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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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4 Questions Every Parent Should Ask Their Child’s Teacher

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It’s Parent-Teacher conference time for many local school districts, and making those brief meetings as productive as possible is on everybody’s mind. Most likely, your child’s teacher is prepared with a specific list of items to discuss and that’s a good thing! It’s a clear indication of a teacher who’s prepared a plan to guide your child’s instruction and who can speak specifically to where your child ‘is’ in terms of  her progress.

Does that mean parents should be passive during conferences? No – and most likely teachers would enjoy more of an exchange anyway. While it can often feel a bit rushed and there can be a lot of information to choose from to discuss during a conference, theses four areas may help you organize exactly what questions are important to ask during your child’s parent teacher conference this spring.

  1. Homework. While homework is not ‘class work’ or even necessarily an emphasis of school work, it does speak to ‘soft skills’ related to school functioning. For example, how well a student is able to keep organized, work independently, follow-through with assignments, and so on. Some questions to consider as a parent might be are: is my child turning in assignments on time? Is the work completed in an acceptable manner?
  2. Class participation. Get feedback from your child’s teacher regarding her observations of your child’s engagement in classroom. Do they appear prepared? Do they listen and follow directions? Cooperate? A student’s functioning regarding following the structure and routine of the class is important, and sometimes is hard for parents to pick up on if not asked directly.
  3. Social-emotional observations and/or feedback. Hopefully you have a good sense of your child’s relationship with his teacher. However, you may want to consider getting direct feedback. Asking for direct feedback regarding your child’s relationship(s) with the teacher, other adults, and/or other students may be helpful. Does your child get along well with other students? Manage frustration well? Social-emotional functioning in school is a significant factor regarding how well a student well perform.
  4. Academics. Not just grades and progress on standardized tests, but is your child able and comfortable asking for help? Does she preserver regardless of task difficulty? Is this a strength, weakness, something to work on?

 

At best, your relationship with your child’s teacher is positive and open communication has already been established. If not, through considering these types of questions, your child’s teacher is aware that you’ve given careful thought and consideration to aspects of learning that occur both in and out of the classroom. Of course, you’re asking these in the spirit of wanting to work together to build on your child’s strengths in order to improve on weaker areas. These kinds of questions – hopefully –  send a signal to your child’s teacher that you want their feedback and that you are ready and willing to help.

Need help having conversations with your child’s teachers?

Consider talking to your child’s school psychologist.

Amy Folger at WFT can be a resource!

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Getting an Accurate Diagnosis

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a topic that comes up frequently throughout my week; as a school psychologist in an elementary school, teachers often refer students for suspected problems with attention and concentration, hyperactivity, and impulse control difficulties. In my outpatient practice, I’m on the ‘other side’ of this equation, meeting with families often referred from school teams for suspected problems of this nature. Typically, these referrals seem appropriate and everyone is on the same page. Occasionally, the members are not. As in, ‘my child’s teacher told me my child has ADD and needed accommodations! Now what?!’ It gave me pause and consideration for this weeks blog.  Just who can and can’t diagnosis ADHD ? What might an assessment for ADHD include? Should school staff be bringing this subject up to parents to begin with? And, is it ADD or ADHD ?

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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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Help With Homework? Re-frame Your Approach This Year

SCHOOL KIDS

The school year is now underway, and for most of us, that can only mean one thing. It’s just a matter of days before ‘it’ begins, ‘mom, where is my science book? I know it was in my book bag and now it’s gone!’ or ‘dad, YOU SAID you would help me with my English!’ Homework season has begun.

When did homework become so intense, so stressful? Does it have to be this way? Here are just a few ideas to re-frame the homework experience to make it easier on you and help you remember why we do it at all.

Pro or con, the homework debate has been going on for as long as most of us can remember. How much is enough? Is it worth it? Should you monitor your child? Most research leans towards yes, generally speaking, though not always in the way we might think. Overall, a good rule of thumb is approximately 10 minutes per grade, so a first grader completes about 10 minutes, and so on.

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

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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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KIDS SOCIAL SKILLS GROUP BEGINS TOMORROW (July 15th)!

 

KIDS GROUP FLYER SLC - SUMMER 2015This weekly group is designed to help school-aged children navigate the challenges of social situations and understand what it means to be a friend. Focusing on understanding their role and impact on those in their world.

  • Keep and make friends
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Discover skills for coping with anxiety
  • Strengthen social skills

Next Group begins: Wednesday, July 15th (5:00 – 6:00 PM)

Price$50 per week/ per child

Ages: 8-12

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Social Skills: Let’s Teach Them !

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As this school year wraps up, most students and parents will eagerly, or  for some anxiously, wait for report cards. Progress in reading, math, writing, physical education and perhaps, depending on your district or structure of your school, aspects of learning such as ‘motivation’ or ‘character’ will be indicated somewhere on the document. However, do you know how your child is functioning regarding social skills? Does it really matter?

Research in education today signals a resounding yes. In generations past, children acquired these skills almost exclusively at home and within their families. With increasing negative societal influences and various sources of stress bombarding so many of us, it’s hard for parents to go it alone. Schools can often be an important partner with parents to provide positive social skills development. Yet, what can you do if your child doesn’t seem to be interacting socially in age appropriate ways?

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Should Your Child Repeat a Grade?

SCHOOL KIDSSchools today operate with high academic standards. As early as kindergarten, teachers, administrators and parents  want to measure students’ performance  in order to monitor the rate of learning and make changes as early as possible. Current research supports that this practice, when practiced with fidelity, can lead to creating the most effective learning environment for the majority of students involved. For students participating in this system who fall below the average academically, or who may exhibit problem behaviors or social immaturity, grade retention –  also known as ‘failing, holding back, not promoting, or having the student repeat the same grade in the next school year’  – continues to be a practice in our public schools. The logic goes something along the lines of: Sally didn’t do well in the 3rd grade this year, so let’s send through another time, and maybe this time she’ll get it right.

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