Sunday, September 16, 2012

Reading tips for kindergarten through fifth grade

Expert tricks to improve your Kindergartner through 5th grader’s reading.


Sometimes kindergartners skip an important step when learning to read— a crucial step that, if missed, makes reading harder later. In teacher speak, it’s called phonemic awareness, and it means learning that every word is a combination of sounds. Before kids learn to sound out words on a page, it’s best if they first get that every spoken word — big, small, or silly — is made up of sounds.
Do this: Practice breaking some spoken words into sounds. “What sounds are in cat?” you might ask your child. “Let’s say the word slowly together. Cat: kuh-a-tuh. Cat.” Don’t even worry about connecting this to the spelling of the word. (That’s another lesson.) After you’ve practiced with a few easy words, try some harder ones like breakfast or window. Again, don’t worry about linking this to a spelling or reading lesson. The important thing is for your child to feel confident in his ability to hear the sounds in words.
Read more about your kindergartner and reading.

First grade

For many kids, it’s a difficult transition to go from recognizing a few sight words to being able to sound out words in a simple but unfamiliar book. Teachers tell parents to have their children read with them every night, but how do you read with your child when she gets frustrated after painstakingly sounding out a single sentence? How do you get through a whole book?
Try this: Pick a storybook (not necessarily an early-reader book) that your child knows extremely well and have her read it to you aloud. Some of the book will no doubt be memorized, but she’ll also need to fall back on her decoding skills. Rhyming stories (like any of the Madeline series or Dr. Seuss books) work great because they have a musicality that makes them easy to memorize. This can give your early reader a taste of success, especially when even the simplest “I can read” books are mostly lessons in frustration.
Read more about your first grader and reading.

Second grade

At this age, children’s story comprehension may far exceed their technical reading skills. For instance, at this point your child probably knows a lot of sight words and has some general decoding skills, but she may not be able to read fast enough to really enjoy the story or even understand it.
How can you smooth the transition to reading for pleasure? Help your child jump to the next level by working on her automaticity. What does that mean? Help her grow her list of sight words, so that she’s not sounding out quite so much. You can start with a list of second grade sight words from us . Better yet: make your own based on your child’s reading.
Do this: Tell your child she’s going on a word hunt. Explain that the hunt will begin by her looking for (and catching) some of the sneaky words that give her trouble. Have your child read a few passages that may be just beyond her reading ability but are in stories she enjoys. Write down between 10 and 20 high-frequency words she has trouble with (or simply has to slow down to read). They might be strangely spelled words, like again, which, or knees, or longer, multi-syllabic but everyday words like because, necessary, and sometimes. After you’ve caught these wild words, capture them on flash cards to “tame” them. Have your child spend a little time every day studying these words until she gets to know them and they don’t give her trouble anymore.
Read more about your second grader and reading.

Third grade

For reading, this is a big year. Third graders are expected to go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? As if by spending enough days sitting at their desks, third graders will magically make the switch. One day they’re soldiering through sounding out words, and the next they’re using books to conduct research, enjoy literature, and learn about the universe! For most kids, though, the transition from reading being the focus of learning to a tool for learning other things means a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. (Well, maybe not blood, but you get the point.)
What can you if your child finds this transition tough? It may be tempting to stop reading to your child and fixate on his “learning to read” weaknesses — by making him read aloud or by himself. But research suggests this would be a mistake. One study found that kids improve their reading faster by having challenging conversations that build vocabulary rather than by focusing only on decoding strategies.
Do this: Make sure your child doesn’t fall behind when it comes to reading to learn. Sure, he might not be able to crack open a reference book and find the right information for a science project, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn the same information as the kid who’s already comfortable reading advanced texts. During this period, read challenging books aloud to him, use words he doesn’t know in conversation, and talk about big topics: world affairs, history, whatever he’s interested in. In other words, make sure your communication packs some serious learning power. That way, when his decoding skills finally catch up, he won’t be behind in learning what teachers call “context” — all the words, ideas, and information we need to become educated.
Read more about your third grader and reading.

Fourth grade

The reading demands on kids jump a level this year. Suddenly there are reports, multi-week projects, and — at the end of the year — anxiously anticipated standardized tests. It’s also the year that marks the rise of what’s sometimes called “shut-down learners.”  Kids who, for whatever mixture of reasons, have decided they hate school.
What does this have to do with reading? You might be surprised. At this age, kids begin to notice that reading groups have different levels of readers. They may be sensitive and feel that these learning tracks are unfair. This can happen even if children are basically on track with their reading. In fourth grade, reading abilities can vary widely — from kids who are just beginning the simplest chapter books to those who are reading novels aimed at teens. It’s also the point when most kids have a huge potential to learn about a topic in-depth. With the right mix of books, encouragement, and projects, fourth graders can become little scientists, gourmet cookie chefs, devoted artists, or thoughtful storytellers. The key is to help your child tap into his passions.
Try this: Spend a weekend morning finding the right books — this could mean a trip to a great library or bookstore or approaching someone with the same interests as your child for book recommendations. At this point, it’s not enough for your child to read only the stuff assigned at school. Nor should he just read the hot book all his friends are reading. He needs access to books that allow him to dive deep into his own special view of the world — and to see that, whatever happens in school, books are there for him.
Read more about your fourth grader and reading.

Fifth grade

Suddenly, this year kids are asked to read a wide range of materials, synthesize ideas, and formulate arguments in essays or reports. For a lot of children, this leap to analyzing reading material reveals weaknesses in their reading comprehension. In fact, even kids who seemed to be great readers (in terms of fluency and decoding) when they were younger might now confess that they understand little of what they read. So what can you do to boost reading comprehension at this age?
Try this: Have your child write a summary of everything he reads. For instance, if your child reads 20 to 30 minutes a night, have him spend the last five minutes summarizing what he’s read. If he balks at this, have him report to you what happened in the book and ask him a few key questions. This will make reading comprehension not something he only does when a writing assignment comes along but a daily, almost instinctual habit.
Read more about your fifth grader and reading.
Carol Lloyd is the executive editor of GreatSchools and mother to two raucous daughters, ages 7 and 11.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Why Your Student May Not Like Homework


Why-not-like-homework-Raleigh-Durham-Apex-CaryWhy Your Student May Not Like Homework

Posted by Jennifer Benoit

Homework can be a burden to many students.  Helping them to understand the motivation behind homework and their motivations are helpful.  However, homework can also be a chore or cause stress for other reasons.  Read below about how homework can be a motivating or demotivating.


1.  Confusion – many students may be missing holes in their learning because of illness, comprehension issues, a stressful time in their lives, or even poor teaching.  Because of this, they are confused by the current homework and the current concepts.  Getting help both in school by teachers and out of school by a tutor can be the best solution to this issue.  Another good reason for confusion is that the homework does not match the concepts covered in class.  In this case, the teacher is assigning homework without teaching it ahead of time.  Therefore, students are generally right to be confused.  This should seldom happen and the teacher should be notified (preferably by the student) if this happens.


2.  Wrong Level – This happens more in the upper grades than the lower grades, but many students are on an aggressive track when the speed of the course may be too aggressive.  This happens often with honors students because there is the mis-assumption that students who are capable in one honors class should go in an honors “track.”  That is ­not necessarily true.  If you or your student feels he should move to a different level, do so after trying tutoring, getting extra help, and talking with the school.  Many times, the math classes are setting students up for college so be sure that you are not giving up opportunities that your student can use in the future.


3.  New school and/or New teachers – When school first starts in any grade, students have a tough time with the new “level” of homework.  This can be de-motivating and stressful for everyone, but eventually things calm down and students and parents adjust to the new homework.  There are a few levels where students no longer are able to just quickly go through their homework.  Usually this is around 3rd or 4th grade, the beginning of middle school, and the beginning of high school.  The elementary grade reason is because students now have more writing assignments at night.  In middle school, they have more assignments from different teachers, and in high school, they have multiple teachers and unfamiliar subject areas.  Something to keep in mind at the start of the school year.


4.  Worry or Inviting Failure – An outlook on homework can be very negative when there is a personality trait more inclined towards worry or failure.  Sometimes the attitude of the student is the biggest boulder in the way of success.  In this case, discussing the attitude and worry by addressing some solutions or even talking to a guidance counselor may help.  Although it is natural to worry and feel like there are moments of failure, if you see your child worrying or has a bleak outlook often, talk to your pediatrician or guidance counselor.


5.  Lack of Goals – Again, this is with older students often.  When they are unsure what their future holds, or what they “want to do when they grow up,” they can see no reason for homework.  Discussing the future and the fact that this homework/class can open doors of opportunity to them is critical, but let them have some say in the final decision of certain classes.  For example, after taking Latin for three years, I was facing a fourth year of complete translation.  As a future teacher, I did not see how this fourth year would help, so I talked with the guidance counselor and eventually the principal to discuss using the time to take a business and typing course.  The interesting end to the story is that both subjects served me well.  Typing is critical to anyone’s success these days and I was hired for my first full time teaching job because I knew Latin and could teach it.  You never know what subjects you may use in the future, but talk with your child about goals and if they are very opposed to a class or subject, discuss why and consider exchanging the class for a different one is possible.


6.  Outside Influence – We can’t always pick our children’s friends, but from the very beginning, we can help our children understand that friends can influence behavior.  If you have a student who doesn’t do homework because her friends don’t, rethink those friendships with your child and how they are determining your child’s future.  Friends should not have that much power.  Talk to your child about starting a study group or finding a way to enjoy friends, but not letting them influence their future in a negative way.


7.  Lack of Parent/School Communication – Parents want the best for their children and sometimes things can get very busy.  When parents assume that children are “set” for homework and the grades are looking OK for the time, they become a little more relaxed and sometimes homework time gets pushed to the bottom of the pile.  As a parent, you don’t have to sit with your child every night, but you do have to know a few things and be on top of their grades.  Know what their homework is if you see some grades slipping and know how to see their grades online if that is possible.  Communicate with teachers promptly when there is an issue and be sure to let the teacher know how he or she can communicate with you promptly.  Creating a closed circle where no communication is lost is critical.  Also, knowing the homework policies and how grades are calculated (late assignments, class participation, etc), is essential to being able to communicate with the teacher.  Be as informed as you can be in case there is an issue.

Monday, September 3, 2012

History of Labor Day.

Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.

 Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.

Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified. Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday.

Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.