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    Questions You Should Ask Your Budding Reader

    Last updated 2 years ago

    by Rachel Robbins

    A friend once told me that her son excels at science because she doesn’t know much about it. He would ask her questions and she’d reply, “I’m not sure, what do you think?” Later, they would look up the answers and compare them with his theories. I agreed with her. She helped him become the budding scientist that he is by asking the right questions. Or rather, by asking the right kinds of questions.

    What are the right kinds of questions? And why should you ask them?

    A main goal for educators is to encourage critical thinking skills for students at all levels. Higher order thinking skills (HOTS) include the ability to interact with information on a level higher than memorization and recall.

    Encourage higher order thinking skills by asking open ended questions.

    Ask questions that encourage reflection and have more than one right answer. While reading, prompt students to predict what will happen next, make explicit connections between themselves and the text, draw inferences from the text, and evaluate and synthesize information.

    • Predict: “What do you think will happen next?”

    • Connect: “What would you have done in that situation?”

    • Infer: “How did Fudge find out?” or, “Why did Pippi say that?”

    • Evaluate: “Did Matilda make the best choice here? What else could she have done?”

    • Synthesize: “What was the main idea?” “What did the Murray children learn?”

    Prompting students to reflect

    Begin a question that prompts reflection by including the right verb.

    Verbs and phrases that explicitly prompt reflection:

    • reflect on...

    • think about...

    • consider...

    • why do you think...

    • how do you think...

    • where do you think...

    • In your opinion...

    Encourage the student to take a moment to reflect, or to journal for a few minutes before answering.

    Encourage higher order thinking skills anytime and anywhere

    These sorts of questions aren’t confined to connecting students with texts. They work in a variety of situations. They can help a student make a difficult decision by ranking their options and talking through the pros and cons. They can encourage reflection on educational outings, stories told by elders, or about current events. It’s never too early to start encouraging higher order thinking skills.


    Rachel Robbins is a native Michigander and tutor at The Literacy and Language Center, Inc. 


    Time to Be Aware!

    Last updated 3 years ago

    October is ADHD Awareness Month, Dyslexia Awareness Month, and Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. Look what you can find to help you celebrate: seeks to empower, inform, and provide a supportive community for parents of kids with learning and attention issues. They offer access to experts, webinars, articles and much more.

    The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity
    This site will make you believe in your dreams! It's a great place for high school students to ease their fears of going to college with a learning disability.  You'll find well-written, inspiring information for people with dyslexia, parents and educators. Don't miss the articles about Successful Dyslexics--from actors to chefs, explorers to scientists. They will inspire you!

    Dyslexic Advantage
    This dynamic organization's mission is "to foster positive identity, community, and strength for every dyslexic child and adult." Resources include webinars, a dyslexia self-test, articles, and more. Be sure to sign up for their beautiful newsletter filled with inspiration.

    ADHD Awareness Month
    A coalition of 5 professional organizations that sponsor ADHD Awareness Month. Their goal is to spread the word about ADHD. Visit the sponsoring sites for reliable information, self-tests, a personal story forum, and more.

    Whether you need information, inspiration, or community, reach out and click this month to celebrate awareness.

    Go Ahead, Play With Your Writing!

    Last updated 3 years ago

    Do your kids enjoy writing? Or would they rather have a tooth pulled? Creating a sense of fun with language can change that feeling and help your kids be more comfortable with words.

    Along with changing attitudes, word play also boosts skills in:

    • critical thinking—awareness of how word choices change meaning
    • control and precision—greater skill with crafting meaning
    • creativity—ability to hear and play the music in language

    Try these suggestions to spark ideas for word play:

    When you're traveling, play word games
    Here's an example:
    Make up two short sentences and take turns combining them in different ways. Encourage conversation about how each word change affects meaning.

    Amy and Brian argued. He bought her a new coat.
    Amy and Brian argued because he bought her a new coat.
    Amy and Brian argued until he bought her a new coat.

    Find games online that inspire word play
    Lionel's Tall Tales lets you alter sentence parts and enjoy the funny changes in meaning that result.  

    Random Sentence Generator produces unexpected, interesting sentences that might inspire you to write a story of your own.

    Fridge Magnets lets you create sentences and email them to your friends.

    Top Marks lets you try writing, editing, and communication exercises that offer amusing word choices.

    If writing is a chore for your kids, give them opportunities to play with language. The fun will make a difference!

    Page vs. Screen: The Benefits of Reading Paper Books

    Last updated 3 years ago

    Which is better for reading--paper books or e-readers? Both forms have their champions, but paper books have some clear advantages over digital devices:

    Fewer distractions mean deeper concentration
    Paper books have no games or communication media built in, no animation, and no light shining into our eyes. When we are alone with words on a page, we can become more absorbed in the story and follow the flow of reasoning.

    Finding your way around in a book is easier
    Our minds tend to "anchor" an incident in terms of where it is located in our reading. In a paper book, we can see both left and right pages, turn back to find a passage we remember seeing at the top of a page, or look ahead at what's about to happen next, all without losing sight of any part of the book.

    We take paper books more seriously
    In a discussion of differences between e-reading and book reading experiences, Ferris Jabr suggests that "many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper."

    We may read online with an "easy-come-easy-go" attitude. We don't expect to retain the information for long, so we tend to scroll and scan rather than read with deeper concentration.

    Comprehension, recall, and test performance are stronger
    Research shows that students reading paper books generally fare better on tests.
    One study of reading comprehension among 10th-grade students in Norway concluded that "students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally." Students who read print on paper had better recall of information and were able to locate material more easily.

    Taking notes, highlighting, and reviewing are also easier with books. On digital devices, tools are not always easy to access or find and may be a distraction.

    Holding a book and turning pages is satisfying
    The act of holding a book, looking at it on the shelf, and knowing you own it appeals to many people. Even a book borrowed from the library has a physical presence—weight, smell, feel--that makes it seem more enduring than digital text.

    Designers are doing their best to replicate these aspects of paper books in e-readers. But for the present, at least, a "real" book in our hands seems to be serving us better.

    It's the Big Book Sale!

    Last updated 3 years ago

    Want to nurture your child's love of reading? Make books important in your lives. This week, your family can hike through a treasure trove of over 500,000 books and other media as well—all at bargain prices!
    It's the 51st Annual Fall Big Book Sale at Fort Mason, sponsored by Friends of SF Public Library. September 16 - 20, 10 AM to 6 PM.
    You're sure to find a book (or several) that your kids will want to hurry home to read. See you there!

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