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Education

The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Middle School Math

Many middle school students struggle with math, often for the first time.

Math becomes harder in middle school, and teacher expectations are higher. These changes are appropriate as kids mature; the achievement bar must be raised so that students' intellects are challenged to grow. The teacher who waters down instruction so that it's always easy and "fun" isn't doing students any favors.
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Education

Why Vocabulary and Facts Are So Important

How do you know all the words without looking at the back of the cards? 

A fifth grade student was amazed that I knew every word on the American Heritage Dictionary's Top 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know  list. She only recognized five.

I assured her that soon she would also know these words, because we were about to begin learning them now.The authors explain why knowing these words is so important:
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Education

Don’t Fall Off the Physics Bus!

My kids attended Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama, where their wonderful physics teacher started off every school year with his infamous warning: Don't fall off the physics bus!

He was playfully reminding students that physics is a cumulative subject, in which you've got to make sure and master the material all along the way.

If you don't thoroughly understand and gain fluency in each chapter, especially the early ones, you won't have built up the foundation of knowledge and skills needed to handle the later material. Month after month, chapter after chapter, that physics bus will keep on rolling down the physics road, and if you fall off you'll have a heck of a time catching up with it.
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Education

How to Study: 5 Basic Practices for Academic Success


Many students complain that they don't know how to study, so I've compiled this short and sweet page of the basics.

Perhaps now, as the first grading quarter winds to a close, is a good time to read down this list and get back on track with these five essential good-student behaviors:
How to Study
Five Basic Practices for Academic Success


Do all your homework, on time, every day. Teachers assign homework so as to give you the practice you need to learn and remember the material. The single most important thing you can do to understand better, remember more, and score higher grades is to always do all your homework thoroughly (even the “optional” stuff) and on time.


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General

So I Got My Test Back; Now What?

Dear Friends,

It's such a shame that in our culture testing has such a bad name.

The dad of one of my students is a physician; he recalls that:
Medical school is all about being tested. We were constantly quizzing, taking tests, and flipping flash cards (each flash card is a tiny test). We were tested multiple times every day. All that testing made our minds sharp, plus it kept us aware of the areas we still needed to work on. It was a powerful way to learn.
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General

The Back-to-School Fresh Start

Dear Friends,

Back-to-school time is the perfect time to start fresh routines and establish healthy habits. These are the ones parents and I have been talking about the most:

First of All, Plan for Adequate Sleep: Most kids don't get enough sleep. Students learn better, feel better and behave better when they're properly rested. Check with your pediatrician and find out how many hours of sleep your child ought to be logging per night (chances are good you'll be shocked at the large number), and then set the appropriate bedtime and enforce it.
Limit Electronics: Computers and cellphones and anything else with a glowing screen (including TVs and video games) need to be turned off one hour before bedtime to allow the mind to calm down for good sleep (this applies to adults, too!). And do establish cellphone-free chunks of time during the afternoon and evening; students need to read, study and eat dinner in peace. Interestingly, parents have been telling me that their kids often seem relieved to be given breaks from the relentless social pressure and privacy invasion of social media. I also felt this from my SAT class; students seemed to like my rule of collecting their cellphones before class!
Establish the Reading Habit: Before the school year becomes super-hectic, build in the habit of quiet reading for 20-30 minutes before lights out.
Don't Overschedule: Too many sports and extra-curricular activities aren't fun; they're stressful!

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General

Sneaky Studying and the Pretend Cheat Sheet


Dear Friends,

Students, teachers and parents are all feeling the end-of-year time crunch; between sports, proms, plays, high stakes exams and piled-on schoolwork, it can be hard to imagine where to find those blocks of study time.

It's time to resort to what I call Sneaky Studying. The key is to stop waiting and hoping for those big chunks of uninterrupted study time, because they ain't gonna happen!
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Education

The Textbook Is Still A Great Learning Tool

It seems like every year my students use their textbooks less and less.

Teachers still hand out textbooks in September but then so many (I'm tempted to say MOST) teachers rarely assign readings or homework from them, instead supplying students with hand-outs, worksheets and powerpoints.

Commonly, students claim that their texts are "up in my bedroom somewhere," never to be opened!

Yet textbooks can be wonderful tools for learning and for exam review.
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