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Early literacy development

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.

You had a lot to say about...

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.

Literacy Lava 3 is here!

The latest edition of Literacy Lava, a newsletter for parents and caregivers, is available in PDF form here.

Reading at home: "You either get angry or you can bribe them"

Last week's blog post about Accelerated Reader generated some great comments, both here on the blog and also on our Facebook page. I love that the audience for this blog appears to be a combination of parents, teachers, principals, reading specialists, grandparents, special education teachers, graduate students….

A comment from last week's post inspired this week's title. Alex's comment was a dead-on piece of reality:

Looking at writing: An emergent writer

This writing sample comes from a 5 year old boy in my neighborhood, who happily wrote a big long message one afternoon. "Wow, Nelson! What did you write?" Mom asked. Nelson looked at it, scrunched his nose, and said, "I dunno. Something about a butterfly, I think."

writing sample 2

What this sample tells me:

Do more than read...talk!

Teaching by Listening, a study from the July 2009 journal Pediatrics, is all about the contribution of adult-child conversations to a child's language development. This piece, along with other research, documents the effect of language in the home on a child's vocabulary. Without question, kids who hear more words spoken at home learn more words and enter school with better vocabularies.

Looking at writing: What can we learn?

Readers of this blog know that I love writing samples. I've collected them from my kids since they started scribbling, and I often ask friends and neighbors if I can make a copy of their kids notes, assignments, or scribbles.

Children learn about reading and writing from the time they're born. When young kids watch parents and siblings use writing to communicate, they are learning about the purpose and value of writing. Many children become interested in making marks and scribbling on paper beginning around 18 months.

Lovely words

I was reading a novel last night, a book called Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle (Holt). It's a tough subject even for the target reader (12 years and older) as the title suggests.

Pages

"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln