Making the Most of Summer

At the end of every school year, I always have an influx of new students as parents are looking for summer tutoring. Some of these children come to their first tutoring session reluctantly. Their parents have signed them up for extra academic support because the closing school year has been especially challenging. These are often students who have fallen behind and struggle with learning. The last thing they want when school gets out for the summer is more education. Teaching these students is some of the most rewarding work I get to do.

Being in a school atmosphere creates a unique set of challenges for any child. Not only are children expected to sit still for extended periods of time, but they are also expected to stay focused during that time. They have to keep up with the pace that has been predetermined. They may leave the classroom to receive extra help, but often feel like they’ve missed something when they come back from pull-out time. There’s also the competitive nature of school. How am I doing compared to my friends? Am I keeping up? This math seems really hard. Am I the only one who doesn’t get this? On top of all of this, there’s the added distraction of the social aspect of school. It’s no surprise that some students come to me at the beginning of the summer with a somewhat sour attitude. Their experiences with education probably have not been overly fulfilling and successful. Many of them are lacking foundation skills and need to go back to basics.

The reason I love doing this kind of remedial skill work is because it’s an opportunity to show these children that they can be successful. It’s also a time and space that allows them to think and question without the fear of being compared, stigmatized, or embarrassed. One on one work always yields faster and better results than whole group work. When these students start to recognize their own progress and understanding, they are ecstatic! Getting something right feels good. For a child who has struggled through school, this can be a major confidence boost. It often changes their attitudes about learning. Students finish the summer feeling prepared for the upcoming school year, instead of feeling a sense of dread.

Some parents may be reluctant to sign up for summer tutoring because they want their child to have a break. Unfortunately, learning regression is a real problem for average and below-average achieving students. In my blog post about summer learning regression, there are some startling statistics about the growing gap between high achieving students, and average and below average students. Even 15-20 minutes of daily practice over the summer can help your child maintain their skills. One to two hours of tutoring a week can help them gain new skills and progress. If you’re considering summer tutoring for your child, I encourage you to set up a phone call with me. I am happy to answer any questions you have and I work with each student to create a customized plan that will help them reach their learning goals.

May 6th, 2019|

What A Child With Special Needs REALLY Needs

As a person who was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, I am quite familiar with the fear and stress that families and parents can experience when they learn that their child is struggling with a specific disability. Many parents feel the best approach is to get their child as much intervention and support as possible. They find the best tutors, doctors, therapists, and specialists. They fret over whose class their child will be in. Is their child getting enough academic time? Will they ever catch up? Should they be doing extra homework? How is their time at home best spent with their child?

It’s difficult to know what the right answer is. But I speak from experience as a learning specialist and someone who struggles with ADHD, when I say that all these things are important, but do not let them overshadow your child’s need for free time. If your child’s schedule is filled with school, doctor’s appointments, tutoring sessions, homework, and little else, it may be time to make some adjustments. Every week, your child should have down time ( time to relax, just hang out, or do a quiet activity) and time for something they’re passionate about (not an activity chosen by the parents). I encourage the parents I work with to find out what their child would really love to do. Whatever that activity is, see if you can find a way to make it happen weekly. Your child will feel less stressed, more accomplished, and it will take the focus off of their weaknesses and give them time to do something they are good at.

When I was a kid, I was always involved in a sport and music lesson of my choice. I did this through high school. Not only did it give me an outlet for my energy, but it also gave me a chance to practice something I loved and felt like I was good at (the news came later that I was a terrible athlete and dancer only when I looked back at home videos of games and recitals, laughing at my enthusiasm in spite of my lack of talent). Doing something that brings you joy is important and that became ingrained in me at such a young age. It makes me a happier person and keeps me from getting bogged down by all the responsibilities of life, many of which I can’t fulfill at my best unless I have time to de-stress and enjoy life. I prioritize personal quiet time and physical activity daily. Because I refuse to compromise on this, I am a happier and healthier person. I’m able to do the things I need to do with energy and enthusiasm.

Don’t forget that if your kiddo has a learning disability, that doesn’t mean it has to always be front and center stage. Give them time to relax and think, and time to enjoy the things that make them happy!

April 8th, 2019|

Free and Easy Math Resource

It’s time for my monthly blog post! This month I’ve decided to share with you one of my favorite math resources: Math Aids. This website allows users to create worksheets for essentially any math skill for free. You can customize each sheet and they’re great for basic skill practice.

Worksheets should be used a supplemental tool to quality math instruction and child-centered math discovery and exploration. The purpose of a worksheet or workbook is not to instruct or introduce a skill, but rather to allow the student to gain proficiency with practice. Here are some of the reasons I love this website:

  1. You can determine the number of problems you want on the sheet. I have some students for whom too many problems on a page is visually overwhelming. Even for children who don’t have a learning disability, seeing a page loaded with math problems can be daunting. With this website I can customize the number of problems for many of the worksheets.
  2. It’s not all about the numbers! I like that Math Aids is not just a resource for computation math problems, but also offers word problems. More than half the children I work with face a reading based learning disability. Some of these students are quite proficient in math and have a strong number sense, but when it comes to applying those skills to real world situations or word problems, they are at a loss. I can use this website to create word problem practice.
  3. It has a wide range of math concepts. Math Aids has worksheets for simple mental addition to Algebra II. This allows me to get resources for all of my math students in one place. I work with kiddos as young as 6, and as old as 17. Their ability levels vary quite a bit and as my students progress and face new challenges, I can quickly make worksheets to fit their changing needs.

This website is a super tool for homeschool parents and teachers, but it can also be useful for parents of children attending traditional school. If you know your child is struggling in a particular area, it’s worth checking out Math Aids to find some practice work to supplement the one-on-one work you are doing with your child at home.

December 7th, 2018|

What Is Guided Reading?

“Guided reading” is a phrase you may be familiar with. Maybe you have heard your child’s teacher use it. Maybe your child has even told you about her “guided reading” group at school. It may sound like some fancy way to read, but it’s actually quite simple. Not only is it pretty straight forward, but it’s something that parents can do at home with their children. Most parents I work with read with their children every night. Sometimes the parent does the reading, sometimes the child, or a combination of both. Guided reading is just taking this one step further and encouraging your child to engage with the text to gain deeper meaning. This may be something you are already doing when you read with your child and don’t realize that there is a special “teacher” word for it.

Guided reading for a first grader could mean you are simply drawing your child’s attention to how pictures help us understand the text we are reading, or that when we can’t figure a word out, maybe that picture can provide some clues. For your second grader, you might be encouraging her to share what she thinks is going to happen next in the book, or make a prediction. Perhaps with your third grader, you are asking him to think about what kind of person the main character is. Are they a brave person? Maybe this character is very intelligent. These are all parts of guided reading.

Talking about the text and stopping to share predictions, questions, feelings, and connections are all very important. Some children figure out how to do this on their own, but others need it to be modeled. Engaging with your child in this way helps to deepen her understanding, or comprehension, and become a better reader. Another helpful strategy is to simply ask your child to recount what happened in the story once your reading time is done. This helps with memory, comprehension, and can even alert you if the text may not be appropriate for your child’s reading ability.

Below is a picture of a thinkmark. This is a great tool I have my young readers use while they read. It serves as a bookmark but also as a way to guide their reading. You can even use the items on the thinkmark as verbal cues and you don’t have to write at all.

November 7th, 2018|

My Favorite Resource for Finding a “Just Right” Book

Finding a “just right” book for your child can be challenging. Maybe you’ve had the experience of choosing a seemly simple picture book, only to watch your child struggle over unknown vocabulary and rule-breaking spelling patterns you’re at a loss to explain. Or perhaps you select a book that seems perfect, except the content is not age-appropriate or of little interest to your young reader.

When I work with a student on reading, I provide texts that meet my student’s comprehension level, fluency level, and interests. One of my favorite resources for books is Booksource. Booksource is a website that offers collections of texts based on genre, topic, and reading level. They are leveled based on Fountas and Pinnell‘s reading benchmark system. You can ask your child’s teacher for their reading benchmark. Schools may use different leveling systems. If your child’s school does not use Fountas and Pinnell, there is a simple conversion chart offered by Reading AZ that is very helpful. I also suggest reading my blog post, ‘3 Simple Steps to Finding a ‘Just Right’ Book for Your Child.”

I like book source because I can tailor it to my student’s specific learning needs and interests. My student may be great at reading fiction texts, but struggles with understanding nonfiction text features such as a table of contents or glossary. Using Booksource, I can choose a nonfiction collection at my student’s reading level and specifically select the type of nonfiction texts my student is interested in, be it nature or technology. Booksource also has collections that are full of award-winning books. The collections are very reasonably priced, but if you are not ready to invest in a collection, you could always select a few titles to request from your local library to see if you like them.

October 2nd, 2018|

Simple, Free, Printable Math and Reading Resources

Parents often ask me where I get my amazing resources and tools. I use a mix of hands-on tools and activities, pencil and paper work, and of course, games! When I’m teaching a new concept, my hands-on tools are a go-to so my students can engage with the new skill in a multi-sensory way. From there, it’s pencil and paper practice to solidify the concept. My students know what comes next: games! Game are a great motivator for many students and they give children the opportunity to practice their new skill, feel successful, and have a great time while doing it. I sometimes create my own game boards and card games, which can be time-consuming. But if I can find a resource that someone else has already created beautifully, I’m definitely not reinventing the wheel.

In a previous post titled, “Building Mental Math Fluency“, I shared some of the hands-on tools and games I use. However there are plenty of simple, printable games and practice sheets you can download that make your job as a parent or teacher much easier. Two of my favorite sites are The Measured Mom and This Reading Mama. Both sites are easy to navigate and feature a wide range of printables for skills from basic mental addition and subtraction to consonant blends. I particularly like The Measured Mom‘s simple bingo and board games for phonemic awareness skills and a variety of phonics skills.

Rhyming Bingo from The Measured Mom


Board game for the long ‘i’ sound from The Measured Mom

Vowel teams are particularly challenging for young readers to learn and This Reading Mama has got me covered with practice sheets and games. I’m also a huge fan of her “Roll & Cover” games which come ready-to-print on topics from simple addition to place value and beyond!

Fun addition game from This Reading Mama

September 10th, 2018|
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