Friday, 20 December 2013

Five Things Not To Say To Emerging Readers

(re-posted from’T SAY: Stop. Re-read this line correctly.
INSTEAD: If the mistake didn’t interfere with the meaning of the text (like if it was ‘a’ for ‘the’ or ‘fine’ for ‘fun’) let it go. 
Do. Not. Interrupt. Your. Child’s. Reading.
How would you feel if you were putting your heart out on the line, trying something you weren’t totally comfortable with, in front of someone who you were afraid would challenge you, only to have that person stop you, interrupt your flow, and make you start over before you even finished?  Over and over and over again?
Right. So that’s why if your kiddo’s reading and makes a mistake in reading a word, let it go. We want our kids to be comfortable reading with us–we want them to feel safe–so let it go.
Just make the correction when you read it the next time.
DON’T SAY: Speed up! OR  Slow down!!
INSTEAD: Model appropriate pacing and fluency.
Fluency–or reading with appropriate speed, pacing, and intonation–is something that is best taught through parent or teacher modeling and tons of reader practice. Seriously. Fluent reading sounds like conversation, or natural speaking, and it’s something that has to be learned.
So if your kiddo is a total speed-reader or if, at this point, she’s as slow as molasses, it’s time to switch gears. Grab a level-appropriate book and say, Hey! I found this awesome book for us, and it’s going to be our book this week. We’re going to read this book until we become experts on this book– we’ll be book-reading super-stars by the end of this week, mark my word. . .
And the first day, you read the whole thing in its entirety. And then do an echo read, page by page.  An echo read is really just like an echo–a portion of a text is read and then re-read by a second person (or class if you’re in the classroom).  You can echo words, phrases, or whole pages.  In this case, with an early-emergent text, it’s great to echo read page-by-page.  First, you read a page and then your emerging reader reads that same page.  And then you read the next page and she reads that very same page, like an echo.
And on day two, you read it in its entirety the first time, and then together, you echo read every two pages. Or every three pages.
Day three, you read it the first time, and either echo read by three pages or try a chorus read. A chorus read is where you read it together, in unison, like a chorus. Sometimes these are hard, but for pacing, it helps.
Day four, you read it the first time then hand the book over to your kiddo for an entire kid-read. Give her specific praises for her super-star parts: I really like how you paid close attention to the punctuation here (point to the specific part). You noticed the question mark, and you knew that meant that [the character] was asking a question, so you made your voice go higher at the end. Awesome.
Maybe on day four, you can tape yourselves reading or put it on video (not a big deal–just grab your flip cam or camera–it doesn’t have to be a huge, complicated video production) and talk about what sounded great and what you both need to work on.
Day five, it’s showtime. You both give yourselves ‘practice reads’– start by reading the book yourself and then give it to your child.  Then it’s the BEST READ EVER–you both get to go on ‘stage’ for the most awesome, perfect, wonderful read ever.  Video tape it, audio tape it, or Skype-read with your faraway aunts, cousins, grandparents, or friends.  You both practiced all week–now show off your skills!
DON’T: Laugh.
INSTEAD: Think about something serious and ugly and breathe deeply until you regain composure.
Even if your kiddo replaces ‘bat’ with ‘butt’ or ‘fact’ with ‘fart’ don’t laugh.  The fastest way to kill confidence is to have the person a kiddo loves and trusts the most laugh in his face.
If you can laugh together, that’s one thing; most likely if your kid is reading aloud and says ‘butt’, he’ll break out into hysterics and you will too. But if he’s working hard, concentrating, and trying his best and still managed to make a mistake that tickles your funny bone, then just move on.
DON’T SAY: You know this. . .
INSTEAD SAY: What part of the word do you recognize? If you get no response, say, Do you recognize this part (point to the beginning chunk or letter) or this part (point to the ending chunk or letter)?
Three things here:
1. If the kid knew it, she would have read it.
2. We all hate to be reminded that we knew something but forgot it.
3. By picking out two parts of the word, you’re setting her up for success. It all goes back to the choices thing that really helps with kids. Most likely she will recognize either the ‘b’ or ‘-at’ part of ‘bat’ or the ‘th’ or ‘-ick’ parts of ‘thick’.  If she can pick up either part, say, You got it! That does say ‘ick’. Now let’s put the first part, (give it to her and pronounce it) ‘th’ together with ‘ick’: th-ick. Thick!
Then put that new word into the sentence and give her a high-five for getting through it.
DON’T SAY: You’re wrong. That says, . . .
INSTEAD SAY: Nothing. Really. Remain silent. As hard as that may be.
It goes back to the very first thing I said about stopping kids as they read and making them re-read.
Let. Them. Read.
And unless it’s a mistake that interferes with the meaning of the text, let it go.  And even more importantly, if every time your child gets stuck, he looks at you and you give him the word, then he’ll have a pretty easy time reading with you and won’t get to practice any decoding skills.
Now, that being said, if he did make a huge meaning-changing mistake, at the end of the page, go back and say,
  • Are you correct?  (And if he says Yes! then say. . . )
  • Read it again and check closely. (If he reads it again incorrectly, say. . . ) 
  • Can you use the picture to help you figure it out?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Does it sound right?
(And if he looks at it again and still misses the error, say. . .  )
  • Can you find the tricky part? (And if not. . . )
  • It’s in this line.
  • I’ll point it out and help you find it. (And then go back to pointing out the two chunks he may know. . . )
After kids become more comfortable reading with you, then hit them with an Are you correct? every so often on a page that he did read correctly. It’s not to make kids think you’re a pain in the neck; it’s to help them become better self-monitors.  And as self-monitors, we’re constantly checking and re-checking to make sure that what we read made sense.
(re-posted from

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Encouraging Early Literacy

While early literacy may not mean early reading, it does mean children are introduced to reading and its concepts at an early age. This familiarity will foster a love of reading and motivate your child to learn to read.
Here are five strategies for encouraging early literacy:

1. It’s Never Too Early to Start Reading

…for an adult, that is. Your child is never too young for you to read to him or her. Even newborns can benefit greatly from being read to, sources say. This very early reading is not about teaching or learning anything specific; it’s just a low-key, fun time to read aloud to your infant. Keep up the habit. Reading to your child is the number one thing you can do to encourage early literacy.

2. Rhyming Games

Foster a love of words and language by making up rhymes and playing rhyming games. Kids often find rhymes really funny. Keep it light-hearted and fun.

3. Choose Books and Subjects They Like

While we all have to read things we don’t really love and enjoy, forcing that sort of thing at the beginning can hamper a child’s interest. Remember, this is to encourage literacy; there will be plenty of time in the future to read things that they don’t particularly enjoy!
To foster an interest in literacy, choose books, magazines, online articles, and so forth that tap into your child’s personal interests. Observe what your child likes to do – cooking, constructing buildings, spending time outside, water play, etc. – and pick up books and magazines about those subjects. Then read them together!

4. Accessibility

This one is so obvious you may not have thought about it! Keep appropriate books on a low level so crawling infants can explore them. Children can develop a life-long love of a character, genre, or topic just from “poking around” in the available books.

5. Use Books to Help with Transitions

For young children, transitioning from one activity to another can be challenging. A book can help. If you need to go cook dinner, for instance, read a story about cooking before heading to the kitchen. Before bath time, read a fun story about a child or baby taking a bath. Young children may also begin to learn that books hold relevance to everyday life.
A love of literacy, language, and reading is a gift you can give your children. It’s never too early to get started!

Food for Thought

These are not my words - they came to me fourth hand so I don't know whose words they are.  If they're yours, please let me know so I can credit you!

Yesterday, I was at an office supply store with my three young children.  And I was hungry.  So.  Hungry.  As you might expect, I was impatient and short with my children.
When my daughter asked another question, I felt like I might lose it.  Instead, I stopped to look at her in the eyes and said, “You know what I just realized?  I am feeling impatient at how long it’s taking us in the store.  The reason is that I am so hungry.  I can’t answer any more questions now, because I am hungry.  How about we go eat lunch, and then I will feel better and can answer more questions?”
What was most interesting about this moment was how easily I could forgive my short-tempered behavior or my disengaged shopping.  Yes, my behavior was less-than-wonderful, but I was hungry.  As I reflected on the moment, it dawned on me: Do we expect more our children than we do of ourselves?
Consider these moments…
Do we expect our children to wake up, chipper, ready to greet the day with a bright and cheerful smile?  I love the snooze button, and need a good 30 minutes out of bed with caffeine before I’m ready to talk.
Do we expect our children to adore playing side-by-side with their siblings or peers all day long, squabble free?  I get tired of being with people, and need space for quiet.
Do we expect our children to share and act generously when they fear their toys might get taken away?  We all worry when resources are scarce, and that worry often drives us to hold tighter to what we have.
Do we expect our children to go to sleep right when their heads hit the pillow?  I take time to wind down with books, television, tea, or mindless games on my phone.
Do we expect our children to “use nice words” or “gentle hands” when they are angry, disappointed, hurt, or lonely?  When I’m mad, I need to vent – and my venting is often accompanied by powerful words or actions!
Do we expect children to shove down their tears (It’s okay, don’t cry, you’re okay…) because the reasons they are crying seem – to us – ridiculous?  I once cried and loudly pleaded with Costco membership-card-checker at the front door who would not let me in because I was 10 minutes early.  (He let me in.)
Here’s the big deal: We give ourselves the space to be cranky, grumpy, sleepy, ornery, or irritable.  We excuse our poor behavior and our short tempers as hunger or fatigue.  We justify our over-reactions in because we can see our circumstances clearly.  That’s because we know what it’s like to be in our skin!  Our expectations are in line with our emotional reality.
And that’s the way it should be!  I should be gentle with myself when I’m cranky because of hunger.  I should designate a window for snoozing if that is what I need to wake up in the morning.
But let’s extend this gift of self-awareness and affirmation to our children!  Let’s give our children the same gift that we give to ourselves.  Let’s give them space to be human beings with a complex emotional landscape.
Let’s help them find the space to wake up slowly (and grumpily!).
Let’s help children find room to be alone or play with different combinations of children.
Let’s give them the opportunity to be tired of their peers without demanding that “everyone is friends here” all the time.
Let’s help them find ways to protect their toys or their work so they know their pursuits are valid. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

A Letter To My Teacher

I came across this touching and very meaningful post by Karen Janowski, Assistive & Educational Technology Consultant and blogger from the USA.  Reposted with permission from

Dear Teacher,

I want to learn

I want to be independent, but
Sometimes your curriculum is the disability.

When you give it to me in paper form, I can’t access it.
When text is digital, I can manipulate it. I can make it bigger, pick the right font, 
add more white space – it’s easier to read.

When text is digital, I can add a voice and listen to it.
I don’t have to struggle with reading each word.

Please don’t make me read outloud;
I work so hard to avoid humiliation.

Do you know,  I have great ideas…but I can’t get them down on paper?
Please give me another way to share them. Paper just doesn't work for me.

I need you to know……I’m  not stupid……I want to learn
You just have to remove the barriers for me.

I can’t read my own writing but there are other ways…..  
Give me other ways to show what I know.

I can’t sit still….so let me move.

Do you know, I really, really want to learn?

If you make videos of your instruction, I can review them at home….as often as I need to.
I want to learn
I want to be independent
Don’t put me on the bell curve, put me on the J- curve – it shows you want me to learn, too.
Will you teach me
                        Reach me
                                    Engage me                              

  in a way that works for me?

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