Blog

What does it mean to be “done done?” (Getting kids to finish tasks)

Ugh! Yet again I am greeted with my teenager’s glass in the sink crusted with his morning protein shake and a blender with protein goo floating in it. Yes, I am pleased that my teenager is taking an active interest in his health as he is determined to put on muscle weight. At the same time, I grow weary of the evidence of his efforts.

My teen is like an absent-minded professor and I am determined not to clean up after him. Taking care of their dirty dishes and empty cereal boxes would be easy, but I am not training them toward their future adult selves if I take on this task. It is time to teach him one of my favorite strategies, “Done Done.”

I learned this strategy from a Cognitive Connection training session with Sarah Ward and Kristin Jacobs from their “Get Ready, Do, Done and Get Done” Process. The memorable phrase “Done Done” is an evolution of “Get Done.” I have used this strategy with everyone from youths to business owners.

The basic idea is that while there are multiple steps for any task, most of us think of it as a three-phase process:

  1. Get Ready:
    1. Identify the tools or things you need to do the required task
    2. Figure out what you have to do
  2. Do:
    1. Do the task
  3. Done:
    1. Complete the task

But there is also a magical fourth step — being “Done Done.”

What does it mean to be “Done Done?”

Does being done with breakfast just mean you have finished eating your bowl of cereal? Are you really done when you complete your math worksheet? For adults, are you really done with a meeting when the time is up? The answer to all of these questions is NO. There are still multiple steps to complete until you are actually “Done Done.”

For example, how did I have the conversation about being “Done Done” with respect to his shake? First, I mentioned that I liked seeing him take an active role in his health and well-being by drinking these protein shakes. I then described how part of my job is to teach him what it means to be “done done” with a task.  I also briefly asked him to consider the consequence of not completing the task: dealing with flies, mold, and the longer amount of time it would take to clean up later. Next, we went through the steps of cleaning out the blender and where to set it out to dry, and the need to rinse out the glass and put it in the dishwasher.

What could “done done” look like for your preteens?

Since school is right around the corner, let’s consider what it means to be “done done” with homework. Often, kids who struggle with executive function are notorious for leaving their completed homework at home or forgetting to turn it in all together.

The worksheet has been completed but there are still a few more steps.

Where does the worksheet go? Homework folder? Subject binder? Next we need to put the binder back into the back pack. For those kiddos who forget to turn in the homework, you can use bright sticky notes to remind them. Another idea I just learned is have different colored rubber bands which correlate to their different subjects. If the bands are on the right wrist the assignments in those subjects still need to be turned in. But when the assignments have been turned in the bands can be moved to the left wrist or put on a carbineer that’s attached to a backpack. So the kids are “done done” only when the band has been transferred.

For the little ones

For your little kids you can really have some fun with teaching the final steps of what it means to be “done done” with toys. Let your creative juices flow.

Remember, first we have to teach them what has to be done. Then, we need to do the steps with them and after that, let them do it independently — while we stand nearby. Eventually, we can give verbal reminders like, “do you remember what to do when you are done with your toys?” Even better, we can add visual cues. Here are a couple ideas about what that can look like:

  • A photo (or drawing) of your child playing with their toys
  • A second photo/drawing of them putting away the toys
  • The final photo/drawing of what it looks like when all the toys are neatly put away.

Now you can point to the pictures and they have a reference point. You could have their favorite stuffed animal participate and be the supervisor featured in every picture.

Perspective

It’s important to consider where you are starting from. You are looking for the small victories, and a willingness to make an effort, no matter how small. As parents, you will have to work extra hard to find the half full side of the glass, especially on those days where you are tired and exhausted. Trust me, I too have to remember this every day.

At the end of the day, your kids need some positive reinforcement to continue to make progress versus never feeling like anything is good enough.

Being a parent is about teaching, training and coaching through the process. Learning does not happen by accident. It requires understanding and a whole lot of practice, learning to do it poorly and building from there. We all started getting things “done done” somewhere.

Read more

Summer tips & tricks for readers

School is almost out and everyone is excited about the prospect of no more homework. Alas, summer reading is the new homework. For some of your kids that means intensive reading interventions; for others, it means setting an intention to read several days a week.

Sometimes, summer reading creates its own intense range of emotions if your child is struggling with a summer reading assignment. Your kids may tell you that they just want to relax and that reading encroaches on their “me” time.

I have received some amazing guidance and resources from reading specialists, special education teachers, and even from my kids’ high school teachers as to what my job as parent is in supporting my kids in reading and writing.

Here is what they suggest:

Your job is to make reading fun. Let the specialist do the hard stuff, which includes sounding out words. I know that advice was music to my ears. I always had a hard time sounding out words because English was my second language and as a result of my own dyslexia. I am only too happy to leave sounding out to the professionals!

Find books that are of interest and appeal to your kids, here are some favorites of my kids:

  • Zach Files
  • Brandon Mull series
  • Ghost / Marvel Comics– I grew up loving comic books (This is how I fell in love with reading) so my youngest and I read them together

Read aloud to your kids. My husband has a knack for doing voices, which the kids loved. I also tried recreating voices for my kids, but at the end of the day their Dad was the one with that talent.

Use technology for extra help. If your kid picks a book that might be above his/ her grade level, no worries. While your kid reads let them listen to the audio. You can use tools like Audible or Learning Ally. If there was a movie based on the book, use the movie as a reward for completing the book.  We could then compare and contrast the two media, which deepened the learning.

Set expectations for the following day and review them with your kids. Write them out. Block out where and what they are doing. If there is an opportunity for choice, ask your kids “would you prefer to read at 9 am or 7 pm” and then block the activity on the calendar. Your job is to make sure they follow through.

Set reasonable time frames for your kids, taking their age into account. If they are young a minimum time might be 10 or 15 minutes. They can keep going or stop. If they chose to stop, avoid coaxing. When you attempt to convince your kid to keep reading you have changed the rules on them and you have made life a lot harder for yourself the next day.

For older kids, first review what they have to read and learn and how long it will take to complete. I like to print out a calendar and have them mark in pencil:

  • Date school starts back up?
  • What days are out-of-the-question for reading?
  • What day do they want to start?

Then look at the book and the number of pages. Are they going to break it down by time or pages per day? Plot out how many days it will take on the calendar to complete all of the reading.  This visual can be very helpful for kids who have unrealistic expectations of the time required and help avoid procrastination.

At this stage in the game, you have an advantage because they have created a plan, which you can point to throughout the summer.

Of course, the temptation to procrastinate is still there.  Your job is to reinforce their plan, not to nag.   If they are behind, have them re-draw the calendar to visualize how the work is piling up.

Be patient and be realistic with your expectations. In the beginning, reading may feel like a chore to them. Just keep finding ways to make it fun. Most of all, model the behavior you are seeking. Are you reading or listening to audiobooks? If your kid happens to have a favorite author ask them if they would recommend the book to you. If they do I encourage you to read it. Yes, sometimes I had to work to get through the book, but the reward of getting to talk about it and understand their world always makes the exercise worthwhile.

 

Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash

Read more

Stuck in the muck? Getting started is sometimes easier said than done.

A big question parents often ask themselves is, ‘why can’t my kid just get started?’ This query causes a lot of angst and frustration in many homes and classrooms. Unfortunately for some of your kids, getting started is hard and can be more complicated than we think. The challenge for us adults is not to pass judgment on our kids’ inability to get started and to assume they are being lazy or defiant. Instead, it’s our job to look past the behavior and figure out why they cannot start.

I remember when my youngest was in 4th or 5th grade and he was sitting at the kitchen table just staring at his work. I looked at him and wondered what was going on. He’s a good kid, I reminded myself. I knew he didn’t want to be spending hours upon hours on his homework. So, I came to learn task initiation was a struggle for him. He had the best of intentions but just couldn’t get started. So, I found resources to help — both books and amazing experts who offered me some great guidance.

 

Here are some ideas I learned that might help you, too:

Transitions from one task to another may be more difficult for certain kids. Be mindful about what they are transitioning from. For example, video games and YouTube can make the transition to homework oh so painful for all involved. Eliminate this pain by making YouTube or video games the reward for completing the homework.

Does your kid just stare at their computer when they have to write something? Is getting the words from their brain to the keyboard or pencil too big a gap to leap? If you see them struggling, a big clue is whether they can talk about the topic.  If so, you may need to use some tools like voice activation software, or you can simply type word for word what your kid says. Parents: no editing. Let your kids use their own words. As long as you do that, you’re not cheating. Eventually, the kids will be able to write on their own. It is important to meet your kid where they are so they can start to experience the wins of getting the work down.

Sometimes the task can seem so big, that your kid literally doesn’t know where to start. For instance, there are too many math problems on the page. Ask them how many would they like to see, and cover up the rest. Or just write one problem on a separate sheet of paper and have them do one at a time. Again, we are looking for a process that meets their current need so they can feel the success of completion.

Sometimes hearing about problems from the student’s perspective can   help you better understand the weight of their dilemma.  Listen to student Marcus Allen explain why getting started is harder than you think through this Understood.org video.

It’s hard to watch our kids struggle with getting started. Again, the challenge for us adults is that we have to step up and be willing to experiment, look past the behavior, and be consistent in our efforts. It can be hard to make these efforts, especially when fatigue and the daily grind take hold. Stop and remind yourself that you are training your kiddo for adulthood.

Meet your kids where they are and assume that your kid has the best of intentions and is just stuck. Your job is to reach out and help them learn how to move through the muck, until they have the skill to go around it themselves.

 

 

Read more

Is Sleep the New Non-Negotiable?

Get off The Hamster Wheel

I was working with a client that was trying to figure out how he could get more work done instead of procrastinating and going down the YouTube & Facebook bunny trails. He finished each day feeling anxious and wrapped in guilt that he had not accomplished more.  Sound familiar?

Maybe you or your student have been on the hamster wheel to nowhere and can’t figure out how to get off. After peeling back the onion, what we realized was that he wasn’t getting enough sleep. We had to focus on how to wind down his day to setup a good night sleep before thinking about strategies to get his work done.

You have probably seen some of the latest research regarding sleep deprivation and the effects on the brain. Just one night of poor sleep can affect cognitive ability, mood, coordination, attention, decision making, among others. Absent enough rest, the brain functions at a much slower rate and we have trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, and become more emotional.

Have you ever noticed when you don’t get enough sleep, just finding your keys in the morning can be a struggle? Maybe your sleep deprived kids seem pricklier and more defiant (this also applies to adults.)

Sleep Washes Away The Bad, Cycles in the Good

Sleeping provides the brain with an opportunity to do a “rinse cycle” and get rid of all the toxins that have accumulated throughout the day. When you go to sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid increases significantly, washing away the harmful toxins and waste proteins that build up between the brain cells during waking hours. These toxins have been linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

Not only are you removing toxins, sleeping is also what enables your brain to consolidate and move information into long term memory. It is this process that then allows the brain to recall and use information to solve problems.  One study showed that teenagers receiving just 18 extra minutes of sleep improved their grades in math and English.  Even the great inventor Thomas Edison recognized the power of sleep to stimulate new thoughts and ideas.  He would put ball bearings in his hand, doze off and when they fell to the ground and the noise woke him up he was able to come up with new approaches. (p. 30-31 a Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D.) This explains why our greatest ideas often come to us during our morning shower!

Turn Screen Time Into Sleep Time

What is it that prevents us from getting enough sleep? Unless you have sleep apnea or some other medical explanation, I’ve got one word for you – screens!  Screens can include anything from browsing the internet, social media, video games, Netflix, and YouTube. The issue of endlessly pursuing electronic devices isn’t unique to our kids or millennials.  It does not discriminate by gender, age, or ethnicity. I too have fallen into this trap that takes away from my ability to do my best the following day.

While staring at screens during the day can be detrimental to our productivity and connection with actual human beings, it’s at night that it sets us up for disaster when it comes to sleep.  It is so easy to get sucked into staying up way past our bed time reading the news or catching up on facebook. The blue light emanating from our devices tricks your brain into thinking its daytime. This keeps it in a higher state of arousal and hyper focus similar to the effect of caffeine or even amphetamines. You might as well just drink a cup of coffee right before going to bed.

“So, am I ok if I just dial up the orange light on my device at night,” you might ask?  It’s not just the blue light that causes problems. When you are watching or interacting with a screen, you are increasing the release of certain chemicals into the brain, like dopamine, and stimulating natural reward pathways that feeds the need for additional gratification.   This is why it is so easy to say just 10 more minutes and then end up binge watching an entire season of Game of Thrones late into the night.

A Good Rule To Follow

In our household, there is a “no electronic devices in the bedroom” rule when it is time to go to bed for all of us.  Before implementing this rule, I struggled, looking at work emails after climbing into bed, which kept my mind racing well after turning off the light.  Now I pick up a book instead and I’m fast asleep in ten minutes. Our goal is screens off at least 30 minutes before bed. Are these evening habits always executed perfectly? Nope, we have good days and bad. But I do notice a huge difference in how the end of my day sets me up for the next.  I feel better, am more inclined to work out, go for walks, and am more patient with my kids when they are being knuckleheads.  Even they freely admit that they are wrecked the next day when they slip and sneak a peek at their devices before bed. Having one policy that applies to everyone reduces resistance and from the minions as we are modeling the behavior we expect from our kids. They love to point out any hypocrisy.  In this case, it’s hard to argue.

So how are you going to close out your day? What is your evening routine? Is it worth finding a way as a family to get an extra 18 minutes of sleep?

Read more

11 NFL Lesson Ideas To Use This Season

Are you ready for some football? The NFL season kicks off this weekend. It should be fun!

With the Broncos being so popular, it’s hard to think of a school in Colorado that won’t have at least a few hundred students wearing the orange and blue on Fridays. Let’s hope they can have a good season, make the playoffs, and bring home another Lombardi trophy.

Football season is a really good teaching tool, too. There are ton of numbers involved. Great heroes (and anti-heroes) to read up on. And the history and geography of all the teams. Here are 11 easy class ideas to integrate football into the class for all students.  

Hope these make some good class connections! Enjoy the season.

Omaha!

Read more

6 Practical Ideas For Summer Communication

When I was in school, we used to get our final report card mailed to us in the summer. This was before email, so I’d run to the mailbox every day a little bit anxious. We all get nervous about our grades, but what made me most anxious was finding out who my teachers for the next year would be.

This is the kind of information that can make or break a summer. One summer, I told my friends I was assigned a particular teacher who had unfairly been given a reputation as a stickler. Never be a minute late, I was told, or I’d be spending many a day in after school detention. Three tardies would get you there, but most teachers didn’t enforce it too strictly. The stickler sure did though, I was informed. And I can report this was entirely true, but what went unreported was how great of a homeroom teacher he was, how engaging, what an ability he had to motivate us for the day ahead, and how his responsibility filtered down to even the most irresponsible student. After some time, no one even wanted to be late for homeroom because his homeroom was often the best learning of the day.

This time of year, students are anxious about who their teacher might be, even if they are the best in the school. For this reason alone, it’s so important for schools to stay in communication with students and parents in the summer months.

Never forget, kids have a tremendous desire to impress, so often the anxiety is warranted. So, not only could summer communication help students make a better transition, it could help the teacher hit the ground running as well.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for schools to include in their summer communication plans.

1. Think like a kid – include spirit days, fun days, and holidays and encourage ideas for suggestions. This is summer, after all, so kids will want to know about the fun things in the school year ahead. Allowing students to suggest ideas by emailing teachers allows them to practice an important technology skill and also to build rapport with their new teacher.

2. Encourage parents to email their new teacher. Teachers check their email during the summer, and it’s really beneficial for everyone involved to exchange questions, concerns, and ideas relating to the student as soon as possible. Getting concerns out front and center takes the pressure off when things really get busy in September and beyond.

3. Host a Fourth of July school party. Staff and families might be on vacation, but I know teachers are extremely dedicated and would more than willingly volunteer to help set the table for the year ahead in an informal “getting to you know” celebration. Inviting parents to a fun event like this helps them feel like part of the collaboration process. It could be a great annual gathering.

4. Be sure new families feel welcome. New families have a lot of pressures when moving to a new school, so anything schools can do to make them feel welcome will go a long way in reducing transition stresses. Meeting at a local Starbucks could be fun. Or going Frisbee golfing. Remember, it’s summer. It should be fun!

5. Have teachers include fun content to break the ice. Teachers like to have fun just like anyone else, so including some of their personality in newsletters could go a long way in making them relatable to students a little nervous about getting to know them. A fun Q&A or Poetry Corner in school newsletters would be fun to read, and fun for teachers to write.

6. Include dates to remember. Getting off on a good foot means knowing what’s coming up. Be sure to reiterate the important dates and deadlines that you have in place for the first month back. You’ll likely have to reinforce them, but the sooner you create the buzz behind the event, the more successful it would be, for sure.

If you like these ideas, consider letting TSCA create content for your newsletter. We specialize in parent and school communication, by providing ideas supported by current research. Contact us for more information, today.

Thanks so much!

Read more

Be Your Own Hero

Below is a funny story about self confidence from author and humorist Harvey Mackay. As you can see from the story, self confidence alone might not get you there, but it is the key to moving forward. Every teacher knows that self confidence goes a long way to improving student performance. Read and enjoy: 

A soldier in a ragtag revolutionary army lost his rifle, so he went to his group’s leader for a replacement.

“What am I going to do?” asked the soldier. “We are going to have a big battle tomorrow and I don’t have a rifle.”

“Don’t worry,” said his leader. “The other side doesn’t have very good weapons either, and they are so brainwashed, they believe anything they hear. Just pretend you are pointing a rifle at them and say, ‘Bang! Bang!’ It will have the same effect as if you fired a real rifle at them.”

“OK,” said the soldier skeptically, hitching up his threadbare uniform, “But I lost my bayonet, too.”

“Do the same thing,” said his leader. “When the hand-to-hand combat begins, just point your fingers like this and say, ‘Stab! Stab! Stab!’ You’ll see it has the same effect as using a bayonet.”

The soldier was even more skeptical of this advice but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. As the sun came up, the enemy came charging over the hill right at him and he held out his imaginary rifle, saying loudly, “Bang! Bang! Bang!” To his amazement, one of them dropped, then another and then another. “Bang! Bang! Bang!” he shouted with increasing confidence.

But suddenly he saw a particularly fierce, huge enemy soldier coming right at him. “Bang! Bang! Bang!” he shouted, but the huge enemy soldier kept coming right at him until he was just a few feet away. “Stab! Stab! Stab!” said the frightened soldier, waving his fingers right at his adversary.

But nothing worked. The enemy soldier rolled right over him, kicking him in the stomach and stepping on his face. As he went by, the enemy soldier grunted, “Tank! Tank! Tank!”

Self-confidence alone doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s hard to get started or push through the inevitable obstacles without believing in yourself first. Building self confidence for our students in our schools is important to The School Communications Agency and one way we help is by assisting schools with improved communications through informed and engaged, parents.

Read more

The School Communications Agency’s Holiday Newsletter Ideas

It’s “Tis the Season” time with holiday newsletters, when it is the perfect time to celebrate and share in the spirit of togetherness. As the semester comes to an end, it is a nice time to recognize the many accomplishments of your school staff and students.  A great way to show support and to help bond your community closer is to highlight accomplishments from the first half of the school year in your parent newsletter.

Ideas include:

  • Teacher awards
  • Staff recognition
  • Student accomplishments
  • Extra curricular achievements
  • School wide progress report
  • Classroom spotlight: fun activities, innovative ideas in action

Adding accomplishments will leave your parents feeling satisfied with the semester and more connected with their child’s school.

Another easy idea is to add in fun activities that families can do over break.  It is important to remember to cater activities to all religions and cultures so as to create an inclusive community.

Ideas include:

  • Fun holiday crafts
  • Festive cooking recipes
  • Family games
  • Cozy movie day ideas

These ideas will fill the room with holiday spirit, bringing a sense of pride and joy to the entire school. Your community will feel closer and more upbeat for the holiday break!

For more ideas visit The School Communications Agency website.
Read more

This Barber Gets Kids to Read*

Children 12 and under who visit The Fuller Cut in Ypsilanti, Michigan, get a $2 discount on their haircut for doing a simple task: reading to the barber. CBS News reports that owner Alexander Fuller and barber Ryan Griffin started the reading program more than a year ago.

“‘We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Fuller explained. “When it gets busy people take notice—parents are really receptive of it; they love it.’

“Fuller and his wife started ordering some books and Griffin brought in a shelf. Customers even joined the cause by donating old and used books. Before the pair knew it, kids were grabbing books off the shelf and hopping into the chair to start reading.

“‘It gives them confidence in reading and helps us understand their comprehension of reading,’ Fuller said. ‘The kids love it. It’s one of the best things that has come along for them.'”

(* Re-printed from Exchange-Every-Day: https://www.childcareexchange.com/faqs/exchange-every-day/)

The School Communications Agency helps schools raise money from newsletter publishing. Contact us to see how:

Contact

Read more