Blogging A to Z April Challenge: P 04/18/2020

Parent of teacher? Which should you be?

Kids are home. Teachers are virtual. Parents are home. What should parents be doing to reinforce learning and support teachers?

Parents will always be a major teacher in their children’s lives. Teachers right now are working hard to provide appropriate education so students don’t fall behind. Parents should be encouraging students to complete all of the work assigned. Parents should also be talking to their children about what they are learning. Keep it positive though! Don’t add more onto the plates of students at this time, above and beyond what they are capable of. Even children are stressed right now because life is so different. Keep that in mind when helping kids learn.

Why is this a big deal? For one, you don’t need to be the bad guy. There doesn’t need to be a bad guy! Learning should be fun and a positive part of life. Secondly, your children should know they can turn to you at any moment for help or advice. If there is a lot of strife in the home over learning, children will shy away from asking questions. Finally, every child needs their parents and guardians. They have unfortunately lost their normal schooling, keep the relationships at home positive with some consistency. Kids need it.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: O 04/17/2020

Overkill – How much is too much?

Times are changing and with COVID-19 things are completely new to almost everyone when it comes to education! Schools have switched to virtual learning and parents are concerned about all of the schooling their children are missing. This is a concern for parents, educators, administrators, politicians, everyone. The one thing you don’t want to do is cause unnecessary stress.

What is overkill? According to Webster overkill is “excessive use, treatment, or action; too much of something.” So what does this have to do with your kids? Don’t make missing education at school feel like a terrible punishment. None of these kids asked for this and most kids want to go to school, especially to see the other kids and adults they are used to seeing. When kids are home, if they are doing the work that has been assigned, yes encourage other types of learning, but don’t force tons of extra learning because you will overdo it and have learners shut down.

Kids brains are sponges. These sponges love knowledge. If the sponge is full, the sponge can’t hold anymore at that time, until it “dries out” a little. Learning and education should be a positive experience. Is it always positive or fun? No. But as the parent or guardian, you don’t need the stress nor do you need to impart that stress on the learner in your home. Learning will happen. Encourage it. Make it fun. Reinforce learning. Reward positive behavior.

Check out other blogs like M: Math in the home, for ideas to use with children at home.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: N 04/16/2020

Nonsense words

What is a nonsense word and how could that help my child in any way?

A nonsense word is a made up word. Have you ever read Dr. Seuss and wondered where he got some of his characters? Yes, he made them up! A nonsense word can be made by taking a well known word and changing one or two letters, or many of the letters. Nonsense words can be made by rhyming.

Reading and hearing nonsense words helps to reinforce phonetic learning and phonemic awareness.
According the Harvard.edu “Phonetics is the study of speech sounds”.
According to University of Oregon Phonemic awareness is “the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds”.
Why does this matter? Think about the last time you read a book. If it was an easier read, it was as such probably because many of the words followed familiar phonemic combinations. Have you ever tried to read a technical or reference book? Some of those words are not familiar and you may have had to look closely to know what it said. That is using phonics and your phonemic awareness to read.

What are some ideas?

  1. What words rhyme with….
    Box? fox, lox, sox. jox, mox, nox…. Are they all real words? No, but they follow the rule of rhyming.
  2. Change all the a’s to i’s….
    cat is cit, bat is bit, rag is rig…Not all real words but they follow rules of vowel sounds.
  3. Add a “y” to the end of every word…
    table — tably, car —- cary, sit — sitty. Do it the other way?
    baby —- babe, lazy —- laze.
    What is a real word and what isn’t?

Many of these activities are more common with the smaller kids. It can be super fun with any age! Have you read any of the “Amelia Bedelia” books? Amelia Bedelia makes up words all the time, making each of her adventures a hysterical escapade. What about the old “Pig Latin”. According to Webster: Pig Latin is “a made-up language formed from English by transferring the initial consonant or consonant cluster of each word to the end of the word and adding a vocalic syllable (usually ˈpiɡ ˌlatn: so chicken soup would be translated to ickenchay oupsay . Pig Latin is typically spoken playfully, as if to convey secrecy.”

Have fun with words. It makes everyone laugh and surprising makes everyone a better reader.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: M 04/15/2020

Math all around the home

Have you ever wondered how you can help your child excel in math? The best way is practice and exposure.

There will always be books on learning at home and one of the most common practices is to tell parents to do things like cook with their children to teach math. That is a good strategy but not the only and not necessarily the best for your child.

Strategies for learning math at home:

  1. Cooking; Cooking is a great way to teach kids to count. It is also a good way to teach that a teaspoon is smaller than a tablespoon or a cup is smaller than a pint. I don’t disagree with any of this but one point that many parents don’t think of, as I admit I never did when my kids are little, is to show how three of those little scoops equals one of the bigger scoops (1/3 times 3 = 1). This can emphasize measurement, multiplication, fractions, and other areas that use any of these facts.
  2. Go through your cabinets! Did you ever notice that some cans are 12 ounces while others are 14.5? As adults who shop for the foods their families like, a lot of times we look for the package and don’t pay attention to the exact measurement in the packaging. Show your children this! Have them take cans out of the pantry. Sort them by units in each can. Sort them by size of the actual can. Turn the cans around and read the labels! There are percentages, measurements, and a lot of other information on the backs of cans.
  3. Have children keep track of what they drink. Do they know how many ounces are in a cup? Do they know how many ounces there are in their favorite cup? If they drink 5 cups of water in their favorite cup, how many ounces is that? This emphasizes addition, multiplication, measurement, statistics, and graphing.
  4. How many steps is it from the bedroom to the bathroom? What about the bedroom to the kitchen? How many steps in your staircase? How tall is the door to the bathroom? Is it the same as the front door of the house? What about the door on the cabinets? Obviously, the cabinet doors are smaller but by how much? These are all activities that reinforce math skills.
  5. Measure family members. Who is tallest? Who is smallest? This is comparing values! This also emphasizes ways to measure. No yardstick or anything else to measure? Well, what else can you use? A shoelace? Thinking about unconventional ways of measurement is a great critical thinking skill.

I hope I have given you some good ideas for math in the home. No need to buy anything special, no special equipment required. Be creative! With a pencil and paper, students can learn to log information, compare statistics, and make predictions! Math can be a lot of fun!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: L 04/14/2020

Levels: What do they mean?

When many adults were in school years ago there were groups; children have always been placed in groups by levels. Whether it is level of reading, social maturation, or even size, there seems to always be some groups. Nowadays, grouping is much more strategic and occurs less. Have you wondered why? 

Many groupings have gone away, especially in public schools. Not only it is against HIPAA rules, it can also be demoralizing and detrimental to a young person’s emotional development. Here is a scenario to explain it: 

Johnny came home from school to tell his mom and dad that they started reading a new chapter book in class. He goes on to say that the teacher has them in small groups so they can read together.  
I. “Well, Johnny, which group are you in?” 
“I’m in the red group” 
“What’s the red mean?” 
“I don’t know.” 

II. “Well, Johnny, which group are you in?” 
“I’m in Peter and Marcy’s group, and also Jessie” 
“Isn’t Jessie a slower reader than you?” 
“I don’t know” 

III. “Well, Johnny, which group are you in?” 
“I’m in group B” 
“What is group B? Shouldn’t you be in group A with the highest readers?” 
“I don’t know” 

So, you can see there is a lot of ambiguity and a lot of questions that come up. To be honest, the teacher doesn’t have to tell you how the groupings occurred. If she were to tell you, it may go against privacy laws. Maybe Peter is super low, and Johnny was put there to be a role model. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe Johnny is put in that group because he is the best behaved…or the worst…? 

Here is another scenario: 

Debbie comes home from school to tell her mom and dad that they started a new math concept and they were put into groups in class. She goes on to say that the teacher put them in groups based on how good they are in math. *Understand that Debbie thinks this is why they are in groups… 
I. “Debbie, who else is in your group?” 
“Billy and Paul and Emma” 
“Isn’t Paul that little boy who is always in trouble?” 
“Yes” 
“Then why are you in his group?” 
“Because we know the same math.” 
“How can you know the same math if he is always in the Principal’s office?” 
“I don’t know” 

II. “Debbie, who else is in your group?” 
“Mark and Faith and Raheed” 
“Raheed? Where is Raheed from?” 
“My school” 
“No, what country is he from?” 
“Mine, I think. Why?” 
“Never mind” 

III. “Debbie, who else is in your group?” 
“Vince and Paula and Samson” 
“I don’t know if I like that little girl Paula. Her mother is not very nice” 
“She’s nice to me” 
“Never mind” 

Now, these are just silly scenarios I made up but there are so many problems with this that teachers now avoid groupings if they can. The problem with that is then parents wonder why there AREN’T groups. 

“Why isn’t Becky with the higher readers so she can move ahead faster?” 
“Does Billy behave or is he disruptive during reading time?” 
“Isn’t Jack special needs? Why is he learning to read with my child?” 
“I don’t think Carl is a good influence and I would rather see my child in a different group” 

What is my biggest point? Don’t worry about groupings. They are not what they used to be and do not mean what they used to mean. They may occur and the teacher may have a strategy but that is her prerogative and can assure you of your own child’s success, but not about any other children in the class.  

If you have a grave concern, ask the teacher to talk privately, without your child there. The teacher will be able to give you some sort of explanation and ease your mind, but please remember, the majority of teachers out there only have the best intentions for all the children in their classrooms.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: K 04/13/2020

Kind Acts

Kind acts includes a huge gamut of things to do. People of every age can do kind things and it can be kind things to family members, societal members, and in this day and age – first responders and care takers. With social isolation and distancing, kind acts have to be somewhat virtual if aimed at someone outside of your immediate household.

So what are some ideas of kind acts?

  • Send messages on social media. Unlike years ago, before all of the modern technology, this was not possible. Nowadays, almost everyone can be reached via social media. Even people you don’t personally know. For instance, local police departments. They have Facebook pages, as do many hospitals. Post on their Facebook page how proud you are of what they are doing for so many sick people.
  • Make posters for your car for display when out on errands. You will never know when you may pull up at the gas pump, next to a nurse or doctor. They may look over and see encouraging words written on a poster in your car. A smile may come to their face. It’s just a small way to say thank you.
  • Stay home! Yes, staying home is a kind act. If you stay home you are just one more person who ISN’T going to spread the virus.
  • Write letters to first responders. Don’t have a stamp? Check with your local mail carrier if there is a way to get mail to local offices. You may have to drop thank you letters or notes of other contents, right at the hospital or fire station. When you pull up, most places now have someone come out to you to see what your needs are. Hand them the notes and ask them to bring them inside. The only problem with this is that some places don’t want to accept any product from the outside. If this were to happen, go back to social media.
  • Take a walk in front of your elderly neighbors house. Call them to the door and just wave and say hello from the street or down their driveway. Sometimes a simple hello can brighten someone’s day.

Yes, with social distancing and this horrible virus, kind acts are not what we typically envision. Be creative and I almost guarantee that every effort will be appreciated.

Stay safe, healthy, and home!!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: I 04/10/2020

Inner feelings – don’t be afraid to share 

This post can be construed in multiple ways, so I will address my belief in multiple ways.

Right now, the world is turned upside down with sickness, despair, sadness, you name it! Kids see and hear things that they don’t necessarily talk about. They might overhear you on the phone saying you hope you don’t get sick because you don’t want your kids to be alone. Well, if they hear that, what they really hear is: “I’m going to die and my children will be alone.” So, what do you do? Talk to your children. Tell them what you are afraid of, tell them what scares you. By seeming human to them, they will then share with you. Talking about how you really feel is probably one of the healthiest things you can do.

In another sense, I think it is important to teach kids that their feelings do matter to you. They need to understand that although everyone in their lives are not going to agree with them or even care, you are there to care! If a child tells you they are scared, don’t just so, “Oh, it will be fine soon.” Ask them what part they are afraid of. You will get much more attention this way and they will feel like you are listening. Why would someone want to share their feelings if they knew they would only be brushed aside.

Also, talked to your children about what they think OTHERS are feeling right now. That is called empathy, being able to understand what another person is going through. (Merriam Webster: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: G 04/08/2020

Giving makes you feel positive 

Right now everyone in the entire world is feeling the wrath of COVID-19. There are some areas that are less talked about, but I believe there is nowhere this virus has not spread. In these times, people are out of work and some are desperate. Giving seems like the right thing to do, but what if you are one of the people that is needy?

Teaching kids to give is a positive life lesson. The biggest thing to think about however, is not the size of your giving, but the feeling behind it. Perhaps your child is home and watching television, seeing how hard the doctors and nurses are working to keep people alive. What can a kid do to help? Here are some ideas:

  • Go onto social media and say thank you to doctors, nurses, first responders….Anyone that is out there helping people to survive this pandemic.
  • Write a thank you note to your local ER or police station. Sometimes just a quick thank you is enough for people to know they are appreciated.
  • Have your children go through their toys. Which ones do they barely play with? Donating them this minute might not be an option but if people are out of work for this long, the winter holidays are going to be tight for everyone.
  • Have older kids go through their clothes and shoes. For some people, Target is a good name brand while other people only like Holister or American Eagle. Well, when the going gets tough, like it is now, there will be many people looking for nice things.
  • Children can make posters saying thank you to our doctors, nurses, and first responders. These posters can be out in the yard, displayed in a front window, or displayed in a car. Anything to show appreciation.

So, these are just a few ideas. Teaching kids to give will also teach them to feel intrinsically good about themselves. (Merriam Webster – intrinsic: belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing)

We have a lot of time on our hands and many of us have something we can do, even if it is small, to show the hard-workers that they do matter. This in turn makes you feel good inside, knowing you may have brightened at least one person’s day. It does matter. Then share what you did! Spread your good intentions to others, like a chain reaction, it will grow. You don’t share to say, “Hey look I shared”, you share to say, “Hello! Is everyone out there realizing how much other people are doing?!”

“Go from ME to WE”: we are all in this together.

Share other ideas you have here or on other social media.

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge: 04/03/2020 “C”

C Copying Written Text 

What is writing all about? I’m sure if you asked a school full of educators you would get a lot of different answers. My background is in Special Education, so my ideas are sometimes a bit different than teachers certified to teach Language Arts and writing. But, when it comes to writing, if kids won’t do it, it’s not a thing anyhow! 

There are many children, of all ages, who are reluctant writers. This reluctance can result from multiple reasons. One reason may be that they physically find it difficult. A second reason may be that they don’t know what to write about. A third, but I’m sure not the last reason, may be because they don’t know how to write “acceptable” work. By acceptable work, I refer to work that can be handed in to a teacher, or shared with someone, with pride.  

Writing can be physically difficult. This is very hard for many people to understand. When we all learn to write, we may not be aware of it, but we put different pressure when using different writing utensils. Obviously, if you press too hard with a pencil, the point breaks. If you press too lightly with a pen, you may not see all the characters. If it wasn’t addressed when you were little you may still find that your hand gets tired or achy after writing for a bit. Kids seem to unintentionally press very hard with their writing utensils. Perhaps they think the harder they write the better the work, sort of like a hand and mind disconnect. Whatever the reason, if their hands get tired and achy, they won’t write.  

Writing might also be difficult because children don’t know what to write. Even given a topic, there is still a lot that goes into writing. For example, if you tell a third-grade student they must write about their favorite vacation, they could do that in one sentence. What they don’t know is how to expand the idea to write enough about it. Helping children write an outline, they now have a visual reference of what information is appropriate for their topic. By showing students that ideas don’t always just flow like a written book, they may be less reluctant to try. Sometimes kids, especially the younger ones, think writing should be like what they see in a book. They don’t understand that professional writers also have professional editors!  

This leads to the third reason I provided, that students don’t want to write if it is going to come back and be “all wrong”. Writing is graded in schools on different categories. If the teacher is looking for mechanics, then there may be marks showing a student all the commas they missed, or the fragment sentences they produced. If the teacher is looking for information in their writing, then there may be remarks that they don’t have enough information, or they need to “expand that idea”. This is very frustrating to students who don’t understand that writing isn’t done in one draft. With all my students I have always said that you will have more than one draft, no matter what. But the thing I emphasize is that you don’t have to change your writing, just add to it. That is a big relief for students. Sometimes when they are told to write a second draft, they believe they must write a whole new copy. That is a lot of work! Ease their minds by letting them know that the drafts after the first are for fixing and adding, not changing and taking away. Yes, there will be some things that have to be omitted or changed, but at the onset of an assignment, if a student thinks they will have to write the same thing multiple times, you’ve just lost them!  

So, what do I mean by copying text? When kids are little and don’t know how to write complete sentences, encourage them to “rewrite” their favorite books. Copying the text is something that doesn’t seem “too hard” and seems almost like a “legal cheat”. I’m not saying they should copy text and call it their own! No, I mean copying text just as practice. Another way to encourage children to write is to have them narrate to you, you write it, then they copy it. If you write it in their words exactly, then it is still their writing! The best thing is you just took out the task of writing and thinking at the same time!  

These little things can make a big difference in getting kids to love writing. Do you write at home? Sometimes one of the best lessons is watching a parent or sibling do the task. When I taught elementary school kids if it was time to write in journals, we all did it! Yes, the teachers and aides! This shows students that writing is important and is enjoyable.  

With the technology that is available, teaching kids to type and write on a keyboard are important, but it is always important to write using a pen and paper! Nothing will ever take the place of conventional writing! 

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: 04/02/2020 “B”

B Books Spark Interest 

Does your child groan when you suggest picking up a good book? Do they say the hate to read? Maybe you have a child that loves to read! If you do, this article might not be as useful, but hopefully you can still pull something useful from it.  

There are multiple reasons why children grow up “hating” to read. The biggest reason is they haven’t found something they love to read. The second biggest reason is it’s hard. Finally, reading takes time, time away from gaming and television. Who would want to put down the game controller to pick up a book?  Most kids don’t.  

So, how do we change this viewpoint? First, ask yourself, do you like to read? If you say no, that might be part of the problem. Our interests inadvertently affect our kids. If you don’t love to read, find a magazine to read or read catalogs; anything in print is reading! By showing your child that you like to read something, you are now promoting reading.  

The second thing to do is to ask your child what they would want to read about. If they say “nothing” or “I don’t know” then offer suggestions. Maybe they would like crime fiction, maybe realistic fiction, how about science fiction? Children are told what kind of books are out there but when it comes to naming one, they don’t realize how many different topics there really are! If your little one loves stuffed animals, find a book about stuffed animals! If your child loves baking, find books on baking! Get them interested in reading. Once they find interest, they will increase their reading time, which will help improve the ability to read. Being able to read easily is the product of practicing all the time!  

So, you’ve tried all these things, and nothing works! Well, turn to the house and the things in the house. Start asking kids to read packaging. Ask students to read labels on everything; cans, shampoo, juice…You can even ask your child to read the instructions to their favorite video game! Yes, this is reading! Anything that students read increases reading time which then provides practice and consequently, makes reading easier and more enjoyable. One important point I would make is that children love to reread their favorite books. This is okay! It is still practice. But if they get stuck and won’t move on, ask your local or school librarian to find a very similar book. When kids realize there is more than one good book, reading grows.  

Now there will be the child that doesn’t want to read no matter what the incentive. They don’t like comic books, they won’t try a chapter book, and they think reading labels is lame. Try audio books! Yes, listening to books is just like reading them yourself. The thing is, listening and reading provide you with what you want kids to get; better word use, expanded vocabulary, and joy of learning. There are websites that have free books and most public libraries have books on tape and CD.  

Finally, a great Language Arts activity for all ages is labeling. Give your child a package of sticky notes and a pencil and let them label the house. This is useful for improving spelling and vocabulary. In turn, every time they reread their labels, they are practicing reading. Reading can be fun. Reading comes in so many forms. It might take time but keep a positive outlook that they will all find something they love to read.