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Early literacy development

Careful watching and listening during those first few days of school

First day jitters? First week jitters? Assessing kids those first few days and weeks of school probably isn't a great idea. Kids need a chance to settle in to school, to learn the new routine, and generally become more comfortable in the new classroom. Hopefully, by waiting, a child's assessment results more accurately reflect her true skills.

On the cusp of reading

This might be the most gorgeous description of a reader, just on the cusp of reading on her own:

At her age, "reading to yourself" means "reading out loud." Silent reading is perhaps a year away. I get caught up in listening. Can't help it! Such a delight, those confident trotting sentences and then the stumble, the try and re-try and a tap on my arm, "Mommy, what's this word?"

Early and often

I don't remember learning to read, really, but I do remember the warmth and pleasure when my mother read aloud to us as children. I was reminded of the power of books shared early and often when I saw a Mother's Day video done by First Book.

Two ideas worth spreading

Ideas worth spreading is the tagline for TED, a website that provides "riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world." If you are not familiar with the TED site, you should go visit it! I've watched some truly amazing talks on there, ones that I think about for days afterward. Here are two new talks I watched recently that have really stayed with me.

Transitional kindergarten: The answer for some

February marks the month where most preschools ask families to re-enroll for next year. For parents of 4 year olds with summer or early fall birthdays, the question looms: Should she stay or should she go, to kindergarten? Since writing this post about our family's decision four years ago, many readers have commented in sharing their own questions and concerns. Social skills top the list of many concerns, as well as parents wondering whether they want their child to be the youngest in the grade.

Resolutions and readers

While teachers experience their "real" New Year every August when they meet their new class, the mid-point of January also marks a chance to revisit, reflect, and ramp up efforts in the calendar New Year.

As a teacher or parent to a developing reader, I encourage you to think about and develop some resolutions for the New Year that will further the reading skills of the readers you work with. Sometimes that starts with a little more information.

Teach handwriting. Really!

Richard Gentry and Steve Graham reaffirm the research about the importance of spelling and handwriting instruction in a new white paper. I'll write about the spelling research in a separate post, this one will focus on handwriting.

N is for No Letter of the Week

We can all agree that classrooms are busy places, with little time to spare. As teachers, we have to get the most we can out of every instructional minute. Doing so enables us to structure the day with time for more exploration, discovery, invention, and dare we say play?

There are few things that sap more instructional time than teaching a Letter of the Week (LOTW). I'm sorry to my preschool and kindergarten teacher friends who use these programs, but it's the truth. Teaching a letter of the week is too slow. Too isolated. Too painful to watch.

The value of mixed practice in teaching reading

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits is a timely reminder about a few techniques that can reliably improve how much a student learns from studying. Techniques include alternating study environments, spacing study sessions, self testing, and mixing content.

Kindergarten Camp

ants on a log

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.

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"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges