Category Archives: Education
# Check School Policy
Before you start to plan your holiday travel, make sure you’re clear on the school’s policy regarding absences. You can usually find it on the school district website, otherwise you may need to call and ask. Usually there are a set number of excusable absences allowed each year. If your holiday will be longer than that or you’ve already used up some absences, you may need special permission from the administration to take your little learner out of school again.
# Do a Grades Audit
# Get Organized
Get a binder or folder together with worksheets, readings and study guides your little jet-setter will need to keep up with the class while he’s away. If he needs to do some schoolwork during vacation, take inventory to make sure you have all the books and materials needed to complete the assignments before your trip. Long car rides and layovers that would usually leave your child bored are a great opportunity for him to get his schoolwork out of the way.
# Plan Educational Activities
During vacation, there’s plenty of time for sledding, sing-alongs, snowball fights…and sneaking in some hands-on learning. Fun educational activities aren’t only great ways to keep young minds sharp and avoid a “brain drain” over holiday break—they’re family bonding opportunities as well. If you have a craft enthusiast, grab your art supplies for some winter-themed activities. Or, if your kid is a tech-lover, stock your tablet with educational apps and games. If you invest some time in learning during the break, he’ll hit the ground running when it’s time to go back to school.
# Build in Buffer Time
Whether you’re driving back from Grandma’s or flying in from Hawaii, sending your child back to school when he’s still in vacation mode is sure to leave him in a pickle. Plan to have some “buffer time” between vacation and school for your kid to switch gears and reacclimate to a normal schedule after late nights, treats, and running wild with his cousins. Flying in on the red eye and sending your child to school the next morning means his teacher has to try to catch him up while he’s still mentally on holiday break. Cutting your vacation short by an afternoon will give him a chance to reboot and get his head in the game before he’s back at his school desk.
Broad goals for the language arts curriculum focus on increasing children’s skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It is neither possible nor advisable to totally separate the learning of one skill from the learning of another; however, at times you will focus more on one area of language arts than another. These four broad goals are outlined in the following sections.
Children will develop the ability to listen in order to make sense of their environment. In order for children to learn, they need to take information in and process it. Listening to and comprehending information is an essential step in acquiring knowledge (Cassell, 2004; Jalongo, 1996). Listening is not a natural, innate ability. Instead, it is learned through the guidance and teaching of parents, teachers, and other people in young children’s environment (Kupetz & Twiest, 2000). Strategies such as a hand signal or environmental cues such as turning the lights off to signal total quiet are helpful in alerting the children that it is time to stop what they are doing and listen.
Teaching children to listen to other children and to adults will increase the opportunities to learn language as well as new ideas. It is also one of the hardest skills to teach young children, who are often very busy initiating activities and expressing themselves and who are not as interested in listening to those around them.
In order to learn language, children need opportunities to talk and be heard (Dickinson & Snow, 1987). Effective adult-child dialogue includes an adult who listens as the child speaks, asks questions that encourage the child to say more, and expands and elaborates on what the child has said. Samantha shows her teacher a picture that she drew. Instead of responding with a typical praise of “That’s nice” or “What a good job you did,” Mrs. Bands stops what she is doing, kneels down at eye level with Samantha, and says, “Tell me about this picture that you drew.” Samantha has the opportunity to describe and explain her drawing.
Children need to learn that the manner in which they speak depends on the situation. Informal speech is appropriate with friends and family, but more precise speech is appropriate for school and other places outside the home. When children want to communicate their ideas, they need to speak in ways that others can understand and hear.
Although formal reading instruction typically begins in first grade, kindergarteners develop many skills that prepare them to learn to read. Children whose daily routines and activities provide them with “reading opportunities” will begin to identify environmental print (West & Egley, 1998). Names on bedroom doors, on cubbies in school, and on backpacks provide multiple and distinct opportunities for children to recognize their names. With repeated exposure to a predictable book, three-, four-, and five-year-olds can “read” stories. Mrs. Bands has read The Three Billy Goats Gruff to her class multiple times over the last three weeks. With their expert knowledge of the book, her class can anticipate when the goats are walking over the bridge and chime in with a chorus of “Trip, Trap, Trip, Trap.”
An environment that is rich in books and print helps children begin to discern the meaning of print (Vacca & Vacca, 2003). What seems like scribbling on a page begins to develop meaning as children begin to understand that print communicates a message (Sulzby, 1992). Children learn to recognize letters and words and eventually become aware of the relationship of sounds to letters and words (Bowman, 2002). Some kindergarteners effortlessly “crack the code” and begin to identify and sound out words with continued exposure to print. For other kindergarteners, reading will take more effort and require more formal instruction in first and second grade.
Children will learn to write in an increasingly complex and precise manner to communicate their ideas, request things, document their activities, and provide pleasure and amusement. To foster this development, three-, four-, and five-year-olds need experiences that encourage them to make marks on paper and write. Children begin writing by scribbling and drawing pictures. As their knowledge of print increases, letters are formed, and the collection of nonsense letters comes closer to phonetic spellings (Sulzby & Teale, 1985). The first discovery is often their own names, and they become fascinated with the results, as did four-year-old Tommy, who spent an entire afternoon crafting the “T” and “O” in his name when he discovered that “Tommy” was how his name was written.
Music’s prominent place in early education is based on the value of music to children’s growth and learning. The values of music are many and varied. Shellenberg (2003) relates music education to a wide range of cognitive skills. Children who had participated in music education for one year had increases in general intelligence. Schellenberg (2003) thought this increase was related to periods of focused attention, memorization, and the concentration involved in listening to, and making, music.
Research and theory document the following:
# Music has intrinsic and instrumental value in and of itself. Music is critical to human development and to creative thought.
# Music can also be used to present ideas and build concepts, teach or persuade, entertain, design, plan, beautify, and create (Consortium of National Arts Education Associations [CNAEA], 1994).
# Music plays a valued role in creating cultures and building civilizations. Music awakens children to folk arts and their influence on their own lives and the lives of others (CNAEA, 1994).
# Music is a social activity. Listening to music and singing or dancing together unites children. Individuals come to feel a part of the community when singing together.
# Music is another way of knowing, another symbolic mode of thought and expression. From the enactive and iconic mode of knowing and learning about the world through action, perception, and imagery, music grows to become a symbolic mode of learning.
# Music gives children unique opportunities to create and be fluent in their thinking. They can respond in unique ways to listening or moving to music and create new songs and rhymes.
# Music gives children the opportunity to express their feelings and ideas freely as they dance in the light of a sunbeam, pound a drum, or sing a song of joy.
# Music is mathematical. The rhythmic quality of music fosters children’s ability to keep time and count sequences.
# Music is physical. Children sway, clap, dance, or stomp to music, gaining control over their bodies. Even singing is a physical activity that requires the ability to control muscles, vocal cords, and breathing.
# Music benefits children with special needs. Because music is a pleasurable, nonthreatening experience, it can be used to help a child with special needs feel more comfortable within the group (Humpal, 2003).
# Music develops the skills necessary for learning to read and write (Andress, 1995). The Music and Reading Readiness Skills box on this page describes how and why music is necessary for the development of reading readiness skills.
High school brings back special memories for each of us. Looking back, I remember those years with nostalgic fondness, yet I wouldn’t want to return to high school and start over. High school students struggle with personal identity, fitting in a social group, peer pressure and of course the stress of academic studies. They also are concerned with dating, driving and figuring what they will do once high school is over.
Certain high school experiences may have life-long consequences. Many of the choices students make in high school will lead them into adult habits and situations. Students still need direction and guidance from teachers, counselors and most of all from their parents.
There are a few ways parents can provide support and guidance to their kids who are about to enter high school.
# Promote the importance of education
Most educators would agree that when education is promoted and supported by parents, student achievement is higher. Parents need to remain active in their children’s education, even through the teen years. Preteen and teenagers still need the guidance of their parents in making crucial educational decisions. Obviously, parental involvement will differ from the preschool and elementary years. Parents of students about to enter high school will need to become informed about their child’s performance in school and learn about high school options.
Learn about high school graduation requirements and begin thinking about post-secondary education. Unlike elementary and middle school, high school grade-point averages are cumulative. Stress to your children that the grades that they earn as a freshmen are as important as any other year when applying to colleges or post-secondary education programs. Parents should stay in contact with their children’s teachers and school counselors to help students stay on track.
# Select the high school and the program carefully
There are many factors in choosing a high school program appropriate your child. The selection process should actively involve both the student and the parent. Consider your child’s study habits and interests. You may want to explore the possibility of a magnet program if your child has a particular interest. School districts offer various programs and have varying application requirements and deadlines. When selecting a high school and program, you and your teen will need to consider the options and resources the school or program has to offer. Consider the academic options, such as advanced placement course availability and other programs such as art, music and athletic programs.
Parents and teens should visit the school or program prior to enrolling making course selections. Meeting with a program coordinator or school counselor will prove to be an invaluable investment. High school students will have opportunities in high school to tailor their course selections to their individual needs, goals, abilities and interests. Most schools offer courses in honors, advanced placement, special education, remedial as well as a variety of electives both academic and vocational. Electives should be chosen with future goals in mind. Parents should listen carefully to their teens so not to impose their own interests on them while remaining supportive and objective. Parents can assist their teens into making selections that will be most beneficial to the individual student. To learn more about high school programs and options, you can visit your school district’s web site.
# Importance of Peers
Being a parent of a preteen or middle school student, you are already aware of the influence of peers in your child’s life. Some kids do things in direct contrast to the beliefs parents have hoped to instill in order to be accepted by peers. None of us dealing with preteens and young teens should ever underestimate the value of peer pressure.
The good news is, peer pressure can be a positive aspect to your teen. The peer group your child has in high school may shape the direction of your son or daughter’s success in school and in early adulthood. Encourage your kids to be involved in positive activities, both during school and during their free time. Teens can influence each other to keep their grades up, stay away from drugs, try out for a play or sport and become leaders in school.
Communication with your child during the teen years may be more crucial than ever. Be a good model for your teen, and remain a constant in his or her evolving life. Get to really know your child and his or her friends.
Parents can assist their kids with the transition from middle to high school by being informed and offering guidance and support. Acknowledge that this is a major step from childhood to adulthood. The most important goal of high school is to graduate with purpose and an action plan for the future. Parents and students are encouraged to talk to a school counselor to explore options. High school is the beginning of your child’s future. Encourage your son or daughter to take charge now, and be your child’s fundamental support.
The foundation of language development is established during the preschool and early elementary school years. School-age children, however, continue to refine their language skills in several domains. For example, their understanding of word meaning, or semantic development, continues throughout middle childhood. A first grader may know the meaning of 8,000 to 14,000 words, but a high-schooler knows 80,000 words (Owens, 1996). These numbers are equivalent to the acquisition of 6,200 words per year between first grade and graduating from high school. The understanding that words have multiple meanings also increases. This more complex understanding of word use may be attributed, in part, to cognitive development.
With the advancement of cognition children become better communicators and possess a more sophisticated sense of humor. A related advancement is that school-age children also begin to comprehend the use of idioms, such as “Who let the cat out of the bag?” Research shows that the comprehension of multiple word use, idioms, and forms of sarcasm may not occur until adolescence (Bloom, 1998). Semantic development in middle childhood seems to rely heavily on the context of the conversation and children’s ability to figure out the meaning of a word or phrase by what another person intended to say, rather than a literal interpretation of word choice (Baumann, Font, Edwards, & Boland, 2005; Cain, Oakhill, & Elbro, 2003).
Syntax development, or grammatical understanding and construction, expands during middle childhood. Children begin to understand the difference between active and passive voice (O’Grady, 1997). If given a toy car and truck and asked to show the experimenter “the car hit the truck” and “the car was hit by the truck,” a 10-year-old is more likely than a 6-year-old to play out the scene of both statements correctly. The older child will listen to the meaning of the statements rather than automatically link the action of the verb to the nearest noun. Older children also begin to understand and use more sophisticated syntactical rules, such as the correct use of subject-verb and noun-pronoun agreement, correct uses of that and which to introduce subordinate clauses, and the proper use of punctuation such as colons and semicolons. During middle childhood, children also begin to learn how to use the articles a and the correctly as well as understand connectives, such as but, although, yet, however, and unless (Vion & Colas, 2004).
Middle childhood is also the period in which children improve on the pragma-tics of language, or the social etiquette of language. For example, school-age children become better at maintaining and contributing to a conversation by asking questions and adding information. Between ages 5 and 9, children become better at shading, or changing the topic during a conversation. They do so more gradually and tactfully than younger children. This results from an increasing awareness of the needs of the listener. As children move through middle childhood they become more aware of when they are misunderstood and do a better job of clarifying their meaning by changing or adding words to their sentences (Ninio & Snow, 1996).
Compared to preschool and early elementary schoolchildren, children from 6 to 12 years of age are more effective communicators, use more complex grammatical constructions, and are more aware of their role as a listener and communicator within multiple contexts. Greater diversity among language skills in older children results largely from environmental factors. Children with larger vocabularies, more complex grammar, and social language manners have been shown to come from homes with two parents and parents with higher educational backgrounds and income levels. They also converse with their parents more often and have more positive speech interactions with them (Hoff & Tian, 2005; Weigel, Martin, & Bennett, 2005). The differences in language development influenced by these factors are evident by kindergarten and remain stable through adolescence (Farkas & Beron, 2004).
One’s cultural background has been shown to influence language development as well. In the development of pragmatics, for example, American children often argue with their older siblings and sometimes speak to them with disrespect. In contrast, children from Japan are expected to speak to elders, which includes older siblings, with respect at all times. In Western societies children are expected to speak up and ask questions when they have them. But Mexican American and Southeast Asian communities, as well as some African American communities from the Southeast, teach children to engage in conversation with an adult only when the adult initiates the conversation (Grant & Gomez, 2001). Thus, vocabulary, grammar use, and pragmatics are influenced by the language culture that surrounds the child. Children’s language development will affect their ability to learn in school and converse with others (Craig & Washington, 2004; Gonzalez, 2005).