Summer Camp for Adopted Kids in Transracial Families

GirlsonSwing
Happy campers at Transracial Journeys summer camp

Adopted children in transracial families – families of more than one race – often carry with them grief and trauma issues. These issues can handicap their ability to concentrate and succeed as students. “Transracial children may benefit greatly from adoptive parents who give them multi-racial diverse experiences,” says Linda Jones, a local psychotherapist who specializes in working with adopted children.

Many times parents can feel blindsided by these challenges and do not know where to turn for help. One form of support has been the creation of summer camps specializing in providing a community environment just for these families. Here are two camps relatively nearby which seem to be very popular.

Kamp Kurat was created by Carrie Lafferty of Ann Arbor and is in its third year at Summerset Beach Campground just 45 minutes west of Ann Arbor, near Jackson. The camp is designed for families who have adopted Ethiopian children.

Transracial Journeys was created by Rita Simpson-Vlach and is beginning its fourth year. The camp is located in Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania, just east of Pittsburgh. This camp is for all transracial families – both the children and their parents.

I hope you will share this information with other families who may benefit. If you know of other similar opportunities, please share them with me.

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A Great Recall Game: My Left Foot

The memory game, My Left Foot, from Engel Tutors, is a great way to work on recall skills. Well, this may not be my left foot, but it is someone’s left foot.

 

When students have trouble understanding something they have read, we may quickly identify the problem as a comprehension issue. However, it can be difficult to tell whether comprehension or memory or retrieval is really at the root of this problem. Comprehension means understanding the message of the text, memory refers to our ability to hold on to information in our mind – both the literal words and the message they convey; and retrieval means our ability to recall information from memory. All three are interconnected.

Working on retrieval skills may help students with reading comprehension challenges. Recall games encourage a student to concentrate on listening and identifying specific text. While this is not the same as comprehension, it is vital because it helps them improve underlying skills of attentiveness needed for comprehension.

Here is a fun example of a word recall game. Tell your child that you are going to tell him a story and that you want him to identify 3 items in the story that you can hold in your hand. Then proceed to tell a short story. For example,

I rode my bike to the store to buy groceries for a special meal. On the way I ran over a nail and got a flat-tire. I was so close to the store, I decided to walk the rest of the way on foot. Unfortunately, I stepped in some melted gum. It was so sticky that I couldn’t lift my foot. So, I took off my sneaker and kept walking. In the store I bought an apple and some walnuts. On the way home it started raining. Can you believe that? My left foot was soaked.

Now remind the listener to name 3 things they heard which can be held in their hands. Too easy? Make them remember more items, change the criteria, complicate the story with a long diversion. Of course, you have to play too!

This is a great game for car rides, doctor offices, and rainy days. Try it out and let me know how it goes.

If you want to learn a bit more about retreival watch this short Kahn Academy video at https://www.khanacademy.org/science/health-and-medicine/executive-systems-of-the-brain/memory-2014-03-27T18:40:29.837Z/v/retrieval-free-recall-cued-recall-and-recognition .

Want a heavy article on the relationship between memory, retrieval and comprehension? Try: Comprehension of Linguistic Dependencies: Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff Evidence for Direct-Access Retrieval From Memory at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3310376/.

Creating A Water Garden: Applied Math & Outdoor Fun

the math equation I used for my pond liner, from Engel Tutors in Ann Arbor
Figuring out the right length and width for my pond liner.

Warm April weather can turn student minds away from classrooms and towards the outdoors. Why not bond with them and keep them engaged in learning at the same time? Designing and creating a backyard water garden will give your student the opportunity to apply math concepts such as proportions, fractions, multiplication, division, and algebra, as well as the handy use of important tools. It’s a great way to work with them as a teammate and add an exotic habitat to the homestead for observation and quiet meditation. Continue reading Creating A Water Garden: Applied Math & Outdoor Fun

Late But Great Summer Reading Recommendations for Students 2014

swallowsSo, you are deep into summer now. Perhaps you’ve gone to camp, or gone on a family vacation. Perhaps you are playing summer ball, or biking, or checking out that new skateboard park in Ann Arbor. You always need some down-time, some alone time on a favorite couch with a cold lemonade at hand. Nothing makes down-time more fun than a good book.

Here are my late, great recommendations for August. If you read one, tell me how you liked it.

1. The Calder Game, by Blue Balliett. One of my elementary students highly recommended this action mystery. (3rd grade – 5th grade)

2. My Father’s Dragon, Ruth Stiles Gannett, 1948 Newbery Honors Book and ALA – an old classic children’s adventure and comedy. (4th and 5th graders)

3. Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome. Before Harry Potter, before hobbits, there was this story of childhood adventure and fantasy. It is a classic almost lost to our time. (4th -7th grade)

4. Al Capone Does My Laundry, by Gennifer Choldenko, This Newbery Honor winning novel is a fictional account from a kid’s perspective of living at Alcatraz – with its host of infamous criminals – during the 1930’s. (5th – 7th grade roughly)

5. The Talking Earth, by Jean Craighead George, a Seminole Indian girl in Florida learns how to fend for herself. This is the author of My Side of The Mountain and Julie of The Wolves. Jean Craighead George is the queen of wilderness survival novels. Check it out. (Middle to High School)

6. La Linea, by Ann Jaramillo, “Fifteen-year-old Miguel and his younger sister make a grueling trek through the desert to the border of Mexico and the United States so they can join their parents in California.” Very timely. (Younger Teens)

7. Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech, “ After her mother leaves home suddenly, thirteen-year-old Sal and her grandparents take a car trip retracing her mother’s route.” Check it out!(Younger Teens)

8. Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass. This is a pretty cool story about a 13 year-old girl with synesthesia. Synesthesia is a real condition in which sounds, numbers and words all have color. Great story! (Junior High and High School)

9. The Princess Bride by William Goldman, This is a classic fantasy adventure and romance story, great for teenagers. It is “swashbuckling” fun. (Middle School through High School)

10. The Martian, by Andy Weir. I just finished reading this very recent science fiction novel. I’d recommend this for older high school students. Here’s an excerpt from the cover,

All of the science is real,” says Weir, an easygoing “space nerd” whose hobbies include relativistic physics and orbital mechanics. “All of the technology exists today, although a lot of it is next generation.”

Weir, 41, wrote the book as a “what-if scenario,” imagining the worst that could happen on a manned mission to Mars.

That’s All! Enjoy August!

Stay Sharp with These Summer Games

man bites dogSpring is here and it is time to think about summer. Kids want to do something new and exciting outside the classroom. You probably want the same for them. However, you don’t want them to lose any of that valuable progress they made in school. Educational board games are one way to solve that problem.

Two good games for young writers are Man Bites Dog and You’ve Been Sentenced. In both games, players build phrases and sentences with word cards.

In Man Bites Dog, the cards are clippings from newspapers. Since you are creating imaginative headlines, the responses are not always standard sentences, but students enjoy the creative hilarity. In You’ve Been Sentenced, the cards are hexagon shaped and include five variations on a word or phrase.

I like this game because it is easier to build a range of sentences. References to movie stars, presidents and famous race-car drivers are included to spice things up. Find both games online through Amazon.

A Summer Reading List for 2013

summer readingHi Folks,

I have two items today:  my summer book reading list and a fun book-related event coming up soon.

First, the latter– The Ann Arbor Book Festival Crawl will take place on Thursday, June 20th, in the evening. This is a fun opportunity to cruise around to different book-related spaces, shop for books, and hear authors. The Crawl stops at Nicola’s Books at the Westgate Mall at 8 p.m. For more information, check The Observer or contact Nicola’s Books.

Secondly, here is the long awaited summer book list. I think it has something for everyone. Enjoy, and let me know about your favorite summer read:

  • Touching Spirit Bear, Ben Mikaelsen

A 15-year-old, juvenile delinquent boy is banished to an Alaskan Island where he must face the legendary Spirit Bear. This novel features many Native American beliefs and carries a strong message about dealing with anger.   Middle School but good for anyone.

  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Tim Angleberger

If you liked Diary of A Wimpy Kid, you will probably like this novel. Older Elementary.

  • Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Stephan Pastis

Again, if you liked Diary of A Wimpy Kid, you will probably like this novel. Older Elementary

  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamilo. Older Elementary.
  • Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, by Richard Paul Evans

This is an exciting sci-fi action thriller. Give it a try!

  • Z For Zachariah, Robert C. Obrien

This is a futuristic, post-apocalyptic novel told through the eyes of a teenage girl. I highly recommend this novel. Young Adult

  • Forensic Science, DK Eyewitness Books

This one is for one student in particular. You know who you are.

Middle School to Young Adult

  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

This is another post-apocalyptic novel. It is action-packed and suspenseful. Young Adult

  • The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson

“In the futuristic Brazilian metropolis Palmares Tres, artist June Costa joins the bold new Summer King, Enki, to stage explosive, dramatic projects that the city will never forget. The pair adds fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech, and June falls deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.”  Young Adult, NPR list.

  • Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

“Eleanor and Park meet on the school bus — she’s a defiantly weird poor girl (a redhead, no less!) from a broken family, he’s a solidly middle-class son of a veteran and his Korean wife (no here). They bond over X-Men comics and punk mix tapes…”  Young Adult, NPR List

  • Drama, Raina Telgemeier

“Drama is a lovely, gentle meditation on life, love and drama, both personal and theatrical, that will worm its way into the heart of any theater geek (or former theater geek). Seventh-grader Callie loves Broadway musicals with a passion, but she can’t sing — so she devotes herself to running tech…”    Middle School to High School, NPR List

  • The Universe versus Alex Woods, Gavan Extance

“Teenage British science nerd Alex (his mother calls him Lex, and yes, he is bald) was hit by a meteorite as a kid; it punched through the bathroom ceiling and whacked him in the head, leaving him with severe epilepsy.” Middle School to High School NPR List

  • Divergent, Veronica Roth

Didn’t get enough of the Hunger Games? Try this trilogy out. The final episode is expected in October.

  • The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Magic and the search for meaning….this is magical realism at it’s best. Middle School to Adult.

  • Out of My Mind, Sharon Draper

This is the survival story of a girl with a severe handicap. Young Adult.

  • Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen

“One day I was 12 years old and broke. Then Grandma gave me Grandpa’s old riding lawnmower. I set out to mow some lawns. More people wanted me to mow their lawns. And more and more. . . . One client was Arnold the stockbroker, who offered to teach me about “the beauty of capitalism. Supply and Demand. Diversify labor. Distribute the wealth.” “Wealth?” I said. “It’s groovy…”   Older Elementary through Middle School.

Books Your Mom Or Dad Might Have Read When They Were Younger

  • Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes

This is an American Revolution novel revolving around a teenager in Boston. It’s a classic.  Middle School to High School

  • My Antonia, Willa Cather

“My Ántonia, first published 1918, is considered one of the greatest novels by American writer Willa Cather. It is the final book of her “prairie trilogy” of novels, the companion volumes being O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark.”  Wikipedia

  • The Pearl, John Steinbeck

“The Pearl is a novella by American author John Steinbeck, published in 1947. It is the story of a pearl diver, Kino, and explores man’s nature as well as greed and evil.”  Wikipedia

  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

“Brave New World is a novel written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley and published in 1932. Set in London of AD 2540, the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological …” Wikipedia