This guest post comes from Carolyn Wilhelm of the Wise Owl Factory.
Kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers often give children a nightly assignment to read aloud for 10 to 20 minutes. This can be supervised by parents, grandparents, or family members. Usually, a certain level of book or page of text is sent home in a reading folder with a chart for recording book titles or length of time spent reading. Here are some tips to help parents understand how best to use the nightly reading time at home.
1. Do not skip this time. A half hour every week does not begin to help as much as a few minutes each day. The long-term effects of skipping nightly reading homework are well established, as described in this article by Edudemic. This fact is well known by teachers who have studied reading pedagogy, and parents can easily find the research online if they need to be convinced.
2. Choose the right time. Always try to find a time when your child will cooperate, when neither of you are pushing to just finish the homework. The best time might not be right after school as some play time may be needed first, and certainly just before bed is not opportune. Find a time that works for you and your family.
3. Sit side by side with your child. This is not the time to iron or catch up on email. Teachers know what parents are doing during the nightly reading time, if the child starts making up the story as he or she reads aloud to the teacher. This is a clue the parent isn’t watching the words. Children want to please adults and will try their best to sound knowledgeable while reading. If the assignment is to read silently, actually sit by your child and read silently at the same time. Elbow to elbow and knee to knee is the best sitting position.
4. At the emergent level (when the child is learning sight words, short vowels, and mostly individual letter sounds), allow the child to use all the resources of the book, including pictures. Parents sometimes tell me they are proud of the fact they covered the pictures in emergent readers to force the child to read the “big” words. At this point in early reading, it is not possible to read the big words. The point of emergent readers is to learn sight words, use left to right reading orientation, and realize each word is separate, to utilize the pictures, and to experience reading success. Books that say things such as, “I like the ball, I like the car, I like the bird” are only helping reinforce the words I and like. Here is a link to a free emergent reader printable if you are wondering what they look like.
5. Do not “tell” words at the developing level as the child reads. When the child has progressed from the emergent level to the developing level (learning letter blends, long vowels, and word solving strategies), he or she should be able to stop pointing to words. When children stop dead in the middle of a sentence or paragraph when reading to the teacher, the teacher knows the parents are trying to help by telling the words. Instead, help the child learn to rely on word solving strategies outlined at the end of this blog post.
6. Do not stop reading aloud to your child. It is a mistake to think that now the child can read on his or her own, the parent is out of the picture. Reading aloud to children should continue through grade four or higher. Why? Adults can read such a great variety of stories and expose children to a huge amount of vocabulary that children cannot access on their own. Children need to be reminded that reading is interesting.
7. Discuss what was read. Help your child understand the point of reading is to understand, not just “word call.” Here is a link to my free PDF that explains how parents can help develop their children’s reading comprehension.
This video illustrates some of these concepts:
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What is word solving?
This is the missing piece of information for most parents. Because English is not a completely phonetic language, relying on the sound-it-out strategy is not the most effective way to support a child’s reading. To become a fluent reader, more strategies are required. Here are some of them: [For a full description of these strategies, please see my FREE 162 page printable.]
Auto the Otter: This means some words cannot be sounded out and just have to be learned by memory, such as sight words. Good readers need a memorized word bank for automaticity and fluency in reading.
Chunky Monkey: This means to use letter blends and “chunks” of words such as ing, or ed. I remember one mother saying the homework came home for her to help her child chunk the sounds, and she said, “How am I supposed to know what chunking is?” This is really beginning syllabication, but what we say in school is how many times does your mouth open when you say a word like hippopotamus? In that word, your mouth opens five times (five syllables)! A child’s name may have one, two, or three syllables. Of course, we do not expect children to know what that means. We clap as we say words in school, four claps for happy birthday. Also, children can find little words in big words to help them read longer words.
Crabby Connector: This means to make connections between similar words to read a new word. For instance, if you know the word cake, you can more easily read the word lake. Or if you know the word cook, it is easier to connect that to the word cookie, than to completely sound it out over again.
Eagle Eye: This means to look over the entire word. Many times children will stop reading if a word looks difficult, making no attempt to word solve. One trick teachers use is to put a red dot under the middle of the word to get the child to look all the way through the sounds. This will often help the child figure out the word.
Elephant Ears: This means to try a word and see if it makes sense. Sometimes children will read a sentence saying a word that doesn’t fit. We ask, “Did that make sense?” Children need to learn to trust themselves by thinking about the sentence, not just the word. We ask, “What would make sense in this sentence that also begins with that letter?”
Fix-up Bear: Fix-up bear means it is alright to go back and reread and fix an error. We do not have to race through reading just to be done. We read to understand. If we make an error, it should be fixed.
Flippy Dolphin: This is sort of an amazing strategy. If a child reads a long vowel word with a short vowel, or a short vowel word with a long vowel, we say, “Flip the sound.” Somehow children seem to instinctively know to try again with another sound. At the emergent level, though, children do not know the long vowel sounds so this doesn’t apply.
Helpful Kangaroo: This strategy may be used when a few others have been tried without success. It means to ask another person for help!
Lips the Fish: This means to ask a child stuck on a word to get his or her “lips ready” for the first sound. By making an attempt to really notice the first sound, it is often enough for the child to try to finish the word.
Skippy Frog: This strategy is second best to Stretchy Snake. Skippy frog is using context to figure out a word, but what we tell children is to skip the word and keep reading the sentence. Most often, they realize they can figure out the word by using this strategy. They somehow do not think this strategy is OK, so we tell them good readers use Skippy frog, too.
Stretchy Snake: This is the whisper it out strategy. Sound it out uses strong, separate sounds the child is trying to connect together. When we whisper, we naturally connect sounds as they should be connected in reading. It is the best strategy, but it doesn’t work for all words.
Tryin’ Lion: Keep trying! Try another strategy! Try again! Of course, this isn’t for a tired or frustrated reader. Another strategy might be more useful in those cases.
Like what you’ve seen so far?
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We also know that most families have a full schedule, and it can be hard to find time for that extra focus we want to have on math. But, with a little help from DreamBox it’s easy to find ways to work a little math fun into everyday family activities, and keep it from becoming a chore.
At DreamBox Learning, we support parents with ways to participate in their children’s math learning at home. Parents are a child’s first teacher, and research suggests that increased participation from parents enhances a child’s ability to succeed.
Pre-kindergarten and kindergartners are avid math learners! They may easily compare sets of objects to know which is more, but may have difficulty figuring out how many they actually have. When they count they know how many? but may not know that the last number counted means the total quantity. At this age, kids are learning which set is more and may be able to sequence quantities from smallest to largest. But the question how much more? can be difficult. Many children are also fascinated with collecting and sorting objects.
Give your child plenty of opportunities to count
- Play number games during everyday activities, such as counting the number of steps, the number of trucks you see while driving, or counting the number of items going in the laundry.
- Read the calendar, and determine the number of days until an upcoming event.
- Young children can count the number of items that you bought at the store. If you buy multiples of 1 item (such as 10 cans of cat food), practice counting by 2’s, 3’s, or higher numbers
- Have your child count the change needed to pay for an item.
- Watch your child play to understand her mathematical knowledge. When your child counts, does she touch each object once? Is his voice in sync with his tag?
- Have your child distribute cookies or toys to family members, with each person getting an equal number
Help your child recognize shapes and size relationships
- At the grocery store, ask your child to find items that are triangles, circles, rectangles, and other shapes.
- Ask your child to recognize or stack the groceries you bought by container shape or organize by size.
- Organize a scavenger hunt where your child has to find objects of different shapes
- Make snowflakes using symmetry. Fold a square piece of paper in half diagonally to make a triangle, then fold in half 2 more times. Cut out small diamond or circular shapes from the edges, and then unfold it. Experiment with different numbers of folds and shapes.
Find ways to collect and organize information
- Look around the house to find groups of 2 objects, like pairs of gloves or socks. Look for groups of 3’s, 4’s, and on up to 10’s.
- Have your child help sort the laundry by various categories — by color, or by whom an item belongs to.
- Take measurements for a project around the house.
- Using paper of different colors, make a paper chain with paper strips and tape. Encourage your child to create patterns by repeating colors and numbers of rings in a regular order. This can be done in connection with reading the calendar and counting down days to a special event.
- Collect objects in nature— leaves, rocks, shells and the like. When you get home, sort them by color, size, or type. How many different categories can you find? How many objects are in more than 1 category?
Help your child develop reasoning skills
- Help your child think about the permanence of a set. Put 6 pennies in a row, and then change the arrangement. Ask “did the quantity change?”
- Kindergartners love repetition and patterning, which fosters mathematical thinking. Clapping patterns help your child discover sequences and predict what comes next.
Some family games that use kindergarten math skills:
- Many card games require counting and score keeping.
- Dice games and dominos help kids learn to quickly recognize groups of dots from 2 to 12.
- Play board games that involve counting squares, such as Chutes and Ladders.
- Tic Tac Toe and Connect Four build recognition of rows of 3 and 4 counters.
Try some kindergarten-level DreamBox math games
Read more math learning parent tips for:
When your children play DreamBox, you’ll get regular academic progress emails that include tips for family activities that reinforce the specific lessons your child is learning!