Blogs about Reading
Sound It Out
Dr. Joanne Meier
Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.
Do you feel like you just got caught up with the iPod Touch and the iPad? You probably have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and can find your way around the App Store with ease. You're good, right? Well, not so much, if you take a look at the 2013 Horizon Report K-12 Edition. For the fifth year in a row, the New Media Consortium collaborated with others to identify technologies that have "potential impact on teaching, learning and creative inquiry."
So, what educational technologies are coming? In a 1-3 year time-to-adoption phase, there's (1) BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where students bring their own laptops, tablets or mobile devices to class; (2) Cloud Computing — maybe your district already relies on this for backups and such; (3) mobile learning, which relies more on cellular networks and wireless power; and (4) online learning, with movement towards those huge MOOC classes you've heard about.
Looking into the distance (2-3 years), the Horizon Report predicts we'll be engaged in electronic publishing, using learning analytics, relying on open content and engaging in personalized learning. And in the "that's not how I went to school" category of 4-5 years to adoption comes technologies such as 3D printing, augmented reality, virtual labs and wearable technology.
It's all very exciting, and well-explained in the Horizon report. For each technology, the authors identified the technology's relevance for teaching, learning, research or creative inquiry, provide some examples in practice, and links for further reading.
Access the Full Report
Access the Shortlist Report
Access the Trends and Challenges PDF
A study from the journal Pediatrics published online July 15, 2013, reports an important — but perhaps not surprising — relationship between parents' and children's television viewing. The study set out to determine whether the amount of TV parents watch has an effect on the amount children watch. Using an online survey, more than 1,500 parents and 620 adolescents provided information about their media access and typical weekday and weekend viewing habits (viewing included TV and computer screens).
Parents in this study reported almost 4 hours of daily TV viewing, and 70% had a bedroom television. The average number of TVs in the house was 3.
The findings were statistically significant: Parents who watch more TV have kids who watch more TV. "Heavy viewing" parents are modeling their media behaviors, and their kids are picking up and adopting those behaviors. This has implications for those who work with kids and families, including those who work with families with struggling readers. Less TV time may mean more time for reading and literacy-based activities. As parents work to become "media mentors," our own habits may be a good place to start.
Read the full study here.
See related article Children and Digital Media: Rethinking Parent Roles
A recent study in the journal Child Development suggests a link between students living in poverty and poor planning skills that extends into several academic areas, including math and reading. Using scores from a strategic puzzle-based task that requires advance planning and tactical moves, researchers found that scores on the planning task in Grade 3 predicted children's reading and math outcomes at Grade 5, even while controlling for IQ.
Study authors Crook and Evans from Cornell University cite previous research that documents the lack of development of early planning skills among children living in poverty. Possible causes of poorer planning can be identified: greater chaos in their daily lives including more family moves and school changes, greater family turmoil and turnover, more crowded and noisy households, higher levels of stress among low-income parents, and fewer structured routines and rituals.
Classroom teachers can do little to ameliorate all the stressors facing children coming from low-income households. However, these findings may provide encouragement for teachers to include more strategy-based, planning-based activities within the classroom.
You can access a PDF of the full study, The Role of Planning Skills in the Income-Achievement Gap, here.
When asked why so many children's picture books are so "vanilla," (and his are NOT), Handler responded that he believes new parents are nervous, and seek out comforting — and saccharine — children's literature rather than literature that is "more interesting" and includes something terrible. In Snicket's new book, The Dark, he writes about Laszlo and his fear of the dark, and beautifully describes the dark as hiding "in the closet, sometimes it sat behind the shower curtain, but mostly it spent its time in the basement, all day long."
As with all Snicket's books, this one is beautifully written and utterly captivating. Certainly a fear of the dark is one many young children are familiar with! As always, it was really fun to listen to an author describe his craft and his writing process. Toward the end of the interview, Snicket describes the challenges of writing for children. He acknowledges that, as with most writing, words end up needing to be cut. Snicket likens that process to being on a life raft and having to "throw some words overboard."
Looking back, I think we were pretty saccharine around here. How about you?
It's never easy to talk with young kids about tough subjects, like illness and death. Sometimes a children's book can open the door to conversations that need to happen. Books can also help teach new and scary vocabulary words in a gentle way. Last, a book can bring some comfort by helping a child feel less alone. It may help to learn that other kids have a Mom or Dad who is also fighting cancer or another disease.
The American Cancer Society has suggestions for books to help children deal with cancer. The list includes an activity book, books about hair loss, specific titles for Moms and Dads with cancer, and a few available in Spanish and English.
The Children's Cancer Research Fund also has a list of books for helping kids deal with cancer. With just a few titles, their book suggestions include stories about children with cancer full of hope.
My advice is to read book descriptions closely before buying or checking out. Several seem to have the Mom as the cancer patient. For children whose Dad or grandparents have been diagnosed, I think that might be confusing and scary. I hope you never need to use these resources, but if you do, these links may provide some help.
How many of you are in your very last days of preschool dropoff? It's hard to believe that those years are behind you and that your little one will be heading off to kindergarten in the fall!
This is an exciting time for all, but it can also be a scary one, too.
NAEYC for families has some good advice for helping with end-of-the-year feelings. This includes ways to ease the transition to kindergarten, including writing special notes to friends or teachers and revisiting special events through pictures.
Here on Reading Rockets we have a wealth of other resources that can help ease the preschool-to-kindergarten transition. For example, if you're still trying to figure out whether to stay at preschool another year or head to kindergarten, you might want to read the comments and weigh in on past blog posts such as Kindergarten "red-shirting:" What about summer birthdays?, Should she stay or should she go? (to kindergarten) and The wheels on the bus went round and round.
Starting Kindergarten? Help Make It a Good Experience! (available in English and Spanish) offers tips to help you start your child off right, and Kindergarten Accomplishments will help you understand what's ahead in terms of your child's literacy development.
For parents of children with special learning needs, the PreK to K transition can be especially worrisome. Make sure to explore Successful Transition to Kindergarten for Learners Who May Be at Risk for Learning Disabilities and Paving the Way to Kindergarten for Young Children with Disabilities for some guidance about best practices for transitioning children with special needs.
Regardless of your situation, savor these last few days of preschool. It's a special time in your child's life!
Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week! I hope every teacher out there feels the love they deserve during this week of national celebration. Big or small, I know each gesture is appreciated.
Rita Pierson, a 40-year teaching veteran, shares her teaching philosophy in a very touching TED talk, Every kid needs a champion. Watching her talk is a great way to spend 8 minutes this week. You'll laugh along with her as she astutely observes "You know your toughest kids are never absent. Never." And, if you're like me, you'll hope you touched the life of at least one student the way Ms. Pierson must reach hers.
"We can do this. We're educators. We're born to make a difference."
Thank you, Ms. Pierson. And thank you to every teacher reading this post.
You're probably familiar with TED talks, the 6-18 minute talks gathered under the tagline of "Ideas worth spreading." All TED talks are free to view, and are searchable by topic. There are many thought-provoking talks on a wide variety of topics.
TED playlists were a new concept to me. As the name suggests, talks on similar topics are gathered together to form a playlist. One playlist is called Words, Words, Words, and it contains talks on several topics related to words. Perfect for Sound It Out readers!
For me, one highlight on Words, Words, Words is a talk given by linguist John McWhorter called "Txting is killing language. JK." In his talk, McWhorter encourages us to think about email and text messaging not as the "scourge" of the English language, but rather a new form of language between writing and talking. In describing speech in relation to writing, he says this: If humanity existed for 24 hours, then writing only came along at about 11:09 PM. Interesting way to think about our writing development!
Want to learn about dictionaries while laughing and learning a few new words (like erinaceous)? Check out another highlight, lexicographer Erin McKean. Ms. McKean encourages us to use words we love, and to remember that words are tools to build something bigger and more beautiful.
And, if you need just a little more about words, did you read the excitement about 'slash' last week? It's big news! Slash is a new-ish slang word that is different from many other types of slang words. "The emergence of a new conjunction/conjunctive adverb (let alone one stemming from a punctuation mark) is like a rare-bird sighting in the world of linguistics: an innovation in the slang of young people embedding itself as a function word in the language." Slash is clearly a word to watch.
There are just 40 days until the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Our elementary school holds a local event, and classroom-winning third through fifth graders wring their hands on stage working to spell some tough words! This year, a middle schooler from our school district won our regional competition by correctly spelling "Bolshevik." He will be among the competitors at the national level in Oxon Hill, MD.
The big news this year is that Scripps has added a vocabulary component to the Bee. According to Paige Kimble, the director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the vocabulary addition reflects a commitment to helping develop not only spelling skills, but also "increase vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage. Spelling and vocabulary are, in essence, two sides of the same coin," said Kimble. "As a child studies the spelling of a word and its etymology, he will discover its meaning. As a child learns the meaning of a word, it becomes easier to spell. And all of this enhances the child's knowledge of the English language."
Scores from a computer-based vocabulary test will count toward a speller's overall score and will help determine which spellers advance to the semifinals. Sample vocabulary questions are available.
Personally, I like the vocabulary addition, and applaud any effort to develop vocabulary growth in children. My guess is that the kids who qualify for the national Bee already have fairly developed vocabularies, so I wonder how much unique information the Bee officials will gather from the new vocabulary test. I'm sure we'll find out soon!
We're back from our big family trip to Germany, and it was everything we hoped it would be. One of my favorite aspects of the trip was how carefully Anna kept up with her travel journal. She's a writer at heart, so it feels very natural to her to capture her experiences on paper. She's been using the same travel journal for years, and it's really fun to look back at her first entries and appreciate how her writing has changed over the years (see below for entries from 2009, 2011 and 2013).
Travel journals are also great for capturing a child's experience in their own words. "More dead guys in boxes,"" was part of Anna's entry about the crypts in the 3rd or 4th cathedral we toured. (I think she may have been getting a bit bored by then.) And sadly, her story about my needing a cup of coffee from 2009 is true. We were late, the lady did yell at us.
Amazon has lots of travel journals for kids, and people make their own (some good suggestions here). The ones my girls use are little more than bound books of lined paper. We often tape in bits of maps, subway tokens, favorite pictures and other small artifacts that remind us of the trip.
How do you document your family times? With summer coming up, now's a great time to think about how you'll record your summer fun. Please share your ideas in the comments below!