October 2008 Archives

Just in case you missed it, we wanted to alert you to an Education Week story about a report on how parents of high school students would like to be more involved in their schools, but those with children who attend low-performing schools say the schools do little to encourage parent involvement. Over the years, I have heard parents from struggling schools complain that not only do low- performing schools do little to encourage parent involvement, some actively discourage parents from trying to get involved. On the other hand, there is a dark side to parent involvement when "helicopter parents" ...


In previous school years, I believe I used to step over the bounds of offering too much homework help to one of my sons by giving him answers when I should have made him struggle through assignments. But this year, I have turned a corner and I am now telling him, more and more, "sorry I can't answer that for you. You are going to have to figure that out yourself." So, the other night, when he asked for help on some algebra problems, I showed him some examples and made sure he understood the concepts. I then told him ...


At first glance, this AP story about Alabama schools doing away with nap time for kindergartners to allow for more instruction strikes me as somewhat ridiculous. Are 5-year-olds really too busy for nap time? According to the article, apparently they are. "To be perfectly honest, there's so much in the kindergarten curriculum that we need the extra classroom time," [one principal] said. Some schools have already phased out nap time, says the article, in favor of a reading/rest time that allows students to take a break and exercise their reading skills. Other schools have opted to allow naps for ...


Here is an example of the way that schools are using the current financial crisis to teach students about the stock market and the importance of saving and investing at a young age. The program, called The Stock Market Game, allows students to use up to $100,000 of hypothetical money to buy, sell, and trade stocks over the course of a semester. Most students are losing money these days when they invest, but the teachers see it as a good opportunity to talk about using the stock market to invest in the long term, not just over a 10 ...


Last night after work, I still had Sean Cavanagh's Education Week story about how American culture discourages girls from cultivating high-level math skills up on my computer screen when my roommates—who are, notably, both women—came in to check their e-mail and catch me up on the day's events. As my first roommate began to log on to her account, she read the headline of Sean's story (American Culture Seen to Thwart Girls' Math Development) and to my surprise exclaimed, "That's so true!" which sparked a long discussion about their associations with math and gender. Although I've read numerous ...


Students in cash-incentive programs in both Washington and Chicago got paid last week, according to this AP article. It'll be awhile until we know whether or not these plans are actually working, although teachers in Washington say that they've seen less tardiness since the program has been in place. I wonder whether students will be more motivated to earn more cash now that they've seen one pay day or whether interest in the program will wane as the year goes on. What's your prediction?...


My colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo recently wrote an article about Freedom Schools, run by the Children's Defense Fund or CDF, which have after-school and summer programs in disadvantaged communities in six states. The program aims to provide after-school homework help and boost children's reading skills and is rooted in community involvement. The tutors are university students who are trained to help kids and often take place in churches, community centers, and schools. So far, research suggests that the program has helped improved reading skills of those students who have participated. “Freedom Schools have always been conceived of as parallel institutions ...


PBS has launched a new Web site called Ready to Learn that provides resources for educators, parents, and caregivers to help children between the ages of about 2 to 5 learn how to read (or get ready to learn how to read). The site includes tips on ways to integrate reading lessons into everyday activities such as going to the grocery store and driving in the car, book recommendations based on age level and theme, as well as printable and interactive games on the computer that help teach children basic literary skills. By encouraging parental involvement, hosting games with familiar ...


Back in September, Kevin wondered whether recent economic failures in the U.S. would provide an opportunity to raise discussions about the teaching of economic literacy. Since then, many other events have shaken up the economy in the U.S. and around the world, reinforcing the importance of teaching kids financial responsibility and economics. This article in The Christian Science Monitor talks about how parents are using the recent economic downturn as a way to talk to their children about money. Just as adults are worried and nervous about what is going on, so are children, says the article, and ...


It's not always just students who need to be motivated to be involved with school—sometimes parents and community members need a little motivation, too. As we've seen over and over again, community involvement is a key part of student engagement and success. That's why I think this program, which encourages community leaders to spend a day shadowing a principal in their school district, is really important. Seeing the ins and outs of how the school operates as well as what students are doing in class can really make the importance of community involvement tangible for leaders....


This first person account on teachermagazine.org of a teacher who was able to get her class on task when she allowed them 30 minutes every Friday to listen to their iPods raises a couple of interesting points, some of which relate directly to issues covered on the Digital Education blog about technology's role in the classroom. Apparently, that half hour of listening time once a week was enough of a reward that teacher Jennifer McDaniel's 9th grade students would spend that time working diligently. However, when McDaniel shared her new technique with her colleagues, she was informed that allowing ...


Quite some time ago, I wrote a blog post wondering how the election might increase motivation levels in the classroom. And according to this story, it looks like my colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo has done my homework for me. The story talks about new online and tech tools that are helping students become more engaged in the election process. Both parties in this election are tapping into students' use of text messaging, online forums, and social networking sites to excite young voters and students, says the article. The examples that Kathleen gives about how students are becoming involved in the ...


If you've read the tag line for Motivation Matters, you know that our goal here is to document what works and what doesn't work to motivate students. And today we have an example of what works, sent in by Principal Paul M. Brennan of the Riverside Elementary West School in Taylor, Pa. "Here is something that works for us in an elementary (K-4) setting. It is a proactive 'Behavior Report (PDF).' The kids really buy into it," he says. Apparently each teacher in the school chooses two students who have demonstrated good behavior for that month to be photographed. ...


In light of the recent wave of schools trying cash-incentive programs to motivate students, it's only fair to point back to a commentary written by Alfie Kohn, an outspoken critic of these kinds of programs and of testing in general. Kohn explains that what is truly important in the classroom is not what the teacher does, but how it is perceived by the student. So if a teacher delivers a well-constructed lecture on a certain subject, no matter how good the lecture is, what really counts is what students gain from it. Likewise, if a teacher rewards a student in ...


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