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Archive for the ‘Reading Tutoring’ Category

How to Ask Questions to Increase Reading Comprehension

Snakes (M. C. Escher)

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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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Is Summer Learning Loss in Reading a Concern for you?

Our children work so hard over the school year, there has to be some time for fun in the summer, right?  Absolutely!  However, we also have to make sure that summer time, fun time, and learning time make a connection.  The number one question I get asked all of the time is what should I do to make sure my child doesn’t have a summer learning loss in Reading.

Most people would think that it is to just read.  Fair enough, but we also want to make sure that they are having fun and there are a ton of ways to motivate kids to read in the summer.  One way is to join a summer enrichment program at your local library.  Your child will be rewarded for reading books and be given prizes and tickets to local fun places. The local library will also have fun programs that your child can take part in and grade level appropriate book clubs.

Another place that you can log your reading minutes for fun is Scholastic’s Read for the World Record.  Last year students all over the world read for 4,031,939 minutes.  I like that kids are working together to beat the world record.  Schools that work together for this goal get featured in the 2012 Scholastic Book of World Records.

PBS Kids also has a summer reading challenge.  If you submit your e-mail they will give you great tips over the summer to keep your child reading.

Why read over the summer?  Is it really that important?  Yes, it is.  Did you know that 50-67% of the achievement gap is due to “summer reading loss”?  Reading over the summer has proven to be a prevention to summer reading loss.  Students who choose not read or are not guided/motivated to over the summer are two years behind their classmates by the time they enter 6th grade.  In this day and age with budget cuts, schools do not have the resources to provide reading interventions for all of the students that are behind.  Thank goodness there are useful tutoring companies out there that can help.

It is great to know that in this wonderful day and age that students do not just have to read chapter books in order for reading to count.  Students can immerse themselves with a variety of different sources for their reading pleasure.  For example, kids can read

  • magazines
  • e-books
  • Recorded books
  • Graphic novels
  • Blogs
  • Author Websites
  • Recipes
  • Science experiements

Choice is a huge influence in motivating children to read, so the more choices they have the better.  Never make it seem like your child needs to read, just present the opportunities for them to read.  As a parent one of the things that I do is go to rummage sales, pick out books that I know my kids will like and put them on their bed as a little surprise.  The other day my daughter picked up one of these books and started reading it.  She is on the final chapter.

Keep your kids reading and enjoy the summer with the most precious people in your world. For some additional ideas listen to Joanne Kaminski on the Total Education Show.


Total Education Show Parent Experts Ask Questions 05/12 by Total Tutor | Blog Talk Radio.

Learning About Australia in Texas and Wisconsin

Good Day Mate!  These were the first words that my 2nd grade student I work with in Australia said to me.  It was so cute and so wonderful, I think that I will remember it for the rest of my life.

The day that I began working with Brooklyn was actually a day that my whole life changed.  I began to realize that I really can work with any student from around the globe and help them improve their reading ability.  As I listened to Brooklyn read, I was able to tell exactly what she was missing in her reading instruction and today I provide it for her all from the comfort of my home. My tutoring company has officially launched into an International status.

I am able to work with Brooklyn on Friday nights at 6:00 or 7:00 my time and it is 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning on Saturday.  I joke with Brooklyn and ask her how the future is.  At first she was confused, she probably still is a little bit, but she is beginning to understand that when I go to bed her day has really just began.

Today I was in Ms. Bright’s classroom in San Antonio, Texas and guess what?  They just happened to be studying about Australia.  It was really cool to learn more details about Australia as I was preparing for this visit.  The most amazing fact for me is that there are only 18.3 million people that live there.  That is the same amount of people that live in New York.  However, it is as large at the United States.  Therefore, it is a much less populated country than the United States.

The students in Ms. Bright’s class prepared some great questions for Brooklyn.  We are going to see if we can get Brooklyn and her mom to share some answers in the form of a video that we can send to Ms. Bright’s class.  Their wonderful questions were the following:

  1. What is Christmas time like in Australia?
  2. Does Brooklyn like to read?
  3. What kinds of books does Brooklyn like to read?
  4. What is life like in Australia?

To see what our experience was like today, click on the video below. 

Reading Acceleration Star Student

Each month I will be featuring a star student that has made exceptional progress on his or her reading level.  This is Julia and she has definitely made some amazing progress in her reading ability.

Back in October of 2010 Julia’s mom gave me a call because her daughter seemed to not be reading as fast as the other kids in her grade level.  She had mentioned that she had received Reading Recovery instruction in 1st grade, but for whatever reason it didn’t help her get to grade level.  She had mentioned that the teachers thought she was reading at a Kindergarten level in 2nd grade.

As any parent would feel, this is devastating news.  No one wants to hear that their child is performing significantly below grade level.  Julia’s mom found one of my advertisements and gave me a call.

After the call, we set up a time for a free assessment.  I found that Julia was a very confident little girl who enjoyed reading.  Her mom had mentioned that she was usually reluctant to read and was afraid of failing.  Essentially her morale and self-confidence were at stake.  (Which is the case for most students that are struggling with reading).

Julia had a burning desire to read the books that her peers were reading.  She set a wishing goal of being able to read Frog and Toad Books and Junie B. Jones books.  At the time I felt that the Frog and Toad goal could be met by November and that she could meet the Junie B. Jones goal by January.  Some people may have seen this as very tough goals to reach since Julia was only reading with me for one hour a week, but what I do is more than just reading tutoring.  I provide reading accerlation.

You may be asking what the difference is between reading tutoring and reading acceleration.  Reading tutoring can be provided by anyone who has more knowledge in reading.  It could be an older student, a college kid, even a past teacher.  All of these people may be qualified to provide reading tutoring.  This is really helpful if a student is only a few months behind grade level.  However, when a child is 1 or more grade levels behind their peers, then they need reading acceleration.  This is something that is going to help a child move very quickly in a short amount of time.  This entails deliberate teaching with a great foundational knowledge of the reading process.  Reading acceleration can be performed by someone who has knowledge of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary development.  Also, reading acceleration needs to be performed by someone who can build a report with kids quickly.  If a child likes you and trusts you, then he/she will work very hard for you and make significant gains.

So, back to Julia.  Julia met each of her goals.  She was reading Frog and Toad books by November and has just finished her 2nd Junie B. Jones book right on schedule.  She was able to start the first one in January just as planned.

When I started working with Julia she was a very confident little girl.  She has now built on that confidence and her teachers have informed her mom that she is reading on grade level.  Julia was a student that needed acceleration vs. tutoring and she got just that.  She always has a smile on her face and is willing to read whatever is put in front of her.  She is going to continue reading with me over the summer to ensure that she is not effected by summer slide.  When she is in 3rd grade she will be able to read whatever her peers are reading and take the WKCE in November without a problem.  I foresee that this little girl that was pronounced to be reading 2 grade levels below her peers will be proficient on this test.  All of the students that I have worked with have fallen into the proficient range regardless of where they started when I began working with them.

I am so proud of Julia and the amazing progress that has made and will continue to make.  It is because of smiling faces like hers that I continue to do what I love to do best.  Teach kids how to read.

Snowy Day and Kids Still Learn to Read

Skype Technologies S.A. logo

Image via Wikipedia

Today in Southeastern WI we are in the middle of a snowstorm.  Now snowstorms are usually something that keeps kids indoors and safe.  Many kids will miss out of school and have to make up the school time later on.  When it comes to tutoring, there is no way someone is going to travel in a blizzard so that their child can get better at reading.

Well, all of my students were safe today and had a tutoring session with each of them.  How can that be?  Well as many of you know I do all of my tutoring online using Skype.  Skype allows me to see the students and for the students to see me.  Skype allows my students and I to share a screen and read with one another.  We can work on individual words that kids are struggling with, read books, talk about books, and increase their fluency skills all from the comfort of our homes.

This is a difficult concept for many people to grasp since the technology to do this is very new.  But, the important thing is does it work?  Many people worry about that one on one time not being meaningful or they see the computer as a cold way to work with children.  Do children view it this way?  I think not.  In fact, I am normally able to raise a student’s reading level in the first 3 months a full year.  That is with only 12 hours of instruction.  (Sylvan claims that they can raise reading levels a whole year with 32 hours of instruction).  On the computer, I have been able to raise reading levels a whole year with just 8-12 hours of instruction.  Kids find this kind of learning motivating and any way that is motivating and works is something that we need to continue to do.

Tutoring online is also a much more affordable way for parents to support their children in reading.  With the rise in gas prices, parents no longer need to travel back and forth to a tutoring center.  Also, some tutors offer specials like free evaluations and progress reports that Sylvan will charge heavily for.  If you are serious about getting help for your child in the area of reading, then check out tutoring companies that offer this kind of service.  My company is called Bright IDEA Reading and you can find out more information at http://www.theskypingreadingtutor.com.  Enjoy the weather wherever you are and stay safe!

 

Finding the Right Reading Tutor

reading_book

Image by mcmrbt via Flickr

Whether you are a parent that is looking for the right tutor for your child or a teacher looking for the right tutor for a student, it is important to know that not all tutors are right for students with reading difficulties.  When you look out on the web you will find a host of people who think that they can tutor children in all subjects simply because they have graduated from high school or college.  Even tutoring companies will hire people who simply have graduated from high school or college.  Is this the right fit for a child that is struggling with reading?  In most cases the answer is no.  When we go to the doctor, most of us don’t ask for the least qualified person to see us.  We want the best and most qualified.  It is the same thing when we are looking for the right reading tutor for our child.

A qualified reading tutor usually has a specialty degree from an accredited college or university.  These people have studied and worked with children struggling with reading and know how to identify areas of need that a student is struggling with.   Here are some basic questions that you will want to ask the reading tutor before he/she begins working with your child.

  1.  What type of degree do you have?
  2. How long have you worked with students?
  3. What has your success rate been working with students in reading?
  4. Do you teach a certain reading program?
  5. How do you feel about phonics vs. whole language?

A great reading tutor will let you know that he/she does not teach reading programs that are a one size fits all approach (like Sylvan).  They will tell you that they will personally assess your child to find out exactly what his/her strength and weaknesses in reading are and teach where the instruction is needed.  This may sound like a no brainer in most cases, but you would be surprised in the amount of people that put their faith in reading programs that do not meet individual children’s needs. 

When it comes to the whole phonics vs. whole language thing you really want to look for a reading tutor that does not take sides on this debate and instead incorporates a much more balanced approach.  Most of the time that the tutor spends with your child should be directly in relation to reading.  It shouldn’t be ridden with worksheets and lengthy phonics lessons and it also shouldn’t be ridden with reading tons of books that the reading tutor needs to provide all of the words to the child in order for the child to be successful.  It should incorporate quick mini lessons when needed and tons of on level reading. 

You will also want to find a tutor that is passionate about tutoring.  Children that are struggling with reading do not respond to all people the same when it comes to learning.  They need highly passionate and highly knowledgeable people at their disposal.  They need to trust the person that they are working with and most of all they must like working with the tutor.  Building report is an extremely important part of working with children who struggle with reading because the reading tutor is asking the child to do something that is the last thing in the world that they want to be doing. 

Our struggling readers deserve the best when it comes to getting the support that they need.  Make sure that you are giving them the most knowledgeable, educated, and passionate people who care about making a difference in their life.

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