Writing

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|

Helpful Handwriting Hacks

I often get requests from parents to teach their child proper handwriting techniques. Achieving legible handwriting can actually be quite challenging. If you suspect your child is having serious challenges with the physical act of writing, getting an evaluation from an OT (occupational therapist) could be helpful. I have included some of my favorite resources for handwriting here. I am not a specialist or an OT, so I will leave it to the experts! 

  1. Your child may have already developed a pencil grip that inhibits proper letter formation and ease of handwriting. When a child has not achieved appropriate pencil grip, they may tend to hold the pencil awkwardly or with an especially tight grip. This can lead to problems such as fatigue and muscle cramps. OT Mom Learning Activities is a wonderful resource not only for pencil grip, but also a whole host of tips and strategies pertaining to motor skill development. 
  2. You may notice that your child doesn’t necessarily struggle with letter formation, but seems to write at a slant down the page, or that each new line is started a little further to the right than the previous one. This may not be an issue of handwriting, but actually a tracking issue with the eyes. This article provides a clear explanation of tracking issues and even gives an example of what text may look like for a child with tracking challenges. 
  3. Children who have had support with pencil grip, letter formation, and other aspects of handwriting, but still struggle to write or find it painful may be experiencing Dysgraphia. This article explains in depth what Dysgraphia is. In my experience, children who have Dysgraphia can benefit greatly from learning to type. Typing does not seem to cause the same discomfort and challenges that handwriting does and it’s often more efficient. Typing can be particularly helpful for children who struggle with Dysgraphia and Dyslexia as it allows children to organize their thoughts and express them quickly and efficiently without the added stress of letter formation, spelling, and the frustration of trying to get all your thoughts on paper as quickly as they come. 
  4. If you want to give your child some extra practice with handwriting, check out these freebies! Becky Spence is one of my favorite education bloggers and she always has lots of free goodies on her website. She also does free webinars and has a fabulous blog post on handwriting!
March 9th, 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|