News, resources, and links to help educators and home schoolers improve academic achievement.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Back-to-School Basics

The first few weeks of school set the tone for the rest of the school year.  Educators and homeschool parents alike need to establish a clear set of rules and boundaries for their students.  In many ways, public school teachers have a greater challenge than homeschoolers, including: 

  • The ratio of students to teachers is generally much greater in public schools.
  • Teachers in public (and private) schools may have difficult or negative co-workers to contend with.
  • Public school teachers in general have more students with emotional needs.
  • Students with behavioral problems are a distraction.
It's so important for students to understand the basics before they can move on to other higher-level concepts. But, in order to teach them, you must first reach them.  For public school teachers, this means getting to know your students, so you can understand their needs.  A first grade teacher might have students draw a picture of their family and pets, labeling each family member -- an art activity that can give the teacher great insight into the family dynamics. A junior high teacher might start off the school year by having each student choose another student in the classroom and write a short description about them, including what their talents and interests are.  If they are new to the school, and do not know much about their classmates, they can write a few sentences about how they feel about moving to the new school. This activity will serve as a way to assess writing skills and to learn a little bit more about the students.

Regardless of the setting, engaging students is key to helping them grasp basic concepts that will be used as building blocks for future learning.  If they decide early on that learning can be interesting and fun, it will open up a whole new world for them.  If you teach history, have the students act out an important event.  If you teach math, have the students apply their math skills by solving real-life scenarios, like determining how many liters of drinks and how many ounces of chips it will take to treat the entire class to snacks on Friday.  Use interactive games like Multiple Madness® to improve basic math skills like multiplication.  Use journaling in science class and art in reading class.  

Whatever you do, don't allow stress to affect your performance as an educator.  Aside from taking time for yourself... and occasionally counting to ten before you react or respond... there are tons of online resources to make this a successful school year!  Check out our link to free teacher resources, and feel free to add your favorite links in the comments section of our blog.  Share your favorite teaching tips, concerns or hot topics on our Facebook page.

"Out of this world" reading experience

Teachers playing Multiple Madness

Students playing Multiple Madness

Monday, March 4, 2013

Team WILD Game from

If you'd like to help your students learn the importance of a career in conservation and science, check out the brand new online science game that was recently launched on
The Team WILD game is a fun and unique way to engage students, by turning scientists into superheroes!   Andrea Small, with, tells us: "From jungle to savanna, rainforest to coral reef, the Team WILD game will test students on their speed, skill and coordination.  As they play, students will discover a diverse range of field tasks a conservation scientist of ecologist must do in order to protect the world's species and habitats -- from replanting native guapuruvu trees in the Atlantic forest of Brazil to evacuating non-infected mountain chickens (a frog) from Montserrat where populations are being decimated by the deadly chytrid fungus.

Team WILD is also supported by curriculum-linked teaching resources, topic pages linked to the game content and discussion points, encouraging students and teachers to continue their learning journeys by exploring the topics touched upon in the game."  

Wildscreen USA is proud to be spearheading U.S. efforts in support of the ARKive project - the Noah's Ark for the internet era.  ARKive is a unique global initiative, gathering together the very best films and photographs of the world's species into one centralized digital library to create a freely-accessible, audio-visual record of life on Earth.

For more information, visit:  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sticks and Stones

Remember the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?"  That's true, unless those words come with intentional malice over a period of time, and involve an imbalance of power.  Bullying is a hot topic among parents and educators, but in a November 25, 2012 article (, Signe Whitson, L.S.W., offers the following important words of caution:

 "In the last few years, Americans have collectively paid attention to the issue of bullying like never before; millions of school children have been given a voice, 49 states in the U.S. have passed anti-bullying legislation, and thousands of adults have been trained in important strategies to keep kids safe and dignified in schools and communities. These are significant achievements.

At the same time, however, I have already begun to see that gratuitous references to bullying are creating a bit of a “little boy who cried wolf” phenomena. In other words, if kids and parents improperly classify rudeness and mean behavior as bullying—whether to simply make conversation or to bring attention to their short-term discomfort—we all run the risk of becoming so sick and tired of hearing the word that this actual life-and-death issue among young people loses its urgency as quickly as it rose to prominence."

Ms. Whitson goes on to explain that "it is important to distinguish between rude, mean, and bullying so that teachers, school administrators, police, youth workers, parents, and kids all know what to pay attention to and when to intervene." 

Rudeness is generally behavior that is not done with the intent to hurt someone else.  An example of this is jumping ahead of another student in line.   "Mean" behavior is intended to hurt the recipient, such as telling someone, "You don't need to eat lunch; you're already too fat."  Sometimes it is simply impulsive cruelty, brought on by angry feelings. Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and repeated over a period of time.  It involves an imbalance of power and the bully has no remorse.

Since children learn what they live, educators and students alike are often the targets of verbal and physical abuse by young people whose families have not fostered compassion at home.  We can love them, encourage them, and be a role model for them.  We can show them what compassion is and possibly influence them in a way that inspires them to fulfill their dreams and to become a positive role model for future generations.

If you have success stories about teaching compassion in the classroom, please submit them to, or feel free to share them in the comments section of this blog.  

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.