Archive for April, 2013

Writing Apps and Websites (via commonsensemedia.org)

Common Sense Media

 

Writing Apps and Websites

These apps and websites cover several of the skills that kids need to become strong writers. Whether you have a preschooler just learning to form letters or an older kid who’s learning the the finer points of constructing stories and self-expression through writing, you’ll find excellent learning tools on our list.


Dora ABCs Vol 1: Letters & Letter Sounds Review

Easy-to-play games are great practice for pre-readers.
AGE   3
LEARNING 4
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

 

FirstWords: Deluxe Review

Great for pre-readers to early spellers, but can get spendy.
AGE   3
LEARNING 3
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

 

This Is My Story (And I'm Sticking To It) Review

Build (and hear) simple stories by filling in the blanks.
AGE   4
LEARNING 3
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

 

Feel Electric!  Review

Electric Company app helps kids learn to express emotions.
AGE   5
LEARNING 5
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

 

Storybird Review

Create beautiful books to share online and in print.
AGE   6
LEARNING 3

 

iDiary for Kids Review

Excellent journal-writing tool for creative kids.
AGE   7
LEARNING 3
Platforms: iPad

 

StoryBuilder Review

Very cool app asks questions, creates stories from answers.
AGE   7
LEARNING 4
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

 

New Moon Girls Online Review
New Moon Girls Online
Dynamo site for girls has priorities right.
AGE  10
LEARNING 3

Scholastic Kids Press Corps Review

Kid reporters (and readers) get schooled in journalism.
AGE  9
LEARNING 3

Essential Books… To Get Kids Hooked on Reading for Life (via commonsensemedia.org)

Common Sense Media

Parents often ask us to suggest good books for their kids — ones that will engage, entertain, and maybe even enlighten them. So we’ve scoured our recommendation lists and consulted with teachers, librarians, and book critics to assemble what we consider essential titles for your home bookshelves or to download to your ereader, smartphone, or tablet. From the classics to more recent must-reads, fantasy to funny, we have more than 150 great book suggestions for your kids and teens, from bedtime stories to chapter books to true literature, and more. Just search our themed categories, and you’ll find all of our picks arranged by age groups.

Our goal in creating this guide was to choose books that are proven to click with all kinds of kids — and can encourage them to become lifelong readers. The list is mainly fiction, because stories really grab kids. And we didn’t shy away from controversial books, trusting that our age ratings and detailed reviews will help parents decide what’s appropriate for their kids.

Our expert editors are completely independent; we’ve provided buy links for many books, but they’re simply for your convenience.

Browse titles by age and category:

Common Core Illinois (via commoncoreil.org)

How Common Core Math Standards Are Different

When it comes to mathematics, the Common Core is not only about content – what children learn – it is also about how they learn it and what they do with it. Here are some key changes outlined in the  math Common Core standards.

  1. Students will work more deeply on fewer topics which will help ensure full understanding of essential concepts. The Common Core focuses on the math that matters most for future learning of more complex math concepts.  This focus is important because teachers need to have the time to teach and students need to have the time to learn.
  2. Students will keep building on what they have learned year after year, creating a strong foundation. Math is not new every year; each topic students learn builds on what they have learned in previous years.
  3. Students will spend time practicing and memorizing math facts. Developing speed, accuracy, and real math fluency requires that some skills become automatic.
  4. Students will understand how math works and be able to talk about and prove their understanding. A deep understanding of math will allow children to use math in new situations without having to be specifically trained for them.
  5. Students will be asked to use math in real-world situations. This means knowing when and how math can be used to solve a problem without being directed, a skill that is essential for being college- and career-ready.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or simply an interested party, we encourage you to learn more about Common Core Standards for math. The Council for Great City Schools provides grade-specific Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core – Mathematics that provide guidance to parents about what their children will be learning and how they can support that learning .  Or watch this four minute video on the importance of mathematical practices and how they impact student proficiency.

 

What Does College- and Career-Readiness Mean?

The Common Core State Standards were designed to prepare students for success in college and modern careers. College readiness means that high school graduates will have the skills they need to do well in college. College is defined broadly, as a 4-year or 2-year degree, or any postsecondary program that leads to a degree or certificate. Regardless of a student’s specific post high school plans, he or she should be prepared to enter any credit-bearing, entry level college courses.

Career readiness means that high school graduates will be qualified for and able to build long-term careers. A career is not the same thing as a job. A career signifies a profession that allows graduates to succeed in a job they enjoy while earning a competitive wage.

We don’t know what jobs will look like 10, 20, or 30 years from now, but we know children must graduate from high school with essential mathematics and English Language Arts content knowledge and skills like communication, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.

 

Reader Question

A Core Connection Newsletter reader sent us this question. “Why were the standards implemented unilaterally in all grades instead of starting in the elementary grades and then working up through the school system with the students?” We went to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for an answer and here is what spokesperson Mary Fergus had to say.

“The Common Core standards represent the first K-12 learning standards written with the end – college and career readiness – in mind. We believe that the benchmarks remain important and relative for each grade and that once our Board passed these standards, it was important and fair for all students, whether in 6th or 9th or 12th to be expected to meet these goals and be exposed to the type of instruction and skills that best support students to be college- and career-ready.  We did not expect implementation to occur over the course of a semester, a year or even two years…that is why we built several years into the timeline. This is a process and implementation varies from one district to another, but we believed it important that we all begin the journey together.”

For those who want to dig deeper, ISBE’s website includes a host of information on the Common Core and educators should not miss the Common Core Professional Learning Series, an online training resource.

 

Featured Resources

We have done the research and scoured the internet for valuable Common Core resources, so you don’t have to.  Here’s what caught our eye this month.

  • The Council of Great City Schools has developed a three-minute video (also available in Spanish) that explains how the Common Core State Standards will help students achieve at high levels and help them learn what they need to know to get to graduation and beyond.  That’s the best use of three minutes we have come across lately.
  • It is important to keep parents informed, so we have developed a short letter schools can use to communicate the basics of the Common Core and changes to ISAT scoring that are coming. We have even translated this letter into Spanish, Polish, Arabic and Chinese. Download these letters and use them to communicate with parents and your community.

 

Parents’ Guide to Student Success

The Parents’ Guide to Student Success (listed below in English and Spanish) was developed in response to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics that more than 45 states have adopted. (To find out if your state has adopted the standards, visit CoreStandards.org/In-The-States.) Created by teachers, parents, education experts, and others from across the country, the standards provide clear, consistent expectations for what students should be learning at each grade in order to be prepared for college and career.

National PTA® created the guides for grades K-8 and two for grades 9-12 (one for English language arts/literacy and one for mathematics).

The Guide includes:

  • Key items that children should be learning in English language arts and mathematics in each grade, once the standards are fully implemented.
  • Activities that parents can do at home to support their child’s learning.
  • Methods for helping parents build stronger relationships with their child’s teacher.
  • Tips for planning for college and career (high school only).

PTAs can play a pivotal role in how the standards are put in place at the state and district levels. PTA® leaders are encouraged to meet with their school, district, and/or state administrators to discuss their plans to implement the standards and how their PTA can support that work. The goal is that PTAs and education administrators will collaborate on how to share the guides with all of the parents and caregivers in their states or communities, once the standards are fully implemented.

Parent Guides

Two-page Parents’ Guides to Student Success (Color)
Color versions of the two-page Parent Guides

Four-page Parents’ Guides to Student Success (Black and white)
Black and white versions of the four-page Parent Guides

Four-page Parents’ Guides to Student Success (Color)
Color versions of the four-page Parent Guides

Additional Resources

Parents’ Guide to Student Success—Frequently Asked Questions
PDF

Parents’ Guide to Student Success—Frequently Asked Questions

State Education Agencies
Find out more about your state’s CCSSI implementation plans.

 

Attached are examples of Parent Letters for those with 2nd graders:

2nd Grade June20

 

Also included is an overview of Common Core Illinois:

CPS-K8-English-BW-3-26-13

 

What Are the Benefits of Standards-Based IEPs? (via ncld.org)

NCLDLogo

By Kristin Stanberry

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the key contract and plan for every student who receives special education services. But not all IEPs are created equal. Over the last decade, the IEP has been evolving. Some states now use a standards-based IEP, which is clearly linked to the grade-level curriculum and expectations for all students, per the state academic content standards. The standards serve as a framework for teaching and telling teachers what to teach but not how to teach it. Some states have complex standards for each grade level, while other states have less specific requirements. With the 2013–2014 introduction of Common Core Standards, most states will follow the same set of academic content standards for math and English language arts.

A standards-based approach to developing IEPs blends the best of special education and standards-based education. A standards-based IEP, when properly implemented, results in several benefits to the student, his or her parents and teachers, and to the school district. Below are some of the benefits of a standards-based IEP.

Benefits of Standards-Based IEPs

  1. The focus is positive. A standards-based IEP:

    • is built on the belief that a student with disabilities is capable of achieving grade-level proficiency if given appropriate instruction and supports;
    • addresses a broader, more meaningful set of academic skills and knowledge than a traditional IEP; and
    • ultimately prepares a student to earn a regular high school diploma and succeed after graduation.
  2. Standards-based IEPs raise the bar on expectations and achievement:

    • Parents and teachers have higher—but realistic—expectations of children with disabilities.
    • Students receive tailored instruction and accommodations to help them achieve in the general education curriculum at their enrolled grade level.
  3. Standards-based IEPs encourage collaboration and awareness among educators, parents, and schools. For example:

    • Special education teachers, general education teachers, and other IEP team members come to better understand their state’s academic content standards and will work together to support student learning.
    • Parents better understand what’s expected, according to state standards, of all students at their child’s grade level, how well their child is doing compared to the standards, and how to support their child’s learning at home.
    • Teachers will better understand what a student with disabilities needs to achieve grade-level standards.

Focus on Standards, Boost Success for Students with IEPsAs IEP teams focus more on their state academic content standards, there may be more consistency in IEP development throughout the school district and state. And states that adopt and implement Common Core might develop and share IEP best practices with other states. This will be a key factor in helping both raise expectations and achievement of students so they can achieve their potential at school.

For more detailed information on standards-based IEPs, read our standards-based IEPs advocacy brief.

 

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, topics which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.

Out-of-the-Box Advocacy: Talk LD at Your Child’s School (via ncld.org)

NCLDLogo

By: Lyn Pollard, Parent Contributor,

Published Date: March 27, 2013 4:28 PM

Throughout the Out-of-the-Box Advocacy series, I’ve shared my top tips for how parents can put their advocacy efforts to work outside of their child’s IEP and 504 Plan meetings. Today, I’ll wrap up the series (for now!) by focusing on how to make a difference for LD at your child’s school.

If you’ve been following the series, you’ve hopefully tried at least a few of the suggested out-of-the-box advocacy methods. Maybe you’ve been tweetingwriting emails, or talking to your friends and neighbors about LD. Once you get started, it gets easier and easier to make LD part of your day-to-day interactions and online conversations. As long as you’re sporting your advocate hat, let’s keep going by focusing on how to advocate for change on your child’s own school campus.

The Good FightFor many parents of kids with disabilities, their child’s school is actually the hardest place to be an effective advocate. For me, it’s difficult to practice what I preach when I’m dealing with the people on my daughter’s campus team, be it her IEP/504 committees, her principle, or her classroom teacher.

I can tell you exactly why that is. Your child’s campus is where IEP meetings occur, and IEP meetings are where parents are often forced to put on their parent advocate hat for the very first time. Many a parent has IEP-meeting war stories to tell. And, let’s be honest – many of these stories are not pretty. I often say that the people who have seen me at my most vulnerable and uncensored are my husband, my OB/GYN, and my children’s IEP teams.

Turn It AroundIt makes sense why parents like me (and maybe you) who have had to fight the good fight in the IEP setting might have a difficult time taking up that same fight in a positive, collaborative way when it comes to encouraging your school campus to accept and embrace kids with LD. But, if you can just manage to re-focus your negative feelings into positive, upbeat efforts to raise LD awareness and remove stigma, it will be well worth the effort.

Focus on Diversity in Your Child’s ClassroomThe first place to start when advocating on your child’s campus is right in his or her classroom. In one of the first articles I ever wrote about parent advocacy, I described how I read a book to my daughter’s 1st grade class about what it’s like to be different. The book, titled Just Because, shares the story of a sister’s love for her sibling with a disability. After reading the book, I led my little girl’s classmates in one of the most touching discussions I’ve ever had about diversity and acceptance. Right out of the mouths of babes.

To this day, one of the children in my daughter’s classroom (a child whom I can see also feels different) runs over to hug me every time I see her on campus. We bonded that day – because I could see it in her eyes while I was reading, “Thank you for helping my friends understand that it’s OK to be different.”

Other ideas:

  • Ask your child’s teacher if you can do a craft with a diversity theme on your next volunteer day
  • Suggest a field trip to a nursing home or other location where you will encounter people that seem different in some way
  • Suggest a writing topic (for older kids) that focuses on diversity

Heck, I even made up a song once about being different and showed up at my son’s classroom with my guitar to sing it. (The kids loved it and didn’t care one bit that I messed up the chords!)

Make sure to end the event with a short chat about acceptance. You may be surprised how quickly you see a difference in the way your child with a disability is treated at school. A mere glimpse at how it feels to be the odd kid out really does go a long way in helping children put themselves in another’s shoes.

Start a Campus CampaignWhat do you want to see regarding LD on your child’s campus? More information for parents about LD on bulletin boards, in e-newsletters, or on your school’s website? Maybe a quarterly parent education meeting about PTA/PTO-sponsored LD services at your school? Or how about a “No Bullying Day” or a campus- or district-wide “Dyslexia Awareness Day”?

So…make it happen! The best way to go about it is to talk directly to your child’s principle to see what your options are. Ask her to partner with you and other parents gather some parents first and then provide clear, concise information about what you want to accomplish, such as:

  • a banner at the school entrance advertising the event
  • flyers and emails sent out to parents on your campus announcing the day
  • a short teacher training focus for that week on the LD-related topic
  • an announcement made by a student with LD willing to share their story with the campus

Work with your principle to make your vision a reality. If you don’t get a positive response at first, be politely persistent until you gain the approval you are seeking.

The Telling TreeI was watching an HBO documentary the other day called I Have Tourette’s, But Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me. Part of the film focuses on a 10-year-old boy with Tourette Syndrome who’s made it his mission to tell his entire school about his difference so that they can understand his condition and what it feels like to be misunderstood.

He calls it his “Telling Tree” philosophy: if he tells one person about Tourette Syndrome, then that person might tell one or even four or eight people about it. From there, the effect is exponential and stigma-bashing—all because one person spoke out and took the time to educate others.

Now, that’s a powerful message – straight from the mouth of a child struggling to fit in while feeling undeniably different.

If a young child with a visible disability that puts him at risk for bullying and other forms of discrimination can speak up about the need to embrace diversity, then I believe that we as parent advocates can put aside the discomfort we may be feeling and work for change on our child’s campus.

Before you know it, your own “Telling Tree” will be one million strong.

Seven IEP Tips from a Special Education Parent Who Has Been There (via ncld.org)

NCLDLogo

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the key contract and plan for every student who receives special education services. But not all IEPs are created equal. Over the last decade, the IEP has been evolving. Some states now use a standards-based IEP, which is clearly linked to the grade-level curriculum and expectations for all students, per the state academic content standards. The standards serve as a framework for teaching and telling teachers what to teach but not how to teach it. Some states have complex standards for each grade level, while other states have less specific requirements. With the 2013–2014 introduction of Common Core Standards, most states will follow the same set of academic content standards for math and English language arts.

A standards-based approach to developing IEPs blends the best of special education and standards-based education. A standards-based IEP, when properly implemented, results in several benefits to the student, his or her parents and teachers, and to the school district. Below are some of the benefits of a standards-based IEP.

Benefits of Standards-Based IEPs

  1. The focus is positive. A standards-based IEP:

    • is built on the belief that a student with disabilities is capable of achieving grade-level proficiency if given appropriate instruction and supports;
    • addresses a broader, more meaningful set of academic skills and knowledge than a traditional IEP; and
    • ultimately prepares a student to earn a regular high school diploma and succeed after graduation.
  2. Standards-based IEPs raise the bar on expectations and achievement:

    • Parents and teachers have higher—but realistic—expectations of children with disabilities.
    • Students receive tailored instruction and accommodations to help them achieve in the general education curriculum at their enrolled grade level.
  3. Standards-based IEPs encourage collaboration and awareness among educators, parents, and schools. For example:

    • Special education teachers, general education teachers, and other IEP team members come to better understand their state’s academic content standards and will work together to support student learning.
    • Parents better understand what’s expected, according to state standards, of all students at their child’s grade level, how well their child is doing compared to the standards, and how to support their child’s learning at home.
    • Teachers will better understand what a student with disabilities needs to achieve grade-level standards.

Focus on Standards, Boost Success for Students with IEPsAs IEP teams focus more on their state academic content standards, there may be more consistency in IEP development throughout the school district and state. And states that adopt and implement Common Core might develop and share IEP best practices with other states. This will be a key factor in helping both raise expectations and achievement of students so they can achieve their potential at school.

For more detailed information on standards-based IEPs, read our standards-based IEPs advocacy brief.

 

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, topics which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.

Understanding Anxiety Disorders (via everydayhealth.com)

Understanding Anxiety Disorders

If your worries are keeping you from making it through your day, you may have an anxiety disorder.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH

Yes, we all worry. But when worrying interferes with your job, your health, or your well-being, you may have an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder can cause physical symptoms such as headaches and insomnia and keep you from being able to function well in your daily life.

“Anxiety is not only present in all people some of the time, anxiety in some form or another is present in all people a lot of the time,” says Charles Goodstein, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center. “It’s often under the radar, it’s not detected, it’s unconscious. Anxiety is part of life. What makes a disorder is when people have anxiety that mounts to such an intensity that they’re no longer able to cope with it. We all devise methods, unconscious and conscious, to deal with it, and therefore we don’t perceive it to be agonizing. Some people don’t have those measures.”

Anxiety Disorders: Understanding the Nuances

Anxiety disorders are diagnosed by specific type:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with this type of anxiety disorder feel constantly anxious and worried. Often, there’s no specific problem that provokes people with GAD to worry, but even so, they remain anxious. This type of extreme, daily worrying must continue for at least six months to warrant a GAD diagnosis. Anyone can develop GAD, but more women deal with this anxiety disorder than men. The condition is usually treated with medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (structured therapy to learn how to recognize and cope with fears), or a combination of both methods.

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). People with social phobia become anxious and stressed in social situations — anything from speaking in public in front of large crowds to dining out with just a few friends. These people dread social situations because of a fear of judgment and embarrassment. Women and men are equally likely to experience social anxiety disorder, but it’s thought that some people may be genetically predisposed to the condition. This type of anxiety disorder can also be treated with therapy, medications, or both.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD obsess about certain thoughts or concerns, like something bad happening to a loved one, and create a particular routine to cope with these obsessions. Repetitive behavior, like checking and re-checking an alarm clock or locks on doors, and strict routines, like having to get dressed a certain way or put things away in a particular order, are signs of OCD. Men, women, and children can all develop OCD. Medications and psychotherapy that involves dealing with specific fears and anxieties can help treat the disorder.