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Reading Nonfiction March 9, 2011

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After just a few days of our new reading unit on nonfiction, one of my students said to me, “Thank you for opening up the world of nonfiction to me.”  What better reward could there be than that?

 My fourth grade class is immersed in a nonfiction study that focuses on developing powerful nonfiction readers. For the first time, my students are seeing that there is more to nonfiction than “collecting facts”.  Today, my students stepped into the role of “expert” and taught their reading partner about an important part of their book/subject.  It was inspiring.

My students are really beginning to understand that powerful nonfiction readers hold on to important ideas and  make connections across subjects. Today, they also developed an understanding of how powerful it is to teach someone else what they have learned as a  READER.

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Reading Jokes and Riddles March 8, 2011

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Looking for something new to do with your young reader? Get a book of jokes or riddles and watch the time fly by! Recently, my second grade son and I sat together with a book of riddles. We took turns reading the riddles to each other and we were laughing the entire time. It’s a great way to inject humor into your reading and since jokes and riddles are so short, it’s a low-pressure, manageable task for young readers. 

What did the scientist get when he crossed a clock and a rooster?

an alarm cluck

What was a spider doing on the baseball team?

catching flies

Talking About the Books you Read! March 7, 2011

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Ok, now I am really going to try to post more often! Being a teacher and a mom and a writer, does not allow for too much blogging. But, I promise I am going to try to fit it in. I welcome your comments and I would love to hear from you!!

Great readers love to talk about the books they read. At every age, active, engaged readers need opportunites to share their thoughts and questions about their books. In doing this, children build comprehension skills and develop a true purpose for reading. Whether your child is just learning to read or is a proficient reader, talking about the books he or she reads is a valuable, enriching experience.

Here are a few questions (for beginning readers) to use as a starting point in talking with your child about a book. Of course, if you read the book together, you can tailor your questions to fit specifically with the book and its content. Remember, it’s not just the act of reading the words that’s important…but it’s what your child holds onto and brings away from the reading experience that really matters.

1. What did you enjoy about this book?

2. What have you read that is similar to this book?

3. Who was your favorite character? What did you like or appreciate about him or her?

4. What is the setting in the story? Where does the story take place?

5. Tell me about a funny, sad, or scary part in the book.

6. If you could change something about this book, what would it be?

7. What was your favorite part or page in the book? Why?

(Let me know if you want more question ideas for beginning readers, or for proficient readers!)

Fun with Food and the Alphabet January 7, 2011

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My boys and I are home from school today! It’s a snow day here in Connecticut. And let it be said that TEACHERS love snow days just as much as kids do.

Here’s a tasty idea that came to me while sifting through the food pantry. This is sure to help your beginning reader learn the alphabet and the letter sounds:

Over the course of many weeks, introduce your child to a variety of taste experiences related to the letters of the alphabet. By using his or her sense of taste while hearing food words, your child will experience a meaningful association between each letter of the alphabet and its sound. Here are a few suggestions: A – apples, apricots, avocado; B – bagels, blueberries, bologna, butter; C – caramel, cucumber, cantalope.

Not only will it be fun to eat the alphabet foods, but it will help your child “remember” the letters and sounds when they have something concrete and tasty to associate it with.

Early Learning Activities December 31, 2010

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I love games and activities that are quick and easy to play.  Ring in the new year with these activities that are sure to excite your early learner.

* Place five objects in a row and have your child study them. Have your child close his eyes while you change the order of the objects. Can your child put the objects back in order? This is a great game to practice visual memory.

* Trace a capital or small letter on your child’s back. Go through the alphabet–can he guess each letter?  Now try numbers!  (Your child will love drawing letters on your back too.)

* Play a descriptive language guessing game. Have your child describe an object in the room. Can others guess what he is describing? (This activity will build vocabulary skills and heighten object awareness.)

Happy New Year!!

Motivating young writers December 30, 2010

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Yesterday, amidst the lazy winter vacation morning, I brought out the 12×18 wipe off boards and dry erase markers. Well, never underestimate the power of a new and interesting writing medium!  My boys (ages 7 and 11) were writing for over an hour.  Actually, my older son loves to write, but my younger son would rather do ANYTHING physical or “high energy” over writing.  So, the wipe off boards added that element of FUN that captured both of their interest and got their creative juices flowing.

They were writing lists of their favorite sports players.  They were interviewing each other by writing questions and answers. They were naming categories and trying to write as many things they could think of that fit in that category. They were even writing lines from favorite songs and then having the other one “guess” what song it was.  It was hilarious…and a great way to have FUN writing!

Talk about your Reading December 28, 2010

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Winter has arrived here in Connecticut. It is snowy and cold and perfect for curling up with a good book. It is also a great time to encourage your young reader to practice important comprehension skills such as retelling, identifying the main idea and making connections.  After your child reads a book, ask him one of these questions/activities to build vital reading and thinking skills.

*  Give the book a new title. Tell why you chose it.

*  What part of the story would you change? Explain why.

*  Retell the story in your own words.

*  Tell about three important events from the story.

* Why do you think the author wrote this story?

* Compare two characters in the story. List their similiarities and differences.

*  Tell about a part in the story that reminds you of something in your own life.

Happy reading!!

Fun with letter sounds December 27, 2010

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I sound like a broken record, but my New Year’s resolution is to blog more.  Teaching fourth grade, writing books and raising two kids keeps me pretty busy, but I love sharing ideas about reading and writing so I am really going to try!!

Try this today with your beginning reader:  Play some “mixed up” word games and have fun with the sounds in words that can be moved every which way.

*Pick a familiar song such as Happy Birthday or Zippety Doo Dah.  Choose a letter sound and change all the words of the song so that they start with that sound. This is super silly and sure to be a funny game that will build phonemic awareness skills.

*Pick a sound of the day, like T. Now change the names of your family members to names that start with T. (Mom would be “Tom” – Dad would be “Tad” – Luke would be Tuke – Owen would be Towen.

*Play a “what’s missing?” sound game. If your mom is om and your dad is ad, those words must be missing a sound. Can you figure it out?  More examples: bring me an encil (pencil) – please set the able (table) – would you like a nack? (snack)

Have fun and let me know if you’d like more ideas like these….

Ten Ways to Become a Better Reader November 16, 2010

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Here are the ten best ways to become a better reader:

1. read

2. read

3. read

4. read

5. read

6. read

7. read

8. read

9. read

10 read

This is so true!

Writing Picture Books with my Students November 6, 2010

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Well, I guess things have been very busy in my teaching life as I have not posted for a few weeks. My fourth graders are keeping me hard at work…and I can’t believe how fast Fall is flying by!  We spent the last two weeks of October writing Halloween “picture books”. It was a blast!  The students wrote their rough drafts in mock dummy books, and then edited and revised with me. Then, each student selected their own book’s size and shape for their final copy! They read their books aloud to our class as well as to our first grade buddy class.  Writing a picture book, as a way to teach children how to create a story, can be a fun and non-threatening approach. In fact, some of my reluctant writers did their best writing ever with this format. Sometimes, when children see that they just have to write a few sentences on a page, rather than fill a whole sheet of lined paper, they end up writing even more.  What’s more, when my fourth graders knew that they were going to share their books with a first grade audience, they took extra care to include correct grammar and punctuation and a strong beginning, middle and end.  After this picture book experience, my students are already asking when we will write another one!!  Awesome!  I’m thinking we will get started writing “Holiday” picture books right after Thanksgiving.  Happy Writing!