Why do I have to read?

What is the purpose of reading? Or as my oldest child might put it, “Why do I have to read?” in a whiny voice. For children preschool through second grade they are learning to read. One aspect of a student starting to read is by learning all the phonemes (letter sounds). Additionally, they can also learn that when letters are put together, they can make one sound. An example would be /ch/ or /ey/. At this level, we start introducing them to the purpose of reading— comprehension. Gibson and Moss state that “Children should learn to comprehend while they are still learning decoding skills.” (Gibson and Moss, 2016, pg 10).

How can a child show you a different ways that they understood their material? As you’re reading with your child or student, every now and then, stop and ask one of the following questions: Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?

Why don’t you want to wait till the end of the story before asking these questions? Most children’s books are 3-25 pages long. They may have understood the text at the beginning but are still working on their retaining skills. Should they be penalized for focusing on decoding and the current pages? Developmentally, children have short attention spans and memory that is still maturing. Therefore, to ensure that your child has comprehended all of the text ask questions every 3-5 pages.

Another thing to note, is that the questions how and why are the most difficult. The question how requires that a child list out directions or steps in a process, when they themselves can only (usually) follow 1-3 steps directions at a time.  Why requires pragmatics and awareness of community and personal experience. This is called an inferential question and then the answer isn’t found on the text.

Watch the following book by Mo Williems read a loud. Think about the questions you might ask a child to see if he/she understood the text. Then, compare your questions to those below:

Piggie and Elephant Can I Play Too? By Mo Williems

  1. Who was in the story?
  2. What did the snake want to do?
  3. What happened when Gerald threw the ball to snake?
  4. Where would you play catch?
  5. Why couldn’t snake catch the ball?
  6. How do you play catch?
  7. What makes a good friend?

Gibson and Moss reiterate that “Gaining meaning from text can be taught through careful and detailed orientation of children to each new reading book or story, extended and detailed conversations about these texts with teachers and peers, explanation of comprehension strategies, and children’s consistent use of meaning as a source of information.” (2016, pg 10).  These are just a few examples of how to start conversations through literal and inferential questions to further deepen a child’s understanding. Use these tools and the attached visual aid to help your child connect even deeper to their favorite books!

Comprehension glove



  1. Gibson, Sharan and Moss, Barbara. (2016). Every Young Child a Reader. New York City, New York: Teacher College Press.
  2. Read a book!. (November 26, 2017). Can I Play Too? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKUTyGoAg8c

September 18, 2018 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

Humanism in the classroom

I recently read an excerpt by Laura Zucca-Scott from “Know Thyself: The Importance of Humanism in Education,” International Education,  (2010). My insights on this approach to teaching became personally insightful and I feel the need to share this concept!

Humanism is when teachers find ways to connect with every student and their practices are learner centered. From https://www.learning-theories.com/humanism.html,  a broader definition is:

In humanism, learning is student centered and personalized, and the educator’s role is that of a facilitator. Affective and cognitive needs are key, and the goal is to develop self-actualized people in a cooperative, supportive environment.

My reflection on Zucca-Scott’s argument was the following:

I left the public school setting six years ago, and tried to teach online. That lasted one year because in online program which I was working there was corruption from the administration and the program was overhauled. Not only did I not get my job back but the district to which I had served for five years (in a very difficult to staff school) had no concept of humanity and therefore, decided to let me go because I didn’t pass their new hiring test (of which I had to take to reapply for the job that I had already demonstrated above and beyondness). In fact, as I reflect why I didn’t try to go back to another school or another district, I realize that there had so much rejection as my person hood in my professional life, that I was worn out and beaten.

Fast forward to five year later, I run a successful tutoring business. I start meeting a new tutoring family by having a conversation. We talk about goals, interests, schooling experiences, hopes and expectations. Our conversation naturally flows to family and usually ends up with high fives, handshakes, and intense eye gazing. Daily, I teach with the thought that “All students have talents; they just do not always have the opportunity to express those talents.” (Zucca-Scott, 2010). In fact, I’m reminded of one student whom I am currently working with in my practice. He’s now a junior in high school, has been diagnosed with autism, and is an incredible artist. He’s depictions of war scenes, his caricatures, and his fine detail are an inspiration to the moment that he’s captured. I’ve suggested, many times to the family, that he should look into becoming an children’s book illustrator as he both loves the task and has a great skill for drawing. When I collaborated with his case manager, who’d been working with him for over a year at the time, I mentioned his strength with the pen. His teacher had no idea that this student could even draw. To think that this student’s talent hasn’t been honored or encouraged or supported meant to me that his instructors are so focused on their curriculum that they’ve lost sight of his humanity.

I have reflected that over the years of service in public school the moments that I have had the greatest impact on student’s education is when I look at “…the whole child, who is not simply composed of intellect but is emotional and spiritual as well.” (Barrier-Ferreria, 2007, as reported by Zucca-Scott, 2010). This brings to mind when I dived into the world of a student who loved movies—so we did movie math, research papers on theaters, read movie reviews and connected over his passion for wanting to become a director. Another student had a love of Sonic the Hedgehog. This was a harder connection to make but I knew Sonic was a safe place for her. Having Sonic with her meant that she could triangulate with another character and conversations didn’t have to be confrontational.

Humanism isn’t a way to take assessments and curriculum out of schools, it’s a way to really know our students, what they can accomplish and push them to higher levels because we know their goals, their strengths, and their fears and how to support them.

I hope that as move forward in my career, wherever the path may lead me, that I can bring the humanity with each interaction with colleagues, students, and parents.

September 13, 2018 at 8:26 am Leave a comment

Sound out your words…but how?

September 10, 2018 at 7:00 pm Leave a comment

Picking a just right book in 7 ways

“Mom,” Tommy yells with excitement, “Can I get this book?”

Mom looks over and sees that her 7 year old son wants to read Harry Potter, by himself, cause it has a boy with glasses, just like him on the front cover.

He’s not daunted by the hundreds of pages before him nor the fact that it has no pictures.

What can mom do?

If you’ve ever been in the situation where your kids aren’t picking a Just Right book, here are a few guidelines to help!

It’s called the 5 Finger Rule:

1) Open up the book with your child.

2) Pick any page to read!

3) Count words that your child doesn’t know how to read (decode) quickly

0-1 Words missed is too easy but save for vacation

2-3 Words missed is just right

4 Words missed is a great book to share and read together

5 Words missed is a great story to listen to on audio book, or as a read a loud before bed.

This goes for kiddos who like too easy books as well!

Other considerations when picking a book:

1. Who’s your favorite author? Do they have more books?

2. What’s genre do you love? Can you find a new author?

3. What’s the latest series that’s out? Are you willing to give it a try?

4. Use an app to help you find your next book like:




5. How much time do you have for your next book?

6. What medium will you be using? Audiobook? Ebook? Paperback? And is it in stock?

Anyway you pick a book, just remember to make time for reading!

September 5, 2018 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

Teachers and Tutors on the same side?

Dear Teacher in a brick and mortar school,

I can be your first line of defense! I can be your back up! I can be the echo that keeps on repeating. I can be the honest voice that tells the parent what next steps they can do to support their child.

When I see our student once a week, I get the most intensive and best opportunity to deliver high quality and individualized instruction. Please understand that I’m not just some kid who wants to make a few extra dollars on the side. This is my business and my livelihood.  I’m a licensed teacher who keeps up with professional development. I’m a teacher who takes 30 minutes to plan for EACH and EVERY one of my students. I’m a teacher who progress monitors, writes reports, and has to work hard to keep families engaged.

When you learn that one of your students has the privilege of working with a tutor, take the time to collaborate! Here’s a list of just a few ways to share information:

  1. Share your graphic organizers especially if they’re specific and/or required by your district.
  2. If a tutor shares a graphic organizer with you, be open to using it. The graphic organizer may work better for your student because it may have more scaffolding, more prompting questions, more visuals, increased spacing, highlighted lines for writing, or more.
  3. Keep your student’s tutor up to date on his reading level. We like to use our own assessments but don’t want to skew your data by using the same tests (ie…DRA, Dibbles, etc…). Just a quick email on his progress is greatly appreciated.
  4. We should be emailing you strategies that are effective with our student. As we get that precious 1:1 time, we get to really know the kiddo and see a variety of ways to reach the child. Let us share this knowledge with you to increase the student’s success in the classroom!
  5. Include us on your weekly or monthly newsletter and let us know the areas of study. We’ll be happy to find texts on the Mayans, Colorado History, or cells!
  6. Verbiage! Is there specific language that you use in your classroom to help with writing? Decoding? Comprehension? Share this information to keep continuity for our student.
  7. Check your worksheets and share what type of paper that you use in your class. Do you use Learning Without Tears paper, highlighted paper, college ruled, dashed paper, paper that has space for illustrations, or something else? Share this with your child’s tutor.
  8. Collaborate on how to support a child with an I.E.P. What accommodations are used daily that the tutor needs to create in her learning environment?
  9. Are there special considerations with the child or family that need to be discussed in order for the child to be successful in the classroom? Let’s share these needs!
  10. Resources! Why reinvent the wheel? Ask and share with each other on different tools to enhance learning! This can include: apps, reading materials, organizers, blogs, curriculum, online textbooks, and so much more!

As the school year has started, let’s remember that we’re all here for the education of children!

August 17, 2018 at 8:53 pm Leave a comment

Praise process over product

My youngest son is three and hates to color. In fact, he gets so frustrated when I try and help him hold his crayon beyond the palmar grip that he’ll just storms off if I say anything. He’s the type of kid that the perfectionist and if he can’t do something right away the first time, it’s not worth doing.

Maybe you have a kiddo like this or maybe you’re child is so frustrated at being corrected all the time, that he knows if he tries and read one more time he’ll be corrected for the three hundred twenty five thousand, one hundred seventy-ninth time. But whose counting?

How are you, the teacher, the paraprofessional, the parent, who only want the best for this child, give him the confidence to keep persevering? And how do you correct him so he doesn’t learn the wrong way either without damaging the fragile ego?

It’s a mindset shift. Praise the process and not the product.

When my son wants to paint or use stickers, I’ll sneak in coloring at the same time. I’ll ask him, “What was your favorite part to make?” This line was given to me by his art teacher from Abrakadoodle. You can check them out here and I highly recommend them: http://www.abrakadoodle.com/

Other things I might say as he’s coloring (that can be used for any resistant writer):

-You really took your time with that _____ (letter, word, sentence, project)

-How did you come up with that idea? That’s so ______ (unique, creative, inspiring, etc…)

-You should be very proud of yourself for finishing that ____ (picture, essay, sentence).

-What are you thinking of creating next? (be wary of using this one as the first process might have been exhausting).

The idea is to look at the effort and the process that went into the final product and have the child be acknowledged for overcoming something that was difficult by themselves.

Likewise, with readers it’s the same thing. The concept that I’m using here is from Orton-Gillingham approach. Praise the student for the sound that he made correctly, given him an opportunity to independently fix his mistake, and then give him the information in a factual way and move on.

This looks like:

Child looks at the word CAT.

Child: C-U-T. Cut.

Adult: A does make the sound of /u/. What’s another sound that A makes?

Child: /A/

Adult: You’re right again. A can have three sounds. What’s the third sound A makes, like in the word apple?

Child: /a/

Adult: Using /a/ sound, try that word again.

Child: C-A-T. Cat.

Adult: Great job hearing the sound of /a/. Let’s keep going.

Notice that the adult acknowledged the child’s effort. Notice that the adult also gave more information and exposure to the English language. Lastly, notice that the adult only gave key words (or prompts) and gave the child the opportunity to figure out the sound for himself. These successes and opportunities to learn and internalize information go a long way to increasing your child’s confidence.

Check out this article from Understood.Org that goes into more depth about praising your child! https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/celebrating-successes/ways-praise-can-empower-kids-learning-issues

August 16, 2018 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

5 steps to get your child ready for school

Summer is in full swing but whenever I walk into a store, I’m reminded that there are only 24 days left before kids go to school (but whose counting). How am I supposed to get the kids ready for school?

  1. School supplies is a must. Go to your school’s website and find what are the teachers asking for. However, if you need support with school supplies, please contact A Precious Child at https://apreciouschild.org/contact-us/ to utilize their Fill A Backpack program.
  2. Ensure that your child has a study place all ready to go. Desks are the best but if your child is like mine, he’ll be playing on his phone while sitting at his desk or will have Roblox open on his computer when he’s supposed to be doing reading. The kitchen table is always a good choice or a family room table. Either way, having your child within line of eye sight is a good idea for your child to know that you care about their education and your presence is a great support. Additionally, make the location consistent so that they know when I’m sitting here, I’m working.
  3. Send your child’s teacher an email introducing him/her. Let them know all the great things about your child and what he/she is excited about learning this year. Additionally, if your child has an IEP or 504 make sure that the teacher is aware of this document and the accommodations that are in place to give your child all the success he/she needs during the school year. Set up a meeting before school starts if your child has more intensive needs to meet the teacher in a more casual setting.
  4. Find a way to help your child with executive functions: goal setting, organization, and time management are all skills that your child needs in school life and everyday adult world. If your child looses binders and notebook all the time consider using one big binder! If your child likes to stuff his paper all in one folder or at the bottom of his backpack consider using an accordion folder. If your child doesn’t have a lot of papers consider using a crate with folders that’s left at home for the random papers that he does need to keep. If your child has a hard time organizing all of his materials consider getting matching colored folder, notebook, and binder.
  5. Lastly, get apps that will help your child. Here are some of my favorite:
    1. Math resources to help with fractions, decimals, shapes, money, number lines, counting, and patterns. https://www.mathlearningcenter.org/resources/apps
    2. Google calendar to help with all things timely. This is a great video that shows how to effeciently use Google calendars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O1Sype_U2A
      1. Here’s the Google calendar website: https://calendar.google.com/
    3. Mercury Reader allows the website to only pull up the text https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/mercury-reader/oknpjjbmpnndlpmnhmekjpocelpnlfdi?hl=en
    4. Co writer also on the chrome store allows students to dictate and use word predictive software.

Have a great school year knowing that you’ve prepared your child for success!

July 23, 2018 at 8:19 pm Leave a comment

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