Monthly Archives: July 2010

Foster a love of reading

How can I help my child learn to read?

The best way to help your child learn to read is to first help them develop a love for reading. Don’t force it! If you make reading tedious, your child is not going to enjoy reading.   This will start a vicious cycle.  If they don’t enjoy reading they most likely aren’t going to be that interested in doing it.   We all know practice makes perfect!   Have you ever found yourself re-reading the same sentence for the third time. It was probably some piece of writing that didn’t interest you. So make reading fun for your child and they’ll be a better reader.

Here are some fun ways to encourage reading:
Audio books. Audio books are great for comprehension! Pop these in on a long car trip and it’s fun entertainment for the entire family. You might also consider getting the audio book and the actual print copy. Have your child listen to the audio book as they read along in the print copy. This reinforces the words being read aurally. You can often find these as a CD/book set already.  If there’s a book your child really wants to read that doesn’t come in a set, get the two parts separately and make your own.

Family members record books. Have different family members record themselves reading a book or have them read a book to your child via webcam.

Family Pets and Stuffed Animals. It can be intimidating to have to read a book out loud to an adult, especially if you know they are going to correct every mistake you make. So encourage your child to practice reading to the family pet or their favorite stuffed animal. They’ll be much more relaxed because everyone knows Fido can’t read so he definitely can’t say you read that word incorrectly. If your child really gets into this, dedicated programs with trained reading dogs are often found at your local library. Check with them or on the Internet to find these opportunities locally.

Magazines, Newspapers and Comics. Let your child read all forms of print. Kid-friendly magazines, newspapers and comics are all forms of print and may just be the format to hook your child on reading.

Library card. Allow your child to get their own public library card. Getting to check out your own books on your own card is a big deal for a kid and a sure way to foster reading. Also, don’t force your child to only check-out books they can read by themselves. Sure, it’s great practice to get a book or two that is at their reading level, but their interest may also be sparked by a more difficult book. Let them get one of these books and then use it as a read aloud book before bedtime.

Nonfiction. Nonfiction isn’t evil. We’ve been trained to think that kids only like storybooks. Kids do love a good story, but they are also naturally curious about their world. Nonfiction is a great way to hook a reluctant reader. Publishers are doing a much better job nowadays of publishing nonfiction text that is at an appropriate level for younger children. Ask your librarian to help you find these.


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Fun alphabet activity!

Just found this great idea for an outdoor activity that builds on letter recognition.  Check out Amy’s idea at Serving Pink Lemonade.  You could extend it further to work on sound recognition too.  Instead of calling out a letter, call out a sound.

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Filed under 3 Year Olds, 4 Year Olds, 5 Year Olds, Activities


What is C.G.I.?

At some point in your child’s education you will hear the term C.G.I.  No, Kindergarten may have changed drastically from when you were little, but they are not learning how to develop computer generated imagery. We’ll leave that to the experts at Pixar.  Here it means Cognitively Guided Instruction. Whoa!   Okay, to put it simply, it’s another way to teach math.

When you and I were growing up, the teacher likely taught arithmetic in the traditional format with algorithms that couldn’t be altered. You had to demonstrate two digit addition by carrying the one into the tens place, etc. We were forced to make connections to mathematical symbols like +, -, = and so forth before making connections to real world problems. Meaning that we had to learn that 2 + 2 = 4 before we thought about the fact that if I had two Barbies and my friend had two Barbies, that meant we had four Barbies altogether. C.G.I. instead allows kids to connect to their world first and then gradually make the connections to the mathematical symbols when they are developmentally ready.

C.G.I. also requires that the teacher listen to the child verbalize how they solved a math problem and use that information to guide their math instruction. Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for. They can figure out how to solve a multi-step math problem or a multiplication problem.   They may not use formal algorithms but they can solve their problems and explain how they did it!

Still confused? Let me explain how C.G.I. looked in my Kindergarten classroom. The class was given a story problem on a small sheet of paper.


Paul has 3 pieces of candy. James has 5 pieces of candy. How many pieces of candy do they have altogether?

We would paste this problem in our math journals. Then students were given a math toolkit to use to solve this problem if they wished. The beauty of C.G.I. is that students can work at their own developmental level to solve the problem.   Toolkits contain a variety of math manipulatives to help solve the problem, such as unifix cubes, teddy bear counters, bean counters, etc.   Yet, if they didn’t need a concrete visual representation to solve it, they could draw a picture in the journal. As the students were solving the problem, I, as the teacher, would walk around the room helping where needed and identifying student’s strategies. After a set amount of time, I would have several students using a variety of  strategies show their method for solving the problem to the class. This helped them verbalize their thinking and showed other students different ways to solve the problem. At the end, we would write the problem into the formal algorithm.    3 + 5 = 8

There are several types of story problems that your child will learn throughout the year including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Some of these may even require several steps.  Basic addition and subtraction story types include:   Result Unknown 3 + 2 = __    Change Unknown- 3 + ___ = 5 Start Unknown- ___ + 2 = 5

At the beginning of the year, your child’s math time may consist of free exploration time with the math manipulatives. It may seem like playtime but this time is very important. At first, teddy bear counters will seem like toys to five-year-olds. Therefore, the teacher gives them time to basically get the “playing” out of their system. This way when it’s time to actual use these counters as tools in math, your child will have already made patterns, sorted them, made them talk, etc.

Now that I know, what do I do?

Create your own. Make up your own story problems using family members, neighbors and friends. Allow your child to create some as well. Use everyday household items for your child’s math toolkit and be sure to challenge your child with all types of story problems. Don’t get hung up on writing 2 + 2 = 4. It’s important that your child learns this eventually but first give her the chance to explain how she solved a problem in other ways.

Things to consider:

It’s never to early to practice math story problems as these will be on state assessments in years to come.

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Separation Anxiety

My child has separation anxiety and I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye on the first day of school.   How can I help her handle the transition to Kindergarten?

All children are different and so all will react to their first day of Kindergarten differently.  Some are ready to go without hardly a second look over their shoulder to mom.  Some are clingy and tearful.  Several weeks before Kindergarten starts, prepare your child by talking about Kindergarten. Explain the routine (dad drops off, mom picks up, daycare, etc.) and be sure to be positive. You might even want to share what you remember about your Kindergarten experience.  Don’t worry though, your child’s Kindergarten teacher will be prepared for children who have a hard time saying goodbye to mom.  

So what to do if your child is upset? I know it’s hard to see but take it from one who has been on the other side of things.   Stay calm, give a kiss goodbye, a few reassuring words and then leave.  Hanging around or trying to sneak out when your child isn’t watching will only make the situation escalate.   Call the teacher later that day to check on your child.  You will probably also want to wait until your child is settled into the routine before going up during the day to have lunch with them. 

Develop a goodbye routine. Children thrive on the predictability of routines. Have something short and simple that you do to say goodbye, a special saying, a kiss, a hug, etc. You might also consider putting a family photo in your child’s backpack or lunchbox so they can be reminded at some point that they will soon see their family that loves them.

Picture Books. A few weeks before Kindergarten read books about the first day of school.  Also consider reading books that deal with saying goodbye like The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

Be calm yourself. Even if you are nervous about your child’s first day of school, don’t let your child notice. At the school where I taught Kindergarten they had something called the Boo Hoo Breakfast. After dropping off their children at school, all Kindergarten mothers met in the cafeteria to console each other. If your school doesn’t have something like this, organize one yourself, call your mom on the way to work, have coffee with your friends at Starbucks or have lunch with your husband. Just don’t let your child think there is a reason to be nervous.  Children read your emotions well so be careful.

Most of all, be patient!   Your child won’t be tearful everyday of their Kindergarten year.  Soon she’ll giving you a quick kiss goodbye and skipping into the classroom! 

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Show and Tell

What types of items are appropriate for my son to take for show and tell?

Ah, Show and Tell. A time all children adore but not all teachers.  Help your child’s teacher out and follow these rules for show and tell. Believe me, she’ll love you for it.

1. While I wasn’t huge fan of show and tell as a teacher, I always made sure to incorporate it throughout the year because it helps kids work on their speaking and listening skills. This may not seem like a big deal but this is a huge part of the Kindergarten curriculum. Show and Tell allows children to learn how to speak in complete sentences, not interrupt, ask questions, answer questions, develop vocabulary and listen to others.

2. Don’t allow your child to bring anything extremely precious, something that might break or something that someone will want to “borrow.” I know that severely limits what your child can bring but these things happen more frequently than we’d like. Try to find something that fits these categories and you’ll have a much happier child and teacher.

3. Practice with your child what they will say to describe their object to the class. Prepare a few sentences about this object and then practice asking and answering a few questions. The better prepared your child is the more smoothly Show and Tell will go. Again, this makes for a happy teacher!

4. Follow the Show and Tell rules set by your child’s teacher, which likely include allowing your child to bring a toy or special item on that day only. Your child should not be in the habit of keeping toys in their backpack. It may seem harmless but it will ultimately end up becoming a huge distraction at some point in the day. They will try to convince you to let them bring it by promising that it will stay in their backpack. In truth they most likely will get it out of their backpack, which could cause it to get lost, become broken or become a distraction. Even if they don’t get it out of their backpack, many will ask frequently if they can get it out or check on it, which again is a distraction.

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Providing Support

What can I do to support my child during their Kindergarten year?

Routines! Routines! Routines! Have routines and stick to them as much as possible. Of course you will have nights when you can’t avoid a change in the routine for whatever reason, but do your best to keep your child’s schedule consistent and predictable. Try your best to have an early bedtime.   Tape a favorite TV show if you must, but the more sleep your child receives the better they will be able to focus on learning, having fun and just being a kid.

Remember the seemingly little things. Little things can be very BIG things to five and six year olds. Help your child remember their library book on their assigned day. Better yet, once you’ve read it as a family put it back in his backpack. This way you never have to worry about forgetting that it’s “Library Day” and can avoid the wrath of your child as they come home with their hand on their hip because they weren’t allowed to check out a book.  Also be sure to read every bit of communication that comes home from your child’s teacher and school. This way you’ll remember things the teacher asks for like the shoebox for a Valentine’s Day mailbox or money for a school t-shirt. Believe me, you’ll hear about it from your child if you forget, but it’s much easier to mark it on your calendar and get it taken care of on time. Your child will appreciate it!

Attend parties and special events if possible. These are big deals to a small child. Make every effort possible to attend, even if you can’t stay the entire time. Yes, your child will have to learn how to deal with disappointment in life but try to make it something like not making the football team or having to miss a campout because of Grandma’s birthday party. If you are absolutely unable to attend, find a representative who can come in your place or have a frank conversation with your child explaining why you can’t come to this event.

Help your child gain independence. Independence is the name of the game in Kindergarten, so it’s important that you try to foster this in your child. Consider only walking them to class for a short time and then seeing if they can do it on their own. If they’re not comfortable with this, try taking baby steps. Walk them to their hallway, then the front of the school and finally drop them off outside. If you do decide that walking them to class is best for your child, allow them to hang up their backpack and complete any morning routines that the teacher has by themselves.

Good breakfast. Make sure they eat a healthy breakfast and one that will stick with them until lunch. If you feel rushed in the morning and don’t feel you have time for more than a Pop Tart, check with the cafeteria. Many schools now provide breakfast. Of course, a healthy lunch and snacks go along with this.  Tip: If your child does buy breakfast and/or lunch at the cafeteria be sure to check their account balance often. It’s not unusual for your child to be served a sandwich if their account goes into the negative. Many school’s have an option to add money to your child’s account online. Check with your child’s cafeteria service to find out their policies.

As always, Read! At the risk of sounding like a broken record, read to your child. Really this is simply one of the best things you can do for him now that will have positive results his whole life long.

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Will my child have homework in Kindergarten?

Most likely. Each Kindergarten teacher will have her own opinion as to how much and how often. This would be a great question to ask during Open House/Meet the Teacher nights if the teacher doesn’t address it.  As we’ve mentioned before, Kindergarten has truly changed from the days of art projects and snack time. While those are, of course, still an important part of a Kindergartener’s day, they will also be learning how to read, how to write, basic math skills and various other things about their world and community. In order to reinforce these skills and solidify the foundation for reading, writing and math that your child builds during their first year of school, some form of homework will likely be sent home.

At some point in the fall your child will begin reading groups. The exact start date of these reading groups will vary from school to school and possibly even classroom to classroom. In these groups the teacher will instruct students at their individual reading level and send home small readers for practice. It’s important when these readers come home that you have your child sit and read the book with you. The reader sent home will almost always be the book they practiced with their teacher that day. In the beginning of the year, it may seem as though your child has just memorized the book. They have! Good news is that this is the first and critical step on the path to independent reading.  Before you know it they’ll be decoding words and reading increasingly harder material. However, they need to have an opportunity to read this book several times with you and anyone who will listen.  This includes the family dog, their favorite stuffed animal and grandma on the telephone. Your child may also receive other forms of homework, though it likely won’t amount to much more than a math practice sheet or a writing activity more than a couple times a week.

Periodically throughout the year you will also be given a take home project of some sort. Examples include: finding show and tell items that start with a particular letter, decorating a sheet of paper to introduce your family, interviewing family members to find out about your heritage, researching a favorite animal, as well as many other fun projects designed to get the whole family involved. Teachers usually give you several days or a weekend to finish these types of projects.

While it may seem strange for five-year-old to be assigned homework, remember that homework should be a quick activity designed for additional practice on a skill. Try to make it fun and painless! If possible incorporate it into after school routines. After a snack and a little time to unwind from a busy day (or however it best fits in your family’s daily schedule), encourage your child to get out their take-home folder and bring any homework they have to you.  Make sure you have time to sit down without distractions to help them. Before you know it the homework will be done, and your child may have even enjoyed it!

Remember, whether your child comes home with an actual worksheet or not, you always have homework!! READ to your child every night and make it part of their evening/bedtime routine. Not only is it fun but it will also set your child up for a lifetime of reading enjoyment!

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