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.
Sometimes it takes more than a new book to keep a child reading. If you're finding that your reader needs a nudge, here are some summer incentive programs that may spark some page turning. It truly seems as though everyone is offering an incentive program this year. Just about every program includes tips, booklists, and some sort of tracking mechanism.
Pizza Hut's Book It program has a summer component called Summer Break with Book It! It's for kids grades K-6, and features a minute tracker app, book recommendations, recipes for readers, printables, games, and activity calendars.
Barnes & Noble's summer reading program is called Imagination's Destination. The free booklet is available in English and Spanish, and includes activities related to books. Readers who read and record 8 books can choose one from a list to receive for free.
Scholastic's Summer Challenge asks kids to log their reading minutes to earn rewards. The challenge is to beat last year's 64,213,141 reading minutes and set a new world record! The 20 schools with the most minutes will be featured in Scholastic's Book of World Records.
Book Adventure from Sylvan helps kids find books, offers quizzes on what they've read (yippee) and enables kids to earn prizes for their reading success. The online site is graphically pleasing, and includes sections for kids, teachers, and parents.
Feed Your Brain is Half Price Books' summer program. Kids ages 14 and under can earn Back-to-School Bucks by completing 300 minutes.
H.E. Buddy's Summer Reading Club asks kids to write down 10 books they've read. It's unclear what kids get for reading, but I think it's a t-shirt.
Chances are your local library system is offering a summer reading program as well. I encourage you to see what your local branch is up to. Ours typically includes a summer reading log, but also visits from local authors and entertainers.
Not everyone loves an incentive program (kids AND adults). For example, read Alfie Kohn's A Closer Look at Reading Incentive Programs. Kohn, an outspoken critic of grades, test scores, and reward systems, believes that incentive programs "smother people's enthusiasm for activities they might otherwise enjoy." Kohn directly addresses BookIt (as well as Accelerated Reader) in his article.
Will you be using an incentive program with your reader? If so, what seems to work and why?
Today is the last day of school! It's a welcome relief from all the test stress we've been experiencing. But staring in the face of long days and weeks of a hot summer have me thinking about ways to keep my two daughters engaged with books this summer. One way I hope to keep them reading is by finding lots of new titles for them to read. Here are four resources for kids' books that I'm looking at. Please add yours too. Together, we can keep our kids reading all summer long!
Parents' Choice 2012 Book Awards. I consider this a trustworthy site, although at first glance some of the books recommended for my older daughter take on some pretty serious topics (suicide, depression, drownings), so I'll need to look at those more closely before recommending them.
The schools library network from the Houston Area Independent Schools offers extensive lists by grade level. What I like about many of their recommendations is that they are a part of a series. There's nothing better than stumbling onto a new author or series — one book can lead to many more!
Librarians Recommend Books for Boys includes links to many lists and recommendations. I'll be looking at these lists even though I have girls; there are some great titles and adventure stories here! Not just for boys.
Great Early Elementary Reads book list from the Association for Library Service to children. This list includes several titles readers just learning to read and those beginning to read on their own.
And, for teachers, here's a list from Edutopia that includes good education-related titles and other good old-fashioned page turners!
Here's a great idea: Work on your writing craft over the summer for free, and online, with a group of other teachers and librarians. Then, apply what you learn with your students next year! That's the idea behind Teachers Write, an online virtual summer writing camp for teachers and librarians. Camp runs from June 4th to August 10th.
Visit Kate Messner's blog to learn more about her, and the Teachers Write page to view the schedule (don't worry, even Kate recognizes that schedule is an ugly summer word — think of it as schedule-ish) and to get a sense of what she's hoping to have happen this summer. The "camp" looks both laid back and welcoming, and like the sort of thing you can squeeze in between day outings and trips to the pool. Judging from the number of folks who have already signed up, this should be a great collaborative and free way to sharpen your writing skills this summer!
If there's someone who knows about teaching writing, it's Steve Graham. He's a nationally recognized professor, teacher, and researcher in the field of writing. The bulk of his work is with students with learning disabilities. His writing is always clear, informative, and helpful.
Graham and his colleagues at Vanderbilt launched Project Write, a website "designed to improve the writing and self-regulation behaviors of students in early elementary grades (1-3)." The site includes an overview of the stages of instruction from Develop Background Knowledge through Independent Performance. There are lesson plans that use two strategies to teach persuasive writing: POW and TREE. Last, there is a resource page which offers online and print resources.
If you teach writing, I think you'll find Project Write a helpful tool!
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!