Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a year that’s promising, exciting, inspiring and full of fun! Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Why Do You Need to Get a Flu Shot Every Year? - Melvin Sanicas

All year long, researchers at hospitals around the world collect samples from flu patients and send them to top virology experts with one goal: to design the vaccine for the next flu season. But why do we need a new one every year? Vaccines for diseases like mumps and rubella offer a lifetime of protection with two shots early in life; what’s so special about the flu? Melvin Sanicas explains.

Lesson by Melvin Sanicas, directed by Andrew Foerster.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

4 Ways Reading Aloud to Animals Can Help Build Your Child's Literacy Skills

Learn how early and struggling readers can bond with pets and shelter animals, while practicing reading without any judgment.

It's often said that a dog is man's best friend. But did you know that dogs, cats, birds, and pretty much any pet can be a friend to a struggling reader? Family pets, shelter animals, or even visiting animals at your local library can help enhance your child's reading skills. Here are just a few ways practicing reading aloud to animals can benefit your child:

1. Motivation: If you were a child who was told you could pick any book to read aloud without your mistakes being corrected, your motivation to read would jump up a few notches. That's exactly what happens when we provide the opportunity for kids to practice reading to animals. Often children will bond with the animal they are reading to and be motivated to visit that animal over and over again to read aloud.

2. Confidence: Struggling and reluctant readers often lack confidence when reading, especially when reading aloud. When a child reads to an animal, there is no judgment. A child can stumble through a word, read at a choppy rate, or take an extended amount of time to read a passage. The animal remains a consistent listening companion. Over time, a child will begin to feel more comfortable reading aloud, thus building reading confidence.

3. Fluency: Reading fluency, including reading speed and phrasing, improves with reading aloud and practicing the same material over and over. Animals don't mind if a child reads Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman twenty times. This safe listening environment provides opportunities for kids to rack up lots of practice time.

4. Reading for a Purpose: The benefits of reading to animals isn't just for the children. Animals are also helped from the attention they receive. It gives kids a sense of purpose when they sense the animals are benefiting from their kindness and attention through the act of reading.

So, where can you find an animal for your child to practice her reading? Here are a few opportunities:

Pets: If you have a family pet, then your child has a built-in reading partner every day of the week. Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, and birds all make good listening partners. A neighbor or an outside family member's pet can also work if you don't have your own.

Shelter Animals: There are many animals who spend long days in small spaces with limited human interaction. Shelters like your local Humane Society allow kids to read to the animals. Check with a local shelter near you for availability, hours, and other requirements.

Service Animals: Check your local library for reading to animal programs. Many have select days during the month that service animals visit the library. Your child can sign up for a time slot to read to an animal. The service animals are specially trained to sit or lay still next to the child during their reading session.

Stuffed Animals: Perhaps your child has pet allergies and reading to a live pet just isn't in the cards. A stuffed animal friend can serve the same role. Little ones especially love to read to their favorite stuffie.

Have your young or struggling reader give reading to an animal a try. You will be pleased to see your child's love of reading — and your animal's — flourish.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why Do Animals form Swarms? - Maria R. D'Orsogna

When many individual organisms come together and move as one entity, that’s a swarm. From a handful of birds to billions of insects, swarms can be almost any size. They have no leader, and members interact only with their neighbors or through indirect cues. Members follow simple rules: travel in the same direction as those around you, stay close and avoid collisions. Maria R. D’Orsogna shares why.

Lesson by Maria R. D’Orsogna, animation by Matt Reynolds.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

3 Tips to Raise Self-Confident Children

Raising happy, healthy, and self-confident children is a much more difficult job than it seems. In this video, I'll use information I've gathered from years of research to explain the best ways to ensure your children grow up healthy, happy and full of confidence.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

5 Ways to Raise a Science-Lover

Schools still aren’t devoting enough resources to this critical subject, but you can bring science to life with these hands-on ideas.

My three kids are natural-born scientists. They’re full of questions, always experimenting to see how things work, and mesmerized by watching a tiny ant carrying a morsel of food. So when my daughter, Stella, started kindergarten, I was shocked to hear that her class studies science for only one hour each week. When I searched for stats to make the case that this wasn’t as much as other schools, I pretty much came up empty. Surveys show that science instruction in elementary schools averages around two hours per week, and in some districts it isn’t taught at all until middle school. “The intense focus on math and reading in recent years has crowded biology, chemistry, and physics out of the grade-school classroom,” says Janice Earle, former program officer at the National Science Foundation. Even when these subjects are taught, teachers tend to have little training and lack the resources to lead experiments, which are crucial for sparking interest in science. No wonder only about a third of fourth-graders have a solid grasp of scientific principles, according to the most recent national assessment.

If that doesn’t concern you, it should. A report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology found that we need to increase the number of students who receive science-related college degrees by 34 percent annually during the next decade simply to keep up with economic demand. Encourage your child’s teachers and principal, as well as district leaders, to add more science instruction to the curriculum. Since budgets are likely to be an obstacle, you’ll boost the odds of success if you can offer a solution that’s cheap—or, even better, free. Maybe you can find a geologist who’s willing to lead field trips, or organize parent volunteers to help run workshops. If lobbying and organizing aren’t your style, there are still plenty of ways to inspire your own child to fall in love with science. Follow these steps to help unlock her inner Madame Curie.

Go Beyond the Classroom

Three out of four Nobel Prize winners in science discovered their passion outside a school environment, according to an analysis published in Education Week. So seek out extracurricular activities with a focus on scientific exploration. Many elementary schools offer afterschool opportunities to delve into subjects such as robotics and forensics. Check out the offerings at your local YMCA, 4-H organization, or recreation center. Coding classes and clubs are also sprouting up around the country as educators and parents realize that coding promotes analysis, problem solving, and creativity.

If you can’t find anything near you, consider doing it yourself. That’s what Ana Mosser did. An environmental engineer, she approached the after-school coordinator at her son’s school in Thermopolis, Wyoming, who invited her to run a science club. “I’d go online and find experiments,” she says. The club wound up being so popular that the school district made Mosser’s workshops a regular part of the curriculum.

Say Yes to Video Games

Angry Birds won’t help your kid win a future science fair, but Minecraft might. That’s because this wildly popular game has helped spark grade-schoolers’ interest in the science of coding. Minecraft lets them customize complex worlds using virtual building blocks, while educational add-ons called “mods” help them learn programming basics as they play.

Explore Together

Don’t know much about biology? No worries. Science isn’t so much about answers as the journey to find them. “The number-one thing you can do is share your curiosity with your child,” says Traci Wierman, who does curriculum outreach for The Lawrence Hall of Science, at the University of California, Berkeley. “Wonder out loud what kind of bird is in that tree or why the light is bouncing off the water, and then take the time to learn about it.”

Subscribe to magazines such as National Geographic Kids and Ranger Rick Jr., and watch science-themed TV shows like Design Squad, Sid the Science Kid, and SciGirls. Check out books on subjects your child is curious about, whether it’s animals or the weather. And if she squeals when she sees a huge spider, get out a magnifying glass and take a look, suggests Wierman. “You might ask, ‘What pattern do you see on its body? Did it catch anything in its web?’ ”

Take Field Trips

When a group of Google Science Fair finalists was asked what had most influenced their interest in the subject, many said “making trips to the local science museum as a kid.” Follow their lead and plan to visit one while you’re on vacation. Outings to aquariums, botanical gardens, zoos, and state or national parks can also bring scientific principles to life. Make sure you’re using the time wisely. “It’s better to spend half an hour deeply engaged with one scientific idea,” Wierman says. “Slow down, go at your child’s pace, and talk about what he’s seeing.”

Becoming a member at your local science center can help you avoid feeling the pressure to do everything at once. Maybe one day all you do is watch the busy honeybees. During the next visit you might learn about electricity or sign up for a coding class. Also don’t overlook less formal learning opportunities. Many towns have a water-treatment plant or construction site to tour. “See if you can find out what’s under the f loor at an ice-skating rink or behind the pins at a bowling alley,” suggests David Heil, editor of Family Science. Michelle McFadden, a mom of four in East Montpelier, Vermont, says touring a local wind-turbine company made a big impression on her oldest son, Charlie. “The place was full of huge machines and the person giving the tour said, ‘These are like toys for adults.’ After that, Charlie became excited about pursuing engineering as a career.”

Combat Stereotypes

To fight the false impression that science is boring or strictly for brainiacs, remind your child that she uses it daily. Baking is a lesson in chemistry, building with blocks involves physics, and asking questions—every child’s favorite thing to do—is exactly what leads to scientific breakthroughs. While studies show that about as many girls as boys have a positive attitude toward science in elementary school, boys are twice as likely to be interested in technology, science, and math by eighth grade. “If you have a daughter, encourage her to learn about dinosaurs and tinker with computers,” says Carol Tang, Ph.D., executive director of the Children’s Creativity Museum, in San Francisco.

Introduce your kid to engineers, doctors, and biologists too. It may happen naturally (“Did you know that Olivia’s mom is a veterinarian? She can tell you all about her job”). If not, invite a bona fide scientist to lead a fun activity with your child’s Brownie or Cub Scout troop. My family has a tradition called “Sunday Science.” Every week, we do a different experiment, whether it’s using balloon rockets to explain the concept of thrust or going outside and (carefully, wearing goggles!) turning a bottle of cola into a foaming geyser by dropping in Mentos mints. Each experiment takes only about 15 minutes to complete, the kids love it, and I’ve got to admit: My husband and I have a great time too.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Can 100% Renewable Energy Power the World? - Federico Rosei and Renzo Rosei

Every year, the world uses 35 billion barrels of oil. This massive scale of fossil fuel dependence pollutes the earth, and it won’t last forever. On the other hand, we have abundant sun, water and wind, which are all renewable energy sources. So why don’t we exchange our fossil fuel dependence for an existence based only on renewables? Federico Rosei and Renzo Rosei describe the challenges.

Lesson by Federico Rosei and Renzo Rosei, directed by Giulia Martinelli.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

How to Make Your Writing Suspenseful - Victoria Smith

What makes a good horror story? Hideous monsters and fountains of blood might seem like a good place to start, but as horror author H.P. Lovecraft wrote, “The oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Writers harness that fear not by revealing horrors, but by leaving the audience hanging in a state of suspense. Victoria Smith gives some tips for adding suspense to your writing.

Lesson by Victoria Smith, directed by Silvia Prietov.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Top 20 Most Commonly Confused Homophones

Here's a language refresher on homophones: words that sound alike but are spelled differently.

Our Raise a Reader blog has been doing some grammar celebrating this month, and we're seriously having a blast.

We are hearing that in order to raise strong readers and writers, parents could really benefit from some quick language refreshers themselves. And we totally get it. Some of the nuances of the English language are enough to make a person go batty.

So we thought we'd cover the top 20 most commonly confused homophones. Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently, and there are some that get me every time.

Please note that the following scenarios are the most commonly used cases; as is quite common in our language, there are always exceptions!

1. affect/effect
Use affect to indicate influence: The medicine did not affect her the way the doctor had hoped.
Use effect as a noun: The new medicine had negative side effects. (Note: effect can sometimes be used as a verb meaning to cause/achieve or to bring about – as in "The magician effected his escape with a false door" – but this is mostly a technical term and not used very often.)

2. than/then
Use than for comparisons: John is much taller than his brother.
Use then to indicate passage of time, or when: We went to the park in the morning, and then we left to pick up lunch.

3. which/witch
Use which as a pronoun when referring to things or animals: Cora wore her favorite pink shoes, which she received as a birthday gift.
Use witch to mean a scary or nasty person: The Halloween witch decorations must finally come down off of the wall!

4. here/hear
Use here as an adverb to indicate location: Please come back here and put your shoes away!
Use hear as a verb to indicate listening: Can you hear the birds' beautiful singing outside?

5. are/our
Are is a verb in present tense, a form of the verb "to be."
We are staying at the hotel closest to the stadium.
They are my cousins.

Our is an adjective, the plural possessive form of we.
They will bring our keys to the hotel lobby.
The pleasure is all ours.
(Note: I covered this example in my post 7 (More!) Grammar Mistakes You Don't Want to Make. Read more here.)

6. buy/by
Use buy when purchasing an item: I do need to buy new shoes for the kids.
Use by as a preposition to indicate location: Please put the sandwiches by the door so we don't forget them!

7. accept/except
Use accept as a verb to mean receive: The organization will accept donations through the first of the month.
Use except as a preposition to mean exclude: You may donate all items except car seats and cribs.

8. weather/whether
Use weather when referring to the state of the atmosphere: The constantly changing springtime weather is driving us crazy.
Use whether as a conjunction to introduce choices: Please tell us whether you would prefer steak or salmon for dinner.

9. there/their/they're
There can act as different parts of speech, depending on how it is used in a sentence. Most commonly, it is used as a pronoun or adverb.
There will be a lot to eat at the party tonight. (pronoun)
Put the book over there. (adverb)

Their is a pronoun.
The students put their coats in the closet.

they're is the contraction for they are
They're going to have practice immediately after school today.
(Note: I covered this example in my post 7 Grammar Mistakes You Don't Want to Make. Read more here.)

10. to/too/two
To can be a preposition.
We're going to the park.

To can indicate an infinitive when it precedes a verb.
We want to help in any way we can.

Too is an adverb that can mean excessively when it precedes an adjective or adverb.
I ate too much ice cream for dessert.

Too is a synonym for also.
I ate too much ice cream for dessert, too.

Two is a number.
Marcy ate two pieces of pie.
I have two books I'd like to read.

11. you're/ your
You're is a contraction for you are.
You're going to absolutely love this new recipe.

Your is a pronoun.
Please bring your books to class with you tomorrow.

12. bear/ bare
Use bear when referring to the large mammal or to indicate the act of holding or supporting: How did that brown bear open the security gate at the campsite? | The wagon can hardly bear the weight of the load.
Use bare as an adjective indicating lack of clothing or adornment: His bare neck burned in the direct sunlight.

13. one/won
Use one when referring to a single unit or thing: I have one more muffin left before the box is empty.
Use won as the past tense form of the verb "to win": Shelly's team won the tournament and celebrated with ice-cream sundaes!

14. brake/break
Use brake as a verb meaning to stop or as a noun when referring to a device used to stop or slow motion: The bike's brake failed, which is why he toppled town the hill.
Use break to indicate smashing or shattering or to take a recess: My back will break if we put one more thing in this backpack. OR Use break as a noun to indicate a rest or pause: We took a water break after our first set of drills because it was so hot outside.

15. complement/compliment
Use complement when referring to something that enhances or completes: The cranberry sauce is a perfect complement to the turkey dinner.
Use compliment as an expression of praise: I was pleased to have received so many compliments on my new dress and shoes today.

16. aloud/allowed
Use aloud when referring to something said out loud: Reading aloud –and doing it well–is a skill that requires much practice.
Use allowed when referring to something permitted: Dogs are not allowed to be on school property between 2:45-4pm.

17. lie/lay
Use lie to indicate the act of reclining: I am tired just watching the dog lie in the warm sunlight.
Use lay to indicate the placement of something: Please lay the paper on the table.

Lay is a transitive verb, which means it always needs an object! Something is always being put down; lie, on the other hand, will never have an object because it is an intransitive verb.

to lie: lie(s), lay, lain, lying
to lay: lay(s), laid, laid, laying

18. it's/its
It's is the contraction for it is.
It's raining today, so the baseball game will be cancelled.

Its is the possessive form ("possessive" means belongs to) of it.
The cat is licking its paws.

19. capital/capitol
Use capital when referring to a city, a wealth or resources, or an uppercase letter: The capital of Maryland is the gorgeous city of Annapolis.
Use capitol when referring to a building where lawmakers meet: The capitol has undergone extensive renovations this year.

20. principle/principal
Use principle as a noun meaning a basic truth or law: Many important life principles are learned in kindergarten.
Use principal as a noun meaning the head of a school or organization, or a sum of money: The principal is a well-respected member of the community because of the hard work and effort she puts forth in her position.

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