Friday, August 21, 2015

Homework Battles: When Parent Help Negatively Affects Students

Joys of Homework by Bart


Homework has become as much work for parents as it is for kids in many families when parents slog through assignments together with their kids every night. They see it as part of their parental duty to help their children.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Please Give 2-year Olds Homework!

Bathroom Reading by Jay Ryness
Whoa...did the title scare you enough to click whatever link got you here? Hang on...it was not merely click-bait to get you here to bump up my Google Ads account. Read on...

What if we had a magic tool that could do all of the following:

  • improve the ability for kindergarteners to self-regulate?
  • reduce anxious behavior and temper tantrums?
  • increase the odds of getting a college education?
  • increase the chance of having a 401K?
  • improve the likelihood of owning a home?


Sound too good to be true? NOPE! The magic tool is simply to increase the vocabulary of our toddlers.

While I am certain to be doing a little reductionist thinking, indulge me a little bit.

Studies have shown that toddlers with bigger vocabularies are better prepared for kindergarten later. We also know that "at kindergarten entry, those who had bigger vocabularies at an early age had higher reading and mathematics achievement and fewer problem behaviors like being disruptive, having temper tantrums or being physically aggressive." In turn, students with higher reading and mathematics achievement at kindergarten tend to continue experiencing academic success in ensuing school years. The result, naturally, is college education, a 401K, and owning a home.

So, my thinking looks like this...
The big question...What causes a strong toddler vocabulary? What goes in the box with all the question marks? Because that is the secret sauce to get the whole ball rolling.

Here are some simple things to do at home (this is the homework part):

  • talk to your toddler
  • ask open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions
  • talk out loud in your child's presence about what you see and notice
  • watch what your toddler is doing and narrate it for them
  • read, read, read, and then read some more to them

The magic tool? Read and talk with your child. The more, the better!

Start reading with your child. Start talking with your child. Watch the magic do its work.

For more on this, please check out American Radioworks' podcast on the miracle of The Perry Preschool Project, the inspiration for Head Start.
(If you don't see the above embedded podcast player, you may need to tell your browser to show it. For Chrome, that means clicking on the silver shield in your browser search bar.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

YouCubed's Week of Inspirational Math


As a math teacher for 25 years, I can't tell you how many times a parent has proudly announced to me they can't do math. In fact, innumeracy seems to be a badge of honor for some folks. During that same time, never once have I heard an adult brag that they can't read.

How is this the case?

Here's a quick thought of mine: In America mathematical aptitude is seen as a result of good genetics rather than from hard work. While we Americans take it for granted that becoming a lawyer or a brain surgeon or a civil engineer is the result of years of hard work, mathematics is merely a gift one is born with. It's as if no amount of hard work can overcome the genetics one is born with.
NOT TRUE!

We never hear a teacher or parent say of a student, "He just doesn't have the right genes to learn how to read. Oh well." For a struggling reader, we spare no expense in helping that student learn how to read. The same cannot be said for mathematics.

Each year Back-to-School Night, I tell parents that I believe ALL students can learn math. It is merely a matter of working hard (both me and the student), finding the right instructional method to match the student's needs, and having enough time. Given those three ingredients, ALL students can learn mathematics. Genetics be darned. We now call this Growth Mindset...thanks Carol Dweck!

Jo Boaler - a colleague of Dweck's and an amazing educator herself - says it this way on her youcubed site:
"There is a really damaging myth that pervades the US/UK and other countries – the idea that some people are born with a “math brain” and some are not. This has been resoundingly disproved by research but many students and parents believe this. It is really important to communicate “growth mindset” messages to students. Help them know that everyone is a math person and that the latest research is telling us that students can reach any levels in math because of the incredible plasticity of the brain."

How does a teacher accomplish this? Boaler makes it easy by providing a full one-week curriculum called the "Week of Inspirational Math". It is a project of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. They have developed a Week of Inspirational Math, designed for teachers to use the first week of school to inspire positive math mindsets in their students. Each lesson is aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Standards for Mathematical Practice, can be adapted for several grade levels, and includes a video and surveys for teachers, students, and parents. Teachers can also discuss each lesson with each other on a discussion board.

If you haven't already done so, please consider ways to create a classroom atmosphere that oozes of Mathematical Growth Mindset. What does that look like? Sound like? What would students in this kind of classroom say?

Start with a Week of Inspirational Math!

Please tell me below how it goes....

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kids have three times too much homework, study finds; what's the cost?



(CNN)Nothing quite stresses out students and parents about the beginning of the school year as the return to homework, which for many households means nightly battles centered around completing after-school assignments. Now a new study may help explain some of that stress.

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