Ask the Teacher: Tech Obsessions

Ask the Teacher is a monthly column from our magazine, written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four who holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Deb has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at [email protected].                        

The obsession my son has with his computer is putting me over the edge. He spends hours and hours attached to technology. What can I do about this? 

Define exactly what you would like to be different and then set up realistic family guidelines based upon what you want to change. What are the consequences of your son’s overuse of technology? How is it impacting him or your family negatively? There may be certain times of day that you want to designate as technology and media-free for all of you, like meal times or immediately after school. Prohibiting technology use 30-60 minutes before bed is considered a healthy restriction for children so that they can fall asleep more easily. If you are concerned that active play has been replaced by technology, incorporate an evening walk or bike ride into your family routine. 

Take a look at exactly what your son is doing during his tech time. Find ways for it to be constructive, for example, doing online keyboarding games, math challenges, games that require strategy and reasoning, etc. Also, it should be across-the-board family policy that all electronic devices are in the parents’ possession during the overnight hours to promote healthy, uninterrupted sleep.  

My second-grade son is having a tough time with spelling. Week after week, his test scores are low. We have both become very frustrated. What can we do to turn this around? 

Spelling is a real struggle for many students. Help your son prepare by offering a variety of approaches to his study time. On the evening he receives the list, have him write out the words using a different colored pencil for each word. As he writes out the word, he should say each letter aloud. The acts of reading the word, physically writing it out, hearing the letters, and making color associations will multiply the memory effects of just writing out the words. 

During another study session, have him give you a spelling test. Intentionally misspell some of the words. When he grades your paper, he should write the correct spelling of each word you missed. Another time, create a list of the words along with ways they may be spelled incorrectly. Have your son select the correctly spelled words from the options. 

If your son insists that he wants to use the computer practice set up by his teacher, allow that as a baseline. After he has played the games a couple of times, he should write down the words he is still missing and practice those another way. 

Proofreading after the test, or even in between words, is essential. After writing the word out, your son should go back and spell the word in his head, making a very light mark under each letter as he hears it in his head. Children will often just read the word they have written and not see a missed or incorrect letter because of the efficient way their brains process familiar words.  

Our third-grade daughter is absolutely impossible in the morning. She fights getting up when she is called and is rude to everyone until she gets on the bus. What can I do to remedy this situation? 

While it is difficult to change someone else’s morning temperament, it is not necessary to accept rude behavior that impacts your entire family. A conversation about this at a later time, not in the middle of her grumpiness, is needed. Track and record specific behaviors (her rude words and actions) including time wasted due to her ignoring your prompts. When you have your meeting, present her with the list. State very simply that this behavior is unacceptable and that you would like to create a list of morning procedures together. 

Compile a simple list that includes wake-up time and morning responsibilities on a timetable. Determine how the process will go. Removing yourself from the situation as much as possible will help keep rising tensions at bay. Perhaps a musical alarm will help get the day off to a more positive start. Be realistic! Do not expect jovial pleasantries; respect her individual morning challenges as part of who she is. But do expect a total removal of rudeness. When she deviates from the plan, simply refer her to the schedule without harping. The natural consequence for her not following through is an earlier bedtime. 

If the problem persists, consider the possibility that there may, indeed, be a good reason for her morning struggles. Is your daughter getting enough rest? An earlier bedtime may be in order. She also may be having trouble sleeping soundly through the night. Investigate factors that may be having a negative impact.  

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