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MLK Day of Service

by Julie 17. January 2014 09:37
Monday, January 20 will be a day away from school for many students across the country. It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Students will celebrate by sleeping in, relaxing, watching television, or spending the day with their friends. They may learn about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement at school in the days surrounding the holiday, but on their day off, they likely won’t think of it.

But Dr. King was known for giving back and encouraging people to help others, saying "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?’" Encourage your students to follow his lead and “Make it a Day ON… Not a Day Off.” This way, they actively use what they learn to help social problems.

In 1994, the government turned MLK Day into a national day of community service. The first official MLK Day of Service took place in January 1995. Cities across the country honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by setting up volunteer opportunities in the community.

Projects may include cleaning up a park or playground, serving food at a local shelter, building a Habitat for Humanity home, or painting school walls, just to name a few. Many colleges and universities celebrate in a similar way, bringing students together from across campus to volunteer their time and give back to the community. More schools, including elementary, middle, and high schools should take part. It is a great way to meet new people, make some friends, and make a difference.

Look in your local newspaper or search online to find out what opportunities are available in your area. Let your students know the opportunities that are available near them. After MLK Day of Service has taken place, discuss it with your students. What did they do? What did they like about it? Would they want to do it again? Remind them that they don’t have to wait for specific service days to volunteer, but rather they can give back throughout the year.

More information can be found on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service website or on the Corporation for National & Community Service YouTube channel.

WE WANT TO KNOW: Have you or your students participated in MLK Day of Service? What do you think the benefits are, not only toward the community but also toward students’ education?

Physical Education: A Disappearing Act

by Julie 12. December 2013 16:07

What has happened to gym class and recess? They are slowly disappearing from the school day. When I was in elementary school, we had recess every day with plenty of time for a long game of tag or basketball with a few rounds of four square thrown in and time left over to talk with our friends. Teachers occasionally even gave us extra recess when they thought we had done particularly well that week with our classwork and behavior. Gym class was every day or at least on a regular basis as well. But now, schools around the country have reduced the amount of time kids get to be physically active. It has been determined that more time needs to be spent on core classes and standardized testing, leaving less time for physical education and recess.


According to a survey released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Harvard School of Public Health, and National Public Radio, about 25% of the parents polled thought their child’s school does not provide adequate attention to physical education and exercise. These concerns should be listened to because regular physical activity builds bones and muscles, reduces the risks of many diseases and depression, and can even help academic achievement and behavior. Even though this is known, less than 50% of children were found to get the recommended 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

If this is the case, why don’t parents make their children get exercise after school? Students have homework and chores to complete. Many kids have extra-curricular activities like music lessons, art, or theater programs rather than sports, and these don’t provide the necessary physical activity. Then, they need to eat and to sleep the recommended 8–9 hours. Time simply runs out.

Physical education classes and recess are important for more than just physical exercise though. In gym class, children get a sampling of many physical activities and learn what they are interested in. Some may realize they love soccer. Others may realize they never want to play it again, but they enjoyed basketball, volleyball, or gymnastics. Without this opportunity, parents would have to pay for lessons for each activity before their children learn what they like, and many cannot afford to do that. It would also take many years for students to experience all of the possibilities because seasons overlap. Either that or the students would be overbooked trying to fit everything in at once. Gym class and recess also give students time to interact with and get to know each other. Friendships are forged and often maintained on the playground. Gym class and recess may be the only times students from different classes get to interact.

Schools are at least trying to solve part of the problem (physical activity). At least one school requires students to take a walk in the morning before school starts. Others are having teachers mix it into the core classes. The importance of physical activity hasn’t been lost, but somehow the time has.

WE WANT TO KNOW: Do your students get enough physical exercise? Are gym class and recess available at your students’ schools, or is physical activity encouraged in another way? If you are a general education teacher, do you incorporate physical activity in your classroom? How? Leave a comment to let your fellow teachers and parents know!

If you are a teacher looking to incorporate movement in your classroom, you can find help in our movement & music section (http://ow.ly/rHvsj).

Learn more about the survey here: http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/survey-too-little-physical-education
-in-schools-concerns-parents/


Or here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/12/06/249247319/to-get-kids-exercising
-schools-are-becoming-creative


And get more information about physical activity recommendations here: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/physicalactivity/facts.htm

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Listening: The Key to Common Core?

by Lauren 12. December 2013 10:25
What separates a successful student from his or her classmates? According to Common Core advocates, it’s listening skills. A student who truly listens understands what is being asked, can demonstrate skills based on his or her understanding, and can apply his/her new knowledge in a variety of situations. In fact, the Common Core is comprised of a set of speaking and listening skills for each grade, starting in kindergarten with basics like taking turns speaking and listening to others while they speak, and ending in twelfth grade with more complex skills like expressing ideas persuasively and building off of others’ thoughts. Ultimately, the Common Core listening skills are designed to make students an asset to the workforce, where listening skills are in great demand but are often little seen.
According to an article on eSchool News, a 21st century worker is a good listener when, “they can summarize what they have been told and retell what they have learned to colleagues…Those in the workplace will be expected to reflect on what they have heard, ask for clarity in the face of a misunderstanding, as well as make connections to what is being said on team.” Listening skills can make or break a worker’s performance in the office. Those who don’t follow through with what they’ve been told, and worst of all refuse to ask questions when they don’t understand something, will exasperate their employers and might make their future uncertain at said company.

Unfortunately, teachers can often find listening a tough skill to engrain in their students.  To combat this problem, eSchool News recommends using audio books in the classroom. Students will not only have to listen to what is being said, but they will have to process that information in order to understand the message of the story, essay, or article. Using audiobooks in the classroom also introduces students to different forms of media, another component of the Common Core State Standards.

How do you incorporate listening skills in your classroom? Have you tried audiobooks? What other suggestions do you have? How would you assess the Common Core Listening Standards-a good idea or bad idea for teachers?

Read the eSchool News article on Common Core listening skills here.

Check out some of LEP’s products that boost speaking & listening skills: What’s That Sound?, I Can…Move!, Taking Time for Teamwork, & Ice Breakers!

Read the Common Core Speaking & Listening Standards.

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District Decides to Monitor Students’ Social Networking

by Lauren 15. November 2013 16:10
In an effort to curtail cyber bullying, vandalism, drug use, and even suicidal thoughts, the Glendale Unified School District in California has decided to monitor their students’ activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other popular social-networking sites. To complete this controversial task, the school enlisted Geo Listening, a social network monitoring service, for a sum of $40,500. Last year, the school district used Geo Listening in a pilot program to monitor three thousand of its students, both in middle school and in high school. Ultimately, Glendale’s decision raises concerns regarding student privacy; many believe the school has overstepped its boundaries.


In order to monitor Glendale middle and high schoolers, Geo Listening accesses students’ public posts on social networking sites. This means if a student keeps his or her posts/profiles marked private, the company won’t have access. When the company finds questionable content or posts that violate the school’s code of conduct, the campus is notified. In fact, school administrators receive daily updates from Geo Listening. These updates usually include a screen shot of the problematic content with the user’s name, along with the time and date, if the post was made on or off campus, and why the post caught the attention of analysts. So far, none of the campus administrators have disciplined a student for the material he or she has published online.


Even though the school might mean well, (the decision was made after several student’s suicides), many high schoolers and middle schoolers have expressed concern over the monitoring program.  The ACLU has also said that the district is walking a very fine line and their use of monitoring oversteps what is necessary for student safety. Equally concerning are the qualifications and the methodology used by the analysts. Do the analysts have a background in counseling or psychology that would enable them to determine when a student really needs help? What right do the analysts have to deem content questionable or unquestionable? It’s possible their ratings might be more stringent than a parent or guardian. The analysts could easily have a strong bearing on a student’s future and reputation at school, so hopefully they use both strong judgment and wisdom.


What do you think about schools monitoring students’ social media postings? Does this infringe on student privacy, even when posts are already marked “public”? Will monitoring actually decrease bullying and other problems? What negative effects is it likely to have?


Check out Geo Listening’s website to get the full scoop on their controversial system. 



Happy NaNoWriMo!

by Julie 4. November 2013 15:43

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It is also a great month to get your students involved in writing (especially in locations where the weather is cold and gray). Students (and teachers) have had a few months to shake away the cobwebs after summer break and refresh their understanding of grammar and the writing process. 


Now is the time to delve deeper and push students to understand their full writing potential: they can write a story and even a book if they put their minds to it. You may have heard about some of the novels that came from NaNoWriMo, such as Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgernstern’s The Night Circus.


Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.


NaNoWriMo is actually a nonprofit that encourages aspiring writers to sit down and create. The adult program has a word-count goal of 50,000 words, but young writers can set their own goals. Beginning writers could create a shorter story, while more advanced writers could aim for a full novel. If your students reach their goals, they can even get free copies of their finished manuscripts through CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/nanowrimo?ref=890654&utm_id=5932)


So how can you use NaNoWriMo to your advantage? Check out their Young Writers Program at http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/. The website brings writers and educators together through forums and provides electronic pep talks throughout the month. If your local library or bookstore is involved, you may be able to meet other writers and educators participating in the program through local write-ins. The program is free to use, and you only need internet access occasionally to participate. Students can write offline and paste the text into the Word Count Validator on their NaNoWriMo account at designated times.


Set aside time during class for students to write their stories, or have them write at home. During class, keep your students inspired! Give them fun writing activities and prompts to boost their creativity. Provide materials and lessons to help them become better writers (http://ow.ly/qovSO).  Learn more about holding writing workshops in your classroom to take full advantage of NaNoWriMo (http://ow.ly/qovzt)!


And don’t forget, if you want to try writing a novel in just 30 days, sign yourself up at http://nanowrimo.org/!


WE WANT TO KNOW: How do you encourage your students to write? Are you going to have your students try the NaNoWriMo challenge or try it yourself? Keep us updated! Leave a comment below to let us, and your fellow teachers and parents, know. 

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National Bullying Prevention Month

by Julie 9. October 2013 16:25

Have you ever heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? As bullying comes into the spotlight more and more, it becomes clear that this saying is not true. Although you may not see physical harm from name-calling or other types of verbal bullying, the effects are still very real. Bullying can negatively affect students’ physical and emotional health, lowering their self-esteem and even threatening their ability to learn.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, providing a perfect reason to discuss all types of bullying with children and teenagers. This topic is not always easy to approach, which may be why it is often discussed in response to something that has already happened rather than in advance as a way to prevent it. Use this month to get ahead of bullying by discussing these issues before they occur!


Teaching and modeling acceptance and compassion can help children understand that differences are not bad and not reasons to avoid or make fun of others. Bullying can occur because students don’t understand each other. Encourage students to interact with people who seem different from them. Introduce your students to students with special needs in your school or city (you could even make an event out of it and have a picnic lunch in a classroom or outside). You could also set up time to volunteer at a local shelter. The more students interact with others who seem different, the more they can connect with each other and accept these differences. Whether or not you can arrange these experiences, be sure to teach your students about various cultures and groups. If you don’t know where to start, you may want to check out our available character education books  (http://ow.ly/pC5L8 ) and culture books (http://ow.ly/pC5Zf ).

In addition to directly teaching about bullying and accepting others, it is a good idea to create a plan to respond to bullying if it occurs. Let your students know that they can come to you to discuss problems they are having with others. Explain to students how they should report bullying to you and how you will handle it (Will it be anonymous? Will you ask the bully to apologize? Will you make them do a good deed to make up for it or read a book about bullying?). Don’t forget to follow-up and make sure that the student has stopped their bullying behavior.

For more information about bullying, ways to talk about it, or ideas about how to handle these situations, visit http://www.stopbullying.gov/ or PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center at http://www.pacer.org/bullying/

WE WANT TO KNOW: Do you see bullying in your classroom? How do you handle it? Does anything in particular work well to prevent it or stop it from happening again? Leave a comment to let us (and your fellow teachers and parents) know!


Fighting School Absences

by Lauren 30. August 2013 16:37

 With schools across the nation now back in session, teachers not only have to focus on curriculum and lesson plans, but they also have to keep track of day- to-day classroom happenings- like students’ tardiness and attendance. Although schools have long promoted class attendance, especially with the overly familiar Perfect Attendance Award (hardly the coolest or most prestigious award to win), class attendance has dropped dramatically over the last few years. In a recent study by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that up to 15% of American students are chronically absent from school, meaning they missed one day for every ten. 

Similar research has found that 90,000 elementary school students miss more than one month of school each year. Here’s the bottom line: when students miss class frequently, it makes teachers’ jobs much more difficult, and students lose out on the learning time they so desperately need.

To combat the growing problem of chronic absenteeism (missing 10% or 18 days of the school year), the Advertising Council and the U.S. Army have teamed up to form a new campaign to promote attendance. Ads show how frequent absences diminish students’ possibility of graduating. The campaign launched at a critical time. September is now Attendance Awareness Month, a nationwide initiative designed to show students how attendance contributes to higher grades and performance. Plus, since in September students are just getting familiar with classroom policies, it will be easier for teachers to stress the necessity of attendance at this time.

The campaign also appeals to parents, challenging them to think about why their kids miss school. Are their reasons for absences valid? Often parents don’t think attendance is really important until high school, while others don’t keep track of how many days students really miss. Going on vacation for a week, 3 or 4 sick days, and family emergencies all add up. It’s easy to see that parents have the biggest deciding factor in student absences; when 90,000 elementary students miss over a month of school, it’s hard to shift the blame to the youngsters, who have no control over transportation or family vacations.

Unfortunately, only six states and several larger school districts, including those in New York City & Oakland, California, measure chronic absenteeism. This means most schools across the U.S. don’t have the capabilities to track and follow up on student attendance. At most, a letter might get sent home with the student, but who knows if it actually ends up in a parent’s hands. In order to change the lax attitude about absences, students and parents need to have a shift in values, where class attendance and knowledge are a priority.

How is absenteeism handled in your school? If you’re a teacher, have you noticed student absences increase in the last several years? If you’re a parent, what reasons do you have for letting your child miss school? What are your thoughts about the Ad Council’s new campaign? Will it be effective?

For more information on the initiative to end chronic absences, visit BoostAttendance.org.  This website also has a Text2Track, where parents can track student absences.

Kentucky Aims to Approve Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

by Lauren 12. August 2013 09:01

After much resistance to the Next Generation Science Standards, the science equivalent to the Common Core State Standards for reading and mathematics, Kentucky education officials are now on their way to implement the NGSS state-wide. While in other states, accepting the NGSS has been standard procedure, Kentuckians voiced strong opinions against the standards, due to their emphasis on evolution. Clearly, the fight between evolution and creationism in schools is still very much alive.          

In fact, public opposition became so fierce that major news outlets, like The Huffington Post, published articles focusing on the evolution debate occurring in Kentucky. While the standards were being evaluated, the state received thousands of responses from residents. E-mails poured in, many of which claimed it was unethical to teach evolution to students “because it is a theory and not a fact.” Others claimed teaching evolution would ostracize religious students. Even more said teaching evolution interfered with students’ freedom of religion.

Although creationists pushed back, Kentucky education officials confirmed that evolution teachings are already a part of science curriculum in the state. Officials also told criticizers that much scientific evidence exists to confirm evolution. Ina recent statement, they said, “[evolution is] the fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences.” They also stated, “there is no significant ongoing debate within the scientific community regarding the legitimacy of evolution as a scientific idea.” To confirm the validity of Kentucky educational officials, over 3,700 people signed a petition in support of the standards. Those who support the standards hope they will eliminate scientific ignorance and keep Kentucky on the right track for a competitive science education program.

As of now, it seems like evolution won out for Kentucky schools. Before the NGSS is accepted though, the standards have to be passed by the General Assembly, where they could reach further opposition.  As other states begin to focus on the NGSS, tensions between evolution and creationism are expected to rise. This is one of the most contentious debates in education curriculum. Many believe the two are in direct conflict with one another, an unbridgeable gap that defies any attempt at crossing.

What are your thoughts on the evolution vs. creationism debate? Can harmony ever exist between the two-where evolution is in science class and creationism in religion class? How does your school deal with teaching evolution and intelligent design? Is one promoted over the other?

School Supply Prices on the Rise

by Lauren 25. July 2013 15:47

Yes, it’s that time of year again! With July quickly coming to a close, teachers, parents, and maybe even students now have their thoughts turned to the back-to-school season. For most of you, this time of year is filled with preparation-new classrooms, new students and teachers, and yes, even new school supplies. When I was younger, this feeling of preparation was one of the best parts of the back-to-school season. School supply shopping involved purchasing crisp folders and pristine notebooks, heralding a fresh start for the year.

Although I’m sure school supply lists have changed quite a bit since I was in grade school, one thing has always remained constant: price increases.The Backpack Index, an annual report from Huntington National Bank that analyzes changing school supply costs, reported that school supply prices are up an average of 7.3% this year, which no doubt will have a profound effect on schools, teachers, and parents.

The report calculated the cost of basic school supply items, like paper, pencils, and erasers, but it also looked at the rising costs for instrument rentals and sports or other extra-curricular fees. No matter what your student is involved in this upcoming school year, it’s certain more money will be spent. If you’re the parent of an elementary school student, you can expect to see prices that are up approximately 5.3% from last year. In fact, elementary school parents will probably pay up to $577 per child on school supplies and extra-curricular fees this year! The numbers are even larger if your student is in middle school or high school. A middle school student will need an average of $763 in supplies. High school students had the highest increase, a shocking average of $1,223 per child for school and extra-curricular necessities.

While parents are clearly affected, teachers also bear the brunt of increased supply costs. In fact, teachers spent an average of $347 of their OWN money on classroom supplies for the 2012-2013 school year. That number is expected to rise for 2013-2014.

So, what can be done? There are certain organizations that help out teachers and parents with school supply costs. Wal-Mart has a program that donates funds spent on school supplies to registered school districts. Adopt a Classroom enables individuals or businesses to adopt and donate funds to a classroom in need. Some organizations, like Crayons to Classrooms, located in LEP’s native city of Dayton, Ohio, provide free school supplies for teachers in under-funded K-12 districts.

What school supplies are noticeably higher this year? What methods do you use to save money on back-to-school shopping? Have you used any of the programs listed above? Feel free to share your experiences and money-saving ideas with other readers!


You can read the original story here:
http://fool.com/investing/businesswire/2013/07/23/huntington-banks-annual-backpack-index-finds-costs.aspx

Reinventing Summer School

by Lauren 19. July 2013 11:34

 In the past, summer school has been  used solely as a  remediation tool, where  students who have  failed classes or  missed much class time come  to make up their work in order  to proceed to the following grade level. Not so today. 


Many large school districts, like New York City,Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Providence, Charlotte, and LEP’s nearby Cincinnati Public School System, have decided to use summer classes as a means of preventing summer slide, bolstering knowledge, and reaching students in a more fun and relaxed learning environment.

In these reinvented summer schools, students cover the basics, like reading, writing, and mathematics, but they also benefit from creative activities, like art and music classes, as well as trips to local museums or theaters. This gives teachers the opportunity to truly make learning “fun” and work without the constraints they have placed upon them during the school year. In Jacksonville, a large number of students attend summer school not to make up classes, but to continue their education and prevent falling behind their classmates.

To fund these programs, many schools, especially fiscally challenged districts in Baltimore, Chicago, or Pittsburgh, have looked to philanthropic organizations. In Jacksonville, schools used federal stimulus dollars and a Wallace Foundation Grant to fund summer school programs. They also partnered with several nonprofit organizations, which helped the school set up a variety of field trips. It’s clear that many of these schools have had to get creative with funding, but no matter the source, students will reap the benefits.

In fact, summer slide can be truly problematic for teachers and students. Research shows that summer break causes students to lose at least one month of instruction per year. Low-income students are often disproportionately affected by summer slide. While students from higher economic backgrounds are often able to travel, go to camp, or even enroll in educational classes over the summer, low-income students might be stuck at home or daycare, where they often experience little to no educational stimulation.

With these factors in mind, many educators have long been pushing for a year-round school year, where students have short breaks throughout the year. Having the summers off was logical when students were affected by harvest time, but honestly, it doesn’t make much sense any more. Now, many students live in large cities or suburbs and both parents hold a full-time job, so summer break means sleeping in and spending the day at the pool, watching cartoons, or playing video games. However, summer break seems to be so ingrained in our society, it might be hard for students or parents to give it up. In the meantime, it looks like summer school may be students’ and teachers’ best bet to level the playing field and increase knowledge and engagement.

What do you think about reinvented summer school programs? How will they help students? What are the downsides to summer school? Is year-round school something our government should consider?

 

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