School

Summer Learning

As schools have made the transition to virtual schooling, many parents have told me how overwhelmed they’ve felt. You may be feeling the same way. Whereas your child had previously been responsible for following directions and bringing homework home to complete, they are now responsible for maintaining a schedule, checking for their assignments, completing the work (often on their own), submitting assignments, participating in online classes, and troubleshooting tech issues. At school, children are told when to sit, stand, do work, play, talk to each other, etc. Everything is dictated for them. No wonder families are feeling stressed! I do believe that students would have adjusted better to this new level of independence had it been given in smaller doses; a gradual release of responsibility. But, I have seen great progress in some of the students I work with in taking ownership and accountability for their new responsibilities.

I’ve also talked to many parents who’ve felt their children have been less stressed by school since being home. There is no longer someone constantly watching their every move. They don’t have to ask permission to use the bathroom. The pressures of competition, socially and academically, are no longer there. Family time is not just the few hours after school arguing over homework and eating a meal. 

But this model is not necessarily sustainable. Parents have to work and children require guidance. That’s not to say they need to be told what to do every second of the day, but learning new skills begs encouragement and support from an experienced mentor. It’s yet to be seen how parents will choose to move forward with their children’s education. But one thing is certain, ongoing learning is a must. Schooling and learning are two separate things. Learning can happen anywhere, while schooling happens within the confines of a teacher-lead structure in a designated space. I am hopeful that this summer will provide children with the opportunity to explore. Scheduled activities and socializing will be at a minimum. What a wonderful time to dive deep into your passions and interests! In the same way a routine can benefit children by giving them a sense of structure, harmony, and responsibility, discovery and exploration are equally important in promoting growth, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm for life and all it has to offer. 

This summer will be a chance for your child to go outside and do some adventuring. There is so much to learn in nature. Falling in love with stories and pouring over books is the perfect activity for a lazy summer day. Math may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are loads of examples of math in nature and plenty of fun games to play to practice math skills. As a working parent, you may not have the time and space to support your child in these endeavors. Hiring a professional may be a good option for you. Even meeting once a week can work wonders for your child’s learning progress. Project-based learning is a great way to build new skills in a hands-on, relevant way. Either way, as I said before, guidance from an experienced mentor will be the key to helping your child grow. If you are able to be that mentor, I encourage you! Helping another person learn is very rewarding, as any parent knows. Check out the resources below that will help you in your journey!

Infographics

Kids Discover offers a range of “infographics”. These beautiful images complete with detailed explanations cover topics from history to biology and everything in between! They are a great jumping off point for deeper exploration into an area. When you click on the link, the site may ask if you want to start a free 30 day trial, and if you click “maybe later” you should be taken to the infographics page. Below is an example of what they offer.

Skillshare

Skillshare is a very popular website amongst my middle school and high school students. You can take a workshop on almost anything and a professional will instruct you on the best methods and strategies. You can start a 30 day free trial and there’s plenty to learn! 

Examples of some of the most recent topics are:

Learn Embroidery: Painting with Thread

iPhone Photography: How To Take Photos On Your iPhone

Make Your Voice Heard: Writing For Impact

Real Productivity: How To Build Habits That Last

This Reading Mama

You may recall this website from previous posts, but it is truly great. If you have an early elementary reader, or struggling reader, this website is for you. Becky Spence not only provides fabulous resources, games, and activities, but she explains how to use them and why they are helpful. Many of the printables are free and if you sign up for the newsletter you will be notified when various free resources are available for download. From letter formation, to phonics, to reading fluency, this site has it all! 

I hope you find these resources helpful. If you are looking for support for your child, please reach out to me to learn more about how I can help. I work with struggling learners, but also learners who are just looking for some guidance and support as they go along. I can also help your child stay organized and put a plan in place that is easy for you as a parent to follow.

May 27th, 2020|

Teaching At Home

As an educator, I subscribe to a lot of teacher sites and blogs. Over the past week, my inbox has steadily been filling up with email after email directed at parents who are now staying home. These emails are typically offering to instruct parents how to teach. While that is helpful for some, that content may not be realistic for all parents, and may even be overwhelming. A lot of parents are working from home, dealing with the transition to their new setup, and do not have time to learn how to become teachers. But here’s where parents have a leg up: every parent is their child’s first teacher. Any parent can do the basics, and going back to basics is not a bad thing. Children need review and continued practice to maintain skills. Below you’ll find my three tips for homeschool success.

Have a Routine

With the days stretching on and each hour blending into the next, it is so easy to get off track with a routine. But children crave routine (even though they may not realize it, or vocally crave it the way they do snacks). It gives them structure and also a sense of responsibility. That’s not to say you can’t have days of spontaneous fun or unstructured time. But to get the best results from at home learning, you should set up a daily routine and STICK TO IT! If your child knows they can get out of their 30 minute reading time at 10 am, your routine will fall apart. You should have designated time set aside for academics each day. Be sure to factor breaks in between subjects and don’t ask your child to sit and work for more than 45 minutes at a time. Keeping a schedule each day will help your child know what to expect and provide predictability and structure during a time when circumstances feel like they’re anything but. Other aspects of a daily schedule you may consider are time for house chores and going outside for some fresh air. Getting outside is just as important as academics. It is beneficial for your mental and physical health. If you don’t live in an area where you can easily access the outdoors, you may want to drive to a state forest or hiking area. It’s a great reset and your family will feel refreshed. 

Keep it simple

The basics of learning are important to review. These include mental math facts like numbers that add to make ten, doubles facts, and multiplication/division facts. They also include sight words and reading fluency for young readers. And don’t forget the basics of writing, such as paragraph form and checking your work. These are all fairly simple to teach and can be done with games too!

If your child is a more advanced student or in the upper grades, they probably have assignments from school. But reading, writing, and math can be done at home without internet access. Summarizing an article, writing an opinion or persuasive essay, or doing a mini research project on a topic of choice does not require anything but paper, a pencil, and some books. If your child has a sense of humor, ask them to write a 5 paragraph persuasive essay (intro and conclusion included) on something completely ridiculous like why they should be allowed to have a pet porcupine. They could also write up a broadcast on something completely made up and record it. Get creative and have fun! 

Make it fun

Practicing basic facts does not have to be boring! There are so many resources online and games for the basics that I mentioned above, but even if you don’t have internet access, there are so many simple games you can put together at home. 

  1. Go Fish
  2. The Memory Game

For both of these games, you can use the same set of cards. For sight word practice, write each sight word on two index cards. For math facts, have one index card with the math fact, such as 6×5, and the matching card with the answer, 30. 

  1. Bingo

Your child should create the bingo cards for the players. The bingo cards will feature the math fact answer, or the sight word. They can also make the calling cards. The calling cards will also be sight words, or for math, they will be the math fact. This activity in and of itself is good practice. 

  1. Black Jack (without the gambling)

This is a super fun game for mental math. My students love it! You have to get to the number 21 (or any number you choose) without going over. Your child will have to add mentally and not use counting up or their fingers! 

Reading Fluency

For reading fluency, you can find free reader’s theater scripts online or if you have a children’s book of plays at home, you can use that. These are so fun and help build fluency because you have to read the same lines over and over. You can practice reading in silly, different voices and reading with expression. You can switch parts too. Get the whole family involved! It’s even more fun once your child develops fluency with their part. They can then find household props and act it out. Record it to play back and have a laugh!

Writing

The first thing that comes to mind for most people is journaling, but for some kids, that’s not very fun or they don’t know what to write about. After all, there’s not much to say about your day inside the house. You and your child can answer a “would you rather” question and write three reasons for your choice. Then compare! You can assign your child a writing prompt a day. You can also use story starters if your child likes to do creative writing. For example, give your child an index card that reads, “As I was walking through the woods on a bright, crisp morning, I suddenly stumbled. When I looked down to see what had caught my foot, I saw a brass handle attached to what looked like a small square door…” They’ll be so excited to tell their version of the story! You can set a timer and write for 20 minutes. Then check in. Your child might be ready to write for longer!

I hope these tips are helpful, but if you are not able to sit and work with your child, which is completely understandable, I offer virtual tutoring that’s structured to fit your child’s needs. Contact me to learn more about how I can support you child.

March 19th, 2020|

Tips for Reluctant Writers

  1. Make a List

For some writers, starting with sentences is too overwhelming. Making a list of words associated with a topic may be an easier place to start. Begin with a basic writing prompt such as, “What should someone pack for a day at the beach?” or anything you know your child/student has solid knowledge of. Then, support your learner with making a list of items that are related to a day at the beach. For example: towel, swimsuit, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat. From there, you can move on to a new topic and continue practice with list making, or if your learner feels ready, choose an item on the list and see if they can generate a sentence about that item. Give them a target too, such as asking, “Why is it important to bring this to the beach?” Then your student can answer that as a sentence: “It’s important to bring sunscreen to the beach so you don’t get a sunburn.” Here are a few websites that offer more information on using lists as a writing tool and have some great prompts: Smekens Education Solutions & Write Shop.

2. Sentence Starters

Sentence starters are short phrases that a writer can use to begin their sentences. Knowing how to start is sometimes the biggest hurdle for reluctant writers. They may have a great idea, but don’t know how to turn it into a sentence. Phrases like, “one difference is” or “similarly” are great sentence starters for comparing and contrasting two things. For sequencing events, some good phrases include: “to begin with”, “the next step”, “finally”. Owlcation is a useful resource for expository writing. If your learner wants to write a story and doesn’t know how to get started, Donna Young has some wonderful starters that get the creative juices flowing!

3. Free Write

Last, but not least, is the classic free write. Free writing is when your child/student sits down to write whatever they want. I like to offer writing prompts and giving them a set time. For more advanced writers, I will challenge them to never let their pencil stop. If they don’t know what to write, they can just write a word or their name over and over again until the next thought comes. The idea is to not think too hard about what you are writing and just let it flow. I love Daily Teaching Tools’ list of writing prompts.

October 3rd, 2019|

Pictures Support Comprehension

Pictures can help children engage with reading and writing in ways that support comprehension and creativity. As an adult, you may not realize how much you rely on pictures, images, and visualizations to help you understand the world around you. When you read a news article, there’s usually an image to accompany it. When you run through your mental to-do list, you may imagine yourself doing those tasks. Road signs, advertisements, and some of our favorite apps rely on pictures to help us understand. Teaching young learners to visualize is more than just a fun activity that should be reserved for Kindergarten and art class and has its place in elementary grades as well.

When good educators teach reading, they teach children to make a picture in their minds. But this skill is not just a stepping stone to successful reading, but rather a necessary component. Even adults use this method while they read. When a good reader is engaging with a text, they often describe their experience as a movie playing in their mind. Have you ever read a book and then seen the movie version and thought, that’s not how I imagined the characters? That’s because while you read, you were making mental pictures. You imagined those characters in a unique way that fit your reading experience. You probably also had a vision of what the setting looked like, too. Some students struggle with this more than others. This often manifests as reading comprehension challenges. If you cannot imagine what is happening in a book, it’s very hard to understand the story. You can’t see the setting, you can’t see the characters, and so you are just reading words. Some students may depend on books with pictures or graphic novels for longer than others as they mature through their reading development. If you believe your child is having reading comprehension issues, seeking out a professional is advised. There are helpful programs available as well, such as Nanci Bell’s Visualizing and Verbalizing.

Incorporating pictures also works well for developing writers. Of course we want children to become strong writers and be able to convey their meaning in detail through words so that the reader can imagine what they are describing. But to accomplish this skill, children can use drawing as a helpful tool. Has your child ever complained that they don’t know what to write or where to start? Begin with a picture. Drawing a picture allows your child to put the scene or image they see in their mind onto paper so that it is concrete. When they begin to write, they don’t have to come up with the words as they are trying to see a picture in their mind, because they’ve already put it on paper. They can use their picture as a reference. If your child is still struggling to self-start or gets stuck, ask them questions about specific parts of the picture they’ve created. Once they can verbally explain to you what is going on, direct them to put what they’ve said into writing. If your child is new to using pictures to guide their writing, prompt them and help them along by asking follow-up questions about the picture. Once they become successful with verbalizing and then writing, you can guide them to do what you have modeled on their own. Encourage your child to use the five senses to add details and use lots of strong adjectives! Your child will be excited about her newfound ability to write! 

Below are some examples of how I incorporate pictures into the work I do with my students. One of my soon-to-be 5th graders was struggling to understand word problems in math. Creating a character with details about her life allowed this student to visualize and then see the word problems.

    

Another soon-to-be 5th grader wrote an opinion essay about caring for the earth. The pictures she created helped her understand the problems she was reading about in her research articles and acted as a springboard for her writing.

       

August 8th, 2019|

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|