Author Archives: Bridget Swartzlander

Hello all,

Summer is winding down and the school year promises to be exciting and exhausting. No fear, there are teachable moments around every corner.

While in your car running to shop for new school clothes, point out highway signs. They are filled with words, beginning, middle and ending sounds, numbers and most of all important information to get you where you are going.  The final destination could be the mall to shop for clothes.  Again, use those signs and advertisements to prepare your child for what may be coming down the road….first, second or third grade.  No matter, it all matters.  Be aware also, that underneath those new clothes may hide a lurking menace known as anxiety.

A recent Johns Hopkins article outlines five ways to help relieve the anxiety of going back to school…albeit a new school, a new grade level, or transitioning into middle or high school.

1.  Start a routine a week or two before school starts.  Earlier bedtime, and clothing selection for the next day are easy first steps.

2.  Make sure your child has playdates with  classmates or familiar peers before school starts. If you have a new neighbor, reach out and invite them into your process.

3.  If at all possible, visit the school before the school year begins.  Practice the drop off and pick up routine. Check with the office staff to see if getting a chance to play on the playground (or just walk through it) is possible. If you are fortunate enough to get into the school building before the first day, ask if your child would be able to walk the halls (supervised of course). This would familiarize them with the layout.

4. If you have a preschooler or a transitioning Kindergartener to first grade student, offer an incentive for a positive separation.  It could be something as simple as a trip to the library after school.

5.  Don’t dismiss the anxiety.  Be a reflective listener and validate their concerns by acknowledging that new things can be a challenge, but you are there to support them no matter what.

Have a wonderful 2018-19 school year students, parents and teachers!

 

 

 

 

Babies crawl before they walk, and in reading it’s much the same. Children need to learn the sounds of each letter, or combinations of letters before they are able to string these sounds together to read words.  It all seems very easy, and making a concrete connection to sound/print is critical.  Begin the process with print and sound association.  I like to use objects or picture representations; i.e., if you show a child the picture of a rabbit, make the distinction that the first letter, r sounds like this (and say the sound rrrrrrrr). And so it goes.  After you have moved the child through sound/letter recognition, try stringing sounds together.  I like to start with three letter short vowel a words.  An example would be: if you show the child the picture of a cat. You can say, cat has three sounds, c   a  t.  If you say those sounds together quickly, you have just said cat. When the child is ready for actual words, I recommend making flash cards with pictures of the sounds represented.   Now move through other vowels using the same method.  Break, or segment the word, then blend it back together.  It takes practice, and you will sound pretty silly, but by isolating the sound of each letter an joining them, the child makes that concrete association and is on his/her way!

Dr. Seuss’ books have been used to teach phonics to beginning readers since his first book, “And to Think, I Saw it on Mulberry Street,” was published on December 21, 1937.  Dr. Seuss went on to publish 44 more delightful and educational books that are still excellent tools as we celebrate his 110th birthday today.

There are various reasons for the success of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s books; many of which are still common writing practices today in children’s literature.  First and foremost, the books themselves are inviting just by appearance. Look at the cover of “The Cat in the Hat” for instance, right away your imagination runs wild with curiosity…cats don’t wear hats.

The genius that was Dr. Seuss lies in the presentation of phonics, word family groupings, sight words and rhyming word pairs. His books are fantastic read aloud books, and can capture the attention of even the most reluctant reader.

The stories of Dr. Seuss are timeless. Take the Lorax for instance. This book highlights the possibilities of environmental ruin and gives awareness to the world around our young children. Certainly written in the times, 1971, when such issues were being brought to light. What better conduit than the children ages 4 – 10 to deliver a “save my planet” message? Today, this particular book is read nationwide on Earth Day.

A title from Dr. Seuss that helps young children master their language and mastery of phonics is Hop on Pop. It is through repeated reading that children are able to gain fluency. They feel successful, and want to show what they know.

Each of Dr. Seuss books can be extended past the text itself. One of my favorites is, “Bartholomew and the Oobleck”. This treasure, while entertaining to the listener, is even more fun when the listener can turn the text into a science experiment…..using cornstarch and water. The child is able to feel a solid at the bottom of a bowl and lift it through the water surface and turn it into a liquid. I have attached the experiment….so much fun.

What you will need:

  • a copy of the text, Bartholomew and the Oobleck
  • 1 small box of cornstarch
  • 3 cups of water
  • large glass bowl

Invite the children to place their hands in the bowl and try to lift the oobleck out of the bowl. Their hands will feel a solid, but as they grip it and bring it up through the water layer, it turns into a liquid.

The possibilities are endless and reach all ages. Some books by age level are: “Oh, the Thinks You can Think”, ages 0 -4, “What was I Scared of? A Glow-in-the-Dark Encounter”, ages 4 – 8, and “The Big Green Book of Beginner Books”, ages 4 – 8.

So, the next time you are invited to a child’s birthday party, go with the gift of reading – a Dr. Seuss book is always a hit!

Ending one year and looking forward to a new one should be exciting and full of anticipation! It is also a time of reflection and looking ahead. I want to share a few grade level topics that support your child’s love of reading. Happy New Year and all the best in 2014.

1. An important step for Kindergarten students to become better readers is to work on phonemic awareness, (PA). PA is learning that every word is a combination of sounds. Before children learn to sound out words, it is necessary for them to know that letters represent sounds! As a bit of practice, ask your child to tell you the sounds they hear in the word cat- kuh-a-tuh. Don’t worry about correct spelling at this point. Practice connecting the sound with the letter by using what I call, voice-print-match. Touch each letter as you and your child say it. Move onto more challenging words to make the connection meaningful. This exercise should be viewed as a lesson in letter/sound relationship that will build your child’s confidence in sounding out letter representations. Model the sound!

2. Your first grader and sight words! You may be wondering why knowing sight words is a key element is teaching reading. The truth is that the benefits of being able to recognize high-frequency words enables your child to read more smoothly and at a faster rate. With this in mind, your child will be supported in remembering more of what they read and to make sense of it. Comprehension is the final goal of reading. As practice, make a set of flash cards from the helpful Kidzone website. Make it a game of memory, or “go fish”. Either way, these activities will support your child in learning his/her sight words.

3. Your third grader. At this juncture, your student is transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. To support your student during this transition period, research shows that conversations that build vocabulary on a certain topic goes far to support the cause. Read challenging texts to your child, introduce them to new vocabulary and use words that he/she doesn’t know in normal day to day conversation. This groundwork will support your student when their decoding skills catch up, should they be challenged in this area.

All these are helpful reading comprehension strategies to practice with your child, but if you would like to further their literacy support, contact me to schedule a free reading assessment!

If you are the parent or guardian of a struggling reader, or a highly achieving reader you may find yourself wondering how to motivate your student. I believe that effective teachers teach skills, strategies and concepts that support student success. I believe that instruction must be differentiated; i.e. personalized to fit the needs of the student. Instruction must be explicit and systematic. Students must be a part of their education and this is done by including the student in feedback; they should be included in the learning process. In teaching reading at all levels, I incorporate what I like to call the Big Five: teaching phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, fluency instruction, building vocabulary and improving reading comprehension. Keep in mind that the goal of reading is comprehension. Teaching the essentials ensures student success. Stay tuned for more information and small lessons in teaching early literacy concepts and reading comprehension.