By Dr. Kelly Moran | Categories Choices | Educators | Engagement - Community | Engagement - Family | Journaling | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Reading | January 7, 2022

Rejoice! We have made it to a new year.  Many of us educators were itching for 2020 to come to a rapid close only to find ourselves wishing 2021 away just as quickly.  Despite the recent challenges we have encountered, many of us still had the pleasure of ending the year with some sort of a holiday tradition in which gifts were exchanged.  No matter how you feel about the past year(s), I hope that you were able to find joy in both the time spent with loved ones this past holiday season and in the exercise of exchanging gifts. Of all the presents I give and receive each year, my most favorite and treasured ones are always books.

 

The gift of a book provides more than just an enjoyable reading experience, it adds value and companionship to the recipient’s life.  This year instead of falling into the same familiar routine of setting a short-lived resolution around the common goals of finance and fitness, I thought I would instead resolve to pay forward the gift of reading a great book.  Here is a list of twelve ways in 2022 that you can join me in the pursuit of sharing with the world the joy of receiving and reading a book.

 

  1. Email the Author.  I am often deeply intrigued by an author after reading his/her work.  I wonder what he/she is like as a person, what other books he/she has written, who their significant other is, and if they have children.  Many times I conduct an internet search and follow him/her on social media.  Despite all of this junior level web investigating, I rarely take the time to thank the actual author him/herself for the work he/she created and how it influenced me.  This year I plan to send an email to the authors whose books I read to thank them for their work, effort, and time spent in crafting something of value for the world.
  2. Dinner Table Talk.  Family dinners are wonderful times to reconnect and engage in thoughtful conversation.  Too often though, they unintentionally become complaint sessions highlighting the day’s hardships.  Consider reframing dinner time chats by sharing with your family the latest book read.  Tell your tribe what you learned from the book or how you are applying it to your life.  This is also a great way, if you are a parent of young children, to get your offspring to open up about the books they are reading as well as model for them how dialogue about text can strengthen comprehension.
  3. Journal Entry.  Talking about a book is a wonderful way to gift its message to others, but writing about it allows for an even deeper level of intimate gratitude for the work.  If you are anything like me, journaling is a habit I’m not consistent with, but one that I strive to practice more consistently.  Set a goal to write a journal entry after each book you finish this year. This intention will help you stay accountable for opening up your journal more often and engaging in reflective practice of content consumed through reading.  If you are stuck on what to write, consider the following questions:  What did I learn? How was I feeling while reading?  How can I lift one or two ideas from the book to become a better version of myself this year?
  4. Amazon Review.  Ever notice that reviews seem to be laced with negativity and despair?  Change the tone and gift your positive thoughts of a recently read book out on the Web.  You’ll feel good about the uplifting content you’ve put out in the world plus the author will undoubtedly benefit from your time spent in alerting others to his/her work.
  5. Staff Meeting Share.  For many of us, monthly staff meetings tend to be filled with boring updates, frustrating questions, and unwelcomed mandates.  Why not liven up your next staff meeting with a sharing out of a recent book you’ve read this year? Showing your team that you do more in life than just tell them what to do all the time, will not only help you appear more personable, it will also build your intellectual credibility.
  6. Schedule Send.  Draft an email to yourself and schedule it to be sent to your inbox one month from today.  In the email ask yourself how you’ve been applying a recently read book to your life and what themes or new ideas learned from that text have yet to be applied.
  7. Showcase to Students.  Whether you are a classroom teacher, a curriculum coach, an adjunct professor, or a building principal showcasing a recently read book with students in your organization will spread the gift of having a role model who values reading.  The act of conducting a book share to students can be done in-person or virtually.  Giving students a glimpse of what adults are reading, how they talk about text, and how books can impact a life is a priceless gift.
  8. Book Breathe.  Life is busy and even hectic and stressful at times.  Most mobile devices and smart watches today have a breathing or meditation app. Tap the app and mentally revisit the book you are currently reading or one you have recently finished.  The act of closing your eyes, slowing your breath, and focusing on only one thing will give your body a chance to settle its heart rate, increase your happiness level, and set you up for a smoother transition to your next appointment.  During your book breath moment you can focus on a single character, a new concept learned, visualize yourself in the setting, or simply exhale thanks to the author for crafting something that brings you happiness.
  9. Conference Proposal.  What better way to give out the gift you’ve received from a recently read book than by presenting on the topic at a conference to colleagues in your field?  Consider submitting a conference proposal that highlights a recent accomplishment aligned with the themes or principles from a book you’ve recently read. Share with the world your story of finding inspiration in a book to help channel the energy to achieve something great in your personal or professional life. Look at the theme of an upcoming conference you want to attend and ask yourself how the books you’ve read so far this year align to that topic.
  10. Tweet.  Snap a picture of the book cover and hop on Twitter.  Tweet your image with your recommendation or comment.  Don’t forget to tag the author and include a hashtag if applicable.  Not only will the author feel the gift of your social media gratitude, but your followers will receive the gift of a great recommendation of what to read next.
  11. Buy an Extra Copy.  What better way to give back to others the gift you’ve received from a new book than by buying a second copy for a friend, family member, or colleague.  In this instance both the author and the recipient benefit from your generosity. Keep the joy of gifting alive all year long.
  12. Unexpected Treasure.  Letting go of something you love isn’t easy, but it is an ultimate sacrifice that has the potential to yield immeasurable happiness.  Write a message on the inside cover of the book you just finished and leave it someplace in your town or community for someone to stumble upon unexpectedly.  Perhaps you decide to leave it in a waiting room, on a park bench, or in a hotel room.  No doubt the universe will select its next intended recipient with care.   Who knows…maybe he or she will keep the gift giving going and pass that same book along to someone else after they’ve finished reading.

By Stacey Montgomery | Categories All | Challenges | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Family | Journaling | Listening | Results | Social Emotional Learning | Writing | June 11, 2021

Journaling is a common way to encourage young learners to express themselves while also supporting the academic skills of reading and writing. As a reflective tool, journaling is popular among therapists as the therapeutic benefits of journaling are well-established. It’s not surprising that journaling can also be an effective way to help children enhance self-awareness, one of the 5 core competencies of social emotional learning as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to assess one’s own strengths and limitations.  It includes identifying and understanding the different aspects of oneself, such as emotions, traits, behaviors, and achievements.   Self-awareness is important for children because it sets the stage for greater academic and social success. Children who have a better understanding of themselves tend to make better choices to help them be successful in and out of school.

To attain increased self-awareness, it is necessary to focus attention on oneself.  While we are born with a rudimentary sense of self-awareness that continues to develop as we mature, it is a competency that children can improve even more through purposeful reflection and introspection. Journaling, specifically guided journaling, is an effective strategy for this.

What is guided journaling?

Guided journaling involves providing meaningful writing prompts to which the child responds. The prompts give the child a specific starting point that guides them to a particular place and help the child explore their feelings. In some instances the prompts necessitate a full page response, while other prompts may require just a few words.

The goal is to provide young learners a unique opportunity to reflect about themselves and their experiences in order to achieve gains in self-awareness. While the same information can be shared verbally, the physical act of writing deepens the reflection and enhances the learning. The addition of prompts helps guide the student to look inward to examine and understand the many aspects of themselves.

When should guided journaling be used?

The starting point for social emotional growth is an understanding of self. That requires looking inward. Students are not often asked to proactively look inward in a meaningful, consistent way. They are more likely to be asked to examine their emotions and identify their personal qualities and achievements in response to a problem. Integrating guided journaling into the curriculum as a weekly practice can help support the social emotional development that every child needs.

A good place to start are prompts that ask students to recognize personal qualities.  I typically ask students to journal about their hobbies or subjects they enjoy at school. I sometimes ask them to describe an achievement and how they feel about it.

After spending time reflecting and responding to these types of prompts, students are likely to discover that they have many positive qualities, including qualities they may not have given much thought to in the past. Examples of comments from students after this type of journaling experience include, “I’ve done a lot!” and “I’m not boring!”

To a child, this process is empowering.

Other journaling prompt ideas that support self-awareness include:

 

As a result of the simple yet powerful practice of guided journaling, students will realize gains in confidence which is a sign of increased self-awareness.  When guided journaling for self-awareness is practiced regularly, the social emotional learning gains are more likely to be lasting.

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By Casey Wente | Categories All | Challenges | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Family | Games | Journaling | K-5 Literacy | Reading | Results | Summer Reading | Writing | February 19, 2021

During meetings, are you a notetaker? I often find myself scribbling down notes throughout a meeting only to never refer to them again, simply because I remember what is on them. The act of writing down the information helps my brain convert it to long term memory. The same thing happens when children write. Even more importantly, it helps teach their brains HOW to remember. This is called the “Retrieval Effect” and it’s why practice tests work to help you study for the big test in school.

When you write about a topic, it strengthens your memory and helps you make connections and have deeper thoughts about the subject. As you write, and you think about what you want to write, you begin to weigh the importance of different aspects of the topic. Professor Steven Graham of the Arizona State University Teaching College found—after compiling over 56 studies—that writing “reliably enhanced learning” in science, social studies, and math.

When you ask a student to write about a topic, it helps them demonstrate their comprehension on that topic and reveals gaps in their knowledge. Low stakes writing exercises are a great way to allow free flow thinking and encourage those connections to come to the surface. A low stake writing exercise has no right or wrong answer and is not about spelling or grammar. You are just trying out new ideas. When you remove the pressure of being “right”, you encourage students to find their voice and see the value in their ideas. Ask questions like, “What do you notice?” or, “What’s one thing you know and one question you have?” to help develop an inner dialogue.

MyStories is a writing prompt book developed by Kids Read Now as a fun and engaging set of low stakes writing exercises. Each page has a colorful picture and an area for writing. There’s no right or wrong way for students to use these books. It’s the perfect activity to get students’ creative juices flowing. Visit kidsreadnow.org for more tips on engaging with your children through reading and writing!

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By Rachel Benedict | Categories All | Challenges | Critical Thinking | Early Education | Engagement - Family | Journaling | Listening | Parents | Reading | Social Emotional Learning | Writing | February 12, 2021

Emotions. We all have them. We’ve felt the good, the bad, and the ugly. Happiness, sadness, anger, disappointment, guilt, love. Even though kids are small they can feel some huge emotions, and they should be normalized and discussed.

Building a Support System

Your child should feel safe to discuss emotions and feelings with family, friends, teachers, and other trusted adults like coaches and mentors. This forms your child’s support system. Sharing positive feelings can reinforce good behavior and help your child celebrate accomplishments. Sharing negative feelings can help take some of the burden from your child to allow him or her to be able to process and form a deeper understanding of him or herself.

Emotions are NORMAL

Having emotions is completely normal! It’s important to understand why we’re feeling what we’re feeling so we know how to move forward positively. Have you ever been angry? Did you ask yourself why you’re angry? Did you acknowledge your emotion as valid and real? How did you move forward and release that anger in a healthy way? You can ask and answer these same questions with joy and sadness, too. Girls and boys have big emotions, so don’t let society tell them their feelings are invalid. Girls can be tough warriors and boys can cry, so forget any societal norms that limit or stunt your child’s emotional growth.

Celebration and disappointment

Celebration and disappointment can be two of the hardest emotions to process. Celebration, you say? Yes! So often we don’t take time to celebrate achievements and small victories and go right on to setting the next goal. Take time to celebrate your child’s accomplishments and acknowledge his or her hard work! Celebrations, whether a huge family party or a mini dance party in the car to a great song, reinforce goal setting, hard work, and discipline. On the other hand, if you have a sensitive child, feelings of disappointment can feel all-consuming and overwhelming. It’s important to let your child know that as unpleasant as disappointment is, it’s a normal emotion to feel and it will pass. Disappointment doesn’t have to ruin everything.

Don’t repress emotions

What happens when you shake a pop bottle? The carbonation fizzes and if shaken hard enough, it could explode. There is a time to hold it together and a time to let it go— a time to be strong and a time to be vulnerable. Many adults have trouble knowing the difference, so our children absolutely deserve our support when dealing with big emotions. As adults we know that it’s not always appropriate to have our big feelings in public places, so reinforce your child’s emotions and set expectations for how to deal with those big feelings.

Positive ways to express and release emotions

  1. Reading – read books with your child and discuss how the characters handle emotion, diversity, and conflict
  2. Art – have your child draw, paint, collage, or sketch how he or she is feeling
  3. Writing – have your child start a journal and write down how he or she felt throughout the day
  4. Music – have your child pick a song that describes how he or she feels and turn the volume up
  5. Talk – create a safe space at home where your child can tell you exactly how he or she is feeling, ask questions, and help him or her feel in control by coming up with a plan
  6. Take a break – sometimes it’s best just to take a break and let your child’s mind calm down so you can have a thoughtful discussion when the time is right

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