Monday, January 25, 2010

Kids and Media:
Helping Parents Set Limits on Media Use

No doubt you read the news reports about the latest survey of kids’ media use. Last Wednesday’s New York Times headline sums up that news: If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online.

The new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation says that kids ages 8 to 18 spend more than 7-1/2 hours a day using media such as computers, cell phones, and televisions. If you do the math, that means kids are attached to technology more hours a week than most adults spend at work.

Here are just a few of the facts revealed by kids’ responses to the latest survey:
● 66 percent of kids own cell phones (up from 39 percent five years ago)
● 76 percent have iPods and other MP3 players (up from 17 percent)
● Kids spend 33 minutes a day talking on the cell phones; they spend 49 minutes using their cell phones for other purposes (for example, playing games, watching videos…)
● Three-fourths of all kids in grades 7-12 have a profile on a social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook
● The most popular media activities among kids include social networking (22 minutes a day), playing games (17 minutes), and visiting video sites (15 minutes)

Of course the information revealed in the latest survey comes as no surprise to many educators. And it should come as no surprise to media-enabling parents either. But that doesn’t mean we adults are prepared to deal with the statistics or draw the line when technology and social networking get in the way of school or schoolwork.


The survey revealed another not-so-surprising concept: rules help.

Twenty-eight percent of kids reported that their parents impose rules on the amount of time they spend watching TV. Even more parents impose rules when it comes to playing video games (30 percent) and computer use (36 percent). So it makes perfect sense that kids whose parents set limits on their use of media spend nearly 3 hours less a day using it. And kids who spend less time using media tend to get better grades.

Perhaps you will consider sharing some of those facts in your next parent newsletter? The facts might just engage more parents in setting time limits on media use. Just as most parents don’t let their children eat junk food all day long or stay out all night, the news of this new survey might get more parents thinking about the impact of media. You might even include in your next parent newsletter these tips for setting media-use limits from the folks at

Start good habits early. Establish boundaries. Start when your kids are young by restricting access to media: Turn the phone off during homework. IM, too. And keep an eye on the clock. The secret to healthy media use is to establish time limits and stick to them.

Keep distractions to a minimum. Try to help kids do one thing at a time. For older kids, make sure that social networking and chatting happen after homework is over -- or at timed intervals.

Be a role model. When kids are around, set an example by using media the way you want them to use it. Keep mobile devices away from the dinner table and turn the TV off when it's not actively being watched.


Parent Advice: Setting Computer Limits Tips
More tips from the folks at

Setting Computer Time Limits
Share this handout with parents. A Spanish version of the handout is also available.

Resources for Educators
Common Sense Media provides many resources, including Workshop kits to help you produce an event that will help parents monitor and set rules for media use at home.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blog Bits #3:
New from Bill Nye
Principal Crowned ‘King’
Teaching Financial Responsibility…

My files are full of ideas and stories to share, so from time to time I clean out the files by sharing a few “bits” --- things of interest, things to think about, or things to share with your staff or students. Following is my third batch of Blog Bits of principal concern and interest.


Bill Nye, known worldwide as The Science Guy, is back with a new passion -- math! As he did with science, so Bill can add excitement and a new perspective to teaching and learning math. In this original, all-new series from Disney, Bill teaches algebraic principals such as fractions, exponents, and proportions in colorful and unexpected ways. By using Nye’s exciting conceptual approach to learning key mathematic principles, kids everywhere can discover how algebra relates to the world around us.

The new series includes two DVDs, that would make great gifts for the math teachers in your school.
● Solving for X: Pre-Algebra, Volume 1
● Solving for X: Algebra, Volume 1
Learn more about these DVDs and others in the Disney lineup at Disney Educational Videos: Math and Science.


When Principal Greg Alexander turned 40, the kids and teachers at Sacajawea Elementary School in Caldwell, Idaho, gathered in the gymnasium. There they had positioned a king’s throne in the center. They sat Alexander down on his throne and presented him with a crown, scepter, and a cape signed by all the kids and teachers.

That special birthday celebration stands as testament to Alexander’s special brand of “servant leadership,” which resulted in his school being named one of three Distinguished Schools in Idaho for 2009.

Read more about Greg Alexander and his success at Sacajawea in an Idaho Statesman article, Principal Rallies Kids to Read at Caldwell’s ‘Distinguished School’.


Saving Our Futures: A Financial Responsibility Program for Young People is a free online curriculum that teaches young people in middle and high school about financial responsibility. The curriculum contains six chapters and 26 modules that can be used in whole or in part to teach students about budgeting, saving, and more. The curriculum, from, also includes extensive resources and provides opportunities for quality service-learning projects. Learn more about the Saving Our Futures curriculum, perfect for classroom and after-school program use.


Habitat for Humanity’s Teacher Fellows program educates teachers about Habitat for Humanity and the volunteer opportunities available to engage their students in Habitat’s mission. During a weeklong summer build, participants will build with Habitat and learn about the local community and educational resources Habitat provides. Participants will then lead a new Habitat project with the students they work with in the year following the trip and share their knowledge and resources with colleagues.

To learn more, or to fill out an application, go to the Web page Habitat for Humanity: Teacher Fellows.


If your school includes students in the upper elementary or middle school grades, provide them with the math problems below to solve. (Answers are shown in orange.) Do students notice the symmetry of the answers that result?

Before presenting the problem, you might set a few ground rules:
  • Name please. Write your name at the top of your paper.
  • “Show me the work!” The detailed math must be shown for all steps of the problem.
  • Watch for the Prize Patrol. All correct answers will be entered into a contest. One winner’s paper will be drawn at random and the winner will be presented with a special prize. (If you have a deep prize drawer, you might even have multiple winners. How about a winner at each grade level?)

    What a fun -- and educational -- way to keep kids engaged on a rainy indoor-recess day!

    9 X 9 + 7 = 88
    98 X 9 + 6 = 888
    987 X 9 + 5 = 8888
    9876 X 9 + 4 = 88888
    98765 X 9 + 3 = 888888
    987654 X 9 + 2 = 8888888
    9876543 X 9 + 1 = 88888888
    98765432 X 9 + 0 = 888888888
  • Monday, January 11, 2010

    School Projects Support the Troops

    Third-grade students sing a sincere thank you to the men
    and women who protect us in times of war and peace.

    It was around Veterans Day last year that music teacher Michael Souders was searching for a special song -- a song that his students might sing as a thank you to soldiers who are serving and veterans who have served our country. When he couldn’t find a song that sounded like it came from the kids’ hearts, he and his wife, Angela, wrote one.

    Soon after his students at Tussing Elementary School in Colonial Heights, Virginia, performed his song, “Thank You, Soldiers,” Souders posted it to several video-hosting Web sites. Those videos have received tens of thousands of hits, but way more heartwarming have been the letters and emails that Souder, his wife, and their students have received from active soldiers, veterans, and their families all around the world.

    The Souders have posted the sheet music of the song on their Web site, Restored Ministries. There you will find a link to a free download (pdf) of the song lyrics and music for your school, church, or community group.


    When Principal Michael Murphy approached students at Royalton-Hartland High School in Middleport, New York, about doing something special for the troops, he found them ready and eager. As a project, students in Deborah Rey’s class decided to create T-shirts for 56 members of the Marine Wing Support Squadron-472 (MWSS-472).

    Before they could create the shirts, however, they had to raise money for the needed materials. To do that, students turned their classroom into a “coffee shop” for a day. They made baked goods and sold them to members of the school’s senior class. With cash in hand, they went to work creating T-shirts that had the Marine Corps logo and platoon name on the front and the words “Roy-Hart High School’s got your back” on the reverse. The T-shirts were individually gift-wrapped and sent to the troops along with pictures of the students working on the shirts.

    In return, the students received thank you notes and a flag from members of the MWSS-472, the same platoon with which Murphy had served in Iraq some years before.

    Murphy says the experience has benefited his students in many ways. “Hopefully, they’ll pay more attention to the news, become more involved in community and government,” he told the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal.


    We’d love to hear your comments about this blog entry. And we’d like to learn what your school is doing to support our troops around the world or to recognize our veterans for their past service. Your comments (below) about this topic might encourage other school leaders to spur school-wide efforts that honor our brave men and women who serve.


    Students Rewarded with Visit by Soldiers
    Special education students at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, decided to forgo Christmas gifts in order to send care packages to U.S. troops.

    Thank You, Soldiers: A Reprise
    The entire student body at Tussing Elementary joins in on the chorus of “Thank You, Soldiers.”

    Let’s Say Thanks
    Xerox Corporation has created this site, which is designed to deliver millions of cards to servicemen and women overseas with messages of support from home. Each student might choose one of 80 kid-designed postcards to send to U.S. troops and type his or her message on it. The cards will be bundled and mailed to troops with packages sent by Give 2 the Troops. A simple school-wide project!

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    ‘Word of the Day’ Builds Vocab, Test Scores in K-12 Schools

    Students at Deltona (Florida) High School have seen test scores rise as a result of the Word of the Day program. The program instructs students in Latin and Greek roots that will help them unlock thousands of words, explains reading coach Mary Thomas.

    Many schools present a Word of the Day to students as part of their morning announcement or news broadcast routines. Does yours?

    Whether you use a formal program or create their own, Word of the Day is a simple and powerful tool for building students' vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and test scores. In addition, you and your teachers might follow through with the Word of the Day to extend its usefulness.
    You might encourage students to share with you - or submit to you - sentences that make use the Word of the Day. Each day, before you share the new Word of the Day, remind students of the previous day’s word and share a sentence submitted by a student. Be sure to spread around the spotlight so many students have the opportunity to be singled out in this way.
    If you don’t already present a Word of the Day to students in your school, creating a program couldn’t be easier. Check out this sampling of sources you might use to build a program.


    SuperKids Vocabulary Builder
    This site includes many tools and games for building vocabulary. The Word of the Day page offers words for students in upper elementary grades (which I find to be totally appropriate for all elementary grades) as well as individual lists for junior high/middle school and grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.

    Daily Buzzword from Merriam-Webster’s Word Central
    Check in each day for the new Buzzword, or sign up to receive your daily Buzzword via email or RSS. The site also offers a link to the archive of Daily Buzz Words.

    WordThink’s Word of the Day
    This site offers “insightful and persuasive words you can use every day.” The words are practical, never obscure, and perfect for middle school students.

    ‘What Does It Mean?’ from
    Listen to the Word of the Day, read a sentence that includes the word, then ask a question to verify that students understand its meaning in context. This source ideally lends itself to a daily classroom activity; students might use their dictionaries to verify their understanding of the word’s meaning. Infoplease’s sister site offers a similar activity:’s Word Quiz.

    Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day
    These words are generally appropriate for grades 7 and above. A complete archive of past words enables you to pick and choose. You can even get the Word of the Day in a nicely produced podcast format that you can broadcast as part of your a.m. announcements.

    Word of the Day from the New York Times Learning Network
    Each entry provides a definition and pronunciation as well as links to NYT articles that include the word so students can read it in context. Words are generally appropriate for middle school and above.’s Word of the Day
    This list of words is recommended for middle and high school levels. In addition to a definition, the site offers information about each word’s origin and quotes that include the word. Click an audio link to hear the word pronounced. Sign up to receive each day’s word via email.

    This feature of the Wordsmith learning community presents a weekly theme and five words. Generally, these words are appropriate for use with high school students and adult wordsmiths. Click an audio link to hear the day’s word pronounced. Sign up to receive each day’s word via email.

    The Quotation Page’s Word of the Day
    Each word is defined and presented in the context of a handful of quotations from The Quotation Page’s archive. Sign up to receive each day’s word via email.


    Do you present a Word of the Day in your school? What source do you use? Please share your source so that other school leaders might learn from your experience.