Counselor’s Corner: Puberty Resources for Tweens and Teens

Puberty can be an awkward time not only for adolescents but also for the adults who care about them. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to step in and help adolescents take care of their changing bodies. The good news is you do not have to do it alone. Many books and resources can aid you in supporting your child or students through this time. Here are some books and resources I recommend for both girls and boys.

Girls

The Care and Keeping of You 2American Girl, creators of the popular American Girl dolls, publishes many popular books for tween and teen girls, including The Care and Keeping of You series. These books have information on anything you can think of, from bad breath to periods. The Care and Keeping of You 1 by Valerie Schaefer is for younger girls, while The Care and Keeping of You 2 by Cara Natterson is for older girls. The American Girl website has games related to each book here and here. Check out this interview with the doctor who wrote the second book about how parents can help their daughters through puberty.

My Body Myself for GirlsMy Body, My Self for Girls by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras is chock-full of information about everything girls need to know about their changing bodies. Quizzes, journal pages, and activities throughout the book make it interactive. Search for the book on the Amazon or Google Books websites to see sample pages and a table of contents.

HelloFLo logoHelloFlo was created by CEO Naama Bloom to help girls and women everywhere get access to personal care information and products. HelloFlo sells period starter kits featuring products from Always, a maxi pad company, which are essentially first-period care packages. The site also has videos, a blog, a store for girls and women, and a place to ask questions of a doctor. One of the Q&A posts is titled “When’s the best time to talk to my child about puberty?

Boys

My Body Myself for boysMy Body, My Self for Boys by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras is loaded with information about everything boys need to know about their changing bodies. As with the partner book for girls, the book engages readers with interactive quizzes, journal pages, and activities. Search for this title on the Amazon or Google Books websites to see sample pages and a table of contents.

The Boys Body BookThe Boy’s Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up You by Kelli Dunham, R.N., goes beyond just puberty and covers topics such as friendship, divorce, cyber safety, and more. View sample pages and a table of contents on Amazon.

Puberty & Hygiene
Check out these resources that are not gender-specific.

PBS kids Go Its My LifeThe PBS Kids—It’s My Life website/video series covers a number of topics related to preteens and teens. The Puberty: A Whole Lotta Changin’ Goin’ On section has information for both boys and girls as well as some general information about zits, body odor, brain development, and more.

Kids Health About PubertyKidsHealth: All About Puberty is another great Web resource for general information about puberty, along with an option to hear whole articles read aloud. More in-depth information for boys and girls is hyperlinked in a single “More on This Topic” sidebar, so subjects like shaving and menstruation are listed together, giving readers a chance to learn more about the opposite sex.

No.B.O.!-RGB-webNo B.O.! The Head-to-Toe Book of Hygiene for Preteens by Marguerite Crump (eBook) is recommended for upper elementary and middle school students, parents, and educators. It is a comprehensive guide for the many body changes that tweens and teens experience. This book is very kid-friendly and has fun facts and illustrations related to the topics.

In addition to these resources, I recommend reaching out to school or health professionals if you are seeking additional information. You can also contact your child’s school to learn in which grades they will discuss puberty and changing body-related health material. By knowing ahead of time when puberty and other topics are discussed, you can prepare yourself for conversations with your child.

What puberty resources do you recommend to parents or educators?


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10 Boredom-Bashing Ideas

The joy of school letting out has given way to a summer routine. In June that was fine, but by July we are hearing “I’m bored” from kids everywhere. No wonder July is Anti-Boredom Month. Kids may even tire of their gaming devices, or you may just want to distract them. Adults are not immune to ennui either. It is a great time to shake things up and help shed the boredom blues.

Countdown of 10 Boredom-Bashing Ideas

10. Have a tent? Pitch it in the yard, the basement, or even the garage. Small children can fill it with stuffed animals and get their picture taken hiding among them. Older kids can let their imaginations run free.small tent Is it the Dome of Silence, where you can only communicate with hand signals? Does a fortune-teller live there, ready to share visions with you? After dark, can a flashlight turn it into a silhouette screen for hand puppets? Or pretend you are in the deep woods and share scary stories!

9. Visit the library. Don’t be deterred if your kids roll their eyes—there are often great activities at the library. Check your local library’s schedule. If nothing is on tap for today, go anyway, but have a plan. How many books about polar bears can you find in the picture book section? What magazines do you find for the budding auto mechanic in the group? Who can find a book with a character who has their name? Check out a DVD to watch later in the week.

peterson field guide to birds8. Check out a field guide. Be it Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds of North America, a book about the night sky, or a weather guide, you can find something for any neighborhood. Check it out and let the kids spend the week making a poster of all the things they find, photograph, or collect using that book.

7. Have a parade. Small kids can break out their drums, maracas, and whistles and parade on the sidewalk. They can also decorate bikes and wagons and dress up silly. A parade of pets might bring out the dog walker or cat groomer in your child.

6. Make-believe mealtime. Declare that next Friday’s dinner will be a Wizard’s Gathering. Ask for food suggestions. Decorate the table with magical props like herbs, stars, and little bottles of colored water for potions.magic_wizard_hat Set the mood with lighting. Have everyone dress as a wizard, be it a simple cape or hat or an old Halloween costume. Not into wizards at your home? Invite a zooful of animals (let kids paint their faces like zebras and tigers). Or pick a favorite family book or movie, let everyone choose a character, and have the family eat in character.

5. Board game night. Board games are a tried-and-true way to gather friends and family. Break out your own set of games, borrow others from friends, or even design your own game together. Twister can get kids moving while Monopoly brings out the wheeler and dealer in any kid. Spice up an old game like Chutes and Ladders—if you climb a ladder you have to sing a song, if you slide down a chute you must whistle loudly.

4. Gather your change and visit a thrift store. Look for props for your make-believe meal night. Find an old trophy for geocaching. Get clothing articles for parades. Make a shopping list and set a clear spending limit before you head out to keep the “I wants” in check.

Family Dancing3. Create a family workout dance routine. Silly moves like elephant walks and kangaroo hops can keep everyone moving—and laughing. Pick a tune and set all your own moves to it, then play it whenever the blues need shaking or Mom needs to let off steam or someone is mad at his brother. It’s hard to stay mad when you’re imitating a gorilla as you dance. For truly great laughs in future years, record it on video!

2. Make frozen treats for hot days. Have the kids help—yogurt with fruit, juices, and many other things can be frozen in ice cube trays with toothpicks stuck in the middle when they are slushy. Pop them out later when you want to cool down. Or chunk up bananas and halve some grapes, spread them on a baking sheet, and freeze them up. Once frozen, they will keep in zipper bags for a long time and are delightful eaten straight or dipped in peanut butter.

1. Try geocaching! Your local parks may have geocaching events, but you can do this one yourself. In your own backyard, or as a joint effort with neighbors, hide a selection of objects and make a list of directions for finding them. Tuck things under plants, in the mailbox, or anywhere safely accessible to your kids.Geocache_ item found by Miaow Miaow wikimedia commons Then put in clues that lead to the next item. Kids leave the items in place and check off the list as they go (if they have smartphones, they could snap photos of the items to prove they found them). For younger kids, a simple scavenger hunt at home would be a great substitute. Make a list of objects for them to find and check off—some in clear sight but others a bit more challenging. Give a prize to the first kid to find everything on the list, perhaps a trophy you got at the thrift store.

What fun things have helped break the boredom at your home?


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Guest Post: Snappy Answers to Stupid Excuses (for Parents of Gifted Kids)

By Jim Delisle, coauthor of The Gifted Teen Survival Guide

Delisle_Jim_FSP AuthorWhen it comes to understanding and serving gifted kids, school administrators run the gamut from awful to awesome—and I’ve worked with both types. The awful ones may talk a good game about how every child’s needs are met through individualized instruction, but the follow-through is lacking (or nonexistent), and the commitment to gifted kids as an important subset of learners is given little more than lip service. The awesome school administrators can actually point to specific programs and classes where gifted kids are grouped with each other regularly and tout the fact that only teachers who have professional knowledge of and experience with gifted kids instruct these intellectually able learners.

When you find that your gifted child’s school is being led by an awesome school administrator, your job as a parent is easy: Mention how particular programs or projects benefit your child and encourage other parents of gifted kids to do the same. If problems arise—and even with the best school principals, they can—your positive approach will be the most effective tool at your disposal to address the issue. The principal will perceive you as an ally, not an enemy.

But what happens when the principal veers more toward awful than awesome? As a parent, you’ll need to be prepared with some polite (but direct) responses to particular myths that might be set forth as truths. PrincipalsOfficeIn my 37 years working with gifted kids, I’ve heard just about every excuse not to serve them in schools. Below, you’ll find the “Top 5 Offending Statements” I’ve heard from school administrators who choose to ignore gifted kids’ needs. Following each Offending Statement, I’ve included what you can say and do to advocate for the gifted kids in your care. So, when they say that, you say this.

Top 5 Offending Statements (And Snappy Rejoinders for Advocates)

#1: When they say, “You know, every child is gifted in some way . . .”

You say: “Really? That’s a surprise to me. Would you say the same thing about any other category of special needs learners? For example, is every child dyslexic? Learning disabled? In fact, gifted kids have learning needs as unique to them as do any other identified subgroup of children in your school.” At this point, bring in some actual examples of your gifted child’s work that shows advanced learning skills, and ask the principal, “Now, Tony did this when he was 7 years old. Is this typical for most of your second graders?”

#2: When they say, “We don’t need a separate gifted program, because all of our teachers differentiate.”

You say: “How I would love to see that differentiation in action! Can you give me some specific examples of how differentiation is done in language arts? Because my child has been reading chapter books since age 4 but isn’t allowed to read them in his first grade class. Also, I know that differentiation is wonderful in theory, but teachers tell me that, in practice, it is very difficult to manage, especially in a heterogeneous class where children’s academic abilities run the gamut from below level to superior.” At this point, bring in the academic artillery: the many studies done on differentiation (scour the Internet—you’ll find them) that show it to be inconsequential for advanced learners if used as the primary way to serve gifted kids. Then, end the conversation with this: “You know, differentiation may be one way to serve gifted kids, but so is a specialized program or class that meets regularly. Are you saying it has to be either or, not both?”

#3: When they say, “It’s not fair to the less capable children to remove gifted children from their classrooms. Who will be their role models?”

You say (try to be polite . . . ): “You don’t have the moral right to hold one child back to make another child feel better.” This powerful truth, as spoken by my friend and colleague, Stephanie Tolan, may cause your principal to raise her eyebrows. So be it—it’s the truth. Follow this up with a question: “Can you point me to any research that shows how gifted children gain academically from being in a heterogeneous classroom? All the evidence I’ve found is to the contrary.” (Of course, you’ll need to have the evidence available, but a quick Internet search will give you plenty of examples.)

#4: When they say, “It’s not possible to be both gifted and have a disability. It’s either one or the other.”

Einstein Keller Chirchill 2EYou say: “Have you ever heard of Helen Keller? Albert Einstein? Cher? Tom Cruise? Whoopi Goldberg? Winston Churchill? Each of these individuals, along with countless others, were or are what we call ‘Twice exceptional’ (2E)—gifted with an accompanying disability. In fact, the only disabling condition that cannot appear with giftedness is a cognitive disability. There is much literature on who these ‘2E’ people are and how to spot them, even as children. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some children in your school on IEPs or 504 Plans are also gifted. Have you ever looked for them?”

#5: When they say, “Your child can’t possibly be gifted—have you looked at her grades?”

You say: “I understand my daughter’s grades are low, and we can discuss the many reasons that may be so. However, even though high academic achievement is often seen in gifted children, it is not a ‘prerequisite’ for being identified as gifted. Some people call these kids ‘underachievers,’ while I prefer the term ‘selective consumer,’ because with the right teacher and curriculum, these intelligent kids with lackluster grades can really shine.”

Some of the rejoinders above might seem a bit in-your-face, and I would certainly not suggest using them with a school administrator who is making a good effort to serve gifted kids. However, for those administrators who find one excuse after another for denying services to gifted students—perhaps even denying their very existence—an in-your-face response, backed by evidence, may get you more attention than you think.

There are other steps to take as you advocate for your gifted child (hint: the most effective way is to form a parent support group with other moms and dads of gifted kids), but dispelling myths is a starting point with a school administrator who chooses to believe that gifted kids have no unique needs at all.

Agree? Disagree? Are you a principal with another perspective? Please comment!

GiftedTeenSurvivalGuide © FSPJim Delisle, Ph.D., has worked with and for gifted kids for 37 years as a teacher, counselor, professor, and dad. He currently teaches gifted high school students part-time at Scholars Academy in Conway, South Carolina. The author of 19 books, including The Gifted Teen Survival Guide (with Judy Galbraith), Jim’s latest book is Dumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds (And What We Can Do to Fight Back).


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Guest Post: Summer Plans for New Teachers

by Otis Kriegel, author of Everything a New Elementary School Teacher REALLY Needs to Know

OtisKriegel_FSP AuthorWhen I think back to the summer before my first year of teaching, I remember a lot of things I did—and later wished I hadn’t done. New teachers need as much energy as possible for their first three months in the classroom. I forgot to rest up, and I paid for it. By the end of October I was beat.

Here are a few tips I wish I had gotten as I prepared for my first fall as a teacher.

Recharge
I don’t mean you should sleep all summer, but take care of yourself. Do things that will revitalize your system, whatever that means for you. I wouldn’t advise spending the summer riding your bike across the country, ending at your classroom with three days to set up. That might be cutting it close. But do plan activities and experiences that will rejuvenate you and give you something fun to share when you arrive at your new workplace. One colleague who loves to cook tries out new recipes over the summer when she has the time and energy. The meals that turn out well she sticks in her freezer to eat during the school year when she’s too tired to cook. Pulling out one of those premade meals always puts a smile on her face. Do things for no one else but you, and you’ll arrive at school feeling excited, energized, and both happy and ready to get to work.

ParkBenchReader by Infrogmation wikimedia commonsRead
Become an expert on books at your students’grade level by reading both classic and contemporary titles while you sit on the beach or picnic in the park. Also, check out some of the titles below and above your grade, because you’ll most likely have some readers who are far ahead or behind. If you do this, you’ll be able to recommend an appropriate book to anyone in your class.

Write
Start a victory log. Write down the positive experiences you’ve had as a student teacher or in other practicums. Include notes about successes you’ve had in other walks of life. Add goals you want to achieve during the school year. When you feel lost in the weeds during the school year, look back on this journal for inspiration. It will help keep you on track and feeling positive in what can be a very challenging year.

There are many more things you could do to prepare for your first year in the classroom, but in this case, less is more. You want to be filled with energy and enthusiasm rather than exhausted from all the work you did over the summer.

Have a great summer, and may it be the first of many!

Teachers: How are you preparing for the school year?

EverythingaNewElemTeacherNeeds2KnowOtis Kriegel is a 12-year veteran elementary school teacher, having taught in dual language (Spanish/English), monolingual, and Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classrooms. He received his M.S.Ed. in bilingual education from the Bank Street College of Education and is adjunct faculty at the Steinhardt School at New York University. Kriegel now lives and works in New York City. An experienced presenter, he has conducted workshops with hundreds of preservice and new teachers and continues to present in universities and teacher education programs. You can contact him through www.otiskriegel.com and follow him on Twitter @mynameisotis.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


Suggested Resources
The Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf: 100 Must-Reads For Kids 9-14 from NPR Books


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Ed Tech: The Evolving Learner-Centered Classroom

Part 2 of 2. Click here for part 1.

Crystal ball photo by Tttrung, Chmouel GNU free license creative commonsThere is no time machine or magic crystal ball to show us the future, but hundreds of educators, tech developers, and tech trainers are working to make that future happen. An informal survey of tech trainers shows many exciting innovations on the way. One primary thought came through in the trainers’ responses: new tools are coming to make learner-centered education take off.

Learner-based education is not new. It has been an effective teaching strategy for some time, though adapting the classroom and resources to help students take charge of their own learning can be challenging. Changing a school district to competency-based direct assessment has a cost in both dollars and time.

Tech support for highly interactive learning spaces, off-site support for learners, and administrative support for curriculum and assessment has been expanding in the last few years. As iPods and iPads—with their countless apps—swarmed into classrooms, students pushed the apps’ limits and teachers jumped into learning how to best use these tools. Shifting from using apps as occasional support to fully tech-supported curriculum and resources means shifting the use of these and other tech tools.

This shift has begun, and in a few short years it may well revolutionize how students become learners, and how teachers guide and mentor them along the way. Today we see vendors like Google Apps for Education and ED@ developing curriculum software to change how collaboration happens. Along with other developers, they are building new systems to support the learners, educators, and administrators of the future.

How This Might Change the Classroom

Valles Caldera NM photo by Thomas Shahan upload by Jacobo Werther Creative Commons

Valles Caldera, NM

It’s 2024, and you are with your students on a field trip through the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the high desert of New Mexico. You are using GPS-guided technology to view highlights of the area. Hiking though the forest and meadow in this ancient volcanic crater, you experience the varied wildlife and study how plants have evolved to use available water in each season. A bird runs across the path, and you notice on your monitor that several of the students are accessing bird identification data, while others are commenting to each other about how fast that bird ran. One student has sent a question to the park naturalist.

The field trip described above is actually a classroom experience, using several technologies available now or under development. Students in the class are watching on a giant monitor, increasing the detail and reality of the “field trip.” In this setting from 2024, you are able to access not only your own district’s cloud servers for resources and curriculum, but other sites as well. Using today’s new clip-on cameras, the National Park Service and many groups are starting to record trail hikes and field experiences. Bringing these to classrooms will likely be done using their own cloud servers.

Google_Glass_with_frame Along with several fellow learners off-site, your students are also using smartphones, tablets, wrist devices, or perhaps a variation on the recently marketed Google Glasses to share questions. You are monitoring your groups’ use of their personal devices—seeing them raise questions and start discussions in real time. After the experience, some students may decide to look at the history of this old volcano, others to look for more on birds. Your off-site students are just as involved in the discussion as the ones sharing the room with you. While not quite a true virtual hiking trip, it offers an experience well beyond the capabilities of a tablet alone. You can revisit it and find new focus areas for future learning experiences.

Presently, in a School Improvement Network demonstration of teaching two-digit subtraction to second-graders using a learner-centered approach, the teacher has the students develop sample equations and define the evidence that shows mastery of the problem. This small group working together in a classroom is engaged in the task and has a great discussion of ways to improve their subtraction skills. But they are using the same technology that their grandparents used—writing it out.

sonystrapsonwristNow imagine teaching this lesson in a learner-centered environment of the future. The math learning station has gone virtual. Students may well be spread out across a classroom or off-site. Using the same personal devices as in the New Mexico class experience, as well as their district’s cloud service, the teacher can help them explore the same math lesson and find ways to practice and improve their math skills. They can repeat the lesson or move on to the next, at home as well as in the classroom. A monitoring service allows teachers to review all students’ work and contributions to the group discussion, then direct them for future lessons. New data packets will continually assess each student’s progress and record it for administrative use.

How Technology Can Make This Happen
At first glance you might be saying, “But all that technology is already here!” Much of it is, but the software—and the cloud-based computing and storage required—need continued refinement. Hardware advances will bring even more changes, and breakthroughs in interactive software are happening regularly. Today’s designers and developers are partnering with educators to envision an expanded integration of technology with learning. In most cases, districts will probably find it cost effective to purchase customizable cloud resources from vendors, both for class and administrative uses.

Interactive computer tableAs anyone born before 1990 knows, the advent of personal computing and its increasing portability has changed the way students want to get information, how they communicate, and sometimes even how they learn. Today’s students have always had personal computing in their lives, and they expect connectivity. How we bring learning experiences to them will change, and helping to manage the change is an important role for educators and tech developers working together. Check the Suggested Resources below for more details on learner-centered classrooms, the technology to support it, and access to professional development resources for educators and administrators.

Then imagine the children of 2050, raised by the students who are barely entering schools today. Their expectations, and the amazing technology the generations in between will bring forth, may seem astounding. As Arthur C. Clarke first wrote in 1962, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The real magic comes in helping students grow and get excited about learning.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Suggested Resources
The Apsen Institute’s Task Force on Learning and the Internet’s 2014 findings: Learner at the Center of a Networked World full report or selected highlights
Integrating Technology with Student Centered Learning from Nellie Mae Foundation (2011)
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
CoSN Leading Education Innovation

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