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Educational News

Top Educational Toys for the Holidays

Nov-26, 2019

Top Educational Toys, Games, and Activities for the Holidays

Photo Credit: Designed by Freepik

Educational toys, games and activities are great gift ideas to keep your Brainiacs learning and having fun. Here are a few recommendations for the upcoming holiday season:

Early Development

It all starts with “building blocks’ and setting the foundation for learning. “The Letter and Number Blocks Set by Hey! Play!” are designed with a combination of numbers 0-9, the wonderful letters of the alphabet, punctuation signs, math signs and of course, cute pictures to keep any young learner engaged.

Early Development

Young Readers

Help your child explore words daily with this collection of site word books, activity workbooks and a tote bag. Sight Word Reader Library by Scholastic is the perfect gift for students learning how to read and write.

Young Readers

Science Kits

We love SLIME! And we love helping children make slime. Now you can bring the science of making slime home for your children to love too with “It's Alive! Slime Lab” by Smart Lab.

Science Kits

Geography Globe

Illuminate the great wonders of the world with “Discovery 2-in-1 Globe Light with Day and Night Illumination” by Discovery. Children will enjoy the changing LED lights representing different geographic data like major cities, boundaries, rivers and waterways.

Geography Globe

Astronomy & Telescope

Expand your child’s universe with the “G-860BG Refractor Telescope with SmartPhone Photo Adapter” by Galileo. Combining the reach of a telescope and functionality of a smartphone, your child will discover that knowledge is expansive and intergalactic.

Astronomy & Telescope

Botany & Nature

Help your child grow in love with nature and plants with “Botany - Experimental Greenhouse Kit” by Thames & Kosmos. This is a great learning kit for the kids that love to get their hands dirty to learn.

Botany & Nature


Helping Students Who Work Slowly

Feb-14, 2019

Children are drawing

In every classroom there are students who have a wide range of abilities. Some students will have learned material before; others will be encountering it for the first time. This can be a challenge for teachers who need to use a standard curriculum to instruct students with different abilities. With a few simple strategies, teachers can make room for students who learn more slowly, while still challenging students who have an easier time.

One way to make students who learn more slowly feel comfortable is to allow students to work in groups that fit their learning style. This is easily accomplished by putting students in small groups to complete projects. The key to this activity is to give students a flexible number of tasks to complete. For instance, each group can have a worksheet that has ten activities. By telling students at the outset that they are not expected to complete all the activities, and that they should just do as many as they can, you create a low-stakes opportunity for students to work at their own pace. By putting students into groups with similar abilities, teachers can create a comfortable working environment for all students.

Another way to make students of different abilities feel more comfortable is to send more time-consuming work home to be completed as homework. Students don’t have to report how much time they spent on homework each night. So students who work more slowly don’t have to compare themselves to students who complete their homework more quickly. All that matters is that every student has the time they need to complete the work. Not only does this create a less judgmental environment for students who take more time, but it also frees up time for more instruction in class. By reserving class time for activities that everyone can complete quickly, teachers can ensure that they’re able to cover as much material as possible in the classroom.

A more creative way to deal with the issue of students who work at different speeds is to give students assignments that they can structure themselves. One example of this is to give students ten questions to answer, and tell them that they’re required to turn in at least five correct answers. Students who work quickly can complete more questions for extra credit. Students who work more slowly can select which questions they want to tackle with the time they have. This puts all the students in control of their own goals and the pace at which they work. A second benefit of this strategy is that students who generally work quickly can elect to take it easy and work more slowly if it helps them. In this way, we aren’t just helping the students who need more time. We are giving all students more control of their learning processes.

There will always be a diversity of abilities in a classroom. But by using some simple strategies to make assignments more flexible, we can create a more comfortable learning experience for everyone.


Think-Pair-Share – Does it Work?

Feb-13, 2019

School Students Education Teaching

Photo Credit: KasparLunt from Pixabay

To determine if this is an efficient and effective learning process, we first must understand just what it is and how it does or doesn’t work.

What is TPS?

TPS is a collaborative learning strategy where students work together to solve a problem or answer a question. This requires students to:

  • Firstly, students are asked to think through the problem or topic individually. This may include answering a specific question or coming up with an example or prompt.
  • Secondly, students will pair up or join a small group of their peers to discuss their thoughts and work through the problem more in depth.
  • Lastly, each group or pair of students will present or share their findings with the class and/or a larger group.

What is So Special About it?

Idea innovation imagination

Photo Credit: KasparLunt from Pixabay

Recent studies have found that students are able to learn more when they are allowed to discuss ideas and elaborate on them through communication with others. Think, Pair, Share enables those opportunities to talk in an environment that encourages learning and requires participation from all class members and not just those who are typically more outspoken.

This type of learning also helps to build confidence in students that may feel a little uncomfortable talking or presenting to large groups or classes. When they are able to be supported by a partner or several of them, they are much more at ease and willing to share their real thoughts and opinions.

With the use of TPS, students learn to collaborate with others and to value each other’s opinions on a wide variety of topics. They can begin to think of their peers as resources with a wealth of knowledge. Students, as a result, come to respect each other more and can understand ideas and concepts that may be far from the norm given their background or upbringing.

How to Use it?

The process is easy to use in just about any classroom setting and for all ages. PreK through Kindergarten students, for example, can’t be expected to write their thoughts or answers as well as older students. However, they can draw out their ideas and still discuss them with other students and the class.

Some of the most common ways this valuable tool is used is to gauge students’ reactions and thoughts about a certain lesson or material, such a film you just watched or a text that was recently read. You can also use this as an introduction to new materials or assignments. Doing this before a new lesson allows students to tap into any prior knowledge of the topic or to gather ideas and get a game plan together for a new project or assignment.

You can also use this to strengthen your classes listening skills. During the “share” portion, each student can be asked to present their partner’s ideas instead of their own.


Building an Inclusive Classroom

Feb-04, 2019

Building an Inclusive Classroom

As America becomes increasingly diverse, one of the first places that students encounter that diversity is in their classrooms. This is an incredible opportunity for teachers to introduce students to the principles of inclusivity and mutual respect that will make them active and productive citizens later on.

One of the first ways to practice inclusivity is to be open about the differences that students bring into the classroom. For instance, just because all of the students have families that live in Cleveland now, doesn’t mean that everyone’s family is originally from Cleveland. One exercise that teachers can do to begin to recognize and celebrate differences is to have students ask their parents where their families are from. Then the students can report back. There will be some students whose families have been in the same place for generations. Others will report that their families are from Mexico or Nigeria or India. During the exercise, you can have each student place a pin in a map to show where they are from. The map can then represent all the cool places that students come from and the various cultures that they bring with them into the classroom.

Another way to build an inclusive classroom is by using content that represents lots of different people. Children are used to reading stories that include magic and animals and challenge their imaginations. But it is also important that they encounter stories about the real people they’ll meet in the world. Books are powerful tools for helping people learn to empathize with others. Children can read books about people from different backgrounds, who speak different languages, have different challenges, and who have different strengths. Encountering these characters in the classroom and talking about them with their peers can help students to understand that the world is full of different people who are interesting and smart and have valuable things to offer.

Finally, it is important that students feel that their own experiences are equally valued by their teachers and mentors. This means that when students have an experience that is different from their peers, they are not left out of conversations in the classroom or made to feel odd because of their differences. Teachers have a vital role in accomplishing this. One thing teachers can do is to agree with students who are in the minority. So if students are talking and one of them has a different opinion or experience than the others, a thoughtful teacher can point out how that student’s answer is accurate or valuable. Another way that teachers can support students is by giving an example of someone students know who has a similar experience. Students will know lots of actors, musicians, athletes and authors whose experiences may differ from their own. By pointing out that the people students admire also have these diverse experiences, we can teach them to value difference from a young age.

Ultimately, we all have a range of encounters with people whose languages, religions, and families are different than ours. Teachers are in a unique position to teach children early on that these differences make us stronger and should be valued.


Active Students Learn Better

Jan-25, 2019

Active Students

One of the frustrations of anyone who has ever tried to hold the attention of young children is that they are easily distracted and may have a hard time focusing on important tasks. For schoolteachers, this is an especially irksome challenge. How do you teach children to write the alphabet when you can’t hold their attention for more than five minutes? But research suggests that what seems like a weakness may actually be one of children’s greatest strengths. We know that children have flexible minds and can learn remarkable amounts of material in a short amount of time. But by staying active, young people can actually increase their focus and be better students.

One of the biggest frustrations teachers of young children encounter is the tendency of small children to be overly active in the classroom. Even getting students to stay in their seats can be a challenge. But thoughtful teachers can use this to their advantage. By incorporating this energy into their lessons, educators can help students to stay more engaged with material. Imagine a lesson where students have to respond to a math problem by clapping to indicate the answer. If the answer is four, students will clap four times. Another possibility is to have students get up, get moving, and use props as part of their lessons. You might teach a lesson where students have to walk to one end of the room and retrieve the correct prop to indicate the answer to a question. These kinds of simple activities make the most of the energy that children bring into the classroom.

There is good reason to think that students’ energy is an important part of the learning process. Studies have shown that children who are more physically active do better on standardized tests and generally perform better in school. These effects are especially pronounced in young boys. Just like for adults, who may notice that they feel better after doing yoga or going for a run, exercise has remarkable benefits for young children.

This doesn’t mean that children have to do a full hour of exercise at school. Just getting up and walking around the room can be helpful. As both parents and teachers of young children can attest, young people have lots of excess energy that they need to expend during the day. Incorporating this energy into classroom lessons can be a powerful teaching tool that helps to settle the minds of restless students, and increases their focus on challenging tasks.

Of course, it will take some practice to find the right mix of activity and instruction. We don’t want to introduce physical activities that ultimate distract our students. But by thoughtfully incorporating movement into daily classroom instruction, we can create classrooms that make the most of young children’s unique energy and invite them to be fully engaged in their education.


Bringing Oral History to Life

Jan-29, 2019

Lynne Featherstone Interrviewed about youth issues by Hornsey School Girl students

Photo Credit: Lynn Featherstone from Flickr

Oral history is the use of narratives, personal experiences, and storytelling from historical and everyday people to share about certain topics and time periods. These experiences are most often videotaped or audio recorded, but they can also be written down as a result of an interview or conversation. Many museums use this type of instruction to educate their visitors about all sorts of events and topics. It offers people from all walks of life the opportunity to learn from someone else’s point of view just by listening. But how can it be brought to life in the classroom?

Instead of reading about WWII in a book and doing a worksheet about it, oral histories allow students to personally connect with those who experienced it firsthand. They hear the emotion in the voices they listen to, see expressions on their faces, and are, therefore, far more moved. These stories and experiences let them feel as though they are part of the story somehow and, in turn, may put life into a different perspective.

More than just allowing students to hear about these experiences, many teachers have found that getting them to conduct their own oral history research forms a far greater connection to the subject. In the classroom, teachers can give each student a specific topic for which they must conduct research for. This research is gathered in the form of interviews and conversations with members of their family and community, as well as their peers, about experience or point of view based on that topic.

The key is to make the topic something that is interesting to the student, something that is important to them or that they know someone who has an opinion about it. This allows them to become even more interested and learn to care about other’s experiences.

Indian Youth

Photo Credit: David Brewer from Flickr

However, don’t limit this type of instruction to just history class. Oral history can be used in just about any type of classroom and for any age group. For example, in math class, a teacher could ask students to interview members of their family or community about how they use math on a daily basis. This can help those students relate to the subject a bit more, realizing its importance and its use in their lives now and in the future.

Younger children can also learn to participate in such projects, though on a much lesser scale of course. While second and third graders may not be up to the challenge of writing a paper about their oral history research, they can certainly be sent home with the homework to ask their family members or even close neighbors about certain experiences or topics. Even just one question or two could suffice. You would be surprised at how a child’s opinion or connection to learning could be influenced just by participating in oral histories.