Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Top 5 Ways To Keep Learning Over Winter Break

Winter break is fast approaching, and while it is a time to relax and celebrate, that doesn't mean that you have to stop learning. In fact, keeping your brain stimulated over the break will make the transition back to school in the new year much easier, and help you avoid the dreaded “brain fog” instigated by turkey, mashed potatoes, and not exercising your brain muscles! There are a myriad of activities to choose from in the winter season; we've narrowed the list down to the top five that are both educational and fun!

  1. Give back.
    Unfortunately, winter can be a very difficult time for those who are less fortunate. There are so many opportunities to get involved in your community to not only give back, but learn as well. Giving back develops character traits like humility, patience, kindness, and many others, which are important attributes to have as a contributing citizen of our world! Also, several career paths stem from of a desire to promote the general welfare of humankind, such as community development, nonprofit work, and grants management. Look into what is available in your community to get you started. Volunteering at soup kitchens, helping with the Toys for Tots program, cleaning up a local park, and overseeing a food drive for a local organization are just a few of the options you can choose from. You will find that you will bring joy to many in your area through your service, but more surprisingly, you most likely will find your own heart filled with joy as you turn someone's holiday around with a hot meal or a toy. 
  2. Check out local history.
    Make a fun outing out of learning local history; there are a plethora of options! Take a walking tour of the historic sites in your city- make it a game by seeing how many stops you can hit on your tour. Go on a road trip to nearby towns and discover the historical gems that await you there. You could make your road trip a “stop-and-see” trip, where you find landmarks at various places along the roadside. Visit museums and take in all the knowledge and facts they have to offer. Go to a gallery and expand your breadth by viewing a mix of modern, contemporary, and classical art. Many institutions offer guided tours to give you that extra insight and history behind the exhibitions These activities will broaden your intellectual base and also give you some physical fitness education! 
  3. Keep practicing skill sets.
    Winter break is the perfect time to review material you are learning in school to make sure it is ingrained in your mind and that you are sharp when you return to your classroom. It is also the ideal time to get ahead by practicing new concepts; without the pressure of deadlines and test dates, your mind will be able to fully relax and absorb the new information. Try fun educational games as you practice, like crossword puzzles, fraction simplification with a deck of cards, and alphabet hunts. Check out this website to get more ideas: http://www.education.com/activity/offline-games/ To get practice with a trained educator in a fun environment, get in touch with your local SpiderSmart center to find out their holiday hours and book some time in for learning enrichment, tutoring, or test prep! 
  4. Sign up for a class.
    The possibilities are endless when it comes to extra-curricular classes outside of a school setting. Is there something you've always wanted to try your hand at? Winter break is the perfect time to check it out! Why not put your name down for a cooking class? Broaden your artistic horizons by getting behind a pottery wheel and making someone special a beautiful handmade gift, just in time for the holidays. Stay in shape by taking an exercise or dance class! Classes help you build community with people that you have common interests with and widen your circle of friends. They also keep your mind active and exercise parts of your brain that you don't usually “work out”. Taking a class in a creative field will also aid you in core subjects, as you can apply skills like problem-solving, perseverance, and making connections that you learn in your supplementary classes to your main areas of study. 
  5. Write in a journal.
    Build your writing skills and practice varying techniques by writing about your winter activities daily in a journal. Reflection is a key tool in expanding your mental capacity through spelling, communication, and creativity. Summarizing is a vital component of communication; you will have to learn how to confine your day's pursuits to a few paragraphs, so learning how to organize your thoughts and your writing will be key. Journaling is also an outlet, where the vital art of self-expression can be honed and fine-tuned. Expressing yourself is a great release to get out the bottled up frustrations, discouragements, and even joys on paper. Many times, things that seem insurmountable become much more achievable when written out- solutions can be found in the midst of laying pen to paper. Also, instead of viewing our experiences as isolated and unrelated, reflecting over a period of time, like winter break, will show you that most of your experiences are interconnected, and help you learn from your life events.

Source: Check out this article for more winter educational activities: http://mamiverse.com/winter-educational-activities-for-kids-71088/

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons To Incorporate Multisensory Learning in the Classroom

At the most basic level, we process information through all of our five senses: sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell. Not only that, but we all have differing learning styles that rely heavily on one or a few of these senses to help us distill information. So why do so many classrooms only involve the “lecture” style of teaching, where an instructor stands at the front of the class, relaying information to rows of students sitting in desks silently? It's no wonder that students are struggling to formulate accurate answers, sentences, and essays, and find themselves totally unprepared for higher education. Thankfully, there is a different approach that looks at learning from a holistic sensory approach: multisensory education. There are a myriad of reasons why multisensory learning is a valuable way to learn; here, we have narrowed it down to the top 5:

  1. Multisensory learning creates multiple ways to make connections and learn concepts.
    If you wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument or a sport, you couldn't just master it by listening to or watching someone playing it. You have to practice. Learning concepts by multisensory instruction uses the same principle. For instance, to assist with spelling, teachers can write out blanks for each letter of a word to help students visualize how many letters are in that word. This technique also slows down the thinking process so that students really focus on learning how to spell the word correctly, encourages learners to utilize spelling concepts such as blend placement, and praises students when they identify correct letters within a word, instead of just telling them they have wrongly spelled the word. Multisensory learning can be used to help in all subject areas. The Wilson Reading System helps struggling readers by using“sound-tapping”, where students tap out each sound of a word with their fingers and thumbs to help them break the words down. Manipulatives such as interlocking cubes and shape blocks aid in learning math, as these tools give learners a visual representation of the problem being solved. Multisensory learning works because it tackles learning concepts from every angle. 
  2. Multisensory learning is a diverse method of instruction, which will reach a wide range of learners.
    Each student has their own unique learning style, which incorporates their sensory strengths. By blending all five senses, multisensory instruction allows students to tap into these areas of sensory strength in order to learn. This will aid in increasing retention of information and overall understanding of material. For example, if a student is an auditory learner, and they are allowed to read problems out loud, their success rate will increase. Another example is using dioramas to teach history. This method will appeal most to tactile and visual learners. These learners will digest much more information by creating a diorama of the Revolutionary War instead of just reading about it in a textbook. In many cases, they can even come to love the subject matter! This diverse teaching method creates true, deeply rooted learning, not just superficial “test passing” memorization of facts and figures. Constructing a strong foundation of the subject matter through multisensory teaching will build a bridge to further learning in college and into students' career fields.

  3. Multisensory learning is interesting, and therefore creates motivation to learn.
    Which sounds more engaging: reading a subtraction problem where 5 apples are subtracted from 7 apples, or taking actual apples, and having students separate them out in order to create the problem themselves, as well as try other variations of math problems with the fruit? It is obvious that the second choice would appeal to the majority of learners, and they could have a tasty snack after the lesson is finished! Interest in the subject matter encourages students to pay attention, focus, and invest in their learning. This will inevitably bring up test scores and grade point averages...but more importantly, it will mean that pupils are becoming passionate about learning. Students who once thought certain subjects were “boring” or “useless”, once participating in multisensory learning, will come to enjoy the material and remember key concepts that will be useful in the future. In many cases, students who thought they were not good at a certain subject were pleasantly surprised to find that they were, in fact, great at the subject once a teacher implemented multisensory techniques to teach the material. If every instructor shifted their teaching style to add in multisensory elements, how many students' career paths would be altered forever toward something they discovered a passion for- that beforehand, they thought they could never excel in? It's exciting to think about! 
  4. Multisensory learning is a key element in helping students with “attention” and “behavioral” issues.
    For students with learning differences such as ADHD, it’s difficult to only listen or to only read. In many articles (like this one), doctors explain that children who have learning difficulties thrive with multisensory learning because they need more than one pathway in the brain activated in order to understand the material at hand. For example, reading along as a passage is read to them can help students comprehend the material better, not only because they aren’t struggling with pace, pronunciation, and punctuation, but also because their auditory and visual senses are engaging with the material at the same time. For many children, it’s also a matter of getting enough excess energy out to focus. At SpiderSmart, we often let the students stand up at their desks, rather than sit, because the freedom to move actually helps them become less distracted. But multisensory learning is not just for special cases- it’s good for ALL children to be intrigued and excited by work that engages them in more than one way. 
  5. Multisensory learning helps students develop verbal and non-verbal problem-solving skills.
    Teaching students to untangle problems in a variety of ways ensures that there will be something of value in their mental toolbox no matter what. Multisensory learning develops these critical thinking skills by encouraging students to build relationships between new information and things they already know. Encouraging students to ask questions about a new concept and explore it, rather than just asking whether they know it or not, allows students to develop a pathway to understanding. When presented with a problem, which they will be time-and-time again in this every-changing world, students need to understand that asking questions might lead them to information that they already have, and unlock part of the problem at hand!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Top 5 Reasons to Study Civics in U.S. Classrooms

In light of the recent election, many people are asking some very important questions about the U.S. government. Some of these include: what exactly is a democracy, and how is it different from other forms of government? What is the process for electing officials to various positions in the U.S. government? What rights does the U.S. Constitution give to U.S. citizens? As these questions abound amongst the voting population, as well as future voters, we can look to the subject of civics to give us the answers. Civics is the study of civic (i.e. of a city, citizens, or citizenship) affairs and the duties and rights of citizenship. In many educational systems, civics has been cut out of the curriculum, leaving these crucial questions abandoned. There are numerous reasons to study civics, but here we give you the top 5 reasons why this subject should be essential in U.S. classrooms across the nation. 

  1. It's important to know what your rights are as a U.S. citizen.
    Many students grow up never fully understanding what the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence really are, let alone what's contained in these all-important documents. While a brief outline of the formation of these writings may be covered in a U.S. History class, most of us only know about them on a surface level. Not only does an in-depth study of these papers that form our nation's beliefs instill gratitude at the freedom that our forefathers fought for, but it also can be extremely useful to know what rights you have as a citizen, such as freedom of speech, which will then impact the role you play in the nation. 

  2. Civics education assists you in determining what your duties are as a U.S. citizen.
    Everyone knows that being a citizen allows you certain inalienable rights, but did you know that as a citizen of the United States, you have specific responsibilities as well? Every citizen must pay taxes to keep up our roads, schools, and other public institutions. We must also obey the laws of our federal and local governments. If called upon, we must also serve as a juror to our peers on trial. The country is counting on you to participate in certain activities that keep the country moving, and it is important to know when and how you may be called upon to do so.

  3. Studying Civics helps you become an informed voter or future voter.
    Voting is one of the basic rights afforded to citizens of the United States. It is a liberty that many countries do not have, so you should take advantage of exercising this right. It is important to make decisions on what policies you agree or disagree with, and decide what stance you take on issues, so that when you head to the polls, you will be able to make educated choices on your ballot. Civics will outline different current issues that are the backbone of candidates' platforms, which in turn gives you a broad spectrum of how electing officials impacts the country, as well as show you how your vote matters. If you are not old enough to vote, it's never too early to start shaping your understanding of politics and making determinations on where you stand on crucial topics, so that you will be a well-informed voter when your turn comes!

  4. Decisions made by the government impact almost every area of life.
    Many economic, ecological, and social policies are created by the government. Once you understand which branches of government make decisions on these issues, and how they make decisions, you will then understand how to make your voice heard and shape the policy of the country to reflect your needs and the needs of those around you. If you see a problem in your community that you would like to help solve, it will be helpful to know which channels to go through in order to get effective results. 

  5. Grow the country by thinking freely!
    Knowing what the policies your governmental officials make actually mean, what the function of the branches of government is, and what the laws they implement mean for you is of the utmost importance. If you are fully aware of the effects the government has on your personal life, as well as the nation at large, you will know whether something is true or false when presented at a school debate, shown on political ads, and when reviewing platforms of candidates running for public office. You can also use the knowledge you gain to educate others on the important issues facing our country today. Teaching others what you know will start a chain reaction that can make a big difference in our nation!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

If you plan to go to college and/or enter the workplace in your future, it is important that you begin to develop a well-rounded skill set and the qualities that go along with that. Here are the Top 5 Ways to Be a Well-Rounded Student:

  1. Volunteer.  
    Volunteering has a myriad of benefits. You are not only helping someone who might be in need or requires assistance in order to carry out daily tasks, but you also grow as a person through volunteering. Volunteering helps you develop responsibility and maturity because you are looking after an individual, a group of people, or an animal, which requires attention to detail, time management skills, and sacrificing your own desires to ensure they are looked after well. Their livelihood is in your hands. Also, volunteering creates a better world, not only for the present, but also for the future. Your service in the community today will make a better tomorrow for generations to come. If you want to volunteer, but have no idea where to begin, start by thinking: Where can I make a difference? What do I see that I want to change to better my community? Then find a place in your community that offers volunteering in that area. There are so many opportunities to get involved, from helping out at the Special Olympics, to cleaning up a park with a local environmental organization, to walking dogs at a shelter near you!

  1. Hone your skills. 
    Your future career path will hopefully follow your passion. It's never too early to get extra practice and challenge yourself in the areas you potentially see yourself pursuing in the future. Colleges and employers look for someone who has gone the extra mile to master their craft. Don't just practice singing in your bedroom; take some vocal lessons and sign up for choir in school to integrate singing into your life in a serious way. Don't feel satisfied doing well on your math tests? Why not sign up for Math Olympiad? If you want to participate in this extra-curricular activity that strengthens problem-solving skills (a crucial skill in life) and stretches your creative muscles, but your school does not offer Math Olympiad, or their team is full, we have some good news. Select SpiderSmart centers are now Math Olympiad institution teams! Sign up today at: https://moemsatspidersmartofashburn.eventbrite.com

  1. Try something new.  
     If you come across an internship or a volunteer position in a field that's always interested you but which you've never worked in before, it's your chance to try it and see if it sparks your interest. Also, doing things that are difficult help strengthen your problem-solving skills, resourcefulness, and adaptability.

  1. Reflect on your experience.   
    Reflection is a tool that you will use the rest of your school and university career, as well as your adult life. It helps you acquire mental focus and discipline. It also encourages you to see what you do well, and highlights areas of improvement for the future.

  1. Be selective.  
    Remember that colleges are looking for well-rounded, but focused individuals. If your extracurriculars are all over the map, it doesn't always come across as well-rounded, but instead scattered. Keeping your interests and your extracurriculars aligned to fields you are thinking about utilizing in the future will make you more attractive to college admissions committees, as well as prospective employers. Ask yourself these questions before getting involved in something: Why should I invest my time in doing this? Is this an exploratory step that will contribute toward my future and my community at large, or is it just something else to add to my already busy schedule?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

For many school districts, the first grading period is about to end and those report cards will be out before you know it! Even if you're achieving your goals, check out the Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Next Report Card!
  1. Take notes in class.
    Writing out information is a great way to absorb the information your teacher presents in class, as well as a key concentration technique that will ensure you are listening actively to the teacher. Also, you will remember what you wrote down much more than just listening to someone explaining information or relaying facts. As you take notes, be creative! Use highlighters to highlight key words, such as vocabulary. Make bullet points of core facts or statistics. Create mnemonic devices to help you retain certain methods. Notes are also a great study guide for quizzes and exams! 

  2. Participate in hands-on, interactive activities related to the subject matter.
    Studies show that concepts are grasped more easily by taking part in activities that correlate with what you are learning. Kinesthetic learning increases engagement in the subject matter, which then increases retention of the knowledge and skills associated with the lesson being taught. For example, instead of only reading about Chemistry theories in a textbook, attending a workshop where you work on completing an experiment and then explore the results of the experimentation will help you deeply ingrain the material in your brain. This will then lead to a higher proficiency in the practiced subject. Experience creates mastery! 

  3. Form good habits. Get enough sleep, eat a proper diet, etc.
    If you're not feeling your best, then it will be difficult to perform your best. Give your mind and body the tools they need to succeed in a focused environment by putting practices in place that help you perform better. Change up your routine by packing new brain foods as your snacks, or keep a packet of sticky notes with you to write out check lists as you think about your goals for the day. Little habits become routine and can make all the difference!

  4. Work on your homework a little each night.
    You won't become a top piano player if you only practice once a week. It takes consistency and thoroughness to build skills to a master level. Similarly, you won't be able to master school material confidently if you only sit down and study it once. Breaking work into small, digestible chunks makes it easier for you to focus and go more in depth with the material. Before you start an assignment, try to mentally plan out the stages you'll need to go through to complete it. Then take it one step at a time!

  5. Don't wait to get help.
    There are plenty of enthusiastic educators out there at places like SpiderSmart Learning Centers, and they're standing by to help you succeed. Don't wait until your child needs an IEP or child study at school. Get help and start building basic skills at the first sign of academic distress so that things don't spiral out of control. Many students take enrichment and tutoring classes as a precautionary measure, to ensure that they won't struggle in school! Even one hour a week can make all the difference!