Friday, August 31, 2012

13+ Things Your Kid's Principal Won't Tell You

 1. If you want to talk to me about a problem, schedule a morning appointment, when I'm fresh.

By the afternoon, I can get pretty frazzled.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Talking to Your Child’s Teacher

Parent-Teacher-Conference-Raleigh-Apex-Cary-DurhamTalking to Your Child’s Teacher

30 Important Questions to Ask Your Child’s Teacher

Talking with your child’s teacher can be a great conversation if you are looking to increase partnership with the teacher.  Many times parents are looking for information about their child’s performance and days in school, but don’t know what to ask or how to ask it


Think about it as a way to exchange information about your child.  Is what you see at home matching what the teacher sees at school?  Are the teacher’s concerns your concerns and if not, why is the teacher concerned about something different?  These are all just beginning questions and you don’t need to ask them all if you don’t need or already know the information.  After having sat through both sides of the situation, as a teacher and a mother, it can be a great idea to listen and learn from both sides. 

Note: If you do have some critical issues or problems or want to bring up major concerns, give the teacher advance notice.  It is never a good idea to blindside a teacher or put him immediately on the defensive.  Give her the benefit of knowing your concerns and ask her to come prepared about the issue.  

You can also ask if the principal or assistant principal can sit in on the conference.  While this is not the usual practice, if there is a problem that needs more involvement than just the classroom teacher, you may want more people involved in the school.  


Here is one more thought.  If your child is above 1st or 2nd grade, you may want to schedule the conference with the teacher while the student is present.  Many times it is important for the student to hear concerns and praise from both parents and teachers about her school performance.  The student may also have some questions of his own.  If there is a need for you to share private family information or concerns, the child can wait in the hallway while you finish with the teacher.


Here are the sample questions you may want to ask your child’s teacher at a scheduled conference during the year.  You don't need (and probably won't need) to ask them all.

  1. What positives are you seeing in my child?

  2. What concerns or roadblocks are you seeing?

  3. How are they doing socially in the class?

  4. How can I help my child progress – ask about specifics that you can do at home to support the learning in the classroom?

  5. How does my child learn best?

  6. What tests will be given this year and how often will they be given?

  7. Are assignments online or is my child required to write them down?  Where are they posted?

  8. How are grades determined (attendance, tests, quizzes, participation, etc?)?

  9. How much time should my child be spending on homework?

  10. What are the 4-5 major changes in this grade level as compared to the last one that my child will have to adjust to?

  11. Are there any clubs or support programs you think might be best for my child?

  12. How would you like us to communicate with you?  Email, phone, note, etc…And this is how you can best reach us.

  13. Do you need help for school events?

  14. Do you have ways we can volunteer in and out of the classroom (Depending on your schedule)

  15. Does my child seem engaged during class?

  16. Who are my child’s friends?  Does she get along with both students and adults?

  17. Does my child follow directions clearly and get work done on time?

  18. What would you like to know as his teacher that may be helpful to you?

  19.  In what areas do you think my child has potential?

  20. What is or has been the greatest area of improvement?

  21.  How would you describe my child’s personality?

  22.  Has my child been doing homework and doing it on time?

  23.  How is my child’s organization?

  24. Can I see where he/she sits and does he or she get distracted or talk with neighbors?

  25. Do you have some recommendations for us as parents?

  26. Can I have a copy of the class schedule?

  27. Are there some materials that you would like that I can donate?

  28. What do you need to know about my child that will help you teach him better?

  29. Is there any tutoring available for my child?

  30. Are there parent support groups?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back to School Checklist

Posted by Jennifer Benoit


 It's that wonderful time of year again!  To make things easier, we have put together a Back to School Checklist for your family.  Keep up the good planning!

  1. 1. Sort through fall and summer clothes to see what doesn’t fit and donate or hand it off to a family in need.  Do the same with sports cleats.  Make a list of what you need to get as the fall starts.  Keep an eye out (or check store websites) for coupons for clothing.

  2. Make a family calendar for the wall or on your organizer and write the school calendar for all your schools on it.  In other words, get everything at one spot so you won't miss anything!  This is a critical time of year and probably the calmest as the year starts, so take 30 minutes and fill in all the teacher work days, etc.  You'll be glad you did in about six months!

  3. Schedule physicals for each of your children and be sure you have the appropriate paperwork for the beginning of school.  Your school should send out what you need.  If you don’t know, give the school a call or look on their website. 

  4. See what activities you as a parent can be involved in.  Look at the parent groups or organizations in your school.  Many offer opportunities to at-home or at-work parents.  Your help is appreciated and you will make a difference at your child's school.

  5. For younger children, put together some old adult shirts to wear as smocks or to donate to the art room or classroom.  The art teacher and kindergarten teachers will be SO appreciative!  Just be sure that they are appropriate for a child's classroom.

  6. Set up a Backpack Station in your house.  It's essential to have a "home" for your backpack in your house.  For more see our Backpack Organization post.

  7. Set up a homework cabinet or bin along with a homework work space.  Buy any needed supplies when you buy back to school supplies with your students.  Also pick up ways to organize your home by reading our tips here.

  8. Be sure names are in clothing such as jackets, sweaters, or other items that may get taken off during the day.  Use laundry markers and put initials on the tags.

  9. Complete all the paperwork for school.  Take a morning at coffee shop or after the kids are in bed to fill this out uninterrupted.  It will make the beginning of school go much smoother.  Also, put it on your calendar to complete the paperwork at the END of school this year for the next'll be ahead of the game!

  10. Make some fun notes to your children to put in the lunchboxes/lunchbags for the first week.

  11. Schedule haircuts for your children along with a shoe buying trip if needed.

  12. Stock up on juice boxes, water bottles, and snacks for lunches and after school.

  13. Put together a small gift for your younger child’s classroom teacher.

  14. Be sure the camera is charged and have it handy for first day pictures.  See our suggestions for first day pics here!

  15. Make a plan to stop at your favorite ice cream spot or restaurant for dinner/dessert to talk over the first day.  You may think this is only for younger ones, but the older students will want to talk too!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Top 10 Study Skills for College Students

1. Set goals.
It’s difficult to arrive at a final destination when you’re unsure of what it is and how to get there. Develop a roadmap for reaching your educational goals.

2. Use an appointment book.
It’s easy to forget assignment due dates, test days, and other important information when it’s not written down, especially when you’re focused on your studies.

3. Know your learning style.
Develop strategies for overcoming learning differences when instructors employ contradictory teaching methods.

4. Be an active reader.
You’ll better retain information from the textbook if you practice active reading.

5. Participate in study groups.
Organize study groups with other classmates. It’s easier to remember concepts taught to others, and group members often share insights you never consider.

6. Take notes.
Take organized notes. If it’s useful, develop outlines, highlight key information, or utilize other methods to organize lecture notes.

7. Organize your study materials.
Organize notes, assigned readings, and other study materials, so it can be easily retrieved while studying.

8. Draft papers.
Always write a rough draft when preparing an essay. Take time to review it for incompleteness and errors and ask the instructor or a classmate to read it and offer advice.

9. Slow down on tests.
It’s common to misunderstand questions or skip key information when nervous. Take time to thoroughly read test questions.

10. Don’t replace protein with caffeine.
Before a test, avoid consuming caffeine. Instead, eat foods high in complex carbohydrates and Online College Guide

Sunday, August 19, 2012

10 Ways To Help Your Child Successfully Return to School

10 Ways To Help Your Child Successfully Return to School 


read from article source
Whether parents like it or not, we are our children’s barometers. How they react to potentially stressful situations like the first day back at school depends on how we act. Teach your child that you believe in her and know she can tackle any challenges that come up during this new school year.
During your children’s school career, there will be many new beginnings they’ll have to face. From those first anxious moments when they wave goodbye to you from the preschool door to when they enter the hallways of a new middle or high school as awkward teenagers, change and resiliency will be key factors in how they handle the stress of any new chapter.
As parents we wish we could just wiggle our noses as the character Samantha did on the 1960s TV show Bewitched and make these transitions smoother for our kids. Of course we can’t, but we can help them become increasingly independent, which can empower them to deal with change.
Kenneth Shore, a school psychologist for more than 25 years and a lecturer at Rutgers University in New Jersey, wants parents to feel reassured that in time, most children will adjust to any new situation.
At the same time, Shore, who is the author of six books including The ABCs of Bullying Prevention and The Parents’ Public School Handbook: How To Make the Most of Your Child's Education, From Kindergarten Through Middle School, says parents’ fears about change are real. “Their concern is well-placed. Starting a new school year or changing schools can be just as stressful for children as a change in jobs would be for their parents,” he says. “For many children, their school is the center of not only their educational life but of their social and recreational life, as well. While beginning a new school year or school holds the promise of something new and different, children often are more worried than excited. Their jitters are natural and should be expected.”
For parents of preschool- and kindergarten-age children, those jitters can be especially acute for both the children and the parents. For many, it’s the first time they are truly separating from each other. Shannon Dow, head teacher and education coordinator at the Children’s Montessori Center in Danvers, Mass., and the mother of two children, says educators really understand that this can be an emotionally charged time for kids and moms and dads.
“Most new children coming to our school are separating from their parent for the first time,” Dow says. “Because of this, we spend a lot of time and energy educating the parents on the process of separation.
“Many parents,” she continues, “assume their child will be fine and will start school without any issues; however, this is not always the case. Each year is a new year and the children return to school at different stages in their development.” In fact, Dow says, she and her fellow educators have found that “all children go through separation anxiety and display their feelings in many different ways.”
Shore says parents today tend to hover and be more protective than parents in past generations, and they often want to “fix” any anxiety or stress their kids may be facing. But this doesn’t do children any good in the long run.
“We don’t always give kids a chance to work through the anxiety they are experiencing,” Shore says. “The great majority will, in time, adjust to all sorts of changes. It is the rare case that causes any kind of trauma.”
This is comforting for parents as a new school year looms and excitement levels are high—as are worries about what the new academic year holds. To that end, and because children look to their parents for reassurance in new situations, Dow suggests that parents try to keep their own anxieties hidden. She says parents should show a happy, upbeat attitude toward the new school year because when the parents’ demeanor reflects a sense of trust in the teachers, the school, and the new environment, research shows that children are typically more successful.
Here are 10 ways you can help your child have a smooth return to school and start the new school year on a positive note.
1. Chat with your child. Keeping an open line of communication is important. Encourage your child to talk about any feelings he is experiencing. Remember that change is stressful not only for you but for your child, as well. He may need to vent those feelings; be patient during this time. Let him know that these feelings are normal. “Be patient—adjustment time for every kid is different,” says Shore, adding that “it will take three to four weeks for most kids to start to feel comfortable.”
2. Create a sense of community. Feeling a part of things is important for children at every age. You can help by providing chances for your child to make new friends. “Your children will feel more comfortable going to school if they know at least one other student in their class,” Shore says. “If you move during the summer, find out the names of children who live nearby and are the same age as your children. Put aside social inhibition and try to arrange some play dates so your children can meet those children,” Shore says. “The social connections will be important in your child’s overall adjustment to school.”
Even if your child hasn’t moved or changed schools, getting in touch with classmates before school starts can help break the ice for many kids. Pediatric nurse practitioner and mother Meredith Pasciuto from Dedham, Mass., suggests reconnecting with friends just before school starts.
“I know my middle schooler gets very anxious since he does not know who will be in his class until the very first day of school,” Pasciuto says. She knows that a late summer get-together of his friends from the end of the previous school year can “give him confidence that even if he doesn’t have his very best friend in class, he will most likely have someone from the group.”
3. New school? Keep the old friends, too. If your child is starting at a new school, parents can help bridge the emotional gap between making new friends and leaving a familiar circle of friends by encouraging kids to keep in touch. This is particularly important for middle and high school children. “This age group places a great importance on their friends and consequently the transition can be harder,” Shore says. “Helping them make and keep those connections is important.” He adds that it’s easy today for kids to stay in touch with friends from other communities thanks to cell phones, Internet phone calling, and social media. “This can help a lot,” he says.
4. Get the kids involved. Create opportunities for your children to meet others their own age who have similar interests. Some examples include public library and recreation programs, scouting, sports teams, and church groups.
5. Parents should get involved, too. Make time to meet the other parents and get to know your child’s friends and teachers. Volunteer to be a room parent or maybe coach your child’s sports team this year.
6. Visit the school. Arrange a visit to the school with your children before school begins, Shore suggests. “You’ll want to find out about school hours, lunch policy, bus arrangements, and the school calendar. Ask if you can have a brief tour of the school. While walking around, make note of other students’ dress so you can help your children dress in a way that helps them feel comfortable.”
7. Get into a groove. Since having a routine helps reduce worry and stress, establishing back-to-school procedures is important. And it’s important to begin these procedures a week or so before school starts. Help your child know what’s expected of him each night before school: Practice having him lay out his clothes the night before, then brush his teeth and read before bed. Same goes for the morning routine: Have your child practice waking up on time, getting dressed, eating breakfast, then leaving for school on time. Doing this before school starts will help everyone know what to anticipate—and that means things are bound to go more smoothly on that first day of school.
8. Get organized. Take the time to create order. Designate a spot where backpacks will go, create folders for each child where the plethora of papers that come home from school can be filed, and have a white board handy to write down things you don’t want to forget. Also, make sure you have all the tools needed and a place where your child will study and do homework. Doing all this helps set expectations before school starts.
9. Don’t talk it up. Pasciuto says that although many parents like to make a big deal about going back to school, for some children who are worried about the first day, keeping things low-key is better. Parents know their child’s personality and understand whether counting down till the first day is exciting for her or instead fills her with panic. “One of my sons actually cries when he sees the back-to-school ads on TV, so we try to keep a sense of normalcy around the house and don’t begin even talking about back to school till just a few days before,” Pasciuto says. And make sure your child gets to sleep on time and eats well. Those two factors alone can affect the mood of a child.
10. Get regular progress reports. Once the first day of school has come and gone, you’ll still want to know how your child is doing. Take time to connect with your child’s teacher, not just at the beginning of the school year but even after a few weeks or months to see how your child is transitioning. A child can tell you “everything is fine,” but is that the reality? Ask the teacher for insights. Is your child making new friends? Keeping up with the workload? Are there any challenge areas you should be aware of? The school year is a work in progress, and parents need to stay involved throughout the year.
More than anything, let your child know that you believe in him and that he can have a successful first day. And reassure him that you’ll discuss his first day that evening, when you’re both happily back home.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

7 Ways to Organize Your Home for Academic Success


7 Ways to Organize Your Home for Academic Success

  Posted by Jennifer Benoit on Thu, Aug 16, 2012
  1. Color code folders and notebooks or use one binder for everything – There are pros and cons to both systems.  If you color code your items, you have more items.  If you have one binder or folder for everything, you could lose the entire binder with everything.  Sometimes it depends on what your school expects of you.  So, start there, and try one of these systems.  I have always used the color coding, but for some the binder system works well.

  2. Backpack Stations – Just like we talked about in the Backpack organization post, you should have a place at night for your backpacks.  These are spots (usually near the most frequently used door) that house the backpacks.  Check this post by Organization Junkie for some ideas.

  3. Post steps for routines by door – Does your student often forget things or routines.  Post the steps (i.e. do you have your lunch, your backpack, your keys, etc) on the door at eye level so he or she will catch it when leaving.  Don’t rely on memory.

  4. Family Calendar – This is a must for busy families!  If you do better visually as a family, find a large wall calendar, laminate it and list different people by color.  That way you can easily see if the week looks busy or not.  If you are a tech savvy family, try using Google Calendar or an app, making sure that everyone is able to access it and add events.  This is especially helpful when you have multiple sporting events, school events, and everyone needs rides or needs to use the car.

  5. Personal Assignment Calendar – Using the same type of calendar that works for you in the last tip, have a different calendar side by side for assignments.  This is particularly helpful for long term assignments when stages of the project need to be mapped out.  This helps in planning so a student does not wait until the last minute.  Often, parents need to work with the student in the beginning to list projects steps, but it gets easier with more practice and the student can take more responsibility for the calendar.

  6. Bin and folders for permission slips and lunch bags – This can go right in the Backpack Station mentioned above.  Find a bin that is ONLY for permission slips.  That is the parent’s homework to complete.  Then the parent needs to put them in the backpack or give them directly to the student to put in a folder specifically for this purpose in the backpack.

  7. Filing system for papers when done with them and graded - Many people throw away papers soon.  Best practice says to keep papers in a folder or file until the end of semester or year, depending on the class.  If a grade is misrepresented and you need to discuss it with the teacher, the student should be able to find the paper in this file.  At the end of the class (this may be a semester or an entire year class), the papers can be discarded or a few can be kept.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

10 Habits of High Effective Students

Some people believe that really successful students are just born that way. True, some students are able to breeze through school with little or no effort. However, the vast majority of successful students achieve their success by developing and applying effective study habits. The following are the top 10 study habits employed by highly successful students. So if you want to become a succesful student, don't get discouraged, don't give up, just work to develop each of the study habits below and you're see your grades go up, your knowledge increase and your ability to learn and assimilate information improve.

1. Don't try cram all your studying into one session.

Successful students typically space their work out over shorter periods of time and rarely try to cram all of their studying into just one or two sessions. If you want to become a successful student then you need to learn to be consistent in your studies and to have regular, yet shorter, study periods.

2. Plan when you're going to study.

Successful students schedule specific times throughout the week when they are going to complete their studying -- and then they stick with their schedule. Students who study sporadically and whimsically typically do not perform as well as students who have a set study schedule.

3. Study at the same time.

Not only is it important that you plan when you're going to study but that you also create a consistent, daily study routine. When you study at the same time each day and each week you're studying will become a regular part of your life. You'll be mentally and emotionally more prepared for each study session and each study session will become more productive.

4. Each study time should have a specific goal.

Simplying studying without direction is not effective. You need to know exactly what you need to accomplish during each study session. Before you start studying set a study session goal that supports your overall academic goal (i.e. memorize 30 vocabulary words in order to ace the vocabulary section on an upcoming Spanish test.)

5. Never procrasitinate your planned study session.

Its very easy, and common, to put off your study session because of lack of interest in the subject, because you have other things you need to get done first or just because the assignment is hard. Successful students DO NOT procrastinate studying. If you procrastinate your study session, your studying will become much less effective and you may get everything accomplished that you need to. Procrastination also leads to rushing, and rushing is the number one cause of errors.


6. Start with the most difficult subject first.

As your most diffult assignment or subject will require the most effort and mental energy you should start with it first. Once you've completed the most difficult work it will be much easy to complete the rest of your work. Believe it or not, starting with the most difficult work will greatly improve the effectiveness of your study sessions and your academic performance.

7. Alway review your notes before starting an assigment.

Obviously, before you can review your notes you must first have notes. Always make sure to take good notes in class. Before you start each study session and before you start a particular assignment review your notes thoroughly to make sure you know how to complete the assignment correctly.

8. Make sure you're not disturbed whiles you're studying

When you're disturbed while you're studying you (1) loose your train of thought and (2) you get distracted -- both of which will lead to very ineffective studying. Before you start studying find a place where you won't be disturbed.

9. Use study groups effectively

Ever heard the phrase "two heads are better than one"? Well this can be especially true when it comes to studying. Working in groups enables you to (1) get help from other students when you're struggling to understand a concept, (2) complete assignments more quickly, and (3) teach others whereby helping both the other student and yourselve to internalize the subject matter. However, study groups can become very ineffective if they're not structured and if groups members come unprepared. Effective students use study groups effectively.

10. Review your notes, schoolwork and other class materials over the weekend.

Successful students review what they've learned during the week over the weekend. This way they're well prepared to continue learning new concepts at the beginning of each week that build upon previous coursework and knowledge acquired the previous week.

We're confident that if you'll develop the habits outlined above that you'll see a major improvement in your academic success.


Improving Reading Comprehension


Improving Reading ComprehensionRead to Grow and Grow to Read Series

Improving Reading Comprehension

 by Jennifer Benoit


Reading is foundational to the academic success of your child…plus it can be great fun!  Introducing your young child to reading is giving them the gift of adventure, mystery, and excitement.  This series is designed to help you and your young reader to flourish in their reading ability.  Read on!


Comprehension is how your child understands what she reads, but also how she can apply it to other situations.  Here are some ways you can work on comprehension as you read with your child or after you child has read silently.  Keep in mind that you are going to have to know the answers too!


Retelling – Have them retell the highlights of the story.  Think of it as a roller coaster where the high parts are the exciting and story-changing parts of the story.  Tell who the characters are and what parts they play in the story.


Talk about parts of storyBeginning, middle and end are the most basic parts of a story.  Even if the story is a paragraph or a picture book, all stories have a beginning middle and end.  As they get older, the terms change to introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion.  Usually, a chapter book has all of these parts in one chapter so you can easily talk about that as you read together.


When,Where, How – Pretend you are a reporter and are reporting on the book.  When did this happen?  What time of day and what period of time?  Where did the story happen – if several places, why did it have to have several places?  How did the story unfold?  Was it a slow unfolding or fast paced?


What happened on this page? – Sometimes the entire story is simply too overwhelming for the child to put into words.  Break it down into smaller parts such as what happened on this page or in this chapter then talk together about how it fits into the bigger picture.


What was your favorite or least favorite part and why? – Any question to help the child interact with a story is a good one.  This is particularly helpful to a child that has a hard time with comprehension because, in general, there is no right or wrong answer to the question.  Of course, their favorite part has to be IN the story, but they can give one sentence if they want and be done with the questions.


Does my child have a comprehension issue?

Children can get mis-identified as having a comprehension problem, when it is really a reading problem.  One way to tell the difference is to have a child read aloud to you and then ask questions about the reading.  Then you read to him another passage and ask similar questions.  If a child can successfully answer the questions after hearing the story aloud, there is most likely a reading problem, not a comprehension problem.  Because the child is so focused on reading the words, he can lose the meaning of the story or passage and it looks like he has comprehension problems. 

Another issue that is not a comprehension issue is vocabulary.  The child may understand the idea behind the passage, but has missing pieces because there are words in the passage that do not make sense to her.  Because of this, just ask if there are any words that she doesn’t know or understand.  Then explain them and see if that helps with comprehension.

In both of the above scenarios, there is a lag in skills the child possesses that need to be built up.  Make sure that if you suspect either of these issues or a comprehension issue that you talk to your child’s teacher and ask for school testing.

Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Child After Daily Reading

1. Did you like the story?

2. What would you change if you wrote the story?

3. Who was your favorite character in the story?

4. Was it a true story or not?

5. Could this story happen now?

6. Who do you know that might like to read this story?

7. Which of the characters do you feel you are most like?

8. Do any of the characters in the story remind you of someone you know and who?

9. Rate this story on a scale of one to ten (ten being the best and one the worst)?  Why?

10. What age would you recommend this story for?

Read to Grow and Grow to Read

How to Read with Your ChildRead to Grow and Grow to Read       

How to Read with Your Child

6 Ways to Read Better Together for Better Results

 Posted by Jennifer Benoit

Reading is foundational to the academic success of your child…plus it can be great fun!  Introducing your young child to reading is giving them the gift of adventure, mystery, and excitement.  This series is designed to help your young reader flourish in his reading ability.  Read on!


Reading to your child is potentially one of the most life changing things you can do for you and for your child.  It creates a bond and gives you time to explore new worlds together.  Often, I see that parents don’t know how to read together with their child and it becomes boring and stale.  Here are some ways to perk up your reading time and add more value to books you choose.


1.  Trade off on reading pages – when you read with your child it is just as important to read to them as it is to have them read to you.  They need to hear how you read smoothly, pause, give different voices to characters, etc. 

If you have more than one child reading with you, all of you take turns.  For those readers that have a tough time already, it is a chance to relax and just listen rather than struggle.  I always recommend to parents having you read one page and your child read the next…even if one of your pages only has one word…that’s the fun!  This is also great with chapter books.  Don’t forget that children enjoy being read to at many ages…don’t we? 


2.  Finding clues in pictures – Many books (even chapter books) have pictures.  Talk about the pictures, the illustrations and find clues that may lead you to believe what will happen on that page.  Discuss who each character or item is and talk through the pictures before or after the page is done.  One of my all time favorites is Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go where you read the story, but also find the Goldbug character on each page.  Such fun!  Many books have little character on each page and it makes reading fun!


3.  Explaining Vocabulary – Oftentimes we assume that children know the vocabulary.  For example if you didn’t know that a chapter book was a book with chapters, the last reading tip would not have made complete sense.  Ask your children what the words mean and even have them act out the action words in the story.  Stop every now and then and ask them what happened on the page so you know they understood the words.  Then ask if they can think of another sentence to use the word in.  That shows they really understand the word!


4.  Comparing Books -  It’s great to compare the books you read.  Does Harry Potter have anything in common with Frodo from Lord of the Rings?  Do you see some similarities or differences between the same character in different books?  Which character are you most like and why?  Do books by the same author start and end the same way?  Is the movie different from the book?  Which is better and why?  Comparing is a math and reading skill, so any way you can use to compare books and ideas are great.


5.  Making predictions – Making predictions is a big part of reading.  Children always want to know “what’s going to happen next!”  By predicting what you think what Curious George might be curious about, you encourage the skill of using the knowledge you already have to make a good guess about what may happen next?  You can also problem solve or create different scenarios.  Could George have solved the problem a different way?  What if George’s plan didn’t work?  What do you think he would do next?  If the author were to write the next book in this series, what would happen in that book?  Lots of different ways to look at the same story and predict at different levels.


6.  Losing last word of rhyme – One of my most favorite things to do with my own child and classes is to lose the last word of the sentence or rhyme.  Amelia Bedelia drew the bath with her…. As the child reads or looks at the picture, he can see that it is with her paints.  It keeps the child engaged and interested even when you are reading and it sharpens those predictions skills they use when looking at the pictures.  It also helps younger children with rhyming.  Look at this example from Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

By the light of the moon,

By the light of a star,

They walked all night

From near to …..


Not only is this a rhyme, but the near to far piece on the end are opposites.  This is a great way to talk about what opposites are for a few seconds as an add on to that page.  You don’t need to do it every time, but it keeps it interesting to pop these in every once in a while.

How to Choose the Right Book

How To Choose the Right BookReading is foundational to the academic success of your child…plus it can be great fun!  Introducing your young child to reading is giving them the gift of adventure, mystery, and excitement.  This series is designed to help you and your young reader flourish while working together.  Read on!

How to Choose the Right Book

Posted by Jennifer Benoit

Not every book is created equal...even ones that have levels and stages on them.  Here are some ways to choose books that may be helpful for you as you journey through reading.  

  • Choose award-winning books.  Two well-known awards for children’s books are the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Medal.  Books that win these awards often have a sticker on the front cover.

  • Check out some books that are on the right level for your child.  

The Lexile Framework for Reading is a way that many schools use to rate a child’s reading level.  They also provide a way to search for books based on your child’s need.  See it here. 

The Book Wizard by Scholastic shows you the grade equivalent of a book.  Just put in the name of the book and it will tell you the grade level.  That does not mean a third grader cannot read Anne of Green Gables (at grade level of 6 in Scholastic), but it means that there may be more extensive vocabulary or concepts.  See it here.

On the website, the author gives another way to check out the level of a book.  “The easiest way to find the reading level of a children's paperback book is to turn it over. Many books include the reading level, in various forms. Some books might say RL3 for reading level 3, or RL5.9 for reading level 5.9. Less specific designations might say 007-009 for ages 7 to 9, or 0812 for ages 8 to 12. These publishers designations are confusing, particularly when you pick up one copy of a Roald Dahl book in the bookstore and see it designated as 0812, and pick up another version of the very same book and see it designated as 0712. And reading levels are generally only printed on the paperback versions of books.”

The very best way to tell is if your child is struggling to read the book on every page.  That may be too advanced.  Also, see the Five Finger Method below.

  • Keep in mind that as you look at books, just because your child enjoys books that are one, two or even several levels above, does not mean there is complete comprehension or understanding of vocabulary.  Many parents may misread this as a sign that their child is very advanced.  Not necessarily, but that can still enjoy the books!

  • Don’t worry about the pictures.  Just because a book is classified as a “picture book” or early reader does not mean that the story isn’t valuable.  Think Dr. Seuss.  Read together stories your child finds interesting.  Don’t worry if the book has pictures…or doesn’t!  Read for content.  Pictures only enhance.

  • Reading a book and being read to can be very different ways of selecting books.  Make sure you do both.  Reading to your younger child is good, but having books that she can read independently is also helpful.

  • Choose books that inspire curiosity. What you really want to find is a book that stirs interest and generates more questions.

  • Choose a book on the child’s reading level and a little above. Some children read well compared to others their age. Others struggle just to keep up. A book needs to provide a bit of challenge—but not be so difficult that your child fails.

  • Ask a librarian for age appropriate suggestions and get a library card with your child.  Often they have lists that match the child’s grade level of recommended books.  Local public libraries have large resources of materials…and you can order the book online and simply pick it up!

  • What are your child's interests?   While it is nice to expand your child's interests through reading, involve your child by giving reading materials on subjects that your child already enjoys.

  • Pick up a book and have your child flip through the first few pages.  Oftentimes, your child can tell you if there is too much text or if the words are too big.

  • Choose books from authors they know.  Recognize authors your child has read and enjoyed before and see if they have other books.

  • Choose books you enjoyed at their age.  Look for stories you as a parent might have enjoyed at your child's age.

  • Use the Five Finger Method.  Students select a page from the middle of the book. As they read the page, they open a finger from their fist for each word they stumble over. If they miss 3 - 5 words on the page, they should think about getting another book.

  • Have fun looking at books!  Spend some time together in the bookstore or the library looking at books that might be of interest and decide what books to purchase or check out.

Monday, August 6, 2012

5 Interesting Facts About Pencils - Did You Know?-- from Something Wonderful

This post is the first of a series called “Did You Know?”. Lists in these series will be trivia-based, containing fun/amazing/interesting facts about things we use in our everyday life. This post is about pencils.

A pencil, as we all know, is a simple instrument used for writing and drawing. It’s an ordinary item we use everyday; and something an office is incomplete without. Here are five interesting facts about pencils (in some detail):

One. History

The “lead” of the pencils, is actually graphite, as you may already know. This graphite was discovered in a large and very pure quantity near Cumbria, England, sometime in the early-mid 1500s. It was discovered to be very useful for marking sheep. So, the first ever “pencil” was that used for marking sheep.

Also, graphite blocks could be easily cut into sticks. These sticks were then wrapped in sheepskin or string, for stability. So, the first “pencils” weren’t wrapped in wood cases, as we know them now. These wood cases were first thought of by the Italians, several years later. But the actual wooden pencils were produced in the mid seventeenth century, in Germany. The graphite was enclosed between two pieces of wood.

The average pencil (about 18 centimetres long) can draw a line 35 miles long, or write about 45,000 words. Talk about being economical!

By the way, if you’re feeling eager to set a world record, why not try this out? Nobody has, yet

More than 2 billion pencils are used in the United States every year. The global number? More than 14 billion, enough to easily circle the globe about 60 times. Also, more than a million pencils are used annually on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. That’s a lot.

An average sized tree can make about 170,000 pencils. So, it’s safe to assume that if there are 14 billion (14 000 000 000) pencils made each year world wide then, and one tree can produce about 170,000 pencils, there are approximately 82 000 trees cut each year, to meet the annual demand of about 14 billion pencils. That’s a LOT of trees!

Could you ever imagine that something so ordinary could have such a big impact on the environment?
Three. People

Pencils are often associated with great names in the literary world. Henry David Thoreau used pencils to write Walden. John Steinbeck, an American writer used over 300 pencils to write his novel East of Eden. He was one obsessed pencil user!
Four. The Story Of The Eraser

Most pencils, as we know them today, are capped with an eraser at the top. But until about 160 years ago, pencils did not have erasers attached to their tops. One popular theory about the reason for this is that teachers felt that erasers would encourage students to make mistakes. After all, if you’ve made a mistake, you can easily rub it out

Also, most European pencils do not have erasers attached to their tops, while American ones do. Perhaps this is just a matter of preference, but, are Europeans more confident scribblers than Americans

Five. Uses

Pencils are supposed to be used primarily for writing/scribbling or drawing. But, what’s the fun if you cannot find a clever use of something ordinary?

A pencil eraser is soft. It is perfect for sticking and storing things like pins: you just stick the pins into the eraser, and they’ll stay there. Or, you could use a couple of pencils as chopsticks; for pencils are thin and have good control. Use two pencils as tweezers to pick up fallen stuff, or to eat your noodles!

Have an ambitious little plant aiming for the skies? Why not support it’s delicate stem by sticking a pencil into the flower pot, and tying the stem to it with a piece of string? Pencils are ideal for this job!

Article Source

Friday, August 3, 2012

12 Tips to Organize Your Backpack

Organize-Backpack-Raleigh-Apex-Durham-CaryPosted by Jennifer Benoit on Fri, Aug 03, 2012 @ 08:20 AM 

 see article

1.  Do you need a new one? 

Is your backpack ragged, dirty, or doesn’t meet your current needs?  Maybe it’s  time for a new one.  Don’t just grab one and go.  Carefully look over each one to see it is what you need in terms of compartments and organization inside.  Will things easily fall out?  Will everything fit?  Will it be able to go in the locker?  Often the big office supply stores run sales (or even give them free with rebate!) at the beginning of the school year.  Be sure to try it on and even consider laptop carriers as they may be more efficient for your student.

2.  Empty it out each night – all papers for home stay home. 

Don’t wait until the end of the week or Sunday night to empty the backpack.  Make a habit of emptying it out and reloading it every night to make sure nothing is missed.  Put all the supplies back where they belong before morning so all you need to do it grab the backpack and go!

3.  Get a pencil bag or zipper bag for your pens, pencils, erasers.

If you have spots for pencils, great, but also put in a zipper pouch or bag.  Also put in a sharpener and several of each writing implement.  Often things get lost during the day, so keep a supply of several pens, pencils and erasers and replenish when they get low.  Be prepared.

4.  Put cell phone, wallet, keys, etc in smaller compartment.

If your student has a phone or keys, etc, put them in a spot that is only for those things.  Make sure this is not easily accessible to others and that they cannot fall out.  Inside pockets are usually best for these.

5.  Everything in its place – decide what will go where.

Don’t just assume that everything will fit and your student will make a spot for each item.  Talk together about where things go and how to keep things there when you are on the run during the day.  Also talk about how often your student uses the backpack each day.  Do they take it to class?  How should she remember it after each class?

6.  Decide on a night to replenish it out each week (once a week).

Decide which day you want to replenish anything that is missing, used up, or emptied.  Maybe Sundays or Wednesdays are good nights to work on this.  If you need to replenish each night, do so.

7.  Drinks on the outside.

Such an important rule!  Ruining books, folders and notebooks can create a messy and expensive situation.  Always keep any drinks…no matter how tight they are sealed!...on the outside.  This goes back to making sure that your backpack is equipped to hold a water bottle or drink on the outside.  Also make sure that all food is in baggies and sealed.

8.  Talk about putting papers properly in folders so they don’t get stuffed in.

We’ve all stuffed the papers in, but make sure the general habit is getting out a folder and putting the papers in correctly.  You may just want to get a catch all folder that will get emptied every night so you don’t have to fuss with lots of folders when it comes to your papers, but be sure that you have at least one folder.

9.  Create a home for your backpack.

Make a place in your home for a “backpack home.”  This is where you leave the backpack the night before.  It can be in your child’s room, by the door, next to the kitchen table, in the car, whatever works for you, but make sure you all know where it should go.

10.  Have multiple sections in backpack.

Stuffing happens more frequently when there is just one section.  Have a backpack with multiple sections so you can create an in and out section for your student.

11.  Make sure it can fit in the locker. 

We said this before, but be sure it can fit in the locker and/or under the seat of whatever chair they sit in.  It isn’t a helpful backpack if you can’t leave it safely somewhere.

12.  Keep at the system.

No system is perfect the first time around.  Keep at it and be consistent.  The sooner you help your child to develop the patterns and system, the better and more independent it will be.

Happy Backpacking!