By Julie Diamond
Words are empowering. Expanding your child’s vocabulary can help them express themselves more clearly, build better relationships and make sense of the world. How do we as parents help our children expand their vocabulary?
Read Together: Set aside 20 minutes a day to read with your child. Reading introduces your child to new words and the context of how the word can be used. Read aloud to your child even when they can read independently. This way you can build their vocabulary by choosing books that might be too difficult for them to read themselves. Also, make sure to read a wide range of books including: non-fiction, fiction, graphic novels, and newspapers so they are exposed to a variety of different words.
Label Objects Around the House: When your child is a beginner reader, label objects in your home to help them read new words. Try using adjectives as they develop their vocabulary by labelling it as ‘glass table.’
Don’t Use Baby Talk: Try not to oversimplify the way you speak to your child. While your child may not be using an extensive vocabulary yet, they are sponges and soak in their surroundings. A child understands much more than they articulate. Many need to hear a word several times before they really understand it.
Create a Word Wall: A word wall helps new words sink in. Write each new word on a sticky note and put it on a wall in their room. Use this in tandem with a Word of the Day to encourage them to try to use the word in their speaking or writing.
Positive Reinforcement: Encouraging your child gets them excited to learn. Making a big deal of new words that your child uses will get them excited.
How do you help your child with their vocabulary at home? Share your experiences below.
By Jenna Srigley
Social interactions with others are an important part of growing up. It’s a big part of the school day. Schools teach children many social skills such as: how to share, show empathy, be polite, cooperate and communicate together. As we grow up, we as humans crave social relationships with others. We need that social aspect throughout the different stages of our lives as we grow. These past few weeks have been a grieving process. We miss our social interactions as adults and so do our children.
I noticed a shift in my kids’ behavior after just a few days of not getting together with their friends. They were very upset, frustrated and didn’t really understand why they couldn’t see their friends. We had a long discussion as a family where we explained the current public health situation and the reasons why they need to stay at home. My husband and I listened to their concerns too. We realized how important it was for their mental well beings that we focus on maintaining their social relationships just as much as their academics. As a result, we made some adjustments to our daily schedules and house rules. We have extended the time allowed for gaming, phone calls and texting in the evenings. We have still designated the mornings for academics and the early afternoons for exercise but after that we’ve been pretty flexible with how they spend their evenings with their friends virtually.
Since being more lenient with these rules, our kids seem to be having a bit of an easier time dealing with this stressful situation. Though every family is different so the changes we made to our routines might not be best for yours. My kids are a bit older so they were able to express their concerns and needs to us and these were the changes we decided on together. How are you maintaining your child’s social relationships while staying at home? Share with us in the comments.
Written by Jenna Srigley with contributions from Julie Diamond
Why not start off by having a family meeting? You can all share your feelings, thoughts and ideas on what you all would like to accomplish during this time off. Giving your kids their own voice to suggest things, and share their thoughts, makes them feel that their opinions are valued. You are working together as a family to help each other accomplish things and create structure for everyone. I like to create daily routines as I find it helps things run smoothly. However, I have learned to accept that things will not always go smoothly especially if everyone is at home and/or feeling anxious. Talk about potential conflicts and discuss ways to communicate and solve them as a family. Here is the schedule that my family and I decided on that might be a useful guide for you over this break:
Have everyone dressed and ready for the day no later than 10am. I know this may seem late but giving your kids that time to ease into the day makes the day go smoother. Your kids may likely be feeling a lot of mixed emotions given the current pandemic so it’s important to give them this time to relax, sleep in and, if they want, some alone time.
10am-12 Learning Time - Use this time to focus on learning. Independent projects on things they are interested in keep them engaged. I had my 12-year-old start a Science project on video games. This link gave me some ideas:
Here are some other resources:
The new website released today by the Ontario government
(for those parents in Ontario): https://www.ontario.ca/page/learn-at-home
12:00-1:00 Lunch - Eat together as a family. Cooking and eating together can be a great opportunity to check in and bond.
1:00-1:30 Get Active - This is super important! Get up and do a workout using YouTube. There are loads of workout for kids. My family and I also use Nike Training App which is a great workout for teens and adults. Or when the weather cooperates, we opt to go for a walk. Break a sweat together and have fun.
1:30:2:00 Mindfulness - Try some activities to ease them into the afternoon after lunch which is an effective way to transition you and your kids into the afternoon. Doing these activities daily, even just 10 minutes, can help your child in so many ways. It teaches them ways to slow down and focus. You can see Julie’s blog below: "The Benefits of Mindfulness and Tips to Teach Your Child at Home" for some ideas. Here is another great link I like to use with my kids:
2:00-2:30pm Writing – This gives them the freedom to have an outlet to let it out. Depending on your child’s interests, you can opt for them to write (I’m currently teaching my kids cursive writing!) or incorporate art into it. Here are some creative journal prompts from Write Shop that I use:
It’s important to incorporate your child’s interests into the activities. My kids love video games (as so many other kids these days) so I had them create their own video game and they made the instructions booklet.
2:30-3:00 Snack - Take a break and fuel up!
3:00-3:30 Chores - My family and I have a chore wheel which switches up the chores and makes it fair across the board. This prevents any arguing.
3:30-4:30 Reading - Wrap up the day by reading a book of their choice. Depending on their ages, you may want to switch up with you reading together, taking turns reading (we like to use different voices), or independent reading. Here is a list of books for different ages: https://k-12readinglist.com/
In the evenings, we have been trying an hour without any devices and playing board games and/or doing other things together. I’ll admit it’s challenging not to look at my phone for a whole hour but I do recommend giving it a try! An hour without checking the news, especially nowadays, has been refreshing.
These are just some examples to ensure this time at home is positive. Creating a routine focused on mental and physical health can go a long way in keeping everyone calm, happy and stress free.
Share in the comments what you’re doing with your kids at home.
by Jenna Srigley, Adminstrative Assistant at Teachers to Go & mom of 2
March break already? What am I supposed to do with the kids to keep them busy? If you’ve opted to have a staycation this March Break, don’t worry we have you covered. Here are some fun and educational ideas to keep everyone happy during this upcoming week:
1. A visit to the sugar bush- If the weather cooperates this is a great way to educate the kids and yourself about how maple syrup is made. They will show you how they tap the trees and collect the syrup. It will get the kids moving and outside for some fresh air.
Maple syrup is a Canadian staple and a tasty part of our history. Check out this resource https://thecanadianhomeschooler.com/maple-syrup/ for some history to teach your kids about maple syrup from the Objiwe and Metis perspectives, fun songs about maple syrup for your little ones, along with maple recipes to use for #2.
2. Baking - They will be measuring, counting and following recipes. Have them double or half the recipe so they have to do a little Math to add, subtract, and divide. Be sure to let them assist in choosing what to bake so it keeps them interested. They will look forward to enjoying the treat after their hard work. Even if the end result is not so tasty, reflect and have a conversation with them about what happened and what they could do differently next time. We learn from our mistakes!
3. Scavenger Hunt - Make a list of things (with visuals for younger children) for them to search for on your nature walk. When creating this checklist, consider all 5 senses. Do they hear birds chirping? Do they smell snow/rain? Do they feel the bark? Do they see maple or pine trees? Do they taste snow?
4. Nature Art – Taking inspiration from your nature walk, such as fallen leaves, twigs or acorns, have your child create an art piece using these materials. You can even schedule an art gallery walk with the family to showcase your child’s masterpiece.
These are just a few ideas for March Break activities that are inexpensive. As a mom of teens, I know it can be stressful trying to keep them busy at any age but, if you plan and organize, you can have a great week. That is if they aren’t too cool to hang out with you yet!
International Women’s Day is on Sunday. It’s a day that celebrates the many talents and strengths of women. In celebration, we have rounded up some tips to raise an empowered girl. I know we’ve likely missed some points so let us know your experiences and opinions in the comments. Here is our list:
1. Encourage her to voice her opinion and speak for herself. From an early age, it’s important to give your daughter the opportunities to speak about her opinions and feelings. Listen and show her that her opinion is valued. Let your daughter debate hot topics with the adults and, leading by example, teach her how to be assertive in a respectful way.
2. Help her build positive relationships. Disagreements with friends are a normal part of friendships but there is a huge difference between disagreements and verbal abuse. Girls are often taught to be nice, apologize, and consider others first. But it’s important to be kind AND have a strong voice and boundaries. Teach her how to express and own her emotions using certain vocabulary like ‘When you said this it made me feel this way.”
3. Have conversations about body image. This conversation is imperative because society still puts a huge emphasis on how girls look. Instead of commenting on your daughter’s appearance, make one about how she uses her body as an instrument to conquer achievements. ‘Wow, you held that handstand for a long time. You’re so strong.” Also, show her the importance of taking care of her body and being healthy mentally and physically. Take her to a yoga class. Try meditation.
There’s also nothing wrong with make-up and dressing up! But if/when your daughter experiments with fashion, rather than saying ‘You look pretty” try “You are really talented with the eye shadow. You can braid hair really well.” It’s then an expression of their creative side rather than as a tool to enhance their looks. Be mindful of the conversations you have about your body image as well. As parents, make sure you model positive discussions about your body and do not place emphasis on your appearance being the most important thing.
4. Buy her toys that make her think. Embrace the brain teasers and board games, the medical and scientific experiments, things to build towers and locomotives. Give her the tools to explore, think, tinker as well as dress up. Her toys get her thinking and believing in all the possibilities the world has to offer her.
5. Female role models. Learn something new. Make a new friend. Be assertive. Foster positive relationships and a healthy body image. Be the empowered woman you want your daughter to strive to be. Or perhaps you or your partner have females in your families who your daughter could look up to as well. The more examples of strong female role models in her life the more likely she’ll believe in the reality of achieving her goals.
A big part of raising this generation of children is figuring out what role technology plays in their lives. Kids are surrounded by social media to interact with friends and other people. As parents, it’s important to have a conversation with your child about using good judgment and staying safe when using these tools. Here are some important topics to discuss with your child about using social media, and the internet, safely:
1. Set up strict boundaries: It’s up to you as a parent to decide what age is appropriate to open a social media account for your child. When you do, it’s best to discuss the importance of not sharing or posting any personal information on their account. Signing up with a username, not their real name, and setting strict privacy settings is the best option for most people and especially minors. Depending on their age, or your concerns, you may also want to set a boundary where you have access to the account to start in order to monitor their use. Then gradually pull back as you feel more comfortable.
2. The internet is permanent: People seem to forget this and don’t think carefully before they post. Talk to your child about the repercussions and give examples of bad posts so they understand. Everything you share is tied to you now and 10 years from now. Many companies nowadays will conduct a search online and look at social media accounts before hiring someone. Stress the importance of taking a moment to ask themselves that if it’s not something they’d want their future boss to see, then they should probably not post it.
3. Stranger danger: Make this a rule for their safety. If someone they don’t know messages them online, don’t respond. If they ask for personal information, show your child how to block accounts. Social media makes it even easier nowadays for predators to connect with children so it’s important your child understands the risks and protects themselves.
4. Filters and filtering: Explain to your child that social media is not an accurate representation of people’s lives. People have the control to filter what they post so they tend to show the best days or parts of their lives and post photos of themselves edited with filters. As your child grows up in this digital world, it’s hard not to compare themselves to the images they see and think what they see online is real. We as adults can be guilty of doing this too!
Start with these conversations about social media and try to lead by example on your accounts. Set privacy settings on your accounts. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss seeing. Don’t add anyone that you don’t know on your accounts. Even try taking a selfie without filters!
February is the time of year when you get your child’s report card. You may also get the opportunity for a parent-teacher interview to discuss or ask any questions. It’s important to take the time to review the report card with your child. The report card is a great resource to reflect on your child’s achievements and areas to work on. Here are some suggestions to make it a positive and effective experience:
1. Review it independently. Read the comments and make notes of the successes and areas of improvement. Planning what you want to discuss with your child beforehand makes for a more productive and positive discussion. Keep in mind that every year is different, and some grades/subjects are generally more challenging than others.
2. Read the report card with your child. Ask them about their thoughts. Listen to what they have to say because they will have valuable insight. Celebrate their successes and keep the conversation positive. Don’t compare your child with another friend or family member. It’s important to remember that every child learns and performs differently.
3. Make a plan for success on the next report card. Together with your child, identify areas or subjects that could use improvement. Then create goals and steps to achieve each one along with how you will provide support. Write them down to provide a visual. If there are subjects that are out of your comfort zone or realm of expertise, tell your child and discuss the possibility of getting other support from a tutor, other family member or friend.
4. Communicate and track your child’s progress. If you choose to go to the parent-teacher interview, ask your child for their input and follow up with them about the discussion. Share your child’s goals with their teacher as well. As the new semester progresses, set aside time to check in and have daily discussions with your child. Refrain from asking yes/no questions such as: Do you have homework? Instead ask questions like: What was the best part of your day? What was the hardest thing you had to do today? Can you show me something you learned today? What is something you’re going to review tonight?
Having positive and daily conversations with your child about school will motivate them to achieve their goals and/or come to you when they’re feeling discouraged or need support. It will also avoid any surprises during report card time.
As a teacher I can confirm that we do have ‘eyes on the back of our heads’ (we see everything our students are up to!) but unfortunately, we haven’t quite learned the talent of mind-reading. We don’t know everything going in our students’ lives, but these events directly contribute to their (lack of) performance inside the classroom. Mental health and wellness have become crucial components of many yearly action plans in schools across Canada. With the concerning number of students reporting stress, anxiety or other mental wellness issues, some school boards are taking action through the implementation of mindfulness programs.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention and being present in the moment. Mindfulness activities range from breathing exercises to listening to music. One school in Vancouver even offers tai chi to elementary students! In a nutshell, mindfulness is essentially giving students and teachers the opportunity to take a break and have some quiet time to reflect.
In 2013, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) introduced meditation lessons to Grade 9 students at Dr Norman Bethune CI. Known as The Mindfulness Project, this workshop was led by classroom teachers and carried out in six workshops over two months. The students at Bethune practiced breathing, body scans and other strategies to assist them cope with daily pressures. The students’ response to the program at Bethune was extremely positive. The project’s organizers received a TDSB Award of Excellence 2014 and the workshop has since been extended to all Grade 9s in the school district.
In January 2015, a mindfulness program co-developed by actress Goldie Hawn was tested as a control study with 99 Grade 4 and 5 students in Coquitlam, BC. Known as MindUp, the students were taught social, emotional and mindfulness skills with activities that included mindful tasting, listening to music and “brain breaks.” The results from the study were also extremely positive. The children exhibited less stress, more optimism and even showed improvements in their math abilities. The MindUp program now partners with schools in Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Vancouver, West Vancouver and York using 15 lessons to help teach students how to be mindfully engaged.
Another mindfulness project at a school in San Francisco has seen some exceptional changes in their students. Visitacion Valley Middle School implemented meditation in 2007, with twelve minute ‘quiet times’ to start and end each day. Since then, the school’s truancy and suspension rates have decreased by more than half while the state of California’s rates have continued to climb.
With my own students, I’ve found that by allowing my students some time to get themselves into a positive and calm headspace ready to learn, they’re more engaged and happier.
Here are a few mindfulness activities, some that we use with our students, that you can use at home to introduce mindfulness to your child:
Whichever mindfulness activities you choose to introduce your child, just remember these tips:
Most importantly, feel free to get creative and have fun exploring quiet time together!
Please note: Teachers to Go is now offering sessions in the comfort of your own home (in-person or online) with a teacher certified in mindfulness for children. They will design tailored lessons for your child to practice mindfulness and promote self-confidence. For more information please contact us.
People who display resilience, or ‘grit’, can overcome challenges and failures. They aren’t devastated by setbacks and are able to get back up and try again. Having grit means to have confidence. It is an incredibly important life skill for children to have when facing difficulties at school or throughout their lives. Gritty children are also more likely to perform better, and be happier, at school. So how do you build a gritty child? Here are some tips:
1. Read about grit. From Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go to The Little Engine that Could, there are so many options to teach your child about perseverance. Check out this website for more examples: https://www.noodle.com/articles/10-picture-books-that-teach-grit When you’re reading with them, ask your child to make connections to their life, the world, and other books they’ve read. This will enable them to see the possibility of making those fictional stories a reality.
2. Discuss examples of gritty famous people or others they know who have overcame setbacks. Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Jim Carrey are just a few examples. Talk about the barriers they encountered and what they did to overcome it. You might notice a common theme that positive mindset and self talk goes a long way!
3. Develop your child’s interests. Find things that fascinate and excite them and foster it. Talk to them about your passions and discuss your goals together. Passionate people also tend to be resilient.
4. Practice. The best way to learn is to not succeed the first time. Failure can be a good thing for children. The whole process from experiencing the setback, accepting it, reflecting on what went wrong and revising your plan to try again is all part of building grit. Let your child make their own choices, even if you know it’s not right, and then help them work through their mistake and motivate them to try again. Encourage your child to communicate when they’re feeling discouraged and strategies to break through the barriers. Permitting your child to experience failure is challenging as parents since our instinct is to protect them from disappointment in any form. But teaching your child how to manage these situations effectively is crucial to building resiliency.
5. Praise their effort over ability. If you praise their determination over the abilities they were born with, this will encourage them to put in the hard work and grit rather than the belief they can coast by on their innate abilities.
6. Lead by example. Teach your child about the importance and rewards that come with hard work. Share any examples you may have had in your own life from failing and persevering. Modeling this resiliency in your own life will build their confidence to feel like they can take on anything.
Schools have been making the shift from teacher- to self-directed learning with independent projects, online tutorials, etc. Self-motivated learning is an important skill for your child to learn to prepare for the real world. Here are some tips to help your child become an independent and engaged learner:
1. Create simple step-by-step objectives together. When they have homework or a project, it can be overwhelming, and your child may have no idea where or how to begin. Sit down with them and show how to break it into smaller more manageable tasks by using a to do list. Your child could choose to do it as a piecemeal approach (finish this page of Math or this part of the assignment) or with a timed objective (half-hour of work then 5-minute break). This alleviates any anxiety and creates an ‘end in sight’ to keep your child motivated.
2. Discuss the time of day that they feel the most alert and focused. For many teens, that may be later in the evening while elementary students may be right after school or on weekend mornings. Then create a weekly schedule during these optimal times for learning.
3. Have your child identify distractions they may encounter (social media, their phone, tv, video games, their sibling(s)?) and explain how they can avoid them to stay focused.
4. Learn how you learn. Talk to your child about what kind of tools help them learn best. Does a YouTube video explain the concepts? How about making a study sheet and using colourful sticky notes or pens? Flashcards? Turning the content into a game to study for tests? It’s important that your child understands the way(s) they learn in order to make the most of their time and best retain the information.
5. Set rewards. We all work harder when we have a goal or reward to work towards. Students can set their own personal reward after they complete a certain number of tasks on their To Do lists. This may be a treat to eat or gaming – whatever the learner finds rewarding. It’s important that they choose this reward on their own to ensure they stay motivated.
Teaching your child how to tackle tasks on their own gives them more chance for success now and in the future.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.