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Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer Slide

Summer is a time to relax and enjoy some lazy days filled with swimming, family trips, backyard barbecues, and pool parties!  Unfortunately, summer can also be a time when learning decreases for many students and the proverbial 'summer slide' can take place. 

How can you tell if your child experiences a 'summer slide?'  In our district we provide NWEA assessment graphs with end of the year report cards, which plots scores on an “x” axis on the graph using time intervals between test events.  If there is a drop between the Spring score and the following Fall score, then your child may have fallen victim to the 'summer slide,' which is common for many students.   

Below you will find a variety of ideas to support your children in a fun and empowering manner.  Enjoy the many suggestions that may prevent the dreaded 'summer slide!'  Please include your ideas in the comments below.  Let's share ideas together!  Enjoy Summer Learning! 

Summer Reading 
Reading:

Family Reading – Family reading is one of the most important things we can do for early learners.  Take time to read to your children, which will build listening skills. Asking questions about stories your children are reading will increase comprehension and retelling skills.  Take turns reading aloud together; this will enhance oral language, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, background knowledge, comprehension, story organization, problem solving, listening comprehension, and writing skills…  wow!  Not only does family reading create bonding time, but it also helps cement great reading skills that will be used in school! 

As you know, reading is the “foundation of success” and is essential in all subjects.  Good readers activate background knowledge and are able to predict, infer, and question while reading.  Fluent readers can put themselves into the text, making self-to-text-connections.  When reading stories together, stop and ask questions, predict, put yourself into the story, and ask, "what would you do?"

Sample Questions:
-          Describe the main character.  Where does the story take place?  When does it take place?
-          Name the supporting characters.
-          What do you think the characters are feeling?  Why do they feel that way?
-          What is the problem in the story?  How does the character deal with the problem?
-          Could the character do something different to solve the problem?
-          What is your favorite part of the story?  Why?
-          Have you ever read a story that is similar to this story?
-          Does this story remind you of anything in your life?
-          If you could rename the story… what would it be?
-          How did the story end?  Would you change the ending?  How?
-          What is the most interesting part of the story?  Why?
-          Did you learn something new?  Give three new facts?  How can you use those facts in your life?
-          What are the main character's traits?  How is the character like you/different from you?
-          What do you think will happen next?
-          Tell an opinion you have about the story.  Tell a fact from the story.

Purpose for reading - Choose why you are reading… for information, enjoyment, etc. allowing time to make connections.

Making Connections - Text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-others – It is important to have conversations to enhance comprehension skills and understanding of the material being read.
Examples:
-          This story reminds me of when I went swimming because…
-          This story reminds me of when (character from different story/chapter/etc.) made a new friend  because…
-          This story reminds me when my teacher did ______ because…
-          This story reminds me of when we went on vacation because…
-          This character reminds me of my neighbor because…

I am sure you can think of additional questions or connection ideas.  Also, it is not necessary to use every question during your family reading.  Pick three to five questions that will support the particular story and one or two connections.  The goal and hope for family reading, besides great family bonding, is that it will support a natural transfer of skills to the child’s independent reading activities, enhancing comprehension and reading fluency.

Spelling and Vocabulary:

Spelling City - Practicing spelling was a challenging event in our household until we were introduced to Spelling City, which is a game-based program that provides spelling, vocabulary, and other language arts activities for K-12 cross-curricular word study.  The site offers a free or affordable premium membership that allows children to use their classroom generated spelling list within the program for motivational practice while providing immediate feedback to learners.   No longer do my children complain when being ask to practice spelling.  Give it a try; it might help your family as much as it has helped ours.

Driving vocabulary – Attach three to five vocabulary words on the back of the driver/passenger seat in your car.  While driving, have your child read, spell, and tell the meaning of each word, using them in a sentence.  Change the words every week or two but don’t tell your children when the words will change… anticipation will increase excitement for new vocabulary words. Have children keep a driving journal, keeping track of the new words they are learning.  Make sure the words are grade level appropriate and keep it fun.  You can also use this strategy to practice new spelling words.

Vocabulary practice/sentence building – Place words on index cards in two different piles – mix them up and see who can make a sentence.  Make a game out of this activity, creating a point system and the first one to 50 points wins! 

Label the house – Label some items in your house with index cards.  Environmental print supports immediate recall and enhances reading fluency.

Word of the week – Take a higher level vocabulary word and make it the 'word of the week' in your house.  Use it in sentences, post it in the house, spell it together, and encourage them to incorporate the word into their writing at school.  Try to make it fun!

Personal Word Bank – Create a personal or family word bank in a journal or notebook, generating vocabulary words for future writing activities.  You can even add your 'word of the week' to your journal, making your own personal thesaurus.

Writing:

Students need practice to support good writing – try to keep it fun!

Sports journal – While watching a game, keep a journal of favorite plays so that you can go back and try it on the field.  Summer baseball is heating up (Go Tigers!) and the NFL season is right around the corner (Go Lions!), which can provide many writing opportunities, listing exciting plays or favorite players. 

Family time capsule journal – Keep track of movies/family vacations/major news happenings/special sporting events/birthdays, etc. in a family journal.  You can add pictures and make it into a scrap book of memories and thoughts that can be remembered for years to come.

Writing for a purpose – Write a letter to a company that makes the best chocolate, game, toy, golf club, etc.  Maybe they will send you some free goodies as a thank you!  Write a letter if you are not impressed with a product.  I wonder if the CEO of the company will respond?

Popplet – Used as a mind-map, Popplet helps students think and learn visually.  Students can capture facts, thoughts, and images while learning to create relationships between them.  Check out my previous post – Popplet:Supporting son's writing homework - he loves to build!

Math:

When teaching 4th and 5th grade, I focused on the students’ ability to understand math concepts and think mathematically. Unfortunately, some of my students had a difficult time because they lacked the ability to recall basic facts. They understood the process; however, they scored low on assessments due to simple computation mistakes throughout the problem.  I always encouraged my students to practice math facts for five minutes a day when they were at home.  Five extra minutes of intense practice per day might not seem like much, but it adds up quickly. By the end of the summer, they will do over 400 minutes of extra basic facts practice!  For additional strategies, check out edutopia- 10 apps for math fluencyFree Apps:


Minecraft:

The creative and building aspect of Minecraft allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world.  Not only is it exciting to children (both of mine would play for hours if we let them), it provides them with collaboration and problem solving skills.  They are learning skills such as reading, math, inventorying, geometry, social skills, and the interactive environment supports children’s ability to understand cause and effect.  Children can even select various languages.  So, the next time your child wants to play Minecraft, you might just see it as a learning opportunity.

These are some of the additional learning opportunities I have used with my children, or have suggested to parents, to decrease the 'summer slide.'  Please remember the importance of keeping things fun and enjoyable while empowering children’s intrinsic motivation to be life-long learners.  Most importantly, don’t forget the need for family time, playing board games, enjoying a bike ride, putting together a puzzle and having rich conversations with your children, all activities which enhance family relationships.

Please include your ideas in the comments below.  Let's share ideas together! 

Enjoy learning throughout the summer

Friday, January 6, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year!!!  I hope everyone enjoyed a well deserved holiday break with family and friends. As educators return to school it is always good to review our intentional plans for sustaining a positive learning environment.  


“A quality teacher-student relationship means more than the combined power of all teaching and discipline techniques known to humankind.”
Love and logic Teacher-ism


I love this quote!  Establishing positive relationships with your students, while creating an atmosphere where children have positive relationships with each other, will truly benefit any classroom, family, or community.  Quality teacher-student and student-student relationships will support and increase a positive community where children want to thrive. It also makes everyone’s experience more enjoyable!  


As we start a new year it is always important to re-establish classroom expectations and learning missions that will empower students to be their best in 2017.  The best managed classrooms and learning environments do not happen by accident. Talented educators are intentional in their planning.  It starts with making connections and sustaining positive relationships.  Check out the #High5Challenge (focused on Reaching My Kids and Showing Them They Matter = PRICELESS) via @Mr_Oldfield  or Why Relationships Are the Foundation of Education via @bobby_dodd.  Both inspire and highlight the importance of keeping relationships at the forefront of everything we do as educators.


Continue to have a strategic plan focused on developing positive relationships with your students. Focus on things that are in your control: creating amazing classrooms where students are excited to learn!  Thank you for being great and enjoying the best job in the world… educating children!

Enjoy teaching and Happy New Year!