Friday, February 25, 2011

Parents Make the Most of a Snow Day

snow day

A snow and ice storm came through my neighborhood, here in the Midwest. That means school is closed. Many kids may be watching television, playing video games or playing in the snow. If you’re enjoying a snow day with your kids today, make it fun as well as education. Here’s a list of activities to connect reading, writing and snow:

- Research what a snowflake is, and how they form,
- Have your children write what they like best about snow,
- Cut out snowflakes, then have your children write words associated with snow on them,
- If you have a story about snow read it aloud to your children,
- Have your children write what they liked best about the story.

These are just a few of the many creative ways parents can connect snow, or nature, to reading and writing. While also sending the message that reading and writing are important.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Explicit Reading Instruction

By the fourth grade, and each grade thereafter, reading instruction time is reduced. Students are now reading to learn. Class instruction time now centers on content area learning, rather than reading instruction learning. Students who have not achieved reading skills, necessary to successfully read and complete content area lessons, are not only frustrated but anxious about daily assignments. Obviously, these students need additional reading instruction, to bring them up to their current grade level.

Implementing a remedial program, using explicit reading strategies, will benefit these students.

Aspects of explicit reading instruction are:

- Determine the student’s instructional level in reading, whether by aa district assessment or an informal reading inventory,
- Analyze the results , for example the assessment or inventory may show a particular student does not know long “a” sounds or has a limited sight word vocabulary,
- Set instructional goals for your student to master, within a specific period of time,
- Demonstrate the targeted skills to be learned to your students,
- Provide positive reinforcement to correct responses from your students,
- Log daily improvements and document targeted skills that need to Re-taught.

Children in the upper elementary grades, who are having difficulty reading feel discouraged and often have poor self esteem. These students avoid reading aloud during class and rarely participate in classroom discussions. Early interventions to remediate reading difficulties, will not only help students learn to read better, but also help them achieve academic success.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Teaching Children How to Make Predictions as They Read


Students who are engaged in what they’re reading are involved in the stories, or informational material, they are reading. Fluent readers, or rather good readers, are those children who make logical predictions about what is going to happen next in stories. This strategy of reading, then re-affirming predictions made during reading, not only helps children remain interested in what they’re reading, it also improve their
comprehension. This strategy can be done with a picture book story or even a chapter book—and both teachers and parents can apply this strategy.

Here’s How—

- Begin reading the story together.
- Next, pause at key parts of a story, summarize and discuss the story so far. This helps you determine whether your children are understanding the story so far.

- Then, ask your children to make a prediction about what they think is going to happen next, in the story. Remind your children that a prediction is not a wild guess. A prediction must be a logical response based on careful thought about what they’ve read so far.

*Note for Teachers, don’t ask the students who raises their hands first. Give those students, who need more time to process information, a chance to contribute in reading class discussions. Importantly, Children benefit from listening to other students thought processes.

- Continue reading the story. Then stop and talk about the predictions that were made. Ask your child what they read that leads them to that prediction. Always assure your child it is okay if their predictions are wrong.

Research in reading continually supports the strategy of making predictions, while reading, improves reading comprehension. Practice this strategy often and you will see your children enjoying reading and devekoping better understanding what they're reading.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Benefits of Journaling


Reading and writing are intertwined in learning to read. Research shows us children who write about what they’ve read and experienced become better readers—as well as becoming good writers.

The best way to get your children to begin connecting reading and writing is to have them start maintaining a daily, writing journal. Getting started is really quite easy. Just buy your children an inexpensive journal or just use a three-ring notebook. As the days and months pass, you will notice your children are expanding their listening and written vocabularies; while also developing the mechanics of writing, such as: punctuation, grammar and spelling. Daily journaling also helps children become more comfortable and confident at reading and writing.

Today, here in the Midwest it’s a beautiful day. The squirrels and birds are enjoying the spring temperature. Think about taking your children for a fitness walk in your neighborhood park. Talk to them about what they see, hear and smell. When you return home, from the park, sit down with your children and together write about your visit.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Build Background Knowledge Prior to Reading

Learning takes place when learners attach what they know, to what they’re learning. In order for children to read about ideas or a particular topic, they must bring in their own background knowledge to the lesson.

One of the best ways to activate students’ background knowledge is to engage students in classroom discussions. During these discussions, when students share what they already know, the teacher becomes aware of how knowledgeable students are on particular reading materials and topics. With this knowledge teachers can create connections, that is, provide more background information to aid comprehension. Concurrently, students are sharing the knowledge they have with their peers, who may be less knowledgeable. Most importantly, teachers should also write the knowledge students are sharing on their Smart-boards, blackboards, Over-head Projectors—whatever the case may be. This visual list of facts will then be available for students to refer to while they’re reading.

Once teachers know what students know, and do not know, during classroom discussions they can fill in the gaps, of missing information. Helping children connect their existing background knowledge will help them improve their reading comprehension—as they read.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Functional Skills, What Parents need to Know

Parents of exceptional students attend several teachers’ conferences a year. During these meetings parents and teachers discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their specific children, and write academic and functional goals. Often academic goals are tied to functional skills goals. Functional skills are designed to help students when they gain their independence. Such as, recognizing coin values, counting money and purchasing skills (something all adults need to be able to do) is usually written as a math goal.

Other functional skills exceptional children need to master and that are tied to academic goals are:

- Sight words such as grocery words, fast foods, restaurant words, community signs and job and work related words, which are included in reading and language arts goals,

- Lessons on weather and temperatures, plant identification, equipment use, safety, animal care, measuring cups and spoons as well as following recipes, all fall under science goals,

- Reading maps, understanding directions, collating papers, stapling papers and shredding paper all fall under work related skills and social studies.

In order for exceptional student to be successful, independent adults, schools need to prepare them for the outside world. Mastering functional skills, those skills most adults use every day, will help these students succeed and transition into the world, after their years in school.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day


Read, Have Fun and Learn

Children learn to read from stories, that is, “narrative” texts”. Today, public school reading programs are trying to include more “expository” forms of text. That is, text that exposes information into reading lessons. Learning to read sequential directions is an expository form of text as well, and necessary for every child to be successful in school.

Today, take time out to make special valentine’s cookies or cupcakes with your children. Let them help by reading the recipe instructions. While you’re having fun cooking together, you‘ll also be teaching your children how to read step-by-step directions.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Reading Instruction Today: A Little Bit of This and That

Several decades ago “Whole Language”, a philosophy of teaching, came onto the reading education scene. Advocates within this trend favored a more holistic approach to teaching reading. That is, whole language and authentic literature based instruction.

At the outset there was confusion about what the “Whole Language” method or philosophy advocated. Teachers who had been teaching reading in a “traditional” fashion misinterpreted the philosophy and falsely concluded direct teaching of phonics was unnatural and ineffective – believing children should be taught whole words in the context of sentences. Many teachers threw phonics out the window with the dish water. The reality is, proponents of the “Whole Language” camp never said stop teaching phonics i.e. vowel sounds, vowel digraphs and consonant clusters – components of words. To the contrary, what they said was they favored analytic phonics –analyze the whole word, then look at its parts. They believed this was a more natural approach to phonics instruction. Rather than, putting letter sounds together, synthesizing it parts, vowels and consonants, into to a whole word – synthetic phonics.

The argument of how to effectively introduce and teach reading has come full circle since the 1950's. Here in 2011 we again are back to teaching the way we had at the turn of the century. Specifically, using basal readers, a collection of reading selections, worksheets and supplementary materials; where vocabulary is controlled and the pictures reflect and convey the meaning of the text or story – accompanied by direct phonics instruction at each grade level. Also know as, synthetic phonics instruction or the “Traditional” way of teaching reading

Today, more than a century has gone by. Direct phonics instructions reigns again, while aspects of the “Whole Language” philosophy remain. If you step into an elementary classroom today, while the daily reading lesson is taking place, you will most likely find teachers using leveled readers (basal readers) workbook pages, while concurrently incorporating authentic forms of children’s literature – books written by professional authors to engage and entertain children.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Higher Expectations For All Students

The last report card the United States received gave us a failing grade in mathematics and sciences. Public schools across the nation have reacted by developing “Common Core State Standards”; in order to send the message “we have higher expectations”, to students, parents and the nation.

What does this mean for parents and educators? All students, including those with special needs, must attain common curricular benchmarks in general education courses such as: language arts, science and mathematics. Although, students with Individual Education Plans (IEPS) will still receive extra support in and out of the classroom and allowed testing accommodations

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Does Your Child Read With Fluency?

A fluent reader has the ability to read and comprehend written words accurately and quickly. A child who is fluent performs the task of reading automatically and without hesitation; recognizing words and expressions while understanding their meanings instantly. When reading aloud, a fluent reader’s presentation is smooth, expressive and effortless. Their voice is natural, as though they were talking rather than reading a story or a textbook.

Fluent readers do not focus on the words, they concentrate on the meaning. They make connections between knowledge they already have and the ideas and concepts they’re discovering in the new information they’re reading. Children who are fluent readers enjoy reading and often read for pleasure.

Children who are not fluent readers read word for word, because they are sounding out each word as they move through a story or a textbook. Since these children are so busy decoding each word they lose the meaning of what they’re reading – and have difficulty attaching information they already know to what they’re reading about.

Shocking Statistic

The rate of autism has tripled in California, according to data released by the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in February 2011. Since 2002 special education students with autisms has tripled from 2.6% to 8.8% percent. California is not alone. Across the nation the percentage of students in special education, identified as autistic, is increasing.

Here are three tips for parents and educators who work students with autism:

1. Easing Transitions - Before switching from one activity to another or moving from one environment to another, explain to your child or student what’s going to happen next and where you will be going. This helps alleviate anxiety and resistance.

2. Scripting - Coaching children with autism on ways to address their peers is a good way to help them develop functional language. For example: script for them on how to approach other students on the play ground. That is, tell them how they should greet other children and what they might talk about.

3. Visual Aids – Children with autism feel more secure with a set schedule. To ease anxiety make a visual schedule of the activities they will be involved in each day. For example: a picture of books for reading time, a picture of food for lunch time, a picture of singing for music.

Decades ago autisms was considered a rare disorder. Today, autism is the fastest growing disability category in special education. The cause of autism is still not clear. However, researchers have found numerous genetic links to autism. Sadly, the probability of parents having more than one child with autisms is not unusual.