connect with friends no matter where they are, it also creates some serious safety concerns for parents. “The digital world is an evolving landscape that parents have to learn to navigate,” says Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, M.D. of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The following tips can help students safely use social media, sharing with their friends without exposing themselves to the dangers of the digital world.

1.      Don’t post the Big Five. Most of us have fallen prey to oversharing at one point or another. However, there are cases when posting TMI can endanger your safety. Parents should teach kids about the “Big Five,” or the five pieces of information they should never share online. The Big Five are their home address, home or cell phone number, social security number (even the last 4 numbers), birth date with year, and current school or city. All of this information can be used to steal your identity online – as well as provide information to predators about your children’s whereabouts. While sites such as Facebook require information such as birthday, school, or city to create a profile, who can access this information can be adjusted in privacy settings.

2.      Create the right privacy settings. Social media sites allow us to control who has access to our information. Help your child set the appropriate security and privacy settings on their accounts. Doing this helps control who can see their information, and find them online. Limiting who can send friend requests or setting accounts to “friends only” are two ways to protect your child.

3.      Keep an open dialogue. Parents cannot “set it and forget it” when it comes to online safety. Instead, create an open dialogue around social media. Doing this allows your child to feel comfortable coming to you if they become the victim of cyber-bullying or other forms of online harassment. Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s online profiles and messages; doing this is a personal choice that often depends on the age and maturity of your child as well as their online history and experience. 

When it comes to students and social media, there are no easy answers. By teaching children to be safe and make smart decisions about what they post, parents can help ensure their students are protected in the digital world.

Educational apps for children

Between phones, tablets, and other devices, children are spending more and more time in front of screens. Instead of endless hours of Minecraft or YouTube, take advantage of screen time with educational games and apps. The following are just a few of our favorite educational apps for children: 1.      Cookie Monster’s Challenge. Designed for children 3 years and older, Cookie Monster’s Challenge helps children develop school-readiness skills such as self-control, focus, and following directions. Nine levels of mini-games keep preschoolers engaged as they collect the pieces of Cookie Monster’s cookie making machine. 2.      GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine. Fans of the GoldieBlox building toys will enjoy this app that encourages and inspires girls to follow STEM career paths. In GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine, girls learn the basics of animation to create their own digital shorts. Recommended for ages 6 and up. 3.      Dexteria Dots 2. Children improve their fine motor skills while practicing math concepts in Dexteria Dots 2. With virtually endless gameplay and levels ranging from beginner to expert, kids of all ages will enjoying playing again and again. 4.      Magic School Bus: Oceans. Fans of Ms. Frizzle will enjoy the interactive storybook style in Magic School Bus: Oceans. This interactive story is teeming with videos, games, photos, and facts about the sea life shown in the book. The app can read aloud to younger students, while independent readers can turn off the narration and read the book themselves. Made for ages 6-8. 5.      Stack the States. Make U.S geography fun and interactive with Stack the States. During game play children learn state shapes, capitals, abbreviations, locations, and more as they stack the states to cross the finish line for each level. Bonus games including matching states and capitals and completing a timed puzzle putting the states in the right place. Recommended for ages 9-11. 6.      Kodable – Coding for Kids. Kodable helps teach elementary students in grades K-5 the basics of coding. The common core aligned lessons include interactive games that help students develop logic and critical thinking skills. Non-coding parents will also appreciate the written teaching curriculum and the guide for “off-screen” activities.

Between phones, tablets, and other devices, children are spending more and more time in front of screens. Instead of endless hours of Minecraft or YouTube, take advantage of screen time with educational games and apps. The following are just a few of our favorite educational apps for children:

1.      Cookie Monster’s Challenge. Designed for children 3 years and older, Cookie Monster’s Challenge helps children develop school-readiness skills such as self-control, focus, and following directions. Nine levels of mini-games keep preschoolers engaged as they collect the pieces of Cookie Monster’s cookie making machine.

2.      GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine. Fans of the GoldieBlox building toys will enjoy this app that encourages and inspires girls to follow STEM career paths. In GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine, girls learn the basics of animation to create their own digital shorts. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

3.      Dexteria Dots 2. Children improve their fine motor skills while practicing math concepts in Dexteria Dots 2. With virtually endless gameplay and levels ranging from beginner to expert, kids of all ages will enjoying playing again and again.

4.      Magic School Bus: Oceans. Fans of Ms. Frizzle will enjoy the interactive storybook style in Magic School Bus: Oceans. This interactive story is teeming with videos, games, photos, and facts about the sea life shown in the book. The app can read aloud to younger students, while independent readers can turn off the narration and read the book themselves. Made for ages 6-8.

5.      Stack the States. Make U.S geography fun and interactive with Stack the States. During game play children learn state shapes, capitals, abbreviations, locations, and more as they stack the states to cross the finish line for each level. Bonus games including matching states and capitals and completing a timed puzzle putting the states in the right place. Recommended for ages 9-11.

6.      Kodable – Coding for Kids. Kodable helps teach elementary students in grades K-5 the basics of coding. The common core aligned lessons include interactive games that help students develop logic and critical thinking skills. Non-coding parents will also appreciate the written teaching curriculum and the guide for “off-screen” activities.

Creative ways to show appreciation to teachers (Teacher Appreciation Week is May 1-5)

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.

Tips to add diversity to your child's bookshelf

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has found that fewer than 14% of children’s books have storylines with multicultural characters. Research has shown that children begin to form racial bias in early years.  By adding diversity to their bookshelves, parents can help their children feel more comfortable in the multicultural worldand learn about cultures that may be different than theirs. The following tips can help you add diversity to your child’s bookshelves!   1.   Seek out diverse stories. When looking for new books for your children, seek out books with diverse stories and characters. Look for books that both address diversity (Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox) as well as books that feature diverse characters (Julie Black Belt by Oliver Chin). The internet can be another resource for finding diverse titles. GoodReads, for example, has a list of over 200 multicultural books for elementary and middle schoolers. 2.   Use books as windows – and mirrors. Books can roughly be divided into two categories: mirrors and windows. Books that are mirrors accurately reflect back a child’s own culture, family, and lifestyle. Window books allow children to catch a glimpse of the lives of unfamiliar people and places. Including books from both categories help indirectly teach children that people from diverse groups are not that different from themselves. 3.    Start a discussion. Reading books that feature diverse characters can lead to discussions about race, gender, culture, and more. If your child asks a question you don’t have an answer to, don’t shy away. Instead, vow to learn more together and revisit it in the future. Likewise, use resources in the community as a way to learn more about the cultures you read about. Look for kid-friendly free and low-cost cultural events that tie in with the books you read. Books are a powerful way to teach our children about the wonderful, rich world we live in. Filling their shelves with books that accurately portray multicultural characters is just one of many ways to help little hearts and minds learn and grow! The Anti-Defamation League has a guide to assessing and choosing children’s books to help parents find and create diverse book collections.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has found that fewer than 14% of children’s books have storylines with multicultural characters. Research has shown that children begin to form racial bias in early years.  By adding diversity to their bookshelves, parents can help their children feel more comfortable in the multicultural worldand learn about cultures that may be different than theirs. The following tips can help you add diversity to your child’s bookshelves!

 

1.   Seek out diverse stories. When looking for new books for your children, seek out books with diverse stories and characters. Look for books that both address diversity (Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox) as well as books that feature diverse characters (Julie Black Belt by Oliver Chin). The internet can be another resource for finding diverse titles. GoodReads, for example, has a list of over 200 multicultural books for elementary and middle schoolers.

2.   Use books as windows – and mirrors. Books can roughly be divided into two categories: mirrors and windows. Books that are mirrors accurately reflect back a child’s own culture, family, and lifestyle. Window books allow children to catch a glimpse of the lives of unfamiliar people and places. Including books from both categories help indirectly teach children that people from diverse groups are not that different from themselves.

3.    Start a discussion. Reading books that feature diverse characters can lead to discussions about race, gender, culture, and more. If your child asks a question you don’t have an answer to, don’t shy away. Instead, vow to learn more together and revisit it in the future. Likewise, use resources in the community as a way to learn more about the cultures you read about. Look for kid-friendly free and low-cost cultural events that tie in with the books you read.

Books are a powerful way to teach our children about the wonderful, rich world we live in. Filling their shelves with books that accurately portray multicultural characters is just one of many ways to help little hearts and minds learn and grow! The Anti-Defamation League has a guide to assessing and choosing children’s books to help parents find and create diverse book collections.

Help your child start a book club

Book clubs aren’t just for adults! Whether your child is a bookworm or a reluctant reader, a book club is a fun, social way to explore reading outside of school. A kid’s book club can help your child develop friendships outside of school, explore their interests, and create a lifelong love of learning. The following tips can help you and your child start a book club in your area.   1.   Schedule the first meeting. Find a meeting location that is convenient to all the children invited. Parks and libraries are good locations, while members can also take turns hosting in their homes. Most book clubs meet once per month, which gives time between meetings for everyone to read the chosen book. 2.   Send out the invitations. Help your child design and send invitations to the book club meeting. Ideally, book clubs should have between five and eight members. The amount of members encourages lively conversation while still giving everyone a chance to speak. While children of all ages can participate, independent readers in second grade and up are often most interested in reading and book discussion. 3.   Provide drinks and snacks. Starting book club with a healthy snack is a great way to break the ice at the beginning of each meeting. Get creative by thinking of snacks that tie in to that month’s book! 4.   Jumpstart the discussion. Parents can help start the discussion by asking guiding questions. Who was your favorite character? Did you like how the book ended? What was your favorite scene? 5.   Plan a second activity. After the discussion, plan an activity or game that goes along with the theme of the book. After reading Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney children can make their own comic strips. If Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird was the book of the month, help kids make their own pinecone bird feeders. 6.  Tie in a movie. Movies can still be a part of book club! If the book of the month has an age-appropriate adaptation, consider watching the movie after reading and discussing the novel. After the movie, compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the stories.

Book clubs aren’t just for adults! Whether your child is a bookworm or a reluctant reader, a book club is a fun, social way to explore reading outside of school. A kid’s book club can help your child develop friendships outside of school, explore their interests, and create a lifelong love of learning. The following tips can help you and your child start a book club in your area.

 

1.   Schedule the first meeting. Find a meeting location that is convenient to all the children invited. Parks and libraries are good locations, while members can also take turns hosting in their homes. Most book clubs meet once per month, which gives time between meetings for everyone to read the chosen book.

2.   Send out the invitations. Help your child design and send invitations to the book club meeting. Ideally, book clubs should have between five and eight members. The amount of members encourages lively conversation while still giving everyone a chance to speak. While children of all ages can participate, independent readers in second grade and up are often most interested in reading and book discussion.

3.   Provide drinks and snacks. Starting book club with a healthy snack is a great way to break the ice at the beginning of each meeting. Get creative by thinking of snacks that tie in to that month’s book!

4.   Jumpstart the discussion. Parents can help start the discussion by asking guiding questions. Who was your favorite character? Did you like how the book ended? What was your favorite scene?

5.   Plan a second activity. After the discussion, plan an activity or game that goes along with the theme of the book. After reading Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

children can make their own comic strips. If Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird was the book of the month, help kids make their own pinecone bird feeders.

6.  Tie in a movie. Movies can still be a part of book club! If the book of the month has an age-appropriate adaptation, consider watching the movie after reading and discussing the novel. After the movie, compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the stories.

Electronic-free spring break ideas

With spring break just around the corner, many students and their families are most likely looking forward to the much needed break from the stress of the school year. If you’re staying home for spring break, it dooesn’t have to mean a week spent vegging out in front of the TV or iPad. Instead, these electronic-free spring break ideas can keep the whole family engaged and occupied – without relying on technology to have fun.   1.   Start spring gardening Whether it is a few potted herbs or a large flower garden, spring break is the perfect time to start planning your spring and summer gardening projects. Have kids research different seeds and plants, create a plot or plan for the garden, make a list of the supplies they will need, and get started on the digging and planting. A day trip to a local greenhouse or plant nursery can serve as a fun way to do research and get information on the best plants for your home.   2.  Find a project kit Jewelry, soap, art, models, candy, and more—there are virtually unlimited options when it comes to craft and activity kits for children. Find an age appropriate project kit that take between five and ten total hours to complete. An in-depth project can be worked on a little each day and be finished by the end of spring break!   3.  Have a scavenger hunt Rain or shine, indoors or outdoors, a scavenger hunt can get kids up, moving, and having fun! Simply create a list of items to find, divide into teams, and start searching. Out of ideas? Websites like My Kids Adventures [http://www.mykidsadventures.com/scavenger-hunt-ideas/] have premade scavenger hunt ideas for indoors, at the park, in the neighborhood, on a road trip, and more.   4.  Get in the kitchen Most kids love helping in the kitchen, and spring break is the perfect time to let them get creative. Work together to research recipes, plan a special meal, or make a treat that takes more time than the busy school year allows. Give older teens extra responsibility by sending them to the store to shop for the ingredients they will need.   5.  Other ideas There are plenty of other electronic-free ways to spend spring break. Volunteering, having a dance party, going on walks, playing board games, building an indoor fort, and visiting the library are just a few more fun and easy ways to spend your spring break!

With spring break just around the corner, many students and their families are most likely looking forward to the much needed break from the stress of the school year.

If you’re staying home for spring break, it dooesn’t have to mean a week spent vegging out in front of the TV or iPad. Instead, these electronic-free spring break ideas can keep the whole family engaged and occupied – without relying on technology to have fun.

 

1.   Start spring gardening

Whether it is a few potted herbs or a large flower garden, spring break is the perfect time to start planning your spring and summer gardening projects. Have kids research different seeds and plants, create a plot or plan for the garden, make a list of the supplies they will need, and get started on the digging and planting. A day trip to a local greenhouse or plant nursery can serve as a fun way to do research and get information on the best plants for your home.

 

2.  Find a project kit

Jewelry, soap, art, models, candy, and more—there are virtually unlimited options when it comes to craft and activity kits for children. Find an age appropriate project kit that take between five and ten total hours to complete. An in-depth project can be worked on a little each day and be finished by the end of spring break!

 

3.  Have a scavenger hunt

Rain or shine, indoors or outdoors, a scavenger hunt can get kids up, moving, and having fun! Simply create a list of items to find, divide into teams, and start searching. Out of ideas? Websites like My Kids Adventures [http://www.mykidsadventures.com/scavenger-hunt-ideas/] have premade scavenger hunt ideas for indoors, at the park, in the neighborhood, on a road trip, and more.

 

4.  Get in the kitchen

Most kids love helping in the kitchen, and spring break is the perfect time to let them get creative. Work together to research recipes, plan a special meal, or make a treat that takes more time than the busy school year allows. Give older teens extra responsibility by sending them to the store to shop for the ingredients they will need.

 

5.  Other ideas

There are plenty of other electronic-free ways to spend spring break. Volunteering, having a dance party, going on walks, playing board games, building an indoor fort, and visiting the library are just a few more fun and easy ways to spend your spring break!

DIY music crafts for kids

Making music doesn’t have to mean buying an expensive instrument. Instead, kids can get inspired by creating their own musical instruments and activities out of household items. The following are just a few of our favorite musical crafts for kids. 1.  Tin Can Drums Drums are one of the easiest – and most fun – instruments for kids to make. Coffee canisters, formula tins, or old paint cans can all be used to create drums.  Wooden spoons, sticks, and even little hands can be used for drum sticks! For added fun, cover the cans with masking tape and let kids color or paint their own unique designs. 2.   Ghungroo Ankle Bells Learn more about another culture by creating Indian style Ghungroo ankle bells. Ankle bells are an important part of traditional Indian dancing; while known as ghungroo in North India, these ankle bells are also called salangai or chilanka in other parts of the country. Attach small jingle bells to a piece of yard or small strip of felt around the ankles and enjoy! 3.  PVC Pipe Xylophone While this project takes some space, time, and construction skills to create, it will result in a fun musical instrument that can be used for years to come! Begin by calculating the length of your pipe. If you want to create specific notes, the PVC pipe will need to be cut at exact lengths. After being cut, the pipes can be attached to the wood frame using simple plumbing brackets. Finish the xylophone by putting different color tape or paint on each pipe to differentiate between notes! 4.  Egg shakers With plastic eggs still on sale at many stores, now is the perfect time of year to create egg shakers. Rice, dried beans, small candies, cereal, beads, and more can all be used to create different sounds in different eggs. Let kids experiment with different materials and combinations to create unique shakers and sounds, and seal the plastic eggs with glue to prevent them from breaking apart during play. For added fun, put the eggs between two plastic spoons and cover in washi tape to create maracas. 5.  Tissue Box Guitar An empty tissue box, a paper towel tube, and a handful of rubber bands are all that is needed to create this guitar. Cut a hole in the top of the tissue box before inserting the paper towel tube, sealing the joint with tape. Next, add the strings by stretching the rubber bands around the length of the tissue box. Finally, decorate with paint or sticks and enjoy!

Making music doesn’t have to mean buying an expensive instrument. Instead, kids can get inspired by creating their own musical instruments and activities out of household items. The following are just a few of our favorite musical crafts for kids.

1.  Tin Can Drums

Drums are one of the easiest – and most fun – instruments for kids to make. Coffee canisters, formula tins, or old paint cans can all be used to create drums.  Wooden spoons, sticks, and even little hands can be used for drum sticks! For added fun, cover the cans with masking tape and let kids color or paint their own unique designs.

2.   Ghungroo Ankle Bells

Learn more about another culture by creating Indian style Ghungroo ankle bells. Ankle bells are an important part of traditional Indian dancing; while known as ghungroo in North India, these ankle bells are also called salangai or chilanka in other parts of the country. Attach small jingle bells to a piece of yard or small strip of felt around the ankles and enjoy!

3.  PVC Pipe Xylophone

While this project takes some space, time, and construction skills to create, it will result in a fun musical instrument that can be used for years to come! Begin by calculating the length of your pipe. If you want to create specific notes, the PVC pipe will need to be cut at exact lengths. After being cut, the pipes can be attached to the wood frame using simple plumbing brackets. Finish the xylophone by putting different color tape or paint on each pipe to differentiate between notes!

4.  Egg shakers

With plastic eggs still on sale at many stores, now is the perfect time of year to create egg shakers. Rice, dried beans, small candies, cereal, beads, and more can all be used to create different sounds in different eggs. Let kids experiment with different materials and combinations to create unique shakers and sounds, and seal the plastic eggs with glue to prevent them from breaking apart during play. For added fun, put the eggs between two plastic spoons and cover in washi tape to create maracas.

5.  Tissue Box Guitar

An empty tissue box, a paper towel tube, and a handful of rubber bands are all that is needed to create this guitar. Cut a hole in the top of the tissue box before inserting the paper towel tube, sealing the joint with tape. Next, add the strings by stretching the rubber bands around the length of the tissue box. Finally, decorate with paint or sticks and enjoy!

Introduce your child to different book genres

When it comes to reading, even young children can exhibit preferences as to the genres of books they like or dislike. Whether it’s stories about princesses or dinosaurs, fantastical worlds, or real historical events, all parents are happy to see their children reading.   If your child consistently reads books in the same genre, they may benefit from expanding their reading material. They just might be surprised to find they enjoy non-fiction, poetry, biographies, mysteries, or more.   Understanding genres   While young children are most familiar with fiction and its subgenres, they may know more genres than they think such as:   •   Adventures •   Biography •   Classics •   Fairy tale •   Fantasy •   Folk tale •   Historical fiction •   Humor •   Informational •   Mystery •   Nonfiction •   Nursery rhymes •   Personal narrative •   Poetry •   Science fiction   Because many genres overlap, books rarely fall into just one category. By reading books in more than one genre, they can begin to appreciate, understand, and analyze what they read!   Introducing different genres   If your child has a favorite genre of books, they may be hesitant to branch out and read new things. The following tips can help you introduce your child, no matter their age, to different book genres.   1.   Discuss the genres they already know.  Have children think about their favorite books and stories and the genres they fit in to. They might be surprised to find they like more genres than they think! 2.   Learn how books are categorized. Visit your local library to learn about how books are categorized. 3.   Study a new genre each month. Try to check out new books in a specific genre each month. Read and discuss their similarities, differences, and how they compare to other genres. 4.   Chart what you read. Practice math concepts by graphing or charting the number of books in each genre your family reads. 5.  Play genre bingo. Make a bingo board and fill the squares with different genres. With each book your child reads, let them cover or fill the corresponding genre square. When they get bingo, treat them to a new book!

When it comes to reading, even young children can exhibit preferences as to the genres of books they like or dislike. Whether it’s stories about princesses or dinosaurs, fantastical worlds, or real historical events, all parents are happy to see their children reading.

 

If your child consistently reads books in the same genre, they may benefit from expanding their reading material. They just might be surprised to find they enjoy non-fiction, poetry, biographies, mysteries, or more.

 

Understanding genres

 

While young children are most familiar with fiction and its subgenres, they may know more genres than they think such as:

 

•   Adventures

•   Biography

•   Classics

•   Fairy tale

•   Fantasy

•   Folk tale

•   Historical fiction

•   Humor

•   Informational

•   Mystery

•   Nonfiction

•   Nursery rhymes

•   Personal narrative

•   Poetry

•   Science fiction

 

Because many genres overlap, books rarely fall into just one category. By reading books in more than one genre, they can begin to appreciate, understand, and analyze what they read!

 

Introducing different genres

 

If your child has a favorite genre of books, they may be hesitant to branch out and read new things. The following tips can help you introduce your child, no matter their age, to different book genres.

 

1.   Discuss the genres they already know.  Have children think about their favorite books and stories and the genres they fit in to. They might be surprised to find they like more genres than they think!

2.   Learn how books are categorized. Visit your local library to learn about how books are categorized.

3.   Study a new genre each month. Try to check out new books in a specific genre each month. Read and discuss their similarities, differences, and how they compare to other genres.

4.   Chart what you read. Practice math concepts by graphing or charting the number of books in each genre your family reads.

5.  Play genre bingo. Make a bingo board and fill the squares with different genres. With each book your child reads, let them cover or fill the corresponding genre square. When they get bingo, treat them to a new book!

How high schoolers can prepare for a productive summer

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.

Books That Are Conversation Starters For Families

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!

Activities to help your child build social skills

Whether your child was born a social butterfly or needs help warming up to new friends, kids can work on their social skills at all ages. “It's important to know the normal developmental skills appropriate for different age groups so you can determine where the help is needed,” says author of Social Rules for Kids, Susan Diamond, M.A.The following games, activities, and ideas can help build your child’s social skills at any age.   1.   Eye contact. Making eye contact is a way we connect with others and show them we are interested in what they have to say. There are a number of exercises families can practice to improve their child’s eye contact. Having staring contests is a great way to engage and play as children practice eye contact; placing silly stickers on foreheads around the house and practicing “staring at the sticker” is another fun and silly way to improve. 2.  Interpreting emotions. Young children in particular can have trouble reading the emotions of others. Help them practice identifying emotions by playing emotional charade. Take turns acting out an emotion while the rest of the family guesses; expand the game by brainstorming situations when you would feel that emotion. For example, “I was surprised because mom surprised me and came to have lunch with me at school!” 3.   Attention span. If your child has trouble staying on topic, practice talking about the same subject for several sentences. One way to practice this skill is by picking a topic and coming up with two related and one unrelated sentence. For example, pick what happened at school as a topic then ask about what they had for lunch, how many kids are in their class, and what their favorite dessert is. Have your child pick out what was and what wasn’t related to the topic, and then let them have a turn. 4.  Common interests. Many children struggle to connect with their peers. To encourage social interactions, plan outings or play dates around activities you know your child will enjoy. Bringing a friend to a favorite museum or inviting classmates over to play a favorite game can help build friendships around common interests. 5.  Planned activities. Kids of all ages can benefit from planned activities to practice social skills. Play dates with a specific activity such as making individual pizzas or creating an art project are great structured activities. Joining sports teams or clubs or organizations can also allow children to bond over a shared experience!

Whether your child was born a social butterfly or needs help warming up to new friends, kids can work on their social skills at all ages. “It's important to know the normal developmental skills appropriate for different age groups so you can determine where the help is needed,” says author of Social Rules for Kids, Susan Diamond, M.A.The following games, activities, and ideas can help build your child’s social skills at any age.

 

1.   Eye contact. Making eye contact is a way we connect with others and show them we are interested in what they have to say. There are a number of exercises families can practice to improve their child’s eye contact. Having staring contests is a great way to engage and play as children practice eye contact; placing silly stickers on foreheads around the house and practicing “staring at the sticker” is another fun and silly way to improve.

2.  Interpreting emotions. Young children in particular can have trouble reading the emotions of others. Help them practice identifying emotions by playing emotional charade. Take turns acting out an emotion while the rest of the family guesses; expand the game by brainstorming situations when you would feel that emotion. For example, “I was surprised because mom surprised me and came to have lunch with me at school!”

3.   Attention span. If your child has trouble staying on topic, practice talking about the same subject for several sentences. One way to practice this skill is by picking a topic and coming up with two related and one unrelated sentence. For example, pick what happened at school as a topic then ask about what they had for lunch, how many kids are in their class, and what their favorite dessert is. Have your child pick out what was and what wasn’t related to the topic, and then let them have a turn.

4.  Common interests. Many children struggle to connect with their peers. To encourage social interactions, plan outings or play dates around activities you know your child will enjoy. Bringing a friend to a favorite museum or inviting classmates over to play a favorite game can help build friendships around common interests.

5.  Planned activities. Kids of all ages can benefit from planned activities to practice social skills. Play dates with a specific activity such as making individual pizzas or creating an art project are great structured activities. Joining sports teams or clubs or organizations can also allow children to bond over a shared experience!

What kids can learn from extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities may seem like a drain on a family’s time, especially when there are so many other commitments and only so many hours in the day. While there is such a thing as being too involved or overscheduled, participating in a few extracurricular activities can benefit your child both in and out of the classroom. The following are three of the many lessons that kids can learn from extracurricular activities.   1.    Improve social development. While school provides plenty of chances for social interactions, extracurricular activities offer your child the chance to meet and work as a team with other children in different walks of life. Kids can develop new friendships, work together as a team, and even learn how to speak to other adults besides teachers and parents. Volunteering can help their social consciousness as well as their social development. In addition to giving back to the community, students can learn to be more empathetic and understanding of others.     2.    Stay healthy and active with exercise. With more and more schools cutting P.E. classes and limiting recess time, many students are not as active at school as they once were. Joining an outside sports team is a way to keep kids healthy and active outside of school. Participating in sports can serve as a positive outlet for energy, especially for active kids, as well as help teach values such as teamwork, hard work, and determination. Encourage developing skills that are considered “lifetime sports”—activities such as bicycling, running, swimming, tennis, golf, and more are ways kids can stay active even as they get older.     3.    Learn valuable life skills.   Participating in extracurricular activities can teach your child skills they may use their whole lives. Practicing an instrument can teach perseverance, playing sports can teach teamwork, and joining a volunteer group can teach the value of giving. One of the most important skills extracurricular activities can teach is responsibility. Children schedule their own practice time, keep track of their own equipment, follow a calendar, or organize transportation to and from meetings. These skills can improve how your child performs academically, and come in handy as they continue to grow!

Extracurricular activities may seem like a drain on a family’s time, especially when there are so many other commitments and only so many hours in the day. While there is such a thing as being too involved or overscheduled, participating in a few extracurricular activities can benefit your child both in and out of the classroom. The following are three of the many lessons that kids can learn from extracurricular activities.

 

1.    Improve social development.

While school provides plenty of chances for social interactions, extracurricular activities offer your child the chance to meet and work as a team with other children in different walks of life. Kids can develop new friendships, work together as a team, and even learn how to speak to other adults besides teachers and parents. Volunteering can help their social consciousness as well as their social development. In addition to giving back to the community, students can learn to be more empathetic and understanding of others.

 

 

2.    Stay healthy and active with exercise.

With more and more schools cutting P.E. classes and limiting recess time, many students are not as active at school as they once were. Joining an outside sports team is a way to keep kids healthy and active outside of school. Participating in sports can serve as a positive outlet for energy, especially for active kids, as well as help teach values such as teamwork, hard work, and determination. Encourage developing skills that are considered “lifetime sports”—activities such as bicycling, running, swimming, tennis, golf, and more are ways kids can stay active even as they get older.

 

 

3.    Learn valuable life skills.

 

Participating in extracurricular activities can teach your child skills they may use their whole lives. Practicing an instrument can teach perseverance, playing sports can teach teamwork, and joining a volunteer group can teach the value of giving. One of the most important skills extracurricular activities can teach is responsibility. Children schedule their own practice time, keep track of their own equipment, follow a calendar, or organize transportation to and from meetings. These skills can improve how your child performs academically, and come in handy as they continue to grow!

Tips on creating homework rules for your child

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.

How to take better notes in class

Not only does notetaking help a student go back and study class material at home and review for tests, but it also helps him or her learn better in class. However, many students are never taught how to take notes effectively. The following tips will help your child better notes in class!   1.     Take notes by hand. While some teachers now allow students to use laptops, iPads, or other forms of technology in class, this can actually hurt one’s ability to take notes effectively. A study by Princeton University found that students who took notes by hand actually remembered and retained information better than classmates who used laptops. This happens because when using technology, students type what they hear verbatim without processing it. Students who write notes by hand condense the information as they write, picking out the most relevant information to retain. 2.     Pick and choose what to focus on. Focus on the words and concepts that are most important to the lesson. Likewise, prioritize recording new information over things you already know. This keeps notes from becoming cluttered and allows the student to key in on concepts he or she wants to retain. 3.     Use the “question, answer, evidence” model. After focusing in on the most important information from the lecture, encourage your student to write notes in the form of questions. Then, have him or her answer the question as well as provide examples. For example, a class discussion over Romeo & Juliet could include the question, “What is the central theme?” with the answer “consequence of holding grudges” followed by two to three specific examples. 4.    Create one’s own shorthand. Even fast writers may only be able to record every other word from a lecture. While writing down every word may not be necessary, developing one’s own shorthand can help to take notes faster and record more information. Using abbreviations like wd or cd for would or could are quick ways to take notes faster. However, make sure your student will still be remember and read the abbreviations! 5.                        6.  Ask for help if necessary. Taking notes is a learned skill; it takes repetition and practice in order to effectively record lectures in class. If your student is having trouble keeping up while taking notes, have him or her ask the teacher for tips and pointers for their specific class. Some teachers will even allow students to use a recording device in order to review the exact lecture after class. Likewise, don’t forget to encourage them to ask classmate for help. Sharing notes – not simply copying someone else’s work – allows them to get multiple perspectives on the same lesson.

Not only does notetaking help a student go back and study class material at home and review for tests, but it also helps him or her learn better in class. However, many students are never taught how to take notes effectively. The following tips will help your child better notes in class!

 

1.     Take notes by hand. While some teachers now allow students to use laptops, iPads, or other forms of technology in class, this can actually hurt one’s ability to take notes effectively. A study by Princeton University found that students who took notes by hand actually remembered and retained information better than classmates who used laptops. This happens because when using technology, students type what they hear verbatim without processing it. Students who write notes by hand condense the information as they write, picking out the most relevant information to retain.

2.     Pick and choose what to focus on. Focus on the words and concepts that are most important to the lesson. Likewise, prioritize recording new information over things you already know. This keeps notes from becoming cluttered and allows the student to key in on concepts he or she wants to retain.

3.     Use the “question, answer, evidence” model. After focusing in on the most important information from the lecture, encourage your student to write notes in the form of questions. Then, have him or her answer the question as well as provide examples. For example, a class discussion over Romeo & Juliet could include the question, “What is the central theme?” with the answer “consequence of holding grudges” followed by two to three specific examples.

4.    Create one’s own shorthand. Even fast writers may only be able to record every other word from a lecture. While writing down every word may not be necessary, developing one’s own shorthand can help to take notes faster and record more information. Using abbreviations like wd or cd for would or could are quick ways to take notes faster. However, make sure your student will still be remember and read the abbreviations!

5.                       

6.  Ask for help if necessary. Taking notes is a learned skill; it takes repetition and practice in order to effectively record lectures in class. If your student is having trouble keeping up while taking notes, have him or her ask the teacher for tips and pointers for their specific class. Some teachers will even allow students to use a recording device in order to review the exact lecture after class. Likewise, don’t forget to encourage them to ask classmate for help. Sharing notes – not simply copying someone else’s work – allows them to get multiple perspectives on the same lesson.

How children can benefit from coloring

There are a number of surprising benefits to coloring for children of all ages. The following are ten ways that children benefit from coloring.   1.      Handwriting. The same muscles used to hold crayons and markers for coloring are also used for holding pens and pencils for writing. By building these muscles coloring – as well as improving their hand pencil grasp – children can see an improvement in their handwriting. 2.      Hand-eye Coordination. Making small movements to shade in a specific area can help young children improve their motor function and hand-eye coordination. This is especially true of difficult or challenging patterned coloring sheets. 3.     Color recognition. Young children can benefit from coloring as they are learning color recognition, such as picking a green crayon for grass or a blue crayon for the sky. Likewise, older children can explore mixing colors to create different blends and combinations; coloring can also help children learn the names of lesser known colors such as fuchsia, onyx, umber, or marigold. 4.     Focus. Studies have shown that children who regularly color have improved concentration and focus. These skills go beyond just finishing a coloring page; better focus can help your child concentrate in school, complete work, and get homework done in the evening. 5.     Creativity. Drawing and coloring helps your child express their creativity. Even if your child colors outside the lines or uses the wrong colors for everyday objects, praise their work. Coloring is also an opportunity to teach your children how to choose complementary colors or fill up blank space on a page. 6.    Relaxation. While it teaches other applicable skills, coloring is relaxing and fun more than anything else. Likewise, completing a coloring page – no matter how difficult – gives children a sense of pride and accomplishment. 7.                        8.  Quality time. Coloring can be just as relaxing and enjoyable for adults as it is for children. After a difficult day, sit down with your child and work on a coloring page! Not only will you get to spend quality time together, but it can be a fun way to end your day together.

There are a number of surprising benefits to coloring for children of all ages. The following are ten ways that children benefit from coloring.

 

1.      Handwriting. The same muscles used to hold crayons and markers for coloring are also used for holding pens and pencils for writing. By building these muscles coloring – as well as improving their hand pencil grasp – children can see an improvement in their handwriting.

2.      Hand-eye Coordination. Making small movements to shade in a specific area can help young children improve their motor function and hand-eye coordination. This is especially true of difficult or challenging patterned coloring sheets.

3.     Color recognition. Young children can benefit from coloring as they are learning color recognition, such as picking a green crayon for grass or a blue crayon for the sky. Likewise, older children can explore mixing colors to create different blends and combinations; coloring can also help children learn the names of lesser known colors such as fuchsia, onyx, umber, or marigold.

4.     Focus. Studies have shown that children who regularly color have improved concentration and focus. These skills go beyond just finishing a coloring page; better focus can help your child concentrate in school, complete work, and get homework done in the evening.

5.     Creativity. Drawing and coloring helps your child express their creativity. Even if your child colors outside the lines or uses the wrong colors for everyday objects, praise their work. Coloring is also an opportunity to teach your children how to choose complementary colors or fill up blank space on a page.

6.    Relaxation. While it teaches other applicable skills, coloring is relaxing and fun more than anything else. Likewise, completing a coloring page – no matter how difficult – gives children a sense of pride and accomplishment.

7.                       

8.  Quality time. Coloring can be just as relaxing and enjoyable for adults as it is for children. After a difficult day, sit down with your child and work on a coloring page! Not only will you get to spend quality time together, but it can be a fun way to end your day together.

Tips to encourage a reluctant writer

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!

How music lessons can benefit your child

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.

Educational online games for your child

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

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!

 

•   Education.com

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.

 

•   ABC Mouse

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.

 

Creating an action plan to prepare for college

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!