How To Teach Your Kids To Care About Other People – Caroline Bologna

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As deep-seated divisions, vitriol and disturbing news fill headlines, many people are wondering what happened to the qualities of empathy and kindness in our society.

In the same vein, many parents are wondering how to raise kids who will be a force for love and goodness in the face of bitterness and hate.

HuffPost spoke to psychologists, parents and other experts about how to instill empathy in children.

Talk About Feelings

“The gateway to empathy is emotional literacy,” said Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and the author of numerous parenting books, including UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.

A simple way to foster emotional literacy is by promoting face-to-face communication in the age of texting and smartphones. “Digital-driven kids aren’t necessarily learning emotions when they pick emojis,” Borba said. “Make it a rule in your house to always look at the color of the talker’s eyes because it will help your child tune in to the other person.”

Another key aspect is teaching kids to identify their own emotions early on. “Use emotional language with kids. Say things like, ‘I see you’re really frustrated,’ or, ‘I see you’re really mad,’” Laura Dell, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Education, told HuffPost.

“Before children can identify and empathize with other people’s feelings, they need to understand how to process their own feelings,” she continued. “Once they can identify their own emotion, they’re better able to develop those self-regulation skills to control their own emotions ― and then take the next step to understand the emotions of others.”

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Ravi Rao, a pediatric neurosurgeon turned children’s show host, believes parents should teach feelings as much as they teach things like colors and numbers.

“You’ll see parents walking through the park and taking every opportunity to ask, ‘What color is that man’s jacket?’ ‘What color is the bus?’ ‘How many trees are there?’” he explained. “You can also practice emotion by saying things like, ‘Do you see the woman over there? Does she look happy or does she look sad?’”

Rao also recommends playing a “guess what I’m feeling” game at home by making happy or sad faces and asking your children to identify the emotion. “You just get their brains in the habit of noticing the signals on other people’s faces.”

Once kids have a better sense of emotions and how things make them feel, you can ask them about the emotional perspectives of others. “You can ask things like, ‘How do you think it made Tommy feel when you took his toy?’ or, ‘That made Mommy really sad when you hit me,’” said Borba.

Use Media To Your Advantage

Watching TV or reading books together presents another great opportunity to cultivate empathy, according to Madeleine Sherak, a former educator and the author of Superheroes Cluba children’s book about the value of kindness.

“Discuss instances when characters are being kind and empathetic, and similarly, discuss instances when characters are being hurtful and mean,” she suggested. “Discuss how the characters are probably feeling and possible scenarios of how the situations may have been handled differently so as to ensure that all characters are treated kindly.”

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Borba recommends engaging in emotionally charged films and literature like The Wednesday Surprise, Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Set An Example

Parents need to walk the walk and model empathy themselves, noted Rao.

“Kids will pick up on more things than just what you say. You can say, ‘Pay attention to other people’s feelings,’ but if the child doesn’t perceive or witness you paying attention to people’s feelings, it doesn’t necessarily work,” he explained.

Rao emphasized the importance of parents using language to convey their own emotional states by saying things like, “Today, I’m really frustrated,” or, “Today, I’m really disappointed.” They can practice empathy when role-playing with dolls or action figures or other games with kids as well.

It’s also necessary for parents to recognize and respect their children’s emotions, according to Dell.

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For kids to show empathy to us and others, we need to show empathy to them,” she explained. “Of course it’s tough as a parent trying to get multiple kids to put on their clothes and shoes and get out the door to go to school in the morning. But sometimes it makes a difference to take that pause and say, ‘I see it’s making you really sad that we can’t finish watching ‘Curious George’ this morning, but if we finished it, we wouldn’t be able to make it to school on time, and it’s really important to get to school on time.’”

“It doesn’t mean you have to give in to their wants all the time, but to recognize you understand how they feel in a situation,” she added.

Acknowledge Children’s Acts Of Kindness

“Parents are always praising children for what grades they got or how they did on a test. You can also boost their empathy by letting them know it matters to develop a caring mindset,” said Borba, noting that when children do things that are kind and caring, parents can stop for a moment to acknowledge that.

“Say, ‘Oh, that was so kind when you stopped to help that little boy. Did you see how happy it made him?’” explained Borba. “So your child realizes that caring matters, because you’re talking about it. They then begin to see themselves as caring people and their behavior will match it.”

Expose Them To Differences

“Parents have to help their children grow up and thrive in a diverse society through education about and exposure to others who are different, whether culturally, ethnically, religiously, in physical appearance and ability or disability,” Sherak said.

There are many ways to expose your children to the diversity of the world ― like reading books, watching certain movies and TV shows, eating at restaurants with different cuisines, visiting museums, volunteering in your community, and attending events hosted by various religious or ethnic groups.

“It is also important to follow up such visits and activities with open discussions and additional questions and concerns, if any,” said Sherak. “It is also valuable to discuss differences in the context of our children’s own environments and experiences in the family, at school, in their neighborhoods, and in the larger community.”

Parents can urge local schools to promote cross-cultural awareness in their curricula as well, said Rao.

“We also just have to eliminate jokes about race and culture from our homes,” he added. “Maybe back in the day making jokes about race like Archie Bunker seemed acceptable and part of what the family did when they got together on holidays. But that actually undermines empathy if the first thought a child learns about a race or group of people is something derogatory learned from humor. It can be very hard to then overcome that with other positive messages.”

Own Up To Your Mistakes

“If you make a mistake and behave rudely toward someone who messes up at a store checkout, for example, I think you should acknowledge that mistake to kids,” said Dell. After the bad moment, parents can say something like, “Wow I bet she had a lot on her hands. There were a lot of people at the store right then. I should’ve been a little kinder.”

Acknowledging and talking about your own lapses in empathy when your kids are there to witness them makes an impression. “Your child is right there watching, seeing everything,” Dell explained. “Own up to moments you could’ve made better choices to be kinder to the people around you.”

Make Kindness A Family Activity

Families can prioritize kindness with small routines like taking time at dinner every night to ask everyone to share two kind things they did, or writing down simple ways to be caring that they can all discuss together, said Borba. Playing board games is another way to learn to get along with everybody.

Borba also recommended volunteering together as a family or finding ways that your children enjoy giving back.

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If your kid is a sports guru, then helping him do arts and crafts with a less privileged kid might not be the best match, but you can find other opportunities for face-to-face giving that match their interests,” she explained. “Help them realize the life of giving is better than the life of getting.”

Families might also consider writing down their own mission statements, suggested Thomas Lickona, a developmental psychologist and author of How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain.

“[It’s] a set of ‘we’ statements that express the values and virtues you commit to live by ― for example, ‘We show kindness through kind words and kind actions’; ‘We say we’re sorry when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings’; ‘We forgive and make up when we’ve had a fight,’” he explained.

Lickona also recommended holding everyone accountable to the family values at weekly family meetings centered around questions like, “How did we use kind words this week?” and, “What would help us not say unkind things even if we’re upset with somebody?”

“When kids slip into speaking unkindly ― as nearly all sometimes will ― gently ask for a ‘redo,’” he said. “‘What would be a kinder way to say that to your sister?’ Make it clear that you’re asking for a redo not to embarrass them, but to give them a chance to show that they know better. Then thank them for doing so.”

Another piece of advice from Lickona: Just look around.

“Even in today’s abrasive, angry, and often violent culture, there are acts of kindness all around us. We should point these out to our children,” he said. “We should explain how kind words and kind deeds, however small ― holding the door for someone, or saying ‘thank you’ to a person who does us a service ― make a big impact on the quality of our shared lives.”

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Calmer Children: 10 Mindfulness Ideas – Judith Aitken

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It’s all too apparent that practicing mindfulness is just as important for teachers, so to reduce any additional workload, all of these activities involve zero preparation time.

10 Mindfulness Tips

1. Breathe

As simple as it sounds, asking children to take the time to focus on nothing but their breathing will help to clear their mind. Try experimenting with breaths (breathe in for 2, exhale for 4) to allow children to find their own natural rhythm.

2. Muscle relaxation

When tensions are running high, ask your children to lie on the floor and starting from their toes, tense their muscles for 5 seconds – squeezing as tightly as they can – before releasing again. Continue all the way up the body, even scrunching their facial muscles to relieve any tension from the day.

3. Sensing the senses!

Encourage your children to tap into their senses by pausing for a moment and noticing exactly what they can see, hear and smell in that particular moment. Being in the present can help to alleviate worries that children may have had about previous lessons.

4. Noticing emotions

Mindfulness teaches children that it’s OK not to be OK. Recognizing the emotion that they are experiencing is the most important thing, as well as understanding that this emotion will fade over time.

5. Time on your hands

For those needing some breathing space, a simple yet effective exercise is asking children to hold out their hand in a high five pose, then as slowly as they can, trace round each finger with their other hand. Taking the attention away from what has made them feel frustrated or upset, even if only for a matter of seconds, might be all it takes for them to calm down.

6. Strike a pose

When thinking of mindfulness, yoga is the first exercise that springs to most peoples’ minds. Complicated downward dogs may be attempted, but a simple crossed legged position or standing tall with arms stretched out wide can help children to refocus.

7. Heartbeats

Have your pupils job on the spot for 30 seconds to release some much needed endorphins, then ask them to put their hands on their heart, noticing the speed of the beats. This simple exercise is effective in improving children’s focus.

 8. Practice gratitude

When a day or a lesson seems to have been a complete disaster for a pupil, take the time to have a quick circle time, asking the children to share one positive thing about their day. Hearing what others are grateful for will foster an environment of positivity.

 9. YouTube meditation

There are so many fantastic guided meditation channels on YouTube now, such as “Peace out”  which lead children through a relaxation sequence. Ideal for improving concentration before a long writing session.

10. The sound of music

Using a bell, tambourine or maracas, make sound for while the children close their eyes. Ask the children to open their eyes when they notice that the sound has completely gone and silence has been restored.

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How To Deal With A Difficult Parent – Terry Heick

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You’d heard about this parent from other teachers.

That this parent was a handful. Rude. Combative. Aggressive. Even litigious. In response, you worry, if just a little. You have enough to deal with, and butting heads with an angry parent–especially one angry just because–doesn’t sound like fun. You don’t get paid enough for that hot mess.

So you keep calm and hope to ride the year out. Maybe they won’t call. Maybe they’ll skip parent-teacher conferences. You’ve even considered grading their child a little easier just to avoid the hassle of it all.

We’ve all been there. Nothing can solve this problem, but there are ways to take the edge off so that you can open up the lines of communication and deal with the parent on equal terms so that they’re child has the best chance for success.

12 Ways To Deal With A Difficult Parents

1. Reach out first

Be pre-emptive. Reach out with a positive message to start off on the right foot.

2. Don’t patronize

And when you reach out, be authentic. Don’t pretend to be their best friend, nor should have that “nipping problems in the bud” tone. Don’t worry about “holding your ground” either. Just reach out as an educator to a member of your own community. You’re not selling them anything, and they’re not selling you anything. You’re both dutifully and beautifully involved on either side of a child.

3. See yourself

No matter how important the education of a child is, realize you’re simply a single cog in the life of that family, no more or less important than keeping the lights on, their job security, food and shelter, or any other reality of daily life.

4. Give them something

Not an object–a “handle” of some kind to make sense of the learning process. Something they can make sense of and understand and use when they speak to their child about education. Something less about the game of school and more about learning, curiosity, and personalization.

5. Involve them

Keep your friends close and your…difficult parents…closer. Ask them to take on an authentic role in the classroom. Ask their opinion. Allow them to have a voice or show leadership. Give them a role in what their child learns. The fact that a parent has approaching zero authentic role in the learning process of their children is part of our challenge as educators. Help them find one.

6. Put them in a position to succeed

Just like a student, put the parent in a position to succeed. They may not have had a good experience in school, either as students, with siblings of your student, etc. Give them a reason to believe that you have the best interest of the family at heart–and that includes them.

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7. Don’t judge them, or “handle them.”

Meet them on equal terms. For all of our overly-glorified differences, most people are fundamentally the same. We respond to pain and threats differently, and have unique ethical systems, but it’s easy to place yourself above someone even if you think you’re not doing exactly that.

8 Establish a common ground

An old sales technique. A favorite athletic team–or dislike for a rival team. A personal philosophy. Your own struggle as a person. Something to humanize yourself, and establish the overlap between yourself and the parent.

9. Focus on the work

This is the opposite of teaching and learning, where you focus on the human being (the student). In conferences and communication with parents, you can both see the child and what’s “best for them” very differently, but academic work has a chance to be more objective. Focus on the work and academic performance, and what you and the parent and siblings and other teachers, etc., can do to support the student in their growth.

Even in the midst of difficult conversations, always do your best to steer the focus back on the work, and the child themselves. The former is data/evidence, the latter the reason for the data/evidence.

10. Give them reason to see beyond the grade book

This is partly the problem with letter grades. So reductionist.

It’s easy to look at a grade book and both start and finish the conversation there. If that’s all they see, have a look at your curriculum and instruction, and see if you’ve given them ample opportunity to do otherwise. Talk less about missing work, and more about the promise and possibility of their child. Help them see that the school year is a marathon, not a series of sprints.

11. If all else fails…

If you have to, call for reinforcements, and document everything. Never feel bad about having another teacher in the room with you if you feel like a parent will be aggressive and you’re simply not comfortable with it. Better to depend on solidarity and hope than your own personal strength.

And document everything. Stay on top of grading, feedback, behavior management, missing assignments, your tone, sarcasm, etc. Document every call and email. Save exemplar work. Document differentiation, personalization, and other individual efforts in pursuit of the best interest of the student.

Whatever you do, no matter your analysis of the proximity between apples and trees, don’t hold the difficult parent “against” the child, even subconsciously.

12. Take it personally, then don’t

If you have a “difficult parent,” and in spite of your best efforts it all falls apart, I’d say don’t take it personally but it’s hard not to. So fine–internalize it. Own it. Talk to colleagues (better than a spouse, whose emoptional reserves you may want to save for more pressing issues in education). Cry if you need to. And then let it go.

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Play Brain Games to Help Your Child Learn to Read – Judy Willis

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Reading is not a natural process for the human brain.We are born with the brain architecture ready for development of successful verbal communication, but without any blueprint guiding recognition of the printed word. Neuroimaging scans show that multiple brain regions activate during the reading process without any one isolated reading center.

The human brain is a pattern-building and detecting mechanism. Seeking patterns is the brain’s way of making sense of new information and experiences. We identify new things based on their similarities and relationships to things we already know. The development of literacy takes place in the same way all memories are constructed in the brain – by relating the new to the known.

The brain stores our learned information in long-term memory neural circuits based on commonalities or relationships. If a child had never seen a hat of any kind on a person (real or in pictures) and she is given a doll with various items of clothing, she would not know to place the hat on the doll’s head.

Memory patterns of stored related information become stronger the more frequently information they hold is recalled, used, or reviewed in a way that reinforces the relationships among the data in the memory circuit. For memory of letters and words to build, the brain must continue to link new information with related patterns that already exist in memory storage. For reading to become an acquired skill, there must be a gradual buildup of memories where new information is experienced together with related existing knowledge.

This is why children need skills of patterning and pattern recognition to develop literacy. Their patterning skills are what will allow their brains to connect letters with sounds and words with meanings. Helping young children build their patterning skills supports their future ability to recognize and remember the patterns found in letters, words, and sentence structures.

Here are some brain games you can play with your child to help boost his reading ability through recognizing, playing with, and creating patterns:

  1. Draw attention to patterns in art, nature, and daily recurrent occurrences. You can help your child build pattern recognition skills by playing “color detective” as you are out together. Have your child say “red” each time he sees a red car. Then ask him to be on the lookout for another color. You can also play “shape hunt” together, and ask your child to lead you around the house and point to all things that are circle-shaped (or square, etc.).
  2. Ask your child to categorize and sort items. The patterning skills needed for reading are further extended when your child’s brain can associate the unknown with a pattern into which it could fit. This pattern matching is what takes place when the brain predicts (based on existing memory patterns) the sound of an unfamiliar letter or the meaning of an unknown word. To work on this skill with your child, get her to sort objects into obvious categories, such as a collection of pictures or small plastic animals or vehicles, and give names to each group. (Verbalizing the name she selects for a category increases the brain’s awareness of the pattern. Ask your child why she chose the category name or what information she used when sorting items the way she did.) When she is pro?cient with this, she can move on to more subtle items to categorize. For example, make a map of the rooms of the house and place it on a table or the floor, and ask her to bring items specific to each room, and place each item in the appropriate room on the map.
  3. Look for similarities and differences between objects and photos. When your child has mastered large pattern similarities and differences such as red toys and black toys, try engaging in the following activity. While driving in the car or taking a walk together, ask him to point to cars that have four doors and those that have two or houses with flat roofs and pointy roofs. Or if you are at home, find two photographs of your child taken about a year apart and have him tell you about all the details he finds in each of them. Ask him which picture was taken when he was older and how he can tell. This game becomes more complex and expands comparison-and-contrast aspects of pattern recognition when you encourage your child to tell you other similarities and differences he notices: between two cars, houses, leaves, dogs, family photos, or photos of him at different ages.
  4. Play games of “What doesn’t belong?” This will prepare your child to identify how words and letters have shared characteristics that can be used to identify new words by seeking commonalities. Group together three items, like coins, and include one that does not belong, and ask your child to guess which one is not the same as the others. Once she masters this, create increasingly complex groupings where the “different” item is subtler in its differences (pennies with all heads up except one with tail side up). You can then move on to identification of the patterns of sequences. Line up a penny-penny-dime, penny-penny-dime, and penny-penny-dime sequence. Ask your child to choose the next coin that would fit with the pattern you set up. This builds both patterning skills for reading and sequencing skills for number sense, the basis for learning arithmetic.
  5. Try pattern matching. Pattern matching is how children connect specific letters and groups of letters with associated sounds. An example is by seeing the letter “m” and based on past experiences associating that letter with the “mmm” sound, your child is able to retrieve the memory of that sound. This “phonemic awareness” requires the brain to repeatedly experience the sound and letter together. The more frequently children are aware of this relationship between sound and letter, the more easily their brains will retrieve the correct sound to match with the letter in new words – until it becomes automatic. Children who have trouble with written symbols may learn more readily from hearing patterns emphasized in speech. You can help build these memory pathways to recognize patterns by emphasizing repeating letters, words, and sentences with changes in your voice pitch, speed, or volume emphasis as you read together with your child. If the word in the book is “hibernate” you would read and point to the “hi” and “bern” the point to the “ate”. Then have him do the same and find words with the familiar letter combinations.

Learning to read is critical for all academic success, but it is often an intimidating struggle for children. As your children’s patterning partner, you’ll be their guide to the wonderful worlds they can reach through books traveling over the rainbow and deep into the center of the earth. Your guidance will light the way and the books they enjoy when young will ignite their joy as lifelong readers.

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Learning By Teaching Others Is Extremely Effective – Christian Jarrett

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The learning-by-teaching effect has been demonstrated in many studies. Students who spend time teaching what they’ve learned go on to show better understanding and knowledge retention than students who simply spend the same time re-studying. What remains unresolved, however, is exactly why teaching helps the teacher better understand and retain what they’ve learned.

For a new study in Applied Cognitive Psychology researchers led by Aloysius Wei Lun Koh set out to test their theory that teaching improves the teacher’s learning because it compels the teacher to retrieve what they’ve previously studied. In other words, they believe the learning benefit of teaching is simply another manifestation of the well-known “testing effect” – the way that bringing to mind what we’ve previously studied leads to deeper and longer-lasting acquisition of that information than more time spent passively re-studying.

The researchers recruited 124 students and asked them spend ten minutes studying a text, with accompanying figures, about the Doppler Effect and soundwaves – a topic about which none of them had any previous knowledge – with a view to teaching the material themselves afterwards without notes. Participants were told they could take notes while studying but not keep them for the next stage.

After the study phase, the participants were divided into four groups. In one group participants spent five minutes being filmed alone while they stood and delivered a lesson on the study material without notes (they could use a blank flip chart to draw figures if they wanted).

The other groups either spent the same time completing multiplication arithmetic; standing up and teaching verbatim from a set script (including making reference to pre-drawn figures on a white board); or writing down all they could remember from the text (i.e. a form of retrieval practice designed to induce the testing effect).

A week later, all the participants returned to the lab for a surprise test of their knowledge and comprehension of the original study text in the form of six free-response questions that required them to explain key concepts from the study materials.

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The critical finding is that the teaching-without-notes group outperformed the group that had spent the same time completing arithmetic problems and the group that had taught from a script, but so too did the group who simply spent the same time retrieving what they’d learned. In fact, the final comprehension performance of the teaching-without-notes group and the retrieval-practice group was comparable.

The researchers said their results suggest that “the benefits of the learning-by-teaching strategy are attributable to retrieval practice; that is, the robust learning-by-teaching strategy works but only when the teaching involves retrieving the taught materials.”

The new findings don’t undermine the notion of teaching as an effect learning method, but they have practical implications for how the learning-by-teaching approach is applied in education and training. “In order to insure that students and tutors learn and retain the educational material that they have prepared and presented in class, they ought to internalize the to-be-presented material prior to communicating it to an audience, rather than rely on study notes during the presentation process”, the researchers said.

Critical readers may take issue with the lack of realism in the study – there was no audience of learners in either of the teaching conditions and therefore no interaction, which surely also plays a part in the learning benefits of teaching. Also, participants in all groups were originally primed to expect to have to teach the material, which may have had learning benefits in itself – perhaps the retrieval group would not have matched the comprehension of the teaching-without-notes group without being primed in this way.

Lun Koh and colleagues acknowledged some of these issues and they called on further research to “assess the importance of retrieval practice across a variety of teaching scenarios and activities.”

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7 Tips To Better Define Personalized Learning – Laura Ascione

personalized learning

Personalized learning is a pretty well-known term, but educators have different definitions for personalized learning, making for a sometimes-confusing approach to its implementation.

Now, a new report seeks to apply a common definition to personalized learning and outline best practices for educators to advocate for the practice in their districts.

The report comes from Education Elements and the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and it defines personalized learning as “tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs, and interests—including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when, and where they learn—to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.”

According to the report, the four core elements of personalized learning include:

  • Flexible content and tools: Instructional materials allow for differentiated path, pace, and performance tasks
  • Targeted instruction: Instruction aligns to specific student needs and learning goals
  • Student reflection and ownership: Ongoing student reflection promotes ownership of learning
  • Data driven decisions: Frequent data collection informs instructional decisions and groupings

The authors outline a handful of tips to help communicate ideas around personalized learning.

1. Focus on the future. The goal of personalized learning is to ensure that students will be adequately prepared with the knowledge and skills they need for college or career.

2. Highlight benefits to families, including the idea that personalized learning can give parents a deeper understanding of how their child is progressing and will improve opportunities for collaboration with teachers. It also can provide opportunities for increased interaction with teachers and peers, and can encourage higher levels of student engagement.

3. Highlight benefits to students. Students are encouraged to play a greater role—and be more invested—in their learning. Instruction will be tailored to a student’s strengths and interest to keep them more engaged in their learning. Students can learn at a flexible pace that’s right for them in order to ensure they have thoroughly learned the material.

4. Highlight benefits to teachers. Personalized learning will give teachers the flexibility and tools they need to meet the needs of each child.

5. For district leaders: Make sure the vision for personalizing learning is clear, that the “why” is commonly understood and that you develop messaging that makes sense for your entire community, not just those steeped in education jargon. Use words and phrases that work. Provide preferred messaging to your district staff and your principals so they don’t need to start from scratch. Communicate often with your teachers, families and community.

6. For school leaders: Talk about personalized learning whenever you can. Include examples in newsletters to highlight how it helps students, not the software you are using. Remember this is something most families want, so celebrate that you are doing it… or starting it. There is tremendous momentum behind this evolution in teaching and learning. Whenever possible, share those stories from your own school.

7. For teachers: Hang signs in your classrooms; talk about personalized learning on Back to School Nights and during parent conferences. Help your students understand why things are different. While you are among the best messengers, your students can be a huge asset because what they perceive and what they say really impacts what families think. Invite families into your classroom and show them how you are now better supporting their children

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Here’s How We Made Data Usable For Our Teachers – Martinrex Kedziora

In today’s digital classroom, teachers have access to more data than ever. With a few clicks, we can view detailed reports on student test scores, formative assessments, progress reports from self-paced software, attendance, and so much more. At times, the amount of data can feel overwhelming, especially when each data point only exists as an isolated channel, unrelated to the next.

I am not saying that multiple data measures are a bad thing; in fact, they can help us to differentiate instruction, personalize learning, and really meet each of our students where they are academically. As administrators, it is critical that we help our teachers collect the most meaningful data points by giving them the tools they need to quickly interpret figures to make informed decisions in their classroom.

In my district, Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) in California, our data showed that our students were really struggling in math. Our state test scores were low and, with the changing rigor of Common Core, parents were coming to me concerned that they were not able to help their child with assignments. I knew we had to do something outside the box—and quickly—to catch our struggling students and prevent them from falling further behind.

Step 1: Finding the right data
We knew that MVUSD’s math scores were low on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). For our students that were not meeting proficiency, the score alone did not show a clear picture of the specific skills they needed to master to catch back up to grade level. Our teachers needed a tool to pinpoint skill gaps for individual students so we could be more targeted in our interventions.

After much research, it was clear that we would benefit from administering benchmark assessments. Unlike traditional summative assessments like the CAASPP that simply determine content mastery, a good interim assessment allows educators to get a snapshot of what an individual student knows, is able to do, and is ready to learn next.

While there are many assessment options, we chose NWEA MAP Growth because it had the most research behind it. Our students take a computer-adaptive assessment a few times each year that adjusts to each student’s responses. Teachers get detailed reports that identify individual student needs and show projected proficiency through the school year and over multiple years. Administrators get higher-level reports that make it simple to do a temper-check several times throughout the year (instead of just at the end of the school year) and measure longitudinal growth.

Step 2: Connecting interventions to our data
Now that we were collecting the right data to isolate the instructional areas MVUSD students were ready to tackle, we needed to provide our teachers with additional resources to help them differentiate instruction. Teachers can use MAP data to identify common pain points to inform their lesson plans, but the granular data allows us to personalize learning even further. We know the specific topics students need to close skill gaps, but with an average class size of 24, it can be difficult to find the time for one-on-ones with each student.

As a district, we sought out the interventions that could take MAP growth data to the next level. I think the best example is the one-to-one online tutoring program we provide to students who scored a level 1 or level 2 on their math CAASPP.

We worked with FEV Tutor, who took individual students’ fall RIT scores (grade-level equivalences) to create personalized tutoring plans for each student. Depending on the school site, students worked one-on-one with their own professional tutor during the day or at an after-school program. All tutoring was online, and since it was one-to-one, students could work through the specific learning strands identified on their learning plan with the support of a live instructor.

Each online tutoring session concluded with an exit ticket. Teachers and administrators saw this data on a weekly basis, which allowed our teachers to see—in real time—how their students were progressing through their learning plans. If students were continuing to struggle, it was a warning that students would not likely reach their projected growth goals for the year and that we should explore additional interventions.

At the end of the tutoring program, the team at FEV Tutor did a full analysis to examine the impact. In academic year 2016-2017, MVUSD set a district-wide goal for 50 percent of all students to meet or exceed their fall to spring MAP Growth goals. We are pleased to share that 69 percent of FEV Tutor participants met or exceeded their fall to spring MAP Growth goals in math, compared to 17 percent of students who were identified for tutoring but did not participate.

Step 3: Connecting data points
MAP Growth is a great sign of students working their way toward proficiency; however, it is important to match this data into overall student performance. To try and get a clearer picture of the impact online tutoring had on student achievement, MVUSD’s department of accountability and assessment worked with FEV Tutor to examine the impact that online tutoring had on the CAASPP.

We saw that students who participated in FEV tutoring grew by an average of +26 scale score points from the spring 2016 CAASPP to the spring 2017 CAASPP, compared to +22 points for non-FEV Tutor participants. By taking a deeper dive into the data we found that, across the district, students who participated in 10 or more tutoring sessions had the highest rate of performance-level movement.

For students that took 10 or more sessions, the percentage who scored a level 3 (standard met) or level 4 (standard exceeded) grew by 15 percentage points from the spring 2016 to spring 2017 CAASPP. The percentage of students who scored a level 2 (standard nearly met) grew by 13 percentage points. This 13-percent increase is specifically significant at MVUSD because most students who participated in the FEV tutoring program scored a level 1 (standard not met) on the 2016 CAASPP.

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

The Question Game: A Playful Way To Teach Critical Thinking – Sophie Wrobel

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Big idea: Teaching kids to ask smart questions on their own

A four-year-old asks on average about 400 questions per day, and an adult hardly asks any. Our school system is structured around rewards for regurgitating the right answer, and not asking smart questions – in fact, it discourages asking questions. With the result that as we grow older, we stop asking questions.

Yet asking good questions is essential to find and develop solutions, and an important skill in innovation, strategy, and leadership. So why do we stop asking questions – and more importantly, why don’t we train each other, and our future leaders, to ask the right questions starting from early on?

In A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger suggests that there are three main questions which help in problem solving: Why questions, What If questions, and How questions.

Regardless of the question, the question needs to be phrased openly and positively in order to achieve positive results – a closed or negative question only raises bad feelings against each other.

  • Why questions help to find the root of a problem
  • What If questions open up the floor for creative solutions
  • How questions focus on developing practical solutions

So, perhaps, this lesson can be adapted to help trigger young children to start solve problems early too and stop accepting whatever the kindergarten teacher says to be fact? And perhaps, continue to keep up these inquiring and probing abilities later on in life?

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The Question Game focuses on teaching children a kind of thinking which is particularly useful in creative problem-solving–a focused approach to get from a problem to the most effective solution. It is most effective when combined with regular repetition, which solidifies the thought pattern, and with groups, which encourages contributory exploration of alternative responses and creativity.

Thinking strategy is just one of many qualities that are necessary for imparting charisma and leadership skills to the next generation. Many of us would claim that we don’t have the ‘natural gift’ that charismatic leaders like Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Ghandi had. However, charisma and leadership are qualities that, to a large extent, can be cultivated and trained.

With soft skills becoming more important in today’s job market, cultivating these skills early on can provide children with an additional edge in becoming effective, active citizens in our society. These skills can be broadly grouped into four logical skills and four emotional skills:

  • Logical skills: risk-taking, thinking strategy, creativity, and negotiation.
  • Emotional skills: persuasion, emotional connection, body language, and dealing with vulnerability.

Of these eight skills, the Question Game focuses on thinking strategy and creativity, and aims to solidify the critical thinking thought pattern from an early age onwards.

Introducing The Question Game

Preparation: print out the figure in the illustration, cut it out and glue the tabs together to form a cube.

  1. One simple idea is to pick up your favorite illustrated fairy tale book–the kind of book you’d read a two-year-old for bedtime stories. (This also works with most fictional works; the natural ‘break point‘ for questions is at the end of a plot development or paragraph for older audiences.)
  2. On each page, roll the cube and answer the question together. I’ll bet you’d be surprised by what turns Little Red Riding Hood can take. And more importantly after a while you and your child will both start asking these questions reflexively.

Evaluating Learning Progress

My personal experience introducing the game to my two children (aged Pre-K) is a gradual acceptance of the game and associated learning goals:

  1. Initial excitement: Rolling the cube puts the child in control and made a fun addition to reading their picture books; they couldn’t wait for their turn to roll the cube.
  2. Distress: The questions are hard, especially when they aren’t used to this sort of thinking pattern and are accustomed to the ’teacher knows everything’ thinking pattern. Here, my children often asked if we could read ‚without the cube‘, or ‚I don’t want to roll, but ___ can roll and answer the question.’
  3. Acceptance: As they start to recognize that there isn’t a single correct answer, and they begin to understand what each question is trying to achieve, they begin to enjoy the game and insist that we read ‘with the cube‘.
  4. Application: During more abstract conversations, discussions, or observing how the children go about solving day-to-day problems during play. Example: a particular lego construction doesn’t quite work, even though it was‚ built according to instructions‘–and the child goes about investigating what is wrong and fixing it himself. Another example: When they ask me questions and I give them answers that obviously don’t make sense, I get more pointed questions than just ‘why?‘ as a response.

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Adults Play A Big Part In Kids Developing Empathy Early, Study Says

Experts are still not agreed on when exactly kids develop the all-too-important quality of empathy, but a new study has suggested that adults have quite a large impact on children exhibiting this ability early in life.

More specifically, attentive adults engaged with kids in social situations can help youngsters demonstrate this quality earlier than the age of four, which is when previous studies say children start to show empathy. Being able to empathise, understanding others’ emotions and perspective, is key for socialising.

Developmental psychologist Elia Psouni and her colleagues assessed if children showed empathy in its simplest form, by determining if the kids could comprehend that another person has a false belief about something because they lack information.

The research team at Lund University in Sweden asked children aged 33-to-54 months old what would happen next in a story that had been interrupted.

They were looking to see if the participants would predict that the story’s main character would make a ‘wrong move’ because they had a false belief.

The researchers were also seeing if kids were better at doing this when with an adult who was busy with another activity, or an attentive adult engaged in the story, too.

The character in the story, Maxi, was playing outdoors and then decided to go inside to play with his toy plane. Unbeknownst to Maxi, his dad moved the plane while he was outside.

The kids were then asked where Maxi would look for the plane. Usually children younger than four would answer that Maxi would look for the plane where it actually is, even though Maxi doesn’t know that his father moved it.

However, even some of the youngest kids in this study correctly predicted that Maxi would look for the plane in its old location – when they took the test while with an engaged adult.

“Many children correctly detected and told us about Maxi’s false belief, i.e. that Maxi would look for the plane where he actually left it,” Psouni told Science Daily.

“Surprisingly, these children did not remember the story as a whole better than other children, but specifically noticed and mentioned the fact that daddy moved the toy when Maxi was not there, indicating that they paid closer attention to this particular feature of the story.”

This study shows how kids can understand the perspectives of others younger than experts previously believed.

Kids who answered the question about Maxi while on their own failed at making the correct prediction as often as their peers who took the test but with an unengaged adult, showing how important an adult’s attention is, not just their presence.

“Being in the same room as the child is not enough. It is the active engagement of the adult together with the child that makes the difference,” Psouni explained. What do you think of the study’s findings?

Childhood Emotional Neglect And Codependency

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What is Childhood Emotional Neglect?

Do you feel empty and disconnected? Do you sense that you’re different than everyone else, but you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong? Childhood Emotional Neglect is a powerful experience, but one that often goes unnoticed and untreated. In fact, many people who experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) describe their childhood as “good” and it’s only on closer examination that they recognize that something important was missing.

Your childhood experiences played a huge part in shaping you into the adult you are today. Children rely on their parents to meet their physical and emotional needs. And significant, but invisible, damage is done when parents fail to meet their children’s emotional needs.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is the result of your parent’s inability to validate and respond adequately to your emotional needs. Childhood emotional neglect can be hard to identify because it’s what didn’t happen in your childhood. It doesn’t leave any visible bruises or scars, but it’s hurtful and confusing for children.

Dr. Webb told me via email that “CEN happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs while they are raising you. When you grow up this way, you learn the powerful lesson that your emotions do not matter, and you then continue to live your life this way. There are legions of people walking around with an empty space where their own lively feelings should be. Sadly, they all are lacking healthy access to a vital resource from within that could be connecting, motivating, guiding and enriching them: their own feelings.”

What does Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) look like?

In an emotionally neglectful family, you might have come home upset because you didn’t make the basketball team, but when you tried to talk to your Mom about it, she shooed you away saying she was busy working. And when your grandma died your father told you “boys don’t cry” and no one helped you process your grief. Or it might have been that you spent hours and hours isolated in your room as a teenager and no one asked how you were feeling or if something was wrong. When this happens consistently, you feel unloved and unseen.

CEN can co-occur with physical abuse and neglect and is rampant in families where a parent is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or any compulsive behavior, or mentally ill. But many people who experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect grew up in families without obvious dysfunction. They weren’t beaten or belittled. Their parents were well-meaning but lacked the emotional skills themselves to notice and tend to their children’s feelings. Such parents never learned to cope with their feelings or express them in healthy ways and don’t know how to deal with their children’s feelings either.

Many adults who experienced emotional neglect look like they’ve got it all together on the outside. They’re successful and have a happy family, but there’s a nagging sense of emptiness, not fitting in, and that they’re different, but there isn’t anything obviously wrong.

Symptoms of Childhood Emotional Neglect include:

  • Emptiness
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling something’s fundamentally wrong with you
  • Feeling unfulfilled even when you’re successful
  • Difficulty connecting with most of your feelings, not feeling anything
  • Burying, avoiding, or numbing your feelings
  • Feeling out of place or like you don’t fit in
  • Difficulty asking for help and not wanting to depend on others
  • Depression and anxiety
  • High levels of guilt, shame, and/or anger
  • Lack of deep, intimate connection with your friends and spouse
  • Feeling different, unimportant or inadequate
  • Difficult with self-control (this could be overeating or drinking)
  • People-pleasing and focusing on other people’s needs
  • Not having a good sense of who you are, your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses

What are the effects of childhood emotional neglect?

Your feelings are a core part of who you are, so when they aren’t noticed or validated you come to believe that you aren’t important because you aren’t “seen” and known. In emotionally neglectful families, the message is that feelings don’t matter, they’re an inconvenience, or they’re wrong. Naturally, you learn not to value your feelings; you push your feelings away or numb them with food, alcohol, drugs, or sex.

When your emotional needs aren’t met and your internal state isn’t acknowledged, you’ll be disconnected from yourself. You will constantly seek attention and try to prove your worth through clingy or needy behaviors, perfectionism, overworking, and achievements. But these external validations never fix the problem; they never leave you feeling good enough.

Feelings serve to let us know what we need. For example, if you don’t notice when you’re getting frustrated, you won’t be able to find a healthy resolution or outlet for your anger and you’re likely to let it fester until you explode.

Lack of emotional attunement also makes it hard for you to deeply connect with others and understand your spouse and children’s feelings.

Childhood Emotional Neglect and Codependency

I have been counseling Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOAs) and people struggling with codependency for almost two decades. When I started learning about Childhood Emotional Neglect, I immediately noticed a big overlap between CEN and codependency or ACOA issues. It makes sense that if you grew up with an alcoholic or otherwise impaired caregiver, your emotional needs weren’t noticed and met.

Childhood Emotional Neglect and codependency have the same root cause. Both begin in childhood and tend to be passed unknowingly from one generation to the next. CEN and codependency aren’t the result of you being inadequate or doing something “wrong”, but they continue to make it difficult for you to have a healthy loving relationship with yourself and others in adulthood.

Individuals with CEN and codependency have in common a tendency toward:

  • Perfectionism
  • People-pleasing
  • Low self-worth, feeling inadequate
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Lack of awareness of their feelings
  • Discomfort with strong emotions
  • Putting other people’s needs before their own
  • Difficulty trusting
  • Difficulty asserting their needs