Reading

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The first step in becoming a better reader is learning to read. This includes learning the alphabet, decoding words phonetically, and building vocabulary. Over time children put this foundation to work as they read to learn and grasp concepts.  This brings a child to utilize the skill of reading comprehension, which is currently emphasized in schools.

The current school curriculum is emphasizing reading, specifically reading comprehension versus attaining general knowledge. And yet, despite the enormous expenditure of time and resources on reading, American children haven’t become better readers.1 For the past 20 years, only about a third of students have scored at or above the “proficient” level on national tests.

Also, the school-free summer months can bring on learning losses of one to two months in reading compared to the previous year. So what can you do???

  1. Begin early. Read aloud to your infant as part of a daily routine. As your child gets older, you can begin to engage and ask questions and talk about the story. Once your child begins to read, have her read aloud to you.

  2. Role model. Read! Check out books from the library. Show an interest in reading and your child may develop the same interest. Read articles, books, recipes, etc. that role model that you read as well.

  3. Make appropriate materials easily accessible to encourage reading. Have magazines, newspapers, and articles available that engage your child’s interest. Through proper adult supervision and controlling filters, you can even find interesting reading on the internet.

  4. Find help if necessary. Most children can learn to read, even if some do need a little more assistance. Solicit help from teachers or professionals to determine if your child has a learning disability or other problem that needs extra support. 

With your support and encouragement, your child will begin a lifelong journey of reading.

  1. Why American Students Haven't Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years, Natalie Wexler, The Atlantic, April 13, 2018

Ready to Return to School? Reduce Stress by Making a Plan

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I know… everyone is enjoying summer and does not even want to think about school right now. There is no need to cut the summer short when you have a solid plan and know when to begin. Take some time to get a plan together to eliminate the stress of returning to school. Here are a few things to include in your return-to-school plan:

Here are a few things to include in your return-to-school plan:

  1. Establish a time to begin your plan. A first consideration is when does school begin- from there you can determine when to start implementing a back-to-school plan. A good rule of thumb is to start executing a plan about 2 weeks before school begins (and continue enjoying summer until then).

  2. Return to the rhythm of a regular regimen 2 weeks before school starts:

    a. Sleep- Establish a set bedtime and stick with it. The plan can even be graduated and work towards the ideal bedtime. For example, bedtime may be 10pm and then the next week goes to 9pm. 

    b. Wake up!- Consider starting the day at the time you will need when school begins. This gets everyone in the habit of waking at the same time and eliminates the struggles that come with those early back-to-school blues.

    c. Food - Summer is all about going, doing and having fun and with that comes erratic eating habits and schedules. Try setting a solid routine for breakfast with a balanced nutritious meal.

  3. Involve the children- What do they want to do to get ready for school? What is their favorite breakfast? Getting school supplies and backpacks are ways to get the children excited about returning to school.

  4. Consider what kind of support may be needed as the children return to school- after school transportation, daycare, extra-curricular activities, etc. Working through this ahead of time will ensure the family is prepared.

Don’t procrastinate. Waiting and delaying will only create more stress later. Any routines that are started will be helpful in the return to school. Taking time to create a solid plan before return to school begins will eliminate a lot of the stress of transitioning from the fun summer.




Vocabulary Disparity

How to begin? What word to use? Have you ever struggled to find the right word ? A strong vocabulary starts as early as a preschooler according to recent research.  As reported by Big Ideas, Little Learners: Early Childhood Trends Report 2019, vocabulary disparity begins to appear at 18 months. 1

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Helping preschoolers learn new words can help improve the disparity and establish strong reading skills. Here are 6 ways to build a child’s vocabulary 2:

1.   Visit the Library

Ask the librarian for help if you are not sure where to begin. Attend the fun and engaging activities at your local library. Events at a library are a public service and typically are free.

2.  Teach and Reinforce The Alphabet

Singing the alphabet song is a simple way to get preschoolers engaged in learning. You can use the alphabet to play games such as selecting a word that begins with letters in order of the alphabet.

3.  Use Descriptive Words

Expand on the description of items when talking with your child. Using descriptive words may be beyond your child’s understanding but using them in proper context makes them more comprehensible. Also, try using synonyms with your child to broaden their vocabulary and word choice.

4.   Become a Super Sorter

Label items in your child’s room and sort items into bins. Seeing is learning and can teach children to think logically and build their vocabulary. Another way to learn new words is to help them visualize it - use flashcards or pictures from magazines for this.

5.   Practice Rhymes

Not only is rhyming fun but can help toddlers think about how different words can relate to each other. Reading books such as Dr. Suess can be fun.

 6.   Read Aloud Together

Book time can be quality one-on-one time with your preschooler. Select books that will interest your child and stretch their understanding. Along with reading, engage your child by asking questions and allowing them to ask questions. This will expand vocabulary and also begin to build comprehension skills.

 Expanding your child’s vocabulary is not difficult but it is necessary to help them along the path to reading. Starting early is the key to reduce the disparity of vocabulary for your child. While it does take some planning to attend the library or label/organize your child’s room, the benefits will become apparent as your child begins to incorporate new words into every day conversation.

1 Big Ideas, Little Learners: Early Childhood Trends Report 2019, Omidyar Network, 2019

2 8 Fun Ways to Build a Child’s Vocabulary, Very Well Family, January 2019

Summer is Coming - Get Ready for the Slide

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As the school year comes to an end, students get excited about relaxing, having fun and enjoying the warmer weather. As they hit the playground and run for the slide, their memory and learnings from the school year begin to slide. So how do we prevent “slide” over the summer?

“In their overview of the summer slide, Quinn and Polikoff offer a few key facts:

  • Learning and achievement are perishable. The average student loses a month of academic-calendar learning each summer.

  • The impact of the summer slide contributes to a more pronounced achievement gap.

  • Research has found a link between socioeconomic status and the loss of reading skills experienced over the summer.

  • Studies show older students lose more over the summer than younger ones.

  • Students see greater academic dips in math than in reading.”1

Here are some things that can be done to slow the knowledge “slide”:

Head to the library. Read, read, read… select a book that interests the child. Reading improves English capabilities and increases word knowledge. Reading can be interactive by having discussions with the family – providing summaries or reading together for the younger ones. As writing is being more emphasized in school, a short book summary could be written to keep up the practice.

Keep the communication going. In addition to reading with the child or reviewing books together, communicate with your children. Ask about their day, incorporate items that are being studied – colors, letters, numbers, animals, history, civics, etc. Connect with an instructor or educational coach to provide support.

Complete work over summer. There are many options to get assigned work over summer break. Schools or libraries may supply summer projects. Also many after-school supplemental educational programs offer assignments for summer.

Do work at home. While there are many options to do homework over the summer, utilizing online versions of programs can be very supportive. The more interactive, the more likely children will spend some of their summer break doing online studies at home.

Implementing a strategy can prevent the “slide” of your child’s knowledge over summer. Contact your local Eye Level Center to discuss how their summer programs can help.

 


  1. Ariel Goldberg, 2018,  What Summer Slide Actually Means-and 5 Ways to Fight it

More Social Interaction Needed

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In the age of mobile devices and social media, it seems like we are more connected than ever. However, studies have shown that the technology evolutions has caused more seclusion and people withdrawing from real social interaction. In combination with a more diverse population with different backgrounds and cultures this provides good reason to develop strong social skills in children.

·         Self-awareness: Understanding one’s own emotions, goals, values, limitations, strengths, and how they are all interconnected.

·         Self-management: The ability to regulate emotions and behaviors to manage stress and impulses.

·         Social awareness: Empathy and compassion for those who are different, while recognizing social norms in various situations.

·         Relationship skills: The ability to maintain healthy and rewarding relationships by communicating clearly, actively listening, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, resolving conflict and asking for help.

·   Responsible decision making: Learning to make choices by considering ethics, safety, risk, consequences and other people.

It takes role models, mentors, classroom efforts and parent involvement to develop these skills to increase social and emotional behaviors. Parents can lead the effort through community leadership and speaking with schools about incorporating SEL. Schools can be a support but it also takes community – after-school programs, mentorships and getting involved in activities with other children that promote positive social interaction.

1 Edutopia, 2019, Why social and Emotional Learning is Essential for Students

Importance of Learning During the Holiday Breaks

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During the winter holiday break, many students and parents take the opportunity to step back from their crazy schedules and focus on their families and being able to enjoy each other’s company. Just like with summer break, it is essential to continue to involve students with different aspects of academia to keep their wondering minds ahead of the game. It is important to stick to routines such a student’s bedtime and daily responsibilities. Being able to stick to the daily routines helps alleviate any difficulties when students return to school in the new year.

There are many ways where students can take a step back from the classroom but still do a tremendous amount of learning within the household. Taking a bit of time each day to read aloud to your child or have them read independently provides students with ways to increase learning, specifically in the comprehension and vocabulary area. This time also enables parents and children to spend quality time together. These learning moments enable parents to connect the home environment to the classroom. Reading and analyzing texts that are grade level or above provide students with deeper understanding of text.

There are other resources outside of the household where students can learn and challenge themselves over the break. Some of these resources include supplemental education, museums or planetariums, and workshops geared towards students. Enrichment programs provide students with challenging yet simplified subjects areas and museums or planetariums making learning fun and hands-on. Museums not only teach students about science and history but make learning a fun, hands on process. Students are involved with aspects such as IMAX movies on planets and nature and look at the evolution of ancient history, bringing those history textbooks to life.

For students to want to learn, you want to make learning fun. Students should take initiative rather then feeling like they must do something because they are being told to do so. Get involved in the learning process with your children. Just as brain drain could happen over the long summer months, it can also happen throughout the winter break. Focus in on what students enjoy doing and make it a fun experience with the ability to learn new things. Sign your children up for culinary classes, technology workshops or different crafting opportunities. Take them to the zoo or aquarium and allow them to experience learning all about the animals and nature all around us. Remember, for learning to be effective, it must be fun.

Mathematics Tip- Back to School

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Although the school year is already underway, some children may still be finding it hard to transition from summer mode to back to school. According to a Scholastic’s teacher survey data, 98 percent of teachers cited family involvement and support as being key to student success. Although it might be hard to be physically present at school events at times, there are other great ways to be involved in your child’s education.

Though you may not able to be physically present in school, there are many other ways that you can get involved in your child’s education. One way is by practicing basic facts Immediate recall requires practice and time for practice in the school day is often limited. Orally presenting facts promotes mastery more effectively than worksheets. There are a lot of great times to practice math facts including driving or waiting. Secondly, you can play games. Games are a great way for children practice mathematics skills and develop strategic thinking, while also promoting positive parent-child relationships. Thirdly, you can help your child see that math is all around them. If you point out how mathematics problems are a part of everyday life, children will be able to understand the value of mathematics.

You also need to know that being prepared for the future nowadays requires being able to do more than simply computing facts or carrying out procedures. You may be thinking that math is different now than when you were in school, and that is true! The available careers are very different now than they were 20 years ago. Of course, children need conceptual understanding and procedural fluency, but they also need to know how to apply this knowledge to solve problems. Try to include problem solving techniques as often as possible in daily conversations.

Having your child in Eye Level is a great start to giving your child a head start. Through Basic Thinking math, your child is gaining the necessary computation skills to succeed. Since Eye Level also provides Critical Thinking math, your child will apply those skills in problem solving situations. Continue being involved in your child’s education and he will succeed

https://www.nctm.org/News-and-Calendar/Messages-from-the-President/Archive/Diane-Briars/Back-to-School_-The-Time-to-Engage-Parents-and-Families/

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/meghan-everette/10-tips-family-engagement-school-year/

Practical Actions to Unleash Originality

Adam Grant offers 5 practical actions to unleash originality that you can take. The following extract is taken from his bestseller.

1. Ask children what their role models would do. Children feel free to take initiative when they look at problems through the eyes of originals. Ask children what they would like to improve in their family or schools. Then Have them identify a real person or fictional character they admire for being unusually creative and inventive. What would that person do in this situation? 

2. Link good behaviors to moral character. Many parents and teachers praise helpful actions, but children are more generous when they’re commended for being helpful people-it becomes part of their identity. If you see a child so something good, try saying, “You’re a good person because you _________.” Children are also more ethical when they’re asked to be moral people-they want to earn the identity. If you want a child to share a toy, instead of asking, “Will you share?” ask, “Will you be a sharer?” 

3. Explain how bad behaviors have consequences for others. When children misbehave, help them see how their actions hurt other people. “How do you think this made her feel?” As they consider the negative impact on others, children begin to feel empathy and guilt, which strengthens their motivation to right the wrong-and to avoid the action in the future. 

4. Emphasize values over rules. Rules set limits that teach children to adopt a fixed view of the world. Values encourage children to internalize principles for themselves. When you talk about standards, like the parents of the Holocaust rescuers, describe why certain ideals matter to you and ask children why they’re important. 

5. Create novel niched for children to pursue. Just as laterborns sought out conventional ones were closed to them, there are ways to help children carve out niches. One of my favorite techniques is the Jigsaw Classroom: bring students together for a group project and assign each of them a unique part. For example, when writing a book report on Eleanor Roosevelt’s life, one student worked on her childhood, another on her teenage years, and a third on their role in the women’s movement. Research shows that this reduces prejudice-children learn to value each other’s distinctive strengths. It can also give them the space to consider original idea instead of falling victim to groupthink. To further enhance the opportunity for novel thinking, ask children to consider a difference frame of reference. How would Roosevelt’s childhood have been different if she grew up in China? What battles would she have chosen to fight there?