It’s probably not a stretch to guess that your young child has a few select books they like for you to read over and over (and over) to them. These are the books you’ve read so many times that your child can recite them back to you and can queue you when the page needs to be turned. We tend to cycle through books like this at our house. A book will make it into the rotation for a week or two, then get replaced by another. Some make it back into the rotation quickly, and some seem to be forgotten.
We try to ask questions when we read these books to help them focus on comprehension, but it seems like there are only so many questions you can come up with when you are reading the same book every night. We’ve come up with a whole new way to get Pea thinking about details while we read, and she loves this game.
We call it Name That Book. We sort of stumbled upon this game by playing a similar game with animals instead of books. We start off with three somewhat vague clues about the details and events in one of her books and let her try to guess which book we are thinking of. She can ask for more clues if she needs them, but she really likes trying to figure it out based on the initial hints. The clues get more and more specific as we go so she has an easier time guessing.
We’re also going to try a new variation on this game where she gives us the clues and we try to guess the book. Hopefully this will encourage her to listen carefully and try to come up with clues that are obscure, sort of like the Stump the Teacher game for pre-k kids.
I hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend! Our thoughts are with all of those that are being affected by Gustav.
This week’s Literacy Lowdown offers some cool resources that you’ll be sure to use again and again. Have fun browsing…
Book Hooked: Do you remember that first book that really got your interest? The one that made you love reading? Well, go share it with the world over First Book! They’re running a voting contest to find out what the top 50 books are that made people love reading as kids. At the end of the voting (Sept 15th), the state that wins will receive 50,000 of those books to give to children in need. What a great cause…spread the word!
Cool Tool: What’s my number one tip for parents and teachers? Read aloud to your kids!. There are so many great things that come from reading books aloud…so keep on reading to them! Here’s a really cool (and totally free) resource that allows you to upload different types of text (word docs, PDFs, websites, etc.) and then have the computer read it to your child. Read The Words can be so useful! You can also use this as a teaching tool for writing. When I was in the classroom, I would always make my kids read their writing aloud to me so they could hear what it sounded like. About 90% of the time they would catch their own mistakes and make it better without me saying a word (just because they could hear that it didn’t sound right or make sense). This would be a great tool for older kids to use for that purpose.
The Classics: While on the topic of reading books aloud…here’s a great free resource for getting classic audio books. You can download the MP3s and even listen to them on your iPod. What an awesome way to expose your kids to the classics!
Comprehension Tips: As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the process of adding to our Comprehension section. Stay tuned for the upcoming Comprehnsion Strategies and Skills series of posts! In the meantime, Collen Felz shares some great tips on encouraging reading comprehension that go along with the suggestions I’ll soon be sharing with you.
Our main goal here at Reading Coach is to give parents the knowledge to teach their children how to read – whether your child is homeschooled, goes to public school, or private. Since we are a relatively new site, we still have loads of content that has yet to be added. Most of what we have up now is geared towards helping your child learn to read. However, in the coming months I hope to add more to our site that helps children read to learn. This will be for kids that have a solid foundation of the basic reading skills in place and as a result, read pretty well. All they need now is to improve upon those skills so they can go beyond “simple reading” to understanding and learning about the things that interest them and about the world around them. Therefore, the focus will be on continuing to expand vocabulary, improve and/or build comprehension, and challenge their thinking in fun and engaging ways. So stay tuned for future additions to these sections!
In the meantime, one of our readers asked for advice on what to do with his daughter (a first grader) that reads above grade level at school. He’d like some tips for things they can do at home with her to challenge her a bit and keep her love of reading alive. So here are some tips for all of you out there that would like to do the same for your advanced readers:
- Have Higher Level Books Available:This one may seem like a no-brainer…and it is. But I’d like to highlight the importance of just making the books available for your child to read, not necessarily asking or requiring your child to read them. It’s amazing to see the choices your child will make on their own when they have the freedom to choose above (and sometimes below) their level. So stock up your shelves with a variety of selections and provide the opportunity for them to explore and choose.
- Go Beyond The Classroom: Get involved in what your child is reading at school by asking your child’s teacher about the themes and stories they are reading in class. You can then take that information to the library (or even online) to get books and stories that are related to what they are learning, but provide more of a challenge for your child. Do this only if your child shows interest in the topic – pushing your child to learn more about something they don’t care about won’t help!
- Do Extention Activities: Start a project at home to extend what they’re learning in school. Is your child learning about plants? Have them read about growing a garden and then get started on one as a family project! Is she learning about the solar system? Have her read about the stories behind the constellations and how they got their names. Then maybe she can check out the night sky to create her own constellation and a story to go along with it. Or maybe your child can create an alternate ending to a book or story they’re reading in class. Get creative!
- Read Aloud To Them: I’m sure you already do this…but try to focus on reading books that are really advanced for your child. Advanced readers sometimes hesitate to read tougher books by themselves (especially if they are younger), but they thrive on listening to books with advanced vocabulary. Chapter books are great for this! These books will serve to challenge your child by exposing them to words, ideas, and plots that are more complex. This will also really help their writing too!
- Do Paired Reading with Chapter Books: If your child shows interest in harder chapter books but isn’t quite ready to read them on their own, you can do partner readings with your child. A great way to do this is to start reading the book to your child and then have them slowly start taking turns with you. They can take a turn reading a paragraph or a page to you, then maybe a couple of pages, a chapter, and so on. Pretty soon, they’ll want to read them on their own!
- Discuss What They Read: Asking questions to check for comprehension is fine, but what I’m talking about here is having a full blown discussion about what your child is reading. Go beyond the simple who, what, where, when, why detail type questions and move to discussion-starting questions and comments like: “I wonder how Mary felt when Christie said that?”, “What do you think about how he solved that problem – How would you have handled that situation?”, “Why do you think the author ended the book this way?”, “Does that remind you of something/someone in your life?”, “Is this like any other book/story you’ve read – How is it different/alike?”, etc. Details can be important, but you want to teach your child to go beyond them to actually THINK about what they read.
- Pair Fiction With Nonfiction: Doing this not only helps to broaden your child’s understanding of things, but it also helps to give them a depth of knowledge in the topic. For example, have your child read Verdi (fiction) and then read Slinky, Scaly, Slithery Snakes (non-fiction) to get a better understanding about snakes.
- Get Them A Magazine Subscription: Kids love to get mail with their names on it! There are tons of educational magazines out there to choose from (you can even pick different grade levels) . Let your child help you pick one out that would interest them.
- Focus on Quality not Quantity: Schools often reward kids for the number of books read or for completing a certain list. Although that’s completely okay, you can take the opportunity to teach your child the value of reading a good book for the pleasure of it and for what they’ll learn from it rather than “to read as much as possible”. You can focus on some classics or share some books that you really enjoyed as a kid.
There are many things you can do to challenge your kids at home. Just remember to keep it fun and to use their interests to lead the way! We’d love to have other parents share what works for them! What are some things you do to help challenge your child at home?
Can You Stump This Teacher?
I made this game up when I was a teacher in the hopes of creating an interest for independent reading in my kids and also for improving their comprehension skills during independent reading. I introduced it as a contest because, if I’m honest, I knew that was the only way I was going to get their attention and initial interest. And no, I did’t feel the least bit guilty for tricking kids to read – especially when I knew that it could result in a new found love of reading!
A local organization donated a whole class set of a certain book that I thought the whole class could read on their own or at home with their parents. This was the first of many books I used to play Stump the Teacher. Here’s how I introduced the game:
- I bragged to them that I was SO smart I could read a book, understand it, and be able to answer ANY question they could throw at me. Of course they didn’t believe me, so I had to challenge them by creating a contest to see if anyone could come up with a question that I couldn’t answer…therefore stumping the teacher.
- I explained to the kids that I would assign a certain number of chapters each week and that every Friday they would get the chance to ask me any questions they wanted to see if they could try to stump me. It’s amazing how interested kids get when they think they might have the opportunity to prove you wrong. What an incentive!
- I created a “Stump the Teacher” question box out of an old tissue box wrapped with construction paper where I had written plenty of goading comments like ” I bet you can’t stump me!” and “You better think of a really difficult question!”. I left cut up strips of paper next to the box so students could write their questions and drop them in throughout the week as they thought of them.
- I encouraged my students to work together and/or get their parents to help them come up with really challenging questions. I was hoping that parents would get involved and actually read the book with their kids and discuss it so that they could come up with questions together. The idea worked with some but not all. Oh well, I tried!
- Then every Friday they would gather around me on the floor as I picked questions out of the box to read and answer aloud. They’d laugh and squeal as I rolled my eyes, yawned, or feigned disinterest as I effortlessly answered their easy detail oriented questions (who, what, where, when type questions).
This is where the game became interesting. After making comments about how easy their questions were, some kids figured out that they would really have to dig and think about better questions to ask me. One week, I had a student ask me a really insightful question about one of the characters. I made a huge deal about what a great question that was and how he almost stumped me. Sure enough, other kids started asking similar questions and it soon became a competition to see who could ask the best question. It didn’t take long for these kids to dive in and use their critical thinking skills to really analyze what was going on in the story and with the characters in order to come up with questions to try to stump me. I was really impressed by their creativity! I, of course, gave in a couple of times to the really good questions and let some kids stump me as an incentive to continue their awesome brainstorming. Warning: Be prepared for the relentless gloating!
I realize that this game is best used in a classroom setting where you can use that competition to your advantage, yet it can still be a powerful way to get your kids to improve their comprehension of a selection at home. You’d just have to tweak it a bit and make it more of a game between you and your child and/or siblings. It would be a great game to use in a reading/literature class in a homeschooling co-op! Although competition is good in this game, the real reason it works is because of the continual discussion of the book. So let the discussions and your child’s questions be your guide throughout the book…it can be so much fun!
Do any of you have any tips or games you play with your kids to get them to understand books or stories better? We’d love to hear from you and have you share so we can all learn!
This engaging activity can be adapted for different ages easily and it can be a great way to get your kids to do some character analyzation (which really helps comprehension).
- Choose a character from a book or story you are currently reading or have read with your child. Tell your child that you will be playing a guessing game in which you will give them clues about a character and they will have to guess who it is.
- Once the correct character has been named, you can switch turns and have your child make you guess the next one. Having your child pick a character and thinking of clues for himself is where they will really get practice in analyzing character traits and elements of the story.
- For older kids, this type of game is great for making your child go beyond the superficial details and allowing them to think critically about the characters – especially when you challenge them to make it hard for you!
I love to play golf, but I’m not a golfer…yet. That raises the obvious question–what are the differences between a golfer and someone who plays golf? Well, they’re basically the same differences between someone who can read and a reader.
Golfers have spent countless hours practicing chip shots and bunker shots. They’ve hit thousands of buckets of balls with their drivers and irons. They’ve spent time and effort tweaking small nuances in their swings in their basements. They are prepared for every situation the course, which they’ve played dozens of times and know intimately, can throw at them. As a result, they score well on the weekends when they play.
Guys who play golf (like me) usually go out once a week or less to play 18 holes. Maybe we hit a bucket of balls before we play to warm up. We get a little stressed when put in the situation of having to chip downhill onto green because we don’t really have that shot. We lay up instead of going for greens because we can’t hit our 2 iron well every time and can’t rely on it. We basically play every hole shot to shot, reacting to the latest situation we’ve created for ourselves instead of setting ourselves up and executing a strategy.
So what does this have to do with reading? Maybe you can see where I’m headed with this…
This activity will really help your child learn to analyze, pay attention to details, and comprehend select stories and books while allowing them to develop and express their creativity. This can be done as a post reading activity to reinforce comprehension.
- Choose a book that your child can read independently and that he/she has read before.
- Tell your child that they are going to have to think of an alternate ending for the story. This means that they have to go through and analyze what has happened so far in order to decide what will happen to the characters and events in the story.
- You can help them out and come up with ideas together to make sure the ending will still make sense with the rest of the story. Using a graphic organizer to map out the story is a great strategy to help them organize their thoughts!
- Your child can either dictate their ideas to you or write them on their own. Reread the story together using the new ending and enjoy!
- You can make this as easy or as challenging as you like depending upon your child’s abilities – just pick a simple book or a more complex one to accomplish this.
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.
You’ll need a pocket chart and some word cards (you can make them with sentence strips) for this activity.
- Make or use some words cards to make up a few sentences from a book, rhyme, or song that your child is familiar with. Make sure to include capitals and punctuations.
- Read the sentences aloud to your child (or together if they can read with you). Then mix up the words in each sentence and read them aloud again.
- Your child will most likely start giggling and tell you there’s something wrong. Act surprise and like you don’t know what’s wrong. When they convince you that there’s a problem, ask your child to help you make the sentences right again. They can use the capital letter and the punctuation mark as hints.
- You can skip the materials if you don’t have them and use a white board instead. Although kids really enjoy holding and manipulating the word cards – especially if they can’t write yet. The purpose here is to show your child that each word has meaning and that they work together to make sentences. If you move one or all of them around, it will affect how the sentence makes sense.
You’ll need a paragraph from a book, magazine, or article (this works best if you type up the individual sentences of a paragraph and cut them to make sentence strips).
- Read the chosen paragraph together aloud or have your child read it to you from the original publication.
- Next give your child the mixed up sentences and have them try to put them back into the correct order.
- Have them read it aloud to check if it is correct and makes sense.
- You can make this activity more challenging to meet your child’s need or for older kids. You can do this by not letting your child read the original paragraph before asking them to put the sentences in correct order. Even harder: You can also take an article, cut up the paragraphs, and have your child try to put the paragraphs in order to make the article make sense. Treat this like a puzzle and they’ll love the challenge!