Archive for April, 2013

Class Participation: More Than a Buzzword

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question. 

—Carl Sagan


Rolling your eyes at Edith here might make you look cool to your peers, but after 2 years of teaching SAT I feel like one of my biggest imperatives is encouraging more kids to take a cue from her methodology

As one of the “new kids” in the office, I find myself asking a lot of questions—about processes, the back end of the site, policies for freelancers, and just about everything. Like many of people in the working world, I’m chary of creating the impression that answers to these questions don’t stick when I’m provided with them. The problem is that I always tell my students that “there’s no such thing as a dumb question”—that is, unless your question is disingenuous or deliberately disruptive. I’m pretty bad at taking my own advice.


A blog post about why you shouldn’t read this blog post

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

It’s the holiday season as far as I’m concerned. First, we had a joyous April Fools Day. Fake parking tickets still work after all these years. And now we’ve got Screen-Free Week starting on April 29.

These are alpacas. I learned about alpacas last night while enjoying screen-free human interaction.

What’s Screen-Free Week, you ask? It’s like Christmas. The differences are that it doesn’t cost you anything, the weather is nicer, and instead of giving people gifts, you give yourself the gifts of fresh air, rested eyes, and human interaction.

Originally called TV Turnoff Week in 1994, its creators probably never imagined how many normal Joes would walk around town carrying magical cell phones with Internet, video, music, games, and an app that saves a parking space for you. Yes, that exists.

Even so, the basic idea remains the same. Too much screen time isn’t good for you, and it’s especially bad for kids. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which runs the event, would remind you that preschoolers average 32 hours of screen media per week. But you knew that. You also knew that screen time can lead to irregular sleep patterns, body image issues, lack of creativity, early childhood aggression, academic failure, and weight problems. (more…)

4 Youth Basketball Coaching Concepts That Translate to Classroom Teaching

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

I’ve coached basketball to kids of every age from 4 to 18, and I’ve found that sports not only teach life lessons to the kid wearing the jersey, but also the coach sitting on the bench (or standing, yelling and stomping his feet). Learning to coach basketball is a lesson in leadership, not just V-dribbles and jump stops. Here are four basketball coaching concepts that go much further than the hardwood.

1. Focus on fundamentals: Build skills, build them some more, and keep building them.

Many youth coaches make the mistake of teaching complicated strategic concepts while their players lack the physical skills to put these concepts into use. Good coaches teach the fundamentals—dribbling, passing, shooting and footwork—and practice them at every practice. In the long run, the kids become more skilled (more…)

Good Kids

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

I recently went to dinner with a large group of friends, one of whom brought her five-year-old daughter. We had pizza; something I would have fallen all over at 5 years old. But she didn’t want pizza. She didn’t want to talk about her toys, or interrupt our adult conversation to ask a million questions, or climb all over the chairs, or ask for a sugary drink she’s not supposed to have, or do any number of annoying things that five-year-olds do at the dinner table.

All she wanted to do was play on her mom’s iPad. By the end of dinner I still had not heard her speak or seen her make eye contact with a single person at the table, including her mother. “What a good kid she is.” one of my friends said. And I thought to myself, “If this social detachment is our metric for good behavior, we’re all in BIG trouble!”

This overwhelmingly quiet dinner left me with all kinds of questions: Is the technology that kindergarteners are cutting their teeth on curbing their development?  Does it prevent them from learning from each other? Is it suppressing their imagination? Is it altering their ability to find creative solutions? Can they even make eye contact anymore?!

Enter Art Avina’s class of kindergarteners from LAUSD’s Olympic Primary Center, with their cinematic retelling of the classic Miss Nelson Is Missing, by Harry Allard and James Marshall. Check it out.

It relieves me to see children acting out a great story, collaborating with their classmates on a creative project, and (hello!) covering Madonna, but the best part is that they’re doing it with the storytelling tools of their generation.  It just goes to show that if you focus on using technology to keep kids engaged, instead of using it to keep them quiet, then they will never be bystanders to their own education.

So, in the spirit of creative commotion, here are some of my favorite pretend play ideas, all of which should be played with the nearest available child…over a slice of pizza:

Make a Puppet Theater

Storytime! 10 Activities for Creative Kindergarteners

Create a Post Office Play Station

Juice Box Police Radio

5 Things Your Kid Can Learn From The Wizard of Oz

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Illustraton by Brian Chang
Illustration by Brian Chang

The landscape of my childhood is made up of obsessions. Most kids have ‘phases,’ but I’ve always felt my interests as a kid went much, much deeper than those of my peers. When I got into something, I REALLY got into something. It consumed me.

For instance, from my earliest childhood years and well into my late-elementary years, all I could do was talk Disney. My grandmother had four kids, who in turn had their own sets of kids, which meant that she was family babysitter. As such, she had a vast collection of Disney movies on VHS, which got me acquainted with the Disney library pretty quickly. This was the late ‘80s-early ‘90s, so I was living in the middle of a Disney revolution: Little Mermaid. Aladdin. Lion King. Every new movie was my movie. Every song I knew back to front. At age 4, my first career goal was to be the voice of a Disney character.

Age 7: My dad buys me a paperback copy of (more…)