Friday, October 30, 2015

Reading - For Pleasure

Many fourth grade classrooms have nightly reading as a part of their homework routine.  This can be challenging for students who are still developing readers.  Many are reluctant to read and are often not excited by the idea of this portion of their homework.  I have a few suggestions that may make reading for pleasure actually pleasurable for your child.

1.  Consider using an e-reader such as a Kindle, Nook or iPad.  Using an e-reader allows students to interact more with the text.  They can adjust the size of the font, which reduces the number of words on a page.  They can gain a feeling of accomplishment as they tap to turn the page.  They can use the dictionary feature to define words they are unsure of.  One of my sons prefers to read on an e-reader because he says it helps him to focus on the story and not the number of pages he has left in the book.

There are many free ebooks available through the NH Public Library - All you need to access these books is your library card number.

2.  Consider audiobooks.  Listening to an audiobook helps to build listening comprehension, visualizing skills and vocabulary.  Listening to a book allows your student to have access to books their peers may be reading that are still beyond their independent reading level.  Students can also listen to the story being read aloud while they follow along in a traditional copy of the book.  There are many ways to utilize these books and the way you choose to use them may vary from day to day.

The Exeter Public Library has many audiobooks on CD available for students to check out.  There are also a number of audiobooks available to download from the NH Public Library.  They can be downloaded to an ipod or ipad after the Overdrive app is downloaded.  Audio books are great for road trips and there are many titles available that may appeal to the whole family.

3.  Consider forming a "Book Club"  This Book Club may be members of a family (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.) or may be a group of friends that are all reading the same book.  The club would meet to discuss the story events and help the members make connections between the text, their own lives and their prior knowledge.  Discussion should be light and can focus on those famous " W questions" - Where?  When?  What? Why?  What is next?

4.  Choose independent reading material carefully.  For reading to be enjoyable, it should to be at a level that allows the student to focus on the characters and story events rather than on decoding.  When a student struggles with decoding words while reading, they often lose the flow of the story.  It starts to feel like work.  Students should read independently in a book that is a level or two below their instructional reading level.  If you are unsure of what an appropriate independent reading level for your child may be - I would be happy to help you determine that.  I can also give you tips for how to determine the reading level of a book that you pick up in a bookstore or at the library.

5.  Consider a series.  When students read books in a series, they start to build a relationship with the characters.  They have prior knowledge about the setting and the characters before they begin reading the next book.  They are often more invested in the outcome of the story and are better at making predictions about how characters will behave, based upon their actions in earlier books.  There are several good series out there at all different levels for many different interests.

6.  Consider magazines, graphic novels & comic books.  Reading is reading, it does not have to be in a novel.  The goal is to get your student hooked on the story.  Pictures and humor can definitely help with this.

7.  Use your resources.  Our librarian at Lincoln Street School, Mrs. Burnham, is an excellent resource for our students.  She has wonderful book suggestions and seems to know right away what type of books each of her students will enjoy.  The Exeter Public Library also has an extensive collection of books.  The staff there is very knowledgeable and wants to get books into the hands of students.  I am also always happy to make book recommendations.  I am lucky enough to be the parent of a 4th grade boy with eclectic reading tastes, so I have some real life experience with book selection.

As always, please don't hesitate to ask questions.  I am happy to brainstorm with you to come up with a strategy that may work for your child.  Developing the habit of reading everyday is a wonderful goal for all students!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Spelling Tests!

We have been studying 15 words (plus a bonus word) for the last couple of weeks.  This has been a good fit for many students, and a challenge for others.  All of the words we are studying each week come right from the Corrective Reading Lessons that students are completing at school.  They are words they are practicing decoding and reading in context.

If students receive a score below a 70, a pink slip goes home stapled to their spelling test.  The pink slip is just a notification to parents that the spelling test was tough for their child.  Students have the option to study the words they missed and retest on those words on Monday. 

There are some words that have been tricky for many students (for example the word "difference") that may show up again on the spelling list the following week.

I am finding that for a few students, 15 words a week are too many.  Those students will be going back to lists of 10 words for their weekly test.  They will still receive a spelling list of 15 words and should complete the spelling activities with all 15 words, but they will only be tested on the 10 highlighted words on their spelling list.

This week our spelling homework will change slightly:

Monday:  Write your words in ABC Order

Tuesday:  Consonants and Vowels

Wednesday:  Students will take a Pre-Test at home.  A parent or other adult should sign the bottom & it will be returned to school on Thursday.  This is a check-in for students.  A few students are turning in homework early and then having difficulty with the test on Friday. Taking a pre-test should show them which words are still tricky for them mid-week.

Thursday:  Words 3x Each

If you have any questions about the weekly spelling tests, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Happy Spelling!

Monday, October 5, 2015

15 Spelling Words This Week

This week we are making the move to 15 spelling words! All words are coming from the Corrective Reading lessons that students are working on this week.  They will also still have a bonus word. The bonus word is also from the lesson and can replace a missed spelling word - or can boost their score to 105!

Spelling homework is also changing slightly this week.  Assignments will be as follows:

Monday:  ABC Order
Tuesday:  Consonants & Vowels (Write word with vowels in red, consonants in another color)
Wednesday:  Write Words 3x Each
Thursday:  Word Search & Practice Test

We will see how our shift goes over the next couple of weeks & if 15 words are too many for some students, we will make an adjustment for them.  If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to email me: or give me a call: 775-8881.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How is homework going?

School has been underway for a month and hopefully your family is settling into some familiar routines.  My guess is that one of those routines includes homework.

One important tool that fourth grade students use to help develop organization skills and time management strategies is the assignment book.  While each classroom teacher may have slight differences as to how the assignment book is used in their classroom, the basic approach is the same.  Each day all homework is posted and reviewed.  Students are given time to record their assignments in the assignment books and put all of their assignments together to go home.

The Lincoln Street School Homework Policy states that fourth grade students should expect 30 to 50 minutes of homework four times per week. (Link to policy here: )  If your child is spending more time than this or homework is becoming a struggle, please either let me or the classroom teacher know.  You can reach me at 775-8881.  There is voicemail if I am unable to take your call.

A few suggestions about homework:

1.  Ask your child to show you their assignment book & homework each afternoon.  There is a space on every page for a parent signature.  Some teachers request a parent signature, while others don't.  If you are actively checking the book consider signing.  It lets your child know that you are communicating with their teacher and can help with accountability.

2.  As your child finishes an assignment, help them to develop the routine of checking it off in the book and placing the completed assignment back into their folder.  If they get in the habit of putting the assignment book and folder back into the backpack when they are finished, it will help make your mornings run more smoothly!

3.  Set up a routine place and time that works well with your family schedule for homework.  Make sure that it is relatively quiet and that your child has the materials they will need to complete most assignments close at hand - mostly pencils, crayons or colored pencils, scissors and a ruler.

4.  Homework should be an opportunity to practice a skill students have learned at school.  If your child is very confused about an assignment, or you feel that you are doing a lot of "teaching" vs. checking, please write a note to let the teacher know.

5.  Communication is key.  Please let your child's teacher or case manager know if homework is becoming a struggle.  We can help you troubleshoot problems or modify your child's homework to make it a more successful experience for both you and your child.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What about spelling?

Students in the 4th Grade Reading Rotation will have spelling words each week.  Word lists are pulled from the Corrective Reading lessons they are working on.  We are starting the year with 10 words and one bonus word (also from the unit.) As the year goes on, my goal is to expand the list to 15 words.

Students receive a packet on Monday that has all of their homework for the week.  We also write assignments for the week in the assignment book on Mondays.  Homework activities are designed to provide practice writing spelling words. They should only take about 5-10 minutes.  If they are taking longer than that, please let me know! 

Assignments follow a pattern.  For now, nightly spelling assignments are as follows:

Monday:  Write your spelling words in alphabetical order

Tuesday:  Write your spelling words in UPPER and lower case letters.

Wednesday:  Rainbow writing - write your words in different color or different utensils

ThursdayWrite your words 3x each

Friday:  Spelling Test

What is the Reading Rotation?

I am the leader of the Fourth Grade Reading Rotation.  This is a reading intervention that takes place outside of the classroom in the 4th Grade Reading Lab.  Students participating in the Reading Rotation receive 90 minutes of reading instruction. 

Decoding and Reading Fluency:
Students spend 45 minutes working in a group focused on building skills with decoding and reading fluency using the Corrective Reading program.  This is a research based program developed by SRA/McGraw Hill. This program is also used in the grades 3 and 5 Reading Rotations at our school.  Here is a quote from the Teacher's Guide that describes the program:  "Lessons in the Decoding programs are designed to give students practice that leads them to become stronger in what is easier for them to do and that gives them progressive practice in the more difficult reading endeavors.  The lessons do this while remaining within the skill limits of the student, which means that an appropriately placed student will not be overwhelmed with difficult tasks or bored by tasks that are too easy."

Reading Comprehension:
Students also spend 45 minutes working in a group focused on building reading comprehension skills.  They participate in guided reading of fiction and non-fiction texts, practicing reading comprehension skills that make them stronger independent readers.  Students read paired fiction and non-fiction texts to find connections and work to develop their vocabulary.  Writing in response to comprehension questions is also an important part of the Comprehension group and students keep a reading comprehension journal that documents their growth. Students learn to "unpack" questions to determine the information they need to provide to answer a question completely.