Tips for Raising a Global Citizen

Global Citizen GlobeIvy Prep’s last post described the perspective of Harvard Education Professor Fernando Reimers, who develops global education curricula that focus on a child’s knowledge of the world, the skills they need to become a global citizen, and the effect they can have on the world if they are educated as global citizens.

As the world becomes more interconnected and interdependent, it’s important for educators and parents to impart to children as much global awareness and education as possible. Knowledge, skill, and effectiveness about the world are now as important as being able to read, write, and do arithmetic. Professor Reimers and other educators stress the role teachers and parents can play in guiding children to process an array of information so that they can evaluate and appreciate others while also forming their own world views.

IT ALL STARTS IN PRE-SCHOOL 

Acquiring global knowledge is a developmental process that starts in pre-school. Parents are the best and obvious role models and guides for their children because they know them best and are most attuned to their intellectual and emotional growth.

Nancy Schulman (Head of Early Learning Center at Avenues) and Ellen Birnbaum (Director, 92nd St. Y Nursery School) co-authored Practical Wisdom for Parents, in which their chapter “Developing Morals and Ethics in Children reminds us of the ancient saying carpe diem: “When you see an opportunity to teach good behavior, you should ‘catch’ your child in the moment. Don’t wait until later.”

Schulman & Birnbaum suggest acknowledging and reinforcing your child’s behavior when he or she does something good, but also holding him/her accountable in a loving way during less pleasant moments on their part. Such teachable moments leads children to establish a code of ethics they can use over time to frame the knowledge Reimers speaks of, and that is taught in a theoretical way at school.

Taking advantage of teachable moments also enhances children’s ever-developing nervous systems–thinking critically so that they can extrapolate from their personal experiences (e.g., moments on the playground) to more abstract ideas (e.g., news about wars, conflicts, resolutions, etc.). Being globally minded and aware enhances a child’s cognitive development and gives that child a chance to think for themselves, an important skill to hone as we navigate through our own lives.

Small learning moments add up and help children evaluate larger-scale issues, in response to which they might contact local, national, or international agencies to let their voices be heard. Assistant Director of Queens Paideia School Karyn Slutsky says cultivating global awareness is “a multifaceted approach … that seeds our students to notice and consider more of what is around them, on the local level and more expansively, and also what is inside them.”

I often talk with parents about the importance of letting children form their own opinions while also providing knowledge and modeling behavior that Reimers, Slutsky, Schulman, and Birnbaum describe so well. Setting examples through our own actions (I am a mother as well) and being open to learning about others, while staying true to your own moral compass, are seeds parents can plant to help their child become a world citizen.

TEACHABLE MOMENTS AROUND EVERY CORNER

Global Citizen FlagsLet’s consider how we can seize the day in assisting our children in comprehending what’s happening around them and in the world. The objective here is to educate our children about current events and model respectful modes of evaluating and communicating our values to others. Through these,  we can guide our children in developing critical thinking skills and behaviors that enable them to have and act on a broader perspective.

Where I live in New York there is a teachable moment around every corner. You can take your daughter to a peaceful rally at the UN to support a cause in which you believe. After all, as Reimers notes, Martin Luther King was greatly influenced by the nonviolent and practical ways Mahatma Ghandi used to advance his cause.

Communicating your beliefs in a community of others can take place in front of the UN or by writing a letter to your congress(wo)man about a cause that resonates with you and your child. It also gives your child a peek into the democratic process and a sense of control at a time when the news and images of conflict can be overwhelming and disturbing.

Similarly, learning a foreign language can help your child better relate to and communicate with others. You could supplement language learning by watching a foreign film together. Take the classic Red Balloon: What is your child’s reaction to Lamorisse’s depiction of Pascal and his red balloon? What does your child think about the solace Pascal finds in his balloon and the hurt he feels at his peers’ cruelty? What does the film suggest about frailty and strength? What might your child advise Pascal to do in this situation? How do you stand up for yourself or others in an effective but nonviolent way? What messages in this 1950s film, spoken or implied, still hold today and are universal?

Other fun teachable moments are just a few subway stops away. Head downtown to Little Italy or Chinatown, or to Queens via the #7, to see how the people who live there respond to your attempts at using their language. Your kids will see how other fellow New Yorkers speak about things and make sense of the world. What is the tone of voice and body language that children and parents in different communities use? How do they convey their messages to one another?

Exposing children to foreign lands and new, different perspectives augments their intelligence and empathy skills. After all, we are not just educating them for the sake of acquiring knowledge but so that they can do something with that knowledge to make the world a better place.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Raising Your Child to Be a Citizen of the World

How can we educate our children to be citizens of the world? This question is one that parents and educators are considering, particularly this summer amid such tumultuous times in our country and the world-at-large.

Every day we and our children have real-time opportunities to share our thinking while engaging with one another — whether it’s how to welcome new neighbors on the block, explain our attitudes toward immigration policies debated in Congress, or provide background and context to our children as a 24/7 news cycle presents nonstop updates and images of global conflicts.

Global Citizen ReCropped Image

Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Professor Fernando Reimers recently spoke about global education to HGSE alumni in New York. Reimers, who is also director of the International Education Policy Program at HGSE, knows about the nuts and bolts of educating kids. He is a parent and a professor; he also developed the World Course (global studies) curriculum for the Avenues School, a private school in New York City devoted to making its students global-minded citizens of the world.

Because we live in such an interdependent and connected world, global curricula are now being designed and evaluated to ensure that they are relevant. This is a welcome development because our children need knowledge and flexible, adaptive tools to become successful in an interconnected society. Since learning happens through both formal pedagogy and outside of the classroom, parents and teachers alike can foster global awareness in meaningful ways.

A GLOBAL EDUCATION CURRICULUM – BRIDGING THEORY AND PRACTICE

Reimers believes that global education should begin at a very early age, pre-school even, where we explain to children what we think they should care about and why. We should help them understand their role as global citizens by having world education as part of the core curriculum. Regardless of age, Reimer says there are three attributes that enable a child to become globally competent – knowledge, skill, and effectiveness.

 KNOWLEDGE

We need to know and understand the history of the world but we also need to understand contemporary life, global opportunities and challenges, and how expansive yet small our world really is. Reimers breaks global knowledge into three parts:

A positive disposition toward cultural difference, that is, an interest and understanding of different civilizational streams and the ability to see them as opportunities for constructive transactions among people. These are soft skills (and attitudes) that reflect an openness to and curiosity about the variation of human cultural expression reflected internationally. In their most basic forms, these skills comprise tolerance toward cultural differences.

An ability to speak, understand, and think in languages in addition to the dominant language in the country in which people are born. Foreign language skills are analogous to stereoscopic vision to the global mind.

Deep knowledge and understanding of world history, geography, of the global dimensions of topics such as health, climate, and economics, and of the process of globalization itself.

Schools like Avenues are focused on providing this knowledge base and increasing consciousness of what a more integrated world means.

“Even though living in a highly interdependent world is not an option, being educated to do so competently is,” Reimers reminds us.

Global Education - Students

SKILL

“Young people learn much from schools, but what they learn is not only in their lessons. Teachers and administrators must learn to model the skills we want students to develop, such as good environmental practices, participatory decision-making, and the control and prevention of violence through reporting policies and clear codes of conduct,” says the UN’s Global Education First Initiative. Developing skills comes in two parts: theory and practice. Eating tacos or sipping Thai iced tea at a school’s international fair day doesn’t constitute a comprehensive international education program.

At Queens Paideia School (QPS) in Long Island City, NY, cultivating global awareness is a key component that is integrated into students’ daily experience. QPS Assistant Director Karyn Slutsky says, “Even our youngest students learn about concepts like culture (including beliefs), natural resources, and geography, along with their impact on human relations, other species, and the environment. They learn about history all over the world but they also learn about their own community, and how they can effect positive changes through small steps and effective communications. It’s a multifaceted approach—loaded with modeling, practice, and reinforcement—that seeds our students to notice and consider more of what is around them, on the local level and more expansively, and also what is inside them.”

Early childhood educators note that parents are the child’s first and most critical teachers. Nancy Schulman, Head of Early Learning Center at Avenues, and Ellen Birnbaum, Director of the 92nd Street Y Nursery School (co-authors of Practical Wisdom for Parents) note that, “It is never too early to teach good behavior,” whether by modeling a respectful but definite code of ethics or by reinforcing children’s acting in a spirit tolerance, collaboration, and kindness.

This sort of skill-building parallels a child’s growth of critical thinking skills; children learn how to use knowledge they have acquired to consider an issue from various vantage points. As problem-solving skills grow, children can learn how to think about different perspectives, appreciate these distinct points of view, and analyze them while still communicating their own beliefs in a tolerant and respectful manner. This is a particularly important function for American children who are working toward becoming world citizens. Kids in the United States have the greatest access to information, and therefore they have the opportunity and responsibility to represent the country’s ideals of democracy.

EFFECTIVENESS

The UN’s Global Education First Initiative says, “Change is possible when educators adopt a vision of ethical global citizenship. … explicitly teaching good citizenship as a subject can have powerful results with more empowered and ethical students emerging. Deeply entrenched beliefs take time to change. But young people are open to new perspectives, and schools are ideally positioned to convey them.” Parents, too, are ideally positioned to model and reinforce desirable attitudes and behaviors toward the goals of global awareness and character development.

Riemers’s three attributes for global effectiveness are useful for parents and educators to keep in mind. Learning about other societies and cultures is a developmental process, just like learning to read or developing time management skills or tennis skills. Learning to appreciate, see the value in, and have respect for other nations, religions, customs, habits, and beliefs is a long-term process that we should help our children cultivate and navigate so they can better understand the world and the role they can play in making it better and more balanced.

As Reimers pointed out in his speech, we — educators and parents — should be teaching our children “the capacity to understand globalization, anticipate risks, manage them, and seize and create opportunities in a highly integrated global economic context.”

How much international knowledge do you have? Try this brief online quiz to gauge your own general knowledge of the world.

 Stay tuned for our next post: Tips to help your child become a global citizen.

 

 

 

 

COMMON APP: UNIQUE STRATEGIES FOR YOU

Common AppThis Friday, August 1, 2014, the Common Application  for university applicants became available online. Rising high school seniors can get an early start to the general college application that is accepted by over 500 public and private colleges and universities in the U.S., including all eight Ivies, and in Europe. The application provides a relatively universal way for schools to compare and contrast applicants.

The Common App, as it is colloquially called, streamlines the college application process by providing basic information and a general set of questions for students to answer and submit to any of the colleges that participate in the Common App.

Although many universities do require supplementary questions for their applicants, the Common App service simplifies many elements of the application process.

The personal statement of the application is what typically gets the most attention because it holds the greatest potential for a student to stand out among the tens of thousands of applications colleges receive each year.

The remainder of the summer provides a good chunk of time for rising seniors to get a head start on their college applications. And it offers a natural opportunity for honing analytic writing skills and executive function strategies.

Simply determining what work can be done now on the Common App will help your organizational and time management skills. These skills are critical to your success in college when you will have open-ended tasks such as endless amounts of reading, work, preparation, juggling of schedules, and independent work without a teacher’s input or parental guidance.

As we wrote in a previous post, we know the brain is still developing in high school and beyond, including its executive function skills, which help us break down tasks in order to complete them. Since there are many moving parts to the Common App, you can view your work on it as a great way to continue to improve your executive function skills, and the brain. Moreover, you’re giving yourself time to work at a more relaxed pace so you can figure out how best to use your time and how to prioritize the demands of senior year (and life) in a way that works for you.

If you break the college application process into doable sections, and give yourself the time required to complete it, then the process is much less intimidating and stressful. Since technological tools are now so easily accessible for a student’s use, the process becomes less burdensome and, dare I say, can even be fun (or, at least, less painful).

One of the most helpful ways to hone this skill is to set an alarm on your iCal for 20 minutes in advance of when you plan to do a Common App task. Estimate how long you will need for that task, leave yourself 1.5 times that amount of time in case you need more, and then time yourself to see how long it actually takes. Then you can see whether you need to leave more time or if you can plow through your task list faster than you anticipated. Having this well-calibrated internal stopwatch will be a helpful asset as you head toward college. After all, the rule of thumb is that to ace a college course you need to put in three hours of studying and prep out of the lecture hall per course credit.

There are tools and software programs we use at Ivy Prep to help our students develop their brain power, especially their fast-growing frontal lobes, as part of the college application process. These include outlining programs and mind mapping software that enable applicants to determine steps of the application process and organize information for their essays by using shapes or color codes. The graphic organizers can be exported to a word document to further develop essays.

Ivy Prep students applying to college master using online to-do lists and project management software to organize text, audio, and photo notes in a way that is systematic and streamlined. The trick is to learn how to make the tools work for you. Then, you can bring your college application to life.

Mastering the online and software organizational tools now not only helps you manage the Common App process more easily; it also gives you a sense of how to use these tools in the future, especially as you move toward a more demanding, but less structured university life.

Whether the tools you use are paper and pencil materials or the latest online apps, the more you use the tool of choice, the better use you can make of it. After all, the Stradivarius violin and the Stratocaster electric guitar are among the greatest musical instruments ever made, but they are best put to use when the musician knows how to play the music. The same goes for the tools that can help organize your work and thoughts: No matter what instrument or tool you are using, it takes skill and customization to make the most of what you’ve got. All the various programs, apps, and tools we use to help our students organize their time, projects, files, calendars, etc., are only as good as the students make them to be.

Since there are so many kinds of software programs that help with organizing time, projects, files, calendars, and contacts, choose one that works for you. It doesn’t matter what program or app you use. It only matters that you find one that helps you calmly and carefully complete the Common App.

Whichever tool you use – the one that works best for you — there’s no doubt that an early jump to an impending pile of applications gives you the chance to determine work patterns, skills, and behaviors that best suit you while your parents are around to be used as a sounding board and available for support.

Working on the Common App over the summer can also help alleviate what is sure to be a busy fall semester when high school seniors feel the pinch of school coursework, standardized test prep, sports, extra curricular activities, college visits, and the other commitments that quickly expand an already jam-packed schedule.

Furthermore, it will make the application process less stressful for your parents. Taking some extra time to work on the Common App enables your parents to give you the space you need to figure out how to manage your time, and the tasks at hand. It also gives your parents a chance to appreciate your strengths, instincts, desires, and plans for the near (and far) future.

So, use some of August to work on the Common App. It not only will help you be successful and manage the stress of the college applications process. It will also help you hone skills that will make you successful in college and in life.

Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D.

 

TIPS FOR CULTIVATING YOUR CHILD’S READING COMPREHENSION

Reading ComprehensionReading happens in various stages throughout a child’s growth and development, and it varies from child to child. Therefore, it is more important to foster your child’s development and interest in reading than it is to focus on the reading level of your child or what they are reading.

TIPS TO HELP YOU READ WITH YOUR CHILD THIS SUMMER:

  • Read new words, material, or stories that capture your child’s interest(s).
  • Read riddles or sing songs with them.
  • Help your child read a newspaper story and then discuss it with them.
  • Expose your child to as many authors, texts, and books as possible.
  • Watch your child read, and observe their reaction to the text.
  • Allow your child to read at their own pace, and in their own way.
  • Read together and/or to each other, and have a discussion about what you are reading.
  • Engage your child with the words/text/book by discussing the nuance of the language.
  • Ask your child questions about what they are reading – this is a great way to see how your child is reading and what they are picking up from the text.
  • Connect the story to other ideas or interests to help stimulate thinking skills that most enhance literacy.
  • Provide real world connections to what they are reading to help their minds continue to grow and expand.
  • Model good reading behavior. It is just as critical for children to read as it is for them to see their parents read. When children see their parents read for pleasure, it makes reading seem like less of a chore.
  • Check out the Jeanne Chall Reading Lab webpage via Harvard’s Graduate School of Education website for great tips on language and literacy. Dr. Jeanne Chall was my mentor and trainer when I was a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. I utilize her approach to reading with all of my clients at Ivy Prep. She remains a great source of inspiration to me and the work I do.

Engaging and interacting with your child when they read allows them to not only develop a connection with the books they read – and with you! – but also to the rest of the world. Books provide us with meaningful context and understanding of life. We shouldn’t be limiting our perspective of the world with narrow, leveled readers, but developing and expanding it with books that help us grow, and challenge us, as readers, and as humans.

YOU, YOUR CHILD, AND SUMMER READING

Summer ReadingSUMMER READING

Summer is an ideal time for families to relax, take a break from demanding school days, and become comfortable with less-structured time – and less-structured reading. Children (and parents) have more opportunities to discover books on their own and read ones they love. They can also read at a more relaxed pace, without intense scrutiny and pressure. Hopefully, the slower pace and freedom of choice makes reading more enjoyable and allows our children to discover the magic of reading.

Recently, though, a Wall Street Journal piece discusses the benefits of books with prescribed levels, known as “leveled readers,” as an easy way for parents to pick books for their children to read over the summer. While it’s nice to have a guide for choosing books, a more important point is that parents shouldn’t be the ones doing the choosing. Nor should the publishers.

What and at what level children are reading should not be our primary focus. Instead, the focus should be on letting your child read what she or he likes to read. Parents can certainly play a role in helping their child increase the desire to read, but the true payoff comes from letting children choose books that spark or expand their interests or allow them to explore completely new subjects.

LIMITS OF LEVELED READERS

The problem with leveled readers is that they can be limiting for both a child and a parent. It’s harder for the parent to discover a child’s innate curiosity or reading level when the book is prescribed by a publisher. It also limits the child if he or she is not matched with the correct level. Reading is all about expanding our horizons, not holding us back.

As linguist and education professor Stephen Krashen writes on his blog in response to the same WSJ article, “Restricting children to reading at a certain level makes the incorrect assumption that readers must know nearly every word to understand and enjoy texts.” 

While assessing a child’s reading level is important, there are more imaginative ways to do so other than through formulaic books. Of course, basic reading entails certain skill-building—practicing sounds and syllables, recognizing letters and words. Leveled readers are decent tools for this as well as for reinforcing accuracy, rate, and comprehension.

But reading also requires critical thinking, even at the most basic level. Can children make sense of what they are reading and learning? Do they connect to the book? Can they connect the book to reality? These are the assessment markers we have the luxury of considering over the summer.

ASSESSING YOUR CHILD’S READING LEVEL

The best way for parents to assess and help their children with reading and comprehension is to observe their growth in reading and see where their reading interests lie.

Reading Levels
The stages of reading development according to Jeanne Chall, Ph.D. in her book Stages of Reading Development.

As a learning specialist, what I’ve noticed over the course of three decades of working with children is that actively engaging with them when discussing the nuance of language and the connection of text to other ideas or interests stimulates thinking skills that enhance beginning literacy more than any single-factor leveling system can.

CHOOSING A BOOK

Perhaps your child will choose to read a leveled reader. Perhaps she will choose to read about Clifford, the big red dog, or about George and Martha, hippopotamuses who are best friends, or one of Dr. Seuss’s many wonderful books.

Your child may love to read poetry. Or Hemingway, whose sentences are short, clear, and concise. The point is not which book or level of book your child is reading—any book is great—but that your child connects with the story. The more meaningful the interaction is with the text, the more a child can activate important critical thinking skills.

Ultimately, reading is a way for a child (and an adult) to make sense of the world. We use language as a way to communicate and speak, and also as a way to think about our lives and how we connect with the rest of the world.

Stay tuned for our next blog post on tips for helping your child cultivate reading skills.

Image courtesy of Jessica Genetel, Flickr.com

More Breaking Down the Study Process

Study ProcessIt is a lot to master ideas/information and to manage the steps needed to learn it well. So it’s understandable that you may feel stress, as you juggle being mindful of the content, studying with efficiency, and recognizing your feelings as you confront your load.

You can learn to shoulder all of it with time and practice. Remember, there is a difference between mastering content and mastering how to study. The latter is reliant upon executive functions and metacognition. The brain starts to develop networks for executive functions when we are preschoolers focused on swings (not science terms!), but every time we flex these mental muscles, we strengthen the neural pathways that make organizing tasks a more natural part of our behavior. It all matures as the last parts of the brain develop, so while that’s happening, get a jump on things by creating your own systems that promote organization and self-management skills.  

Remember our first post, on listing all of your subjects, sub-sections, units, etc., so that you have all the study “chunks” and their allotted times in one place? Let’s parse that list further and set up some routines—personalized systems—through which you can approach studying in a way that makes it more pleasant for you.

For example, say you have 4 chapters to review in your science textbook. You’ve allotted an hour to do this, but even that feels demotivating. Now break that hour, or 4 chapters, up and attach each sub-chunk to some small reward, like one of these:

  • After each reviewed chapter, or every 15 minutes, take a bite of a snack (precut into 4 equal parts) or take a 5-minute social media break.
  • Insert Post-it Notes at the start of each chapter, and then crumple-toss-them-on-the-floor as you make your way through the review.
  • Get together with study buddies so that you can motivate one another and enjoy your breaks and well-earned rewards with your pals.

Try one or more of these strategies, or devise your own motivation system, and post a comment to let us know how it went and to share your experience with others.

In our next post, we will talk about the powerful role metacognition plays in accomplishing seemingly tough tasks and how to use your language skills to boost it.

Use Your Time Wisely

Use Time WiselyIvy Prep’s first blog post is all about time: why it matters and how to manage it. Managing your time well means you will be properly prepared for exams, less overwhelmed by the intense exam schedule, and less distracted by the warm weather. The trick is to maximize your limited time and focus your studying efforts.

ESTIMATED VS. ACTUAL

By now, you’ve (hopefully!) been told what to study, but you may not know how to study. To be productive in any activity, you first need to learn how to manage your time. Your project management skills (executive functions) are still developing at this stage in life (the myelin, or white matter, that helps the frontal lobe send messages on the HOV lane is still growing way into our 20s), so understanding how long studying will actually take is key to not running out of time or getting overwhelmed by what it takes to be well-prepared for final exams.

If you determine how long it will take to complete each task, then you can organize your studying into accurate, and very manageable, sessions. Through this method, you will have more than enough time to thoroughly review and study the material.

HERE’S HOW TO DO IT

A. Break down your studying into specific chunks—subjects, sections within subjects, tests you’ve taken throughout the year, projects you’ve completed, reports/papers you’ve written, and so forth.

B. Estimate the time you think it will take to review each of these chunks. For each chunk, multiply your estimated time by 1.5. For example, if you think reviewing a certain section in a textbook will take 20 minutes, then write down 30 minutes: 20 mins x 1.5 = 30 mins.

C. Make a list of all of these chunks (subjects, sections, etc.) and their estimated times so that you have them together in one place. When you break down your studying like that, it’s not as bad as you may have initially thought.

D. Time yourself and record how long the task actually takes. Some of the activities may take longer or shorter than you anticipated; you can adjust the anticipated times for the other tasks accordingly.

Now you know to take the pressure off by leaving yourself extra time for your next go round. Notice anything? Very often the tasks we most put off doing are the ones that are the quickest to do.

It works, but only if you actually do it! Try it and let us know what you think.

And, don’t forget to promise yourself a treat for powering through the tasks you are most tempted to avoid.

Next blog preview: In our next post, we will share specific study strategies for optimizing your time.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons