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.
As teachers, we know the first few days of school are all about getting to know your kids and settling into a routine. It's too early to do any assessments (except informal observation sorts of things), but it's a great time to engage kids in some fun activities that get them talking, reading, and writing. Here are some ideas I've seen recently that caught my attention.
When I was in the classroom, we always did a school tour on the first day. Here are some school tour directions created by a teacher. With my class, each special person or place we visited (the cafeteria, the library, the clinic, the school secretary, the principal) had a small stuffed animal to give to the class (for example we had Sammy the Secretary, Pippy the Principal). These animals became part of our classroom library and served as reading buddies.
Stacey from Two Writing Teachers suggests some small poems in which kids write about something special from their summer. Stacey recommends this activity sheet to help the kids with their observations.
I love the Guess Who cards from I Love That Teaching Idea. I think second or third graders could fill in with simple information about themselves and do a whole class sharing with filled out cards.
Still wondering what books to read? Scholastic offers this list of read alouds for the first day.
Feeling adventurous? This toilet paper game could be lots of fun! If you use that idea, let me know how it goes! (no pun intended)
Whatever you choose, happy back to school!
It's Back to School time, which means more first-timers may be coming to this Sound it Out blog than before. Because of that, I decided to take on the 7 Link Challenge described by Problogger . By taking the challenge, I'm able to highlight some posts from my archives and revisit some of the resources I've gathered through blog posts. So, here goes! (Challenge category is in bold)
My first post was Pleased to Meet You from January 2007. It's hard to believe I've been blogging for 2 ˝ years! Back then I articulated my goal — to blog about literacy while wearing at least one hat — teacher and university professor, parent, research consultant and early literacy author. I am glad to say that's still my goal!
A post I enjoyed writing was Reading logs, reading blahs because I suspected it would stir up feelings from parents, teachers and kids. And it did! Somewhere within the comments I began to get scolded for our family's mutiny against reading logs. For those who know me, I'm not much of a rabble-rouser, but I was one in that post!
Apost with great discussion is the Should she stay or should she go? (to kindergarten) one. Teachers and parents have written in, and the comments reflect such caring, compassion and consternation for young kids.
The post on someone else’s blog that I wish I'd written. With so many great blogs, I couldn't begin to identify just one post. Skipping this category.
My most helpful post, at least according to my neighbor Meg, might be Talking to your child about learning disabilities. I wrote that just as Daniel was found eligible to receive services for LD. At that time, he was frustrated, she was scared, and I was able to pull together a few things that helped them talk.
A post with a title that I am proud of is My poor dental hygienist, because that post reinforced to me the importance of being an early literacy ambassador wherever we go! There are several resources within that post to share with YOUR dental hygienist, mail carrier, neighbor, or friend.
A post that I wish more people had read…hmmm…well, I never know how many people read specific posts, but the one I wish more people had commented on is Same thing next year? Grade retention. I'd love to hear what parents and teachers have to say about this practice. The Parental Push to Repeat a Grade from a recent Wall Street Journal reiterates the quandaries many parents face: wait a year, hold them back, or push forward?
I hope you enjoy some of those archived posts. I'm looking forward to sharing this school year and blog with you!
Kids love to read to someone. It's good for kids to read their writing out loud, to practice their Reader's Theater scripts with, or to rehearse a book they want to read to the class or to their reading group.
But there's not always a student handy to read with. Enter the Reading Buddy. A really, really cute idea from Into the Book. Most of the materials you'll need can be rounded up around your house or neighborhood. I'm sure some crafty teachers (hint-hint!) could also come up with other suggestions for ways to make reading buddies for the classroom.
And if you're not familiar with Into the Book, plan to spend some time on that site! It's a great one, with lots of resources for teachers.
I really enjoyed this blog post Kickin it Old School by a teacher reflecting on technology in her classroom. "Give me a library card and a piece of chalk and stand back and watch me work," she writes of her old way of thinking. This teacher's thinking about technology evolved, but she stands steadfast in her belief that the world wide web shouldn't take us away from the "wide world of wonder."
The post made me think about the teaching ideas teachers are busy planning this summer. To what extent do they involve technology? Does technology enhance your teaching, or distract from it? I'd love to hear your opinion.
How much nonfiction do your students read? Probably not enough, according to Jay Mathews at the Washington Post. In a blog entry from February 2010, he uses the What Kids Are Reading report that describes what 4.6 million students in grades 1-12 read during 2008-2009 as evidence.
Teaching nonfiction can be difficult; it relies on background knowledge that some students may not have, and because it contains different types of features, it reads differently than fiction. Kids can learn to navigate nonfiction. Here are some resources that might help.
Nicki Clausen-Grace and Michelle Kelley, two educators, offer up a great teaching tip for helping students navigate features of nonfiction text that students might overlook. With an Interactive Text Feature Wall, teachers help students brainstorm a list of text features that exist in nonfiction. These might include headings, pictures, captions, maps. A bulletin board is divided into sections, and using magazines, newspapers, and other print resources, students cut out and mount the examples into the correct area on the mural.
A similar idea from Classroom 2.0 uses text mapping — a scroll made from several pages of the book glued together. Students in going on a "treasure hunt" in search of text features. Features are highlighted and labeled. Scrolls help students see the text in its entirety and can be marked up depending on your instructional focus.
Scholastic offers a 5-Day Unit Plan for introducing nonfiction. The lesson sequence begins by asking kids to identify the special feature of nonfiction text and ends by understanding how to check comprehension and asking kids to apply what they've learned to their writing. Several handy resources are used during the five day plan, including a simple handout describing five non-fiction text structures.
Moms and Dads walked in, clutching the hand of a 5 or 6 year old who anxiously looked around the lobby. Nervous chatter, excited whispers, reassuring pats on the back, and a few tears. "Let's find your nametag!" Today was the first day of kindergarten camp at our school, a week designed to let our incoming kindergartners "kick the tires" on their new school.
Our kindergarten camp runs every morning this week, from 9-11:30. Each day follows the same schedule: center time, group craft, snack, and read aloud (Monday's story: If You Take a Mouse to School) and playground. Highlights of the week include a visit to the cafeteria (Tuesday), a short bus ride (Wednesday), and a story read to the group by the principal (Friday). The kids divide up differently each day and by the end of the week, they will have spent a morning in each of the K classrooms.
Our kindergarten teachers use K camp as a way to get to know the kids and form classes for this year. While some of the K kids have a brother or sister already at our school, others are there for the first time. Some have been in preschool for three years, others never went. Some are reading; most are not. One by one during the week, the teachers bring a child into the hallway for a quick assessment. Measures of alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness will provide good information about literacy preparedness, as will measures of print knowledge and concepts. Good old-fashioned named writing tells a story also (see Chapter 2 of this report for an explanation of the skills and abilities linked to later outcomes in reading, writing, and spelling).
Although it's been a few years, I still remember bringing my firstborn to K camp, hiding my own tears and nerves. Even though we waited an extra year, it was still a big transition for us. Molly also remembers K camp: she remembers getting to go on the playground for the first time, and the snack! (ants on a log)
How about where you live? What does your school do to prepare incoming kindergarten students? How are you preparing your child for school?
When kids get on the computer, do they spend more time surfing the 'net and less time doing homework and studying? It appears that way, according to this article in Sunday's New York Times. Whether it's a lack of parental supervision to help keep a student focused on studying, or the lure of email, chat and games, the data from students in North Carolina and Texas (two different studies) suggest that Internet access had a negative effect on student test scores, and ended up "widening achievement gaps between socioeconomic groups." This appears to be especially true for students from lower income households.
Anyone surprised? As others have said, technology isn't the panacea for education. And it's not to blame. As parents and teachers, we have an important role to play by helping kids manage their screen time, to see that some screen time is educational, and that non-screen time (i.e., regular life) is stimulating too!
The study from the Journal of Economic Research on students in North Carolina public schools by Ladd and Vigdor is here.
MT: I'm so glad Ian is finally really talking, but gosh; he never takes a breath now. It's exhausting!
AB: Our doctor brought up speech therapy by the end of the summer if MEB doesn't have some more words. She just turned two. How old is Ian?
MT: Ian turned two in April, and I swear, in the last month or so something just clicked. He has become a lot clearer and is talking in full sentences, asking questions, etc. It's really fun to see, but sometimes I just want a few minutes of quiet! There's such a range of speech at this age that I wouldn't worry — I'm sure M will be talking up a storm in no time and then you'll be wishing for some quiet! ; )
Sound familiar? At some point, almost every parent has worried about some aspect of their child's development, whether it's crawling, walking, talking, or reading. Our developmental milestones section has several good resources for parents and teachers, including literacy milestones by age and grade. There's an article that helps parents recognize how long they should wait before seeking help, what to do if you suspect a problem, and clues to dyslexia in early childhood. Our friends at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) also offer information about typical speech and language development.
There's no shortage of information out there. If you're like me, you surf the web late at night looking for answers and hoping to quell your worries. Start (and stay) with trustworthy, authoritative sites, and remember that many developmental milestones happen within a wide range of months. Bulk up with good information, but also trust your instincts. And then go read with and talk to your child! Time flies.
Summer months provide teachers an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the past year and to gather ideas for next year. One site to tuck away and pull out next year is Tagxedo, a word cloud creator. The possibilities for language arts lessons are endless!
Tagxedo creates "tag clouds with styles." As with other tag clouds, a user begins creating a tab cloud by entering text. Text can come from a webpage, a list of words, or pasted in text from a book.
Once the text is in, the fun begins! You can choose from a wide range of color themes, choose your font, word orientation (vertical, horizontal, any), and a shape to build the word cloud around (for me, this is the coolest part). There's a whole gallery of clouds to browse through, on topics as varied as a Emperor penguins to country populations which is such an interesting way to visually display data. Think of the ways content can be introduced or summarized using these!
I created the one below using the first three pages of Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. With the right group of students, something like this could be used as an anticipation guide to get kids talking about what the story might be about before they read. It could be used after reading by asking kids to generate a list of words that are relevant to the story. Printed word clouds could be hung over the classroom library as a way to advertise books.
Teachers could also use these at the beginning of the year as a way to get to know her new class. Here's one my daughter made about herself. She's included many of her favorite things! How have you used tag clouds in your classroom? What ideas can you add?
Everywhere I look these days, I see another book list of recommended books for summer reading. Some like them, others wish they would go away. Other sites include calendars, craft ideas, and more to keep kids busy this summer. Here's a handful from the blogosphere that stood out for me.
I liked this idea for a homemade summer journal, written by blogger Mary Alice Gruppi.
See if your school has any summer requirements. Here are some for rising fourth grade students that I came across online. I showed my own rising fourth grader, and she crinkled her nose and said, "No thanks!" Maybe yours will be more responsive.
Reading is Fundamental's monthly activity calendars are available in English and Spanish. They include lots of ideas to wile away the long summer days.
A quick, nice way to think about kids' summer reading with T.A.F. (time, access, fun) from Newswise.
A summertime game from one Mom to another, via Penelope [loves lists]. The author uses Tantalizing Tickets and cooking classes in your kitchen to keep summer fun and interesting.
These 7 Ideas for Screen-Free Travel with Kids seem so easy and almost obvious, but in this screen saturated environment, it's good to be reminded of some alternatives.
BKWRM: We drove behind a car with this license plate yesterday, and it took my girls TOO long to figure out what it said! It made me realize that it might be fun to keep a car journal to document the fun license plates we decode. (We live in Virginia so we'll get lots of practice! Check out this site to give yourself some practice.
Of course, here at Reading Rockets we offer our own "virtual beach bag"with lots of good ideas and links to excellent resources.