what to ask teachers before school lets out

what parents must ask teachers before school ends

what parents must ask teachers before school ends

For many, school has already been released for the summer (yay!).

But for others, summer is right around the corner.

That means we have a few more days (or weeks for some of us up here in the Northeast!) to wrap things up and tie together those loose ends.  It also means we have our kids’ teachers on hand for just a little bit longer. 

And really? That’s awesome because come that last day, we know our teachers are ready for a serious break. They deserve it.

But there are a few things parents should ask teachers before everyone locks up classrooms, logs off of email, and heads for the shore.

I shared those two important questions over on Scholastic Parents Raise a Reader blog:

2 Things Every Parent Must Ask Teachers at the End of the Year.

Check it out.

And then? Let me know what you think.

  • Would you ask something else?
  • What do you usually ask teachers? 
  • How should parents better approach this subject? 

 

giving kids choices: parenting trick that saved my sanity

giving kids choices: parenting trick that saved my sanity

Originally published 1/25/09 but totally worth a re-share!

 

the parenting trick that saved my sanity: choices | teachmama.comOnce an a while, instead of sharing what secret little lesson I’ve stuck into our day, I’m going to share a Quick Trick that works (more often than not) for me or for one of my pals.

Some days, as most parents know, things just don’t go the way you’d hoped and it’s all you can do to make it through the day. This parenting thing is tough, and there’s no rest for the weary.

So my Quick Trick might focus on anything from parenting to preschool, healthy habits to a happy household.

Most likely, I’ve stolen the idea from someone, somewhere else and made it my own.  Teachers are the best, most practiced thieves, you know.

So here we go. . .

This May Change Your Life:
(okay, or maybe just a tiny part of it)

  • Give children two positive choices as a way of setting limits. Here is the formula:
  1. You may ____ or _____.
  2. What is your choice?
  3. You chose ____!
  • For older children, try:
  1. Feel free to ____ or ____. OR,
  2. Which of these options would be better for you, ____ or ____?
  • When Owen doesn’t want to get dressed in the morning, I try: Hmmmm, what will Owen choose to put on first, his pants or his shirt? Awesome! He chose to put on his shirt first this morning!
  • When we’re leaving a friend’s house: I wonder if Maddy will choose to put on her coat or her boots first. . . Yesterday she put on her boots first. What will she choose today? . . .
  • When we’re trying to clean up: Will Owen choose to put away these cars first or the puzzles?

It does sound strange at first, I know, but after awhile, I was totally surprised at how this worked and got my little ones moving. The choices have to positive, though, and that’s the tough part initially. Saying, Okay, feel free to clean up this mess or go to your room, won’t cut it. Instead try, This room is a mess. Are you going to choose to put the puzzles or the Polly Pockets away first?

I’m a huge, huge fan of Dr. Becky Bailey’s Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, and although it is a constant challenge for me to incorporate all of her principles into my daily routine, I find that her philosophy of discipline and parenting is really worth exploring.

Dr. Bailey says, Discipline is not a technique to use on children. It is a way of life to model for children.

And that’s the hard part for me.

The emotional, quick-tempered Irish girl I am heard myself saying early on (to my then 2-yr old), You better stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about! I stopped myself, totally freaked out, and knew that I was in desperate need of a paradigm shift–or I’d be eaten alive by my own kids. It is not easy–or natural–for me as a parent to take a deep breath and think before I speak to my whining, crying, cranky child who’s asking me for the gazillionth time to go outside, for another snack, to watch tv, or find a missing doll shoe.

So reading–and re-reading–and picking out the parts make sense to me from Dr. Bailey’s book has helped me to try to be more conscious of the way I interact with my children during both the easy and more difficult times so that discipline becomes, like she says, a way of life to model for them. Much easier said than done, but I’m trying to do my best, just like we all are.

get kids interested in language and the world: little pim twitter event, 4.29.14

get kids interested in language and the world: little pim twitter event, 4.29.14

Kids who know about their world will naturally care for it more too.get kids interested in language and the world: little pim twitter event, 4.29.14

Little Pim is a language learning system that hopes to do more than teach your child another language they want to make your kids more interested in the world.

We are chatting all about how to get your kids interested and involved in caring for the planet and would love to hear your ideas! Come chat with us Tuesday April 29th at 9pm EST on Twitter. There are a bunch of Little Pim prizes as well as a Trio Android tablet.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Get Kids Interested in Language and the World– Little Pim Twitter event, 4.29.14:

Who: Parents, teachers, caregivers, expert panelists, and YOU!

get kids interested in language and the world: little pim twitter event, 4.29.14

What: We will be chatting about how to get your kids interested and involved in caring for the planet
Why: Because we all need to raise earth-friendly, worldly kids!
Where: Twitter! (http://twitter.com) #SmartSpring
When: Tuesday, 4.29.14 from 9-10 pm ET
How:

  1. Before the event, rsvp here: http://bit.ly/1jJhngl
  2. On 4.29.14, log onto twitter
  3. Follow the hashtag #SmartSpring
  4. Tweet, re-tweet (RT), and tweet some more!
  5. Optional: Share YOUR fave photos, tips, tricks, and ideas for ways to get kids involved in caring for the planet!

 

Helpful hints:

  • use tweetchat (http://tweetchat.com/room/SmartSpring) to make it easier for you
  • visit the panelists’ sites and bring questions, comments or concerns to the event
  • visit our we teach Twitter event how-to for answers to your Twitter event questions.
  • make sure you are following the hosts (@NoFlashCards & @LittlePim and panelists @teachmama & @pragmaticmom) so you don’t miss a beat!

We look forward to chatting with you on Tuesday, April 29th, and we are psyched to connect with you!

RSVP HERE Everyone who RSVPs you will receive an exclusive Little Pim discount code to use during and after the party!

fyi:  this post is sponsored by Little Pim.

fractions with FOOD: hands-on math

fractions with food

fractions with food cover

This post about fun with food and fractions is written by Jen of Beyond Traditional Math.

Hopefully after reading it, you’ll never look at food quite the same! Thank you, Jen, for your time, effort, and expertise!

____________________

  • Fractions with Our Favorite Thing…Food! by Jen

Before you first meet me, I should tell you that I am certifiably nuts about being anti-worksheets right now, so I am going to try to dial it back a bit to write this post.

This past school year, we adopted a new math series that is very heavy on worksheets and giving tons of practice problems. When we piloted the series, we knew that we’d need to supplement and scale back as needed.

It is difficult for me to expect children to work out between 30 and 50 problems a day.

I particularly struggle with this style of teaching when the concept is very abstract.  Right now, our team is introducing fractions, and I can’t tell you how difficult this is for third graders.

The idea of shading in boxes and naming fractions of symbols was so abstract that students had nothing to connect it to. It was actually making me crazy. The idea of doing it with 30 problems on a worksheet made me even crazier!

So I came up with a series of activities that would allow them to explore fractions with one of their favorite things: Food! (OK, I will admit it is my favorite thing, too.)

This change has made ALL the difference.  By cutting an apple in half, we could explore the definition of a fraction.  Then, we discovered the concepts of equal parts, numerators and denominators with a pan of brownies.

But my favorite activity that I believe was most effective is graham cracker fractions.  Instead of randomly coloring in boxes to show fractions, we laid a graham cracker down on a piece of paper and drew a symbol of it below.

fractions with food | teachmama.com

Now when it came time to shade in ¼ of the box, it made sense, because they had broken their graham cracker into four equal parts. When we eat a quarter of it, we can shade it in.

To extend this the next day, we took a graham cracker and transferred what we did the previous day to a number line.  This was the easiest it has ever been to teach fractions on a number line.  Again, since number lines represent counting, we simply counted by quarters instead of by whole numbers.

The best part was that when the graham cracker disappeared, they could still plot the numbers on the line!

fractions with food | teachmama.com

All things in math must absolutely be connected to the real world for students right from the start.

So often we jump right to symbols and numbers without giving them proper background knowledge needed.  This is truly a disservice to kids.  Helping them connect to real life (especially yummy snacks) will make us all successful!

 Thank you, thank you, THANK you, Jen, for sharing your math expertise–and totally cool idea!– with us!

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 9.29.25 PM
Jen is a third grade teacher with 8 years of experience teaching elementary students. Her passion is teaching math with a focus on conceptual knowledge through real world projects and rigorous problem solving. You can find more teaching tips and resources (and hear about how much she has learned from her mistakes) at her blog: Beyond Traditional Math. You can also connect with her on PinterestTpTTwitter, and Facebook.

 

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards, filled with more fab sneaky learning ideas:

Or check out the following math-happy posts:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

turn your kids into grammar sharks: national grammar day

become a grammar shark | teachmama.com

be a grammar shark | teachmama.com

I have been as sick as a dog–sick as a dawwwwg— for the past few days, but today I had a little spring in my step because it was National Grammar Day.

And this old gal, though she may have strep and she may have spend the last few days in bed, sure does love her grammar.

But what I realized is that my kids do not. 

My kids don’t even have the opportunities we had–way back when–to hunt down misplaced modifiers or to diagram sentences.

They’re too busy learning other super-important big stuff, analyzing poems for author’s voice and decomposing numbers and then composing them back up again like little magicians.

So what I decided was that, because our Word-A-Day Cards went over so well, why not get a little grammar-happy with something similar? Could I create Grammar Sharks out of my kids, just by hitting them with a little dose o’ grammar at breakfast time?

I am going to try!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Turn Your Kids into Grammar Sharks–National Grammar Day:

First of all, what’s a ‘Grammar Shark’?

A Grammar Shark is a person who in the blink of an eye can spot the misspelling on the restaurant menu.

turn your kids into grammar sharks: national grammar day

turn your kids into grammar sharks: national grammar day
A Grammar Shark is a person who has to bite her tongue in order hold back a

‘OhmygoshwillyouPLEASEstopsaying’feelbadly’whenitreallyshouldbe’feelbad’??!! or a ‘Sohelpmeifhesays’awholenotherstory’onemoretimeIamgoingtolosemymind!!!’ so as not to lose friends on a daily basis.

A Grammar Shark is a person who can clean up a misplaced modifier in no time flat, who knows the difference between who and whom and who likes to talk about the 7 Comma Rules.

turn your kids into grammar sharks: national grammar day

Really, there aren’t many of us out there, and I’m not planning on brainwashing my kids into becoming hard-core grammarians. I will, however, do my best to make sure that they move through life knowing the basics of our English grammar.

I am hoping that by capitalizing on that precious mealtime that they will read not only the cereal boxes and the Kids Post but also my teeny, tiny little Grammar Shark Cards.

So turn your kids into grammar sharks: national grammar day

I’ve included a ton of grammar hang-ups that everyone should know, including the ever-challenging:

  • to vs too vs two;
  • a lot vs alot;
  • they’re vs there vs their;
  • who vs whom;
  • are vs our. . .

And some cards have little ?’s — questions to ponder.  Not all, but some.

All I did was print the grammar shark cards cards onto brightly colored cardstock (because grammar is FUN! and BRIGHT! and EXCITING!), punch a hole in one corner and throw a ring clip to keep them secure.

Feel free to print, share, email to a buddy, pin, tweet, whatever. And if you tag me (@teachmama or @teachmama or @teachmama1) I’ll respond! Give you a virtual high five! A huge and happy thanks hug!

I’ll chest bump ‘ya–from one mama who’s trying to another!

And that’s it. We keep our Grammar Shark Cards  on the snack bar open to one card a day.  Slowly but surely, we’re creating Grammar Sharks over here. Slowly but surely.

Do you have a grammar hang-up or pet peeve? Let me know! 

If it’s not currently on the Grammar Shark Cards, I’ll make sure it’s on the next batch. And happy National Grammar Day, my friends!

advanced learners: 8 ways to support them at home

Ways to Support Advanced Learners at Home_thumb[4]

Ways to Support Advanced Learners at Home

The following guest post is written by Natalie, of Afterschool for Smarty Pants.   Natalie shares ways she enriches her daughter’s learning at home, after school.  Check it out.

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As you can guess from my blog title, Smarty is a gifted learner who loves books and enjoys math and science, so these subjects are the main themes of my blog. She is now in the second grade and attends our local public school.

I will not go into details in this post as to why we are not considering “skipping” her at this point. You are welcome to visit my blog where this year I will write more about advocating for and supporting gifted learners in school setting.

In this post I want to share some ideas about what you can do at home to support your academically advanced children.

  • 8 Ways to Support Advanced Learners at Home: n this post I want to share some ideas about what you can do at home to support your academically advanced children.

I am honored to be here at Teach Mama today.

As you can guess from my blog title, Smarty is a gifted learner who loves books and enjoys math and science, so these subjects are the main themes of my blog. She is now in the second grade and attends our local public school.

I will not go into details in this post as to why we are not considering “skipping” her at this point. You are welcome to visit my blog where this year I will write more about advocating for and supporting gifted learners in school setting.

 

Time to Build, Read, and Create

1. Give Them Time


Our gifted learners already spend too many hours a day trapped in the classrooms doing what others want them to do. They need time to unwind, to think, to read, and to tinker. It is good for them to be bored and to be able to find creative outlets for their brain power. If you want them to do something extra, consider sports or arts classes. Our daughter goes to gymnastics once a week and attends one after school class (it was stop motion animation last term) that is given during the time that she would normally spend in her Y after school.

Leave Things Behind to Be Found

2. Strew Things

What is strewing? Basically, it’s leaving interesting things for your children to discover. It can be books, maps, building materials, toys brought back into circulation, or art supplies. I caution, however, from doing it every day, or you will turn back into the source of their entertainment. Our gifted learners, just like everyone else, need to learn to find happiness on their own.

Snap Circuit - Hands On Introduction to Electronics

3. Limit Screen Time

With abundant options in educational software and video products, it’s so tempting to let electronic devices teach our children something that they didn’t get in school. I believe that school age children should have access to technology, but this access should be limited and supervised for younger children. Our daughter has 30 minutes a day of screen time that she can accumulate up to 3 hours to use all at once on the weekend if she wishes to do so (she mostly prefers to use a little every day). If you want to know what sites Smarty frequents, jump here.

4. Play Games

Board Games for Brainy Kids

 Put away that worksheet already! There are so many wonderful ways to spend time together and teach your children bysimply playing games. You can check out our favorite games for brainy kids, and I also want to recommend this terrific list of Math Games for different ages. Playing against parents or older siblings might also give our children a very valuable lesson in losing gracefully or accepting the fact that they might not be the best at everything.

5. Challenge Them

Challenging advanced learners at homeIt’s true that our advanced children are usually not challenged in the classrooms in the areas of their strength, and this is why it’s important to challenge them at home – not necessary with complex math problems even though we do that as well, but also with challenges that require using more than one skill and, ideally, cooperation with a buddy or a sibling. You can check our mystery substance challenge and an engineering challenge, and we plan to have these challenges regularly this year.

6. Teach Them Life Skills

Teaching Kids LifeskillsIt might not be easy to get advanced learners to focus on practical skills. My daughter is would much prefer read in her room than load a dishwasher. I believe it’s really important to teach our advanced learners cooking, taking care of their clothes and cleaning their rooms. They will appreciate it when they are young adults and need to spend more time on their studies than they do now.

7. Spend Time in Nature

Get OutsideOur advanced learner is a “thinker”. Sometimes it’s hard to get her out of the house, but time spent in nature or even simply playing outside is very important to children like her. She gets to engage her other senses and her whole body while interacting with the world outside her safe routine of home and school. It’s even better when friends or siblings can join this time of exploring and discovering nature around us.

 

 

Find Teachable Moments by Being Available

8. Find “Teachable Moments”

You don’t need to be available to your children at all hours to support them. I work full time in technology sector, and my time with my family is limited. Nevertheless, even 30 minutes a day can go a long way if you really tune in to your child. Time in a car, time before bed or dinner time all could be great opportunities to connect to your children, learn what they are interested in and lead them to new discoveries.

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Natalie Photo

Natalie blogs at Afterschool for Smarty Pants. She is working full time in high tech industry and raising one daughter.Follow her on Facebook, on Pinterest and on Google+.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Natalie, my longtime bloggy pal,  for sharing!

Looking for more activities for keeping the wheels turnin’ for your littles?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

This post is part of our new rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field. These posts? Seriously awesome.

rockstar sunday promo teachmama

word building, letter writing, stamping to spell

stamp to spell

post contains affiliate links

 

 

stamp to spell | use stamps for early literacy learning and spelling | teachmama.com

 Originally published on 2.23.11 but republished because it’s that important.

During Maddy’s homework time yesterday, Owen had one task on  his mind: he wanted to write a get-well letter to his buddy who recently had surgery.  He knew exactly what he wanted to write–he told me at least two times during the day what his letter would say, and we knew exactly what we wanted to put in his pal’s little ‘get well quick’ package.

But my O-man wanted to make his letter special. He wanted to make it fancy he said, because he wanted to really cheer his buddy up.

So I brought down the alphabet letter stamps–our favorites from Melissa & Doug–and I asked if he wanted to stamp his letter.  Score! He did, so he got stamping. . .

. . . and while Cora initially began her own letter to Owen’s friend, she quickly switched gears and decided that she instead wanted to ‘stamp names’. So stamping names my little Cora did.

All the while, Maddy and I rocked out her homework, and I’ll tell you, overall, homework time went pretty smoothly for us.

  • Word Building, Letter Writing, Stamping to Spell: Before Owen began, he dictated his letter to me.  I wrote it down and placed it next to his blank card and the alphabet stamps.

I asked,  Do you want me to make lines for you, Owen?

No, I know what to do, he said.  And apparently he did. He got rolling and only stopped when Maddy mentioned something to him about spaces between words.

You should really try putting two fingers on the paper and use that as the space between words so it’s not all one big word on the page. That’s what my teacher taught me last year.

stamp to spell | teachmama.com

Owen tries out Maddy’s ‘two fingers for a space’ trick.

I confirmed her suggestion, and Owen started using his two tiny fingers as spaces. He got hung up when there wasn’t enough room on the page for the ‘u’ in ‘you’ so I tried to squeeze it in for him. It didn’t work:  Now it looks like a ‘q’ Mommy. Come on. Really, what am I good for anymore?

So I did what I could to fix it and he didn’t ask me for help again.

stamp to spell | early literacy | spelling | teachmama.com

stamp to spell | teachmama.comMy sweet, sweet Owen was so proud of his letter.   And he should be.

And I really didn’t need to, because he did know what he was doing. Sure, he moved back and forth between uppercase and lowercase letters, but at this point, that’s no big deal. He used his eyes to follow the words on the letter I wrote, found the correct letter stamp in the set, and then marked that letter on the page. That’s not easy.

Sure, he got tired and decided to omit a whole line of his message, but that doesn’t matter. It wasn’t an easy task, and he worked hard.

He stamped some flowers, dogs, hearts on the front of the card, and he added his own few hearts for his buddy.  If that doesn’t cheer a guy up, I’m not sure what will.

stamp to spell | early literacy | spelling | teachmama.com

stamp to spell | early literacy | spelling | teachmama.com

  • Stamping Family Names: While Owen stamped his letter, Cora stamped our family’s names.

Lately, she’s brought down our Family Name Chart at least once a week; she’s traced names, doodled on the page, anything.  Sometimes she just has the chart next to her as she colors.  Maybe because she likes the ‘older’ pictures of our family? (Cora was maybe a year old when I made it. . . )

The Family Name Charts are here to download if you’d like. They include three charts: one with MOMMY, DADDY and 3 blank spaces; one with Mommy, Daddy, and 3 blank spaces; and one with 5 blank spaces.

new family name chart (in Word, so you can change it yourself), or new family chart–BLANK ( as a pdf, so you can write in the names yourself).  Enjoy!

Cora began with Maddy’s name; she said, I need an ‘M’, I need an ‘M‘.  And when she found it, she stamped it.  Then she’d continue: I need an ‘A’, I need an ‘A’, I need the ‘A’. . . as she searched for it in the box.

stamp to spell | early literacy and letter recognition | teachmama.com

 

stamp to spell | early literacy | letter recognition | teachmama.com

Once Maddy was stamped, she went on to Owen, but before she started, I drew four little lines for her.  You can put the letters right on these lines so each letter is in the right place, I said.  I did the same for her name and Brady’s.

It was hard enough for her to follow the letters from the sheet, to the stamp set, to the paper, and keep them all in the correct spot, so I thought the little lines would give her a little help.

 

stamp to spell | early literacy and letter recognition | teachmama.comCora stamped family names.

And that’s it.  Cora stamped out family names, Owen stamped his buddy’s note, and when Maddy was finished with her work, she stamped a few fancy pictures for her pals.  Quick, easy, and worthwhile time spent for everyone, building words, writing letters, and stamping to spell, all the while practicing fine motor skills and spelling.

Our kiddos don’t always have to write in order to learn letters and words; in fact, sometimes when we mix things up a bit, they’re even more interested in ‘playing’ and (secretly) learning.

Want some other cool ideas for creating words and sending messages? Check out:

Have fun and feel free to link up any other ideas you have–I’m always up for more sneaky fun ways of spending time with my kiddos!

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

20 questions game: homemade, personal, and fun party game for kids of all ages

20 questions homemade party game

20 questions homemade party game

 

While the kids are busy shakin’ their party shakers or rockin’ out to some Bingo Bonanza, the adults can have their New Year’s Eve fun, too.

Actually, everyone can have fun with this homemade game of 20 Questions.

No matter the crowd, when there’s a game to play, the mood’s lighter, there’s a little more laughter, and there’s a little more festivity in the air.  20 Questions is a super game for getting folks to chat, having kids listen and think , and practicing questioning skills.

This party game is seriously one of our faves.  And our version is personal–so famous faces mix with familiar faces–and it’s a total riot.

20 Questions is a great, homemade party game or activity to pass a quiet afternoon at home.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 20 Questions With Kids–Homemade Party Game: I created this game last year to bring to a New Year’s Eve party with some friends, but we’ve pulled it out several times through the year. It’s fun.

It’s funny.

20 questions homemade party game

20 questions homemade party game

20 Questions is easy to play.

Each player takes a turn grabbing a card from the pile. The player holds the card up on his or her forehead so that all the other players can see who or what is on the card but the player cannot.

Here’s where 20 Questions come in: the player holding the card tries to figure out the identity of the person on the card by asking close-ended questions to the other players, much like the questions in Guess Who?.

Close-ended questions are questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  That’s it.  So the player holding the card must be strategic:

  • Is my person a male?
  • Does my person appear on television? 
  • Is my person a child?
  • Does my person have long hair? 
  • Is my person fictional or real?

And remembering the answer to each question will help determine the questions that are asked next.

20 questions homemade party game

 

20 questions homemade party game

Our cards are full of fun, famous faces: Oprah, Elmo, Donald Trump, and Punky Brewster along with tons of other sports figures and familiar faces from kids’ programming. 

But even more fun is adding friends and family to the cards.  We’ve added our kids’ faces, friends’ faces, teachers and coaches faces, and it’s all in good fun. Pulling a card out with a face that is actually at the party makes the laughter a bit more hearty and questions a little more hysterical.

Our set has a page of blank cards so that we can add photos of whomever we’d like to the 20 Questions party card mix.

20 questions homemade party game

 

Feel free to download and print the 20 questions party game

Please share it, add your own, and have a blast wherever you celebrate the New Year or need an ice-breaker game.  I’d be thrilled if you pinned this post, tweeted it, facebooked it, or emailed it to a pal.

Again, here’s the 20 questions party game

20 questions homemade party game

20 Questions helps kids of all ages to practice their questioning and thinking skills.

It’s a blast. It makes parties more fun, and the set is small enough to fit in a sandwich bag and throw in your purse or diaper bag for just about any day of the year.

Have a super party–wherever and however you celebrate!

Need some more fun New Year’s ideas?

Check out:

important early literacy terms that every parent needs to know

important early literacy terms that every parent needs to know

Originally posted on ABC & 123, 4/05/10 & on teachmama.com on 5/10/10.literacy terms every parent must know   Sharing again because. . . well, it’s totally worth your read.

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We, as parents and our children’s very first teachers, can begin to support early literacy development as soon as our kiddos are born.

Many of us do this already and don’t even realize how much we are helping to build a solid foundation of learning for our children.

Talking our way through diaper changes and feedings, through trips to the park or the grocery store, we give our little ones their first unwritten lessons on language and learning. By reading books, reciting rhymes, and playing games with our toddlers, we take this learning a step further, and the possibilities for sneaking in lessons here and there are endless.

Here are a few literacy terms every parent must know as their children approach reading and step into preschool.

This list is hardly complete, but it includes the basics without the Reading teacher jargon that is sometimes tough to get through. In the next few weeks and months, I’ll spotlight these topics and more in greater detail and provide ways that parents can support their children’s learning in these areas.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Literacy Terms Every Parent Needs To Know:

 

literacy terms every parent must know

 

 

  • Comprehension: a complex process in which a reader interacts with a text in a specific context in order to construct meaning. Specific comprehension strategies should be taught and can be taught even before a child can read. Such strategies include making connections, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance, and synthesizing.
  • Decoding: the process of figuring out a new word in a text. It’s really just deciphering text into understandable words.
  • Fluency: the ability to read orally with speed, accuracy, and expression while comprehending a given text.
  • High Frequency Words: are the words that appear most often in texts. Thanks to Drs. Dolch and Frye, we have age-leveled lists of these words beginning from the simplest in Kindergarten to the more difficult in upper grades.
  • Phonological Awareness: the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sound units in words. It is one component of a comprehensive reading program and the precursor to solid literacy development.

literacy terms every parent must know

 

  • Phonemic Awareness: one component of phonological awareness. The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words.
  • Phonics: an approach to teaching word identification that emphasizes letter-sound correspondences and their application to reading and spelling. The goal of phonics is to help children learn and apply the alphabetic principle–the understanding that there are systematic and predictable relationships between written letters and spoken words.
  • Sight Words: are words that do not often follow phonics rules, so emerging readers should learn them ‘by sight’ in order to read them quickly and accurately.
  • Vocabulary: a term used to describe the words that one must know in order to communicate with others, both orally and through print.

Want to have this sheet handy? Want to learn a little more?

Feel free to download the literacy terms every parent must know as a pdf to use as an easy reference. It includes these definitions, some in more detail, along with a few other words to know.

Still want more?  Search the navigation bar right under the header! Or check a few more resources for you:

when talking to teachers: 5 tips for parents

when talking to teachers 5 tips for parents

when talking to teachers 5 tips for parents

As a writer for Scholastic Parents’ Raise a Reader blog, I’m always surprised at what sparks the most conversation among readers.

I recently wrote Talking to Teachers: What Every Parent Needs to Know, and it raised a boatload of emotion over on the Scholastic Parents’ Facebook page.

Really. I was quite surprised.

Check it out.  And tell me. . .

What do you think?

Am I missing the mark?

Do you agree or disagree?

Did any of the comments strike a nerve with you, as a parent or teacher?

Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find me on twitter, @teachmama, and let’s continue the conversation!

 

 

 

learning during read-alouds: improving fluency

help kids improve fluency

help kids improve fluencyThis is a re-post of a November 16, 2011 post because it’s totally worth revisiting.

 

Fluency is a tricky–but totally important–element of reading comprehension.

No. Question. About it.

And though research is funny about fluency’s roll in reading comprehension, I’m a firm believer in the fact that in order to fully understand what is being read, it must be read fluently.

Lately, improving reading fluency has been my focus for Maddy and Owen. And I’ve realized that there are a ton of ways to make fluency practice fun, and I’ve been reminded that what works for one kiddo won’t always work for another.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Fluency: Fluency is defined by Pikulski & Chard as ‘efficient, effective word-recognition skills that permit a reader to construct the meaning of text. . . fluency is manifested in accurate, rapid, expressive oral reading and is applied during, and makes possible, silent reading comprehension.’

Their definition is a synthesis of the definitions in the Report of the National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000) and The Literacy Dictionary (Harris & Hodges, 1995), so it’s pretty solid.

I, personally prefer the definition of fluency developed by Mrs. Victoria and her second-grade class (as shared in Cahill & Gregory’s article): Fluency is reading like you talk, not too fast and not too slow, with expression and no sounding out.  It’s also important to understand what you read.

I like that definition. It’s easy and basic and sums up–in language that everyone can understand–the beauty and importance of fluency.

tips for improving reading fluencyModel, model, model fluent reading. We HAVE to.

Though there’s debate over whether or not fluent reading involves comprehension, I’m going to get bold and say I truly believe there has to be a link between the two.  You cannot possibly read fluently without understanding what you’re reading, and you cannot truly understand what you’re reading if you’re not reading fluently.  Right? Right.

There. I said it.

So a few months back, when I was chatting with Maddy about a book she had just read–a simple Junie B. Jones chapter book–and she was unable to tell me what happened, I kind of secretly freaked out.  As I watched and listened and watched and listened some more over the next few days, I realized that something was off.

Maddy was speed-reading and not comprehending.  She sped through each page–skipping words and misreading words and barely breathing or paying attention to punctuation in the least.  And I think that part of the reason was to try to get to the parts of her Junie B. books where Junie B. used the type of language that isn’t permitted at our house.  (Why we have these books in our house, I’m not sure, but that’s a whole other story. . . ).

So I decided that if I was going to practice what I preach and not scream SLOW DOWN!!! Stop! What does that say?! NO!! You’re wrong!! then I needed to do some thinking and moving. And fast.

tips for improving reading fluencyJunie B. books . . . hard for fluency practice.

 

Here’s what I did to help Maddy improve her fluency:

1.  I modeled fluent reading.  I read, read, and read some more. I read the Junie B. books that I can barely stand. The books I want to throw out the window.

And gradually I invited Maddy to read a page here and there, and soon it evolved into me reading every other page. And it’s fine.  It’s better.

tips for improving reading fluency

I still shake my head and tsk and tsk more when Junie speaks like a baby or uses incorrect English grammar, but it’s fine. It won’t be forever.

And as we’re reading different texts together at night, Maddy’s more inclined to read more out loud as her confidence is increasing.

2.  I had her re-read.  For passages that made Maddy really giggle and laugh and widen her eyes at Junie’s horrid behavior, I read the whole passage one time, and then I’d shut the book and pretend to totally freak out.

I can’t believe this. I cannot believe her, Maddy. What is she DOING? Please re-read this paragraph just so I can hear it again. I don’t believe it.

And she gladly re-read.  And if she was speedy, I’d say, remember how it sounded when I read it–make it sound the same way.

3.  We tapped our fingers.  At the beginning, after numerous attempts at modeling and having Maddy re-read only to speed through a passage, I had her tap her thumb and pointer finger together at the end of each sentence.

I said, Okay, I can tell it’s hard to stop reading because you love Junie so much, but I’m having a hard time keeping up. And remember that fluent reading should sound like talking–and we have to talk slow enough so that people can understand what we’re saying, right?So how about after each sentence, we pinch our fingers together–just for a second–to remind us that we need to stop and breathe a sec? Sound okay?

She was game. And after a few awkward sentences, sometimes too-long pauses, the tapping became more natural, more habitual, and eventually her pace slowed to a more natural one.

And now she usually starts out tapping but scraps it a few pages in.

4.  We mixed it up. We read shorter pieces–poetry, magazine articles, news articles, craft books–you name it.

I recognize that Junie B. books can be difficult for fluent reading because (thankfully!) Maddy doesn’t speak like she does, so I wanted Maddy to really hear herself reading short texts that she could read fluently and with ease.  Anything goes–cereal boxes, ingredient lists, photo captions in the newspaper, short magazine blurbs and poems.

And so far, she’s digging it.

5.  We celebrate successes.  When Maddy reads a passage really well–paying attention to text pacing, expression, and content–I try to point out exactly what she did that rocked.  Instead of saying something generic like, Oh that sounded great, or I like how you read that, I really get specific.

Maddy, you sounded exactly like Warren might sound when he said that to Junie.  You really made his voice sound sad.  Or Maddy, love that short pause when you saw the hyphen–that’s exactly what it’s there for–a break.

 how full is your bucket

fyi: This is just a starting point!   There are a bazillion ways to make fluency practice fun–and I am eager to try them out and share the other things we’ve been doing over here–but I needed to initially have Maddy slow down and pay attention to punctuation.  She needed to breathe. And slowly–slowly!–she seems to be engaging more with the text, remembering more, and paying closer attention to the concepts now that she’s paying closer attention to the words on the page.

We’ll see. . . .

 

 More of the skinny:

When I really took a step back and looked at what Maddy was doing as far as reading, I was surprised–and slightly taken–by the fact that she wasn’t able to adequately summarize (or even explain just a little bit!) the texts she was reading.  And she reads a lot.

Ever since she was teeny, Maddy went to bed with a huge pile of books.  And as she read them, we’d either hear a thump! clunk. thump. . . thump, as she dropped them from her bed to the floor, or we’d find a big pile of books next to her tiny body when we checked on her before we turned in for the night.

For a long time, I didn’t worry about Maddy’s reading; she made great strides in Kindergarten and again in first grade, and when she hung out on the same level for a few months last year, neither my husband nor I sweated it. It’s normal for kids to make quick level-leaps in the beginning (especially through Kindergarten and first grade), and often, once they reach a certain point–they kind of stay stagnant.

There are a ton of levels in Kindergarten and grade one; ideally, kiddos move from level A to J during this time, as they move through Early Emergent and Emergent Reader Stages while they’re learning the basic concepts of print, alphabetic principles, phonological awareness, and early phonics.  And then in grade two, the move can seem small–K to P–but the strides are great.   Readers slowly begin to tackle more difficult sentence structures, less repetition, more of a reading comprehension focus.  They hang out in levels for a longer period of time, which is why there is a larger number of books in these level ranges.

This is another simple but totally important reading comprehension strategies as part of my Read-Aloud Learning series. I am LOVING it, and thanks to the following *awesome* articles I used as a reference for this post:

Applegate, M. D., Applegate, A. J. and Modla, V. B. (2009), “She’s My Best Reader; She Just Can’t Comprehend”: Studying the Relationship Between Fluency and Comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 62: 512–521. doi: 10.1598/RT.62.6.5

Cahill, M. A. and Gregory, A. E. (2011), Putting the Fun Back Into Fluency Instruction. The Reading Teacher, 65: 127–131. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.01018

Pikulski, J. J. and Chard, D. J. (2005), Fluency: Bridge Between Decoding and Reading Comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 58: 510–519. doi: 10.1598/RT.58.6.2