Books for Budding Scientists​

If you have a daughter, you'll want to know about the website A Mighty Girl. It features book, movie, and toy recommendations and is geared toward the elementary to early teen set. I came across their list of 30 books about female scientists and wanted to share it with you! It contains books for all ages about such luminaries as Jane Goodall, Temple Grandin, Sylvia Earle, Sally Ride, and Rachel Carson. The more girls see themselves in STEM roles, the more they may be drawn to a career in science and math. Of course, it is also important for budding boy scientists to know about the role women have played. These books highlight a range of sciences and formats, from picture books to chapter books.​

Tips for Excellent Annotations​

Whether it is to closely read a first-person narrative or to look for a character's motivations in a novel, teachers want to make sure students are reading with a critical eye and therefore will assign annotations. But students are not always given the tools to annotate well. Why do teachers ask students to annotate? It is useful because it helps students closely read difficult information, remain connected to their reason for reading, and remember what they read when they have to go back and write a paper or participate in a discussion on a particular topic. Here are some tips you can share with your child on how to annotate. Steps for Successful Annotation 1) Think about why you're reading the text.What is the assignment? Are you reading a chapter in a biology text as a preview of the next day's lecture? Does your teacher want you to look for metaphors in a poem? When you understand why you're reading a particular passage, chapter, or article, you are on the road to having good annotations. 2) When reading to learn content: paraphrase, ask questions, and look for key terms.You often read to learn content in science and history classes. For instance, your teacher may assign a chapter in a textbook or an article that will explain a concept to you, like cell mitosis or colonial economies. In this case, you want to do these things:paraphrase paragraphscircle vocabulary terms and underline definitionscreate vocabulary cardswrite questions in margins You don't have to paraphrase every paragraph; focus on the ones that are teaching you core concepts. Don't paraphrase with one word; make your annotation meaningful. When you circle vocab words and underline definitions, take a moment to make yourself a flash card if you are asked vocab on tests and quizzes. Write any questions you have in the margins so you can ask them later. 3) When reading for a specific purpose, annotate on that question or prompt.Your teacher may ask you to pull out examples of similes in a poem, or he might want you to look for passages on a particular theme. In the case of a prompt:check the prompt for key words that will let you know what the teacher wants you to do: analyze, evaluate, determine, argue, summarize, and support are some examples.all of your annotations should fit within those parameters; this will make it easier when you go back to the text to pull out ideas/quotes.make your annotations meaningful: don't just write, "OMG!" or "I agree!" Instead, write things like, "character is angry and lashing out," "calm water metaphor," or "reasons pilgrims wanted to leave England." 4) Annotate while you read.This is important! Although there is a learning curve involved in annotating well, it is not as helpful to annotate after the fact. Get in the habit of paraphrasing and writing notes and questions in the margins while you read. It helps you engage more closely with the text and think more critically about it while you read. Following these steps will help, and practice makes perfect! If you'd like me to give your child more specific instruction on annotating, please let me know.​

An Effective Strategy for Behavioral Change​

It is the beginning of a new school year and that means it's an excellent time to set goals. Some students want to get all their homework in on time, others want to be better at asking questions when they need help, and others want to write all their assignments in their planner. Whatever the goal, there is one step that can greatly enhance the chances of the goal being met: allowing the student to self-monitor. This does not mean that they will be the only ones monitoring their progress; having a parent, tutor, or teacher monitor progress is a piece of this puzzle. But allowing the student the chance to monitor their behavior can be a powerful way to gain buy-in and can help students see their behavior change first hand. This article from Intervention Central offers a detailed map for creating a self-monitoring system. I'm going to distill it here; you may want to read and utilize the full article as well. Although the article is written for classroom teachers, the ideas can be implemented at home as well. Key Ingredients for Self-Monitoring1. Choose a definable, tangible goal. Use the SMART goals guidelines.2. Create a way to track the behavior (see the Intervention Central article for ideas).3. Set a schedule for when the student will check the behavior.4. Decide if student needs or wants a cue to check the behavior (see the Intervention Central article for ideas).5. After a few weeks (or days) check on their progress to determine if they are recording/assessing their behavior accurately. Make necessary adjustments.6. Choose a reward for shifting the behavior and set guidelines for how you'll both know if the behavior shifted. (Optional) Discuss a time period for when you will be implementing these self-checks. It could be a month, a quarter, a semester…whatever feels like it won't be too rushed, but instead will give adequate time for the behavior to change. Eventually, you will be able to fade the self-monitoring because the behavior will have shifted. Remember, setbacks happen. If your student starts to slide, be encouraging. Sometimes we fall back on old habits after a break or an illness. This is normal, and your student can always start again.​

Creating a Good Atmosphere for Homework​

No one likes homework. It is stressful for students, and often, it is stressful for parents. But there are ways to make homework time easier for everyone. 1. Create a “homework spot” in your home. The kitchen table, the coffee table, a bean bag, or even a yoga mat on the floor: experiment at the beginning of the school year to find a spot that works and when you find it, stick with it. Good rules of thumb: the space has good light, it isn't in a high-traffic area, it is quiet, and it is relatively comfortable. Discuss with your child where they would feel comfortable doing homework, considering those parameters. One caveat is that younger students are often more successful when you can keep an eye on them, especially if they distract easily. 2. Keep the house quiet during homework time.One of the main issues I notice is that houses are too noisy during homework time, leading to lots of distractions. Turn off the TV or NPR. Don’t have phone conversations with others in the same room where your child is doing homework. Ask younger siblings to play quietly or in another room. Do what you can to create an environment that aids studying. Help your child choose a quiet space, especially if he or she has learning differences or disabilities and has trouble focusing. I was once in a home where a student was trying to do homework in a room with no door and the TV was blaring nearby. It was not a good choice for a homework spot.  3. Keep the homework spot clean.Once it is established, work to keep this area clean; don't allow things to pile up that would get in the way of your child sitting down to do their homework each day. 4. Create a routine around homework.Decide on a time when homework is done each day. Maybe it’s when they get home from school, or after a snack, or after dinner. It will depend on the age of the child, their schedule, and the amount of homework typically given. Establishing this routine not only makes things flow more easily, it also instills good habits in them for when they are older/go to college.  5. Set them up for success.If they do better after riding their bike for 15 minutes or eating, have them do their homework after one of those activities. Try a few things and see what works. Check in periodically with each other to see if these things are working and make adjustments where necessary. 6. Don’t hover.Allow students to work at their own pace and give them space to try the work on their own unless they specifically ask for help. Gently redirect if you notice they are off task. 7. When things are hard, come up with a plan.Go over the assignments and help your child determine what to work on first. Many times students look at their homework list and shut down. Decide together how to best approach the work, whether it’s the easiest or the most unappealing first. 8. Encourage breaks.This is especially for older students with hours of homework each night. Teach them to take a break every 20 minutes or so to stretch their legs, get a drink of water, or eat a snack. This is another good habit to instill now so they do it automatically when they are older.​

The Importance of Growth Mindset and Neuroplasticity​

You have probably heard the terms growth mindset and neuroplasticity being bandied about for several years now. But what do they mean and how can they help students? Growth mindset, a term coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, describes how we perceive ourselves. When we have a fixed mindset, we believe that things about us cannot change. For instance, a student who struggles to learn their times tables might believe they will never be good at math.


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