How To Help Your Middle/High School Student Read That Last Chapter

She patiently overcomes reading anxiety by reading titles, first sentences and captions in order to catch up.

If your middle/high school student is struggling to read that final chapter of history/science/government or other fact-based text as part of their last academic push for the year, you may want to try this strategy.

1. Have them speed read the chapter title, caption headers, and first sentences of each paragraph in the chapter. (If racing the clock helps, you can set it for 1-3 minutes and let the clock pace them.)

2. Then ask them to describe what they predict the topic will be about, including questions which might be answered in the reading.

3. Finally, have them read the chapter completely and highlight main ideas and supporting details as they go along. (If they can’t highlight in the book because it is school property you might consider copying the pages, so that they can highlight on the copies.)

4. Now, give them 1-4 minutes to study as much of their highlighted material as possible.

5. Finally take the book or text away and ask them to repeat, in order if possible, as many details as possible from their highlighted text.
This strategy works for several reasons. First, the student overcomes a little anxiety by getting a ‘big-picture’ quick look at the chapter. Secondly, you are adding a bit of a game element when you challenge them to recall as much as they can without the book. Try it out and let me know how it works!
For more information on last minute study strategies you might check out “Reading Effectively” a very clear article on reading strategies.

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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/.

Honor Earth Day With A Good Book

Eric of Engel Tutors recommends Ocean Sunlight, pictured here,  for children working on reading skills and ocean ecology.Spring has arrived and Earth Day is on it’s way. Here is a children’s book, perfect for 2nd through 5th graders, which I guarantee will cheer you and your child and help you dive into the spirit of Earth Day. Ocean Sunlight by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, offers a complete and fairly detailed overview of the carbon cycle. It illustrates the role of photosynthesis in ocean life as well as land life.

Bang describes the big picture of ocean life in a way that is captivating and accessible to students and adults. I was awed by the mixture of poetry and science and finished the book with a firmer grasp of the whole earth carbon life cycle. This would also be a good book for an older student with a reading challenge who is looking for something on environmental science or ocean ecology.

If you are looking for Earth Day weekend events that are fun for the family, take a look at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum ScienceFest: Earth Day or the Leslie Science Center Spring Eggstravaganza.

What science or ecology books would you recommend for Earth Day?

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

In Praise of Visual Memory

child Head.Children Learn to think

We complain quite a bit about our ability to remember. With this in mind, it is astonishing to reflect on how powerful our memory really is. Let’s consider visual memory. In one recent study, people were shown 2,500 different images, then later asked to identify the original images when placed beside very similar images. For example, they may have seen an image of a backpack. then had to identify which of two similar backpacks they saw. The survey participants correctly picked out  88% of the original images. (Brady, Konkle, Alvarez, and Oliva (2008))

That is amazing.

We are amazing.

Have any questions about human memory? Let me know.