Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Readers Theatre Activities Build Reading Fluency

During an author assembly at Jefferson School in Paramount, CA, I invited 2nd grade teachers to perform for their students,  
a Reader's Theatre version of my book Creepy Crawly Bugs.
Rereading familiar text is one powerful way to increase fluency. Here is a quote by Timothy V. Rasinski from a book I highly recommend, The Fluent Reader (Scholastic 2003).
"Reader's Theatre is an authentic, entertaining, and educationally powerful way to read and communicate meaning. When implemented properly, it offers many opportunities for students to practice reading in multiple and meaningful ways. And we are gaining evidence from classroom research that reader's theatre yields improvments in students' word recognition, fluency, and comprehension."
Click the image below to download the Creepy, Crawly Bugs reproducibles. One is a Reader's Theatre script and the other is in poetry format to be included in students' Poetry Journals.
You can find reader's theatre scripts in many teacher resource books as well as on numerous websites. Or, adapt the books your students are reading to reader's theatre format.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ways Parents Can Support Writing at Home

  Encourage your child to put requests in writing!

As your beginning reader masters letter names and sounds, learns to read and spell some sight words, and begins to read simple text, you may want to nurture writing skills as well. Reading and writing are mutually supportive processes--growth in one area promotes growth in the other. There are many fun and engaging activities you can share with your child that will help him or her build writing skills. But first off, I would like to remind you that your child does not need to know how to print or spell perfectly before he or she starts to put thoughts and ideas down on paper. Children's written expression typically starts with pictures, then scribbles. Then random letters start to appear in the scribbles as they move into "temporary" or phonetic spelling in kindergarten and first grade. So, encourage and celebrate your child's every attempt at writing!

Miriam Darnell, a writing teacher, said, "I teach writing backward--the application of the skill before the perfection of the skill."

The secret to getting children to write is modeling. Engage your child in the many ways you use writing each day. Have your child help you write grocery lists, reminders on sticky  notes or to-do lists. Designate a writing spot in the house. Stock it with lots of fun writing supplies. Give each family member a mailbox and write messages to each other. Encourage your child to write requests such as wanting a special snack or inviting a friend over. (See an example of persuasive writing above.) Are you a scrapbooker? If so, have your child help you write captions for photos and mementos.

Reinvent the lost art of letter writing. Encourage your child to write a letter or postcard to a special relative each week. His or her writing skills will improve as a closer relationship is nurtured. One of my daughters would write to the tooth fairy when she put a tooth under her pillow. The tooth fairy would write back with sparkly ink!

Writing is greatly influenced by the reading we do. My son once wrote a hilarious list titled "100 Ways to Annoy People," after reading a book with a similar title. Many authors, me included, write new versions of Mother Goose rhymes or fairy tales. Your child can do this too!

Encourage your child to write in a diary or journal, especially when on a trip. Take photos of your child's favorite stuffed animals, put the photos in a blank book and invite your child to write a description or story about each one. What a wonderful keepsake this will be!

Not every child is going to love writing, but I hope I have suggested some real-life activities that will get your child going as a writer while having fun in the process.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More about music

I'm on a music kick lately. Cleaning my office resembles an archeological dig! I uncovered this quote:

"Music is one thing that stimulates and utilizes most parts of the brain. Both the right hemisphere and left hemisphere are involved because while one codifies lyrics, the other teaches melody."
                                                                                                                      T. Chauduri

In the classroom, try to have written versions of all the songs you sing available for free-choice reading. At home, include "sing-able" books in your child's library. If you can't find book versions of your child's favorite songs, create your own versions incorporating your child's artwork or photographs. These make lovely keepsakes as well.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Music Improves Brain Function

As I was cleaning off my desk this morning, I found this powerful quote from Richard Flowers:

Research proves children that use music to learn and have a background in music outperform their peers in all subjects. I tell my parents that using music to learn is like putting a hemi in your brain!

And here are 10 reasons to sing from Dr. Jean Feldman:

1. Music is multisensory. The more senses you use to reach the brain, the more likely the message will get there.
2. If children are exposed to concepts while singing, they will learn those concepts more easily when they are formally introduced.
3. Music nurtures phonological awareness such as alliteration and rhyme.
4. Music activiates the brain. It can be used as an "indicator" to help children know what to expect. It can also energize learning.
5. Songs and chants are a natural way to develop oral language, auditory memory, and fluency.
6. Poems and songs lay a foundation for common knowledge in the classroom.
7. Chidren are able to use their imaginations and create pictures in their brains when they sing. This is an important part of reading comprehension.
8. Repetition is a key to learning. Children will enjoy singing songs over and over again.
9. Singing and dancing relieve stress and oxygenate the brain.
10. Through music and movement, all children can feel successful. A "community of learners" is enhanced when teachers and children enjoy something together!