Wednesday, December 12, 2018

You Don’t Need a GPS to Find the Road to Free College




You can use your computer, tablet or smartphone instead. There are several onramps to this road. If you prefer watching videos over reading, you can find the Road to Free College channel on YouTube. Just go to YouTube.com, and type Channel Road to Free College in the search bar. This onramp is new, and more videos will be added weekly. Each will contain a tip to help you and your child learn how to earn more free cash for college.

If you prefer Facebook, then visit the Road to Free College there. This onramp leads to motivational posters families can use as wallpaper, or just enjoy as they're posted. Teachers can use them in the classroom for free too. There are also interchanges (links) to articles rich in information necessary for raising the ideal college scholarship applicant. Just type Road to Free College in the search bar on your own Facebook page to merge­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­.

The third choice is a major highway, RoadToFreeCollege.com. This blog is updated a few times each week. There’s lots of traffic here, but picking your lane is easy. One contains lesson plans and teacher tips. Another will help students learn how to maneuver. A third includes news about education to enjoy while en route. There are plenty of motivational quotes to use in the classroom as posters or writing prompts. The most popular lane on this thoroughfare is Free Money for College. This is the fast lane on the Road to Free College. It will lead you to your destination the quickest. The easiest way to reach this onramp, is to Click Here.

All of these onramps to the Road to Free College include helpful tips for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and others in the lives of preschool through high school students. The most efficient tool of all is my book, Free College. It contains the sixteen defining habits of successful scholarship winners. You can find it by taking any of the onramps above, or use the toll road, (Amazon). You can go directly to the book and take a peek inside, Click Here, then buy a copy for your family.

I hope you enjoy the ride, no matter which onramp you select.


You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com


Photo credit: Google Images 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Simple Tips to Encourage Your Child to Love Reading




Kids who love to read are happier, do better in school and win more college scholarships. If this sounds good to you, then fill your home with books. Start with yourself, because you’re your child’s first role model. It’s pretty simple. Find an author you enjoy. See if he wrote a series. I love the Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly. I found a list of these books online, and started reading from the top. I’ve done the same for several other authors too. You can buy books online or in a book store, pick them up at the public library or do as I do, download them from the library for free. Your children will see you enjoying yourself as you read through your list of books.

Next determine which books your child might like. This will depend upon age, of course. When my daughter was little, I read to her daily. She loved Peter Rabbit, so I bought her a set of Beatrix Potter books. I continued giving her books as gifts and reading to and later with her as she grew. Our home was filled with books. She’s a mother of teenagers now, and they’re readers too. If you don’t know where to start, ask your child’s teacher for a suggestion, look online for popular titles by age, or ask for a recommendation from an employee at your local bookstore, or the librarian in your neighborhood library.

I continued this book giving tradition with my grandsons. Each birthday and Christmas, I give them a book on a subject I know they enjoy. My oldest loves science fiction, so I gave him books from classic science fiction authors starting with Jules Verne. He loves them all. The younger boy enjoyed the Wimpy Kid series of books. As he grew older, he joined his school track team, so I gave him an autobiography of Louis Zamparini, track star and WWII hero, for his birthday. He told me it was fantastic, so I bought him an autobiography of Jesse Owens for Christmas this year. You get my point? Feed your kids and grandkids books in subjects they love, and they’ll learn to appreciate reading.

Readers do well in English, History and Foreign Language classes in school. They’re at an advantage, since the act of reading is one they relish. You have time to start this tradition in your house. You’re already online, just slip over to your favorite search engine and type in “Most popular books for ____ year old children”. Order a few books, and when they arrive, write a sweet message inside. My daughter told me my grandkids love the little notes I write in the books I give them. Yours will love them too.

For information on college planning and scholarships, you’ll want my new book, Free College. It’s for families of Pre-K through High School students.  Buy it now from Amazon, http://ow.ly/y7hx30k0JvQ.


You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com


Photo credit: Google Images 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

How Students Can Be Happy for the Rest of Their Lives




Parents and school counselors often encourage students to take advanced classes in every subject. This might look like good on a transcript, but how does it make students feel? Are they overwhelmed, or inspired? Be careful to avoid the first emotion while boosting the second.

I’m a perfect example. In my case, I have loved words and grammar since I was little. Numbers, however, seem to slip through the cracks in my mind, especially zeroes. I don’t know why, perhaps it's cultural. When I grew up, girls were told they were bad in math and good in storytelling. I guess I fulfilled this prophesy. 

In the ninth grade we were told to pick a foreign language class. I chose French and continued studying it through college. In the tenth grade I was instructed to select an advanced math class, since I had completed the required courses already. My reply was, “Can I take another language instead?” Lucky for me, the answer was yes. I added German to my schedule and continued studying it happily through college. 

I kept adding languages and avoiding courses I did not enjoy. The result was happiness. I liked my classes, even when they became complex, and competition from foreign students grew intense. I graduated college with a degree in German, French and English, and taught them for over 40 years. If I had been forced to take advanced math instead of the extra languages, what would have been the result? I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a successful career teaching languages. There were times where my abilities in multiple languages even granted me a job over someone with fewer language skills.

Apply my example to any student. Take the required classes in every subject, but push harder in courses you enjoy. Go to summer school or the local community college to eliminate required subjects of lower interest. Then, there will be room for more classes in your strength. Not everyone is into words. Some students love music, math or science. Whatever the strength, talent or interest, feed it, and watch it grow. Imagine having a career in something you love. As they say, it won’t feel like work. 

Picking the right courses will help students be happier and more successful in secondary school and earn far more scholarship money for college. For more information on college planning and scholarships, you’ll want my new book, Free College. It’s for families of Pre-K through High School students.  Buy it now from Amazon, http://ow.ly/y7hx30k0JvQ.


You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com


Photo credit: Google Images 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Gift Ideas to Help Students Be Successful and Win More Scholarships





Often when meeting parents at Back to School Night, they asked me what books they could give their children for Christmas, Hanukkah or on their birthdays to help them be more successful. I loved this question, and created a list of gift ideas. Here’s the list and the appropriate age for each book:


1.   Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey – Age 13
2.   Personality Plus by Florence Littauer – Age 14
3.   The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz – Age 15
4.   Free $ for College for Dummies by David Rosen and Caryn Mladen – Age 16
5.   The Blue Zones of Happiness by Dan Buettner – Age 17
6.   The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley – Age 18


Of course, it would be unethical to suggest families buy my own book, Free College, if I was still in the classroom, but I’m not. You should buy a copy if you are a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle of a Pre-K through high school student (college bound or not). It contains a proven step-by-step guide to help your kids earn more scholarships and grants. Buy it now from Amazon, http://ow.ly/y7hx30k0JvQ.


You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com


Photo credit: Google Images

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thanksgiving Holiday Scholarship Challenge




Although many students want to go to college, few have the financial resources to do so without scholarships, grants or loans. I’m completely against loans, since they have a tendency to destroy a graduate’s future. That leaves grants and scholarships, but they don’t magically appear. Someone has to apply for them.

When writing my book, Free College, I realized I didn’t complete many chapters without having a specific goal, with a time limit. Once I set this up, the chapters almost seemed to write themselves. This could be true for scholarship and grant applications too. I suggest setting up a routine for finding, filling out, and submitting college scholarship and grant forms.

To this end, I propose a challenge over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. For most students, this means four days. For others, it may be five days. Whichever is the case for you, pick the number of applications you wish to submit during this time. They will all be completed online, of course, so you don’t have to worry about offices being closed. My suggestion is a minimum of one per day, better yet would be to double or triple that number.

You’ll still have time for visiting with family and friends, watching football or the Twilight Zone Marathon, and eating lots of turkey or ham. Discuss your family’s travel plans with your parents in advance. Block this time out on a calendar (you can print templates online for free). Then block out your sleep schedule. You’ll do a terrible job if you’re sleep deprived.

You now know when you have free time for meeting this scholarship/grant application challenge. Use a red pen to outline the times you are allotting to find, complete and submit your applications. If you have already filed at least one, you know how much time you’ll need for each. The average student takes about an hour, after the first one.

Sure, vacations should be fun, but wouldn’t you dedicate ten hours of the 120 over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday if doing so might result in being awarded thousands of dollars for college? Go ahead and do it. I dare you. 



For more helpful scholarship information, you’ll want my new book, Free College. Buy it now on Amazon, http://ow.ly/y7hx30k0JvQ. Great for families of Preschool through High School students.

You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com



Photo credit: Google Images


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How to Improve Your Child's Scholarship Chances




I've created a short video to explain how you can help your children earn more free cash for college. 





If you'd like to buy a copy of my book,  Free College , it's on Amazon. 
Click HERE.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

When Is the Best Time to Apply for College Scholarships?



The short answer to this question is, right now. That assumes, however, that you have children, and they are five to twenty-five years old. There might be college scholarships for children still in diapers, but I haven’t seen any so far. If you have, please let me know. Most people think they should wait until their kids are juniors in high school. Waiting increases anxiety and stress. Neither of these will lead to quality applications or interviews.

Beginning the college application process when children are in elementary school means there’s plenty of time to accumulate free money for college. Doing so has the added benefit of allowing parents to save for retirement. This is a win-win situation. If families put themselves on a schedule, there should be enough scholarship money collected to cover college without needing to take out student loans. Parents will need to find, and fill out the scholarship applications for their elementary school aged children, of course. Using the lined pages following each chapter in my book, Free College, to record data will make the process easier.

I suggest you make searching and applying for scholarships part of your routine. Pick one day each month while children are still in elementary school to sit down and complete this task. Apply for at least two scholarships each month. Use the list on this link to scholarships, or use any search engine. Type in “college scholarships for elementary aged students”, and see what pops up. Be sure to confirm the scholarships on the list I’ve provided and any you find are valid and not email spam sites, before you apply.  

As children grow, and collect letters of recommendations from teachers, coaches, and others, be sure to file them away safely. You’ll need to reference them to fill out applications. Later you may need to send copies. When children are in middle school, have them sit with you when you search and apply for scholarships for them. They will benefit from the experience, and will understand school is important to the entire family. At this age, you will want to apply for more scholarships than before. Up your schedule to twice a month, and apply for two scholarships during each session.

When children enter high school, they should be ready to take on the task themselves. You might want to set up their system, and sit with them the first few times. High school students will have easy access to scholarship information. Their school counselor, college advisor or career advisor will be able to suggest scholarships. Freshmen and sophomores should apply for at least two scholarships each week. Juniors and seniors should apply for at least three scholarships each week. Don’t forget to look into grants. About $2.9 billion in federal grants for college went unclaimed in 2017. This is tragic. Most people don’t think they will qualify, so they don’t apply. This is a mistake.

Some high school seniors stop looking for financial aid once they've been accepted to college. This is another error in judgment. There’s still free money to be found. Look for it, and apply. The worst that could happen is you don’t get it. So what? You might win the scholarship. It would be a pity to pass up free money. Once in college, even if you have earned a full-ride, keep looking. There are fees, books, plus room and board to be paid. If you keep looking, you might not need a job or any loans at all. This is also true for grad school. If you’re interested in an advanced degree, find some of the billions of dollars of free money to help pay for your higher education. Don’t join the tens of thousands of Americans with crippling college loan debt. Be among the wise who graduate from college debt free.


If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help them get accepted to college and win more scholarships, so they can avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What You Don’t Know Could Hurt Your Child’s Scholarship Chances




Most people are aware of several requirements for entering college and winning scholarships. High school students must take “hard” subjects (Honors, AP, IB), maintain a high GPA (grade point average), score well on the ACT and/or SAT, and satisfy the A – G graduation requirements. Nearly all parents and many students believe succeeding in these four areas will guarantee acceptance to the college of their choice and lots of free cash for college. They're wrong.

These are only the basics. The vast majority of college, scholarship and grant applicants satisfy them. Their applications make the first cut. They will not end up in the circular file (wastebasket) on the first pass. But how does a student make sure his application stands out from the tens of thousands colleges receive each year? What are the defining habits of successful college scholarship winners? Do you know them?

If not, you’re not alone. The majority of parents and students don’t know them either. They guess. Some families guess correctly, most do not. It’s frustrating to want the best for your child, and not know how to make it happen. When I saw this occur over and over in my high school classes, I did the research necessary to discover the secrets employed by successful scholarship winners. There are sixteen of them. Students who adopt all of these habits, in addition to meeting the four requirements listed in the first paragraph, earn the most scholarship money. Those who practice fewer earn less free money. What you do to help your children avoid a lifetime of soul crushing student loan debt is your choice.

You could use your retirement money, so your children don’t need to take out loans, but why? There are no grants or scholarships for retirement and a massive supply for college students. More than $46 billion in grants and scholarships are available each year. Almost $3 billion was not claimed in 2017. This is because students didn’t qualify, or didn’t apply. Why not learn the sixteen defining habits of successful scholarship winners and use them to help your child? They’re included in my book, Free College, which is available on Amazon. Here’s the link http://ow.ly/y7hx30k0JvQ, so you can buy it now.

No, the book isn’t free. But it costs far less than a college textbook. You may have seen other books about college scholarships. Most of them recount the experiences of one student or parent. My book includes a much larger sampling and was thoroughly researched. I learned in college that a random survey of 1,500 people has a confidence factor of +/- 3%. I interviewed and surveyed many more in order to be sure the information I included is valid.

There are other books available which are aimed at the last year of high school. They contain a great deal of information about filling out forms and how to apply for college, grants and scholarships, but little about what to do in advance to qualify for them. You want to start preparing long before high school, so there is less stress, anxiety or fear. Students whose parents helped them prepare years in advance are ready. They’re not rushed, and do far better on tests as well as on application compositions and during interviews.

My book contains a step-by-step guide to help families raise children who have a better chance of going to college without needing college loans. You can pay a little now (for my book), pay a great deal later (tuition, fees, textbooks, etc.), or saddle your children with mounds of student loan debt, crippling their future. I did the work in order for you to have the information you need, so your children won’t add to the $1.2 trillion Americans owe in student loans. Now it’s up to you.

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (
Click Here to Buy). It can help them get accepted to college and win more scholarships, so they can avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com

Photo Credit: Google Images

Thursday, October 18, 2018

How to Teach Kids the Organizational Skills They’ll Need to Win Scholarships




While doing research to determine why some students receive far more free money for college than others, I found one difference was their level of organizational skills. This is one of the sixteen defining habits of successful scholarship winners that appears in my book, Free College . But students are not born organized, nor do they wake up one day and know how to keep things in an orderly fashion. They learn from the examples of others.

The best way to teach this habit is to model it in a systematic manner. Teach both short term and long term organizational skills. Your examples don’t have to be wildly complicated, just create simple routines into your everyday life. Put a shopping list on the fridge. When you see you are running low on something, add the item to your list. Use the list later when you go to the store. Children see you doing this, and they adopt the same habit.

When you’re at the dentist, hair salon, or other service business you visit on a routine basis, make your next appointment before you leave. Open your daily planner, or the calendar app on your phone, and record your next visit. It’s easier for you, but more importantly, will make an impression on your child.  

These are good habits for short term responsibilities, but children also need to learn how to make both mid and long range plans. There are several household chores that need to be tackled during the year. I’ve found changing the filter on my HVAC, replacing my toothbrush, and several other tasks can be scheduled on the third, sixth, ninth and twelfth months of the year. By doing so, and showing children how much easier they are to accomplish by making a plan in advance, they will learn to be more organized.

Long range family plans should be discussed with children. Going over your plans for a future vacation when they are young can teach organizational skills. Putting money away for a long term goal, like visiting the San Diego Zoo, or Disneyland, will give them the skills they will need later to make plans for school projects or how to apply for college scholarships. The short and long term planning skills they acquire when in elementary school will pay off when they are older and looking ahead to college.

Chapters six and sixteen of my book, Free College, go into more detail in how being organized pays off when applying for college and scholarships. Students who learn how to be systematic have more “luck” when applying for both. They are less stressed in their senior year of high school and enjoy themselves far more than their disorganized friends.

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help them be accepted to college and win more scholarships, so they can avoid taking out dangerous college loans.



You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

How You Can Help Families in Your Community Avoid College Loan Debt




More than forty million Americans have student loan debt. They are currently trying to pay off the $1.2 trillion dollars they owe. There is no alternative for the vast majority. Even if they declare bankruptcy, they will still be on the hook for their student loans, plus interest. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are more than $46 billion dollars available in college scholarships and grants each year. The problem is, students don’t apply, or they don’t qualify. You can help change this.

After about ten years of teaching, I learned how to help all of my foreign language students get into college. When they were confused, I helped them figure out which classes to take to stand out from other applicants. Years later, not only were all of my students going to college after graduating from high school, they were going with scholarships and grants. Many even received full-ride scholarships. I decided to figure out why some received more free money than others.

While researching the best practices of families of successful scholarship winners, I realized there was a pattern. I created a questionnaire, conducted many interviews and made sure what I had discerned was accurate. After finding what I had learned was backed by research, I started teaching these tips to hundreds of students during our lunch break. I told my sister what I was doing. Instead of being happy for me, she was a little angry. “So you mean you’re only going to help students who happen to attend your school? What about all the others?” She encouraged me to write Free College, which is available now on Amazon.

What does this have to do with you? If you are a member of your local school district, PTA, church or parent group, then it might mean a great deal. Here’s what I suggest. Read my biography on my blog, RoadToFreeCollege.com and read some of the articles. Read my bio on Amazon (link below). Read my Twitter feed, @ElizaWallace27. You’ll see who I am, and some of what I know. You’ll find I share information to help families raise their kids so they will be happy, healthy and so successful, they’ll earn lots of free money for college. I don’t believe in college debt. I don’t think college should be so expensive. But it is, so learn enough about me that you trust what I say. Then read the book reviews for Free College on Amazon and “Peek Inside” to read even more.

Next buy a copy of my book. Here’s the link, http://ow.ly/y7hx30k0JvQ. I wrote it to help students go to college without needing to take out soul crushing student loans. Read the book, and you’ll see how successful students earn massive amounts of free cash for college. The tips are for families who have preschool through high school students. Students who adopt all the strategies listed in the book, earn the most. Those who don’t put in as much effort, earn less. Such is life.

If you want to make a positive difference in your community, help everyone in your local school district, PTA, church or parent group obtain a copy of the book. Email me at, freecollegeinfo@earthlink.net. If you have a large group, we can set up a discounted bulk rate.


You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

College and Scholarship Readiness Part III





Last month I was invited to participate in an online chat run by Jodi Okun, author and founder of College Financial Aid. The chat, #CollegeCash, took place on Twitter. The title of the chat that night was similar to the title of this article. I expanded on my answers on my blog with two articles, College and Scholarship Readiness Parts I and II. This is the third installment. Where you see bold print below, these are the questions and answers which appeared on the chat. The rest is what I have added for this article.


Q6 @ElizaWallace27 What tips do you have when it comes to testing?  

A6 The most successful and least stressed students start studying for tests the first week classes begin. Years ago while handing back a graded chapter test to my students I overheard a boy mention the girl next to him always did well because she was smart. Loud enough for him to hear, I asked her what she did to prepare for the test. She said she made flash cards of the new information, and studied them each night. I followed up by asking if she did this the day before the test or earlier. She told us she did this since the first day we started the new chapter. So, yes, she was smart.

A6 Many practice tests for the SAT and ACT are available online for free; use them to become comfortable with their formats. Go to whatever search engine you use and type in “free SAT practice tests” and “free ACT practice tests”. Practice them beginning months before taking the test. You’ll become used to the format, and feel less anxiety.

A6 Get enough sleep the night before and eat a complete, healthy breakfast (with no added sugar) the morning of a test. Students who make sure they have 9-10 hours of sleep each night are able to process more new information, understand it and retain it better. Students who eat a complete, nutritious breakfast (without added sugar) do even better. There have been dozens of recognized studies that prove both of these facts are true.


Q7 @ElizaWallace27 How do students win scholarships?  

A7 The most successful start getting ready at a very young age. In my book, Free College, I list the four behaviors most students and parents know about already. Students take rigorous classes (Honors, AP and IB). They earn a high GPA. They receive high scores on the ACT and/or SAT, and they fulfill the A-G requirement. There are many additional strategies, which are covered in detail in my book.  

A7 They fulfill all Standard A – G requirements, but go over and above them, so they stand out from the crowd; example: take more foreign languages than required, and longer. There are three areas in which students can take more advanced courses to fulfill the “G” requirement. They are math, science and/or foreign languages. Pick the subject in which you excel, and take more than the required amount of courses.

A7 To win scholarships, students must apply, over and over. Don’t stop until the last year of college. Parents can apply for college scholarships for their children while they are in elementary school. Keep doing so until the child is old enough to take over. Set up a schedule, and stick to it. By high school, students should apply for a minimum of three scholarships each week.


Q8 @ElizaWallace27 Should parents (or grandparents) use retirement funds to pay for their children’s college education?

A8 No. Never. Not for any reason. Okay, maybe if you’re in the top 1% of earners in the nation. Enough said.

A8 There are many grants and scholarships for college, but none for retirement. There are billions of dollars in college grants and scholarships given away each year, but not one for retirement.

A8 Learn how to help students win scholarships and grants. I did the research for you. I handed out numerous questionnaires, conducted countless surveys and interviews, and did copious amounts of research into various subjects in order to discover the secrets of successful scholarship and grant winners. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Learn what works and follow the same road to free college.


Q9 @ElizaWallace27 Tell us more about your book “Free College How Graduates Earn The Most Scholarship Money”

A9 I researched graduates who earn lots of scholarship money and found a pattern of behaviors. The most successful scholarship winners in my study adopted all of the habits contained in my book. Students who did only some of them received less free money for college.

A9 I included a step-by-step guide to the strategies and habits of the most successful scholarship winners in Free College. I explain what students did, how they did it, and their results. I end each chapter with an action plan for each behavior and a few blank, lined pages so families may keep track of what they have accomplished. This will be helpful when applying to college and for grants and scholarships.

A9 Students of families who adopt these habits, and apply for many scholarships, should be among the highest scholarship winners. Based on what I have seen, for those who are serious about going to college without accumulating debt, like students in my study, and who continue to apply for scholarships from elementary school through high school, success in amassing more free cash for college is likely.  


Q10 @ElizaWallace27 What are three things you want to leave us with tonight?

A10 Earning more free cash for college is possible by practicing a few disciplines every day. It’s not who you are. It isn’t magic. It’s adopting the habits of effective scholarship winners.

A10 Student loan debt cannot be eliminated by bankruptcy, but it can be avoided by earning enough scholarships. Don’t let your children join the 40 million students who graduate from college with student loan debt.

A10 I don’t have the power to eliminate college tuition, but I have exposed the secrets of successful scholarship winners for families of preschool through high school students. When I went to college the cost was easily covered by taking on a part-time job. Until this is possible again, or until tuition is eliminated, you have to cover all expenses with grants, scholarships, savings or debt. I believe you can do what other families have done, and collect enough free money for college, so debt should not be needed.


If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help you avoid taking out dangerous college loans.



You are reading from the blog: http://www.roadtofreecollege.com

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How Do We Reach Our Goals?



What Matters More Than Accumulating Riches?



Pre-Halloween Lesson Plan






The day before a holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Break, Easter Break, even a pseudo-holiday like Halloween, is usually just this side of insane. Students don’t want to work. There’s candy everywhere. Gifts are being given. Focus is lost. Just keeping the lid on seems overwhelming; unless you have an educationally sound, kid-approved lesson that keeps them interested, occupied and engaged. Decades ago I created such a lesson. Kids loved it. I loved it. It‘s easy, academic and fun! The bonus of this lesson, it helped with student retention in foreign language classes.

The steps to follow:

1. Completely erase the entire white board. You'll want the space.

2. Number the entire board from 1 to 35. Place holiday appropriate symbols, like pumpkins, around each number.

3. Put a large assortment of dry erase pens at the front of the room. The more color variety the better.

4. After school, the day before a holiday, have each student in your most advanced class go to the board and draw a culturally appropriate picture next to a number. If your class is smaller than 35, they'll need to draw more than one. Be sure to explain to the class the night before they need to come up with three or four ideas for their drawings. Most students are eager, although the shy need some encouragement. After this has become a tradition in your classes, you'll overhear students commenting they look forward to being in the class that gets to draw the pictures. Never let an underclassman participate in putting the pictures on the board.

5. Check each picture as they finish drawing. A few may need a little help so their drawings are clear, and some can be too obscure. You may need to edit, as students can be a bit gross at time. One Thanksgiving students drew a very vivid picture of a turkey being beheaded. I erased that one. Remember, all day students are going to see these pictures. You want to understand them, so you can give hints if necessary. My favorite was The Twilight Zone Marathon. It became a tradition in my program which was passed down each year from class to class.

6. Before the first class arrives the next morning, place a stack of German (French, Spanish, Chinese)/English dictionaries on the first desk of each row. I always had enough dictionaries so students could work in groups of two. Three doesn't work. Working alone is tough.

7. Students should look up what they see on the board, and write the German (French, etc.) on their own papers. Don’t let them put two student names on one paper. This never works. Trust me on this.

8. They must write the definite article and the noun. If there's an adjective, like in a drawing of black cat, they must include the adjective with the correct ending. This allows you to preview grammar not yet taught. Students are very receptive to this, and ask for help. It’s a contest. They want to win.

 9. Buy a small bag of individually wrapped candy, stickers, etc. and give a piece to each member of the first team finished. Be sure to check the work. Sometimes they make errors, of course. Don’t be too picky. Perfection is not the goal.

 10. After the first group finishes, and as each group finishes, they'll help their classmates. You’ll find they don’t give them the answers, but give them hints instead, especially in grammar.  

11. Collect work as it’s finished and the rest at the end of the period. Grading is subjective. First year classes typically have a few students who finish by the end of the class period. Most, however, finish about half of the pictures. Second year will complete more. The majority complete about two-thirds of the pictures. Most third year students finish them all, as do AP/IB/fourth year students.


12. There are several goals in this lesson. Students learn the correct way to use the dictionary. They learn the symbols and abbreviations. It removes the mind-numbing boredom of a typical dictionary lesson, and replaces it with fun. Students learn vocabulary that’s both meaningful, and is usually more advanced than where they are in the curriculum. This they do without complaint. You're able to foreshadow grammar, so when it arrives later in the school year, you’re able to point back to what they discovered at Halloween or Thanksgiving. Finally, it keeps students focused, doing an academic lesson without arguing at a time where students are going nuts in other classes. I had four decades of happy “day before’s” while colleagues were losing their minds.

If you don't teach a foreign language class, adapt this lesson to your subject matter. Remember to keep it relaxed and fun, but academic.­­


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