Back-to-school: A playbook

Back-to-school: A playbook

August 1st, 2010 in Entertainment

The days before school starts are sometimes frantic for families. (The first full day of school is Aug. 11 in Hamilton County public schools.) Times Free Press reporters have prepared the following lists and short reports to make the back-to-school transition easier.

Web gems

The Web is full of helpful sites for students.

* - Links to federal and state websites and information on government, history, science and careers.

* - Includes a page for parents with the top five causes of missed school, nutrition points, healthy sleep, tips for travel to and from school and backpack safety.

* - Back-to-school crafts, including how to make a decoupage tie-dye book cover, a desktop supply box and a personalized lunch bag.

- Compiled by Clint Cooper

Snacks to pack

Packing a healthful lunch is in the bag.

* Rather than a heavy peanut butter and jelly sandwich on two slices of bread, stash favorite sandwich fixings - meats, veggies and cheese - in a soy wrap.

* Substitute 100-calorie almond packs for chips to give kids the crunch they want.

* For dessert, children may toss an apple or banana but are likely to keep a 100-calorie cookie pack. The size is just the amount of sweets they need to take the edge off hunger without putting the fat on.

- Compiled by Anne Braly


Tennessee's sales tax holiday is next weekend, starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ending at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8. The tax-free exemption applies to clothing and school supplies priced at $100 or less and computers priced at $1,500 or less. Get the lowdown at Alabama shoppers will find similar deals the same weekend: clothing priced at $100 or less, school supplies priced at $50 or less, books priced at $30 or less and computers priced at $750 or less. Find out more at

Georgia will not hold a sales tax holiday this year.

High-tech classrooms

When your children talk new classroom gadgets, you'll want to know what they mean. Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts Principal Deborah Smith and teacher Amy Medley explain three common teaching tools.

1 Promethean/SMART boards: Similar teaching tools under different brand names, combines a whiteboard with computerized interactivity.

2 ELMO Document Camera: Similar to the old-fashioned overhead projector, this camera that looks like a desk lamp is connected to a teacher's laptop. "It saves time because I can write notes ahead, and I don't have to rewrite them onto transparencies," said Medley.

3 Laptop computer or iPad. "Within a year, the Hamilton County school district's new online database, Power School, will go into effect and teachers will be recording grades online," said Smith. "Using their assigned IDs, parents will check a website to view their child's grades anytime."

- Compiled by Susan Pierce

Back-to-school movies

As the days of summer wind down, you can get back in the mood for school with these films.

1 "To Sir With Love"

If you're lucky, you'll have that one teacher who demands more from you than anyone ever has before, whether you like it or not. Sidney Poitier stars in the 1967 film about an engineer who takes a job teaching school in East End London and whips a class of mouthy teens into shape.

2 "The Breakfast Club"

Nobody captured what it was like to be a teenager quite like director John Hughes. "The Breakfast Club," an homage to archetypes, is his quintessential nod to high school. The story of a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal stuck together in Saturday detention is a must-see.

3 "Saved!"

When a teenager at a Christian high school is impregnated by her gay boyfriend, all... uh... purgatory breaks loose in this darkly funny satire about how hearts of gold are not mitigated by tarnished reputations.

4 "The History Boys"

Alan Bennett's play moved from London's National Theatre, to Broadway, where it won the Tony for best play, to the screen, all with the same cast. A group of too-smart-for-their-own-good lads studying for their Oxbridge entrance exams was never so witty, so literary, so bittersweet, so human.

5 "An Education"

The lesson in this 2009 multiple Oscar nominee: no matter how vast, fascinating and well, real, the world beyond the classroom seems, dropping out of school is just not the way to go. Another lesson, perhaps: Your parents aren't completely crazy, even if they don't express themselves very well. And most importantly: Don't be in such a hurry to grow up.

- Compiled by Holly Leber

Gadgets that make the grade

Splitting time between term papers, extracurricular activities and a social life is definitely a juggling act. Here's some gear that can make student life a little easier.

1 Sonic Bomb alarm clock with bed shaker (from $37). Chronic oversleeper? Not after you experience this clock's 113-decibel alarm - louder than a jackhammer - flashing lights and bed-thumping attachment.

2 Creative Zen Aurvana noise-canceling ear buds (from $70). These midrange buds are discreet, lightweight and have active noise cancellation, which is as useful for muffling the staccato symphony of texting in the library as it is the bass of the stereo in the next room.

3 Planon Scanner - RC810 (from $150). This pen-size device is perfect for preventing notation cramps by scanning pages in color in 4 to 8 seconds and then storing them in internal memory for later download. James Bond would totally use one.

- Compiled by Casey Phillips

Helpful hints from educators

"My advice to parents would be for them to be patient and understand that it takes a few days to work the kinks out." - Carol Goss, principal of Tyner High School

"Before school is even going, make sure that they have a place set aside at home that's something like a study center. Don't wait until school is started to prepare that. And of course the typical tips: Get them plenty of rest, a good breakfast, an established routine." - Lynn Goss, head of Middle School, McCallie

"A talk about school and what to expect (with your child) is a good idea so that the children aren't like deer in headlights ... Talk about things they'll be doing in school. For the little ones, if they're worried about being separated, I would suggest the parents maybe send a picture of themselves or their family that the child can look at throughout the day." - Karen Carden, Kindergarten teacher, OLPH

"For any summer reading: make sure it's not left rushed at the last minute. Have fun picking up school supplies, and maybe make it a family event. Just get into the pace of school - kids will definitely need to start adjusting their sleeping patterns." - Jim Stover, dean of academic affairs and English teacher, Baylor School

Tips for college freshmen

* GOOD PLACE FOR DORM SUPPLIES: Target. With an entire section devoted to dormitory supplies and college life, Target fulfills its statement of "Smart Scholars Save Dollars." This designated section near the school supplies area is stocked with everything from marked-down detergent and fabric softener to an array of sophisticated comforters for both guys and girls, starting at $19.99.

* GOOD WAY TO TELL PARENTS GOODBYE: In this situation, simple is best: "I'll see you soon." There is no point in instructing your parents not to worry. A promise of a visit home or an invitation for them to come to your campus for parents weekend makes the departure much easier for both parties. If anything, assure them that you'll be bringing your laundry home in a matter of weeks.

* GOOD BOOK TO READ BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME: Paulo Coehlo's "The Alchemist." The story follows the journey of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, to the Egyptian pyramids, where he has dreamed a great treasure is in store for him. Along the way, the boy encounters myriad mystical figures who encourage him to believe in himself and his dream. A simple story of self-empowerment and the resonance of the dreams of youth, "The Alchemist" is a plea for all people, young and old, to follow the yearnings of their heart.

* GOOD PLACE TO GO "ONE LAST TIME" IN CHATTANOOGA: Rock City. After the requisite last visits to your favorite coffee shop, best friend's house and a walk along Frazier Avenue, make a trip up to Rock City. Often overlooked by high-schoolers who have spent their lives in Chattanooga as a strictly tourist stop, Rock City merits a visit before your departure. There's something about that little 20-minute trip from downtown that gets you out of the valley and into a higher altitude that makes you see things differently. Literally. It's easy to forget (especially after 18 seemingly unending years) that the place we live in is breathtakingly beautiful, and all it takes is one glimpse out from this spot on Lookout Mountain to be grateful.

- Compiled by Liz Helton, a graduate of Baylor School and a student at New York University

Backpack basics

The Kipling Challenger II bag is lightweight yet durable and always in style. Girls and boys love these brightly colored backpacks, which hold tons of gear and are comfortable to carry. And don't forget about their iconic monkey key fob that comes standard with all Kipling bags. Perfect for grade-schoolers who want a fashionable and functional bag that is lightweight and guaranteed to last.


- Compiled by Karen Nazor Hill

Bedtime for students

Experts say there is no one ideal bedtime for each child, because sleep needs, lifestyles and napping patterns can vary considerably, especially as children age. However, for best results during the school year, set a regular bedtime and wake time. This sets and aligns expectations for both you and your child and allows you to plan the bedtime routine accordingly. Otherwise, you may have a tendency to slip and slide late into the night. In addition, this helps keep your child's internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, on a 24-hour cycle.


- Compiled by Karen Nazor Hill