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Thinking Day

Photo Credit: Jesper Sehested from Flickr

Upon first glance, you might think this day is one that requires some deep thinking, something very intellectual and brainy. However, you might be surprised to find out that it may be a little more closely related to the heart than the mind. While your thoughts may lead to educational innovations and leading-edge technology, this day is meant for thinking of others and what we can do to help them.

The History of World Thinking Day

In 1926, the Girl Scouts of the United States held their fourth Girl Guide/Girl Scout International Conference. It was decided that they needed a day to highlight important international issues and make an extra effort to bring awareness and support to those issues. It was called “Thinking Day.

Originally, the date, February 22nd, was chosen to honor the birthdays of Scouting and Guiding founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell and his wife, Lady Olave Baden-Powell. However, it is much more than a birthday celebration, although it does typically involve parties and “gifts”.

At the seventh World Conference, delegates agreed verbal support would not always be enough and therefore, created the Thinking Day Fund. The movement asks that every member of the association donate at least one penny in support. These funds go directly to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS) to contribute to the spreading of their organization and worldwide causes.

The 30th World Conference, the name of the day and its fund was changed to World Thinking Day as a way to point out the need for global effort. Since then Guides, Scouts, their sister and even brother organizations around the world seek to change the world for the better by thinking of others and their needs, as well as giving monetary and time donations.

How to Celebrate World Thinking Day

School Children

Photo Credit: Dan Wright from Flickr

On a global scale, the organization selects a theme each year for the day. The theme for 2019 is Leadership. An activity guide and many events worldwide are then organized to go along with that theme and bring support to issues that affect over 10 million young women in over 150 countries.

Many local Guide and Scout branches hold parties and events to aid in this effort and to celebrate their organization and its history. They may find ways to connect with “sisters” overseas through radio, video chat, etc. or they may raise funds for community projects. In Auckland, New Zealand, girls hike to the top of Maungawhau (Mount Eden) where they make camp, hoist the Guide World Flag, and watch the sunrise while singing the World Song. They also make a point to discuss big and important issues and what they can do make a positive change.

Many Guides and Scouts hold a tradition of sending postcards to sisters around the world with the purpose to let them know they are not alone and are positively thought of. Another tradition is to light a candle in their window at dusk that evening. This is to remind them that they can be a positive light and bring change to the darkness in the world.

For those not directly involved in Girl Guides/Scouts, today is a good day to show your support. Offer a donation to their organization or local chapter. Buy some cookies or find a way to volunteer your time for a great cause. We can all help make a difference in the world, we just have to be willing to think of others.

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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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Children are drawing

In every classroom there are students who have a wide range of abilities. Some students will have learned material before; others will be encountering it for the first time. This can be a challenge for teachers who need to use a standard curriculum to instruct students with different abilities. With a few simple strategies, teachers can make room for students who learn more slowly, while still challenging students who have an easier time.

One way to make students who learn more slowly feel comfortable is to allow students to work in groups that fit their learning style. This is easily accomplished by putting students in small groups to complete projects. The key to this activity is to give students a flexible number of tasks to complete. For instance, each group can have a worksheet that has ten activities. By telling students at the outset that they are not expected to complete all the activities, and that they should just do as many as they can, you create a low-stakes opportunity for students to work at their own pace. By putting students into groups with similar abilities, teachers can create a comfortable working environment for all students.

Another way to make students of different abilities feel more comfortable is to send more time-consuming work home to be completed as homework. Students don’t have to report how much time they spent on homework each night. So students who work more slowly don’t have to compare themselves to students who complete their homework more quickly. All that matters is that every student has the time they need to complete the work. Not only does this create a less judgmental environment for students who take more time, but it also frees up time for more instruction in class. By reserving class time for activities that everyone can complete quickly, teachers can ensure that they’re able to cover as much material as possible in the classroom.

A more creative way to deal with the issue of students who work at different speeds is to give students assignments that they can structure themselves. One example of this is to give students ten questions to answer, and tell them that they’re required to turn in at least five correct answers. Students who work quickly can complete more questions for extra credit. Students who work more slowly can select which questions they want to tackle with the time they have. This puts all the students in control of their own goals and the pace at which they work. A second benefit of this strategy is that students who generally work quickly can elect to take it easy and work more slowly if it helps them. In this way, we aren’t just helping the students who need more time. We are giving all students more control of their learning processes.

There will always be a diversity of abilities in a classroom. But by using some simple strategies to make assignments more flexible, we can create a more comfortable learning experience for everyone.

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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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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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Lynne Featherstone Interrviewed about youth issues by Hornsey School Girl students

Photo Credit: Lynn Featherstone from Flickr

Oral history is the use of narratives, personal experiences, and storytelling from historical and everyday people to share about certain topics and time periods. These experiences are most often videotaped or audio recorded, but they can also be written down as a result of an interview or conversation. Many museums use this type of instruction to educate their visitors about all sorts of events and topics. It offers people from all walks of life the opportunity to learn from someone else’s point of view just by listening. But how can it be brought to life in the classroom?

Instead of reading about WWII in a book and doing a worksheet about it, oral histories allow students to personally connect with those who experienced it firsthand. They hear the emotion in the voices they listen to, see expressions on their faces, and are, therefore, far more moved. These stories and experiences let them feel as though they are part of the story somehow and, in turn, may put life into a different perspective.

More than just allowing students to hear about these experiences, many teachers have found that getting them to conduct their own oral history research forms a far greater connection to the subject. In the classroom, teachers can give each student a specific topic for which they must conduct research for. This research is gathered in the form of interviews and conversations with members of their family and community, as well as their peers, about experience or point of view based on that topic.

The key is to make the topic something that is interesting to the student, something that is important to them or that they know someone who has an opinion about it. This allows them to become even more interested and learn to care about other’s experiences.

Indian Youth

Photo Credit: David Brewer from Flickr

However, don’t limit this type of instruction to just history class. Oral history can be used in just about any type of classroom and for any age group. For example, in math class, a teacher could ask students to interview members of their family or community about how they use math on a daily basis. This can help those students relate to the subject a bit more, realizing its importance and its use in their lives now and in the future.

Younger children can also learn to participate in such projects, though on a much lesser scale of course. While second and third graders may not be up to the challenge of writing a paper about their oral history research, they can certainly be sent home with the homework to ask their family members or even close neighbors about certain experiences or topics. Even just one question or two could suffice. You would be surprised at how a child’s opinion or connection to learning could be influenced just by participating in oral histories.

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Sharing out Easter Eggs

Photo Credit: Sophie Elvis on Unsplash

For children who make friends easily, school can be a source of not only information, but of tremendous fun. For children who struggle to connect with others, there can be isolation and anxiety about fitting in. That’s okay. School is filled with opportunities to form healthy bonds that can help support your children’s social development. Here are some steps you can take to help your children develop a healthy social circle at school.

The first thing to do is to talk to your children about who they spend time with at school. Ask them about their friends in class. Who do they sit with or eat lunch with? You may already know all of your children’s friends. But you might be surprised to know that there’s a certain person they like to do projects with or that one of their classmates has been helping them with their algebra homework for a few months. These are small connections that can grow into broader friendships. You can encourage your child to be attentive to these relationships and to express gratitude for the time they spend with their peers.

If you have a child who seems not to be making healthy connections at school, you should also have a talk with their teachers or counselors. There are lots of social dynamics at play in a school environment. Teachers see patterns that may not be obvious to parents and other adults. Your child’s teachers may be able to alert you to situations where your child seems quiet or uncomfortable speaking up. They can also tell you if there are certain groups or situations where your child seems more at ease. You and the teacher can work together to foster a comfortable learning environment where your child is comfortable opening up and connecting with classmates.

For children who want to make more friends, you can also encourage them to get involved in activities at school. Most of the school day is spent working on lessons, so children aren’t necessarily socializing. After-school activities provide a time for kids to interact with each other informally, and to exercise more of their personalities. Students who don’t speak up in class might be more comfortable asserting themselves on a soccer field. Extracurricular activities provide students with additional opportunities to express themselves and connect with others.

No matter the age, one of the best parts of being in school is making friends. Of course we’re there to learn. But having people we enjoy being around makes every project a little easier. Knowing that your children have smart, supportive friends at school can help alleviate some of your anxiety and provide a sense of comfort about their health and happiness when they’re away. By taking some simple steps to encourage them, you can support your children’s healthy social development in ways that may pay off in years of friendship.

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Kid Inventors’ Day

Every January 17th we have the opportunity to celebrate the children in our lives and the accomplishments they have and will make. This includes inventions and extraordinary innovations. Children, unlike adults, have a unique ability to look at the world differently. They do not understand many aspects of life and the difficulty it holds.

Some would believe this makes them ineligible for such tasks. On the contrary, the fact that they are not bogged down by life’s complexities and hardships most often allows them to create without limitations or boundaries. They are able to see solutions on a different level than most adults.

There are many things we use on a daily basis that were, in fact, created by children or teenagers, such as the trampoline, popsicles, ear muffs.

The History of Kid Inventors’ Day

One of the first known child inventors was Benjamin Franklin. Most of us are familiar with his creations of all sorts of useful items such as bifocals, the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and the glass harmonica just to name a few. However, he started inventing when he was just a child. At age 12 he created the first swim flippers. It for this reason that we celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day on his birthday, January 17th.

History continues to prove that children can and do invent some very impressive and helpful things. Some are born from mere accidents, such as the popsicle, while others take several years to create and are much more complex. One of the most extensive creations of a child is the language of the blind, yes, Braille. It was created by a French child in Paris named Louis Braille after he was involved in a serious accident that took his sight from him.

American Sign Language also has a great contribution made by a child. Ryan Patterson, a teenager, invented special gloves with sensors to translate hand motions of ASL into written words for children and adults alike with various disabilities.

Kid Inventors’ Day

Photo Credit: Internet Archive Book Images by Flickr

How to Celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day

This day is proof that children of any age are living, breathing inventors with extraordinary minds. Never take those precious thoughts for granted, even if they seem a little unsophisticated and silly to you. after all, these children are our future. Today is a day for no limits, to believe the impossible. Sometimes that is what it takes to makes dreams and inventions of the future come to life.

Take a child to a museum, a park, or even the kitchen. Create an environment where they can learn about inventions from the past and experience inspiration. It can come from just about anywhere, from simple crafts and games to large airplanes and spaceships. No matter what you do, make sure to encourage their dreams, even if seems outrageous and impossible. You never know when the next Benjamin Franklin could be sitting in your living room.

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