Monday, September 19, 2016

Listen to learn: Hearing is believing!

Let's face it, most of our kids have some sort of electronic device or another.  Why not put them to good use?  We give you.... the podcast. It's probably one of the least used features on the smartphone. We love podcasts because they are especially useful for our auditory learners.  Auditory learners can remember an amazing 75% of what they hear so they can be a fantastic resource for them. We have listened to hours and hours trying to find the best ones for your child. The podcasts that we feature vary in length from 15-35 minutes which is a perfect amount of time- not too long, not too short. All of these podcasts can be accessed through Apple, Android or through the website listed. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Here are Covington Latin School's top picks:

Tumble Science Podcasts for Kids
Tumble is a science podcast for kids to be enjoyed by the entire family.  They tell stories about science discoveries with the help of scientists.  Join Lindsay and Marshall as they ask questions, share mysteries, and learn what science is all about. We recommend this for kids 3rd grade and up.

Shabam is a new type of science show that blends fictional stories with real science.  If you love science but hate those awkward scientist interviews that involve graphs and confusing metaphors, you're in luck.  First off, Shabam! is an audio program- so no graphs.  And second, through the magic of sound effects and music, you'll hear stories that reveal the awesomeness in the world around us- like cellphones and vaccinations. We recommend this for kids 3rd grade and up.

The Book Club for Kids
This is a podcast where young readers meet to talk about a book.  The show includes a celebrity reading from the book.  Plus, the author joins us to answer your questions. We recommend this for kids 4th through 8th grade.

Shakespeare Retold
Ten of William Shakespeare's most famous plays become the inspiration for a collection of stories by leading children's writers and read by some famous voices.  Writers include Frank Cotrell Boyce, Pamela Butchart and Jamila Gavin; readers include Simon Callow, Shirley Henderson and Julian Rhind-Tutt.  We recommend this for kids 6th grade and up.

Stuff You Missed in History Class
This podcast is from the authors of HowStuffWorks.  The hosts of this show look at stories from history that you may not have heard about in class.  We recommend this for kids 6th grade and up.

We hope you enjoyed our selections. What podcasts do you and your children listen to? We would love to hear from you!

Travel to Learn- To Go or Not to Go?

Traveling abroad can be one of the most amazing and beneficial experiences a student can have. Where can I start with the importance of travel? As a young girl, my parents’ goal was to take our family on a vacation once a year. For them, going to the beach was the obvious get away. Being the history-minded person that I am, I knew that I needed to see and experience more places. The opportunity arose at the end of my senior year of high school to go on a trip with other students to five countries.  I begged my parents to lend me the money because I might never have the opportunity to go abroad again (My parents had never been out of the country so I thought it was very abnormal to go overseas). When l I got to London in June of 1999,  I realized how many people from America really do travel. I fell in love with the city. It was similar to the US in that we spoke the same language but totally different than anywhere I've ever been.  I was in culture shock- cars driving on the other side of the road,  the accents, the palace,  the changing of the guards.  I couldn't believe that this actually happened in the world!  I thought these were things that only happened on TV! From there we went to Paris, to Switzerland, to Austria and Germany. I learned a lot from that trip- not only did I learn how to keep my passport safe,  but I learned to budget money, use an ATM, have an open mind, try new foods, and be flexible with my plans.  I learned how to behave not like a tourist. By that, I don't mean wearing a fanny pack and white gym shoes. I mean to be confident, polite, and walk into a restaurant or store like I knew what I was doing.  Being immersed in a different culture and language takes you out of your comfort zone and it builds confidence that you didn't know you had in you.  

I then had the opportunity to travel abroad at the end of my senior year of college. Someone came to talk to our class about student teaching abroad and one of the places they mentioned was England- so of course I had to bite at the chance. I was very nervous though since I would be the only student going abroad from the University. Again, it was very expensive, but I knew again that it would be worth it. I lived on a college campus and made a network of friends for life.

When I started teaching, I wanted my students to have the same opportunity that I had so I started planning our first trip. Teaching in an accelerated school full of bright students, I had a unique opportunity to expose my students to more than what they could ever learn in the classroom.  I knew from experience that exposure to other cultures and languages can give students sensitivity and globalization that cannot be gained by reading books alone. I knew these kids were ready and able to take their classroom learning to the next level. Our first trip was a success! We visited London, Paris, and Rome. It was amazing for me to see the students’ eyes light up before Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Coliseum. Even my breath was taken away by the Coliseum, since I was teaching ancient history at the time and had never been to Rome. That trip added value to my classroom as a teacher. I learned a lot from that trip about deadlines, tipping guides, being on time, keeping people on time, but mainly about how unique it is to be able to see the world. From the people on that trip, I know that out of the 24 students that went with me, 20 studied abroad in college. Two even live abroad now. I hope they remember the respect for cultures that I taught (and also to tuck their passports---inside joke for anyone that has been on my trips).  Most of all, I hope they remember to take someone else abroad one day to give them that love of travel. Where would I be without my teacher taking me back in 1999? I have taken 5 trips abroad with students (and am starting to plan my 6th for 2018). I don’t think I’ll ever stop the love of learning that comes with the love of travel. 

Stephanie Tewes is the Dean of Studies at Covington Latin School, an accelerated school in Northern Kentucky.  She is also a history and speech teacher.  

Technology to learn: APPly Yourself!

Technology for technology sake isn't always a good thing.  In fact, I dare say there is some validity in not using them in every classroom setting. However, there is a time and place for technology. Throughout my life time as a student, teacher, homeschooling mom and tutor, I have seen technology evolve tremendously.

To give you an example of how things have changed, I give you Exhibit A:  the term paper. The process we had to go through would startle those who grew up in a digital world. First, we had to use index cards.  Not one pack, mind you, but three or four.  We had to write one fact per card that we actually looked in BOOKS to find.  Gasp! No internet!  Do you even know how many facts go into a research paper?  SO MANY INDEX CARDS! Each of these index cards then would be spread across your bedroom in an attempt to organize them into some sort of coherent paper which we then had to type on a  TYPEWRITER!  And once you finished your paper, you had to do your works cited page. I swear I have PTTPD (Post Traumatic Term Paper Disorder).  This was an exercise in torture.  The minutia that went in to a properly cited page was unbelievably painstaking and then to have to do it on a typewriter. Yikes! I am twitching just thinking about it.

Then we hit the modern age.  Kids just don't know how lucky they have it!   I am a firm believer of work smarter not harder especially since I never want my children to suffer as I did.  So I give to you bibme or easybib.  Both are excellent for creating fast and easy work cited pages. In some cases, all you need is the ISBN number to complete the citation.  Cue the choirs of angels.

While I am on the subject of index cards, let's save some trees! Quizlet and Studyblue are two flashcard websites and apps that allow your child to create flashcards and quizzes to help them study. While there is value in handwriting flashcards, these two apps make studying on the go a snap.  I love these for busy families.  I recommend these to the kids that I tutor so they can study in the car on the way to soccer practice and school.

Another website I recommend is Hoopla.  Hoopla is a free app that allows you to borrow all types of media through your local library.  I ran across this app when my daughter was struggling with reading comprehension. She was able to download audio books and read along and highlight passages in her book.  I have to admit that I am reintroducing myself to some of the classics via Hoopla.  And for those that question the legitimacy of listening to books on tape, I ran across this article that defends its use.

Next up is a collection of websites that engage those who want to learn more. TedTalks, Great Courses and Khan Academy are excellent resources. TedTalks is a free resource with over 2000 videos on a myriad of subjects that last less than 20 minutes.  Its purpose is to spread ideas and knowledge to whomever wants to learn it.  Khan Academy is similar to Ted in the sense that they have 1000's of lessons, but it is more academic in nature and is for all ages.  I love that if you are struggling in math, you can be taught by professionals.  Or if you are wanting to move ahead in a subject, you can find classes that can accelerate you in a particular area.  Finally, Great Courses is an unbelievable resource for those looking for advanced studies from science to philosophy.  The downside to Great Courses is that it is paid site but access can be gained for free for a month and they often run really good sales.  

I hope these apps and websites help your child this year. What tech do you like? We would love to hear from you. We are always on the look out for cool new ideas.

This blog was submitted by one of our ExploreMore! parents.  She is a 7-12 teacher, homeschool parent and private tutor.  If you would like to contribute to our blog on educational or parenting topics, email