Category Archives: Pre-Reading

Using Custom Collections From Your Library

Using Custom Collections From Your Library

Does your public library have a “customs collection” service? The Fort Wayne, IN public library system does, and it is amazing. If you aren’t aware of this, I suggest calling your library and asking about it–especially if you teach using unit studies of any kind.

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Homeschool Benefit #2: Children Can Learn At Their Own Pace!

 

Homeschool Benefit #2

This homeschool benefit is especially important to me. When I first learned about homeschooling, I happened to be in my very last semester at Ball State University studying elementary education. I read four books by Dr. Raymond Moore as I was
graduating and finishing up my degree. (I was given these books by someone
in my church.)

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Wondering Wednesday Podcast: Q & A–Using Audios With Children

Using Audios With Children

Donna Reish, of Character Ink Publishing and Raising Kids With Character seminar and blog, answers a reader’s question about using audios of all kinds with children beginning with two and three year olds up through young adults/teens.

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Wondering Wednesday Podcast: Story Time Questions

Podcast: Story Time Questions

Donna, of Character Ink Publishing and Raising Kids With Character parenting seminars, answers a young mom’s questions about how to handle story time with multiple ages–handling disruptive toddlers, developing a love for story time and books in all ages, making it a special time, and more!

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Q & A: Story Time With Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Olders

I have a question about reading to my young kids! I have a 4, 2, and 1 year old. The 1 year old hardly sits still to be read to, but my question is specifically about the 2 year old. He is always asking me to stop reading as he has questions about everything on the page, or wants to ‘count’ something, or he is flipping back through pages wanting to talk about what we just talked about. Again. What do I do? Let him be in charge of how we go through the book and what we talk about – possibly never finishing the book? Or ask him to wait until the end of each set of pages and then not let him turn them back? OR tell him to be quiet the whole time?! Any feedback and suggestions are welcomed

Q & A: Story Time With Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Olders (Character Ink/Donna Reish)

Story Time Questions

I treated story time much like I treated unit studies (or “subject reading” as Joshua used to call it when he was five!). Here are some basics for that first:

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“Readability Levels and Formulas for Homeschooling Parents”

                         “Readability Levels and Formulas for Homeschooling Parents”

                                  
                                                                                   Donna Reish





                                             An Introduction to Readability Levels

I began homeschooling over thirty years agol when Ray and I taught my younger sister (who was in eighth grade at the time) in our home. During my first several years of homeschooling, I used early readers when my children were first learning to read, but I did not care for “readers” for older children. I always felt that abridged or excerpted stories were inferior—and that children should read whole books.

This worked wonderfully for my first two (the ones who learned to read at age eight and nine). They didn’t like abridgements and excerpts very much anyway—and could easily read a couple of chapter books a week from ages ten and up. (I should note that they are both real literature buffs as adults, and our son teaches literary analysis of many novels to homeschooled students every semester. All of that reading really paid off!)

Then along came our third child, who begged for everything that I did not think was “best” for learning—workbooks (the more, the merrier, in her opinion); readers with excerpts and short stories; tons of what I had thought were useless pages of worksheets and coloring pages; and more. She was a different type of learner than Joshua and Kayla had been—and desired different learning tools.

So I began my hunt for “older” readers—readers for children beyond the phonetically-controlled ones that I had utilized to teach reading. I found many that I liked—and actually used some of them to read aloud to the kids since we found the stories and excerpts interesting and fun. They even caused my kids to go on and read entire books for themselves that they might have otherwise not known about or read (after reading an excerpted portion in their readers).

So…the moral of this story? Every child is different. Each child has his own learning style, likes, dislikes, etc. And we need to cater to those as much as possible in their learning. In order to choose reading materials for your children, a basic knowledge of readability levels will be a great help. I will detail readability levels and determinations in this month’s newsletter (March) and next month’s.  

                                          Readability Levels of Books

When a child is in school, he is likely in a “reading group,” that is a group of children from his class in which all of the students read at about the same reading level. The child’s teacher chooses readers/stories for each group of children based on that group’s (the children in that group’s) reading level.

To practice with your child at home, you will want to do the same thing—but in a one on one, rather than small group, situation. How do you know what level is appropriate for your child?

I will enumerate some tips for choosing books at your child’s reading level, primarily for word-calling purposes. First, though, a small peek at readability levels will help you in determining your child’s reading level.

Readability is based on many factors. Many readability scales use one of a few simple formulae in which the number of words in a passage or story is divided by the number of words—and a readability level is derived based on the number of words each sentence contains (on an average). Other formulae use the number of syllables, considering that a sentence that contains twenty “one-syllable” words is certainly easier to word call than a sentence that contains twenty “three-syllable” words.

In both of those cases, the readability level is based on word calling, which is an accurate portrayal of early readers since children do not focus much on comprehension at that level of reading. (And if a class does focus on comprehension, it is usually just literal comprehension—what happened, who the characters were, etc.)

As students progress in their reading, we want them to not only be able to sound out words in a passage or story, but we want them to derive meaning from those words. Formulae for readability of a text based on comprehension is much more difficult to assess (though definitely counting number of words with longer syllables demonstrates a higher comprehension level than just merely counting the number of words).

So many things come into play when considering readability of, say, a chapter book of 150 pages. A book might be short but extremely difficult to comprehend due to the vocabulary used (which some formulae do not consider). Likewise, a book can be very long but have extremely immature vocabulary and not be difficult to comprehend at all.

In our language arts and composition books, we give students passages to write from at least half of the time for factual writing in the early grades, lessening as students learn to find appropriate sources themselves, etc. In choosing these passages to write from, comprehension is extremely important. In order to write from source material, a much higher level of comprehension must be realized than merely that of sounding out the words. In choosing passages for students to read, take notes from, and write from, we consider readability in terms of word calling first, then we consider sentence structure. Sentence structure includes the length of the sentence, the type of sentence (i.e. what we learned as compound, compound-complex, etc.), the type of and length of sentence openers a sentence contains (prepositional phrase openers, adverb openers, etc.), and finally, the vocabulary of the passage.

How does this apply to your reading with your student? Consider the list of ascending skills below concerning readability and readers:

Readability and Readers

1. In the early grades, you will be concerned with readability in terms of decoding, phonics, sight words, etc. That is, can your student read the words?

2. If your child already reads well in terms of decoding (sounding out words), and can “pick up anything and ‘read’ it,” you will want to focus on content—comprehending what he reads, discussing it, etc.

3. As students progress in reading, homeschooling moms and teachers in school often forsake the practice of reading aloud with children, noting that the child can word call anything, so there is no need to check for word calling skills/application of phonics. However, we advocate reading aloud with your child for some years, at least a couple of times a week. No, you will not be checking for word calling anymore (though my older boys will still say something like, “How do you pronounce this word—m-y-r-i-a-d?” when they are reading something to themselves), but reading involves word calling AND comprehension. A child who can “read anything” but not comprehend it is like a child reading “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket.” To say that a child in fourth grade can read at a ninth grade level because he can decode all of the words in a passage that is rated at a ninth grade readability level is like saying he can read the “Wocket” tale by Dr. Seuss. He might be able to word call it, but is he “reading” if he cannot comprehend what he reads?

4. Oral reading together with Mom or Dad at upper elementary grades is for comprehension—you will not necessarily be checking on the application of his decoding skills, but you will be checking on his comprehension, vocabulary recognition, etc. You will hopefully be guiding him through his reading, discussing it, answering questions about vocabulary words (i.e. words he can easily sound out but does not know the meaning of), etc.

5. If your child is beyond the beginning phonics instruction, you may not need books that are “graded” in terms of readability. Perhaps he already enjoys reading a certain picture book series or early junior fiction series. These can then become his “readers” to read with you.

6. Consider the differences in “readability” in the materials he reads with you vs the materials he reads to himself:

a.    Be sure the material he reads aloud with you is somewhat challenging (i.e. he needs some help with words here and there but the books do not leave him in tears).

b.    Be sure that what he is reading to himself is not so difficult that he needs cueing or instruction as he reads it.

7.     Keep in mind that there are other things that affect readability besides syllable count, numbers of pages, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Interest is a strong factor in determining readability. (That is why I recommended the Saxon Bold Intervention+ for older students who need remedial reading on our Positive Parenting blog.The materials that they read from are high interest for older students—not childish or primary stories.) This is the reason that children who would not read their science or history book in fifth grade are picking up huge books of Harry Potter and these vampire books (not sure of their titles). Whether we like them or not, many children out there are reading these tomes simply because they are interested in them—despite the fact that those kids are not “at that reading level” and would never have picked up a book over two hundred pages prior to these books being released. (If you have an older student who is working on remedial reading, ask your librarian specifically for high interest/low readability materials for older students. Some of the adult literacy materials are extremely high interest with lower readability levels, as well.)

+Note: If you have an elementary child who is struggling with learning to read, visit Positive Parenting and click on “Reading Instruction” for helps and reviews of programs.

Morning Routines for Littles!

When “littles” have routines and consistency, every day can be a joy!

Yesterday I introduced the concept of the morning routine for all children. Today I would like to spend time on helping parents develop morning routines for their preschoolers. Tomorrow I will address older children and teens in this area.

I mentioned that a mom at a parenting seminar taught us about morning routines when we only had first graders and under. As she explained developing this routine, she showed her littles’ morning routine chart—a darling “board game” that she made on half sized poster board with every other square of the “Candyland” type of board containing a picture of something that the child needed to do in the morning—a child dressed; a child making his bed; a child putting his pj’s away; etc. It was so sweet—and we came home and promptly made “morning routine board game charts” for all of our kids who were old enough to follow the board and do a morning routine. (We used little people/animals with that tacky stuff placed on the bottom of them for the child to take around the board as he does his morning routine. These boards hung on the refrigerator, so it was important that the little pieces were lightweight and stuck well when the child put them on a square.)

Here are some additional tips for implementing morning routines with your little ones:

1. Timing each activity before setting the morning routine time is more important with this age group than any other. Small children can get discouraged if things seem to take too long—and a timer and reporting back to you while developing the time for the morning routine will help him see that this morning routine is truly doable.

2. Consider making a game board like the one described above, with pictures of children on them for your non-readers. (We wrote the task at the bottom of each picture, so the child had the picture as well as the words.)

3. You know your little ones better than anybody. Only put in the morning routine what your child can truly go do fairly independently. Start out small with just a few tasks and then increase as his responsibility and diligence increase.

4. If an entire morning routine chart would overwhelm your young kids, consider an 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of tag board divided into four equal quadrants. In the upper two, put GROOM and ROOM; in the bottom two, put DRESS and MESS. Start with the upper left hand square and work towards getting that part done without complaining and dilly dallying. This GROOM one might include washing face and hands, brushing teeth, combing hair (or coming to Mom with brush and ponytail rings to have her fix your hair). Once that is well underway, add the ROOM one—and have him straighten his room and make his bed in the morning. Continue in this way until all four quadrants are part of his morning schedule. (You can laminate this and have him X each quadrant with a white board marker as he finishes it each day.)

5. Be consistent. If you say that morning routines will be done before breakfast—and before the television is turned on, then follow through. As soon as you start varying from the plan (letting him watch a cartoon when his morning routine isn’t finished, etc.), the morning routines will go by the way. He needs to see that you are serious about helping him learn diligence, responsibility, time management, obedience, and more by being consistent with his morning routine.

6. As mentioned yesterday, consider something fun, like a first-thing-in-the-morning story to get your little ones moving—then do the morning routines.

7. Only put things on the morning routine chart for this age that truly must be done in the morning. You do not want to fill the morning with so much activity that it cannot all be accomplished. Anything that can be done ahead of time, such as packing backpacks, laying out clothes, making sandwiches for lunch, etc. are better off done the night before rather than trying to cram too much into the morning.

8. Develop consistent morning routines for yourself. We can’t sit down with coffee and the morning show in our robe while expecting our children to be doing their morning routines. Modeling goes a long way in teaching thoroughness, time management, and much more.

9. Rewards and encouragement go a long way for this group!

I think back nostalgically to the days of five littles nine and under—all learning how to work, become organized, and more via morning routines. They were so proud of their morning routine game boards and would often take visitors to the fridge to show them and tell them what their early mornings consist of. Two of our little ones even did recitations at a “homeschooling expo” in which they showed their charts and told the audience what they did each morning when they got up. Wowsie…that makes me smile…with a few tears of longing mixed in.

Note: We used Choreganizer chore cards to develop our preschoolers’ morning routine charts (available at http://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php?id=018244). Clip art programs would also work well for obtaining pictures to use on charts.

B is for Back to School!


Edudemic (clip art)






B is for BACK-TO-SCHOOL!

Do you start back on the traditional school schedule? Or do you school in the summer to get some days in? Or do you school year round and take breaks throughout the year?

Homeschooling provides flexibility in all areas (not just starting school but literally EVERYTHING) that we don’t even begin to appreciate fully. (I didn’t until my kids started taking college classes, and they were so locked in to schedules and no time off!!!!)






B is for BACK-TO-SCHOOL!

Do you have a command center? Regardless of whether you use charts, sticker posters, wipe and write, or clip boards for your schedule/chores/organizational systems, I recommend you follow this one tip first:

Get the first hour of the day down pat before you try to “perfect” everything else.

When the first hour of your day is good, the whole day can be good!

http://www.remodelaholic.com/2013/07/family-command-centers

B is for BACK-TO-SCHOOL!

While we are blessed not to have to buy, buy, buy…clothes, supplies, etc., every August just because everybody else is (sometimes I do think it would be fun to go “back to school” clothes shopping with the kids though!), do pay attention to the sales during this time.

For example, we use a lot of three-pronged, two-pocket folders for each monthly unit of work (for storage when the month is done), and those are available now for fifteen cents each vs. up to sixty cents each during the “off season.”

Plus, I just have to get some scented markers, cool sticky notes, or other fun thing for the teacher! 

Know How You Learn

Recently, my son and I were meeting about our novel. Joshua started to describe the changes he thought we should make to a particular scene and told me I could just jot down whatever I thought I needed to. I told him to hold on for a minute while I got a blank sheet of paper, then I promptly did the following:

1. Numbered each note as he spoke
2. Put sub notes under the note with the character’s initial and the motivational changes that Joshua thought we needed (M: Needs to begin this scene….)
3. Drew arrows to and from things as he spoke

Then when I was ready to rewrite that scene, guess what I did? I typed those notes all up–complete with the numbering and sub-numbering, etc.

Why am I telling you this? If you are a student, pay close attention to HOW you learn. I could not have written from paragraph notes. I could not have written with a word or two for each point. I could not have written from my handwritten notes–I needed to type it up in order to further understand it.

Whatever you do as a student to learn tells you a lot about how you learn! Utilize this information for test preparation, writing projects, and more. And like I always tell my students: “You know more than you realize you know!”

Article Reprint: Readability Levels and Formulae”

                             “Readability Levels and Formulae for Homeschooling Parents”

                                                Part I of II

                                                           Donna Reish

                            An Introduction to Readability Levels

I began homeschooling twenty-eight years ago this fall when Ray and I taught my younger sister (who was in eighth grade at the time) in our home. During my first several years of homeschooling, I used early readers when my children were first learning to read, but I did not care for “readers” for older children. I always felt that abridged or excerpted stories were inferior—and that children should read whole books.

This worked wonderfully for my first two (the ones who learned to read at age eight and nine). They didn’t like abridgements and excerpts very much anyway—and could easily read a couple of chapter books a week from ages ten and up. (I should note that they are both real literature buffs as adults, and our son teaches literary analysis of many novels to homeschooled students every semester. All of that reading really paid off!)

Then along came our third child, who begged for everything that I did not think was “best” for learning—workbooks (the more, the merrier, in her opinion); readers with excerpts and short stories; tons of what I had thought were useless pages of worksheets and coloring pages; and more. She was a different type of learner than Joshua and Kayla had been—and desired different learning tools.

So I began my hunt for “older” readers—readers for children beyond the phonetically-controlled ones that I had utilized to teach reading. I found many that I liked—and actually used some of them to read aloud to the kids since we found the stories and excerpts interesting and fun. They even caused my kids to go on and read entire books for themselves that they might have otherwise not known about or read (after reading an excerpted portion in their readers).

So…the moral of this story? Every child is different. Each child has his own learning style, likes, dislikes, etc. And we need to cater to those as much as possible in their learning. In order to choose reading materials for your children, a basic knowledge of readability levels will be a great help. I will detail readability levels and determinations in this month’s newsletter (March) and next month’s.  

                                          Readability Levels of Books

When a child is in school, he is likely in a “reading group,” that is a group of children from his class in which all of the students read at about the same reading level. The child’s teacher chooses readers/stories for each group of children based on that group’s (the children in that group’s) reading level.

To practice with your child at home, you will want to do the same thing—but in a one on one, rather than small group, situation. How do you know what level is appropriate for your child?

I will enumerate some tips for choosing books at your child’s reading level, primarily for word-calling purposes. First, though, a small peek at readability levels will help you in determining your child’s reading level.

Readability is based on many factors. Many readability scales use one of a few simple formulae in which the number of words in a passage or story is divided by the number of words—and a readability level is derived based on the number of words each sentence contains (on an average). Other formulae use the number of syllables, considering that a sentence that contains twenty “one-syllable” words is certainly easier to word call than a sentence that contains twenty “three-syllable” words.

In both of those cases, the readability level is based on word calling, which is an accurate portrayal of early readers since children do not focus much on comprehension at that level of reading. (And if a class does focus on comprehension, it is usually just literal comprehension—what happened, who the characters were, etc.)

As students progress in their reading, we want them to not only be able to sound out words in a passage or story, but we want them to derive meaning from those words. Formulae for readability of a text based on comprehension is much more difficult to assess (though definitely counting number of words with longer syllables demonstrates a higher comprehension level than just merely counting the number of words).

So many things come into play when considering readability of, say, a chapter book of 150 pages. A book might be short but extremely difficult to comprehend due to the vocabulary used (which some formulae do not consider). Likewise, a book can be very long but have extremely immature vocabulary and not be difficult to comprehend at all.

In our language arts and composition books, we give students passages to write from at least half of the time for factual writing in the early grades, lessening as students learn to find appropriate sources themselves, etc. In choosing these passages to write from, comprehension is extremely important. In order to write from source material, a much higher level of comprehension must be realized than merely that of sounding out the words. In choosing passages for students to read, take notes from, and write from, we consider readability in terms of word calling first, then we consider sentence structure. Sentence structure includes the length of the sentence, the type of sentence (i.e. what we learned as compound, compound-complex, etc.), the type of and length of sentence openers a sentence contains (prepositional phrase openers, adverb openers, etc.), and finally, the vocabulary of the passage.

How does this apply to your reading with your student? Consider the list of ascending skills below concerning readability and readers:

Readability and Readers

1. In the early grades, you will be concerned with readability in terms of decoding, phonics, sight words, etc. That is, can your student read the words?

2. If your child already reads well in terms of decoding (sounding out words), and can “pick up anything and ‘read’ it,” you will want to focus on content—comprehending what he reads, discussing it, etc.

3. As students progress in reading, homeschooling moms and teachers in school often forsake the practice of reading aloud with children, noting that the child can word call anything, so there is no need to check for word calling skills/application of phonics. However, we advocate reading aloud with your child for some years, at least a couple of times a week. No, you will not be checking for word calling anymore (though my older boys will still say something like, “How do you pronounce this word—m-y-r-i-a-d?” when they are reading something to themselves), but reading involves word calling AND comprehension. A child who can “read anything” but not comprehend it is like a child reading “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket.” To say that a child in fourth grade can read at a ninth grade level because he can decode all of the words in a passage that is rated at a ninth grade readability level is like saying he can read the “Wocket” tale by Dr. Seuss. He might be able to word call it, but is he “reading” if he cannot comprehend what he reads?

4. Oral reading together with Mom or Dad at upper elementary grades is for comprehension—you will not necessarily be checking on the application of his decoding skills, but you will be checking on his comprehension, vocabulary recognition, etc. You will hopefully be guiding him through his reading, discussing it, answering questions about vocabulary words (i.e. words he can easily sound out but does not know the meaning of), etc.

5. If your child is beyond the beginning phonics instruction, you may not need books that are “graded” in terms of readability. Perhaps he already enjoys reading a certain picture book series or early junior fiction series. These can then become his “readers” to read with you.

6. Consider the differences in “readability” in the materials he reads with you vs the materials he reads to himself:

a.    Be sure the material he reads aloud with you is somewhat challenging (i.e. he needs some help with words here and there but the books do not leave him in tears).

b.    Be sure that what he is reading to himself is not so difficult that he needs cueing or instruction as he reads it.

7.     Keep in mind that there are other things that affect readability besides syllable count, numbers of pages, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Interest is a strong factor in determining readability. (That is why I recommended the Saxon Bold Intervention+ for older students who need remedial reading on our Positive Parenting blog.The materials that they read from are high interest for older students—not childish or primary stories.) This is the reason that children who would not read their science or history book in fifth grade are picking up huge books of Harry Potter and these vampire books (not sure of their titles). Whether we like them or not, many children out there are reading these tomes simply because they are interested in them—despite the fact that those kids are not “at that reading level” and would never have picked up a book over two hundred pages prior to these books being released. (If you have an older student who is working on remedial reading, ask your librarian specifically for high interest/low readability materials for older students. Some of the adult literacy materials are extremely high interest with lower readability levels, as well.)

Join us in our April e-newsletter for the remainder of this article about readability, including “Laymen’s Tips to Readability” and resources for finding books at your students’ levels.

+Note: If you have an elementary child who is struggling with learning to read, visit Positive Parenting and click on “Reading Instruction” for helps and reviews of programs.