Thursday, August 12, 2010

geoGreeting


"The surface of the earth holds a message for you.  You just have to look a little closer..."   This is what popped up when I visited geoGreeting for the first time.  Intrigued, I pressed the "click to view button" and my eyes lit up as I read a message made up of letters from places all over the world.  I was then invited to create my own message, which I did.  (Click here to see the geoGreeting I made.) This little gem is ridiculously easy to use and will be fun to share with teachers and students this year.  

Summer of 100 Books



Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, issued a challenge to her followers in June. She challenged us to read a book a day during summer vacation.  Being a huge fan, I was excited to join her in what she called the "ultimate staycation."

I began the challenge on June 7th reading two books, If I Stay by Gayle Forman and Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.   I finished Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater today, and it was my 100th book.

Throughout the summer, I read 33 fiction and non-fiction picture books.  Two of my favorites were Mom and Dad are Palindromes by Mark Shulman and Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. 

I Heart You, You Haunt Me was my first verse novel, and by reading it, I rediscovered my love of poetry.  It led me to choose 4 others:  Carver: A Life in Poems, Crank, Out of the Dust, and Who Killed Mr. Chippendale: A Mystery in Poems.

10 fantasy and science fiction titles made my summer list.  I adored Shiver and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  Life As We Knew It is still keeping me up at night.  

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, The Summer I Turned Pretty, and The Outsiders were my favorites out of the 14 realistic fiction books I finished, and Countdown, Flygirl, and The Book Thief stood out as the best of the 15 historical fiction titles. 

When I looked at my list of books, I was surprised that 17 were biographies, because I'm usually not drawn to non-fiction. However, Driven, A Photobiography of Henry Ford, Up In the Air: The Story of Bessie Coleman, and The Boy Who Invented TV:  The Story of Philo Farnsworth were all fascinating, and I learned something new from each one. 

2 more books, Writing About Reading and The Right to Literacy in Secondary Schools: Creating a Culture of Thinking made their way onto my professional bookshelf. 

Although I tried to read mostly middle grade and young adult fiction, I did manage to squeeze in a 4 adult titles.   The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was beautiful, and I can't wait to discuss it at book club this year.   I stayed up all night reading Confessions of A Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim.  

So there you have it!  100 books in 66 days.  (My complete Book-A-Day list can be found on Goodreads.)   

I want to thank Donalyn and all the other book-a-day readers for their enthusiasm and encouragement.   I appreciated your comments and suggestions.  You have all inspired me to take my passion for reading and learning back to school.   It was a great summer staycation, and it will be a great year in my learning life.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Read-a-Thon Closing Comments



It was touch and go for a while there, but I finished my third book, Out of the Dust at 11:51 p.m.   I had wanted to finish before midnight, I made it with a whopping 9 minutes to spare!

What a great experience this Read-a-Thon has been!   I enjoyed each book, and I had fun following everyone's progress on Twitter.  Thanks to #bookblogchat, my TBR pile is now the size of Chimney Rock. 

Besides book recommendations, another perk has been discovering some cool new blogs.  In addition to Wallace's Unputdownables (the creative force behind this weekend's event) I'm loving Carin's A Little Bookish, Reese's Bibliophile Girl, and Michelle's The True Book Addict.  You all have inspired me to be a better blogger!

With the three books I've read this weekend, my summer reading challenge (more about that in my next post) stands at 75 books.  

Thanks again to Unputdownables for hosting this event, and to Donalyn for sharing it with me.

Friday, July 30, 2010

48 Hour Read-a-Thon

This weekend I am participating in a 48 hour Read-a-Thon.  This event is being hosted by the Unputdownables blog.   I hope to finish  The Watson's Go to Birmingham,  Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and Out of the Dust.    Mmmm, I guess I'm in the mood for historical fiction!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Panoramas

At jimmoulton.org, educators can find a wealth of technology resources.  As I was perusing the list, I came across panoramas.dk.   There are hundreds of pictures on panoramas.dk to choose from, and each provides a stunning 360 experience.  I clicked on New Year in Sydney and was absolutely amazed.    Next year I might try using this site with students.  I'm thinking I'll show part of the picture and have students do a "See Think Wonder." 

Friday, May 21, 2010

4 Square Brain Bender


Here are two HAL students trying to figure out this Brain Bender. Toothpicks are used to create 2 squares on top and 3 squares on the bottom. Next, moving only two toothpicks, students try to make the original 5 squares into 4 squares. Can you do it?

Journey North for Kids

Seasonal change is all around us. Children see it in the length of a day, in the appearance of a flower, in the flight of a butterfly. Journey North is a free internet-based program that explores the interrelated aspects of seasonal change. Classes can participate in projects, and by visiting the kids page, students can find engaging stories, photos, videos, and slide shows from the natural world. This great resource will build observation skills, inspire scientific thinking, and create fertile ground for discussions and new questions!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spelling Songs

One of my favorite ways to differentiate spelling is by having students sing their spelling words.  Three, four, five, six, and seven letter words can easily be sung to well-known songs.   Here are some students spelling the word cool to the tune of  "10 Little Piggies."



The classic "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" can be used to practice a five letter word like world.


Here are the songs I have used:

3 letters:  Three Blind Mice
4 letters:  10 Little Piggies
5 letters:  Row, Row, Row Your Boat
6 letters:  Happy Birthday to You
7 letters:  Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

This activity gets students up and out of their seats and gets their brains working!  It is especially successful with your students who are music smart.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book in an Hour


It's spring cleaning time, and I've been busy organizing, filing, and recycling all kinds of papers.  The best part of this horrible chore is discovering a lesson or idea that you once loved but had forgotten.

Buried in a pile of papers, I found a packet from a conference titled, "Intriguing, Inspiring, and Innovative Ideas to Make a Difference in Your Reading Classroom by Dr. Deb Wellman and Dr. Madeline Kovarik. As I flicked through the pages, the words "Book in an Hour" jumped out at me.  When I was still in fourth grade, I remember trying this strategy with the book Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman. 

Book in an Hour goes something like this:   Pairs of students choose or are assigned a chapter from the book.  No one gets to read the first chapter or last chapter.  When they are finished reading, partners write down the "gist" of the chapter.  They also write down questions they have about previous chapters and questions they have about future chapers. 

When students are finished reading and writing, the class comes back together.  The first chaper is read aloud by the teacher.  The students then take turns sharing the information and questions from their chapters.  As their peers are sharing,  students have most of their questions answered.   The last chapter is then read aloud.  Any remaining questions or thoughts are discussed. 

Like I said, it had been awhile since I used Book in an Hour, but I thought it might be a good differentiated activity to suggest to teachers.   I was excited to be invited into a fourth grade room to "try it out." 

Unfortunately, it didn't go so well.  The lesson wasn't a total flop, but it was close.   After debriefing with the teacher and reflecting on my own, I madesome changes (more modeling, more practice, shorter book) then tried it again in another fourth grade classroom using the book Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.   I'm happy to report that this time it went much better.   I was pleased with the inferences and questions that the students generated.   Best of all, students were engaged in an authentic task that resulted in meaningful discussion and a wonderful shared reading experience.  

So, "Book in an Hour" turned into "Book in a Couple of Days", but it was time well spent.  Wish spring cleaning was half as fun.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making a Difference

A group of sixth grade students at Adams Middle School are discovering that they can make a difference in the world.  Their HAL coach, Lori Brouillette, used KIVA as inspiration.  Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe.  Click here to watch their story.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"You're My Yoda"

During a recent Blackberry conversation, I received a text from a colleague that read, "You are my Yoda." Not knowing what she meant, I quickly typed back, "?????" I didn't get a text back, but later on that morning I had the chance to ask her what she meant. She explained, "You know, like in Star Wars? You are my Yoda. You're the person I go to when I need to know something."

I must admit I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it makes me feel REALLY old. Not so long ago, I used to be Luke. Young, enthusiastic, fearless, and ready to take on the galaxy (Or at least a group of fourth graders!) Now, suddenly, I'm an ancient, wrinkled, big-eared advice-giver?

On the other hand, it's kind of nice to know that I've helped someone. I've chosen to work mainly as a coach this year, and I have wondered many times whether or not it was a good decision. Being called a YODA makes me feel like maybe it was.




So, I'm a Yoda? Yeah, I can live with that.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Game On!

Last month, I attended the NAG Spring Conference. As anyone who goes to conferences can tell you, shopping at the vendor booths is one of the best parts!

I always look forward to seeing what new things Connie has at CR Toys. Not only does she display her items, she does workshops for teachers. After attending one of her sessions, I ran to her booth and bought You've Been Sentenced, Word Pirates, Camouflage. and Knockout/Muggins.

There are many benefits of playing games. Social play teaches students how to share and take turns, how to communicate, and how to behave in groups and on teams. Games can reduce stress and help students gain confidence in their abilities. Physical movement helps keep children focused and engaged. Games allow students to apply the skills they have learned in different situations.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that challenging your brain with mentally stimulating leisure activities (including board games or cards, doing crossword puzzles, reading, writing, and playing musical instruments) is great for your mind. In fact, seniors who participated in such activities about once a week for a 20-year period reduced the risk of dementia by 7 percent. Those who engaged in these activities more often reduced their risk even more--by 63 percent.

So, come on teachers! Game ON!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Differentiation in an Hour


If you are interested in learning more about differentiated instruction, I recommend the online course Differentiated Instruction: Success for Every Student offered by Curriculum Associates. The tutorial is divided into 4 lessons, and each lesson takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Lessons include Differentiation Instruction at a Glance, Identifying Student Needs, Instructional Strategies and Classroom Management, and Putting Your Plan Into Action. So in about an hour, you can have in your hands some new "tools" to help you meet the needs of all the students in your classroom.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Nebraska Stock Market Game

Last month, I attended the Nebraska Association for the Gifted Spring Conference. As a board member, I was responsible for being a room monitor for some of the sessions. I know from experience that this can be torture if you get a presenter or topic that is not so good.

I must say that I lucked out this year! Jennifer Davidson, from the Nebraska Council on Economic Education, did a fantastic job telling us about The Nebraska Stock Market Game.

The Stock Market Game is a ten-week academic competition for students in grades 4-12. Student teams manage a $100,000 portfolio, do research, and buy stocks and bonds. I can see students really getting into this, and it is definitely something to consider for next year.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Economics is Everywhere!

Economics is Everywhere is an entertaining and educational program for students post 6th-post 8th grade. The Summer 2010 Day Camp will be held June 14-18 at the UNL College of Business Administration. The cost is $200 and includes all field trips, materials, lunches, and snacks.

For more information about the kinds of activities offered this year, check out this brochure

This event is sponsored by the UNL Center for Economic Education. Questions can be emailed to tfischer1@unl.edu, or visit www.nebraskacouncil.org/unl

Fregor

Portmanteau (pronounced port-MAN-toe) is a word formed by merging the sounds and meanings from two other words. Some common examples include smog (smoke + fog), brunch (breakfast + lunch) and telethon (telephone + marathon). Perhaps the most popular are those used to identify famous Hollywood couples. Who hasn't heard the terms "Brangelina," "TomKat," and "Bennifer"?

Portmanteaus seem to be ginormous right now, so I 've decided to create my own...
Fregor (freedom +rigor)

I'll admit, it seems strange to want to put these two words together. In fact, freedom and rigor would probably be listed as antonyms in a dictionary. It's true that on the surface these words don't have much in common.

However, when you dig a little deeper, there does seem to be a connection. When I really started to think about what rigor is and what it isn't, I actually began to think of rigor AS freedom.

When you watch students involved in a rigorous learning activity, you notice that they have all kinds of freedom. They have the freedom to explore and create. They have the freedom to take risks and to fail. They have the freedom to agree or disagree.

On his Speed of Creativity podcast, Wes Fryer makes a case against the word rigor. As he so cleverly points out, other words for rigor include inflexibiltiy, stringency, and cruelty. Why, then, would we want these words as defining characteristics of our educational system? "Differentiation and flexibility," Wes says, are things we need to embrace.

Rigor, as defined in the dictionary, is not what we want in our classrooms. What we want is FREGOR!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Differentiation Video #2

Karen Dumond, a teacher from Kentucky, finds out what her students know by using formative assessments. In this video, students give pioneer presentations using a variety of methods and materials. You can't help but smile when you see how one student gleefully explains the concept of "buffalo chips" to his classmates. As you watch, you may want to ask yourself, "What evidence is there of student learning? It may also be helpful to think about how this type of assessment is guiding the instruction of the teacher.

Is There A Better Way?

Hoping this gives us all something to think about...


1620

Friday, March 5, 2010

Carrot Sticks

As far as bloggers go, I'm pretty much a newbie. I'm still learning the ins and outs of the blogging world. Luckily, there are some amazing sites out there that I can look to for inspiration. I've mentioned ilearntechnology before, and thanks to Kelly's alliance, I've found some other awesome blogs to follow, like freetech4teachers.com.

Both of these blogs regularly highlight technology resources, and both blogs have featured CarrotSticks.


CarrotSticks is an online multiplayer game that encourages K - 5th graders to practice their math computation skills.

I love how students are given the option of practicing alone or going head to head against an opponent. Another cool thing is that problems get more challenging as you play. When I was there, I accepted a challenge from another person and was surprised to get a three digit addition problem. (I'm embarrassed to admit that I lost!)

I'm so happy to be able to pass on this little tip: Teachers can get a classroom account for FREE by emailing support@carrotsticks.com.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Differentiation Video #1

This video shows some children in a first grade classroom in Omaha. Notice how the teacher uses flexible grouping to meet the needs of her students. I also love the "Guess the Rule" and "Money Scoop" activities.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Art

As any of my former teaching partners and/or students will tell you, art is not my forte! I distinctly remember Mary, my first 4th grade teaching partner, coming into my room after one sketching lesson. She took one look at my work and burst out laughing. I really couldn't blame her. It was worse than awful!
I wish I would have known about these sites when I was in the classroom, but I'm excited to share them with teachers. I can imagine doing a whole Picasso unit using the site Mr. Picassohead.


Here are some other sites that I've also had fun experimenting with lately:
Kerpoof
Jackson Pollock
Bomomo
Art Pad


Maybe if I would have had these online resources, I wouldn't have dreaded Art Fridays.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Made the List!

Mr. Livingston, a social studies teacher at our high school does a really cool project each year. I don't know all of the details, but I think he has each student create a timeline about his/her life. Somewhere along the way, students must identify their favorite teacher.

I was excited to learn that Jacob Engel had named me as his favorite. I taught him 5 years ago, and my best memory of him is when he dressed up as Johnny Carson for Notable Nebraskans Night. He was a great 4th grader, and I wish him all the best in the future.

Congratulations to my colleagues who also made the list this year!

Mrs. Dotson
Mrs Boyd or Mrs Boyle (maybe these are two different teachers.)
Mrs Kinnaman
Mr. Petersen
Mrs Furrow
Mrs Evans
Mrs. Rogers
Mr. Sodawasser (from his Adams years)
Mrs Stevens
Mrs Flanders
Mrs Harshburger
Mr. Deutschmman
Mrs Malmkar
Mrs. walters
Mrs DeBoer
Mrs. Shotkoski
Mr. Mohs
Mrs Leach
Mrs Roberts
Mrs Lehmkuhler
Mrs Elmshouser
Mrs chapman
Mr Halsted
Mrs Roggow
Mr Gulzow
Mrs Gulzow
Mrs Woodill
Ms. lukwitz (student spelling)
Mrs Miller
Ms. Brinkmeyer
Miss Callaway
Mrs Wiles
Mr. Hammond
Mr. Whitney
Mrs Hatch
Mr. Luke
Mrs Diamond
Mrs Fickel
Mrs Cox (Hershey)Mr. Burns
Mrs Burke
Mr Beeman
Mrs Andre-Henn
Mrs Davis
Mrs Hanson
Mrs Harvey
Mrs Deterding
Mrs Mickolatchi
Mrs Ludwig
Mrs Horn
Mrs Hyaban
Mrs Milsap
Mrs Westland
Mrs Cuttingham(student spelling)
Mrs Volchek
Mrs Johnson
Mrs Rickett
Mrs Hess
Mrs Meduna
Mrs O'Rouke
Mrs Michaels
Mrs Froman
Mis Hill
Mrs Groves
Mrs Knepke
Mrs. French
Mr. Vemeer
Mrs Schroeder
Mrs. Digiovioni
Mrs Brogden
Mrs Rolands
Mrs Mohrman
Mrs. Isom
Mrs Carlson
Mrs Brouillett
Mrs Reynolds
Mr. Callaghan

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Providing Challenge Through Tiering

I recently had a meeting with a teacher who is teaching multiplication to her third grade students. She told me that she has 4 students who seem to be really struggling, 11 students who are cruising along fine, and 7 students who seem to need more of a challenge.

This situation isn't unique. We teachers often find ourselves wondering how to meet the extremely diverse learning needs of our students.

Tiering is a strategy that can be used to differentiate assignments. By adjusting the level of the task and by allowing students to choose their own entry level, we can help students be successful.

One of the best resources I've found on tiering is Challenge by Choice. This blog asks the question, "What happens when students are offered authentic assessment choices and given the responsibility for determining the appropriateness of their own learning targets?" It's a great question, and by exploring the information, lesson plans, and videos on the site, teachers may find that they want to see what happens when they try to answer it.

For me, the most important part of tiering is making sure that students at each level are engaged in meaningful tasks. If we have one group doing a problem-solving activity and have another group reciting facts with flashcards, we show little respect for our our students. A better solution would be to have all groups solve a problem. The problems, however, could be modified to meet the readiness levels of students.

On the Houghton Mifflin Math site, there is a great multiplication story problem. It's challenging, but I think with some tiering, it would be perfect for the third grade class I mentioned earlier.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Go Big Red!


Wouldn't it be amazing if students could say, " I edited a film over the summer" or maybe "I spent my summer designing and carrying out field and laboratory-based research projects."

Both are possible with 2010 BIG RED ACADEMIC CAMPS . These career exploration camps (which begin in June) give students a chance to explore the UNL campus, meet people from across the state, spend time investigating an interest or potential career, and have lots of fun!

The topics this year are biological science, companion animals, culinary arts and food science, fashion design, filmmaking, golf, natural resources, youth legistlature, veterinary science, and
3-D animation and virtual world creation.

For more information, read the online brochure or go to the FAQs.

I've been Thinking....


Cover 21

Here is a fun logic game that you might want to try in the classroom. It would make a great anchor activity as well.

Create a 3 x 7 grid to use for a gameboard. Number them in rows like this:

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
10 11 12
13 14 15
16 17 18
19 20 21

How to play: Students take turns putting one or two markers down in order starting at the box with the "1" in it. The person who loses is the person who has to put a marker down in the "21" box.

Thanks, Dimis, for sharing this with me. And yes, there is a way to always win the game. The challenge is figuring it out!

Ad Adstra

The new year just started, but I am already getting things in the mail about summer programs and activities for students. Ad Astra (to the stars in Latin) offers HAL middle school students the opportunity to experience a week of living and learning on the Ceighton University campus. Students attend classes in the mornings and participate in other social and educational activities for the remainder of the day. Instructors include Creighton professors, master teachers, and other professionals from the metropolitan area. Session 1 is June 6-12, and Session 2 runs from June 13-19. Registration information can be found here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jumping Calculator

Here's a great idea for practicing math facts that I found on the Math Models blog.




So....Does anyone have a mini trampoline laying around that I could borrow?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Body Systems

Fifth graders in our district learn about the different body systems. One brilliant and innovative teacher I know has decided to use Dr. Kathie Nunley's Layered Curriculum concept to teach the unit.

Layered Curriculum is an effective differentiated teaching method that fosters complex and creative thinking while holding students accountable for their learning.

Students work through and demonstrate 3 levels of understanding. The acquisition of basic knowledge happens during the the first part of the unit or the "C" layer. Students then move on to the "B" layer and apply what they learned in a variety of ways. "A" level tasks require students to synthesize information and form and defend opinions.

One of the things I love about Layered Curriculum is choice. At each level there are a variety of assignment options. I've compiled a list of online activities that I think would work well in a layered unit plan for body systems.

Body Systems Podcast C level Basic Knowledge
In a nutshell: Students from Mr. Coley's 5th grade classroom share information about the different kinds of human body systems.

Build Arnold's Body C Level Basic Knowlege
In a nutshell: The object of the game is to get the right organs in the right system.

Fun With Mummies B Level Application
In a nutshell: This amazing interactive website guides you through the steps of preparing a mummy for burial. Students will be interested to learn to learn all that had to be done to each body.

Blood Drive A Level Critical Thinking and Analysis
In a nutshell: In this activity, students are in charge of a organizing a school blood drive.
They design a flyer that explains the process and importance of blood donation to the community.

Virtual Knee and Hip Replacement: A level Critical Thinking and Analysis
In a nutshell: Amazing site! Students take on the role of surgeon throughout a hip or knee replacement surgery.

A 15 minute video, "How Do I Begin Layered Curriculum?" is available on the Layered Curriculum site. There is also a collection of lesson plans that teachers may find helpful.

Reading Ideas

Today a teacher asked me if I knew of any good reading websites. She needed something to use as a center activity during her reading block. Thanks to Kelly from ilearntechnolgy for sharing these sites.

Big Universe


In a nutshell: Big Universe has hundreds of non-fiction and fiction books that students can read online. There is a monthly fee, but students can access the free book of the day.



Book Wink
In a nutshell: Through podcasting and video, Book Wink connects kids in Grades 3 through 8 with books that will make them excited about reading. After watching the booktalks, students could create a list of books that they would like to check out from the library.



Ology
In a nutshell: This little gem from the American Museum of Natural History invites students to investigate a variety of "ology" topics including zoology, archaeology, astronomy, and more. It is very user friendly and would be perfect for a reading center activity.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Organization Tips Kids Will Actually Use

The following information is provided by Susan Goodkin, Executive Director of the California Learning Strategies Center, http://www.learningstrategiescenter.com/. The Center helps parents meet the needs of gifted and advanced students from kindergarten through college planning.

Organization Tips that Work for Kids

When it comes to organizing young students, many parents and teachers try to fit all students into one box.

For example, students generally come home from their first day of middle school with new planner in hand and strict instructions to record all their assignments in it every day.

As many frustrated parents have learned, however, making every child use a planner as their primary organizational tool simply doesn't work in practice.

For many students - particularly young boys - writing down their assignments in tiny boxes, for up to six different classes, is torturous.

Additionally, for the planner to be effective, not only do students have to accurately record the assignments in the brief time between classes, but then they have to remember to review their scribbles. As one of my young clients earnestly informed me, "Oh, the planner works for me - I just forget to look at it."

If we want to improve our children's organization skills, we need to consider tools many kids are more comfortable with - and more likely to actually use - than planners.

Take cell phones, for example. When teachers write assignments on the board, a click of the cell phone camera will record the homework accurately and instantaneously.

Students can also text message the assignment to their mom or dad. (I know, to many adults it seems just as easy to write down the assignment as to text it, but texting seems easier to kids.)

If homework is assigned verbally, students can use their cell phones, and some Ipods, to record their teachers' instruction. You can also can channel your child's inner James Bond and get cool spyware gadgets such as a recording pen.

For an example, check out http://www.spy-tronix.com/mp3playerpenrecorder.html.

Of course, students need to get the teacher's permission before recording.

Parents must also understand that teachers already have their hands full policing the use of cell phones and Ipods. Students who don't limit their in-class use of these devices to recording assignments should lose the privilege of doing so - back to the planner.

However students initially record assignments, they still need to review them.

Rather than trying to get kids to haul out their planners to check their assignments every day, why not make use of a tool the vast majority of kids unfailingly look at without reminders: their computer. You can turn the computer into an organizational aid through the many free programs available on-line.

Using programs such as Airset (http://www.airset.com/) or zohoplanner (http://planner.zoho.com/) students can calendar homework assignments, record appointments, create to-do lists, and more.

Students can also program reminders to pop up before assignments are due, as well as e-mailing their entries to parents - thereby creating another source of reminders!

Finally, for those kids who are reluctant writers of to-do lists and the like, parents can check out voice recognition systems such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, http://www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/.

This software will magically transform your child's spoken words into a written document. This is helpful for all kinds of tasks, as well as reducing the frustration of those kids who think faster than they can write.

Getting our children organized will be a lot easier if we adapt to their world. What are the odds that today's students will rely on low-tech devices such as planners when they're adults?

Let's help our kids by letting them use 21st century tools to organize their 21st century lives.