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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Keep that Elf on the Shelf

December 24, 2014

By Sarah Vander Schaaff A few years ago, I interviewed the British Philosopher Alain de Botton for my Lunch Box Mom blog and asked him if it was ethical for me to use Santa and his “nice list” as a way to motivate my children to behave.  My kids, as many of yours, are no longer firm believers in Santa, but a variation of the question pops up in other aspects of parenting. Maybe it’s the Dean’s List, and not Santa’s list, and maybe the rewards are privileges instead of presents, but the fundamental idea of using an outside arbiter and the promise of something good in exchange for particular behavior is the same. Here is a reposting of the… Read More

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Study This: Meditation

December 20, 2014

By Sarah Vander Schaaff In her book, Sitting Still Like a Frog, therapist Eline Snel discusses a school program called Mindfulness Matters that she conducted with three hundred children and twelve teachers. The group had a thirty-minute mindfulness session once per week, and each day after held ten-minute practice sessions. This continued for the entire year. Snel writes, “Both students and teachers responded with enthusiasm and noticed positive changes, such as a calmer atmosphere in the classroom, better concentration, and more openness. The kids became kinder to themselves and others, more confident, and less judgmental.” When I bring up the topics of yoga and mediation to some of my friends, I am often met with the response, “That won’t make… Read More

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Abstract Reasoning: The Key to Complex Problem Solving

December 9, 2014

It is called many names, but abstract reasoning is the skill beyond all critical thinking and problem solving. While abstract reasoning is probably most important in math and science class, it’s also key to understanding complicated reading passages in English and History. You might hear it referred to as complex reasoning, visual reasoning, or critical thinking. What is Abstract Reasoning? It is your ability to make sense of non-language-based information, including numbers, shapes, patterns and formulas. In other words, it is your ability to understand what you are looking at or reading without a detailed description. Why is Abstract Reasoning Important? Realistically, elementary students aren’t expected to use abstraction skills very much. Usually teachers give clear directions and concepts are concrete. However, as students enter middle school, they will need to draw inferences… Read More

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Visual Motor Speed: When time matters

December 9, 2014

Visual motor speed can affect a student’s ability to take good notes, accurately complete hands-on project work, and test-taking speed, particularly those bubble sheets! While visual motor speed is not crucial to academic success, it can create problems if it goes unaddressed or unsupported. What is Visual Motor Speed? Visual motor speed refers to the ability to efficiently integrate eyes and hands to complete a task. Why is Visual Motor Speed important? Weaker visual motor skills can be frustrating. The student might know the material, but can’t write quickly enough to get his thoughts on paper. Or the teacher says she can’t read his handwriting and takes points off. Visual motor skills can affect efficient note taking, so students don’t have the notes they need when it’s… Read More

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Verbal Reasoning: The Key to Academic Success

December 9, 2014

Verbal reasoning is the skill most highly correlated with academic achievement in grades K-12. Nothing else comes close. If you want to help your students succeed in school, keep reading about verbal reasoning. What is Verbal Reasoning? Verbal reasoning is the ability to understand what you read or hear. It includes drawing conclusions from limited information and developing an understanding of how new ideas connect to what you already know. We use verbal reasoning in and out of school. Why is Verbal Reasoning so important? Most of in-school learning involves listening to the teacher or reading, skills that rely heavily on verbal reasoning. Following directions in kindergarten, learning to read, and reading to learn beyond third grade all depend on verbal reasoning.  As you might guess, verbal reasoning can be just… Read More

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Spatial Skills: STEM Success Depends on Them

December 9, 2014

Spatial skills are strongly linked to creativity and achievement in fields like math, science and the arts. While students might not use spatial skills in school as often as other reasoning skills, it is critical in many professions. What is Spatial Perception? Spatial perception is the ability to visualize how objects relate in space. You may hear it referred to as spatial reasoning or visual-spatial perception. Why are Spatial Skills important? Spatial perception is very task-specific. You don’t always rely on them, but when you need them, they are essential. Drawing, design, reading graphs and maps, and working with geometric figures all rely heavily on spatial skills. Weak spatial skills might affect reading efficiency and standardized test taking efficiency. Is my student struggling with Spatial Perception? Because students typically do… Read More

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Flexible Thinking: When It’s Hard to Adapt

December 9, 2014

What is Flexible Thinking? Flexible thinking is the ability to shift thinking or attention in response to a switch in rules, or to new or unexpected situations. Flexible thinking is also referred to as mental flexibility or cognitive flexibility. Why is Flexible Thinking important? Imagine driving without your GPS and you reach a “road closed” sign; you have no idea where you are or where to go next. You might get angry and consider taking the closed road regardless. You might panic about what to do next and call someone for help. Or you might simply sit there flummoxed. That’s the feeling of a child with a flexible thinking weakness when asked to find another way to solve a problem or move to… Read More

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Working Memory: The Driver of Time Management, Organization and Problem Solving

December 5, 2014

Working memory is the skill that drives how easily and efficiently you can work through multi-step problems. When we describe someone as a “quick thinker” they probably have strong working memory. Not surprisingly, it is key to academic success. What is Working Memory? Working memory is how easily you can juggle multiple bits of information in your head and use that information to do something. Remembering a multi-digit phone number and then dialing it is an example.  So is solving a multi-step math problem, particularly if it requires mental math. Reading comprehension relies heavily on working memory–you need to remember what you just read to draw those connections. Why is Working Memory So Important? Beyond second grade, most of what we ask… Read More

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