Some Simple Strategies with Big Benefits

24 09 2013


Are you settling into the new school year (a-h-h-h), or are you THRUSTING into the new school year? Back on the treadmill?

Is this your schedule?

Get the kids up, fed, and dressed. Manage to load them into the van and arrive at school on time. Whew! Rush to work and put in a whole day. Hustle out to your car. Hurry to school to pick up the kids. Have a “meaningful” conversation about their day while speeding to after-school sports practices. Drop them off. Swing by to pick up food for dinner. Dodge slow-moving shoppers in the market. Race your shopping cart through the parking lot. Shove the bags in the van. Shoot back to the field to pick up the kids. Head home.

Instruct the troops, “Wash your hands. Change. Eat your snack. Do your homework.”

Get bombarded with questions about homework while trying to make dinner.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a collection of easy-to-implement strategies? Here’s a collection of my favorite ones.

Math Difficulties: Pre-teach the upcoming chapter. Often parents and tutors devote time to re-teaching concepts and skills a child hasn’t mastered. That’s like playing a catch-up game … a game the child can’t win. Instead, go to the chapter the teacher will be teaching next and introduce the concepts. When your child encounters them in school, s/he will be more confident. Maybe even confident enough to volunteer answers. The lesson will be a review. Your child will be more engaged. The teacher will begin to view your child as successful.

Reading Comprehension Difficulties: Reciprocal Questioning is a strategy that elevates a child’s attention to content while reading. Usually after a child reads a story, the adult asks questions. This is the reverse of what’s done during a typical review. In this case, the child thinks of questions s/he will ask you about the story. While reading the story, the child can write down questions or dictate them to you (stopping as s/he thinks of each question). After the story or a passage is read, the child asks you each question. Its fun to answer some of the incorrectly so the child can correct you (and provide the correct answer).

Homework Completion: Have the child predict how long it will take to complete each assignment. Often students can’t even begin their homework because the assignments loom so large in their minds. The task seems just too monumental to tackle. Why begin? Predicting how long each will take makes the job seem bearable. This seems like a simple strategy. But this approach works even with teens who have a learning disability. Optional: It’s fun to have the child use a timer to see how close s/he came to each prediction.

Behavior Management: A fresh perspective of the child can drastically improve behavior. It’s very motivating to a child when a respected adult believes in them. I once taught a second grader, Billy, who had ADHD. He struggled to pay attention, seemed hopelessly disorganized, interrupted often in class, and got in trouble regularly during recess. Each day numerous students told on the student for an assortment of offenses. Occasionally, his classmates compassionately asked for prayer for him (in our Christian school). Billy’s difficulties were no secret to anyone.

One day, out of desperation, I asked my students, “Has anyone else noticed Billy has improved his behavior?”

Billy’s eyes widened as big as saucers. He wondered how he’d miss such an accomplishment. My students responded with a deafening silence.

My inquiry wasn’t based on evidence of any improvement. I simply wanted to change the students’ expectations of Billy.

“No one? Well, if anyone does notice his improvement please tell me.”

Soon after, students began to report improved behavior. Why? Billy had renewed hope. His classmates began to watch for Billy’s good behavior (instead of studying him for any misbehavior).

Here’s the basis for the strategy:

Use the power to influence through the artful application of positive suggestion.  You can influence (but not control) what your students believe about themselves, you, the topic, learning, etc.  In fact, you already influence them in those areas.  You simply may have underestimated the power of that influence.  You could say, ‘This upcoming chapter is the hardest in the book, so everyone bear down!’ Or, you could say, ‘This upcoming chapter is my favorite, so get ready for a great experience.’  As an authority figure, the teacher carries the potential for vast influence.  It is common to have had a teacher tell us that we were ‘bad’ in math or spelling or writing.  Naturally, that subject became nearly impossible to master.  Such a bias can be carried with a student for the rest of their learning life.

From Brain-Based Learning Revised Edition  –  The New Science of Teaching and Training  by Eric Jensen

“Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) established that positive expectations tend to yield positive results and negative expectations yield negative results. 

They call this the Pygmalion effect or the self-fulfilling prophecy.”

From The Owner’s Manual for the Brain – Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research by Pierce J. Howard, Ph. D.

Living for Self or Others

9 09 2013


Do you wish you could live life more passionately? To have enough energy to serve others. To teach your kids by example how to have a servant’s heart. So they won’t be self-centered, but yearn to help others.  This story may help you begin a discussion with your child about supporting others instead of satisfying self.

 A Good-Enough Life

Once upon a time a tiny maple seed fell from a towering maple tree.  It fell onto a leaf floating down a stream.  When the wind blew, the tiny maple seed clung to the leaf and held on tightly.  It was a good-enough life for the maple seed.

Birds called out to the maple seed, “Stop clinging to the leaf.  Let the wind blow you to good soil.  There you can grow into a tall maple tree.  We will have a place to build our nests.”

But the tiny maple seed said, “I’m struggling just to float along.  This life is good enough for me.”

A squirrel called out to the maple seed, “Stop clinging to the leaf.  Let the wind blow you to good soil.  There you can grow into a tall maple tree.  I will have a home to build my nest.  I will have branches to climb.”

But the tiny maple seed said, “I’m struggling just to float along.  This life is good enough for me.”

Some children called out to the maple seed, “Stop clinging to the leaf.  Let the wind blow you to good soil.  There you can grow into a tall maple tree.  We will have fun climbing your branches.  We can tie a swing from your branch.

But the tiny maple seed said, “I’m struggling just to float along.  This life is good enough for me.”

Some adults walked by and called out to the maple seed, “Stop clinging to the leaf.  Let the wind blow you to good soil.  There you can grow into a tall maple tree.  We will have shade for resting when we rest.”

But the tiny maple seed said, “I’m struggling just to float along.  This life is good enough for me.”

A chef went in search of a maple tree.  He spotted the maple seed and said, “Stop clinging to the leaf.  Let the wind blow you to good soil.  There you can grow into a tall maple tree.   I will have some maple syrup for the pancakes.”

But the tiny maple seed said, “I’m struggling just to float along.  This life is good enough for me.”

The tiny maple seed started to realize there could be more to his life.  He began to think he did not have a good-enough life.  It was not good enough just to float through life clinging to the leaf.  He started to think of everyone he could help by simply letting go of the leaf.  If he let the wind blow him to good soil, he could grow to be a tall maple tree.

A passion grew in him greater than any tall tree.  He was determined to grow branches for the birds, squirrel, and children.  A desire grew in him to help the adults have their shade and to help the chef get his maple syrup.  He let go of the leaf.  The wind blew him to good soil.  His dream of helping others became a reality.


Are you floating along hanging on for dear life?  Are you living a good-enough life?  Could there be more?  Could you have a greater purpose?  Could you impact the lives of others for God’s kingdom and for His glory?

We all share the passion of raising godly children.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

We all share the mission to share the gospel.

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’” Mark 16:15

“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”   Ephesians 3:8

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ…”  2 Corinthians 5:20

We all share a love for the Lord.  Loving God is not only a command, but our delight.

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”  Matthew 22:37   (Deuteronomy 6:5)

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  Romans 5:5

“Praise the Lord!  I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.”  Psalm 111:1

Our love for God spurs us on to action.

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  John 14:15

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  1 John 4:11

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18

How will you show God’s love to others?  What will be your passion, your burden, your life’s mission?  Will you be a voice for the voiceless, a support for the vulnerable, a help for the hurting?

We’ve all been given gifts which are to be used.

“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…”  Romans 12:4-6

In that passage of Romans (Romans 12:4-15) many examples are given.  Some include: teaching (verse7), lead (verse 8), distributing to the needs of the saints (verse 13), and being given to hospitality (verse 13).

Using your spiritual gift will equip the saints and edify other believers.

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”  Ephesians 4:7, 11-12

The gift God has given you will become your passion.

Perhaps you have a burden for others, but limited time.  You could be a faithful prayer warrior.  Moses interceded for a multitude of God’s people and God changed His mind.   (Exodus 32:9-14)  Your prayers for others can make a difference.

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you…” Colossians 1:9a

“.. .pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”   James 5:16-18

Maybe like Nehemiah you have a passion to encourage others.

“And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses… Therefore, wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.’”   Nehemiah 4:14, 20

Perhaps you have a passion to comfort others and show compassion.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”    2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Maybe you have a passion to do good works by helping those in need (visiting the sick, helping the poor, etc.).

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”   Ephesians 2:10

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”   Titus 3:8

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  James 2:18, 26

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18

Have you considered sharing your talents to bring the joy of the Lord into the lives of others?

“And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.”   1 Samuel 16:23

“For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.”   Philemon 7

You may have a heart for the unlovely, lonely, or those rejected or ignored by others (the elderly, the handicapped, the homeless, the child without parents, the student who is unmercifully teased by others).  Ministering to them could be your passion.

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”   Matthew 25:37-40

If you think you have nothing to offer the Lord, think again.  Scripture tells us that weaker members have an important purpose.

“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty.”  1 Corinthians 12:11-23

What legacy will you leave to your children?  You can teach your children a powerful lesson simply by living your passion.   

Don’t Assume Anything

2 09 2013


“Pay attention.” “You have poor self-control.” Students understand what you mean by those statements. Right? Maybe not.

If students don’t clearly understand what you want them to do or stop doing, then how will they know how to comply?

Here’s a story to illustrate.

One day my fellow second grade teacher was absent.  I knew that one of her students, Bruce, was difficult to manage.  He had ADHD and often got into trouble.  My heart was tender to students like him who had ADHD.  He had a problem of skill not of will.  Usually, he didn’t demonstrate willful misbehavior.  He needed to learn skills to prevent impulsive misbehaviors.  I told the substitute that when (not if) Bruce misbehaved she was to send him to me (in my next door classroom).

As expected, Bruce was sent to me.  The infraction: he threw an eraser at his friend.  When my students went out to recess, I came back to the room to talk with Bruce.  He was pacing around nervously.  I calmly said, “Bruce why don’t you sit down in this chair.”

He knew the drill.  Rather than sitting down, he began to confess.  His nonstop confession went something like this: “I know.  I know.  I did something wrong.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it.  There was a lot of noise going on.  I don’t know why I did it.  I’ll never do it again.  What’s my punishment?”

“Bruce, I just want you to sit down in this chair.  Sit down and calm down.”

He complied. His silence told me he relaxed. So, I asked, “Do you have a problem with self-control?”


Adults often assume young children know what we mean when we say common phrases.  Bruce wasn’t being disrespectful.  He obviously didn’t understand the concept of self-control.

“Did you want to hurt your friend with that eraser?”

With a shocked look on his face he replied, “No!  Of course not.”

“That means you have trouble controlling yourself,” I explained. “You have a problem with self-control. People who have trouble controlling themselves do things they don’t really want to do.  They act before they think.”

He understood and quickly agreed.  “I have that problem.”

I went on to explain that there is a solution to the problem.  “If you accept the Lord as your Savior—”

Bruce interrupted and began to tell me the story of when he trusted Jesus as his Savior.  In his usual nonstop fashion, he related every detail – every day – every word.  It was precious and genuine.

“Oh I accepted the Lord as my Savior when I was five. In Sunday school they taught us about Jesus dying on the cross. He died for my sins. All I had to do was ask Him into my heart—to be my Savior. One night when my mom was putting me to bed I told her I wanted Jesus to be my Savior. I prayed and asked Him to come into my heart.

Bruce just needed to know how to rely on the Holy Spirit to help him have more self-control.

“Bruce, when you accepted Jesus into your heart, the Holy Spirit came into you. The Holy Spirit is God’s power in you to help you show the fruit of the Spirit. Like self-control. The Holy Spirit can help you have more self-control.”

“How can I get that help?” inquired Bruce.

“Just stop before you act and let the Holy Spirit take over. You’ll have more self-control.”

We ended our conversation with a prayer. Soon after, I returned him to his class.

The next day, the substitute reported how things were going.

“All the students are still misbehaving…not paying attention, not doing their work, calling out…”

“How has Bruce been?” I asked.

“He’s the only one who’s been behaved. Ever since you had a talk with him. What did you say?”

“I helped him understand ‘self-control.’ And taught him the Holy Spirit can help him show more self-control if he simply stops before acting.”

We all need to rely on the Holy Spirit to keep us from doing things we’ll regret.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23