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Spotlight on the IB ATL skill of Self-Management: Mindfulness and The Mindframes

The Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills focus on helping students to develop the self-knowledge and skills they need to enjoy a lifetime of learning. These are skills that help them “learn how to learn” academically, socially and emotionally. ATL Self-Management skills are categorized in two clusters: Organization and Affective skills.

Affective skills are those related to managing state of mind. Mindfulness, perseverance, emotional management, self-motivation, resilience and practice dealing with changes are ways students can manage their own state of mind.

From the Distance Learning Playbook for Parents, mindframes for students are the mental attitudes and habits that are important to develop. The authors have identified 6 mindframes focused on self-regulation as demonstrated by students who:

  • Know their current level of understanding. They are aware of their performance and understand that their current level is malleable.
  • Know where they’re going and are confident to take on the challenge. They understand that there is more to learn and know what that is. They believe that they can learn, with the right support, and accept learning as a challenge.
  • Select tools to guide their learning. They understand the ways that learning tools work and they know how to select tools that work for the task at hand.
  • Seek feedback and recognize that errors are opportunities to learn. They don’t wait for feedback; they seek it. And they know that errors are opportunities to learn rather than sources of embarrassment.
  • Monitor their progress and adjust their learning. They recognize that learning is a journey and that monitoring and adjusting are necessary components of that learning.
  • Recognize their learning and teach others. They know when they have learned something, they know how to use that knowledge, and they are willing to share their learning with others.

Empower your child to take ownership of their learning and see learning as an active, two-way process that involves taking academic risks and having persistence. Here’s what you can do:

  • Manage your expectations. When your child views education as a game of compliance and getting a grade, they miss opportunities to learn.Your attitude toward learning communicates values about learning. Make sure your conversations with your child are not solely focused on grades.
  • Manage your child’s expectations. Some learners pressure themselves when struggling with a class. Best not to tell your child to “just try harder” but try to give specific advice about what they might do to achieve their goals. Additionally make it clear that their value to you and the world is not measured by grades alone.
  • Make sure they are active partners in learning. Students are at the center of their learning; parents and teachers are supporters. Help your child develop their own goals for learning, involve them as active partners in conferences, and give them the space they need to tackle problems on their own. Appropriate levels of struggle build resiliency and confidence!

Rosalind Wiseman, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, John Hattie. The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents: How to support your child’s academic, social and emotional development in any setting. Corwin-Press, Inc., 2021
ISBN 978-1-0718-3832-7


Spotlight on Distance Learning – The Value of Guiding, Not Telling

“Over time, telling your children the answer when they’re stuck can contribute to intellectual learned helplessness.” 

“The Value of Guiding not Telling” is another great tip from the book The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents as you continue to support your child’s learning engagements. There may be times when your child is completely stumped with an assignment and you feel so tempted to just give the answer though you know it’s not quite the right thing to do. How much help is too much?

Perseverance is key. Students need to actually do the thinking for themselves and go through that productive struggle. Teachers guide their students’ thinking and provide prompts to help. Parents can do the same in this guided approach:

  • Be observant and notice what your child knows and what is challenging. Oftentimes your child’s response is indicative of full or partial understanding.
  • Ask simple questions. The 5W questions (who, what, when, where, why, how) will spark their thinking and help learners to solve problems on their own. 
  • Tap your child’s prior knowledge. Remind your child of other skills that may have been overlooked.
  • Cue your child to shift attention to information needed. Sometimes it’s a matter of repeating what your child stated while emphasizing the error.
  • Explain your thinking in those situations where your child still can’t figure out what to do. Explain how you came to the answer, and ask what your child still needs to learn so that specific help can be asked when talking to the teacher.

This approach is also applicable at home. Taking the time to guide your child to persevere in trying to solve a problem will provide enough to ignite their own learning.

Rosalind Wiseman, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, John Hattie. The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents: How to support your child’s academic, social and emotional development in any setting. Corwin-Press, Inc., 2021

ISBN 978-1-0718-3832-7


Spotlight on Distance Learning – Quarter 2 Start Up!

“Parents don’t have to be teachers, but they can be formidable influencers in helping their children to learn” (Sarah Brown Wessling, National Board Certified Teacher, former National Teacher of the Year, and Laureate Emeritus for the Teaching Channel)

The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents is a new publication from Corwin publishers. Helpful reminders and tips will be shared in the following weeks to continue being supportive partners in your child’s learning journey. 

Now’s the time to revisit and refresh those basics:

  • Establish routines
    • Know that routines are predictable therefore making it comfortable for children. Routines become habits that take little cognitive energy and reduce undue stress.
    • Create a home schedule that addresses school schedules, making sure your children are ready for virtual school each day.
    • Have a list of household chores that your children need to be responsible for and to complete, and avoid negotiating schoolwork versus household chores.
  • Create a learning environment
    • Have a dedicated workspace that is outside of the bedroom and where your children can keep their tools for learning.
    • Be mindful of the visual field of the device’s camera in order to limit distractions by watching other parts of your home by other students. 
    • Have plans for taking breaks, movement and getting water or food.
  • Review the learning management system (Google Classroom) and online etiquette
    • Know the teachers’ expectations and support them.
    • Remind your children to submit assignments and to ask questions.
    • Try to have the camera turned on the device so the teacher and peers can see each other as a way to build a sense of class community and for the teacher to see your child’s visual cue signaling if help or clarity is needed
    • Talk to your child about the day’s sessions and their behavior and actions. Encourage your child to reflect on their participation and learning.
  • Ensure that your children sleep
    • Establish bedtimes and stick with them. Nine to eleven hours is the recommended amount of time for school age children.
    • Avoid electronic devices that emit blue light one hour before bedtime.
  • Monitor screen time
    • Try to balance the day with on-screen time and off-screen time activities.
    • Remind your child to take frequent mini-breaks from the screen by looking away for a couple of minutes. 
    • Print task sheets for longer, complex tasks that your child can refer back to in order to stay on track.
  • Communicate with teachers
    • Know how to contact your children’s teachers as needs arise.
    • Make sure your child knows what is to be learned, why they are learning it, and when they will know they have achieved success.
    • Be involved and supportive in your child’s education.
  • Take care of yourself (parents)
    • Establish and stick to your own routines, including taking breaks.
    • Maintain regular hours which also includes sleep hours
    • Have meaningful conversations with others outside of your home; socialize as well.
    • Develop a health self-plan that includes nutrition and exercise.

Here’s a  helpful resource to share with your child that stresses the importance of being responsible learners, staying on-task, and showing respect during virtual learning:

SOAR: Virtual Learning Matrix

Rosalind Wiseman, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, John Hattie.The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents: How to support your child’s academic, social and emotional development in any setting. Corwin-Press, Inc., 2021 ISBN 978-1-0718-3832-7


Spotlight on Distance Learning – Fall Break!

Fall break is here! Move away from the screen and enjoy the outdoors, the social company of family, and relaxation all while keeping safe and healthy. Now is a great time to hone in on establishing a regular exercise routine for your health. Simple yoga stretches and exercises such as lunges and squats can keep your child fit. Check out this site for ideas: 8 Easy Exercises for Kids

You could even have a fun and friendly crab walk or bear crawl race with your entire family!

Cooking is another fun activity that also includes math and reading practice. Have your child decide on a dish or entire meal to prepare for the family. It could be breakfast, lunch, dinner or a healthy snack! Start with a simple recipe and have your child take control of the kitchen, from gathering ingredients and tools, making a shopping list, and cleaning up. Our own Student Activities coordinator, Mr. Brian Yamagata, has a passion and degree in culinary arts besides being certified and a former science teacher. Check out his simple and yummy pasta recipe, Cacio e Pepe, on Virtual Niu News- Sept. 25 or check it out on the school’s website. Your child will also expand their vocabulary…emulsify, al dente, grate. 


Enjoy fall break!


Spotlight ATL Skill: Self-Management – Affective Skills

Summer is right around the corner! Persevere and continue to stay safe while enjoying the summer break. Revisit previous entries posted throughout this school year. Keep to routines and keep practicing the ATL skills!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Try This at Home

Check out these simple resources as reminders to keep to routines, stay healthy and enjoy family time!

Helping your teen during COVID-19

Your COVID-19 Summer Safety Guide from Everyday Health



Spotlight ATL Skill: Self-Management – Reflective Skills

In a few weeks the school year will come to an end. Now would be a great time for your child to reflect on their learning for the year or even for the past two months. Reflection is empowering as it gives  you the power to take control and make the necessary changes in your life.  Reflective thinking skills are essential for success. Have your child start sharing with what was learned, and why it was important  and how will your child apply their learning next school year. It may be a subject skill or two, time management, or even the importance of being balanced.      

Try This at Home

Watch this short video with your child and follow up with a conversation about a learning experience. Use the three step process “what”, “so what”, “now what” and listen to your child’s experience and how your child will apply new insights in the future for success!

Video: Critical Reflection


Spotlight ATL Skill: Self-Management – Perseverance

Has your child shared their Curiosity Quest with you? During this school year, your child pursued a personal curiosity during their advisory time and prepared to share it at their Spring Student-led Conference (SLC). Be curious and ask your child to share it with you!

Pursuing a passion all starts with being curious. We can support students to pursue their curiosities and support their passions for something they truly have an interest and purpose in.

Some tips:

  • Balance support and “pressure” to help your child be successful
  • Follow opportunities as they arise
  • Encourage practice when your child is losing interest or inspiration
  • Try new things even if it’s scary–take risks!
  • Accept failure as a necessary part of learning just as it is more powerful to know how to learn than what you learn
  • Know that it’s more important to learn how to pursue a passion than finding it
  • Persevere!

Try This at Home

Watch this short video with your child to inspire curiosity and passion!


Spotlight ATL Skill: Self-Management-Affective Skills – Emotional Management

We’re into another month of school closure and the stay at home directive. As much as we are all trying to manage staying safe and practicing social distancing, little things can cause us much stress. A timely resource has just been announced by the Department Of Education. Check the link below to find out more about how students can access the HIDOE and the Hawai’i Keiki: Healthy and Ready to Learn Program’s health hotline and telehealth services.

Try This at Home

Check up on your child with a daily “Meme Check -In…” (George Couros). Take some time to talk about how they’re feeling and what might be possible triggers. Sharing thoughts and feelings is a great way for your child to manage emotions.


9 boxes of animal memes for emotional learning


Spotlight ATL Skill: Affective Skills – Reflective Skills

Everyone could use a big (air) hug right now!  This is a challenging time for all of us, especially our students. The middle years are a time of wondering, shaping identities, and facing adversities. Taking care of one’s social and emotional needs are priorities to support a healthy lifestyle and well being. 

Taking time to reflect on lessons learned, experiences good or bad, new understandings and insights, or even problem-solving thoughts is a great way to manage emotional stress whether evident or not. As middle schoolers grow and experience changes in their own intellectual, emotional, social and physical development, they are also shaping their own thought processes. This is an ideal time to develop thinking, learning and metacognitive strategies. Reflection activities provide students with the skills to process learning experiences, identify what was learned, modify their understanding based on new experiences and information, and transfer their learning to other situations.

Try This at Home

Have your child and invite everyone in the family to write a letter to “self” reflecting on what stands out for them, what were memorable learning experiences during the school year, how prepared they are for the next year along with other thoughts.  Encourage  your child and other family members to actually hand write the letter and then seal in an envelope addressed to themselves.  Keep the envelopes and shortly after the new school year begins, have everyone open their envelopes, read their letters and share their thoughts. Conversations will provide emotional support and pave the way for a more positive outlook and ease anxieties! 


Spotlight ATL Skill: Affective Skills – Creative Thinking

Now more than before, young teens are challenged with minimized social interactions while trying to cope with day-to-day routines. There are physical activity parameters and adjusting to the home environment that your child faces. With the extended school closure through the end of the school year, seeing and mingling with friends are now only through virtual connections. 

Mindfulness activities are even more critical for all. Simple breathing and focusing techniques can support everyone in managing their daily lives.

Try a few simple mindfulness techniques for 5 minutes a day. And better yet, do some of these as a family!

  • Close your eyes and identify all the sounds you can hear
  • Notice your breathing or your heartbeat
  • Feel a breeze or the sun’s heat on your face
  • Do simple yoga breathing and stretches (revisit the 3/30 and 4/6 entries for simple yoga exercises)

Try This at Home

There are many apps that offer relaxation games to relieve stress. One in particular is the app, Antistress.

Antistress is a free app that features a collection of relaxation “toys” such as a fidget spinner, bamboo chime, chalk drawing, block stacking, vegetable chopping, and more. 

When you or your child needs a diversion break or just to relax for a short 5 minutes, try something like the Antistress-relaxation toys app. Yes, it’s on screen, but a fun quick break from the work that you’re doing! Set a timer so you don’t get carried away!


Spotlight: ATL Skill – Creative Thinking

What is Creative thinking? It’s generating new ideas, considering new perspectives, creating or designing original works, and more. It’s about the sense of wonder and what ifs. Creative thinkers apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes. They are scientists generating testable hypotheses or mathematicians brainstorming and creating visual diagrams for new ideas. 

Now is a great time for students to be creative thinkers. Design, create, build, problem-solve!

Try This at Home

Everyone is a teacher! Watch the video on Vintage Innovation and spend off-screen time as MacGyvers of the world. Go on a treasure hunt around the house and look for recyclable items to design and create a new and useful product! Have fun!

Taking Distance Learning Away from the Screen: Vintage Innovation
by John Spencer, Mar 27, 2020


Spotlight: ATL Skill – Resilience – Care for Self

Now more than ever being able to self manage and to take care of our mental, physical, social and emotional is critical while sheltering in place. Students are finding ways to manage their time and to continue their learning by engaging in various enrichment activities in a new learning environment. They long for contact with friends and teachers and are often anxiety filled.

A quick revisit to the IB Approaches to Learning focusing on the Affective skill, Emotional Management (12/9), is a start. 

Watch the FACE COVID video with your child and have a discussion to help your child and yourself take on a positive perspective and deepen understanding. 

Dr. Russ Harris, medical doctor and author of The Happiness Project, narrates the video and suggests that we take control of the situation rather than feeling scared and be filled with anxiety. 

FACE COVID – How To Respond Effectively To The Corona Crisis

Try This at Home

Take care of your physical well-being! Here’s another online yoga resource to start up the mornings.  Sign up for the Free Yoga & Mindfulness Classes for Children & Teens through Yoga Ed. There are mat and chair yoga lessons for young children, teens, and adults. Try the Brain Break activity, Thumb and finger, and challenge your child who could do the most in a minute! 

Yoga Ed


Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Being Balanced

School closure, “stay/work at home” directives, and social distancing, our daily lives and lifestyles have changed dramatically. More than ever do we need to find ways to take care of our physical, mental, social, emotion, and cognitive health and well-being. 

Revisiting IB Approaches to Learning skills focusing on the Affective skills is a great way to practice mindfulness (10/21) and optimism (1/21). Practice simple meditation and breathing skills to help you and your child to be more aware of your own thinking and the environment around you.

Remember this from Mindfulness (10/21) to help with your online enrichment and learning time:

Part 2: Control distractions!

    1. Set up your study area with things from Part 1.
    2. Look at the clock — on the hour, set an alarm on your phone or device to ring in 45 minutes time.
    3. Go to Settings on your phone; select Airplane Mode (your built in Study Mode!)
    4. Switch off all your social media platforms and chat apps (this is important to do!)
    5. Get into your work — focus on concentrating as well as you can.
    6. When the 45 minutes are up, switch “Study Mode” off on your phone, open up all your social media platforms and check your entire messages — ONLY FOR 15 MINUTES!
    7. Get back into Study Mode for another 45 minutes.
    8. Practice mindfulness training with simple meditation. Once a day, take a 20-30 minute break to sit quietly, close your eyes and focus simply on your breathing. Stay focused on your breathing and allow any other thoughts to just pass through your mind.

Try This at Home

Get physical! Make a weekly plan of physical activities to do with your child. It might be to take a brisk 20-minute walk around the neighborhood, have a friendly sit up challenge competition over the next several weeks, or simple yoga stretching to start the morning.

5 minute Morning Yoga

Whatever you choose to add more exercise in your daily routines while being mindful of social distancing and health, be sure to start with goal setting. Record progress weekly and take time to reflect on your progress. Your child can even share their FitnessGram goals with you!


Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Putting ATL skills in Action

We hope that you are all doing well and keeping safe amid the unprecedented and ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Our goal is to continue supporting our students and families in the best way possible despite the limited conditions. Keeping learning alive through enrichment lessons and activities as well as keeping lines of communication open between students and staff are our primary goals.  

Now is a great time to refresh ourselves with the IB Approaches to Learning skills. Ask your child to share some of the skills learned and identify specific skills that are most helpful. You can also revisit previous posts such as Resilience (posted on 12/16) and Organization (posted on 10/14) along with other posts supporting young adolescent learners. 

Try This at Home

Screen time will increase for most students as our school begins to share learning enrichment activities online. To help bring a balance in your child’s daily routines, consider spending family time with all devices and screens turned off. Instead, play board games such as Monopoly, Life, or Clue that engage players to apply thinking skills as well as reading, math, and problem-solving skills. Set up a table to assemble a 500+ piece jigsaw puzzle. Together set a goal as to how long it will take to complete the puzzle!

As your child will connect with friends through social media, share this video with your child and have a chat! 
From Common Sense Education: Teen Voices- Over sharing and Your Digital Footprint


Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Being Happy

On July 12, 2012, the United Nations designated March 20 as the International Day of Happiness in recognizing the relevance and connection of positive well-being and the importance of a better world for all. The 2019 Happiness Index published by the United Nations reports Finland to be the happiest country in the world with the  United States ranked at seventeen. This year’s theme is “Happier Together”. Sharing our happiness and working together makes life even better. 

Watch this video: What is happiness? Learn to be happy in your life

Try This at Home

From George Couros, Innovative, Teacher, Leader, and Speaker: “Every morning send a friend, family member (your own child) or co-worker an email to say thanks for something. This might sound silly but it’s actually excellent advice on how to make your life better. There’s tons and tons and tons of research showing that over time, this alone – one silly email a day – can make you happier.”

Take time to bring to mind what we value and appreciate about others. Start off small and spread your happiness by sending a positive email message to someone once a week. Then build up “feeling good by doing good” by increasing your appreciation emails and being happier together. Send a couple extra on March 20, the International Day of Happiness!


Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Being Positive

How children think can have a big impact on their behavior. The power of positive thinking helps students to nurture a positive outlook and stifle negative thoughts. Young adolescents are growing physically, emotionally, socially, and academically. The middle school years are often thought of as the “growing pains” years where adolescents are shaping their identities while being easily influenced by others, social media or what they see on TV or the movies. Children perceive whom they should be or what they should look like and often internalize these messages to form a false identity of them. 

Practicing positivity helps children to build a better outlook on things and to see and accept themselves more positively. Jon Gordon, a known author and passionate consultant on developing positive leaders and teams developed the Positive Shark formula, E + P = O. We can’t control the Events (E) in our life but we can control our Positive Response (P) to these events and our response determines the Outcome (0). The formula helps children develop a perspective that through their beliefs and actions they have an influence on their life. They come to realize that they are not a victim of circumstance but can turn their challenges into opportunities that result in positive outcomes. Children will be more aware of their actions and to be more positive when things go wrong.

Try This at Home

Watch this video on the power of positive feedback. Have a conversation with your child about the video and the Positive Shark formula.
On the set of Positive Thinking


Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Integrity

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over that is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”–Brene Brown, Rising Strong (2015, p.123)

Integrity is the ability to act in ways that are consistent with moral principles, values and beliefs. Honesty, respect, fairness, honor, authenticity, trustworthiness, responsibility, and the courage to stand up for one’s beliefs are all components of having integrity.

Integrity starts at home by sharing values and beliefs that help to build a child’s moral compass. Successful business, Warren Buffet, reminds us, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”

In school IB learners are taught and encouraged to internalize and live the traits of being principled, open-minded and caring as they develop and strengthen their sense and value of integrity.

Try This at Home

Start sharing your family values, beliefs and moral principles with your child. Use “moral vocabulary” regularly to support values such as honesty, kindness, respect, and trust. 

When opportunities arise, such as witnessing an incident while on a family outing or simply making up scenarios, engage in a “what if” conversation to further teach your child about integrity.  



Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Active Listening

Active listening requires a lot of work and takes a great deal of concentration. Often times we hear things but not necessarily are we really listening. 

Often times we don’t realize that our own distractions send a negative message to the speaker.  Multitasking such as using a device, interrupting the speaker, cutting into the speaker’s story to talk about your own experiences, or listening only enough to find a problem to fix are unintentional habits that deter from being an active listener.

An effective listener squarely faces the speaker, opens up posture by uncrossing arms, leans toward the speaker, makes eye contact and is relaxed and fully engaged with the speaker. When appropriate, paraphrase what you hear to let the speaker know you are listening. 

Here’s a short video on being an active listener:

Try This at Home

Take this short quiz and think about how well do you really listen. Try to change one or two things about yourself as a listener the next time you’re in conversation with your child. You might also invite your child to take the quiz and together work on being more active listeners!

Active Listening Quiz

Active Listening Quiz



Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Gratitude

Gratitude is simply taking time to think about all the positive things in your life rather than dwelling on the negatives.  “Humans have preternatural leaning toward the negative. Rick Hanson, researcher, says the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, while it is like Teflon for positive ones. He attributes this phenomenon to our evolutionary history where survival was more dependent on avoiding negative experiences than on seeking out positive ones.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word grateful as “showing an appreciation of kindness.” Being thankful is a feeling, and being grateful is an action. Being grateful by thinking or expressing gratitude shifts negative thinking towards more positive thinking. Gratitude makes one feel more gratitude–a positivity loop that increases over time.

Through gratitude, we get to make a sense of our lives and learn to recognize those around us with the appreciation they deserve rather than just a “thank you.”

Try This at Home

Simply start by keeping 5 minute-a-week journals for both you and your child.  At the end of the week take five minutes each to list down 5 things that you are grateful for. Choose to share a few with each other. The emotions of gratitude felt by recalling what you are grateful for will trigger a grateful mood. This act of gratefulness is memorable and can stay with you for a long time. Gratitude and positive thinking grows over time by keeping the 5 minute-a-week journal.


Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is the belief of being able and having the skills to accomplish any task, no matter how difficult.  Just as the childhood favorite train, The Little Engine That Could, having a can-do mindset and attitude contribute to strengthening self-efficacy. Developing a strong sense of self-efficacy helps to overcome challenges, persevere through difficult tasks, and achieve goals. 

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered rather than too difficult and give up
  • Develop a deeper interest and are better engaged in the activities in which they participate
  • Have a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
  • Are more resilient and recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments

People with a lesser sense of self-efficacy:

  • Avoid challenging tasks and feel defeated from the start
  • Believe that they are not good enough and lack ability to tackle difficult tasks and situations 
  • Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes and become disengaged
  • Lose confidence in personal abilities

Try This at Home

One of the ways we can help build a child’s self-efficacy is by understanding how we praise. Choosing the words in how we praise and recognize effort has a lasting effect. Watch the video, “The Impact of Praise,” and pause a moment to think about a more impactful way to encourage, support, and recognize effort.

The Impact of Praise


Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Empathy

Emotions play an important role in the social lives of young people.  Fostering empathy will help adolescents in realizing how their actions affect other people and lessen being judgmental and self-centered. According to psychologists, having empathy is a “prosocial behavior” that supports building close relationships, sustaining friendships, and strengthening communities. Those with higher levels of empathy are more likely to be more principled, ethical, and compassionate.

Try This at Home

  • Watch this video with your child: “Empathy Can Change the World” and have a conversation.
  • Practice empathy the next time your child needs to see things from another person’s point of view:
    1. Observe an undesirable behavior without being critical or judgmental
      a. Instead of: “You’re so rude and disrespectful”
      b. Try: “You just (state the rude behavior- ex: threw that paper at me)” 
    2. Help your child identify the emotional feeling connected to the behavior
      a. Instead of: “You should be ashamed of yourself. I am so upset with your behavior”
      b. Try: “Are you feeling upset or irritated because I got upset at you? 
    3. Find out and recognize the real need of your child
      a. Instead of: “How dare you act that way. I am your mother and this is how you treat me?”
      b. Try: Do you need to know why I’m disappointed in your behavior that has nothing to do with my respect and love for you?
    4. State your request clearly and explicitly
      a. Instead of: “How would you like it that I threw something at you? That’s it, no screen time for you.”
      b. Try: “I want to think about your actions and tell me how you are going to be more mindful in the future and how you are going to make this right with me.”



Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Relationships and Optimism

Young adolescents value honesty and relationships with family and friends. When they are happy in themselves and able to have positive attitudes, they are able to work with others and feel socially connected with a sense of belonging. 

Students enjoy positive and grateful relationships with others. Feeling gratitude and joy by enjoying a sense of belonging with family and friends, is an important contributor to creating the student’s wellbeing. Building a sense of belonging focuses on knowing one’s identify. It’s about having the courage and bravery to be one’s self.

Try This at Home
Most people look for what they are doing well. This is the same for adolescents. Take the free Character Strengths Survey at for both you and your child. The survey will take about 10 minutes and a free report will be provided that ranks 24 character strengths. Use the report to have conversations reflecting on the results to possibly create growth mindsets and strengthen one’s identity.


Spotlight on the Middle School Student: Fitting in and Belonging

The middle years is a special time where adolescents begin to grow not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well. It’s a special time and turning point from a child into a teenager. It’s also a challenging time where young adolescents are finding their identity and trying to “fit in”  as well as have a sense of belonging.

This article provides a quick overview of the difference between fitting in and belonging:
Help kids learn the difference between “fitting in” and “belonging”

Try This at Home

Ask you child what does it mean to belong and what does it look like in life. Read the article together and watch the short video clip at the end of the article. Have your child start to create a “Belonging” book. It can be digitally created or crafted by hand. Take pictures, collect artifacts, write short stories or poems to add to the book.  Build a sense of belonging with your child and add to the book along the way. Have fun!


Spotlight on the NVMS Vision: Make a Difference

Here’s to a bright and successful 2020! As we start off the new year and the second semester, let’s take a moment to pause and  reflect on our school’s vision. What resonates with you? What’s your character? What motivates you to make a difference?

Try This at Home
“How many people does it take to make a difference?”

Share this excerpt from The 1 Book: How many people does it take to make a difference? by Dan Zadra and Kobi Yamada, with your child. 

The start to a better world is our belief that it is possible.
Believe in your dreams.
Believe in today.
Believe that you are loved.
Believe that you make a difference.
Believe we can build a better world.
Believe when others might not.
Believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Believe that you might be that light for someone else.
Believe that the best is yet to be.
Believe in each other.
Believe in yourself.
I believe in you.
-Kobi Yamada 


Spotlight on the ATL skill: Resilience

Resilience is another component of the Managing State of Mind skills in the category of Affective Skills. Resilience is having the strength to “bounce back” or recover quickly from difficulties, mistakes, or challenges. 

Resilient learners have the following characteristics:

  Resilient students Vulnerable students
Goals Set learning goals- learn in order to understand. Set performance goals- learn only in order to get the best grade.
Tasks Take on new tasks to test themselves, to work towards master. Take on new tasks to gain approval or avoid disapproval.
Challenge Actively seek out new challenges. Avoid all new challenges.
To achieve success Believe effort is more important than ability. Believe ability is more important than effort.
Reaction to failure

Fail Well- take responsibility, analyze the process, make changes, have another go. 

Does not have an emotional reaction to failure, realizes that dealing well with failure is an important part of generating success.

Fail Badly- take no responsibility, blame others or the ‘system,’ repeat the same process or do even less, give up. 

Have major emotional reactions to failure.

Reaction to success Think they can generate their own success. Think that any success they have is due to the actions of other people.
View of intelligence Believe their intelligence is flexible, can be developed and increased. Believe their intelligence is fixed, unalterable with a definite limit.
Performance High achievers. Underachievers.
Future Expectations Optimistic. Pessimistic.

Try This at Home
“Bouncing Back”

Have a conversation with your child about resiliency. Discuss the descriptors 

in the chart above in gauging how resilient your child is and possible ways to build resiliency. 

Ways to develop more resiliency:

  1. Learn for understanding, not for a particular test. Develop understanding will produce more effective learning and better memory. Look for any gaps in your own understanding and ask questions to fill any gaps you identify.
  2. Focus on the skills of effective learning. Learn how to concentrate well, motivate yourself when you need to and how to get organized, set goals and achieve them.
  3. Set high standards for yourself and push yourself to achieve them.
  4. Learn how to “fail well.” Overcome any emotional reaction to failure, use any failure as good feedback, work out what you did wrong, make changes and go back and do it again, but do it differently the second time around.
  5. Realize that your intelligence is flexible, multi-faceted and open to change, development and improvement. Eliminate any ideas of intelligence as something that is fixed and rigid.
  6. Focus any learning failure on the things over which you have control- the amount of effort you put in and what strategies you use. Make sure you have a wide range of learning strategies you can employ in learning any new material in your subject.
  7. Constantly develop and update your own positive future plans.

Spotlight on the ATL skill: Affective Skills-Emotional Management

Emotional management is part of the Managing State of Mind skills in the category of Affective Skills.  Practicing emotional management skills builds being able to manage impulsiveness as well as anger. When emotions begin to intensify into reactive, impulsive actions or anger, use self-calming strategies to redirect negative energy.

When you react or jump the gun without thinking about what you are going to do or realizing consequences, you are not in charge of yourself. No one else triggers your anger except yourself, unless you are being bullied.  Anger occurs when your emotions intensify to a level where you find them difficult to control. The key is to raise your awareness of your emotions and having coping strategies in place to calm yourself.

Getting angry is usually the end of a process that starts with mild irritation. People are different in how they react to situations. Some are quick to get angry while some take a slower time. Being able to notice the signals as you move from irritation to anger can help you learn how to easily control any anger.

Try This at Home
“Signals and Strategies”

Part 1: Take notice of yourself

When you get a bit irritated with someone or something and it starts escalating into anger, what do you notice happening to your body? Is your breathing slow or fast? Is your heart rate getting faster or slower? Are you feeling relaxed or tense? How do you look on the outside? How do you feel on the inside?

Part 2: Practice Self-calming techniques

Practice these simple strategies before getting in situations when anger rises so that you will be familiar with how to use them when you need to.

1. Count your breaths.

a. Focus on your breathing, say to yourself breathe in, breathe out in a steady and calm rhythm.

b. Count each breath.

c. Try to slow down both the count and your breathing.

2. Tense and release.

a. Notice which parts of your body are most tensed up and clench them really tight.

b. Release and relax completely.

c. Move the tense/relaxed reaction to other parts of your body.

3. Stretch and release.

a. Stretch upwards as much as you can.

b. Release and relax.

c. Repeat several times.

4. Be here, now.

a. Say to yourself I am here, now.

b. Focus on your senses, noticing what you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel on your skin.

Getting in touch with yourself, releases your anger energy!


Spotlight on the ATL skill: Taking Responsibility

Collaboration requires working together cooperatively with others to achieve common goals. Collaboration requires communicating with others, being a listener, being open-minded to other people’s points of view and to work together to come to decisions where all agree. Collaboration can occur between individuals, groups, and organizations.

School is an organization where collaboration is key. Teamwork is necessary where the resources and strengths of all are combined to achieve more than just an individual. In order for success, taking responsibility is key.

Taking full responsibility for one’s actions involves honesty, being accountable for one’s actions, and also being prepared and willing to change for a positive outcome. Accepting and taking responsibility for one’s actions as well as understanding consequences lead to effective collaboration. It takes all to be responsible!

At NVMS, responsible students are recognized for their consistent and “automatic” responsible actions. Lancer Bucks are given to students for being principled and responsible among other positive behaviors.

Try This at Home
“Lancer at home: Actions and Consequences”

Recognize responsible actions at home by “rewarding” your child just as in school. It could be a simple thank you, a chore “day off”, or small treat (extra dessert). In order to support your child, start with collaborating by listing responsibilities, then describing acceptable actions and consequences of not taking responsibility. Make agreements, catch those positive responsible actions, and celebrate with a reward!

Short list of responsibilities to get started:


Acceptable Action

Consequence of not taking responsibility

Feeding the family pet


Taking out the garbage


Keeping the bedroom tidy




Spotlight on the ATL skill: Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers are like detectives — they examine and weigh evidence in order to draw conclusions. Critical thinkers are active inquirers and learners who determine what they believe to be true, rather than be passive recipients of information in order to come to conclusions.

Critical thinkers practice logical and analytical thinking. Critical thinkers observe and gather information, analyze from multiple perspectives, evaluate the validity of varying perspectives, and provide structured reasoning and support for evidence-based conclusions or positions taken.

Good problem solvers require critical thinking skills to support creative thinking in coming up with new solutions. Practicing critical thinking skills help to lay the foundation in becoming better problem solvers.

Try This at Home
“I Spy a Shopper!”

Observation skills involve using our five senses that magnifies more information or evidence in order to make reasonable inferences.  Inferences are conclusions, explanations, or judgments formed with evidence. Keen observations provide the details necessary to support inferences.

On a shopping trip, take a break and observe crowd movement. Observe a small group such as a family, similar shoppers clustered, or even a single person in a crowd while you’re enjoying a snack or meal. Use your five senses as you observe the shopper(s). Then make an inference on the inner thoughts of the observed shopper. What is the shopper really thinking? How does the shopper feel? What would the shopper want to shout out? Support your inference by citing observed evidence.  Have fun practicing your observation and inference skills!


Spotlight on the ATL skill: Media Literacy

Media literacy includes the essential skills for the 21st Century learner. Media platforms and ways of messaging are powerful influences in the lives of people today and shape the way people view the world. 

Students learn how to access, analyze, evaluate, and participate with and create messages in a variety of forms from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy skills help students gain an understanding of the role and influence of the media in society, so that they become critical and literate consumers and producers of all media forms. Media skills enable students to learn to control the interpretation of all the messages they see and hear rather than letting the interpretation control them.

Students learn the skills of effective media consumption including how to access a wide range of media to critically analyze both the messages and the media as to source, reliability, interpretation, assumptions and bias; and how to evaluate media messages as to authenticity and reliability.

To become effective media producers, students will also need to gain an awareness of media impact and learn the skills of appropriate selection of media, composition of message, creativity of design and production.

Try This at Home
“Message Behind the Delivery”

Messages conveyed through media are dependent on purpose and audience. Bring about an awareness of the media delivery, purpose and audience by observing what’s being messaged all around us. For example, when driving past an advertisement signage or image, or when listening to music, talk about the purpose of the message and the impact on the audience based on the media platform. Then talk about how the media delivery would change if the audience, purpose or platform were different.

What’s the Purpose

Who’s the Audience

What’s the Media Platform

Inform, entertain, teach, sell, social connection, politics, etc.

Young children, teenagers, college students, adults, parents, elderly people, etc.

Poster, images, social media, video, music, lecture, presentation. etc.



Spotlight on the ATL skill: Information Literacy

Information literacy involves having the skills to be able to recognize what information is needed; to be able to search for it, determine validity, evaluate, and cite correctly; and then, finally, to be able to effectively use that information. Research information comes from various sources, and it’s important for the user to be able to discriminate reliable sources from others that may be unreliable. 

Reliance on the Internet as a primary information source can pose a problem due to the sheer abundance of information available that is not necessarily valid or reliable due to the unfiltered nature of that information.

Try This at Home
“Narrow Your Search”

Effective internet searching is a combination of picking the right search terms, narrowing the search, understanding the results, and verifying the credibility of what was found. Knowing how to skillfully narrow internet searches will save you time, which you can then use to verify and check the reliability of researched information and to work on a research topic rather than spending time finding sources of information.

Work with you child and learn together about tips for internet searches:
Do an internet search for “Boolean Operators,” “Search Limiters” and “Advanced Search Tips.” Jot down 5-10 examples of each and how each one can be used. Being familiar with these will help your child to navigate research on the internet!


Spotlight on the ATL skill: Reflection Skills

Reflection is the process of looking back and connecting with what was learned and what are possible new insights of learning. Practicing reflection allows learners to think about what was learned and how the new understanding and knowledge connects to what they already know and the impact on possible new learning and connections.

Metacognition, or the process of thinking about your thinking, is a key feature of reflection. Through effective reflection and metacognition, you are always looking for what works- the learning skills; techniques and strategies that help you gain new understandings- and noticing what does not work for you.

Consider these three questions as reflective learners: 

  • What did I learn about today?
  • What don’t I yet understand?
  • What questions do I have now?

Effective reflective learners can automatically check any new work to make sure they understand it all, look for any parts they don’t yet understand, formulate questions to fill in the gaps of their own understanding, and make sure they find the answers to their questions.

Reflection is most useful when it leads to new understanding. This is possible when you become very clear about what you understand and, more importantly, what you don’t yet understand but strive to seek the answer.

Try This at Home

Keep a notebook or journal between your child and you

  • Make it a habit and write on a regular basis (daily, weekly, or bi-weekly).
  • Ask your child to reflect on something recently learned.
  • Respond to your child’s entry with your own reflective thoughts by sharing some possible answers or solutions to your child’s questions.
  • Share a learning moment with your child and model being reflective by sharing what was learned, what you don’t quite understand, and questions that you have.

Your child can respond to your reflection and provide possible answers.


Spotlight on the  ATL skill: Affective Skills – Self-Motivation

Affective skills are those skills related to how students manage their own state of mind. Managing state of mind skills include mindfulness awareness, perseverance, emotional management, self-motivation, and resilience. Students strengthen their learner attitudes and dispositions with practice in each of these skill strands.

Self-motivation is key to being a successful learner. Getting yourself to actively and positively doing things that you really don’t want to do helps to be self-motivated rather than unmotivated. Reasons for success in school are influenced by two factors: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivators are important in helping to turn our dreams and ideas into goals but research shows that the intrinsic motivators are more influential since these are things that you are in control of whereas extrinsic motivators are out of your control.

Use your extrinsic motivators to help you create your long-term plans–but secure those plans with internal motivators to push you through the hard work that face you.

Try This at Home
“Intrinsic or Extrinsic?”

Have a conversation with your child about being successful in school. Ask if your child wants to succeed in school and more importantly, why and what might be the most important reasons.

Ask your child to rank each of the following twelve ideas into a priority list with number 1 being the most important and number 2 being the second. Number the list from 1-12.

  • To get a good job– earn serious money?
  • To feel satisfied, proud of yourself?
  • To get into the right college/university?
  • To get a feel for your progress to date?
  • Because your parents want you to
  • To test yourself and see what you are capable of?
  • To prove how smart you are?
  • To gain knowledge and skills that will be useful to you in your life?
  • To be better able to mix with other smart kids?
  • To develop your intelligence?
  • To make your parents proud?
  • To practice concentration, determination and the exercise of effort?

Review that rankings with your child and see if your child can determine which questions are intrinsic and which are extrinsic. Remember that intrinsic skills are more powerful and you are more in control of. Having a sense of pride and a feeling of capability are the most influential to help you persevere and keep on going.

Check your child’s responses with the listing below. Reassure your child that having extrinsic motivators help to create long-term goals, but it’s the intrinsic motivators that make a difference!

Intrinsic Motivators

  1. To feel satisfied, proud of yourself
  2. To get a feel for your progress to date
  3. To test yourself and see what you are capable of
  4. To gain knowledge and skills that will be useful to you in your life
  5. To develop your intelligence
  6. To practice concentration, determination and the exercise of effort

Extrinsic Motivators

  1. To get a good job–earn serious money
  2. To get into the right university
  3. Because your parents want you to
  4. To prove how smart you are
  5. To be able to mix with other smart kids
  6. To make your parents proud

Spotlight on the  ATL skill: Affective Skills – Mindfulness

Affective skills connect to feelings, emotions, and attitudes that affect success in learning. Practicing skills such as developing mindfulness and concentration, having persistence and perseverance, overcoming impulsiveness and anger, preventing and eliminating bullying, reducing stress and anxiety, building self-motivation and positive thinking, learning to fail well and to build resilience will all contribute to learning and achieving goals. All of these skills are learned both at home and in school and require regular practice.

Mindfulness is being completely aware of your connection to the world around you and being aware of your own thinking at any moment. Use the awareness to manage your own thought processes, overcome distractions and focus on concentration.

Developing mindfulness is being aware of our senses as well as becoming more aware of the thoughts that are going through your mind at any one moment. Often as much as we are concentrating, there are moments when we start thinking about other things and get distracted.

Try This at Home

“Controlling distractions”

Part 1: What works for you? Think about what helps you to focus the most when doing schoolwork?

Environmental factors What helps you to concentrate the most:
Study environment at home–desk, chair, lighting?  
Temperature– warm, hot, cool, cold?  
Time of day–straight after school, early evening?  
Other things  


Part 2: Control distractions!

    1. Set up your study area with things from Part 1.
    2. Look at the clock — on the hour, set an alarm on your phone or device to ring in 45 minutes time.
    3. Go to Settings on your phone; select Airplane Mode (your built in Study Mode!)
    4. Switch off all your social media platforms and chat apps (this is important to do!)
    5. Get into your work — focus on concentrating as well as you can.
    6. When the 45 minutes are up, switch “Study Mode” off on your phone, open up all your social media platforms and check your entire messages — ONLY FOR 15 MINUTES!
    7. Get back into Study Mode for another 45 minutes.
    8. Practice mindfulness training with simple meditation. Once a day, take a 20-30 minute break to sit quietly, close your eyes and focus simply on your breathing. Stay focused on your breathing and allow any other thoughts to just pass through your mind.

Spotlight on the  ATL skill: Organization

Organizing is a process that generally starts with a goal and a deadline. It involves planning, structuring, integrating and co-coordinating tasks, goals and activities in order to meet objectives.

Successful students are well organized. They understand the need to prioritize tasks, how to find the resources needed to complete projects and assignments. They know how to get things done on time or even before the deadlines, and they end up with lots of time for things that they like to do.

A common problem with a lot of students is procrastination. Procrastination leads to undue stress, anxiety and having to do “all-nighters” in order to meet deadlines.

Organization is a key ATL skill to help students succeed in school and in life. Students can practice three parts to this skill- planning out schoolwork well in advance, setting realistic goals, and taking action on the goals and sticking to the planned schedule. The planner is a great tool for planning and taking action to achieve goals.

Try This at Home

“Family Planner as a conversation tool”

  • Create a family planner and note all family members’ events and deadlines.
  • Ask your child to see the school planner on a regular basis as a way to start a conversation about school.
  • Be interested in the assignments and ask your child to share an interesting learning experience or something that was exciting and engaging.
  • Take note of project deadlines and ask your child to add it to the family planner.
  • Make it a regular habit to talk about the family planner events and deadlines. A friendly reminder goes a long way!

Spotlight on the  ATL skill: Collaboration

Working cooperatively together with others to achieve common goals is collaboration. It means people communicating with other people and being prepared to listen, to consider other people’s points of view and to work to come to decisions on which parties agree.

Listening well, understanding others, negotiating, delegating, building consensus, and making fair decisions are the skills practiced for effective group processes. 

Showing empathy for the point of view and the needs and feelings of others, and communicating that you understand and accept these things, creates social connectedness, which is an important component in effective communication and collaboration.

Practice having empathy by recognizing feelings expressed by other people and understanding and accepting another person’s point of view.

Try This at Home

“Walk a Mile in My Shoes”

  • Decide on a common task that your child is expected to do such as wash the dishes, take out the garbage, clean the bedroom and doesn’t fulfill the responsibility even with multiple reminders.
  • Role-play the task with your child where your child does not fulfill the responsibility yet has an explanation, and you express your frustrations.
  • Now exchange roles and role-play the situation again.
  • Discuss whether both of you were able to understand the situation from each side’s point of view. Discuss how might you have felt differently by considering the other’s point of view.

A wonderful book to read together with your child is a simple picture titled,  I am Human- A Book of Empathy,* by Susan Verde. “I am Human. But being human means I am not perfect. I make mistakes.”

* Affiliate link supporting the Friends of Niu Valley


Spotlight on the ATL skill: Communication

Communication involves the exchange of thought and information through written words, images, digital data, and nonverbally through movement, gesture, tone and pitch of voice. In the classroom, communication skills are nurtured on a daily basis through reading, writing, and oral presentations.

One of the communication skills is feedback. Feedback is the messaging one receives from other’s perceptions. Mastery of this skill is when one can listen to, accept and respond appropriately to any type of feedback from any person.

Practice verbal feedback at home in three ways:

  • Positive feedback: “I like, I enjoyed, I…:
  • Neutral feedback; “I see, I agree with, I…”
  • Change feedback: “I don’t understand, I need, I…”

Nonverbal messages are those feedback messages conveyed from a person’s body language, posture and movements, tone of voice, hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Young adolescents are sometimes not aware of the messages they convey nonverbally and are often misinterpreted.

Try This at Home
Have a two-minute conversation on each body language message below. Try acting each one out, watching each other, and talking through impressions and the message being transmitted.

Shrugging your shoulders Sitting with arms and legs crossed Talking with your arms folded Nodding when listening to someone
Slumping in a chair Sighing when talking to someone Making eye contact when talking to someone Yawning when listening to someone
Learning forward on a chair when listening Rolling eyes when someone is talking to you Taking a deep breath when talking to someone Fiddling with objects while talking



A Quick Overview of the Approaches to Learning

IB learners not only demonstrate the traits of the Learner profile but also equip themselves with skills to be self-directed, lifetime learners. These skills, known as the Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills, span the entire IB continuum from the Primary Years (PYP) through the Middle Years (MYP), Diploma (DP) and Career (CP) programs.

The ATL skills are organized in five categories and ten clusters and provide a common language and foundation for learning. The focus of these skills is on supporting students to develop the self-knowledge and skills needed to be successful. Students are taught specific and relevant skills in their subjects and apply them in all their classes in order to meet the challenging and rigorous expectations of each subject. The ATL skills and the attributes of the Learner profile prepare students for continued and future success.

About the Learning Corner

Learning together is always better! The Learning Corner is the spot to read about our school’s focus on learning. Parents are encouraged to be partners in learning with us, and to have opportunities to be actively involved with their children. Information, learning tips and ideas are shared to build our partnerships as learners. #better together!