As the New Year approaches and holiday excitement starts to decrease, it’s common to make resolutions for the coming year. However, most are typically abandoned shortly afterwards and involve food, exercise, or career goals. While these types of resolutions can be beneficial, setting reading or educational goals can often be more practical. And they may lead to improved attitudes about learning at home and school. We recommend trying a few learning and reading resolutions.
To be clear, I’m not referring to grades when I say academic goals. All students, especially struggling learners, can try hard on an assignment or assessment. Yet, still, they receive disappointing results. Try setting goals that have more to do with fostering a love of reading and learning. Many of the activities below are things you may be familiar with, have already tried, or incorporate into your daily routine whenever time allows. However, resolving to engage in one or more of these activities regularly can have a substantial impact.
Select a Chapter Book to Read with Your Child/Children Nightly
As much as we want our children to become independent readers, it’s often sad when nightly bedtime stories come to an end. That time spent together, when your child’s eyes light up with interest at the adventures you share, is treasured and lays the groundwork for interest in reading and early literacy development. As children get older, they enjoy mimicking the story telling styles displayed by others and selecting their own books. However, the joy of listening to someone else read is not lost.
Most classroom teachers help students transition from the excitement of lunchtime, by reading to them for 5 to 10 minutes before class resumes. Students are often at the edge of their seats during this time. Many even request for it to be extended. This is true of learners from elementary to high school age. In fact, my own high school and younger students chose to postpone a beloved activity, on multiple occasions, in favor of me reading to them longer and finishing the final part of a chapter or novel.
Choosing a Book
When selecting a chapter book, you can choose texts up to 2 levels above your child’s independent reading level. This helps develop higher level vocabulary, interest, and knowledge of story structure. Students often seek out other books by the same author or within a series after enjoying a read aloud. You’re not only modeling the enjoyment of reading, but inspiring them to pursue interests as well. With so many books being turned into films these days, it can also be a fun family activity to begin a book several weeks before a movie or DVD version is scheduled to come out. Make movie day a celebration for after the text is complete. Discussing the differences between text and film afterwards can help students recognize the value of both mediums. It can illustrate how much imagination enhances the reading experience.
Incorporate a Story Map or Related Activity into Your Weekly Routine.
Monitoring comprehension during and after reading is very important. As adults, we do this automatically. But children need to see it modeled and develop a structure for organizing and understanding the information. One tool to help them achieve this is a story map. Fold a piece of paper into 4 squares. In the first, at the top left, draw a smiley face, leaving the majority of the square empty. In the next, draw a house. Add a triangle, with a question mark inside it, to the square on the bottom left and a light bulb to the final square on the right. These symbols stand for character(s), setting, problem, and solution: the 4 components of most fiction stories. You can include the words for older students or omit the pictures entirely.
Younger children will quickly learn to associate the images with each story part after a few activities. You can complete a story map together, as a family, the first few times, after finishing a short story, or encourage your child/children to choose a weekly story from home or school to create a map for. Students can draw or paint the story parts in each square, as an alternative to writing. They can use the map as a guide when retelling the story to friends or family later.
Compare and Contrast
Making connections between text and self is another important skill that aids in reading comprehension. For example, a child who has a beloved dog is likely to find many of the events, feelings, or behaviors in stories like Because of Winn Dixie, Henry and Ribsy, or Love that Dog familiar. This helps with prediction, inferences, and drawing conclusions, as well as overall interest. Model creating a Venn diagram or folding a piece of paper lengthwise and listing ways the events and characters in the story are similar and different to your child’s own experiences. As with the story map, this can also be done through illustration or orally. Set a goal to complete 2 or 3 compare and contrast activities each month. Before you know it, your child will be sharing connections to stories and experiences without prompting.
You can also change things up by picking a special day each week where your child reads to you and assigns the follow up task. He or she can then review your Venn diagram or story map and share whether it accurately reflects the events in the story.
Word of the day/week
Another simple activity that can be incorporated into your at-home routine is selecting a word of the week or day. While there are a number of online sources and desk calendars that provide appropriate vocabulary, you can also skim ahead in a current chapter book or read aloud and select words your child is unfamiliar with.
You can introduce the word by writing it in bright bold letters, sounding it out together, or drawing a picture that represents the meaning. The more ways your child has to recall the word, the more likely it will become part of his or her long term memory. Then use the word in a sentence and encourage your child to do the same. Make a game out of locating the written word in signs, books, or TV shows throughout the week or acknowledging when it’s heard. Then challenge your child to see how many times the word can be worked into a conversation. Top off the week with a celebration. This could include things like writing the word in shaving cream or play-dough and dressing up. You might also shape snacks in the form of the word, or its meaning, or even a scavenger hunt that includes previous words.
Children love to model their parents’ actions. Incorporating learning activities into the at–home routine can help emphasize the joy of learning and minimize some of the anxiety that often accompanies school assignments. Setting goals together is just one way to achieve this. The skills learned can boost confidence and promote academic success.
We wish everyone a happy and productive 2017!