As the United States watches a new administration take over the White House after a contentious election year, a wave of social and political activism has swept the country. For generations, young people all over the world have taken an interest in social justice and found the courage to fight for their own rights and the rights of others. Here are eight inspiring middle grade books that prove you’re never too young to stand up for what you believe in and make a difference.
The Breadwinner Trilogy, by Deborah Ellis This series follows 11-year-old Parvana, who lives under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. When her father is arrested and her family is left without someone who can work or even shop for food, Parvana, forbidden to earn money as a girl, disguises herself as…
For the past few years, there has been notable research on how technology (e.g., digital devices, laptops, television) disrupts student sleep patterns—and student success (or not) in school. A recent meta-analysis of 20 studies, Association Between Portable Screen-Based Media Device Access or Use and Sleep Outcomes, published by JAMA Pediatrics, sheds more light on this “major public-health concern” for students. Attention-stealing devices like televisions, computers, MP3 players, and cell phones are largely to blame.
The study, covering more than 125,000 children, determined there was a “strong and consistent association between bedtime media-device use and inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness.” Almost 90% of teens have at least one device in their bedrooms, and most use those devices in the hour before going to bed. Such children are twice as likely to not sleep enough and 40%…
Nobody said that raising an adolescent was easy, and schooling one is even more of a challenge! Parents are taking on a lot of school responsibility, and let’s face it — things are different than they used to be. How are parents supposed to know how to handle the homework load without some guidance?
Take studying, for example. If you are a parent of a struggling or resistant learner, you’ve probably heard more than one person suggest, “She just needs to study more.” Most kids think this means filling in a study guide or rereading a chapter. But many don’t learn by writing or reading. Their strengths lie in the visual, kinesthetic, musical, or social realm. How, then, are we to help our children develop their studying skills?
According to a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports, around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because “it’s just not fun anymore.” I have three kids, all of whom play sports, and my oldest is about to turn 13. I may not have understood why this was happening a few years ago, but sadly, knowing what I know now, the mass exodus of 13-year-olds from organized sports makes perfect sense to me.
“It’s not fun anymore” isn’t the problem; it’s a consequence of a number of cultural, economic and systemic issues that result in our kids turning away from organized sports at a time when they could benefit from them the most. Playing sports offers everything from physical activity, experiencing success…
— Each word must be pronounced and defined, and the part of speech must be given. Please don’t forget: every year we have to disqualify many who fail to heed this rule.
— All definitions must come from either the Word of the Day or Vocabulary.com. If there are several definitions, you may use just the first one if you like.
— You must be 13 to 19 years old, but can be from anywhere in the world.
— Your video should be no more than 15 seconds, but can be shorter.
— You can work alone, with a partner or in a group, but only one submission per student, please, whether you’re working alone or with others.
— Use your imagination. You can act the word out, animate it, use puppets, draw, sing a song, create a dance, incorporate photographs, create a Claymation, or anything else that will help viewers understand and learn your word.
— Post a link to the video in our comments section with the name or names of everyone who worked on the video. We will watch the videos first to make sure they are appropriate before we approve your comment, so don’t worry if you don’t see your link for a day or two.
— Please make sure your video is public so that we can see it without a password.
— The contest ends on Feb. 28 at 7 a.m. Eastern time.
Of course, please follow the Terms of Service for whatever platform you use.
Q. Where can I look for inspiration?
A. Your first stop should be the posts featuring our 2016, 2014 and 2013 winners.
But if you’d like to learn more about developing vocabulary through multimodal expression, you might read some of the work of Prof. Bridget Dalton. In this article for Literacy Beat, she describes the step-by-step process she went through with her graduate students to have them create short videos.
Q. How can I choose a word, then learn enough about it to make a video?
Next, look up the word by putting it, along with the phrase “Word of the Day,” into our search, which you can find if you scroll down past the band that features our Lesson Plan subject areas. Read the entry to learn its definition, see how it has been used in The Times, and take a quick quiz to ensure you understand it.
You might next head to the Vocabulary.com dictionary, where you’ll find a friendly explanation and a rich supply of authentic usage examples from both current and classic sources.
Take a look at the entries for gnarled and disenfranchise— both from the Word of the Day — as examples. Once you have a handle on the word’s meaning and how it is commonly used, you can start to think about the most effective way to teach that word in a 15-second video.
Thank you for participating. Post the link to your video, along with the name or names of all those who worked on it, in the comments field.
You can also post your questions there, and we’ll answer them as soon as we can.
And if you want to know what other challenges we’ll be featuring on our site this year, check our contest calendar.
The challenge of growing up in the digital age is perfectly epitomized by the “bikini rule.”
“You can post a bikini or bathing suit picture only if you are with your siblings or your family in the picture,” said one middle-school girl participating in a focus group on digital media. In other words, don’t try too hard to be sexy, and you will be O.K. in the eyes of your peers.
By high school, the rules change. At that stage, a bikini picture often is acceptable — and even considered “body positive” in some circles.
As an educational consultant, I lead workshops on digital media at schools around the country, giving me an unusual glimpse into the hidden world of middle and high school students. While parents sometimes impose rules for using…
Many parents feel that their adolescents hardly need them anymore. Teenagers often come and go on their own schedules, sometimes rebuff our friendly questions about their days, and can give the impression that interacting with the family is an imposition that comes at the cost of connecting, digitally or otherwise, with friends.
So here’s a complaint one might not expect to hear from teenagers: They wish their parents were around more often.
I spend part of my time as a consultant to schools, where I see teenagers as they go about their regular days. On several occasions over the years students have explained to me that their parents are rarely home. Sometimes, they tell me why — a single mother works long hours, the parents have saturated social lives, a sibling is in crisis — and sometimes they don’t.
Regardless of the surrounding circumstances, the teenagers who say they are longing for more time with their folks invariably seem self-sufficient and independent. Knowing this, I often suspect that the same adolescent who laments her parents’ absence might only faintly acknowledge their presence when they are in fact home.
A new study from Australia confirms the importance of a parent’s physical presence on adolescent health. Researchers from the University of Western Australia studied 3,000 middle- and high school students, including 618 adolescents with one parent who lived away from home for long stretches because of work, like a job on an offshore oil rig or a distant construction site. The researchers wanted to know how the extended absences of these “fly-in, fly-out” parents might affect the emotional and behavioral health of their children.
Overall, most adolescents felt their parents were present in their lives regardless of their work hours. However, a slightly higher percentage of teenagers who experienced the long work absence of a parent had emotional or behavioral problems compared with those whose parents worked more traditional hours.
This echoes research finding high rates of emotional distress in teenagers who routinely returned to an empty house after school or whose parents were rarely at dinner.
Notably, research also shows that Australian “fly-in, fly-out” parents often stay connected during their long absences by regularly checking in by social media, texts and FaceTime — letting their kids know that even though they were away, they were still watching.
And findings also suggest that parents don’t have to be home all the time to be present in their children’s lives, but it helped to be home at certain times. A classic study connected the total time at least one parent was home before and after school, at dinner and at bedtime to improved psychological health in adolescents. Importantly, the studies of parental presence indicate that sheer proximity confers a benefit over and above feelings of closeness or connectedness between parent and child.
In other words, it’s great if you and your adolescent get along well with each other, but even if you don’t, your uneasy presence is better for your teenager than your physical absence.
That there’s value in simply being around should come as a source of comfort for parents raising adolescents. With younger children, we have plenty of opportunities to put our parenting muscles to work. We can read stories together, make up knock-knock jokes, build towers, or go to the museum. Our youngsters still like to join us for a trip to a grocery store and they usually come to us first with their questions or problems.
But with teenagers, it’s not always easy to know how to connect. By their nature, adolescents aren’t always on board with our plans for making the most of family time and they aren’t always in the mood to chat. Happily, the quality parenting of a teenager may sometimes take the form of blending into the background like a potted plant.
Many parents of adolescents instinctively know this to be true and find ways to be present without advancing an agenda. One friend of mine quietly folds laundry each evening in the den where her teenagers watch TV. They enjoy one another’s company without any pressure to make conversation.
Another routinely accepts his daughter’s invitation to work or read nearby while she sits and does her homework. Of course, sharing the same space sets the stage for the possibility of actively interacting, and we have plenty of research attesting to the benefit of talking with or advising our teenagers.
We don’t really know why our mere company would have such value for teenagers, but decades of research on parent-child attachment suggests an explanation. Ideally, children use their parents as a safe and dependable base from which to explore the world and exert their autonomy. Indeed, studies tell us that securely attached toddlers quietly track their parents’ movements from room to room, even while carrying on with their own activities.
While normally developing teenagers seek new levels of emotional and physical distance from their parents perhaps they, like toddlers, feel most at ease when their folks balance active engagement with detached availability.
The giving season is at hand and the holidays hold the promise of families having more time to spend together. Our hopes for joyful engagement with our teenagers shouldn’t keep us from embracing the benefits of simply playing the role of a potted plant. In the swirl that can come at this time of year, we might offer our teenagers a gift we know they can use: Our quiet and steady presence.