Thursday, September 30, 2010

Responding to Reading - Teaching Summary

One of the toughest things for kids is to create a summary of something that they have read. It is a requirement of every grade in some shape, length, and form, and many gauge how well they have understood a piece by how well they can summarize.

Summarizing, however, is a separate skill in itself. They need to be taught it -- and practice - A LOT.

Just to be clear, summarizing is different than retelling - summarizing hits the main points, retelling is more sequential and could contain more detail.

I start with teaching the difference between main idea and detail. Kids easily get distracted and focus on details because they are interesting and memorable...but often extraneous. So I take a magazine picture -- usually something that will catch their eye. Wordless is awesome - they are free from the weight of accuracy and decoding words.

I have them start by telling me about everything in the picture. I write down each thing on a chart paper. For example, if it is a picture of kids on the beach, they will tell me everything from waves to sky to the color of the suits they are wearing. I point out to them that they have done more of a retelling when they do this, and now we need to go through and label each item D for detail (a small part) or MI for main idea (what the picture is mostly about). Once we do that, they create a sentence or two using the statements that have MI next to them. VOILA! A summary statement of the picture.

We do this a few times together and then they start doing it independently. Once they have pictures down, we move to small chunks of text and gradually longer text until they get it.

If you are frustrated with their lack of being able to create a summary (those book reports are all over it!), try will be fascinated to see how it clicks!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Really Tapping into Important Connections

As we have been studying connections, I have been nudging the kids to make really meaningful connections...not just superficial ones.

It takes a little more thinking and digging. When we read a book, for example, one by an author we have read before, I ask them to predict, based on what we know about theme, style, etc...what they expect with this one. After reading, if our predictions were incorrect, we then revise our thinking.

Also, I try to teach them that connections to a book are more than, "I've seen a frog before," or "I like frogs." It's more..."I know frogs jump and hop, and they are amphibians...I wonder whether this frog lives in the water, on land, or both?"

And with thematic connections - what do they really think, know and feel about them? What experiences do they have and how does that affect how they think about this book?

Connections strengthen if they are made. The deeper the connection, the stronger the bond.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Celebrating another birthday...with books!

Not mine, but my twins, Ben and Sam...they turned 8 today, and we headed to get new books to celebrate. I love how easy they are to buy for in that sense. Of course, they asked for the gamut - from Ds "stuff" to Legos...but a good giftcard from Barnes and Noble always gets them excited.

I love that!

Happy Birthday to my two big boys!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great Day be back at work!

We had a blast reading with our buddies in Kindergarten. It was a perfect way to solidify our learning...teach others. It was classic seeing them become teachers in their own sense and style. Have your older child buddy read with your younger. Both benefit from it...your older in fluency and your younger in fluency, accuracy, and comprehension by the good modeling.

Today too, we talked about activating prior knowlege and experience -- SCHEMA -- to apply to our new text. We talked about text relating to self, our own experience...and text to text, when another piece of literature relates in someway to the new material...and text to world, how a text connects to something we have heard in our greater world - maybe not our experience exactly, but something we know secondhand.

We talked about how our brains are like spiderwebs with millions of connections...the more connections we make with something, the stronger the bond (the learning). I also pointed out that our brains do this automatically, but we need to actively THINK (metacognate) about the connection to make it go into long term memory. That's when it helps...later on, when we come across something else that relates, boom, it's that easy to process.

We are going to continue this and then go into how that can help us figure out unknown words (a little bit of root word work). 

How do you connect with today's blog?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So this weekend...

has been a bunch of SICKNESS. Stomach bug, to be exact. It began Thursday with Nick, and then Ben and me, and last night we have two family members to go, and I am already running on little energy stores in my tank.

It was incredible to me, how my body just shut down. Literally I was in bed from 6 p.m. Friday night until 12 p.m. I don't remember the last time I laid down for so long. Thank goodness for my husband being home to help.

So today is a "pick up the pieces day" - in hopes that no one else falls prey to "THE BUG!"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Really liked the article on boys, reading, and technology

In the last post, Stephen sent me a great link to an article from The Wall Street Journal you may find interesting:

It discusses the discrepancy between girls and boys in reading, and argues that, to get boys reading, it doesn't take giving them more material that they relate to (or find gross), but rather, we should take AWAY the distraction of technology.

Hmm...I found that a good morsel to chew on in my house.

I agree, that boys will enjoy the Classics if given the chance - they do savor reading books with substance - what boy wouldn't like a story of shipwreck and survival? I don't believe they would, in an honest world, tell you that nerds and a cheese touch make for better books.

Boys in my classroom read the gamut...from Star Wars to Zoobreak...but they do get involved, knowing that during reading time in there is no Wii, DS, or computers going on. It is reading - holding a book and letting yourself get lost in a story.

Think about it...weigh how technology affects your young reader. It may encourage you to make some changes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Making the Reading Experience Authentic

This morning my class had our monthly "Breakfast and the Paper." I started this several years ago, with the thought that, "Hey, I enjoy my coffee and oatmeal with the morning paper, that's a nice reading habit...why shouldn't my students learn that?"

We take our Weekly Readers, a nonfiction/newspaper style text, and have our breakfast in the classroom. Some choose to sit together and make their desks like a "breakfast table" and discuss things as they are reading. Some sit alone (as I would) to process their reading and enjoy their breakfast. I point out that this is, in fact, a preference they have as readers - sometimes you want to be social, sometimes not. Sometimes being with others helps the process of understanding what we are reading, sometimes we need to be alone.

After we read and enjoy, we get together as a whole group where I might focus on a specific text feature (headings, subheadings, captions, etc.) or I may want to talk about vocabulary, or I may want to talk about a certain current event.

Other times we just share our thoughts and new discoveries.

Today we did that, and it became a discussion on how prior knowledge and experiences (OUR SCHEMA) will affect how we read something.

One of my students, A, had previously visited a King Tut exhibit. In one of the articles, it talked about a relic that had been uncovered. He shared with me all the things he knew about Tut, and I pointed out how he used that schema to enhance and build his new knowledge from the article.

Of course I had to gush about that...and soon others were raising their hands and sharing the schema they had with that or other articles we read.

FUN? yes. AUTHENTIC? you bet. A GREAT READING MEMORY? I guarantee it -- what other teacher lets you have breakfast IN CLASS?????

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nothing Like Sickness to Bring Everything to a Screeching Halt

Not me, but my youngest. He's better, hopefully good to go for tomorrow, but I always marvel at how absolutely helpless I feel when something like this comes up. I can't make him better, I have to depend on others (to whom I am unspeakably grateful), and what I thought was going to be accomplished today goes a whole new direction.

In the same breath, it's amazing how the world can keep spinning, and my world becomes so small, tuned in to him, his needs, being a mom.

Today I trusted others to handle my world. Today, and every day, I need to remember that it is not I that controls...I am in the hands of One who knows way better than I, what I should do today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Gradual Release of Responsibility's time.

Around second and mainly third grade, kids need to start taking more responsibility. I mean this in a very general sense -- in terms of writing/knowing what their homework is, packing their own backpacks, putting away laundry, etc...but also in a very specific sense - with reading.

I have been very supportive in helping kids choose just right books and getting them "into" books, but they are all on a gradual release from my hand holding.

If I always tell them what to read, they will depend on that. If they only come to me for suggestions and to "get pumped" about a book, they will need that all the time.

So as I see them able to get a sense of what is right for them, I nudge them gently from the nest.

It's fascinating. They first look at me wide eyed with a "you want ME to WHAT? Choose a book without you?" but as I supportively give them more freedom, you see them blossom.

That is when they start to develop the confidence in themselves as readers, learners, people.

Don't hold their hands too might hold them back.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Love to hear them mimic

Today we practiced reading our Piggie and Gerald books for our buddies. They paired up and "taught" each other.

The room was abuzz with great reading...I loved hearing them read with such expression, and when they stopped to talk about the story and how to read fluently, I got a kick out of hearing my words through their voices.

Don't think kids aren't listening and watching you as you are reading...that's how they pick it up.

A good reason for us to get silly, use voices, and enjoy, huh?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Using Post Its as a Tool

This week we are beginning to use post its as a way to tab our thinking. We can't write in our books, nor can we get Mrs. Forrest's attention every minute, so we write it on post its.

So far we have learned that post its are a way for us to:
Mark places where we are confused
Identify places where there are words we don't know/understand
Mark favorite parts
Funny Parts
Surprising parts

When they come to words/parts that are confusing, stopping and jotting "I don't understand what _____ means" makes them stop and think for a minute. They don't just keep reading on. They have identified an issue and now can use their fix up strategies. I tell them that if they have a hunch about the meaning, to write it on the post it. That shows me good thinking...they tried to make meaning.

I also told them that post its save them from having to dig back and find that part they want to share with me. When I come over to conference with them in their reading spots, they always have something to show me, but it takes forever for them to find the part again. Post its solve that!

They are also motivated by using "big people" its make a huge difference - they usually react with disbelief that I am handing them a pack of post its...we do train on how to use them, and they know I am trusting them to handle them.

We will grow how we use post its, but for now, that's how we are using them. It helps when they do their response/log at the end of independent reading too...they don't have to hunt - they use the post its -

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Young Readers

I am enjoying watching my son Nicholas, who will be three at the end of March. I laugh because I see him doing things and remember Matthew doing them, but not the twins...I am sure the twins developed the same way, but with two at the same age, life kind of goes by in a blur.

Nicholas has bins of books throughout the house. They are mainly the chunky board books, easy for little hands (and durable). I catch him frequently pulling his favorites out, and every morning they are scattered all over his bedroom floor from the reading he's done the night before rather than going to sleep. Have I told him to only choose books? No. Does he have bins of toys he could choose to play with instead? You bet. But he doesn't - he opts for books.

How is it that my boys love to read so much?

I don't know how you picture my household. You may imagine me on the couch reading a book, my boys nuzzled up against pillows, books in hand. Actually, it's quite the contrary. Everyone in my house has to "steal" moments to read - there is so much going on -- it's almost chaotic at times.

Yes, I am scheduled, and we do read together, but it's hit and miss.

I get asked a lot: "How do you do it? You must have read to them a ton when they were little."

I always cringe when I hear that. I feel a bit guilty, because I didn't read to them every night. I didn't take them to the library for storytime. I am a full time working mom...we have always run a PACKED day. Sometimes the only reading they did was in the car on the way to practice, or the store because we were again, out of mile.

Yes, research shows that those things are positive influences on reading, so I am not saying they aren't important. They definitely are. Do those things if at all possible. But I do know that many of you run a busy household too, and feel guilty about it -- and if those kids are struggling in reading, it's an easy thing to think "hey, maybe that's why..."

But what did I do? I surrounded them with books. I always read authentically and with sincerity. I shared myself as a thoughts, my questions, my ideas. I listened to them as readers and encouraged them to talk and feel about books. I corrected with praise, and always coached with "I heard you say x, but it really says y - doesn't that make the book make more sense?"

The excitement for THEIR books...even from those chunky board books with Elmo simply identifying shapes...makes the biggest difference.

Maybe that is it. Be sincere. Be interested in their books. Show the excitement in what they are reading. Hmmm....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

funny how he reads...

...what he wants to, not what he's supposed to.

My son Matt brought two books in the car today (on his own) -- we were taking a jaunt to the Boy Scout Shop way North, so he knew that would be a good way to occupy himself.

HOWEVER, Matt has a biography due this week -- assigned three weeks ago -- but instead he's brought two fiction books (ironically biographical about Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe, but written with a fictional main character, so it wouldn't work for his book share).

Now he wants to frantically finish it so I can help him create a power point presentation for Thursday.

Can I say "UGH!!!!!!" My boys have the passion for reading, they just need organization and prioritizing!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Teaching Fluency

I haven't talked about fluency specifically yet -- that I remember anyway.

Fluency, or reading smoothly with expression at a talking pace, is something I believe we have to make a point to clearly teach kids.

They hear us read fluently, but there are a lot of complexities that kids don't just "pick up."

I teach kids that good readers can read fluently when they pay attention to the characters. They look at the illustrations for the expressions on characters faces or their body language. If there aren't pictures, I tell them to look for the words that help them make a picture in their minds. If their character is yelling, they need to know their character is angry, and their voice will reflect that.

We talk about what is going on -- is a character sad? Make your voice be sad. Are they happy? Sound that way! Look for the clues and think about the situation. If the character just got invited to a birthday party, they will talk like they are excited.

But not all reading is's different types of sentences too. So I teach them that fluent readers pay attention to punctuation. We tie this into our punctuation study in writing, so it's a double punch.

They learn that when you come to ... you pause with dramatic effect. When you see a comma, you pause. Periods, your voice stops but stays normal. Exclamation marks, your voice gets loud and stops. Question marks, your voice goes up and stops.

I also have them look at the font size and style. I teach them to make their voice louder when the font is bigger or bold, and softer for smaller or finer. We look at italics too, and find that when we see words like that, we need to make our voices a little different for emphasis.

Here's the caveat. They learn it, and then teach it. I have them buddy up with kindergarteners and teach them how to read fluently, incorporating all we talked about above, with Mo Willems' Piggie and Gerald Series.

It is powerful, and they don't forget it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

and with effort comes sweet reward...

I am going to give you a report on my little guy. Today I did exactly as I told you. He selected a book, we read together (I was lying on my belly next to him on the carpet) where I did a lot of talking/getting him excited, and then we set the goal of 5 minutes. I left to conference with others, one eye on him. Guess what? He stayed focused, and did it.

When I came back over, he was happy to share with me what he was reading.

I enjoyed what he learned. The book is graphic novel (comic style) called "Happy Birthday Bad Kitty." It's a silly story, except mixed in are some great facts about cats. And he was interested.

In fact, when he read about cats scratching and rubbing against things to "mark their territory," he related it to dogs. "I bet that's why they sniff so much...they are smelling other dogs and cats if they have marked the things."


So I read a little more with him, laughed and shared with him what I thought was funny and what I was thinking for a few pages.

Then I asked him, "How do you feel about this book - ten or fifteen more minutes until I come back?"

"Fifteen will be good. Then I can get farther," he responded.

So I left again, and he did it again. He stayed focused, in one place, with that single book.

When I came back, he proudly exclaimed, "I am on Chapter 6!"

Of course I made a huge deal. And I shared his achievement with the class. He showed the book to everyone and told them what a great book it was.

As he logged his reading in his reading notebook, I stopped by. I whispered how great I really thought this was, and promised to get the first book in the series, Bad Kitty Takes a Bath when he finished this one.

He said I better get it soon, and even agreed to take it to his tutor's tonight to show her.

Now, do I think that he's done? NO WAY. But I enjoyed today seeing the growth!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It takes effort...

I knew this was going to be my quest. I knew from day one this would be my challenge. But hey, who doesn't like a challenge???

My little one who is in and out of books is, in a nutshell, in and out of books -CONSTANTLY.

I bought those graphic novels for him (I like them for content, except the binding is weak and they are already falling apart), and he's "done" as quickly as he can.

He's not getting engaged, or building stamina. And it's not for a lack of me giving him material.

SOOOOOO, I am going to keep trying. Today I finished up oral testing (where kids read to me for district reporting), so I have time to now be conferring constantly during independent reading.

I am excited, but am formulating a plan. First, I am going to meet with him and have him really choose a book. I am going to select things I have read so I know the material well. They are also going to be quicker reads.Next, HE is going to set a goal for himself for the amount of time he is going to read. I am going to gently guide him to read for three minutes solid. After three minutes, I will confer with him. I need to know what his process is and listen to him -- my guess is he isn't actively thinking about what he is reading. He isn't letting the story take over - he's reading words, and that is "boring" him.

I am going to model how excited I am about the part he read and tell him the things I thought about when I read it. As I share, I will be saying, "I bet you thought that too? You know what I mean? I know as a good reader you thought that too..." I will be planting the thinking, and building him up positively.

I will let you know how day one goes...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teach them to search for books

Today was one of those, "hey this would be a great teachable moment" in my afternoon class. One of my boys, R, was finished reading "The Gollywhopper Games" which he devoured. It's a long one, and the content is more rigorous.

So I wanted to keep him going. We first checked out the Texas Bluebonnet Nominees, which is always a good place to start.

He wasn't sure about any of them without holding them in his hand and being able to check them out.

I remembered another book, Pond Scum, that Matt read about the same time as he read "The Gollywhopper Games." R seemed interested, but disappointment took over as I pulled the book out of the bin. The book jacket was missing.

I guess I have taught my kids well. They know that before picking a book, it is crucial to read the "Blurb" on the back or the Inside jacket flap. He wasn't going to bite without that bit to, as I tell them, "get their minds ready to read that book."

My mind raced. Hmm...thank goodness for technology and

I called up the book in a search and showed him how you can click on some of the books and they will give you a "peak inside" the book. You can even see the book jacket -- both flaps!

I also told him that if there is no search inside part, you can scroll down to get a summary and a few reviews.

See if that works with your child!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Accountability is a tough lesson. It's hard for us to do sometimes...either we are busy, tired, or we take them at their word that it's getting done. needs to happen.

Especially in reading.

It doesn't have to be done in a dictatorial way, either. It can be gentle and supportive. Kids need to know we are going to be listening -- hearing them read, and asking them to work hard in those areas they have set goals.

I have noticed with kids in my classroom, mainly the ones who don't LOVE reading yet, that they are the ones who aren't used to being held accountable.

Here's how I do it. Rather than: You must read this book for this amount of time, I will say, "We know these are just right books (offer two or three choices), and I would like you to choose one to read during this reading time. I will check in with you in a bit to see how you are doing. I may give them a teaser about a character or a plot to get them going." Then I COME BACK and ask them about how they are doing. I ask about the book, but I also ask about how they feel about the process. Are they able to be focused? If not, why? How can we change the circumstances so they can focus. If they are focused, I praise specifically for the focused behaviors they have done.

Do that at home. Check up. In a nice way. Pretty soon you will notice the spans of time will get longer and longer, and they will become more focused.

Why? Because you consistently held them accountable. EVERY DAY. EVERY TIME.

Yes, it is a lot at first, but gradually that will change. They will become more independent as they build that stamina.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I got these two hooked...

We started baseball this week, and I asked two kids who I loaned a couple bags of books to last year if I could get them back.

Their moms both said the exact same thing. When they first got the books, they were gung ho, and read and read and read.

Then summer hit, and their excitement waned. The books basically sat there.

But as soon as I asked for them back, both boys clamored to have more time with them, and selected books to keep reading or at least read one more time before they had to go.

I smiled. I must have found something that connected.

I still had to take the books, however. A few of them are a part of some book studies we are doing on fluency, and another is a series I need to get one of my guys involved with.

Tomorrow my quest to satiate those reading appetites begins at 7:35!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Here's One I Guarantee Boys Like...

...and this is how I know. One of my kids, C, brought in a book, and within two minutes, every boy in my class was hovering over his shoulder.

I had to see.

It was the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary. And it is a HIT! I watched them for a few minutes and then got involved.

Me: Hey guys, do you know there are special muscles in your brain that help you read this kind of book? Them: Oh. But we want to tell you what we know about these guys... Me: ok, you tell me a little bit, then I am going to tell you something I learned by reading this little graph/chart over here. Them: Lots of chatter about fifty different movie based things having to do with the pictures on the page. Later...Me: ok, I know that this character was created in 1992. This one was a series in 1986. Them: Wow! I didn't know that.

So there. I knew I had material I could use to teach how to read nonfiction text features (how to read a visual dictionary/encyclopedia of a certain subject): facts about Star Wars...which is Science Fiction and something they are completely into.

In fact, almost all the boys had been to the new Lego store that opened about a month ago at our local mall.

Here's what I did. I went over to the computer during indoor recess (it rained HARD this week) and bought it. I announced it as they were free drawing and playing board games, and everything stopped. "YOU DID???? JUST NOW??? JUST LIKE THAT???" I could hear the excitement.

Next questions - will we get to read it? can we check it out from you?

And here's how I am going to handle it. I am going to use it to teach small groups. Girls invited, if they so desire. But if they aren't interested, I am already on a mission to find a book of the same type that draws them like a fly to flypaper.

A few things I want you to notice: I watch them. I get to know what they like. I listen to their side first. And I keep my agenda in my mind too. In the end...I bet we both win!

Friday, September 10, 2010

In speaking with reading experts...

...I found I gave you the right advice about the omitting words question. One of our fabulous teachers specializes in Dyslexia and Reading Interventions, and she gave me the thumbs up.

The past week my kids have been studying reading Genres. Nonfiction - Informational, Biography, Autobiography; Fiction - Traditional Literature (fairy tales, legends, myths), Historical Fiction (those fictional stories which have a real setting that takes place in the past), Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction; and Poetry (which can be from either fiction or nonfiction).

Why do I want them to know this? First, each genre has specific text structure and make up. It is important to know those. Once they know, say, mysteries are books with clues, sleuths, red herrings, suspense, a problem to be solved, and a discovery -- the second they pick up one of those books and begin to read it, their minds will predict click into "I know this structure" mode and they will more easily comprehend it.

Another reason is I want them to keep track of the genres they are reading. Of course, I love it when they find a genre they love, but if they ONLY read that type, I want them to realize it. I have them keep a tally in their Reading Notebooks on the books they have finished.

I encourage them to be adventurous into new genres. Some kids, like my Matt, love Realistic Fiction because they relate...but I want him to try Fantasy too -- see what that's like. Exposure at a young age will give them a wider perspective on reading and books.

Some, on the other hand, love the princess, fairy, Harry Potter Fantasy genre exclusively. I think movies play a major role in why kids lean towards this genre, although it is really a break from the everyday. I encourage them to try Mysteries, or Science Fiction.

Keep a tally of what books your child is reading in which genre. It could tell you a lot...and make sure they know what genres are and what they are reading. It will help their understanding!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Great Question - Accuracy in Reading

Leticia wrote in with a question that I want to tie into another topic: Benchmark Assessments. In listening to her daughter read, she notices that she skips words, often the small ones, "the," "in", etc.

I don't think it is a symptom of a greater problem. My guess is that she is starting to read more difficult text and her mind is going faster than her eyes and voice...but, that's not the end all answer. I am going to ask my reading specialist buddy in the morning her opinion.

To correct? I would say yes. I think having her go back to the beginning of that sentence and try again. If she again misses it, I would point it out. I would model it and then continue that process throughout.

Again, I am going to do more research on that and get more info for you all.

Having said that, it is something important -- accuracy -- saying the words correctly. It is one of the three prongs of reading we test...Fluency, accuracy, and comprehension.

Accuracy is important. If the reader isn't reading accurate words, the comprehension will break down.

Substitutions, when kids say another word in place of the word that is there, are something to track as well. Are they substituting words that make sense to the story? Then they are comprehending and making meaning. If they are saying words that start with the same letter/sound, they are using their decoding knowledge to figure out an unknown word.

In testing, we don't correct them, but when I am conferencing with kids, I do. I tell them what I noticed, what word they substituted, and praise them for using either their decoding or comprehension skills. If they are using neither, I point that out too - how either of those ways are good ways to attack an unknown word.

I hope that helps. I will add more information tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Day AFTER Back to School Night... always a bit of a crash. It's a high energy night, and I always want to say more than I did.

Sorry I didn't post yesterday -- between granite (MY KITCHEN IS PRETTY NOW!!!), shuttling/getting childcare for the kids, and Back to School Night, I didn't get on the computer at all.

It was great to meet my new parents, however, I know how much information is coming at them...they hardly have a chance to process it all, much less formulate a question.

Here's what I would like you to do. If your teacher throws out some education jargon you don't understand, post a question here. I will try and decipher it.

Also, to my parents, if there are questions about books, reading strategies, and the like, make this your forum to ask.

I can put things up here and hope they hit someone's target, but if I am answering questions, I know I have touched something someone needed.

I will, of course, continue telling you what we are doing in the classroom, what I am conferencing with kids about, aha moments, and also good books to try.

Today is going to be one of refocusing for me, getting my schedule and routine on track...wish me luck!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hmm...I was tempted

Remember how I have said time and time again I wouldn't buy a Kindle. But two days ago, in Barnes and Noble, I caught myself reading the advertisement brochure for the Nook.

Call it wanting the latest gadget or whatever. I don't think I will get one, but I mulled it over in my mind. And I thought about it for our kids.

Think of it -- so many books at their fingertips -- and then, think of it -- so many books at their fingertips.

I am working with several kids in my class on building stamina and sticking with a book. We are working on finding what we like about different books, and giving them a chance to show us something neat by reading it all the way to the end. The Kindle and Nook would be the perfect video game version of books - don't like it - switch - not this one - switch - what else is out there? switch.

Maybe it is a great tool AFTER they have shown they have found a passion in reading. Yet, maybe some will only find a passion for reading if technology is involved.

There are bigger questions in this dilemma, and it depends on your opinion 0whether technology is a friend or not, and in what circumstances.

So I am not buying, anyway...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Book -- Gordon Korman -- Framed

As I was buying gifts yesterday for a few people at Barnes and Noble, a book caught my eye.

My son is a huge Gordon Korman fan, and so are a few boys in my class. There it was, the latest - Framed. It is part of the Zoobreak and Swindle series.

I couldn't resist...I bought it.

And no sooner did I get home with a Barnes and Noble bag in hand was I attacked by three of my boys to see what I had.

Matt let out a whoop and far rave reviews...great idea for your 3rd grader and up...a mix of mystery, adventure, and fantasy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hopefully your teachers will tell you...

Today, after kids' football, errands, finishing the kitchen demo, and taking Matt (the second of four who failed vision testing) to go get glasses, I am going to sit down and write some letters to parents.

Even though it has only been two weeks, there are things that kids have said and done that make my mouth drop and my heart light...both in academics and in acts of kindness.

And I want to let them know of those amazing things...they need to celebrate!

I hope your teachers do the same. To know the specific positives that are coming from their child will make parents proud, but also the kids.

I bet they save these letters!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Making Mental Images

One of the hardest transitions for kids in reading is going from books with lots of pictures to words with mostly text. If your kids are hesitant to get into chapter books, that may be a big reason why.

We need to teach them how to make those pictures in their minds by using the words.

It can start out really simply. Just create a sentence or two: The big black dog ran down the street, dragging its master behind him on the leash.

Then have them draw what they see. Encourage them to create a background...are there trees? Houses? Who is the master? Man, woman, boy, girl? What color hair/clothes, etc.

Challenge them to add detail to flesh it out.

As they get good at it, give them more sentences with more detail. After that, move to using a few sentences from a book. Then a paragraph, then a few paragraphs.

This may seem labor intensive, but we need to grow those muscles in their brains. When we do, it will start to move them to make pictures in their minds automatically.

Envisioning, as we call it, goes through different stages : Still pictures, then more like a movie (movement), to where they feel like they are actually IN the book, experiencing it with all senses and feeling.

We worked on that today.

We also said that it was important to have that just right book in order to do it. One of my kids astutely pointed out that when he is reading a more challenging book (just right, but on the harder side), sometimes it starts as still pictures, but as he reads, it moves into movies and experience...

He could teach for me on that statement.

So check to see if your kids are making mental pictures...if they aren't, it may be the roadblock you need to get out of the way for them to start enjoying and understanding what they are reading!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Get them what keeps them fed

Today I ordered more books - do I really have money lying around? No, but here's the deal. I have a young man in my class who is right on the cusp of finding that connection with reading. So far, graphic novels have been his thing, but he's not one to for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid ilk...

I have some graphic novels (we would otherwise say books written in comic form), but not a ton.

So in order to keep him reading, I am going to feed him. And I am going to give him what he's craving...

It's a mission for me. It's a passion. I will seek out that ONE book that turns them on.

If your child needs that, make it your mission...don't give up. I firmly believe that book is out there...keep searching (or put me on the case!)

I ordered the books on Amazon, sight unseen, so I will let you know how I like them/titles after I get them! Or better yet, maybe I will have my guy write a review for you!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

If the shoe fits...

Today we talked again about picking Just Right books, and it really clicked for a bunch of them today.

I brought in a bag of shoes : Scott's, the boys', tennis shoes, and heels.

I talked about how finding a just right book was like picking shoes. You want ones that fit, are comfortable, and are appropriate for the occasion.

I set the scene by telling them that I needed shoes for a day at Sea World. We discussed how they would need to be comfy, since I would be doing so much walking.

I first pulled out one of the twins' crocs. They decided that, although comfortable, it wasn't my size.

Shoe two brought peals of laughter: Scott's work shoe. Double trouble: too big, and not good for walking around Sea World.

Nick's tennis shoe came out next. They squealed with delight, but told me that it was WAY too small.

I pulled out a high heel of mine. Immediately hands went up: "It's the right size, but not appropriate for Sea World!" they chimed.

Finally, I pulled out my tennis shoe...of course they all hollered "JUST RIGHT!"

And so, like shoes, you want your child to get that sense of something fitting...being comfortable,
just right for them.