Teach Kids to Show Gratitude with Thanksgiving Place Mats

By: Beth Werrell

When young children are old enough to talk, they start to learn simple words as well as basic manners. And when a child learns the appropriate times to say “please” and “thank you,” he or she slowly starts to connect manners and gratitude. Teaching children to be grateful is essential to character development.

To help your child understand and express gratitude, try our Thanksgiving place mat activity. It’s a simple construction paper craft that gives kids a chance to thank every friend and family member at the Thanksgiving dinner table. These personalized place mats are decorated with cutout leaves, which have handwritten messages such as “Thank you for teaching me how to bake cookies.” It’s a great exercise because writing specific messages reminds kids of all the things they are grateful for.

Other Crafty Place Mat Ideas

The Thanksgiving place mat craft is easy to modify if your child wants to get creative. Here are a few ideas he or she might like to try.

  • Add extra flair with stickers, stamps, and markers.
  • Use tempura paint to make a handprint turkey in the middle of the place mat.
  • Draw a picture of the family member on a blank sheet of paper. Cut it out and glue it to the center of the place mat.
  • Glue on a couple of real leaves, if you can still find some outside.
  • Include one of the thank-you quotes at the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget ...

How Trends in Online Learning Are Changing Classroom Design

By: Stephanie Osorno
How Online Learning is Changing Classroom Design

When you think of a classroom, you probably think of the traditional setup: rectangular desks with a chair facing the teacher and the chalkboard. It’s the kind of design that advocates for a lecture—a teacher delivers a lesson while the students listen and obtain significant knowledge.

But is that really how students learn best? New trends in digital learning show that the standard classroom setup is changing since students are proving to be more active learners. With many schools executing blended learning by integrating virtual technology into their curriculum, classroom designers have begun to reevaluate and modify their overall approach for a more optimal learning environment that better meets today’s student needs.

Why the change?

Here are a few things students gain from a less structured learning setting:

In a study on active learning spaces, Steelcase found that a more informal learning environment endorses a less passive and more active student—one who participates in the discussion or lesson instead of simply absorbing. Steelcase breaks down the core of active learning into three categories:

  • Pedagogy
    Utilizing a layout that can easily be changed from class to class in order to accommodate different teaching methods, including a lecture, individual work, or collaborative work.

  • Technology
    The careful integration of technology to enliven ...

The Digital Divide in Online Learning: 2014 National Snapshot

By: Stephanie Osorno

Today, more students have access to more types of digital learning than ever before. But there's also a persistent divide in the availability of digital or online learning options throughout the states.

That’s one of the conclusions drawn from recent research in "Keeping Pace with K–12 Digital Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice." Released this month at the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL) conference, the report from the Evergreen Education Group provides a snapshot of the digital learning landscape in the U.S.

"Course choice is perhaps the single most important emerging issue
related to online learning."


States with Statewide Fully Online Schools
Number of student enrollments by state and percentage of state's K-12 population.
Source: "Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice (2014)".
Retrieved from http://www.kpk12.com/reports

Here are some of the digital learning trends and issues we think you'll also want to know about:

  • Public policy continues to play a critical role in access to and innovation in online learning.
    • Thirty states have full-time online schools with open enrollment policies. Those policies enable students across the state to attend, regardless of the district they live in.
    • Eleven states have course choice policies that allow students to choose online courses from various providers. However, twenty states actually prohibit open enrollment, and a majority of states don't allow course choice.
    • In states without course choice, students are limited to what's offered by their local school district. As the study sums it up, "Course choice is perhaps the single ...

Worlds Imagined: Helping Kids Share New Visions for the Future

By: Beth Werrell
Helping Kids Share New Visions for the Future

When he was 13, Bill Gates was introduced to a computer terminal at school. He quickly became fascinated with computers, spending hours in the computer lab teaching himself programming. At age 15, Gates and his friend Paul Allen developed a program that monitored traffic patterns, which they sold to a company for $20,000. By age 23, Gates was the head of Microsoft, a software company that made $2.5 million during its first year.

From a young age, Bill Gates imagined the world differently. He saw the potential of developing licensed computer software before anyone else did. As a result, he changed the world forever.

Today, one of the many ways Gates and his wife help other people spark change is by offering the TEDxChange Scholarship. The scholarship is a product of the partnership between TED, whose mission is to spread ideas, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is committed to global development and improving education. Scholarship recipients are awarded the funding needed to coordinate a TEDxChange event in their communities, which would otherwise be unable to support one. These events give a diverse group of people the chance to share their unique ideas and visions for change.

TED also offers an event called TEDYouth, and its theme for 2014 is “Worlds Imagined”—a theme that has been essential in Gates’ life since he was 13. Speakers at the main TEDYouth event in New York and those who hold TEDxYouthDay talks in communities across the world are encouraged ...

Understanding and Helping Twice Exceptional Students

By: Gintas Bradunas
Helping Twice Exceptional Students

During the school year, Learning Coaches gauge whether their children are doing well or struggling. This helps parents or other responsible adults determine whether the kids need extra help or tougher challenges. So, what do you do if your child struggles and shows impressive talents?

Children who struggle consistently with reading, writing, spelling, speaking, listening, reasoning, or doing math may have a learning disability. As a result, they have trouble achieving what is expected of them, even though they’re very bright. These children, who are gifted as well as learning disabled, are known as twice exceptional.

What Does It Mean to Be Twice Exceptional?

Twice exceptional, or “2e,” children have trouble in school because they excel in some areas and struggle in others. Depending on the task or the course, 2e children might feel too challenged or not challenged enough. This imbalance means that 2e kids and their parents run into new problems every day.

To get much-needed academic support, 2e kids need to follow an Individualized Education Program (IEP). They also need to nurture their talents by joining clubs, taking advanced courses, or pursuing other opportunities. Your child may have unique gifts if he or she:

  • Learns quickly
  • Shows intense curiosity
  • Develops language skills early
  • Observes situations carefully
  • Remembers events in detail
  • Focuses on interests for long periods of time
  • Follows a strong set of morals
  • Has a sense of humor
  • Demonstrates passion
  • Feels things deeply
  • Strives to be successful
  • Likes to play with older kids
How to ...

Maintaining Motivation in a Virtual School Environment

By: Beth Werrell
How to Maintain Motivation in Virtual School Students

When your child attends school at home, it can sometimes be difficult to keep him or her motivated. Like traditional students, virtual school students can get tired, distracted, or stressed out. If this happens, it’s your responsibility as a Learning Coach to step in and help your child get back on track.

Getting motivated isn’t always a challenge, but every child struggles sometimes. When your child works toward a goal, the key to success is keeping him or her motivated. If he or she starts a new task, motivation comes easily, making him or her feel confident and enthusiastic. Once the feeling wears off, however, and your child slows down, it’s time to take action. Take a look at the tips below and add them to your motivation toolbox.

  • Master basic study skills.
    To stay motivated, children need a solid foundation of study skills. Kids in middle school and high school won’t stay motivated if they aren’t able to study effectively. Once your child has mastered the five key skills for virtual school, such as managing time and navigating a computer, he or she is ready to develop independent study skills. Becoming an independent learner boosts your child’s growth and helps him or her become self-motivated.

  • Use a rewards system.
    Rewards systems can help if your child struggles with motivation. Remember, however, to think of rewards as a first step rather than a long-term solution. If students rely on rewards too much, they might ...

Benefits of Struggling: Are You Helping Your Child Too Much?

By: Danielle Brunson
How-Struggling-Can-Benefit-Students

Do you ever find yourself assisting your child with just about everything, even things you know he or she is perfectly capable of doing? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Parents have a natural tendency to continuously help and protect their children. After all, you want the best for them. Ironically, when it comes to schoolwork, a parent who jumps in to help too quickly could actually be doing more harm than good. Letting your child struggle and even fail sometimes can be highly beneficial to his or her development.

Why should you let your child struggle?

Here are some important things your child gains from struggling to master a new task or concept:

Eastern and Western cultures have different takes on struggling in the school system. Generally, Western cultures perceive struggle as a sign of weakness or burden. In Eastern cultures, however, letting students struggle is considered necessary for their growth. According to the book NurtureShock, Asian students are forced to figure out a problem without assistance if they get it wrong. This may sound harsh to Westerners, but when the student finally gets the answer right, the teacher and classmates make him or her feel proud by celebrating and clapping. This shows Eastern students the satisfaction and reward that comes from hard work.

The way we think about struggle affects our behavior as students, teachers, and parents or Learning Coaches. Stepping aside and letting your child ...

Supporting a Gifted Child: A Quick Guide to Online Resources

By: Gintas Bradunas
Brief Resource List for Supporting a Gifted Child

Remember the first day you realized your child was gifted? The pride and wonder followed quickly by an anxious stream of questions? "How do I challenge my child’s curiosity at home?" or "How do I get my child into the right program at school?" "How do schools even define 'gifted and talented'?"

Well, we can't answer all your questions in one short blog post, but we can point you to a few helpful resources that can. Following, you'll find links to a range of organizations, publications, activities, and programs that offer the answers and support you need to nurture your gifted student emotionally, socially, and intellectually.

Resources for Parents

Hoagies' Gifted Education Page: Don't let the name and simple website format fool you. If you're just starting your journey in gifted education, the Hoagie's website offers dozens of resource-rich pages on testing, state mandates on gifted education programs, and a wide range of articles, resources, and research for parents plus activities for students. Make sure to check out their Gifted 101 page first for a great overview of many of the challenges you might face as the parent of a gifted child.

Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG): Worried your gifted student is stressed out by perfectionism or isolated by peers who simply don't "get" him or her? That's where SENG, a nonprofit organization, steps in with programs to support gifted children and provide "a place for them to connect and a tribe to belong to." Their free ...

6 Effective Ways to Help Your Child Respond to Cyberbullying

By: Meredith Yowell
Help-Your-Child-Respond-to-Cyberbullying

With rapid developments in technology and social media sites, it’s no surprise that bullies have quickly made their debut online. What’s your first instinct? It’s probably to protect your child from being a victim. Even without being directly affected, however, children often become bystanders to cyberbullying within their online world.

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, an average of 25% of middle and high school students admitted to being cyberbullied at some point during their lives, and 42% of students witnessed other people being cyberbullied. Your child can learn how to appropriately respond to a difficult but serious situation with your help.

The Bystander Effect

The Pew Research Center Internet Project of 2011 reported that a whopping 90% of teen social media users have ignored the cyberbullying they have witnessed on a social networking site.

Even though cyberbullying is not considered a traditional form of bullying, it is just as severe and traumatizing for the victim. A bystander who remains silent not only allows the bully to continue to harass other students without consequence, but also contributes to the percentage of cyberbullied victims. Children might even think it’s acceptable to participate in cyberbullying if the cyberbully they witness is not reprimanded.

How Can Your Child Respond to Cyberbullying?

Your child has the power to make a difference! The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services stated that 57% of the time when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds.

The idea of standing up to a bully can be incredibly ...

Magnet Craft Activity: Making Positive Fridge Magnets for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Despite our best efforts, disappointment sometimes gets the best of us. For students, it's normal to feel discouraged by a mistake on a test or a difficult assignment. During times like this, it will help your child to have a small reminder that he or she a unique, talented individual regardless of the occasional mishaps he or she faces.

If your child needs an encouraging reminder, consider making Positive Fridge Magnets for kids. These are personalized refrigerator magnets that display the qualities that friends and relatives see in your child. For example, one magnet might say "Brave" while another might say "Considerate." Once the magnets are decorated, you can hang them proudly on the fridge.

Check out the craft magnets activity by clicking on the graphic below. At the bottom, take a look at our tips for making other kindness magnets for kids.

Acrostic Name Poems

The graphic above explains how your child can modify the Positive Fridge Magnets craft to create an Acrostic Name Poem. For more information, take a look at a teacher's explanation of acrostics and other poems.

Goal Magnets

This activity explores the abilities your child wants to develop rather than the ones he or she already has. Start by following the directions in the graphic to make another magnet. On this magnet, write, "Today I will be…"

Next, take another look at the list of positive words included in the graphic. Have your child write down a ...

Next page