Quick Tip of the Day for Parents- Spelling Test Prep for Grades 1-3

It’s a few weeks into school, and you’ve got your groove back.  Carpool is humming, schedules have been ironed out, and after school activities are well under way.  You cruise down the boulevard with your Starbucks latte (non-fat, natch!), Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake blaring out the windows (no more Kidsrock 20!), and your ear buds in so that you can touch base with your BFF.  Let’s face it….life is good!

Well, that is until reality hits at 3:00pm and you have to pick up your little cuties, pop in the age appropriate music, cart everyone to activities A-Z, get a somewhat healthy dinner on the table AND, conquer homework for one or more little monsters….I mean, cuties.  Honey- this requires an entirely new plan!

Let’s face it, homework and studying for tests can be difficult, especially in the younger grades where they have yet to develop independence, study/time management skills and parents are expected to walk children through directions, guided reading and the dreaded spelling list!

So, here are a few tips to make that spelling list a bit more manageable!

  1. Tape the list to the back of the seat.  This way your child can quiz himself on the way to school.  It also begins to teach independence and works for other activities that require memorization (phone numbers, the spelling of one’s name, etc.).
  2. Utilize bath time.  Buy some of those funky bath markers and have your child spell out the words on the wall while she’s in the tub.
  3. Get jiggy with it.  Most spelling words in grades 1-3 are context or phonics based.  This means they either go along with a topic the child is studying in class (i.e. jobs- police, fire fighter, paramedic, etc.) or how words are linked by their sound/symbol relationship (i.e. c-v-c words (consonant-vowel-consonant):  hat, cat, mat, etc.).  Make up a rhyme or a rap that includes the words, their meanings and their spellings.  This allows the child to learn the words in context and commit them to memory in a fun and creative way.
  4. Keep it on context.  Take index cards and have your child write out each spelling word.  Attach the index card to the object (i.e. mat – put it on the doormat).  This will give your child a chance to learn the word within the context it’s being used.  This helps with retention and with comprehension of more difficult words (i.e. drawer, fireplace, etc.).
  5. Break things up.  Although 10-15 “easy” words may not seem like a big deal to us, the task of learning all of them within a week may seem daunting to your child.  Break up the list so that you cover a few words M-W and then use TH to review all of the words together.  Although it may seem boring, having your child write out the words by memory (even just one time) can her identify problem words and commit them to memory.  Additionally, let your child fix her own mistakes.  If she spells a word incorrectly, indicate that one or more of the words are spelled incorrectly, but don’t say which one(s).  If she cannot find the mistake, circle it.  However, do not correct the spelling.  Allow her to develop an ability to catch and correct her own mistakes.
  6. Bring it home.  As your child’s primary educator, look for ways you can incorporate the spelling words into your everyday vocabulary.  Have your child listen for when you use the word, and when you do, have them shout out how to spell it and its meaning.  Using larger, more complex words in the correct context will better help your child commit their spelling to memory.

None of this is jaw dropping, nor is it rocket science.  However, I’m a parent too, and I know how overwhelming it can all be.  Sometimes, it’s nice to have a little extra somethin’, somethin’ in your arsenal of parenting tools.  I hope these help and would love to hear your comments or what else you do to prepare for those elementary grade spelling tests.  Happy studying!


1 Comment

Filed under Education, Parenting

Back to School…Back to Bullying? Types of Bullying- Types of Bullies

You will never reach higher ground if you are always pushing others down.
-Jeffrey Benjamin


When parents think of school safety, they may imagine fire drills and disaster preparedness lessons.  With school violence in the news and at the forefront of many parents’ minds, however, more and more schools are creating bullying policies and adopting programs to combat the issue.  Research reveals that students report the majority of bullying takes place on school grounds, most often in the classroom, on the playground, in the cafeteria, bathrooms and in the halls.

Schools should take multiple steps to combat bullying and educate teachers, parents and students about the short and long term effects bullying can have on both the victim and the perpetrator.  Strong schools have programs that include the following elements: a clear school policy, faculty training, a curriculum that teachers can use in the classroom, a support system for students, and an open line of communication with parents.  Perhaps most important is that all adults and children in the school community foster a culture of caring.  When everyone involved has no tolerance for bullying and is dedicated to promoting a healthy and safe environment, bullies have no choice but to stop their negative behavior.

These steps are extremely positive and will help ensure a safe school campus.  However, as your child’s primary educator, you are still the first line of defense in keeping your child from being bullied or from becoming a bully.

Types of Bullying

Physical/Direct- hitting, punching, scratching, kicking, spitting or other forms of a physical attack.

Emotional/Indirect- spreading rumors or stories about someone, systematically excluding a student from activities, tormenting a student by making fun of a handicap or related issue, using sexist or racist slurs, name calling and various threats.

Cyber– using the Internet or cell phones to inflict emotional harm on another child by posting negative images, sending threats, leaving hurtful voice mails, creating negative web sites or posting negative information on a social networking sites.

Male bullying tends to be physical or involve intimidation and coercion (handing over lunch money) while female bullying tends to be indirect in nature.  Girls are more likely to exclude one another, spread rumors and use cyber bullying as a tool for harassment.  That doesn’t mean that girls never get physical or that boys never use the Internet to bully.  These patterns simply expose how gender can affect the type of bullying taking place in a given situation.

Types of Bullies

Current research reveals different roles children play in the bullying cycle.

Ring Leader– the person who leads or dictates the act of bullying through intimidation and influence

Assistant– the is the persons who participates in the bullying so as to avoid being a target of the ringleader.

Reinforcer– this child shows positive encouragement toward the main bully.

Bystander– a student who witnesses the act of bullying but stays silent out of fear and appears to condone the act because of his silence.  It is very easy for children to fall into this category.

Defender– the student who stands up against a bully or group of bullies.

A common myth is that bullies are anti-social and outcasts among classmates.  This could not be further from the truth for today’s bullies.  Recent research indicates that many of today’s bullies are typical kids who do not exhibit the stereotypical bully profile.  Many students engage in group bullying that allows them to feel they are not really responsible for their behavior.  It can be extremely difficult for children to walk away when it’s the popular kids who are doing the bullying.

Although many schools use the terms “teasing” and “bullying” interchangeably, it is important  that parents understand the difference between the two.

  • Teasing is a non-threatening back and forth that takes place between children on the same emotional and physical level.  Bullying, on the other hand, is when one or more children engage in systematic and organized behavior that is threatening, hurtful, physically harmful or spreads negative information via the Internet.
  • Research over the past 15 years supports that teasing can be a positive force in relationships.  School age children can use happy, fun teasing as an important part of play, and it can actually enhance their ability to express positive feelings toward one another.  Parents and children can enjoy teasing among each other too.  Teasing is even present in the animal world!  Juvenile monkeys pull the tails of other monkeys to engage them in play.
  • Teasing should be fun and mutual.  Make sure your child knows when enough is enough.

This post is part 1 of a 3 part series I will be posting over the next several days.  Read all 3 to get the full scoop on how to identify, approach and combat bullying.

Parts 2 & 3 will address the following-

  • Signs of bullying for both the victim and the bully
  • Steps parents & children can take to thwart a bully (both online and in person)
  • Steps parents can take to work their child if he/she is a bully

To read my entire Lesson Plan on Approaching Bullying, pick up a copy of my book,  Answer Keys: Teachers’ Lesson Plans for Successful Parenting at http://www.theanswerkeys.com, Amazon or other fine retailers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Parenting

No, You Are Not Raising a Hoodlum

No, You Are Not Raising a Hoodlum – Tulsa Kids – September 2011 – Tulsa, OK.

This is a fantastic article.  I have recommended visiting the Gesell Institute’s website & books to parents and fellow educators alike.  Enjoy!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Parenting

When a Loved One Passes Away: Tips for Helping Children Understand the Cycle of Life

I highly recommend http://www.barefootbooks.com*, as it was started by two moms who wanted their children to have books that would feed the imagination, while instilling a respect for diversity and a love of the planet.  The Mother’s Club Family Learning Center in Pasadena, an organization with whom I am working this year as a Sustaining Advisor for a Jr. League Placement at the facility, utilizes English and Spanish versions (along with the read along CDs) to help immigrant parents learn to read with and teach their children important literacy skills.

The following recommendations for helping children through loss are wonderful, and while I hope you never need to use them, we all know that passing is part of our circle of life.  Helping our children learn to walk through death with dignity and a greater understanding of their place in this world will help them develop into well adjusted and empathetic adults.

Taken from http://www.Barefootbooks.com.

Aging and dying are not easy concepts for anyone to understand, particularly young children. These topics are often fraught with wonderment and fear, and can be challenging for parents to explain to their children. When a loved one passes away, or moves through the aging process, we want to help ease our children’s anxieties, and guide them through the grieving process in a healthy manner. Often though, we find ourselves perplexed as to the best ways to approach the subject.

The Gift, a book that explores a girl’s journey through life, is a wonderful tool for helping a child through a loss.  Written by Ann Duffy and illustrated by Rob Ryan.  Recommended for ages 8+, but I have read reviews where parents have used it with younger children too.

  • You know your child and family the best. Is a loved one ill or showing signs of age? Find out what may be on your child’s mind by sharing age-appropriate information with them and asking them how they feel and what they think. Listen to them closely and consider your responses carefully. Take some time in your reply  — you don’t need to say the first thing that comes to mind. Children respond well when adults say, “That’s a great question. I’m not sure of the best way to answer that but I will think of a way and let you know as soon as I do.” Then, be sure you do get back to them so that their question is answered.
  • Know that there is no right or wrong way of explaining the aging process to children. As with so much in parenting, it is best to trust your instincts, and keep the conversation going long after you brought it up the first time.
  • If a family member or loved one is facing a severe illness, it’s often best to provide appropriate information to your child so they are kept informed, and to prevent any surprises that may occur.
  • The questions about aging and the life cycle will evolve as your child grows and faces new situations. Keep in mind that children will most likely not be satisfied with one simple answer at a single point in time. The topic should be revisited periodically to address your child’s current fears and concerns.
  • If a loved one has passed away recently, create family traditions to celebrate their life. These traditions can be an important way for children to express their feelings and keep the loved one’s memory alive. Some ideas including eating the person’s favorite foods, wearing their favorite colors, dedicating a dinner conversation to sharing favorite memories, etc.
  • Share with your child the beauty of life with traditions and celebrations. Some ideas to mark the passage of time include planting a tree on special birthdays, displaying photos of loved ones, or keeping a journal with memories of cherished visits with grandparents and other loved ones.
  • Read books with your child that feature characters of different ages. As you read with your child, ask them questions about what they may be thinking or feeling. Books are a wonderful way to teach children about all aspects of life.
  • Be there for your children. Often when facing difficult realities, children find the most comfort in the presence of a parent. Take a long walk together, spend time on the couch together, identify times when you can be fully present with your child to talk, listen, and comfort them.
  • You are not alone. Explaining the circle of life to children is difficult for even the most seasoned parents. You might find support and ideas from trusted members of your community, such as members of the clergy, close friends, family, teachers, and counselors.

*  A note from Smartypantz- this was not a paid endorsement from Barefoot books.  I just think it’s a wonderful publishing house with a fantastic mission!

Leave a comment

Filed under Parenting

LMU School of Education Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Lowry






Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Lowry.

Thanks to the Loyola Marymount School of Education for highlighting the recent publication of my first book: Answer Keys: Teachers’ Lesson Plans for Successful Parenting.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Parenting

TMI Parenting Anxiety- When less information online is more

Hello from an almost 2 month hiatus.  This is a great read!  I also agree that too much information can be a bad thing.  I hope you enjoy it and that it gives you some piece of mind if you don’t believe everything you read.

By Lyz Lenz (taken from http://www.dailybabble.com)
When my daughter was 6 weeks old, she wasn’t smiling. All the information I read in books and on websites said that she should be smiling. As a new mom, I was very worried. I posted on discussion boards and received a host of suggestions ranging from failure to thrive and autism. I Googled, “autism in infants,” “autism at six weeks,” “my child is not smiling” and “my baby doesn’t like me.”

The doctor told me my baby was fine. My husband told me she was fine. My family told me she was fine, but with the overwhelming information superhighway contradicting their reasoned counsel, I couldn’t help but worry, fret and Google. Until one day, without warning, my daughter just smiled and she hasn’t stopped smiling since.

But it’s not just the Internet introducing anxiety. A new slate of technology allows parents to spy on their children in ways never before imagined. The AngelCare baby monitor detects signs of breathing and sounds an alarm if your baby stops moving. Some friends of mine watch their children on their phones through a live-video feed available via Skype. “Why not just stick computer chips in them?” I joked. “We’d consider it,” the father seriously retorted.

New parents worry. It’s a given that all new moms will anxiously check their snoozing infant for signs of breathing. We buckle. Innoculate. Sanitize. But does this wealth of information feed into our deepest fears and actually make us worse parents? Or when it comes to your children can you never have enough knowledge?

Dr. John Duffy, author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens, argues that the glut of product and Internet-induced knowledge is not just hurting parents, it’s hurting kids. “In my opinion, we definitely have far too much information these days, and it can be crippling for parents. From focusing on the baby monitors with our infants, to GPS on cell phones for our teenagers, I think parents inundate themselves with more information than they can manage, and more than they need to. We need enough data to keep our kids as reasonably safe as possible. But beyond that, we just create reasons for fear. And we know that we rarely make our best parenting decisions from a point of fear. We become controlling and, effectively, unavailable to our kids. This benefits no-one.”

And he’s not the only one. Dr. Deborah Gilboa, Family Physician and a Clinical Assistant Professor at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, believes that this wealth of information is creating a generation of defensive parenting. She argues, “Too much news exposure can lead us down the path of anxiety and can create a whole family dynamic based on the expectation of bad things happening. Living life defensively, trying to protect our children from every possible bad outcome, increases stress and physical illness in parents, and can increase anxiety in kids. It does not, past a certain common sense level, decrease the number of tough experiences that our children encounter. Also, there is a lot of good to come out of difficult experiences, including raising kids who are practical, self-reliant and resilient.”More on Parenting: 

Can’t quite relax into new parenthood? Try music!Babble’s Best Albums for Babies

Running out of ideas for a fussy infant? 9 Great Ways to Calm a Baby

Fran Young, a mother and teacher, thinks all this anxiety and parental hovering is inhibiting our children’s ability to mature into confident and independent adults. “No longer can a child learn independence by walking alone to school or the nearby store to get some groceries. No more will children light up and smile when a stranger says ‘hello’ — even if mom is right there pushing the cart at the store. Gone are the days when a retired neighbor (missing her grandchildren, perhaps) can show a child how to fix her bicycle or make a birdhouse or learn to speak French or twirl a baton or bake a cake. Parents have become fearful and have become so protective of their children that learning independence as a child has become impossible.”

But not everyone agrees that too much information is, well, too much. Candi Wingate, President of Nannies4Hire, a nannying and babysitting service, argues that what we call “over-protective parents” are just parents sensitive to the dangers and needs of their children. She notes that swimming in pools without lifeguards and not wearing a seatbelt were all common activities for kids 40 years ago. Today, however, parents would be considered negligent for not enforcing those activities. “What seems reasonable to parents today would have seemed over-protective to the parents of 40 years ago.”

“I think that too much information doesn’t make people bad parents,” argues Tina Feigal, a teacher, mom and the owner of a parent coaching business, “but it certainly makes them a lot more anxious than they need to be to do their jobs as parents. That can result in overreaction to every little thing, which drives the children crazy. Parents think they are just doing their jobs, but all this information keeps them trapped in feeling they are always doing it wrong. Guilt rules the show.”

The Internet and technology, have given parents a glut of knowledge and with it the sense of more control. But that control is just an illusion. And, while watching our infant on a video monitor or frantically Googling symptoms may seem to ease our worried minds, in the end, we can’t control whether our baby has a common cold or pneumonia.

After a month of waking up to every snore, wheeze and grunt broadcast via the baby monitor, I finally listened to my father and turned the “damn thing” off. Despite my sleep-training efforts, I couldn’t control whether my daughter slept or not, but I could try and get a good night’s sleep for myself. And I’ve been a better, well-rested parent because of it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tip of the Day for Parents…The Writing is on the Wall

or on a simple notecard…

I will be the first to admit that I’m a writer a heart.  If there is an excuse to write, I’ll take it.  As a former middle school Language Arts teacher, I also field frequent questions from parents regarding how they can get their child excited about writing.  I have long contended that the ability to write well is not just a natural gift.  It is a craft that takes time, dedication & patience. When I was writing my book, I distinctly remember bouts of serious writer’s block where I grappled with scrapping the project all together.  Along with the encouragement of my co-writers, it was the discipline I had developed through years of consistent writing that propelled me through the rough patches.

Many of you may be wondering what I’ve been writing about all these years.  It’s only recently that my book was released, that I began writing for publications and that I began my own blog.  The one consistent piece I’ve been writing throughout the years, however, has been thank you notes/gratitude letters.  And, I truly believe engaging in the creation of both will help your child become a better, more impassioned writer.

Thank you notes/gratitude letters accomplish the following:

  1. They allow children to practice the craft/art of writing on a small scale (i.e. short).  This gives them opportunities to write without the pressure of creating the next Moby Dick.
  2. They allow children to write about something important, relevant and usually something children like and/or appreciate (gifts, money, a great time at an event, etc.).
  3. They allow children to write in a low-stakes environment.  Everyone loves to receive a thank you note or gratitude letter.  The child almost always comes out looking good after sending a note of appreciation or gratitude.
  4. They allow parents to see how children write on the fly and in a somewhat unscripted atmosphere.  This can allow parents to assess a child’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer. (spelling skills, creative vocabulary, general creativity).
  5. They allow children to think about the kindness of others and learn to appreciate gifts on a greater level.
  6. Thank you notes/gratitude letters are a form of “paying it forward” and leave a smile on the recipient’s face.
  7. Practice, practice and practice makes perfect.  The more one practices her craft, the better she becomes at it.

While I’m in the midst of admitting things, I will also admit that writing thank you notes and gratitude letters makes me feel great.  I know people enjoy receiving something in the mail (NOT email) that recognizes their kindness, generosity, etc.  I write notes to people on pretty much a daily basis.  It is part of my writing ritual and supports my overall emotional health.  I didn’t always enjoy the craft, but through practice and witnessing the reaction of some who have received my pieces of written correspondence, I have grown to love and look forward to writing thank you notes and gratitude letters.  In fact, I’m bubbling with excitement now knowing that my next writing assignment is a thank you note, and it’s going to be a doozy!

Happy Writing!





Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Parenting