The Ups and Downs of New Tech

At Clarion, teachers make every effort to use technology wisely and only when it enhances classroom learning.

Parents and teachers struggle constantly with how best to utilize and manage screentime with children. It is the result of a love/hate relationship that many adults, too, have with technology, and as the people who are tasked with helping our children develop good habits, we see the possibilities for learning but are wary of the drawbacks. Teachers are concerned that if children are learning from devices, they may be missing out on hands-on learning opportunities. Parents, who often use screentime at times when children are expected to entertain themselves, find their children watching visually engaging but purposeless videos or playing fast-paced games. What are the costs of technology for children, and what can we do better?

The mindless technology does the same thing to children that it does to us as adults. It sucks them in and does not let go until they are pulled off the device or something more exciting interferes. They are quite literally wasting time. This is fine ocassionally, if you need their attention to be focused on something distracting and engaging. It is perfect if a child is in the hospital or if you have an important phonecall and cannot be interrupted, but most often it is stealing time from much more productive and creative activities, the kinds of experiences that shaped our childhoods. Instead of assuming your child will watch a device on a plane, at a restaurant or during downtime indoors, try providing a pouch with drawing supplies, puzzles or magnetic games. With screentime becoming the go-to activity, children are missing opportunities to engage in the creative process. Giving children tools to work and a blank slate enables them to generate ideas from within rather than rely on external stimuli.

Children learn new skills through a variety of entry points, and technology can enhance their learning, if used properly. As with many things, quality is more important than quantity. When children engage with quality online teaching tools or apps that foster creative learning, they can unlock skills and learn new concepts. This takes guidance, however, and planning. If children are hoping to have screentime, make it a learning opportunity. Talk about what they can use their screentime to do. A research project? Make and edit videos? Practice a new language? There are limitless possibilities, but often the problem is that parents and children do not work together to focus screentime on productive activities.

At Clarion, teachers make every effort to use technology wisely and only when it enhances classroom learning. It is a resource for social studies projects in that it allows the teachers to go beyond the walls of the classroom and experience other parts of the world. In math, teachers can use technology to introduce children to new concepts, and then provide opportunities to practice these skills with interactive games. In these examples, teachers create a foundation of understanding using hands-on learning tools such as class discussions, math manipulatives and read-alouds with an eye for how technology can deepen understanding. Our innovative teachers thoughtfully and purposefully integrate technology into classroom learning.

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Importance of Reading

Importance of Reading

Why is reading at home an important aspect in child learning?

Recent research on the value of homework consistently shows that young children do not benefit from homework. In some cases, it can be detrimental because it takes away from play time and can create frustration. These may leave parents wondering what they can do to support learning at home. The best thing to do, and the only thing that is proven to have a positive impact on learning in the long term, is a regular reading routine.

Reading in the evening from a very young age serves many purposes, all of which are important in a child’s development. It strengthens the bond between parents and children, inspires curiosity, and builds early literacy skills. Children also learn social skills through the characters in their stories, and the content helps them build an understanding of the world around them.

Children receive these benefits with as little as twenty minutes dedicated to reading each night. The key is starting when they are young, and building a routine. Most parents or caregivers read to their children before bedtime as a way to unwind from the day. Once children are reading on their own, they can do a combination of independent reading and reading with their caregivers. They continue to enjoy having stories read to them, and it can enhance their skills to hear an adult read with expression and fluency. As children get older, bedtime is a natural time for them to set aside for reading, but many enjoy reading after school to relax.

Reading is a great way to build conversation with your children and form a home/school connection. Talk to your children about what they are reading in school, and take them to local libraries and book stores regularly to get a sense for the kind of books they like. Also, modeling reading skills in your own life will help them understand the importance of reading for everyone. Lifelong readers become lifelong learners!

 

 

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Whole-Child Learning

Whole-Child Learning

Lets take a look at whole-child learning for the 21st Century.

For previous generations, the focus of school was academics. Adults spoke of success in terms of academic success, and these measurements shaped opportunities and in some cases outcomes for children. As the world becomes increasingly global and careers are redefined by a new set of skills, an educational philosophy that emphasizes the different types of intelligences rather than pure academics is most able to set students up for success in today’s world.

Academic skills are an essential part of a quality education, but are no more important than collaboration, creativity and perseverance. A classroom environment that fosters these skills is one that will prepare students for the future. In life, we work with others, exercise creative problem-solving skills and demonstrate an ability to work through challenges without giving up. These abilities are important regardless of the field in which you work. Many careers now are based on relationship building, negotiating challenging situations and showing ingenuity and entrepreneurship. These are pieces of a whole-child approach, one that values emotional intelligence and creativity as well as academic skills.

While the benefits of a progressive classroom will serve students for a lifetime, particularly in our modern world, the goal of school is not only to prepare for the future but also to engage in the moment. A classroom that invites children to ask and answer real questions, follow their interests and work together in the process is one that brings out a joy in learning for students of all ages. They see themselves as active builders of knowledge rather than passive recipients, and they develop a practice of inquiry and discovery. School is not a chore, but a purpose, and each student contributes to the learning environment. The roles of students and teachers shift in a progressive classroom because there is a more open exchange and independent ideas and interests are valued. Teachers shape learning while modeling that everyone is on a journey in learning, career and life.

As parents and educators, we do not know exactly what the world will look like when our students leave formal school and are working and living independently. We do know that it will be a world that changes quickly due to technology and an open exchange of ideas, a world that is driven by innovation and leadership. Innovation requires creativity and risk-taking, and leadership relies on interpersonal skills and learning from mistakes. The qualities that shape capable students will also cultivate self-sufficient people in a 21stcentury world.

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Teaching Math at Clarion

Teaching Math at Clarion

At Clarion, our teachers ensure that the different subjects are taught in a way that elicits interest of the student.

What is the Clarion approach to math?

Our students are learning math from the inside out, building foundations and concepts rather than memorizing facts. Teachers at Clarion spend the early years helping children develop a number sense and a love of math. They guide the students through the process of asking questions and exploring the possibilities rather than quickly identifying the correct answer. Without quizzes to demonstrate speed and accuracy in computation, parents may be concerned that students are falling behind. In fact, building this deep understanding provides children with the skills they need to be mathematical problem-solvers.

How do teachers know if a child understands the material?

Teachers engage in discussions with the entire class during math lessons. The lessons are structured to scaffold student learning and allow for exploration of materials and concepts. The emphasis is not on getting the correct answer, but on the process and reasoning students use to show their mathematical thinking. Teachers assess students by looking at their strategies and application of skills. For example, when exploring multiplication, students learn first about things that come in groups and practice different ways to represent this concept. They tackle problems of multiplication using words and drawings long before they start memorizing facts. This way, teachers can see if they understand what multiplication means, and students develop the confidence that allows them to tackle sophisticated problems based on what they already know.

What does this mean for our students as they move forward in math?

By developing confident math students with a solid conceptual understanding, Clarion is setting students up for success in math and other areas of logical reasoning. If a child sees a problem and does not know the answer or even the fastest way to approach it, but has tools to use to break it down and make sense of it, she will rise to the challenge. When children believe they can grow and learn, that being good at math is not a fixed skill, they take the time to explore and make meaning. With each experience in this problem-solving process, children become more confident in their ability and nimble in how they access and apply their skills to new situations. When they see a challenging problem they become curious, and instead of saying, “I can’t,” they say, “I’ll try.”

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How can working parents ease the back-to-school stress?

How can working parents ease the back-to-school stress?

1. Plan Ahead

Approach the back-to-school season one week at a time, and have a weekly calendar that everyone in the family can see. This will help ease anxiety and allow you to get into a rhythm. It also helps give family members a sense of what is coming up in that week. Within your weekly plan, develop some systems that help you to prepare.Grocery shopping once a week and cutting up fruit and vegetables in advance can help tremendously with the morning and evening rush of packing lunches and making dinner.

Creating responsibility checklists with your children will also lighten the nagging and help them to become more independent, freeing up more time for you to work and to parent!

2. Use Technology

One of the most common frustrations of working parents is that they feel out of touch with their child’s school because they cannot attend certain meetings or volunteer as much as parents who have more flexibility.

Technology is helping to close this gap, with advances like live-streamed Parent-Teacher Association meetings and Sign-Up Genius and programs like SeeSaw providing instant access to things that used to require you to be physically at school.

Tune in when work allows and read all the e-mails from your child’s teacher and the school. These things will keep you in the loop, and when October rolls around and things calm down a bit, you will find it second-nature to stay on top of communication.

3. Compartmentalize

One of the biggest challenges for working parents who can be plugged in all the time is remembering to turn work off during family time. In the early weeks of school, it is particularly important that we unplug and be fully present with our children at the dinner table and bedtime.

E-mails and phone calls can become constant distractions if we let them. Creating rules and following those rules is the best way to separate work from home and manage your priorities.

4. Give Yourself a Break

Even with the best attempts at planning ahead to effectively balance home, school and work, the beginning of the school year is full of surprises that can throw parents off track.

Travel schedules for working parents, along with quickly increasing school and after-school schedules for children, can mean that things slip through the cracks or get done at the last minute sometimes.Take a deep breath and give yourself a break when something goes wrong; every new day brings opportunities to improve, and our children learn a lot from how we handle mistakes and setbacks.

Whether you work part-time, full-time, from home or outside the home, being a parent and managing a career requires a careful balance. September often feels out of balance and is a time of transition for everyone.

Stay calm, focus on what is important each day, and you will make it through September and hopefully have some quality family time in the process!

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Setting “Back to School” Goals

Setting “Back to School” Goals

Reduce the level of September anxiety and take a look at these simple goals that will help settling back in school.

School has finally started! Parents and children are getting ready for a new school year. September can be a time of anxiety for both parents and children. By spending a bit of time with our children thinking about goals and opportunities, we can ease settling in and get everyone excited for the year of growth and learning that lies ahead. Here are four types of goals you can set with your children, and make similar goals for yourself!

  • Learning goal:What is one area of study or one skill you want to improve this year? How can you accomplish this, and how can your parents and teachers help?
  • Habit goal:What is one habit that will make you a better student, and how can you work on this? What can your parents and teachers do to support this goal?
  • Friendship goal:What is one way that you can be a better friend? Can you be more helpful, better at listening, or open to other people’s ideas?
  • Home goal:What are some responsibilities that you can take on at home to help the days run more smoothly? Can you help make meals, pick up after yourself or play games with younger siblings?

In addition to setting these goals, parents are encouraged to have conversations about the opportunities that each goal presents. Being more kind and open with friends will mean that your child makes new friends easily. Taking on more responsibility at home will mean the family enjoys more quality time together. Working hard as a student, even in areas that are challenging, will bring progress, confidence and moments of joy in learning.

Most importantly, having these conversations early in the year opens the door for an open dialogue throughout the school year about what is going well and how your family can work together to face challenges. To help with accountability and to check in on your goals, set aside time for a regular family meeting.

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