Archive for September, 2018

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

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,  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

Class Schedule

September 2018
« Aug    

Recent Posts