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Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a set of related mental conditions that include: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia, and simple phobias. Anxiety disorders are treated by a combination of psychiatric medications and psychotherapy.

Anxiety, worry, and stress are all a part of most people’s everyday lives. But simply experiencing anxiety or stress in and of itself does not mean you need to get professional help or that you have an anxiety disorder. In fact, anxiety is an important and sometimes necessary warning signal of a dangerous or difficult situation. Without anxiety, we would have no way of anticipating difficulties ahead and preparing for them.

Anxiety becomes a disorder when the symptoms become chronic and interfere with our daily lives and ability to function. People suffering from chronic, generalized anxiety often report the following symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Physical weakness
  • Poor memory
  • Sweaty hands
  • Fear or confusion
  • Inability to relax
  • Constant worry
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Upset stomach
  • Poor concentration

When these symptoms are severe and upsetting enough to make individuals feel extremely uncomfortable, out of control, or helpless, it’s usually a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders fall into a set of distinct diagnoses, depending upon the symptoms and severity of the anxiety the person experiences. Anxiety disorders share the anticipation of a future threat, but differ in the types of situations or objects that induce fear or avoidance behavior. Different types of anxiety disorders also have different types of unhealthy thoughts associated with them.

Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in the United States. The most common type of anxiety disorder are called “simple phobias,” which includes phobias of things like snakes or being in a high place. Up to 9 percent of the population could be diagnosed with this disorder in any given year. Also common are social anxiety disorder (social phobia, about 7 percent) — being fearful and avoiding social situations — and generalized anxiety disorder (about 3 percent).

Anxiety disorders are readily treated through a combination of psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medications. Many people who take medications for anxiety disorders can take them on an as-needed basis, for the specific situation causing the anxiety reaction.

Anxiety Symptoms

Most people have experienced fleeting symptoms associated with anxiety disorders at some point in their life. Such feelings — such as having a shortness of breath, feeling your heart pounding for no apparent reason, experiencing dizziness or tunnel vision — usually pass as quickly as they come and don’t readily return. But when they do return time and time again, that can be a sign that the fleeting feelings of anxiety have turned into an anxiety disorder.

The primary types of anxiety disorders include:

Causes & Diagnosis

Anxiety can be caused by numerous factors, ranging from external stimuli, emotional abandonment, shame, to experiencing an extreme reaction when first exposed to something potentially anxiety-provoking. Research has not yet explained why some people will experience a panic attack or develop a phobia, while others growing up in the same family and shared experiences do not. It is likely that anxiety disorders, like all mental illness, is caused by a complex combination of factors not yet fully understood. These factors likely include childhood development, genetics, neurobiology, psychological factors, personality development, as well as social and environmental cues.

Like most mental disorders, anxiety disorders are best diagnosed by a mental health professional — a specialist who is trained on the nuances of mental disorder diagnoses (such as a psychologist or psychiatrist).

Learn more: Causes of anxiety disorders

Anxiety Treatment

Treatment of anxiety focuses on a two-pronged approach for most people, that focuses on using psychotherapy combined with occasional use of anti-anxiety medications on an as-needed basis. Most types of anxiety can be successfully treated with psychotherapy alone — cognitive-behavioral and behavioral techniques have been shown to be very effective. Anti-anxiety medications tend to be fast-acting and have a short-life, meaning they leave a person’s system fairly quickly (compared to other psychiatric medications, which can take weeks or even months to completely leave).

The most effective type of treatment generally depends on the specific type of anxiety disorder diagnosed. The following articles cover treatment options available:

Learn more: Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Living With & Managing Anxiety

What’s it like to live with an anxiety disorder on a daily basis? Is it always overwhelming, or are there specific strategies that can be used to make it easier to get through the day and manage anxiety successfully? Anxiety disorders are so common that we might take for granted that a person can live their lives and still suffer from occasional bouts of anxiety (or anxiety-provoking situations). These articles explore the challenges of living with and managing this condition.

Learn more: Living with an Anxiety Disorder

Getting Help

Peer support for anxiety disorders is often a useful and helpful component of treatment. We offer a number of resources that can help you feel that you’re not alone in battling this condition.

Although obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are sometimes considered anxiety disorders, they are covered elsewhere independently on Psych Central.

Take action: Find a local treatment provider

More Resources & Stories: Anxiety on OC87 Recovery Diaries

Learn More About Anxiety Disorders

Video introduction to anxiety disorders

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety/index.shtml on May 22, 2020.

Depression

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
~ 6 min read

What is Depression?

Clinical depression goes by many names, such as “the blues,” biological or clinical depression, and a major depressive episode. But all of these names refer to the same thing: feeling sad and depressed for weeks or months on end — not just a passing blue mood of a day or two. This feeling is most often accompanied by a sense of hopelessness, a lack of energy (or feeling “weighed down”), and taking little or no pleasure in things that once gave a person joy in the past.

Depressed? Take the Quiz NowDepression symptoms take many forms, and no two people’s experiences are exactly alike. A person who’s suffering from this disorder may not seem sad to others. They may instead complain about how they just “can’t get moving,” or are feeling completely unmotivated to do just about anything. Even simple things — like getting dressed in the morning or eating at mealtime — become large obstacles in daily life. People around them, such as their friends and family, notice the change too. Often they want to help, but just don’t know how.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, risk factors for depression can include a family history of mood disorders, major life changes, trauma, other physical diseases (such as cancer), and even certain medications. But today, the causes of depression still remain largely unknown.

Depression can appear differently in children than in adults. In children, it can look more like anxiety or anxious behavior.

What’s Depression Feel Like?

“[If there was] certainty that an acute episode [of depression] will last only a week, a month, even a year, it would change everything. It would still be a ghastly ordeal, but the worst thing about it — the incessant yearning for death, the compulsion toward suicide — would drop away. But no, a limited depression, a depression with hope, is a contradiction. … [T]he conviction that it will never end except in death — that is the definition of a severe depression.”

~ George Scialabba

Symptoms of Depression

Clinical depression is different from normal sadness — like when you lose a loved one, experience a relationship breakup, or get laid off from work — as it usually consumes a person in their day-to-day living. It doesn’t stop after just a day or two — it will continue for weeks on end, interfering with the person’s work or school, their relationships with others, and their ability to just enjoy life and have fun. Some people feel as if a huge hole of emptiness has opened inside when experiencing the hopelessness associated with this condition. In any given year, 7 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with this condition; women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed than men (American Psychiatric Association).

The symptoms of depression include the majority of the following signs, experienced nearly every day over the course of two or more weeks:

  • a persistent feeling of loneliness or sadness
  • lack of energy
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • difficulties with sleeping (too much or too little)
  • difficulties with eating (too much or too little)
  • difficulties with concentration or attention
  • total loss of interest in enjoyable activities or socializing
  • feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • and/or thoughts of death or suicide.

Most people who are feeling depressed don’t experience every symptom, and the presentation of symptoms varies in degree and intensity from person to person.

Learn more: What are the different types of depression?

Causes & Diagnosis

Depression doesn’t discriminate who it affects by age, gender, race, career, relationship status, or whether a person is rich or poor. It can affect anyone at any point in their life, including children and adolescents (although in teens and children, it can sometimes be seen more as irritability than a sad mood).

Like most mental disorders, researchers still don’t know what exactly causes this condition. But a combination of factors is likely to blame, including: genetics, neurobiological makeup, gut bacteria, family history, personality and psychological factors, environment, and social factors in growing up.

A mental health specialist is the type of professional best equipped to make a reliable diagnosis for this condition. These kinds of professionals include psychologists, psychiatrists, and clinical social workers. While a general practitioner or family doctor may be able to make an initial diagnosis, further followup and treatment should be done by a specialist for the best treatment results.

Depression Treatment

Can depression actually be successfully treated? The short answer is yes. According to the National Institute of Mental Health and countless research studies over the past six decades, clinical depression is readily treated with short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy and modern antidepressant medications. For most people, a combination of the two works best and is usually what is recommended. Psychotherapy approaches scientifically proven to work with depression include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy (Gelenberg et al., 2010). Psychotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for all types of depression and has very few side effects (and is a covered treatment by all insurers).

For mild depression, many people start with self-help strategies and emotional support. There are some common herbal treatments that research has also shown to be effective, including St. John’s wort and kava (Sarris, 2007). The positive effects of exercise and diet should not be under-estimated in helping mild to moderate depression symptoms as well. Increased, regular exercise is recommended as a component of treatment for all severity levels of depression.

When psychotherapy and antidepressants don’t work, clinicians may turn to other treatment options. Usually the first is to try and adjunct medication to the existing antidepressant medication. In more serious or treatment-resistant cases, additional treatment options may be tried (like ECT or rTMS). Ketamine infusion treatments also appear to be effective, but are generally not covered by insurance and the long-term risks are unknown.

No matter how hopeless things may feel today, people can get better with treatment — and most do. The key to successful treatment is usually dependent upon the person recognizing there’s a problem, seeking out treatment for it, and then following the treatment plan agreed to. This can be far more challenging for someone who’s depressed than it sounds, and patience is a core necessity when starting treatment.

You can learn more about the benefits of psychotherapy, medications, and whether you should consider psychotherapy, medication or both in our in-depth depression treatment guide.

Living With & Managing Depression

When faced with the emptiness and loneliness of this condition, many people living with it find it a daily struggle just to wake up in the morning and get out of bed. Everyday tasks most of us take for granted — like showering, eating, or going to work or school — seem insurmountable obstacles to a person living with depression.

The key to living with depression is ensuring you’re receiving adequate treatment for it (usually most people benefit from both psychotherapy and medication), and that you are an active participant in your treatment plan on a daily basis. This requires a lot of effort and hard work for most people, but it can be done. Establishing new, healthier routines are important in many people’s management of this condition. Getting regular emotional support — for instance, through an online support group — can also be extremely beneficial.

Helping Someone with Depression

When we see a friend or family member in distress, most of us want to reach out and offer a hand. But when it comes to this kind of mental illness, all too often we remain silent, fearful of the stigma associated with the diagnosis. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and no reason not to offer to help out someone who is going through the challenges of living with this disorder.

You can learn a lot on ways to be helpful by reviewing the following articles, specifically written with friends and family members in mind:

Getting Help

Recovery from a depressive episode takes time as well as a desire and willingness for change. You can start by talking to someone — anyone — about your feelings, and finding some immediate emotional support through the sharing. Many people start their journey of recovery off by going to see their family physician for an initial diagnosis. Such a professional can also help connect you with referrals or encouragement to continue your treatment with a mental health specialist.

The first step is yours to take. Be brave and know that in taking it, you’re starting down the road to recovery from this terrible disorder.

More Resources & Stories: Depression on OC87 Recovery Diaries and Depression on The Mighty

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  2. Beck, A.T., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F. & Emery, G. (1987). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. New York: Guilford.
  3. Burns, D.D. (1999). The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: Plume.
  4. Gelenberg, A.J. et al. (2010). Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Major Depressive Disorder. American Psychiatric Association.
  5. Gotlib, I.H. & Hammen, C.L. (2015). Handbook of Depression: Third Edition. New York: Guilford.
  6. National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml on November 18, 2018.
  7. Muneer, A. (2018). Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder: Differentiating Features and Contemporary Treatment Approaches. In Understanding depression. New York: Springer.
  8. Sarris, J. (2007). Herbal medicines in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a systematic review. Phytotherapy Research. J Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 2, 49-55.

How the GMAT Algorithm Works

1. What’s an algorithm?

An algorithm, generally, is a usually efficient set of well-defined steps that are followed to solve some pre-defined problem. In the case of a CAT algorithm, the problem is to reliably and efficiently estimate a student’s ability in a reasonable amount of time. Some CAT algorithms seek to solve this problem by selecting one question at a time, each subsequent question selected based on all of the student’s prior responses. Other algorithms look only at the most recently-answered question. Still, others evaluate responses to specific groups of questions.

CAT algorithms also vary with regard to the explicit criteria they use to select the next question (or sets of questions) to administer. Some try to minimize total measurement error. Others try to maximize the precision and accuracy of measurement for each question administered. Still, others try to select questions that will most refine the current ability estimate. As a consequence, CAT algorithms can vary greatly from one to another, depending on the specific implementation of the algorithm, and the intent of the algorithm developers.

2. Why does the GMAT use an algorithm when the linear LSAT seems to be a pretty decent gauge of proficiency?

One of the common goals in using a CAT algorithm is to reduce the number of questions a student needs to answer in order to establish, to a specified level of reliability, an estimate of the student’s ability. CATs are often more efficient than linear tests, and so fewer questions are needed to reach a desired level of reliability. The LSAT needs over 100 items to reach that level, while the GMAT needs fewer than 80 to reach a comparable level.

3. Is the entire GMAT adaptive?

Almost all large-scale standardized tests contain some number of  “experimental” or “pretest” questions that are administered to the student but do not count toward the student’s final score. This is simply a way for the test makers to gather data on the questions, in order to determine how difficult they are and how well they distinguish between students at different ability levels. They also use the data collected to identify bad questions, so that they can eliminate or fix them before they count.

Some tests, like the LSAT, include all of the pretest questions in a single section. Others, like the GMAT, intermingle the pretest questions with the operational ones. Which section is the pretest section, and which questions are the pretest questions, is usually a well-guarded secret. It is a generally a bad strategy to spend time trying to guess whether a given question is operational or not. The price of guessing incorrectly is just too high.

4. How does the GMAT select which questions I get?

CATs like the GMAT have a blueprint — a set of specifications (difficulty, question type, content area, etc.) that define which questions you see. At the same time, each question has certain statistical characteristics that the algorithm uses, based on your response, to estimate your quantitative or verbal ability. The algorithm looks at your performance on the questions you have already answered and the characteristics of each question remaining in the pool and then selects for you the question that simultaneously best satisfies the blueprint and provides the most statistical information it can, to generate the best estimate of your ability.

How is the GMAT actually scored? Here are some more questions that students frequently have about its algorithm.

1. My score doesn’t seem to match my performance: I only got a few questions wrong, but my score isn’t as high as I thought it would be / I got a bunch of questions wrong, yet my score seems higher than it should be.

Most exams are linear assessments, like the SAT or your 10th grade history final. These are scored by counting the number of questions you answer correctly, and sometimes by penalizing for each question you answer incorrectly. The result, a raw score, is then converted to a scaled score, like the 600-2400 range for the SAT.

A computer-adaptive test (CAT) works very differently. It doesn’t really care as much about how many you get right or wrong, but rather which questions you get right and wrong. The CAT algorithm estimates your ability based on a variety of criteria, including the difficulty of a question. After each question, it evaluates your response and updates this estimate. When the test is over, the algorithm converts your quantitative and verbal ability estimates into the quantitative and verbal scaled scores, and then separately combines your quantitative and verbal ability estimates to calculate the overall score.

2. Do the first X number of questions matter more?

Many variables that come into play when the CAT selects your next question. One of them is the CAT’s current estimate of your ability. It uses this estimate to select questions that will be most useful in refining that estimate (if you’re a high performing student, giving you low difficulty questions isn’t usually as useful in discerning your true ability as giving you harder questions, and vice versa). What is important to remember is that you should not try to guess how you are doing by whether the question in front of you seems easy or difficult; every question deserves your full attention. With that understood, unless you have completely bombed the test, it is usually the case that missing a couple of very hard questions late in the test will have a smaller effect on your final score than missing a couple of very easy questions earlier, not because of their position within the test but because of their levels of difficulty.

3. How severe is the penalty for not finishing a section?

The penalty is significant. You can expect your scaled score to decrease by roughly 1 point for every question that you don’t answer. For example, if you correctly answer every question you encounter but fail to answer the last five, you generally won’t score higher than a 46.

4. I took the GMAT and got a 710, 44q/44v/6 AWA. A friend of mine happened to take the test 6 days later and get the exact same quant/verbal scaled scores but he got a 720. How this could happen?

Both the individual section scores and the overall score are calculated using an estimate of your Math and Verbal abilities derived from your performance on the CAT. Your overall score is not calculated from your section scores. Because your underlying ability estimate might be slightly different from your friend’s, your overall scores might be different.

For example, there are a range of ability estimates that translate into a Verbal score of 40, and there are a range of ability estimates that translate into a Math score of 42. Depending on which specific estimate is calculated for you, your overall score could range from 660 to 680. Please note that the Standard Error of Measurement (SEM) on the overall score for GMAT is 29 points, so scores of 660 / 680 all fall within the standard error.

How can my overall percentile be higher than both my quantitative and verbal percentiles?

Your overall score is calculated separately from your section scores, so you can score in the 99th percentile on the GMAT even if you didn’t score in the 99th percentile on either of the sections. For example, you could get a 48 on Quantitative (86th percentile), a 45 on Verbal (98th percentile), and a 760 overall (99th percentile).

Are the quantitative and verbal sections weighted equally in the total score?

Technically, yes — the estimates of your quantitative and verbal abilities that the CAT produces contribute the same amount to your overall score. However, the verbal section has a greater effect on your percentile rank because it is generally more difficult. If, for example, you scored a 40 on both the Quantitative and Verbal sections, your percentile rank for Quantitative would be 61st, but for Verbal it would be 91st. Your overall score (650) would be in the 84th percentile.

Why are scores above 51 rare? Why does the scale go up to 60? Can anyone get a 52?

For psychometric reasons, GMAC has truncated the scale at 51 (they do not report section scores higher than 51).

Why is it so difficult to create a good CAT?

A CAT needs to do many things well in order to reliably and accurately estimate your ability. It requires a robust algorithm to estimate your ability, a complex but speedy mechanism to identify the best question for you to see next, a rich pool of questions from which to select the questions, and a powerful scoring algorithm that translates the ability estimate into something meaningful.

Each test question has many characteristics that need to be simultaneously considered in the selection. The statistical characteristics of the questions all need to be determined beforehand through a process known as pretesting. Many, many questions are needed in order to be able to provide accurate assessment for all ability levels. And all of those questions need to be carefully constructed, reviewed, and statistically aligned so that they contribute meaningfully to your ability estimate.

How tests are scored

We’ve received grades all our lives. In fact, we’re so used to them that we often don’t think very much about what they mean, or how they are calculated. So today we’re going to look at some of the different ways in which tests are scored, and at what those scores mean.

In preschool, we receive grades in the form of category scores: gold stars, silver stars, or bronze stars. Sometimes we might get two gold stars, or even three gold stars. These kinds of grades divide the relevant universe of people into some small number of categories, usually low-medium-high.

Later on we start to receive simple tally scores: 8/10 or 23/25. Soon these are represented as percentages: 80% correct, or 92%. One of the funny things about grades is that by the time we’re in high school and college, grades have reverted back to category scores (A, B, C, D, F) through a transformation of the percentages.

Every teacher and school adopts slightly different transformations. In some places, a grade of A is reserved for 96% and above. In other places the cutoff is 92%. In still others, it might be 90%. So what an “A” means can vary widely from place to place.

Everyone knows that some test questions are more difficult than others. Occasionally, teachers will take this into account by awarding more points for the hard questions than for the easy ones.

The basic sequence for most kinds of scoring is this:

  1. Count the number of questions, or the number of points associated with each question, that you answered correctly.
  2. Subtract, if applicable, any penalty for incorrect answers. This result is your “raw score.”
  3. Apply some transformation to your raw score (e.g., divide by total possible points, or use some more complicated function) to arrive at your “scaled score.”

For those of you taking the GMAT, the basic sequence is very different. Because the GMAT is an adaptive test, it looks at your performance on each question as you respond to it, and estimates your math or verbal ability along the way. Then it uses that ability estimate to calculate your score. For the GMAT, the basic sequence is:

  1. Deliver a test question. Based on your answer, estimate your ability, based on a number of factors, including the difficulty of the question.
  2. Based on the current estimate of your ability, select a question that will maximize the amount of information that can be used to refine the ability estimate.
  3. Loop through (1) and (2) until the test is complete.
  4. Apply a transformation to the resulting estimate of your ability to determine your section score.
  5. When you have completed all sections of the test, apply a transformation using all of the resulting ability estimates to determine your overall score.

What the GMAT does explicitly is what all tests try to do implicitly, namely, try to ascertain what you know and are able to do, in some context or another. It’s a more responsive way of testing, and we use the same adaptive technology in our GMAT practice tests.

In a later post, we’ll talk about validity, which has to do with what your score really means within a context, and why anyone would care.

Until then, do your homework!

It’s Wordy, It’s Awkward, It’s… Correct!

Written by Joanna Bersin, Knewton’s resident GMAT Sentence Correction expert.

Like a salesman trying to trick you into purchasing an expensive item by appealing to your emotions, the makers of the GMAT try to trick test-takers into both “buying” grammatically incorrect answer choices by making them concise and eliminating answer choices that are grammatically correct by making them appear awkward and unwieldy.

How do we typically avoid splurging on unnecessary purchases? We train ourselves to shop wisely, basing our decisions on a range of criteria and not solely on what “seems” to be the most attractive option in the store. We focus on specific features, using logic to compare items. How can you choose the correct answer on test day? You don’t just listen to your ear; first make sure that each sentence you eliminate violates a concrete rule of English grammar. When choosing between the remaining, seemingly error-free, constructions, use the differences between the options to identify errors; all other things being equal, always pick the less wordy, less awkward, and more active answer choice.

But buyer, beware: The test-makers, like salesmen, want your ear to tell you what to do. Before going into “negotiations” with these tricksters, it’s best to learn some of their most common tricks. First, make sure to hold on to wordy and awkward but otherwise error-free constructions. The test-makers especially like to make choice A (the original sentence in the prompt) sound particularly awkward, even when it is the only error-free option. This encourages test-takers to eliminate it immediately, and then to waste time picking between the remaining options. They want us to think “This is the ‘sentence correction’ section, our minds tell us, so this sentence, especially a wordy and awkward one, must need some correcting.”  But not necessarily!

Next, do not waste time struggling with pronoun-antecedent errors in complex sentences. Because it is easy to spot a pronoun within a sentence, there is not much that the test-makers can do to create errors with an underlined pronoun. Therefore, do not let pronoun use distract you; check for a logical antecedent, and make sure that the pronoun agrees with this antecedent in number- and move on. On the GMAT, a pronoun is even allowed have two physically possible antecedents within a sentence as long as only one of these antecedents is logical.

On questions dealing with parallelism, items that are linked must be the same part of speech. Options that follow this rule are sufficiently parallel. Once you are choosing between sufficiently parallel options, look for other errors. On tough questions especially, the GMAT-makers will often make the most parallel-looking option incorrect for some other reason, luring you to into choosing it over a sufficiently parallel option without other errors.

For example:

“For the play, the creation of a humorous script and the care of the cast being chosen are important.”

And:

“For the play, the creation of a humorous script and the care with which the cast is chosen are important.”

… are both parallel. The first sentence uses “of” after “care” and looks even more parallel than the second sentence. However, the less parallel-looking option is grammatically correct and logical, whereas the more parallel-looking option is awkward and unidiomatic. Don’t be fooled- appearances aren’t everything.

Finally, when down to those final two options, plug each back into the original sentence and check for sentence logic. An underlined portion itself may read error-free, but, when read in the context of the entire sentence, may be illogical. Which option clearly places all modifiers, especially adjectival ones, as closely as possible to the words they modify? Which choice connects clauses logically?

The salesmen use the same tricks over and over again. Learn the gimmicks and buy only what you came for.

GMAT test day, minute by minute

In reality, test day is not that different from any other day of preparation—test-takers must be attentive, focused, and fully prepared to bring their A-game. But for many test-takers, the term “test day” brings a variety of symptoms: cold sweats, night terrors, shakes, and so on. Knowing the nitty-gritty of what to expect when you get to the testing center can help relieve some of that unnecessary anxiety. Here’s Knewton’s minute-to-minute breakdown of a typical testing experience.

1. Arrive early, but don’t plan on studying at the testing center. 30 minutes before liftoff.

Show up to the test center 30 minutes before the official time, as the GMAC suggests. Although this may mean waking up even earlier than expected, avoiding any feeling of being rushed is priceless. However, many testing centers don’t allow studying in the waiting room, so don’t plan on getting there early and reviewing notes. Use the time before the test to relax and focus on the task at hand.

2. Locker Room. 10 minutes before liftoff.

After presenting your identification and test reservation, you may be given a key to a locker, into which you must put everything on your person other than your identification itself. This includes pens, paper, books, cell phones, house keys, lucky rabbit’s feet… everything. All you are allowed to bring in is your identification and the locker key itself. Think of this as a cleansing ritual, or a locker room warm-up. Although some centers may be laxer than others, in no circumstances expect to carry anything into the testing room.

3. Entering the Testing Room. 2 minutes before liftoff

The testing room will be a room filled with computers. It will be shut off from the rest of the testing center and under constant video monitoring. You may feel like the subject of some strange scientific experiment entering this room, but fear not. No shocks will be administered, and you will be far too wrapped up in your computer screen to notice the cameras or the half-lidded gaze of the proctors. Also note that you will be not only starting the test on a different schedule than other test-takers, but that it is likely that the others in the room may be taking different tests altogether. Whispering or passing notes is neither an option nor a temptation; this is not high school.

4. Tools of the Trade. Seconds before liftoff.

You will be provided with several tools with which to conquer the GMAT. The scratch pad looks and feels like a laminated legal pad; it is lined, yellow and shiny, and you will be provided with a thin black dry-erase upon which to write. These both work well, and you are allowed at any time to raise your hand to get the proctor’s attention if you need replacement pads or pens. You may also be provided with noise-canceling headphones (like those used by jackhammer-using construction workers). These work like a charm, even though the noise you’ll be canceling is the clickity-clacking keyboards of a dozen other test-takers.

5. Liftoff. The argument essay (30 min).

After signing in (perhaps with the proctor’s input), you’re off! You begin with the argument essay and are given a 30:00 ticking digital clock in the corner of the screen by which to measure your progress. Depending on your comfort with this time period, you may want to outline your essay on the pad before writing, especially noting which examples you expect to use and in what order.

6. Getting Personal. 30-60 minutes in. Issue Essay.

Same deal; you know the drill.

7. Eight is Enough. 60-68 minutes in. Break 1 (8 minutes).

You have the option to take an 8-minute break at this point. Keep in mind that the break starts the second you click “yes,” meaning that once you raise your hand to get the proctor, sign out by using your ID, and leave the room, you have less time than you might think to get back. This is enough time for a bathroom break or a breather, but no more. Up to this point, you have been at the test center for an hour and a half, and not yet seen one verbal or math question. So the first third of test day is all warming up and doing the essays; try to time your caffeine intake accordingly.

8. Test Day Begins. 68-143 minutes. Math  (75 minutes).

Test day begins in earnest. The quant section will come first, and you’ll have 75 minutes to complete it. Since the math section is considered far more difficult to finish in this time period than is the verbal for most test-takers, plan accordingly (and use timed practice to understand your own timing). The math section will have you using that scratch pad in earnest, and you may want to use it to virtually “eliminate” choices on the verbal section by writing out A, B, C, D and E and crossing out choices as you go. The number of each question (and how many are left) is provided at all times, as is the time.

9. Eight is Enough Part 2: 143 minutes- 151 minutes. Break 2 (8 minutes).

Just like Break 1, except it’s likely that you will need this break even more. Take it to get a breather and prepare for the next section. Shift from math to verbal mentally, with the different timing considerations in your mind.

10. The Home Stretch! 151- 226 minutes. Verbal (75 minutes).

Stay alert! You’ve been at the test center for almost 4 hours at this point, but your concentration and focus is as necessary as ever. Watch those questions count down as you go…

11. Getting Down to Business. Score Reporting Info. 226-234.

As your reward for finishing the test, you get to decide which schools get your (still unreported) score. Let visions of leafy campuses, whiteboards, and elbow-patched professors fill your mind as you enter the schools you’d like to receive your score reports.

12. Do or Die: Canceling Your Score. 234- 236.

Last step: you have two minutes (with a ticking clock) to decide whether to cancel your score or report it. What’s your final answer? If you decide to report the score, you will immediately be informed of your scores and percentiles on the math and verbal reports. Either way, after four hours, almost half of which did not involve any math or verbal questions, test day has become history. It wasn’t so bad, was it?

Helping Kids After a Shooting

  • Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
  • Limit exposure to television and the news.
  • Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
  • Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
  • Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but that there are people who do bad things.
  • Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
  • Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.

ASCA Position Statement 
The School Counselor and School-Related Gun Violence

ASCA Webinars on Crisis
Effective Crisis/Trauma Response

Counseling Kids in Crisis

Infusing a Caring Climate in Your School

Supporting Students After Crisis and Loss

Suggested Web Sites

American Psychological Association
Managing Traumatic Stress
Building Your Resilience
Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
Helping Your Child Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting

American Red Cross
Recovering Emotionally

Coalition to Support Grieving Students
Death and School Crisis
Talking With Children

Department of Education
Tips for Helping Students Recovering From Traumatic Events
Creating Emergency Management Plans
Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center

National Association of School Psychologists
Talking to Children About Violence

National PTA
Contains information about “Discussing Hate and Violence with Your Children.”

PBS.org – Talking With Kids About the News
Develop strategies for discussing today’s headlines with chlldren. Learn how to calm their fears and stimulate their minds.

The Child Mind Institute
How to Help Children Cope With Frightening News
Going Back to School After a Tragedy

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Talking to Children about Community Violence

National School Safety Center

Crisis Management Institute

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Office for Victims of Crime

Documents and Publications
Talking to Children About Terrorism and School Shootings in the News

Guidelines for Responding to the Death of a Student or School Staff
Guidelines from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement designed to help school administrators, teachers and crisis team members respond to the needs of students and staff after a loss has affected the school enviroment.

National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
Talking to Children About School Shootings

School Crisis Guide: Help and Healing in a Time of Crisis
This guide, published by the National Education Association Health Information Network incorporates lessons learned from Virgnia Tech, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and other tragic events. It provides guidance about preparing for, managing during and recovering from a wide variety of crises.

Scared or Prepared
This ASCA School Counselor magazine article, by noted school safety expert Kenneth Trump, provides information about proactively developing a school security and emergency plan.

By The Numbers
This ASCA School Counselor magazine article breaks down crisis management in the schools into 10 important components, helping educators manage an otherwise overwhelming process. The author, Scott Poland, served on the national crisis teams following school shootings in Littleton, Colo.; Paducah, Ky.; and Red Lake, Minn.

Culturally Competent Crisis Response: Information for Crisis Teams
This document talks about the importance of delivering culturally competent crisis responses in our changing society. Although written for school psychologists, this document provides and excellent resource for school counselors in giving strategies and tips for effective crisis response planning and implementing.

Lessons Learned from the Shootings at Columbine High School
This pamphlet talks about the immediate response and the long-term impact that took place in the wake of the Columbine shootings. It also discusses the human impact of both of these and how positive relationships can mediate the negative effects of this crisis.

National Education Association Crisis Handbook

Kid Peace
Ways to Help Your Child Through Crisis

Help for the Helpers

Help for Caregivers/Parents

Over 100 Incredible Infographic Tools and Resources (Categorized)

I love a good infographic! After all, knowledge is power and the visualization of data makes absorbing information all the easier. Well-designed infographics have a way of pulling me into a subject I’d normally never care to know about. As a designer I can attest to the crazy amount of time it takes to make a compelling, useful infographic. I have to say I knew about many of the great links, resources and tools I’ve linked to here on this post before but I dug deep and found some new and exciting infographic tools that I’m willing to bet you haven’t seen before. Items 1-5 under the Data Visualization Tools and Software category are sufficiently capable of arming even a novice designer with the ability to produce a powerful infographic (though I’m sure experts will find them handy as well). In short, if you love infographics, data visualization and information design as much as I do, you’re going to love this post. As always, leave me a comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

The Best Blogs and Websites about Infographics

  1. Visual.ly – Awesome community for creating and sharing infographics.
  2. Information Aesthetics – The relationship between design and information.
  3. Visualizing.org – Making sense of complex issues through data and design.
  4. Visual Complexity – A resource for the visualization of complex networks.
  5. Daily Infographic – A new infographic every day.
  6. GOOD Infographics – GOOD Magazine’s excellent infographics section.
  7. Information Is Beautiful – Ideas, issues, knowledge, data – visualized.
  8. Infographic of the Day – Fast Company’s excellent and long running series.
  9. FlowingData – Exploring how designers, scientists visualize data.
  10. Datastore / Datablog – Two great data journalism sites from the Guardian.
  11. Infographics Archive – A visual library offering infographics.
  12. Visual Loop – There’s an infographic for it… even if it didn’t happen!
  13. Infographr – All about infographics.
  14. Newsilike – An infographics blog from India.
  15. Video Infographics – Motion infographics that explain, educate or inform.
  16. Datavisualization.ch – A news and knowledge resource for data visualization.
  17. VisualJournalism – 80% of the news in infographics.
  18. Eagereyes – Reflections on the visual communication of data.
  19. Amazing Infographics – Cool information graphics.
  20. Submit Infographics – Share and rate infographics.
  21. The Infographics Showcase – Collecting infographics.
  22. I Love Charts – A Tumblr blog about charts.
  23. Well Formed Data – An infographics blog by a freelance data visualizer.
  24. Best Infographics – Pointing you toward great infographics.
  25. Infographic List – For those who love infographics.

Data Visualization Tools and Software

  1. Piktochart – Transforms your information into memorable presentations.
  2. Infogr.am – Create interactive charts and infographics.
  3. Gephi – Like Photoshop for data. Graph visualization and manipulation software.
  4. Tableau Public – Free data visualization software.
  5. Free Vector Infographic Kit – Vector infographic elements from MediaLoot.
  6. easel.ly – Create infographics online.
  7. Weave – Web-based analysis and visualization environment.
  8. iCharts – Charts made easy.
  9. ChartsBin – A web-based data visualization tool.
  10. GeoCommons – See your data on a map.
  11. VIDI – A suite of powerful Drupal visualization modules.
  12. Prefuse – Information visualization software.
  13. StatSilk – Desktop and online software for mapping and visualization.
  14. Gliffy – Online diagram and flowchart software.
  15. Hohli – Online charts builder.
  16. Many Eyes – Lets you upload data and create visualizations.
  17. Google Chart Tools – Display live data on your site.

Data Sources

  1. DataMarket – Find and understand data.
  2. The Data Hub – The easy way to get, use and share data.
  3. Knoema – Your personal knowledge highway.
  4. WorldMap – Explore, visualize and publish geographic information.
  5. Get the Data – Ask and answer data questions.
  6. Influence Explorer – Provides overviews of political influence data for politicians.
  7. US Census Bureau – Measures America (people, places, economy).
  8. datacatalogs.org – A comprehensive list of open data catalogs.
  9. Freebase – An entity graph of people, places and things from Google.
  10. World Bank Data – The world at a glance (key development indicators).
  11. Data360 – Telling compelling and data-driven stories.
  12. Number Of – You ask, they count.
  13. Gallup – Public opinion polls.
  14. EveryBlock – Uncovers info on large cities contained in government databases.
  15. Daytum – Helps you collect, organize and communicate your everyday data.
  16. Google Public Data – Filter and animate data sets from around the world.
  17. Gapminder – Displays time series of development statistics for all countries.
  18. Munterbund – Graphical visualization of text similarities in essays.

Create Personal Infographics

  1. Biogrify – Create a fun visual snapshot of your life.
  2. Vizify TweetSheet – Your Twitter activity as an instant infographic.
  3. Photo Stats – App for creating iPhone infographics out of your photo data.
  4. Re.vu – A visual resume tool.
  5. Vizualize.me – Visualize your resume in one click.
  6. Kinzaa – Build your infographic resume.

JavaScript / Flash Infographic Tools

  1. KeyLines – A JavaScript toolkit for visualizing networks.
  2. d3.js – Free JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data.
  3. InfoVis Toolkit – A JavaScript tool for creating interactive data visualizations.
  4. Flare – Makes it easy to create interactive data visualizations (ActionScript).
  5. JS Charts – Free JavaScript charts.
  6. FusionCharts – JavaScript (HTML5) and Flash charts.
  7. amCharts – JavaScript and HTML charts.
  8. Highcharts – Interactive JavaScript charts.

Great Infographic Studios and Designers

  1. Column Five – Creating visual content that brings people to your site.
  2. FFunction – Data visualization consulting.
  3. Interactive Things – A user experience and data visualization studio.
  4. Periscopic – An agency whose tagline is “do good with data”.
  5. Fathom – Helps clients understand and express complex data.
  6. JESS3 – Creative agency specializing in data visualization.
  7. Visual Evolution – London-based infographic design.
  8. Lemon.ly – Create understanding through visuals.
  9. Prime Infographics – Creates custom infographics for businesses.

Infographic Articles and Tutorials

  1. How to Create Outstanding Modern Infographics – Vectortuts+
  2. Infographic: Do-It-Yourself Guide to Infographics – Marketing Tech Blog
  3. A Few Rules for Making Homemade Infographics – The Atlantic Wire
  4. The Do’s and Don’ts of Infographic Design – Smashing Magazine
  5. How to Create a Great Infographics (Slideshow) – The Content Lab
  6. Design a Magazine Infographic – Digital Arts
  7. Create an Infographic Typography Animation – aetuts+
  8. How to Create Great Infographics – .net magazine
  9. The Anatomy of an Infographic – SpyreStudios
  10. How to Strike a Balance Between Data and Visualization – The Daily Egg
  11. 7 Steps to Make Your Infographic a Success – SEOmoz

Other / Miscellaneous / Overflow

  1. Wolfram CDF – Create “infoapps” using always-current data.
  2. Kaggle – Making data science a sport.
  3. KISSmetrics Infographics – Useful infographics by KISSmetrics.
  4. Better World Flux – A beautiful interactive visualization of what matters in life.
  5. Data Wrangler – Interactive tool for data cleaning and transformation.
  6. Lyza – Analyze, socialize, decide.
  7. A World of Tweets – Twitter visualization.
  8. QlikView – Business intelligence for everyone.
  9. We Feel Fine – An exploration of human emotion.
  10. Visual Economics – Unraveling complexities in financial data.
  11. ComponentArt DV – Present, navigate and visualize your data like never before.
  12. DOMO – Business intelligence platform.
  13. Infochimps – Big data infrastructure made clear.
  14. Evaluat3 – The best way to know your professional strengths (graphs).
  15. Webpages As Graphics – An HTML DOM visualizer app.
  16. Creately – Draw diagrams online using a collaborative approach.
  17. Wordle – Create beautiful word clouds.
  18. Tagxedo – Word clouds with style.

End of the Year | Comment Ideas for Report Cards

Over 300 adjectives and phrases are available here for your use.

As one contributor points out, remember: “My main advice about report card comments is to tell the truth.”

  1. Is a good citizen
  2. Is learning to share and listen.
  3. Is becoming more dependable during work periods.
  4. Is developing a better attitude toward ___ grade.
  5. Is showing interest and enthusiasm for the things we do.
  6. Is learning to occupy his time constructively.
  7. Wants responsibilities and follows through.
  8. Can be very helpful and dependable in the classroom.
  9. Always uses her time wisely.
  10. Has strengthened her skills in ___.
  11. Has great potential and works toward achieving it.
  12. Working to full capability.
  13. Is strong in _____.
  14. Is learning to be a better listener.
  15. Is learning to be careful, cooperative, and fair.
  16. Is continuing to grow in independence.
  17. Enthusiastic about participating.
  18. Gaining more self-confidence.
  19. Has a pleasant personality.
  20. Has earned a very fine report card.
  21. Has improved steadily.
  22. Is learning to listen to directions more carefully.
  23. Now accepts responsiblity well.
  24. _____’s work habits are improving.
  25. Has been consitently progressing.
  26. Has shown a good attitude about trying to improve in ___.
  27. The following suggestions might improve his ____.
  28. I am hoping this recent interest and improvement will continue.
  29. Seems eager to improve.
  30. Has shown strong growth in ____.
  31. Is cooperative and happy.
  32. Volunteers often.
  33. Is willing to take part in all classroom activities.
  34. Works well with her neighbors.
  35. _____’s attitude toward school is excellent.
  36. Has the ability to follow directions.
  37. Hand work is beautifully done.
  38. Learns new vocabulary quickly.
  39. Has a sense of humor and enjoys the stories we read.
  40. Is a steadfast, conscientious worker.
  41. Is very helpful about clean-up work around the room.
  42. Anxious to please.
  43. Brings fine contributions.
  44. Has a pleasant disposition.
  45. Works well.
  46. Is hard-working.
  47. Is pleasant and friendly.
  48. Needs to increase speed and comprehension in reading.
  49. Needs to apply skills to all written work.
  50. Gets along well with other children.
  51. Your constant cooperation and help are appreciated.
  52. Has shown an encouraging desire to better herself in ___.
  53. Making steady progress academically.
  54. Quality of work is improving.
  55. Responds well.
  56. Is maintaining grade-level achievements.
  57. Works well in groups, planning and carrying out activities.
  58. Seems to be more aware of activities in the classroom.
  59. Takes an active part in discussions pertinent to ___.
  60. Accepts responsiblity.
  61. Extremely conscientious.
  62. Bubbles over with enthusiasm.
  63. Has a sense of humor we all enjoy.
  64. Has an excellent attitude.
  65. Work in the areas of ____ has been extremely good.
  66. Is an enthusiastic worker during the ____ period.
  67. Needs to work democratically with others in groups.
  68. Possible for ___ to exceed grade expectations.
  69. Grasps new ideas readily.
  70. Needs to develop a better sense of responsiblity.
  71. Enthusiasitic about work in general.
  72. Performs well in everthing he undertakes.
  73. Unusually mature.
  74. Seeks information.
  75. Mature vocabulary.
  76. Doing strong work in all areas.
  77. Is a clear thinker.
  78. Excels in writing original stories and poems.
  79. Is a good student who appears to be a deep thinker.
  80. Reads extensively.
  81. Has good organization of thoughts.
  82. Has a vast background knowledge of ___.
  83. Is a very fine and serious student and excels in ___.
  84. Rate of achievement makes it difficult for ___ to keep up with the class.
  85. Must improve work habits if ___ is to gain the fundamentals needed for ___ grade work.
  86. _____’s academic success leaves much to be desired.
  87. Handwriting needs to be improved.
  88. Cooperative, well mannered.
  89. Is a very happy, well-adjusted child, but ___.
  90. Makes friends quickly and is well liked by classmates.
  91. Cries easily.
  92. Good worker and attentive listener.
  93. Good adjustment.
  94. Good attitude.
  95. Capable of achieving a higher average in areas of ____.
  96. Has difficulty retaining process of addition, etc.
  97. Is inconsistent in his efforts, especially in ___.
  98. Sacrificing accuracy for unnecessary speed in his written work.
  99. Needs to listen to directions.
  100. Never completes assignments in the allotted time.
  101. Fails to finish independent assignments.
  102. Would improve if he developed a greater interest in ___.
  103. Comprehends well, but needs to work more quickly.
  104. Needs to be urged.
  105. Can follow directions.
  106. Enjoys listening to poetry.
  107. Enjoys listening to stories.
  108. Listens carefully.
  109. Evaluates what he/she hears
  110. Phonics – (is able to distinguish, has difficulty distinguishing) sounds in words
  111. Now knows and is able to use _____ consonant and vowel sounds
  112. Confuses the sounds ___ and ___
  113. Is able to blend short words using the vowel(s) _____ with /without assistance
  114. Is learning to attack words independently
  115. Uses the phonics skills to attack new words
  116. Reading is (smooth, jerky, hesitant, rapid, irregular, or fluent)
  117. Comprehends what he/she reads
  118. Is interested in books and reading
  119. Can read to follow directions
  120. Can now recognize ____ sight words
  121. Reads for pleasure
  122. Needs lots of repetition and practice in order to retain reading vocabulary
  123. Is still confusing words which look alike
  124. Is beginning to read words in groups (phrases)
  125. Reading is becoming (not yet becoming) automatic
  126. Enjoys discussing the stories
  127. Has had difficulty with learning ______ so in the coming term we will focus on ______.
  128. Speaks in good sentences
  129. Speaks clearly
  130. Has difficulty using (pronouns, verbs) correctly
  131. Enjoys dramatization
  132. Enjoys participation in conversation and discussion
  133. Expresses ideas clearly
  134. Has a good oral vocabulary
  135. Takes turns talking
  136. Speaks with confidence to the group
  137. Uses punctuation correctly
  138. Is able to place periods and question marks correctly
  139. Uses colorful words
  140. Uses (complex, simple) sentences
  141. Is now able to write a complete sentence independently
  142. Participates in group story telling (composition)
  143. Can write an original story of (one or two sentences, of a few sentences)
  144. Puts words in the appropriate order
  145. Is able to read his sentences back
  146. Shows self confidence in writing
  147. Can compose several related sentences
  148. Is building a good spelling vocabulary
  149. Uses his individual dictionary to find unfamiliar words
  150. Enjoys learning to spell new words
  151. Is able to learn to spell words easily
  152. Sometimes reverses letters in a word
  153. Has difficulty remembering the spelling of non-phonetic words
  154. Is helped by using hand or body motions to remember spelling
  155. When printing, often reverses letters, such as __, __, etc.
  156. Has good (poor) fine-motor skills
  157. Is able to print on the lines
  158. Spaces letters and words correctly
  159. Some printing is excellent but is often untidy in daily assignments
  160. Enjoys doing neat careful work
  161. Can work with numbers up to ___ with understanding
  162. Understands the signs +, -, = and uses them to make number statements
  163. Understands and uses basic facts of addition and subtraction to ____
  164. Reverses some numbers still
  165. Understands place value up to _____
  166. Can use manipulatives to add and subtract
  167. Can use manipulatives to show place value to _____
  168. Understands money (pennies, dimes, nickels)
  169. Relies heavily on concrete objects
  170. Knows the basic shapes
  171. Can count to ______
  172. Is able to create graphs using simple data
  173. Understands several methods of graphing
  174. Is beginning to memorize the number facts
  175. Is friendly and cooperative
  176. Cooperates well
  177. Helps others
  178. Has a sense of humor
  179. Has a good attitude towards school
  180. Is working well in all subjects
  181. Lacks independence / Is gaining independence
  182. Is too easily distracted
  183. Is becoming more self-reliant
  184. Is an attentive student
  185. All work is neatly and accurately done
  186. Is a polite conscientious pupil
  187. Is working above grade level in _________.
  188. Works too slowly
  189. Does not complete assignments in the allotted time
  190. Seems unable to finish required work
  191. Does colorful and interesting art work
  192. Is especially good at ______
  193. Requires too much supervision.
  194. Please encourage him to do things on his own.
  195. Should be encouraged to _____
  196. Needs frequent encouragement
  197. Is maturing
  198. Is learning to concentrate
  199. Is learning to listen carefully
  200. Is gaining self-confidence
  201. Often completes work early
  202. Is very thoughtful
  203. Takes pride in work well done
  204. Is eager to learn
  205. Makes little effort when not under direct supervision
  206. Often seems tired at school
  207. Is not very appreciative of the value of ( time, courtesy, sharing, neatness, accuracy)
  208. Shows initiative; thinks things through for himself/herself
  209. If a child is having difficulty – say so! Say what you have tried already to help him/her, and what you are going to do differently in the term to come to help the child.
  210. Never say the child is having problems without giving a possible solution you are going to try and what has already been tried.
  211. This shows you are doing everything in your power to change the situation.
  212. _____ has matured nicely this year, academically and socially.
  213. He/She assumes responsibility well and has a find attitude.
  214. He/She still needs strengthening in the concept of long division.
  215. Thanks for the help I know you have given her.
  216. There has been a noticeable improvement in _____’s study habits this reporting period, which is very encouraging.
  217. Please continue during the summer with ___________ review and as many reading experiences as possible.
  218. ___________ would benefit from reading many library books this summer.
  219. He needs to improve his reading speed and comprehension if he is to have success in the ________ grade.
  220. If ___________ will put forth in the future the effort he has shown in the past two reporting periods, he will receive a great deal from his schooling.
  221. With __________’s ability to apply herself to each task, she should receive much satisfaction from her school experiences.
  222. _____________ continued to blossom as the year progressed.
  223. _______________’s oral reading is very expressive and her oral reporting is excellent.
  224. Thank you for your interest in _____________’s attitude.
  225. Although he has had some difficulty adjusting to our room and various duties, he usually tries to cooperate.
  226. _____________ has had some problems adjusting to our room, as you know from my reports to you.
  227. Many of her difficulties occur on the playground and she then carries a poor attitude in the classroom.
  228. This hurts her academically.
  229. She is capable of much better work.
  230. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you this year.
  231. __________has made nice progress this reporting period.
  232. He is maturing nicely and I hope this continues.
  233. Although _____________’s growth in social maturity is continuing, it is not consistent.
  234. She still needs guidance and support from both you and me.
  235. Thanks for your cooperation.
  236. _____________ is a wonderful girl and I’m happy to have had her in my room.
  237. she has made many fine contributions to our class and is an inspiration to her classmates.
  238. With ____’s friendly, cooperative attitude, she will always be a pleasant addition to any class.
  239. I have enjoyed the association I have had _____________.
  240. His friendly, sincere way has made him a very popular member of the ___ grade.
  241. Regardless of how busy _________ is, he still has time to do something nice for someone. For this reason, he is one of the best-liked members of my class.
  242. I enjoyed having _____________ in my class.
  243. She is a sweet and cooperative child.
  244. _____________ is a pleasant, conscientious student.
  245. He is self-confident and has excellent manners.
  246. It has been a pleasure to have him in my class.
  247. I enjoyed having _____________ in my room.
  248. She assumes responsibility well, excels on the playground and is well liked by her peers.
  249. She’s helped to make my year a pleasant one.
  250. She is a big help in seeing that our room looks clean and pleasant.
  251. She has been most cooperative and only needs strengthening in social studies skills to bring her up to ____ grade level.
  252. ___________ is a fine citizen and takes a keen interest in school.
  253. I hope you enjoy your new home!
  254. __________ takes a keen interest in all work and is most agreeable and a willing worker. It has been wonderful having her in my room.
  255. Exhibits excellent attitude
  256. Possesses good self discipline
  257. Respectful of others
  258. Works independently on assignments
  259. Exhibits creativity
  260. Does good work
  261. Always cooperative
  262. Classroom attitude shows improvement
  263. Pleasant student to work with
  264. Quality of work has improved
  265. Hard worker
  266. Participates well in class
  267. A pleasure to have around
  268. Experiences difficulty following directions-when unsure needs to ask for questions
  269. Needs to actively participate in classroom discussion
  270. Needs better study skills
  271. Requires incentives
  272. Low quiz/test scores
  273. Assignments/Homework incomplete/late
  274. Needs to pay attention in class
  275. Disruptive in class
  276. Needs to improve classroom attitude
  277. Excessive tardiness
  278. Excessive absences
  279. Failure to turn in make up work
  280. A conference is requested
  281. This subject modified/ leveled according to ability
  282. Does not work up to his/her ability
  283. Student will be retained in current grade next year. Please contact the school to arrange a conference.
  284. Subject has been taught but no grade issued
  285. Makes careless errors
  286. Difficulty understanding the material
  287. Does not know math facts well
  288. Interrupts others
  289. Gets upset easily
  290. Work is not neat
  291. Disorganized
  292. Needs to proofread work
  293. Does not form letters correctly
  294. Assignments are not neat
  295. Excessive talking
  296. Needs to spend time on task
  297. Does not put enough time into assignment
  298. Needs to improve self discipline
  299. Needs to improve respect for others

Schools and Coronavirus: What You Should Know

The recent outbreak and spread of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has prompted a great deal of media attention and questions and concerns on the impact it will have on schools.

Below you will find some general guidance on COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NEA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of its members and the students they serve and will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.

What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Severe complications have included pneumonia in both lungs. There is currently no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19 nor is there a vaccine to prevent it.

Resources

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD OF CALLING THE POLICE

A GUIDE, A SYLLABUS, A CONVERSATION, A PROCESS

We’ve all been there. Your neighbor is setting off fireworks at 3am. Or there’s a couple fighting outside your window and it’s getting physical. Or you see someone hit their child in public. What do you do? Your first instinct might be: call 911. That’s what many people are trained to do in the United States when we see something dangerous or threatening happening.

At this point, most of us understand that, in the U.S., the police often reinforce a system of racialized violence and white supremacy, in which black people are at least three times more likely to be killed by the police. For years now, we’ve heard the nearly daily news of another unarmed person of color being shot by the police. When the police get involved, black people, Latinx people, Native Americans, people of color, LGBTQ people, sex workers, women, undocumented immigrants, and people living with disabilities and mental health diagnoses are usually in more danger, even if they are the victims of the crime being reported. Police frequently violently escalate peaceful interactions, often without repercussions. In 2017, the police killed over 1,100 people in the U.S.

So what do you do? When you see harm being done, when you worry for your safety, when you feel your rights are being violated? What do you do instead of calling the police? How do you keep yourself safe without seeking protection from a system whose default is still surveillance and erasure of others?

We start by shifting our perspective. We start by learning about the racist history of the police. We start by saying, an alternative to this system should exist. We start by pausing before we dial 911. We start by making different choices where we can. We start by getting to know our neighbors and asking them to be a part of this process.

The following is an in-process list of resources on alternatives to policing, which range from the theoretical to practical. It starts with a series of best practices and guiding questions I have developed in the last two years of nurturing this document in conversation with many people.

* * *

A FEW FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: 

Who is this document for? This document is for anyone who wants to build a world where we have safe, strong communities. Where we know and trust our neighbors. Where our response to emergencies of all kinds leads to peace and connection rather than escalated violence and disconnection. This document was originally written to expand white people’s understanding of police violence and to equip them with the tools to be better community members, and the best practices and guiding questions reflect that. However, the resources and tools are here for people of all races and backgrounds.

Who are you? I’m Aaron Rose: a white, middle-class, life-long New Yorker and south Brooklynite, now living in Hawaii. I’m an educator, a writer, and spent most of my working life as a diversity & inclusion consultant and coach. I’m a human being committed to both changing and enjoying the world at the same time.

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WHERE TO START: GUIDELINES FOR WHITE ALLIES

1. GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS.

Many situations in which you might feel compelled to call the police can be resolved by knowing your neighbors. Knock on people’s doors or leave a note with your number. Open up a conversation. Agree to reach out to each other if you have an issue before calling 911. This is particularly helpful for things like loud music, smoke, and mental health issues.

Ideally, you’re connected to many people in your building / on your block / in your neighborhood. This is particularly important for white people who are moving into historically black or Latinx neighborhoods. Your new neighbors likely already have deep history with one another. They know who is having relationship issues and who’s trusted to intervene. They know who is struggling with their mental health and who calms them down. They know the unofficial way to reach the building’s super if something’s wrong. Honor their history together and demonstrate a commitment to learning. Invest in your relationships and in your collective safety.

2. REWRITE YOUR INTERNAL SCRIPT ABOUT THE POLICE.

White people: most of us have been taught, however subconsciously, that the police keep us safe. And the thing is, they usually do. But that often comes at the expense of people of color. We are called to rewrite our story about the police, so that we define safety as including not only ourselves but also our whole community.

This can be painful and deep work. Our cultural autopilot reinforces the idea that standing in true solidarity with people of color puts us at risk in some way – socially, psychologically, economically, or physically.

As it arises, notice the instinct, however subtle, to prioritize your safety at the expense of another. From which old pattern does this originate? Is it an autopilot belief that it’s not your job to protect people of color? Is it a fear of getting close to people who are different from yourself? Is it the pain of past experiences where your needs and boundaries were violated? Say to yourself, as often as you need: In service of a safer world for myself and others, I am willing to see this differently. I invite a new perspective. 

If you’re looking for additional support, explore these meditations for white people who are releasing their investments in whiteness and healing their relationships with people of color. Healing the world starts with healing ourselves, and many of us still need support in releasing our dependence on old power structures and welcoming a new way of relating and living. You can stream a preview of the Mediation for Redefining Safety below:

Meditation for Redefining Safety
Aaron Rose

3. START WHERE YOU CAN, BUILD FROM THERE.

Reducing our dependence on police intervention can be a gradual process. We call the police in many different situations – everything from noise disturbances to domestic violence to burglaries to assaults. For some of these – like noise complaints and some interpersonal conflicts – we likely already have the resources we need to respond in a different way. For others – like burglaries, serious domestic violence, or other kinds of violence – we need to engage in a longer process of developing alternatives. Start where you can, and we’ll all work together to get where we need to go.

And finally, read the following call to action from Taj James and reflect on what you would need to do to transition into a new way of keeping yourself and your community safe: “White friends and family, I think we are better off without the police. I think we might be safer, happier, healthier if there were no police. In addition to fewer Black people being killed by those police our life would be much better. I am starting to think we are better off without them. That we don’t need them. That if we shut them all down today and transferred all the resources they control to communities to set up systems of community safety and accountability we would all be much happier. My gut is that when white people are able to say ‘Having no police is better than what we have now’ that will reflect the willingness and courage needed to make a fundamental transition from an old system to a new one.”

* * *

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD OF CALLING THE POLICE

A New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Call the Police (Truthout)

Alternatives to Police (Rose City CopWatch)

Alternatives to the Police (McGill Daily)

Animal Help Now: Provides immediate support in wildlife emergencies. If you encounter a wild animal who is injured, endangering your safety, or lost, AHN is a safer intervention option than the police. Animals are also frequently killed in police interactions that could be deescalated peacefully. 

Audre Lorde Project’s Safer Party Toolkit: How to run a safe party that doesn’t need police presence to maintain safety. (Español | Zine version) (some content is NYC-specific)

Big Dreams and Bold Steps Toward a Police-Free Future (Truthout)

Calling Someone Other than the Cops (The Atlantic)

Chain Reaction: Alternatives to Policing (WeChargeGenocide.org)

Creative Interventions Toolkit: An incredible organization created by Black and Asian feminists that interviewed people about what they did to intervene in partner abuse and sexual assault without the state. This is one of the resources they created: a huge guidebook with tons of concrete examples, stories and tools for how folks have done this work.

Critical Resistance Abolitionist Toolkit

Imagine Alternatives: Finding Ways Not to Call the Police (Caroline Loomis): An open letter, a resource list, and some great exercises for stretching your imagination to consider why you call the police and how you might make different choices and build alternatives in the future.

INCITE!’s Stop Law Enforcement Toolkit

INCITE!’s Community Accountability Best Practices

Policing is a Dirty Job and Nobody’s Gotta Do it: 6 Ideas for a Cop-Free World (Rolling Stone)

Ten Lessons for Creating Safety Without Police: A Reflection on 10 Years of the SOS Collective

The Revolution Starts At Home: A book co-authored by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinh, Ching In Chen, and Jai Dulani about abuse inside activist communities and how folks have dealt with it without the cops (was out of print, is now back in print).

Transformative Justice Resource List (USPrisonCulture.com)

Vikki Law: Resisting Gender Violence Without Cops or Prisons

What To Do When Someone is Having a Mental Health Crisis on the Street (SF Bay Area specific)

ALTERNATIVES TO POLICING PROJECTS / ORGANIZATIONS / TOOLS

Audre Lorde Project’s Safe Outside the System (SOS) seeks to empower community members to be proactive in preventing anti-LGBTQ violence, intervene when violent situations arise, and build stronger relationships between LGBTQ people of color, our allies and the community as a whole.

BYP100 Case Study in Community Accountability

Cure Violence stops the spread of violence in communities by using the methods and strategies associated with disease control – detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest risk individuals, and changing social norms – resulting in reductions in violence of 40% to 70%. Note: this program is now state-sponsored, which some people feel undermines its efficacy and sustainability.

National Mental Health First Aid Trainings: Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. 

NYC’s Mental Health First Aid Trainings

People’s Community Medics: An organization created by Black women in East Oakland that is a community controlled alternative and/or addition to calling 911 for emergency medical care. They created it after the ambulances were just not showing up or cops were showing up first.

Philly Stands Up: An organization that works with folks who have committed sexual assault or partner abuse who want to take accountability.  This is their document where they talk about how they work with perpetrators.

Restorative Response Baltimore: A conflict resolution and community building organization that provides ways for people to collectively and effectively prevent and resolve conflicts and incidents ranging from bullying to auto theft to assault. Read about their work’s impact, start a group in your area, or refer a conflict here.

Richmond, CA Case Study

APPS FOR COORDINATING COMMUNITY CRISIS RESPONSE

Buoy (mobile & desktop app): A community-based crisis response system.

(developers’ chat room for troubleshooting set up | user-to-user support forum | github wiki | if you need additional help figuring out how to set up Buoy on your site, Maymay may be able to help: https://maymay.net/)

Cell411: A real-time, free emergency management platform, built by and for activists. 

RESOURCES ON RACISM & THE POLICE

Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves On Race and Racism

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Do you want to add resources or share a community case study? Are you a person of color who wants to assist or lead the ongoing development of this resource? Email me at [email protected]

How to Create Glow-In-The-Dark Bowling In Your Home

Looking for a fun twist on an evening in with the kids?

Love the crash of knocking down pins, but not the questionable fashion of rental shoes?

Try glow-in-the-dark nighttime bowling at home.

It’s bowling with a little something extra that is sure to get your kids so excited they’ll jump off the couch, turn off the TV and play—no silly shoes required!

In this article I’ll show you all you need to create this indoor adventure.

Glow-in-the-dark bowling: Discover a simple, inexpensive activity that will get your kids moving and giggling, and telling their friends all about it.

Why Bowling?

Bowling has been entertaining families for thousands of years. Some researchers have traced the history of bowling back as far as 3200 BC.

Granted, the sport has changed a bit since ancient Egypt. But it has continued to grow in popularity and is now enjoyed by some 95 million people in 90 countries.

Now you can experience bowling at home!

Random Bowling Facts

10 things you probably didn’t know about bowling:

  1. The youngest person to ever shoot a perfect 300 game was 10-year-old Chaz Dennis from Columbus, Ohio.
  2. Bowling balls were made of wood until the early 1900s. Hard rubber was used until the 1960s and 1970s. Today most ten-pin bowling balls are made from polyester, resin or urethane.
  3. The maximum weight for a bowling ball is 16 pounds.
  4. There is no minimum weight for a bowling ball.
  5. A 292 is the rarest score anyone can get.
  6. The German outdoor version of bowling called “skittles” is named after the small pins used, not after the colorful candies.
  7. There is a bowling alley in the White House. It was built in 1947 for President Truman.
  8. Pins are made of maple wood and covered with a hard plastic coating.
  9. King Henry the VIII enjoyed bowling and was said to use cannon balls to knock down pins.
  10. The world’s largest bowling alley is in Japan and has 114 lanes.

What Is Nighttime Bowling?

We introduced our boys, ages 5 and 7, to bowling at my oldest son’s birthday party. We reserved a lane with gutter guards, put on our oh-so-stylish bowling shoes and played a couple of games of 10-pin at the local bowling alley. We had a blast, but left with my wallet $60 lighter.

I wanted to try a more economical do-it-yourself version of bowling and was excited to discover nighttime bowling.

dark bowling

When the lights go out, set ‘em up and knock ‘em down.

Nighttime bowling is a simple way to engage with your kids when the sun goes down or when the lights go out. It’s fun and the nighttime aspect lets you share something cool and unique that they’ll remember for a long time.

What You’ll Need

  • 6 glow sticks
  • 1 ball heavy enough to knock over water bottles (We used a small basketball.)
  • 6 water bottles
  • Paper and pencil to keep score

Preparation Time

10-15 minutes to prepare your pins

Activity Time

20-30 minutes to complete a 10-frame game

Location

  • Indoors: A clear hallway, kitchen or living area (Make sure to remove all fragile or breakable items when bowling inside.)
  • Outdoors: A relatively level patio, playground, driveway or grassy area (Use caution if you are near a street.)

Nighttime bowling is easy. All you do is drop some glow sticks in water bottles, set up your pins and knock ‘em down.

#1: Get Your Pins Ready

It’s easy to set up the cool, glowing pins of nighttime bowling. The secret is the glow sticks. I picked up two packs of Coleman Illumisticks from Target when I stopped to get some milk. They’re also available on Amazon. They were quite bright and colorful.

I’m sure the dollar store–variety glow sticks would work just as well as the Coleman brand.

bowling supplies

Nighttime bowling supplies lined up and ready to go.

Follow the directions on the glow stick packages and “crack” your glow sticks to activate the chemicals. My kids had a blast cracking the glow sticks and dropping them in the bottles of water.

glow sticks

Glow sticks start glowing almost instantly. The Coleman glow sticks were very bright and colorful.

#2: Get Your Pins Glowing

Add one glow stick to each water bottle to create six bowling pins. Be sure to leave approximately 1 inch (2.54 cm) of headspace in the water bottles to prevent overflow when adding the glow sticks.

Peel the labels off of the water bottles to make it easier to see the glowing pins.

make pins

Use different-colored glow sticks and water bottles for pins. Peel labels off of bottles so you can see the colors.

Turn off the lights to see the full effect of the glowing pins.

glowing pins

The pins are aglow and ready to play.

#3: Set Up the Bowling Alley

Nighttime bowling is well-suited to either indoor or outdoor play. If you’re enjoying a warm summer evening outside, set up your pins on a patio, playground, level driveway or flat grassy area.

If you’d rather stay indoors, all you need is to set a a clear path in a hallway, kitchen or other living area. To avoid the rain and banana slugs that frequent our yard in Seattle, we opted to play indoors.

hallway setup

Our makeshift bowling alley with pins aglow.

Nighttime bowling would be a fun activity to play at family reunions or other gatherings too.

Set pins up in a triangle formation approximately 4 to 6 inches apart:

  • 3 pins in the back row
  • 2 pins in the middle row
  • 1 pin in front

Variation: To make it easier for bowlers to knock down pins, decrease the space between pins. To make it more challenging, increase space between pins.

pin diagram

Aerial view of pins.

#4: The Rules: By the Book or Create Your Own

Traditional bowling rules are a bit complex, especially for younger children.

I wanted to focus more on having fun than on fiddling with the rules in the dark, so I pared down the rules to simplify things:

  • For each game, you play 10 frames, or rounds.
  • During each frame, every player has a turn to knock down as many pins as possible.
  • Players get to roll the ball twice each turn. If a player knocks down all the pins (a strike), they only roll the ball once for that turn.
  • Players receive 1 point for each pin knocked down. Have a paper and pencil handy to keep score.
  • To make it more challenging for older kidsassign different point values to different-colored pins: 1 point for red, 2 points for blue, 3 points for green, etc.
  • When you complete all 10 frames, add up everyone’s points to see who got the highest score.

I made sure to review what it means to play with good sportsmanship with my boys and emphasized the importance of taking turns and treating each other with respect.

Bowling Lingo

Impress (or embarrass) your kids with these cool bowling phrases:

  • Strike—Knocking over all ten pins with the first ball
  • Turkey—Three consecutive strikes
  • Ham bone or four bagger—Four consecutive strikes
  • Wild turkey—Six consecutive strikes
  • Golden turkey—Nine strikes in a row
  • Deuce—Bowling a game of 200 points or more

#5: Turn Out the Lights and Bowl!

Grab the ball, turn out the lights and have fun!

lights out bowling

Bowling in the dark—a great adventure.

Allow 20 to 30 minutes to complete a 10-frame game. We played heartily for about 30 minutes.

The glow sticks will remain active for about 24 hours. My boys played their own games in their room after we finished the family game, and then set up the pins again in the morning for some self-directed fun.

Talk to Them

Nighttime bowling offers many opportunities to engage in conversation with your kidsAsk lots of questions and encourage them to ask questions, too.

For example, while setting up your pins, talk about what makes glow sticks glow.

making pins

Let kids help make the pins. Note the headspace in the bottle to prevent overflow.

While playing, have your kids experiment with setting the pins in different ways—closer together or further apart—and guess which setup will be easier to knock down.

Experiment with different ball-release styles. My boys both agreed that granny style was their favorite.

Conversation Starters:

  • Can you knock over more pins if you roll the ball harder or softer?
  • What different ways can you think of to roll the ball?
  • Would it be easier or harder to knock down more pins if the pins were spaced further apart? Let’s experiment!
  • Is it easier to knock more pins down when you are closer to the pins or when you are farther away?
  • What is the highest possible score?
  • Can you think of any stories or shows where the characters were bowling?
  • How would you improve the game? What would you do differently?

Ask kids to compare their experience at a traditional bowling alley with your nighttime bowling. Mine agreed they liked the glow pins better, but they missed the bowling ball return machine (the pinsetter) that seemed to magically return the ball so they could play another frame.

Have the kids keep score. It’s a great opportunity to practice basic math skills while doing something fun.

Study it!

Take advantage of kids’ unending curiosity to dig deeper into their questions and learn more. I’ve listed a few fun lessons that could spring from nighttime bowling. These would be great for homeschooling parents or for anyone who has kids who are eager to learn more.

Some Final Thoughts

Nighttime bowling is a simple, inexpensive activity that will get your kids moving and giggling and telling their friends all about it. And you get to wear your own shoes!

You’ll earn glowing reviews for an evening of family fun. This is definitely an activity that my family will be doing again soon. I hope you’ll try it, too.

What do you think? Did you make any variations to suit your family? I’d love to hear from you and see pictures of your glow-in-the-dark bowling fun. Please share your experience in the box below.

How to Make an Adventure Movie With Your Kids

Got a future actor in your household?

Do your kids have a favorite movie they’d love to act out?

Making a movie with your kids can turn an ordinary day into a memorable adventure.

It’s not only fun for everyone involved, but you’ll create a lasting memory with your kids.

In this article I’ll show you, step-by-step how to create an adventure movie with your family.

Outdoor adventures: How to create adventure movies and turn an ordinary day into a lasting memory with your kids.

Why a Movie?

You can make a movie just about anywhere, and you probably have everything you need right at home.

On our most recent vacation, my wife and I went to visit family in Oregon and then took a drive to Redwood National Park in California. My family and I are Star Wars fans and we shared with the kids that Redwood National Park was the shooting location of the Endor scenes in Return of the Jedi.

And then something magical happened: My 9-year-old son asked on the flight over, “Dad, can we make a movie in the park?” We agreed, and the idea quickly spread to our kids’ cousins.

kids posed like star wars actors

The principal actors posing for their publicity shot. No trees were harmed in the filming of our amazingly fantastic movie.

A day trip to a national park that, let’s be honest, wouldn’t have been extremely exciting to our 5-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, turned into an exciting trip filled with action, adventure and lots of props.

The great thing about making a movie with your kids is that you can make it as complex as you have time for.

Planning, filming, editing and then posting to YouTube can all be completed in an hour for a simple movie. More complicated movies will take longer, but that’s all dependent on how much time your kids want to spend on planning and getting costumes.

What You’ll Need

  • Smartphone or tablet to take the video
  • A plan
  • Location to film
  • Actors (your kids)
  • Crazy-fun costumes (optional)
  • Props (probably not optional)
  • Access to the Internet to post the video on YouTube for family and friends (optional)

Preparation Time

This could vary, but allocate at least 15 minutes to plan your movie and gather costumes and props from around the house.

Activity Time

Again, this could vary. A simple movie can be completed in an hour.

Location

Anywhere you choose for the setting of your movie.

#1: Draw It All Out

When you decide to make a movie, sit down with your kids and storyboard the movie. Some simple questions to get the creative juices flowing are:

  • What is the movie about? Keep this simple. Try to boil the plot down into one or two sentences such as “The good guys need to steal the plans and then rescue the princess to save the day.”
  • Who are the characters in the movie? Each person in the movie can act out a role. List the characters and ask your children to draw a picture of their character.
  • What era does the movie take place? Pin down this detail and ask your kids to start thinking about what can make your movie feel like that time and place.
  • Think about what type of props and costumes you will need for the movie?

For our movie, the planning stage took place fairly quickly with the kids talking the plot out during the ride to the national park.

#2: Scout Your Locations

No matter if you’re going on a luxurious vacation or a staycation, a little bit of imagination can go a long way. A local park, lake, creek or similar outdoor area can make for a great movie location.

family at beach

We filmed our final scene at the beach.

Depending on the complexity of your movie, you might need several locations. In my kids’ Star Wars movie, we filmed in the national park and also at the local beach for the final battle.

The good thing is that you can film inside if it’s raining or you can film in the backyard or anywhere. It’s all up to you and your kids. Be creative.

What I would encourage is to think differently and choose a location that your kids have never visited before. Not only will your children learn about a new place, but they will also need to figure out how to stage their scenes in the location.

Another reason why parks work so well is that you have more room to work and less chance of disturbing other people.

#3: It’s All About the Props

When our children shared the movie idea with their cousins (3 boys), the Star Wars theme went over like blue milk at a Tatooine breakfast—they loved it and immediately started to dig through their toy boxes for props we could use.

For your kids’ movie, here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Pull out old Halloween costumes.
  • Take a trip to a Goodwill store and buy some old clothes.
  • Dig out the face paint. ‘Nuff said.
  • Visit local yard sales or flea markets for old toys.

For the movie our kids made, a few light sabers, blasters, an old Halloween Darth Vader costume and a special Princess Leia hairdo for my daughter were all that was needed.

child actors in tree

An old Halloween costume + some toys we already had = instant movie props.

#4: Action! Film a Lot

Listen to your children. In our family, we soon discovered that all of the kids wanted to act in the movie. No one wanted to do the filming, so that was delegated to me.

Depending on the ages of your children, their attention spans will waver after a certain period of time. The important thing is to focus on working with your children to complete the project.

Having lofty plans with multiple locations and everyone feeling stressed about finishing the movie isn’t recommended (unless you like meltdowns and lots of tears).

For the movie our kids made, we wanted to make certain to keep the plot simple so that we could complete the project quickly and have something to show their cousins when we returned home.

We walked around the amazingly tall redwoods and they acted out their scenes. I made sure to film everything. Yes, there was a lot of running around and them tearing through the forest at breakneck speed but with the park being so large, we did not bother any other visitors and I was able to get plenty of footage to work with.

redwood trees

Be sure to include some scenery shots for transitions between the action shots.

All in all, it was a great balance between having a too-structured plan and being too lax. Between the filming in the national park and then on the beach, we had more video than we could ever need.

#5: Putting It All Together

Once we came back from vacation, my son and daughter worked together to pick the scenes they wanted and, to my surprise, they even filmed some new scenes and worked on creating a hand-drawn map that they wanted to include in the movie.

After the scenes were chosen, roles changed in the movie-creation process. My daughter dropped out of the project, but my son, being older, liked the challenge of wanting to learn how to use iMovie on the iPad.

screenshot of imovie software

Screenshot: My 9-year-old son used the iMovie for iPad app to edit our movie and make a 1-minute trailer.

My son and I sat together and figured it out.

Once he understood the basics, I stepped away from the project and let him take over. And that’s a good point to think about: Play to the strengths of you and your kids. Maybe your child wants to film you and is a better director. Go with it!

Depending on your family’s technological experience, creating the actual movie does not have to be complicated. If you have an iPhone or iPad, I highly recommend iMovie. It’s an inexpensive app ($4.99) that is simple to use. And if you have an Android phone, Magisto-Magical Video Editor has received 4.5 stars out of 5 in the Google Play store. If you’re new to video editing, using one of these two tools is a snap.

Tools of the Trade

The tools listed below are suggestions for what you can use to make a movie.

iMovie is for Apple products. The app is $4.99, easy to use and a solid movie-making tool. You film, edit and post to YouTube all in the app. Nice and simple.

Magisto—Magical Video Editor is a highly rated movie app for Android smartphones. Easy to use and allows you to post to YouTube.

GoAnimate allows you to create movies using animated characters. You’ll want to sit with them at a computer and go through creating your animated movie together. The free version has kept us busy with our kids for hours, thinking up goofy scenarios to put the animated characters through. When you’re finished, you can share the video on YouTube and all laugh at the silliness you made.

How to Use GoAnimate is a great tutorial to help you learn how to use GoAnimate.com.

Vine is currently only an iOS app for your Apple device. The videos you create can only be 6 seconds long. It became extremely popular after Twitter purchased the service. Simply hold your iPhone, film by touching the screen with your finger, take your finger off to stop filming. Both of my kids have made amazing animations. It’s a great tool to use without any need for planning.

YouTube allows you to share all of your videos with friends and family. Remember, there are privacy settings, so you can designate a video as unlisted and email a direct link to family.

Film, edit on the device, add music, opening and closing titles and then upload to YouTube. It’s easy to do.

#6: Releasing the Movie to the World

After the movie is completed, simply upload it to YouTube. If you’re concerned about your kids’ privacy, set the permissions of the video to unlisted and then email the link to family and friends.

You could select the movie to be private, but then your family members would need a YouTube account so that you can grant them access to see the movie. Again, the permissions options are all there, you simply need to decide if you’re comfortable with sharing the video online.

My kids made one movie and then a trailer to share with all our family and friends. Here’s the trailer:

#7: Celebrate the Love

Everyone took part in the movie-making process and then something wonderful happened.

By working together to make one movie, our family not only had a great time and bonded together working on the project, we also inspired our children to make other movies on their own.

child actors peeking from behind tree

Making a movie together is something the kids will never forget.

Once they realized that they could think up an idea and then make it become reality, the floodgates opened and they had a blast thinking of other ideas to film and create.

Some Final Thoughts

No matter if you’re on vacation, it’s a rainy weekend or you’re stuck at home in a blizzard, coming together as a family to create a movie is a lot of fun for everyone involved.

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