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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.

Examples:

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. 


The Value of Play is Highly Underrated October 13, 2015 06:54

"Ask any children what they do for fun. You will be amazed at what they consider play. One little girl stated she liked to play dress-up. When asked how she played, she responded, "I have this program, and I get to click on the dress I want the doll to wear." Author Unknown

This child is missing the experiences and the fine motor development children of the past benefitted from. She is missing the cutting out of dresses, folding the tabs, and then carefully placing the dress on the doll so that it wouldn't fall off. She is missing the experiences that paper dolls offers. She is using one finger. 

If she really played dress-up, she would gain strength in her abs as she dressed in over-sized pants. Putting one leg in a pant leg forces the other leg to engage muscles and strengthen the core. Weak cores translates into difficulty completing tasks and sustaining attention in class. 

Unstructured play that engages the entire body and all of the senses can help children grow cognitively in ways that no amounts of tutoring or computer programs can replace.  In the following excerpt from my new book, I tell a story of one of our field trips and offer some suggestions to help children improve their writing ability. 

We had a wonderful trip to Shipley Nature Center. When we arrived, a student was heard saying, What are we going to do for thirty minutes? Is there playground equipment? Did we bring balls?We replied by saying, You have nature to play with. See what games you can come up with.They quickly found trees to climb, sticks to use as building materials, as well ducks to follow and watch. Games of tag and running around the park also followed lunch. As we explored the habitat of the Tongva during our time at Shipley, we were doing more than sharing the history of a people who lived in this region; we were teaching the children how to observe their surroundings. With their enthusiasm for the rabbits, spider webs, lizards, and butterflies, we knew they would have plenty to write about when they returned.

 

We know parents want to help their children maximize their performance in class. If youd like to help you child become a better writer, forego extracurricular writing classes and try some of the following free programs:

 

  1. Ask your children to turn off their devices and look out the window.
  2. Play I Spycar games. This is a game that has children describe what they see outside and the other passengers guess what it is that was spied.
  3. Take your children to the park with nothing other than a lunch and a blanket. Engage all senses by sharing what you hear, see, smell, and feel. Touching leaves, the grass, and tree bark and then describing it is offering sensory experiences that will give children something to write about.  Lie on the blanket and look up at the sky and share what you see. This is great on cloudy days, but also good when there isnt a cloud in the sky. Ask your children to wonderabout what they see. i.e., I wonder why the bark on that tree looks like it is peeling?or I wonder what is living high in those branches?” Go for a walk and talk about what you see and ask them to share. Encourage them to look at the colors in leaves and grass. Sharing these experiences is front-loading childrens writing with beautiful images. Verbalizing observations later translates into excellent writing.
  4. Go to the beach and build a sand castle together. Discuss how the sand feels. Observe what happens when the water is poured onto dry sand over and over again. Take time to let your senses experience the trip. Have them stop and take a few minutes to observe what they smell, see, hear, and feel. The texture of dry and wet sand offers great opportunities to share how each feels and why there is a difference.

If we were to translate the dollar value of these experiences, it would be far more than what the extracurricular programs cost, and have a further reaching benefit for the children. When they learn how to observe their environment, they will begin to do it automatically.




 

Anecdote: Mr. Helliwell and Ms O went on a several trips together.. Mrs. H noticed that Ms. O  was moving so fast, she was missing a lot. So, she suggested Ms. O sit in one place, carve out a one square foot section in the sand and just observe it for ten minutes. What could one see in a 1 square foot of sand is amazing, but how many of us take the time to do that. Try it, you will be surprised. 

 

The value of unstructured play and free exploration is highly underrated."