Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Getting a Kindle...

for Matt. He carries about 8 books in his backpack, and, as a result, gets backaches - not to mention ruins every backpack in about a month or two.

I am going to let him experiment with reading electronically, and, in the process, I will too. Who knows? I may like it!

Here's the deal, however.

Matt loves to read already - anything he can get his hands on.

I was having a discussion with a fellow educator this week, and he was asking me why I don't recommend that kids read electronically, if that's what it takes to get them reading.  I firmly believe that the brain has specific neurons and development that goes along with reading books. If you don't grow those neural passages, it changes the entire make up/structure of the brain.

Now that is something to think about. Kids who are learning through technology, who have other ways of learning are DIFFERENT in their brain structure than us (those of us who learned on a chalkboard, anyway).

I don't want to hinder technology development, because, believe me, I am grateful for all the advancements we have made -- I have had four babies, and every improvement made my life amazingly easier!

I am not saying we have to do things "the old fashioned way" - but I do believe that reading (and language) is important in creating a brain that learns...period.

So, I am getting him a Kindle, but he had to show me he has mastered the basics, first.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last minute ideas from me??? Books of course!

If you are still clamoring at the last minute to get all those gifts for your kids...consider books!

Here's my protocol: I buy a book I think I want them to try (it may be one we read together) and a gift card to a bookstore with the promise that I will take them while on vacation.

The giftcard gives them the opportunity to choose a book themselves, and the preselected books give me the opportunity to expose them to genres and text they may not necessarily consider for themselves.

Hopefully, you have a few wonderful books wrapped and under the tree...

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Surround yourself with readers...

As I was wonderfully encouraged by a friend of mine to try a new workout, I thought about how motivating it was to have her with me...ok, so she physically drove me there too, and pedaled right next to me.

She made it fun, and painless! I thought about how it has always been others who have really pushed me to be better, to do things I know I should, and who follow up with me and ask when I am going to do it again.

That's what we need when it comes to reading. You and your child may need a buddy...maybe they read the same book and you compare notes...or maybe you both keep a reading chart of books read or time read.

It will be more fun, and you will be held accountable.

I think for kids, it will begin their journey knowing reading is a part of a greater community and that it connects us to others...and you might too!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Letter and Word Hunts

Today Nick and I shared the newspaper again, and this time we did some letter hunting. We alternated between my pointing to a letter and him telling me what it is and my asking him to find a letter and him pointing to it. After he said the letter name, he always added something he knew that starts with that letter.

Once he's older, I will have him look for sight words - then more complex words. In second grade and early third, I have my kids hunt for certain kinds of words - adjectives, verbs, nouns -- and different kinds of sentences: interrogatory (?), exclamatory (!), and declarative (.).

Play around - give them highlighters, gel pens - have them cut them creative.

Three more days...and I have one with a stomach bug, one with an ear infection, one with a bad sore throat, one with runny nose, and my fingers crossed that it doesn't get any worse!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery

Involves a lot more than books. I noticed my son Nick (2) grabbing his portion of the newspaper this morning as we sat together at the breakfast table. First it was the Toys R Us ads, then the comics. As I continued my section, I noticed him looking over at me and imitating my reading habits. He laid out the paper exactly like me, and held his sippy cup just like I held my cup of coffee.

My point is, I wasn't actively trying to teach him anything about reading. I was just doing it.

I know life is busy for everyone, but if you want your kids to read, you need to lead by example.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Finding a happy place...and reading

Today I took my boys to Bookpeople...they expected to hit the aisles, load up my arms, and head on to the next destination...

Not so fast, partners.

Instead, we went straight to the cafe, claimed a table, and spent the next hour reading our new books and sipping hot chocolate.

They were a bit taken aback, and unmotivated at first. But after about 15 minutes, they realized I wasn't budging, and I was reading, so they dug into their new books.

We got a couple really good ones. Matt has been hooked on a new sports writer, Tim Green. He's devouring the series. He got an autographed book.

Sam opted for the next Alvin Ho, which I read a bit tonight. I like it...for reasons that I can see myself teaching with it. There are details and references to things that might slip over kids' heads...but if they catch it and get it, they will laugh hysterically. I already have two students in mind for this book. Good for boys, but girls too.

Ben picked two. One, called Kickers, he got into immediately. It's about a group of kids who play soccer, and the first book revolves around bossiness and being a "ball hog" and how that can be resolved. Good for kids playing sports. Second, he grabbed a book out of my hand: "Frankie Pickle" a good easy read balanced with graphic novel. It talks about a boy who is a "possum scout" entering his car in the Pinerun Derby -- as a cub scout, Ben was all over relating to that one.

Me? Oh, I was reading Cuthbert Soup's second book, "Another Whole Nother Story." Very subtle humor, very good writing. I have several students who have finished the first book, so I had to get the sequel for them.

So, where have I been? Up to my eyeballs in school, grades, then the holiday planning...not to mention our internet went out for two weeks...yep, two weeks.

I am back. Hopefully on a daily basis. I would love questions, situations where you may need advice...

Oh, and by the way, less than 5 shopping days left!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Resistance to do anything but the bare minimum...

...that's my son Sam right now. He's only willing to do what he HAS to do, especially when it comes to reading.

So what am I doing? Well, I am giving him a few weeks to do just that -- do only his 15-20 minutes of homework reading per night -- and then I am going to switch things up on him.

It is perfectly timed with Christmas break, where he will insist he doesn't NEED to read since he doesn't have homework.

I am going to plan a special trip to the bookstore with him...and I am also going to tap into his passion - computers and Legos. He is going to read about Legos by way of the "Visual Dictionary" books and then he will have the chance to go to the Lego store and explain to me what he read before getting a new set (under 40 dollars).

I am not going to force, or coerce. I am going to approach it peacefully, calmly, and coaxing a cat.

That's what works with him.

Sure, I could get upset, push, or just hand him books, but that isn't Sam's style...

Get to know your child's "style" -- how they need to be approached. That's the key to getting more.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A fun way to preview vocabulary and get them to write!

When you are reading with your child, look ahead. Just a few pages. Pick about 6-8 words that are either words they might not know (vocabulary) or interesting words. Write them on the top of a piece of paper.

Tell your child they are going to do "Splash" - named for the splash of words they get - review the words with them - define, give examples...and then have them use those words in a story - you can have them write or tell it to you. Or make up a story together if you have a reluctant writer.

Why would we do that out of context? Because it's different than simply telling them the meaning along the way. They will do different processing. They will think of the meanings as they use it in their own made up story (the stories can be ridiculous, serious, fiction or non - they choose).  Later, when they read their book, guess what words are going to pop out at them?

Guess where they can retrieve that information? From the context of their story!

I love this strategy because it gets the vocabulary, gets them reading, and writing is thrown into the mix!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

You know that nagging feeling...

when you feel like you should be more consistent doing something, yet...

I have got to carve out time to blog more. I think I need time. Time to actually blog, and also time to be inspired.

Thanksgiving was a teaser - it was so nice to have time to get done what I have been putting off. Necessary things that don't get done when you work full time and have four kids.

But I am making some goals for myself to restore myself - physically, mentally, and emotionally.

A few thoughts - in no order -

Go to the bookstore, drink coffee, and let the books be the priority - not the teaching, not the blog - I need to nurture the reader in me.

Hit the gym for yoga, maybe a massage, and a meeting with the personal trainer - to revitalize me in body.

Find a church home - and go. Enough said.

Take each kid for a "date" solo - give them the attention they so need...

Take my hubby for a date. Again, enough said.

Think about what your kids may need too. It's been a long haul since August, and they need the break and revitalizing as much as adults.

Keep in mind that we will need our batteries recharged as we return in January!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No excuses

I took a little hiatus...wonderful holidays, great memories made.

Now the work. Your kids will probably be going through some mid-year testing soon - if not before Christmas, right after.

My students don't see many worksheet/fill in the bubble things. So it is my job to prepare them for what is to come.

My philosophy is to teach them how to read - how to summarize, analyze characters, and infer - with REAL TEXT...and then teach them how that looks on tests.

It's much better that way. I can't tell you how many kids I have seen over the years laden with packet after packet of test prep. They get so drilled, they don't even enjoy reading anymore. It's all about performance.

And it is about performance, but they WILL perform BEAUTIFULLY if they understand how to naturally do the work of reading.

Teaching them how to read questions and figure out the type of question it is is easy, once they know how to produce the thinking on their own with wonderful books.

My two cents today. My kids took a benchmark.