What K-2 teachers want parents to know - Reading levels

Readinglevelscollage

Welcome to my next blog series “What K-2 teachers want parents to know”. This is a series that will focus on common parent issues that teachers of Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 children face everyday. The series aim is to give parents more information about each area of concern and offer practical tips to ensure that these concerns do not become an issue in your household.




One of the biggest issues that is often brought to the teacher by a parent of a 5-8 year old child is the concern about what reading level their child is at. Many parents worry that their child is significantly below another child in their class or not moving up levels as fast as they should. The first thing that teachers want to shout from the rooftops is “Parents, stop obsessing over reading levels!”

A reading level (whether it be a number, colour or letter, depending on the book) indicates to the teacher what type of reader the child is. A child could be a beginner reader, emergent (developing) reader or an independent reader. The level is usually displayed at the front or back of the book. A reading level is given by a teacher who has conducted a “running record”, which is a reading assessment tool.

Below are 10 facts that teachers want parents to know about reading levels

1. Do not look at the back of the book

LeveledreaderIt is interesting to teach Kindergarten in the first term. Not for all the obvious reasons but rather to observe the way parents use reading levels as a way of competing against each other. At the beginning of first term in Kindergarten, children are given reading books and are happy to read them with the teacher during a guided reading session. They take them home at the end of this session to practise reading with their family. In Term 2 it all starts to change. When children are given their new reading books, they flip their books to the back to see what level they are on. The children say comments like “yes, I am on level 3” or “My mum said I should be on a higher level than this” or “Level 3 again!” It is these comments that change the idea of what reading is about. It moves from reading for enjoyment and a chance to practise reading skills to a tool for parents to compare their child against other children. As a parent, it is important not to show your child your interest in the number, colour or letter but focus on the reading skills that your child is developing.




2. The book should be easy

reading 1The book that comes home should be easy for your child. Reading at home should be an opportunity for your child to practise a smooth clear reading voice. Reading for them at home needs to be enjoyable and not a time for struggling and arguing. Parents can ask lots of questions while their child is reading to check that they are understanding the story line or facts of the text.

3. Read the book many times

reading 2Many parents are concerned that their child has had the same book for a few nights or a week. They inform the teacher that they can read it easily and require a harder book. Teachers want the children to feel that reading is easy at home. Harder texts are given in the classroom under the guidance of the teacher. They do not want a child to believe that it is so difficult. Praise the child for how they read. Emphasise how smooth their voice is or congratulate them on working out an unknown word. Reading a book each time, can be a different experience. Have a different focus for each time you read it with them. You could focus on the use of punctuation one time, working out unknown words one time, the story line one time and what’s in each picture another time.

4. Staying on one level for a long time

images-4Parents voice concerns about their child staying on a level for a long time. Teachers need a child to be secure (very competent) at a level before moving on. Being secure means that their reading voice is smooth and fluent, they can read a variety of texts at that level, have a variety of reading strategies they use to work out unknown words independently and they have great comprehension of the text. Children need to be exposed to both fiction and non fiction books at each level. Non fiction books tend to be harder for children as the vocabulary is more demanding. Lots of exposure to non fiction texts will help your child increase their vocabulary.




5. Reading strategies

images-5A child needs to develop a variety of reading strategies to work out unknown words in texts. While listening to your young child read, try to encourage them to work out the word independently. Informing your child of the word straight away will not develop their reading skills. Many children can not move to a new level as their undeveloped reading strategies will not support them at a new level. For further information about reading strategies refer to my previous blog “How to read with young children: Reading strategies”

6. Do not compare children

ComparingEveryone has their own strengths and weaknesses, children are no different. Each child develops their reading skills at their own pace. A parent’s concern about a child’s reading level can be due to the fact that another child in their class is at a reading level much higher than their own child. Most children when they are learning to read have times where they move up levels quickly and other times when they plateau for a while. As long as they are making progress and their teacher is happy with this progress there is nothing to worry about.

7. Do not compare teachers

teacherAnother main issue that teachers face daily is the constant comparison of classrooms. As each child is different, each teacher is different as well. A teacher has their own idea of the most effective way of teaching reading, therefore some focus on moving up levels, some want to ensure a child is really secure before moving them up and some want the child to have more exposure of different texts at that level before moving up. Your child will have to work with all different types of people in their life so it is important that your child is given that opportunity with each teacher they have. As a parent you may not be completely happy with how the classroom is run but have faith that the school ensures that all teachers are working to the best of their ability for each child. If you have a real concern about a teacher, always approach them first for some clarification.

8. Comprehension

Unknown-2The most important part of reading is to be able to understand what you have read. So many times I listen to beautiful oral reading from a child, who is able to work out unknown words easily and pronounce all words correctly. However, they are unable to answer questions about what they have read. Moving up levels too quickly may cause more harm than good. A lot of children’s comprehension strategies are undeveloped as the focus has always been on how the child sounds. Parents need to ask lots of questions starting with “why” and “how” about the text. Having a discussion about what has come up in the text is invaluable for a student’s comprehension.

9. Children going backwards

Unknown-3Over the school holidays it is very common for a child to go back a few levels in reading. During the school holidays they are not having their targeted reading sessions at school, getting new readers and working on new strategies. Give your child a few weeks to get back into the routine of school before approaching their teacher about reading levels.

10. Assessing Reading levels

Unknown-1Teachers are constantly assessing reading levels of each child in their class. They observe how the child reads each guided reading session and writes notes about that child for the next reading session. They conduct “running records” regularly to give the appropriate levelled text. A running record is when a child reads a text at a particular level and the teacher records all the mistakes and self corrections the child makes. Using a few calculations, the teacher will know whether the text is too easy, correct or too hard for the child.

I hope this blog has given parents more insight into the world of reading levels. Teachers want parents to focus more on how a child is reading than what the reading level is. The more focus a parent places on a reading level the more focus a child places on it. Encourage reading for enjoyment and open their eyes to a whole new world inside books.

If you have found this blog useful why not check out our other blogs that all focus on different educational topics.

20 ways to help your child learn their sight words

Are you a helicopter parent?

20 great ways to learn multiplication facts

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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10 ways of giving your child a head start.

littleboyWelcome to my third blog in the series “How to create a successful home environment for the new school year” In this blog I focus on what parents can do with their children at home to give them a head start in Preschool, Kindergarten and Year 1.

As we begin the new school year, I continue to be amazed at the vast difference in the abilities of children in my class. There is such a huge range of academic skills, gross motor skills (large muscle), fine motor skills (small muscle) and social skills. These skills are the cornerstone of what makes a successful student at the beginning of the school year. Even though teachers will work on these skills throughout the year, students who have a good grasp of them before starting school always have a head start in their education. The children that have these skills are more independent, motivated and ready to learn.

Below are 10 skills that parents can work on with their child at home to give them a great foundation for learning.

1. Ask questions

Unknown-2This may seem like a simple one but so many children start school not being able to answer questions. Many children are not given the opportunity at home to describe their thinking or work out simple problems, so when they get to school and they are constantly asked to give their opinion or what they think the answer to a problem is they simply become withdrawn. The classroom is full of questions, full of problem solving and a platform for students to ask more questions. Therefore children need to be exposed to this type of learning way before they begin schooling. There are 4 main ideas to remember when incorporating questions into your home environment. The first one is that the use of “how” and “why” questions require a deeper understanding of what ever the child is doing. (e.g. Why do you think the rock sank to the bottom of the water container?) The second one is that questions need to be asked during a child’s play and not just at the end. (e.g. Why have you decided to stick that paper on the side of the box) The third one is that questions do not have to have just one answer. (e.g. Why do you think you need to eat healthy food?) The last idea is that questions lead to more questions. If your child has given you an answer think of a new question that builds on what they just said.

2. Write using lowercase letters

images-3Many children begin school writing every letter in their name in capital letters. This confuses the child as a capital letter needs to be written for the beginning of a proper noun or start of a sentence. Teachers will need to ‘undo’ their previous learning and teach them the proper way to use letters. This is a hard habit to break so parents are encouraged to only get their child to write a capital letter for the beginning letter of their name.

3. Pencil grip

pencil1Parents need to encourage a child from the age of 4 to hold the pencil correctly. This is a fine motor skill that needs lots of practice and encouragement. We need a correct pencil grip to become a habit, to enable letters and numbers to be formed correctly and easily. An idea for you to do with your child is to get them to hold something small, like a rolled up tissue in the fingers that do not touch the pencil. When your child is learning to write have them do lots of lines from top to bottom and circles. These skills are prewriting skills and should be mastered before attempting to write letters and numbers.

4. Using scissors

using scissorsSo many children start kindergarten never holding a pair of scissors. Many parents feel that scissors are “too dangerous” and therefore their first experience of using them are when they are 5 or 6 years old. Using scissors is another fine motor skill that needs to be experienced from 3 years old. Children need to use these small muscles in their hands to develop them. They need to be encouraged to put their thumb in the top hole and to keep their hand straight. They need to move the paper around and not the scissors. You could put stickers around in a circle and get your child to cut through the middle of them by moving the paper around.

5. Tying shoelaces

shoelacesTimes have definitely changed and the importance of tying shoe laces seems like a skill of the past. Many children have velcro sport shoes and school shoes so they never need this skill until they are in upper primary. It is sad that many 8 - 10 year olds do not know how to tie their laces. Even though it takes a lot of time and patience at the beginning tying shoe laces need to be encouraged as it is another fine motor skill that develops the smaller muscles in their hands.

6. Shape orientation

UnknownWhen children are exposed to shapes at school many sit up, with a big smile and say I know everything about shapes. Unfortunately many of them have only had a very limited exposure to the concepts of shapes. Most parents say that their child could identify a circle, triangle, square and rectangle very easily. A very large percentage of children only identify equilateral triangles (a triangle with all three angles and sides the same) as being a triangle. When they are shown an isosceles triangle (2 sides the same and 1 different) or a scalene triangle (all three sides different) they say that it is not a “real triangle”. We need to ensure that children are exposed to many shapes in many orientations so they are able to have a solid understanding of what a shape is.

7. Count forwards and backwards 

CountingChildren need many opportunities to count objects. Children who have a strong sense of “one more” and “one less” before they start kindergarten have such a big head start in Mathematics compared to other children in their class. Children need to realise that there are numbers after 100 as well. Parents can encourage a child to start at a higher number like 43 and count forwards or backwards. You do not always need to start at 0.

8. Have different experiences 

images-4Children need to experience our world so they build their knowledge and understanding of how our world works. It also increases your child’s vocabulary which will help them to read. Giving your child different experiences does not have to be expensive. Most children who start kindergarten have never been on a bus, train or boat. Organise to take your child to the post office, library, police station, fire station and airport. They will learn so much from these experiences and it will help them to have a deep knowledge about these subjects.

9. Knowledge of print concepts

readingHaving an understanding of how texts (books) work gives your child a big advantage when starting school. A child needs to know how to hold a book, where the front of the book is, where a person starts to read from, knowledge of reading from left to right, understanding of letters and words and the use of pictures to support the text. For tips and advice for teaching print concepts to your child, refer to my previous blog “How to read with your young child: Print Concepts”

10. Independence

images-2Children who are independent have great problem solving skills and coping skills. This allows them to be very successful in the classroom. Children need to have lots of opportunities to develop their independence through the toddler and preschool years. For tips and advice for encouraging your child to become independent, refer to my previous blog  “Are you a helicopter parent?: Teaching independent skills”

Being “present” in your child’s life gives them the best start to their education. A parent is a child’s main teacher and this role should not be taken lightly. A teacher’s main goal is to “guide” not to inform. Let your child learn skills and information for themselves through the opportunities that you expose them to.

Hope you have enjoyed this series “How to create a successful home environment for the new school year”. We hope we have given you some food for thought from the three blogs and offered some practical ideas that you can implement into your household.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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Are you a helicopter parent? The parenting method taking the first world countries by storm.

images-2Welcome to my second blog in the series “How to create a successful home environment for the new school year” In this blog I focus on the negative effects of the well publicised form of parenting: Helicopter Parenting.

Helicopter parenting is a term used to describe a method of parenting that involves constant monitoring of a child’s experiences. The use of the word “helicopter” describes the parent’s behaviour of hovering above their child through their play, behaviour, sport and educational experiences.

A ‘helicopter parent” of a toddler may always direct what their child plays with, gives them limited alone time and constantly ensures that all activities that the toddler engages in are educational. In primary school they may constantly be up at the school speaking to the class teacher, ensures that their child gets a particular teacher or coach, selects the child’s friends and is extremely involved in homework and school projects.

There are several problems with this style of parenting:

1. The child develops low self esteem and confidence

The child will believe that they are unable to complete tasks without parent assistance. They do not believe in their own ability as they have never been given the opportunity to problem solve.

2. Low coping skills

The child will not develop their own coping skills to be able to cope with loss, disappointment, or failure. Parents who are always fixing their child’s messes or removing obstacles that might cause any discomfort for their child inhibits them from learning this vital skill.

3. High anxiety

The child will become very anxious when they are presented with a situation which they are not familiar with and that would require them to work out problems on their own. They will not like to be in a new environment where there are lots of unknowns.




4. Undeveloped life skills.

A ‘helicopter parent’ who is always assisting their child in everyday skills will inhibit that child in developing their independence. They will not develop life skills at the same rate as their peers as they are never given the opportunity to practise these skills independently.

So how do we ensure that our children become resourceful, resilient and equipped for our world? We need to land those choppers and follow these 9 simple ideas to combat helicopter parenting.

1. Take 17 seconds

When your child is frustrated or finding it difficult to solve a problem, wait 17 seconds before interfering. Children need to experience frustration in order to think of a solution. By interrupting prematurity you do not allow your child to have the opportunity of developing their problem solving skills.

2. Chores

choresAll children from 2 years of age need to contribute to the household. There are a variety of chores that children can do depending on their age. A child needs to learn the importance of hard work and working cooperatively with others.

3. Failing

Children need to experience the feeling of failure. Whether it is a bad result from an assignment, getting in trouble for not bring their instrument to class or coming last in a running race. It is up to the parents to explain that this will not be the first time that the child will feel disappointed and upset. They need to work out a way to make them feel better and learn from their mistakes.

4. Getting dressed

clothesA child needs to learn this essential skill from a young age. From the age of 2 years old a child should be able to put on and take off their underwear, pants, loose fitting shirts and shorts. Although it is faster for a parent to assist, a child needs time and praise to master this life skill.

 

5. Sibling arguments

fighting shirtIn every household that has more than one child there is probably not a day that goes past without an argument between the siblings. This is a normal part of development for children however what we do as parents can influence the rate of development. Children need time to work it out themselves. We can not always be the umpire but be there if they want some help. The help is in the form of suggestion so the child still has the control of their own actions. When all else fails you could always try the shirt in the picture to force your children to work it out independently.

6. Putting things away

put away clothesEvery person in a household needs to be responsible for their own things. If you get it out you need to put it away. This is not only for toys but should also apply to clothing. A child as young as 2 years old will be able to put away their own clothing if the drawers are at their height.

 

7. Putting on shoes

ShoesTeaching a child to put on their own shoes will save a lot of time in the future. Use a sticker that is cut in half so children can quickly identify which shoe goes on which foot.

 

8. Pack own bag

A child needs to be responsible for packing their own bag. They need to know what they need for each day. They could have a visual checklist to remind them what they need for each school day.

9. Handing in notes

notesHaving a spot in the home for all school notes will help the home be very organised. It is up to the child to give notes to the parent and give any notes to school. If they forget, it will need to come down to a “life lesson”

I would like to finish this blog with a quote from Ann Landers.

” It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do themselves, that will make them successful human beings”

Please share this blog to combat the rapidly increasing parenting method of “helicopter parenting”. It is so prevalent in schools today that our children are suffering as a consequence.

If you have found this blog useful why not check out our other blogs that all focus on different educational topics.

20 ways to help your child learn their sight words

What K-2 teachers want parents to know – Reading Levels

20 great ways to learn multiplication facts

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

10 ways of making your home more organised for the start of the school year

Unknown-1The 2016 school year has started already! The christmas holidays and celebrating the new year seem like a distant memory. Starting something new, like a new school year, always brings mixed emotions. Feelings of excitement and anticipation blended with anxiety and apprehension. Children often experience all these feelings as they begin their educational journey, either in preschool or kindergarten or as they start a new grade. As parents and educators we can assist children to make this transition period run as smoothly as possible.

In this blog, I want to focus on the importance that organisation has in making the transition to a new school year very successful. The following 10 organisational ideas can be used for children who are starting preschool to children in high school.

1. Dedicate an area in the house to organise school items

organised areaTo eliminate the stress of searching for missing school bags, hats and school shoes, make a place in the house where your child puts their school items as soon as they walk into the house. You could also have a basket for your child to put any notes they receive in it and a basket where they can put their lunchbox so it can be restocked for the next day. Hooks are a great idea to hang school bags, library bags and sports bags on. Each hook could have a label for each child in the family or class.

2. Organise a place to have the uniforms for each day

organise clothingSave time searching for parts of uniforms by organising the weekly uniforms on Sunday night. Have an allocated place for the school uniform, sports uniform, extra curricular outfits and all the shoes that accompany each outfit. Encourage your child to get this ready as part of their back to school routine on Sunday night. You could also allocate a spot next to the uniforms for any equipment (like an instrument) that the child might need for a particular day.

3. Have a visual “chore” list

chore listIt is important for your child (no matter what age) to contribute to the daily running of the household. It is up to every family member to have an active role in the household to keep it running successfully. Having a visual board to keep track of chores completed for the day will help everyone in the house know what still needs to be completed and by who. Children need to see that we all need to work together in order achieve things. The chore list would be made to reflect the age of the child. The example on the left would be for a young child. You could have a checklist for an older child.

4. Have a family recharge station

recharge stationThis is practical for two reasons. The first being that there is a central location where all device chargers are kept so it easy to charge a device. The second reason is probably a more important one. The recharge station is located in the centre of the house, therefore it encourages children to place their devices at the recharge station at night and not in their bedroom. Today in our society, we have a huge problem of children not getting enough sleep due to the overuse of devices at night and as a result they lack concentration and perform poorly at school the next day.

5. Pack the school lunch the night before

Lunch boxIncorporate packing the school lunch into your child’s night routine. They need to be responsible for selecting a healthy lunch and snacks that they would eat the following day. They need to put it in a spot that will be easy to grab the next morning. They could also prepare their water bottle and place it next to their lunch so everything is together.

6. Organise the school lunch supplies

pantryAfter purchasing items from the supermarket for school lunches, divide the snacks into individual portions. Organise all these snacks in an area of the pantry so they are only used for the school lunches. Keep them in a box or basket to make it easier to get in and out of the pantry. You could also do the same with fruit by dedicating an area or crisper drawer to the school fruit snacks. Your child can then pick three snacks to add into their lunch box each day.

7. A dedicated homework area

homework stationThis needs to be in a central location of the house. It needs to be stocked with all the supplies that could be needed to complete homework. For example glue, scissors, calculator, ruler, pens, eraser etc. Have a time set that all children in the house need to be at their homework station so the home is very quiet. All televisions and white noise to be turned off during the designated time. Have a set duration (e.g. 30 minutes - 60minutes) that the children need to be working for and then any other homework can be finished off after dinner.

8. A box with compartments for small things

compartmentsHave a box or basket that has dividers in it to organise the important smaller items in your house. These items could include keys, sunglasses, wallets and phones. Have it in a central location so it is practical for all family members. This will make it very easy to locate these items that often go missing in busy households.

9. Have a family calendar

calenderA family calendar is essential to keep track of all the comings and goings of a busy household. It helps children to visually see what is coming up on what day and what items they may need for that particular event. Children thrive on knowing what to expect next, so a family calendar will help children plan out their week. Each family member could be allocated a colour so it is easy to see what each member of the family has on for each day.

10. Plan the dinner meals for the week

menusPlanning the dinner meals for the week will help you save a lot of time and money. You will only need to do one shop to get all the groceries you need and you will not throw out food that you have not used. Knowing what food to make on each night helps give you time to be with the children to talk to them about their day or to help them with their homework. Allocate quick and easy meals to nights that there may be a lot of extra curricular activities on. Get your child involved in the meal preparation or setting the table. Have a chart to show the family the meals of the week and you could allocate who will help you prepare each meal.

An organised house helps eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress caused by lack of planning. Organisation is an important skill for children to develop and it is essential that they are active participants in contributing to the organisation of the household. This will ensure that they have every opportunity to be successful as they begin their new school year.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog about how organisation can help to make the start of the new school year successful. I hope you have found all the tips and ideas useful for you and your family.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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