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4 Ways Libraries Benefit Kids

4 Ways Libraries Benefit Kids
In April, we celebrate National Library Week. It’s week to stop and consider how important libraries are to our schools and communities. In this digital age, it may be hard to understand why libraries are still important. Kids don’t need to head to the library to find books for research – they can just look up the information online. Even though the use of libraries is changing, they still offer a lot of benefits to kids these day.

They Provide Equal Access to Resources

For people who have regular access to computers, smartphones, and tablets, the library may not seem like that big of a deal. They can easily access the information they need and quickly purchase and download new books to read. However, for those who don’t have access to technology or don’t want to spend money on digital books, libraries play a big role. Walk into nearly any library and look at the computers. Chances are there won’t be many empty chairs.

Every day, libraries play host to kids completing research projects or seeking homework help on the computers. They make it possible for kids who don’t have access to the Internet at home to still benefit from the resources the Internet provides. Kids don’t have to stress if a teacher gives them an assignment or schedules a test online because they know the library is there to help. Many libraries have even started to lend out tablets for use in the library so kids can get a chance to play educational games, read digital texts, and become acclimated with the latest technology.

They Provide a Sense of Community

In many communities, the local library is one of the most popular meeting places. Kids might meet at the library to work on a project or see friends from school when they stop by in the afternoon. Libraries also foster a sense of community by providing programs for kids and teens. They host story times for young kids and book clubs for teens. Sometimes libraries host special concerts or show movies for different age groups. They may even host a LEGO club or a robotics club. All of these activities give kids the chance to have fun in safe, positive environment and help them connect with other kids in their community.

Many libraries bring their programs out into the community too. Some take bookmobiles into local communities so kids can check out books without having to go to the library. Some partner with local events attractions for kids to design programs that show kids how reading relates to different aspects of life. For example, a librarian may visit the local zoo and read a story about snakes before the zookeeper brings out a snake for kids to see or a library may set up a booth with books about going to the doctor at a local health fair.

They Teach Responsibility and Accountability

Getting a library card can be a special moment for kids. It is something that belongs just to
them and it opens up a whole new world. But with that library card comes great responsibility. Kids can check out books and movies with their library card, but those books and movies come with due dates. If a book is returned late or damaged, it results in a fine. This makes a library card a great tool for teaching responsibility and accountability.

When kids check out books, they must make sure they keep them safe and that they turn them in on time. If they end up with a lost book or a fine, they learn how to be accountable for their actions. Parents can have kids pay the fine out of their allowance or work off the fine by doing chores around the house. Doing so will help kids learn a lesson they can transfer to many other areas in life.

They Encourage a Lifetime of Learning

Kids cannot step into a library without learning something. If they’re playing a game on the library computer, they’re likely building their math or reading skills. If they’re reading a picture book, they’re learning new words and discovering new worlds. As they grow older, the library continues to be a place where they can learn. If they want to improve their cooking skills, they can pick up a cookbook. If they want to learn to crochet, they can find a book on crocheting or sometimes even take a class that teaches them how to crochet. When it comes time to find a job, the library will help them develop a resume and give them interview tips.

Libraries encourage people to visit new worlds, discover new points of view, and to keep building upon their knowledge. They create displays of books related to popular topic and regularly highlight librarians’ favorite reads. They host local authors, historians, and musicians. By encouraging kids to visit the library when they are young, parents and teachers will share with them a resource that they will continue to return to as they grow.

What do you love about your local library? Give your library a shout out in the comments!

3 Ways to Use Music in the Classroom

March is Music in Our Schools Month.

3 Ways to Use Music in the Classroom

Music education plays an important role in schools. Music classes help students build focus and discipline, rhythm and coordination, and creative language and thinking skills. With all the benefits music offers, it shouldn’t just be relegated to the music classroom. Teachers in all grade-levels and subject areas can reap the benefits of bringing music into their own classrooms.

Music to Jog Memories

In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, elementary students learned how a bill became a law by listening to “I’m Just a Bill” and learned the purpose of words such as and, but, and or with “Conjunction Junction.” Schoolhouse Rock songs were a staple in classrooms and helped kids learn a lot of fun new concepts.

Today, lots of musicians have branched out into the world of educational song writing. Even popular groups such as They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies have albums written designed to help kids learn. Other popular educational music collections include:

A YouTube search will likely produce even more educational songs from amateur artists. For example, you may find a song to help you teach digraphs or short vowel sounds.

If you can’t find a song that fits your topic, make one up on your own set to the tune of a popular children’s song.

In the classroom, you can use educational songs to spice up the content and give students a way to remember important concepts. If you can’t find a song that fits your topic, make one up on your own set to the tune of a popular children’s song. For example, this song uses the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell” to teach students about long vowel sounds. Singing about the planets to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus” or rapping the parts of speech may not win you a Grammy, but it will likely help your students tell the difference between a noun and a verb or remember the order of the planets.

Music as an Example

From language arts to social studies, music can be used to help spark discussion, provide illustrations, and enhance your discussion of a topic. For example, if you’re studying the Civil Rights Movement, bring in some protest songs. Often songs from a particular era or related to a particular topic can provide more specific examples and convey deep emotions. They’re also a great way to open a lesson and hook students from the very start.

3 Ways to Use Music in the Classroom
Even popular music can serve as an example in the classroom. In the language arts classroom, you can pull songs with lyrics to represent different types of figurative language or that relate to particular themes. In math and science, you can also pull out lines from songs that have to do with particular concepts students are learning. You might be surprised where you’ll find a reference to isosceles triangles or the periodic table. Steven Galbraith, a member of the Mathematics Department at the University of Auckland has even put together The List of Unintentionally Mathematical Songs to help you start finding songs to use in your classroom and Scientific American and NewScientist have highlighted a few pop songs inspired by science.

Encourage your students to bring music into the classroom too. They’re likely to notice a lot of references to what you’re learning in the songs they like to listen to. For example, rap songs are chock full of allusions and clever one liners, pop music is full of metaphors and similes, and country music offers a lot of imagery. While a song may have nothing to do with what you’re learning, one or two lines may fit perfectly in a lesson.

Music for Energy and Relaxation

If you want to keep students’ minds sharp for a particularly important lesson, put on an upbeat tune and have them get out of their seats and dance before getting to work.

Beyond helping students learn specific information, you can use music to help improve the learning environment. Both upbeat and softer music play a role in stimulating students and improving their focus. If you want to keep students’ minds sharp for a particularly important lesson, put on an upbeat tune and have them get out of their seats and dance before getting to work. This will help wake them up and increase their attention before getting down to business. An upbeat song also works well as a way to transition between two topics or to re-energize students after they have been sitting for a long time. You can even play upbeat songs as students enter the classroom to get them excited about learning or play farewell songs at the end of class as a creative way to end the day and signal to students that it’s okay to start packing up.

When you want students to feel calm and relaxed, try playing softer music. Classical music has been shown to be as effective as Valium for heart patients and has been attributed with lowering crime rates in dangerous neighborhoods. With these examples, imagine how much it could improve classroom management and focus in your classroom. Play classical music during tests to help reduce the amount of anxiety in the room or during seatwork time to remind students to be calm and focused. While students may push to listen to more popular music during these times, the softness and steady rhythms provided by classical pieces are more ideal and less distracting to students.

Do you have any favorite songs you like to play for students? If so, we’d love to hear about them.

How to Turn Your Spring Break into a Learning Experience

How to Turn Spring Break into a Learning Experience
During spring break, many families try to squeeze in a getaway. One way to have a fun family adventure is to incorporate education into your trips. There are so many places across America that offer a terrific spring or summer-like atmosphere, while opening your children’s eyes to the history of this country and other learning opportunities.

Museum Sleepover

Numerous museums across the country offer overnight excursions inside of their buildings! What better way to become acquainted with different aspects of culture and history than to sleep next to exhibits and artifacts?

Three different Smithsonian affiliated museums in the Washington D.C. area offer sleepovers, with dates scheduled through the end of August. The American History Museum, Natural History Museum, and the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center all offer overnight stays that includes tours, games, crafts, and more.

For families in the Northeast, head over to Pier 86 on the west side of Manhattan and spend the night on the Intrepid! The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum offers fun activities, including a ride in a flight simulator!

The Field Museum in Chicago hosts “Dozin’ with the Dinos”, a nighttime exploration with museum scientists that make the exhibits come alive!

Living History Museums

There may be no better way to understand what bygone eras were like than to actually experience them. These attractions bring history to life by showing what daily life and major events were like in a specific period.

One of the best known of these types of attractions is the world’s largest living history museum, Colonial Wiliamsburg. It features hundreds of reconstructed and historically furnished buildings, with costumed guides who tell stories of the people who lived there in the 1700s.

Columbia State Historical Park is a living gold rush era town. It contains “residents” in 1850s attire, and tons of exhibits, activities, and experiences you would find in a gold rush museum.

Connor Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers, IN recreates life on a rural community in the 19th century. This attraction also offers a look at Native American life at this time. Kids will love the interactive nature of life on a prairie, as they can work like a farmhand, become a craftsman, or ride in a helium filled balloon high overhead.


We’ve seen them on television, we’ve always meant to go there, but many Americans have not seen some of our most famous landmarks. The stories and the history behind these places and modern marvels are well worth the trip.

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO is a magnificent architectural creation that also serves as a monument to Thomas Jefferson’s plans for American expansion and the role of St. Louis as a gateway to the west.

Mount Rushmore in Keystone, SD offers so much more than the breathtaking mountain sculpture of four of America’s presidents. Vacationers can learn about the natural history of the surrounding area, as well as methods used to sculpt the chief executives. There is also ample information available on the Native American tribes who called this area home.

It’s never too late to enjoy the summertime, and it’s never too early to refocus on education and learning. Make a last ditch effort to get away and take advantage of all of the creative educational – and fun – opportunities our country has to offer.

5 Reasons to Reconsider Vocational Education

5 Reasons to Reconsider Vocational Education
If you’ve paid attention to the news over the past year, you may know that employers are facing a major skills gap. It’s a problem that exists around the world. As more students pursue four-year degrees, the numbers of those entering the technical trades has started to dwindle. These trades include jobs such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and even cosmetologists. While these careers may not represent those students traditionally consider, they offer plenty of opportunities to earn an honest income. They’re also in high-demand. As state and local education departments begin to devote more time and money to creating new career and technical education centers, it’s time for everyone else to take a second look at vocational education.

Technical Trades are in High Demand
Did you know that demand for cosmetologists is expected to rise by 20% between 2008 and 2018? The same is true for plumbing, which is expected to grow by 22% by 2022, and for electricians. Even as the world becomes more complex and focused on technology, people still need those skilled in the trades to complete a variety of tasks.

Vocational Training is Inexpensive
The increasing cost of college has many students looking for less expensive options. Often, obtaining vocational training costs much less and takes less time than a traditional four-year degree. While the average starting salary for a graduate of a trade school may be less than a graduate with a four-year degree, when you add in the difference in cost and the potential for future earnings, taking the trade school route may seem more appealing.

There is Opportunity for Advancement
Many who go into vocational trades do not remain in lower-level positions for the duration of their career. In fact, once they get some experience under their belts, many start their own businesses and begin to hire and manage employees of their own. Those who opt not to go out on their own can still advance to supervisory and management positions within their companies. If they are laid off from a company, it’s often much easier to find another job than with less technical career paths.

Technical Skills Save You Money
Even if students do not pursue a career in a technical field, just having technical skills can benefit them in life. Think about the amount of money you spend to fix a plumbing problem. Now imagine how much you’d save if you could fix that problem yourself. Those who know a technical trade can save themselves and their family members a lot of money by doing high-priced repairs themselves. A carpenter can save a lot of money by doing remodeling work. A cosmetologist can save money by doing family members’ hair.

Some students even use the technical skills they’ve learned in high school to help them pay for a four-year degree in another area. For example, a student with culinary arts skills can work as a cook or even run a culinary business while going to school. A student with carpentry skills can work construction jobs in the summer to help pay for school in the fall.

Technical Skills Benefit Companies
Even if students opt to pursue a degree in another field, having technical skills can help them when they enter the workforce. For example, in STEM fields, understanding the principals of electricity or drafting can help students develop stronger technologies. Knowing how to read and take apart technical texts can also be beneficial when it comes to reading business manuals and understanding complex systems in the workplace.

At Help Teaching, we are well aware of the benefits of vocational education. That’s why we’ve made a commitment to developing materials related to some of the most popular vocational trades. Visit our Vocational Education page to find worksheets related to the following careers and skills:

Watch for more subject areas, such as auto body and welding, coming soon as our vocational education offerings expand.

Do you teach vocational education or have you seen the benefits of technical training firsthand? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences.

A Comprehensive Guide to Conquering the SAT

A Comprehensive Guide to Conquering the SATFor many high school juniors and seniors, the SAT causes a lot of stress and anxiety. In their quest to get the perfect score, they’ve turned prepping for the SAT and other high stakes tests into a multi-billion dollar industry. While there’s some value to the expensive prep courses and gigantic test prep books, you don’t need a fancy program to help you improve your score. In many cases, you can ensure you do well on the SAT by doing some free prep work at home and using some key strategies while taking the test. We’ve rounded up some of the best tips to help you conquer the SAT.

Get to Know the Format of the Test
One of the best tips for doing well on the SAT or any other high stakes test is to get to know the format of the test. Do you know how many sections are on the SAT? Do you know how many questions you have to answer in each section?

We’ll help you out.

How much time do you have to finish the SAT? 3 hours (65 for reading, 35 for writing, 25 minutes for no-calculator math, 55 minutes for calculator-allowed math), plus 50 minutes if you complete the essay

How many sections are on the SAT? Five: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (with calculator), Math (no calculator), and Essay (optional)

How many questions do you have to answer in each section? 55 reading, 44 writing, 58 math, 1 optional essay

Beyond that, you need to know how the questions are asked. For example, you’ll be asked to answer 13 student-produced response math questions. You’ll also have to know how to read the underlined portions of the passages to answer the writing and language questions.

A Comprehensive Guide to Conquering the SAT General Tips
Answer every question
The current test does not have a guessing penalty, so it is better to answer every question, even if you have to guess. Use the process of elimination to eliminate at least one answer choice and improve your odds of getting the question correct.

Determine how much time you have to answer each question
Don’t spend a lot of time during the test looking at the clock, but as you practice for the SAT learn each amount of time feels like. If you’re spending too long on a question, move on and come back to it at the end.

Change the way you bubble
Consider bubbling at the end of each section or page so you don’t have to flip back and forth between the test and answer sheet. This will buy you some time. Just circle your answers in the test booklet and flip to the answer sheet at the end of each section or page.

Double check your answers at the end of the test
If you have time, go back and make sure you bubbled in the correct answer for each problem. Circle the answers in your test booklet to make this process smoother.

Try to answer the question without looking at the choices
Immediately after you read a question, take a second to see if an answer comes into your head. Then read the answer choices. If the answer you came up with is one of the choices, chances are it’s the right answer.

Underline key parts of the question
Many questions contain key words that tell you what to do. Underline these words to help you stay focused as you answer the questions.

Don’t fall for traps
Make sure you answer what is being asked. The most obvious wrong answer will always be one of the answer options, so it’s easy to get tripped up.

Trust your gut
You can easily get caught into the trap of second-guessing yourself. If your gut says it’s correct, then stick with the answer and move on to the next question.

Take some time to relax before the test
It doesn’t matter how prepared you are for the SAT; if you’re stressed out, you won’t perform as well. The day before the test be sure to get some sleep and take some time to do something fun. Go see a movie. Play a video game. Hang out with your friends. Don’t spend all your time thinking about the test.

Tips for Taking Practice Tests

Taking practice tests is an important part of preparing for the SAT. Don’t just sit and click through sample questions online. Instead, print out or get a practice book that has multiple practice tests in it. As you complete each test, try to mimic test day conditions, including following the time limits, using an answer sheet, and creating a test-like atmosphere.

When you’re finished with a practice test, score yourself. For any questions you missed, before reading the answer explanation, see if you can determine how to come up with the correct answer on your own. Also look over your answers and see if you can find a pattern of errors. Did you miss certain question types or specific math or ELA skills? If so, you know that you need to brush up on those areas before test day.

Brush Up on the Basics

Because the SAT covers so much information, there isn’t nearly enough time to learn it all again. However, you can brush up on some of the basics to help you do your best on your test. Some skills to look at in order to prepare include:

  • Grammar Rules
  • Math formulas
  • Data interpretation and graphing skills
  • Making calculations without a calculator

A Comprehensive Guide to the SAT Reading and Writing
The SAT largely measures language arts and math skills. The reading and writing sections have changed over the years. Not only has an optional writing section been added, but the emphasis on definining higher-level vocabulary words and completing analogies has been decreased. In the reading section, you’ll be asked to read high-level passages and answer questions. In the writing section, you’ll be asked questions related to grammar, spelling, conventions, and general writing techniques.

Here are some tips to help you do your best on the reading and writing sections of the test:

1. Read the questions first
If a question is passage-based, it helps to have a purpose for reading. Look at the questions related to the passage before you start reading so you know if you’re looking for parts of the passage related to a particular idea or character.

2. Read grammar questions and answer choices aloud
While you can’t talk loudly during the test, you can whisper the sentences that are part of grammar questions to yourself. Often you’ll hear an error better than you can see in on the page.

3. Pay attention to connotation and context
In reading and grammar, connotation and context play a large role. By looking at both, you may be able to distinguish between two very similar answer choices and choose the correct one.

4. Look for small errors
The SAT question writers are not trying to trick you with grammar questions, but they may include some very small errors in answer choices to make them incorrect. Pay close attention to punctuation marks, plurals, pronoun-antecedent agreement, parallel structure, and subject-verb agreement.

5. See if one question clues another
Question writers work hard to avoid cluing (where one question gives you the answer to another) in a test, but sometimes, particularly in evidence-based questions, you can often find some help.

6. Read all passage introductions
Often there’s a lot of useful information in the short paragraphs that introduce the passages and questions in the reading and writing sections. There can be a lot of helpful information in the instructions on other parts of the test too, so make sure you read all of them carefully.

For more help with the reading and writing questions on the SAT, use Help Teaching’s SAT worksheets to brush up on your vocabulary, identify sentence errors, and read some SAT reading passages.

A Comprehensive Guide to Conquering the SAT Mathematics
The math section of the SAT has both multiple choice and open-ended math questions. There’s also a section where you’re not allowed to use a calculator. The open-ended format can see intimidating, but if you prepare for the test, you can feel confident in your answers no matter what type of question is asked.

Here are some tips to help:

1. Substitute in a number
When answer choices do not have numbers, rather equations or expressions, you can still plug in a logical number and see which one works. Pick a logical number or numbers if needed. For example, 1 is a good starting place, 100 if you are dealing with percents, multiples of 10 if angle measures, etc.

2. Substitute in answer choices
Substituting the answers choices in for variable is a huge time saver – “plug and chug”. You’re looking to get the correct answer as efficiently as possible, not please your math teacher!

3. Simplify or rewrite in another form when you can
Sometimes a question masquerades as something more complex when all you really need to do is simplify it. For example, an improper fraction may reduce to a whole number.

4. Brush up on time savers
These include the Pythagorean Triple (3-4-5 and 5-12-13 specifically). Remember that any multiples of those numbers are also triples (6-8-10, 10-24-26). You can also brush up on special right triangle rules or other ones learned in school.

5. When in doubt, draw it out
Draw a picture, graph, table, diagram whenever you can to help visualize the problem.

6. Memorize and become familiar with formulas
The SAT will give you a reference sheet with common formulas, but it’s time-consuming to constantly take it out and refer to it. If you are familiar with common formulas, you can answer most of the questions on the test without referring to the formula sheet.

In addition to the tips above, you can find resources to help you prepare for the SAT on Help Teaching’s SAT Preparation Resources page.

Still worried you won’t do well? Don’t stress. Not all colleges require the SAT or ACT. Check out FairTest to discover a list of colleges and universities that are “test optional” or “test flexible” when considering students for admission.