Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Makes a School Effective?: Part 5

By David Miller Sadker, PhD

Karen R. Zittleman, PhD
McGraw-Hill Higher Education

What Makes a School Effective?
Factor 5: High Expectations

The teachers were excited. A group of their students had received extraordinary scores on a test that predicted intellectual achievement during the coming year. Just as the teachers had expected, these children attained outstanding academic gains that year.

Now for the rest of the story: The teachers had been duped. The students identified as gifted had been selected at random. However, eight months later, these randomly selected children did show significantly greater gains in total IQ than did another group of children, the control group.

In their highly influential 1969 publication, Pygmalion in the Classroom, researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson discussed this experiment and the power of teacher expectations in shaping student achievement. They popularized the term self-fulfilling prophecy and revealed that students may learn as much&#mdash;or as little—as teachers expect. Although methodological criticisms of the original Rosenthal and Jacobson study abound, those who re-port on effective schools say that there is now extensive evidence showing that high teacher expectations do, in fact, produce high student achievement, and low expectations produce low achievement.

Too often, teacher expectations have a negative impact. An inaccurate judgment about a student can he made because of error, unconscious prejudice, or stereotype. For example, good-looking, well-dressed students are frequently thought to be smarter than their less attractive peers. Often, male students are thought to be brighter in math, science, and technology, while girls are given the edge in language skills. Students of color are sometimes perceived as less capable or intelligent. A poor performance on a single standardized test (perhaps due to illness or an "off" day) can cause teachers to hold an inaccurate assessment of a student's ability for months and even years. Even a casual comment in the teachers' lounge can shape the expectations of other teachers.

When teachers hold low expectations for certain students, their treatment of these students often differs in unconscious and subtle ways. Typically, they offer such students

•Fewer opportunities to respond
•Less praise
•Less challenging work
•Fewer nonverbal signs (eye contact, smiles, positive regard)

In effective schools, teachers hold high expectations that students can learn, and they translate these expectations into teaching behaviors. They set objectives, work toward mastery of those objectives, spend more time on instruction, and actively monitor student progress. They are convinced that students can succeed.

Do high expectations work if students do not believe they exist? Probably not, and that is too often the case. While a majority of secondary school principals believe that their schools hold such expectations for their students, only 39 percent of teachers believe this to be true and even more discouraging, only one in four students believe their school holds high expectations for them. We need to do a better job of communicating these expectations to students, and making certain that these expectations truly challenge students.

And it is not only students who benefit from high expectations. In The Good High School, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot reported that when teachers hold high expectations for their own performance, the entire school benefits. At Brookline High School, "star" teachers were viewed as models to be emulated. Always striving for excellence, these teachers felt that no matter how well a class was taught, next time it could be taught better.

Friday, December 30, 2011

What Makes a School Effective?: Part 4

By David Miller Sadker, PhD

Karen R. Zittleman, PhD
McGraw-Hill Higher Education

What Makes a School Effective?Factor 4: Monitoring Student Progress

As the researcher walked through the halls of a school we will call Clearview Elementary School, she noted attractive displays of student work mounted on bulletin boards and walls. Also posted were profiles clearly documenting class and school progress toward meeting academic goals. Students had a clear sense of how they were doing in their studies: they kept progress charts in their notebooks. During teacher interviews, the faculty talked about the individual strengths and weaknesses of their students. Teachers referred to student folders that contained thorough records of student scores on standardized tests, as well as samples of classwork, homework, and performance on weekly tests.

A visit to Foggy Bottom Elementary, another fictitious school with a revealing name, disclosed striking differences. Bulletin boards and walls were attractive, but few student papers were posted, and there was no charting of progress toward academic goals. Interviews with students showed that they had only a vague idea of how they were doing and of ways to improve their academic performance. Teachers also seemed unclear about individual student progress. When pressed for more information, one teacher sent the researcher to the guidance office, saying, "I think they keep some records like the California Achievement Tests. Maybe they can give you what you're looking for."

Following the visit, the researcher wrote her report: "A very likely reason that Clearview students achieve more than Foggy Bottom students is that one school carefully monitors student progress and communicates this information to students and parents. The other school does not."

Effective schools carefully monitor and assess student progress in a variety of ways:

•Norm-referenced tests compare individual students with others in a nationwide norm group (e.g.. the Stanford9).

•Objective-referenced tests measure whether a student has mastered a designated body of knowledge (e.g., state assessment tests used to determine who has "mastered" the material).

Other measures may he less formal. Teacher-made tests are an important (and often overlooked) measure of student progress. Some teachers ask students to track their own progress in reaching course objectives as a way of helping them assume more responsibility for their own learning. Homework is another strategy to monitor students. Researcher Herbert Walberg and col-leagues found that homework increases student achievement scores from the 50th to the 60th percentile. When homework is graded and commented on, achievement is increased from the 50th to nearly the 80th percentile. Al-though these findings suggest that graded homework is an important ingredient in student achievement, how much homework to assign, and what kinds of homework tasks are most effective, continue to be points of contention.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Makes a School Effective?: Part 3

By David Miller Sadker, PhD

Karen R. Zittleman, PhD
McGraw-Hill Higher Education
What Makes a School Effective?

Factor 3: A Safe and Orderly Climate

Certainly before students can learn or teachers can teach, schools must be safe. An unsafe school is, by definition, ineffective. Despite the attention-grabbing headlines and the disturbing incidents of student shootings, schools today are safer than they have been in years. (See Figure 9.5.) Nearly all public school teachers (98 percent) and most students (93 percent) report feeling safe in schools. Yet the image of unsafe schools persists, and for more than two decades, opinion polls have shown that the public considers lack of discipline to be among the most serious problems facing schools.

The vast majority of schools provide safe learning environments. This is accomplished by more than metal detectors and school guards. Safe schools focus on academic achievement, the school mission, involving families and communities in school activities, and creating an environment where teachers, students and staff are treated with respect. Student problems are identified early, before they deteriorate into violence. School psychologists, special education programs, family social workers, and schoolwide programs increase communication and reduce school tension.

In some of America's most distressed neighborhoods, safe schools provide a much needed neighborhood refuge. Sara Lawrence Lightfoot tells of the long distances that urban students travel to reach John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx. One girl, who did not have money to buy a winter coat or glasses to see the chalkboard, rode the subway 1 hour and 40 minutes each way to get to school. She never missed a day, because for her school was a refuge&—a place of hope where she could learn in safety.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Makes a School Effective?: Part 2

By David Miller Sadker, PhD

Karen R. Zittleman, PhD
McGraw-Hill Higher Education

What Makes a School Effective:

Factor 2: A Clear School Mission

A day in the life of a principal can be spent trying to keep small incidents from becoming major crises. But the research is clear: In effective schools. good principals somehow find time to develop a vision of what that school should be and to share that vision with all members of the educational community. Successful principals can articulate a specific school mission, and they stress innovation and improvement. In contrast, less effective principals are vague about their goals and focus on maintaining the status quo. They make such comments as, "We have a good school and a good faculty, and I want to keep it that way."

It is essential that the principal share his or her vision, so that teachers understand the school's goals and all work together for achievement. Unfortunately, when teachers are polled, more than 75 percent say that they have either no contact or infrequent contact with one another during the school day. In less effective schools, teachers lack a common understanding of the school's mission, and they function as individuals charting their own separate courses.

Reflection: How do you explain the popular perception of a more violent society contrasted with these statistics reflecting a decrease in school violence?

The need for the principal to share his or her vision extends not only to teachers but to parents as well. When teachers work cooperatively and parents are connected with the school's mission, the children are more likely to achieve academic success.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What Makes a School Effective?: Part 1

Excerpt from: Teachers, Schools, and Society

By David Miller Sadker, PhD

Karen R. Zittleman, PhD
McGraw-Hill Higher Education

Consider the following situation: Two schools are located in the same neighborhood and are considered "sister schools." They are approximately the same size, serve the same community, and the student populations are identical. However, in one school, state test scores are low and half the students drop out. In the other school, student test scores exceed the state average and almost all students graduate. Why the difference?

Puzzled by such situations, researchers attempted to determine what factors create successful schools. Several studies have revealed a common set of characteristics, a five-factor theory of effective schools. Researchers say that effective schools are able, through these five factors, to promote student achievement. Let's take a look at these classic five factors, and then move on to some more recent studies..

Factor 1: Strong Leadership

In her hook The Good High School. Sara Lawrence Lightfoot drew portraits of six effective schools. Two, George Washington Carver High School in Atlanta and John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, were inner-city schools. High-land Park High School near Chicago and Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts, were upper middle-class and suburban. St. Paul's High School in Concord, New Hampshire, and Milton Academy near Boston were elite preparatory schools. Despite the tremendous difference in the styles and textures of these six schools, ranging from the pastoral setting of St. Paul's to inner-city Atlanta, they all were characterized by strong, inspired leaders, such as Robert Mastruzzi, principal of John F. Kennedy High School.

When Robert Mastruzzi started working at Kennedy, the building was not yet completed. Walls were being built around him as he sat in his unfinished office and contemplated the challenge of not only his first principalship but also the opening of a new school. During his years as principal of John F. Kennedy, his leadership style has been collaborative, actively seeking faculty participation. Not only does he want his staff to participate in decision making, but he gives them the opportunity to try new things—and even the right to fail. For example, one teacher made an error about the precautions necessary for holding a rock concert (800 adolescents had shown up, many high or inebriated). Mastruzzi realized that the teacher had learned a great deal from the experience, and he let her try again. The second concert was a great success. "He sees failure as an opportunity for change," the teacher said. Still other teachers describe him with superlatives, such as "he is the lifeblood of this organism" and "the greatest human being I have ever known."

Mastruzzi seems to embody the characteristics of effective leaders in good schools. Researchers say that students make significant achievement gains in schools in which principals

•Articulate a clear school mission

•Are a visible presence in classrooms and hallways

•Hold high expectations for teachers and students

•Spend a major portion of the day working with teachers to improve instruction

•Are actively involved in diagnosing instructional problems

•Create a positive school climate

Monday, December 26, 2011

Giving Back

This Christmas, we were watching our eight grand-children open all their presents.  One of my sons said, "Why don't we do something different next year.  These kids have so many toys and really don't need all this stuff.  Why don't we start a new tradition and adopt an angel or start an educational fund for all the children." 

We all discussed different options and decided that next year will be different.  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with family, friends, and loved ones. Why not sit down and come up with ways to begin new traditions of giving back or planning for your children's future education.  Below are some suggestions.

1. Start an educational fund for all the children in the family.  My father is the head of our "Holmes Family Fund".  All adult family members that are working are suppose to give $5 a month.  (That comes to $60 a year),  Some members give more. The money is  put into a money market fund for all the younger family members for educational expenses.  We have 6 board members and all decisions are made through a vote.  It works if everyone participates and makes education a priority. There must be a family member that will take the lead and make things happen with reminders, encouragement, and updates.  The fund will grow without much effort from anyone person. 
2. Visit seniors citizen homes and give gifts, play games, and sing songs.
3. Make handcrafted gifts for family and friends, and strangers.
4. Make homemade goodies for neighbors and friends. (We have wonderful next door neighbors that always give out a Chex-Mix in a decorative can).
5. Come up with creative family Holiday cards to send to family and friends.  Make it fun by including everyone on what the back-drop, costume, and theme will  be for the family card.
6. Adopt a family through church, school, or  local charities. Have everyone in planning, buying, and wrapping the gifts.
7. Plan to visit family or friends and spread holiday cheer.
8. Invite someone to go to church or holiday concert, or play.
9. Plan a time and  Skye or call  grand-parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins so they can see your family.
10. Go through the house and give lightly worn clothes and toys to local charities.
11. Collect, hats, coats, gloves, and scarfs throughout the year and give to the homeless shelter
12. Teach your children and family about giving back. Talk about appreciating what they have and being grateful.
13. Go to a homeless shelter and give gifts or serve food.
14. Plant a garden and give out the fresh produce or flowers to others.  Teach your children and grand-children caring for a garden.
15. Adopt a homeless pet. 

There is no better time then now to get started for 2012.  That way your family has an entire year to plan for making next year better than any year before through giving back.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas
From: Best Education Possible

May your day be full of laughter, joy, and blessings
Never forget the eternal lessons
of Peace on Earth Good Will to All Men

Yours in Education,
Debra West

Family Christmas Traditions

This is all about family Christmas traditions. Not about what gifts to buy your relatives, or how to host a perfect holiday party, but the special, meaningful things that families may do together during the holiday season. Below are some examples of holiday traditions you can start in your family.

What are some of your family holiday traditions during the Christmas season? Do you count down the days with a calendar and plan something for each day? Do you light the tree and Christmas decorations and sing seasonal songs  each night? Do you set up a Nativity scene and explain the Savior's birth? Do you gather together as a family to enjoy a festive meal? Do you go to church to give thanks for the gift of our Savior? Do you give back to a special charity and make sure the children are involved? Do you contact family members and friends by Skye or a Christmas cards, making sure it has a personal creative touch.  Do you give the gift of a educational fund to the younger members of the family securing their future. What special things do you do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? 

Whatever you do make sure you start your own family traditions! It will be a blessing for everyone and it will continue for generations to come!  Merry Christmas Everyone and God's riches blessings to you all.

Best Education Possible
Debra West

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tip #43: Girls and Boys Learn Differenently at Different Rates.

There is scientific evidence that girls and boys learn differently. That brings us to tip #43.

Tip #43: Girls and boys learn differenently at different rates.

According to Michael Gurian, educator and family therapist, girls talk sooner, develop better vocabularies, read better, and have better fine motor skills. Boys, on the other hand, have better auditory memory, are better at three-dimensional reasoning, are more prone to explore, and achieve greater abstract design ability after puberty. What does all this mean? There are new researched based methods to educate our children based on brain science, neurological development, and chemical and hormonal disparities. This is why parents should not compare children and understand the simple fact that boys and girls learn differently. They also develop at different rates. So, be patient and watch for any unusual delays in development before becoming alarmed, and remember that all children are unique and learn differently.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tip #42: Read Aloud with Your Child.

To foster a love of reading, keep reading together! Even if your kids can read very difficult literature all by themselves. This brings us to tip #42.

Tip #42: Read aloud with your child.

Reading aloud can expand your children's vocabulary, and your conversations can help them understand and enjoy reading more. This is how you can help your child become a lifelong reader. So, regardless of your child's age or comprehension level, continue to read together ritual. Maximize your time with these four suggestions:

1. Pick books that your child can read and understand easily . Shelve books that seem way over your child's head. It's tempting to push his/her literary limits, but the goal is understanding and enjoying.

2. Listen to audio books. It's not cheating, really; it's a terrific way to engage kids. Press "Play" during car rides or after dinner.

3. Revisit favorites. A second read is a great chance to discuss subtleties and encourage him/her to move beyond just the plot.

4. Find out what your child is interested in and look for books on that topic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tip #41: Keep Your Promises to Your Child

There is nothing more disappointing to a child then for someone to promise to do something and it doesn't happen! This brings us to tip #41.

Tip #41: Keep your promises to your child.

We, as adults, must keep our word and never promise to go or do something if we cannot truly complete that promise. Children soon find out who they can depend on and trust. We always want our children to confide in us and come to us when they have difficult decisions or are having problems. They will soon go to peers or others if they cannot trust you. You must build that relationship of trust when they are small, because it is difficult to change their opinions once they feel betrayed or continually disappointed. Something you can do is keep your word!!.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Great learning gifts for your high schooler

Great learning gifts for your high schooler

7 smart, sassy, and sophisticated gifts for every teen on your list.
By GreatSchools Staff

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

Edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant; read by Sarah Coomes, Nico Ever-Swindell, Shannon McManus, Arthur Morey, Julie Whelan
Ages: 14+
Another recommendation from librarian Wendy Woodfill is this short fiction anthology of YA’s hottest sub-genre — steampunk, which blends elements of sci-fi, fantasy, history, adventure, and even romance into speculative fiction that thrills. Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories ($13.59) features 14 stories by well-known authors including Cassandra Clare and Cory Doctorow. "There’s a lifetime of creativity, mystery, and ingenious adventure packed into this book," Woodfill says. "And because it's a collection of short pieces, it’' a great choice for kids who don’t have long attention spans."
Bottom line: Inventive and fantastical stories that appeal equally to easily distracted and adventure-seeking boys and girls.

The Future of Us

By Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Ages: 12 and up
Here's a book for the Facebook generation, set in 1996 when Mark Zuckerberg was just a brainy tween. High school classmates Emma and Josh were best friends until an awkward romantic moment introduced a new tension between them, changing everything. Then Josh receives a free CD-ROM in the mail and shares it with Emma, thereby automatically logging both onto each other's Facebook page. The catch is that Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. Their respective pages reflect their lives 15 years in the future. The chapters alternate between Emma's and Josh's perspectives, as both grapple with the discovery that choices they make in the present can have far-reaching consequences for the future.
Bottom line: The Future of Us ($11.98), is an insightful glimpse at the present for teens of all ages — just be prepared to explain what life was like before the Internet and Ipod.

Beauty Queens

Written and read by Libba Bray
Ages: 14 and up
What happens when an airplane crashes on a desert island, leaving a bunch of beauty queens stranded? Pretty hilarious stuff, actually. Libba Bray is beloved for her previous YA novels, and with Beauty Queens ($13.59), she pushes the envelope even further with a slapstick, satirical take on beauty pageants and other hot-button issues faced by teen girls. "This is a real tour-de-force," says Jamie Watson, collection development coordinator for the Baltimore County Public Library. "I love that it’s not a preachy, message-driven book (although there are some good messages) — and did I mention it"s hilarious? The author clearly relishes reading her own material."
Bottom line: Comic relief helps teen girls let off some steam when the pressure to conform is starting to build.


Ages: 12 and up
A combination of a word search and puzzle game, Pathwords gets increasingly challenging as you move along. The goal? To fit the colored pieces over the words in each puzzle so that all of the letters are covered. Sound easy? Not so fast — sometimes the words are backwards, which can be tricky: "equip" didn't look like a word when spelled "piuqe." This is a single-player game and it can be quite addictive. Of course kids who want to play together can swap games or help each other out with each puzzle. There are a total of 40 games, from beginner to expert.
Bottom line: An addictive word game that also requires visual spatial skills.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Great Learning Gifts For Your Middle Schooler

Great learning gifts for your middle schooler

Smarts and fun all in one with 7 perfect presents for tweens.
By GreatSchools Staff


Ages: 12 and up
A combination of a word search and puzzle game, Pathwords gets increasingly challenging as you move along. The goal? To fit the colored pieces over the words in each puzzle so that all of the letters are covered. Sound easy? Not so fast — sometimes the words are backwards, which can be tricky: "equip" didn't look like a word when spelled "piuqe." This is a single-player game and it can be quite addictive. Of course kids who want to play together can swap games or help each other out with each puzzle. There are a total of 40 games, from beginner to expert.
Bottom line: An addictive word game that also requires visual spatial skills.

The Cruisers: Checkmate

By Walter Dean Myers, read by Kevin R. Free
Ages: 10 and up
Winner of AudioFile magazine’s Earphones Award, The Cruisers: Checkmate ($11.69), is the second book in Myers’ Cruisers series about a group of gifted middle school misfits in Harlem who bond over competitive chess. Myers has a subtle touch and is able to explore issues of peer pressure, drug use, and the power of the (school) press with grace. Narrator Kevin Free does a superb job of capturing the diversity of voices and personalities of the Cruisers kids, as well as the stern assistant principal, Mr. Culpepper.
Bottom line: An engrossing story that teaches significant life lessons without ever sermonizing.

Apples to Apples

Ages: 11 and up
Apples to Apples, known as "the game of crazy comparisons," is riotous, goofy fun. It's perfect for family game night, birthday parties, and family vacations because you can play with from four to 10 players — the more players, the bigger the fun. Built around a boxed set of cards, Apples to Apples requires players to find matches between simple adjectives — like "scary" or "luxurious," for example — and people, places, objects, or ideas — from Lady Gaga to cotton candy to the Grand Canyon. Players take turns being the judge and choosing the words that make the best match — and the results can be hilarious. It turns out that teachers love Apples to Apples as much as kids do because it's a great way to build vocabulary and comparative reasoning skills. The game has even earned the brainiac seal of approval, winning a Mensa Select award in 1999. There are numerous variations, including Apples to Apples Junior for younger kids.
Bottom line: An easy way to sneak a little vocabulary, grammar, and reasoning into family game night.

The Summer I Learned to Fly

By Dana Reinhardt
Ages: 11 and up
In the passage from childhood to adulthood, there’s a point when discovery about oneself and the world begins to take root. For Drew Solo, the heroine of this book, that point takes place in the summer before eighth grade. It's 1986 and she's 13, living in a small California town with her mother, who runs a gourmet cheese shop. Drew loves the adults in her life and her pet rat, but she yearns for a friend her own age. That friend arrives in the unexpected person of a slightly older boy, Emmett Crane. At first Emmett tells her little about himself, but eventually he reveals his secret dream: to find a legendary spring said to have healing waters. Joining Emmett on his quest brings new understanding about belief, family, what it means to have a friend, and to be one.
Bottom line: The Summer I Learned to Fly ($11.99), is the perfect pick for readers who like stories centered around relationships.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Great Learning Gifts For Your Fifth Grader

Great learning gifts for your fifth grader

Wrap up big fun and learning into one perfect present with any of our 7 top picks.
By GreatSchools Staff


Ages: 8 and up
Part croquet (ok, that's a stretch, but you do push your opponents ball out of your way), part 3-D tic-tac-toe, Cubulus is a multisensory experience that can be played with two or three players. Each player gets nine balls of a particular color, and the goal is to form a square with four of your balls on one side of the satisfyingly squishy cube. But you have to pay attention, because when you push your ball into the cube, you may be pushing your opponent's ball into a winning square. This game is a great work out for spatial processing and critical thinking. It's also fun and deceptively challenging.
Bottom line: Smart strategy game that is almost as fun to hold as it is to play.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden GalleryBy Maryrose Wood, read by Katherine Kellgren
Ages: 9-12
Katherine Kellgren gives another stellar performance narrating The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery ($14.95), the second book of this popular series about a plucky British governess and her three wolf-child charges. Kellgren's accents are spot on, with deft vocalizations of everything from aristocratic to Cockney. With London as the backdrop and offering sage advice like "No Panicking. No Complaining. No Quitting," this is a Mary Poppins-esque tale elegantly and wittily crafted for the millennial generation.
Bottom line: Satirically spot-on adventure yarn that our expert called "charming as heck."


Ages: Bananagrams, 8 and up; Appletters and PAIRSinPEARS, 6 and up
Bananagrams is a variation on Scrabble that's a little simpler, a lot more portable, and just as addictive. Like Scrabble, Banagrams requires rapid-fire word-smithing, which helps players build both vocabulary and verbal skills. Unlike Scrabble, Bananagrams requires no board; players work independently, competing against each other to build words and to be the first to divest themselves of all their letter tiles. The game is elegantly simple: It includes just wooden tiles in a banana-shaped storage bag, so it's easy to tuck into your suitcase if you're travelling for the holidays. A couple of variations on the original — Appletters and PAIRSinPEARS — help younger kids develop reading skills, too.
Bottomline: Go bananas and build vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and verbal skills.


By Brian Selznick
Ages: 9 and up
Selznick alternates text and exquisite pencil drawings to tell two distinct stories that eventually entwine to become one. The book opens in 1977 with Ben, a 12-year-old Minnesota boy grieving his mother's death — he doesn’t know his father — when a freak lightening strike renders him deaf. Stumbling onto clues that suggest his father lives in New York City, Ben sets out to find him. Just as you’re getting hooked on Ben's tale, you're plunged back in time 50 years into the illustrated story of Rose, a lonely deaf girl who runs away to New York in search of her favorite Broadway star. Through the twin tales and their climactic intersection, Selznick explores an array of themes: family, friendship, memory, and the magic of museums.
Bottom line: The prose and pictures in Wonderstruck ($16.00) keep the story accessible, but the coming-of-age theme makes this best for older tweens.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Great Learning Gifts For Your Fourth Grader

Great learning gifts for your fourth grader

Fun and learning all in one with these 7 favorite holiday picks.
By GreatSchools Staff


By Maile Meloy, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
Ages: 10 and up
Imagine a cross between Harry Potter and Nancy Drew. That blend of magic and mystery propel this fast-paced novel set in the 1950s cold-war era. Janie Scott is an American teen forced to abruptly move from Los Angeles to London with her parents. There she meets a mysterious apothecary and his son Benjamin, who intrigues her by his willingness to stand up to authority and dreams of someday becoming a spy. When Russian spies kidnap Ben’s father, he and Janie are soon plunged into a real espionage adventure. The two find an ancient book, the Pharmacopoeia, which contains magical spells and potions they must use to save Ben’s father and prevent impending nuclear disaster.
Bottom line: The suspense and fast-pacing make The Apothecary ($11.55), a compelling and easy read for middle-schoolers, though some may be put off by the romantic bits between Janie and Benjamin.


Ages: 8 and up
If you love strategy, speed, and game pieces that make a satisfying clacking noise when you play them, check out Kabaleo ($22.95). This quick, action-packed game requires players to bluff their way to domination by hiding the very identity of their color as they place cones on a board. It takes planning, skill, and just a touch of cunning to plot a path to victory.
Bottom line: Kids will have to put on their best poker face to win this game of strategy.

Kinect Sports Season Two

Ages: Elementary through high school
“We can go skiing as soon as your finish your homework!” That’s the sort of bribe you can use at your house — on Tuesday even if the slopes are hours away — if someone finds the Kinect Sports Season Two ($50, Xbox 360 Kinect) under the tree. Bored with skiing? Play some darts, a few tennis matches, or a round of golf. You can even tackle a real physical challenge like football or baseball. It’s possible that exposing your kids to these "virtual" games that are fun, challenging, and even physically exhausting, might inspire them to take up the real thing. They probably aren’t going to perfect their backhand by playing Kinect tennis or develop the stamina they’ll need for football, but they'll certainly learn to keep score and learn the terminology and rules of each game. For a shy middle schooler, that might be enough to get them out on the courts, slopes, or greens. And it makes for a great family game night — even if some of the family is in another town. You can play opponents over Xbox Live.
Bottom line: If you own an Xbox 360 and the ($130) Kinect add on, this game makes for great family fun. It might even encourage a non-athlete to take up a sport.


Ages: 8 and up
Did Colonel Mustard do the deed, or was it Mrs. Peacock? Did s/he use a knife or a candlestick and was the crime committed in the Conservatory or the Billiard Room? Clue, the classic mystery-solving game, invokes an atmosphere of elegance and evil that kids love. It's also an excellent way to develop logic and deductive reasoning skills. As players set out to solve the classic crime, they start with a set of variables and must use logic to assemble a case. By making a series of educated guesses, players gather pertinent information to eliminate suspects, suspected weapons, and locations until they solve the crime. An added benefit: Kids who love Clue often develop a love of mysteries, too.
Bottom line: Kids use deductive reasoning, critical thinking, and problem solving to figure out whodunit.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Great Learning Gifts For Your Third Grader

Great learning gifts for your third grader

Wrap up learning and fun with 7 of the year's best toys, books, and board games.
By GreatSchools Staff

Ages: 8 and up
Dweebies is a strategic, delightfully designed card game in which each player tries to collect the most cards by building lines of cards. Kids will start to learn probability as they try to determine if another player will scoop up a row of cards before they do, based on how many of each card type is included in the deck. Up to six people can play, and in this game, the more the merrier.
Bottom line: Cute cartoon characters and simple rules create a fun and unpredictable game.

The Harry Potter audiobook series
By J. K. Rowling , narrated by Jim Dale
Ages: 9 to 12
Veteran Broadway actor Jim Dale created more than 200 voices to portray all the characters in each of the unabridged seven books in J. K. Rowlings's Harry Potter series ($287 for the box set). That adds up to a whooping 117 hours and four minutes of reading time! For his priceless portrayal of Hermoine Granger, Hagrid, Rita Skeeter, and so many others, he won a Grammy. Dale's even in the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the most voices for an audiobook. Listen and be dazzled.
Bottom line: Don't miss these 100-plus hours of a fantasy phenomenon.
Monopoly Collection
Ages: 6 and up
Monopoly was a staple of family game night when we were kids. But this console game version goes far beyond the cardboard and plastic version we played. In Monopoly Collection ($39.99, Wii), it’s as if you and your family have been shrunk to game-piece size so you can move right in to live in Park Place, spend a night in jail, and construct your tenements from the ground up. And there is no need to buy another board to change the setting: Just choose from a menu that offers everything from the classic city-setting to jungle, arctic, or future.
Bottom line: A classic game parents already love, animated and brought to life to the delight of younger (and older) folks. Family game night will no longer be plagued by lost plastic pieces and you will, for a change, be the one familiar with the rules of play

Kitchen Science

Ages: 6-11
What it teaches: early chemistry, math (measurement), cause and effect
What do you do with a fork, tomato, and light-bulb? No, this is no joke, it's a science experiment!
Aspiring Madame Curies and Dmitri Mendeleevs (Not a science history buff? Mendeleevs developed the first periodic table.) will unleash magic and mystery with this science-in-a-box that incites kids to muck up the kitchen, all in the name of chemistry.
Along with creating electricity (see above: tomato, fork, and light bulb), your young chemist can claim that she is, in fact, a rocket scientist after launching her own rocket. Unlike some DIY junior science kits, this one is smartly put together, its creators understand what an elementary schooler actually can do and wants to do. However, like most science kits, parents must provide plenty of ingredients — and of course be on hand to oversee measuring and make sure the science lab, a.k.a kitchen, doesn't turn into a complete disaster zone.
Bottom line: Science transformed into pure amusement, with plenty of learning tucked into every experiment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Great Learning Gifts For Your Second Grader

Great learning gifts for your second grader

Fun and learning go hand-in-hand with these 8 terrific toys, games, and books.
By GreatSchools Staff

National Geographic Challenge

Ages: Elementary through middle school
Gather the kids, make some popcorn, and throw a game night! National Geographic Challenge's ($20, Xbox, Ps3, and Wii) puzzle and quiz party game will take your family around the world — using stunning images from National Geographic — as you race against each other for world domination. The quizzes are delivered in an inspired multiple-choice format that instructs as it takes you from the desert to the Antarctic and through all the continents through the ages. Even when it’s not party night, kids can play solo for a visual tour of the world.
Bottom line: Family fun that takes parents and kids on a visually breathtaking and educationally rich worldwide tour.

Everything On It

By Shel Silverstein
Ages: 6 and up
Here's why we love Shel Silverstein:
“There are kids underneath my bed,"
Cried little baby monster Fred.
Momma monster smiled. "Oh, Fred,
There's no such things as kids," she said.
Want another reason? Check out the cover illustration, where the hot dog that comes with "everything on it" is piled high with umbrellas, a bicycle wheel, chairs, a nightstand, a trombone, hats, and a python. Silverstein’s family members and long-time editor culled through the trove of unpublished poems and drawings he left behind after his 1999 death to assemble this collection. It offers the same mix of whimsy, wit, and wisdom found in Silverstein’s classics, Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Bottom line: Everything On It ($11.99) demands to be read aloud — delighting children and adults equally.

Kitchen Science

Ages: 6-11
What it teaches: early chemistry, math (measurement), cause and effect
What do you do with a fork, tomato, and light-bulb? No, this is no joke, it's a science experiment!
Aspiring Madame Curies and Dmitri Mendeleevs (Not a science history buff? Mendeleevs developed the first periodic table.) will unleash magic and mystery with this science-in-a-box that incites kids to muck up the kitchen, all in the name of chemistry.
Along with creating electricity (see above: tomato, fork, and light bulb), your young chemist can claim that she is, in fact, a rocket scientist after launching her own rocket. Unlike some DIY junior science kits, this one is smartly put together, its creators understand what an elementary schooler actually can do and wants to do. However, like most science kits, parents must provide plenty of ingredients — and of course be on hand to oversee measuring and make sure the science lab, a.k.a kitchen, doesn't turn into a complete disaster zone.
Bottom line: Science transformed into pure amusement, with plenty of learning tucked into every experiment.


Ages: 6-8
A science toy that requires kids to design and build an ecosystem for an ant colony, then trap several dozen live ants and their pupa, isn’t for faint-of-heart, hands-off parents. But if you are willing to invest the time, this is no ordinary toy.

Designed by former entomologist Peter Smith, Ant-o-Sphere from Wild Science ($49.99) offers a flexible kit of multiple pods in transparent red and clear plastic, connected by tubes that mimic ant colonies in nature. One of our kid testers got so excited about assembling the colony, she completely forgot about trapping and adding the ants. For those more focused on watching ants at work, this toy encourages real scientific learning. Kids can test, observe, and draw conclusions — all important skills typically absent in many project-oriented science toys, where the outcome is a foregone conclusion. For instance, the kit encourages kids to create their own pod design and see how it changes ant behavior. By the same token, children can learn about the eating habits of ants by offering them different kinds of food.

A final note: Though marketed to boys, this toy was equally popular with our girl testers and received higher marks from them than many of the “science for girls” products.
Bottom line: A surprise hit with our girl testers, this science toy makes experiments engaging.

For more ideas go to

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Great Learning Gifts Gor Your First Grader

Great learning gifts for your first grader
Give fun and learning all in one with any of these 7 favorite toys, games, and books.
By GreatSchools Staff

Marble Run Vortis
Ages: 4-10
What it teaches: engineering fundamentals around cause-and-effect relationships and interconnections

The magic of gravity and colored plastic are put to good use with this elaborate multifaceted marble run. Though kids will no doubt love playing with it, the real learning comes from putting it together and making it work. Kids of all ages thought this toy was exciting. One of our kid testers exclaimed before it was even out of the box: “Thank you thank you thank you!”

Be forewarned, though. For parents hoping for some leisure time, this toy may not satisfy. One of our parent testers confessed: “My child wasn’t the only one who learned something!”
Bottom line: The perfect family project that makes a big impression on little minds.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories
By Dr. Seuss, read by Neil Patrick Harris, Anjelica Huston, and others
Ages: 4-8
Dr. Seuss’ lyrical, tongue-twisting stories deserve to be narrated by golden-tongued talent. The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories ($8.64), a brand new audio collection of early original works, pulls out all the stops, boasting an all-star lineup that includes Hollywood heavy hitters such as Neil Patrick Harris, Anjelica Huston, William H. Macy, and Joan Cusack. "This is a fantastic choice for kids who are just learning to read," says Jeanne Lamb, coordinator for the youth collections at the New York Public Library." They can relax, hear the flow of a wonderful story, and then make the connections to the page."
Bottom line: The pitch-perfect gift for the Seuss-obsessed kid.

Spot It
Ages: 6 and up
Spot It puts a unique twist on matching games. Each of the 55 round cards has a symbol on it that matches exactly one symbol on every other card. The object is to be the first one to find the most matches from the cards you are dealt. Matching pictures on cards — how hard can that be? Harder than you think (sometimes the size of the symbols change), and it's all a matter of speed. You can play with up to eight people, and since there’s no reading involved, even kindergartners can get into the action. The game also includes instructions for four additional games. Packaged in a small tin and requiring little space to play, it’s the perfect travel game for the whole family.
Bottom line: This fast-paced game is great to take on the road and will grow with your kids.

Ages 6 and up, $15
Even some of the best toys out there become a snooze for parents eventually. Not so with SET, an addictive and challenging matching game in which players pick out patterns involving symbols, numbers, and colors. An excellent brain stretcher, good for long stretches of quiet fun, and an equally good time for grownups as well as kids.
The bottom line: You can't beat this addictive yet challenging game for ages 6 and up.

For more ideas visit

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Perfect Present For Every Grade: Ages 3-5

The perfect present for every grade
 Article written by the staff of
Looking for gifts that will delight your children — and inspire them, too? We can help. We've assembled a grade-by-grade cornucopia of games, toys, books, and gadgets your kids will love — no matter their age.

Duplo Play with Numbers
Ages: 3-5
This set of oversize Legos (perfect for younger hands) comes with a unique figurine — a friendly dalmatian puppy — and, more important for little learners, a colorful collection of illustrated counting blocks. Each block in Duplo Play with Numbers features a visual representation of that number, whether it's three ice cream cones, four birds, or 10 bees. Truly the building blocks of early math skills.
Bottom line: These extra-large Legos are perfect for kids working on their 123s.

Chased by Dinosaurs
Ages: 4 and up
Got a kid deep in a brachiosaur phase? He or she will drool over this collection of 30-minute episodes in which charismatic zoologist Nigel Marven travels through time to tour seven prehistoric eras. The digital effects are surprisingly decent, and the science is compelling enough for novices and aspiring paleontologists alike.
Bottom line: There are a lot of dinosaur DVDs out there, but Chased by Dinosaurs is one of the best.

Ladybug Girl
By Jackie Davis, iIllustrated by David Soman
Ages: 3-5
Everybody's busy: Lulu's older brother won't let her tag along because she is too little, and Mom and Dad don't have time. What's a girl to do? Enter Lulu's alter ego: Ladybug Girl. Complete with wings and a ladybug polka dot skirt, Ladybug Girl and her faithful sidekick, the family basset hound that is never too busy, go off on their own adventures saving the yard from danger. With wonderful illustrations accompanying the hilarious text, Ladybug Girl is an all-time favorite picture book and a riotous read.

Automoblox Minis
Ages: 3-5
Made of sturdy beech wood and plastic, these colorful, snap-together toy cars are designed with kids' development in mind. Children can flex those gross and fine motor muscles while boosting their problem-solving skills by taking apart the Automoblox Minis and reassembling the pieces to create many new combinations. Even the red, green, and blue wheels snap off, though they might be prone to getting lost. While Automoblox fall on the expensive side of toy cars, they're built to last — and promote learning.
Bottom line: These high-quality toy cars will help kids' brains go vroom.

For more ideas go to

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Top 10 Worst Things for Your Immune System:Part 2

Top 10 Worst Things for Your Immune System

Kick these surprising habits to keep colds, flu and other bugs at bay.
by the Editors of

Muscle Up Your Immunity
Staying healthy isn't just about using hand sanitizer and avoiding coughing co-workers.

It turns out some pretty surprising daily habits—like how you fight with your husband or whether you stay up late for Letterman—can impact how well your body fends off colds, flu and other pesky bugs. Here's a list of science-backed tips to add to your stay-healthy arsenal today.  Below are tips 6-10.

6. You Don't Stash Pens in Your Purse

Having your own supply of dime-a-dozen plastic ballpoints might just keep you from picking up a virus.

Cold and flu germs are easily passed through hand-to-hand contact, says Neil Schachter, MD, a professor of pulmonary medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu. Any way you can avoid touching public objects—such as the communal pen at the bank—will cut your risk.

What to do: "When you get up in the morning, don't leave the house without a pen in your pocket or your purse," Schachter suggests. "Take your own wherever you go, and use it instead of the doctor's, the delivery guy's, or the restaurant waiter's

7. You Drive Everywhere
One in four American women doesn't exercise at all—and that's an easy way to set yourself up for sickness.

When researchers compared inactive people with those who walked briskly almost every day, they found that who didn't walk took twice as many sick days in 4 months as those who strolled regularly.

What to do: Experts say that it takes a 30 minutes of aerobic exercise—a brisk walk counts—to sweep white blood cells back into circulation, making your immune system run more smoothly.

8. Your Friends Smoke
We don't need to tell you that puffing ciggies is terrible for the entire body. But the secondhand kind is almost as harmful.

Each year, because of exposure to tobacco smoke, an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die of lung cancer and 300,000 children suffer from lower respiratory-tract infections. Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack and aggravate symptoms in people with allergies. In addition, tobacco smoke has been shown to make asthma worse in preschool children and may even cause it.

What to do: Sounds obvious, but avoid secondhand smoke as much as you can—including spending time with people while they smoke. Encourage anyone in your everyday life (husband, coworkers or neighbor friends) to quit.

9. You Always Reach for Antibiotics
Taking antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle can make you resistant to these drugs over time, causing more serious infections.

Researchers found that certain patients taking antibiotics had reduced levels of cytokines, the hormone messengers of the immune system. When your immune system is suppressed, you're more likely to develop resistant bacteria or become sick in the future.

What to do: Take antibiotics only for bacterial infections, use them right away, and take the entire course. Don't use antibiotics preventively unless prescribed by your doctor, and don't save or share unfinished courses.
10. You're Little Miss Serious
Consider this a doctor's note to troll YouTube on your lunch break…

Researchers have found that the positive emotions associated with laughter decrease stress hormones and increase certain immune cells while activating others. In a study conducted at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, healthy adults who watched a funny video for an hour had significant increases in immune system activity.

What to do: Um, laugh more. You know how: Watch your favorite comedies, have lunch with a pal known for her funny bone, and read those silly forwards from friends before you auto-click "delete."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top 10 Worst Things for Your Immune System

Top 10 Worst Things for Your Immune System

Kick these surprising habits to keep colds, flu and other bugs at bay.
by the Editors of

Muscle Up Your Immunity

Staying healthy isn't just about using hand sanitizer and avoiding coughing co-workers.

It turns out some pretty surprising daily habits—like how you fight with your husband or whether you stay up late for Letterman—can impact how well your body fends off colds, flu and other pesky bugs. Here's a list of science-backed tips to add to your stay-healthy arsenal today.

1. You Avoid the Water Cooler
Friendship may be Miracle-Gro for your immune system.

Research shows that the fewer human connections we have at home, at work, and in the community, the likelier we are to get sick, flood our brains with anxiety-causing chemicals, and live shorter lives than our more sociable peers. In one study, researchers who monitored 276 people between the ages of 18 and 55 found that those who had 6 or more connections were 4 times better at fighting off the viruses that cause colds than those with fewer friends.

What to do: Don't let a jam-packed workday or hectic schedule get in the way of your friendships. Stop by a co-worker's office for a quick Monday morning catch-up, or e-mail/text your friends at night to stay in touch when you're too busy for phone calls.

2. You Often Feel Tired
Scrimping on sleep has a powerfully detrimental effect on immunity.

The perfect example: college students who get sick after pulling all-nighters cramming for exams. Poor sleep is associated with lower immune system function and reduced numbers of killer cells that fight germs. In fact, University of Chicago researchers found that men who had slept only 4 hours a night for 1 week produced half the amount of flu-fighting antibodies in their blood (jump-started by a flu shot) compared with those who slept 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours.

What to do: Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted rest every night, but how you feel in the morning and throughout the day may be a better gauge. If you're tired when you wake up in the morning, you're not getting enough—sleep, or maybe not enough quality sleep.

3. You Act Like Debbie Downer
Studies show that glass-half-empty types don't live as long as those who look on the bright side.

When pessimists put a more positive spin on the calamities in their lives, they have less stress and better health. A classic UCLA study found that law students who began their first semester optimistic about the experience had more helper T cells mid semester, which can amplify the immune response, and more powerful natural killer cells, than students who had a more pessimistic perspective. One reason could be that optimists take better care of themselves. It could also be due to less stress-related damage to the immune system, such as killer cells that suddenly become pacifists.

What to do: Personality is tough to change. Look for reasons—however small—to feel lucky every day. Sounds hokey, but try striking up a dinner table conversation with your family where you all share a couple of good things that happened every day.

4. You Bottle Up Your Moods
A constructive argument with your spouse can actually increase immunity, say UCLA researchers.

They asked 41 happy couples to discuss a problem in their marriage for 15 minutes. The researchers detected surges in blood pressure, heart rate, and immune-related white blood cells, all of which were similar to the benefits seen with moderate exercise. But you still have to play nice: Couples who frequently use sarcasm, insults and put-downs have fewer virus-fighting natural killer cells, have higher levels of stress hormones, and take up to 40% longer to recover from injuries than those who manage to stay positive and affectionate during their quarrels.

What to do: Don't keep what's bothering you bottled up. People with type D personalities—those who keep their opinions and emotions hidden—have killer T cells that are less active than those found in more expressive peers.

5. You're Under the Gun
Chronic stress—the day-after-day kind you experience over job insecurity or a sick relative—takes a toll on many aspects of your health, including immunity.

There is compelling scientific evidence that this kind of stress (as opposed to the every-now-and-again kind from a bad day at work or a screaming match with your kid) causes a measurable decline in the immune system's ability to fight disease. Periods of extreme stress can result in a lower natural killer cell count, sluggish killer T cells, and diminished macrophage activity that can amplify the immune response. In fact, widows and widowers are much more likely to get sick during the first year after their spouse dies than their peers who have not experienced a major loss.

What to do: We're not going to tell you to take a bath or light a scented candle (unless those really help you relax, that is!). Do find go-to, healthy stress relievers that can take the edge off—be it a long run on the treadmill, a relaxing yoga class, or baking dessert just for fun. The important thing is that you unwind and recover from stress, since it's often hard to avoid in the first place.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tip #40: Help Choose Appropriate Books For Your Child

According to "The Mom Book Goes To School", when choosing Books to read aloud to your child, give your reading selections balance and range.  That brings us to tip # 40.  Exposing your child to all forms of literature, form science fiction to fairy tales, newspaper articles to riddles, will encourage him/her to be a well rounded reader and improve his higher level thinking skills. Below are some suggestions to choosing the best books for your child:

Tip #40: Help your child choose appropriate books to read and enjoy.
1. Consider your child's abilities.

2. Look at length, difficulty, and your child's attention span when choosing a book.

3. Allow more independence with reading material as the child grows older.

4. Pick books written by Newbery Medal -winning authors. These books will have a gold or silver emblem on their front cover.

5. Pick stories with clear messages and social context to help your child learn basic values and develop decision-making skills.

6. Many books for younger readers have pictures, get some without pictures so your child can visualize what happens in the story or let your child illustrate it.

7. For excellent suggestions on newly released children's titles, The American Library Association and my book, "A Parents Handbook: How to Get the Best Education Possible K-6", compiles a list of notable children's books.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Helping Your Child With Math: Part 2

Helping Your Child With Math

Article by:

School has begun! Which means your child is probably bringing home art projects, exciting stories about her day at school and... homework! The good news it that most elementary math programs consist of the same basic activities (counting, patterning, sorting, graphing, etc.). By brushing up on these basic areas and learning a few tricks to share with your child, you can help your little one feel confident with these math concepts when she comes home with her number recognition worksheets, counting worksheets, patterning worksheets, sorting and classifying worksheets, or graphing worksheets and help her become a true math-lete. Below are tips on sorting and classifying and graphing.

Sorting and Classifying

Sorting involves recognizing a characteristic that items have in common and grouping them together. Sorting is a skill that adults and children use everyday. Organizing a desk or locker, emptying a dishwasher, putting away clean clothes, and on and on. So it is a great idea to give your little guy opportunities to sort.

Start by showing your child a group of items that differ in only one way - color, size, shape or texture. For example, the same sock used for patterning can be sorted by color into two piles. Or two kinds of buttons can be sorted by size - large vs. small. Show your child how you are dividing the groups based on a specific characteristic and encourage him to continue.

Classifying is simply naming the characteristic that guides the sorting activity. So encourage your child to talk about why he is separating the piles a certain way.


Graphing is a way to visually represent amounts of items being counted. Children will see that a graph gives them instant information, so it can be a big time saver when comparing groups. Tell your child that this is a kind of shortcut and he’ll get on board!

A simple way to introduce graphs is to take a poll, asking friends and family members for an answer to a question. A yes or no question makes the poll easy to take and read. You might ask: “Do you like watching football?” or “Do you like to take naps?” Draw two columns side-by-side and divide them into equal-sized sections.

Write YES under the first column and NO under the second. Then let your child mark an X in the appropriate box to record each answer he is given. A question with two or three possible answers works well also. “Which dessert do you like more - pie, cake, or ice cream?”

Finally, talk about the graph with your child. Can he tell you which answer had the most responses? Which answer had the least? Were the amounts equal?

Math activities can be fun and educational!

For more information on helping your child succeed in school, visit There you will find a kindergarten readiness test parents can take to see if their kids are ready to start preschool or kindergarten and hundreds of free printable kindergarten worksheets to help children develop critical skills.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Helping Your Child With Math: Part 1

Helping Your Child With Math
Article by:

School has begun! Which means your child is probably bringing home art projects, exciting stories about her day at school and... homework! The good news it that most elementary math programs consist of the same basic activities (counting, patterning, sorting, graphing, etc.). By brushing up on these basic areas and learning a few tricks to share with your child, you can help your little one feel confident with these math concepts when she comes home with her number recognition worksheets, counting worksheets, patterning worksheets, sorting and classifying worksheets, or graphing worksheets and help her become a true math-lete.

Counting is simply knowing the order of numbers. It can include counting forwards by ones (1, 2, 3, etc.), counting backwards (10, 9, 8 …), skip counting (by 2s, 5s and 10s) and counting with ordinal numbers (first, second, third and so on).

Practice counting with your child at random moments throughout the day. For instance, as your child brushes his teeth, count down from 20 to 1. Or count how many steps it takes to get from the door of your house to the car. Count how many stop signs you pass on your way to school. Count, count, count! By counting out loud and then asking your child to join you, you are helping him learn this important skill.

A pattern is a sequence that repeats in the same order at least one time. Patterns are all around us - the stripes on our flag or the way the table is set with fork, plate, spoon, fork, plate, spoon. Recognizing patterns helps children make predictions and also understand how their world is organized.

The simplest pattern is called an AB pattern (as the red, white, red, white flag stripes). You can use household items, such as two kinds of beans or socks in two different colors, to demonstrate this AB pattern for your child.

Place the items in front of him, alternating to get the AB pattern. After a few repetitions, point and name the items as you move down the line. Then ask your child which item comes next. ABC patterns are also fun for very young children, such as quarter, dime, penny, quarter, dime, penny, etc.

Create patterns for your child to continue or give him some items (colored blocks, beans, buttons, coins, etc.) and let him create a sequence that repeats. You will be amazed at how creative children can get with patterns!

Tomorrow read about tips on sorting, classifying and graphing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How To Motivate Your Children To Read: Part 2

How To Motivate Your Children To Read

July 5th, 2011
Author: The Journalists from

Studies have found that children who are given plentiful reading materials are more likely to go further in school and succeed than those who aren’t provided reading opportunities at home. Good reading habits are built at home regardless the educational background of parents or caregivers. It is what a parent does to encourage their children to love reading even before starting school times. It needs simple steps and habits that will help your children be a skillful reader and enthusiastic learner.

Pre-school Age

Here at the year of 3 to 5, your child’s curiosity about the world definitely arises. Fertilize that curiosity by allowing them do an activity with you, particularly one which demands them to read. For instance, cooking a cake needs reading the recipe. You can show your child the box in which they can get pictures. As they get the picture of eggs, help them to find the word eggs. This word and picture association will reinforce their understanding. Now is the time to learning letters.

Activity: It is in the Name
Here you will need cardboard papers, pencils, crayons, markers and glue. You will also need macaroni, glitter and some small crafty objects. The idea is that your child loves seeing their names and knows that words belong to them. Write an outline of your child’s name using a highlighter. Ask your child to say each letter as they trace and write it. Once the name is completed, let them decorate the letters using small beads of glue. Hang their creation where they can point and repeat the letters.


Now your child is in school. You can reinforce what they get in school. Remember, a great reader starts at home. Be sure to put reading a priority for your child at home. Set aside some reading after school with television being turned off and less distraction. Reward them a trip to library when they accomplish a specific goal of reading.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How To Motivate Your Children To Read: Part 1

How To Motivate Your Children To Read
July 5th, 2011

Author: The Journalists from

Studies have found that children who are given plentiful reading materials are more likely to go further in school and succeed than those who aren’t provided reading opportunities at home. Good reading habits are built at home regardless the educational background of parents or caregivers. It is what a parent does to encourage their children to love reading even before starting school times. It needs simple steps and habits that will help your children be a skillful reader and enthusiastic learner.

Children explore things around them even from a few months of age. They listen to your voices, look at images, and point to object which attracts them. At this age you need to help them associate pictures and images with words to build their understanding in relating words to things.

Read to your children every day. This can’t be stressed. You should point and read words as many as you encounter. Books can encourage a child’s mind so that they can view the world outside themselves. At this age, they are so self-centered and reading stories may help them realize other have feelings, too.

Activity: Free-choice Reading
Let your child select the books they want to read. Help them with picture reading if they don’t get the stories. At this age, they will not actually read, but mimic what they hear. As they read pictures, ask some simple questions. Talk about what they see in the pictures and ask them. This activity will promote their reasoning skills and help them relate things occurring in the stories, indicating them to be an active reader.

Tomorrow read tips to motivate pre-schoolers to read

Sunday, December 4, 2011

4 Secrets to Never Getting Sick

4 Secrets to Never Getting Sick

By Jeannette Moninger                                              
Content provided by:

Ever wonder why you always seem to come down with a life-interrupting virus this time of year, while others you know sail through the season sniffle-, cough-, and ache-free?

We canvassed the research and talked to top experts to uncover these key, study-backed secrets for staying well, even when you're surrounded by germs. The docs' number one tip: Get the flu vaccine, ASAP. Then, follow these simple steps to boost your virus protection even more.

1. Make friends with fresh air
Common wisdom has it that staying indoors, where it's warm and toasty, is easier on your immune system than being outside in the cold. Problem is, being inside puts you in close constant contact with other people and their germs.

Not only does escaping into the fresh air give you a break from all those germs circulating inside, but going for a stroll can actually boost your immunity. "Exercise leads to an increase in natural killer cells, neutrophils, and monocytes, which ultimately increases immune function," says Ather Ali, ND, MPH, assistant director of Complementary/Alternative Medicine Research at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.

2. Relaxation fights off colds
There are a trillion reasons why taking time to chill out might be the last item on your to-do list. But here's why it should be a priority: "Being stressed will increase your susceptibility to catching a cold," says Ali. That may be because, over the long term, it leads to the ongoing release of stress hormones, such as glucocorticoids.

These impede your body's ability to produce cell-signaling molecules called cytokines, which trigger a disease-fighting response from your immune system. "You're also less likely to take care of yourself,  get ample sleep, eat right, exercise when you're stressed," says Ali, which is crucial to upping your immunity.

3. Clean hands are everything
Cold and flu can spread all too easily through touch. Keep your fingers away from your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible, and make sure to master the art of hand-washing. Soap and water remain your most effective tools there, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Germs can grow on bar soaps, so use the pumped kind or better yet, a hands-free dispenser and choose regular soap over antibacterial. Lather for a solid 20 seconds before rinsing, and make sure to dry thoroughly (but not on your germy clothes!): "Damp hands are far more likely to spread bacteria than dry ones," says Dana Simpler, MD, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

4. The magic bullet
An occasional restless night is nothing to worry about, but a continuous lack of zzz's can hamper your immune system's ability to function. Though experts often say that sleep requirements vary by individual, a 2009 Carnegie Mellon study found that anything short of seven hours nearly triples your odds of catching a cold and that means seven straight hours, with no middle-of-the-night wake-ups.

"For many of us, the only quiet time we have to think through things is when we're lying down at bedtime. Unfortunately, problem-solving in bed interferes with sleep," says Leslie Swanson, PhD, a sleep specialist at the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Too Much Vitamin C: Harmful?

Too much vitamin C: Harmful?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, but too much vitamin C carries its own risks.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient. Still, it's possible to have too much vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that supports normal growth and development. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron. Because your body doesn't produce or store vitamin C, it's important to include vitamin C in your diet. For most people, a small glass of orange juice plus a serving of strawberries, chopped red pepper or broccoli provides enough vitamin C for the day. Any extra vitamin C will simply be flushed out of your body in your urine.

For adults, the recommended upper limit for vitamin C is 2,000 milligrams (mg) a day. Although too much dietary vitamin C is unlikely to be harmful, megadoses of vitamin C supplements may cause:

Abdominal cramps
Kidney stones

Remember, for most people, a healthy diet provides an adequate amount of vitamin C.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tip #39: Teach Your Children to Save Some of Their Money

This is as good of time as any to start teaching your children the value of money. Why not go to your local bank and start a savings account that they can keep up with. This brings us to tip #39.

Tip #39: Teach your children to save some of their money.

Teach them to save 10% of any monetary gifts they receive or money they earn. This will become a habit at an early age and pay off big dividends as they grow in knowledge of investing and compound interest. You are going to be the person to teach your child about savings, so why not start saving 10% of your savings yourself and learn about investment, compound interest, and a rainy day fund. Your family will be wiser and better yet financially secure.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Autism 5 Times More Common Among Low Birth Weight Babies: Part 4

Beyond Vaccines: 5 Things that Might Really Cause Autism

Jan 7, 2011
7:28 PM ET
By Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer

"People are going to manifest the disorder in different ways, and that could be because there are different sets of genes, [or] different sets of environmental factors," that contribute to how the disorder presents itself, said Alycia Halladay, director of research for environmental sciences for Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization that funds autism research.

Here are #3-5 findings and ideas from scientists about what might really cause this mysterious condition.

3. Pharmaceuticals
Babies that have been exposed to certain pharmaceuticals in the womb, including valproic acid and thalidomide, have been found to have a higher risk of autism.

Thalidomide is a drug that was first used in the 1950s to treat morning sickness, anxiety and insomnia. The drug was withdrawn from the market after it was linked with birth defects, but is currently prescribed for a severe skin disorder and as a treatment for cancer.

Valproic acid is a medication prescribed for seizures, mood disorders and bipolar disorder, according to the NIH.

4. Parental age
As parents grow older, they have a higher risk of having children with autism, Halladay said.

A study published last February found that women who are 40 years old have a 50 percent greater risk of having a child with autism than women who are between 20 and 29 years old.

Researchers aren't sure why parental age may influence autism risk, but it might be related to genetic mutations that occur in the sperm or the egg as parents grow older, Halladay said.

5. The development of the brain
Particular areas of the brain, including the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum, have been implicated in autism, Mao said. These brain areas are thought to be responsible for concentration, movement and mood regulation.

Irregularities in the levels of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, have also been tied to autism, Mao said. Problems regulating dopamine can lead to problems with concentration and movement disabilities, while troubles controlling serotonin levels can result in mood problems.

Research advances
While scientists cannot say definitively what causes autism, they have come a long way in the last decade, Halladay said.

For example, researchers originally thought there might be just a single gene or a few environmental factors that are linked to autism, but now evidence has shown there are likely to be more.

"I think our knowledge has increased, and the way that we go about looking for potential genes and environmental candidates has improved," Halladay said.

"We're thinking about a new model — it's not just going to be just one gene or one environmental factor, it's more complex than that," she said.

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