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Back-to-school season is in full swing! What can we do to start the school year off on the right foot? Establishing certain routines can make a big difference in helping students start a successful school year. If you are a family member, I hope that you find these thoughts useful within your own family. If you are volunteer, community member, or teacher, I hope you find some of these ideas helpful as you check-in with the students you support. There is a wealth of information out there, and these are some favorites from the couple websites listed below.
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A growth mindset is a mathematical mindset (Excerpts from Youcubed.org)
The term “growth mindset” comes from the groundbreaking work of Carol Dweck. She identified everyone holds ideas about their own potential. Some people believe that their intelligence is more or less fixed and in math – that you can do math or you can’t. About 40% of students have these damaging “fixed mindset” ideas. Another 40% have a “growth mindset” – they believe that they can learn anything and that their intelligence can grow. The other 20% waver between the two mindsets.
Students with a fixed mindset are those who are more likely to give up easily, whereas students with a growth mindset are those who keep going even when work is hard, and who are persistent. The two mindsets are associated with different achievement pathways. The best part is that it is possible to change mindsets.
Check out this link for games that help develop math skills and support a growth mindset. https://www.youcubed.org/resource/apps-games/
As the school year nears an end and seemingly drags on in the eyes of your student, literacy may be becoming a point of contention—they are sick of it! Which is where we must remind students that literacy can not only be fun, but is in fact the foundation of so many activities they see as fun. Indeed, the basis for all television shows and movies that your student enjoys? Written stories and scripts. Their favorite card or board game? Relies on literacy to explain the game, rules and how to play. Their favorite video game? Follows written story concepts. That vacation they want to go on so badly? Not possible to plan without the ability to read details around tickets, directions and lodging options!
Literacy truly is behind the majority of activities kids (and adults) enjoy, a fact that is important to illustrate to you student when they seem to be getting burnt out with reading and writing. Of course these things are best instilled through lived experiences and it is vital to remember that literacy is flexible as reading, writing, listening, thinking and speaking are all components of literacy. See below for fun tactics that will bring literacy to life!
With spring starting and the end of the school year on the horizon, many students’ focus may be less consistent. In our minds there is still over a month to go and plenty that can be accomplished, so what are ways that we can continue to hold students’ interest? See below for some suggested ways to keep your student engaged through the end of the year. Our staff use these regularly and we’ve found them successful, so we wanted to pass them along to you!
If you’re planning to run a marathon, chances are you wouldn’t run all 26.2 miles all at once on the first try. The logical way to get there is to start small, and build up miles little by little over weeks or months. With enough time and practice, your legs will be strong enough to carry you all the way.
Did you know that readers need to build stamina too? As in physical fitness, time and practice are important factors in building strong readers. At Teton Literacy, we start building stamina even in our youngest Literacy Lab pre-K students. Though they are still developing pre-reading skills and aren’t reading chapter books per se, throughout the year we work on focusing on a task for greater and greater amounts of time that will help them with their reading stamina later on. Already our progress is astounding: now in April, we can spend about twice as long, painting, creating with playdoh, drawing, building with blocks, and engaging in complex make believe play than we could in the beginning of the year. We know that in pre-K, being able to engage in play and other tasks for sustained periods will contribute to a successful transition to Kindergarten, which can jump-start reading success.
Do you have an older student who is working on reading stamina? Try these tips adapted from Colorin Colorado to continue
Many students struggle with writing and it can be difficult to illustrate the value of participating in an activity that is hard for them in the first place. Which means that we must be creative in how we integrate writing into their lives. We must strive to make it fun for young learners, to engage their natural interests in a manner that makes writing part of an activity that they are intrinsically motivated to partake in. While this can be challenging, and while the activities that achieve this will be different for each student, there are many ways to creatively bring writing into student lives. Following are a few of our favorites.
Comics: We have been having great success in our tutoring sessions lately by giving students either an illustrated comic strip without text that they must add dialogue to or letting them tell a story through writing a comic on a blank strip. Play to your student’s interests here to make this even more engaging for them. Does your student love comic books? Read those together and writing your own!
Mad Libs: A fun, silly family activity that will get your student writing (and reading). Further, Mad Libs activities will add to student’s grammar and comprehension skills as they work through various funny stories.
We are all always learning new words, even in adulthood. For example, think back to what happens for you when you pick up a text that’s unfamiliar and challenging, whether it’s a medical chart from the doctor, an instruction manual to install a new TV, or a cousin’s quilting manual and directions. Just like us as adults, children will need to be learning and noticing words throughout their lives.
So whatever we can do to support our children to enjoy noticing, collecting, and talking about new words can help them towards lifelong skills in learning and literacy. But did you know that it takes 17 encounters with a word before learning it?! Those encounters can be a mix of seeing, hearing, reading, speaking and writing a word, often with a progression through these different ways of interacting with a word. With this in mind, and knowing that children have so many words still to learn, how do we choose what words to emphasize, to ‘collect,’ to point out to children?
Below are tips for getting the biggest ‘bang for your buck’ in Word Work and Word Study.
In our pre-K Literacy Lab program at Teton Literacy Center, we strive to use real life experiences as foundations for writing. Even though we are still practicing the foundations of writing like holding a marker with correct grip, forming people with a body, head, facial features and limbs, etc., all these things come together more easily when we are writing about something that has meaning to us. Our current food and cooking unit has provided a great springboard for these kinds of experiences.
Recently, we took a field trip to the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum and made pizza in the oven. Students used a recipe guided by pictures and worked together to knead the dough, spread the sauce, and add toppings until we had a tasty feast to eat. Then, we took time to reflect on and write about making the pizza. Students were so excited to write because it directly connected to their experience, background knowledge, and deep passion for eating pizza. As a result, their drawings were detailed, descriptive, and unique. I listened as students counted out ten pepperonis on their drawing, and others made sure to choose the exact color orange to color the cooked dough. Some students even included letters for the word ‘pizza!’
During our Parent and Child Together Time (PACT) this month, parents and students wrote together about a food they enjoy making together at home. It was amazing to see students writing “recipes” with their family for taquitos, soup, and hot dogs. In doing so, we incorporated family background and knowledge in a way that makes writing truly meaningful.
These strategies do not end in pre-K. Here are a few ideas for making writing meaningful for your older student:
Vocab, vocab, vocab! Something you are always hearing about from educators, but why is it so important for your student to build his or her vocabulary? The primary answer to that question is that a rich vocabulary bank is the backbone to comprehension, both in reading as well as learning through listening. On the other side of that coin, a strong vocabulary base allows your student to adequately express herself, bolstering her ability to assert her ideas and engage others during communication. Basically, wide-ranging vocabulary skills help your student understand and be understood. Sounds pretty important, right? So how do you help your student build her vocabulary base? Read on for tips and tricks that our staff have found beneficial in helping students learn new vocabulary!
Utilizing Context – help your student use the context in which the word is introduced to solve for the meaning of the word. Did the word come up in a reading you are doing together? Use the surrounding words and sentences—or context—to help your student understand what the word means. Did the word come up in a conversation or lecture? Discuss the context of that conversation or lecture with your student, focusing on aspects such as what was being discussed, the point the speaker was trying to make and the tone in which the word was said.
Ultimately, relating the word to the context in which it was used will allow your student to connect the word to a bigger picture, making it more likely that she will retain the meaning of the word.
Synonyms & Antonyms – a great way to help your student understand a new word is to provide your student with synonyms (mean the same thing) and antonyms (mean the opposite). Indeed, as your child’s vocabulary grows, many of the new words they learn can be related to another word that means the same thing, or the opposite. For example, the word “enormous” might be related to the words big, huge, large or gigantic. Conversely, you might provide the words small, little, teeny, tiny, minute as antonyms.
Much like using context to solve for meaning, providing synonyms and antonyms will help your child relate a new vocabulary word to easier, more manageable words.
Our students are asked to write all day in many ways at school- to write their name on their work, write a complete sentence in a quiz, write out all the steps to a math problem. Sometimes writing can feel like just another task that has to be done.
As parents and teachers, one of the best things we can do is to help students understand that writing is a tool and, like a swiss army knife, can be employed in many useful ways. Here’s just a quick list of uses for a pen and paper:
Even though most people in our lives are a phone call (or FaceTime) away, there’s something special about getting a letter in the mail. Even a message sent via email or text message can be a great way to connect with someone who’s far away. Write a letter to a loved one with your student!
Who doesn’t love a thank you card? Make a habit of writing them with your student this holiday season. Not only will they practice grammar and spelling, they’ll be building socially conscious habits for life.
Whether or not your student wants to be a lawyer, there will be countless moments in their life when good writing can help someone see their point of view. Applying for college, scholarships or a job? Better have a convincing application. Want that new bike for Christmas? Your letter to Santa needs to make it pretty clear why you deserve it. Next time your student wants something, help them write a persuasive argument to better get their point across.
The value of lists cannot be overstated in this frenetic age. Enlist your child to help write out the grocery list, a list of what to pack for vacation, a list of books to get at the library, etc.
To spread beauty
A well-crafted phrase is truly a thing of beauty. Try writing a poem with your student! What a great way to practice word choice and editing in the name of art.
Last but definitely not least, writing for a purpose can start at a very early age. Before students are old enough to even know letters, they can draw as a way to tell a story. In our pre-K program, we support and develop emergent writing skills through lots of time to draw and verbalize thinking. Reading aloud is a great way to support writing as well. The more stories children hear and see, the better they are able to write them themselves.
This blog is designed to inspire literacy learning beyond the walls of TLC. Check back each week for timely content geared towards engaging families and volunteers alike.