26. March 2012 · Write a comment · Categories: School Life · Tags:

Here we are, nearing the end of July, and perhaps as parents you have exhausted all the planned excursions and activities set out for the summer.  The stores are already advertising Back to School (yikes!) and it won’t be long before everyone is stocking up on new shoes and backpacks, and gearing up for the next grade.In the meantime, it’s important to realize that students can lose two to three months in their academic skills during the summer break.  To that end, we would like to share some suggestions from a favourite website of ours, Edutopia.  These seven steps for maintaining and strengthening academic skills are not overly time consuming, and can actually be quite engaging.

Enjoy the rest of the summer ~ looking forward to a strong start in September for everyone!

Here at Inquiring Minds, we are great admirers of Kate Gribble and her blog, aneverydaystory.com, where she shares her insight and commitment to Reggio Emilia inspired living and learning.

A recent post of hers caught our attention, and we wanted to share it with you.  Simple, gentle, and effective ~ her approach resonates with us and we believe it will resonate with you.

There are numerous lists of summer activities for children, but this one caught our eye.  Perhaps it was the ‘Paint Like Jackson Pollock’ suggestion; or maybe it was the blog’s name itself – www.notimeforflashcards.com. Thanks to Allison MacDonald, the founder of No Time for Flashcards, and her commitment to enriching children’s experiences.  This is a comprehensive list of highly engaging, simple to execute activities for families to try this summer.  We know our children need less time in front of screens and more time outdoors experimenting, inquiring, and discovering. This list provides ample opportunity for all these things.

Please follow the link below, and be sure to click through each of the 50 activities listed for more details:


We would also like to hear from you too!  Do you have activities that you and your family enjoy together?  Activities that get you outside, extend your thinking, and develop creativity?  Please let us know and we will share them on Inquiring Minds.

In the weeks since our students finished school in June, it has been full steam ahead on the construction site.  If you are following our developments from a distance, or you have not been by recently, here is an update of recent developments:Internal Progress

From the outside, the building appears near completion.  The masonry is finished and the windows are installed.  Once inside, you discover teams of craftspeople framing the spaces and installing drywall on the ground floor.On the second floor the details are coming together, and it won’t be long before the dust settles and we can see the details in the polished concrete floors.  Exciting!Every day there is a noticeable development, so we are often donning our hardhats and steel toe boots to sneak peeks.External Development

In order to connect Richland’s expanded facility with the Town of Richmond Hill’s amenities, large trenches were excavated from Yonge Street, running through the parking lot to the building.  We were impressed with the speed at which these trenches were created, and subsequently closed in again.  We cannot thank the crews working onsite enough for their attention to detail and commitment to the schedule.Over the coming weeks, the same process will take place along the southern border of the school property from Yonge Street, to connect us to the Town’s systems.  Richland’s Campus Crew of Mr. Rafael and Mr. Fernando have been working non-stop to ensure our learning spaces are preserved through this process.  We are so grateful to have such a strong team!We promise to share more photos with you through Inquiring Minds.  Thank you for following our journey of transformation ~ growing our current facility to include a 20,000 sq. ft. expansion to create a space unlike all the other private schools in Richmond Hill. We’re creating a space that embodies Richland’s 21st Century learning experience.  

Embedded within the Reggio Emilia philosophy is the role of parents as an active part of their children’s learning experience.  According to Dr. Lella Gandini, the United States liaison for the dissemination of the Reggio Emilia approach,

Parents are not considered consumers but co-responsible partners.  Their right to participation is expected and supported; it takes many forms and can help ensure the welfare of all children in the program.”

It may be summertime, and school may be out, but that should not hinder learning. Opportunities and possibilities are everywhere.  If you are fortunate enough to have more time with your children during the summer months, you can build your relationship and empower one another by exercising Ron Ritchhart’s 10 Apps for Parents.We’d like to acknowledge the comprehensive list developed by Ron Ritchhart, and share his 10 Apps for Parents below:

  1. Name and Notice Thinking. Use the language of thinking to name and notice the thinking your child is using and thus make it more visible. This is especially important when praising and giving feedback: That’s an interesting theory. I like how you have used what you already know to make connections. That’s a perspective I hadn’t thought about.
  2. Develop a Growth Mindset. A belief that intelligence and ability grow and develop over time–as opposed to something that is fixed and set–encourages greater risk taking, collaboration, enjoyment of challenge, long-term development, and continuous achievement in all types of learning endeavors (Dweck, 2006). Develop a growth mindset in your child by focusing your praise on process, learning, and effort (You really worked hard on this and have learned a lot. You did a great job of developing a plan and following it through. You’ve really developed as a musician.), as opposed to ability (You’re so clever. Look how smart you are; you did that so fast. You’re good at math. You’ve got a lot of talent.)
  3. Challenge but Don’t Rescue. We learn a lot from making mistakes, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, and taking risks to try new things. Regularly encountering challenges, mistakes, and failure builds a growth mindset and develops intellectual resilience. When your child encounters difficulties, don’t jump in to solve the problem and rescue him/her. Instead, ask questions that will help him/her to think through the problem, identify, and choose a course of action for moving forward.
  4. What Questions Did You Ask Today? Our questions drive us as learners. When Isidor I. Rabi won the Nobel Prize in physics, he was asked, ”Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?” He replied, ”My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference–asking good questions–made me become a scientist!”
  5. Focus on the Learning Over the Work. It’s easy for parents to focus on the work their child has to do and to monitor the completion of that work. However, the completion of work is never the goal of an assignment. Learning is the goal. Take a moment to ask your child what the purpose of each assignment is, what do they think the teacher wants them to learn and get better at as a result. Then monitor the learning, not the work.
  6. Encourage Connections. Students encounter new information constantly. To learn and make sense of this information they must connect it to previous knowledge and integrate it with their experience. Ask questions of connection and encourage the creation of metaphors, similes, comparisons and contrasts when talking about the topics your child is studying or exploring independently.
  7. Support Your Child in Arguing Effectively and Persuasively. A recent study in the journal Child Development (J. Allen, 2012) showed that teenagers who argued constructively with their parents by building a case and providing evidence for their position were more able to resist peer pressure to use drugs than were students from more authoritarian households. Researchers found such arguments were training grounds for teens that enabled them to learn to speak up, voice an opinion, and use evidence.
  8. Provide Time to Pursue Passions. In the movie Race to Nowhere (2010), producer/director Vicki Abeles documents how the pressure to succeed on tests is too often robbing children of rich learning experiences, causing stress-related problems, disengaging students, disrupting home life, and leading to wide-scale cheating. One argument the film makes is that teens need the time and space to pursue their passions and interests. Parents must make sure these passions, which may turn into life callings, are not squeezed out of their child’s life. Pay attention to your child’s learning and passions outside of school and make time for them.
  9. Make Your Own Thinking Visible. The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky said, “Children grow into the intellectual life around them.” You are a model for your child of what it means to be a thinker and a learner. Model your own interests, passions, curiosity, reflection, learning, and thinking for your child. Make your own thinking visible to them as a model.
  10. What Makes You Say That? This simple question is the “killer app” for parents and teachers. By simply asking, “What makes you say that?”, in a curious and non- judgmental tone after someone has given a response, we are able to get a window into the thinking behind that person’s initial response. Teachers in Sweden referred to this as the magic question, because of how much it was able to reveal about students’ thinking. The reasoning behind the response often tells us much more than the response itself.  © Ron Ritchhart, 2012

Carrying over from Tuesday’s post, we have more great apps to share with you today.  These learning apps focus on improving executive functioning skills in students.

Executive function allows us to:

  • Make plans
  • Keep track of time and finish work on time
  • Keep track of more than one thing at once
  • Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
  • Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
  • Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading, and writing
  • Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
  • Engage in group dynamics
  • Wait to speak until we’re called on

These skills are vital in all aspects of life, and are not limited to the classroom.  We hope parents and educators alike will benefit from this reference list of apps, generated by Graphite, with our thanks.

We would also like you to share your recommendations with us at Inquiring Minds.  Do you have a favourite learning app?


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