In This Issue
The Secret Power of Board Games

With the holidays in the rearview mirror, I'm hoping to convince you to carry over one holiday tradition throughout the new year. If your family is anything like mine, the long open stretches of time afforded by the holidays means board games. While games can simply be a way to pass the time during your next snow day, they can also be a powerful tool for challenging your child's brain. Everyone knows the timeless classics, but the arrival of the internet has given a platform to the widest variety of games in human history, some specifically designed to help strengthen your child's brain and others hiding that mental goodness under a thick layer of family fun.
Consider the following games, organized by the skill they primarily challenge, for your next family game night:
Logic and Reasoning . The oldest games in the world almost always revolve around strategy, and strategy means logic and reasoning. These ancient games remain a powerful tool for building your child's fluid reasoning skills, whether it's Go, Chess, or Mancala. If you are looking for something more modern, strategy games like Catan, Axis & Allies, Risk, and Diplomacy force players to weigh dozens of factors and make strategic decisions to press an advantage. All of these games, based on concrete rules but with no defined path, build the type of flexible thinking that makes tests like the SAT and ACT much easier to tame.

Language . Perhaps no type of game has benefited more from the boom in game development as much as those requiring our language processing skills. From the old standbys like Scrabble and crossword puzzles, to fun new party games like Apples to Apples and Bananagrams, these games challenge players to utilize their language skills in new and different ways. But most importantly, they allow children to work on these vital skills without even knowing it. 

Memory . Most of the games on this list will test a child's memory, whether short-term or long-term. Chess grand masters can recall the step-by-step gameplay of matches they played decades before. Scrabble requires players to quickly search their long-term memory. And many card games your family may already be playing (my family played Hi Low Jack) reward players for remembering what cards have appeared. There are also many games that reward memory directly, such as Guess Who, Simon Says, and, of course, Memory. 

Creativity . Mastering Calculus is important and clear enough that a robot could learn it, but success in the humanities requires a bit more creativity. Games like Dixit, Salad Bowl, and Pictionary challenge players to be more creative. Building creativity is essential for a wide range of humanities skills from writing essays to understanding the complex metaphorical language in Shakespeare. 
Any of these games can be a fun evening for a family while also helping children to build crucial skills for their future success. But the best advice when it comes to games is mixing it up.

January 2020
Setting Goals for the New Year
What is a better way to ring in the New Year than with a resolution? 2020 is a great time to help your children set new goals and identify areas to improve upon, whether in their academic, professional, or personal lives. However, while our children often begin the year with some well-meaning motivation, they might struggle to create a clear plan for what they want to achieve. As a result, they can feel burned out before they reach their objective. To help your children set a goal, follow through, and see progress, encourage them to use the SMART Goal Setting tool this year.

SMART is an acronym that gives users a reference for how goals should be clearly set and accomplished. It is helpful for you and your children to sit down with this acronym and spell out exactly what they would like to achieve.
Specific . A goal needs to be clear about the exact action that should be accomplished.  Being specific and avoiding vague words or phrases will help to keep your children on track about what actually needs to be done. Let us say that your children want to improve their grades in Biology. Goals such as, "I want to get a higher grade" or "I want an A," while well-intentioned, are too vague. Ask your children, "What exactly will you do to improve your grades?" A revised goal such as, "I will begin studying one week in advance for tests in order to achieve an A in Biology" or "I will meet with my Biology teacher twice a week for extra help so that I can earn an A in class" will answer that question to make your children's goals more specific!

Measurable . It's very important that your children's goals can be measured. Setting a measurement or amount of repetitions for a goal will help your children keep track of how they are performing. When setting a goal, ask your children, "Does this answer how much?" Instead of the goal "I want to get a higher grade," your children can create a measurable goal such as, "I want to score at least an 80% on my tests by studying one week in advance of each exam date." This way, your children have a clear goal they are aiming for. 

Attainable . This part of the SMART acronym keeps your children's goals realistic. It is extremely important to make goals reachable in order to avoid burnout and loss of motivation. Suppose your children's goals are to bring a C grade up to an A in two weeks. Is it really possible to do that in a short period of time? Your children need to ask themselves, "How can I adjust my goal to make sure that I can complete it and feel successful?" Your children should adjust their goals to something more attainable, or they should give themselves more time to reach their goals. 

Relevant . This point answers the question, "Why does this matter?" It might seem self-explanatory, but it can be easy to lose sight of why your children set a goal in the first place. Furthermore, if they do not know why they are making a goal, it will not be easy to follow through with their plans. There are multiple ways students can raise their grades; they need to find the right combination of specific, measurable, and attainable interim steps that contribute to their overall goal. Is it to attend college? Eventually go to grad school? Get a job in a specific field? A larger goal such as, "I want to improve my Biology grade to an A because I want to study the subject in college" gives your children a goalpost to work towards; it also allows them to set specific daily, weekly, and monthly steps they can take to reach this goal. If your children keep sight of this large goal, they will have an easier time setting smaller, interim deadlines and reaching them.

Time-Based . When your children are goal setting, it is extremely important for them to set a time frame for when they want the task to be accomplished to avoid procrastination. They should not put off working towards their goals! They can use other elements in the framework (such as "measurable" or "attainable") to help them estimate and track their progress within their chosen time frame. If their goal is to achieve an A in Biology, they should ask themselves, "What is the optimum time frame for improving my grade?" They should think about "attainability" in the form of their other responsibilities and how much time they can conceivably devote to this goal.  

Encouraging your children to recognize the resources around them can play a vital part in helping them reach their goals. Whether the resource is a peer tutor or a bullet journal, it is important for them to remember that there are people around them who can offer much-needed support. When it comes to setting academic or language-based goals for the year, Thinking Organized is here to help your children. We are currently offering standardized testing to our current students to help set them up for further success. Standardized testing is great for collecting baseline data for areas of need, monitoring academic progress, and providing any further clinical recommendations so that you and your children can set realistic and relevant goals. We offer testing in the areas of written language, reading comprehension, and expressive and receptive language. 

For more information, please contact us at (301) 986-1503 or

The new year offers our children a time to reset and create new goals, and it is important to ensure that these goals are SMART. They should share their plans with others and keep track of their progress so that they know when it is appropriate to readjust a goal. 
Happy New Year and happy goal setting!