Bright Ideas Lesson Ideas

A Month of Literacy Activities

A little bit everyday goes a long way! Check out this link for a calendar full of literacy activities to do with your child everyday. Our Lesson Ideas are perfect for the activities they suggest because they’re quick, fun, and easy to do! A new month is just around the corner so it’s a perfect time to give this a try!

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9 Tips For Advanced Readers

Our main goal here at Reading Coach is to give parents the knowledge to teach their children how to read – whether your child is homeschooled, goes to public school, or private. Since we are a relatively new site, we still have loads of content that has yet to be added. Most of what we have up now is geared towards helping your child learn to read. However, in the coming months I hope to add more to our site that helps children read to learn. This will be for kids that have a solid foundation of the basic reading skills in place and as a result, read pretty well. All they need now is to improve upon those skills so they can go beyond “simple reading” to understanding and learning about the things that interest them and about the world around them. Therefore, the focus will be on continuing to expand vocabulary, improve and/or build comprehension, and challenge their thinking in fun and engaging ways. So stay tuned for future additions to these sections!

In the meantime, one of our readers asked for advice on what to do with his daughter (a first grader) that reads above grade level at school. He’d like some tips for things they can do at home with her to challenge her a bit and keep her love of reading alive. So here are some tips for all of you out there that would like to do the same for your advanced readers:

  • Have Higher Level Books Available:This one may seem like a no-brainer…and it is. But I’d like to highlight the importance of just making the books available for your child to read, not necessarily asking or requiring your child to read them. It’s amazing to see the choices your child will make on their own when they have the freedom to choose above (and sometimes below) their level. So stock up your shelves with a variety of selections and provide the opportunity for them to explore and choose.
  • Go Beyond The Classroom: Get involved in what your child is reading at school by asking your child’s teacher about the themes and stories they are reading in class. You can then take that information to the library (or even online) to get books and stories that are related to what they are learning, but provide more of a challenge for your child. Do this only if your child shows interest in the topic – pushing your child to learn more about something they don’t care about won’t help!
  • Do Extention Activities: Start a project at home to extend what they’re learning in school. Is your child learning about plants? Have them read about growing a garden and then get started on one as a family project! Is she learning about the solar system? Have her read about the stories behind the constellations and how they got their names. Then maybe she can check out the night sky to create her own constellation and a story to go along with it. Or maybe your child can create an alternate ending to a book or story they’re reading in class. Get creative!
  • Read Aloud To Them: I’m sure you already do this…but try to focus on reading books that are really advanced for your child. Advanced readers sometimes hesitate to read tougher books by themselves (especially if they are younger), but they thrive on listening to books with advanced vocabulary. Chapter books are great for this! These books will serve to challenge your child by exposing them to words, ideas, and plots that are more complex. This will also really help their writing too!
  • Do Paired Reading with Chapter Books: If your child shows interest in harder chapter books but isn’t quite ready to read them on their own, you can do partner readings with your child. A great way to do this is to start reading the book to your child and then have them slowly start taking turns with you. They can take a turn reading a paragraph or a page to you, then maybe a couple of pages, a chapter, and so on. Pretty soon, they’ll want to read them on their own!
  • Discuss What They Read: Asking questions to check for comprehension is fine, but what I’m talking about here is having a full blown discussion about what your child is reading. Go beyond the simple who, what, where, when, why detail type questions and move to discussion-starting questions and comments like: “I wonder how Mary felt when Christie said that?”, “What do you think about how he solved that problem – How would you have handled that situation?”, “Why do you think the author ended the book this way?”, “Does that remind you of something/someone in your life?”, “Is this like any other book/story you’ve read – How is it different/alike?”, etc. Details can be important, but you want to teach your child to go beyond them to actually THINK about what they read.
  • Pair Fiction With Nonfiction: Doing this not only helps to broaden your child’s understanding of things, but it also helps to give them a depth of knowledge in the topic. For example, have your child read Verdi (fiction) and then read Slinky, Scaly, Slithery Snakes (non-fiction) to get a better understanding about snakes.
  • Get Them A Magazine Subscription: Kids love to get mail with their names on it! There are tons of educational magazines out there to choose from (you can even pick different grade levels) . Let your child help you pick one out that would interest them.
  • Focus on Quality not Quantity: Schools often reward kids for the number of books read or for completing a certain list. Although that’s completely okay, you can take the opportunity to teach your child the value of reading a good book for the pleasure of it and for what they’ll learn from it rather than “to read as much as possible”. You can focus on some classics or share some books that you really enjoyed as a kid.

There are many things you can do to challenge your kids at home. Just remember to keep it fun and to use their interests to lead the way! We’d love to have other parents share what works for them! What are some things you do to help challenge your child at home?

Bright Ideas Just For Fun

Get Into The Game!

We’ve received a couple of emails from people who are interested in starting up their own blogs to write about their kids’ progress and don’t know where to get started. It’s pretty easy actually. Just head over to WordPress and register. It’s ABSOLUTELY FREE and very easy to use. You’ll be writing your first post within a few minutes. Blogger is another free option, but we’re partial to WordPress around here. By the way, both of these options also allow you the option of keeping the entire blog private if that’s a concern.

If you want to get really fancy you can buy your own domain name and host your own site. It’s a little more work, but you have a little more control (and responsibility) over how your site works that way.

Why should you start an education or family blog? Here are a few good reasons:

  • Track your kids’ progress–It’s a great way to keep notes on their struggles and achievements
  • Meet and connect with others–If you’re homeschooling, there are many others with whom you can network and share ideas. The same goes for teachers and parents who are working with their kids outside of school.
  • A blog for your kids–having your kids keep a blog of their own is great writing exercise for them and also is a great way to help them (and you) get hands on experience with how technology is changing the way we learn.  Maybe they could use their blog to write reviews for the books they read.
  • A teaching tool–What if you posted assignments for you children on your blog and they were tasked with reading and comprehending these assignments? You could even include some intentional grammar and spelling errors and have your child find them.

There are probably a million other reasons for you to start blogging that have nothing to do with education, but hopefully this will convince you give it a try. Make sure you let us know about your new blog (a link would be great), and we’ll make sure to put you on our blogroll and feature your unique ideas!

Bright Ideas Just For Fun Lesson Ideas

Stump the Teacher

Can You Stump This Teacher?
Can You Stump This Teacher?

I made this game up when I was a teacher in the hopes of creating an interest for independent reading in my kids and also for improving their comprehension skills during independent reading. I introduced it as a contest because, if I’m honest, I knew that was the only way I was going to get their attention and initial interest. And no, I did’t feel the least bit guilty for tricking kids to read – especially when I knew that it could result in a new found love of reading!

A local organization donated a whole class set of a certain book that I thought the whole class could read on their own or at home with their parents. This was the first of many books I used to play Stump the Teacher. Here’s how I introduced the game:

  • I bragged to them that I was SO smart I could read a book, understand it, and be able to answer ANY question they could throw at me. Of course they didn’t believe me, so I had to challenge them by creating a contest to see if anyone could come up with a question that I couldn’t answer…therefore stumping the teacher.
  • I explained to the kids that I would assign a certain number of chapters each week and that every Friday they would get the chance to ask me any questions they wanted to see if they could try to stump me. It’s amazing how interested kids get when they think they might have the opportunity to prove you wrong. What an incentive!
  • I created a “Stump the Teacher” question box out of an old tissue box wrapped with construction paper where I had written plenty of goading comments like ” I bet you can’t stump me!” and “You better think of a really difficult question!”. I left cut up strips of paper next to the box so students could write their questions and drop them in throughout the week as they thought of them.
  • I encouraged my students to work together and/or get their parents to help them come up with really challenging questions. I was hoping that parents would get involved and actually read the book with their kids and discuss it so that they could come up with questions together. The idea worked with some but not all. Oh well, I tried!
  • Then every Friday they would gather around me on the floor as I picked questions out of the box to read and answer aloud. They’d laugh and squeal as I rolled my eyes, yawned, or feigned disinterest as I effortlessly answered their easy detail oriented questions (who, what, where, when type questions).

This is where the game became interesting. After making comments about how easy their questions were, some kids figured out that they would really have to dig and think about better questions to ask me. One week, I had a student ask me a really insightful question about one of the characters. I made a huge deal about what a great question that was and how he almost stumped me. Sure enough, other kids started asking similar questions and it soon became a competition to see who could ask the best question. It didn’t take long for these kids to dive in and use their critical thinking skills to really analyze what was going on in the story and with the characters in order to come up with questions to try to stump me. I was really impressed by their creativity! I, of course, gave in a couple of times to the really good questions and let some kids stump me as an incentive to continue their awesome brainstorming. Warning: Be prepared for the relentless gloating!

I realize that this game is best used in a classroom setting where you can use that competition to your advantage, yet it can still be a powerful way to get your kids to improve their comprehension of a selection at home. You’d just have to tweak it a bit and make it more of a game between you and your child and/or siblings. It would be a great game to use in a reading/literature class in a homeschooling co-op! Although competition is good in this game, the real reason it works is because of the continual discussion of the book. So let the discussions and your child’s questions be your guide throughout the book…it can be so much fun!

Do any of you have any tips or games you play with your kids to get them to understand books or stories better? We’d love to hear from you and have you share so we can all learn!

Bright Ideas My Humble Opinion

Readers and Golfers

Tiger Woods -- GolferI love to play golf, but I’m not a golfer…yet. That raises the obvious question–what are the differences between a golfer and someone who plays golf? Well, they’re basically the same differences between someone who can read and a reader.

Golfers have spent countless hours practicing chip shots and bunker shots. They’ve hit thousands of buckets of balls with their drivers and irons. They’ve spent time and effort tweaking small nuances in their swings in their basements. They are prepared for every situation the course, which they’ve played dozens of times and know intimately, can throw at them. As a result, they score well on the weekends when they play.

Guys who play golf (like me) usually go out once a week or less to play 18 holes. Maybe we hit a bucket of balls before we play to warm up. We get a little stressed when put in the situation of having to chip downhill onto green because we don’t really have that shot. We lay up instead of going for greens because we can’t hit our 2 iron well every time and can’t rely on it. We basically play every hole shot to shot, reacting to the latest situation we’ve created for ourselves instead of setting ourselves up and executing a strategy.

So what does this have to do with reading? Maybe you can see where I’m headed with this…

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Comic Books Don’t Teach Anything

Or do they? Many may not consider comic books to be quality literature, but they are. They’re actually really cool pieces to use to create an interest in reading. While they may appeal to both girls and boys, comic books have been shown to be very useful in sparking an interest in reading in reluctant male readers. It’s no wonder since they’re chock-full of awesome illustrations, unique story lines, short text boxes, and speech bubbles. They’re definitely not like your everyday picture book or text, so some may not see the educational value they hold. You might have to dig (through different genres and titles), but if you look closely you’ll find a valuable resource for your child. Chris Shave definitely found them helpful when teaching his boys:

Shave said that comic books are very visual and these images are enough to drive the story forward alone, even without text. The pictures help actively involve the reader in the story.

“There are short bursts of dialogue, speech, and thought bubbles. Because of that, readers who might feel bogged down by long text and big paragraphs will experience success (reading comic books).”

Iliad Comic BookMore reasons why comic books are great selections to encourage reading:

  • They are high interest so your kids will want to read them. This is huge when trying to instill a love for reading in your child! They may start out with comic books and end up with Shakespeare, you never know – at least they’re reading! Read how Taylor put this theory to practice with high schoolers.
  • The characters tend to use a rich variety of words which helps kids expand their own vocabulary. You can do some interesting vocabulary lessons using comic books.
  • Did you know that Marvel (and other companies) make comic book versions of classical literature like The Iliad, Treasure Island, and The Man in the Iron Mask? These would be a great way to introduce the real books and to provide your child with some background knowledge. Or you can use them after reading the real ones to expose your kids to a different version.

All in all, comic books shouldn’t be overlooked when choosing reading material for your child. You never know what will be that one thing that will motivate your child to read until you try it!

Bright Ideas Just For Fun My Humble Opinion

Nine Months Old and Learning to Read!

Ok, I’m sure you don’t believe me, but it’s true…just let me explain.

Our nine month old is learning to read already. She can’t read yet, and she probably won’t be able to read for years, but she’s already learning how. She’s learning because we started building her reading foundation months ago by doing a few simple things. At our house, we call it “reading with a purpose.”

Like most kids, Chick Pea has a favorite book. For her, that book is Marcos Counts. We read this book to her at least six or seven times a day. At times it’s the only way I can get her to calm down while Mom cooks or writes. We’re very fortunate that she shows an interest and loves everything about books, whether it’s listening to us read, looking at the pictures, or eating them. But every time we read this book with her, we read with purpose. Just a few simple things make all the difference (we hope) in helping her catch on to the idea of reading long before she has the ability to really read. Here are a few techniques you can use with babies and toddlers:

Repeated Readings
If you’re like us, you don’t have much of a choice in this one. Small children love repetition and pretty much force you to read the same book over and over. But these repeated readings help them build vocabulary and fluency early on.

Tracking the words in the book
Even though you’ve memorized the text from repeated readings, tracking the words with your finger as you go along helps them make the connection that the scribbles you are pointing at with your finger (text) have some meaning and are related to what you are saying. Resist the urge to recite the words and turn the pages on queue.

Let your child turn the pages
With repeated readings, you child will learn pretty quickly when the page needs to be turned, and they’ll be anxious to do it to get to next part of the story. Along with tracking, which will be paused while waiting for the page to turn, kids quickly figure out that the story needs the next page to continue. In our case, she’s figured out that pages need to be turned, but her timing’s a little off. That’s ok too–it’s good practice.

Look at the book while you read
Again, this may be tough to remember to do because you’ll have the story memorized pretty quickly, but directing your attention to the pages and text gives your child a visual cue that the information is coming from the book, not from you. You can expand this using tracking by pointing at the pictures in the book and talking about them. For instance, Marcos Counts objects, but the book never mentions what those objects are in the text. We always point out what Marcos is counting on each page (ducks, cars, crayons, etc.) to help her learn to identify these objects.

This is the main purpose of our reading sessions. The single most important thing you can do to instill a love of reading in your child is to make it fun. Don’t force a reading time on your small child, and don’t chase them around insisting that they listen to the story. Even though it’s her absolute favorite book, Chick Pea often crawls away 3 pages in to Marcos Counts to go inspect a wooden block or chase a cat out of the room, and that’s ok. I usually just sit quietly and read silently to myself to find out what happens at the end of the story. 🙂

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How Big Bird Creates Critical Thinkers

Earlier today I was reading a book to my friend’s little boy. In the book, Big Bird was asking the kids to pick objects that fell into certain categories. For instance, he would ask the child to pick out something that we eat from a page full of blue objects, and the child would pick the bowl of blueberries. A page of green objects may contain a coat, and Big Bird would ask the kids to choose the thing that we wear. We expanded this game a little by talking about the other objects on the page as well, not just doing what was in the book, but going further than Big Bird asked us to.

We both had a blast reading the book, and I was telling Ana all about it on our way home. She told me that what we were doing was called “categorizing and classifying”. I had no idea while we were reading we were actually working on developing this little boy’s critical thinking skills. I was giving him categories and he was classifying the objects into those categories. We were building up his classify and categorize foundation that will allow him as an adult to read op-eds in the newspaper (if those still exist by then) and determine the author’s political leanings and motivations as he is considering the points the author is making. Pretty cool, huh?

Now I’m thinking of other activities we could do with the same book. One of the ideas I had was to close the book and ask him to find an orange animal. This would exercise his mind by asking him to classify an object into two categories instead of just one. As a computer nerd, I’d be interested to see how he’d approach that problem. Would he take the most efficient search approach and flip through the book to find the orange page, then look for an animal? Or would he look at each page identifying all the animals and then classifying them by colors? My guess is that kids of different ages may take different approaches.

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Digital ABCs — Lesson Idea #1

Over the weekend we were visiting some friends who have a three year old, and we were talking about activities parents can do with kids his age to prepare them to be successful readers. One of the ideas we came up with was to go on a walk or hike with a digital camera. The mission/game in this activity is to get the child to take as many photos as they can of things that begin with a certain sound (phoneme). The game can be played a different way for more advanced kids, who you can ask to take photos of things that begin with a certain letter.

In the first game we’re working on phonemic awareness, so if we’re trying to find things that start with the /f/ sound, a phone booth is a great photo. In the second game we’re working on phonics (connecting sounds with letters), so the phone booth becomes tricky. It would be a great photo if we’re looking for things that begin with the letter “p”, but not if we’re looking for things that begin with the letter “f”.

You can even make this a math activity by having the kids count the photos, add the correct and incorrect answers together, subtract incorrect from correct, etc.