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.
The vocabulary section of the Reading Rockets site contains lots of great resources and information about vocabulary instruction. Thanks to good research, it's now clear that teachers can grow kids' vocabularies through (1) a careful selection of words to teach, and (2) instructional routines that provide practice with new words in multiple settings.
February 2010's Reading Teacher contains The Vocabulary-Rich Classroom: Modeling Sophisticated Word Use to Promote Word Consciousness and Vocabulary Growth (Lane and Allen). The authors describe elementary classrooms in which the teachers use several techniques to increase students' word knowledge through explicit and implicit strategies.
The authors describe how Ms. Barker (a kindergarten teacher) started with familiar words (e.g., the kids knew happy, so the teacher began using cheerful and delighted) and then moved to more classroom-specific terms (e.g., starting with "passing out the paper" to "distributing the paper"). Tables 1, 2, and 3 list sophisticated words related to specific content areas, and words teachers can use when discussing classroom behavior and during classroom routines. From Table 1, walking in line might provide an opportunity to use words like file, halt, linger, or swiftly. Group time might provide an opportunity to use words such as deliberate, express and verbalize.
Clearly, this type of incidental use of interesting words isn't sufficient for all vocabulary learning. Children also learn words through careful, explicit instruction built over time. And while the sophisticated word lists in the paper worked for that K teacher, other teachers may find that they need to create their own meaningful word lists based on the kids they teach.
Here in Virginia, we're being absolutely pummeled by winter weather. Our area got 20 inches over the weekend, Tuesday night brought another 5, and today brings wind gusts of 30 miles per hour. The kids have missed 9 of the last 13 days of school, and we're all starting to lose it a little bit.
The whole East coast is dealing with the same weather. I think what we've gotten pales in comparison to what our friends in the Midwest deal with every year. But, sheesh! When you're not used to this, it's pretty tough! I've never been more grateful for power and my neighbor's four wheel drive truck.
We're sledded, snow-forted, and hot chocolated out. We've written (and got bored with) a draft of a newspaper, watched our media diary numbers soar to unknown proportions, and reread the third and fourth Harry Potter books.
Misery loves company, and I'm not alone blogging about being at home due to snow. Here are some blog posts and sites I thought you might enjoy. And with all this time on your hands, you may actually be able to read a few! Stay safe and warm! And, as a friend assured me this morning, there are daffodils and tulips budding under all this the snow.
- Staying sane during snow days, from Motherlode at The Washington Post
- Being snowed in with young kids tests parents' creativity also from The Washington Post
- Family Fun's ideas for a Snow Day Party
- Indoor Snow Day Activities including scarf jumping, a winter dressing relay, and indoor blanket forts!
My kids are home from school, again! We've had strange winter weather here in Virginia, with a huge snow fall in December (27 inches!), flash flooding that closed the schools in early January, and then another 9 inches of snow late last week. The kids have been home. A lot! And they're getting bored.
Yesterday they came up with the idea to write their own newspaper. Always willing to take on a literacy related project with neighborhood kids, we brainstormed various "news stories" to include.
They came up with the following list:
- A summary of the day's sledding down the neighborhood Big Hill
- Sledding do's and don'ts
- A recipe for hot chocolate (a surefire winner with marshmallows and whipped cream)
- A jokes and riddles section (guess whose idea that was?)
- A winter day word search (kids love a word search, but should teachers?)
It's turning into quite a project. Their current plan is to use ReadWriteThink's Printing Press to create the newspaper. Anna's working with Puzzlemaker to make the word search. The other cul-de-sac kids are off drafting their own columns.
Stay tuned! If the newspaper actually goes to "print," I'll post it here.
My Inbox and RSS reader are always loaded with ideas, book suggestions, resources, and more. I leave them there thinking I'd like to write about each one, or go back to flesh out an idea, or share an idea with a friend. I thought I'd share things I've saved over the past few days.
Coloring pages from digital photos: From one of the blogs I love, Here in the Bonny Glen, a link to Crayola's Play Zone Coloring Page Maker. After registering, you can turn your digital photos into coloring pages. How fun is that?! Imagine what great writing prompts those pictures/coloring pages would make!
Comprehension Constructor guide: From Choice Literacy, a helpful article and free PDF of "comprehension constructors," developed by teachers to support thoughtful reading. It's recommended for adolescent readers, but I think elementary teachers could use them with slight modifications.
Catalogs in the classroom: From the Book Chook, ideas for using catalogs as teaching tools in the classroom. My daughter's 3rd grade teacher is doing just that as part of her economics unit on needs and wants. Some of the Book Chook's recommendations include questions that, when asked, seem as though might also develop kids' media literacy, an important thing these days. For example, what is the overall layout of the catalog? How is it organized? Is it easy to find the price of items? Are the pictures of some items bigger than others? Why might that be?
New and Improved ReadWriteThink: A consistent resource for lesson plans and teaching ideas, ReadWriteThink has been expanded to include new resources and communities. A partnership of the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Verizon Foundation, this site is one to bookmark.
What's in your Inbox or RSS reader? Share with us!
A just released national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation studied the media usage of kids ages 8-18. In Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year Olds, more than 2,000 3rd-12th grade students responded to a survey that asked them about their daily habits. Over 700 kids completed seven-day media use diaries.
Some of the findings:
"Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time 'media multitasking' (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7-1/2 hours."
(To see what the authors counted and didn't count as entertainment media, view the methodology section of the report).
I find these results really depressing. Worse, they've caused me to reflect and realize how my own girls' media usage has crept up over the past few months! What used to be contained to the occasional DVR show has morphed into listening to an iPod, to new games for the Wii and the DS, to using my Kindle as soon as I put it down!
I don't really know how much overall screen time my kids have, but I'm going to find out! The appendix of the Kaiser report includes a sample of a media diary, but I think it's too sophisticated for my needs. I'm going to simply jot down the screen time that's happening this week, without making any major changes to our schedule. I know we're not anywhere near the 7:38 logged by older kids, but I'm interested to see where we are. Care to join me?
If kids and media is a topic of interest to you, be sure to check out our latest webcast, Screen time and literacy. In addition to video of three experts on the topic, we've gathered resources for parents and teachers as well as discussion questions to follow webcast viewing.
I got a Kindle for Christmas, and before too long it found its way into the hands of Molly (9) and Anna (7).
If you're unfamiliar with Amazon's eReader, the Kindle, or eReaders in general, they're portable electronic devices that allow you to download, store and read books wirelessly. Different from a laptop, most eReaders are not backlit, which means you can't view the screen in the dark but you can read in bright sunlight, something you can't do with a laptop. Most eReaders rely on something called eInk, which uses a low-power, high contrast "electronic paper."
Curious to see what the Kindle could offer for my young readers, we browsed the Kindle store for Children's Chapter Books. Currently, there are 9 books for Baby-3 (among them Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes by Annie Kubler,) 903 ebooks for Ages 4-8 (including Nubs and Curious George), and over 2,400 books for ages 9-12, including The Lightning Thief and The Magician's Elephant.
Sadly, Harry Potter isn't available (although several books about Harry Potter are). We also couldn't find Judy Moody, another series my 7 year old likes. One nice feature of the Kindle store is that we could download samples of books before buying. We downloaded several samples, and they really helped us make our buying decision.
After all our browsing, we couldn't really find a Kindle title that my 7 year old was dying to read, but we did end up downloading The Name of this Book is Secret . As a digital native, Anna caught on to the device immediately, and didn't seem to bring all the "reader issues" to the table that I do — I'm also reading a Kindle book, and am still trying to get past the concept that I'm not physically holding a book and not able to see the cover the way it was designed.
Will the Kindle change the world? I don't know. It's changed the look of my nightstand, for the time being. And it's changed the look of our lunch table too. Beyond that, we'll see!
Happy New Year! January is a great time to look ahead, but I also like to revisit the past to remember some highlights. Several blog topics seemed to resonate with readers (using comments as a barometer), and for me that provides guidance about other topics I should write about in the coming year.
The topic of kindergarten readiness produced many comments. Lots of parents struggle with the same decision we faced when it came time to decide whether we should send our summer birthday child to kindergarten. Social/emotional development, literacy skills, and school climate all seem to play a role for parents, and we'll continue to discuss those topics this year.
Word searches, as a waste of instructional time, Accelerated Reader, and my feelings about particular reading logs also sparked many comments. I love that your comments span such diverse opinions, and that several audiences (parents, teachers, professors, even students!) weighed in. I'll continue to blog about specific instructional issues here, and I hope you'll continue to let me know your thoughts.
Last, we love to talk about books to share with kids. My favorite classroom read alouds and my appeal for books to read to my daughter's third-grade class yielded great suggestions. I hope you'll keep on sharing your book finds with us. I promise to do the same!
What do you want to talk about this year? I know several topics I'd like to broach: year-round schooling, ways to practice spelling words during the week, writing and language development, and parenting a struggling reader. Again, happy new year, stay warm, and keep reading and commenting! I love hearing from you.
This December marks the last month of Jon Scieszka's tenure as the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. For two years, Mr. Scieszka (the author of several children's books and founder of Guys Read) has worked to promote a love of reading and books. He's been particularly focused on helping parents and teachers reach the reluctant reader, one he describes as "that's the kid who might be a reader, who could be one, but just isn't that interested in reading."
Scieszka wrote a quick goodbye this week in the Huffington Post in which Mr. Scieszka recounted some of his favorite moments during his time as The Ambassador. They're sweet and funny, and made me glad that he's been the voice of children's literature.
Scieszka also summarized the advice he's been giving, and it's really good. So good, in fact, that I'll put his bullet points here, but then go back and read the whole post:
- Let each child choose what she or he wants to read. I'll never forget my own son's reaction reading Little House on the Prairie (a favorite of many readers): "Are they really going to spend this whole chapter making a door?"
- Expand the definition of "reading" to include non-fiction, humor, graphic novels, magazines, action adventure, and, yes, even websites. It's the pleasure of reading that counts; the focus will naturally broaden. A boy won't read shark books forever.
- If a kid doesn't like one book, don't worry about finishing it. Start another. The key is helping children find what they like.
- Be a good reading role model. Show kids what you like to read, what you don't like to read, how you choose what you read. Let them see you reading.
- Avoid demonizing television, computer games, and new technologies. Electronic media may compete for kids' attention, but we're not going to get kids reading by badmouthing other entertainment. Admit that TV and games can do things books can't. Talk about how reading can make a world in ways that movies and games can't.
This time of year, there are a zillion lists: to-do, must-do, "can't go to bed until this is done" lists, and then there are those designed to help us wrap up our holiday shopping. Below are some of my favorite lists, maybe there's something here for you too!
Perhaps the most comprehensive collection of book recommendations, our Annual Buying Guide includes books for kids ranging from 0-4 to 8-9 year olds.
From Choice Literacy, the 4th Annual Gifts for Literacy Geeks list. I especially love the Choose Books t-shirt from the Literacy Tees section.
From Imagination Soup, a holiday gift guide (PDF) that includes educational ideas that cover interests in geography and history, science, reading, Spanish, pretend, and more. (Caution: the file is big; allow a minute for it to load).
Common Sense Media helps with all kinds of shopping with their lists. I used the Best DVDs for Kids and Families guide to help me learn what movies we should catch up on over winter break. Most of Common Sense's lists can be viewed by child's age, which is helpful.
The Parents' Choice Gift Guide is arranged by age and by price. Included in their guide are eco-friendly toys and gifts for kids with special needs.
Good luck with those to do lists!
The latest edition of Literacy Lava, a newsletter for parents and caregivers, is available in PDF form here.
From the editor:
In this third edition of Literacy Lava, you'll find ideas for promoting literacy through inexpensive activities you can do with your kids. Find out what your local library has to offer, read ideas on making books with kids, sneak some learning into shopping, discover games that build literacy skills, develop imagination while playing Grocery Store, make writing part of your family's life, read why picture books are so good for kids, and find out how literacy helped one child fight night terrors. Don't forget to check out the Online Extras page, and the Writing Prompt activity page for kids.
Some highlights for me from this issue include Susan Stephenson's Making Books with Your Kids ideas, the word game suggestions, the grocery list for kids, and the online extras found at the end of the issue.
I hope you enjoy Literacy Lava!