5 Reasons for Students to Keep a Journal

By: Beth Werrell
5 Reasons Journaling Helps Students

If there were a twenty-minute activity that could decrease your stress, improve your health and memory, strengthen your writing and problem-solving skills, and motivate you to reach your goals, would you do it? Would it help to know it’s also free and you don’t have to leave the house?

If you haven’t guessed yet, we’re talking about keeping a journal. Today, we’re going to show you how to find the journal that’s right for you and indicate why you’ll want to make journaling part of your daily or weekly routine.

Defining and Choosing Your Journal

Contrary to what you may think, a journal is not a record of the minute details of your daily life. Instead, it’s a private space for exploring what you think and feel about the people, events, or issues that are important to you.

Far from being a dry checklist of daily events, your journal reflects your interests, concerns, and talents. Your journal can take the form of a:

  • Motivational journal that sets your day in a positive direction by reflecting on inspirational quotes
  • Gratitude journal that lifts your spirits by focusing on the things you are grateful for
  • Writer’s journal that prompts you to reflect on famous quotations, social issues, or literary themes
  • Thematic or subject journal that invites you to record your thoughts and progress on specific problems or interest areas
  • Success journal that documents today’s triumphs to help cheer you through tomorrow’s slumps
  • Free-form journal that allows you to write about anything and ...

Preparing for College Entrance Exams by Grade Level

By: Tisha Green Rinker
SAT and ACT Study Plans by Grade Level

Not sure how to start preparing for the ACT or SAT? Unsure which test you should take? We’ll get you started and advise you all the way through to senior year with our year-to-year test preparation checklist.

One thing to note is that some colleges don’t have a preference when it comes to which test you take, so don’t feel like you are tied to one—or both. Check with the college admissions website or speak with admissions officers in case any of the colleges you hope to attend have a preference. Follow this checklist to determine which test is right for you, if not both. Let’s get started!

Freshman Year Checklist

Objective: Start planning

  • Create a four-year course plan.
    • Get to know the courses your school offers.
    • Ask a school counselor for the typical course progression for your school.
    • Think about what subjects you enjoy, and start to plan classes.
    • Plan to take more challenging classes, such as AP and honors courses.
  • Read and write as much as you can.
  • Bookmark SAT and ACT test prep resources.
  • Learn more about SAT subject tests and try to align ones that interest you with AP or honors classes.
  • Learn more about study resources offered by your local library.
  • Start practicing test-anxiety-reducing tactics.
  • Start developing good study habits.
  • If you are considering taking either test before your junior year, you should note the pros and cons.
    • Pro: You will be able to benchmark your progress and will be more ...

Fight Winter Blues and SAD with Fun Activities for the Family

By: Beth Werrell
Fun Family Activities to Kick Winter Blues

It’s hard to avoid the winter blues once in a while, no matter how much you love the snow. But sometimes, those winter blues can develop into seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is something to pay attention to in your child. Here are some tips to help you determine whether or not it’s time to consider consulting a doctor, as well as some fun activities to alleviate the winter blues.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Let’s start with the basics! SAD is a type of depression that appears in the autumn and winter months as daylight hours dwindle. It lifts as the weather gets warmer and the sun makes more of an appearance each day. Approximately 6 percent of the population experiences SAD. Although there is no known cause, it is thought to be linked to the rising and setting of the sun in relation to the body’s natural sleep cycle.

What are the signs to look for?

It is important to note that the following symptoms may be indicative of a simple case of winter blues. However, you know your child best. If your child’s symptoms persist for weeks or seem relatively severe, it may be time to consult his or her doctor. Here are some things to watch for in your child as winter drags on and the sun doesn’t make an appearance in a while:

  • Eating habit shifts: SAD typically causes a craving for simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods like cake, syrups, candy, and ...

Coping With Setbacks: 7 Reminders to Help Students Stay Positive

By: Stephanie Osorno
Helping Students Conquer Obstacles

Sometimes life throws unexpected curveballs and setbacks—from minor obstacles like receiving a low grade on a test or getting in a fight with a close friend, to much more significant ones like serious illness or loss. These obstacles are difficult for everyone, but they can be especially tough for students who are just learning how to balance their personal lives with schoolwork.

Coming up with the right words to say when your child is upset and lost might stump you. Consider the following motivating reminders to help students cope when everything seems to be going wrong.

  1. Sometimes, experiencing pain comes with a valuable life lesson.
    It will most likely be hard for your child to understand pain in the moment, just as it is for anyone. You can provide reassurance by explaining that although pain brings sorrow, it also often comes with a meaningful purpose. For instance, maybe he or she had a special pet that passed away. This misfortune could inspire a greater appreciation for life.

  2. The bad times won't last forever.
    If your child is going through a tough time, remind him or her that it won't last forever. There will always be a chance to start fresh the next day! Making the best of the situation is a much better option than dwelling and growing increasingly miserable.
"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn
around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, ...

Easy Ways to Build New Valentine’s Day Family Traditions

By: Beth Werrell
Building Valentine's Day Family Traditions

One of the unique opportunities for children in virtual school is that they are always surrounded by their support network. As your child starts virtual school, it is important to build a foundation of support for his or her schooling.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to develop family traditions and nurture your loving, supportive environment. Below are some ideas to get you started building these traditions, including meal ideas, craft activities, and Valentine’s movies for the whole family.

Morning traditions

What to make

  • Strawberry pancakes are a simple, cute morning treat that you and your child can cook side by side! If your family really likes the taste of strawberries or you just want to add extra color, you can also replace your maple syrup with a strawberry syrup and strawberry jam.
  • Pair your pancakes with some heart-shaped fruit kabobs of your choice. Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe are perfect for cutting out heart-shaped pieces. You can either do this by hand or use a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

What to craft

  • Create secret Valentine’s Day messages for friends, neighbors, grandparents, and other family members with homemade invisible ink. All you need is some baking soda, water, grape juice, cotton swabs, and paper. It’s a simple way to get your child reading, writing, and expressing his or her feelings in a supportive environment.
Afternoon Traditions

What to make

The Fundamentals of Online Classroom Motivation

By: Stephanie Osorno
Fundamentals of Online Classroom Motivation

Motivating a group of students for a productive school day can be challenging. The challenge gets even trickier in an online learning environment, where teachers are not present with students face-to-face. If you’re a parent considering making the switch to virtual school, you may wonder how online teachers keep students engaged. With frequent communication, interactive activities, and collaborative work, online learning can be made enjoyable and exciting while still remaining informative!

Building Intrinsic Student Motivation

Experienced virtual school teachers apply three basic classroom engagement strategies to their instruction to create a motivational online learning environment: Make instruction fun, provide a safe way to respond, and help students succeed. As you read through these various motivational examples, consider how you might implement them in your student’s online school experience at home.

Make Instruction Fun

Some students might describe school with one word—boring. Teachers attempt to avoid monotony by mixing fun and creativity into lessons whenever possible. Here are some interactive techniques they use to make learning fun:

  • Play games—When games are incorporated into the lesson, students become more enthusiastic and might not even realize that they are gaining knowledge at the same time!
  • Work in teams and let students interact—“Breakout rooms” stimulate conversation, leadership, and interaction between students. Students often learn as much from their classmates as they do with their teachers.
  • Include music—This helps to make the atmosphere less tense and more inviting.
  • Have students write on the whiteboard—Even if students are ...

Simple Career Awareness Activities and Resources for Kids

By: Kate Fuchs
Expand Your Child's Career Awareness

Ask first-graders, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and you'll get a list limited only by their imaginations: princess, pirate, doctor, teacher, police detective. Over time, they'll usually narrow the list, influenced largely by careers encountered through family, friends, school, and the media.

As parents, Learning Coaches, and teachers, we need to consciously expose our children to careers that may lie outside our own experience. How do we do that? Well, it's easier than you might think!

Online Career Awareness Resources: Making Career Exploration Fun

For elementary and middle school students, interactive online games are a great way to have fun while exploring traditional and nontraditional careers.

  1. Drive of your life, an interactive game from the Indiana Youth Institute, lets students custom-design their own car by answering questions about their personal interests, getting a list of careers that match those interests, and then "taking a drive" through each of those careers. Along the way, they meet real people via video working in those careers—learning about daily work life and the skills and education required.

  2. Kidswork, from South Carolina's public education station ETV, digs a little deeper into the inner workings for a range of careers. Choosing any business in ETV's cartoon town, students can watch short video interviews with the people who work there; perform related job tasks; and learn some of the history behind various fields.

    While maintaining its fun factor, Kidswork is great for connecting classroom skills to real-world jobs ...

Neuroscience of Learning: A Look inside the Amazing Brain

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Inside the Amazing Brain

You’re not alone if you've ever looked at your son and wondered, "What’s going on inside his head?" or scolded your daughter for her actions, asking, "What were you thinking?!" Parents and educators worldwide have asked questions like these, and neuroscience researchers have uncovered some interesting answers about the human brain and how we learn.

Brain-Based Learning and Neuroeducation

According to Merriam-Webster, learning is "the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something." This makes sense. It's what we do, we teachers and Learning Coaches. Learning is what we're all about.

Neuroscience, on the other hand, is "the scientific study of nerves and especially of how nerves affect learning and behavior." The nerves, we know from studying science, are controlled by the command center we call a brain. When we join neuroscience and learning together, the connections have a direct impact on education. While neuroeducation may sound lofty, it simply means the interdisciplinary study of the mind, the brain, and its function, as well as individual education and learning.

Research into the brain's role in learning is not new. Psychophysiology and educational neuroscience are just two of the many scientific disciplines that conduct research into how the brain functions when learning. Books like Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind and Arts with the Brain in Mind were first published in the late 1990s, and they remain relevant today. Howard Gardner's discussions of multiple intelligences have influenced teachers since ...

A Groundhog’s Tale: Winter’s End

By: Beth Werrell

In anticipation of Groundhog Day, I traveled to Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania last week to talk to Punxsutawney Phil, the marmot who has been predicting winter's end every year since 1886.

With hundreds of reporters starting to gather outside, I managed to squeeze into Phil's burrow early to celebrate the event over a game of Groundhog Day Vocabulary Bingo and to ask him how he came to be the world's most famous weather forecaster.

Here's what the solitary and somewhat cranky rodent told me …

Q: So, Phil, how did Groundhog Day get started?
Phil: Well, the story handed down in my family goes like this.

Long ago, humans were very concerned with how long each winter would be. Being furless and unable to hibernate like us more sensible creatures, they worried that winter would outlast their food and firewood.

So these humans looked for ways to predict when winter would end. In Germany, they wisely looked to my friend the hedgehog for a clue.

Q: What was the clue?
Phil: February 2nd, Candlemas Day, was considered the traditional midpoint of winter—halfway between the shortest, darkest day of the year and the spring equinox. And folks came to believe that the weather on that particular day provided a sign of winter's end. They'd even sing this song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings cloud and rain,
Go, winter, and come not again.

Q: ...

Taking Attendance in Online and Blended Schools

By: Stephanie Osorno
Taking Attendance in Online and Blended Schools

In a traditional bricks-and-mortar school, attendance is usually tracked when a student says "here" after hearing his or her name during roll call. If the teacher can validate the student's physical presence, attendance credit is most likely received without additional obligation.

So how is attendance monitored in an online or blended school when a student is not physically present? Simply "showing up" for a virtual course is not enough to earn attendance. Attendance in our online and blended schools is determined by various factors that reflect your student's overall progress and academic development.

Online School Attendance

How is attendance determined in virtual school?

  • Verification of physical existence —Is the student real?
  • Evidence of recent activity —Is the school seeing evidence of recent student participation?
  • Learning Coach–reported hours of attendance —Will the student have the state-required number of attendance hours/days by year's end?
  • Pacing toward completion by the end of the year —Will the student complete the assigned curriculum in the appropriate amount of time?

Verification of physical existence

Despite the fact that teachers are not able to see your student sitting in a real-time classroom, they still need to verify that he or she is present within the virtual classroom. Physical existence is measured by logged contacts with the school. For instance, each time the student communicates with the school, the conversation is documented and logged in the system. The school also looks at the time between the present day and the most recent synchronous contact, such as a phone ...

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