The Benefits of Dramatic Play in Early Childhood Education

Dramatic PlayAn increasing amount of research continues to support play in early childhood development, and there are five primary forms or types of play in which children engage: locomotive, social, object, language and pretend play. Each type of play has its own benefits for the developing mind of a
young child, and while each is important, pretend play (otherwise known as imaginative or dramatic play) is becoming an increasingly popular component in toddler and preschool education.

Dramatic play is defined by experts as a type of play where children assign and accept roles and act them out. For example, child who pretends to feed and rock a doll to sleep is engaging in dramatic play, or a child who pretends to fix a leaky faucet in the play kitchen is engaging in dramatic play.

This is a time for a child to pretend to be someone or something else, and while pretending may just look like “playing”, it is integral to the developmental learning process. There are four primary areas under which children learn and develop through pretend play. They
include:

  • Intellectual – increase in skills such as problem solving, negotiating, creativity, organizing and planning, retelling familiar stories, application of newly gained knowledge, and mathematics
  • Physical – increase in skills such as gross and fin motor development, fitness, strength, and
    coordination
  • Social – development of skills such as sharing, taking turns, cooperation, negotiation, impulse
    control, delay gratification, and deal with disappointment
  • Emotional – increase in self esteem, pride and accomplishment, feeling of safety and protection,
    development of sense of self and individuality, and feelings or purpose

Experts agree that dramatic play is an integral part of a well rounded preschool program as it is
healthy for early childhood development. Through dramatic play, children learn a myriad of skills.
In fact, the Association of Childhood Education International has stated that play is a natural part of
childhood development that cannot be replaced by adult interaction. This means that even adult
instruction cannot replace the valuable experience children gain through play, specifically dramatic
play. So, let the children pretend!
For further reading:
The Vital Role of Play in Early Childhood Education by Joan Almon
The Benefits of Dramatic Play by Ellana S. Yallow, Ph. D.
What is Dramatic Play and How Does it Support Literacy Development in Preschool? by Scholastic.com

Cn u rd ths? A guide to invented spelling

by: GreatSchools Staff
spelling-palm-habor-private-school
Spelling instruction at your child’s school may look different from what you remember of your school days. Here’s a guide to what you might see and why things have changed.

Your first-grader proudly shows you the story she wrote in class and it looks something like this:
“Ther ouns was two flawrs. Oun was pink and the othr was prpul. Thae did not like ech athr becuse thae whr difrint culrs. Oun day thae had a fite.”

Invented Spelling Helps Children Learn
Don’t panic. It is called “invented spelling” or “inventive spelling,” and many teachers encourage it in the early grades. It’s not because they’ve given up teaching children to spell, but because of a general shift in understanding about how children learn.

When children create their own spellings for words they do not know how to spell correctly they’re using invented spelling. They use what they know about letters, sounds and spelling patterns to spell the word as well as they can.

Written in standard spelling, the above excerpt from a first-grader’s story would say: “There once was two flowers. One was pink and the other was purple. They did not like each other because they were different colors. One day they had a fight.”

Invented Spelling Is Part of a Developmental Process
The writing tells you a lot about what the author has and has not learned about spelling in English. She has mastered simple consonant-vowel-consonant words like “not,” “had” and “did.” She knows that adding an “e” to the end of a word can make the vowel sound long, although she does not always know where to apply this rule: “thae, fite.” She has mastered some irregular, but often-used words like “was,” “day” and “two,” but she still needs to work on “were,” “they” and “there.” She does not yet know how to use the common -er ending in words like “other” and “flowers,” but she clearly understands that the spellings of words must reflect each sound you hear in the word: “flawrs,” “difrint.”

If you don’t remember being praised for spelling like this when you were in school, it’s no surprise. For a long time spelling was considered to be mainly a process of memorizing individual words. Today, many experts believe that spelling is a developmental process in which children acquire certain ideas or theories about spelling as they are exposed to correct, or standard, spelling. Studies analyzing many samples of young children’s writing led to this shift in understanding.

Visual memory, or being able to see in your mind what a word should look like, is still recognized as an important part of spelling. However, many experts believe that visual memory is best developed by studying word patterns, and seeing and using words in reading and writing, not by memorizing unrelated lists of words. Children learn about standard spelling by reading, studying words and word patterns in school, attempting to spell words on their own, and editing their attempts.

Invented spelling allows children to communicate in writing long before they are ready to spell each word correctly. Another benefit is that children can express their ideas quickly and smoothly in a first draft, without being bogged down by trying to spell each word correctly. Invented spelling also helps children progress toward standard spelling. Sounding out words and predicting how they will be spelled reinforces students’ understanding of the connection between letters and sounds, and lets them experiment with the spelling patterns they are learning. As they edit their writing and make a final draft, students get additional practice with the correct forms of words.

In an article on the Natural Child Project, reading consultant Margaret Phinney compared the process of learning to spell and write to learning to speak. She noted that parents would never forbid a child from speaking until he could pronounce each word perfectly. Instead parents encourage early speaking attempts and reinforce correct pronunciations. Phinney suggested that parents do the same with early writing – encourage children to write often and be accepting
of their attempts.

The Five Stages
Research studies show that children progress through five stages on their journey to correct English spelling. Remember that each child develops at her own rate and has had different experiences with reading and writing. The grade-level correspondences here are only meant to be a general guide, and your child might reach a particular stage sooner or later than indicated. If you have concerns about your child’s progress with spelling, talk to her teacher. The stages as described by researcher Dr. J. Richard Gentry are:

Stage 1: Pre-communicative

What it means: In this stage, children use letters and are beginning to understand that letters are the building blocks of words, but they show no understanding that letters stand for particular sounds. Pre-communicative spellers may not know all of the letters and may not write top to bottom and left to right. A child in this stage might write the letters E, A, M, B and T scattered randomly across the page to stand for “I had pizza last night.”

What you might see in the classroom: Teachers will be helping students learn the alphabet, learn the connection between sounds and letters, understand that in English we read from top to bottom and left to right, and understand what a word is. For example, the teacher might read a story from a “big book” with the class. As the class reads, the teacher might pause to talk about particular words and the letters in them, and he might point to each word as they read it to reinforce that the words go from left to right and top to bottom.

When you’ll see it: This stage is typically seen in the preschool years and very early in kindergarten.

Stage 2: Semi-phonetic

What it means: Children begin to understand that letters stand for particular sounds. Spellers at this stage often use single letters to represent words, sounds or syllables and might use the first sound heard in the word to represent the whole word (M for “mommy” or U for “you”). A semi-phonetic speller might write “I M HP” for “I am happy.”

What you might see in the classroom: Teachers will continue to emphasize the connections between letters and sounds, and will help children listen for all of the sounds they hear in a word. They continue to expose children to the conventions of writing, including using capital letters, writing from left to right, and the differences between words and sentences. Many teachers use a daily shared writing activity to work on these concepts. For example, the class might write a morning message as a group, with the teacher modeling and talking about when to use capitals or periods, and how to listen for and write all the sounds in a word.

When you’ll see it: This stage is usually seen late in the preschool years and early in kindergarten.

Stage 3: Phonetic

What it means: In the phonetic stage, students use a letter or group of letters to represent each sound they hear in the word. In many cases, their spelling will not be standard, but their choice of letters will make sense and you’ll probably be able to figure out what it says. Many simple “consonant-vowel-consonant” words may be spelled correctly at this stage. For example, words like “rat” and “hit” are likely to be spelled correctly, but you might see “fon” for “phone,” “uv” for “of,” and “kak” for “cake.” A phonetic speller might even write: “byutiful” for “beautiful.”

What you might see in the classroom: At the phonetic stage, students are ready to be introduced to word families, spelling patterns, phonics and word structures. They might talk about a common spelling pattern and then look for examples of it in their reading. For example, they might talk about the word “fish,” and how it has a short “i” sound and a “sh” sound at the end. Then they might watch for other examples of that pattern in their reading: wish, dish, swish.

In their reading, they will begin to be exposed to “sight words.” These are words that are very common, but are not spelled quite how they sound or are spelled with an uncommon pattern. Students usually memorize these words so they can easily recognize them in their reading and use them in their writing. Many teachers put these common words on a “Word Wall” so students see them frequently and can check their spelling when they need to.

When you’ll see it: Many students are in the phonetic stage by the end of kindergarten or the beginning of first grade.

Stage 4: Transitional

What it means: In this stage, students are learning to recognize common patterns and structures in words, and they begin to use those patterns in their writing. For example, students learn that adding an “e” to the end of a word usually changes a vowel to a long vowel, and they apply that rule to many words. They might spell “mate” and “take” correctly after learning this rule, but they may also write “nite” and “wate.” Students also experiment with less common patterns like “-igh.” A transitional speller might write “hiked” as “highked.” Many very common, but irregular words like “was” and “have” might be spelled correctly as students see and use
these words frequently.

When you’ll see it: In first grade, students are likely to move from the phonetic stage to the transitional stage, where they might stay through approximately third grade.

What you might see in the classroom: Students at this stage will study common and unusual word patterns. For example, they may have a lesson on different ways the long “e” sound can be spelled: “ee” as in “need;” “ea” as in “meat,” “e” with a silent “e” as in “here,” “-y” as in “happy.” They might sort a group of long “e” words by the way the sound is spelled and look for examples of the different patterns in their reading. They will probably continue memorizing the spelling of common irregular words. According to literacy specialist Karen Heath, some spelling programs for primary grade students also include movement-based practice of common words
to help students get the feel of writing a particular word. For example, students might trace words in fingerpaint or sand, or they might write a word over and over on a white board.

Stage 5: Correct

What it means: By this stage, students have a large number of words they know how to spell, and they will often recognize when they have spelled a word incorrectly. They understand and use basic rules and patterns from the English spelling system, including prefixes and suffixes, silent consonants, plurals, and many irregular spellings. Students in the correct stage know how to find the correct spelling of a word using reference materials. They don’t spell every word correctly, but they spell most words correctly.

When you’ll see it: Students usually enter the correct stage in late third grade or sometime in fourth grade, although their spelling continues to develop throughout their school years.

What you might see in the classroom: At this stage, teachers often link the spelling of words with their meaning. Students strengthen their spelling and vocabulary by studying the meaning of root words, prefixes and suffixes, especially those that come from Latin or Greek. For example, upper grade or middle school students might study the root word “sign” that evolved from the Latin “signum,” meaning “mark” or “token.” They might learn how the meanings and spellings of other words like “signature” and “designate” are related to sign.

Movement through the five stages is gradual and a student writing sample will often show evidence of more than one stage, although children generally do not fluctuate wildly between stages, according to Gentry.

Questions Parents Have

Why does it matter which stage of spelling my child is in?
According to Dr. Maryann Manning, a professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, if a teacher is aware of the developmental levels of her students’ spelling, she can provide appropriate instruction and support at the student’s level. For example, with a child in the earliest stages of spelling, the teacher might model how to listen for all of the sounds you hear in the word and represent those sounds on paper. With a more advanced speller, the teacher might point out how two words share the same uncommon spelling pattern (like “-igh”).

Manning also recommends that teachers pay attention to the words their students are spelling almost correctly, and tailor spelling lists to the child’s ability. She said, “When a student is spelling three of the four letters in a word correctly, the word is a candidate for formal memorization.” She believes that a student is not ready to memorize a word until he gets close to the correct spelling on his own. Before that, the spelling patterns in the word are probably beyond his developmental level.

Will invented spelling make my child think it is OK to spell words incorrectly?
Correct spelling in final drafts should be the goal from first grade on, according to Heath, although it is not reasonable to expect every word to be spelled correctly in the primary grades. Invented spelling is a step on the path to conventional spelling, not an end in itself. Teachers can allow students to use invented spelling and still emphasize that there are correct spellings. As their spelling ability develops, students should be expected to spell more and more words correctly, beginning with very commonly used words like “the” and “and.”

Once students have mastered the spellings of the most common words and they become more proficient with spelling resources and strategies, they can use invented spelling primarily for words they have never encountered and only until they can look up or find the correct spelling. Certainly by middle school when students are using computers with spell checker, they should be accountable for very close to 100% correct spelling in final drafts of their work.

Why is my child a bad speller?
There are two main reasons a child might be a poor speller. Some children have just not had enough exposure to reading and writing to develop spelling skills as strong as other students of the same age. These children probably also struggle with reading, and they need lots of chances to read and write. They also need spelling instruction at their developmental level, even if is lower than their grade level.

There are also kids who are avid and competent readers but have trouble with spelling. These students probably have weak visual memories. They cannot visualize what a word should look like despite repeated exposure to it. Heath notes that requiring these students to memorize words they have trouble with is not likely to help, because they will not retain them for long beyond the test. Manning recommends that these students develop strategies to compensate for their poor spelling. For example, she suggests that students keep a personal dictionary of problem words and learn to use spell checker or some type of spelling device to help.

What can I do to help my child with spelling at home?
Both Manning and Heath say: Read, read, read and write, write, write! Seeing and using words frequently is the best way to improve spelling. Heath recommends being a spelling resource for your child. Help him sound out words and tell him how to spell them correctly when he needs to know. She notes that as he writes the words correctly, he is learning them.

Heath also suggests that parents find out if a particular spelling curriculum is used at school and ask the teacher how you can support your child in spelling. She believes parents should find opportunities to talk about words with their children. For example, if your child uses the word “hymn,” you can talk about what it means and how it is spelled. You can also point out how it is different from the word “him.” It is important to get your child thinking about words and spelling.

Manning suggests that older students keep a personal dictionary of words they struggle with. It can be kept handy to use with homework assignments. She also emphasizes practicing spelling in the context of writing. She said, “You don’t need a spelling boot camp every night! You want your child to do well on spelling tests, but there is little correspondence between spelling correctly on tests and being able to use words correctly in writing.”

When Your Kid Is the Bully: What to Do

Here’s what to do if your kid turns out to be the bully at school.

by Suzanne Peck

It usually starts with a phone call from the school: Your child’s in trouble for bullying. “Ninety-nine percent of parents will say, ‘No way, not my kid’ and get defensive,” says Jennifer Cannon, a family therapist in Newport Beach, California. “But every kid is capable of bullying, even the kid you think is an angel.” So why do kids bully? Ronald Mah, a family therapist in San Leandro, California and author of Getting Beyond Bullying and Exclusion PreK-5, describes two distinct reasons why kids bully. “One reason is when popular and powerful children use bullying to maintain their power and popularity. The other reason is when children who experience a sense of deprivation feel entitled to bully other kids; that is, ‘I’ve been dealt a bad hand, so the rules don’t apply to me.’ or ‘I’ve been picked on, so I’ll get to them before they get to me.'” Kids also observe examples of bullying behavior every day through media, politics, TV reality shows, other kids at school, and even family dynamics. They may not understand that such behaviors are not acceptable anywhere.

Just take a deep breath, gather details about what exactly transpired, and let the school know that you want to work together for a positive outcome. At the same time, make sure that your child is treated fairly regarding school discipline. For example, new federal data shows that students of color and students with disabilities are disciplined much more frequently and more harshly, with suspensions as early as preschool. Assess your child’s actions without rushing to judgment and focus on understanding the behavior that’s involved before deciding on the appropriate consequences. The good news is that kids can unlearn bullying behaviors, and you can help them change their ways.

What to Do If Your Child Is Bullying Others

Acknowledge the Behavior

Sit down with your child, speak in a calm, firm tone, and ask him what happened and why he behaved a certain way. Be a good listener and avoid blame. Kids need to understand that it’s okay to admit they made a mistake. Ask questions to help him understand how his behavior affects others:

“Is what you did respectful? Did it hurt someone? Would you want someone to do that to you?” Emphasize fair treatment of all people by saying, “We don’t behave that way in this family because we respect other people, and we don’t want other people to treat us that way,” suggests Walter Roberts, a professor of counselor education at Minnesota State University, Mankato and author of Working With Parents of Bullies and Victims.

Focus on Consequences

Help your child understand that she is accountable for her actions. “Outline and follow through with consequences for bullying behavior. Write them out, review them once a week, and enforce them,” Cannon advises. Depending on the circumstances, you can eliminate something your child cherishes so the consequence will be significant, such taking away your child’s cell phone, eliminating or reducing TV or video game time, or preventing participation in a social outing. Or, better yet, turn the bullying incident into a teachable moment by discussing positive ways your child can handle future situations that lead to good consequences. Have your child write a paragraph describing what it would feel like to be in the other child’s shoes or write an apology letter.

Be Proactive About Working With the School

“School personnel works best when they see that parents sincerely want to improve the situation. Don’t feel you’ll be judged as a bad parent. It’s hard raising kids, and it’s not a failure to ask for help,” Roberts says. So don’t be afraid to work with the school to help your child learn behaviors that are constructive. Start with your child’s teacher and then meet with the principal, counselor, school resource officer, or district staff to come up with a plan to help your child stop bullying. Ask if counseling or other community resources are available to help your child. Stay in close touch with the school to see if your child’s behavior improves.

Build Social and Emotional Skills

Empower your child to build her skills for resolving conflicts and handling tough situations. Social and emotional learning includes self-awareness, self-management, resilience, social agility, and responsible decision-making. Look for after-school programs and extracurricular activities that can provide new settings to develop ways to build positive relationships. Improving these skills now, while your child is in elementary school, will be a lifelong gift.

Suzanne Peck is filmmaker and author of STAND TALL: Lessons That Teach Respect and Prevent Bullying, www.corwin.com/standtall. She has decades of experience as a teacher, trainer, and mom.

The 4 Common Types of Bullying

Identify which kind of bullying your child may be experiencing.

by Suzanne Peck

Bullying is defined as mean, hurtful behavior that occurs repeatedly in a relationship with an imbalance of power or strength. It takes many forms — verbal, physical, relational, and cyberbullying. Although schools are doing more to deal with bullying, parents are still the key to empowering kids to prevent and stop it. Here are tips on how to deal with the four common types of bullying.

Verbal Bullying

What It Is: Verbal bullying, or bullying with cruel spoken words, involves ongoing name-calling, threatening, and making disrespectful comments about someone’s attributes (appearance, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, etc.).

Example: When a child says to another child, “You’re really, really fat, and so is your mom.”

How to Spot the Signs: Children may withdraw, become moody, or show a change in appetite. They may tell you something hurtful that someone said about them and ask you if you think it’s true.

What to Do: First, teach your kids about respect. Through your own behavior, reinforce how everyone deserves to be treated well — thank teachers, praise friends, be kind to store employees. Stress self-respect, and help your kids to appreciate their strengths. “The best protection parents can offer is to foster their child’s confidence and independence and to be willing to take action when needed,” says Shane Jimerson, Ph.D., a school psychologist and professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Discuss and practice safe, constructive ways your child can respond to a bully. Brainstorm key phrases to say in a firm but not antagonistic tone, such as “That wasn’t nice,” “Leave me alone,” or “Back off.”

Physical Bullying

What It Is: Physical bullying, or bullying with aggressive physical intimidation, involves repeated hitting, kicking, tripping, blocking, pushing, and touching in unwanted and inappropriate ways.

Example: A child gets his pants pulled down on the playground at lunchtime.

How to Spot the Signs: Many children don’t tell their parents when it happens, so watch for possible warning signs like unexplained cuts, scratches or bruises, missing or damaged clothes, or frequent complaints of headaches and stomachaches.

What to Do: If you suspect your child is being physically bullied, start a casual conversation — ask what’s going on at school, during lunch or recess, or on the way home. Based on the responses, ask if anyone’s been mean to her. Try to keep your emotions in check. Emphasize the value of open, ongoing communication with you and with teachers or school counselors. Document the dates and times of bullying incidents, the responses from people involved, and the actions that have been taken. Do not contact the parents of the bully (or bullies) to resolve matters on your own. If your child continues to be physically hurt, and you need additional assistance beyond the school, contact local law enforcement. There are local, state, and federal anti-bullying and harassment laws that require prompt corrective action.

Relational Bullying

What It Is: Relational bullying, or bullying with exclusionary tactics, involves deliberately preventing someone from joining or being part of a group, whether it’s at a lunch table, game, sport, or social activity.

Example: A group of girls in dance class keeps talking about a weekend sleepover and sharing pictures, treating the one uninvited child as if she were invisible.

How to Spot the Signs: Watch for mood changes, withdrawal from peer groups, and a shift toward being alone more than usual. Girls are more likely than boys to experience social exclusion, nonverbal, or emotional intimidation. The pain can be as strong as physical bullying and last even longer.

What to Do: Make it a nightly routine to talk with your kids about how their day went, advises Jennifer Cannon, a family therapist in Newport Beach, California. Help them find things that make them happy, point out their positive qualities, and make sure they know there are people who love and care about them. Focus on developing their talents and interests in music, arts, athletics, reading, and after-school activities so your kids build relationships outside of school.

Cyberbullying

What It Is: Cyberbullying, or bullying in cyberspace, involves haranguing someone by spreading mean words, lies, and false rumors through e-mails, text messages, and social media posts. Sexist, racist, and homophobic messages create a hostile atmosphere, even when not directly targeting your child.

Example: When someone tweets or posts, “Kayden is a total loser. Why is anyone hanging out withhim? He’s so gay.”

How to Spot the Signs: Watch to see if your child spends more time online (visiting social media pages or texting) but appears to be sad and anxious afterward. Even though she’s reading painful things on her computer, tablet, or phone, this may be her only social outlet. Also take note if she has trouble sleeping, begs to stay home from school, or withdraws from activities she once loved.

What to Do: Mean messages can be distributed anonymously and quickly, leading to 24/7 cyberbullying, so first establish household rules for Internet safety. Agree on age-appropriate time limits. Know the popular and potentially abusive sites, apps, and digital devices before your kids use them. Let your kids know you will be monitoring their online activities. Tell them that if they experience cyberbullying, they shouldn’t engage, respond, or forward it. Instead, they should inform you so you can print out the offending messages, including the dates and times of when they were received. Report cyberbullying to the school and to the online service provider. If the cyberbullying escalates to include threats and sexually explicit messages, also contact local law enforcement.

If your child does approach you about being bullied or about someone else being bullied, be supportive, praise her courage for telling you, and gather information (without getting angry or accusatory). Emphasize the difference between being a tattletale who is just trying to get someone in trouble and talking to an adult who can help. Always take action with bullying, especially if it becomes severe or persistent, by contacting your child’s teacher or principal first to monitor the situation until it stops. Visit stopbullying.gov for more information.

Suzanne Peck is filmmaker and author of STAND TALL: Lessons That Teach Respect and Prevent

Bullying, www.corwin.com/standtall. She has decades of experience as a teacher, trainer, and mom.

Preparing Your Child For Testing

Helpful information about learning brought to you by Reading Rockets, Colorín Colorado, and LD OnLine

Types of tests

Testing is used in schools for two main purposes. One is to find out how well an individual student is learning in the classroom. For instance, teachers can test how well a child is responding to reading instruction by using assessments that measure specific skills necessary for fluent reading.

The other purpose is to find out how well the school is meeting local and national benchmarks for student achievement. For this purpose schools use standardized tests, usually administered in the spring.

How to help

Take a deep breath. Step away from the flashcards. As a parent, the most important way you can help your child do well on tests is to read with your child regularly, talk with her about her experiences, and provide a quiet work space at home.

When well-meaning parents focus too much on test results, they put undue pressure on young children. For kids who struggle with attention or memorization tasks, testing can be extremely stressful because it requires students to draw entirely on these skills.

To help prepare for routine classroom assessments:

  • Provide a variety of books, children’s magazines, and enriching experiences to spark your child’s curiosity and build vocabulary
  • Make sure your child gets time and space for homework
  • Make sure your child gets enough rest and a well-balanced diet
  • Consult with your child’s teacher to find out if there are specific skills you can practice at home

To help prepare for standardized tests:

  • Ask the teacher for the testing schedule and a practice test so that you can familiarize your child with the format ahead of time so he knows what to expect
  • Respond to any concerns your child has with encouragement and support. Emphasize that there are lots of ways to express what you know, and that these tests are just one measure

Interpreting test scores

Ask the teacher to share the results of standardized testing to see if your child’s performance on the test is consistent with his or her performance in the classroom. Meet with the teacher about any concerns you have.

If you are interested, you can also ask how the school compares to other schools in the district, state, and across the country.

For more information about testing, visit:

www.ReadingRockets.org/article/c68

4 Ways to Make Reading Fun

By taking a playful, pressure-free approach, you’ll help your child enjoy books on his own in practically no time.

By Leslie Gariso Pfaff from Parents Magazine

Since Anita Lavine’s daughter, Faye, had been an early and avid reader, the Seattle mom figured her 5-year-old son, Owen, would follow suit. The early part happened, but not the avid. “He wasn’t interested in the books that were at his reading level,” says Lavine. So she brainstormed creative ways to help him practice his new skills, like reading the back of his favorite cereal box, learning the names of familiar birds in a Pacific Northwest nature guide, and flipping through family cookbooks for cool recipes.

“Kindergarten and first grade lay the foundation for how kids feel about books throughout their education,” says Annemarie B. Jay, Ph.D., director of graduate and doctoral reading programs at Widener University, in Chester, Pennsylvania. “It’s important not only for them to learn to read — but for them to like doing it.” How can you make letters, sounds, and words seem as fun as playing a board game or building with Legos? Dr. Jay and other experts offer easy, engaging ideas that are tied to crucial literacy skills. Read all about them!

Sound Off

Early readers are still absorbing the notion that letters are symbols that stand for sounds. A good way to reinforce the idea is to start with the most familiar word of all: your child’s name. “Challenge him to find things around the house that start with the same first letter as his name,” suggests Dr. Jay. To familiarize him with ending sounds, read poems, nursery rhymes, and rhyming books (like Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham) together. For overall sound recognition, Rachel Payne, coordinator of early-childhood services at the Brooklyn Public Library, recommends the game “Beginning, Middle, or End”: Hide a raisin in one of three cups, and ask your child where a letter falls in a particular word, such as the m in camel. The goal is to look in the right cup — in this case, the middle one — and then to eat the raisin inside.

Follow the Plot

If your child doesn’t comprehend what a story is about, she’s likely to regard reading as a chore. By engaging her in the book when the two of you have storytime together, you can help her follow the plot and find the meaning. Before Sarah Lendt, of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, starts reading the text with her son, Isaac, 6, she tells him to look at the illustrations and asks him questions to get him excited about what’s coming: “What do you think the story is going to be about?” “What do you think the character will do?” Questions like these help kids predict the story while illustrations often give them clues to words they’re having trouble sounding out, says Kathy Barclay, Ed.D., a literary specialist at Western Illinois University, in Macomb. Still finding that your kid can’t follow the plot — or doesn’t give it his full attention? Dr. Barclay suggests reading nonfiction books that reflect your son’s passions, like fire trucks, dinosaurs, or pirates.

Have a Word

Building a broad vocabulary is essential to reading comprehension now and later in school. One way to expand your child’s vocabulary is to read aloud to him, choosing books that are a couple of grade levels above his. “He’ll be acquiring a knowledge bank of rich words, and when he eventually comes across them on his own, they won’t be 100 percent new,” says Dr. Barclay. Find books that are likely to offer unique words. “There’s great vocabulary in poetry, classic fairy tales, and nonfiction,” notes Payne. “Stop occasionally if you come across a particularly unusual word, but don’t talk about individual words so much that you interrupt the flow of the story,” says Jill Allor, Ph.D., chair of teaching and learning at the Simmons School at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. Instead, go back to them after you’ve finished reading the book.

Speak Up

To truly enjoy reading, it needs to become second nature. “Children should read both silently and aloud,” says Judy Cheatham, Ph.D., vice president of literacy services at the nonprofit group Reading Is Fundamental. That’s where a child’s fluency — the ability to read smoothly and expressively — comes in, says Dr. Cheatham. Since kids gain fluency by practicing familiar text, don’t worry if your child chooses the same book over and over again. If your kid is anxious about reading aloud to you, let him read to himself or into a recording device and then play it back for himself or a younger sibling. Or encourage him to entertain an even more forgiving listener. A study from the University of California, Davis showed that second-graders who read aloud to the family dog improved reading skills by 12 percent over ten weeks. Another surprising help: audio books, which reinforce the flow of words. Natalie Wahl, of Las Vegas, started buying them a few years ago for her son Benjamin, now 8. Says Wahl, “After just a couple of months of listening to the books, I noticed a big improvement in Ben’s ability to read aloud.”

Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

Benefits of a Multi-Age Classroom

clearwater-palm-harbor-school-classroomFlexible Grouping
In all our classrooms there are many options for grouping. Groups are formed according to skill, interest, or learning style. Grouping patterns change throughout the day, should vary so an individual student may be part of three or four different groups in the course of a day or week. Groups, most importantly, should be fluid and temporary. Students should not get locked into working with one group for a whole year.

Flexible and continuous learning
Since children learn at different rates, the continuous progress model assures that all can have appropriate interaction and make progress, regardless of ability.

Role Modeling
Younger students observe older students doing sophisticated tasks and showing responsible behaviors. Older students develop as “mentors” for tasks that may be too difficult for younger students to do alone, building self confidence and self esteem. Many younger students absorb academic concepts from watching and working next to their older classmates.

Cooperation
Students learn to work together on academic and social needs, as well as the care of the classroom. As age barriers drop, there is an increase in mixed-age relationships. Cooperation becomes a natural part of all learning situations.

Closer to Real World Model
Multi-age classrooms parallel the model seen in a family or an occupation, where cooperative relationships flourish.

Class stability
The older students may move on each year, while the younger students stay becoming the “veterans”. Students learn rapidly from each other routines, and where things are kept.

Social Interactions
Students have the opportunity to make friends across grade-level lines, thus have many more choices in friendships. Students are allowed to learn together in many different configurations, more opportunities are given to lead, follow, share, nurture, and collaborate. Positive peer tutoring relationships can be fostered. Students have chances to teach something they have learned, which cements learning in the tutor.

Responsibility
Students learn independence by goal setting, time management, jobs and routines, while taking responsibility for each other are stressed.

Recognition
All students make progress and have achievements celebrated, no matter what their abilities. Every child experiences success equally, because success is measured by individual achievement of goals and individual progress. Students experience continuous learning, not damaging failure or repetition of learned material.

Parent’s Wish

For my child I wish:
That they seek their happiness not so much at the finish line, as in the running;

That they have the strength not to lift tremendous weights, but one fallen friend;
That they learn to fight their own battles with a never-ending string of temporary cease-fires;
Not that the occasion make them smile, but that their smile make the occasion;
That their bridges be built not over rivers, but over misunderstandings; that their wealth be not in their banks, but in their hearts;
That they gain power not over others, but over themselves;
That they never fail to leave the stage before their applause is done;
That they bow not to little people with big titles, but to big people with little titles;
That they keep strict account not of favors owed them, but to others; Not that they never know grief, but that they never know joy the moment after;
That their names be household words not throughout the land, but in their own households;
That their monuments be found in public parks, but in the lives of those they’ve touched.

By: Jerry Spinelli

Author of “Maniac Magee”

Developing Character In Your Child

We often are asked to pause and take time to ponder which direction we are headed with our children and/or students. Since our own childhood, times have changed! The world has become a more complicated maze to maneuver within and feeling secure as well as safe is often difficult. Parents, teachers and adults who have contact with children need to work daily together toward the development of character within our children.

True character begins with self-esteem. High self-esteem, true self-esteem comes from believing that one is making the world a better place. Self-esteem when real is self-gard and comes from ethical behavior. Often in America, we are encouraged to be narcissistic, to constantly examine ourselves for dissatisfaction or to evaluate everything and every interaction in terms of what’s in it for us. As the parents and/or teachers of our children/students, we are asked to teach and model prudence, fortitude, justice, and temperance. As a result of reinforcing these characteristics we will boost a child’s self-esteem, confidence, and ability to cope as well as survive in our world today as a happy and productive, contributing human being.

The ability to govern and discipline oneself by use of reason is a skill that must be taught by parents, modeled by other adults and requires maturity. Children need to understand that everyone makes mistakes, and that mistakes create opportunities for learning and teaching. “To lose is to learn” – unknown. Mistakes require damage control and steps to prevent the mistake from occuring again. Of course, the goal is to understand that when a problem occurs, everyone is expected to remedy or make amends while learning (sometimes the hard way), which increases self-esteem. As adults, it is important to remember that each mistake is a life lesson.

It takes courage and staying power to survive in today’s world. It is the strength of mind and character which enables one to bear adversity. Modeling for children patience, perseverance, positive thinking, and self-reliance will assist them with life’s difficulties. All adults should avoid overindulgence like the plaque! A child’s every within and desire should not be given into or they will set up for unrealistic expectations. Children should be expected to persist in activities such as baseball, piano lessons, and dance lessons. In building solid character children should be expected to complete homework, finish tasks and chores. Children should be guided to grow away from adults and adult intervention physically, socially, and emotionally. Our job as the adults in their lives is to give them the skills to be independent functioning members of society.

A goal for our children/students is to develop the ability to treat others fairly, look after the rights of others, and thyself. This can happen by encouraging children to stand up for themselves respectfully, show respect to all others even in times of anger, make and keep promises, be honest and judge themselves rather than others. Adults, should reinforce and teach generosity, manners (please & thank you), impartiality and practice problem-solving as well as negotiation skills. Though we work daily to reinforce these skills in school, our job is often difficult when parents do not support the basic values of justice. We ask parents not to rescue or defend their children but embrace teaching their children to deal with situations of injustice through role play and discussion thus empowering them to solve problems independently.

We are seeing more children in school these days who lack self-control and the ability to limit or self-check. Adults must model control of emotions, enforce limits, teach children how to recognize personal warning signs, teach humility and how to establish a balanced life. Limiting television, video games, computer, devoting a special time for family as well as not allowing children to isolate themselves will assist with teaching temperance. Children have to be taught self-control tactics in many cases such as removing oneself to a quiet place, counting to 10, taking a deep breathe, and learning respectful behaviors/language.

As a result of taking time to teach, reinforce, and embrace a character developing attitude with children, and adults will find confidence and self-esteem in our youth today. “We know that success succeeds, that getting things right, mastering something, being productive, accomplishing anything, large or small, feels good and builds our self-confidence and our self-esteem” As adults who spend time with your children we ask for your assistance as we attempt to help your children move through the life lessons that occur when children are in our care. Remind your children that they own everything that they do. That their behavior tells us who they are. they are not separate from their behavior, bad or good, and others cannot make them or cause them to behave in an inappropriate manner and that you will not rescue them from their mistakes. We look forward to getting to know your child and family while welcoming you as part of our New Horizons Country Day School family. Thank you for your continued support of these values in the education of your child!

Sincerely,

The Faculty at New Horizons Country Day School

For further information:
“Discipline for Life – Getting It Right With Children” by Madelyn Swift

Seven Secrets To School Success

by Jim Grant

Secret #1: Correct Grade Placement

This is the single most important secret to school success. A child must be ready socially, emotionally, and physically, as well as intellectually, for school. Make certain that your child is ready for the grade in which he or she is placed. Simply being alive the correct number of years is not enough to ensure that your child is ready for school. It is the child’s developmental age, not chronological age that helps determine school success.

Secret #2: Tip-top Physical and Emotional Shape

Children who are emotionally and physically distracted have a difficult time coping with schools demands. See that your child starts the day well rested with a well-balanced breakfast. A substantial breakfast fuels the brain, and your child will think, socialize, and perform better. Many children in Kindergarten and First Grade still require a day-time nap and between nine to eleven hours of sleep each night.

Dress your child to fit comfortably with classmates. Children who look out of place often feel out of place and may be treated like outcasts by their peers.

As your child leaves for school, send him/her off in upbeat, optimistic mood. Avoid before-school arguments, as they can set a negative tone for the entire day. Children who have a sense of emotional well-being benefit the most.

Secret #3: Watch for Stress Signals

Children always tell us who they are and what they need. Body language signals trouble long before a child can talk about it. Some children show stress through crying, nail-biting, nervous tics, becoming withdrawn, acting in insecure ways, reverting to thumb sucking, or through behavior that is out of character. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Tune in to stress signs so you can prevent school stress before it starts.

Secret #4: Build Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

Children who lack confidence, who have a poor opinion of themselves, may lack the motivation to succeed in school. Parents can help. Boost your child’s confidence! Praise your child in front of others. Build on strengths, not weaknesses! Never compare your child with others!

Secret #5: Read to Your Child

A child who is read to, will read. Children naturally love books and love to be read to. Reading together will show your child the importance of reading and will provide a special time for you to spend together each day. This will develop a positive attitude and sense of security.

Secret #6: Enthusiasm is Contagious!

You are your child’s primary role model. Your child tries to be like you by imitating you. If you think something is important, your child will think too.

Take an active interest in your child’s work. See that your child has a designated place and time to work. Set aside time to assist your child on homework and projects. By taking time to help, you display an interest that is extremely important in shaping your child’s attitudes and values.

Secret #7: Establish a Partnership with The School

Be an active participant. Keep the lines of communication open. When you form a close working relationship with the school, your child has a solid support system to build on. Your child receives a strong message of solidarity from the most important adults in his or her life – the child’s own parents and their daytime parents, teachers.

These seven secrets to school success are common-sense principles that will really help your child. Try them. They’re simple – and they work!