- Encourage students to use spelling words in real-world writing. Have them write notes to each other, make lists or signs, or write poems or songs that include spelling words. Not only does this provide practice, it reinforces the notion that the words on the list are relevant in real communication. Competitions that reward creativity, such as who can use the most spelling words in a single sentence, can make these activities particularly motivating and enjoyable for students.
- Use multisensory techniques that involve children with words in auditory, visual, and kinesthetic ways. Have children draw pictures to illustrate words and write them in logical format using different colors (e.g. using one color for prefixes or for blends like st and cr). Have students spell words aloud, clapping out each vowel that represents a short sound and stomping when they say the names of vowels that represent long sounds.
- Teach spelling rules explicitly so that children understand the logic behind spelling. Do not ignore the exceptions to the rules, but teach students that most words can be correctly spelled by following reliable guidelines. This will cause spelling to seem less mysterious and intimidating to students.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Learning Science provides links to lots of great interactive science sites that provide quizzes and teach new information. Far from being a laundry list of available sites, the choices presented here appear to have been carefully selected before being shared with viewers. Some of the highlights include digital animal dissections and a series of oceanographic mysteries which must be solved. Activities are grouped by concepts learned in grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.
Monday, July 25, 2011
- Diagrams represent certain kinds of information more readily than sentences can. Lengthy textual explanations are often replaced with a diagram; a picture, after all, is worth a thousand words.
- Diagrams serve as an organizational tool, which helps even proficient readers make sense of dense or challenging text. Information presented in multiple ways is more likely to be remembered and understood.
- Diagrams can contain information that goes beyond the text. Supplemental images can deepen a student’s knowledge and understanding of a concept.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Photo used under Creative Commons by Ray Bodden
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
- Allow students to choose their own books. Select a handful of age-appropriate books about themes in which the child has expressed interest. Help the child read the backs of the books, look at the pictures or chapter titles, and predict what the book might be about. Explain that adults select books based on recommendations, book reviews, or simply because the book catches their attention on the shelf, and that the child can go through this process too.
- Give the student an opportunity to talk about what he or she is reading. Not only do children like to talk about books they've read, research suggests that talking to others about a text improves cognitive functioning and memory.
- Set aside reading time. Research consistently indicates that the more a person reads, the more their reading skills improve. Students should have time set aside during the school day for pleasure reading as well as designated time at home. The text itself is less important than the child’s level of engagement with it.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Pam Allyn, literacy educator and founder of the world literacy project LitWorld, has provided a great resource for parents with her book What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child -- and All the Best Times to Read Them. Allyn writes, "Through books and stories that are meant to be read alound, we convey to our children the beauty of language and the joys of rhythm and rhyme; and in the books we choose to read and the way we read them, we also convey the values we hold dear."
Further, research suggests that reading alound to children, even after they are able to read fluently on their own, also improves their vocabularies and reading comprehension abilities.
While reading stories aloud, parents have the opportunity to:
- model the habits of good readers: making predictions, asking questions, recalling previously stated information from the text, and drawing from prior knowledge and experience
- familiarize children with common text structures
- expose children to various genres
- build children's critical thinking skills by critiquing books together
- teach children about the world around them
After the introductory chapters, What to Read When is split into two sections. The first, called "What to Read Alound at Every Age" lists great books and brief descriptions to match a child's cognitive development from birth until ten years old. The next section, called "The Emotional 'When'" is arranged into fifty themes. Parents can select books to accompany the joyful times in a child's life, like Birthdays, Feeling Silly, or Loving Music, and can help guide them through difficult times with themes like Divorce, Coping with Illness and Loneliness. Bookshelves in the children's section can be overwhelming places. What to Read When is an insightful guide to help parents navigate.
And what about independent readers?
Children's choices provides children with the opportunity to voice their opinions about books, and serves as a great resource for both children and adults. Check out these great lists, and encourage the kids in your life to investigate it, too. After all, who could provide a better recommendation than kids themselves?
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
Q: What is the difference between 504 and "Special Education"?
A: Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides for "special education services," both are federal laws which apply to every state. The main difference is that the IDEA requires that a student both have a "disability" and because of that disability require special education services. Section 504 also requires that a student have a "disability" but once the student is shown to have a disability, it is not necessary to show that he or she needs special education services.
Q: That's confusing. So how do I know if my child needs a 504 Plan or an IEP, the Individual Education Program provided by the IDEA?
A: For some students, it's an easy call. Those with health issues, such as asthma, allergies, or diabetes, will need a 504 Plan to help manage their medical issues, even if they have no significant learning problem. Some students with attention difficulties that do not significantly interfere with their educational progress will do fine with a 504 Plan. But, if a student needs special education services -- services such as reading instruction, a smaller class setting, resource room -- or related services, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy, then that student should be receiving his or her services under the IDEA.
Q: Does it make a difference how my child receives services?
A: It often does. The IDEA requires parental involvement and consent in setting up the services and goals for a child who receives services under that law. That means you, the parent, can help shape your child's education. It also requires the school to at least consider any Independent Educational Evaluations you may choose to submit. In contrast, 504 services are provided under a 504 Plan that is set up without mandated parental input. The protections and procedures for parents who disagree with a school providing IDEA services are more extensive than under Section 504.
Q: My child's school says he isn't doing poorly enough to qualify for IDEA services, but they will give him a 504 Plan. What should I do?
A: The IDEA gives states some leeway in determining how to decide whether a student needs special education services. Some states, like New Jersey, still use what is called a "discrepancy model" that requires students to show a significant gap between their ability (usually measured by things like IQ tests) and their classroom performance. Other states, like New York, are moving to a different model, called Response to Intervention, which is a more flexible way to determine who needs special services. While we believe that students who truly need special education should receive those services under the IDEA, it is reasonable to accept the 504 Plan and see if it provides enough support. If it does not, and the school still does not want to provide IDEA services, it might be time to consider seeking advocacy assistance to consider your options.
Q: Can my child have both a 504 Plan and an IEP under the IDEA?
A: While this is theoretically possible, it is not something we recommend or something that most schools will do. The IDEA is broader in both the services it provides and the protections it provides for parental rights. Once a student is classified under the IDEA, he or she is entitled to all the services he or she needs to make education accessible. So, if there is a medical or attention issue, that can be dealt with as part of the IEP. Once you have an IEP there is no need for a 504 Plan.
Q: Why does my child's school seem so reluctant to provide an IEP, while they are pretty free with 504 Plans?
A: Because they are accountable to the State for the number of students that are classified under the IDEA. If they have more classified students than other schools, they will be subject to scrutiny with respect to why they are classifying so many students. Special education can be a substantial expense that is at least partly paid at the State level. Schools are not subject to the same scrutiny for their 504 Plans.