Thursday, November 19, 2009

Halloween Spook

The following is a story written by one of my students who is a third grader. I will soon add his biography. But his story is so good I wanted to give him credit ASAP.

The Halloween Spook
Once there were two kids walking down a crowded street by an abandoned house. Then a ghost snatched one of the kids. Then I saw people being transformed into werewolves who began to chase me. So I ran to my house. When I put the key in the lock, the key broke. I was lucky, I had a key to the basement. So I opened the basement door. Then I got in the basement and locked it. Then I saw a witch in the basement!!
The End
Author: Matthew C.
Great job Matthew. You are an awesome writer, and student!
Note: Educators can use this story to teach "Authors Purpose", "Sequencing", "Predicting outcomes", and tone.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

How To Teach Reading Comprehension

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How To Teach Reading Comprehension

Reading is the most important element of a child’s education because it is a precursor to every other subject. Fall short in this one, and one will struggle with other subjects. Yet if a child is not comprehending, he finds himself in much the same predicament. It is no wonder that parents/ educators are in search of answers to this question.

Working with children over the years I have discovered some very useful information:

First of all it is important that a child master some degree of reading before teaching comprehension. Teaching division before addition and subtraction is out of step. Teaching comprehension before teaching some degree of reading is the same. So I teach children to read one or more early reader books (preferably more) before teaching them to understand what they are reading.

For example; I had my first group reading very efficiently only to discover they had no idea what they had just read. So I had them read a few sentences, and then act out the scene described in the book. Permit me to tell you the story.

  • The group was taking turns reading aloud, “Sam ran. Dan ran.” I replied, “OK, who is going to be Sam, and who is going to be Dan?” It is important to allow them to take the leadership role. Too often adults want to do the work (or give the answer) which subtracts from the learning experience. Two young volunteers excitedly stepped forward..."I'll be Dan." I'll be Sam."

  • However when I asked them to act out what they had just read, they looked at me and their pears with a bewildered look. They had no idea what to do. Wanting to create self-confidence, I simply had them read the two sentences again, and encouraged the whole group (not me) to take charge of the needed action to complete the task.

  • It was more fun to watch them in action. One child stood up, put his hands on the shoulders of one of the actors, gave him a gentle push, and told him to run. We continued in this manner through the whole book.

  • Young children love this activity because it is geared to their natural tendencies. Have you ever noticed how many hours they spend role playing? This is a natural way for them to learn. So use that natural tendency to teach. We continued to do this activity with several more books. They were eager to participate, and became more and more skilled at it.

  • Eventually I simply began asking each child to tell me what he had just read. At first they wanted to rely on the role playing, which I gradually weaned them off of. Soon they realized they would be asked the question, and made sure they were prepared to answer successfully. Children naturally want to learn, and succeed as long as we do not squash that natural desire.

Unknowingly, and with good intentions many educators/ parents squash children's natural desire to learn in the following ways:

1. A very common mistake in the attempt to build self esteem is to make sure the child does not struggle with adversity. We often want our children to have it easier than we did. However studies show that when a child meets adversity, and is able to overcome he/ she develops an amazing degree of inner strength and confidence.
The movie "Rudy", which is a true story, explains this phenomenon very well. Rudy Ruettiger was a young man who met many obstacles because of his small stature. However those struggles helped him to developed a strength and confidence that made him try and try when others might have given up. Many of his high school classmates who had things much easier often gave up far easier than Rudy. Thus many of them, as adults, did not accomplish as much.

2. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we do not want to continually set children up for failure by expecting them to read adult books before learning to read at their own level. Likewise it is best to have them comfortable with phonics, and some degree of reading before teaching comprehension. Take things in logical steps.

3. This one is most common. Many times we ask a question only to get dead silence. It is so tempting to fill in that time by giving the answer, but far wiser to wait in complete silence. When we do someone usually fills in the silence by giving the answer, or asks a question about what we meant. This teaches them the power to find answers.

4. When a child asks us a question it is all to easy to give them the answer. However if we ask them a series of questions that help them discover the answer they learn far more than just that one answer. In ancient times Plato proved an important point along these lines. He was explaining to his colleagues that knowledge comes from within. "Oh no, no, no", replied his colleagues. They added that a person is not born with knowledge, and it must be given them.

To prove his point Plato had a 5 year old child brought to the meeting. When the child arrived Plato began asking him questions, but giving no information. At the end of the demonstration of progressive questioning the little boy solved a very complicated algebra problem proving Plato's statement that knowledge comes from within.
In conclusion, it is our job to show children that the power to learn is within them. It is not something we must cram into them. This approach makes one far more successful at teaching.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Smart Child Failing?

At this time of the year some parents are being informed their child will likely be “retained“. That is a difficult message for any parent to hear. As a past Para-professional, and current volunteer, I can honestly tell you this is sometimes necessary, and sometimes not. Let me explain.

The most common cause for being retained is the child’s reading ability. Reading is the most important element of a child’s education because it is a precursor to every other subject. So it is understandable the importance the school system is putting on this area.

Allow me to share some personal stories. In 1978 I was working in the public school system as a Para-professional, and was approached by a teacher. She had decided to retain eight children who had not learned to read, and she asked me to teach them how to read. I knew these kids were smart. But they had began to see themselves as "dummies" because they had not had not kept up with their peers. I just could not give up on them.

The curriculum being used by the teacher was a good one, but it was not for the kinesthetic learner (Hands on Learner). That night I went home and prayed, and the answer came to me in a dream. They needed to work as a team encouraging one another.. That would build their self esteem. It also needed to be learning disguised as a, and hands on.

Fifty percent of children are hands on learners. Unfortunately, most curriculum is not designed for this large group. They are often falsely labeled as Dyslexic, Attention Deficit or problem children. My oldest grandson was this personality type.

At an early age, he was eager to learn anything to do with hands on action… like riding his bike. Bumps and bruses did not deter him. He simply picked himself up, and went for the toy again and again until mastered. He showed a great degree of intelligence in this manner. However when he entered school, things appeared to be different. He took no interest in formal sit down learning. Like so many, he concluded: "if I can't see it accomplish something, it was not worth my time". A good read on this subject is in the book: “Please Understand Me II” by David Keirsey. He describes the “Artisan” personality as action oriented, and people who bring excitement to their relationships. Churchill and Patton were of this personality type. In other words, these children are not unintelligent, dyslexic or ADD. On the contrary, they are very intelligent. It is the method of teaching that is lacking because it is not designed for the young action-oriented attention.

In third grade, I was visiting this grandchild in his class. He was taking a written test, and answering multiple-choice questions. He correctly did the first three, and then proceeded to mark the rest without reading them. (not at all uncommon. Especially for boys) I said to him, “doesn’t the teacher want you to read these?” “No", he replied, "she doesn’t care.” Because he did not act up, this continued to repeat itself causing his mother to have to catch him up every summer. The key to success became parent intervention.

In the School system, it is not uncommon for these action-oriented children to be held back every other year. Several times I have been given such children at mid term. Simply by changing the method used to teach them, most of these kids catch up with their classmates, and graduated on time.

Sadly, the repeated failures of hands on learners is typical. If this is your child’s story, early learning curriculum needs to be action oriented. Make learning fun for young children. This method works well with all personality types.

Luckily, for my Grandson, his mom found the answer. However many of these children reach adulthood without reaching their full potential because they believe themselves to be “not as smart as others”, and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Many children learn their phonic sounds only to have trouble translating them into actual reading. This is because they have been taught to pronounce them in a way that makes it hard to blend the sounds together. This happens not only with electronic games, it happens in the school system as well. Once corrected this problem disappears, and the child quickly begins to read. The most common letters this occurs with are: T, D, B, G, H, C, J, W, K, and P. To actually hear the proper way to enunciate these sounds you can visit the following web address: . This is a free service.

We recommend learning be presented as play for young children because this the most natural way for them to learn. However, the Guardian Child, who is about 5% of the population, adapts earlier than most to formal sit down learning. Likewise, the Guardian parents/ teachers prefer to teach in this manner. All children need to be gradually acclimated to “formal learning“. (Note: One may learn more about the Guardian personalities and others in the book, “Please Understand Me II” by David Keirsey).

My Granddaughter is of the Guardian personality. At a very early age she desired to help, and was enthusiastic about pointing out and following the rules, at the frustration of her brother. My point here is that all children are different, and due to class sizes, the school system does not always consider this when they teach like one size fits all.

For example, let me tell you a story about my second grandson. He has never attended public school. His mother home schooled him from day one. She read to him regularly, and it was a fun time for them both. Once he learned his ABC’s she tried using flash cards to teach him phonics, which is a very unnatural way for most young children to learn. It quickly became a chore for both of them. I reminded her of the game I used in school to teach children to read. It changed everything. My Grandchild quickly learned his phonic sounds, and begged to play more often than his mother desired. He read the early reader books quite well. He even sounded out difficult words like Premium at local gas stations as they played games of reading words while traveling. However, he had no desire to pick up a book and read by himself. Having read the book “Better Late than Early” by Raymond & Dorothy Moore, his mother continued reading to him.

At the age of eight, he picked up a book, and asked his mother to read it for him. Not having the time at that moment, she declined. Impatient to wait for her, he began reading the book himself, and had an insatiable reading appetite thereafter. Within six months he was reading at a fifth grade level. We highly recommend the Book, “Better Late than Early” because it explains how important it is to adjust to a child’s natural tendencies rather than making him/ her fit into a square peg of our own design.
In conclusion: All children are different, and as a parent you know your child better than anyone. So be open minded about the teachers recommendations, but stay involved and informed. Work as a team helping your little one. You both have the child's best interest at heart.

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