5 Simple Tips to Make Distance Learning Work for Your Digital Classroom

Each one of us is dealing with a great deal of personal stress and anxiety amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. On top of this, we as educators are faced with the double-edged sword of ensuring that our students continue to make progress towards their educational goals while simultaneously maintaining a sense of normalcy and calm during these uncertain times. Schools across the United States are relying on teachers to make the switch to distance learning to fill the gap left by school cancellations. However, many teachers have little to no experience or training in using e-learning technologies and may find themselves feeling lost, frustrated, or overwhelmed by the challenge. With the right approach, however, distance learning can be a great opportunity for educators to diversify and revitalize their teaching methods. Students can stay on track—and even excel—at distance learning with the right guidance from their teachers. Read on for some key tips and strategies that can help you make COVID-19 learning productive and fun.

1. Less is more

When creating assignments for students to complete at home, a good rule of thumb is to cut back slightly on what you would normally assign, as it may take up to twice as long for students to complete each task. Remember that your students will be completing the work at their own pace, and many of them may be struggling more than usual to get a handle on the material due to the abrupt transition to an unfamiliar learning medium. Overwhelming them with a heavy workload, even if it is similar to the amount you would cover on a regular day in the classroom, will leave learners feeling discouraged and stressed as they try to adjust to the new normal. On the bright side, one of the positive aspects of distance learning is that it gives students with different learning styles the flexibility they need to excel! You may be pleasantly surprised to see improvement in some of your students during distance learning.

2. Be clear and concise when communicating lesson instructions

Instead of writing paragraph-style explanations for each activity, keep it simple with a few short bullet points that explain each activity step-by-step, using simple language. Be sure to provide objective metrics (e.g. “Please record your response in a 3-minute audio file”), which will ensure that students understand precisely what they are being asked to do. Not only will this lead to better learning outcomes, but you will be less inundated with messages from confused students and parents asking you to explain the assignment. If you plan on showing a movie make sure you have clear expectations of what the students should submit. A site like Movie Sheets has thousands of teacher generated worksheets that go along with movies. If you are looking for a movie but are at a blank of what to show, take a look at the movie guides they offer. For example if you are teaching about environmental science they offer over 148 movie worksheets on that topic.

3. Have a plan to manage distractions if you opt for live video chat

While not all distance learning curricula involve the use of video chat, many educators may use this tool to present new course content to the class, moderate a class discussion, or host one-on-one meetings with individual students. Besides the technical difficulties that can come with using video conferencing technology, however, one of the most common stumbling blocks is the common phenomenon an off-screen distraction derailing the conversation. You can mitigate this with three easy strategies. First, before you initiate a video chat, make sure that all of your participants confirm that they are ready and have found a quiet place to talk. Second, instruct students to mute their microphones when they are not speaking. And third, if a distraction does arise—for example, if a younger sibling or pet wanders into the frame—redirect the class’s attention in a gentle, but firm way. If you have already implemented classroom management tools to refocus attention with your students, be sure to use them just as consistently in the distance learning environment as you would in the classroom!

4. Reach out to parents early and often

As educators, we know that parents have the potential to be either our most helpful allies or our greatest enemies. The same is true for distance learning, except that parents’ roles are even more heightened than usual. The routines that parents implement during social distancing or quarantine at home, and their level of support for distance learning, directly influence how successful you can be with your students. To ensure that you and your students’ parents are on the same page, contact them as soon as possible and explain your plans for the coming weeks (or months) of distance learning. Continue to check in with them regularly to let them know when their children need to be online (if you have set specific times for video chat or other time-sensitive activities) and when assignments are due. Ask for their support! If you show parents that you are serious about their children’s learning despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, you will gain respect that will last long after regular classes resume at school.

5. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box

View coronavirus learning as an opportunity to expand your students’ horizons—and your own! Even though all of us will be in various stages of cabin fever in the coming weeks, you can use the home setting to your advantage. Try creating digital games for students to review at Review Game Zone. The site allows you to turn multiple choice questions into addicting games for students to play. These games are a nice way to break up the distance learning. Another idea think of warm-up activities that relate to the students’ environment. For example, a foreign language teacher might ask students to take turns describing the room in which they are sitting or what they can see through the nearest window. An English language and literature teacher might seek to harness students’ intense emotional responses to current events in a creative writing or journaling assignment. A biology teacher might ask students to identify a house or garden plant and classify it according to its taxonomic rank. Your students will greatly enjoy the opportunity to learn in a way that feels more personable and spontaneous than a typical day spent in a physical classroom. If you view distance learning during COVID-19 as an opportunity, you and your students can find ways to grow and develop while staying on track. With determination and a positive attitude, we educators will emerge reinvigorated and with fresh perspectives on teaching.

Co Teaching Models | Overview of Key Concepts

What is Co-Teaching

Co-teaching is an instructional method in which two or more educators collaborate to plan, teach, and engage students in the same physical classroom using one of several co teaching models available. Also known as “push-in teaching,” co-teaching is frequently used in inclusion classrooms where both general population learners and special education students learn together.  In these contexts, a general education teacher may co-teach alongside an English Language Learner (ELL) specialist or a special education teacher. This one of the co teaching models allows for extra support for students with additional learning needs, and teachers can differentiate learning material based on the differing levels in the classroom.

Benefits of Co-Teaching

Co-teaching holds benefits for both students and teachers as can be viewed in the list below of co teaching models.

First, co-teaching can help ensure that special education students remain in general education classrooms, have access to the same curriculum as their peers, and are not isolated according to learning needs. This reduces stigma, promotes a more cohesive school community, and provides more opportunities for social interactions with peers.

For example, a history classroom may have a co-teaching team if it includes both students who are English Language Learners as well as the general population. A co-teaching team made up of a history teacher and an ELL specialist would ensure that non-native English speakers can interact with peers, practice their English, and learn from the same curriculum as their classmates.  General education students, likewise, benefit from the diverse perspective of ELL classmates.

The general education learners also benefit in other ways. History lessons will draw on the strengths and ideas of both teachers, and are therefore more interactive and can apply to a variety of students’ learning styles. The co-teaching model also reduces the student to teacher ratio, allowing all students to receive more individualized instruction and build relationships with teachers.

Teachers can also reap the benefits of a co-teaching team. Teachers are able to learn from one another’s teaching methods, monitor and respond to student behavior, and provide and receive professional feedback.

Co Teaching Models:

Co-teaching teams can choose a variety of formats to best support students in their classroom using one of the co teaching models below.

One Teaches, One Observes

In this method, one teacher provides the bulk of instruction while the other observes the students at work. This method is used when the two teachers are hoping to gain insights into student’s behavior, work, or understanding, and allows one teacher to make observations and collect data throughout the lesson.

Station Teaching:

In station teaching, the two teachers break the class up into two or three different groups, all circled around different “stations” that present material in different formats. Teachers run two of the stations, while students lead other stations themselves. This method allows co-teachers to engage students through targeted teaching styles, promotes collaborative group work, and reduces the student to teacher ratio.

Parallel Teaching:

In this model, the teachers break the students up into two different groups in the classroom. Both teachers deliver the same content, but utilize different teaching styles that are tailored to the unique needs of students. For instance, one teachers’ lesson might include more visual components and easier texts for students with reading challenges, while the other included more difficult texts on the same subject.

Alternative Teaching:

In an alternative teaching setting, the two teachers work to identify students who are most at-risk of falling behind in the classroom. One teacher leads a small group session with at-risk students, while the other continues to provide the curriculum at an accelerated pace to the rest of the class.


The “two bodies, one brain approach,” teaming involves both teachers delivering the same content together. One teacher might facilitate a discussion with the students, while the other writes notes on the board or draws out key themes as their co-teachers speaks.  

One Teaching, One Assisting

In this format, one teacher is the primary instructor, while another teacher floats throughout the room to assist students. For example, one teacher may give the bulk of the lesson, while another rotates among the students, monitors their work, re-directs students who have lost attention, and answers questions students might have. This allows the first teacher to focus on providing high quality instruction, while the second focuses on promoting positive behavior and helping students with challenges.

Challenges of Co-teaching

And while co-teaching can benefit both students and teachers, it is not without its challenges.

Some co-teachers can feel as though there is a lack of parity between the “lead teacher” and the “support teacher.” If students believe that one teacher is the primary instructor, while the other is merely an assistant, students may choose to only listen to or respect the lead teacher.

Co-teachers might also disagree on different modes of instruction, behavior management, and teaching methodologies. Constant communication is necessary to ensure that teachers have a shared understanding of the lesson plan.

Co-teaching also raises challenges in evaluating students. Co-teachers must decide if both teachers grade all the students’ work, if they split grading, and what to do if they disagree on a student’s evaluation.

Tips for Successful Co-Teaching

Many of these challenges can be mitigated through strong communication, planning, and reflection.

Strong communication begins with the teachers knowing one another personally, and taking time to establish rapport and respect between each other. Co-teachers should take time to discuss what makes them feel respected, what is most likely to make them angry, and how disagreements should be solved if they arise during class. Co-teachers must constantly negotiate between differences in teaching styles, and appreciate and learn from each other’s ideas.

Strong co-teachers also plan together before the class begins. By establishing clear roles and responsibilities for the lesson beforehand, co-teachers can ensure that their strengths compliment one another and that there is parity in the classroom. Teachers should also plan how to respond to behavior challenges in the classroom. Teachers can post clear rules and consequences in the classroom, and use these as visual references. Clearly set rules and expectations communicate to students that the co-teachers are an equal team, and that both are responsible for managing the classroom.

Finally, co-teaching teams should take time to hold regular reflections together. Reflections can happen during planning periods, at the end of the day, or at the end of the week. Reflections are an opportunity to discuss what went well during a class and what can be improved, and provide a continuous feedback loop so that teachers can improve.


Co-teaching can be an effective strategy for differentiating lesson plans and creating a supportive, inclusive space. Co-teaching teams may utilize any of the six methods listed above, and adapt their strategies based on their learner’s needs. In doing so, co-teaching teams can be a support system for teachers, and promote equality and inclusivity for special education students. 

Key Traits of a Successful Educator and Related Teaching Synonyms

Lessons Learned ~ The Art of Educating

Let’s consider the characteristics, which can be thought of as teaching synonyms, of our ‘best’ teachers. It is an important exercise because teacher characteristics are essential indicators of student success. What characteristics do we know teachers should possess that translate to student success? Or, if doctors could prescribe teacher characteristics to ensure well-adjusted students, what might those teachers be like? What is a teaching synonym? What’s the prescription for creating classrooms filled with eager learners who will be productive members of this fast-changing world?

Indicators of Student Success

Students of the 21st century must question, solve problems, they should be able to work on projects (often in collaboration), and we want them to find passion and dream of a better future. We might place these character traits under an umbrella called self-empowerment. Educators play a vital role in forming success for our youth. Success is found in teacher characteristics. First, teachers must possess knowledge of pedagogy. But that’s knowledge, not a character trait.

Perhaps the greatest gift the educator can bestow—or, develop in students—is to advocate in all they do toward building self-empowered learners, kids flexible in their responses to change. This takes time as well as patience, but developing self-empowerment and flexibility in youth depends on educators equipped with important qualities. Effective educator character traits might surprise you.

Building Relationships

We know that relationships are built on trust. Students must trust that their teachers respect them, that teachers respect each other, and—above all—teachers are inspired by the job they’ve chosen. These are affective characteristics, and they tend to be observable by others. Relationship building lies upon foundations of caring, kindness, motivations, and honesty. This is communicated to students in actions and it’s even articulated in voice. Educators speak from humility in a manner reflecting devotion to others.

Desiring to learn others’ perspectives helps teachers form their own visions, and the best teachers’ visions involve elevating others’ successes. In the classroom, we see this in acts of questioning over telling. It is further observed in being patient because respect does not come quickly, and the impatient teacher will sow student outcomes of frustration and feelings of inadequacy.

This is not to say that the educator doesn’t allow a student to fail. Instances of failure are learning opportunities. We have all failed in some manner. The patient and respectful teacher will admit obvious failings: “Guys, I forgot the equipment, I’m sorry, and I’ll pack it in the car as soon as I get home.” Such is a moment of building trust and building relationships.

Relationships expand from the classroom, as all trusting teachers soon learn, when during meetings with family members, that teacher’s words are related back by smiling parents, and in voice and manner oddly sounding like the teacher’s own.

One cannot cite relationships without discussing approachability. The manner in which family members approach the educator are noticeably reflective of students’ relationships with their teachers. Families expressly know teachers’ values through student-instructor interpersonal relationships; they hear those values from their young. They understand, too, that despite circumstances, the relationship-building teacher will always work to elevate those with whom s/he works, it is obvious in all acts and mannerisms of the educator. They will observe, too, that their young are blossoming: the positive relationships with teachers beget positive relationships with others. The result is happiness, a satisfaction with learning and being, and an anticipation to be in school to share the joy of learning, endeavoring to learn and know more, of course.


The inquisitive mind—always questioning, always wondering—is a learner for life. Lifelong learning is appropriate. It is a positive educator characteristic indeed. Why? An inquisitive mind translates to respect for learning, an excellent example for youth to see in their adult cohorts. Moreover, remember young children we have known, their penchant for questioning, forever questioning, is their initial learning mode.

Yet, we too often observe the questions diminish, almost as if the onset of mid-childhood brings closure; the children questioned, they found the answer (or did not), so be it. “We’re done.” Such logic was fine a century ago, perhaps, but it is essential now to instill a love of learning through inquisitiveness.

A lack of inquisitiveness inhibits learning, we know, but we live among innovators who insist we adapt to changing needs and new technologies. Some might feel secure in their work knowledge, skills, and abilities, but how might they adapt to having to learn new skills when change disrupts their security? They’ve not wondered for some time, there was no need. School was the time for learning, pondering is for philosophers, they assume.

The inquisitive teacher, though, exhibits the beauty of wonder, of pondering, of wanting to know, and the excitement of inquisitive minds, of examining what, how, and why extends learning within its most natural environment, the classroom. If a teacher asks the first-graders to name the weather, will teacher extend the learning to also ask how and why? The best educators will.

Preparation and Organizational Skills

Preparation and organization are essential within the busy classroom-learning environment. Anything less can make for frenzied frustration. Substitutes can spot prep and organization in a minute. The day’s work is laid out (often in a bucket), student seating is tidy (just don’t look inside desks), preferably as group configurations (best for collaborative work), counters and floors are free of piles. The importance here is that teachers must be able to access daily work and filed information quickly.

Imagine a lesson, a class studying erosion. Discussion leads to sand’s properties, and the teacher recalls an instructive poem (Sand, by Meish Goldish), but forgets its name. Therefore, he is unable to quickly search the Internet. But, poems can be systematically filed in a cabinet or on his computer. The organized teacher’s  search produces the poem in seconds, and learning’s flow, like sand’s expected response to water, naturally continues.

Each day progresses with potential that teacher’s desk will be strewn with clutter. Here’s an easy rule the organized teacher practices: quickly go through the mess and determine its fate by choosing to either

Act on it

File it

Toss it

“Ta dah,” the work of learning continues.

Know the Students

Everyone learns in different ways; some students are spatial learners who struggle learning by words. Others possess mathematical minds and may also prefer to learn on their own, Howard Gardner theorized learning modalities in his theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Though people learn within a blend of various intelligences, teachers must attend to all the needs of all students.

There really isn’t a stereotypical learner; therefore, savvy educators adapt strategies that best meet all student needs. Doing this is possible, and here’s how. The teacher adapts learning experiences to meet the needs of all students. Teaching targets many learning styles and student needs as students move, discuss, sing, organize, work individually and in groups, express their learning in word, music, diagram or puzzle, movement, performance, and more.

But, are basic needs of sleep and nutrition being met? Meeting those needs takes inquiry and observation. It takes time. Knowing students’ physical needs and learning styles provides guidance and direction, and it’s a characteristic that leads to successful learning for all.

Persist with Passion in Subject(s)

There’s bound to be times when teachers realize that their notion of subject matter falls short. The well-intentioned preparation is askew; students do not understand and instructors struggle to make sense of what exactly it is they are meant to teach. This is a learning experience, and it’s actually a great opportunity to model learning.

It is difficult to thoroughly know a subject matter. A microscopic view of various routes the teacher takes to rectify a lack of knowledge is instructive.

 A teacher might generalize their response, especially at the elementary level, because there are so many subjects and concepts that teachers need to know; how can they digest every concept in depth? It is unrealistic to expect teachers to know everything about every subject.

But here’s an opportunity that all teachers should embrace. Questioning one’s knowledge out loud lets students know that it is okay—even good—to want to know more. The teacher is poised here to question out loud, to demonstrate how we question, what types of questions lead to gaining more knowledge. The educator who models questioning techniques is an excellent example for students who learn decision-making that surrounds questioning activities.

We can make a good prognosis for our kids’ futures. Upon close observation, we see the problems of overcrowding and overburdening, but some hopeful signs exist for our kids’ learning. Simply observe the best teachers.

Doctors will tell you that looking into the eyes reveals much about the health of the patient. We need only peer into the eyes of students whose teachers possess outstanding pedagogical characteristics. What we’ll see is sparkle and excitement. We’ll see questioning eyes, purposeful eyes that reflect confidence.

And when we look into the eyes of the successful teacher, we will see questioning eyes, reflections of pondering, “How can I make learning better for my students?”

Ready for First Grade Checklist

First Grade has been called “the hardest year” for students because of all the growth they make in this academic year. It is no surprise that education is changing, each year the expectations for students, parents, and teachers becomes more complicated. But I’m a first grade teacher here to tell you, your kindergartner will succeed!

As a teacher, I want to know if your kindergartner can do the following things:

*Follow Directions
*Treat others Kindly
*Try their Best

This summer in addition to practicing numbers and letters, help your child learn these three social skills to get your child ready for first grade.

Follow Directions

Things are very black or white for first graders which can be a struggle at home and in the classroom. If your child struggles following directions at home they might also struggle with it at school. Check in with your child’s teacher and tell them about what works best for your child or what doesn’t. Work together with the teacher to help your child see you are on the same team. It doesn’t have to be all rules and no fun, you can make these into a game!

Practice at Home: Give your child a piece of paper and write four things you want them to find around the house. See if they can find the items in the right order! Play “Follow the Leader” let your child have a turn and then you take a turn! Don’t forget to praise them for following directions! “Thank you for putting your shoes by the door, that helps me a lot!”

Treat Others Kindly

Being 6 years old is tough! You are used to being the center of attention in most aspects of your life and you want that to continue! Most children are still very focused on themselves but are starting to crave friendships.

Practice at Home: Pause the T.V. Ask your child “Is _____ being kind right now? How would that make you feel?” Remind your child about the golden rule – Do to others what you’d want done to you.

Try your best!

Trying your best is not the same as “being the best.” Each brain is developed at a different rate and for a child who is behind, it’s important that they see the value in trying. Is it hard to see your child behind? Yes! And it’s just as hard to watch as a teacher. But working together makes all the difference for your child.

Practice at Home: Instead of doing things for your kindergartner ask “Can I see you try first and then I’ll help?” most times they are able to do the task on their own. Praise when they try and succeed and praise when they try and fail.

If you are stressing out about what your child can and cannot do entering first grade, rest assured that they will be fine. If they truly struggle with learning, their teacher will know and will do everything they can to keep you informed so your child can get the best support they deserve. If you can help your kindergartner develop these things before first grade, you will be on your way to another successful year of learning! Use this ready for first grade checklist to make sure you child get the start they need.

Simple Ways to Make Studying Easier in the Classroom | Maximize Your Test Taking Skills

To improve your test taking skills you must begin with working on your mindset. To start, consider your learning through the year as preparation for the exam. Most students fail because they can’t make the connection between their daily homework, assignments and exams due to the long period of the course.

Shift your perspective and view all your academic work during the school year, semester, or summer as studying for the exam. The best way to get higher grades is to view your studying as small milestones leading to the exam as the biggest goal.

The following test-taking tips will greatly increase your test scores. These strategies will help you improve your studying skills by using the best tools for reviewing and keeping your motivation high throughout the year. If you apply them you’ll master the subject and ensure exam success.

Keep the Big Picture in Front of You

Review the course from start to finish or from the start of the unit to the end of the unit if preparing for a unit exam. Identify the hardest parts that will require more attention. Understanding the course overview will help you to understand its main topics and how they are scored. Once you’ve come up with your plan, put it on paper.

This plan will help motivate you and propel you to get higher marks. It’s easier to prepare when you know what you want and have a plan to show you how you’ll get it. Make it as detailed (and realistic) as possible.

Learn to Manage your Time

Time management is a wonderful tool you can use to help your study workload, get more done, and reduce stress. It’s the best way to get time on your side, instead of letting time slip through your fingers.

If you can control your time, you’ve won half the battle. Use a study planner so you can review your studying time on weekly and monthly basis. You can also use your study planner to keep track of assignment due dates, observe important quiz/test dates, and manage your studying time better.

Keep a daily study journal to know how you spend your time studying. It will provide helpful insights you can use to better allocate your time for more productive study time. Try journaling your other activities throughout the day so you can learn about the time-consuming habits to cut them out and replace them with positive habits that enforce your goal to get higher grades. On a deeper level, managing your time will help you control the time you spend with your friends and other social commitments you have during exam times.

Following the above will allow you can focus on your study without losing your mind over other responsibilities you have. Instead of making social commitments around your study time, make study time the priority and schedule your other activities around it. Make it your job to get higher grades.

Know Your Learning Style

Your learning style is a crucial element in your test-taking strategy. Learning styles are based on your five senses and how you best learn new information. You are either a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. Each type has a learning mode that is most rewarding. Take this assessment by educationplaner.org to identify your learning style.

Combined with your time management skills, your learning style will help you study smart, not hard. Your learning style is unique to you, so don’t try to copy other successful students’ styles! Tailoring your study method based on your learning style will certainly lead to better academic performance.

Keep the Small Picture in Front of You

Your exam success will rest on balancing between your big goal and the details that will lead to it. The small details include allocating enough time for each topic and assessing the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate to your study outside the class. Always keep a step ahead with a detailed study schedule.

Never Skip Reading

Especially for college or university students, doing preparatory reading will help you absorb new information like a sponge. Make sure you do the required reading before the class. This will make the lecture more fun and easy to understand.

Take and Organize Notes

Use apps like Evernote to take notes. Notes are most useful while you’re studying, they contain nuggets of information that will help fill in the gaps when you lose concentration. By taking notes you keep your mind engaged during the lecture and later, it’ll be helpful when you’re studying from the textbooks.

Go to Class

Don’t rely on your friend’s notes. Go yourself, and get involved! Become an active learner. Do whatever it takes to get engaged in the study material. Attending classes whenever you can helps you remember the information and when you take notes, it’ll help you focus on the lecture and prevent your mind from going off task.

Make Use of Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a tool to visualize key ideas and concepts in graphics. Use a mind mapping app such as XMind to create your mind maps. A mind map can help you pinpoint important information from lectures and study material. You can summarize a complicated topic on one page that will make the connection between various concepts and cement the information in your long-term memory.

Prime Your Mind

Priming is a psychological phenomenon. It’s a subtle technique you can use to influence your studying behavior and make your subconscious mind work for you instead of working against you. It’s much like a self-fulfilling prophecy. In essence, your mind makes connections between things to make it easier to remember. Neurons that fire together, wire together. It “clusters” your memories together for better recall. That’s why when you’re asked not to think of a pink elephant, you not only do think of a pink elephant, but you imagine it in different scenarios. And maybe you’ll see a pink elephant in a TV commercial the next day.

To put priming into action, immerse your mind in your study life. Make a lifestyle out of it. Create an environment that constantly reminds you of your study work. Hang study posters in your room, write study notes on mirrors and stick notes on your doors. That way you influence your mind to recall the information. Your mind picks up these “signals” and makes connections on its own, outside of your awareness. Try to mix in your mind maps to improve your recalling.

Concentrate When You Study

Concentration is the secret. One hour of concentration while studying is better than 10 hours of distracted study. Top performers around the world in every field are those who are single-minded, focusing on a single task for a given amount of time. If you take one tip from this article, make it the secret of concentration. This alone will get you ahead of 97% of other students and you’ll achieve better results in less time. So, turn off your cell phone notifications and concentrate on one task at a time.

Train Your Memory Muscle

Your memory is like a mental muscle. It improves if you train it, and atrophies if you don’t. One of the best memory-improving techniques is the mnemonic device. Take the time to master it as it’ll greatly improve your academic performance. Furthermore, understand how your memory works, and find more techniques to improve it.

Quiz Yourself

The best way to wrap up this article is with a bonus tip for students. If you can dig up previous exams from past years or find exams you can study, it’ll be great. This will not only help you prepare for the real exam, but it will also teach you what to expect. You’d learn about the questions, the style, and the format of the exam. Studying past exams will enhance your academic confidence and the more you solve them, the less the real exam will intimidate you.

Always remember that the difference between an A+ student and the F student is in the preparation. As inventor Alexander Graham Bell once said: Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. So, before you go to an exam, make sure you’re prepared. Now, you are ready. Good luck!

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Back-to-School Scheduling | How to Prepare before the First Day of School

Getting Started

Getting back into the school routine can be tough for older students and their parents. Everyone must readjust to early mornings, long academic days, homework, activities, and so on. The stress of juggling so much can be overwhelming and cause unnecessary tension. However, there are ways for students and their families to keep a balanced and healthy schedule when getting back to school and maintain it throughout the year.

The key to achieving a reasonable schedule for older students and parents is to start before the school year begins. The more preparation that takes place before the first day of school, the easier it is for all family members to balance and adjust to the busy schedule.

Make a Calendar

A family calendar can make a big difference when it comes to scheduling during the school year, especially with older students who may have several extracurricular activities. Most school calendars and sports practices are posted over the summer, so families can add “known” events and their dates to the shared calendar before the first day of school. As the year progresses, families can have a “submission” day each week to update the calendar with more specific information.

Last-minute schedule changes will happen, but overall a regularly updated family calendar will help all members have a general idea of what to expect each week. This allows for routine planning and time management, which will decrease overall family stress.

Make Meals

One of the downsides of back-to-school is that with the long, filled days there is less time for preparing and enjoying family meals. Breakfast can be chaotic with everyone getting ready, and many teens opt to sleep a few more minutes rather than eat. Lunches may not offer as many healthy options at school as at home, and dinner is often squeezed in between activities and homework.

The school weekdays may be too hectic for sit-down dinners for the whole family, and that’s understandable. However, it’s still important for teenagers (and parents) to eat healthy meals as much as possible. One solution is to take a little preparation time in the kitchen each weekend so there are healthier options during the busy week. Families can share in cutting fruits and vegetables for snacks and even making larger portions of healthy meals to be refrigerated and eaten during the week. Before school begins, families can make a list of monthly meals to prepare over weekends so that everyone has a share in a healthy food routine.

Waste Time

When students are focused on academics, athletics, activities, and after-school jobs, they often don’t take any time to truly unwind. Many parents are guilty of the same, especially with the amount of screen time and online presence that takes over each day. One healthy activity that family members can do together, yet one of the toughest to schedule, is wasting time. Summer is the perfect chance to build time-wasting into the family routine.

Obviously, on some level, no time is really wasted—especially when family members are together. However, it’s important to remember to take a few minutes each week (or even day) and do nothing. This helps the brain and nervous system experience calm, which can alleviate stress and tension. One idea is for families to set a timer for 5 minutes when together and just visit about a particular topic. Some families may use the time for meditation or to play a game. So long as it’s not outcome-driven, it’s healthy.

Parents and students often clash when getting used to the back-to-school routine. However, preparing some aspects of the schedule before the first day of school can help alleviate tension and stress, and bring a healthy balance to the school year.

Back-to-School Time Capsule | A Fun Way to Start and Finish the Year

It’s Time

Heading back to school can be a tough transition for kids and their parents. Summer seems to halt abruptly with the pressure to get school supplies, fill out forms, attend orientations, and so on. Students, on some level, may be happy to get back to class and see friends after so many weeks of free time.

However, back-to-school time may also create some anxiety for students who are facing unknown teachers, schedules, classmates, and academic challenges. This is especially true for younger grades who aren’t as seasoned at seeing summer end.

The new school year can be an anxious time for parents as well, who also face unknowns such as potential homework issues, friendship struggles, and other unforeseen challenges for their kids. It can be a helpless feeling for parents of all grade-level kids as the first day of school gets closer.

The good news is that by focusing on all the learning and positive changes that will take place in the upcoming school year, the back-to-school transition can be much less worrisome for parents and students. One way of making the hopes and worries of a new school year both tangible and manageable is to create a back-to-school “time capsule.”

Looking Forward

The purpose of a time capsule is usually to put an assortment of small, meaningful items into a container to be opened in the future. Heading back to school means a new future in many ways. Therefore, parents can help their kids put together a time capsule of meaningful items at the start of the school year to be opened at the end. This will be a tangible way for students to see their progress and the challenges they’ve overcome.

Kids of all ages can decorate a box or other container to be used as the time capsule. Parents can help make decisions about which small items might be meaningful to put inside. Young students can draw pictures of what they hope will be great about the upcoming school year or something that worries them. Older students can write a letter about their hopes and worries for the school year, put “before” pictures of themselves in the capsules, or even create a list of their favorite music, movies, and books to compare at the end of the school year.

Looking Back

Surprisingly, the school year may go by so quickly that it’s summer soon again. Both parents and their students may forget all about the time capsule and miss the opportunity of opening it on the last day of school. To avoid this, families can mark it as an event on their school and/or personal calendars. Another suggestion is to put the time capsule where summer items are stored, so it’s sure to be found when school is out.

Families can create their own traditions when it comes to opening the time capsule. Some students may prefer to do it away from other family members, whereas others may want everyone to participate. Perhaps a family tradition might be to open the capsule(s) each summer and then add to them for the next school year to accumulate a multitude of memorable items from each grade level.

Most students will be surprised at what they decided to place in the capsule nearly a year ago, and how different they feel compared to that time. They may laugh at their worry list or pictures and be proud of achieving things from their hope list. Overall, the back-to-school time capsule should represent to students and their parents that there will always be hopes and worries as things change but learning and growing is constant and precious.

Back to Learning | How to Learn about Learning

Defining the Big Problem

Most students are somewhat excited to get back to school and see their friends, begin new activities, and even to learn. However, once the novelty of the new school year wears off, many students tend to find themselves struggling with the same academic problems as the previous year, or years.

Little classroom time is spent teaching students how to go about learning, so they repeat the same behaviors and mistakes when it comes to their academic approach. This can lead to frustration and resistance to long-term learning. Even top academic students are vulnerable to counterproductive learning due to the pressure they put on themselves to get “good grades” in the short-term.

The good news is that students can turn this around pretty easily before they even begin their first day back to school. Much of the time students are grappling with managing their approach to academics rather than the material itself; and until they can define the specific problem, they won’t have the tools or means to change it. However, once the academic “diagnosis” is made, the remedy can be applied.

Diagnosing the Details

Summer is an excellent time for taking a break from formal learning. It can also give students perspective about their finished school year when it comes time to consider the next one. One way that students can prepare to get back to learning is to review their previous academic year and make an honest diagnosis of what worked for them and what didn’t. Doing this before the first day of school can help set the tone for avoiding the repetition of academic mistakes.

This diagnosis isn’t to identify which subjects they found hard or easy, but rather which of their learning approaches were effective and not effective. Students can start with listing one behavior for each. For example, if students feel they participated well in class then they can list that as an effective approach. More importantly, they should explain why it was effective and beneficial to their academics. Perhaps participating in class kept them engaged with the material so they absorbed more of it. This will give them a clear idea of which behaviors to continue for academic success.

The tougher task is naming a non-effective academic approach. Students may have trouble admitting to procrastination, missing due dates, misunderstanding assignments, and so on. Or they may not know exactly what approach they are taking that makes their learning counterproductive. Parents can help by not judging, and simply asking what didn’t go well the previous year or what they might like to change. Perhaps they want to be more organized in planning research papers, so they spend less time staring at a blank screen worrying about what to write. Or possibly they remember a missed deadline that resulted in a poor grade. Talking it through can bring clarity and a sense of ownership.

Future Reward

Once students clearly identify non-effective academic behaviors, they can figure out how to change them. There are a variety of resources that offer help, such as time management exercises and organization tutorials. The key is to understand that not diagnosing ineffective behaviors will only lead to their repetition. Behaviors and approaches can’t be changed until they are identified. This diagnosis sounds like end-of-summer homework, which can seem unfair. Yet taking time to identify effective and non-effective academic approaches before school starts can save students stress and frustration throughout the year and long-term. It will encourage them to make goals to improve their approach to learning, find resources to help change non-effective behavior, and take steps to becoming more effective in school years to come.

Back-to-School and Looking Ahead | Getting Ready for the Future


Most high school juniors and seniors spend a large amount of time “getting ready.” They get ready for class, sports, activities, jobs, and other responsibilities. They also face a distinct and added pressure to prepare for their futures. Upcoming graduation not only signifies a successful end to their primary education, but that they need to be ready to find something else to do.

This pressure to be ready for so many changes can be discouraging and overwhelming. Recognizing how to manage that pressure before junior or senior years begin is the best way to prepare for making decisions, accomplishing goals, and establishing readiness for the future.

The Near Future

It’s common for juniors and seniors to focus so much on what’s ahead that they lose sight of more immediate tasks and responsibilities. Of course, it’s important to manage the deadlines of college entrance exams, applications, essays, and interviews. It’s also important for those near-graduates who plan to enter the work force to network, apply, and gain experience.

However, looking too far ahead can interfere with what should be accomplished in the present. As juniors and seniors, students still have schoolwork and many other extracurriculars that need their focus. Much of their far future depends on the success of their near future.

For this reason, high school juniors and seniors need to prioritize their short-term goals as much as their long-term plans. Students should have an outline of goals for the present and focus on taking the steps to achieve them. This will enhance their planning and management of long-term goals as well.

The Far Future

It’s difficult for the most accomplished adult to know what they plan to do in the future, let alone a junior or senior in high school. Yet these students face enormous decisions that seem to determine whether they will be successful or not. That type of pressure can cause undue stress and undermine their path to goal achievement.

Rather than providing answers for their far future plans, students are better served by asking questions and discussing their concerns. If they know an adult who seems passionate about a career, or they have interest in a particular field of study, they should ask as many questions to get as much information as possible. In addition, students should be encouraged to voice concerns about the future or how to achieve their goals. They will realize in talking to others the possibilities of experience, what goals are important, and the different paths to success.

Very few people take a linear road when it comes to higher education and careers. It’s important for high school juniors and seniors to understand that detours and obstacles are not only expected in college or the workforce but welcomed. Primary K-12 education prepares students for many things, but post-graduation reality is more complex. Students who learn to communicate their concerns and are encouraged to ask questions will be far more ready for an unpredictable future.


The best approach to managing getting back to school for juniors and seniors and getting ready for the future is balance. Parents, teachers, and school counselors can help by providing patience, guidance, and support. Often the best tool is allowing these students to ask questions and truly listening to their goals and concerns.

Students can keep a balance between returning for their last half of high school and facing college/employment decisions by asking questions, voicing concerns, outlining goals, and focusing on present tasks. This balance creates a healthy way to manage responsibilities for the near future and decisions for the far future.

STEM in the Summer | Keep the Kids Engaged with Fun Hands On Activities

STEM is a growing buzzword in contemporary education. For those who are unaware, the acronym represents an educational movement that encourages training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is considered crucial to teach these skills to young people because many jobs in the current workforce require them. STEM skills are responsible for sparking some of the world’s most vital accomplishments from discovering entirely new elements to putting a man on the moon. And the need for STEM is not slowing down anytime soon.

With the growing need for expertise in these fields, one can imagine the push to keep these talents alive. In 2018, the Department of Education donated $279 million to various STEM organizations including 66.8 million to Education Innovation and Research and 28.2 to million to Supporting Effective Educator Development. Considering the funds involved, it can be assumed that this is a priority for education spending.

If parents and teachers are not paying close attention to STEM learning, they should be. In fact, summer is a great time to get students involved in extra-curricular STEM learning. Igniting a passion for science, technology, engineering and math can happen at a young age. Through STEM-focused summer programs, students of all ages can learn important skills and develop an interest in these fields.

With some online research, one can find a litany of fantastic STEM camps and programs nearby. Various summer enrichment programs are held all over the United States and internationally. They can range from one week to over a month and are offered online and in person. In these programs, students can expect to learn several hard and soft skills:

Hard skills associated with STEM:

  • Coding
  • Robotics
  • Virtual Reality
  • Programming
  • 3D Printing

Soft skills associated with STEM:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Collaboration

Although summer camps and programs are great for all ages, adolescents might consider more of a challenge. Internships are a wonderful way to gain real-world experience in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Applying for and landing an internship is more of a self-driven process than say, signing up for a camp, but mature and responsible students are very capable. Older students should take advantage of community opportunities and get involved.

The first step to getting a summer internship at a local business is reaching out to them independently. Some organizations will post openings at high schools and online. Try asking a school administrator if the campus has any affiliations with local businesses that they trust. Consider medical facilities, engineering companies, veterinary clinics, etc. Often, students will need to reach out to businesses completely on their own and express interest.

The cooperating businesses might ask for recommendations, a resume or an interview so students should be prepared. Once an internship is earned, the hands-on experience can prove invaluable. The student will leave the internship with in-demand life skills and a glowing resume.

Look for ways students can become involved with STEM programs this summer. For young children, encourage a fun and interesting introduction to these fields.  Older students can seek a challenge and attempt to develop a potential career.