Looking for more help with your homework? The Kat recommends the following books:
Looking for more help with your homework? The Kat recommends the following books:
Homework: A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!
Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools, and Solutions to Stress-Free Homework
John Rosemond’s Fail-Safe Formula for Helping Your Child Succeed in School
The New Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children: A Newly Updated, Greatly Expanded Version of the Parenting Classic (Backlist eBook Program)
Ending the Homework Hassle
Smart but Scattered Teens: The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential
Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential
Get the schoolwork done and keep your sanity? Yes it is possible. Use these tips to create an independent learner out of your child.
In the early elementary years much of the homework requires an adult’s assistance. You will be helping your child read, journal, practice spelling words and math facts, and helping them read and understand math story problems. Homework in this stage is usually best if completed in 10-30 minutes.
Late Elementary/Early Middle School
In late elementary or early middle school you can expect to help your child keep to their study schedule as well as assist with tracking projects and tests on a calendar. Encourage them to make good use of an assignment notebook by writing down assignments as soon as they are given. Much of the actual work will be independent now, but be ready to assist if your child needs help. You might suggest different approaches to study the material, but don’t push. Homework in this stage is usually best if completed in 30-60 minutes.
Middle School/Early High School
In late middle school to early high school you’ll find yourself decreasing your support even more. Monitor your child and determine if he or she is able to succeed independently. If so, great! Keep monitoring. If not, be ready for your child to experience some natural consequences like not feeling prepared for class or even a bad grade or two. Don’t worry; it’s those natural consequences that are teaching your child how to gain independence. Add support back into the homework routine until things get back on track then gradually fade support once again. Homework in this stage is usually best if completed in 60-90 minutes.
Late High School/College
In late high school and college maintain an interest in what your child is learning and help them to study if they ask. Inquire about projects and upcoming tests in a friendly manner. Let them know that you trust them to be independent by giving them the freedom to study on their own. Homework in this stage is usually best completed in 2 hours per class per week (or more in college).
Then sit back and have a cool glass of lemonade. You’ve created an independent learner!
Is homework giving you headaches? Is study time stressing you out? If so, you and your child may be in need of a little homework first aid. Read and follow these prescriptions for fast relief.
Environment – Create a calm, quiet, and comfortable environment for your child to study. The ideal location would be a special place set aside for studying only. Preferably not near a window, TV, or other visual distractions. Locate necessary supplies like pencils, pencil sharpeners, paper, dictionary, flash cards, calculator, calendar, etc. within arm’s reach of the study area. Sitting on a yoga ball may benefit active kids by allowing them to move.
Preparation – Try to have your child study at the same time every day so the work becomes routine and habitual. This could be right after school, or after some play time. Make sure it is a time when your child still has energy. Schedule a snack and bathroom break just before settling in to study.
Priorities – Work on the hardest project first. You know your child’s strengths and weaknesses and can use this to your advantage by doing the difficult work when your child has the most energy. Make sure to praise real effort along the way. Use a calendar to keep track of large projects and tests. This will help you plan the best use of your study time. Create a to-do list on a small white board and let your child erase each activity as you complete it.
Methods – Study methods will depend upon your child’s age and the type of material being learned. Some tried and true study methods include using manipulatives, using flashcards, highlighting important material, creating a graphic organizer, reading aloud, turning information into a rap or song, playing a game with your material, creating simulations, generating a mnemonic, and reteaching the material to someone else.
Breaks – Depending on your child’s age and study load, you may want to schedule some ‘brain breaks’ every 10-20 minutes. Brain breaks are 1-3 minutes of physical activity designed to help your child reenergize and regain focus. A brain break could include dancing, jumping, running, or anything you can think of that’s fun and gets the body moving.
Dosage: Be sure to take all 5 prescriptions in a caring environment daily.
Side effects may include (but are not limited to): happy, calm, smart, loving, generous, and beautiful children.
Rainbow Fish learned about the value of sharing by making a small gesture and deciding to share in his own time. If the octopus would have said, “You have plenty of scales. The little blue fish only wants one. You’re older so be nice and share.” I doubt Rainbow Fish would have ever felt true joy in the giving of his scales.
But the octopus was wise. She waited until Rainbow Fish came to her. By this time he was almost done needing the scales to feel happy. She gave him advice, then disappeared. She didn’t give him a time limit to comply. She didn’t demand that he obey. She allowed him the right to hold onto his belongings as long as he wanted.
Why did the octopus’s tactic work? Because:
1. Being forced to share feels bad, but giving to someone feels good.
2. People (and fictional fish) have the right to hold on to their things until they are ready to give them up. (Would you hand over your house keys to anyone who wanted a turn living there?)
3. The octopus builds trust by supporting the Rainbow Fish’s idea that the scales were important to him.
4. Rainbow Fish learns how his actions (sharing and not sharing) affect others.
Octopus isn’t worried that Rainbow Fish will become selfish, never enjoying true friendship. She knows that with a little more time, he’ll be ready to trade beauty for friendship. And she’s teaching him that it’s OK to tell the other fish, “I’m still using these right now. I’ll let you know when I’m done.”
In school we expect kids to “share” many times. Heather Shumaker, author of the book It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids, states that,
“Young children aren’t ready to share; they are ready to take turns. Turn-taking empowers kids and helps teach courtesy, awareness, and spontaneous generosity.”
What does Kyle learn in this situation?
1. Impulse control.
2. Delayed gratification.
3. How to handle a tough situation.
What does Dan learn?
1. Awareness of how others feel when he keeps a favorite item.
2. Courteousness by letting others know when they can have a turn.
3. Assertiveness by claiming ownership of an item that is rightfully his.
Sometimes in a museum or public playground the adult will need to explain to the child that this is a place when we need to take our turn quickly so others can use things too. By doing this you are teaching that in different contexts, different rules apply. This is so very important for kids to learn. They will be much more apt to “buy in” to this idea if that trust has been built in other situations.
One idea from Heather Shumaker’s book that I plan to implement in my classroom is the idea of making a “waiting list” for favorite books. In my classroom, like many others, each child has a book box to use during Daily Five. At times a child will find a favorite book that others also want to read (Fly Guy, just saying!). I like the idea of creating a waiting list for the book that can be placed in the desired book as a bookmark. Kids can add their names to the “waiting list bookmark” and cross names off as the coveted book makes its way through the list.
The kids will also need to understand that it is the decision of the book holder as to when they are done with the book. If a book isn’t moving well I try to find more copies of the book or distract the kids with other great books to fill the wait time.
As Rainbow Fish let the other fish take turns wearing his shimmering scales, he became more and more delighted. He finally felt at home. And no one had to force him to share. Let’s try to encourage (not force) our students to discover the delight in giving. The classrooms full of Rainbow Fish are sure to sparkle with joy.
Poor misunderstood Charles! He was happy as can be until others told him he wasn’t. Let’s not do that to any of our kiddos. Understanding children like Charles is vital for any teacher.
Introversion is often confused with shyness. Shyness has to do with social settings where a person wants to be more involved socially, but can’t because of anxiety. Both introverts and extroverts can be shy. I think Charles might argue the “shy” label if he could.
The book The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D states that “Introversion is actually an inborn temperament based on (a) child’s genetic makeup.” The book explains that most people have both introverted and extroverted proclivities, with more people on the extroverted end of the spectrum. The main differences have to do with energy as shown in the chart below:
|Energized by||Depleted by|
|Introverts||accessing thoughts, feelings, and perceptions||too much activity, noise, and chatter|
|Extroverts||lots of people and much action||too much quiet or solitude|
What does that mean to teachers? Well, in order to do a better job teaching a good share of our class, we need to remember that introversion is not a personality. It is a way that many people interact with the world. These strategies can help you interact with and better teach an introverted child.
An introvert is like a treasure chest. They are full of ideas, thought, fantasies, and feelings. A teacher can help an introverted child gain a feeling of belonging by encouraging them to open the treasure chest and share the bounty within. Interacting with others will help them stave off feelings of isolation. Charles enjoyed building a spaceship out of chairs alone, but he also enjoyed quiet times with his family.
An introvert is like a kaleidoscope. They can amuse themselves for hours with what seems like very little stimulation. They connect with deeper and deeper aspects of it also making connection with their inner thoughts. Teachers can focus on depth of learning vs. breadth when they recognize students with this deep focus. Can you imagine Charles’ colorful thoughts as he zipped along on his roller skates?
An introvert is like a library. They are full of knowledge, always seeking more resources, and willing to share information when asked. Teachers can recognize this love of learning and make sure the curriculum is something worth learning about. (No boring time killers!) Present information in a way that kids will recognize its importance and crave learning more. Charles knew exactly what to do in an emergency, probably because he’d already played the scenario through in his head.
An introvert is like a jigsaw puzzle. They focus in on different aspects of their worlds and piece them together in creative innovative ways. Teachers can ask the class for input when solving problems in the classroom. An introvert has probably already recognized the problem and has been tossing around ideas for a while. Teachers can also make sure the arts are a vibrant part of the work done in class. Including music, drawing, painting, and sculpture in class projects will give introverts creative ways to express what they are thinking. Charles didn’t enjoy dancing ballet, but he might have enjoyed learning to play that piano.
An introvert is like a fertilized chicken egg. They appear extremely calm and collected on the outside, but inside they are processing emotions, thoughts, and feelings like crazy. They are very tuned in to their own feeling and the feelings of others leading them to work well in groups. Teachers can realize that introverts feeling are hurt easily. They can ruminate over hurt feelings for some time without demonstrating or telling their feelings. They can have emotions flare-ups if they are tired, stressed, threatened, or hungry. Charles sure did after being yelled at by his dad during football practice.
An introvert is like a BFF. They love to hold conversations and do so with a multifaceted use of social niceties. They are great listeners, rarely interrupt, pick up on body language, offer real advice, remember past conversations, and keep secrets well. They have playful imaginations and are loyal to people who take time to connect with them. Teachers can make sure introverts have access to others who enjoy discussing ideas in depth. Teachers can also make sure the introvert is not depleted by too much socializing. Mrs. Belinski is sure to be one of Charles’ favorite people in the world. She understands that he’s not ready to show his appreciation yet, and she knows that one day he will.
An introvert is like a crew member. They don’t need to be in the spotlight in order to feel great about themselves. They enjoy observing and being a part of things but don’t need to be the center of attention. Too much attention actually becomes highly uncomfortable and even painful for many introverts. Teachers can praise introverts privately for their accomplishments (they love recognition). Make sure that in any production there are “behind the scenes” roles, and never negatively single anyone out. Charles showed his willingness to pitch in when he got Mrs. Block a blanket, some cocoa, and called the emergency service.
An introvert is like salmon. They can be super healthy! With all of their inner thought going on they are conscientious and think before making poor choices. They know it’s best to swim upstream even though it’s more difficult. They recognize the needs of their bodies and take measures to fulfill these needs. Teachers can make sure that introverts are given solid factual information about health because they are likely to follow through with suggestions. Do not feed them “old wives’ tales” like, “if you swallow a watermelon seed you’ll grow one in your tummy”. Also make sure they know where to go to get more information on their own. Charles knew what worked well for him. He understood when it was time to pretend to be asleep and when it was time to roller skate.
Oh, Charles, you’ll be all right – as long as the others in your life learn that sometimes a HERO says ZERO! And that’s OK.
Thirsty for more? Check out this site called Ten Things Educators Should Know About Introverted Students by Lisa Petrilli.
Wondering where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum? Take this short quiz and find out.
Great teaching strategy to help engage the reluctant student: The Wingman / Sean Paris
Brainstorming for introverts (by the Squirrel): 5 Ways To Bring Out Your Introvert’s Creativity During Group Brainstorming Sessions (Plus 5 more ideas for the introverts)
Just like George your students (and you) were born with an instinctive curiosity. How can teachers take advantage of this inquisitiveness to help students learn? This is done by creating a mismatch between what students know and what they want to know.
Start your lesson with a curiosity-based introduction. Create that mismatch between known and want to know early so the kids will stay with you until that curiosity is satisfied. The man with the yellow hat did this when he set his hat on the ground for George to explore.
You can do this by asking questions like these:
Have you ever wondered how you can tell if your brother or sister is sneaking into your room by using simple materials you may have lying around your home? (electricity lesson)
Wouldn’t it be great if we knew how to make a super giant pumpkin so we could have the biggest jack-o-lantern ever? (plant lesson)
There is a way for you to learn double the information in your history book in half the time you’d normally take. Would you like to be able to do that? (study skills)
The key to understanding other people is in knowing the body language that are displaying. (psychology lesson)
Have you ever wondered why hotdogs come in packages of 10 and buns come in packages of 8? (economics lesson)
If you want to make your bike the fastest in the neighborhood, physics is the answer. (physics lesson)
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to fly like a seagull, what would happen if you press random numbers on a phone, or what it would be like to hold a bright red balloon? George has. And he found out by following through with his curiosity. If there is one thing we can take away from his experience it’s this: make sure your curiosity is always moving you in a healthy direction. If it is – go for it!
We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.- Walt Disney
Chrysanthemum, the perfect name for the perfect girl. Or so she thought until … she started school.
The change in context for Chrysanthemum (beloved only daughter to one of many in the classroom) was almost too much for her to take. I just want to step into that book and give those little rodents a good character lesson! But I’m going to put aside the more obvious bullying lesson for now and focus on perfection.
Being one of many can be hard. Trying to do it perfectly could be impossible. I am one teacher on a staff of many. I leave my house in the morning a beloved queen (well – some days I do) and arrive at school to do a job that about 6 million others in the U.S. are also about to begin. My crown is gone and my hard hat (one with the cute little light on top) is on.
It isn’t going to happen. Let me tell you why.
Perfection is inefficient. OK, I’ll admit I have tacked the yard stick to the bulletin board in order to get my letter to stay in a straight line instead of doing a nose dive. But this kind of attention to detail in every area would be a huge waste of my time. How much time did Victoria waste counting letters and thinking of new insults just because she didn’t like Chrysanthemum’s name?
Perfection makes it hard for others to seek your advice. I don’t want my students and coworkers to feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Failure could be how we learn best. Being able to handle setbacks is a far better trait – resiliency, dude. If you were Chrysanthemum, would you ask Victoria for help?
Perfection is too neat. Things need to get messy before they get good. Idea fluency means the ability to develop lots of ideas and is an important component of creative thinking. People can’t be afraid to offer wild ideas because these are the stuff awesomeness is made of. Maybe if Chrysanthemum’s parents had spent more time brainstorming baby names they would have found an even better name. Rose? Violet? Poppy? Kathryn?
Perfection = Unhappy Teacher. You could drive yourself right up the classroom wall trying to make things perfect. Your school will benefit much more having a sane teacher over a perfect one. Are those teachers who seem perfect to you really happy? Hard to tell, but probably not. I bet Victoria felt miserable after completely forgetting her lines in the class musicale.
Perfection can lead to poor choices. Poor choices can include avoiding joining leadership committees to escape criticism, dishonesty about areas that you feel aren’t good enough, or taking on too much work because you don’t want to admit you can’t handle it all. Chrysanthemum avoided going to school by dragging her feet and walking slowly. The whole time thinking about her absolutely dreadful name.
I’ll admit, there is a positive side to perfection as well. We can strive to make sure our work is excellent, complete, and of the highest quality. We just need to remember to recognize that moment when better isn’t any better. Les Brown said it best, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Now let’s play some Parcheesi!
Are you as amazed at all of the new requirements in education as I am? Sometimes I want to say “I do not like them here or there, I do not like them anywhere!” But that Sam is a persistent little bugger isn’t he? And he keeps trying to make the new things less scary.
Try them on a boat, with a goat,
in the rain, on a train,
in the dark, in a tree,
in a car, in a box,
with a fox, in a house,
and with a mouse.
When it comes to trying new things it can be scary. We don’t think we’ll be capable. We think it’s a bad idea. We don’t know where to start. We wonder what’s next if we go through with this.
The new ideas just might be foolish if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Green balut and haggis, anyone?
Before you build a better mousetrap, make sure you have some mice out there. – Yogi Berra
But every so often we do need to take a bite and try something new. Eggs Benedict, maybe? Dean Radin, a researcher and author in the field of parapsychology, describes four stages of new idea adoption:
The first is “It’s impossible”
The second is “Maybe it’s possible, but it’s weak and uninteresting”
The third is, “It’s true and I told you so”
And the fourth is, “I thought of it first”
There are many times when changing and trying something new leads you to discover something delicious. Note our niece (below) as her precious face changes. Look what wonderful things you can discover – you go first!
1st grader: Knock, knock.
Me: Who’s there?
1st grader: Pizza.
Me: Pizza who?
1st grader: Pizza is yummy! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Me: blank expression to polite smile, “Yeah, good one.”
Yep, that’s a typical knock-knock joke told by a first grader. Amelia Bedelia knows how to “call the roll” in her escapades as substitute teacher, but she did not know how to take attendance.
Like Amelia Bedelia – young kids just don’t get it! They do see a lot of humor – everywhere, but when it comes to word play, ugh! I dread the point in the school year when they discover the knock-knock joke because I know that I’m about to hear 150 of the made up “zingers” like the one above. Don’t get me wrong, I know they are trying. They realize that for some reason people get a lot of enjoyment from these jokes, but they are just too literal minded to “get it” at this stage in life. I have always wondered about the science behind this phenomenon. (Yes, I am a nerd.)
Ellen Winner boils word play understanding down to 3 steps: (The Point of Words: Children’s Understanding of Metaphor and Irony, 1997)
1. figure out that the words aren’t meant to be taken literally
2. figure out the relationship between the literal meaning and the true meaning.
3. discover the meaning of the message.
For example in the following joke, a child need to go through this series of thoughts:
My brother Cody lost his CD. Now I just call him Oy.
|CD ≠||= CD = alphabet letters C & D||“lost his CD” = CODY = Oy|
But when does this magic happen?
Dr. Howard Gardner proposed these developmental stages based on Harvard’s Project Zero’s data.
|Under 5 years old – Wild stage – this stick looks like a sword, or a cane, or a boat. They do not care if these associations make sense to others.|
|About 6 years old – stage of Domestication – very literal minded, this stick is a stick. Any metaphors they do accept, are likely attributed to magic.|
|About 10-11 years old – Trainable stage – stick could be a noun or a verb. They accept multiple meanings and can explain them.|
|About 14-15 years old – Competent stage – They can supply reason and understanding independently.|
I interpret this process as continual and context based. Understanding dawns with simple word play that the child is familiar with. This will be individual to each child. The understanding will grow to include more and more complex ideas for word play. (Please tell me if you feel differently.)
The wonderful series of Minerva Louise books about a curious hen is based on an earlier stage of word play identification. I have always had much more luck with first graders understanding this word play style than the word play style in Amelia Bedelia. I think now I am beginning to understand why.
Minerva Louise is at the wild stage of understanding. In Minerva Louise at School, she sees the school as a big fancy barn, the cubbies as nesting boxes, and the janitor as the farmer. My first graders recognize this less mature stage and can have a hearty laugh at her foolishness.
Reading Amelia Bedelia gets me blank stares. “Draw the drapes” and “dress the chicken” to my little ones is interpreted the same way that Amelia Belelia interprets it. They do understand some of the word play – especially the one where she “runs home” during the baseball game. They are much more familiar with the double meaning of “home” than they are “draw” or “dress”. I can imagine though that kids in the trainable stage would understand Amelia Bedelia’s less mature stage and get laugh just as hard at her foolishness as mine kids do at Minerva Louise.
So next time I ask a somber little fellow if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he glances first to his shoulders before telling me “no”, I will be a little more enlightened to what’s going on in that precious growing mind.
One caveat – A common characteristic of people who fall in the autism spectrum is literal mindedness.
Do not let your job stress you out! Are you kitten me right meow? No really – you can do it, just use Pete’s technique of turning a negative situation into a positive one. You’re going to have difficult days where you feel like you just stepped into a pile of mud, but you’re also going to have great days when all the mud is washed away.
Like Pete’s advice “it’s all good”, self talk goes a long way in diminishing teacher stress. I love the idea of changing negative self talk into an empowering question. If you find yourself thinking, “This class just won’t be quiet,” try changing that thought to “How can I encourage this class to be quiet?” Or if you’re thinking “They never remember to start a sentence with a capital letter,” change that thought to “What can I do to help them remember to start a sentence with a capital letter?” This way you’re not avoiding problems, but you are tackling them in a positive way.
Oh, and we all know that Pete loved to walk around singing his song. Pete just might be on to something there. Did you know studies have shown that “playing and listening to music benefits both mental and physical health?” Listening to music can increase immunity (disease fighters), decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and increase dopamine (feel good chemical). Wow, and all for the price of a song. No meds needed. Try playing soothing background music in your classroom to see if you and your student reap the same benefits as Pete.
Remind yourself to sing Pete the Cat’s phrase “it’s all good” when you’re stressed to get your groovy calm back. That’s how I roll.
Watch author Erik Litwin perform Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes. You’ll feel better 🙂 Really.