Monday, December 13, 2010

‘Food for Thought:
Eating Well on a Budget’


Leave it to Elmo!

The gang at Sesame Street introduced some new characters last week. In the December 8 episode, the Super Foods Super Heroes team helped convince Elmo and Grover to try their first bite of a kiwi with this rousing lyric:

        There’s so many tasty foods, it’s true,
        But trying something new can be so hard to do.
        You may not love it at first sight,
        But to know for sure, you’ve got to take a bite.
        (Listen to the entire song…)


Last week’s Super Foods episode was the official kickoff of a new program from the nonprofit Sesame Workshop. Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget is the organization’s response to the fact that 17 million U.S. children -- nearly one in four -- are food insecure, which means they don’t receive food that meets basic nutritional needs due to financial instability. The bilingual (English-Spanish) program provides families with video and other resources, including a caregiver’s guide, recipe cards, and a printable shopping list for children and caregivers.

TOOLS FOR SCHOOLS, TOO

The Food for Thought program also includes resources for schools and other providers who work directly with families. The program's Provider’s Guide presents tips for leading discussions about good foods as well as all the tools needed to offer parent workshops on topics such as “Trying New Foods,” “Spending Time Together [at Mealtime],” and “Anytime Snacks.” The kit also includes handouts, student coloring pages, and more.

SPONSORED BY…

Sesame Workshop laid the foundation for this project beginning in 2004 with Healthy Habits for Life, a multi-year initiative that aims to teach parents and children that health and well-being is just as crucial to child development as learning how to read and write.

“Our sole mission is to help children reach their highest potential,” said Gary E. Knell, president and chief executive officer of Sesame Workshop. “Food for Thought is essential in helping children learn the importance of developing a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritional food despite a low or reduced income and helping them succeed in school…and in life.”

Partners in the Food for Thought effort include UnitedHealthcare® and The Merck Company Foundation.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is Your Holiday Shopping Done?


The weeks leading up to December’s holiday break are always busy ones -- full of holiday concerts, parties, and more. For many of us, ’tis the season of holiday shopping, too.

If you’re searching for a unique gift for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has an idea for you: check out the NAESP Foundation's online Holiday Auction, now through December 16. Search the NAESP Foundation Holiday Auction Web site for a wide variety of auction items, including sports collectibles, clothing and accessories, tools, and much more.

New items are posted every day. This is a great opportunity to pick up a bargain -- and to benefit a good cause: the NAESP Foundation.

It’s a great way to avoid fighting traffic jams at the shopping mall, too!

The NAESP auction is powered by My School Auctions.

MIDDLE SCHOOLERS CREATE HOLIDAY MUSIC CD

If you’re looking for a great fundraising idea and a terrific learning experience for students, you might do what music teacher Allysa Anderson did this year with her students at Camden-Rockport (Maine) Middle School. Supported by a grant from Youth Arts, a local non-profit arts agency, Anderson and 185 students in grades 5 to 8 created a “Simple Gifts Holiday Songs” CD.

The project that resulted in this CD belies its title; it wasn’t just a "simple" project. Besides creating quality music, Anderson’s students also learned about the production and business ends of the music industry. They toured professional studios -- including those at Main Street Music Studios where the CD was produced -- and learned the ins and outs of marketing a quality product.

Proceeds from the sale of the CD will go back into the school’s music program. But Anderson said the project’s principal intent was to expose students to the music business. “It’s a way to enhance the curriculum, to raise the bar, and raise the rigor,” Anderson told the Bangor Daily News [read the article]. “This has really all been inspired by the children. They are a great group of kids. They’re not only very motivated, they are also very musical.”

Learn more. Read Main Street Music Studios Recording Camden-Rockport Chorus, a blog entry about the holiday CD project.

‘PUZZLED’ ABOUT THE PERFECT GIFT?

If you’re “puzzled” about what to give the puzzle lover on your gift list or looking for the perfect grab-bag gift for the school holiday party, Banana-Grams might be the answer. This month, 10-Minute Banana-Grams! debuts in bookstores everywhere. Based on the bestselling Bananagrams® game, 10-Minute Banana-Grams! joins another popular favorite, Bananagrams! for Kids. Bananagrams! puzzle books provide hours of entertainment as they strengthen confidence and build brain power and thinking skills.

The Bananagrams brand has seen incredible success. Created by a word game-obsessed family of three generations, Bananagrams is a labor of love that that has quickly become an international phenomenon. There are more 3 million copies of the game in print, which has also launched in Spanish, French, Norwegian, and German.

And while we’re in the gift-giving spirit, here is a gift for you -- two free sample pages from the folks at Banana-Grams!
--- Click for a sample page from 10-Minute Banana-Grams!
--- Click for a sample page from Banana-Grams! for Kids

Friday, November 26, 2010

Teachers Create Online
Classroom Wish Lists


According to a 2010 national survey, teachers spend an average of $623 a year out of their own pockets to provide needed supplies, rewards, and other staples for students. Pencils and pens (78%), prizes and incentives (72%), and arts and crafts supplies (72%) top the list of purchases teachers make using their own cash, according to the survey, which was conducted last April by OfficeMax®. [Read the survey.]

Can you think of another profession where “employees” regularly reach into their pockets to provide the necessities needed to do their jobs? Do accountants dip into their wallets for clients? Do engineers purchase supplies required to do their jobs? Educators are among the only professionals who dig deep to into their personal savings for the must-haves of their professions.

And as school districts tighten their budgets, the situation is only going to get worse.

CLASSROOM WISH LISTS
ON THE NATIONAL TEACHER REGISTRY


The National Teacher Registry is a new, free, first-of-its-kind service for school teachers. The Registry enables teachers to create an online wish list of items they need and want for their classrooms. Parents and others can access the registry by teacher or school name, purchase items from the list, and have their selections delivered to the classroom.

The Registry operates similar to online wedding or baby shower registries, but the products are all education related. Teachers can create wish lists of office or art supplies, books, educational games, teaching tools, and much more from retailers that include Borders Books, the Teaching Supply Store, and Dick Blick Art Materials.

The Registry was created by MarCole Interactive Systems, which has built bridal and gift registries for large retailers such as Neiman-Marcus, Office Depot, and Target. The site is entirely free to educators. Teachers and parents pay no fees; the site is supported by fees the retailers pay to be part of the Registry.

’TIS THE SEASON

What better time than right now -- with the holidays fast approaching -- for teachers to create a classroom wish list that parents and others can access?

Or you might create a wish list for your school on the Registry. You can provide a link to it from your school’s Web page so that community supporters might provide needed items.

The Registry even provides checklists, flyers, and letters to parents that you and your staff can use to broadcast news of this practical resource to your wider school community.

READ MORE

Be sure to check out additional ways to raise money for school supplies and activities in Education World’s Fundraising Article Archive.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fun 'Challenges' Engage
Kids, Families in Reading


A couple weeks ago, kids lined the sidewalk in front of a Buckhannon (West Virginia) Academy Elementary School as their teachers raced by in teams of two. Since it was just before Halloween, teachers dressed in football uniforms, pink rubber boots, and toilet paper might not have seemed such an odd sight -- except for the fact the costume-clad educators were pushing each other on office chairs!

The office chair race was actually a reward for students. They earned the goofy high-speed event by reading more than 9,000 books this past summer.

“This was a great activity for the kids,” said Principal Randall Roy, who emceed the race. “They had a great time.” [read more]

Meanwhile, halfway across the country reading specialist Sandy Lambert and Principal Kim Lasanby-Barber dressed as pirates and “walked the plank” as students cheered them on. The pirate-themed celebration was the culminating activity of the fall reading challenge at Lincoln School in Spring Valley, Illinois. Students earned the reward by exceeding the goal of reading for 80,000 minutes. The school’s 200 students read for a total of 196,310 minutes. [read more]

READING CHALLNGES FROM COAST TO COAST

Principals and teachers across the country will do all sorts of crazy things to encourage students to pick up books. Here are just a handful of examples of schools that are in the middle of “reading challenges” as I type.

This week, students at William E. Young School in Homer Glen, Illinois, are involved in a 100,000-minute reading challenge. “If 95 percent of Young Elementary students read 30 minutes a night, that means our school will have read 100,000 minutes total in just one week,” said Principal Michael Szopinski. If students achieve the goal, Szopinski will help get kids in the holiday spirit by donning reindeer antlers and a blinking red reindeer nose during the week of November 29. [read more]

If all goes according to plan, students at Stafford (Texas) Primary School will see their principal, Kim Yen Vu, perched atop a dunking booth next spring. The year-long “Principal’s Reading Challenge” has been going on at Stafford for a few years. Back in 2008, Vu kissed a pig when students reached their goal. This past year, she sat atop a wall -- the school’s marquee -- dressed as Humpty Vu-mpty. This year, teachers and students “aim” to see Principal Vu soaked. [read more]

Students at Bonneville Elementary School in Orem, Utah -- where the school mascot is a bronco -- are enjoying a year-long “Top Bronco” reading challenge. Parents log students’ at-home reading minutes on monthly calendars. The goal is for K-2 students to read 50 hours during the school year and grade 3-6 readers to read 75 hours, explained Principal Shawn Brooks. To keep students motivated, a “half-way-there” banana split party will be held in January to recognize students who have achieved at least half their goal. A special “Double Club” movie party will be held in May for students who read double their goal. [read more]

At West Rocks Middle School in Norwalk, Connecticut, students are taking on the “Read Around the World Reading Challenge.” Students earn “miles” for each book they read on their way to 29,000 miles. To be precise, a trip around Earth is 24,901 miles, but students will be stopping off in -- and learning about -- a variety of the world’s major cities as they travel toward their goal. “As students participate in the Read Around the World Reading Challenge they will receive raffle tickets and become eligible to win prizes,” added Dr. Lynne C. Moore, the school principal. [read more]

At Burr Intermediate School in Commack, New York, the “Burr Reading Challenge” encourages students to make reading a daily habit, and special events help motivate them to read more. For example, during October students wrote book reviews on paper bags supplied by local supermarkets. The “paper bag book reviews” are on display throughout the school this week (American Education Week), and after the week is done they will be donated back to the supermarkets so the bags can be shared with the community. Reading becomes a community event in other ways at Burr. From October 25 to December 3, students are involved in their annual Ronald McDonald House Read-a-Thon. Last year, the read-a-thon raised more than $2000 for the Ronald McDonald House. Students also collected books to donate to a Suffolk County homeless shelter. [read more]

We would love to hear your story of what your school is doing to motivate student reading. Just POST A COMMENT to share your story so that others might benefit from one more idea.

MORE FROM EDUCATION WORLD

Find more ideas for motivating student reading in these Education World articles:

Principals’ Feats Fuel Fabulous Reading
What would students do to see their principal throw cow chips, spend a night on the roof, or get slimed? It turns out that they will do a great deal -- of reading! Included: From becoming ice cream sundaes to singing songs and kissing pigs, see what principals have done to encourage their students to read.

Principals Make Reading a School-Wide Goal
Students pledge to read thousands of pages… First- and fifth-graders buddy up for reading… Those events and others are part of school-wide reading programs at two Minnesota schools. Included: Additional activities to help make reading a school-wide goal.

Reading Fun
Are you looking for a special project that will excite your students about reading? You have come to the right place! We have gathered together dozens of Education World articles that will turn every week into Book Week at your school.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Backpacks Help Feed Hungry Kids
All Weekend Long


A few years ago, we posted an article about a program that provided some school kids with backpacks of healthful foods to take home on the weekend. The backpacks filled a gap for those students and families by ensuring that kids would show up Monday morning hungry for learning, not for food. [Read the article, For Hungry Kids, Backpacks Lighten the Load].

Back in 2007, backpack programs like the ones described in that article dotted the landscape of U.S. schools. Since that article first appeared, though, the number of programs has grown by truckloads. Witness this handful of headlines I’ve spotted in local newspapers in just the past few weeks:

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that 16 million U.S. children live in “food insecure” households [source]. Knowing what we know about our country’s economy, a growing unemployment rate has likely increased that need -- which explains why we’re seeing more and more about backpack programs in local news headlines.

“A backpack program is a natural solution to a need,” says Karrie Denniston, director of programs for Feeding America, a charity dedicated to feeding hungry Americans through a network of more than 200 food banks. “A backpack program is one of those programs that gets to the heart of a need and fills it.”

Whether backpack programs are organized by PTOs, churches, food banks or other groups, they are filling a deep need and helping to improve students health and achievement.

MORE INFORMATION
For more information about Feeding America’s backpack efforts, view the video at the bottom of this blog entry. For more information about backpack programs, click the links below.

Backpack Programs
Learn more about Feeding America’s BackPack Program, which is designed to meet the needs of hungry children at times when other resources are not available, such as weekends and school vacations.

For Hungry Kids, Backpacks Lighten the Load
Students who are disruptive, can't concentrate, or lack motivation may not need a firm hand; they might need a helping hand! With the help of communities, the simple remedy is a backpack -- a school standby -- that is filled with food supplies to help kids get the fuel they need to flourish. Included: Advice from successful backpack programs.



Monday, November 1, 2010

Perks for Parent Involvement
Can’t Be a Bad Thing



A new program in Detroit has been making news headlines. The "I'm In" program rewards parents with points for attending workshops and participating in other activities at the District’s eight Parent Resource Centers. The points parents accumulate on their "I'm In" cards can be traded for discounts at local businesses. Read more…

But are bribes really needed to get parents involved in their child’s education? some detractors ask. That involvement is part of being a parent and raising a child, they say. Knowing you are actively involved should be enough of a reward.

Besides, they add, everyone knows that incentives don’t work.

Those detractors make good points, but anyone who has taught in or led a school with a large population of poor, immigrant, or minority families would not be so quick to judge. Educators in those schools know the hurdles that poor families face, and they bend over backwards to include those families in school activities and to support them in other ways.

They know what the research says, too: When parents are involved in their children’s education, those kids have higher grades and standardized test scores, improved behavior, and better social skills.

Plus, any program that is able to actively engage local businesses with area schools is a win-win for the entire community.
     > > > > Scroll down the page for links to
                   dozens of parent involvement ideas
So why wouldn’t schools want to offer incentives to get hard-to-reach parents involved? Offering incentives can make a difference by showing those parents that schools care enough to go the extra mile. There’s nothing wrong with giving a little incentive to get parents to show up. Doing that can go a long way toward increasing parents' comfort levels and eliminating negative feelings they might have toward schools in general or their own abilities to help their children achieve.

And who knows? A few of those parents might even decide to stay involved. Then schools can urge those parents to bring others along.

ENGAGING THE WHOLE COMMUNITY

Let's give Detroit credit for trying to turnaround their schools and trying a few experiments to get parents and others involved in that effort. The video below, produced by the district, is one more piece of its "I'm In" campaign, which is intent on highlighting the district's schools and promoting community engagement.




PARENT INVOLVEMENT IDEAS

  • Seventy-Five Ideas to Build Parent Involvement and Support [might require free registration]

  • 68 Parent Involvement Ideas That Really Work [pdf]

  • More Ideas for Parent Involvement


  • ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

    Parent Involvement in Schools
    Parent involvement in schools is much more than parent conferences and PTOs. These articles from Education World’s archive share practical ways in which schools are involving parents. These strategies are working for others -- and they could work for you.

    Got Three Hours? A School Needs You
    This Education World article shares news of Three for Me, a parent involvement program that can help get parents more involved in your school. Included: Tips for getting dads involved.

    Parent Involvement Checklist
    Does your school do a good job of reaching out to parents? If you can do some more work in this area, these resources from Project Appleseed -- including the Parent Involvement Pledge -- are sure to help.

    Parent Involvement Activities in School Improvement Plans
    This study of Title I schools in the Northwest Region (U.S.) identifies effective and potentially effective parent involvement activities. [pdf]

    Parent Involvement Activities for Transition
    These 20 activities can help involve parents at all levels, but particularly those parents who want to support students as they make the transition to middle or high school. [pdf]

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Did Your School Miss Out on
    ‘Walk to School Month’ Fun This Year?


    Thousands of kids around the U.S. participated in Walk to School events this month, which is International Walk to School Month. Now in its thirteenth year, more than 3,200 U.S. schools registered to participate in events that provide a great opportunity for schools to promote good health as they engage families and the community.

    In Little Falls, New York, students, teachers, staff, and city officials walked almost 1.5 miles to Little Falls Middle School on October 8. This marked the third year the school participated in the world-wide Walk to School Day event.

    “This event allows us to be part of something a little bigger than ourselves,” said Bart Tooley, principal at the school. “It’s an opportunity for us to come together as an entire school and have a little fun on a beautiful October morning,” he told the Little Falls Times.

    “Walking to school not only allows us to focus on being healthy and well, but it also allows us to get out and enjoy the community while forming lasting memories,” added Superintendent of Schools Louis Patrei. (read more…)

    At Wilcoxson Elementary School in Stratford, Connecticut, more than half the students participated in a special event that kicked off Walk to School Month. “It’s a perfect way to build community,” Principal Deborah Dayo told the Connecticut Post. Even kids who ride the bus to school were able to participate this year. When they were dropped off by the bus, they started a 3-1/2 lap walk around the school's athletic field. (read more…)

    In Mississippi, the school that engages the highest level of participation in Walk to School events earns the state’s highest award, the coveted Golden Sneaker. The day also offers an opportunity for parents to join with their children in a school-sponsored activity, crossing guard Mary Lee Montgomery told the Mobile Press-Register. (read more…)

    Students at Pilot Mountain (North Carolina) Elementary School earned stickers this year for walking to school on Walk to School Day. This is an important event “because it not only teaches pedestrian safety, but also the importance of choosing healthy activities instead of sedentary behavior,” Principal Angela Carson told the Mount Airy News. (read more…)

    Students who walk to school in Needham, Massachusetts, can also log their miles on the Earth 25 Web site as part of the community’s Needham in Motion campaign.

    And students and parents joined together to turn a walk to Blessed Sacrament School in Savannah, Georgia, into a community event. The WSAV-TV video below is a testament to Walk to School events that took place in hundreds of U.S. communities this year.



    ORGANIZE A ‘WALK TO SCHOOL’ DAY FOR YOUR SCHOOL

    If you and your students didn’t participate in this year’s Walk to School Day/Month events, this is the perfect time to start planning for next year. Take a quick look at some of the resources available at the link below. I’m sure you’ll see how easy it would be to gather a group of parents to spearhead a cool event that will build community as it creates wonderful memories for students, families, and staff at your school.

    International Walk to School in the USA
    This U.S. Walk to School site provides links to tips for starting a Walk to School Day event as well as tons of ideas for promoting the walk, planning special events and classroom activities, involving sponsors, and more. The next Walk to School Day is scheduled for October 5, 2011.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Is Your School's Food Drive Just Ahead?
    Check Out Some Fun Ideas!


    Many schools run school-wide food drives around the Thanksgiving and December holidays.

    Others run them during January, to coincide with the “Souper” Bowl service project. Or in March, as part of the National PTO’s SchoolsServe National School Food Drive.

    If your school is planning a food drive for the weeks ahead -- or anytime -- here are some fun ideas you might use.

    Stuff the Turkey. If your school’s food drive is held in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, you might theme that effort around a Thanksgiving turkey. Wrap a big barrel in brown craft paper to form the body of a turkey. Put the barrel near a wall and tape a large turkey head and big paper feathers to the wall. Invite students to “stuff the turkey” full of food for your local food bank.

    Promote the Food Drive. Besides the usual flyers, you might have local grocery stores provide brown paper bags for students to decorate. In the weeks leading up to the drive, baggers can stuff shopper’s purchases into bags that promote your food drive with free advertising. Another greener way to promote the drive is to create food drive mobiles. Recycle an old grocery bag into a hanging advertisement for the drive; hang from that bag drawings that represent the types of food most needed by your local food bank or soup kitchen. See simple instructions for creating this mobile on Crayola’s Web site at this link: Food Bank Mobile.

    Track Your Class. Students might use this November Coloring Calendar to track the number of food items brought in each day. At the end of the drive, have young students answer questions about the number of items contributed on different days and have older students add up the numbers to learn their total contribution. In addition, you might print out the calendar on a sheet of transparency film. Place the transparency on an overhead projector so you can project and trace the image onto a large sheet of craft paper or a bulletin board. This large calendar will serve as a spot where the school-wide contribution totals can be posted and tallied.

    Make a Living Graph. When the drive comes to an end, use chalk to draw a large graph grid on an asphalt-covered playground surface. Students can create a bar graph to show the number of contributions (the y axis) brought in each day (the x axis) of the drive. Older students (or the student who contributed the most items from each class) might stand at the x and y coordinates to create a graph that shows school-wide totals day by day. Use a colorful rope to connect the students to create a living line graph. Have someone take pictures or video of the event from a second-floor window or the school roof. Better yet, for some great PR invite a local news photographer or TV station team to report the event.

    Food Drive Word Problems. At the end of the drive, use the data collected during the food drive to create a page of math word problems. Create a different set of problems for each grade level, based on the math skills those students have learned in class. Students won’t even realize they are doing math as they solve these real-world problems. See examples of word problems for different grade levels in this Education World lesson plan: Graphing the Annual Food Drive.

    READ MORE

    Feeding a Community
    Scott Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois, plans a food drive each fall (“Thanks and Giving”) and another in the spring (“Children Helping Children”). Click the link above to learn more about this school’s community service efforts.

    Successful Canned Food Drive Ideas
    This message board on the AtoZ Teacher Stuff site is full of great ideas for educators, from educators.

    Service Learning Projects
    The Pro Teacher site presents this message board with teacher-contributed ideas that can help students make a difference in their communities.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Principal Turnover
    Impacts Student Achievement


    As students in Washington, D.C., headed back to school this year, nearly one quarter of them were greeted by new principals [read the article]. In Pinellas County, Florida, 27 of the district’s 118 schools have new leaders at the helm this year, and 75 of those schools have had two or more principals over the past five years [read the article].

    The high turnover rates among school leaders in those two districts are not all that unusual. High turnover is widespread. Such turnover is impacted by a wide range of causes, from early retirement packages offered to senior principals in order to generate budget savings to the appointment of new principals to turn around “failing” schools. In addition, some districts maintain policies that require principal rotation as a means of reinvigorating schools and their leaders.

    Many of the reasons for school-leader turnover are unavoidable or can be justified. But districts would be wise to take notes from a study released in August that affirms the connection between strong and stable leadership and student achievement. Strong leadership has a more direct and meaningful impact on achievement than do factors such as geography or poverty, the study says.

    The study also found that, on average, fairly rapid principal turnover (about one new principal every three to four years) can have negative effects on school culture. Principals newly assigned to schools who initially work within the existing culture of their schools -- rather than attempting to quickly, substantially change it -- are more likely to avoid negative turnover effects.

    STRONG “COMMUNITIES” CAN WEATHER TURNOVER

    According to the study, leaders are most effective when they see themselves as working collaboratively towards clear, common goals with district personnel, other principals, and teachers. District support for shared leadership -- including mentoring for new principals and professional development for all principals -- is the key.

    The study also affirms that higher-performing schools ask for more input and engagement from a wider variety of stakeholders and provide more opportunities for influence by teachers. When teachers feel attached to a professional learning community, the impact on student learning is positive and measurable.

    Most important of all, when teachers -- as well as parents and other community members -- are an integral part of the leadership in a school, they can often play a big role in ensuring that a change in leadership at the top will not negatively impact student achievement.

    LEARN MORE

    Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning
    This study is the result of a six-year investigation of the links between leadership and student learning. It was commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and carried out by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement and the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education [read the study].

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Anti-Bullying Videos
    Share Powerful Messages


    This month, thousands of schools will recognize Bullying Prevention Month with special school-wide assemblies and teacher lessons. Below I share a handful of videos and other resources that will make powerful additions to your assembly program or classroom discussions.

    SEVEN VIDEOS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

    If you have a big screen in your auditorium, consider sharing a video or two. These videos will offer strikingly effective visual confirmation of the themes you present. If you are not planning a school-wide assembly, you might share some of these videos during your school-wide news broadcasts. Or share the videos with your teachers, who can use them to start meaningful discussions in their classrooms.



    Hero in the Hallway
    This upbeat music video (above) drives home the point that bullying can happen anywhere -- and anyone can help put an end to it.

    ‘No, No Bully’ Music Video
    This colorful animated video makes it clear that anyone can say no to bullying -- and that it is cool to do so.

    Anti-Bullying Video
    A cool blonde boy dyes his hair red in an act of solidarity against bullying.

    ‘If You Help Someone’ Music Video
    The catchy lyric and bluesy sound of this video makes the point that “If you help someone, you know you help yourself.”

    Words Hurt
    A 30-second public-service announcement drives home the message that words can hurt.

    Be a Champion
    Kids who are part of the after-school drama class at San Jacinto Elementary School created this video advice for handling bullies.

    Bullied to Death: ‘Wanda’s Song’
    This video presents a montage of photos of kids who committed suicide because of bullying. (For middle or high school use only.)


    RESOURCES FROM THE NATIONAL CENTER
    FOR BULLYING PREVENTION


    If you’re looking for powerful videos to share with students, the National Center for Bullying Prevention has some good ones to use with elementary students. Just go to Kids Against Bullying and click Watch This, then Kid Vids.

    If you teach middle or high school, be sure to check out the Center’s Teens Against Bullying page.

    The Center’s Schools and Parents page has links to lesson plans, role plays, and much more.


    RESOURCES FROM EDUCATION WORLD

    Special Theme: Bullying
    School violence is an issue in the news and on the minds of educators and administrators alike. Education World takes a look at the problem of bullying and how to stop it. This archive page includes articles, strategies, lesson plans, and much more.

    Students Pledge to End Bullying
    Students and staff at Forsyth (Missouri) Elementary School have chosen to take a stand against bullying. A bulletin board display of student-signed handprints is a very visual reminder of the PreK-4 students’ very public commitment to take a stand against bullying.

    Stop Bullying Now
    Education World offers ten lessons designed to teach students to respect diversity and peacefully resolve ideological differences. Included: Activities for teaching kids about empathy, anger management, and effective conflict resolution.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Cool School Tool #5:
    ‘Superteacher’ Site a
    Treasure for Your Teachers


    It’s a syllables worksheet…
    It’s a math puzzle…
    It’ a brain teaser…
    It’s SuperTeacherWorksheets.com!


    Add to your super hero status by sharing this great resource with your teachers: the Super Teacher Worksheets site presents veritable Kryptonite for student boredom!

    Super Teacher Worksheets is the labor of love of Tim Wei, a third-grade teacher in upstate New York. Some time ago this mild-mannered educator took time to browse through the games and printables he had created over the years for his own students. He had accumulated a hard drive full of them!

    “I figured I would upload the printables to share with other teachers,” Wei told Education World. Today, his site presents hundreds of free printables for teachers.

    “The Web site is my hobby,” says Wei. He makes money from advertising that appears on the site, but most of the money he earns goes to pay for server space and additional printables.

    “The site just took off and grew and grew,” Wei explained. “I am overwhelmed by the positive response I have gotten in emails from teachers and on my SuperTeacherWorksheets Facebook page.”

    “The site isn't flashy -- no bells and whistles,” said Wei. (Hmmm. Not flashy. Kinda conjures up an image of Clark Kent, doesn't it?)

    “It's just text, links, and pdf worksheets for teachers,” he added.

    Which is just what teachers want!

    RIDDLES AND CODES HELP KIDS LEARN MATH

    “Learning math is fun when you're solving puzzles and riddles,” says Tim Wei. That's the secret behind two ebooks he offers for sale on a separate Web site.

    "The two books offer fun ways for kids to build the math skills they'll need throughout their lives,” added Wei.

    If you’re looking for a nice resource to add to your teachers’ professional development libraries, browse these ebooks today:

    The Math Riddle Book
    Kids complete a set of math problems. The answers to those problems help them to decode the answer to a laugh-out-loud riddle.

    Secret Code Math
    Kids use a picture-symbol key to decode math problems.

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    'Thank a Teacher' Video Has Many Uses




    The folks at Mudpies and Butterflies contacted me a few days ago to share a cool little video they created to thank teachers in schools where parents use their free communication tools. As I watched the video [above] I thought of the ways busy principals might use it in their schools. You might use it to…

    Open -- or end -- a staff meeting. The video’s inspirational message is one that will resonate with teachers. Viewing it might be a nice “reward” after a particularly focused meeting where teachers have worked or debated hard. It will be an especially timely message if your session was focused on meeting the needs of all students.

    Welcome parents to Open House night. Open House is coming up. This video might play in the background as parents gather, or in select hallway locations as parents wander from room to room to meet teachers. Play the video in rotation with a photo montage of your students busy at work in their classrooms.

    Share during American Education Week. If your Open House has already passed, American Education Week (November 14-20) is not far behind. This video will pay a nice tribute to teachers’ efforts on behalf of students all year long!

    Play in your school’s main office or Parent Welcome Center. There, the “Thank a Teacher” video might play on its own or in rotation with a video about your own school and its mission.

    Inspire student writing. Share the video with students and ask them to write about ways in which a teacher has inspired them. You might ask permission to share some of their essays with the school community during Teacher Appreciation Week next May.

    While you’re considering how you might use the video to inspire students, parents, or your staff, you might also take a quick tour of Mudpies and Butterflies to learn how their tools might add value to your school’s mission.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    NBC Embarks on
    ‘Education Nation’ Summit


    NBC News is about to embark on its much heralded “Education Nation” Summit, the September 27-28 centerpiece of its weeklong “Education Nation” initiative that begins on the “Meet the Press” broadcast of Sunday, September 26.

    The Summit will convene the foremost plicymakers, educators, members of the business community, and engaged citizens in a national discussion about the challenges, potential solutions, and innovations spanning today’s education landscape.

    “The response we’ve received from leaders in education has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Lisa Gersh, President of Strategic Initiatives at NBC News. “The experts we have convened at ‘Education Nation’ will highlight some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in education in this country, jumpstarting a national conversation about one of the most pressing issues of our time.”

    For the entire week of September 27, all NBC platforms -- “Nightly News,” “Today,” “Your Business,” MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo, msnbc.com, and nbclearn.com -- will highlight educational success stories, uncover staggering truths and myths about education, and demonstrate how poor education cripples our economy and society.

    Participants in the Education Nation Summit will include
  • Michael Bloomberg: Mayor, City of New York
  • Geoffrey Canada: CEO & President of Harlem Children's Zone Project
  • Arne Duncan: US Secretary of Education
  • Byron Garrett: CEO of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
  • Allan Golston, President, US Program, The Gates Foundation
  • Reed Hastings: Founder & CEO of Netflix
  • Walter Isaacson: President & CEO of the Aspen Institute
  • Joel Klein: Chancellor of New York City Schools
  • Wendy Kopp: CEO and Founder of Teach for America
  • John Legend: Musician; Founder of the Show Me Campaign
  • Gregory McGinity: Managing Director of Policy, The Broad Education Foundation
  • Bill Pepicello, Ph.D.: President of University of Phoenix
  • Sally Ride: First Female Astronaut; Vice-chair of Change the Equation
  • Michelle Rhee: Chancellor, District of Columbia Public School System of Washington, D.C.
  • Margaret Spellings: Former US Secretary of Education
  • Antonio Villaraigosa: Mayor, City of Los Angeles, Californi
  • Randi Weingarten: President of American Federation of Teachers (AFT-CLO)

  • The Summit’s 11 panel sessions will present discussions on important topics in education such as:
  • Job One: Preparing America's students to compete in the global economy
  • The Innovation Gap: Bringing the technology revolution to the schoolhouse
  • Change Agents: How do we reinvent the status quo at all levels?
  • Good Apples: How do we keep good teachers, throw out bad ones, and put a new shine on the profession?
  • A Fresh Start: Leveling the playing field before school begins
  • Shrinking the Achievement Gap: Is education the civil rights issue of our time?
  • The Parent and the Village: Fostering a learning culture in our communities

  • NBC’s “Education Nation” mission statement states, “We will continue our coverage to hold our leaders and communities accountable for improving outcomes in the near and long terms. NBC News will follow this story until this mission is fulfilled.”

    LEARN MORE

    What Is ‘Education Nation’? The Education Nation Summit will be held in the rink space at Rockefeller Plaza (New York City) on September 27th and 28th. Participants will come together for a series of panel sessions on the challenges of America's education system, the success stories, and the solutions. Learn more

    Learning Plaza. From September 26th-30th, Rockefeller Plaza will be transformed into a "Learning Plaza," an interactive experience open to the public that will explore some of the most innovative aspects of American education. Learn more

    Teacher Town Hall. Hosted by NBC News anchor Brian Williams, the Teacher Town Hall will bring together teachers from across the country, both in-person and online, to brainstorm ideas, talk about what works in the classroom, and highlight the challenges of today’s education system. The Teacher Town Hall will air LIVE on MSNBC and stream at EducationNation.com, Scholastic.com, iVillage.com, and msnbc.com at 12 p.m. EDT on Sunday, September 26th. Learn more

    For more information visit EducationNation.com or Facebook.com/EducationNation.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Build Students’
    S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G Skills This Year


    Road workers in North Carolina won’t be winning any spelling bees. Their misspelling of the word S-H-C-O-O-L (in 10-foot tall letters nonetheless) has them r-e-d with embarrassment. The workers learned a valuable lesson from their error: misspelling school is not sh-cool. (View a video news report)

    A SH-COOL SPELLING TOOL

    Seeing that news report out of North Carolina reminded me of a new online spelling tool that I ran across a month ago. Maybe you have been to the BigIQkids.com Web site. If you haven’t been there, take a quick look around. BigIQkids is a cool tool to pass along to your teachers. They can use the grade-level word lists that are provided, or they can create their own word lists for students to use. Students practice or test themselves and earn “coins” they can use to play a wide variety of fun online games. BigIQkids’ spelling program -- and its other programs -- are free of charge. The site also offers premium programs that enable teachers or parents to monitor and receive emails about students’ progress.

    MORE SH-COOL SPELLING RESOURCES

    For more great spelling resources see Education World’s special Spelling archive. There you will find dozens of spelling lesson and game ideas, including these:

    Five Spelling Games
    Spice up weekly spelling-list study with these five fun activities. (Grades K-8)

    Earn Spelling Points
    More than 20 activities for spicing up your weekly spelling lessons.

    Those resources will help make your students A+ spellers. And what could be sh-cooler than that!

    Monday, May 24, 2010


    Senior Students Play Active Roll
    In Welcoming Newbies


    As another school year is winding down, doesn’t it seem a bit strange that so much of your time is being consumed by planning for next year? Chances are you’ve already met the students who will comprise next year’s incoming class. It’s also likely that you have held special events for those students and their parents. You're doing all that to ensure that your students’ -- and their parents' -- transition to their new school goes smoothly.

    As you and your staff manage the upcoming transition, I hope you haven’t overlooked one of your school’s most valuable resources: the students who will comprise your senior class. Their energy and enthusiasm -- and their experience -- can go a long way toward to making your school’s “newbies” feel truly welcomed.

    The stories below share how three schools are making use of their “seniors” as ambassadors and mentors to new schoolmates.

    SENIORS REACH OUT

    At Perry Hall (Maryland) High School, students in next year’s senior class are busy planning special events for the incoming freshmen. Those events aim to make new students feel welcomed and help them over the typical transition hurdles and angst. Students at both ends of the school seniority totem poll make connections by playing beach volleyball and engaging in other activities.



    As the video above attests, the oldest students in your school can be among the biggest cheerleaders for new students. Their enthusiasm for special “Senior Reach Out” events can go a long way in making the “newbies” on the block feel part of the school fabric.

    If you have a moment, take time to enjoy the students’ second Senior Reach Out promotional video: Senior Reach Out #2. These student-produced videos, which are shown on the school TV station to promote participation in Senior Reach Out events, are part goofy but entirely engaging -- right down to the Beatle’s “Come Together” soundtrack.

    SENIOR 'CREW' PROVIDES A VITAL LINK

    At South Central High School in Winterville, North Carolina, the school’s oldest students play an active roll in teaching new students shortcuts to success. Thanks to the school's “Link Crew,” new students are made to feel comfortable throughout their first year of high school.

    Link Crew is a national effort, a student orientation and transition program that originated on the West Coast. Among this year’s Top 100 High Schools (Newsweek), seven of the schools use Link Crew to connect students and create a positive school climate.

    Link Crew’s student members commit to an ongoing relationship with the freshmen class. Leaders and their groups meet throughout the year to address challenges that new students are encountering.

    “It’s all about building relationships,” Amy Hilliard, the teacher who heads South Central's Link Crew program, told the Daily Reflector. “It's not just over after Thursday. It's a yearlong program.” [read the article]

    BREAKFAST IN BROOKLYN

    Each fall, the senior class at all-girls St. Joseph High School in Brooklyn, New York, plans a very special breakfast. Each new student in the school’s freshman class is assigned a senior “sister.” On breakfast day, seniors and their sisters give up a first-period class for some bonding and fun over pancakes and eggs.

    The seniors help make breakfast day extra special by providing small gifts for their sisters. Mentoring relationships formed that day between “sisters” comprise a long-standing tradition at St. Joseph’s.

    One freshman provided her input on the breakfast for an article in the school newspaper. “I think the breakfast was a nice experience,” she said, “but the food could have been better.” [read the article]

    READ MORE ABOUT SMOOTH TRANSITIONS

    Education World Article Archive: Transitions

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Cool School Tool #4:
    Mouse Mischief Gives
    Teachers Immediate Feedback




    Have you had a chance to check out Microsoft’s new Mouse Mischief tool? This new freebie from Microsoft is an easy way to engage students and give teachers immediate feedback about how their lessons are going.

    You’ve probably seen demonstrations of Classroom Response Systems (CRS) click-response tools that teachers can use to create multiple-choice questions. Students use their individual clickers to respond and teachers receive immediate feedback about how students are grasping the content. Microsoft’s Mouse Mischief mimics those CRS tools, but what makes Mouse Mischief so cool is that it is a free download. Instead of clickers, individual students use a mouse (wireless, or connected to the teacher’s computer via a USB hub/port) to respond to the teacher’s questions. Mouse Mischief is an inexpensive and easy way to engage students -- even shy students who are usually hesitant to participate in classroom activities.

    In order to set up Mouse Mischief, all teachers need is a computer, a projector, and Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 or Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007. Downloading Mouse Mischief automatically installs a new tab -- the Multiple-Mouse tab -- at the top of the PowerPoint page. Teachers can click that tab to follow an easy step-by-step process for creating yes/no or multiple-choice (up to ten choices) questions.

    Using Mouse Mischief enables teachers to see how their lessons are going. If the results of a question indicate many students are not grasping a new concept, teachers can re-teach or adapt the lesson to ensure students' success.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT MOUSE MISCHIEF

    Are you interested in learning more about this new free tool from Microsoft? The two video links below will give you a better understanding of why Mouse Mischief is so valuable and how easy it is to install and use.

    Mouse Mischief: Sultan School District Case Study
    Learn how one California school district has adopted the Microsoft Mouse Mischief tool. They have found the tool to be inexpensive and easy for teachers to use. Best of all, it requires little or no tech support.

    Microsoft Mouse Mischief Demo
    A teacher created this video that provides step-by-step instructions for creating multiple-choice questions using Mouse Mischief. Learn to create questions to be answered by individual students or teams of students.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

    These resources from Microsoft help familiarize educators with the capabilities of Mouse Mischief.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Get Kids Moving During Fitness Month


    At a time when many school districts are paring back physical education programs, some others are realizing the true value of physical activity and beefing up PE. Including physical activity as a vital part of the curriculum and the school day has led to improved morale and increased student achievement, they say.

    ‘HIGH’ ON EXERCISE

    At Naperville (Illinois) Central High School, the first class of the students’ day is gym class. That scheduling decision was made five years ago as part of an effort to “jumpstart students’ brains,” according to Paul Zientarski, chairman of the school’s PE department.

    And the results have been astounding. Students are now reading 1-1/2 years above grade level, and math scores have shot up exponentially.

    Those results don’t surprise Dr. Charles Hillman of the University of Illinois. His research shows that after 30 minutes on the treadmill, students actually do as much as 10 percent better at problem solving.

    “Exercise is good for attention, it’s good for how fast individuals process information and how they perform on cognitive tasks,” Hillman recently told ABC News [read the article and view a video].

    When students exercise first thing, “all their brain cells are working,” added John Ratey, an associate clinical professor at Harvard University. “And when their brain cells work, they pour out neuro transmitters, and they also pour out these brain growth factors which help our brain cells knit together.”

    FITNESS CENTERS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS?

    At Sunray (Florida) Elementary School, Principal Lee-Anne Yerkey and PE coach Scott Carlson thought a fitness room might generate student interest in exercise.

    By all measures, it has done that and more.

    With careful instruction from Carlson and plenty of pictures showing proper use of the equipment, kindergarten through second graders exercise their upper and lower bodies and their cores while listening to music. Third- to fifth-graders do circuit training, work out with weights, and do 20 minutes of cardio exercises. All students keep fitness logs to record their progress.

    Students can see the benefits, says Carlson. And that could be the key to providing students with activities and skills they will use to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives, he added.

    “They [students] are so enthusiastic. They get off the bus and say, ‘I have fitness lab today!’ -- and that makes my day!” Carlson told Education World [read the article, Students Pumped Up Over Fitness Rooms].

    MOVEMENT GETS BRAINS MOVING

    Physical activity isn't just for PE teachers. It's a tool that any teacher can use to help focus students and boost achievement, says Martha Swirzinski, a movement educator whose company, Movement Plus+, trains educators how to incorporate activity into their classrooms.

    “Eighty-five percent of students are kinesthetic learners, which means they learn better when things are hands-on,” Swirzinski told the Newport News Daily Press [read the article].

    “When children sit for longer than 10 minutes, oxygen and glucose are pulled from the brain," added Swirzinski. "When that happens, after a certain amount of time the brain gets sleepy and basically turns off. By incorporating movement into classroom lessons, you can help those students who may have a harder time focusing.”

    Incorporating movement increases students’ abilities to function at a higher level and retain more information, she added.

    The biggest challenge that Swirzinski and many other movement educators face is convincing district leaders and teachers that increasing the amount of time students spend in motion will benefit them academically too. Bigger than any other barrier is the belief that movement is just for fun and isn’t as important as other instruction.

    “Changing attitudes is the most challenging part,” says Swirzinski. “Movement isn’t just a way to get energy out and have fun. The body helps train the brain how to learn, and it helps keep our kids healthy.”

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

    Education World PE and Health Subject Center

    Education World Physical Education Article Archive

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    PTA Recognizes Outstanding
    Family-School Partnerships


    Last week, the National PTA recognized seven schools with it annual Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnerships Awards. The awards recognize school PTAs that put strong practices into place to involve parents and families into the lives of their schools.

    This year’s Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award went to Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia. Barrett’s PTA will use the award’s $2,000 cash prize to expand Roving Readers, its school-wide literacy program. Roving Readers is a diverse group of parents and neighbors who serve as guest readers and storytellers in the school.

    “We are thrilled that our PTA was recognized with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership award,” said Principal Terry Bratt. “Our parent group has been an extremely supportive partner and has provided us with a number of resources through its fundraising efforts…. There is no doubt that our students want to come to school every day because of the activities and programs we have in place.”

    Six runners-up represent outstanding efforts in implementing each of the PTA’s six National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Those standards, and the schools that were recognized, are
    ● Standard 1: Welcoming all families into the school community
       Chattachhoochee High School, Alpharetta, Georgia;
    ● Standard 2: Communicating effectively
       Olivewood Elementary School, Lake Forest, California
    ● Standard 3: Supporting student success
       Chapel Trail Elementary School, Pembroke Pines, Florida
    ● Standard 4: Speaking up for every child
       Seven Oaks Elementary School, Eagle, Idaho
    ● Standard 5: Sharing power
       Harmony Elementary School, Goshen, Kentucky
    ● Standard 6: Collaborating with the community
       Northeast Elementary School, Evergreen Park, Illinois

    TEN TRUTHS ABOUT PARENT INVOLVEMENT

    The research is clear and convincing: Regardless of income or background, when parents are involved, students are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, enroll in higher-level programs, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, graduate, and go on to postsecondary education. Here are 10 more truths about parent involvement from the National PTA.

    1. All parents have hopes and goals for their children.

    2. Parents differ in their abilities and/or resources to help their children
        reach those goals.

    3. The parent is the central contributor to a child’s education.

    4. Parent involvement must be seen as a legitimate element of education
        and deserves equal emphasis with elements such as school
        improvement and evaluation.

    5. Parent involvement is an ongoing process, not a series of events.

    6. Parent involvement requires a shared vision, policy, and
        framework for planning programs and practices that are
        connected to student learning.

    7. Many barriers to parent involvement are found within school
        practices, attitudes, and assumptions.

    8. Successful parent involvement programs help families guide their
        children’s learning from preschool through high school.

    9. Families from diverse backgrounds have their own set of norms
        and experiences that often influence their relationship with
        schools.

    10. Parents are more likely to become involved when they understand
          that they should be involved; they feel capable of making a
          contribution; and they feel invited by the school and their
          children.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FROM THE NATIONAL PTA

    Family-School Partnerships
    When families, schools, and communities work together, student achievement improves, teacher morale rises, communication increases, and family, school, and community connections multiply.

    PTA National Standards Implementation Guide
    This guide serves as a tool for empowering people to work together with an end goal of building family-school partnerships and student success.

    PTA Great Idea Bank
    This social network enables parents to interact and learn from each other how to overcome the challenges of parenting today.

    PARENT INVOLVEMENT RESOURCES FROM EDUCATION WORLD

    Parent Involvement in Schools
    Learn about practical ways in which schools are involving parents. Read about parent involvement strategies that are working for others -- and that could work for you.

    Partners for Student Success
    Many schools or districts are taking unique approaches to bringing together schools with their parents and community to help ensure student achievement. Articles in this series are based on the work of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University.

    Fundraising Ideas for Schools
    The articles in this Education World archive share practical fundraising ideas that are working in schools around the world. If you’re looking for fun or creative ideas, check out these from principals in the trenches.

    Newsletters 'R Us
    Here you will find newsletter templates, clipart, and cut-and-paste features and fillers for your school-to-home newsletters. All of our Newsletters 'R Us features are free to copy and paste in your school pubs or on your school Web site.

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Keeping Learning Alive As the
    Countdown to Summer Gets Underway


    With state tests behind them and the school year winding down, many students (and teachers) might be inclined to relax and enjoy the slide into summer. That's why wise princpals often step into action at this time of year to encourage teachers to tackle cool projects that keep the learning alive as the countdown to summer gets underway.

    I was reading an article the other day about a group of students in Virginia who were collecting their community’s history, and I thought, "Now there's one nice way to end a school year on a high note!" And then I began thinking of others.

    STUDENTS GATHER COMMUNITY HISTORY

    Teacher Dawn Henderson wanted to involve her students in learning about the history of their Richmond, Virginia, neighborhood, but her search for resources turned up painfully little. That spurred Henderson to write a grant and gather a group of students for a special after-school program that would gather information from neighbors before it was lost.

    A tale of a trolley stop long forgotten… the legend of pirates who came up the river and buried gold… and the story of how a whole community came together to build a well for their school. Those are just a few of the stories that Henderson's fourth-graders at Bensley Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia, have learned about as they researched their community and talked with neighbors who have lived there for many years.

    The result of Henderson’s project is a video history that students will finish up any day now. Eventually, that history will be gathered into book form too. [read more]

    Meanwhile, middle school students in Pittsburgh are learning how to research, document, and record the history of their community. The students at Walter L. Parks Middle School are listening to and recording the life-stories and experiences of community elders. This spring, the students are putting together a video documentary that features those interviews and other stories. [read more]

    MORE END-OF-YEAR IDEAS

    As I think more deeply about what the students in Richmond and Pittsburgh are doing, I understand that a community-history project might be too involved to tackle at the end of the school year; indeed, it can take many months to bring such a project to fruition. But maybe a smaller project that investigates a specific event in town history; an event in national history as told through the words of locals; the history behind special landmarks around the community; or the history of your students’ own school might make an appropriate focus for a few weeks.

    If none of those ideas sound doable, be sure to check out this Education World resource with more end-of-year fun and learning that I have gathered for you to pass along to teachers:

    End-of-Year Lessons and Projects
    The end of the school year can by a trying time for many teachers. That's because you're trying to teach and students are trying to get you to turn on the VCR or give them free time. There's no need to spend your last days of school on a guilt trip if you use these meaningful and fun activities.

    MORE STUDENT-CREATED HISTORIES

    Students in many schools have worked to gather the history of their neighborhoods and larger communities. A few more examples of such histories can be found at these links:
    Bridlemile Elementary School Oral History Project
    Ambler Elementary School: Oral Histories
    High School Students Interview Local Veterans of the Civil Rights Struggle (McComb, Mississippi)
    D.C. Everest Area Schools (Wisconsin) Oral History Project
    Hidden Stories, Discovered Voices: Maryland Students Collect African-American History

    ADDITIONAL ORAL HISTORY RESOURCES

    Oral History
    All History Is Local: Students as Archivists
    Step-By-Step Guide to Oral History

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Games Add Elements of Fun,
    Much More, to Math Learning


    Most math educators know that games aren’t just for fun. They can be powerful teaching tools, too. Playing games at school is an easy way for students to have fun as they learn and exercise valuable math concepts.

    Teachers who use games in the classroom point out that they can be used to teach a wide variety of other skills, too. Games help children develop social interaction skills as they teach them to follow directions, take turns, and win and lose gracefully.

    A 2008 study out of Carnegie-Mellon University seems to back up the thought that games are a great math instruction tool. The study involved 124 students at ten Head Start centers who played a game called “The Great Race” (a game similar to the popular board game “Chutes & Ladders”). Students who played the game for about 80 minutes over a two-week period improved their ability to count, recognize numbers, and compare and estimate number values.

    But games aren’t just for teachers and kids. Parents can get in on this act too.

    PLAYING MATH GAMES AT HOME

    A second experiment conducted by the same group at Carnegie-Mellon showed a correlation between math achievement and students’ exposure to math games at home.

    That second study seems to be one worth sharing with parents in your next newsletter. Provide a news blurb about the study along with a list of some common and inexpensive games to get parents and kids “playing with math” at home. Popular games that teach math skills include:
    Candy Land
    Chutes & Ladders
    Uno
    Yahtzee
    Trouble
    Racko

    While those games can usually be found in local toy stores or online for under $10, parents needn’t spend a penny to play math games at home. Paper-and-pencil math activities are easy to find. Add readily available dice and a deck of playing cards and they will have dozens of math games for at-home play.

    “You don’t have to go out and buy fancy games,” says Dr. Carol Copple, a director with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Any game that requires counting and calculation could boost young students’ math ability, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [read the article].

    If parents are looking for a starting point, you might use -- or steer them to -- some of these math game resources.

    Math Skills With Dice
    Four simple games; one game for reinforcing each of the four basic operations.

    Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks
    Thirty-six games using dice or a deck of playing cards. Appropriate grade levels are identified for each game.

    Math Puzzles and Games for Kids
    A variety of games help parents help kids become successful at math.

    Pencil-and-Paper Games for Math Night
    Three dot games challenge kids to think mathematically.

    Math for the Fun of It
    Tips and activities for helping children learn math at home.

    Math@Home
    Copy and paste one of these activities in each issue of your school-to-home newsletter.

    Math Facts: Online Resources
    Education World has compiled this list of resources, which proves that
    kids + computers = math learning.

    For more math resources, be sure to visit Education World’s Math Subject Center.