Feeling like a reader

I wanted to show you this example of Indi, reading. I think it is a good example of what we are working toward achieving with many of our students.

Today, Indi felt like a reader.

She was able to read her book to us, from start to finish, with no ‘tricky moments’. Yes, of course it was largely memorised. Yes, of course she used the pictures as cues for some of the words. But the main things I want parents to understand is that because she had already done the hard work in decoding the words and in learning her sight words, she was then able to enjoy READING it to Mum and Dad with no, ‘tricky moments.’

Indi was able to feel like a reader. Indi was able to enjoy the story. Indi was able to enjoy SHARING the story. And for any student (regardless of age), isn’t that what what want them to experience?

So what has been done to get here?

  • She has been learning her sight words via flash cards at least every second night (many children need to do this each night, but Indi has a good memory so doesn’t require as much repetition at this stage). The sight words in this book were: the, my, is, said,
  • She went on a ‘picture walk‘ through the book before reading. This is where she looked at the pictures and identified what she could see about them (in this case naming the animals).
  • She had talked about, looked at and decoded the ‘story words‘ before reading. In this book they are: nose, long, longer
  • Now read it it her Learning Coach.

These activities meant that when she brought her book home, although by this stage the story was memorised, she had actually done the hard work already and it was time for her to enjoy it. Notice however, that she is actually reading and not just ‘reciting’. She is reading the words at the same time that they are being pointed to (our next step is to have HER pointing to the words as she reads). At the previous stage, she would recite rather than matching each spoken word with its written form – that’s ok, she still felt like a reader, which is the purpose of our efforts!

This process is one of the BEST ways to build confidence as a reader.

So when we send books home with your child and you can see that it seems like it has been learnt off-by-heart….it probably has! It probably has, because they have already worked hard with us using all the strategies mentioned here as well as a few others, to decode the words. Reading it to you at home is their opportunity to feel like a reader and to enjoy sharing this moment with you!

Be careful, it’s catching!

When Indi arrived home from school yesterday she wanted to, ‘do some learning like the big kids’. So while they logged on to access their work, she logged in to her Reading Eggs and spent the next hour quietly working too.

I love how, given the right environment, a desire to learn becomes contagious. I love how we are able to build the self esteem of learners who were previously embarrassed about their work and ability so they are able to feel truly successful, and I love how our students are proud of each other, of themselves and become role models for others.

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The road (or roller-coaster) to success

Michael Jordan I can accept failure

Diaz started working with us at Back to Basics Tuition in October 2014. As if being 15 isn’t hard enough already, Diaz was starting to suffer at school. His grades had dropped, he wasn’t speaking up in class, and overall, he was really struggling with his Math. Grade 9 is a year of consolidating previous Math learning, and often, applying it in new ways. It’s an important year; it is really the final stage before hitting the serious senior years. And for Diaz, it was looking like his choices were going to be limited. Diaz is a talented basketball player and improving his grades was vital as he was looking ahead to a possible basketball scholarship to the States!

When I first assessed Diaz, it became clear that he really did not have a solid foundation in Math. He had massive gaps in understanding and it was no surprise that Grade 9 was difficult. It was going to be a challenging road ahead for him, but a challenge he was up to. We worked with Diaz on a foundation Math course where we literally went back to basics. Starting at a Grade 4 level in certain Math strands, we built up through the grades the strands and knowledge he needed to succeed. We worked over the next 14 months, covering 4 ½ years worth of structured Math. From here we focused on working with him on understanding his classroom level Math, and learning to apply that understanding.

Michael Jordan some people want it to happen

Diaz has learnt that learning is really a rollercoaster, both intellectually and emotionally.  There has been the occasional session where we have not  focused on completing Math work, but have needed to focus on helping him understand himself and to remind himself of why  he is putting in all this extra effort, and additionally why he is worthy of us putting in this extra effort. Finding the internal desire to keep this going when his friends are doing ‘fun’ things is something that has been a joint effort between Diaz, his parents and us. But Diaz has always been worth the effort. There is something very special about him and even when the road got tough, there was no way we were going to give up, give in, or turn away.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. When I get feedback like this, I find my eyes getting a little… ‘leaky’.

Diaz exam

“I can’t thank you enough. So overly privileged to have been able to come to you and like Diaz said to me – Mum, I’ll never forget what Kate, Dave and Mitch have done for me and continue to do for me. I tell him all the time to be humble and never forget the people whom have helped him along the way, and he never will!”

Diaz is pretty much a part of our family now. And man, are we proud of him! Is it over? No way! We will continue to push him, challenge him, and show how proud we are of him. And while we see him maturing into a wonderful young man, and when he is on that world stage, we’ll be able to say, “We knew him when he was a just boy, stumbling in the classroom. Look at him now!”

These words from Ben Simmons are echoed by ‘our’ Diaz:

Ben Simmons

School Readiness Discussion

Part 2

School Readiness = cognitive development + social skills + emotional skills + physical skills

SOCIAL SKILLS are crucial if a child is to make a successful start to school. Academic learning cannot take place if a child cannot socialise with their peers or participate in collaborative activities in a classroom. Social skills need to be explicitly taught to children.

NUMERACY: being able to rote count is not an early predictor of mathematics success. Too often parents are lead to believe that their child’s ability to count in an indicator of their mathematical ability, when in fact, it is more of an indication of a child’s working memorry. The ability to rote count requires the same cognitive skills involved in reciting a nursery rhyme.
(Note from Kate: I’m not suggesting not to teach your child to rote count, Im suggesting that this does not mean they will be a master mathematician)
Current research suggests a child’s ability to recognise patterns and structure is more of a predictive of their subsequent mathematical development in the early years. Children need to be able to copy, continue and create simple patterns with concrete materials such as blocks, handprints, shapes, leaves, stickers, coloured lids, before introducing counting patterns.
Incidental learning or finding the teachable moment in everyday life will help children build a strong foundation which will better prepare them for school and improved mathematics function. Cooking developes measurement skills, setting the table allows opportunities to see patterns and discuss the number of various objects, sort the laundry according to darks and lights, match socks, unpack groceries, plant seeds (counting), cut food into portions….there are so many everyday experiences that will set them up to be better mathematicians…but remember to TALK about them whilst you are playing, as giving them the language is just as important!

What activities do you do at home which encourages numeracy?

comment from Lyn:  At the moment Miss S has a collection of coins totaling about $7. She brings them to me at least once a day and it’s a perfect ‘teachable moment’ right there with her interest level at its peak. We run through the name of each coin and different ways of combining coins to make the same total. We practice skip counting in 5s and 10s and we discuss the concept that the coins have values (she is still grasping the idea that eg 14 coins does not equal $14, and that 100 c equals $1. We revisit this concept each day)

School Readiness Discussion

School Readiness = cognitive development + social skills + emotional skills + physical skills

We are going to share this week, some extracts around school readiness and what it means. We are happy to have some (respectful) discussion around this and your examples of how you have/will/are preparing you child for school.

Monday’s School Readiness Discussion
Starting school involves a complex interplay between a range of developmental domains. A child must have cognitive (academic) competencies, in addition to social, emotional and physical skills. Too often we focus on a child’s cognitive development when considering is a child is ready for school. However, it is more important to consider the child’s overall development before determining if they are ready to start school.
‘A Parent’s Guide to School Readiness by Dr Kristy Goodwin’

In preparing our own Indi for school, our main objective was to ensure that she was ready emotionally and socially. Yes, we have the skills and resources to ‘teacher’ her, and were even told at our pre-enrollment interview that we could focus more on helping her hold her pencil and form letters…but our decision was to focus on helping her develop as a human We now have a little girl who is excited and ready to go to school. She follows her morning routine, and there are only smiles when we drop her off and pick her up! She holds her pencil just fine without being first taught at home, and she loves practicing her ‘writing’ as she sees it around her all the time…as for the specifics of academic learning, they will come through her wonderful teacher and with support at home. But because she is emotionally and socially READY to be at school, her learning will happen far more naturally.

Thoughts from Tam (reader and teacher): As a teacher (still feels weird saying that! :p) I watched two mothers quickly try to get their children into prep this year just after the prep birthdate change. I was asked to write a letter of recommendation for one child (totally ready for school) and wasn’t even consulted at all for the other (totally not ready, socially emotionally or academically). Consult the professionals that work with your children! They know them almost as well as you do.

Thoughts from Lyn (reader and teacher): In the French curriculum children don’t learn to read until 7. The two years leading up to that are heavily focused on oral language development and social skills.

Tuesday’s School Readiness Discussion
Children need to develop confidence and resilience to be successful learners. Some things parents can do to develop emotional skills are: model and praise confidence, discuss how you can bounce back from adversities, support your child when they experience disappointment or setbacks (do not shield them from them), encourage children’s efforts (process not results based), use praise honestly, encourage calculated risk taking (eg on play equipment), develop their emotional vocabulary, model how to put things on a ‘catastrophe scale’.
‘A Parent’s Guide to School Readiness by Dr Kristy Goodwin’

Some phrases you will regularly hear in our home are:
“Well done, that’s awesome”, “what a pity, such a shame, now move on”, “I understand you fell that way now what can we do about it?”, “nice effort, I’m proud of you!”, “too bad so sad”, “have a look around you and see if you can give it a try”, “how does that make you feel?”, along with plenty of “I love you” and “and love you very much but your behaviour right now is unacceptable”.

What phrases do you use to help develop your children’s emotional skills?

Your Child’s Self-Worth Depends on You

Guest post by Fiona Russo

Michael and I were paid the most unexpected compliment last week. Charlie’s ECDP (‘special’ pre-school) teacher told me that she’s impressed by our positivity when we talk about Charlie.

Now, we get quite a few comments along the lines of ‘you’re handling things so well’; ‘you’re doing a wonderful job’; ‘you take everything in your stride’; ‘I so admire the way you just get on with it’ and so on, and we appreciate every one of them, truly.

In this case, though, I was wrong in assuming that’s what she meant.

Gayle is a lady with years of experience in special education. She loves her job, and really cares deeply about her students (or does a brilliant job of faking it, haha). She’s always interested in little breakthroughs or setbacks, changes in routine and diet, likes and dislikes – all the things a good teacher cares about and more, because her little charges each come with some extra challenges.

I hear her every time I go to the school, patiently listening to parents talk about lunchboxes and drink bottles, clothes and toileting, splints, wheelchairs, calming techniques and medical issues.

The compliment Gayle was giving me was about the way we talk about those seemingly mundane things. 

She said that she had never heard us say ‘Charlie doesn’t like that’, or ‘Charlie won’t eat that’, or ‘Charlie can’t do that’.

Instead, she told me that we would say things like, ‘It’s not her favourite thing but give it a go’, or ‘I’m sure she’ll enjoy it but she may need a little extra help’, or ‘we’re working on that’.

In fact, she went on, the most negative thing she can remember hearing us say was that Charlie is allergic to something so she can’t have it, but she maintains that even then I said ‘We need to avoid those because of allergies, but Charlie loves these ones instead!’.

Makes me sound like some sort of deranged Stepford Mum, doesn’t it?After receiving this compliment somewhat awkwardly in the doorway of the school, I started to pay attention to the chitchat with some of the other parents.

I was surprised I’d never noticed it before – there was a lot of unintended negativity in their conversations. 

Here are some of the choice ones I remember (names changed of course):

“Noah has Vegemite sandwiches today, but he probably won’t eat them.”

“Sarah has juice in her drink bottle because I can’t get her to drink water.”

“Jamie doesn’t do slides.  His legs aren’t strong enough to stop him at the bottom.”

And some were even worse…

“Good luck getting her to go to the toilet.  I’ve given up at home.”

“Joe won’t stop sucking his thumb, so it’s a waste of time to try to get him to clap.”

I should point out that each of these parents seems to me a loving, caring, involved caregiver. I’m sure they’d be horrified to think that they were being so negative.

However, their children were right there.  Within earshot. 

It’s not something I’ve ever given any thought to, but now that I am thinking about it, it seems so obvious. Self-esteem is as important for children as it is for adults, but their world is small.

Your children set their own expectations by yours. They base their self-worth on your opinion.

That goes for all children, not just the ‘special needs’ kids, and it’s a huge responsibility. My Mum and Dad always told me I was clever, that I could do anything I set my mind to. It’s this foundation that gives me confidence as an adult and I’m so grateful that I have it.

Michael and I are lucky to have had this example set so well for us by our own parents that it comes naturally to do the same.

So… I’m going to do something I don’t often do with this blog. I’m going to offer advice, to those who perhaps aren’t as lucky as we are.

I believe it, I stand by it, and I’m going to try to be more conscious of it myself:

Think before you speak.  Show your children that you have confidence in their abilities.  Tell everyone, and do it loudly where they can see and hear you.

It is the greatest gift you will ever give them.

It matters.


Thank you, Fiona for allowing me to share this with our readers. It is such an important message. This is one of the ways in which we write our children’s Life Script. We have a poster on our Learning Studio Wall which says:

“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.”

I’ve learnt not to apologize for my daughter in many situations (ie when she wants to scan the grocery items at the checkout and the person behind has to wait a little longer). I’ve learnt that the way I speak about her to others is what she will grow to believe of herself. We are hopefully helping her to understand her strengths and her weaknesses, but to know that her weaknesses are not something to be ashamed of and that these too will develop and change over time.

You can find more from Fiona here

 

Their Life Script

If you were to run an audio track of a day in your house, what would we hear? What are the words you use and how are they delivered?

The old saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’, a child’s chant, with very little truth to it. Yes we need to raise our children to be resilient and stand up against the occasional harsh word but this is done through installing in them a strong sense of self. Something that requires thought. Something that requires your thought, and some reflection on the messages you are both intentionally and unintentionally delivering to them on a daily basis. Something that requires thought around the words you use every day.

your_words_have_power_use_them_wisely_3738

What names do you call your child? Pet names, nick names, names that build them or names that bring them down? It’s not just the words though; it’s the tone they are delivered in. 

In our home even though she is only in the first stages of acquiring language, we are very aware that our little one is observing everything, and this includes how we address her, and each other. It’s not uncommon to hear both her Father and I telling her how clever she is, how funny she is, how loved she is and how beautiful she is. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a FIRM believer in raising our children to be strong and independent but this comes from a strong, secure foundation of unconditional love and acceptance. We also tell her when necessary that her behaviour is frustrating and “I don’t like it when you are yelling at me” (she’s 8 months old but it’s yelling at me all the same!). The thing here is when we come across negative behaviours we remove the behaviour from her. This means we tell her we don’t like what she is doing but we still love her. Never do I want to hear myself tell her ‘you naughty girl’. This will not be her life script.

I understand completely that her life script will be developed from the messages her Father and I send her and each other. We do not fight in our house. It’s not that we always agree with each other but her Father is my best friend, why would I want to yell at him? We discuss things; love, life and business, and we discuss them in front of her because she is just as much a part of this family as we are, and as she grows so will her contribution, thoughts, ideas, feelings, and her love. A daughter learns what to expect in her adult relationships by watching how her Mother allows herself to be treated by her partner/husband. What her Mother accepts, how she allows herself to be treated and how she treats herself will become her daughter’s life script. A son learns how to treat his future partner/wife by watching how his Father treats his mother. If there is something that I wish I was not passing onto my daughter then it is up to me to change it in myself first.

parents fighting

So how are your children developing their sense of self worth, their sense of how they fit into your family and the world around them? What words are you giving them to express themselves? How are they seeing you play out your life script?

Have you even thought about your life script? – What are the records (or tapes and CD’s if you’re not old enough to remember actual records!) that play over in your head? Not the music ones from our past but the things you subconsciously tell yourself about yourself. Have you stopped and listened? Are they the negative “I don’t deserve any better”, “It’s too hard”, “I can’t cope”. Because like it or not, these are the messages you are passing on to your children. It takes time and effort to turn them around but isn’t it worth it? Let me ask you again: What life script do you want your children to have? “I can”, “I deserve it”, “I am good enough as me”, “I am proud of myself”, “I know how to love”.

Of all the things we say to our daughter this one thing is the most important:

Our Indi (6 days old) photography by Carly Webber Photography

Our Indi (6 days old) photography by Carly Webber Photography

“I love you every day (even when you’re asleep)”

And yes, we tell her every day.

So tell me, how has your life script affected you? Have you made the effort to change it in anyway? And of course, what do you say to your children?