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Forget School For the Summer!

canstockphoto3930124As we enter into summer, one question I am frequently asked by parents is : ‘What can I be working on so that my child continues to progress over the summer?’  If your child has had a difficult school year, having two full months with no formal academic activities can certainly cause worry.  Looking for answers, and at times not finding much, it can seem like there’s not much for parents to do but enroll kids in tutoring, or if possible a skill building workshop or class, or resort to working with their kids on their own with worksheets and materials from their child’s teachers – not always a fun endeavor when kids want to be outside with peers or doing something non-academic related.

My number one recommendation to these types of requests (while keeping in mind that every child is an individual and will require individualized recommendations)? READING. Yes. Regardless of your child’s age, reading ability, level, and grade, the more time your child reads, the better. Reading, and if your child is struggling with reading, reading with your child,  is simply the strongest recommendation I can offer to help your child succeed academically. 20 minutes every day. That’s the recommendation. Not a workbook. Not a program, not a technique, not a workshop. Read with your child. 20 minutes, everyday. You don’t need to learn ‘how to teach your child to read’. You don’t even need really great reading skills ! Just read with your kids. 20 minutes. Everyday. Here’s why:

In the world of education, 20 minutes a day is a magic number regarding reading. This is connected to a famous study conducted in 1987 by Nagy and Herman. The study examined how much time students spent reading, how many words read, and then performance on standardized tests measuring reading achievement. I probably don’t need to tell you; students who spend 20 minutes a day reading scored at the 90th percentile on tests measuring reading achievement. Those in the study that spent 5 minutes reading? Scored in the 5oth percentile. That’s a big difference.

Thanks to Pinterest and the internet, type in ‘why your child can’t skip reading tonight’ and the visuals that accompany this statistic will astound. But here is the logic: one student, Amy, reads 20 minutes a night, 5 nights a week. In one week, that’s 100 minutes of reading; in one month, 400 minutes; one school year, 3600 minutes; and by the end of the sixth grade – 21,600 minutes of reading!  Her friend, Mark, reads only 4 minutes a night, or not at all. In one week, that’s 20 minutes of reading; in one month, 80 minutes; one school year, 720 minutes; and by the end of the sixth grade – 4320 minutes of reading.

Is your child more of an Amy (by the end of the sixth grade, has read 21,600 minutes or 60 days) or more of a Mark (by the end of the sixth grade, 4320 minutes or 12 school days)? Given that the fluency (how fast or slow a student reads) can vary, the number words read might be somewhat different, but it’s estimated that Amy would have read 1.8 million words, and Mark over 282,00o words.

It’s such a dramatic difference, I myself had to look at that math twice just to be sure it wasn’t a trick.

Now ask yourself, who is the better reader? Who would you expect to know more? And so on…..

So this summer, let yourself and your student truly relax and enjoy some reading! In the long run, it might be the best thing you can do to help your child’s school achievement for next year.

 

 

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‘Help Your Child Thrive in School and Beyond’ – National School Psychology Awareness Week 2015

SCHOOL KIDS

This week happens to be National School Psychology Awareness Week. In an effort to promote our profession and  provide an understanding of what it is that we do – because it seems to be ever evolving, changing, and growing –  each year the national association designates a week in November to present a message to the public about school psychology.

Helping Students and Families Connect the Dots and Thrive in School and Beyond.

School psychologists are trained to support and help students build their strengths, skills and abilities and realize their goals. Specifically, we have the expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children  and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. We help students build upon their strengths, skills, interests, and abilities to ‘connect the dots’ and thrive. This includes helping them identify and plan ways to accomplish short and long term goals, building better relationships, and finding ways to keep going even when things get tough.

As many in our community may wrestle with high emotion and confusing thoughts and opinions related to incredibly important matters of faith, family, belief, and hope for the future, being accepting and loving towards everyone, even those that are very different from us, while challenging, may be more important than ever. Kids in school, especially as they get older, become notoriously peer focused! Who is getting the A? Who has the coolest phone? Who does the teacher call on the most? Who got asked to the dance? Etc. Etc. Supporting our kids to be true to themselves, yet accepting of others can be such a difficult task.

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Testing Students for a Learning Disability

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Having been in school about 2 and 1/2 months, my mailbox at school is getting busier with referrals.  As the school psychologist in an elementary building, there’s been ample time for teachers to identify concerning students, try individualized interventions, and monitor their progress. For some of those students who are still struggling, it’s time for including the school psychologist for some discussion with the parents: should we be considering testing?

How and when should parents and teachers begin to consider a child for testing?

What should you expect if you decide to move forward with testing?

As my well trained teachers know,  lack of sufficient growth to grade level instruction can be an early indication, along with insufficient rate of growth despite individualized intervention. Because of changes in the law that governs special education and testing, most school districts require some period of intensive, individualized interventions either prior to testing  or as part of the evaluation. This is called ‘response to intervention’ or R.T.I.  Throughout this time period, the expectation is that the student’s response to the intervention  (progress) is monitored and documented. This is an important concept to keep in mind and to consider prior to initiating the testing process or, at the very least, to understand once testing is underway.

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Student Resiliency: 5 Skills Your Child Needs To Suceed This Year

SCHOOL KID ANXIETY

Over and over the term ‘resiliency’ is being used in conversations between teachers, parents, and in preparation for the upcoming school year.  Most of us use the term casually; of course, students who are ‘resilient’ will do better at school – both academically and socially – but what does resiliency really mean?  Can parents help develop these skills? Can resiliency ‘be taught?’ In one psychological study conducted by Brock (2002d), student resiliency was determined to include specific internal behavioral skills or traits and that yes, these traits could be improved or fostered. Using that study as a framework, positive student resiliency behaviors/skills include:

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Starting the School Year off Right – Balancing An Adjustment Period with Assessing True Needs

canstockphoto13946484August is here!  Most stores have shelves stocked full with back to school supplies and school employees are beginning to attend meetings and trainings to properly prepare for the 2014-2014 school year. Typically, teachers, parents, and (most) students are thinking ahead, using experiences from last school year in order to make the current school year even better. For most,  the school year ended fairly well this year will likely be a relatively easy adjustment.

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