Help Your Child Get Organized

Colored binders to help organize paperFind out how to organize all those pieces of paper your kids bring home from school. No more lost assignments or announcements found after the event is over. It’s not hard and kids often enjoy it.

Dear Dr. Linda:
A couple years ago you wrote a column about how to help kids organize all that paper they bring home from school. You explained a system for helping kids organize this mess.

I didn’t pay much attention at the time because my kids were little. One of them wasn’t even in school yet.

But now that they’re older, what a disaster. I just found a paper about a school event I would have gone to but never saw the announcement. Could you please write about your paper organization again? Thank you. Trish

Dear Trish,
I certainly sympathize with you and am happy to explain my paper organizing system again. It’s not so bad during the first couple months of the school year, but by mid-year, all that paper can be overwhelming.

And what’s worse, lost assignments, notes from teachers, misplaced instructions for science projects and so forth can affect a child’s grades.

So start by buying a 3-hole punch for each of your children. It’s one of the most important items to buy for helping with school organization. While you’re in the school supply section of the store, let each child pick out two or three brightly colored fun 2 or 3 inch 3-ring binders to keep at home.

Use 3-ring binders to Help your Child Get Organized

These “home binders” will be used to organize all those papers that they don’t need to have with them in school. Also, pick up a set of dividers for each binder and a package of reinforcements. They’ll come in handy.

You’ll want one binder for fall term and another for spring if their school is on a two-term school year. If it’s a three-term year, then three binders for each child.

You’ve already seen that your kids bring home piles and piles of papers from school. These papers need to be organized. Some are necessary for the next test and some are notices about next week’s cupcake sale . . . or oops, last week’s sale

Every night or at least once a week, go through the papers with your kids, tossing the unnecessary sheets into the paper recycling bin and hole punching the others.

When the kids don’t have time each night to sort their papers, use a brightly-colored paper tray or basket, without a cover or lid, for each child to put papers in. Then on the weekend, the kids can put their papers into their binders. Some paper can already be thrown out or put in the recycle bin.

Begin by punching holes in the papers. Put dividers in a binder, sorting the papers by subjects such as spelling, science, reading, field trips, etc. Label the binders by dates, for example, Fall, 2014 and Spring, 2015.

Create an Individualized System for Each Child

Help the children create a system that works for them. Each child can have a different system. Of course the binders need to be different so the kids don’t mix up whose binder belongs to whom.

Make a table of contents for each binder including the date for a test, a field trip or the bake sale. When that test or event is over, cross it off the table of contents and throw away the paper. Be sure, however, to save papers that need to be referred to again for tests.

Keep the binders on a shelf to be referred to for tests, science projects, book reports, fund-raising activities and field trips.

The teachers will let your children know what they want in the binder they use for school.

It’s all those other papers that need to be filed away in the “home” binder that will help the kids stay organized and Mom feel less frazzled.

By the way, if any of your children has ADHD, this system is a big help.

Happy filing,
Dr. Linda Silbert

P.S. Looking for resources to help your children in school? Check out our Study Skills Handbooks that contain a gazillion additional strategies.

Handwriting Boosts Learning

A Mom wants to know why the schools are no longer teaching handwriting. Dr. Linda explains the reasons schools don’t promote writing even though recent research shows how important legible writing is.

Writing helps memory for kids

Boy improving writing by learning

Dear Dr. Linda,

I’m disappointed that our son’s school is no longer teaching what we used to call penmanship. Nathan, a 3rd grader, has poor eye-hand coordination and lousy writing. The little bit he writes instead of using the computer keyboard is simply unreadable.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but shouldn’t he be learning to write, not just print, and legibly enough that it can be read? When I was in school we practiced and practiced writing. Just because we have computers now, I still think writing is important.

Why have schools decided not to teach writing? What do you think? Should I try and convince his teacher to include writing on paper and not just on the computer? Confused Mom

Dear Confused Mom,

I agree with you that children need to learn both printing and cursive writing. And they need to learn how to use a keyboard on a computer or mobile device also. It’s not one or the other.

To start with your last question, “why are some schools no longer teaching writing,” we need to look at the Common Core State Standards which most states have adopted.

The Common Core mandates proficiency in math and reading with rigorous and frequent testing along the way. It doesn’t promote writing. However, it doesn’t say penmanship can’t be taught.

Teachers are under a lot of pressure to make sure their students get the highest scores possible on the standardized reading and math tests.

This pressure has resulted in dropping subjects and activities that aren’t being tested. Music, art, and sometimes even physical education were the first to go. Now it’s practicing writing.

Unfortunately, the school districts and school principals making these decisions aren’t aware of the recent research focusing on how handwriting boosts memory, cognitive skills, and learning in general.

Research Shows Handwriting Boosts Learning

As you might assume, printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard activate three distinct patterns in the brain

The New York Times recently reported that researchers have found that handwriting boosts learning by promoting cognitive development. In other words, reading, writing, and even working memory improve when kids not only write but write legibly.

This means that kids who write and write well may do better in school in any subject that requires reading and expressing ideas by writing. In the study, when kids composed text by hand, they consistently wrote more words faster than they could type and expressed more ideas.

Writing is multisensory which explains one of the reasons why it’s so important. We know that mutisensory learning is one of the most effective ways to learn. Scientists have discovered that writing encourages functional specialization.

This brain specialization integrates touch, movement control, imagination, and thinking.

How to Help Nathan Boost Learning by Handwriting

Of course, you can go to his teacher or principal to express your concern, show them some of the research, and ask them to include writing practice. But you may not get them to change. Remember that the pressure from Common Core testing lies behind many curriculum decisions.

If you can’t get Nathan’s school to change, you can promote writing at home. The trick is to make it fun. You could write short fun letters back and forth to each other. He could copy the grocery list and if you can read it, he gets a special treat at the store.

To help with hand-eye coordination and improve legibility, look for free cursive writing practice sheets online. Writing in different colors is helpful too, and it makes it more interesting for the student.

Try a variety of writing implements: pens, pencils, and markers. Is there one that he prefers? If so, have him practice with that one. Some kids who have poor handwriting will do better if allowed to use a medium-tip marker and large-lined paper, at least for practice.

Be sure to read my post, “Handwriting without Tears” for more about writing.

Dr. Linda Silbert

P.S. I recommend my complimentary “Dysgraphia Toolkit.” Nathan may not have dysgraphia but the activities in the toolkit are fun and effective. Download it today.

How to Prevent Teasing

MIddle School Boy Teasing

Kids often get teased for having a “funny” last name. Dr. Linda has suggestions for what to do when this happens to your child whose name is unusual.

Dear Dr. Linda,
Our family name is so unusual that it’s often the butt of jokes. We’ve gotten used to it and laugh about it. Our son Jason, however, is about to enter middle school where bullying, teasing, and taunting is common. He’s already anxious about his name.

Do you have any suggestions to help Jason deal with possible bullying or taunting because of his name? Uncommon Name

Dear Uncommon Name,
A child with an unusual name or a name that can easily be turned into a joke is often teased. This can certainly make children unhappy and angry.
Often such teasing isn’t considered serious by teachers or parents, certainly not in the way bullying is. Adults may tell the child just to forget it. Or they might repeat the old saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Unfortunately, that’s not true. Research has shown that words do indeed hurt children and adults.

Teasing with words can lower a child’s self esteem. Children may feel they don’t fit it in or that something is wrong with them. Some kids become embarrassed by their name and wish they had a different name.

I’ve known children who get so upset by teasing that they hit back. Then they get in trouble. You’re right that Jason needs some good strategies to fend off being teased about his name

Strategies to Stop Teasing

The best way to defuse the situation is to become proactive. I recommend you teach your son some tactics that pull the rug out from under the kids who are teasing him. He can even use some of them before the taunting starts.

For example, Alvin isn’t a common name and is often associated with Alvin and the Chipmunks. Although the song has been around since the 1950s, it’s still heard today at Christmas time so kids will probably know it. So if a boy’s name is Alvin, he could make fun of himself by explaining that his parents are chipmunks so they named him Alvin.

Or he could even use the high pitch silly voice heard on the recording. Now there’s nothing left for kids to taunt him about. He’s taken the lead.

A child with the last name of Byrd can try flapping arms like a bird. A child with the name Quisenberry might announce that he wasn’t really born. Instead he’s the fruit from a Quisen tree. Sparrowhawk might say, “I’ve tried to learn how to fly, but I’ve never been able to get off the ground.”

Brainstorm with your son until he has ideas that he’s comfortable with. Just because all of you can come up with something funny that would squelch the kids who want to tease him, doesn’t mean he’ll be ok using it.

Role Play at Home First

Be sure to role play these scenes with your son before he gets to school. By practicing ahead of time, your son will likely be more comfortable with what he’s going to say or do.

Names aren’t the only challenge. Kids who have unusual physical features are often the victim of teasing too. The same strategies that work for names will work for how a child looks.

For example, Jimmy Durante, a popular Vaudeville and early television entertainer had a large nose. If he’d ignored it, Durante surely would have been taunted. Instead, he drew attention to his nose, called it a schnozzola. Durante even nicknamed himself “Schnozzola.”

Often kids (and adults too) who defuse taunting by first drawing attention to themselves become known as a good sport and much less likely to become the victim of further abuse. When your son learns some of these strategies to stop the teasing, his self esteem will go up. He’ll no longer worry about his name or be embarrassed by it. He is in control.

Teasing isn’t bullying

Keep in mind teasing and bullying are not the same. Bullying cannot be stopped by your child becoming proactive. It is mean and dangerous. If you think your child is being bullied, you need to take it seriously and go directly to the teacher and the school administration.

Wishing you a happy and successful school year,
Dr. Linda Silbert

P.S. To help middle school and high school students get better grades and improve test scores, check out the our Study Skill Handbooks

Self-esteem: Who Gets the Most Attention?

two-children-homeworkDear Dr. Linda,
My sister has two wonderful kids. Cole is 12 and Samantha is 9. From the day Cole was born, it was “Cole did this” and “Cole did that.” Even after Samantha was born, it was all about Cole.

Once they started school, it got worse. Cole does very well, but Samantha is an average student. He receives one award after another, is in advanced classes, on the honor roll, etc. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great kid, and I love him, but I feel for Samantha.

As my sister talks and talks about Cole, Sammy just sits and listens. I mentioned this once to my sister, and she replied. “I pay just as much attention to Samantha. She’s good at art and I always put her art work up. I can’t help it if Cole is so smart.” Isn’t this going to affect Sammy’s self-esteem? Aunt Lisa
Dear Lisa,
What you’re describing happens in many homes. Parents, usually without [Read more…]