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Tutors wait! Why study skills should make up part (maybe most) of every session

(This is actually a modified version of an article I posted a while back - Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs. But I think tutors should consider this idea of study skills even more than parents should.) After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – insert subject here and the reaction is the same. But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc... read more

Pre-School: What is Learning Readiness?

Learning readiness refers to the process by which children under the age of 6 prepare for direct instruction in reading and math. Prior to the age of 6, it is developmentally inappropriate for most children to receive any kind of direct instruction in reading or math. Instead, children should be exposed to rich vocabulary (through songs and stories) and build social skills as well as fine and gross motor abilities.    According to child development specialists, “Learning progress may actually be slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduce formalized learning experiences too early for a child’s developmental status.” —Rebecca Marcon, Developmental Psychologist   Furthermore, "Early learning programs that are appropriate for a child’s developmental level provide opportunities to learn through play and hands-on exploration. Through this type of learning, children test new knowledge in a relaxed setting and then naturally... read more

Reading Your Way to an Exceptional Vocabulary

As students prepare for standardized tests for college admission, "Vocabulary" suddenly becomes an important subject.  Both the Writing and Critical Reading sections of the SAT reward a strong vocabulary. I try to emphasize to students that having a college (adult) level vocabulary will continue to reward them far beyond a one-day test.     Studying SAT related vocabulary books is certainly worthwhile in the weeks before a test day, but I would like to reach out also to students who are still a few years away from college entrance concerns. The best way to build a rich and useful vocabulary is to read books, magazines, and newspapers that are well-written (e-books and online sources definitely count!) When you read great writing you will not only improve your vocabulary but also your writing and your critical thinking.     Your reading can and should be varied.  Admittedly, I do love literature that has been relevant to... read more

Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs

After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – “insert subject here” and the reaction is the same. But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc. And let’s be honest – in most high school classrooms, students are essentially graded on their ability to keep track of, complete, and submit paperwork (i.e. homework), instead of their mastery of the material. (Not a good state of affairs, but... read more

Better Than SAT/ACT Test Prep

The following article takes well known anecdotal evidence and makes it much more real - as if it were a punch to the stomach or whack to the head. Do not let it intimidate you in the least. http://knowmore.washingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/why-your-sat-score-says-more-about-your-parents-than-about-you/?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost The issue is not about the money…..and this is the key point! It is not the actual tangible money - it is the BEHAVIOR of how people think and what they do which makes the largest difference. The issue is about EXPOSURE. Money can allow for wealthy families to have their children gain MORE EXPOSURE OVER LONGER PERIODS OF TIME to the material within the SAT and ACT. In reality, anyone can gain more exposure over longer periods of time. The idea of last minute test prep and cramming for these exams is where most families have it all wrong - even those with money. It is about the number of times... read more

How to Stay Focused on Long Reading passages

On standardized tests and in your general academic life, you are going to run into long reading passages that at first may seem like a lot to tackle. Let's face it - a long block of unbroken text on a standardized test is not the most inspiring sight in the world!    An effective strategy for digging into these passages with the gusto required for high scoring is to underline and note-take with intensity. Underline the first sentence to get you going, then underline, circle, and mark up the passage to your heart's delight. Let the pencil be your anchor to the text.   In my many years of experience as a tutor, I've found that students don't mark up SAT Reading passages nearly enough. Marking up the text not only keeps you on task and prevents your mind from wandering, but also gives you a personal little "road map" to the text when it comes time to answer questions about what you've just read.   And hey, while we're here... read more

Wha't going on in your child's classroom

With all the political attention on education, who is controlling curriculum in the classroom.  Research says that differentiated instruction using just right materials for each student will ensure the success of low functioning students, enrich the classroom for gifted students and assure the average  If research so clearly says all classrooms should be differentiating instruction why are the politicians forcing classrooms to use basal readers where everyone in taught with the same material, in the same way, at the same time.  Could it have anything to do with money instead of students?     Ask what is happening in your classroom? and then look into readinga-z.com to find the differentiated materials your child needs.

My Favorite Online Resources

Following are some of my 'go to' online resources. They help keep me up to date and also help me provide positive technology tools for my students.  By sharing these, it is my hope that you find something here useful and interesting. Math Blaster The Free Dictionary Eutopia Reading Rainbow Teaching Resources We Are Teachers Starfall.com PBS.kids Happy Teaching! Sharon H.

Making Inferences on the Virginia End of Course Reading SOL

The Virginia End of Course Reading SOL was changed in 2013, and "making inferences" was a weaker area on the test for many students. Making inferences from the information in a reading passage can be challenging for students, and even more so for ESL students who often interpret text in a more literal or concrete fashion, than native speakers do. An inference is an educated guess or prediction about the information that we read. To infer is like being a detective, gathering the evidence, and then trying to see a bigger picture from that evidence or information. We process the information in our minds, and then take that information another step and draw a conclusion about the information. To make an inference is a higher order thinking process.  It is more sophisticated than simply repeating the main idea of the text. In an SOL multiple choice question, if the question asks the reader to infer information, then the correct answer is NOT in the... read more

Key Words Found in End of Course Reading SOL Questions

Making sure that you understand the question asked in a reading SOL is just as important as understanding the passage. Always read the question before you begin reading the passage.  Know your reason or purpose in reading the passage by knowing what the question wants ahead of time. Here is my first installment in key words you will find in many SOL questions.  Understanding these words and what they "signal" helps you better answer the question!  Think about the words you see in reading questions that ask you how often, how much or show an inconsistency in the information: However-inconsistency in information, or added information Sometimes-at times, now and then Always-opposite of never Never-opposite of always Mostly-generally, almost always Except-the thing or things that are not included, not answered, not addressed  When you read a question containing one of these words,... read more

Reading is an Important Skill

Reading is an important skill which I specialize in tutoring with students  Reading is one of the most important ways we learn, especially in school.  Subjects like Social Studies, History, and Literature utilize this imporatnt skill.  We also need to know how to read and understand instructions for various things like even putting together something we receive in the mail or buy like a bicycle or using intricate applications on our cell phones.  Even in cooking, we need to read instructions on how to put the ingredients together.

Favorite Cross-Categorical Resources, Gr K-12

Here are some of my favorite resources that cover multiple subject areas in a single resource. Check back again soon, this list is always growing! I also recommend school textbooks, your local library, and used bookstores.     (All grades) www.wyzant.com/resources/answers - homework help from real tutors and teachers (All grades) http://www.wyzant.com/resources/lessons - lessons and tutorials from real tutors and teachers (Varies) FactMonster.com – Formulas, practice, and basic information for chapter reviews or previews. (PreK-8, 12) SheppardSoftware.com – Math, Language Arts, Science, Health and History games, + SAT vocab flash cards (K-8) Softschools.com – Flashcards, practice lessons, and general guidance in all core subjects (K-6) Eduplace.com – Online textbook-based lessons and practice for elementary school students- a GREAT resource if you’ve left your textbook at school or if you need more worksheets to... read more

Favorite Language Arts Resources, K-6

Here are some of my favorite Language Arts resources. Check back again soon, this list is always growing! I also recommend school textbooks, your local library, and used bookstores.     (K-2) Starfall.com – Practice, tutorials, and assistance with students learning phonics. (K-5) Tumblebooks.com – A free, online library of e-books for students K-5; younger students can choose to have this software read to them as they read along (K-3) Storylineonline.net – Read along to your favorite children’s stories with celebrity narrators like James Earl Jones. Sorted by title, author, and narrator. (K-12) Readwritethink.org – Click on “Parent and After School Resources,” for a great list, sorted by grade level, to help your child practice a variety of different skill sets at home (ex: giving an interview, thinking citrically, writing activities, etc) (K-5) Learninglab.org *- Provides great lessons on life skills (self-esteem, bullying,... read more

5 Great Ways to Stay Sharp During Winter Break!

The Winter break is a great time to sharpen math and reading skills by making family holiday foods from recipes, along with sharing family history when discussing recipes. Collaboratively, reading cherished family holiday books and/or watching films of those books and discussing  how the book and film are different is a good way to sharpen comparing and contrasting skills.  Creating a Winter break journal recounting what is happening helps keep writing skills sharp, and also can become a nice piece of family history some day.  The journal could also be a photo journal or a journal of holiday drawings, depending on the student's grade level.  While writing thank you notes for holiday gifts, may seem unexciting, it is a good way to help children develop skills of attractive correspondence.  Letter writing is a necessary life skill which we see, not just in social correspondence, but in cover letters and in personal notes following job interviews. ... read more

Staying Sharp Over Winter Break

As a student myself, winter break is a time for relaxation, and unfortunately, to let many of the skills learned through a semester of college to slip away far more quickly than they were learned. I understand personally how easy it is to let one's brain grow dull over the winter break that we all look so forward to. So what are some ways to keep your brain sharp? And more importantly, what are some fun ways to do so that won't make you feel as though you're actually working scholastically the entire break?   Pick up a fun reading book: Reading is a great way to keep the mind sharp. It's engaging, it encourages critical thinking and imagination, and it challenges the mind to stay focused and recall facts about a story (especially if you don't read the book in one sitting!) To make this a more "social" activity, try to get a group together as a reading or book club. That way, you will all benefit from talking about the book and its contents, the storyline,... read more

Reading recommendations?

I have several students who would be glad to read more, if they have books recommended to them that are 'interesting'. I'm compiling a list of books for different grade levels, and would appreciate any recommendations from tutors or parents.   My immediate need is for books for an advanced 5th grader, and a 9th grader who is only interested in sports and the Odyssey!   Also, I have an ESL student who likes interesting non-fiction. Who can recommend something that is good for a college-age student? Maybe a business book, or a biography?   Thanks for joining this conversation.   best, Monica  

Is your child or student having problems learning phonics?

Sometimes the problem may be that the child has difficulty discriminating between sounds and that difficulty needs to be addressed first. Some children cannot perceive if two sounds are the same or different and need a lot of guided practice to learn to do this. Here are a couple of suggestions. Go to the website: http://www2.cambridge.org/interchangearcade/sortbytype.do?level=0&type=Cup_word_up. On this site a child practices discriminating between two words or phrases, for example “thirty/thirteen” and “a brown coat/a green coat”. The second website I recommend is: http://brainconnection.positscience.com/brain-teasers/. Have your child play the following games. Sound Dominoes -- "Sound Dominoes is a phoneme matching game that builds short term memory and sound and word recognition ability." Memory -- "In the memory game, listen carefully and find the animal sounds. Click on the window to make the animal appear and hear its sound. Click... read more

Caring About Your Student Can Make all the Difference

When my son Bryon was in elementary school, he had lots of trouble learning how to read. This baffled and upset me because his older brother had been reading since Kindergarten. I knew that I should never compare my children and I knew that just because Bryon was not a good reader did not mean he was in any way less intelligent than his brother. Still, it began to break my heart when I would peer through the half-closed door of a classroom after school and see him struggle with each word. He was stuck in a classroom when the rest of his friends were outside playing. The final straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, was when I saw the teacher who was tasked with tutoring Bryon lose he r temper with him and smacked his head with her hand!     I immediately withdrew him from that tutoring scenario, reported the teacher and searched for a more humane reading program. It came in the form of a family friend who was a university professor and did... read more

Not Enough Reading

It is evident that students do not engage in enough sustained silent reading at home, and this I believe, is causing students to perform poorly in school.  Their vocabulary is not strong, which makes it difficult to decode and identify the meanings of words in a sentence.  Even if you teach Context Clues, if they don't read enough outside of school, then they will never practice this very important skill.  This over time, contributes to the 1 in 5 freshman taking remedial courses at the collegiate level. Reading is so fundamental, and students do not do enough of it, and not enough reading is being enforced.     The reason why students perform poorly is because the limited vocabulary makes comprehension that much harder.  You cannot make sense of anything, and it seems like you are 100% lost and confused.  The pressure of not knowing, rather encourages students to guess for the answer, hoping that it's right. Small groups are very... read more

What does Lexile mean to you and your child?

Lexile and You Does it seem like you are always hearing that word?  Your child is below his or her Lexile?  They need to be at a 540 or at a 1080?  What exactly is a Lexile and how can you make it work for you?   Lexile is a reading meta-matrix that actually takes reading material and assigns it "value".  The "value" is referred to as its Lexile score or simply as its Lexile.  It is simply a numerical device for charting reading material.  As with all reading values, there are anticipated levels each student will reach at each grade.  You will hear them referred to as benchmarks.  They also have other names and phrases teachers use, though.  Perhaps you have heard expressions like 'just right books', or 'on level', or 'on grade level'.  These are all used to refer to books meeting Lexile expectations.  Not all books are created equal in the Lexile system.  Higher value is awarded... read more

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