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.
Comprehension is one of the most crucial skills of becoming a well-rounded reader and one that we continuously work on with our students at Teton Literacy Center. Indeed, what fun is reading if you cannot understand the text!? Last month we gave you Seven Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension! and this month we are going to delve deeper into one of those strategies—questioning texts.
One of the key strategies in assuring that students are understanding the texts they read is questioning. Questioning is effective in that it helps students take the time to think about the words they are reading and what those words mean together. Further, questioning is an easy tactic for parents to implement at home—all you have to do is take a short bit of time discuss and question what your student reads!
What kind of questions are most effective you ask? Read on to find out questioning points proven to aid in comprehension!
Striving to motivate children after a full day of school can be a daunting challenge. One literacy specialist articulates well how and why offering choice can encourage students to buy in. See our summary and the link below for some ideas to consider!
Handing over control and choice to students, learning alongside them, and not knowing ahead of time what direction an activity might take can be scary for educators, tutors, and other adults alike. The role of teacher as director and sage has been in existence for so long and many of us grew up with teachers filling this role. It’s hard to shake that expectation.
But offering students the opportunity to learn alongside you as an adult, and offering them choice within that learning empowers them. Yes, there are times that adults need to be the ultimate deciders, so this is not suggesting you give up authority and control to your students. Instead, consider the ways below that knowledge and learning opportunities can be built with, rather than for, students through offering children choice.
Here are a few suggestions for tangible ways to offer children choice in their learning while still practicing their literacy skills.
#1. Stuff We Want to Know About
Brainstorm a list of “stuff” they want to know about and they are interested in: an activity, an event, a law, a skill, anything. Use this list to direct your reading, writing, learning, or conversation activities with students.
#2. Think Alouds
Model your thinking and your learning for students as you read alongside them. As you read, pause, asking questions and making comments and connections to things you already know or other topics you have learned about.
This article (linked below) reminded me of mini-choices we can offer children of all ages: not do we want to read or not, and not do you want to write or not. But instead: which book do you want to read, which of three topics do they want to write about, and what order they want to do these activities in? Do you want me to read first or do you want to? Mini-choices like these can encourage buy-in from students and offer them more voice and choice in their learning.
#4. Students as Expert
A longtime tutor recently offered the idea of having time for your student to be the ‘expert.’ They get to choose a topic they know about, ranging from fishing to bugs, from movies to skateboarding. Then they get to be the expert, taking a few minutes to teach you their knowledge. We are excited to try this out with his students this school year, and encourage you to consider trying it as well!
For the full article or to read more click below:
1. Reviewing comprehension after reading
Students who are good at reviewing their comprehension after reading, know when they understand what they read and when they did not. Students who check their comprehension, develop strategies to "fix" problems in their understanding as the problems arise. Research shows that instruction, even in the early grades, can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension.
Comprehension monitoring instruction teaches students to:
2. Thinking about Reading
Good readers use strategies to think about and have control over their reading. Before reading, they might clarify their purpose for reading and preview the text. During reading, they might monitor their understanding, adjusting their reading speed to fit the difficulty of the text and "fixing" any comprehension problems they might have. After reading, they check their understanding of what they read.
3. Graphics for support!
Maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames or clusters of images can be used to illustrate relationships in a text. Regardless of which you choose, graphics can help readers focus and illustrate how they are related to their reading. Graphics also help students read and understand textbooks and chapter books with longer text.
Graphic organizers can:
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.