- Active Kids & Academic Performance
- Winter Ways to Keep Moving
- Tips to Grow Healthy and Strong
- Motivating Your Child

Active Kids & Academic Performance

Children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day to achieve a healthy weight and prevent a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke. This might seem like a lot of time, but it all adds up. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that at least 30 minutes, or half of the recommended daily physical activity time, be accrued during the school day (Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005). A Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program is the best way for schools to ensure that students get enough physical activity to positively affect their health and academic performance. Components include:

• Quality Physical Education
• Physical Activity Integrated into Classroom Learning
• Physical Activity Breaks
• Recess
• Before-and-After School Programs
• Intramural Sports
• Interscholastic Sports
• Walk- and Bike-to-School Programs

The Positive Impact of School-Based Physical Education and Physical Activity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reviewed studies about school-based Physical education and physical activity and their effect on academic performance, with overall positive results.

The Brain Game
Research shows that physical activity can positively affect:
• Blood flow and oxygen to the brain, thereby improving mental clarity.
• The part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
• Connections between nerves in the brain, thereby improving attention and information processing skills.

Physical activity also:
• Builds strong bones and muscles.
• Decreases the likelihood of developing obesity and risk factors for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
• Promotes positive mental health and can reduce anxiety and depression.
• Positively affects classroom behavior and can help youth improve their concentration and memory.

The Bottom Line
• Substantial evidence suggests that physical activity can be associated with improved academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores.
• Increasing or maintain time dedicated to physical education can help – and does not adversely affect – academic performance.

Whether you are a parent, principal, superintendent, school board member, legislator or concerned citizen, you have a role to play in helping our youth become active and in making quality physical education and physical activity a reality in your local school.

Together, we can put research into action to develop active, healthy kids in our nation’s schools. For more information go to or

“We know that physical activity is critical ...not just for better health but for better academic achievement.” - First Lady Michelle Obama

Winter Ways to Keep Moving

Physical activity is one of the most important parts of being a healthy family. It helps with mood, school performance, health and overall well-being. Children should strive for 60 minutes of fun fitness every day. Adults ages 18 and over should achieve 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity a week.

Here’s how to do it:
1. Try indoor ice-skating or a family adventure walk in place of going out to a movie. Just calling it an adventure makes it more fun.

2. If it’s cold outside break-up your outdoor activities. Try adding three 10-minute bursts of physical activity throughout the day. A quick game of tag or running around the block.

3. Park further away when running errands so you have to walk further to the store, just remember to bundle up.

4. Limit TV time and keep the TV out of your child's bedroom.

5. During TV commercials, take turns choosing an exercise: sit-ups, push-ups, toe touches, or jumping jacks. See who can be the fastest, silliest, or sweatiest.

6. Have a dance party, take out the flashlights and make it a disco night.

7. More ideas for fitting exercise into your family’s schedule.

Tips to Grow Healthy and Strong

Eat fruits and vegetables every meal. They add important vitamins and fiber to your diet. Watch out for those with fatty sauces or added sugar. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and veggies a day. Add fruits and veggies to foods your children already like such as blueberries in pancakes. Cut foods into fun shapes or make faces with fruit to keep it fun.

Give kids a say in what they eat and get them excited about healthy food. To help your child make healthy choices at an early age, give them two healthy choices to choose from. Let them decide what and how much to eat. Get kids excited about food by letting them help you with small jobs such as mixing ingredients. Allow them to smell, touch, taste, and play with food.

Eat breakfast every day. This helps your child start his day in a healthy way. Offer fruit and whole grains whenever possible. Children who eat breakfast daily are less likely to be overweight.

Eat together as a family. Make your meals a family time and eat together as often as possible. Even babies can join family in meal time. Make family meals a tradition.

Motivating Your Child

Motivation is key to your child's school success
You don't just want your child to learn. You want your child to want to learn! Motivation is part of being a successful student. Thankfully, studies show that parents can help if they:

- Stay involved. When parents are involved in education, kids do better in school. Make sure you monitor study time and communicate with the teacher regularly.

- Remember that kids are adaptable. If your child struggles in school, stay positive. Work with his teacher to find solutions.

- Promote independence. Give your child age-appropriate freedoms. You might let him choose between two places to study.

- Limit criticism. School is challenging. Instead of criticizing, use positive words to boost your child's self-confidence.

- Correct mistakes in an encouraging way. Don't say, "You have poor spelling." Try, "You spelled everything right except these two words! I bet you can fix them!"

- Give specific compliments. It's better to say, "Your report is so neat. I can read the whole thing," than, "I like your handwriting."

- Get more out of learning. Let classroom lessons spark your imagination. You might visit the state capital, do a science experiment or figure out a waiter's tip together. The key is to have fun!

Reprinted with permission from the February 2012 issue of Parents make the difference!® (Elementary School Edition) newsletter. Copyright © 2012 The Parent Institute®, a division of NIS, Inc. Sources: E. Pomerantz, "Research: Motivating Children to do Well in School,"; K. Seal, "Raising Self-Motivated Children," HighScope,

Make homework time easier for your child with motivation!

Sometimes getting kids to do homework is tougher than the homework itself! To increase your child's motivation:

- Develop organization skills. Help your child devise a system that works for her. She might use a homework folder and make daily to-do lists.

- Replace "homework time" with "study time." If your child doesn't have assignments, she can read or review.

- Stick to a routine. Kids resist less when they're used to studying at the same time every day. Let your child choose a quiet, comfortable place to work.

- Help without taking over. Encourage and guide your child through tough problems. But don't ever do the work.

- Be a role model. While your child studies, finish important tasks yourself, such as paying bills or straightening up.

- Offer praise, not prizes. This helps your child become self-motivated--not motivated by things. You might say, "Wow! You kept trying and it paid off!"

Reprinted with permission from the February 2012 issue of Parents make the difference!® (Elementary School Edition) newsletter. Copyright © 2012 The Parent Institute®, a division of NIS, Inc. Source: C. Moorman and T. Haller, "How to Motivate Your Kids to Do Homework,",

Setting Expectations

Studies show expectations are powerful motivators

Research links high expectations to high accomplishment. In addition to setting high (yet reasonable) expectations, it's important to:

- Look for progress, not perfection. Keep in mind that goal-setting encourages kids to work hard. Even if your child doesn't reach his final objective, consider his efforts a big success!

- Celebrate often. There are many steps along the way to reaching a goal. Whenever your child passes a milestone, take note. "You're halfway done!"

- Communicate clearly. You might say, "I want you to do well in math. I believe you can raise your grade above a C."

- Learn from mistakes. Help your child see that mistakes are opportunities to learn, persevere and improve. Good can always come from them. Discuss how to stay positive.

- Be flexible. What if an expectation was too high or too low? If necessary, adjust the expectation, but keep it challenging.

Reprinted with permission from the February 2012 issue of Parents make the difference!® (Elementary School Edition) newsletter. Copyright © 2012 The Parent Institute®, a division of NIS, Inc. Source: W. Parker, "Setting Appropriately High Expectations for Children,",

Working Together

Get parent support for new approach

You may be trying out a new textbook this year. Or you may have adopted a new teaching style you think will help students achieve more. But if parents feel you are experimenting on their kids, there is bound to be contention. Here are some tips for enlisting parental support instead:

- Write a newsletter that spells out what you're doing. Address parents' concerns directly. Share some of the research that informed your decision to adopt this new approach. Share specific examples of the success of what you are doing.

- Give parents some hands-on responsibilities at home. Include discussions with parents as a regular part of your students' homework.

- Offer parents many options for contacting you--your phone number, your school email and other applicable ways of reaching you. If your school policies permit, invite parents to visit your class to see what's going on.

Reprinted with permission from the December 2011 issue of Better Teaching® (Secondary Edition) newsletter. Copyright © 2011 The Teacher Institute®, a division of NIS, Inc. Source: B. Geuder et al., A Life Saver for New Teachers: Mentoring Case Studies to Navigate the Initial Years, Roman & Littlefield Education.

Raising Performance of ELL Students

Focus on developing good homework habits

One of the challenges of teaching English learners is that they often fail to meet their homework obligations. There are plenty of explanations: Students may not understand the work. They may need to work to help support the family. Or the family may simply not recognize the benefits of doing homework. So getting students to complete nightly work is a project that should involve both the students and their families. Here are some suggestions:

- Teach the importance of homework. Help students see that by practicing a skill they have learned in class, they will improve that skill. Once you have taught the lesson, send a letter home to parents making the same points.

- Do more in class to help students prepare. If students don't have an agenda book, consider a two-pocket homework folder. This will also give parents a chance to see completed and graded work.

- Teach homework and study skills. Have students read along as you give a homework assignment and underline the words that tell them what they should do. Also teach them to ask questions like, "How does this assignment relate to what we did in class today?"

- Write an occasional note to parents when students are showing effort and progress on their homework.

Reprinted with permission from the December 2011 issue of Better Teaching® (Secondary Edition) newsletter. Copyright © 2011 The Teacher Institute®, a division of NIS, Inc. Source: D. Campos et al., Reaching Out to Latino Families of English Language Learners, ASCD Books.
Winter 2012