Friday, July 31, 2009

Back To School Clothes On A Budget

After a summer of growing and playing outside, the beginning of school marks the time for new clothes. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute tested basic jeans and tees to find you the best buy for your money. They checked shrinkage, durability, fading, and sizes. Not too glamorous but valuable info for parents these days. Here are their results by store:

Kmart: Good buys are (BE)Boy Basic Edition jeans($10), Girl Basic Edition Flare Jeans ($13)although these will shrink just a tad, and BE Girl Polo collared shirts ($11). BE T-shirts for boys and girls are not well made. Skip these.

Walmart:
Stock up on (FG)Faded Glory Boy and Girl T-shirts at $3.50. They are cut big but will shrink just a little. FG Boy Relaxed Jeans and Girl Slim Stretch Flare Jeans are less than $10 pair and held up better than Girl Levis. Don't buy FG polos for boys.

Target:
Cherokee Boy jeans($14) and Girl Ts($6) are not the best for wear and tear. Boy polos ($7) are made of strong cotton and run a little small.

Old Navy: Girlfriend Boot Cut Jeans ($19.50)are trendy and launder well. Boy and Girl Polos ($9.50-12.00)are good buys too. Both shrink a little. The Boy Faded Bootcut Jeans ($19.50) are reportedly 'not worth the price'.

By shopping smart you might have enough money left to buy those shoes or that top that is all the rage. Some high schoolers had rather be caught dead than show up on the first day in "fresh" back to school clothes or shiny sneakers. Others want to be stylin' for sure. Work with your child to make sure they are appropriately dressed and let them find their own comfort level. Their day will go much smoother that way.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Podcasts Yes. Professors No.

iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors? Maureen Dowdy had an interesting article in yesterday's AJC about this study by the State University of New York. According to Dowdy the study "found that students who downloaded a podcast lecture and took notes earned much higher test scores on the material than peers who attended a traditional lecture".

Half the students in the study were given the traditional lecture, half were given the same lecture via podcast with no specific instructions about how to use the podcasts to study. When debriefing it was found that the students listened, took notes, and then 'listened to it multiple times'.

As a learning specialist and CRISS trainer, this comes as no surprise to me. Study after study shows that repetition is one of the key elements of learning. A "12 minute review" of notes several times a day has proven effective in studies. Breaking study material into small chunks and rehearsing it a little at a time increases retention. And on and on it goes.

The teacher, the professor, is still the most important element in the classroom. They set the tone, manage the environment, use a variety of teaching and learning strategies, and attend special needs.

So what does all this mean to you, a student or a parent of a student who might be struggling? Very simply, review the material a little at a time over and over again. Plain old fashioned practice does the job. A podcast does not a teacher make.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Which Graphing Calculator Should I Buy?

Every high school math student should have his own calculator. Even if the school loans you one, you need to have your own. If you are taking Basic Math or PreAlgebra, the TI-30 or TI-30X Scientific Calculator is perfect. This will do everything you need except graphing and costs $14.21 at Amazon.If you just want a small, simple calculator for the younger set or to throw in your purse the TI108 is fine for $10.20.

When you get to Algebra II or higher level courses, or in some schools Algebra I, you will soon find it is essential to own a graphing calculator. The question then becomes, "Which one should I buy?" First of all, ask your teacher. Your teacher is always your best resource. Based on ease of use, applications and functions, I would recommend the TI-83+. It will do everything you need it to do and has a lot of support for Statistics. The TI Graphing calculators can easily be upgraded so not to worry when the next model is out. The TI 84+ is also a great calculator, it just isn't what I use.....same thing with just a few new apps which most students don't use. With the TI-84+, you can view an equation, its graph, and the coordinates all at once. Both are tough, durable calculators that can handle being thrown in a book bag or falling off your desk.

One thing, if you are new to high school, please put your name on the OUTSIDE of your calculator in a way that cannot be scraped off or marked over! These are valuable and, unfortunately, they tend to walk off if you get my drift. Engraving is good if you have an engraving tool.

Your teacher will explain exactly how to use this calculator but if you are a parent or you just want a more thorough explanation there are DVDs and "Dummies" books that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know.

These calculators are approved for use on the SAT and other standardized tests at this time but ALWAYS check with your teacher before assuming anything about calculator usage.

Hey, LEARN TO USE THIS CALCULATOR! It will save your butt! You can buy it right here through Amazon or try EBay for a used one at a cheaper price..

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Free Graph Paper!

This is a good site to print graph paper when you need it so you don't have to run t the store when you run out at 9:00 at night! You have a choice of size and layout of graph so it should fit any need you have in algebra or geometry. You do need to have Adobe Reader. There is an icon on the site so you can download it for free if you don't already have it.

Have fun graphing! Always use a straightedge! Yeah right.

Friday, July 24, 2009

How Do You Help Kids Learn? #1

Research studies show that students need to practice a skill 24 times to reach 80% competency. Think about learning to tie your shoe, hit a golf ball or a backhand in tennis, play the piano, paint, or play video games. Whatever we are learning, our first attempt is just a start. It takes a lot of practice to get good at anything.

I believe that children should have free play whether it's digging in the dirt, fishing at the creek if you're lucky enough to have a creek, or playing ball. Even so we can be aware of the value of practice. It comes naturally with counting. We teach our children to count and then we count everything: the stairs, pennies, stars in the sky, apples, and fingers and toes. They learn to read, then we read with them and to them at every opportunity.

Many children have their first struggles in school with mathematics or reading. If this happens for your child just remember that they still need the same level of practice they did learning to tie their shoe. Most don't get it. How can you help with learning problems? Remember this study. Talk to them about how much they practice the things they like and how good they are at them.

It takes more than 10 minutes on homework to strengthen a skill. Helping your child learn is not about constantly instructing them. It is about giving them the tools to be independent learners. One of these age old tools, now supported by research, is just plain old fashioned practice.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Someone Needs YOU!

I just finished reading an article by Pat Gee in the Star Bulletin, a Hawaiian newspaper, about providing new backpacks for homeless children. The number of negative comments readers left regarding this article surprised me.

Yes, a homeless child needs much more than a new backpack. Yes, some of them may not use them as hoped. To many of them, however, having what they need to start the new year is just the best. Not having to borrow a pencil or paper or crayons, or use the broken ones left from last year, because you have your own is the way it should be. I declare it so.

So if you, or I, have the chance to provide a backpack or fill a backpack let's not hesitate to do so. When you get your own child ready for school, double your efforts so that another child gets the same readiness. Oh, you say, their parents should do it??? Yes, they should. And we know there are hundreds of reasons why they don't.

Could we go a little farther and be a mentor to a child this year? No, we all can't but perhaps some of us can. Where do we go to find someone? In Atlanta a group called "For The Kid In All Of Us" could use your help. ALso in Georgia MUST Ministries needs us. Salvation Army, United Way, your child's school, perhaps your neighbor or your child's friend. If you want to volunteer at school it takes time for a background check and clearance so expect that.

Search your community to find a need and fill it. There are always needs outside of our own and right now a lot of them are about school. By helping someone else get a new start you may be opening up a whole new opportunity in your own life.

Monday, July 13, 2009

First Day Of School Advice

What is YOUR best advice for your kids' first day of school? No matter what their age, everyone has first day jitters.....even most teachers. Everything is new and different. New teachers, new schedule, new subjects, new lunch group. Exciting stuff. Sets the pace for the entire year.

Should kids get to wear whatever they want that day? Is that important? Should they ride the big yellow bus or is that too humiliating so you will drive them? Will they brown bag it or see what's new on the lunch line? What do you hope their teachers will say the first day of school? What should they take with them?

What is the conversation like around your breakfast table that very first morning, or maybe at dinner the night before? Click on COMMENTS below and share your thoughts. Let's see what we come up with.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

School Starting Soon!

Stay tuned to this site for tips to help you start the school year off right!

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Don't Stereotype Autism!

There are so many degrees of autism!

Let's not paint "autistic" children with one sweep of the brush making broad statements about how amazing it is to have them graduate from high school. http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/07/02/autism.high.school/index.html?eref=rss_topstories.

While it is true that you cannot be just a little bit pregnant...you either are pregnant or you are not...children may be mildly autistic or severely so. As teachers we must know all that we can about every autistic student we teach. They vary as widely as any other students. I remember one student whose brilliance in mathematics far exceeded my own abilities. Did he behave or learn like everyone else? No! But then neither did the kid who sat next to him and the one across the room who was a perfectly "normal" teenage math student.

Another young fellow with a diagnosis of autism, also quite bright, struggled because he was so different. Often he struggled with me, I must admit, as my patience sometimes wore thin. The math? No problem for him. Graduating? No problem for him. Doing his homework? Problem!!! Staying on task? Problem!!! Peer interaction? Sometimes problem! Other students do understand as much as they can with the maturity they possess, but alas, they are kids too. Big buddies one minute, not the next. Goes both ways. So, in my view, autistic children on the mild end of the spectrum are very much like the rest of us but some lack social filters and some have tough shells.

My hat is off to all special education teachers who make sure these students' needs are met. My hat is also off to all of their subject teachers who continually try to learn ways to reach them. Fail, try again. And again. And again. Then success! And my hat is off most of all to their parents who never give up and are always their biggest advocates, never accepting their supposed limits.
Can they graduate? Many can. Our next job, and I say "OUR" because I believe it really does take a village, is to help them transition from high school to their next appropriate step with all the support they need and deserve. Isn't this what we want for all our children?