Post Tagged with: "tips"

In-car literacy activities

carHere are some good ideas to help boost your child’s literacy without leaving the back seat. (Them, not you. You’re driving. Hands on the wheel!)

The post also has ideas for apps and in-car activities for kids.

From Scholastic.

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Baseball books for a baseball kid

Baseball books for a baseball kidMy son had run out of books. Already read the new Rick Riordan. Finished his school-assigned books. Bored of reading.

I needed to rekindle his interest in reading, but how?

I looked to his main hobby–nay, obsession–baseball.

I’d already done something I thought was pretty darned clever. I found a couple of novels written by former baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. (Super-sized Slugger and Hothead). My son loved them because not only were the protagonists his age and baseball players, but the novel was written by a baseball player so it was authentic. It spoke his language.

He read them and loved them. But after that, I was tapped out.

So I went to the library and asked the librarian if she knew any baseball novels.

She did. In fact, one of her favourite books as a young girl was E. L. Konigsburg’s About The B’nai Bagels. It’s the story of a kid whose mother ends up being his baseball team’s manager. (Awwwkward.)

She put that one one hold for me and while it was working its way toward my library branch, she ferretted out a couple more: Haunting at Home Plate by David Patneaude and Throwing Smoke by Bruce Brooks.

My son loved them!

So there’s the idea for you. Think about your kid’s hobbies and then talk to a librarian. It can be kind of hard to Google these things, because you’ll get all manner of how-to books, instructionals… but those librarians, man, they know stuff. Tell them what your kid’s into and before you know it she’ll find you something amazing.

That’s what happened for me.

 

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Keeping kids reading all summer

dock sepia; Image: kiwiowner, Wikimedia Commons

Image: kiwiowner, Wikimedia Commons

Studies show that kids who read during the summer jump back into school with a head-start.

Kids who take the summer off (reading, that is), often tend to find September a bit of a struggle.

So for all kinds of reasons, it’s good to keep your kid reading during the summer.

Some of my best memories are of going to the tiny library near our cottage and loading up with a week’s worth of books.

But what if your kid isn’t a super-voracious reader?

Here are some tips:

* See if your library has a summer reading program. Here’s an example. They typically bundle reading incentives into the program – it works! And if you live in Canada, here’s a link to TD’s summer reading club.

* Plan on a quick trip to the library at least once a week. Even if your kid takes out one book, it’s worth it.

* Use books on CD (or MP3) to replace TV time.

* An ebook by the dock? Why not? (Just don’t drop the Kindle in the water…)

* Outdoor time can be reading time. Check out this outdoor literacy suggestion for active kids.

* Alternative reading material counts! Comic books, magazines, ebooks, books on CD… all better than mind-numbing video games.

* Buy your child a book, wrap it up, and hide in in their bed as a bedtime surprise. It’s not a school night, so sure you can stay up and read for a while longer!

* If you’re really serious about breaking some rules for a good cause, include a flashlight with the book you give your child. They’ll figure out pretty quickly that it’s fun to “fool your parents” into thinking you’re sleeping, when you’re really reading in bed with a flashlight. (Of course, you’re one step ahead of them.)

 

 

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Help your child understand what he’s reading

Chocolate_chip_cookies; photo by Dan Smith, Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Dan Smith, Wikimedia Commons

I was talking to a mom today about a child who is having some trouble with reading comprehension. In other words, he reads a paragraph and has trouble understanding and summarizing what he’s just read.

He also isn’t reading a lot—possibly he doesn’t enjoy reading because of his difficulties with comprehension.

There are lots of fun activities to help with that and here are a few that I suggested.

1) Take a newspaper and turn to an interesting story. Reading just the headline and looking at the pictures, ask him what he thinks the news story will be about. If he’s having trouble, get him to identify and circle the verbs in the headline and/or the nouns. Use those key words as “hints” as to what the article will be about.

Make sure you pick a headline that’s not too convoluted, and that’s about something interesting for him. If he likes sports, turn to a sports story. (Our sister website, TeachingKidsNews has hundreds of kid-friendly news articles and headlines.)

2) Ask your child to tell you about a video game he likes to play or movie he just saw. Ask him a specific question about it, that encourages him to explain it—for instance, “what scene in the movie made you laugh out loud?” or, “what powers does the main character in the video game have?”

This is part of a process known as “retelling.” Gradually, you can build the activity to the point where he’s retelling the whole movie or video game.

Incidentally, if you’ve got a super active kid, walk around outside with him while having this conversation. Sometimes a kid thinks better when his body is moving. (You’re not his teacher—you don’t have to confine your interactions to a classroom or a desk!)

3) Do a simple recipe together. Bake some chocolate chip cookies (after you’ve simplified the recipe and made it easy to read). While the cookies are in the oven, get him to describe what you did to make the cookies. “First, we melted the butter…” Don’t worry if he misses steps or goes into too much, or too little, detail.

Just have him hit the highlights: We mixed the ingredients together, put it in the oven and baked the cookies. That gives you something to work with; you can fine-tune his retelling skills with questions like, “wasn’t there something before we put them in the oven? Didn’t we have to scoop something?”

Of course, watch for his cues to make sure he isn’t getting frustrated. If he’s done with the whole exercise, then just go and have a cookie together. He’ll get better at it over time.

4) Try a story-building game like GROSS-ABULARY (we just did a review on this terrific game) or Rory’s Story Cubes (we’re about to review it in the next week or so, but if you’re interested now, here’s a link to their website).

5) Write a three-sentence story on a long piece of paper. Make sure it has a beginning, a middle and an end. For instance:

We went to the zoo. We saw some monkeys. The monkey tried to steal my ice cream cone.

This activity can work for older kids as well:

Obi-Wan was driving past a Stormtrooper with C3PO and R2D2. He used a Jedi mind-trick to convince the Stormtrooper, “these are not the droids you’re looking for.” The Stormtrooper let them pass.

Cut the sentences apart and mix them up; have him put the sentences back in the right order. If that’s too easy, take two stories and mix all six sentences up. Have him sort them into individual stories and then put them in the right ordeuKloo scavenger hunt gamer.

6) Reading comprehension can bring instant rewards. Play a game in which reading and understanding what you’ve read brings a quick and fun reward. For instance, give him a paragraph that says something like, “If you look in your shoe by the front door, you will find a clue.” Then, in his shoe hide a second instruction, “Look under the sink for your next instructions.” And of course under the sink there’s another clue. Do as many or as few as you think he’ll enjoy… the last one is accompanied by a treat like a small present or a Hershey’s Kiss.

If you’d rather not create your own scavenger hunt, UKloo is a wonderful scavenger hunt that’s all ready to go. Here’s my review of this excellent game.

Two more things you need to know: First, I’m baking cookies as I write this post, so my whole house smells like literacy. Yum. And second, you know that I don’t get paid by any companies to endorse products, right? I’m just always on the lookout for excellent literacy games and toys. And I find ‘em, oh yes, I find ‘em!

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Get your kid excited about the news

newspapersEvery week, I do a half-hour presentation at my son’s school on “the news.”

It’s often the best half-hour of my week. And a lot of the kids – and the parents – tell me they look forward to the class.

What I do is pretty simple; you can do it, too. Either at your kids’ school (especially if they’ve got an open-minded teacher like ours) or just at home.

What it will do for your kid is to get him interested in reading the newspaper, following news stories and learning about what’s going on in the world. You’ll be helping him develop a life-long habit of curiosity and general knowledge.

Here’s what I do
I read the newspapers for a week. Simple – most of us do it anyway. So at the end of the week I know stuff, like that Kim Jong-Il died, and that there’s a problem in Syria, and that Sidney Crosby’s out of the game again, and that Justin Bieber’s in Toronto doing a charity concert. In other words – the news.

Then, once a week, I tell the kids about it.

And although it’s a class of grade fours and fives, when I’m talking about the news you can hear a pin drop. That’s because kids are very interested in knowing what’s happening.

In half an hour I might do six or seven stories. The most important thing I do is to use my “adult” knowledge of the world and put events in context. For instance, when an adult reads “Kim Jong-Il has died,” we think “uh-oh – what will that mean for South Korea?” Whereas kids think, “What is a Kim Jong-Il?”

So I open by explaining that there’s a country in Asia called North Korea, and for 17 years it’s been run by guy named Kim Jong-Il… and I explain. I don’t get too graphic and I certainly avoid scary stuff – and I try to point out the positives. For instance, in this case to illustrate his eccentric nature I tell them about how Kim Jong-Il used to dress up as Elvis and sing Blue Suede Shoes. The kids laugh but then they quickly jump to the understanding that if the leader of your country is doing that stuff, it may be amusing but it’s probably not good.

One of the kids in the class is now working on a news website himself. He wants to become a journalist. My son is thinking about a career as a sports journalist. Other kids in the class go home and talk about the news with their parents. One time, I had a parent come up to me and say, “my son explained to me what the G8 is!” So that’s pretty fun.

More than that, the kids are reading. Reading. Seeing newspapers as relevant to them, and not just boring adult stuff.

Since newspapers are not specifically kid-friendly, I point kids to our website, TeachingKidsNews.com, which offers daily kid-friendly news articles. You certainly don’t have to use this website, but if you need kid-friendly news articles, it’s always appropriate. Plus, it’s free.

However you do it, introduce your kids to the news. You’ll quickly find out that they want to know what’s happening in the world, and not just what the toy companies tell them is important. And it’ll get them reading.

 

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“Got caught reading, I did!”

Yoda gets caught readingIf you’re trying to encourage your child to read more, surround her with good examples. Read, yourself, especially when she’s around to see you setting a good example.

And here’s another good thing to do. Go to Get Caught Reading and print off one of their celebrity posters. You can download it for free and print it on your colour printer. Or, I just email my colour printing to a quick-printer and pick it up later. Costs about a buck or so to have them print something in colour on larger-sized paper.

Then you’ve got a great poster for your kid’s room.

When your child’s hero is seen reading, your child will get the message that reading is a worthwhile activity.

Get Caught Reading has sports heros like NBA players Jerryd Bayless and Grant Hill; fictional characters like Dora the Explorer, Clifford and The Rugrats; singers like Alicia Keys and Gloria Estefan; and celebrities like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Frankly, I don’t know half of them – but your kid will. (What is “Friday Night Lights,” anyway? No idea.)

And you’re not going to find the ones you really want – Justin Bieber or Hannah Montana. But it’s a collection that grows, so you can check back with them and maybe even post a note asking for your favourite celebrity to be included.

Postering your child’s wall with a celebrity reading. “Mmm! A good idea it is!” Yoda out.

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Literacy Lava newsletter has great tips

Literacy Lava 8, coverThe new edition of Literacy Lava, a free e-zine for parents with great literacy articles and ideas, is now available.

You can download the .pdf from The Book Chook, here.

I’ve got an article in it, and there are lots of other great articles including:
* Writing tips for kids;
* Story-telling;
* Literacy tips – what works (that’s my article);
* Tips for reading aloud;
* A book club for preschoolers:
* Creativity tips; and
* much more.

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No time for literacy activities? Harness the power of two

Literacy game - "crumple"

What kid can resist a game of "Crumple"? Crumpled up pages reveal silly riddles.

If you aren’t able to find time to read to your child or offer him literacy activities—use the power of two—you and another parent.

You know that kids who are read to every day are more likely to develop a love of reading. But that’s 15 minutes that tends to slip right by and before you know it, your child is asleep and you haven’t managed to read together like you’d hoped.

Here’s what you can do—team up with another parent and schedule time to do some literacy activities with your child and their child.

If you’ve got a toddler or an infant, chances are you regularly get together for coffee with another parent. Next time, plan to build a five-minute literacy component into something you’d be doing anyway. Use the first five minutes you’re in that café to prop your friend’s child on your lap and read her a couple of books. At the same time, she’ll be doing the same for your child. (Or each read to your own children—whatever works.)

Then, the rest of the coffee break can be about other things. But the point is, you’ve read with your child and she has read with hers. And better still, the kids saw each other reading, which will reinforce that this is a nice thing to do.

If your child is older, use the power of two to motivate you and remind you to do some literacy activities. Schedule regular weekly playdates—one at your house and the next week, one at their house. Talk to the other parent and brainstorm a simple literacy game, craft, activity that the kids can do—if only for 15 minutes—right at the beginning of the playdate. When they come to your house, the kids will find a craft or a game set out on a table. Let them find it themselves and it’s pretty likely they’ll start doing it. (I don’t know many kids who can resist stuff set out on a table, especially if the parent is just leaving them to it.)

Here are some suggestions:

* Put some crayons and blank paper on the table. Pre-make a paper airplane with a message inside it, “Hi Scott!” and explain that these are “message planes” that fly back and forth across the room with messages to the other person.

* Put a sentence on the table that is all mixed up. When they piece the words together, they’ll discover a secret message: “Your playdate snack is under your bed!”

* Play “Crumple.” Put a bunch of crumpled-up pieces of paper on the table. As they unravel each one, they’ll find a joke—on the back of the paper is the answer. (“What kind of hair do oceans have? Wavy!”) Here are lots more silly kids’ jokes.

It takes a bit of planning, but with the power of two, you’ll have a day off the next week as the other parent puts together a fun activity for the kids at her house.

For other fun literacy crafts or activities, search this blog or click on the tags for five-minute ideas or 15-minute ideas. There’s lots of stuff you can do that is fun, quick and easy and costs nothing to put together.

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Valentine’s Day literacy activities

Book heart Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smichael/Use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to do some fun literacy activities. (From ABC Canada.)

1. Think of words that rhyme and write a poem for a loved one.

 2. Create personalized Valentine’s Day cards and write each other loving messages. Cut out words and letters from magazines to make them extra unique.

 3. Bake Valentine’s Day cupcakes and use candy heart notes or icing to write a sweet message.

 4. Play a “Valentine’s Day edition” game of Scrabble and score double points when you spell a word about love.

 5. Show your kids you love them by reading a love-themed book together, like Clifford’s Valentine’s Day.

6. Research the meaning behind Valentine’s Day.

Holidays provide a great opportunity to incorporate creativity and imagination with fun literacy-related activities to be enjoyed individually or as a family. Benefit from literacy by spending 15 minutes a day reading, writing, playing a game or following a recipe.

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Remarkable research on kids’ ability to self-instruct

Sugata Mitra's hole-in-the-wall experiment; some children using a computer embedded into a wall.

Image: D.Salhundi, Karnatak, India

Here’s why we say you should “scatter books around the house.”

I want you to watch this exciting speech by Sugata Mitra on TED.com that illustrates the extent to which kids can teach themselves.

Through his “Hole in the Wall” project he conducted a series of experiments in 1999. He went to a slum in New Delhi, India and secured computers, hooked up to the Internet, into a wall so they could be used. And then he left.

The kids there had never used a computer before. And, the computer was completely in English—a language the kids didn’t speak or understand.

Within eight hours, an eight-year-old boy was not only surfing the Internet, but he was teaching a six-year-old friend how to browse.

The kids taught themselves how to use the PC, and the Internet—in English—and they began teaching each other.

He conducted the many more experiments which supported his theory that when they’re left alone, with the right resources, children are able to self-instruct to an incredible degree.

So how does this apply to literacy? It’s simple: Scatter books around your house. Put a book on his bed. Put a book in the bathroom. Leave a book poking out from under his dresser. Leave a book on the kitchen table.

If you leave a kid alone with a good book, he will pick up the book and start flipping through it. Soon, he will become interested in it. He will read.

Here is the speech (it gets really interesting at about 7:33).

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