Picture This: How Visualizing Stories Supports Reading Comprehension

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Visualization Supports Reading Comprehension

"The fog comes in on little cat feet." Carl Sandburg wrote this vivid image more than a century ago. Every time I see fog, I picture the fog to be like an old and wise feline softly padding along its way and then sitting silently, as cats do, to watch people go about their day, the sounds muffled somewhat because the fog blankets the world.

Why authors use sensory imagery

When the weather is foggy, it brings up a sensory image—for example, a mental picture inspired by the words of a brilliant poet. Creating sensory images is one key to reading comprehension: a strategy that helps readers better understand reading material. Readers who lack reading comprehension, i.e., people who do not visualize the scenes depicted on the pages they read, rarely enjoy reading. To them, books are just words, dry words without meaning or pleasure. But fortunately, imagining sensory details is a skill that parents can help their children develop! Laura Ingalls Wilder was a talented artist who worked with words and inspired my imagination. When I was a young person reading her books, I'd take breaks, closing my eyes to envision the scenes that were without modern distractions. In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura sees a town for the first time: the town of Pepin, Wisconsin. Before this point, she had never seen two houses together, so the sight of a town with buildings from one end of the horizon to the other leaves her speechless. ...

3 Keys to Becoming an Upstander to Bullying

By: Stephanie Osorno
stand up to stop bullying

Bullying—both physical and indirect, the latter through social media—is an ongoing issue that affects students every day. In fact, national surveys show that 28 percent of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying and that 15 percent of high school students were electronically bullied, or cyberbullied, in the past year.

While bullying is the kind of behavior parents hope their children will never encounter, the problem is widespread, so it’s smart to be prepared. In recognition of October as National Bullying Prevention Month, here are three important steps that you can take to empower your family to stand up against bullying.

  1. Educate
    • Make sure to provide your child with knowledge about bullying and cyberbullying. Offer some examples of things that a bully might do or say. This will help your student better understand. And, of course, let your student know that he or she can always come to you for help!
    • Before your child starts being active on social media, teach him or her some social media etiquette. With the daily rise of social media websites, cyberbullying is quickly increasing—but kids can easily learn how to be respectful online.
    • Remind your child that it is always important to be kind to others. Explain why treating someone poorly can sometimes have negative consequences.
  2. Recognize
    • If you suspect that your child is being bullied, look for warning signs. He or she might be too scared or embarrassed to talk about it, but you should stay actively alert. Your ...

5 Study Tips to Making Tough Subjects Easier to Learn

By: Beth Werrell
How to Make Tough Subjects Easier to Learn

When faced with studying a difficult topic, do you procrastinate, freeze, or dive in with a kind of brute-force, problem-solving approach that yields more frustration than understanding? Well, thanks to neuroscience, we now understand more about why that happens.

As Barbara Oakley, PhD, explains in "A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)," our first impulse is usually to focus as hard as we can on the details of a difficult subject—like the narrow beam of a flashlight on a dark path. But without first shining a broad light ahead, we fail to see the big picture concepts—all those connecting paths that make mastering a subject possible.

Neuroscientists call these narrow-beam, broad-beam approaches focused and diffused modes of thinking. And it turns out that the ability to switch between these modes at the right time is key to learning complex or difficult subjects.

Five Practical Neuroscience-Based Learning Tips

In her book, Oakley draws from her own early struggles with math and science as well as the latest findings in neuroscience to show students how to make those well-timed switches.

Here are five of Oakley’s study tips we think you’ll want to give a try. Though focused on studying a chapter of text, they readily apply to any assignment—from solving math problems to writing a research paper.

  1. Scan the headings, subheadings, and illustrations of the chapter first. Now take a moment to visualize the chapter and reflect on the broad ...

How to Implement a Chore Chart Reward System for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Does your child lack motivation to finish his or her chores? Are you unsure where to start when it comes to keeping track of completed chores?

Children may be inspired to work hard and correct resistant behavior if they are working toward a goal, which is where a chore reward system may come in handy. Take a look at these step-by-step instructions to make a homemade chore chart for your child.

Once you have implemented a process for keeping track of household chores, you can reflect on the idea of a reward system for your child. Let's start by considering his or her age.

Age-Appropriate Reward Structures

For young children, financial responsibility and "saving up" are most likely new concepts. To help your child develop good financial habits early, consider a reward system that offers a more immediate reward. Some age-appropriate rewards for children in elementary school include:

  • Reading an extra bedtime story
  • Having a picnic at the park
  • Having a pizza night
  • Going roller skating or ice skating
  • Having a playdate
  • Getting a chance to earn small sums of money

Preteens and teenagers should have greater understanding of how to budget money. They should also know that they will have to work harder and wait longer for certain rewards. To reinforce this concept, have your child collect a star or memento on each day of the week and then turn them all in at the end of the week for ...

An Introduction to Using Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
How Reading Strategies Improve Comprehension

How do you know if your student really understands what he or she reads? Parents often resort to a strategy, such as sounding it out or decoding the letters that make the words, but decoding isn't enough. Skilled readers think while they read in order to understand the meaning of a text.

Long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, I attended a meeting with a goal of revising elementary progress reports in my school district. We were talking about assessment and subsets for evaluating a student's reading progress when a committee member declared, "Let's have a line that reads, 'Uses reading strategies effectively.'" Comprehension, or understanding, was the only strategy that ended up on the final draft of the new progress report.

To help you better understand how reading comprehension works for young students, below is a brief rundown of a helpful book by Susan Zimmermann and Chryse Hutchins that highlights the essential components of comprehension: 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It!

What does it mean to comprehend something?

Let's put it in perspective by using Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning. Knowledge, or remembering, is the first level of learning. For example, I know the words in the book The Cat in the Hat, but can I put those words in context and understand what they mean? Comprehension is a step above knowledge. If I understand the book The Cat in the Hat, I can explain that ...

20 Technology Trivia Questions for Tech-Savvy Students

By: Beth Werrell

Growing up in the era of tablets, smartphones, GPS's, and self-parking cars, today's students seem to grasp technology intuitively. In fact, when it comes to technology, many kids are more advanced than their parents! But although they may master the latest gaming device with ease, how much do they know about the origins of modern technology? To find out, challenge your student with this week's Quiz Bowl trivia contest!

Seeing parents join in a spirited trivia competition will reinforce to your student that learning can be fun—and a lifelong pastime. Why not get the whole family involved and make it a team challenge? While your kids are showing off their knowledge of technology and having a blast, they'll also be absorbing new information. Or save the quiz to break up the boredom of a long car trip.

To add trivia to your next journey or family fun night, download the printable version of the Technology Quiz Bowl now.

Quiz Bowl is just one of the wide variety of online clubs and activities that Connections Academy students can enjoy. By participating, students gain opportunities to explore their personal interests and to connect with other students across the country who share those interests. Choices include something for everyone, with clubs for students who are interested in theater, arts, sports, robotics, science, college planning, and much more.

Integrating trivia quizzes and friendly competition into your family activities not only reinforces what your child has learned, ...

The Role of Success Coaches and Blended Learning in Boosting Learning Independence

By: Beth Werrell

Today's post by Charles Carver, Principal, Nexus Academy of Lansing, first appeared on GettingSmart.com.

Role of Success Coaches in Blended Learning

The personalized learning movement is profoundly changing the landscape of education. In all corners of the country and countless places in between, we are seeing blended learning schools open up in larger numbers each year. The value of high quality academic content delivered in a very 21st century and digital way combined with guided support and help from face to face teachers and academic coaches is resonating in schools and also at the dining room table.

At Nexus Academy, we employ a very special group of staff members known as Success Coaches. Our Success Coaches are certified teachers who work with their students every single day, but are not delivering any one content specialty. They are:

  • guiding discussion
  • overseeing academic research
  • providing daily college and career readiness activities
  • acting as each student’s go to mentor and advocate

The Success Coaches and their students spend significant amounts of time on soft skills, such as:

  • resume building
  • time management
  • decision making activities
  • skills they will need sharpened as they prepare to enter college and the workforce

The student and Success Coach relationship is the bedrock of a Nexus Academy education. They are creating GenDIY learners and adults through their daily interactions and support. Students who have graduated from our school come back and tell us that due to the nature of our school and model, they are faring very well in the college setting at ...

Building International Friendships in Virtual Private School

By: Stephanie Osorno
Worldwide Classmates Connecting in Online School

If you read this blog regularly, you may be pretty familiar with Connections Academy's accredited online public schools for students in grades K–12—but did you know that there's an online private school option as well? If a Connections Academy school is not available in your state, or if your family is living abroad, consider International Connections Academy (iNaCA).

iNaCA provides students with all the Connections Academy perks including certified teachers, an interactive curriculum, and a personalized learning experience—with the added bonus of being educated from anywhere in the world! This affordable private school is a great choice for any student, especially those who travel frequently for sports or family jobs, want to take an online course during the summer, or are looking for a more flexible academic schedule to pursue special interests.

To get a better sense of the iNaCA school community, read about a few iNaCA graduates and currently enrolled students from around the world below!

Sarah Chiang photoSarah Chiang
2015 Graduate
Southlake, Texas

As the number three ranked chess player in the country, Sarah needed a school schedule that would allow her to participate in international chess tournaments. She was even invited to compete in the esteemed U.S. Girls Junior Chess Tournament, where she came in fourth place. She graduated at the top of her class and is currently attending Washington University to become a doctor. Sarah is also working toward expanding her chess career by achieving the rare title of Grandmaster of Chess. For insight on high-level chess ...

Mindfulness and Its Benefits to Help Students Focus

By: Beth Werrell
Practicing Mindfulness Can Help Students Focus

Do you ever feel like there's a constant chatter going on in your mind, that your thoughts constantly flit back and forth between past, present, and future or get stuck in unproductive ruts? Meditation teachers call that "monkey mind."

For students, the ability to quiet the monkey mind can help them learn more easily and live less stressfully.

The key to this ability? Mindfulness!

What Is Mindfulness? What Are the Benefits?

Mindfulness entails paying purposeful attention to the present moment and observing your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without judging them. In this state of quiet observation, you begin to recognize the patterns of your thoughts and emotions and, eventually, to quiet them by focusing on the present. Recognizing that your thoughts are just thoughts, you also learn how to calm yourself in stressful situations.

What does this mean specifically for students? Recent studies show that regular mindfulness practice does the following things:

Simple Mindfulness Practices and Resources

So now that you know the benefits of mindfulness, how do you get started?

Here are a few practices suitable for different age groups, along with some tips and resources for parents and Learning Coaches.

For Students in K–5

For this age group, you'll want to make mindfulness short, simple, and fun. Since mindfulness is a pretty abstract concept, the key is showing—not telling or explaining. Better yet, model the ...

How to Inspire Girls in STEM Education

By: Tisha Rinker
Inspiring Girls in STEM Education - A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Imagine driving a car with only two wheels. Now imagine driving tomorrow’s innovations and economy with a fraction of our talents in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

According to statistical data from the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up 47% of the total workforce, but they hold only 27% of the high-paid, rewarding positions in science and engineering in the United States. The good news is we can help change those numbers tomorrow by encouraging more girls in STEM-related subjects today.

Here are a few ideas for how to encourage female students to pursue STEM.
  • Promote a growth mind-set toward STEM subjects. As we’ve discussed before, teaching students that intelligence can change over time improves learning attitudes and outcomes across the board. But it’s especially important when it comes to math and science, subjects where negative cultural stereotypes have implanted false ideas about innate, gender-based, or race-based abilities. Experiments show these “stereotype threats” directly impair women’s and girls’ interests and aspirations in math and science—even when they have clear abilities in those areas. So emphasize to your student that math and science skills develop over time through effort and perseverance.

  • Expose your student to female and minority role models in the STEM field. A positive example is one of the best ways to disprove a negative stereotype. So arm yourself with great stories about outstanding female and minority scientists, mathematicians, and inventors. Meet subject matter experts from diverse fields and backgrounds through our online clubs or ...

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