Reading aloud with kids around the globe

What if your students could share a popular work of children's literature with other students around the world? Fourth-grade teacher Jan Wells has blown the lid off her small school in Meriden Kansas (population 813) by taking advantage of (free) projects offered by the educational community on Edmodo that allow her to do just that.

A few words about wordless picture books

Wordless picture books are books are told entirely through their illustrations — they are books without words, or sometimes just a few words. Sharing wordless books at home or at school gives us a chance to develop so many important literacy skills: listening, speaking, storytelling, vocabulary, comprehension, story structure, inference, cause and effect … the list goes on and on!

Expanding word knowledge: two strategies

Words are so cool! I was reminded of that last night as I helped my daughter study for her word study test. Her word study for the week involved three Latin roots (pater, mater, dicta) and, for each one, related words used in our everyday lives (for example: patriarch, matrimony, contradiction). Anna doesn't really appreciate how much she's learning about words through this study, but I sure do!

Vocabulary: explicit vs. implicit

Vocab! Vocab! Vocab! The new Common Core Standards have incorporated a new component labeled, "Vocabulary Acquisition and Use." Although many of us have been diligent in the past to teach vocabulary, we now have specific standards that we are being held accountable for. The writers of the Common Core wanted vocabulary expansion to become second nature to teachers and students through grasping and retaining words and comprehending text.

Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock? Choosing the best apps for your child

Which are the real, worthwhile apps, and which are the mock, to borrow from Cole Porter? With so many titles, how is a busy parent or teacher to know?

Although many apps for cell phones and tablets are advertised as having educational value, is that just marketing hype? Or is it true? Are they educational?

Vocabulary, worth talking about

I have a good friend with a 7 month old daughter. Through his video clips on Facebook, I have watched E react to new toys, try all sorts of new foods, and learn to sit up. Around our house, we're way past soft foods and teethers, so I watch with joy as E happily gums spoonfuls of bananas and sweet potato. But every time I watch, I'm struck by the silence. There are no adult sounds, just the occasional grunt or gurgle from baby E. When I finally asked E's Mom and Dad about the silence, it turns out to be plain 'ol stage fright — Mom and Dad are too shy to have their voice heard on video.

Starting a new school year with a smile

Some school districts opened this week, more are scheduled for next week. Children may be apprehensive or excited or somewhere in between. Books and a chuckle are a good way to provide a common experience and a fine way to break the ice at the start of the school year.

Food for mind and body

C.S. Lewis once said, "Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably." I couldn't agree more.

Long ago, I lived in Cambridge (Massachusetts), a city in which both activities "combine admirably." Not only is it a place where lots of writers and artists live, it has loads of bookstores and was once the home of Julia Child, renowned cook, cookbook author, and the first host of a television cooking show.

Misconceptions about vocabulary learning

One way to help a child do well in school (and life!) is to help them build their vocabulary. Beginning readers use knowledge about words to help them make sense of what they're reading. The more words a reader knows, the more they are able to comprehend what they're reading or listening to. There's an important link between vocabulary and comprehension.

Problems with pre-reading

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.


"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain