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.
Our younger daughter has always been super easygoing. She makes friends easily and is quick to laugh. Lately though, we've seen her positive attitude slip away. She's become one of those kids who literally counts the days until the last day of school. She's complaining about headaches and classmates, and she'd really rather stay home. The stress of end-of-the year projects and looming state tests is really getting to her.
Here are some ways we're trying to help her manage her stress and keep it together for these last few weeks of school. Maybe an idea in here can help your family too!
1. We're doing everything the school recommends: making sure she goes to bed on time and that she eats a good breakfast. That's the easy part! It's helping her clear and calm her head that is more difficult.
2. We're talking about time management. My daughter has many, many mastery sheets she has to finish before June 1. We're helping her figure out how many sheets a day she needs to get done. This is helping her plan out her work and subsequently realize she has more time than she thinks she does. PBS Kids has a good resource about time management called You Vs. The Clock. As part of it, kids think through Have-To's, Want-To's, and Goals.
3. We're trying to help her keep it all in perspective. We've been reminding her that she's a good student and that this test is only one measure of her progress. We're downplaying the whole "it's on everything you've learned so far in elementary school" sentiment that can be heard. Helping Kids Manage Worry has several good recommendations for helping kids conquer some of their concerns.
4. We're going outside. An hour or so of outside time after dinner does wonders to clear her head and help her relax.
This will all be over soon (17 more days, as E told me this morning) but some of these lessons we'll take with us into next year. Here are a few other resources on this topic that may be helpful:
We're always on the hunt for good books around our house. I rely on friends, librarians, my local bookstore, and several online sources for new titles we should be sure to read.
I subscribe to many blogs through my RSS feed, one of which is Getting Kids Reading. Through GKR, I recently learned about two new YA books I think my girls will like: Serpent's Shadow, the latest in the Kane Chronicles from Rick Riordan, and The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, which is a prequel to a favorite The Mysterious Benedict Society. You can view the book trailer for that book here.
I also subscribe to Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac. Silvey has encyclopedic knowledge of children's books, and always provides enough background to pique my interest. I often go right from her post to our library's site to put the book on hold.
An unlikely source of book recommendations comes from a blog I use for recipes! Dinner, a Love Story has a section on kids' books that is usually pretty handy, and it includes a Q&A with David Sedaris, in which a lucky 8 year old got to ask Sedaris a few questions. Their Fave Five (updated weekly-ish) includes a rotating list of recommendations their kids are reading right now.
Sadly, some of my other favorite sites seem to have stopped posting, but their archives are worth a look: Open Wide, Look Inside is (was?) a blog about teaching elementary math, science, and social studies. Teach with Picture Books is LOADED with good recommendations. The labels along the right sidebar provide good navigation.
I hope at least one of these links leads you to a good book!
Teachers teach reading strategies to help with comprehension. The most common strategies teachers use are likely those found by the National Reading Panel to have enough scientific evidence to conclude that their use can improve comprehension: comprehension monitoring, graphic organizers, question answering, question generation, summarization, cooperative learning, story structure, and multiple strategy instruction.
In a recent blog post by Prof. Daniel Willingham, a UVA Professor and Cognitive Scientist at the University of Virginia, Willingham wonders whether teachers are spending too much time teaching strategies. Willingham fears the "collateral damage" of too much strategy instruction is bored kids who never get the opportunity to sink into a book (my words, not his).
Willingham reviewed the research on comprehension strategies. Research generally supports teaching children strategies. Evidence suggests that strategies are learned quickly, and can provide a short-term boost to comprehension.
But in considering how often the instruction takes away from a child's reading, Willingham asks, "How can you get lost in a narrative world if you think you're supposed to be posing questions to yourself all the time? How can a child get really absorbed in a book about ants or meteorology if she thinks that reading means pausing every now and then to anticipate what will happen next, or to question the author's purpose?"
This issue doesn't feel that different to me than problems with prereading. When thinking about effective instruction, it may be that the questions to ask are about time. How many minutes are available for instruction? How many of those minutes are used for strategy instruction (or prereading)? Is that the best use of those minutes? I'd love to hear what you think.
I'm lucky enough to be involved with our school's library renovation project. I wrote about our first meeting here. Yesterday we met with the architects and we had a chance to see their first drafts.
We all know that school libraries are important places. A new two-phase study from Rutgers University helps us understand even more about libraries: they impact entire schools, not just test scores. School librarians are co-teachers to all teachers in the building, and they can help teachers integrate skills and content instruction. Libraries are safe, multidisciplinary learning centers where information is available to all.
That sentiment was reflected in our thinking about renovations. Beyond movable shelving units and comfortable cushions, we talked about glass walled "huddle labs" with white boards for planning, and a multimedia project room where students can pull together projects using a variety of technologies. We talked about "ambiguous furniture" that can create partitions but than can be pushed aside to create larger collaborative spaces. And also the need for smaller, cozier spaces for kids to hunker down on their own and fall into a book.
We drooled over the ideas and pictures the architects brought, and we left dreaming about how we could transform our library, including the entrance way. And don't get me started on color! There are such neat ways to think about color as a way to welcome patrons, and as a way to delineate and articulate different spaces within the library.
Then we all woke up when the building facilitator started talking about costs. And budgets. And using a phased plan. Boo-hiss! Sadly, that's the topic for our next meeting. I'll lobby hard for the PTO to get involved with fundraising, and with the administrator's help, we'll think about different allocations of money that could be used.
Want to fall in love with pictures of libraries? I've added several pictures based on yesterday's meeting. Take a look at our school library Pinterest board.
This week my 5th grade daughter came home with math homework that involved finding the surface area and volume of pentagonal prisms. She needed help with it, and it was really hard! It was hard because I hadn't worked problems like those for years, and even when I did, I'm not sure how easily I did it. We got through the homework okay (after a looooooong time and several Google searches) but the experience made me think about ways teachers can help parents help with homework.
One way teachers can help parents help with homework is by encouraging parents to ask questions that encourage thinking about the problem. Rather than being able to solve the problem themselves, parents help their child think through the problem and make a plan for solving it.
A teacher once shared with me a helpful handout on this topic, called Parents as Questioners. The handout describes questions parents should use freely and sparingly, as well as questions to avoid when helping their child think about a homework assignment.
Parents are encouraged to use freely any questions that will help students think about the way they are tackling the problem. These include: What makes sense so far? Is there another way to think about it? Is this like any other problem that you have worked on in any way?
Questions to use sparingly include How might you organize this? Have you tried smaller cases? Can you see any patterns?
Questions or hints to avoid include: That's not quite what I had in mind Explore it like this ;No, you should .
Some of the "use freely" questions may have helped us this week as we worked through pentagonal prisms. I could have guided Molly's thinking by asking her to think about what she's done with rectangular prisms, and how the current problems relate to that. That may have winded us around and gotten us closer in solving the problems.
Take a look at the suggestions on the Parents as Questioners PDF and let me know if you think that would be helpful to the parents you work with!
I'm off for a quick Spring break this week, but I thought I'd recommend stopping by our Ideas for Parents board on Pinterest. Frankly, all our boards are so much fun! If you haven't started your Pinterest addiction, your Spring break may be a perfect time to check it out.
Our Ideas for Parents board has some cool literacy-based ideas like magic message bananas, a very sweet hungry caterpillar hand print, and a graphing idea with colored eggs — but there's a lot more too.
Enjoy your week!
All of us who have worked with young children have worked with kids who struggle. Many of us have worked directly with kids with learning disabilities (LD). PBS NewsHour is putting together a terrific series about kids with LD as part of the American Graduate project. I encourage you to read, watch and share! Among the resources:
Despite a wealth of information about causes, prevalence, and effective interventions for kids with LD, many misconceptions continue to linger. Five misconceptions about learning disabilities addresses issues such as what is LD? What isn't? Whether learning disabilities are easily diagnosed, the relationship between IQ and LD, prevalence numbers, and whether LD lasts a lifetime.
Engaging students with learning issues early on highlights an elementary school with a technology and arts focus to their early intervention. Dr. Tom Hehir from the Harvard Graduate School of Education provides context for the challenges of keeping kids in school and engaged in the educational process.
Read advice for parents of children with learning disabilities from Daniel Paris, a graduate student at Harvard who first dropped out of high school and was later diagnosed with LD and ADHD. His advice (be patient, resilient, understanding, and never lower your expectations for your child) is good for all parents!
Looks like a good series on an important topic.
I recently read a post about providing opportunities to connect families with their child's education that I really liked. Peggy Ashbrook's post Involving families in early childhood science education from the NSTA Blog provides several ideas and resources for getting parents together with a focus on science. I've listed a few of my favorites here, plus a few others.
Family Science offers a few free sample activities that can be done at home, including Wet Surfaces and Charge It, a racing activity that explores the push and pull properties of static electricity.
Peep and the Big Wide World from WGBH is a fun online way to teach science to preschoolers. You can watch a video, play games, and do a related activity all based in age-appropriate science concepts. The videos are narrated by Joan Cusack.
Bring Science Home from Scientific American features a series of science-related activities. These activities, designed for six-to 12-year olds, include instructions, material lists, and necessary background information.
TLC's How Stuff Works offers up a fairly lengthy list of science projects for kids including sugar crystals on a string and soda pop in a balloon. It looks like there are some fun activities here!
A love of science can begin at an early age. Hopefully some of these resources can get you and your child thinking and talking about science!
Magazines are great reading options. There's new content in every one, and if you have a subscription, it's great fun to get the new issue in the mail! Articles are short enough that they can be read in one setting, and there's usually a variety of writing in each one. The best magazines for kids I've seen often include recipes, jokes, craft ideas, and some stories.
I've written about magazines for kids before, but am revisiting the topic now that my older daughter is 11 (gulp!). I want to give her a subscription to something age appropriate yet stay away from topics like dating, kissing, and more!
Thankfully, Parents' Choice just released their review of children's magazines. The Parents' Choice 2012 Magazine Awards is a really helpful guide to magazine options for kids. Magazines receive a rating ranging from Gold to Silver to Recommended to Approved. Each magazine is reviewed with a full description and a link to the publisher for more information.
Based on what I've read, I'm considering ordering Kiki for our 11 year old, and Cricket for our 9 year old. I'd like to see a sample of each one before I place an order for a full subscription, so I'm hoping our public library has back issues of both.
How about you? Do you subscribe to any magazines for your child? If so, which ones?
Pre-reading activities, the things teachers plan and do before reading a text, happen almost every day in elementary school. Pre-reading activities seek to improve a child's comprehension of a text by activating prior knowledge, and by providing time to pre-teach concepts or vocabulary students will encounter in a text. Pre-reading activities can be informal and quick, or they can be more formal, and incorporate strategies such as the Anticipation Guide or First Lines.
According to Shanahan on Literacy, two contributors to the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards "have been telling teachers not to engage in pre-reading activities and as a result some districts and states have already started banning the practice." (Shanahan suggests those authors are now softening that message.)
What's wrong with pre-reading activities? According to Shanahan, problems include:
Hmmmm…there's probably some truth to each of those reasons, in some lessons and in some cases. But in general I share Shanahan's belief that what we need to do is to "sharpen and focus pre-reading to the benefit of students."
So, what does good pre-reading look like?
It's short, and it's focused on the text. It highlights story elements that are important to a reader's understanding (for example, an unusual setting or time period). Attention to Tier 2, or useful words, is reflected. And it sets kids up for the "a-ha" moment — the one where they're reading along and they say, "Hey! We just talked about that!"
I'm sure there will be more to come on this, but I'd love for your to add to my short list. What does good pre-reading look like?
UPDATE 3/26/12: If you're interested in reading Tim Shanahan's guidelines for prereading, here's Part 2 of his posts on prereading.