Recently a parent asked me to prioritize school, family, sports, and other activities. I hesitated as I carefully crafted my reply. I’ve been asked the question hundreds of times over my many years in education. I know what’s coming.
Communicating with our children, particularly our teenagers, can be a challenge. Knowing about learning styles can help. Let’s say, for instance, that your child wants something and knows it won’t be an easy sell. Let’s look for a moment at how they are likely to approach you and persuade you.
One of the most interesting things about learning styles is that each has unique personality traits as well. Visual learners, for instance, are observers. Because they are watching people’s actions and events unfold before they commit, they are often perceived as shy, perhaps even snooty, and cautious.
We have long known that students learn differently, but until the middle of the 20th century, there was little documented research. Now there are tons of studies, books, and advice on the subject. However, it is always my goal to provide you with information and resources that you can implement quickly, easily, and yet successfully. So subscribing to the philosophy that simpler is better, let’s talk about the three main learning styles: visual, auditory, and tactile. These will be discussed in the next several articles.
It’s time once again for parent-teacher conferences, so I offer some advice, some tips, and some encouragement. For your child to succeed in school, you must be involved, and conferences are one way to make that happen. So the most important advice I offer is you must attend. Even if you feel everything is going well and you are 100% satisfied with what you are seeing and hearing about school, go to the conference.
At the beginning of every unit, our biology teacher gives the students a study guide. Every question on the test is covered on the study guide, often using the exact same wording, often listed in the same order. He also tells them that if their study guide is complete, he will go over it with them for accuracy and – this is the killer – he will go over the REAL test a day or two before they have to take it. Yes, that’s what I said! He will go ...
Most of us now have a week of school under our belts; the routine is setting in; homework should be coming home; the nerves should be settling down. If you haven’t already, have some specific conversations about what’s happening in school. Who is your favorite teacher? Who is the least favorite? What are you most excited about? Are there any new kids in school? How are they fitting in? Be prepared with a bunch of follow-up questions, starting with “Why?” Make the answers be specific.
We’ve finished those exciting first few days. Our kids have all the classroom rules and routines under our belts. When we return to classes on Tuesday, we’re ready to roll! Here are some more things you can do to get the year off to a good start. I will elaborate on many of them in the next couple of weeks.
The start of school is only a week away in most districts, so I thought it wise to revisit "The Coolidge Family Rule." If you didn't try it last year, I urge you to do so this year. And I'd love feedback on how it worked for your student.
While our students generally worry most about finding their way around and fitting in, the greater challenge in the long run is academic performance. It is not uncommon for grades to drop when students start middle school. Besides raging hormones and significant change, they are now dealing with more difficult classes, more teachers, more homework, and less nurturing.
Last week I talked about the logistical challenges incoming middle schoolers face: multiple teachers, multiple classrooms, pesky lockers, short passing times, no recess to name a few. The second most common area for worry is the social challenge. Instead of the same group of kids in a single classroom, there are many more students at least half of whom your student will not know. Worries about making friends, eating alone, bullying become more prominent during this stage in a student’s life.
Of course I am sorry to mention it, but we are just weeks before our return to school, and I’d like to focus on the student entering middle school for the first time. I’m sure you remember your first day in middle school. I’m also sure you remember your anticipation of that day. Research shows that anxiety is based on three areas of change – logistics, society, and academics. Let’s look at these differences and then offer some solutions.
I had an incident last year when 3 of our first grade boys drew a sexually explicit picture that was passed around the room amongst giggles and surreptitious glances at the teacher who eventually confiscated it. Of course, the situation came to me, and frankly, it was a first for me. I was shocked; not at the picture, but at the young age of its artists. I wouldn’t have been surprised if middle schoolers had produced the artwork; but first grade! It went beyond “boys will be boys” for me.
Summertime often means more time in the car, and listening to the back seat bickering and endless “Are we there yet,” can make trips – long or short – unpleasant and stressful. My father was in the army and often assigned to new posts ahead of us, so my mother often found herself travelling alone with two young girls. She was amazingly creative with some of her distractions. Here are some of my favorites.
As part of your summer “habit building” routine, I suggest that everyone who can hold a pencil or maneuver a keyboard should start keeping a journal. Writing in a journal offers many rewards. It is safe, private, and productive. For me, it is a way to work out problems, reflect on situations, and keep track of ideas for my other writing.
We’ve talked about 2 kinds of reading – fluency and comprehension – and 2 kinds of math – computation and concepts. Now I’d like to talk about 2 kinds of smart—high IQs and high achievement. None of them are mutually exclusive. And in a perfect world, all are honed to work together for maximum results.
A reader recently asked me if I could recommend some summer reading strategies for her son. She described his problem like this: “It is painful to listen to Eric read as it takes him so much time to get through a paragraph. Because he is struggling with just identifying the words, he loses touch with information in each sentence.”
I recently spoke with a reader whose grandson was struggling in school, specifically with reading. As we discussed options for summer practice, she mentioned that he had glasses but “refuses to wear them.” He’s a young student and I was surprised at his reaction – little kids often deliberately “fail” eye exams so they can get glasses.