Archive for April, 2009

Swine Flu Update: Schools Closing as Outbreak Continues

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

As swine flu continues to tally new cases each day, it’s impacting not only those who come down with the H1N1 virus, but also over 150,000 schoolchildren whose schools have been shut down due to confirmed or suspected cases. And many parents who are already concerned about the virus have another problem to contend with: taking care of kids who would otherwise be at school during the five or more days schools are recommended to stay shuttered after a student falls ill.

In Fort Worth, Texas, the entire school district closed down today, leaving about 80,000 students from 140 schools at home. Fort Worth schools are expected to stay closed for at least 10 days.

“Our public health officials have recommended that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of this flu strongly consider temporarily closing,” President Obama said yesterday, just hours after the World Health Organization raised the Pandemic Alert to Level 5, indicating that a pandemic may be imminent. “And if more schools are forced to close,” Obama continued, “we’ve recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans if their children do have to stay home.”

Parents should consider staying home themselves or finding a babysitter or relative to watch the kids, and should not place their children in a day care center, which could mean quicker transmission of the virus between children. Vice President Biden urged yesterday that “a parent whose child’s school is closed out of a precaution or because there’s been a confirmed case of flu should not take the child then to a day care center. They’re going to have to take them home.” He also urged employers to be considerate of the special circumstances. “The hope is that the employers will be generous in terms of how they treat that employee’s necessary action of taking that child home and not being at work,” he said.

Still, most schools remain open, and while officials urge parents to keep sick kids at home, they ask that healthy students go to class as usual, while taking the following precautions: minimize exposure, wash hands frequently, and cover up coughs and sneezes.

Green Schools

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Learn all about green schools- find ways to help your school go green and browse LEED certified schools in your state.

Green Schools

Students, parents and teachers are working together to promote green schools.  Recycling programs, bus transportation, and water efficiency are just a few of the many ways schools save energy and reduce waste.  Also, environmental education programs raise students’ awareness on how they can impact their environment. Learn about five easy ways to green your school

Although many schools promote green programs and activities, some schools are actually ceritified as green schools.  This means they have been certified by the U.S. Green Builing Council as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.  Find LEED certified green schools near you.  The LEED for Schools Rating System is specific to the design and construction of K-12 schools and buildings, addressing such things as energy efficiency, water conservation and mold prevention.  

Green School Review Prize

How green is your school?  Find your school with our SchoolFinder tool and tell others about your green school!  Writing a ”green” review gives you a chance to win a beautiful hard cover copy of Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the WorldLearn more.

When bullying knocks the wind out of a mom.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I was so saddened to read about 11 year old Carl Walker-Hoover’s death earlier this week


Carl took his life after enduring constant bullying and daily taunts of being gay at school.  He was at least the 4th middle schooler this year to commit suicide as a result of being bullied.   As a mom to 4 and 6 year old boys, I can barely breathe when I think about one of my precious children becoming so sad and hopeless that he would hang himself in our home.  It literally knocks the wind out of me to consider it and I’m tempted to just shift my thoughts to happier things like how much more chocolate I can get away with eating before my boys catch me in their Easter baskets.  But I know ignoring or wishing away the horrific thoughts I’m having right now isn’t the right answer.  I’m a mom in today’s world which means  I have to face the brutal reality that bullying is real, that my kids will be affected by it, and that it can have absolutely devastating consequences.   


So what am I going to do about it?  For starters, I’m setting aside some time this morning to re-read the Special Edition on Bullying at School and Online.   We published this special edition back in February in partnership with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).  It contains resources for parents and educators to help them get a better understanding of bullying (based on the latest research, not myths) and suggestions of specific actions each can take to help reduce bullying.  


I’m going to print out the tip sheet we wrote for parents and make sure I’m doing all I can in my own house to combat bullying.  My kids are young, but I know it’s time for me to start talking to them about bullying and what they should do if they’re bullied, if they witness bullying or (gasp) if they think they might have bullied someone else.  


I’m also going to send a note to my son’s principal encouraging him to register for a free webinar on bullying is hosting school administrators on Wednesday , April 29, 2009 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PDT.  The session will be led by Dr. Shelley Hymel – a world renowned expert on bullying.  Any administrator is welcome to register.   I know that schools are doing a lot to manage bullying.  But it’s not enough. 


Our children deserve to have the opportunity to feel safe and happy every day in school.  No child should ever feel the complete sadness that Carl Walker-Hoover must have felt when he took his life – before it really even had a chance to begin. 


I hope you’ll join me in doing whatever you can today to help prevent another senseless tragedy like Carl Walker-Hoover’s death.  Bullying is not going to go away on its own.  It’s going to take all of us – every breathless mother, every busy principal, every one of us – to keep our kids safe from this terrible thing.


Rest in Peace Carl.

I Do, We Do, You Do

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Susan Hall, co-author of Straight Talk About Reading and more recently the editor for Implementing Response to Intervention: A Principal’s Guide gave a workshop at the Center for Development and Learning’s conference. The topic was on teaching the tough phonological awareness skills, and in it she referred to an instructional procedure she called “I Do, We Do, You Do.”

As teachers, we’re all familiar with this notion; we model, we work through it with our kids and then we release the responsibility to the students. As a variation of scaffolding, this model represents what we know about good teaching: teachers explicitly teach a new skill, teacher and students practice the skill together, and then student demonstrates the skill through practice activities. Corrective feedback and pacing vary by group and by student.

I like the language of I Do, We Do, You Do; it’s simple, short, and clear. I can see the practicality of using it with young students as a guide for work throughout the week. I am sure someone has turned this into a poster or has created a neat graphic for their classroom. If you have something like that, please share!

What’s good for ELLs is good for all

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

If you follow us on Twitter, you know that I was in Chicago at a conference sponsored by the Center for Development and Learning. I’ve got lots to share from the conference; there were several great speakers and exhibitors. Many attendees came by the Reading Rockets booth to tell me that they use the site all the time, especially our Parent Tips.

One presentation I went to was “Vocabulary Instruction and Language Development for English Language Learners,” presented by Maria Elena Arguelles. She’s a dynamic speaker whose anecdotes had us laughing all the way through. As she talked about effective instruction for ELLs, I was reminded that what’s good for ELLs is really good for all young learners. That’s a good thing for teachers! We definitely don’t need more work.

One aspect of language development she talked about was reducing the language load when you’re introducing a new topic or content to kids (again, she was talking about ELLs, but this is something that I think generalizes to all kids). She recommends that teachers be aware and work to “carry the language load on your shoulders.”

To demonstrate, Arguelles used the vocabulary words “typical” and “atypical.” Assuming some instruction had already taken place, Arguelles demonstrated a simple method for ascertaining whether we knew the vocabulary. She posed several scenarios (“A cow with two heads, yawning when you’re tired”). We gave a thumbs up if it was typical, thumbs down if it was atypical. Simple, right?

In “deconstructing her teaching actions” (conference-speak…) her method (1) required no oral language on our part, but a scan of thumbs helped her know who had it right or wrong, (2) involved all learners, (3) enabled her to provide wait time, (4) incorporated consistent prompts and cues (she used “Show me”) and (5) provided immediate feedback. This makes for an opportunity to focus on the vocabulary (typical, atypical) rather than a language load.

Simple, but powerful. Would this work for you? More to come!

Fun and Educational Adventure Action Games

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Does your child love playing games online? Are you concerned that the games don’t have educational value or aren’t kid-friendly?  With children spending more and more time online, parents often wonder what games are best suited for their child.

JumpStart World is the perfect way to allow your child to immerse themselves in a highly creative and fun learning environment.  JumpStart World is the leader in adventure action games based on virtual and interactive 3D worlds developed specifically for your three to ten year old child.

With JumpStart World, academic fundamentals are incorporated into a vibrant world where kids can control their learning environment. These adventure action games are tailored to your child’s personal skill level and learning style. Your child’s preferences and abilities customize the 3D challenge-based games, allowing your child to both succeed and learn new skills.

With lovable characters and a curriculum based on national and state standards, JumpStart World’s adventure action games stimulate creativity, build confidence, and reward achievements.  See how JumpStart World works and get started today!

Reading Software for Early Readers

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Teaching a child to read can be daunting for many parents. Early readers need to practice a variety of skills and continue to review and challenge themselves in order to grow into fluent readers.  Although reading with your child is invaluable, many parents are looking for supplemental help for their early readers. recommends Headsprout’s premier reading software program to grow your young reader.

Headsprout reading software guides young readers through a series of Web-based, animated lessons. Learning to read is a fun adventure with Headsprout’s cast of animated characters that helps capture kids’ imaginations. At the core of this reading software program are the proven skills all children must master while learning to read.

Headsprout reading software is developmentally appropriate, organized into 80 Web-based interactive episodes, each between 15 and 30 minutes long.

The earliest episodes begin with the fundamentals, but the lessons gradually increase in difficulty, building upon the skills developed in previous sessions.  The reading software program includes detailed progress reports and a variety of printed books to practice independent reading off-line as well.

Check out these sample lessons and get started today!

Math Homework Help Now Available

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Are you looking for support with math homework?  Does your child struggle with completing math homework independently? Does math homework overwhelm your child?  These are all common concerns for parents, so we decided to let our community know about a great, affordable resource for math homework help.

The NutshellMath program from Discovery Education offers interactive explanations and demonstrations to the actual math homework problems in your textbook. Elementary school math homework, middle school math homework, and high school math homework are all covered, including Pre-Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Calculus subjects.

Over one hundred middle school, high school, and college math teachers created these interactive math homework explanations for students. Explanations are easy to follow and adapted for every type of learner, with visual and audio components. Simply by watching and listening to a video explaining the math problem, students learn how to independently solve the problem.

There are just three simple steps to using NutshellMath for online math homework help:

  1. Choose your textbook
  2. Type in the page number
  3. Choose the problem you need help with and view the explanation

Not only can you watch and listen to explanations to math homework problems, but also use NutshellMath practice quizzes to prepare for upcoming tests.

Browse sample math homework explanations and solve your child’s math homework difficulties today.