October 31st, 2012
04:28 AM ET

Free resources to help teach about elections

by Donna Krache, CNN

For civics teachers (and former civics teachers like me), the presidential election is our equivalent of the Olympics.  We prepare for months and pour all our energy into teaching all about the electoral process, looking for ways to make it fun and interesting for students.

If you’re a teacher or a parent who is teaching your students about elections, there are free resources from CNN.com that can really help you bring your curriculum to life.

You can find all these resources at the CNN Election Center, but we’ll also highlight each one separately here:

Probably the most useful for teachers of civics/government, U.S. history and general social studies is the CNN Electoral Map Calculator.  It shows CNN’s estimates of who will win which states, as well as states that may be leaning toward a candidate and battleground states.  But you and your students can create your own picks and scenarios for this year's race, and you can use the pull-down menu on the right to look at the last two presidential contests.  These are great ways to promote geography skills and basic math skills and illustrate to your students the strategy behind political campaigns.

How much time and money are the candidates spending in each state?  Now that your students understand the importance of winning Electoral College votes, they can understand why voters in states like Ohio and Florida are seeing lots of political ads, compared to their fellow voters in many other states.  Point students to the CNN Campaign Explorer to learn more about the concentration of ads, money and travel in each state.

Finally, if your class is focusing on the topic of public opinion, or if you are interested in helping students improve their skill at interpreting charts and graphs, go to the CNN Poll of Polls interactive.  The CNN Poll of Polls is calculated by using three approved polls to arrive at the numbers you see on the charts on different dates.  You can quiz students on candidates’ percentages on different dates in national polls as well as in battleground states, and you can ask them what factors might account for changes in the polling results.

Share these resources with your colleagues, and share any tips you have for teaching the election in the comments section below.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • At Home • Practice • Resources
In Sandy, opportunities for science education
October 30th, 2012
04:27 PM ET

In Sandy, opportunities for science education

by Zaina Adamu, CNN

When Ted Turbiasz, 36, first heard about Hurricane Sandy, he gathered his two children in their backyard and put them to work. Collectively, they built a do-it-yourself weather station equipped with a rain gauge and wind indicator, and connected their home television to feed live video of the storm. They topped it off with a specially-made banner held on with green duct tape and labeling the unit as “Aidan’s Sandy Weather Station.”

The purpose of it all was to “teach them that weather is something that can be monitored," Turbiasz told CNN's iReport.

With more advanced technology and resources, forecasters are doing the same. They predicted the magnitude of Sandy with the help of satellite images from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder tracked the storm and captured a high-resolution photo that meteorologists used to determine the storm's size.

Other sophisticated technology helps predict life-threatening hurricanes, as well. Take for instance the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s supercomputer, Yellowstone, which is able to render short-term weather forecasts in less than 10 minutes and can compute 1.5 quadrillion (a million billion) mathematical operations a second, equivalent to 7 billion people performing more than 200,000 calculations every second.

Read the full story from our Light Years Blog
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Filed under: At Home • Hurricane Sandy • Science
October 23rd, 2012
06:02 PM ET

Mother charged with assault, claims boys bullied her daughter

By Rande Iaboni, CNN

(CNN) - Toms River, New Jersey police charged a mother with simple assault, criminal trespassing, and terroristic threats after an altercation with two boys on a public school bus. Rebecca Sardoni, 28, claims the boys had bullied her daughter, according to reports from the Toms River Regional School District.

Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy told CNN today that Sardoni boarded the bus Friday morning and, according to witnesses, confronted two boys sitting in the back and slapped them both.

Sardoni claims she was protecting her 9-year-old daughter from school bullies and that three kids in her daughter's class have been harassing her daughter, even assaulting the student sexually.

Director of Communications for the Toms River Regional School District, Tammi Millar confirmed to CNN that Sardoni did report a bullying incident to the principal of East Dover Elementary School on Thursday afternoon. The incident would have been investigated that next day, "but she stepped on to that bus Friday morning" and took matters into her hands, Millar said.

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Filed under: At Home • Behavior • Bullying • Issues • Parents • video
October 23rd, 2012
01:08 PM ET

Homebound student learns via Skype

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - When students are sick, many teachers send lessons home. At Father McGivney Catholic High School in Maryville, Illinois that’s 20th century thinking. Homebound teen Alixandria Horstmann uses technology to attend her classes there virtually.

Horstmann’s medical issues meant she had to stay home for about three months. The school already has replaced textbooks with laptops and iPads, so one of her classmates came up with the idea of carrying a laptop from class to class. Horstmann sits in her living room, listening – and contributing – via Skype on her iPad.

Father McGivney principal Michael Scholz told CNN affiliate KSDK that virtually attending school has advantages beyond academics. “The student who’s gone can still feel a part of your school and community,” Scholz said.

Parents: How do you think your child would handle learning via Skype?
Teachers: How would you accommodate a child who wants to learn virtually?

Please tell us in the comments below.

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Filed under: At Home • High school • Kids' health • Practice • Technology • video
5 tips for a better parent-teacher conference
October 18th, 2012
04:20 AM ET

5 tips for a better parent-teacher conference

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) - For many parents and teachers, it’s the first opportunity of the school year to sit down face to face and discuss everything from curriculum to issues that arise in the classroom.  Here are some tips from both sides of the desk on how to make the most of a parent-teacher conference.

Do your homework

Talking to your child before the conference to find out if he has any questions or concerns of his own can give you ideas of what to address with the teacher.  A good next step:  having a physical list of questions.

The National PTA says that the “questions you ask during the conference can help you express your hopes for the student’s success in class and for the teacher.”

It’s an idea echoed by Ryan Koczot, an award-winning middle school teacher in North Carolina.  “Parents should come to the conference prepared (note pad, pen, list of questions) - just like teachers should be prepared (information on the child, progress report, questions for the parent).”  This will help get everyone on the same page.

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Filed under: At Home • Carl Azuz • Elementary school • Five things • High school • Middle school • Parents • Teachers
My View: Advice for parents who want to be partners in their kids’ education
October 15th, 2012
04:29 AM ET

My View: Advice for parents who want to be partners in their kids’ education

Courtesy Lisa MacerBy Sam Macer, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Sam Macer is a PTA dad and foster parent. As the immediate past president of the Maryland PTA and the current president of the Maryland Foster Parent Association, he uses his 30 years of PTA experience to support Maryland’s foster parents as they strive to provide the youth in their care with safety, permanency, wellbeing and educational support.  He was recently honored at the White House as a PTA “Champion of Change.”

 (CNN) - As a PTA parent, grandparent, uncle and foster parent to over 40 children I have gained valuable experience in the area of parent engagement. I have had children who absolutely hated school and children who loved the challenge of being the best they could be. As a PTA leader, I have the opportunity to share some of my thoughts, experiences and perspectives with all parents concerning their efforts to raise and sustain academic achievement and build a strong home/school connection.

There are four basic suggestions I share with parents: Make  the commitment, make a plan, determine  expectations and coordinate effective parent–teacher conferences.

One of the first things I share with parents is the need to make the personal commitment to be involved and engaged the entire school year. I have never had an "easy" school year. Many times I have had to remind myself why I am engaged and why I need to stay engaged. There are many challenges to being an effective support for the children and their teachers and every once in a while I have to remind myself of my commitment. Commitment keeps you in the game. Once a parent loses commitment, things sometimes go by the wayside, the child can begin to drift through the school year and the teachers feel less supported.

Please don’t be that parent who comes to school in March to sign your child out early and when the secretary asks you for the teacher’s name, you don’t know it. Don't give the school a reason to ask, "Where have you been all year?"

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Filed under: At Home • Parents • Practice • Voices
5 things teachers want parents to know
October 10th, 2012
04:18 AM ET

5 things teachers want parents to know

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) - During the average school day, teachers are with children as many waking hours as parents are. But many educators believe there’s a short in the communication lines between themselves and parents. When asked what they’d want parents to know about education, not all of the teachers we spoke to wished to be named - but they did share many common concerns from the classroom.

1. We're on the same team

First and foremost, teachers want students to thrive in the classroom, and they could use your help.

Jennifer Bell, a 7th grade social studies teacher in Tennessee, suggests that parents do all they can to ensure that students are doing their homework, exercising, eating well and sleeping. Whether students come to class tired or ready to learn can hinge on parents’ involvement. “We need their support,” she says. “We can’t do this on our own.”

In the words of an elementary school teacher from Georgia, “We are professionals. Teaching children is our area of expertise. Your child benefits more when you support me.”

And while educators expect students to make mistakes, Mississippi teacher Beth Wilbanks Smith asks parents to help them learn from those mistakes. “They will grow to be productive citizens if we all work as a unified force,” she writes.

To PTA or not to PTA
Erin Zammett Ruddy confronts the worries associated with joining the PTA.
October 1st, 2012
04:11 PM ET

To PTA or not to PTA

By Erin Zammett Ruddy, Parenting

(Parenting.com) - That is my question today. Are you involved in your kid's school? If so, how much? As a new mom in the district, I'm being pitched pretty hard by the PTA. And as a chronic joiner/doer/over committer, I'm intrigued. But I'm also wary.

Alex has been in school for a week now. On Monday I went to a breakfast put on by the PTA—I mostly went just to check it out (and to avoid my deadline) but I wound up signing up for six or seven committees. Ack! Many of these "committees" are really just one event that you might help with—a Mother's Day plant sale, say—so it's not that crazy. Right?

A form also came home in Alex's kindergarten folder to sign up to be the class mom. I remember my mom being the class mom a lot and I loved the security it gave me to know she was so entrenched in the system. She knew the teachers, she knew the other moms, the kids, the school. She was also the CCD teacher, the Girl Scout leader, the carpool driver and pretty much everything else you'd find under the overarching title of Kick-Ass Stay-At-Home-Mom. I don't have the time or desire to be that much of a super mom (for now), but I do want to be involved. And the PTA seems like a no-brainer, right?

Are you involved in the PTA? When did you get involved and what's your experience been like? Would love to hear your thoughts and any advice!

Please share your experience in the comments section below.

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Filed under: At Home • Practice
September 24th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Dads ‘march’ to schools

by Josh Levs, CNN

(CNN) - Across the country, fathers are taking part in public events aimed at sending a critical message: Dads’ involvement in education is crucial for school children.

In New York, it’s become a state-wide celebration, appropriately entitled “Dads take your child to school.”

In parts of the country, the events are inspired by the “Million Father March.”

Numerous studies show that kids with involved fathers have all sorts of academic advantages, including better linguistics skills, an improved ability to handle stress, and some other “hidden benefits.”

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Filed under: At Home • Character education • Practice • video
September 18th, 2012
01:12 PM ET

A principal talks about educating today's kids

(CNN) Georgia high school principal Grant Rivera talked to HLN about his profession and what it takes to educate students today.

Rivera, who started as a special education teacher and coach, said his road to becoming principal started when he had an interest in growing beyond the four walls of his classroom.

He talked about the importance of families in schools.

"We need our families to be engaged in their children's education," says Rivera.  "We have a responsibility to build that bridge. We need those families in our schools. We need those families having the right conversation around the dinner table because their involvement is bigger than just signing a signature on a form."

Rivera believes that educators should be role models for their students.

"In education and in public schools, I don't believe it's very hard for educators or for me to be a role model. We got into this business because we care about kids," says Rivera.  "Every single day, when we walk through those doors, we hold ourselves to that standard – to be a role model, to be a mentor, and when appropriate, to be a friend and a coach."

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Filed under: At Home • Issues • Voices
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