Why am I Writing this Blog?

I am very concerned about the growing level of illiteracy among our children. This blog is for parents who are homeschooling, parents whose children are falling behind at school and they don't know how to help them, teachers who would like to bounce ideas off an experienced teacher or get ideas to help student with problems. I will do everything in my power to help anyone in the areas of reading and writing.

In this blog I'll be using the original English spelling forms, so please make allowances if you're American or have been taught the American spelling form.

Please be understanding about the advertisements on the blog. It gives me the opportunity to earn a little to add to my pension.

Related links for teaching training, lesson plans and worksheets:

Fantastic Free Video series on how to teach handwriting:
by handwriting expert Nan Jay Barchowsky
by handwriting teacher Matt Nisjak

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: http://www.handwritingebooks.com/
101 sheets of lower case and 101 of upper case letters, plus a bonus book on numbers and another on words for $5.95 for the lot - A great bargain.

Information on Education and Homeschooling
EducationBug: Education Directory - articles, directory, newsletter and profiles on schools

Free Worksheets:
Eastside Literacy
First - Schools

Lined Handwriting Sheets:
Handwriting For Kids

Making Handwriting Sheets:
Handwriting Worksheets
Ed Helper

Videos About Teaching Handwriting:
Teachers TV

Free Lessons and Ideas:
The Electric Company
First 55 Come Alive
Literacy, Families and Learning
ESL Partyland

Ed Helper - Spelling
Ed Helper - Reading Comprehension
Ed Helper - Vocabulary
First - School
Sites for Teachers
Sites for Parents
Clipart for Worksheets
The Teacher's Corner
Teaching Made Easier
School Express

Membership Sites:
Ed Helper
Reading A-Z
ELSIE: Reading 0-6

Inexpensive Handwriting Books
Staidens Homeschooling

Friday, May 30, 2008

Would you believe.......?


Look at the top picture, then read the story first before you look at the second picture.

Look at the picture above and you can see where this guy broke through the guardrail, right side where the people are standing on the road (pointing). The pick-up was traveling from right to left when it crashed through the guardrail. It flipped end-over-end, across the culvert outlet, and landed right side up on the left side of the culvert, facing the opposite direction from which he was traveling. Now look at the 2ND picture below...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Teaching Handwriting - Choose the Style


This pencil grip is recommended because it puts the least stress on the fingers and enables the writer to continue writing for a longer period without the hand getting tired.

Images from Draw Your World





The Importance of Teaching Handwriting

Handwriting is really brainwriting. Hand(brain)writing reflects an individual's personality. The brain is the source of your personality, and it is actually your brain that writes. This means that each person's writing will be unique, because that person is unique. However, the basis of this individual handwriting needs to be taught. We need to start teaching children the right starting point, the right direction, the right position. We need to supervise and give them practice, practice, practice, so that their writing becomes fluent. From there they can change their handwriting to reflect their personality.

All this matters, educators say, because evidence is growing that handwriting fluency is a fundamental building block of learning. Emily Knapton, director of program development at Handwriting Without Tears, believes that "when kids struggle with handwriting, it filters into all their academics. Spelling becomes a problem; math becomes a problem because they reverse their numbers. All of these subjects would be much easier for these kids to learn, if handwriting was an automatic process."

The trend towards illegible handwriting is not likely to slow, proponents of penmanship say, as computers become even more common and school systems place less importance on teaching handwriting. Interest in teaching penmanship in America has reached such a low point, that the National Cursive Handwriting Contest for elementary school students will not be held during the coming year for the first time in its century-old history. This attitude towards handwriting is also becoming prevalent in Australia.

More and more, our schools are producing students who have severe problems with handwriting and spelling. It is of the utmost importance to make sure that your children can write legibly and fluently. If the schools are not teaching them, then for their sakes, you need to give them your help. For help to do this check out the links at the top of this blog. They are free resources.

Putting Thoughts into Words.

I'm sorry I haven't posted for some days. I've been away, with no computer access. I want to talk about 'thoughts' today. Putting them into words can be hard and writing them down can be even harder.

I've just spent an hour with a student. He was supposed to bring with him, something he'd written, so that we could work on his sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, grammar and so on. He hadn't and his lament was as old as written thought, 'I can't think of anything to write'.

You'll hear this from your children many times when they're asked to write something creative for homework or when you're homeschooling.

I asked my student to think of a word. Being a fourteen year old, he decided to be clever and give me the word 'word'. He laughed and started to try to think of another one, but I decided to run with what he'd given me. You should have seen his face. He thought that he'd joked himself into having to do something that was really hard.

We sat and talked about the word 'word'. What it is, what it's used for, what he likes about words, what he objects to when using words. As we talked, he became quite interested and took some notes. Below is what he came up with. It's not finished yet. The last part is still in point form. We'll finish it next week.

A word is a combination of letters arranged to describe things, objects, people, places, movement, thoughts, etc.

We join them together into sentences to communicate with each other. They can be as short as one letter eg: 'a' or even as long as 'antidisestablishmentarianism' (which is a real word). It has ... if you want the answer, count it yourself.

As well as talking, words are used for writing stories, songs, poetry, plays and even random things like this!

We do not just use words for communicating with people. We also use words such as 'no' and 'hello' when we are talking to our animals. If you say this enough times, they will learn the meaning.

People feel differently about words. Personally I don't like swear words, because I think that most people use them just because they can. People that use swear words in every sentence do not show that they are smart or clever, whereas people who use more creative words prove that they are different. Instead of being sheep and following everyone else, they show they are individuals.

I like words that are:
The word random
Funny words
And unique words

So the points here, in using the 'think of a word' method for writing are:

Don't expect the student to come up with things by himself. Talk about it with him. It's called brain-storming and all writers do it. Help him think outside the box.

Encourage him to take notes as you talk. If he's having trouble, help him to put his thoughts down on paper. Note taking is a skill that needs to be learned.

The endeavour doesn't need to be finished at one sitting. Keep the notes and add any ideas that occur during this time. If he has a good idea and hasn't time to get it down, encourage him to write it in point form so that he remembers it for the next time.

If he can't think how to continue, suggest a few different thoughts such as 'What is it? How d0 you feel about it?' Do you like/dislike it? Why?' The last question here is an important one, because it really makes the student think about the points he's making.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reply to Email from a Reader about Book Phobia

I have the reader's permission to answer her question on my blog, as it may help others.

Her child had trouble reading in the first three years of his schooling and came to dread any time a book was put in front of him. He felt that it was just another opportunity to show his peers how 'dumb' he was. He began to refuse to even try to read a book.

He has now developed the concept of sounding and can read words and even sentences, but he still cannot read a book. She has chosen a book, put the words on flashcards and he can read them. She has put the words onto pieces of paper exactly as they are in the book and he's drawn the pictures to go with them and read them quite easily. However, when she puts the identical story in front of him as a book, he becomes very stressed. He looks at the pages but can't seem to read them.

This is not a common problem but I've encountered it several times in my years of teaching. Occasionally a student will develop a book phobia. Books have become associated with failure, stress, embarrassment and fear. He has gone to school each day with his stomach tied in knots, dreading going to class because he will fail yet again in front of his classmates. The teacher may become angry with him. Maybe a few children will victimise him in the playground, calling him names and making his failure even more public.

It's perfectly understandable that the anxiety caused by this type of experience will continue, even after the child can actually read. After all, one experience of being confined can result in claustrophobia, or trauma in the outdoors can result in agoraphobia later on.

The method I've used to overcome this is an easy one. Take a book with only one or two lines of print on each page. Then, very lightly, in pencil, draw a simple picture over each noun (a noun is the name of a person, place or thing). Show the student what you've done and explain that it won't be hard to read this book because the pictures will show him what most of the words are.

Read the book through with him and if he can't read any of the words that don't have a picture above them, discuss with him what symbol you can draw above it to help him. For example, above the word 'in' you could draw a 'U' with a small circle inside it and you could turn the 'U' upside down and put the circle on top of it for the word 'on'. For the word 'and' you could use '+'.

When you've drawn all the pictures that he needs, ask him to read it. If he's still worried about it, read it through with him as many times as he wants you to. Tell him that if he gets stuck, you'll help him. The aim is to have him relaxed about reading it.

Do this to six or seven books that have the same theme and so repeat many of the same words. As he becomes used to a certain book, ask him to choose a word he knows, so that you can erase the picture above it. If he's hesitant to do this, leave it till the next day and ask him again. He needs to be confident enough to let you do it. Remember that the aim is to make him comfortable with books. He can already read, so you don't need to rush this. It will take as long as it takes. Letting him set the pace, gradually erase the pictures, so that eventually only the words are left.

By the time you've done this with all the books you've chosen, he will probably be confident enough to carry on by himself. If he's not, get another selection of books. It can be on another theme. Do the same thing with the new books. This is a phobia. Be patient. It may take time to overcome, but this method has worked every time I've used it.

The method of drawing simple pictures above harder words in a book, can also be used with children who are just beginning to read. It enables them to read books that are more difficult and increases their confidence. Again, as they learn the words, erase the pictures.

Friday, May 2, 2008

You Find Friends in the Most Unexpected Places - I love this. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

If you don't think
animals are far more
spiritually advanced
than we humans,
think again.
Stuart Brown describes
Norbert Rosing's striking images
of a wild polar bear
coming upon tethered sled dogs,
in the wilds of Canada's
Hudson Bay.
The photographer
was sure that
he was going to see
the end of his dogs,
when the polar bear wandered in.


The polar bear returned every night that week to play with the dogs.
May you always have
love to share,
health to spare
and friends that care.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Teaching Reading and Writing when Concepts have not Developed

Teach the basics. That's the really important thing. If your child hasn't developed the concept of sounds linking together to form words and can't even seem to hear the sounds within a word, you concentrate on giving her the basic tools that she can use when the concept does develop.

Teach the single sounds of the alphabet (please teach her to write Q as 'qu'). This means teaching the sounds themselves not the names of the sounds. If she watches Sesame Street, she'll hear the names of the sounds. It's important for her to realise that each sound has both a name and a sound, but it's the sounds that we use when sounding out words. The vowels a,e,i,o,u are the exception. It's fine at this time to teach her that the sounds are formed into two groups - consonants and vowels. To remember the vowels I often use this sentence - A E IOU $5 (Ay E I Owe You $5).

As you're teaching her the sounds, begin to teach her simple words on flash cards. As you teach each one, sound it out for her. It's great if she can learn the sounds eg. run = r-u-n. When the concept clicks in, she'll have all this great information behind her to use the concept immediately and she'll feel so CLEVER.

At the same time, teach her to write each sound. Please make sure that she is forming her letters in the right way. When she's forming the letters, it's important that she start at the right point and finish at the right point. Firstly, it will be clearer to read. Secondly, if she doesn't do this, she will have to relearn the correct method of forming the letter, before she can progress to cursive writing. Letters join together in only one way and if she's not beginning and ending them at the right point, she won't be able to join the letters together properly later on.

In learning to write the sounds, repetition through supervised practice is the key. Immediate feedback for the child is essential to correct any errors, even little ones, before they become habit. Many children will want to write their letters in the way that is easiest for them. They don't see the value of doing it in a particular way. As long as it looks right in the end, they don't see any problem.

The intervention must be as she's writing the sound. If she's not watched carefully during her practice, she may revert to what's easiest for her. If the correction is done later, three problems will be encountered. There will often be no way to tell which way the letters have been formed. Every time the student forms the letters the wrong way, that habit becomes stronger and harder to break. The student will feel that she is being punished unfairly when she has to rewrite the lesson.

Once that's done, progress to teaching the sounds made up of more than one letter, such as the 'oa' of boat, the 'ay' of day, the 'ai' of mail, etc. As you teach these, introduce three or four letter words that have these sounds. On flash cards, write the word and underline the diagraph (sounds of more than one letter), so that she learns to see the diagraph as one sound. She'll get used to the look of the sound and it will help later with spelling.

Lastly, when you read books to her, make sure she can see the page and, as you read, follow the words with your finger. It will help her to realise that stories are made by puting words together. That's another concept that needs to develop.

I hope this isn't too much information at once. Just take it one step at a time. It's important that both your student and you are relaxed. If you're uptight, she will be as well and it will severely limit her ability to take in information. If the atmosphere becomes tense, take a break. Go and get the mail together, have a snack, play with the dog for five minutes - anything that will relax the situation.

Don't push on if she get's really upset because she's not understanding - all parents know the signs with their own child. Go on to something else and come back to that particular thing, when you sense that she's able to cope with it again. Put it off till the next day or the day after, if that's necessary. There's no rush.

One last point. Make jokes, say outrageous things, have a good laugh. Laughter is a wonderful relaxer and when your student is relaxed, her mind is more open to learning. It also helps her to look forward to the times. Try to put aside the time to give her your whole attention. Make it your special time together and in between teaching certain things have little chats with her about her day. Tell her something that happened to you. It's a great opportunity to bond.