Free Online Video Training

In February 2017, I will be releasing a 3-part video training focusing on how parents can build critical thinking skills in children preschool through second grade.

The training will start with explaining the “what” and “why” of critical thinking including it’s potential for academic motivation in preschoolers, struggling students and gifted learners.

Then we’ll review assumptions that prevent parents from fostering (and children from gaining) “good thinking” experiences, and the impacts of these pitfalls on a child’s ability to build proficient reading skills and math number sense.

The last video will give you some quick & easy tips to implement into your already (time-strapped) busy schedule. If you are interested in this training, just click here to you’ll be signed up to be notified when the videos are ready.

 

Offscreen vs. Onscreen Learning

 

HOW TO BALANCE TECHNOLOGY & PLAY

Create a structure around both off and onscreen learning

The key factor isn’t the means through which your child is learning: it’s the structure around it. For example, giving your child free reign to do whatever he or she pleases on an iPad may be somewhat less effective than scheduling a block of time for them to engage in highly-acclaimed learning apps.

This holds true for offscreen play as well. You don’t need to dictate every activity your child engages in, but it’s good to be cognizant of how they spend the blocks of time where no screen is involved.

Remain a part of the process

Whether you’re helping your child build something from blocks or asking questions about the learning app they’re playing with, your participation matters.

While it can be tempting to let your child “figure it out on their own”, it’s important to remain invested in the process. Ask questions, show your interest, and let your child know that you want to be involved, regardless of what the activity may be. Continue reading “Offscreen vs. Onscreen Learning”

How To Prevent Bullying In The Pre-K Through 3rd Grade Classroom.

Kick Bullying to the Curb

How to prevent bullying in the Pre-K through 3rd Grade Classroom.

When thinking about bullying, I find many parents and teachers immediately gravitate to the image of a middle or high school student showing cruelty to their classmates. In reality, bullying starts much younger than this (as early as Pre-K!). Often, by the time
young children hit their pre-teens their ‘bully’ personalities have already begun to make mischief. This is why it’s so important to teach fairness, sharing, and compassion from an early age.
My experiences with parents and teachers who deal with a bully and bullied children led to the creation of Stanley the Snack Snatcher. This short, compelling story provides teachers and parents with a tool to begin conversations about bullying. In addition, there are a number of strategies teachers can use to prevent bullying in the classroom, including creating a classroom community, involving parents, and keeping an
open dialogue.

Create a Classroom Community.

Bullying often stems from kids who are isolated: isolated from their peers, their families, or their communities. One way to prevent bullying is to make sure every student in your classroom feels like a valued member of the classroom community.
There are many ways to do this, but one that many teachers use is a daily circle time with an activity called “Give, Get, Pass.” Each student gets a turn in the circle, and when it is
their turn, they can choose to give a compliment to the classmate of their choice, get a compliment from a classmate of their choice, or simply pass. At first, this activity is very surface level- “I like your clothes. I like your hair,” but with time, grows much more meaningful and really makes each student feel valued. Another circle time activity is a daily share, where one or two students share anything they want- something they did at home, something they’re excited about, something that happened at lunch. Other students actively listen and ask questions about the sharing
topic.
The activity itself isn’t as important as the intention behind it; encouraging compassion, understanding, and a safe place to share. Outside of circle time, this community can be emphasized by promoting collaboration and discussion. Showing each child that their opinion is valued, not just by the teacher, but also by their peers, is crucial to building empathy.

Involve Parents

 No parent wants to hear that their child is bullying or being bullied, but the sooner parents are involved, the better. Teachers should immediately communicate any concerns about bullying to the parents of the bully and the bullied. This can help in two main ways.
First, parents will be able to speak with their children at home. In some cases, this may be all the redirection they need. In doing this, parents have the opportunity to help their child learn empathy and sharing.
Second, parents can often shed light on why bullying might be happening. Perhaps there are changes at home- a new baby, a new job, a new routine. Even small changes can seem drastic to young children, so making sure that teachers and parents are partners with open communication is key.
Keep an open dialogue about bullying. Each child arrives with different experiences, backgrounds, and ideas about their world.
As you guide them through the school year, it’s important to embrace and value these differences. Even more important is maintaining a dialogue around these difference as well as behavioral red flags. Young children often know right from wrong, but it is a lesson that needs to be reinforced. Talk to your class about bully behavior and why it is wrong. Use a book about bullying, like Stanley the Snack Snatcher, to guide your conversation, allowing children to openly share their experiences.

Bullying stops when we begin to value one another’s differences

At the end of the day, I believe it is vital for young children to learn how to value the differences among their peers, maintain a sense of community, and deal with conflict in an empathetic manner.
We all want what is best for our child, and part of this is providing a safe, healthy learning environment filled with mutual respect and trust. By approaching the issue of bullying from an early age, we can cultivate this environment.

Cyber Security In Preschool.

Digital Dilemmas in Preschool and Beyond

Using critical thinking skills to approach cyber security and your preschooler.
With cyber-attacks inundating news reports, cyber security has been on my mind lately – especially when it comes to young children. October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to assess your preschool child’s safety in an increasingly complex digital world. First, let’s talk about what cyber security is. Often, we think of it in terms of our passwords. Long, complex passwords that differ for each of your logins is standard (and recommended. But cyber security as a whole is more in-depth. It’s the protection of an entire ecosystem of digital data on a personal, communal, and national level. For you personally, this can mean protecting everything from your bank account to your child’s school records. Even if your children are young – say in preschool or daycare – there are steps you can take to make sure they are not being exposed to vulnerabilities.
Know where data is being stored. Academic institutions keep a record of their students. Some of these records are still following old-school paper techniques, or are housed on internal databases, but not all. In fact, it’s often more beneficial to keep student records somewhere easily accessible throughout the institution, which often means relying on an internet connection. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a good idea to know how the data is being stored. Once you know what programs are being used, you can verify that the company creating the program has systems in place to keep the data safe.
Know where your child is spending their digital time.
Thanks to tablets and an open marketplace for app development, your child has the potential to be exposed to a mountain of digital educational resources. In many ways, this is a wonderful asset to your child’s academic growth. There are countless games designed for the sole purpose of creating a fun, educational learning environment that can be accessed anywhere. Of course, there is a flip side of the coin. Many apps, when downloaded, require access to personal information. Often within an app, users are exposed to advertisements. Taking the time to check exactly what permissions are being sought out and what is available within the app, will help keep your iPad and your child safe. Talk to your child about cyber security. It may seem like a big topic, but safety in a digital world is a reality of today’s youngest generations. Because of this, it’s crucial to teach them how to approach the Internet in a smart, critical way from an early age. This means keeping an open dialogue. Over the years, your child will be exposed to any number of digital dilemmas, whether they are exposed to cyber bullying, are contacted by someone who seems suspicious, or simply are not sure how to access information in a safe way.
Each of these issues can be tackled through critical thinking skills and an open dialogue. The Internet isn’t something to be feared, but it is something to approach with a healthy dose of caution.

Smart Homework Tips.

Is your child failing their homework?

Three smart ways to help your child succeed on their homework.

Few students return from school at the end of the day full of excitement and eagerness about their homework. In my experience, even the most gifted students (sometimes especially gifted students) approach their homework assignments with a certain amount of anxiety, irritation, or distaste. After all, they just spent the whole day at school, why should they need to work more?

Motivating and helping your child succeed can be a daunting task, and no small number of fights have begun at the homework table. Rather than preparing for battle, I recommend taking the stress away from homework. As a parent, you fill the role of monitor and motivator. To do this successfully means implementing a few simple practices.

Blur the lines between learning and playing

So often young learners are restricted from “play time” until they successfully complete their homework. Essentially, they are told they are not allowed to have fun until they finish learning. It’s no wonder so many students are resistant!

Instead of holding fun over your child’s head as a motivator, reinforce the idea that learning is fun. Not only that, but it’s a part of everyday experiences. While homework may be a more formal version of learning, each game they play, every curiosity they satisfy, also teaches them.

Remind your child of this by integrating fun, learning activities into their routine and allowing homework to be a part of that.

Ask open-ended questions

It can be tempting to take on your child’s homework as your own burden, but it’s important to resist the urge. Instead of hovering over them, act as a facilitator. If they begin to struggle, ask open-ended questions that prompt them to think for themselves, instead of fishing for answers.

Questions such as, “How can you think about this in a different way?” or “What part of this problem is hard for you?” will teach your child to verbalize their difficulties while also approaching them from new angles. As an added bonus, when you monitor your child in this way you become less of a disciplinarian and more of a motivator. They can look to you for advice, but ultimately they are responsible for their own learning.

Incorporate breaks

Asking your child to do all of their homework at once may be hurting more than helping, especially if they’re bogged down by a huge amount. Instead, block off specific times for completing homework and encourage your child to take breaks frequently. Most young children have short attention spans, and when they become frustrated their ability to problem solve is greatly reduced.

Give your child 15 – 30 minutes to work on their homework in earnest, then break it up with an activity that requires some amount of movement or shift in thinking. Once they’ve had 10 – 20 minutes away from their assignment, encourage them to return to it. This will allow them to approach it with a fresh mind.

As your child gets older they may be able to work uninterrupted for longer periods of time. Be mindful of them as they work, and if they seem to be overly stressed or anxious, remind them to step back.

Are you creating a positive atmosphere around homework?

When you implement these tricks you allow your child to approach their homework with a more positive mindset. It becomes less of a battleground and more of a playground. While your child may never view homework as their favorite activity, they will slowly come to think of it as a part of their day-to-day routine.

When Your Busy Child Won’t Focus

When your busy child won’t focus

How to get–and keep–your child’s attention.

 

When your young child is constantly distracted by, well, everything, it can be hard to make learning stick. Sometimes it can be difficult just to get their attention long enough to check in with them, let alone introduce a new concept.

While it can be frustrating to have a child who seems constantly preoccupied, it is possible to teach them how to become more adept at compartmentalizing and focusing. This revolves around two key skills: listening and attention.

Honing in on listening skills

Listening skills come into play when students have something they need to remember and focus on. For example, activities that require pattern recognition also require a good amount of focus. If students are seeking out a familiar pattern (ABAB, for instance), they will need to trust in their own ability to focus. If they begin to struggle, they will have to seek help and practice listening to the prompts given to them.

Similarly, memory games help students improve their recall and their ability to retell stories. I’m particularly fond of abstract puzzles, which provide a layer of complexity that often requires the use of listening skills. Putting children in pairs can also help develop this skill.

Finally, you can help your young learner develop listening skills by reading to them. By teaching young learners to recognize and focus on the sounds of the English language they will be more tuned to it. This includes the 44 phonic sounds, rhymes, onomatopoeia, and alliteration. Picture books and beginning chapter books are great starting points. For the particularly distracted child, don’t pressure them to finish the book in one sitting. You can always go back to it or re-read it.

Developing longer attention spans

Help your child increase their attention span by providing them with activities that grab their interest and keep it. For example, if their focus seems to wander when reading books, switch up the genre. By deviating beyond fairy tale stories and including a wider variety, you allow students to find their preferences.

In particular, including books with real-world information will give them a new perspective on reading and digesting information. If your child finds a topic they are particularly enthralled by, encourage their interest

Additionally, critical thinking games and puzzles provide ample opportunities for developing attention spans. Forcing your child to think outside of the box through new topics, classifications, and activities will help them understand and interpret their world in new ways. This often results in a spark of curiosity and interest, leading to longer attention spans.

The benefits of abstract puzzles

Abstract puzzles are a great way to help encourage students to be more focused. As you can see from the video below, when abstract puzzles are introduced into a child’s learning environment it requires both listening skills and a long attention span:

 

The 7 Bad Habits of Extraordinary Parents

The 7 Bad Habits of Extraordinary Parent

You strive to guide your child and give them all the tools they need to be successful in life. You work hard to keep lines of communication open between teachers and caregivers and to be your child’s biggest cheerleader. You’re a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, and a push out the door when needed.

You are an Extraordinary Parent. Continue reading “The 7 Bad Habits of Extraordinary Parents”

Why is building vocabulary important?

Chatty children make for successful students

How parents can improve their child’s vocabulary

You probably remember your child’s first words, and the excitement around them. You likely recall how thrilled you were to witness the transition from baby-babble to full-fledged words and sentences.

It’s an exciting time in a child’s development, and one of the most important. According to The Urban Child Institute the child’s brain grows to 80% of its adult size between the ages of zero and three. Not only that, but their brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain. During these years, your child is absorbing new knowledge at an incredible rate, and that includes language. Continue reading “Why is building vocabulary important?”