Thursday, August 25, 2011

Politeness Pays

One of the best things that parents* can teach their children is manners. I always give “extra points” to the parents of children who say please and thank you when I’m making animal balloon sculptures. 

Politeness pays! People are more apt to want to interact/help your child is he is polite. The basics of please, thank you, and excuse me come in so handy every day! As a clown I will give the patient, polite child a balloon much faster than the demanding rude child.

This applies to the classroom as well. School is preparation for the “real world” for when children get older and go on to further education and/or jobs. Being able to wait your turn and use courteous words gets you farther in life. 

Civility breeds civility. By this I mean if your child is well-mannered, people will treat him better. Conversely, if your child is ill-mannered, people will avoid interacting with him. Which would you prefer?

And as always, your actions speak much louder than your words. Do you set an example? Are you polite and well-mannered? And not just to others but your child as well. That way they’ll be polite and well-mannered to you. It’s a two-way street!

How did you teach your child manners? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

*By parents I mean any primary caregiver of children.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stress and Overscheduled Kids

Unfortunately today’s kids can be very stressed. CLICK HERE for an informative article on childhood stress. The demands of schoolwork, afterschool activities, and family can take their toll. The results are not pretty: lowered grades, disinterest in school and other activities, and even illness/injuries. What’s a grownup to do?

Teachers need to be careful when scheduling homework, especially in the older grades where students have more than one teacher. The teachers need to communicate. I try to give plenty of time for long-term projects. Nightly reading and math fact practice is expected, however. I sometimes suggest to students who are having trouble fitting it all in that they can break up their homework into chunks: do some at night and some in the morning before school.

Coaches and other extracurricular grownup leaders need to be cautious of their demands on children’s time. Often children are overbooked with sports, scouting, AND art lessons of one form or another. I know that parents want their children to be well rounded but we don’t want them falling flat!

So the bottom line starts and ends with parents and guardians. Parents and guardians have (or should have) the ultimate say in how much or how little their child is involved in extracurricular activities. If you feel stressed with all of the chauffeuring to and from these activities, imagine how your child feels?

Besides not overscheduling children, I highly recommend teaching them to meditate. Of course, it helps if you as the grownup model meditate, too. Dr. Robert Puff speaks about the benefits of meditation for children and gives a simple how to on this video. CLICK HERE for a link to the video. This Yoga Journal article link can help you instruct your child on how to do simple yoga. CLICK HERE for the link to that article.

What do you do to help your child feel less stressed? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Your Child's Written Work: To Edit or Not To Edit?

After your child finishes a writing assignment for school, do you immediately proofread and edit it “with” them?  As a caring parent it's normal to want to help your child with their homework. However, giving him the opportunity to find and fix his own mistakes is important. Throughout their school careers students are required to edit their work without assistance. Therefore it is crucial that they have experience doing so. 

One strategy that I recommend is having the child read their piece out loud. Very often they’ll hear their mistake and be able to correct it. If they don’t notice, perhaps a gentle, “Does that sound right?” after you read it aloud to them, might help.

Sometimes though, when we read our own work, our brain fills in what we intended to write. You can read what your child has written out loud to them. If they have typed their assignment on the computer, you can have the computer read it to them. ReadPlease is a computer program that reads text aloud. CLICK HERE for free downloadable software.

A critical tool for every household is a dictionary. A good dictionary will include synonyms antonyms which can help increase your child’s word usage. Why use mundane words like said, sad, walk, when retorted, depressed, ambled, would be so much more interesting! The verbs are the power of our language, not the flowery adjectives. 

One of the reasons children balk at writing is because handwriting is so cumbersome. I recommend teaching touch typing to children. There are many free typing tutor software programs available that have a game format, making it fun for the children to learn and practice. CLICK HERE for a link to an article comparing the different programs.

The more children write, the better they get. Encourage your child to write as much as possible. Model writing whenever you can. The more they see you writing, the more they’ll want to write. And most importantly: writing should be a joy and never used as a punishment.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Music Everyday

You’ve heard that old saying, “Music soothes the savage beast”* When it comes to music, especially singing, children are more than just soothed! Music increases a child’s language skills with rhythm and rhyme. Music pulls a group together as a community. Music helps calm children down or rev them up. Music can help with breathing and thus public speaking/oral reading. Can music make your child smarter?   Click HERE for a great website with more information.   Click HERE for a website with free classical music from many composers.

As a teacher, I’ve noticed children don’t seem to know their nursery rhymes and other early childhood songs. As Peppermint Patti I’ve tried to initiate “Patty cake” and “Eensy Weensy Spider” with little ones who look at me as if I’m insane. This makes me sad. Those classic childhood songs and fingerplays are so much fun and so important for early language development! When did parents stop teaching them to their children?

Sometimes during the school day I will play various types of music to either pep up or calm down the class. We also sing many “camp” songs together. Sometimes they’ll even teach me the songs they learned at camp over the summer! I love to learn new songs. A few years ago my student Adam taught me the Beaver Song:

Beaver 1 Beaver All let's all do the beaver call.
Beaver 2 Beaver 3 let’s all climb the beaver tree.
Beaver 4 Beaver 5 let's all do the beaver jive.
Beaver six Beaver 7 let’s all go to beaver heaven.
Beaver 8 Beaver 9 STOP!! It's Beaver time.

Singing brings us together as a community. On Fridays we always have pizza for lunch so we chant the Pizza Song:

Eat. (R)
Eat a. (R)
Eat a lotta. (R)
Eat a lotta, eat a lotta, eat a lotta pizza. (R)
No, no don’t eat the pizza! (R)
Pizza’s got a lotta hot and spicy pepperoni. (R)
Pizza’s got a lotta hot and spicy peppermoni got a lotta hot and spicy pepperoni on the top. (R)

The leader chants the line and then the group repeats (R). We start slow and each time we do it, we go faster! The students love to see how fast they can go!

Music comes in really handy.  One time when we were on a fieldtrip, we had some time to kill so I gathered all 150 third graders and led them in a sing along. It made the wait time go by so much faster. We also like to sing on the bus when we go on fieldtrips. This is sometimes thwarted by the bus driver playing CDs or some sort of Disney radio.

I can't imagine a day without music.

*FYI the actual saying is: “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast”…from a play by William Congreve, The mourning bride, 1697. Click HERE for the internet source.

Do you have a favorite song or fingerplay you taught your child? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!