Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Helping Your Homeschooler Learn to Read

Beware Expert's Advice
If there is one area that causes concern for even the most experienced parent, it's helping our kids learn to read. And with good reason: We are told reading is an area best left to the experts, who advise us about what age our children should begin, what method to use, and how long it should take. We're told tests and reports are vital to the learning process. The trouble is, most of this advice is simply not true.

The Right Age to Read
By kindergarten, most schooled children are working their way through "reading readiness" programs and are expected to know and understand basic concepts of reading. But is this really the best age to start reading?

It's not, according to Louise Bates Ames, director of research at the Gesell Institute of Child Development and author of more than 15 books on childhood development and behavior. In A Developmental Approach to Reading Problems, Ames states that "a delay in reading instruction would be a preventative measure in avoiding nearly all reading failure." This view is shared by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, considered by many to be the grandparents of the modern homeschool movement. In Better Late Than Early and School Can Wait, the Moores present well-researched arguments that children aren't physiologically ready for formal reading activities until the age of 8 or 10. Waiting helps children develop maturity and logic skills and prevents frustration and discouragement.

A Combination of Methods
Another misconception that confuses all parents, not just homeschoolers, is that one teaching method should be used. For years controversy flared in the schools about "whole language" vs. "phonics." Results from whole language programs fell short of expectations. Straight phonics is more effective, but involves books and worksheets many kids find boring. Smart parents are discovering that incorporating both methods based on their child's individual learning style works best.

Tests and Reports
Finally, there's the idea that reading tests and written book reports are a necessary part of the reading process. In Teach Your Own, John Holt tells the story of two fellow teachers who decided to "stop asking the children questions about their reading, stop grading them, stop tracking them, and just let them read." Holt notes, "The students very soon read much better, even those who had been very poor readers." Reading becomes a chore when your child knows that as soon as he completes the passage (or page or book) he will be drilled and tested and scored. The joy of being swept away in the pages of a book is lost.

What You Can Do
Read to your children every day. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is a classic. Trelease explains how reading aloud stimulates your child's imagination and leads to the desire to read independently.
Take time to read yourself. A child learns by watching his parents. If your child sees you making reading a regular part of your life, chances are he will do the same. If you sit in front of the TV for hours, don't be surprised when your child wants to do it, too.
Don't start the learning process too early and don't push if they aren't ready. There should be no tears or reluctance. Allowed to learn at their own pace, homeschooled children often don't begin to read until 8 or 9 years old. Mary Griffith, author of The Homeschooling Handbook, says that late reading (even as late as 12) is not much of a handicap to homeschoolers. "Because schools rely so heavily on text-based instruction, we tend to forget there are other ways to acquire knowledge" Griffith writes. "The late reader frequently blossoms suddenly into a capable and independent reader and the late-reading homeschooler remains an eager and interested learner."
Where Do I Begin?
For those who want a direct, step-by-step approach on how to teach your child to read, Reading Reflex: The Foolproof Phono-Graphix Method for Teaching Your Child to Read, by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness, is one of the best reading books on the market today. Another highly recommended book is Let's Read, A Linguistic Approach by Leonard Bloomfield and Clarence Barnhart.

But don't feel you have to follow a reading manual to be successful. Reading is a process that unfolds slowly in some children, quickly in others. What worked for your friend's child might be wrong for your son or daughter. The trick is to discover what method is best for your child. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Follow These Steps
One: Sounding Out
Learning the alphabet, and the sounds each letter represents, is the foundation of reading. The next step is for your child to learn simple words that can be mastered easily. I wrote the names of items in our house on index cards, then pinned or taped the card to that object. It became a game to name all the objects. When these words were memorized, the cards were removed and made into silly sentences. (The chair sat on the cat.) Because we're on the road a lot, my girls' first reading words were the names of gas stations (Shell was an easy starter), then stores, then road signs. As we drove, we'd work on word-sounds in silly rhymes and variations of alphabet games.

Phonics workbooks are helpful at this point, but don't overdo it. Along with studying the letter sounds and blends, we made flashcards of reading words that my daughter stumbled on and reviewed them frequently. I'm not a fan of flashcards and used them with a light hand, but she didn't mind and they were really effective.

Two: Finding Great Beginner Books
Two wonderful books for your beginning readers are: Ready...Set...Read! and the sequel Ready...Set...Read And Laugh! by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson. These colorfully illustrated collections feature authors Arnold Lobel (Frog and Toad), Peggy Parish (Amelia Bedelia), Marice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), and Robert Lewis Stevenson (A Sea-Side Poem), just to name a few. These books are responsible for carrying my daughters from the conceptual stage of reading to the "I got it!" stage.

Be sure to provide a variety of easy-to-read books on whatever subject your child shows an interest. Soccer? Space Travel? Animals? Clouds? Make sure your child learns that books are a source of pleasure and knowledge. When my girls were learning to read, we had wicker baskets in every room filled with age-appropriate books from the library. Putting the books back in the baskets each night was a small price to pay as I watched their reading skills grow. Not sure what books are best? Great Books for Girls

and Great Books for Boys by Kathy Odean make choosing books a snap.
Three: Chapter Books and Magazines
Once my daughters could handle the easy readers, they were now ready for chapter books. A librarian suggested The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner as a good starter series. My daughter loved these books about four resourceful children and their adventures. Another good chapter book series is The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne. The American Girl series (different authors) provides an exciting introduction to history. And who could resist the Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, great mystery books about a boy detective and his dog Sludge.

Magazines can be a good source of reading material. My daughter eagerly awaited the monthly arrival of Highlights, Ladybug, National Geographic World, and, from the National Wildlife Federation, Ranger Rick ( Your Big Backyard is the version for younger kids). She felt very grown up getting her own magazines and we'd read each one as soon as it arrived. I chose these particular magazines because they contain no advertisements, and are exceptionally well-written (especially Ladybug, ages two to six, and later Spider, ages six to nine).

Additional Resources
Don't forget that your computer is a great resource for encouraging your young readers. FamilyEducation.com has games, printouts and teaching tools to help spark your kids' interest in reading. You might want to look at Reading and Writing Skill-Builders.

Suppose you've waited until your child is older and read to her daily, but she's still not reading. What then? For those homeschoolers who suspect there may be serious reading or comprehension problems, I recommend a consultation with a reading specialist. Homeschooling families are often able to have their child tested for free through the public-school system. One friend found her child's reading specialist listed in the phone book. Your child will be tested and you'll receive recommendations on how to correct any problems. 

Contact Reading Specialist: Jill Sousa - ardenreading@gmail.com

Article originally published by Familyeducation.com, May 15th, 2019

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

7 Tips for Parents to Help Struggling Readers

For parents, helping a struggling reader can be difficult. Remember that estimates of reading levels are not always accurate, so try this simple test at home: If your child can read 95% of the words in a selected paragraph within a minute, they’re doing well. If they struggle, use the infographic below and these 7 tips to help struggling readers succeed:
  1. Reading success is based on 5 factors: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Learn more about each factor to gain a better understanding of where exactly your child may be struggling.
  2. Encourage kids to read anything—even if it isn’t a book. Magazines, comics or websites can engage children, and shows them that computers and iPads aren’t just for games.
  3. Know your options as a parent. Ask the teacher for work that is at the student’s developmental level if homework is consistently too hard.
  4. Within reason, never say no to your young reader. If your child is excited about reading about dinosaurs, for example, don’t push him or her to read something else.
  5. Motivate by making connections to real-world outcomes so children realize reading is more than just a grade. For example, writing a letter to their favorite singer, or to grandma, allows young readers to find meaning in what they are doing.
  6. Focus on what your child CAN do. Build on his/her strengths. For example, fold spelling into another activity that your child enjoys to build a sense of competence.
  7. Keep it positive. If your child becomes upset or starts crying, reading will seem like a punishment and that time will not be productive. Rather than being intense, keep the mood light and upbeat and keep your eyes on the goal of enjoying reading.

To read the original article: http://cehdvision2020.umn.edu/cehd-blog/tips-to-help-struggling-readers/

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Making Vocabulary Personal

Work with words relevant to students' lives to help them build vocabulary. The more relevant new words are to students' lives, the more likely they are to take hold.

A great assignment that will keep your child interested while helping you learn more about them is the "Personal Alphabet Adjectives."  For each letter of the alphabet, the students find an appropriately descriptive word for themselves. Students elaborate on the word by writing sentences and creating an illustration. In the process, they make extensive use of the dictionary and thesaurus.

For the letter "H", my daughter describes her personality as sometimes "Hasty", illustrating the word with a sloppy drawing of herself wearing a mismatched outfit with messy hair. Her caption explains that she is "hasty" getting ready to go to school.

Try to make reading and writing personal, fun and expressive. Education doesn't have to be a chore, if you are willing to be creative. Think of it as an opportunity to turn a chore into a fun experience that the kids will remember.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to write a Personal Narrative Essay for 4th - 6th grade

Do you need help teaching your child how to write a personal narrative essay? Here is a short video that explains an easy way to organize and write a personal narrative essay. The story and worksheets come from the curriculum used at Arden Reading Academy, Step Up to Writing.

A personal narrative combines a report with a story. It will have an introduction and a conclusion. The body of the paper would be a story about an event or experience in your life or someone else's life

How to organize a personal narrative essay

Personal Narrative Essay Organizer

Getting Started

Step 1: Choose a personal story to tell.

Step 2: Choose a title.

Step 3: Use a graphic organizer to organize your thoughts into a beginning, a middle and in end.

Personal Narrative Essay Graphic Organizer

Step 4: Write the introduction.
You need to let the readers know what you plan to explain in a fun and creative way that grabs the reader's attention.

Step 5: Write the story.
Use your graphic organizer to write a personal narrative about something that has happened to you. Describe what happened in detail and explain how you felt and acted.

Step 6: Write the conclusion.

You need to remind the readers about your topic and message.  This is the last thing your readers will read, so make sure it leaves a lasting impression about the lesson you learned!

Sample Personal Narrative Essay

Personal Narrative Essay Sample

Personal Narrative Essay Writing Classes

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Narrative Essay Writing for Kid's 4th-6th Grades

This course is intended for elementary students who  have mastered the ability to plan and construct a narrative and expository essay with limited instruction.  The class motivates young writers by engaging them through the writing process as they answer specific writing prompts.

Class Times:
Tuesday 2:30 PM 
Wednesday 3:00 PM
Thursday 4:00 PM

Class Size:
 4-6 Students

Class Fee: $70.00


Homeschool Essay Writing for Kids 3rd-6th Grades

This course is for homeschooled students needing direction in the writing process.  Students will learn how to write a proper response to literature, personal narrative, narrative fiction, and expository essay.  They are taken step-by-step through the steps of the writing process (pre-writing, planning, drafting, editing, rewriting, revising) while working on the inclusion of proper syntax, grammar, organization, sequencing, word choice, dialogue, creative introductions, and strong conclusions.

Class Times:
Tuesday 9:30 AM

Wednesday 9:00 AM
Friday 10:30 AM

Class Size: 4-6 Students
Class Fee: $70.00

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Preparing for the Fourth Grade Writing Test

Each year students prepare for the California STAR Writing Test in early March. Students will need to be prepared to successfully write one of the three standards for writing: Narrative Writing, Summary Writing and Response to Literature. The student will not know the prompt until they open their test book.

The students writing is scored based on a standard “Rubric” (a standard of performance) of 1 - 4 points. Students must score a minimum of 2 points to pass the test. Every year parents seek out additional resources to help prepare their child for the test. In order to better how to pass the writing test with the highest possible score, parents should better understand what the standard is for scoring 4 out of 4 points on the “Rubric”

California Fourth Grade Writing Test Rubric Score of 4/4

  • Clearly addresses all parts of the writing task. 
  • Demonstrates a clear understanding of purpose. 
  • Maintains a consistent point of view, focus, and organizational 
  • Structure includes paragraphing when appropriate. 
  • Includes a clearly presented central idea with relevant facts, details, and/or explanations. 
  • Includes a variety of sentence types. 
  • Contains few, if any, errors in the conventions of the English language (grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling). These errors do not interfere with the reader's understanding of the writing. 

California Narrative Writing Test Rubric Score of 4/4

  • Provides a thoroughly developed sequence of significant events to relate ideas, observations, and/or memories. 
  • Includes vivid descriptive language and sensory details that enable the reader to visualize the events or experiences. 

If you feel that your child needs additional help to preparing for the writing test, seek out a credentialed teacher who specializes in writing and is familiar with the California Fourth Grade Writing Test and Rubric.

Writing Workshops & Writing Classes
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Write the Perfect Paragraph

A fun video to help your child learn how to write the perfect paragraph. An elementary school student at Arden Reading Academy shows you how she can write the perfect paragraph. She learned how to write the perfect paragraph at a Summer Writing Camp in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Register Today: http://www.ardenreading.com

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Choose the Right Reading Book

The 5 Finger Reading Test 

The 5 Finger Test is a great way to choose an appropriate level book for your child to read. The test provides you and your child a quick and easy method to evaluate the difficulty of a book. It is a quick test you can easily use in the library or book store before you make a selection or purchase.  
Here are the steps that you and your child can use to select a book: 
Open up the book to any page that you or your child wishes to read. Have your child begin reading aloud. As your child reads, count the number of words your child does not know or has a problem reading with your fingers. Now use the number of fingers to help you determine if this is a suitable book for your child to read on their own.  
0 -1 Fingers = This book is easy for your child to read. 
2 - 3 Fingers = Perfect choice - this book is just right for your child. 
4 Fingers = A little difficult yet can be fun for your child to try. You might want to assist your child when they read this book. 
5 or more Fingers = Challenging to read. An adult should read this book along with your child. 
It is terrific to see your child reading every word of a book. Nonetheless, you need to still continue to challenge your child along with books that they aren't able to 'breeze' through. 
Typically, if your child has a hard time with 5-6 words on one page, it is probably most ideal to leave that book for a later date or spend the time to read the book with them. If they are regularly getting 'stuck' on unknown or difficult words, they may get frustrated and discouraged.\