Diane Sawyer's ScreenTime is a Must to See! May 5, 2019 09:45

I am attaching the link to Diane Sawyer's special ScreenTime that showed last Friday night. It is a must for all users. 

Here is the link:


Side note: I do think it is interesting how those of us who use devices are called "Users." This term has been traditionally used to refer to those individuals addicted to drugs.  It's appropriate this term describes millions of parents and children who own devices.

Should there be an electrical surge that blew out all devices, could you manage your life? How would you entertain yourself while waiting in line? How would you know what your friends are doing? Something to think about. 

Training Device Management Begins With Awareness April 21, 2019 17:45

Advertising Strategies Used By Game Makers

Introducing students to the following strategies used by game makers to lure them into a game and keep them there will help students see how the game is manipulating them. This knowledge will help develop their online critical thinking skills. The goal is to empower users to control the device instead of the device controlling them.
I recommend playing the games with your children and challenging them to see who can find the most examples of the following strategies in the game. 
  • FREE is the most powerful word game makers use. They attract players because it is free. Once players are hooked, they use different methods for coaxing players to purchase internet currency. Players are often offered ways to buy passes or clues, so they can achieve new goals in the game. The first thing I noticed in several games I explored was an offer to purchase online currency. Most games' goals are to get the users to purchase this currency or to watch ads posted by companies that sponsor the games. Ads are placed strategically throughout the games. There are also ads offering players the option to play Ad Free for a small purchase of $.99 a month. Multiply .99 by 10 million users and the game maker is doing quite well. Once they get their game user addicted to the game, they have guaranteed income. 


  • Educational is a key word that give parents a false sense of game value. It can make one feel the game will do no harm if the children are learning something. Many children, 10 million or more, are playing a popular social media centered game for FREE that advertises itself as educational.
When students were asked to share what was educational about it, one eight year old girl stated, “It teaches you how to make choices. Today, I had to choose between a donut and a bagel in my game.” When asked what she chose and how it was educational, she said, “I chose the donut. It was educational because I had to make a choice.” I asked if she was told the donut was unhealthy. She replied, “No, it just gave it to me.” The choice came with a price. I discovered that the cost of the donut was more than the cost of the bagel. There wasn't even an economic's lesson in this game. She couldn’t identify the lesson she learned, other than she was asked to make a choice. One child said, “Sometimes they ask me to do a math problem in class. They had me add 3 to 100. Then a friend in the game told me I could buy a pass, so I didn’t have to take the test.” Savvy players can use money to avoid doing any aspect of the game that is educational. 


    • “Your Friends Can Play” is a lure to satisfy our brain's innate desire to interact with others. It is just another way game makers' activate the pleasure center of our brains.
    When I signed on as an eight year old to play the game my third graders were playing, no one in the game knew I was a 69 year old teacher. Children say they are playing with friends because the players are nice to them, but they have no way of knowing if the person they are playing is 8 or an adult who entered the game to eventually manipulate them to purchase items.
    When I began playing the game for the first time, I found how to text and made friends with other players. One person who was nice to me and offered to help me play. She showed me where to find the things I could buy. It wasn't long before I witnessed the first signs of bullying. The screen shot below shows the name calling that a normal eight year old would not know how to deal with or how to respond to.
    When I asked my students about this situation, several of them shared stories when they were bullied. One third grader shared she had a panic attack one night and couldn’t sleep because of something that happened in the game. A friend who had been nice to her for a year, but who she did not know personally, started making fun of her clothing and that said she looked poor. After repeated bullying incidents, my student felt the need to stop the bullying by purchasing clothes to change her identity. She finally caved in and used a gift card to pay for the new clothes, which caused her to feel anxious.
    Many people would be judging her mother after reading this, but her mother had taken her Ipad away so she couldn't play, but gave her a Chrome book to type her stories. Her mother did not know she was going through the bullying situation, because she had no idea her daughter could access the games from her Chrome book.
    • Free Daily Bonus is another strategy used in marketing. It gets the users to come back everyday for the FREEBIES.
    When asked why they would go back everyday to play, the girls shared that they didn't want to miss the FREE prizes the game offered just for playing each day. The Free things aren’t so free. The free choices are limited. The most enticing items cost internet currency that a player can purchase with a gift card or credit card.
  • Pre-order and Save is one strategy game makers use to see if their games are where they want them to be before they go into full scale marketing.

  • In-Game Advertising is designed to let you play for free, but you have to be willing to be interrupted by advertisements.
  • Your click response is quickly analyzed and more products that interest the player are sent their way. The goal is to get the player to buy the “no advertisement version of the game.” Advertisers know the best place to market items is to children. Children of today have more purchasing power than in any generation. Advertisers know if they target children, the children will convince their parents to purchase items they see advertised. Many in-game strategies have name brand products built int
  • o the game itself, thus subliminally targeting children. 

    • Cereal Box Offers are a common advertising method to grab children’s attention. Once they go to the website to play the free games, they are a captured audience. Players tend to spend an average of 27 minutes on the cereal sites, which is enough time to grab their attention about new products.
    • Hook Loops are designed to get users to go back to their game because users are notified when someone liked their entry or outscored them in a game.
    • Loot Boxes are mysterious boxes that can be purchased with real money or internet currency. Purchasers don’t know if they are getting an ordinary item or a rare one. They have to make the purchase to find out.
    • Behavior Modification works by offering rewards or incentives to keep the user playing.
    • Attention testing is used to track the user's pattern. Then, an algorithm is created to increase the user's engagement. If a player usually plays for 30 minutes, the game will be programed to make an offer of a free item at 29 minutes. This is designed to  keep the player engaged and extend the normal playing time. A banner may appear that says, “You are almost there. You only need fifty points to make it to the next level.”  

    As students begin seeing these strategies in their games, they will become critical about what they view. This will be a necessary life skill for motivating them to control their use. They need this skill because technology is and will continue to be a part of their future. 


    I recommend the following videos for more insight into the impact of video games on all of us. 

      Technology Time Management Strategies April 11, 2019 15:32

      Tech Management Strategies That Get Buy-in By Children

      Before students begin to schedule themselves they need to understand the following:

      • Their brains form and prune dendrites, which helps build memories and recall information
      • There are chemicals emitted during game playing that are needed for concentration and proper healthy sleep 
      • The brain needs a break after video game playing to maximize their study time and sleep
      • Scheduling games before study times and before they go to sleep will make studying harder and make it more difficult to remember what was learned the night before.

      Scheduling their game playing requires an understanding of time. Because their prefrontal cortexes are not formed fully, it is difficult to schedule themselves automatically, but they can be trained how to do it. Firstly, they need to see what time looks like. Providing them a daily schedule broken into fifteen minute increments for the time represented when they leave school until their bedtime is not enough. To a poor time manager, the scheduler below gives them a false sense of having a lot of time.

      So, we need to help students see time differently. To manage tech, they need to think about all the other things in their day they need to consider that they normally wouldn’t think about. The first part of time management training is to make a list of all outside activities they have after school. Ask the children to fill in the times they have to set aside for extra-curricular activities and chores.

      Most students do not consider all the time wasters that result in finding themselves out of time. They need to put time to travel, dress, eat, bathe, and the need to add extra minutes to each task to allow for unexpected challenges.

      To a poor time manager this schedule has a lot of white space that gives them a false sense that they still have a lot of free time. We need to show students how little time they have. When I began highlighting unavailable time, it created a sense of urgency in my poor time managers to get to work right away.


      Now this student has a better sense of the actual time left to study, do homework, or play a video game.

      When scheduling their game playing, they have to take into consideration how much brain rest they need to be effective with their other responsibilities. If they play for fifteen minutes, they should allow a minimum of 30 minutes of brain rest from video games before attempting to study or complete assignments. They will need to have at least an hour of brain rest prior to going to sleep to maximize their recall of information learned that night. Looking at this schedule, my student decided he could play for fifteen minutes before he went to soccer practice. He considered everything he needed to do before he could play, such as get into his soccer clothes. He also stated, "If I play for fifteen minutes and go to soccer, that will give my brain enough rest so I can concentrate on my homework when I get home." On another day, he announced, "Doesn't look like I have any game time in my future today." 

      When they understand that their brain functioning can be compromised by playing the game, they will gladly make appropriate decisions. Ask the students if they would like to remember tomorrow what they study tonight. Video game playing before going to bed can impact their brain’s ability to get the right kind of sleep that promotes easy recall the next day.  Ask them if they want to waste their time by playing a game and risking not remembering what they tried learning the night before. They will usually make the choice of planning their game playing when it won’t impact learning and sleep. After they have assigned times to each activity they need to complete for the evening, they are ready to decide when and if they have the time to play games.

      Empowering them to make these decisions about game playing will serve them well when they are alone in their dorm room with no one monitoring them. 

      Next Blog will deal with the advertising strategies game makers use to capture our children's attention. 


      Controlling Tech Use is Not Effective, But Coaching Is the Answer April 10, 2019 10:55

      Training Children For Stranger Danger in Their Video Games

      Spring is a perfect time for children to go to local parks and play outdoors, yet many parents fear allowing their children to do so. The media has led parents to believe that it is not safe out there. The fact is your children are better equipped for playing outdoors than I was as a child in the 1950’s. The same threats existed then as do today, yet I was not aware of how to handle the stranger who asked me to get in the car and show him where the nearest gas station was. No one had prepared me for this type of person. Today, our children know about “Stranger Danger.” They know what to do if someone approaches them.

      One might  think children are safer in their bedrooms than at the park. If the children have internet connection and have discovered games to play, they are not prepared for the strangers in disguise who might appear in their games. In many of the games I explored, the strangers are not as visible as my stranger in the car was to me. They may initially appear as a kind and caring friend that are listed as their age, and quickly shift their tone when they determine the player is ripe for bullying. Children have no idea that the person they call their friend in the game is someone my age, 60. To understand the game, I easily signed up and lied that I was an eight year old to gain access to the game and appear as young person the child's own age. If I can do it, so can people with different goals. My was to learn the game. Other's might have ulterior motives. One way or the other, young children may not be equipped to deal with or combat potential bullying. 

      Many games’ sole purpose is to manipulate the children into spending money, and bullying is one tactic that I found in my game playing. I have been working with five girls who are playing the same game to learn more about what they are experiencing. One of my students shared that she was bullied by a friend and called a noob. This is a poor person. The friend was not someone she really knew, but someone who had been nice to her in the game for the past year. Suddenly, she was being bullied to buy new clothes. She caved to the bullying and had a panic attack that night, because she knew her parents would find out she played the game. The girls discussed having the same thing happen to them and they came up with things they could say to someone bullying them in the future. "I'll just tell them I like my clothes and if they don't like it, that's their problem."  Having a strategy made the students feel much better. Whether it is in real life or a game that feels like real life to them, young children need to be prepared for potential bullying, and they will need to know what to say if it does. 

      One very popular game eight and nine-year-olds are playing uses different forms of manipulation to keep children in the game. They are offered free things if they play each day. They earn internet currency for doing simple tasks, but it is not enough to buy the things offered for purchase. Sharing this information with your children before they play will help them recognize what the game is doing to get them to want to make a purchase. Play the game with them and ask them to point out all the ways the game is asking for real money. Awareness is the first step in dealing with Internet Stranger Danger. 

      Games are designed to addict. Children are not aware of how playing games are impacting their brains in unhealthy ways, nor are their parents. In the UK, Prince Charles is calling for a ban on Fortnight because he says, “It is created to addict the users.” The creators of many games use functional MRI’s  to determine if the part of the brain associated with pleasure is activated with the desired outcome of hooking the player into the game. They are making sure they are arousing the fight or flight response to achieve the desired respiration level. If they don’t get the right response, they go back and add components to the game until they reach the desired results: to addict the user. Children playing this game can be put into a state of activation of those areas of the brain connected to pleasure and reward. Knowing the potential for arousal and addictive behavior is important for parents and children. Bringing children's attention to how this arousal and reward might feel when they are playing the game is another step parents can take to coach their children on how to control their own game use. Banning the game would be nice, but it won’t stop the game makers from coming up with a different game that will do the same thing.

      I am a realist. Computers, the internet, and games are here to stay.

      Just like not all who gamble become gamblers, not all children who play video games will become addicted. But every person who has access to devices needs to learn how to manage them. The games young children are playing are a gateway to other forms of social media. The devices have too many components that make it easy to eventually become addicted to texting, checking emails, or seeing how friends are doing and living vicariously. Parents are restricting the use of their children’s devices, but that is not enough. We need to train children to manage their own use while they are playing games at home, so they can manage it when no one is around to do so and there is more to draw their attraction.  

      I do not believe the answer is in total parent control, but in training children to control the devices instead of the devices controlling them.

       You may be thinking, it isn’t possible to train young children to stop playing. This belief is selling our children short. If they can learn how to navigate to a game on the internet, they can learn to monitor their own use.

      It won’t come naturally to young children, because their prefrontal lobes are not fully developed and that is where planning occurs. But they can be trained to do it. The following are coaching points for parents:

      1. Help your children understand the chemical changes that occur during game playing.

      2. Identify the feelings that these changes present.

      3. Recognize the brains need for breaks after playing games before they try to do their homework or study for tests .

      4. Explain the neuroscience behind learning and memory and the impact the games have on those brain functions.

      5. Teach them a time management plan, so they can schedule their device use. They can learn to plan for the use of their devices when they will learn their brains need breaks, and they will have to schedule for those breaks.

      6. Teens can learn to leave a message for all their friends that they will not be available by text, phone, or email for a specific amount of time and then lock their phones in another room.

      7. Train your children to stop their own play, notice the feelings the game creates to pull them back in, and how to shift back to a normal state, so they can stop playing.

      8. Knowing the motives of game makers helps students recognize when the game is trying to control them, which makes it easier for them to resist the offers. They learn that, if they are to play, they must control the game, instead of letting the game control them. 

      Next Blog: Teaching Children to Manage the Internet Use Time

      Video Game Playing Advertising Strategies- Buyer Beware! March 23, 2019 22:00

      Easy to Use
      Immerse Education Tool
      Limitless Imagination Opportunity
      Teaches Digital Citizenship
      Teaches Coding

      These powerful words and phrases are used to capture the eye of students and parents, and make them feel that they are learning something as they play the innocent looking games found on the internet for FREE. 

      Just like other advertising strategies designed solely to capture our dollars, video games may appear to want to offer educational value, when in reality, many of their creators have ulterior motive. "Show them the money."Believe it or not, video game companies are in competition to capture a new market, the under 13 group. They want to hook the children when they are too immature to understand what is really going on. According to Dr. Kardaras, "In the 1990's, Intel competed with other companies in the "war of the eyeballs." It was a fierce competition to capture the attention of kids and thus create the most hypnotic and addicting products that they could sell." They were successful and now the internet is like the wild wild west, with the war continuing between many game makers. The manufactures and creators of online games have no laws to stop them from deceiving children, so without conscience, they are going after the under 13's. 

      I am aware there are many helpful tools on the internet, however, in the beginning many of these so called "educational" games look innocent, leaving parents with a false impression.  They believe it is safe for their children. But as I have discovered, it is anything but educational, but a platform for bullying a child into spending money.  

      I have discovered several children playing the same game without their parents ever knowing. There is no parental permission necessary to play in any age group. All that is necessary is to click the "yes" button when asked if they are 18 and above. 

      I was curious about the game several children I know are playing. I also wanted to speak from a perspective of a user, so I tried playing a very popular game for children under 13 years of age. I found no educational value other than the children go to a pretend school where players are encouraged to pay for passes, so they don't have to take the classes. 

      I didn't find any digital citizenship, but I did find bullying on the first screen. The texting was rude and appeared to be designed to encourage purchases with internet currency before the character was even in the game. When my character starting following a character on skates, someone in the game made sure I knew the character was poor. "They are a noob." It sounded like something bad. 

      There was little imagination employed as the players were provided with everything they could use. There was no creativity other than deciding whether I wanted to change the look of my character's clothing or the look of my living room. 

      FREE was used several times in the game. FREE clothes, but the clothes I liked cost $300 internet dollars, which cost $25 for $400 internet money. Of course, they baited me by telling me I earned $160 internet dollars, but the things I wanted cost a lot more than that. 

      It wasn't long before I was being told that my clothes were out of date and I didn't fit in with their group. This was all done via text by people I did not know, nor could I see what they looked like in person. 

      I became interested in learning more about the game when I was told about a third grader who was having an anxiety attack as a result of playing the game. She was having nightmares, because her online friends who had been nice to her in the beginning began bullying her, and she felt she had to buy new clothing to change her identity. When she was told she couldn't play anymore, her response was, "But I can still text, right?" She could not break away from the game. She is only eight years old. 

      These FREE educational games, are nothing more than a gateway to social media addiction long before the children have the emotional and mental maturity to cope with it. 

      I believe every game should provide a disclaimer: "These games could be the gateway drug for young children. Beware: Your children may be exposed to cyper-bullying, dopamine addiction, Las Vegas style gambling. They may experience fits of anger, hyper-activity, sleep-deprivation, an inability to understand empathy, depression, and anxiety and panic attacks,"   



      According to Dr. Karadiams, in his book Glow-Kids, there are positive benefits of using technology, but there are also negative impacts on the developing brain. I highly recommend his book for all parents newborns to teens. 

      Cereal Manufacturers are pushing internet games as well. 

      Even food manufacturers are capturing your child's attention by their "Check out our website for FREE games," on every cereal manufactured today. According to research, these offers on cereal boxes. had the most hits getting 387,000 children to use its site each month. The usual time frame that kids spend on these kind of sites are averaged at 24-minutes per child. But again, parents aren't even aware. How could a game from a cereal box be bad for them? 

      The attraction to video games is everywhere. So, no matter how you try to monitor your child's technology use, they are still being exposed to advertising that is targeting them.

      I'm a realist. I may not like it, but it's the future. So instead of controlling the tech, we need to teach the children what to be aware of and how to respond to attempts to lure them in. That is my mission.

      As I play the game, I will report what I am seeing, and share how I would help a child deal with the cyber-bullying they are experiencing. Please have these conversations with your children. 

      We train our children for a fire, earthquake, or if a stranger approaches them. We should train our children how to recognize and what to say to those who are manipulating them through games. 

      How Can I Motivate a Student? November 23, 2018 13:47

      At my most recent presentation, I was asked, "How can I make a child do their homework?"

      My answer was rather blunt, "One can't make another do anything against their will." The old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink," holds true to children as well. 

      So, how do we encourage children to do their homework? I use the same means to motivate students as advertisers employ to motivate people to purchase products, or politicians use to motivate people to vote for them. I help them see what is in it for them. 

      There many things teachers have done in the past in their desire to motivate students. Some have been punitive, while others use rewards. Neither is tremendously effective when the fear or the reward is removed. We want students who are intrinsically motivated. Neuroscience Education has accomplished that for my students. 

      Neuroscience help to create buy-in for my students.  They begin to see the value of regular practice provided by homework.  Neuroscience explains how the brain makes and retains information. It explains why students make think they will remember concepts, but without practice, they forget.  It has been the single most effective way for students to be encouraged to:

      • Study every night instead of waiting until the last minute
      • Review for tests and quizzes to determine what they didn't know
      • Practice for presentations
      • Ask questions about homework so they are prepared to do every part of it when they get home. Neuroscience explains why questions help the brain find answers and cement concepts. 

      I begin the year with a lesson on the different parts of the brain involved in learning and creating memories that will support them with their homework and tests. Once they understand how each part of the brain functions best and how to use each part effectively, students will practice for tests and presentations without any prompting from the teacher. 

      I have several ways to share neuroscience with students. Contact me for more information.

        College Students - Are You Maximizing Your Instruction by Visiting Office Hours November 10, 2018 16:03

        There are many reasons students don't want to ask questions in class, though it is the most helpful tool they possess to maximize the use of their brains and teachers.

        It isn't just fearing ridicule from peers. Which is very common in younger grades. But why would a college or grad student fear asking questions?

        One college graduate student visited her professor after a lecture. She wanted to know if she interpreted his lecture accurately. She was trained to ask, "This is what I think you meant today, am I correct in my thinking?"

        It was clear to him that she did not understand the principles he was trying to convey. He returned to class the next session and shared, "A brave student came to my office hours and it was obvious to me I was not clear to her. I am wondering, "How many of you were also confused?" 

        He was dismayed to discover 75% of the class was confused by his lecture. He wondered what they did to clear up this confusion. Some received peer tutoring, while others paid big money to be tutored by a graduate student. 

        He proceeded to present the material in the way that made sense to the student who visited his office. He said he could see the light bulbs go on by the facial expression of his students. Those who received tutoring received incorrect information and were now clear. 

        He asked the class, "Why didn't you come to me. I am free tutoring. You need to get the instruction from teacher who will be grading you. It's risky getting tutored by someone who might put their own gist on the concept."

        He shared that one young man stated his reason for not using office hours, "I had to be in the top 1% of my undergrad classes to get into the program. I thought if I came to you for support you wouldn't think I was qualified to stay."

        Just yesterday in my conferences with my students and their parents, an eight year old shared that he didn't want to use our office hours because he thought that would mean he would be dropped to the lower math class. Helping young students see the value in developing relationships with their teachers and using office hours, will help them be the young lady who visited this professor's class. 

        He had not been aware that his instruction was not clear until it was brought to his awareness. He thanks this young lady for making him a better teacher. 

        If parents encourage their children to talk to their teachers at a young age, they will be the ones visiting office hours and saving time and money. Once a student visits office hours, the teachers tend to teach to that student. This creates more of a 1 to1 ratio in lectures that usually have a hundred or more students.  

        Next blog will address helping students overcome their fear of asking questions.

        What is the Number One Skill Necessary for Success in the Future? November 5, 2018 18:08

        What is the Number One Skill necessary for success in the future?
                                  This question needs to be ever present on our minds if we are to prepare today's children for tomorrow's world. How can we do that when the skill set is changing? Easily, if we focus on the one skill that is being lost today by the invention of the computer.
                                  Most people think that the number one skill that will guarantee success in the future is programing, but according to experts in the field, programming or IT work is a field that is already saturated.
                                 The type of employee needed today, right now, is the creative problem solver. It's ironic the skill set needed today and in the future has been stunted by the computer itself. What we need to teach students today is how to tap into their innate abilities to problem solve. We have the best computer in the world, our brains, but students don't know how to maximize its use. 
                                 With instant answers at their fingertips, students are not tapping into the answers that exist in and around them. They just don't see, because they are looking for the answers from someone or something else.
                                 I believe we need people who will be able to ask the questions that have yet been asked and whose answers cannot be found on Google or by asking Seres or Alexa. This makes today's students uncomfortable. When given a task that did not have exact answers to the questions, my very gifted students became extremely frustrated and a bit angry. One student shared, "I pride myself on finding the right answer and there weren't any." The answers were there, they just didn't know how to see them. This is a very important skill they will need to develop in order to be competitive in the future. 
                                 I developed the Homework program over 25 years ago because I saw how students were losing their ability to stick with a challenge and work through it because they had an aide, teacher, or parent to help them. This help resulted is students becoming passive in the classroom. After all, if they always had someone to help them, they never learned the means of relief along the way. They had no reason to seek and learn strategies for solving problems. 
                                 Though I love being able to find answers to the endless questions I ask myself daily, I internally know I have the innate ability to solve hard challenges without asking Alexa. But our children do not. They need to tap into that ability to solve the math or reading challenges independently, before they ever use a parent, Google, or Alexa to help them. 
                                 It is up to all of us to help them develop the awareness that they possess this innate ability by not answering their questions immediately, but by asking them questions in response to theirs. Instead of giving answers, I reply "What do you think." or "How would you figure that out if you didn't have anyone or thing to ask?" You will be surprised at how they can come up with solutions that you never thought of to solve the challenge. 
                                I will be addressing this topic frequently, so check back soon. 

        Improve Performance by Promoting Self-Advocacy September 23, 2018 11:14

        Being one's own advocate is very powerful in a classroom where there at more students than teachers. It's the self-advocate that gets the best education. Having weaknesses is a part of being human, but sharing them with those who are responsible for your education is very powerful. 

        Yesterday, a colleague retold a story of one of my students who is in her math class. She asked her students to share information about themselves that would help be a better teacher for them. My little guy quietly pulled her aside and said, "I am not comfortable writing this down now." She reassured him he could take it home and put it in an envelop and bring it in the next day. He asked if he could speak to her outside. "I want you to know that I have a problem with making eye contact with people. I don't want you to think I am not listening, but I am."

        When students advocate for themselves they show their teaches that they care. If permitted to try different strategies, students quickly determine their best place to complete work, the best way for them listen to directions, or strategies they have found successful to allow them to write their best compositions. 

        Here are a few ways students can advocate for themselves:

        • Share the best place to sit in the class
        • Ask for words to be written on the board when new vocabulary is introduced in a foreign language
        • Question answers are marked wrong on a test or assignment and provide reasons for the answers given
        • Ask for clarification if directions are unclear
        • Ask for clarification if instruction is unclear
        • Ask to take test earlier if teachers of different class have assigned tests on the same day
        • Bring awareness to teachers when too many projects are due on the same day
        • Express learning difficulties and strategies that have been found to be successful

        The Question is the Answer September 22, 2018 16:28

        What is the answers to school success? Questions

        Mind reading is not a class offered in any teacher education courses, however it is the most valuable tool students and teachers have for assuring students are getting the most out of their education. 

        Teachers can't really be sure how the students are taking in the information during instruction without asking them questions. But the real secret to effective instruction is not just the teacher's questions, but more importantly, the students' questions. 

        Students have the most valuable tools in their toolkit and yet most do not use them. They fear ridicule from peers and teachers.

        When students learn the role of questions in how their brains process and retain information, they are more likely to release the negative feelings related to them. Sharing the following with students will facilitate effective questioning:

        1. When a concept being taught is confusing, students may experience sudden urges to use the restroom. This could be the result of the job of the amygdala. It is designed to recognize when we feel threatened and sets off a series of chemical changes that will protect us. The primitive response to the fight or flight feeling is the body's intuitive need to eliminate all excess weight to allow for a speedy escape. During "fight or flight" our focus is strictly on self-preservation. The threat presented in the classroom could be, "I am the only one in here who has no clue what's going on."

        Before students ask to use the restroom, they need to determine if they really need to visit the restroom or if the instruction is confusing. Nine times out of ten the latter is the reason. Armed with neuroscience information, students become aware that they need to determine what is confusing, raise their hands, and ask for clarification.

        2. The reticular activation system is the filter system of the brain. It's job is to filter out unnecessary information. It is also designed to alert the hippocampus to find answers from previously learned material or subconscious information the brain has absorbed. The hippocampus is like Google for our brains. It responds to questions and will search until it finds the answer. If students relax, they allow their brains to find answers they didn't even realize they knew. If they remain stressed, the amygdala will inhibit the access to prior knowledge. (This explains why a student can demonstrate competence during class practice but fails the test). 

        3. Addressing the fear of asking questions is of foremost importance before students will be comfortable asking for clarification. The following series of questions has helped me eliminate the fear of asking questions in my classroom. 

        "Have you ever been glad a classmate asked a question?" ("Yes.")

        "Why were you glad?" ("I had the same question.")

        "So, you were glad they asked the question, because it was the same questions you had. Am I correct?" ("Yes.")

        "Did you think they were dumb for asking the question?" ("No.")

        "Why?"  ("It was the same question I had.") ("I didn't even think of asking that question, but it helped me.")

        "So why would you think they would think you are dumb if you ask a question?"

        "Teachers don't know what you don't know. They want to teach you what you don't know, but they can't read minds. They don't want to teach you what you know already because that would be boring. They want to teach you what you don't know. So how will they know what you don't know?" I usually have to repeat this a couple of times.

        "If I am doing instruction and I am not clear, I need to know where you need me to say things differently so you can be successful with the work you are going to do. If you go to "lala land" or the bathroom, then go home and ask your mom for help, who is going to know what you don't know?" 

        "There are many ways of offering instruction on any concept. If you are confused and let me know, I will try showing it to you in different ways until it makes sense to you. Then I will learn how to share new ideas in the future and make it easier for you to understand new concepts quickly."

        "Do you want to be confused and have to use the restroom, or do you want to learn new concepts quickly?" (They usually choose the latter.)

        "What do you need to do to make that happen?" ("Ask questions.")

        Parents can adapt this dialogue to help their children become the question askers in the class. 

        4. Students need to prepared for future teachers who will not respond positively to their questions. Offering them responses that will support their unique needs is necessary to have them continue asking questions in the future. 

        Demonstrating how to ask effective questions will support children as they matriculate. Saying, "I don't get it," will irritate teachers. Asking, "What does the would exponent mean in question number five?" is specific and shows the student has identified exactly what they need to know to successfully complete the work.

        My next blog will go deeper into countering negative responses and how to ask effective questions.  

        Scheduling Chart August 1, 2018 16:00

        This model of a scheduling chart allows children to manipulate the pieces and offers flexibility. It allows for easy changes should the child determine a different order would offer better results. The setup requires minimal time, but the benefits are amazing.

        Teaching Time Management Saves Time August 1, 2018 13:26

        School has either started or about to start. This is the perfect time to do scheduling with your children. Scheduling before school resumes helps to make life run smoothly once hectic schedules begin. 

        The first place to start is knowing how much time different activities take to complete. Making a game for determining how much time is taken tying shoes, brushing teeth, combing hair, and getting dressed helps children grasp the concept of elapsed time. These are huge time eaters that children don't consider when preparing to leave for school in the morning. 

        Knowing how much time is necessary to get from one location to another will also reduce early morning stress. Playing the time guessing game while traveling to different locations will support children and give real life meaning to elapsed time. When a teacher says, "You have five more minutes to complete this task," children who have played elapsed time games will have a better grasp of what five minutes feels like to them. 

        Decide on a location to keep backpacks and school materials. If they are kept in the same place, preferably close to the exit, children won't waste mornings looking for them. 

        Prominently displayed visual schedules are important when eliminating poor planning. Planning activities each Sunday sets the tone for a well organized week. It is an activity my daughter does with her family each weekend. They coordinate drop-offs and pick-ups so the children always know who is going to be picking them up each day. The children decide when they will be doing their chores, homework, baths, TV time, or play time. They also record their sports and extra-curricular activities.

        My daughter created a 18" X  24" schedule for my grandson. She made puzzle like pieces out of laminated paper for each of his activities and responsibilities. These pieces represented the exact time he predicted each activity would take. A thirty minute activity was twice the length of a fifteen minute activity. Velcro strips were placed on the board and on each of the activity pieces. She decided where her non-negotiable scheduled items such as dinner and bedtime would be placed. Then my grandson placed the pieces that were expressly his responsibility.

        As the developer of the Homework Solutions method and promoter of Proper Prior Planning to Prevent a Poor Performance, I was thrilled as I watched and listened to him talk his way through the process. "I could watch a little TV right after school, but I probably would watch too long, so I think I will do my chores first, because I have had enough of school work right after school and don't want to do homework until later." He verbalized his reasons for each of his placements. It was clear that he had learned from previous unsuccessful schedules.

        The initial process required my daughter's assistance with placement by offering him some scenarios that might occur. He made the decisions and at the end of each day she asked him how he felt about his scheduling. If he didn't feel that day's schedule was effective, he was free to make necessary changes he felt would be more successful for the next day. Since the pieces were velcro backed, it was easy for him to move pieces around to facilitate better results. She had initially used a laminated schedule and a dry erase pen, but using the pieces that represented time, made a bigger impact on him. 

        Sleep is highly under rated. Too much time is lost when children don't get adequate or quality sleep. Tasks take longer to complete, thinking is not clear, and their disposition is adversely impacted by a lack of sleep. Quality sleep is not ten hours of sleep. It is ten hours of sleep that allows children to go deep into sleep and come out to REM sleep several times a night. If children go to sleep too late, they may sleep for ten hours, but never go deep. Getting them adjusted to a regular sleep pattern at least two weeks prior to school resuming will facilitate quality sleep that creates a smooth transition and provides the best performance for students. Click here to read Melissa Olivadoti PhD.'s Sleep in Children: A Practical Guide for Parents for ideas to facilitate quality sleep. It's Free to subscribers today.

        Keep an eye on my blog for weekly tips and time saving strategies. 


        Signs of Technology Addiction in Children June 20, 2018 08:50

        In February of this year, one of my students began displaying very bizarre behavior. He was over emotional, couldn't sit still, was rolling all over the floor, would hide in a corner if things didn't go his way, and couldn't focus on competing one task. When I brought this behavior to his mother’s attention, she shared that he was caught playing Fortnight in the middle of the night. She suggested his behavior was the result of having his computer confiscated and she suspected he was experiencing device withdrawal. This made so much sense, because his behavior seemed much like that of a drug addict on detox.

        Technology is here to stay. It has its pros and cons. These little devices that can fit in the palm of our hands can be very helpful in getting us to our destinations. storing valuable data, answering burning questions in a a click, or staying connected to loved ones miles away.

        What is the cost of this convenience?

        According to the New York Times, "Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children." (click on the title to read the article. 

        What can parents do? The New York Times article makes valuable suggestions. Click to read the follow-up article, "How to Cut Children's Screen Time."

        I believe devices are our future, so instead of taking them away, I believe parents and teachers need to help students learn to manage them. As suggested in the article, one would start by leading by example. But I think we need to take it further. In my article next week, I will offer helpful strategies designed to empower students to take control of devices before the devices take control of them. 

        Summer is the perfect time to teach technology management. Begin today by teaching your children to enjoy the outdoors. Take a nature walk and ask them to find things they have never seen before. That's the first step. 

        Pressure Students Feel April 4, 2018 06:54

        I speak to high schoolers regularly about the pressures they feel in their freshman year. They are asked to make decisions about what they will become in fifteen years. I feel the pressure they experience to make decisions at the young age of 14 and 15. They walk slumped over, because their backpacks are over laden with books from weighted classes.

        In my work, I have heard the cries of sophomores wanting to end the pressure. Some resort to just giving up. "I just can't see doing this for three more years, then four years in college, and how ever many years in graduate school. It's too much!"

        What was true for older generations, no longer applies. There are no guarantees given with a college degree. Going to a "good" school doesn't give one the connections it once did. A shift in thinking is in order. 

        Please click here and watch this powerful video. It will help students and parents deal with what exits today. Let's relieve them of the pressure they feel. 

        Should Every Child Get an Award? April 3, 2018 07:00

        Should everyone get an award? This is a controversial topic. Some parents think it’s unfair for some children to get awards, while others don’t. If you ask my mother, she would disagree.

        My mother has lived through a depression, a loss of a mother at age 11, and a multiple of life challenges, and she believes these challenges have made her who she is today. “Life does not give you awards. They are earned,” was her reasoning for not letting anyone beat her at board game. “i could let you win to try to make you feel good, but just imagine if I don’t let you win and you legitimately beat me. How will you feel then? I will never let you win at a game! But, if you watch and learn how I play the game, you eventually will beat me."

        She was right, but I had no idea how long it would take me to actually achieve that level of skill. I have been playing Scrabble with her since I was ten. My mother is now 93.5 years old and she is still cognitively alert. After many years of perfecting her skills at different games, she continues to be a worthy opponent. I played her regularly growing up and my game gradually improved. With each game, my score would grow, and I began feeling a sense of accomplishment. The gap was slowing closely as the years went by, but at the age of 60, I had yet to beat her.

        Many people who have played her in the past were frustrated with her philosophy and felt it was ego driven. But I will tell you, my mother is a tenacity builder. She wanted her children, grand children, and now her great grandchildren to learn how she survived a life filled with many challenges. She never gave up.

        In my 62nd year of life and my 52nd year of playing with my mom, I succeeded in beating her by 6 points. I can not explain how elated I was. I posted my victory on Facebook because this was a once in a lifetime event! My mom's response to my post was, "I could be angry that you won and posted it here, but you got good by playing me. You can thank me instead of bragging about it."

        Boy was she right. If she hadn't given me challenges every game, I would never have learned how to play. Thank you, Mom.

        Even though she can still give me a good game, the margins are increasing between her score and mine in my favor. The wins are not nearly as exciting now, because her memory is slipping. I am so grateful that I beat her when she was at the top of her game.

         When she heard that students were getting trophies just for playing, she asked me, "What is the motivation for trying harder? If I had let you beat me before you had the skills to do so, you would never have beaten me.”

        UCI Procrastination Challenges and Solutions March 28, 2018 17:04

        Reasons & Solutions For Procrastination

        Student Fear Everyone Will Discover They Are Not As Smart As Everyone Thinks They Are

        Solution: Help them recognize that smartness does not mean everything will come easily. Clarify that one can be very talented in math, but not in language arts. Students benefit from an introduction into how the brain processes and accesses knowledge, so they feel more comfortable not having everything be easy. They need a safety net of reasons they might not know something. (examples provided below)


        Students Fear Asking Questions for Clarification

        Solution: Dispel the myth around questions and clarify that teachers are not mind readers, so we don't know what they know already or what they don't know. Explain that we may think our directions are clear, but until someone asks a questions we aren't aware we aren't clear. It is through their questions that we realize what they need in order to be successful. We can assume a lot, but we don't want to guess. Their questions take the guess work out of the equation for the teacher.

        Solution: Demystify the attitudes around questioning. For further information on how to get them over the fear of asking questions, refer to my ebook. Overcoming the Fear of Asking Questions available in my on-line store.

        Solution: Offer an Escape Net for not knowing. There are several reasons students will not know how to do something. Some of these reasons are:

        1. Their dendrites around the information have pruned.
        2. Their previous teacher did not teach the concept.
        3. They were in the bathroom, out ill, or on vacation the day the concept was taught.
        4. Their amygdala was set off by their stress response of the feeling of not knowing.

        They Feel They Can't Make Mistakes

        Solution: Help them see the value in making mistakes and dispel the myth that smart people don't make them. Help them develop the understanding that mistakes don't mean you are dumb. They are a sign one needs to try something different until success is achieved.

        Share the Edison Ethic: He didn't feel he failed 999,999 times when searching for how to make a light bulb work. He said he just found all the ways it didn't work. He never gave up until he found the one that did work.

        Their Stress Response Blocked Memory and is a Huge Time Waster

        Solution: Offering neuroscience about the brain’s response to stress and offer strategies for settling the amygdala.

        The Teacher's Due Dates Don't Impact Students

        Solution: Use backwards planning with students so they can take into consideration their unique needs and make individual accommodations with the teacher's due dates in mind.

        Students Have Multiple Assignments From Different Teachers

        Solution: Scheduling all assignments in one agenda can help students see everything they have to juggle. If they have backwards planned the first day assignments are given, they can alert teachers to what their colleagues are also assigning. Most teachers don't have time to consult each other, so putting the student in the driver's seat allows them to take ownership of this responsibility. My third graders learn to do this as soon as we increase the number of assignments they handle each night.

        They can also advocate for themselves by asking one teacher to move the date of a test one day earlier or one day later. Having three tests or multiple projects assigned on the same day in middle school is unreasonable and setting students up for failure.

        Some Students Work Best Under Pressure

        Solution: When students do planning, they can guarantee they can meet a deadline by creating artificial deadlines that allow for any interferences that might get in their way of being on time.

        Some Students Are in a Power Struggle With Adults

        Solution: When students  prescribe a plan of how they will execute the assignment, they are more inclined to be successful because they don't want their plan to fail. When they control their day, week, and month, they are more likely to meet deadlines. Each situation is unique. I have addressed this issue in my book Homework Solutions: A Parent's Guide and Homework Solutions: A Teacher's Guide, both available in my online store.

        One Example:

        Will was a student who was turning in his assignments. After three months of weekly interventions which included conferences with his mom, his teacher asked me for some help. The following is a dialogue pattern that teachers will find helpful in getting to the core of the student's challenge and how to facilitate a student prescribing a change in behavior that will stick:

        "Will, I understand you haven't been successful turning in your homework. What is getting in your way?"

        "I don't know." (This is a common response. For Will, it usually got him out of the conference, because his teacher and parent would tell him, and then he go out and play).

        "I do believe you know. We can sit here through recess until you think of what is preventing you from getting your work done and turned in on time. Your friends are playing basketball, and you will be here with me until you figure it out. We can resume this session during lunch and even after school if need be. So what do you need to change in order to get your work completed."

        “I start playing basketball at home, and before I know, it is it dark. Then I have to come in, have dinner, and then there isn't any time to do homework."

        "I'm glad you know the cause. That is 100% of the solution. Now what are you going to do to change that?"

        "I don't know." (Again, he was awaiting the solution that he had no intention of doing, but it would get me off his back).

        "Well, you are going to come up with at least one thing you can do that will help you get your work completed and turned in on time. Or, you can stay here with me until you figure that out."

        Within seconds he responded, ”I think I just need a sign that says, 'Do It Now!' and I'll put it above my desk to remind me."

        "Well, that is not as creative as the ideas your mom or teacher have come up with, so we will have to see if it works. If you are not successful, and this idea doesn't work, I will be meeting with you again each recess until you find one that works. It could use up all your recesses."

        "It will work!"

        "We'll see."     

        You'll notice I didn't get too excited about his idea. If I had, then I would have bought-in to his idea. Stubborn children want to give it to adults, so the way to do that is to show us we are wrong.

        It was not surprising to me that he never forgot his homework the rest of the year, or the next year. I would touch base with him while he still attended our school and in eighth grade, he said, "The sign still works."  At his high school graduation, he told me he was taking it to Cornell in the fall.

        It didn't matter what his idea was. He could have said he was going to tie his shoes together until he was done. The reason it worked was he couldn't let his idea fail.

        We often make the mistake of telling instead of asking. Power seekers make great company owners. We just need to create situations where they have choices that are within our parameters.                           

        They Don't Read the Directions Correctly

        Solution: Reading the questions "as if" they are going to start the assignment as soon as it is assigned and asking questions about what is unclear is a powerful solution. Instead of telling them what to do, I ask them to read the directions and ask me what is unclear. I convince them I am not a mindreader and I do not want to teach them what they know already, I want to teach them what they don’t know. If I teach them what they know it will be boring. Each year I get different questions on the same assignment. The students come in with different prior knowledge and their skills weaknesses vary year to year. My directions are general in nature unless I have a specific skill I expect to be achieved through the assignment.


        Solution: Beginning instruction by having the students read the directions and determine what they do not know, then having them share what is unclear is a powerful teaching strategy that engages students. Once they ask the question, they want the answer, so they listen carefully. This results in students remembering the concept when they get home. My instruction includes strategies for figuring out how to solve that challenge should they forget how to do it when they get home.

        Students Lack Problem Solving and Forecasting Strategies

        Solution: By discussing challenges and their solutions with each pre-questioning session and the following day after the assignment has been attempted, students are able to share what they experienced and how they solved them. As a class, they are learning how to predict possible challenges and have a toolkit of solutions. Using a self-evaluation after each homework assignment, test, presentation, and project, students will learn how to be more efficient and identify what they need to achieve their best.

        Dendrites prune, which will make the long term memory a bit harder to access at first. They need strategies for accessing information.  (This will be a topic of an upcoming blog post).

        Engaging Apathetic Students March 17, 2018 08:58

        Each time I present at conferences I get new questions on the same topic. The following are some new questions attendees asked:

        How can I engage students who are capable but apathetic?

        Apathy can have many origins.  What might appear as apathy, might be insecurity and a fear of failure. It might be a feeling of "been there done that, tell me something new." Sleep deprivation could be another. A student might lack an awareness of the importance of learning a subject that is not interesting to them.

        Or, the student might have an incorrect definition of bored. When we help a student identify the reason behind the feeling, it often opens doors to engagement. The following is a discussion I had with one of my students regarding his lack of enthusiasm for a language arts activity we were doing. Nick had his head on the desk and wasn't getting started with his brainstorming. When asked what was getting in the way of getting started, he stated, "Writing is boring."

        "Oh, I see. Please share with me a subject that is not boring for you."



        "I really like it."

        "Why do you really like it?"

        "Because it is easy." (this is the typical response to this questioning)


        "So what I am hearing is you like math because it is easy, could it be the writing process is something boring because it is hard for you?"


        "Please share the hard parts of writing? Is it that you don't have any ideas? Is it hard to get them on paper? Is there anything that would make it easier?"

        He thought for a few minutes, "I can get ideas, but I don't know how to put them together. Then when I go to write them down, I forget half of them, because it is so hard to write fast enough. My mom said I should be able to write better, because I am so smart, but It's harder when I am tired.”

        “How about I show you some ways to organize your ideas and different strategies to make it easier for you. One thing you need to be aware of is you are working with “puppy dog paws.” Like a puppy that is going to grow into a big dog, you, too, will grow into your hands when you reach middle school and the writing will come easier for you. Until then, there are some things you can try to help you get your ideas out of your head and onto the paper. Would you like me to talk to your mom about the sleeping situation?”


        What looked like apathy and what was called boredom was a few challenges he needed to work through. He needed strategies for organizing his ideas. He needed opportunities to try different strategies to make the writing easier. He also decided to try recording his ideas into a recorder, so he could then write it down by listening to it. He found standing up and writing helped him. He later admitted that he was afraid of the dark and wanted to sleep in his brother's room. Once his father agreed to that, Nick seemed to find writing much easier. Writing still wasn't his favorite subject, but he now realizes that if something is hard, he just needs to ask for support.

        I did have to speak to his parents about the expectations for perfection in all academic areas. Sharing the neuroscience behind stress and its impact on learning, seemed to be enough to have them take the pressure off of Nick.

        Relieving him of that pressure, actually helped him shift his attitude when he began feeling what he used to describe as boring, and is now comfortable admitting for support when it is "hard."

        “One can take a horse to water, but one can't make them drink. We can offer an education to a student but we can't make them become interested. They have to find something in it for themselves.” Author Unknown

        In my next post, I will discuss how we can encourage them to drink.



        Begin A New Year of Growth December 26, 2017 17:04

        The last 23 of my 45 years as an educator has been spent focusing on growth instead of grades. I have to say that I received far more success with students once I made this shift.

        Since grades are a reality, refraining them is essential for maximizing success. Because of parental pressure, it is imperative that we help parents focus on growth instead of on the "A."

        Grades offer great feedback, but only if students have time to reflect on the their results. Whether the results are positive or negative, time needs to be set aside for students to evaluate the effectiveness of their preparation or the methods of study they employed. This must be followed by a description of what the students will do in the future to either replicate the positive results or improve the negative ones. 

        The following are ways to focus on a growth mindset:

          • Recognize hard work and perseverance instead of "natural" gifts and talents.
          • Normalize mistakes and model ways to learn from them.
          • Encourage observable changes in behavior to change results.
          • Reveal the "hidden stories" of success. For example, how much practice it takes for world class athletes to get to the top of their game.
          • Express pride and praise your student when he/she takes on new challenges.
          • Teach your student about their brain. The brain can continue to grow with exercise. Practice makes the brain stronger. A child’s experiences are key to the development of the brain. Neuroscientists have a phrase to emphasize this: the neurons that fire together wire together.
          • Recognize that a growth mindset is a journey, not a destination.

        How Do You Engage Students November 10, 2017 07:13

        I recently presented at a conference for the Orange County Gifted Association's Annual Conference. My topic was "Secrets About Teachers Who Engage." Since I always have amazing teachers attending my sessions, I like to access what they have to offer. I don't want to bore them with information they already have, and I like to hear some new ideas myself. I want to thank those who shared with the group. The following were recommendations suggested by the attendees:

        1. Incorporate music and videos
        2. Share personal experience
        3. Seesaw
        4. Pear Deck: An app
        5. Uchole Brain Teaching
        6. Allow students to teach
        7. Use guest speakers
        8. Involve art
        9. Songs for Schools
        10. Kahoot
        11. Khan Academy

        I have not used any of the above techniques, so I can not attest to their effectiveness, but others felt they were worth mentioning.

        Today I'll share a few of the strategies I have found effective in getting every student engaged in answering questions.

        1. I use Post-it Notes or little scraps of paper to have students answer questions. I require all students to answer the question, and I wait until all have given a stab at it. Given enough time, students who rarely participate because they are slower processors find they can come up with great ideas. Fast processors find they can generate more indepth ideas if they give themselves a chance to think deeply.

        2. Pair share with a twist is a great strategy. Instead of asking students to share their ideas, I ask them to share their partner's idea. The first time this is done, it is difficult for students to remember what the other person said. After instruction in listening strategies, they become more engaged with their classmate's idea.

        Stay tuned for more ideas in my next post. 

        What Would Your Children Put in Their Bags? August 21, 2017 15:17

        My grandson just started second grade. His first homework assignment was to fill a bag with five items that would tell the class something about him. He gave it great thought and placed the following items in his bag: 

        • A medal he earned from swim team that required lots of practice to show improvement
        • A belt that he earned in Tai Kwon Do
        • A medal he earned in diving that only came after many back and belly flops
        • His Par Core Band 
        • A badge he earned in Cub Scouts

        I thought he would put in a dinosaur because he used to spend hours playing with them. Each of his choices are centered around something that didn't come as a gift, but instead came only after hard work. His medals weren't the "you tried and so you deserve a medal" kind. They represented a symbol of hard work. Not one of the items were connected to anyone helping him.

        There were times when he wanted to quit, because he wasn't making progress. My daughter encouraged him to keep working at it. She retold stories of people who gave up on mountain climbs one foot from the top of the mountain. He heard stories of Michael Jordan, who was told he would never make the high school team, but kept practicing until he did. 

        So when we want to step in and help our children do that which they can do for themselves, we need to remember the struggle is what holds the real value. We simply need to coach in strategies that will allow them to experience the joy of the journey and obstacles they overcome. They will come to realize the real joy is in the struggle and not the medal, grade, or award.

        Be sure to take time to celebrate every struggle as a means to an end. When they achieve their goal, celebrate the struggle that led to the success. Tap into how the struggle felt and how the achievement feels. Tapping into the emotions will assure them of continuing the work toward future goals.

        To Guarantee a Successful Year-Start at the End! August 18, 2017 07:17

        It’s a new school year and an opportunity for students to get a fresh start. Now is the time to decide what they want to accomplish this year. 

        The best way to have a good year is to start at the end. This may sound odd, but I am a firm believer in creating a clear picture of what one wants to accomplish and the specific reasons as to why. 

        I ask students to write what they would like to see on their report cards at the end of the semester. Some of the comments might be, “Susan was an active participant in the class,” or “Jane never gave up and when things got hard, she eagerly asked for support.” I focus on the behaviors they might exhibit rather than on grades.

        If students initially focus on the grade, I ask them to define the behaviors or actions to demonstrate in order to achieve the desired grade. It is helpful to coach students with some of the following statements:

        To get an “A” I will need to:

        1. Listen intently in class.
        2. Pay attention to what the teacher writes on the board.
        3. Remember to ask for material I miss when I am ill or out of class.
        4. Preview chapters and form questions about what I think I will learn.
        5. Read the questions first on all assignments before reading the material and before the concept is being taught. This will allow me to focus better on the things I need to learn.
        6. Read written work aloud several times to both proofread and check that it makes sense.
        7. Ask for clarification to be sure I understand the teacher’s instructions. 
        8. Make note cards to use for studying and review material regularly.
        9. Ask questions when I am unsure of what the teacher is explaining.
        10. Pay attention to homework assignments when I enter the classroom, so I know what I am expected to complete after school. Plan to get started during recess, if I have a lot to do after school. 
        11. Pre-read homework assignments to see what I do not know and ask questions before I leave class. 
        12. Do nightly homework and turn on time.
        13. Check over graded work and find out why I missed problems.
        14. Have someone quiz me before tests, so I am sure I understand the material.
        15. Use only positive comments when thinking or speaking about my abilities.
        16. When I do not do as well as I expect, I immediately make an appointment with the teacher to ask for strategies to improve. 
        17. Write reasons I made mistakes on my corrected work.
        18. Review all tests for information to check to see if there were possibly errors in correction and to find out what I didn’t know.
        19. {Made a separate item.} When studying for a semester or year exam, I will make sure to determine the correct answers and make note cards for review.
        20. Use the teacher’s office hours to discuss my progress.
        21. Keep a running record of my grades so I know where I stand at all times. 

        I ask students to visualize themselves opening their report card at the end of the semester and reading all the wonderful comments and seeing the desired grades. I want them to tap into the wonderful feeling they get when they achieve what they have planned. Tapping into that feeling is a crucial step towards insuring they stay on task. 

        Then they are to type up a copy of their goals to review each morning when they are brushing their teeth. It can be posted on the bathroom mirror as a constant reminder of the things they need to do daily to achieve their goals. 

        All students can benefit from using the list provided above, however, high school and college students often have to take classes they don’t want to take to meet a school requirement. There has to be a reward in it for them in order to create the desire to make it through the class. I ask them to list three reasons they are taking the class and three ways it benefits them.


        I am taking counseling in order to get a clearer picture of what I want to do for a career. Then I will know what classes to take, and understand the way I learn, and school will be easier for me.

        I am taking photography to learn new skills because I love taking pictures. It will give me personal satisfaction, and I can learn about career options related to photography. 

        I am taking anthropology because I need to improve my grade, and taking it again give me a better chance of getting into a four-year college.

        It will also allow me to try out my new study strategies, because I think they will help to improve my grade.

        With an image of the end of the semester clearly in their minds, students will find it much easier to achieve their goals. 

        A New School Year- A Fresh Start August 9, 2017 08:19

        I love the new school year. Well, for at least the first week. My teacher's plan book is filled out for the first week, the room is clean, and I have a new outfit. But then the students arrive. Each year I feel ready for the new group until they enter the classroom. They are carrying new backpacks and new challenges I have never experienced in my 45 years of teaching. But, none the less, I feel ready to tune into their uniqueness, so I can provide the best guidance possible and also see what they have to teach me this year.

        I have made it a practice over the last 45 years not to teach summer school. Instead, I trade places with my students and spend time reflecting on what my students taught me. I also use the few months afforded me during the summer to do my own research and read books that I have not had time to read during the hectic school year. Every year, I enter the classroom rejuvenated with a feeling of enthusiasm for what will change as a result of what I learned through my summer studies and from what my students taught me the prior year. I spend a lot of time reviewing the challenges of the prior year and plan for the new year feeling a little more prepared than the year before. You would think I would have nailed it after 45 years in teaching and 22 years in third grade. But, my students always bring new opportunities for me to learn. Like my students, I like getting a fresh new start.

        I was asked this summer how I could still have enthusiasm after teaching for so many years. The young man asking the question wondered how I didn't manage to get burned out. Honestly, I wasn't always so enthusiastic. In fact, there was a time 22 years ago when I thought of leaving teaching forever. With my mother's counseling, I revisited my real reason for teaching, and that was enough to consider finding a new school where I could empower students to find the innate ability they possess to achieve their goals and to coach parents in strategies to empower their children. I left the district I was in and found a school that was inline with my vision. Everyday, I remind myself that I am in this job for the kids. My goal is to stay tuned into the needs of each of my children and the unique needs of their parents. Do I always agree with the administration? Not always, but I don't let that define my role at the school.

        So, I'm ready. I have my outfit for the first day ready, and I'm refreshed and excited about the 2017-18 school year.


        Promoting Kindness in Children July 22, 2017 08:01

        The following recommendations were made by the Greater Good Institute for encouraging kindness in children:

        The time required for any of these techniques will vary. Try to use one of them at least once per week.

        HOW TO DO IT

        1. Avoid using external rewards to reinforce altruistic behavior. For instance, you may want to think twice before telling kids that they’ll get a special treat if they share their toys, or promising them extra TV time if they help clean up after dinner. As tempting as it may be to reward kids when they do something kind, that approach can backfire: They may learn that kindness is only worth performing when they’ll be given some kind of prize as a result. Instead, kids should get to experience the feeling that kindness is its own reward—a view backed up by neuroscience studies showing that pleasure centers of the brain light up when people behave altruistically.
        2. Praise character, not behavior. Research suggests that children are more likely to make kindness a habit if they are praised for being kind people rather than just for doing something kind. For example, saying, “You’re such a helpful person” may be more effective than saying, “That was such a helpful thing to do.” Praising their character encourages children to see kindness as an essential part of who they are and seems to be especially effective around age eight, when children are forming their moral identities.
        3. But criticize behavior, not character. In other words, it’s OK to induce guilt but not shame. Children who feel guilt (“I did a bad thing”) after wrongdoing are more likely to feel remorse and make amends than those who feel shame (“I am a bad person”). Criticizing a behavior conveys that it’s possible for the child to change his or her behavior and make better choices in the future. Such criticism may be especially effective when it also includes positive affirmation (e.g., “You’re a good person, and I know you can do better.”)
        4. Model altruistic behavior. Ultimately, actions speak louder than words when it comes to cultivating altruism. Research shows that when children witness adults behaving altruistically, they are more likely to behave altruistically themselves, regardless of what the adults say to them about the importance of altruism.

        You can read more on this topic at:



        Summer: A Great Time for Grit Building July 2, 2017 08:58

        One of the attributes of truly successful people is they have grit. Grit is the courage and resolve to complete what one has started no matter what obstacles are met. I do not believe grit builders are just born that way. I believe they learn it at a very young age. This summer, I will be sharing different strategies for facilitate grit building. 

        Grit building comes from an environment that allows for mistakes and imperfections. It doesn’t expect a perfect product, but celebrates the process a child goes through in completing a goal. It celebrates mistakes as opportunities for change, and it is an optimistic environment where all things are possible.

        Working with children over the years, I have come across a lot of parents who do things naturally that we can all learn from to help our children. I want to share the wisdom of a mother I met several years ago whose child clearly possessed grit before he entered school.

        I recall observing her son on the Pre-K playground trying to figure out how to put the blocks together in just the right way to create a tunnel through which others could crawl. The tunnel would collapse, but that didn’t stop this little fellow. He tried a different configuration. It didn’t work. He continued working the entire recess. When the bell rang, he begged the teacher to leave the blocks the way they were so he could continue working on his plan.

        His teacher shared that it took him two days to finally find the right configuration. She shared how he celebrated quietly with some “Yes, I did it,” hand gestures and promptly called his classmates over to test it out.

         How did he learn this? I was curious, so I asked his mother about the motivational strategies she used to help her son stick with a job until it was successful. She said it simply, “I just always felt he could work things out. A puzzle frustrated him, so I just kept telling him to try something else. I didn’t play into his crying like I have seen other mothers do by showing him how to do it. I just had confidence that he would eventually get it. He didn’t that day or even the next week. I think it was a month later while he was in the playroom, that I finally heard a shout of excitement that indicated he had achieved success at something. When I went to see what the shouting was about, he held up the puzzle and showed me he had done it. I didn’t want to praise the product, but I did want to praise his effort and the fact he didn’t give up, so I asked, 'Aren’t you glad you didn’t give up?' He was definitely glad he didn’t. I think this is why he sticks with a project until he gets it complete. I was not one who tolerated crying. But I did recognize the frustration when it didn’t work. I would tell him, “I get that this is frustrating. Put it away for now and come back to it when you feel like you want to try it again. Crying won’t help put the puzzle together, so go play outside for a while and you can try it later.”

        This mother was helping her son develop strong character and at the same time was providing him with strategies for coping with challenges that he will use for his entire life.

        It's easier to do things for frustrated children, but that does not build grit. It eventually creates co-dependency. Grit building can begin today, by establishing a mindset reset about our children’s challenges. If we see them as opportunities to try a different way, our children are more likely to develop the girt necessary to experience success in whatever they pursue.

        How can you do it today? Try teaching your child a new game. Pick something that would not be easy, but something that the child could get better at with practice. My mother never let us win. We had to win legitimately. I played Scrabble with her for years and it wasn’t until I was 65 that I was able to beat her. I was so proud of that win that I posted my success on Facebook.  Throwing a game so the child can feel good now does not teach grit. Being a gracious looser and learning to try again will help build grit. Offer to share a few strategies, if the child wants it. Giving up is not an option. Extrinsic rewards for the effort a child puts into playing a game or learning a new are not as helpful as praising their effort and the the fact they did not give up. Take time to recognize improvements your child has made and encourage them to keep at it, because practice will improve performance.