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Archive for the ‘3rd grade’ Category

How to Ask Questions to Increase Reading Comprehension

Snakes (M. C. Escher)

Image via Wikipedia

Why? Why? Why? Why? I watch a 4 year old in the afternoons and this is his absolute favorite question.  This isn’t the kind of question that I am referring to when asking questions to increase reading comprehension.

At the end of a story we are asked to answer some questions about what we just read.  But what if, instead of waiting till to end to find out if we understood what we read we used a self monitoring technique that helped us understand what we just read.

Yesterday, an amazing teacher with impeccable technology skills, Ms. Irene Kistler in San Antonio, Texas invited me into her classroom to enhance the students knowledge about snakes and incorporate the skill of asking questions when reading.  Her class was very knowledgeable about snakes and overall we all had a blast.

When teaching the strategy of asking questions, I always start with the first bit of information that I am given.  That is, the title.  The title is the best place to ask a question when I am reading non-fiction text.  Why you may ask?  Well, the whole book is about it so it gets us thinking about what might learn.  The title of our book yeasterday was Snakes, Long, Longer, Longest by Jerry Pallotta.  So I modeled  asking questions and came up with

  1. Which snake is the shortest?
  2. Which snake is the longest?

From that question the students made a prediction.  They were not sure about the shortest snake, but they thought possibly anacondas or the reticular pythons might be the longest.  The students that answered reticular pythons were correct.  Anacondas, by the way, are the fattest.  So our student that answered anacondas was not too far off.

As you continue reading your brain may automatically think of questions.  If this is you, then you are on your way to understanding what you are reading.  However, this may not be the case for you and you may need some guidance.  Before you begin reading check to see if your book has three pieces of information.

  1. Table of contents
  2. Glossary
  3. Index

These are the most natural places to build additional questions.  Turn each chapter in the table of contents into a question and write it down.  Next flip to the index and see the topics that will be taught in the book and turn some of these into questions.  Lastly, find the words in the glossary that you have never heard of before and turn that into a question.  What does ______ mean?  This will guide you as you are reading and make sure that you tune into the things that you do not know the answer to.  If you think you do know the answer, then when you are reading you get the joy of confirming whether what you thought you was correct is actually or learning new information that helps you understand something a little deeper.

It is amazing how many students I run into in the tutoring business that do not have enough exposure to non-fiction text.  I often hear that my child seems to read just fine, but has difficulty with reading comprehension.  The parents do not understand what to do.  Many times a student is reading on grade level with fiction text, but that is not the case with non-fiction text.  By teaching some of these simple strategies and putting them into action, you will be able to increase a student’s non-fiction reading comprehension level.  He/she needs to be taught how to think in a new way to retain the information that he/she is learning.

Thank you to Ms. Irene Kistler and her students in San Antonio, Texas for allowing me to come visit them in their classroom and do some learning with them.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time.

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Books Boys Love

Cover of "Everyone Poops (My Body Science...

Cover of Everyone Poops (My Body Science)

Parents often wonder how they can engage their boys in enjoying reading.  They are looking for books that aren’t too girly and that their sons will enjoy.  Therefore, it is no surprise that one of the biggest questions that I get is, “What books do you suggest for a __year old boy?”  This question has inspired me to make a list of books from my favorite book publishing company, Usborne Books and More.  Below you will find a list of books that tend to be boys favorites along with the age that they are appropriate for.

Boys tend to like books that fit into 6 different categories. Of course this is just a brief list of the most popular and not all inclusive.

  • humor
  • non-fiction
  • Suspense
  • Hands on
  • Sports
  • How to

Baby Boys 0-4

Animal Board Books

Noisy Touch Feely

That’s Not my Monster

Glug, Glug, Glug Bath Book

Lift and Look Board books – Books include topics about construction sites, tractors, trains, and dinosaurs

Boys Ages 4-6

Everyone Poops

Engaging phonics Readers

How Big is a Million

The Gingerbread Man

There’s a Mouse About the House

Very First Reading Program

Boys 7-10

Beginning Non-fiction Readers

Illustrated Stories for Boys – includes the following

The Masked Pirate
Robot Racers
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Jon and the Green Troll
The Tale of the Haunted TV
The Band of Robbers
Sinbad the Sailor
Victor Saves the Village
The Terrible Tidybot
The Story of Shiverham Hall
The Pesky Parrot
Sam and the Giants
The Tale of the Kitchen Knight
Attack of the Swamp Monster
Robot Robbery
Treasure Island

Jack Russell Dog Detective

The Team Series

Boys 10-15

Moby Dick

Tom Sawyer

David Copperfield

Conspiracy 365

These are some suggestions for boys to engage them and get them excited about reading.  Usborne Books has many many titles that boys love.  You can check them all out at www.popularbooksforkids.com.

This topic was discussed tonight as well on the Totoal Education Network, where I was a guest.  Check it out and learn what some of Neil’s favorite books for boys are as well.

Total Education Network Radio 08/18 by Total Tutor | Blog Talk Radio.

Reading On Grade Level in 3rd Grade: How is it related to high School performance and College Enrollments

Graduating seniors at Brown University in Prov...

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A new study has just been released that talks about the importance of reading at the proficient level by the end of 3rd grade.  You can access it hereReading on Grade Level in Third Grade: How is it Related to High School Performance and College Enrollment.  Basically the study began in 1996 and 1997 and tracked students all the way to college to see if reading levels could determine success in High School and College.  The answer to this question was definitely yes.  For whatever reasons, if a child is able to read on grade level or above by the end of third grade, they he/she will lead a higher quality life.  Isn’t this what we want for all of our students?

This is why I am so blessed to help these kids out when they need it.  As many of you know I just began working with a little girl in Australia and after 3 sessions she has already made remarkable progress.  Her mom IM’d me last night with this message,

Hi Joanne just had the most satisfing experience… Brooklyn is reading to her brother… Jack and the beanstalk… one thing she has never just picked up a book before and read it herself or been able to… she is not struggling ..she is able to read it with minamal help… wow I am too happy for words… after three sessions she is on the road to success THANK YOU…before the end of the year I can see with your help she will be up with or better than her class mates…wowohoo

This child is exactly the type of student that could have problems later on in life because of her reading level, but her mom decided to intervene and get her the help exactly when she needed it.  Brooklyn is in 2nd grade and making great gains.  As a result, she will be able to have a higher success rate later on in life. 

I had the opportunity to talk about some things that parents could do on the Total Education Network before intervention would be needed.  I give examples of games and activities that parents can play with their children.  However, if you have already tried these things and they just havn’t worked and you are out of ideas, then the wonderful news is that there are people who can help.  Getting help at the right time is pivotal to your child’s success.  Thanks for reading and listen to the tips on the Total Education Network.

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Vocabulary Building Strategies Walled Lake Michigan

A picture about the spring.

Image via Wikipedia

I was back in Walled Lake, Michigan again today.  I don’t know about you, but I am ready for Spring.  I can hear the birds and I am ready for the warmth.  I asked the kids in Walled Lake, MI today what they like best about the Spring.  Their answers included taking walks, riding bikes, and longer days.  I even had a little boy who goes fishing.  Some of the students live right on a lake.

The reason why we were talking about Spring was because we read the book Everything Spring by Jill Esbaum.  This is a National Geographic book that has some pretty amazing pictures in it.  It describes the weather, the outdoors, and baby animals.  What really brings my attention to this book is the ability to increase tier 2 vocabulary.  Beck and McKeown described three tiers of vocabulary back in 1988.  They described tier 1 words as words that everyone knows.  Tier two words are words that are what I like to call, juicy words.  Tier 3 words are content specific.

Some of the words in this book that I love are slumbering, tiptoes, nudges, unfurl, silken, and rippling.  These are what I like to call juicy words.  They are not words that we use in our everyday language and they are often the kinds of words that trip us up when we are reading.  They can confuse or they can clarify.

One of the strategies that I use when I am reading a book to a group of kids is to provide them with additional information about the words when I am reading them.  I finish the sentence and then I talk about the word to make it come alive.  In essence I am giving them more background information for them to understand the word.

Just by talking about words you can increase a child’s vocabulary.  However, a child needs to actually use a word 7 to 11 times on their own before it becomes a part of their vocabulary.  Therefore, it is important to get a child to use the word in their own contexts.

Currently I am tutoring a boy in Seattle whose main focus is on increasing his receptive and expressive vocabulary.  When we come across words that he does not know the meaning of we learn more about that word.  We go to dictionary.com for the definition, the synonym, and the antonym.  Then, we think of an example of when it would be appropriate to use this word.   We save these words on a PowerPoint and review them.  Then, I try to embed the vocabulary words into our conversations.  When a character is acting like one of the vocabulary words, I use complete sentences to explain that.

Take a listen to my skyping session with Ms. Bonds class to hear how I expanded on the vocabulary in the book.

Fun with Technology and Snow

the children's blizzard

Image by mhartford via Flickr

What an interesting day we had via skype!  The technology did not quite work the way I thought that it would, but wow, I sure learned a lot and some great teachers made connections today.  We tried to get 9 classrooms from around the United States and Canada to Skype all at once.  What amazing educators there are out there to dive into this fantastic endeavor.

I would like to personally thank all of the classrooms that were part of this historical call.

  • Ms. Shield’s 3rd grade class in Alpharetta, GA
  • Mr. Greenberg’s 2nd grade class in Bridgeport, CT
  • Ms. Elder’s 1st and 2nd grade class in Coronach, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Ms. Kidd’s Kindergarten class in Kernersville, NC
  • Ms. Bond’s Kindergarten class in Walled Lake, MI
  • Ms. Anderson’s 1st grade class in Missoula, MT
  • Ms. Griffith’s 3rd grade class in Linden, AL
  • Ms. Sheffield’s 2nd grade class in Linden, AL
  • Ms. Good’s 3rd grade class in Tescott, KS
  • Ms. Well’s 4th grade class Meriden, KS

There were other amazing classrooms that wanted to be a part of this call as well, but unfortunately there is a limit with Skype.

Have you ever had the experience that when something didn’t work you ended up learning a lot?  Well, that is definitely something that happened today for me.  I learned that when you are skyping with multiple classrooms you definitely want to make sure that you have one person designated as the speaker.  All other classrooms have to be muted, otherwise, you hear a lot of kid voices and it is hard for people to listen/present.

We also learned that you must have Skype 5.0 installed in order for other classrooms to see you.  If you do not have 5.0 installed you can still be a part of the call, just people will not be able to see you.  Another thing that I learned is that if you are not able to communicate with words, you can still communicate with the typing feature to at least let everyone know what is going on.  However, the way to get to the Instant Message feature is different for Mac users and PC users.  PC users have a speech bubble and Mac users have an arrow with a box.

To sum up what I have learned today about group calls;

  1. Everyone must have 5.0 installed
  2. All users must mute their mic to listen
  3. All users must unmute their mic to talk
  4. Mac Skype and PC Skype looks different
  5. If there are problems use IM to communicate

A sincere thank you goes out to all of those classrooms that were brave today and trying out this feature.  It was definitely a wonderful learning experience for me and many others.

There were a couple of classrooms, that really wanted to skype today and after 25 minutes of it not working they still wanted to get together with another class and make it happen.  I ended up getting the opportunity to Skype with Ms. Giffith’s 3rd grade class and Ms. Bond’s Kindergarten class simultaneously.  Ms. Griffith’s class is in Linden Alabama and they hardly get any snow.  It is a rare occasion for them and when they get snow they can definitely appreciate it’s beauty.  Ms. Bond’s class is on the other side of Lake Michigan from me in Walled Lake, MI.  They ended up getting hit with 9″ of snow from the blizzard that just got Wisconsin earlier this week.  So , they were well in tune with the wonder of snow.

Next week, we are going to try this group skyping thing again, but with just five classrooms instead of nine.  We definitely knows that it works with three classrooms and we are slowly going to build up to a large group as time goes on.  Until then, stay warm and have fun!

Take a look at a brief clip of our large group Skype.

What is a blog

Aerial view of Kansas City, Kansas, looking so...

Image via Wikipedia

I had the most interesting conversation with a group of 3rd graders in Tescott, Kansas this morning.  Our conversation turned into the different things that we read today.  I started mentioning the many different things that I read such as books, ebooks, blogs, e-mails and texts.  When I mentioned blogs, one of the students asked what blog is. So, I started explaining what a blog is and then I remembered that I write a blog.  It is really funny when I remember that I write a blog, you will have to watch the video.

So, I start to tell the students about my blog and how I write about the interactions that I have with schools through Skype and reading in their classrooms.  When I mentioned that they would have to read about themselves on my blog, they thought that was pretty cool.

As an educator it donned on me that even though our students are born into this decade of technology, they don’t always know what all of it is for or how to use it.  I have learned how to use these tools on my own since they did not exist when I went to school, but I think back on it and realize how much easier it would have been if someone had taught me how to do it.  I not only love writing on my own blog, but I also love reading other people’s blogs and responding to them.  I think that it is so cool that we can communicate with people from all over the world through simple tools like blogs and Skype.  I absolutely love it!!!

Check out the video to see this amazing group of students.

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