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Photo of the four massive heads sculpted into Mount Rushmore look out under a blue sky.

Photo Credit: Andrew_Carter786 from Flickr

Every third Monday in the month of February is a federally observed holiday known to many as President’s Day. This day was created in memory and honor of the very first president of the United States, George Washington. His birthday is actually on February 22nd.

The History of President’s Day

This national holiday came about as a result of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968. The bill created three separate holidays to be celebrated nationally each year on Mondays, allowing federal employees an extra day off work and a three-day weekend for each. These are Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day (every last Monday in the month of May), and Veterans Day (every fourth Monday in October).

The bill also attempted to change the name of “Washington’s Birthday” to Presidents Day. However, this portion of the bill was not accepted. Therefore, the day most of us know as Presidents Day is still legally called “Washington’s Birthday.”

The term “Presidents Day” was brought about as a marketing campaign for many businesses nationwide and the idea caught on quickly. It is used by retail stores, car dealerships, various other industries as a way to draw customers in with discounts and sales.

The term Presidents Day also sticks well due to the fact that President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is also in the month of February, on the 12th. His birthday and George Washington’s were, in fact, celebrated separately as individual holidays up until 1971 when President Richard Nixon gave an executive order that all presidents’ birthdays should be celebrated on one day. This meant Lincoln’s birthday would no longer be celebrated individually nationwide and only Washington’s Birthday would be a holiday.

How to Celebrate President’s Day

Washington's Mount Vernon Mansion

Photo Credit: Troy from Flickr

While this is a federal holiday, each state remains in control of the which holidays they will choose to observe or not observe. For example, before 1971, when Lincoln’s birthday was celebrated on its own, many southern states chose to not observe this day as a result of the civil war. Instead, they memorialized a day for Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate State of America during that war.

Most states now choose to honor President’s Day with local government and schools being closed for the day. In states that do not observe the day with school closings, most teachers still recognize the importance of the day and dedicate a lesson, discussion, or class activity to our presidents and the great things they accomplished for the nation.

To celebrate the day for yourself, check out a book about the life and events of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or another president of the United States. There are also many movies or documentaries created on these great men.

You could also choose to take a road trip to one of their homes, such as Lincoln’s childhood home in Illinois or Washington’s estate in Virginia. A trip to such historical places will teach you a lot about the life and times of the some of our early and greatest leaders.

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School Students Education Teaching

Photo Credit: KasparLunt from Pixabay

To determine if this is an efficient and effective learning process, we first must understand just what it is and how it does or doesn’t work.

What is TPS?

TPS is a collaborative learning strategy where students work together to solve a problem or answer a question. This requires students to:

  • Firstly, students are asked to think through the problem or topic individually. This may include answering a specific question or coming up with an example or prompt.
  • Secondly, students will pair up or join a small group of their peers to discuss their thoughts and work through the problem more in depth.
  • Lastly, each group or pair of students will present or share their findings with the class and/or a larger group.

What is So Special About it?

Idea innovation imagination

Photo Credit: KasparLunt from Pixabay

Recent studies have found that students are able to learn more when they are allowed to discuss ideas and elaborate on them through communication with others. Think, Pair, Share enables those opportunities to talk in an environment that encourages learning and requires participation from all class members and not just those who are typically more outspoken.

This type of learning also helps to build confidence in students that may feel a little uncomfortable talking or presenting to large groups or classes. When they are able to be supported by a partner or several of them, they are much more at ease and willing to share their real thoughts and opinions.

With the use of TPS, students learn to collaborate with others and to value each other’s opinions on a wide variety of topics. They can begin to think of their peers as resources with a wealth of knowledge. Students, as a result, come to respect each other more and can understand ideas and concepts that may be far from the norm given their background or upbringing.

How to Use it?

The process is easy to use in just about any classroom setting and for all ages. PreK through Kindergarten students, for example, can’t be expected to write their thoughts or answers as well as older students. However, they can draw out their ideas and still discuss them with other students and the class.

Some of the most common ways this valuable tool is used is to gauge students’ reactions and thoughts about a certain lesson or material, such a film you just watched or a text that was recently read. You can also use this as an introduction to new materials or assignments. Doing this before a new lesson allows students to tap into any prior knowledge of the topic or to gather ideas and get a game plan together for a new project or assignment.

You can also use this to strengthen your classes listening skills. During the “share” portion, each student can be asked to present their partner’s ideas instead of their own.

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Recycling

One of the most fun and productive activities you can do with your children at home is to start an at-home recycling program. Chances are, even if you have never talked about it at home, your children have already encountered the idea of recycling at school or at day care. By bringing this practice into the home, you give your children an important and fun practice that they can use to be responsible citizens for the rest of their lives.

The first step in starting an at-home recycling program is to find out if there are recycling facilities in your area. Maybe your neighborhood has a recycling program and provides bins and materials for free. If not, there are private recycling companies that will collect and process your recyclables for a fee. Whichever option you choose, you want to ensure that the arrangement is convenient and realistic for your family.

And think broadly. Even if there is not a facility to process everything you want to recycle, you can find easy opportunities to recycle some of the products your family uses every day. For instance, TerraCycle provides cardboard boxes so that you can pack up and ship your plastic snack wrappers. For a fee, they recycle these small pieces of plastic that we all use every day, and can’t recycle through our normal neighborhood recycling programs. Companies like this make it possible to be creative about how you will structure your family recycling program. Perhaps you will only recycle glass. Or maybe your children can learn to recycle their cereal boxes when they are empty. Start small, teaching your children the importance of doing one good thing for the environment. As time goes on, you’ll find that most children are excited about participating and finding new things to recycle.

Another way to make recycling fun is to allow young children to sort recyclable goods themselves. If your town only recycles type 1 and type 2 plastics, you can allow your 4 year-old to check the plastic bottles in the recycle bin to sort them accordingly. By making this her job, you assign her an important task that tells her that you trust her to be responsible. You also allow her some freedom to use her growing number skills and to be responsible for something that feels like a “grown-up job.” Children love this.

However you decide to do it, starting and maintaining an at-home recycling program is an easy way to help raise engaged, aware children who make a positive contribution to the world.

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Teach word scrabble letters wooden

Photo Credit: WokandaPix from Pixabay

Just as each child has their own unique personality, so do they have a unique style of learning. However, many teachers due to their lack of education or funding in their school system, cannot facilitate the individual needs of each student. This creates fundamental learning gaps in many children and the need for help later in their education. Best Brains seeks to solve this issue.

Education

Our teachers are board-certified at state and national standards for professionalism and excellence with years of real classroom experience and the knowledge required to be just what your child needs. They have been trained to assess each student on their educational needs and to find the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.

Your child will work with the same teacher each week to ensure that their progress and problem areas are consistently being assessed. We also pride ourselves on our low student to teacher ratio, which helps to ensure that each child gets the attention and care they deserve and need.

Experience

These teachers have experience in creating a learning environment that is interactive and engaging. We don’t use passive teaching, where we simply tell the students about a topic and expect them to learn from it. Instead, we make sure they are actively participating in the learning process.

They are given examples, activities, and work that not only teach them but allow them to learn on their own. Teaching this way gives kids the opportunity to take ownership of their education and to rely on their strengths and not just the teacher’s knowledge.

Methodology for Success

Photo Credit: Geralt from Pixabay

Methodology for Success

Our teaching methodology is non-repetitive and focuses on presenting new skills and concepts each week. And while these lessons are fun-filled, they are also challenging so that the building blocks of their education can be constantly being added to.

Here at Best Brains, our teachers help prepare students for what is ahead by giving them a firm educational foundation and a connection to the material, enabling them to catch on to future lessons quickly and easily.

Variety and Continuation

This isn’t just tutoring like many after-school programs. This is a complete enrichment program with the sole purpose to improve your child’s overall academic success and development. Our teachers make use of real-time classroom instruction in multiple subjects. We don’t just teach English and Math. In fact, we are the only learning center that also structures lessons in Abacus and General Knowledge.

Most would say that once a child is up to speed or at the correct grade level in a subject, extra help should be forgotten. However, we disagree. Many students and parents alike have found that continuing the Best Brains program creates some of the best and brightest students around. Not only are these kids understanding and mastering what is being taught in their schools but they quickly rise to the top of their class. The extra help they receive at Best Brains teaches them that can do and achieve anything.

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Building an Inclusive Classroom

As America becomes increasingly diverse, one of the first places that students encounter that diversity is in their classrooms. This is an incredible opportunity for teachers to introduce students to the principles of inclusivity and mutual respect that will make them active and productive citizens later on.

One of the first ways to practice inclusivity is to be open about the differences that students bring into the classroom. For instance, just because all of the students have families that live in Cleveland now, doesn’t mean that everyone’s family is originally from Cleveland. One exercise that teachers can do to begin to recognize and celebrate differences is to have students ask their parents where their families are from. Then the students can report back. There will be some students whose families have been in the same place for generations. Others will report that their families are from Mexico or Nigeria or India. During the exercise, you can have each student place a pin in a map to show where they are from. The map can then represent all the cool places that students come from and the various cultures that they bring with them into the classroom.

Another way to build an inclusive classroom is by using content that represents lots of different people. Children are used to reading stories that include magic and animals and challenge their imaginations. But it is also important that they encounter stories about the real people they’ll meet in the world. Books are powerful tools for helping people learn to empathize with others. Children can read books about people from different backgrounds, who speak different languages, have different challenges, and who have different strengths. Encountering these characters in the classroom and talking about them with their peers can help students to understand that the world is full of different people who are interesting and smart and have valuable things to offer.

Finally, it is important that students feel that their own experiences are equally valued by their teachers and mentors. This means that when students have an experience that is different from their peers, they are not left out of conversations in the classroom or made to feel odd because of their differences. Teachers have a vital role in accomplishing this. One thing teachers can do is to agree with students who are in the minority. So if students are talking and one of them has a different opinion or experience than the others, a thoughtful teacher can point out how that student’s answer is accurate or valuable. Another way that teachers can support students is by giving an example of someone students know who has a similar experience. Students will know lots of actors, musicians, athletes and authors whose experiences may differ from their own. By pointing out that the people students admire also have these diverse experiences, we can teach them to value difference from a young age.

Ultimately, we all have a range of encounters with people whose languages, religions, and families are different than ours. Teachers are in a unique position to teach children early on that these differences make us stronger and should be valued.

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Girl Sleeping

We all love to see healthy and active children enjoying their time in school. But sometimes, a health challenge arises that makes it difficult for a student to fully participate in day-to-day school activities. By working together, parents and teachers can make sure that children get the help they need while making the most of their time in and out of the classroom.

One of the most difficult parts of dealing with a child’s illness is that it can sometimes be a challenge to accurately diagnose a problem. Whether a child is suffering physical or mental discomfort, being observant and forthcoming is an important step in making a diagnosis. For teachers, this means noticing when a normally energetic child is less engaged for some period time. A simple solution is to ask the student if they are feeling well or if anything is wrong. Perhaps they’ll tell you what’s going on. But even if they don’t, it’s important when you notice a change in a student’s behavior to communicate with parents about the student’s well-being. Teachers and parents are important partners in a child’s education.

Once an illness is diagnosed, it’s essential to be realistic about what a child will need in terms of treatment and time away from school. This is where parents have to take the lead. By talking honestly to doctors and specialists, parents can get a sense of what is best for their child’s health, and how much time it may take for them to recover or receive adequate treatment. In some cases, this will mean time away from school. In other cases, students can remain in school while they undergo treatment. In either case, this should be a decision that parents make with their child’s health care professionals, rather than their teachers.

Finally, when the family has an understanding of the kind of time and accommodations a student might need, they can have a conversation with the schools’ administrators to come up with a plan for completing schoolwork. In some cases, it may be necessary to homeschool an ill child so that they don’t fall too far behind their classmates. In other cases, parents can make plans for a child to miss a certain amount of school and make up that time in summer school, so that they’re able to progress in their education as expected. Still in other cases a child may not have to miss significant amounts of school. It may be enough to inform a teacher that a young student will be out for a week and will make up the work when she returns. The important thing is that parents and teachers communicate clearly with one another about what is needed, both for the well-being of the child and for the educational mission.

None of us wants to think about a child getting sick. But by having a plan and being open with teachers, it is possible to keep a child’s education on track while making sure that they get the help that they need. This creates a clear and welcoming school environment for the student to return to when they are feeling better.

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Distracted Child

Photo Credit: Janko Ferlic

We all want to create healthy and supportive home environments for our children. However, sometimes circumstances beyond our control can impact children’s learning and make it difficult for them to focus on school. When a family member gets sick, or financial trouble disrupts home life, it can be a challenge for young people to stay focused on their studies. Here are some ways you can help promote your children’s health and focus when they’re dealing with distractions.

The first thing to do is identify the disruption. What is it that’s causing the difficulty? Has there been a death in the family? Did you recently move and your child switched schools? Before we can address the effects of a disruption, we have to know what it is. Sometimes it will be obvious. Other times you will have to ask questions to find out what your son or daughter is thinking. Maybe they’re worried about a friend of theirs. Or maybe they’re having issues with someone else in the family. Accurately identifying the problem is the first step to addressing it.

Once you know what the issue is, have an honest conversation with your child about how it’s affecting them. Are they having a hard time paying attention in class? Do they not remember the material as well? Maybe they’re no longer enjoying hanging out with friends or participating in activities. Whatever the problems, you want to reassure them that it’s normal to become distracted when we’re dealing with difficult things in life. By giving your child permission to feel upset, you can help them relax and eventually work through whatever they’re dealing with.

Once you and your child understand what’s happening and how it’s affecting them, you can begin to look for routines, resources, and support to help them. For children who are having a hard time focusing at home, this could mean letting them go to the local library for a few hours after school. If your child’s school has a good counseling program, you can set up sessions with the school counselor so that your child has an ally at school they can talk to. It’s also a good idea to be in touch with your child’s teachers. You can share as much or as little as you’d like about what your child and your family are dealing with. The key is simply to communicate to the teacher that you’re aware of your child’s trouble focusing and that you intend to address it actively and in a way that’s healthy and productive for their education.

We never want to imagine our children in difficult situations. However, circumstances sometimes arise that challenge the normal, healthy routines we’ve established. At these times, it’s important to be proactive. By actively sympathizing with your children and communicating with their teachers, you can create a collaborative environment where your child feels supported and is able to overcome whatever is hampering their success.

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Whild Writing

Photo Credit: Kurt_Niemans from Pixabay

If you have a child in first, second, or even third and fourth grade, you may notice homework or graded papers coming home with multiple spelling errors that are not counted. You may have also questioned this. After all, they are supposed to be learning about spelling, aren’t they? So, why would a teacher ignore such mistakes? Do they not teach spelling anymore?

The Early Years

Beginning in the first grade, students must begin writing complete ideas and even paragraphs. This requires the child to first master letters and then put them together into words. Next, they must figure out how to put those words together in a way that makes sense both to them and to others. It takes a lot of effort for someone so young. In response, teachers may choose to ignore spelling mistakes in younger grades as a way to allow the student to focus more on the process of writing itself.

It’s a method called inventive or temporary spelling. Children simply spell out the words to the best of their ability or by the way it sounds. This way the children think solely on what they want to write and how to put pieces of sentences or paragraphs together. And recent studies back up this method, saying that it allows children to write more fluently, quickly, and use a richer vocabulary than students who had the check their spelling along the way.

Older Grades

Correcting Papers

Photo Credit: 3844328 from Pixabay

Even in older grades, spelling is not always given top priority, at least not at first. This again goes back to the writing process. Most educators agree that there is a certain process that goes into writing pretty much anything. First, there is the gathering and grouping of ideas, then ordering those into sentences and paragraphs, and then reorganizing everything so that it has a single cohesive goal. When the piece has been completely shaped, only then do teachers suggest editing, the final and last step of writing. This is when they check for the minor details, such as correct spelling, usage, and punctuation.

When constant criticism on their spelling happens, no matter how small, it tends to get in the way of the natural writing process. If the child has to stop and figure out how to spell words correctly before they go on, it slows the whole process down considerably, often making them lose focus or their ideas. This also makes the child focus on their mistakes and can make them feel rather negative about the whole process. Some children get so discouraged they learn to not enjoy writing or the process at all.

So the next time your child comes home with graded work and you notice spelling errors, don’t assume the teacher doesn’t care or that she isn’t teaching it. Instead, entertain the possibility that spelling may not be the number one priority on that assignment. Spelling is important but it can be learned later if need be.

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Stopwatch

Photo Credit: Ansgar Koreng from Flickr

Math facts such as addition and multiplication have been timed in many classrooms in the U.S. for decades. However, their use has become a hotly debated topic in recent years. Many would argue that such tests are a great way to strengthen a child’s math skills. Yet others stand firm that they are only causing more harm than good. So, who is correct? Should math facts be timed? To answer this, we must first look closely at both sides of the argument.

Pro Time

  • Studies have proven that the more practice any person gets on a certain topic, the stronger and better their neuronal connections are and the faster their neurons are able to fire. This means that more practice equals better results. A timed math test is a way for students to practice these math facts and to continuously try to better those skills.
  • There are those students who really like timed tests. These are a fun way to compete with the clock, turning what could be a boring quiz or test into a game of sorts.

Against Time

  • However, not all children enjoy being timed. For some, it causes stress and anxiety. This often results in very low scores even if they know the material very well. The fact is that not all students learn well at a fast pace.
  • Timed tests teach kids to be afraid of making mistakes. Instead of focusing on how to learn from their mistakes and find another way to solve it, they are taught that they only have one chance and mistakes are not tolerated. Rather than making new connections and learning new solutions, they eventually give up in timed situations.
  • They also give the perception that to be good at math, you have to be fast. This is entirely false. However, if students continuously see that high scores only go to the students who finish first it is hard to dismiss the idea. The fact is there are many great mathematicians who are not the fastest thinkers. But that doesn’t mean they are not incredibly smart or capable.

To Time or Not to Time

Test Clock

Photo Credit: Geralt from Pixabay

Based on the facts, we believe a compromise can be made. Good teachers have found that using timed tests do offer good practice for all students. However, they shouldn’t be graded, at least not by the teacher. Timed tests are the perfect activity for a Friday afternoon when there is a little free time.

They provide an excellent opportunity for students to try to beat their own time and work on their skills, without being compared to the rest of the class. And it turns something that could be stressful for slower thinking students into a fun challenge. After all, grading should reflect the child’s comprehension of the material, not their speed.

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