Technology and Adolescents: To Worry or Not to Worry?

By Maria Jose Correa and Daniela Hidalgo for HS Language and Learning Center

As teachers, we have first-hand experience on students’ poor performance due to lack of sleep. As Literacy Assistants for the High School Language and Learning Center, we work with a variety of students on a daily basis. One common pattern that has come to our attention is the tiredness of the majority of our students, regardless the time of the day. When we approach and ask them about the reasons, 90% of the times they respond unanimously: “I couldn’t sleep. I stayed on my phone until late”. Nowadays, we witness how high school students’ performance has deteriorated due to poor habits. We recognize that technology has become part of our routines, since the alarm goes off in the morning until that last “like” on Instagram; we are attached to our phones 24 hours. This phenomenon even has a name for teenagers: “Vamping”.

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Many students that “vamp” present the same problems: concentration and focus difficulties, reduced academic performance, unwillingness to participate in sport activities, and low self esteem.


But, why is “vamping” a worrisome issue? Well, these habits are interrupting our students learning processes and impacting them severely in their overall performance and ability to learn. We are aware of how creating healthy sleeping habits benefit our brains and bodies. We also know how vulnerable the teenage brain is during this stage of development, so maintaining bad habits can have long-term consequences.  

As parents and educators, we are responsible for their well-being, so we need to understand the importance of creating awareness about the unrestricted use of devices. As educators, we also need to be aware of our responsibility inside the classroom, by promoting healthy study habits and responsible use of technology. This should be a team effort among all, parents, teachers, administrators, and students!

We are sharing some information on the consequences of the use of devices without parental control.

  • Deteriorate school performance

Many students that “vamp” present the same problems: concentration and focus difficulties, moodiness and aggressive behavior, reduced academic performance, lack of enthusiasm, unwillingness to participate in sport activities, and low self esteem.

  • Causes Addictive Behaviors

Students express that they use their devices mainly for social media and texting at night before they go to  sleep. One of the reasons is the need for validation and recognition from their peers, whether it’s “likes”, “follows” or smile emojis. Most teenagers text and post at late hours at night.

Research has shown that social media is addictive and is even compared to addictions such as smoking. If we don’t realize the negative effects this addiction can have on teenagers, we are in a way accepting it. It is difficult for everyone to be separated from their phone, it creates anxiety.

  • Less sleep weakens immune system

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “for most adolescents, nine hours of sleep is ideal”. Unfortunately, less than 9 percent of teens get enough sleep, being the unrestricted use of technology before they go to sleep one of the main factors for this. Some research has found a link between sleep deprivation and teenage depression and anxiety. Furthermore, lack of rest and sleep can lead to accidents and injuries.

Also, poor sleep can disrupt the immune system, so they can be sick more often.  This can lead students to miss school and therefore have a negative impact on their overall performance.  

Recommendations to improve sleeping habits

When trying to make plans with students in order to improve their performance, we recommend that they sleep for nine hours and avoid devices before bedtime.  

Some studies have found that blue light from devices (computers, telephones, tv,  e-readers, etc) decrease the amount of melatonin that the brain releases, making it harder to fall asleep.  

If you are aware that your child is not getting enough hours of sleep, you might want to start talking to them about their sleeping habits.

By establishing rules about the usage of devices, we can help them enter a healthier routine.

Some examples are:

  • Set up times for using devices
  • Be a good role model, maintaining healthy sleep habits
  • Create technology-free spaces around the house , no devices in the bedrooms
  • Encouraging relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
  • Promote reading a book before bed  
  • Suggest that they practice a sport or play an instrument
  • Use apps that are available for parental control, they help us keep track of what the do while online and also give us tools to control the amount of time they use it.  Some common ones are: the screen time on Apple devices, Google family link for parents, Life360, Parental control smart App, etc.

We can all benefit from adequate sleep habits, so as the adults we need to help students understand the negative effects for them both in the short and long term.




Lincoln’s International Mother Language Day

Ninth and tenth grade students in Naomi Barbour’s English for Academic Purposes (EAP) class have been diving into a topic that is highly relevant for their situation and connects to their sense of identity – multilingualism. Being a multilingual learner comes with a particular set of challenges and potential benefits, and this unit of study is designed to help students find out more about this topic and how it affects them. Key terms that they have become familiar with are balanced bilingual; language acquisition; active and passive language; compound, coordinate and subordinate bilinguals; additive and

The unit also ties in with UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day, which took place on February 21st. This provided the opportunity for the students to celebrate their first languages and Lincoln’s linguistic diversity. They created a colourful display board for the High School lobby packed with information about their first languages, and about how multilingualism can help the world to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. There were also interactive elements where students and teachers alike were encouraged to share their “language evolution”, through first, second, third and more languages, as well as providing a space for them to think about what language they would like to learn next.

As with all activities which take place in the EAP class, the underlying goal is to develop the students’ academic English. As such, the unit of study is designed to cover all four language domains: listening, reading, speaking and writing. But the aim always is that these skills improve while the students are learning about something that is important to them and to which they can personally relate. After all, every member of the class has plenty of experience of being a multilingual learner.

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Supporting students (and teachers) through end-of-Trimester assessments

by Naomi Barbour

From left to right: Joe Hollenbeck, Laura Rock, Nina Triado, Jessica Lawrence, Mercedes Di Paola, Majo Correa, Marie Beaupre, Alvaro Peña Conde, Silvina Fernandez, Belen Rivero y Hornos and Tom Kaster

Teachers, Literacy Specialist Assistants, Counselors and Administrators came together over a shared lunch and tasty dessert (courtesy of Laura) to discuss ways to support Language and Learning Center students through the end-of-Trimester assessments. Last trimester, our first with a new Assessment Policy and also our first ever Trimester in High School, the week before the end of the trimester became known as “Crunch Week”. It was also referred to as “Finals Week on steroids”. Language and Learning Center educators wanted to be part of the concerted effort on the part of Administration to find ways to alleviate the strain on all involved.

We began by looking at visual representations of real students and the assessment pressures they faced during the so-called Crunch Week. In small groups, we discussed these pressures and also brainstormed other factors that might be adding to the strain on students. The rich discussion that ensued help raise awareness about why we need to provide systems and procedures that support our students, particularly at a time when they need to be at their best in order to demonstrate their learning in summative assessments.


The images represent current students from different grade levels and 
their schedule for "crunch week" or final week of the trimester.

The discussion then turned to the issue of planning for extra time for our Academic Support students who have accommodations. This has become an acute problem since the change in the length of lessons. Previously, a test might have taken 60 minutes of a 90 minute block. Students who needed extra time could use the whole of the block to do the test. Now that we have shorter blocks, there is not enough time to get assessments finished. This leaves students struggling to complete unfinished assessments, a problem which was exacerbated in Crunch Week. Unfortunately, our group was not able to come up with an immediate solution for this issue.

We hope to meet again next month to look at an area which is challenging for Language and Learning Center students: note-taking. We hope you can join us then.

Celebrating Multilingualism

Naomi Barbour* writes a guest blog post in honor of International Mother Language Day for COERLL, Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning

Here is the link to the blog

Celebrating Multilingualism

*Naomi Barbour is a High School ELL Teacher at Lincoln International School, who also teaches Fundamentals of English 9. She is from Oxford, England and she loves learning languages.


Being an English-Language Learner Is Hard. Here Are 5 Ways Teachers Can Make It Easier by Justin Minkel

February 7, 2018

Read an Elementary School teacher’s thoughts on how to make things easier for English Language Learners.

His piece includes this excellent piece of advice: “Show your students the same grace you would want if you were taking an Algebra class in Russian.”


Cracking the Hard Nuts

by Laura Rock

When I was a little girl, one of the things we would do on visits to the grandparent’s farm was crack nuwalnut-1735983_1920ts.  My grandparents had pecan, walnut, and chestnut trees and many an afternoon or evening was spent on this task.  Some of the nuts cracked open easily, others, once cracked open, would surprise you with a moldy interior, and still others, would be a challenge to crack.  We noticed however, that some of the most tasty or beautiful looking nuts were the ones that were the hardest to crack.

Many of the students who arrive to the Learning Center, either in 9th grade or by a move, arrive with seemingly little to no motivation to make positive changes.  They have been “doing” school for at least 9 years and so far, all it has led to is feeling like a failure, or that they don’t belong in the education setting.  Think about it, how would you feel about a place if every time you walked in the doors you felt inferior, or like you didn’t belong for nine years running?  How would you feel if the one large expectation of your childhood, educate yourself enough to become successful in some career, had you labeled as disabled to accomplish? What would it be like if you looked in the eyes of your teacher and wondered if they felt you was “good enough” to be occupying a chair in their room?  It is no wonder that many of my students have built a huge shell around themselves, impenetrable to adults and seemingly impossible to crack.  However, I can’t let them not be cracked. I can’t allow them to stay locked up in their shells.  My challenge is to find what tool to use to crack their shell, and what nut picks are needed to remove them from that shell, allowing their potential, skills and knowledge to be utilized.

How does this happen?  How can I crack their shell? Sometimes, it is necessary to begin the nut cracking by just saying hello every day and giving them space to feel wanted and a part of the school.  Other times I find that by being open with them about what they are going through and making some of the learning challenges they face explicit, they start to connect. I have learned, as well, that fancy methods are just as unsuccessful at cracking them as the fancy nutcrackers imported from Germany and sat on the hearth a my grandparent’s house would be at cracking nuts.  nutcracker-1074420_1920

To the chagrin of my grandmother, one of us grandkids tried it and its poor mouth was never the same! Keeping interventions simple and consistent are the most successful at cracking the shell. I have learned that when I share my struggles with learning, both past and present, they see that I can empathize with them.  I have learned that when I listen to them, even if I disagree, their shell gets softer.  I have learned that constant encouragement, sitting beside them, knowing what they need to do and supporting them through the process, helps them become vulnerable enough to allow themselves to be cracked open.  Finally, I have learned to respect the process and to err on the side of protecting what is on the inside to be of most importance.

I used to think that once they were cracked open my work was done.  Then I learned that just like cracking nuts, getting them open is only half the job.  If you want a nice looking nut, one that Grandma will put in her pie, you need good nut picks to pull them out nicely.  Otherwise, they will be all broken and can only be put in the broken pile.  While nuts in the broken pile are great for nut lovers to eat, they don’t make great students. So now, I know that cracked open students need delicate precision for me to pull them out whole to be ready to join the world of learning.  This often takes even longer than cracking them open.  They will often sit content in their shell, willing to learn, willing to try new things, but not willing to leave the protections they have built up.   It is at this critical stage that I need the assistance and collaboration of teachers.  It is the classroom teachers that allow students to feel safe for me to “pick them out” of their shell.  It is the interactions they receive outside of the support room that gives them the courage to shed their shell and to be ready to feel a part.  There is no better achievement as a teacher and school when a student who has given up on their role as a student turns into an ambitious and successful one, arrives to school with a smile on their face and truly believes they can achieve their dreams.  Will you join me in becoming a professional nutcracker?