We were on a pretty long hiatus from posting here due to some big life changes like moving (twice) and having another baby, plus the general posting inertia that seemed to accompany those. But that hasn’t stopped people from visiting the site, thankfully. So here’s a list of the top 5 “old” posts people have been looking at for the last couple of months. I’m limiting this to lesson ideas and general info articles…
Reading’s Fab Five – an introduction to the basic elements of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension).
Who Let the Letters Out Song – a fun song to sing with your kids to help them associate letters and sounds.
Stump The Teacher – “trick” your young reader into reading a book for depth and detail in order to ask you questions you can’t answer about the book. This game really encourages them to read for comprehension.
Rhyming Down The Alphabet – I’m glad this one is popular, because our 3 year old loves this game. You give them a word, and they create words that rhyme with it as they move down the alphabet. This one seems to be great for a child who really (and I mean REALLY) likes to talk (and talk).
Exit This Way – another one that’s great for more advanced readers. This activity encourages your child’s comprehension by having them come up with an alternate ending for a book or story.
A new school year means a new curriculum for many families. Whether you are just starting out or you’ve decided to try something new, there’s a ton of curricula to choose from. Although I have my favorites, I don’t like to recommend any particular curriculum to anyone because families and children are so different. What works great for one family (or child) might not for another, so it’s really important that you take your time choosing the one that’s best for you and your kids.
So how do you decide? You can start by asking yourself the following questions about the curriculum you are considering for reading instruction (although these could be used for any subject). I’ve put them in order of importance for me…which of course may be different for you!
- Does it fit my child’s learning style? As the learner, your child’s learning styles and preferences should play a major role in deciding what type of curriculum you should buy. Is she more hands on or does she enjoy listening to and discussing stories? Does she do well learning with technology or does she prefer more traditional approaches? Look for a curriculum that uses methods that work best for her.
- Does it fit my teaching style? Although your child’s learning style is a really important deciding factor, you are the teacher and therefore must be comfortable in how you teach the material! Do you like to have things laid out for you in a very structured way (day by day plans, lesson procedures, suggested/provided materials, etc.) or are you more interested in having freedom to choose the what, how, and when of it all? You might even fall somewhere in between – check out question # 5.
- Are the instructional methods solid? By this I mean…Is it a trusted curriculum that has shown good results for many kids? Is it based on reading research? Is it thorough or does it just skim the surface of what you want to teach? Try to do your own research by visiting curriculum fairs, talking to other parents, and reading reviews online (on sites other than the publishers’!).
- Is it fun and engaging? This is huge! This is where schools sometimes have an advantage…there are many fun things a teacher can do with a class of students that parents may not be able to do to at home to keep interest high. So it’s really important that you find something that is fun and keeps your child’s attention. Try to look for curriculum or methods that include things your child loves to learn about. It’s so important for kids to have fun reading!
- Does it allow for flexibility? If you home school, then you know this is a must! Flexibility allows you to change, add, or leave out certain things from your instruction. Some programs only work well if they are followed as is, so you may not see the best results if you decided to tweak it. Just make sure you chose something that lets you have some wiggle room if you need it.
Starting a new curriculum can be very exciting for parents and kids, so have fun with it! Check out what these homeschoolers have to say about it:
A to Z Home’s Cool has some great resources put together to help you avoid wasting money.
Home School Curriculum has descriptions of curricula along with comments and input from parents about each one.
PEAH shares great resources to help you save money and keep you updated on the happenings in the world of homeschool curriculum.
Have a great year!
Better known as The Five Components of Reading, the Fab Five are the crucial instruments that research has shown kids need in order to become successful readers. Research is great . . . but are these really so important and are they necessary? My answer to both questions is a big resounding YES! Each one is important and they are absolutely necessary to teach so that your kids not only build a strong foundation of skills, but also continue to develop them in order to become accomplished readers that go on to do well in other subject areas.
Before I break down each of the Fab Five, it’s important to note that these components are not “steps to reading”. They are not meant to be introduced one at a time and mastered before moving on to the other. While it’s true that children will have to learn parts of some components before they can work on others, they are meant to work together throughout the process of learning to read. This means that you will be working on different aspects of the five components as your child’s skills grow. For example: Your child may need to work on some phonemic awareness skills before he/she can work on phonics. Yet another child can be working on vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension all at once in the same story. It may sound confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it once you see examples in the teaching methods and lesson ideas!
What Is Phonemic Awareness?
Phonemic awareness (PA) is the ability to hear and manipulate the different sounds in our language. Basically that means that kids should be able to hear, put together, and separate the sounds in spoken words.
You may have memories of learning phonics in school and being continuously drilled on letter sounds and spelling rules until you thought you would explode. Or you may be a product of whole language instruction (like me) and have very little knowledge of the intricate workings of our written language – you know how to read and write, but you’re not sure how it all works. It just depends on when and where you went to school. So which way is best? Recent research has shown that along with phonemic awareness instruction, both phonics and whole language instruction is best. You can read more about the differences between the two and why they should work together in this article. Either way, phonics instruction has come a long way since we were in school and there are ways to make it fun! So let’s get started on what you need to know to teach your child phonics.
Fluency … the great bridge. Fluency acts as the bridge between decoding words and comprehending what they mean. But what does fluency mean? Here’s the National Reading Panel’s official definition:
Fluency: The ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression.
Words, words, words! The more words your child knows, the better reader he or she will become. The great news is that you don’t have to wait until your child is of reading age to start building the vocabulary they will need in order to be great readers. This is because there are four different kinds of vocabulary that we use in our lives: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Studies show that children with larger listening and speaking vocabularies experience greater comprehension, therefore success as readers than children with a more limited listening and speaking word bank. This is because a child can know the meanings of thousands of words without having to know what they look like or how to spell them. Once they know the meaning of a word or a concept, they can just attach that knowledge to the visual representations (the words) later on as they are exposed to them in reading and writing. This large listening/speaking word bank helps them be more efficient readers because they don’t have to spend time learning to read the word and the meaning, they just have to learn to attach a known meaning to a new word.
Unless you’re like my sister (an aerospace engineer at NASA), chances are that you are not a rocket scientist. Yet according to Louisa Moats, one of the leading researchers on the process of learning to read, teaching reading is rocket science. Huh? How is teaching a child the ABC’s and picture books rocket science?
Myths run rampant in almost every part of our lives – especially when it comes to parenting and education. Things that have “always been done” may not necessarily be what’s right, and vice versa. It’s important to be able to tell good and true information apart from faulty misconceptions. In regards to reading there are many of these myths. As parents who aren’t “formal” educators, you may not know how to tell whether certain practices are useful or not. So here’s a list of common myths that I’ve come across while working with teachers and parents.
Comprehension is THE ultimate goal of reading! Everything we teach our kids in reading is so that they will end up having comprehension, or an understanding of what they read. We spend so much time learning how to read just to get to the point where we can read to learn. Comprehension = knowledge. But just because comprehension is our ultimate goal doesn’t mean that you need to wait till your kids are older or have “mastered” everything else in reading before you teach it.
There is some debate regarding this question. Some parents and authorities maintain that children will develop the ability to learn how to read on their own when they are ready and exposed to text. Most others believe that reading has to be taught to children. So who is right? Both sides offer up what they consider to be convincing research or evidence to support their stance. Yet in the midst of this debate, you have to ask the question . . . If reading is a natural occurrence, why are there so many illiterate people in the world? I’m by no means claiming that I know the answer to this, yet I feel that part of the answer may lie in the possibility that these people may not have been exposed to much literature or to an environment that fostered a love for reading. Read about Karla to find out more on my theory. Continue reading