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    Student Writing - "The Fish-Eating Monster"

    Last updated 3 years ago

         There once was a monster sitting in a jail cell in a horrible prison. The blue fish-eating wonder was waving its oar-shaped arms behind the grey bars to get the guard’s attention. On his uneven football-shaped head was a cotton candy wig of messy brown hair. Below the monster’s ruby circled glasses were round cherry freckles. The titan’s body was like a bumpy, uneven, blue caterpillar. Its waist looked like a brown flabby hot dog in a blue and red swirled jelly bean bun. On the hard jail floor, the monster stood on nine fat pink feet connected to his chocolate colored thighs by 2 string legs. The fish-eating terror’s only crime was eating a fish to survive, so he deserved to be free.

    Telling Tales

    Last updated 3 years ago

    Storytelling is one of the most entertaining and satisfying things human beings do. We probably invented language mainly to tell each other stories. 
    In the U.K., this is National Storytelling Week, held for many years "to celebrate the power of the spoken story as a traditional craft, as a modern form of entertainment and as a powerful educational and therapeutic tool."
    But we don't have to live "across the pond" to celebrate the pleasures of storytelling.
    Why not plan a Family Storytelling Night at your house? Once a week, turn off the TV and video games and tell stories! Here are a few suggestions to get you going:
    Think of a theme
    Take turns deciding on a theme each week. Maybe you'll tell stories about pets or other animals one week. Another week, the theme might be trips - real or imaginary - or scary stories. If you choose the theme ahead of time, everyone has time to prepare something special to tell.
    Vary the form
    • Storytelling is limited only by your imagination. Try formats like these:
    • Each week, let one family member choose a favorite story to read or listen to.
    • Let each person tell the story of an event they remember. 
    • Ask each person to describe an imaginary adventure.
    • Have everyone select a favorite character from a different story. Then, make up a group story that has all of those characters in it.
    Act it out
    Write titles or events within a story on separate pieces of paper. Choose stories you're all familiar with such as fairy tales or an event in a longer story you know such as "the day Harry Potter came to live with his relatives." This is like the game of Charades, but instead of acting out the words of the title, you act out the events of the story until someone guesses the title or the story event.
    Add props
    Develop a story with "props." Before story night, collect small objects from around your house like action figures, a paintbrush, a piece of fruit. Put them into a bag so nobody can see what's inside (pillowcases work well). 
    Designate someone to start the story with a few sentences that set the scene and introduce a plot. Find story prompts online or make up your own, like this: "Did I ever tell you about the time I found a treasure? I was walking in the forest one day when suddenly, I saw a --." 
    Stop and let one person reach into the bag—without looking—and pull out an object. Then, she or he continues the story, making sure that the object is part of the action. After adding a few sentences, that person pauses, and the next person draws an object out of the bag and continues the story.
    With a little imagination, your whole family will see how much fun telling tales can be.
    Next week, we'll look at the many ways storytelling can boost reading and writing skills.

    Educational iPad Apps for Tweens

    Last updated 3 years ago

    6th Grade Reading Comprehension Prep
    Read from a collection of ten stories and test reading comprehension with this app designed for sixth-grade-level reading. Each story and question set takes less than ten minutes to complete, so kids can have fun and learn anywhere! Peekaboo also offers reading comprehension apps for grades 3-8
    Price $2.99, Compatible with iPad
    Best Books for Tweens
    Best Books for Tweens lets your kids browse through action & adventure, fantasy, mystery, sports, animal characters, historical fiction, realistic fiction, and non-fiction books. Kids can tag books as "I want this" or "I've read this" to add them to a custom reading list that can be updated any time.
    Price: Free, Compatible with iPad

    Start Early to Grow Academic Skills

    Last updated 3 years ago

    From their first book reports to their graduate school dissertations, your kids will be developing their academic reading and writing skills. Here are some important ways you can help them in this process.
    Make summarizing a habit
    We know from experience that simply reading chapters in a textbook will not get us ready for a test the next day.
    The study process that seems to work best for most of us is this: Read the material once to get overall meaning. Summarize the main points. Read again, annotating, highlighting, or taking notes. Read a third time to retain the information and understand it well enough to think critically about it.
    By reinforcing the practice of reading and summarizing with our kids, we can make it a habit they will be grateful for the rest of their lives.
    Kids can start this process even before they are able to read. As you read a story to them, pause at the end of a scene and ask a question like, "What did the rabbit do in this part?"
    Older kids can begin to annotate. At the end of a scene or chapter, have them write a few words on a Post-it note to summarize the main idea or event in that section. Stick the notes inside the book cover. At the end, ask the child to read the notes in order.  Talk about main points and the parts of the writing that your child especially remembers. This method reinforces the concept of summarizing—knowing the whole by looking at the main parts.
    If your child has trouble with writing, you can use a speech-to-text tool to accomplish the same thing.
    Recognize the roots
    Lack of vocabulary is a big factor when we have difficulty understanding what we read.  Boost your kids' enthusiasm for learning academic vocabulary by using new words in your family conversation and developing a word-friendly home.
    Why not let kids put a list of word roots, prefixes, and suffixes on the wall in their rooms? Find lists online, print them, and let your kids add their personal touches to make the lists part of their décor. Looking at the lists often will help your kids recognize word parts when they see them in new words.
    Get some assistance
    Check out some of the high and low-tech tools like audio recorders, reading guides, writing supports, and even special seat cushions that to help kids with reading and writing challenges.
    With some thought and effort, you can provide foundations for your kids' learning that will continue to serve them throughout their lives.
    Contact us at The Literacy & Language Center for more ideas about how you can enhance your learning environment at home.

    Do It Yourself – The Benefits of Discovery Learning

    Last updated 3 years ago

    How does learning happen? Do we learn more when we're given information that we memorize and then "regurgitate" for the teacher? Or when we are "thrown into the pool" and told to swim? Somewhere safely between those two extremes are methods that work much better.

    Discovery Learning is a process in which we are given information about a topic (content) that is appropriate for our skill level and then encouraged - with guidance - to discover concepts and ideas for ourselves.

    In Discovery Learning, we are actively involved in our learning because we:

    • use the knowledge and skills we have to gather new information
    • decide how and what we want to learn about a topic
    • use the tools and sources that reflect real life
    • acquire new skills with reflecting, interpreting, and problem solving
    • enhance self-confidence by focusing on the process rather than finding a "right" answer

    While leaving kids to find their way through an assignment alone is definitely not an effective way to help them, Robert Marzano explains that "Enhanced Discovery Learning," which involves "preparing students . . . and providing assistance along the way," is a proven method of building thinking and learning skills.

    You can help your kids develop their skills with Discovery Learning at home
    Here's an example:

    Suppose your kids need to write a report on how the drought in California could affect their future. Of course, they can jump online, Google "Drought in California," and copy from one of the dozens of SFGate articles on the subject. Plenty of information is available, but how much meaning or real learning would there be in this activity?

    On the other hand, you could help them discover for themselves how their futures might be impacted. Before going to the Web, you can brainstorm with them about the kinds of information they need. Where can you find facts about the future impact of drought on water supplies? Can you make your report more meaningful with pictures like someone setting up a rain barrel? Your kids might want to do a study to see just how much water each family member uses or an experiment in which they spend a day living with a small ration of water.

    As they do these activities, you can ask questions to help your kids explore implications of what they have found, reflect on what they learned, and reach conclusions.

    Both you and your kids will be empowered by what you discover!

    Talk to our staff at The Literacy & Language Center if you'd like information about Discovery Learning methods. We'd also be glad to give you suggestions about helping your kids boost their skills at home.

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