Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Prep

Every year I read and look at pictures and articles on having a stress free Thanksgiving. This year I made 3 frozen meals in advance so I can put them in the oven the day of the big event. I made two crafts looking at pinterest. When I say crafts, I refer to things that require no more than 3 items and I think a toddler can do it. :) I always clean the bathrooms, floors, and towels every Sunday, so I have been touching up today and saved a few touch ups for tomorrow. I cannot touch up all in one night like most articles would suggest; my living room cannot survive 10 minutes of cleanliness with 3 little kids age 5 and under. So tomorrow will be floor and bathroom touch ups again, right before the guests come so it can smell clean just in time for guests to arrive. My goal is to be as lazy as possible on the big day. 

Hamburgers and Writing Essays

Homework tips from Stowell Learning Center. Sign-up and receive more homework tips.

Sometimes trying to get a long paper written can feel like a forever process.

Writing can be VERY disjointed for some students. They know they have to write a page so they just start writing whatever pops into their mind. Ideas end up being repeated over and over or become a series of random thoughts.

Let's make this really concrete for students. Below you'll find an easy way for kids (and, actually, adults too) to look at a writing assignment and make it "real" in such a way that they are clear about how they will write.

This is really a "tasty" way to go about writing!

Here's to making this the best school year ever.
Can a Hamburger Help Your Child Write Better?

Taking something familiar from real life, can often help students to understand the big picture of what they are supposed to do.

There's a commercial on TV for a popular fast-food restaurant that shows someone eating a huge, juicy hamburger with all kinds of stuff - cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sauce, pickles - spilling out as he bites down. And the point is that this ISN'T any old boring hamburger, but this one is really juicy and special (a.k.a. messy).

We sometimes use the analogy of a loaded hamburger to help students understand how a multi-paragraph paper is organized.

The whole hamburger represents the overall topic or focus of the paper - what it's all about.

The top and bottom bun represent the introduction and the conclusion. These are the first and last paragraphs in the paper, and while they don't look exactly the same, they are basically made of the same stuff.

The top bun, or the introductory paragraph introduces the reader to the topic and gives just enough information to get the reader interested in reading on.

The concluding paragraph is like the bottom bun. It is the last paragraph and has basically the same content as the introduction. It restates and wraps up the topic.

Everything in between the introduction and conclusion - the meat and all the condiments - make up the body of the paper, each being a different key point. Each one gets its own paragraph (or paragraphs) to describe or explain it's overall contribution to the whole topic.

Try getting a large picture of a hamburger. Draw a line next to the top and bottom bun on the left hand side. Here, the student can put his ideas for the introduction and conclusion.

On the right hand side, draw lines out from the meat, cheese, tomatoes, etc. The student can jot down the key points of the paper on these lines in the order he wants to present them.

Using the hamburger as a guide, now he has a structure with which to write a paragraph or a simple multi-paragraph paper that will have an introduction, body/details, and conclusion.

Give it a try..and then maybe eat a hamburger for dinner!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homework Help for Struggling Readers

Here is a good tip for parents to help their struggling readers. You can get more ideas from Stowell Learning Center and sign-up to receive emails.

How do you handle homework while you're working on those skills? School doesn't stop and wait while your child builds the skills that others already have!
Below you'll find a resource that will help ease the burden of reading.
Audiobooks May Help Your Struggling Reader Keep up with the Class and Be More Independent

Does your child dread or avoid reading textbooks because the pages seem too dense, the chapters too long, or words too hard? Having textbooks on audio allows students to spend less time struggling with homework, and more time understanding and absorbing the material.

It also frees you up from having to do the reading for your struggling reader and helps your child be more independent.

Here are two resources available to schools and parents for a nominal yearly fee (may be free to schools) that will allow students with learning disabilities to access their textbooks on audio

Learning Ally:

Here's HOW to get the most out of audiobooks:
Have your child or teen read along in their textbook as they listen. Using their finger under the line of text may help them to keep their place and allows them to touch, see, and hear the words simultaneously.

This action helps students notice vocabulary, see how words look while accurately hearing them read, and increases attention and comprehension.

Research reported by Learning Ally states that students show the following improvement with the use of audiobooks:
Improved reading comprehension: 76%
Increased interest in reading: 76%
Improved reading accuracy: 52%
Increased self-confidence: 61%
Increased motivation: 67%
Audiobooks are a valuable resource and support for struggling readers.

It is important to recognize, however, that these resources do not correct the reading problem.

Most reading and spelling problems can be permanently corrected by identifying and developing the weak, underlying learning skills that are getting in the way of the student learning comfortably and efficiently.

Homework Help for Dyslexic Challenges, Awkward Letter Formation, Letter Reversals, and Spelling

Here are some great tips to help your struggling reader. You can sign-up for homework tips through Stowell Learning Center too.

Filling out worksheets is a breeze for some kids, but for those who find writing or spelling slow and laborious, a simple homework worksheet can take aaaallllll afternoon.

Students with graphomotor challenges (difficulty printing or writing in cursive) often find the lines on worksheets too short or too narrow for their uncoordinated and ballooning letters

If they are going to write legibly on the lines provided, they have to write each letter very intentionally and carefully, so even if they know the content, it will take them far longer than their friends to complete it. Often, kids with these kinds of challenges get overwhelmed and exhausted.

For students with dyslexic challenges, awkward letter formation, letter reversals, and spelling (which may have to be erased and corrected over and over) can make a simple worksheet seem to take forever, and the real learning in the assignment, the content, may become completely lost.

If your child fits one of these scenarios and your dining room table is the scene of nightly meltdowns over worksheets, you may want to get your child's teacher on board with the suggestion below.

Share the Writing
Tackling Worksheets When Writing or Spelling is Slow and Laborious

***Make sure you arrange with your child's teacher to use the following procedure.

Agree to have your student be responsible for writing the answers to a portion of the questions (for example, 2 out of 5), and then you (the parent) write the answers to the other questions as your student dictates.

This allows your child to take her time and write carefully and neatly on the items she writes, developing good habits.

It's important that students be responsible for part of the writing so that she knows that she is capable. She should know that the amount of writing she will do is being reduced so that she can focus on neatness and spelling.

Her best is expected!

Sharing the actual writing reduces the stress on students and allows her to focus more on the content. By having less actual writing to do, she can create better habits because she will not feel penalized by the amount of time it takes.

She will feel better about her work product because her own writing looks neater, and she might just have a little time left at the end of the day.

Homework help for Slow or Struggling Readers

Here are some great tips to help your struggling reader. You can sign-up for homework tips through Stowell Learning Center too.

Helping Slow or Struggling Readers Get Through a Textbook Chapter

Textbook chapters are typically divided into fairly short sections designated with a sub-heading. The student's job will be to start reading at the beginning of each section.

As soon as he gets tired, he is allowed to stop and the parent takes over until the end of the section.

Even if the student reads only one sentence, the expectation will be that he can read the text and will start reading again after each subheading. Knowing that he can stop when he's tired reduces the pressure.

Over time, as his reading or confidence improves, he will gradually tackle more reading on his own.

As your child does begin to read more of the section on his own, be sure to validate him for putting out the extra effort and the reading stamina he is building.

If he doesn't, on his own, begin increasing the amount he is reading, but you really believe that he can handle more, you might start gradually increasing the expectation.

For example, you might change the rule so that the student begins reading at each subheading and has to read at least 2 full sentences (or one sentence more than he is typically doing) before he can say he's ready for the parent take over.

An added tip for comprehension: After reading each section, stop and talk about it a little bit to solidify the key ideas.