Tag Archives: Michel Thibeault

Live and Learn: Screen Time For Your Child

Panyaden student on computer at school
Screen time: is it bad for your child?

by Panyaden International School Head Teacher, Michel Thibeault

Michel Thibeault, Panyaden International School Head Teacher
Michel Thibeault

If you thought too much time playing video games, surfing the Internet or sharing on Facebook could negatively affect people, well, you are right! In fact, the negative effect has been so well documented that compulsive internet use has officially been classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Associationi. But alongside all the scary stories about children and technology, there are many of us who see the benefits of introducing computers to children. So, where do we draw the line?

Computers are a great tool

They can provide so much information in a dynamic, interactive platform. From listening to books and helping young readers build their skills, to educational games, and finding information on a topic of interest, computers are helpful. Not to mention the fact that they keep kids quiet and gives us a break! But at what price? Is there more than meets the eye?

I know my child can focus: he can spend hours playing computer games

Well, this “focused” time is misleading. In fact, studies now show that time spent in front of a screen is detrimental to a child’s capacity for attention. What’s happening is that computer activities and games tend to provide fast-paced action with immediate feedback, usually in the form of rewards. This in turn produces dopamine in the brain, the “pleasure” drug. Developing an addiction to it makes it more difficult to cope with “slow” activities, such as reading a book, figuring out a maths problem or listening to a teacher’s explanations. The first three years of life are particularly critical: tablet or smartphone time hinders the development of the area of the brain responsible for social interactions and the growth of empathy and, consequently, the ability to make friends.

Dr. Aric Sigman, from Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, adds that “when very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. … Parents who jump to screen time in a bid to give their kids an educational edge may actually be doing significantly more harm than good. (Parents) need to dole out screen time in an age-appropriate manner.”ii

In the words of Adam Alter in ‘How Technology Gets Us Hooked’, “You start playing because you want to have fun, but you continue playing because you want to avoid feeling unhappy.”iii The famous Minecraft computer game is a good example. It is apparently responsible for a large number of kids developing a dependence on screen time. “That’s right — your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs. No wonder we have a hard time peeling kids from their screens and find our little ones agitated when their screen time is interrupted. In addition, hundreds of clinical studies show that screens increase depression, anxiety and aggression and can even lead to psychotic-like features where the video gamer loses touch with reality.”iv

This is an extreme example, of course, but if excessive screen time is leading kids even a short distance down this path, it is worth taking a long view. Will our children be lacking in any way if we cut down their screen time? Let’s consider a few examples: Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enrol their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales!

At school, teachers have backed up these findings. A quick informal survey confirmed that most teachers can identify children who spend a lot of time on video games and those who don’t. The key factors? The inability to concentrate and the need to do tasks that come with immediate rewards.

What can we do?

Live and Learn: Screen time for child. Students in computer class, Panyaden International School
Panyaden students in computer class

Computers and smartphones are not going to go away so we have to find a way to get the most benefits and the least detrimental effects possible. Here’s how we use computers at school:

  • A couple of times a week, students might go to a classroom learning station with peers where they view a short video clip or complete an online activity set for about 15 minutes.
  • As a class, students might view a short video once or twice a week on a specific subject. Videos will typically last from 3 to 15 minutes.
  • Upper primary students might be researching information for their classroom project. This is one of various opportunities they have to learn and practise the critical thinking skills needed to analyse the validity of the information found.
  • We expect primary students to spend about five minutes at home a few times a week using Xtramath.
  • Until they can join the first language level classroom, our ESL students are enrolled in “Raz-Kids”, an online programme that allows them to listen online to books at their level before trying to read them by themselves and then answer a five-question quiz. This typically represents about 20 minutes of screen time.

Here are a few ideas that could be used at home:

  • Limit screen time. Excessive screen time does not only lead to physical inactivity, dullness of the senses and restlessness, it takes away opportunities to relate with other family members, make use of one’s natural surroundings or simply to be with one’s own thoughts. Agreeing with your child on a reasonable amount of screen time per week (and sticking to it!) not only reduces his time on the computer or TV but also teaches responsibility by making your child part of the decision-making process. A basic guideline is that, the younger the child, the shorter the allocated time should be, with no screen time before the age of three. Consider the ratio of time you currently spend actively communicating with your child every day and the number of minutes he spends in front of a screen. What is this ratio right now? Does he spend more time in front of a screen than with the family?
  • Create “screen free zones” in your house. We recommend starting with a child’s bedroom. Limiting the use of a computer or smartphone to common areas in the house will help you monitor your child’s screen time, both in terms of duration and content.
  • Allow your child to get bored! Yes, it’s good to be bored! It’s when a child is bored without a computer/TV screen that she’s more likely to engage in games that will require focus, patience and creativity.

As with everything else in parenting, the challenge is to model what we say and to be consistent in enforcing what we believe in. With computers as with everything else, practising Mattanuta, knowing the right amount, is a good idea!

iIn May 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, officially added “Internet Use Disorder” (IUD) to its list of health issues (see: Wired Kids: How Screen Time Affects Children’s Brains)

iiPsychology Today, 17 Apr 2016, What Screen Time Can Really Do to Kids’ Brains

iiiThe Guardian, 28 Feb, 2017, How technology gets us hooked

ivFamily First New Zealand, How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies

Live and Learn: I Want My Child To Succeed

dsc02291 Panyaden teacher reading to preschool student by school's swimming pool

Tips on developing a love of learning

by Head Teacher, Michel Thibeault

dsc00605 Panyaden International School Head Teacher Kru Michel Thibeault outdoors with students
We teachers share this heart-felt desire for every Panyaden student to develop a love of learning and know that working in partnership with families is the best way to achieve our goal. At Panyaden, we define success as having the ability to learn, to enjoy learning and to love wisdom for its own sake. This means seeking a healthy balance in the development of emotional, intellectual, social and physical skills. Here are a few tips you might use at home to enrich learning done at school.


Learning at Home

  • Make sure learning is happening in a relaxed environment. “Relaxed alertness” is said to be the optimum state of mind for learning.
  • Short, repeated study/practice sessions work best. They support long term memory. Regular 2 to 5 minute brain breaks reset the system and strengthen focus. For more information, check out “Brain Tricks – This Is How Your Brain Works” on YouTube.
  • Prime your brain to learn by keeping to a regular schedule and place for learning. Like Pavlov’s dogs, the brain will automatically engage at the habitual time of the day and the place of study.
  • Help your child set clear, measurable and realistic, self-monitored short term goals.
  • Make one of those goals to teach what s/he has learned to you or to others. We tend to deepen learning when we teach what we have learned to others.
  • Not all learning is done in a systematic way. Take the time to simply talk about a variety of topics with your child, share your favourite book or article, openly wonder how something works, etc.
  • Except for a few select pieces of classical music, background music has been proven to negatively impact study sessions.
  • We are what we eat! Healthy food contributes to a more efficient brain. This includes drinking enough water to keep the brain hydrated. The brain is only 2% of our body mass but consumes 20% of the body’s energy.
  • What we do over and over ends up defining who we are and directly affects the way our brain works. Repeated use of social media and video games is said to develop addiction. Violent video games such as “Grand Theft Auto”, “Call of Duty” and “Dogs of War”, which usually also include adult sexual content, are said to negatively affect learning in general and social relationships in particular and should be avoided.

dscf2162 Panyaden parent reading a story to students outdoors, Panyaden International School dsc02311 Reading and sharing stories with a friend at school, Panyaden INternational School students dsc7711 Students have fun learning to make EM mud balls to help flood victims, Panyaden International School dscf6840 Outdoor Thai music lesson, Panyaden International School img_1855 Panyaden International School field trip for students to learn about cacao

Live and Learn: My Child Won’t Read

DSC02265 Live and Learn: Teacher reading to student in Panyaden School library

My Child Won’t Read!

by Michel Thibeault, Panyaden International School Head Teacher

Michel Thibeault, Panyaden School Head TeacherWe all know how important reading is, but we also know many parents worry that their children don’t read enough, don’t want to read, or read the ‘wrong things’ (which is usually interpreted as things we parents don’t approve of!). Is it possible to encourage a reluctant child to read more? The answer is simple: Yes!

The simplest interventions also seem to be the best: “No single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading” (“The Power of Reading” by Stephen Krashen). The question then becomes: how do I get my child to do some “free voluntary reading”? According to Donalyn Miller, author of “The Book Whisperer”, the following factors determine children’s commitment to reading:

  1. The book has personal value to the student
  2. Students see themselves as capable readers
  3. Students are free from book report anxiety
  4. Reading is modelled by someone they like, respect and want to emulate

Reading to our children, however old they are, sends a clear message that reading is important. It also teaches many key reading skills. Modelling reading by making sure our children see us reading also has a major impact.

If we need more reasons to continue inspiring our children to read, Donalyn Miller is convincing in “Reading in the Wild”, when she quotes a large scale study showing that children who read on average 1 minute a day typically rank in the 20 percentile in terms of overall academic achievement while those who read 14 minutes a day rank in the 80 percentile! Boost this up to 20 minutes of free choice reading a day and they rank in the 90 percentile! The correlation between reading habits and academic success and general knowledge is undeniable. You might have seen ‘D.E.A.R.’ in your child’s schedule. It stands for ‘Drop Everything And Read’. We decided to increase our emphasis on reading this year, with lots of D.E.A.R. time for all, not only the “official” one on the schedule. Let’s read!

Live & Learn_TH


Live & Learn

DSC02615 Panyaden School Buddy Reading

Reading for Life

Tips for developing that greatest life skill of all
by Michel Thibeault, Head Teacher

Reading is probably the most important academic skill we learn at primary school. Apart from being a gateway to knowledge, it helps us with just about everything else – writing, creative thinking, problem solving, communication – and that’s why it is so essential to instill a love of books in our children.

We have put together some tips on how you can inspire lifelong readers. But first, here are a few tactics that don’t:

1. Pressuring, nagging, or bribing and rewarding reading
Encourage children to read, but don’t hound them. Given the rewards for reading will make them read, or pretend to read, in order to get what they want but will not make them discover the joy of reading.

2. Criticizing what children read
Explain what troubles you about certain types of reading materials after reading them yourself. Forbid as little as possible. And whenever you can, accept differences of opinion as just that. Make the right books available but since we cannot control everything, teach them to determine by themselves if it’s appropriate or not.

3. Lavishing too much praise
If you catch your child reading, show interest but don’t make a big deal out of it. Children need to know that they’re reading for their own pleasure, not for your approval.

4. Setting unrealistic goals
Look for small signs of progress rather than dramatic changes in your child’s reading habits. Don’t expect a reluctant reader to finish a book overnight; maybe over the next week, with your gentle encouragement.

5. Judging your child’s performance
Separate your child’s school performance from reading for pleasure. Helping your child enjoy reading is a worthwhile goal in itself.

DSC02596 DSC02572 Panyaden studentssharing a book, Buddy Reading DSC02559

Now for what works:

1. Role Model
Make sure your child sees you reading for enjoyment, reading to learn and reading for practical purposes (cookbooks, maps, etc).

2. View reading for pleasure as a value in itself
Almost anything your youngster reads, including comics, helps build reading skills.

3. Create a book-rich environment

4. Create a reading environment
Turn off TVs, phones and iPads! Use the time to read.

5. Know your child’s interests and provide books accordingly.

6. Go to bookstores and libraries with your child
Give them an opportunity to choose their own books.

7. Talk about what you read and what your child reads the way you would talk to a friend about books you read.

8. When your child is sharing her reading, actively listen to her!
Give your undivided attention to the conversation!

9. Give books as gifts.

10. Give him/her your all-time favorite book from when you were his/her age. 

11. Read to them, read to them, read to them
Make reading aloud a natural part of family life.

12. Subscribe to a magazine that relates to your child’s interest. 

13. Play audio books in the car. 

14. Read for yourself some books written for your child’s age.

15. Keep the big picture in mind
For all sorts of reasons, some children go through periods without showing much interest in reading. Don’t panic! Time, and a good role model can help re-kindle their interest.

Quick Tips to encourage children to read by Michel Thibeault, Panyaden School Chiang Mai     Why some kids don't like to read, by Michel Thibeault

Click on the links below to read this article in Thai:

การส่งเสริมการอ่าน_TH Part 1
การส่งเสริมการอ่าน_TH Part 2


Reading With Your Child 3

How to Read and Talk about a Story with My Child

by Panyaden School Head Teacher, Michel Thibeault

Michel Thibeault, Head Teacher (English) at bilingual Panyaden School Chiang Mai


Reading with students at Panyaden School Chiang Mai

Rule #1: Don’t force a child to read:

  • Forcing your child to read may be a short-term gain but could create long-term damage.
  • Read to him if he’s not ready to read to you!

Rule #2: Make it personal and relevant!

  • Questions should mostly be about the relationship between the reader and the story. It is best to avoid factual questions to which you already know the answers such as: “What’s the name of the dog?” or “What is Pau doing?” etc.
  • It’s alright to scan the entire book and the illustrations before beginning.
  • Don’t turn the listening time into an interrogation session. Examples of relevant questions:

♦ “Have you read this book before?”
♦ “Can you summarize the story for me before you read it again?”
♦ “What do you think she will do next?”
♦ “Do you know someone who has this kind of dog?”
♦ “Did his dog ever do sometimes similar to Paul’s dog?”
♦ “Did you like that story?”
♦ “What was your favourite part? Why?”
♦ “If you were Peter, would you have done the same thing?”
♦ “Why do you think she did that?”

Rule #3: Put your heart into it!

  • Create a warm and caring atmosphere around reading time.
  • Allow your child to choose the book or at least fully agree with your suggestion of book.
  • Change voice for every character.
  • Add sound effects!
  • Laugh when it’s funny. Be sad when it is.
  • Enjoy this unique time with your child!

Rule #4: Be creative!

  • Here are some suggestions:
1. Make a picture of the 2-3 characters in the story. Cut them out, list the traits on the back, children can then play a character guessing game.
2. Make a timeline of events either in pictorial or in written form.
3. Make a timeline of events either in pictorial or in written form.
4. Make a trivia game about the story.
5. Use puppets to help you re-tell the story.
6. Make a comic strip of the story.
7. Use a Venn diagram or other graphics to compare two characters in the story.
8. Write or state clues about your story to see if others can guess which story you read.
9. Write part 2 or a sequel to the story.
10. If you could be in this story, decide which person you would be and say why.
11. Make a list of everything in the story that could be fact or fantasy.
12. Prepare a commercial or advertisement to sell this book to somebody who hasn’t yet read it.
13. Create a poster to spark interest in others to read the book.
14. Write 5 questions that somebody who has read the book should be able to answer.
15. Design a new cover for this book.
16. Make a list of what makes a good book.
17. If you had to buy something for each of the characters, what would they be and why?
18. Is there a problem in the story? How was it solved? How could it be solved in another way?
19. Write to the author telling him your opinion about the book and why.
20. Dress up as the main character and tell the story from his point of view.
21. Draw the map of the main places mentioned in the story.

Reading With Your Child 2

How to Listen to My Child Read

by Panyaden School Head Teacher, Michel Thibeault

Michel Thibeault, Head Teacher (English) at bilingual Panyaden School Chiang Mai


img_9955 Panyaden School Chiang Mai teacher reading with child

  • Decoding versus reading
  • Short prompts are best
  • Corrections: respectful, constructive and adapted to his skill level


Parent listening to child talk about story he read, Panyaden School Chiang MaiDecoding is the hard skill that lays the foundation for actual reading. Students are decoding when they “sound out” the text, syllable by syllable, whether they understand the meaning or not. Reading will rely on global recognition of the words and the occasional decoding of unfamiliar words.

When listening to your child read, it is best to avoid praises that judge such as “you’re good”, “you’re so smart” etc. While this is nice to hear initially, it can also create unwanted stress when the reader has to do something he’s not so good at. It focuses on the result and neglects the effort. Instead say something like:

“Uh, huh! You’re doing it!”

“Keep reading! That’s it!”

“You read this easily!”

“Are you sure this is the right word? Look at it closely.”

“Take your time.”

“There you go!”

“You have the right first sound but look at the rest of word carefully.”

“You used another word other than the one written here but it makes sense! It shows you understand the story. Look at that word again though to see what the author really wrote.”

“What’s the first sound of that word? The second one? Say those sounds one after the other. Slowly. Now say them all faster, and faster! There you go! You did it!”

“Can you think of a word or movement that helps you remember that vowel sound?”

“What word would make sense that would start with these sounds?”

“Does it have a pattern that you have seen in other words? (eg. ex, ack)”

Praises that “describe” are more likely to encourage an “effort work ethic” where students feel good when they are working hard.

Our School Curriculum: IPC

Learning at Panyaden:

The International Primary Curriculum

by Michel Thibeault, Head Teacher

Panyaden School will be basing its curriculum on the highly regarded International Primary Curriculum (IPC). Acclaimed by teachers across the world, IPC was originally established in the UK and is now taught in more than 1,000 primary schools in 66 countries, including Bangkok Patana School. As the IPC’s academic standard is amongst the highest internationally, the programme answers the worry of many parents as to whether their children will be able to switch seamlessly to any other school around the country or even the world should the need arise.

Similar in approach to the International Baccalaureate, IPC focuses on learning that is student-centred, can be tailored to the needs of individual students and that encourages enquiring minds and independent thinking. IPC has been developed based on the latest research on the brain, on emotions in learning and memory and learning styles. It integrates subjects and topics so that, for example, a week-long project on ‘ weather’ might  incorporate learning in maths, science, language, geography, art or any other subject. For these reasons we have chosen to base our curriculum on the IPC.

Michel Thibeault Conducting IPC Training At Panyaden School
Taan Ajahn Jayasaro, Panyaden School’s Spiritual Advisor

At Panyaden, the teachers’ role is to facilitate learning in their classroom, to enable students to discover things for themselves. We put emphasis on their acquiring of concepts and skills that can be transferred to other subjects and areas of life. The IPC programme was designed on those principles. It nurtures a love of learning and encourages the necessary key skills and personal qualities. Its rigorously planned units of work inspire the learner and provide hands-on activities.  This is aligned with the Panyaden approach to education as described by our spiritual advisor, Ajahn Jayasaro: “the emphasis of Buddhist education is on teaching children how to learn, how to enjoy learning, to love wisdom for its own sake.”

The following chart highlights the main features of IPC, a true 21st century curriculum.

Adapting IPC to Panyaden School

Panyaden’s curriculum, while based on IPC, will also meet the requirements and standards of the national Thai curriculum. Thai culture and history will be taught alongside international themes by merging the key aspects of both curricula. Daily ‘Life Studies’ will reflect our Buddhist approach and environmental mindfulness.

Adapting our own curriculum through picking the best from the IPC and Thai curricula and embedding Panyaden values throughout provides our students with the best possible education. It is an education based on Buddhist principles integrated with a modern, academically competitive curriculum and which provides perspectives that are both international and local.

For prospective parents who would like to know more about IPC and learning at Panyaden, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange a meeting with our Head Teacher, Michel Thibeault.