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Posted by on in Early Childhood

My daughter finished Kindergarten last week. My goal has been to keep her summer as unstructured as possible. I want her to have downtime after her first year of elementary school. I want her to have the mental space to develop and nurture her own interests. I want her to have fun. Which is not to say that she won't be learning. She's six years old. She is a little sponge, soaking up opportunities for learning every day. Here are the things that I plan to do that I think will support my daughter's learning process without taking away her autonomy or joy of learning:

KnuffleBunnyFree1. Keep piles of picture books on the kitchen table and by her bed. Rotate these every couple of days to give her choice. Keep the simple reading log that we've been using on the kitchen table, so that we can jot down books as we read them. Read to her while she eats breakfast, before bed, and during whatever other times she requests it throughout the day. Visit the library as needed to keep the piles of books fresh. We are still mostly reading these books to her, but whenever she decides that she wants to read a picture book or early reader aloud, we're happy to listen and help out.

2. Keep a Grade 1 workbook on the kitchen table or the playroom desk, in case she wants to use it. She especially likes the Scholastic workbooks that I get from Costco. She has already asked me to get the Grade 2 workbook, for when she finishes. I am not requiring her to do the workbook at any time, and certainly not to finish it. But I find that if it is her own idea, and she has some downtime, she's happy to use the workbook to practice her writing and math. Last night she was practicing sentences while my husband and I were finishing dinner. I loved workbooks as a kid, and seeing her industrious work does make me smile.

3. Keep her afternoons as open as possible (vs. having structured activities). My daughter ended up deciding at the last minute to sign up for swim team. There is practice every morning, though she is only required to go three times a week. These practices do get her outside exercising and spending time with her friends. They've been staying to play together at the pool for longer than the 45 minute practice time, so I figure this is a reasonable compromise. She also has two 50-minute karate classes a week, but as previously discussed, the karate classes bring her great joy. She's also going to do one week of "spy camp" because I couldn't resist. But otherwise, her schedule during the week is clear.

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Posted by on in Literacy

reading

Currently in my district at the elementary level, we are in the process of strategically moving away from our basal reading program. We’ve already “cut out” its writing component, as next year we’ll be hitting the ground running with Writing Workshop and the Units of Study. Also, we’ve begun the process of designing our own reading comprehension instruction with the assistance of Reading with Meaning, Strategies That Work, and Notice & Note (both fiction and non-fiction).

Now, while it may be “cool” and trendy to hate on textbooks, for the benefit of all parties involved – students, parents, teachers, administrators, etc. – I believe it’s important to be able to articulate why we are choosing to deemphasize the program.

With these thoughts in mind, here are three reasons to rethink your basal reader.

1. No Books! No Engagement!

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Posted by on in Literacy

Redschoolhouse

It seemed so simple back then. One room, a bunch of kids all learning together. Teaching each other. Pretty much the same today, don't you think? Right now, close your eyes, imagine what it would be like to teach in a no tech one room schoolhouse, with kiddos of all ages and stages. We've come a long way. The best is yet to be. 

Tonight I am positive we are turning the corner in American education. In particular, you know I am most concerned about reading and literacy. You are all the tech experts. I still have my mac tutor. But what I know, is reading, so I like to model literacy topics.

For many years I studied champions in all walks of life. I wanted to know how did they get in the flow state, stay in the zone and continually roll like smooth operators in the bigger outside world? By teaching with so many teachers it really improved my practices. And my Spanish, a little. I saw a lot of kids in the flow state. It seems learning states go like this: On task, engaged, flow. Now I see a lot of engaged and flow state kids on Twitter without having to travel. What a gift. 

   I think American educators, really all educators, worldwide are talking about some basic things.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

READALOUD

One day last week, a mom who reads my blog emailed me looking for advice. She said that she had been trying to read aloud to her 11-month-old son, but that she was having a hard time getting him to stay put for the reading sessions. [Image credit: Adazing.com, Inspirational Reading Quotes]

I sent her the following three suggestions:

1. Don’t try to get him to stay put. Read aloud to him while he’s wandering around, playing with blocks, or whatever else captures his fancy. Kids often are listening even when they don’t seem like they are listening. If he’s not looking at the pictures, you can actually read aloud from almost anything. When my daughter was an infant I read the first Harry Potter book aloud to her. The idea is to get him used to cadence of your voice when you are reading, and for him to hear lots of different (rich) vocabulary words.

2. Read to him while he’s in his high chair eating. Take advantage of him being a captive audience. Here you can hold the book up and show pictures, so it's good to stick with books that have simple, bright illustrations. Leslie Patricelli's board books are excellent for this purpose, but anything he's shown an interest in will do. I still read aloud to my daughter almost every day while she eats breakfast. I believe that I first saw this idea in Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens
A chilling tale of dealing with abuse, struggling to stay alive.

With a title like Living Dead Girl, I had no idea what to expect, but when a student hands me a book and says, "I loved this, you should read it;" I make sure I do.

So I dove into the first pages of the novel, horrified by what I read. At first confused and then disgusted and then saddened and the pages turned. Cover to cover in one day.

Short chapters, hasten the pace and maintain interest as the reader waits and hopes for "Alice" to get free. We wonder, but not for long, how it happened and continue to languish with protagonist listening to her abuses own tales of how he was treated. We read with anger as he threatens and instills fear.

Living Dead Girl is not for the faint of heart. Reading through the car wreck, I made it to the end and wasn't sure what to make of it. The narrative voice reminded me of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak in how a character is able to set herself free.

More extreme than Speak, Living Dead Girl will have any reader riveted, page turning and nauseated.

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