Find out where in the world the Skyping Reading Tutor is. The skyping reading tutor volunteers in classrooms by reading books and motivating them to read. The Skyping Reading Tutor also has her own online reading tutoring company www.theskypingreadingtutor.com

Archive for the ‘Struggling Readers’ 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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How Not Being Able to Read Makes People Feel Less Than

Holes (novel)

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On Friday, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Mr. Snyder’s class in Dalmatia, PA.  He was the teacher last year that motivated his students to learn their spelling words, by putting money into a jar to buy a goat for a family in Africa.  They met their goal last year and were able to buy two goats.

Mr. Snyder is now teaching 4th grade and he has 11 of the same students that he had 2 years ago.  Those parents must be so excited.  Did you know that it can take a new teacher up to 3 months to figure out how a child can learn effectively?  Well, Mr. Snyder will not be needing to go through the learning curve with half of his students.

These amazing students are listening to the book Holes in their class.  Mr. Snyder had invited me into his classroom via Skype to read chapters 17 and 18 to his students.   Some of his students had prepared a summary of the book and information about the characters before I read to them.  They told me about the characters Stanley, Armpit, and Zero.

In chapter 18 Zero is looking over Stanley’s arm as he is writing a letter to his family and tells Zero, who he feels is a nothing, to stop doing that.  Zero asks Stanley if he can teach him to read, because he doesn’t know how to.  Stanley refuses because his life is just too busy digging holes and he doesn’t want to take the time to help him.

This part of the book made me reflect on how children who struggle with reading really do feel about themselves.  They feel less than, like everyone else is better than they are, and stupid.  Louis Sachar did a great job when developing the character of Zero, because it helps us understand about how people’s self concept of themselves shapes who they are.  Zero feels like a zero and a nothing and all he is asking for is a little help.

We don’t want our children feeling this way.  So, if your child is struggling, the help them now before their self concept becomes too low and the gap continues to get bigger for him/her.  Click on the video and hear an excerpt from this chapter.

 

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.

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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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.

Motivating Kids to Read

Category:Images of California

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Since I work with students in reading, I am always looking for that answer to what motivates children to read.  To be honest, I have learned that motivation is  completely an individual thing.  What motivates one child may not motivate another child.

I was thinking of the kinds of things that we do as educators to motivate kids to read.

  1. Have students read for 15 minutes a night for homework.
  2. Fill out incentive sheets and give our students free pizza or a trip to the amusement park.
  3. Take AR  or Reading Counts quizzes and get points for prizes.

I am sure the list can go on and on with these kinds of activities.  The truth is, this kind of motivation only works for some.  And what I am about to mention, might also only work for some.

Knowing your students and knowing great authors is going to be the best way (in my opinion) of figuring out how to motivate students to read.  Let me share a personal story to help illustrate this idea.

Right now, I have a little girl who just got a DSI for Christmas.  Reading is not very big on her nightly to do things after a long day of school, homework, and dinner with the family.  She wants to sit back, watch some ICarly and play on her DSI.  Who can blame her?  Certainly not I.   Heck, I totally understand that she needs some chill time.

Anyway, I struggle with that idea that my child should read 15 minutes every single night.  I don’t want my child to “have to” read, I want my child to “want to” read.  I don’t want my child to stop at 15 minutes because it is “homework”.  I want my child to continue reading because she is so engaged with her book that she doesn’t want to put it down.

So, in my household I never set a timer.  My kids may set a timer because it sounds fun to them to do so.  It is funny to see what they will do.  (My oldest daughter decided one day that she would read for an hour and kept stopping the timer when she finished a picture book to find a new one.  She didn’t want the time that it took selecting a book to eat into her time of reading for an hour.  This was a goal that she set on her own.)

Two of my girls have Six Hour Reading Club sheets to fill out for Great America.  I have to tell you, on the parent side, I really want my kids to earn these tickets.  It saves mom a lot of money and mom loves to go to amusement parks.  My oldest daughter didn’t want to find a chapter book and I have been trying to get her to fall in love with a series.  She is out of Junie B. Jones and Magic Tree House books and looking for something more sophisticated.

I was going to Skype with a class in Pennsylvania and another class in Louisiana simultaneously and read the BFG by Roald Dahl.  The book was sitting on my desk and my daughter found it and starting to share her enthusiasm about this book that her teacher was reading to her.  BAM!!!  I now knew what was going to motivate her.  Another book by Roald Dahl.  I happened to have a copy of James and Giant Peach and asked if she would be interested in reading it.  Not only was she interested in reading it, she went to bed, turned on her night light and read 4 chapters.  Most importantly when I asked her how the book was going for her, she said it was awesome.

Analyzing this situation, because that is what we do as teachers, I was thinking about what led to her enthusiasm to read this book.  It wasn’t really the Six Flags incentive.  (Although it was my incentive to motivate her to find a good book, LOL).  Here is what I came up with.

  1. A teacher who took time out of his day to do a read-aloud time with books that he loved by great authors.
  2. A team of teachers that shared the same excitement for the same book that invited a lady known as The Skyping Reading Tutor to read this great book to them.
  3. A little girl who could feel all this enthusiasm and be motivated to read another book by this author.

O.k. that is a pretty deep list.  Here is a simple list of some things that we can do inspire and motivate our students/children to read.

  1. Be a model of a reader
  2. Share great books with our students
  3. Talk about books with kids
  4. Be familiar with award winning authors
  5. Allow students to self select books
  6. Take your students to the library
  7. Have a great selection of books in the classroom or at home

This is just my opinion and experience as a Reading Specialist.  A true love of reading breeds motivation for kids to read.  Keep sharing your favorite stories with kids, your favorite series, your favorite authors.  It really makes a difference to the children in our lives.

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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