Mistakes To Avoid When Teaching Writing To Kids

By Ellie Coverdale

Writing is one of those vital skills which, once you have it, you take for granted that at some point in your life you were without it. Whilst it’s highly unlikely that your kids won’t learn how to write, there are still a lot of mistakes that you can make as you are teaching them which can go on to be detrimental to them, affecting their whole process of development. With such a big thing at stake, let’s take a look at what mistakes you can make so that you know to do your best to avoid letting them arise.

  • Rushing Development

Parents can be hugely over-zealous when it comes to monitoring and managing the development of their children. “There are lots of areas, from learning how to walk to toilet-training, where parents get hugely over-anxious about the rate at which their child is developing. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too early, and that very much applies to handwriting”, says Jessica Howard, lifestyle writer at Academ advisor and Study demic. Don’t push your children in a way that starts them out with a fear or dislike of handwriting. Introduce it slowly and surely, bit by bit. 

  • Not Teaching Letter Formation

If your child has produced something that looks like the letter ‘c’, this isn’t necessarily the only evidence you need that they have successfully navigated the act of writing. Failing to teach your child the letter formation as it should be done properly can be really damaging as they start trying to write whole words. There are a few schools of thought on how to do this successfully. The important thing is that it gets done, not specifically how you end up doing it. Formation will really help guide your child so that if they’re ever in doubt, they have that training to fall back on. 

  • Writing As Part Of A Continued Motor Development

The reason writing is difficult for many young children is that they struggle with fine motor skills in a general sense, not just with writing alone. “Teaching your child how to write is very important, but it should definitely be looked at as part of a larger goal, which is to get your child up to scratch more generally speaking with their physical skills”, explains Crystal Park, productivity expert at Grammarix and Easy word count. If you find yourself getting frustrated at your child’s inability on a fine motor skill level, then train that in a different area, unconnected to the pressure of also learning the meaning of the letters.

  • Failing To Foster A Love For It

Teaching writing can go in one of a few different ways in terms of your child’s perception of what it means to do handwriting. In general, you’ve got a problem if your child hates doing writing. The best way to avoid this is to do your best to foster a real love for the act of writing: make it fun, turn it into a game, do anything you can to create positive associations. Your child will have to do a lot of writing in their life, so make sure you set them off on the right path.

  • Using Alphabetical Order

Jumping in with the letter ‘A’ and expecting to be able to just drive your child the way down the line to ‘Z’ is not a good way to go about thinking about how to successfully teach writing to your child. The alphabet, as much as you might take it for granted now, actually has vast differences in the levels of difficulty. So drawing the letter ‘I’, for example, is considerably easier for a child than the letter ‘A’. Start with this in mind, so that you break your child in gently, rather than pushing them too far all at once. 

Conclusion

Overall, you want to make sure that you’re setting a solid, healthy precedent for your child as they begin to learn to write. Don’t be overly cautious, but definitely be on the lookout for messing up any of these elements and creating unnecessary problems for your child. 

A writer and blogger at Academized.com and Paperfellows.com, Ellie Coverdale is passionate about sharing her extensive experience. She specializes in writing tips and suggestions. Ellie enjoys writing about a wide range of topics, including lifestyle, education, and life as a writer. She fills the rest of her time as a teacher for Oxessays.com.

How Teachers Can Use Video Games in School

By Brooke Chaplan

The idea that video games are brain-rotters and just for fun after school is outdated. Now, innovative teachers are bringing gaming into their classrooms to create learning experiences that stick. While there should always be a learning goal in mind when students are invited to play video games at school, it is not hard to see just how technology influences kids to reach their full potential. Teachers can use these ideas to implement video games in their classroom lesson plans to help kids pay attention and learn new skills that they will use for a lifetime.

Get Kids Interested in Making Their Own Games

Kids love interacting with technology, but it can be challenging to get them to pay attention in their basic tech courses. Teaching kids to make a video game will encourage them to use their creative thinking abilities while also learning the basics behind computer programming. Many games require a mixture of concept design, creative storytelling, coding, and math. For teachers who are not tech-savvy, special apps can be found that help kids get started with making their own games.

Teach Monetization and Marketing Skills

If there’s one thing kids love more than making games, it’s making money. Once kids are making their own video games, they can turn them into a mini-business. Teachers can tap into the innate skills of their students by teaching them how to market their games and monetize them for a successful first-time business venture. For instance, teaching kids crowdfunding best practices helps them enter into a new opportunity to build upon their skill set. Even if it only provides pocket change, helping students to see how their coding and technology skills have real-life applications and benefits can encourage them to see how school will affect their life goals and career paths. Using what they learn in class to set up a real world business motivates kids to learn even more about technology, as well as math, finances, and legal copyright.

Give Insight into Character Development

Video games are not just for teaching tech skills. Reading and language arts teachers can use games to help kids learn more about how people think and react in different situations. For instance, simulation games that encourage players to create stories for the characters are great for helping kids learn how to develop characterization in a story. Alternatively, teachers can use games to help kids learn how to follow a storyline by analyzing what the characters do. Many games act more like visual novels with branching storylines and character choices, and games like these can help students develop their own storytelling skills.

Develop Critical Thinking Skills

The ability to think through problems to find appropriate solutions is important for kids today and in their futures as leaders in their communities. Video games require critical thinking skills that help kids figure out how they can look at the different angles of a situation to find the best approach. Teachers who choose to use games for this reason should select ones that require kids to make complicated decisions regarding their strategies to win. Many of these games can be competitive, and classes can be divided into teams. Others can involve teamwork and interpersonal strategizing, like Artemis, a game where each player takes on a workstation to run a spaceship simulator. 

There’s no question that kids love gaming, and teachers can use this interest to direct their students’ attention to important lessons that benefit them in life. From creating their own games to marketing them to a wider audience, students who are exposed to technology and its many uses at an early age have more opportunities to find and creatively implement success.

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan

4 Visual Aids Physical Science Teachers Can Use to Make Classes Memorable

By Meghan Belnap

Are your students falling asleep during your lectures? From ADHD to rumbling stomachs, there are many reasons that young adults find it difficult to concentrate in school. However, sometimes you have to face the fact that your boring lecture is the reason for your class catching z’s. If you’re struggling to capture your students’ attention, try these four visual aids to create memorable lessons.

Show How Soundwaves Travel

For this demonstration, you will need two identical glasses, water, a sponge and a piece of thin wire. To begin, fill each glass with equal amounts of water and stretch the wire over the top of one glass. Then move your finger across the rim of the other glass and watch the wire move. The glasses have the same natural frequency because they contain the same amount of water, which means that sound can travel from one to the other.

Recreate the Process of Erosion

A stream table is a scientific model that simulates the process of erosion through different types of sand and soil. You can purchase beautifully crafted models that come with different types of sand for experimenting or create your own with a large roasting pan and sand collected from outdoors. Either way, your students can observe the process of erosion in real time and see how it varies when the type of soil and path of water flow is changed.

Observe Magnetic Fields

This is an easy experiment that only requires some iron filings, a magnet and a piece of paper. Just sprinkle the filings on a sheet of white paper and bring the magnet close to the underside of the paper. Like magic, the filings will form a line along the magnetic field so your students can observe its contours.

Visualize Gravitational Pull

The concept of gravitational pull can be difficult to explain, but you can make it simple with just a piece of lycra fabric, a frame and a couple of large ball bearings. Stretch the fabric over a round frame, such as a quilting frame. Then place one metal ball in the center. Now, have your students observe as you place another ball at the edge of material and the two balls move toward each other.

Although visual aids can be fun, remember not to take up too much class time with them. A good visual aid goes a long way in reinforcing the lesson, but lectures and reading materials allow students to cover more information in less time.

Everything Wrong With Detroit’s New Teacher Evaluation Scheme

Add Detroit to the growing list of states and districts looking to revamp their teacher evaluation systems. Test-based accountability reached mania-like proportions during the Arne Duncan years but has slowly abated, with 34 states now requiring the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, down from a high of 43 in 2015. Maine made news earlier this year when its legislature voted to drop a requirement that test scores be used to rate teachers. Thanks to a new law in New York, there’s no longer a requirement that evaluations be tied to the state’s standardized grade 3-8 math and English assessments. Pennsylvania is considering similar reforms. And many states have made other changes to their evaluation systems, with some reducing their frequency and others washing their hands of the whole sordid thing by allowing districts and local bargaining units to work out the details.

What they all have in common is a tacit admission that evaluating teachers on the basis of student test scores is a stupid idea. Of course, teachers could have told them that all along (and we did), but even without test-based accountability, designing a system that fairly evaluates teachers has proven to be a Herculean task. There are a lot of reasons for that, and Detroit’s proposed new teacher evaluation system illustrates some of the challenges.

According to this article from Chalkbeat, Detroit’s new system, which they’re calling Thrive For Teachers, will rate teachers on a 100-point scale. Here’s how that breaks down:

  • 40 points from classroom observations
  • 40 points from student growth on standardized exams
  • 10 points from student surveys in grades 3-12 (not sure what replaces these points for K-2 teachers)
  • 10 points based on teachers’ commitment to the school community

Additionally, the district will “provide stronger guidance on how administrators should observe teachers” and teachers “can expect to engage in regular conversations with leaders about their growth and receive individualized professional development.”

Stop snickering.

I appreciate that Detroit’s leaders recognize what teachers have been telling them for years: that the old system didn’t work and there needed to be a new one. And I recognize that designing a teacher evaluation system is a difficult thing to do. But this new system stinks, and it’s worth looking at why it stinks because Detroit’s proposed system stinks in many of the ways all teacher evaluation systems stink.

Regrettable Truth #1 – Classroom Observations Only Work in Theory

It makes sense on paper. A principal, a highly-trained educator with years of effective teaching experience on her resume, stops in frequently to watch her teachers. Using her vast knowledge of education research and the hard lessons she won through years of classroom teaching, she acts as a mentor to young or struggling teachers. She meets with them regularly. She sends them to conferences. She pairs them up with skilled veterans. She directs them to research that will help improve their instruction or classroom management. Her teachers see her as an ally in their quest to raise student achievement.

Unfortunately, this ideal rarely happens in real schools. Many principals weren’t particularly strong teachers; it’s one reason they got out of the classroom in the first place. Even those who were good simply don’t have the capacity to do what would need to be done to truly improve the teaching in their building. Principals, like everyone in education, don’t have the time to do everything they need to do at the level they need to do it. They make do. And they often make do by checking boxes, by minimally complying. They perform the required number of observations for the required amount of time and no more. They have the follow-up meeting with the teacher and never meet again. They often don’t have much to offer even struggling teachers because they either don’t know, are humble enough to realize that what works for one educator won’t work for a different one, or they just don’t have the time to devote to mentoring.

And that’s if the principal is acting in good faith. Putting 40% of a teacher’s evaluation in the hands of one individual is problematic for a host of reasons, the most obvious being that principals are humans and, like all humans, some of them are petty, vindictive assholes. As I’ve written before, there’s a reason Olympic gymnasts are scored by multiple judges with the high and low scores thrown out. People have biases. One person watching a performance does not see or appreciate all of the things another person watching the same exact performance sees or appreciates.

READ: Proof Your Teacher Evaluation is Meaningless

Regrettable Truth #2 – The Numbers Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean

In a nice, clean world we would be able to assess the effectiveness of a teacher by measuring what her students know and can do at the start of the year and then measuring those same things again at the end of the year. We would then be able to say how much of an impact the teacher had on each of her students and we could determine levels of poor, average, and exceptional growth and rate the teacher accordingly.

But learning isn’t a one-way street. It involves both the teacher and the learner, and the student’s learning is dependent upon more than just his teacher’s talents and efforts. What if a student missed 40 days of school? What if she refuses to wear her glasses or her parents neglect to have her hearing tested? What if she doesn’t care about the tests, since she has no skin in the game? What if the computer glitches on the big day and she balks at having to do the whole thing over again and then gives less than optimal effort?

When it comes to student performance on a test, there are too many inputs, but teacher evaluation systems pretend there’s only one.

And those are for the teachers who teach tested subjects. Detroit’s new system does nothing to remedy the problem with test-based accountability systems: that as many as half of the employees in the system are required to be rated on tests they don’t directly affect.

Finally, systems like Detroit’s play fast and loose with the language. When Detroit says they will use “standardized exams” for the growth portion of the evaluation, they don’t mean the state standardized test. Districts don’t get that data back quickly enough to use it for teacher evaluations for the current year. Instead, teachers are usually tasked with designing common assessments that all students at their grade level or in their subject area will take or districts misuse benchmark screeners for the purpose. In Michigan, the state test is only given at the end of the year, so there is no standardized test that can provide a beginning and end of the year measure that could be used to evaluate a teacher’s impact. Many of the tests districts use to evaluate teachers were never designed for that purpose, and some were created by people with no education in test design.

Regrettable Truth #3 – Students Are Easily Manipulated

The most novel change to Detroit’s system – and the one that’s generated the most headlines – is the decision to include student survey results in teacher evaluations. 10% of every grade 3-12 teacher’s evaluation would be based on what their students think about them. I’m a third-grade teacher and I can tell you two things. First, I survey my students at the end of each year, and without fail, the things my students like best about my class are not things that prove I’m an effective teacher. Last year, my students liked that I gave them breaks, that I played music during those breaks, and that they were allowed to read on their Chromebooks on Friday. Second, if I thought for one second that I was in any danger of being laid off due to a low evaluation, I would bribe my students on the day they were to fill out their survey. And let’s not pretend lots and lots of other teachers wouldn’t do the same. It wouldn’t even cost me much; you should see what students will do for a sticker.

Regrettable Truth #4 – Teachers Get Exploited. Teachers in Poor Districts Get Exploited More

Classroom observations are defensible because if they were performed as designed by people who should be leading our schools then they could conceivably lead to rich conversations that might improve teaching. You can also forgive Detroit for including student growth data in their teachers’ evaluations because, for the time being, they don’t have a choice; Michigan law will require districts to do exactly as Detroit will do in 2020-2021. You can even understand a district wanting to give students a say in their teacher’s evaluations (although I do wonder if Detroit uses teacher surveys in their evaluations of their administrators). After all, it’s the students who are the “clients.” We’re providing them with a service, so we should care about what they think of that service.

All of that is understandable, even if, in the real world, none of it will work the way it’s intended. What’s totally unacceptable is the final 10% of every Detroit teacher’s evaluation. That 10% is based on a “teacher’s commitment to the school community” and the Detroit Federation of Teachers should fight it with everything they’ve got.

Because all that part of the evaluation does is provide administrations with a cudgel to use whenever they need free labor or when they want teachers to keep their mouths shut.

Some, maybe even most, principals will interpret “commitment to the school community” as “going above and beyond” and “doing whatever is necessary.” They will tell teachers to “do what’s best for kids.” That’s the language of manipulation and exploitation.

READ: What’s Wrong With “Doing What’s Best For Kids”

Don’t feel like donating two hours after school to attend literacy night? Then you’re not “committed to the school community,” are you?

You aren’t willing to meet with parents whenever it is convenient for them? That doesn’t sound very committed to the school community.

You’re the first one to leave at the end of the day? Not enough commitment.

You expect to be paid for committee work? Well, the district doesn’t have the funds, and besides, you want those 10 points on your evaluation, don’t you?

But the most egregious use of the commitment standard will surely be when something is wrong and a teacher considers speaking up about it. Like, I don’t know, when teachers in Detroit blew the whistle on the deplorable conditions of some of their buildings, including leaking gym ceilings and black mold.

Any teacher who dares to publicly embarrass the district in such a way is surely not “committed to the school community.” You can bet they’ll receive a zero for that part of their evaluation, and with 40% of the rest of the evaluation in the hands of a principal who will observe their teaching, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if such a teacher were suddenly at the bottom of the food chain when layoff time comes around.

Detroit’s new evaluation system is more of the same, with the added insult of language that will make it easier to take advantage of teachers. The Detroit Federation of Teachers should oppose it, and if they can’t defeat it, then they should at least advocate for a name change.

Thrive for Teachers?

That’s some Orwellian bullshit right there.

How to Use Social Media in the Classroom

By Nancy Chavira

Teachers will know that using many different instructional tools in class, at all grade levels, is beneficial to students, and this is also true for using social media in the classroom. This can be especially relevant to students ranging from elementary to post-secondary classes. Incorporating social media in the curriculum will have many benefits like teaching networking, communication skills, and support for the classroom.

  1. Support to students outside of school

More and more, students are searching for ways to get feedback and answers outside of the traditional classroom, and social media provides expectations of immediacy of information. Social media and other online tools make it possible for students and teachers to connect quickly and support each other outside of the classroom, not only between students and their teacher but within their community of students. 

Facebook

One great example of this would be the creation of a Facebook page or group, that’s set to private, for the whole class to use outside of school. Teachers can use the page to post assignments, provide extra guidance or explanations, and answer questions, making full use of evening and weekend hours to expand student learning. Students can also share ideas and suggestions between each other which is great for brainstorming and gaining critical thinking skills and creativity. 

YouTube

Another option available to teachers is creating a private YouTube channel that allows them to teach their students through videos. By taping your lectures and posting them on YouTube afterward, students can reference them later in the week when they’re working on their homework assignments outside school hours and they need a refresher on the subject matter discussed in class. 

Twitter

Another great social media option is using Twitter to share key information with your students like status updates on classes, reminders, and reinforcement of important points from a class, as well as any supplemental learning tools and materials. This can be beneficial for teachers who want to send reminders to their students about tests and assignment due dates that are approaching. If there’s an important article online or a good television program, they can post it immediately when it would otherwise be too late to wait until the next class.

2.  Networking

When students are a bit older, learning about and using social media tools like LinkedIn which are primarily for networking will help them get an early start at building important connections for job opportunities and post-secondary studies. According to Francine Drury, a tutor at Research Papers UK and Writinity, “lessons should also include information about building and using toolkits for professional communication, creating a resume, cover letter, and portfolio, and researching online for pertinent material on their future career or degrees. Facebook is also a good option for learning about networking, communicating in a professional environment, and how to make good impressions on employers and during an interview process.” 

3. Parent involvement

Another great benefit of integrating social media in the classroom is allowing parents to become more involved and aware of their child’s educational process. As Frank Boone, an educator at Last Minute Writing and Draft Beyond explains to his readers that “parents can get updates during field trips, look at assignment requirements, and even support the students by sharing their own knowledge and education experiences to the whole group.” 

4. Weighing the benefits

When teachers are considering bringing social media into the classroom, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. This allows you to understand the benefits but also being prepared for the downsides and having an action plan in place. Despite all the benefits of social media, it can be a distraction, hard to monitor, can lead to cyberbullying, and reduce opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Teachers have to be aware of these negatives and have a plan in place to make sure their online platform is a safe and beneficial space. 

Social media is more and more present in society, especially in younger kids’ lives, so it’s important to show proactively all the useful ways social media can be used to further learning, and preparing children for future communication. Social media benefits the students, the parents, and the teachers in providing educational support, improving communication after hours, and preparing students for their future careers. 

Nancy, a freelance writer at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays, loves to research and write about educational issues and initiatives, and her goal is to create an engaged community that can discuss different teaching and education tactics.