Saturday, January 31, 2015

How to Introduce Reading to Preschoolers Using Environmental Print

     Young children see print EVERYWHERE.  Spark their interest in reading by showing them their favorite cereal box and ask them to tell you what it is in the box.  They can tell you it's Cheerios or Fruit Loops.  Or show them the logo for McDonald's, Busch Gardens, Chuckee Cheese, or Wendys and ask them where you are taking them.  They know the answer and those logos and symbols are called environmental print.

     When I taught first grade I displayed environmental print in my classroom during the first weeks of school.  I hung pictures of road signs (stop, etc..) restaurants, cereal boxes, candy wrappers, grocery items, etc... so the students were surrounded with print that they saw every day at home and around town.

     When a student told me they couldn't read I pointed to some of the things in the room and asked them what they saw.  When they told me what they were I told them they were reading.  This gave them  the confidence they needed to try and they knew I believed in them.

     When my sons were preschoolers I took pictures of them at Wendys, McDonalds, at Ocean Breeze and the Norfolk Zoo.  I printed the pictures and put them in mini photo albums I purchased from the dollar store and created little books for them and read them to them over and over again.  This was a springboard to begin reading.  Young children love reading about themselves and it hooks them right away.  

Read the directions below to create your own mini books to share with your students or your own children. 

1.  You can use pictures you have or take pictures of your children at different places or simply                download pictures of places your children like to go from the internet.

2.  Place the picture on the left side of the photo book.

3.  You can type the words and glue them on an index card or write on the index card and place the          card on the right side of the photo book.

I wrote patterned books like the ones listed below.  Use these as a guide to begin.

Mitchell likes McDonalds.
Mitchell likes Wendys.
Mitchell likes the beach.
Mitchell likes the zoo.
Mitchell likes Ocean Breeze.
Mitchell likes home the most.

Matthew wants to go to....
Matthew is at ........

You can also put family member's picture in the books (on the left side) and then write their names on the right side.
Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, sibling's names, pet's names.

If you make it personal to them it will grab their interest and start them on the path to love reading.
If you have any questions just ask,

Thanks for reading!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Powerful and Effective Teaching Part 2

Let's discuss the kindergarten student and what I discovered while working with her.  Remember she knew only 4/54  letters on the Letter Identification Test.  Her teacher had worked with her individually reviewing the letters but she still wasn't making progress.

I began by making an ABC book with her.  I used a small photo book from the dollar store along with a pack of ABC picture cards.  I wrote the letters she knew on index cards and slid the letters on the front side of the page and the picture on the back.  I used only the letters she knew.  While reviewing the letters she said tiger, /t/ /t/ /t/, T.....................

What? An insight into how her brain works.  Her strength is sound to letter not letter to sound like most children. That's how we needed to teach her.  I began with the letters in her name, one at a time. 

TIP:  In order to accelerate a young child's learning limit the amount of new information being taught so the short term memory isn't too crowded.    

I also taught her a song to spell her name like the song I taught my son when he was 2.  (MIT, CHE, LL spells Mitchell to the tune of MIC, KEY, MOUSE)  As the student was learning the new letters in her name I would show her the picture in her ABC book, then the letter, and she would sing the song to help her remember the name.  I told her that these letters were the most important letters because they were the letters in the most important word she would ever know- her name.  

I gave her a baggie with the letters in her name and an index card with her name on it.  I told her to practice making her name at home and that she could use the card to check to see if she was right. Then we slowly began adding knew letters and some knew words to the baggie.

Since her strength was learning from sound to letter I followed the sequence of sorts from Word Journeys by Kathy Ganske. I took the Word Study Graduate Class from UVA with Beth Estill who is an amazing trainer.  If you ever get the chance to attend one of Beth's sessions at a conference or take a class from her seize that opportunity!!!! 

In a few weeks the student's letter identification score went from 4/54 to 26/54. We started comparing and contrasting those letters. How do they look the same? How do they look different?  What do you notice about this new letter that will help you remember it? Again, it's about metacognition, about empowering students.

A few weeks later I assessed her letter knowledge again and she knew 52/54 letters. The classroom teacher and I worked together closely to help this student succeed.

The classroom teacher had done everything she knew to help her student.  She didn't have the Reading Recovery Training I received and she had 24 other students in that class and then another 20+ students in the other class and only half a day to teach all of them math and reading.  There is only so much time teachers can give individual students when classrooms are so overcrowded.

If we all work together; students, parents, teachers........ we can make a difference.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What's My Secret to Powerful and Effective Teaching?

 As the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach for my school, I am responsible for determining the needs of the teachers and students and providing instruction and support to meet those needs.

Sometimes it seems a bit daunting as everyone needs something different.

I have kindergarten students who were struggling to learn letters and sounds, first graders who knew very little sight words and second graders who couldn't decode multi-syllable words.  I have new teachers and experienced teachers. How can I help all of them in one training session or collaboration meeting?

My diagnostic training has taught me to look for patterns.  So where's the pattern in the examples listed above?  Read them again. Do you see it?

Here's what I discovered as I worked with these students.

The kindergarten student had no preschool experience and only knew 4 letters.  She couldn't even identify all of the letters in her name.  She hadn't learned how to learn.

The first grader who knew only knew a few words hadn't learned how to learn.

The second graders who couldn't decode multi-syllable words were just looking at the first part and maybe the last part of the word and guessing.  They hadn't learned how to decode left to right through the words.

The teachers were reviewing  letters and sight words over and over and providing multiple opportunities to practice so why weren't the children improving?

I worked with the kindergarten and first grade students individually and trained their brains on how to learn more effectively.  I systematically taught the second graders how to decode left to right through words.  It's all about metacognition and making it relevant to children.

In my next blog, I'll tell you exactly what I did with each student and how the students are doing now.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Language Development in Young Children and The Little Couple TV Show

I'm watching one of my favorite shows on TLC, the Little Couple.  I've watched every episode and I just love Bill and Jen and it's been wonderful watching their family grow and their adopted children blossom.

While watching tonight I realized that their show is a perfect example of how parents can optimize vocabulary development in their children.  Bill and Jen engage their children in conversation and explain things to them.  When the toddlers say things that aren't grammatically correct, Bill and Jen will say it correctly for them thus providing a language model. It's the perfect example of how to talk with children to encourage language development.

When my sons were toddlers and would say that is big, I would reply yes, it's really big, it's large and huge. teach them synonyms for big. While grocery shopping I would point things out and tell them the names of everything.  For example, I would tell them the names and colors of the vegetables.

One of the most important books I read as an educator and as a parent is Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young Children by Risley and Hart.  This book chronicles their research in vocabulary and language development in young children and the disparity of the rate of growth of children from low income families compared to children from professional families.

Their research provides proof of how important a quality preschool experience can be to children, especially those from low income homes with parents who aren't well educated.  Those early years are crucial to  success in school.

Watch a few episodes of the Little Couple and listen and learn.
Thanks for reading!