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The Hollywood Costumes exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is only here through February 17, 2014. This exhibit is a delightful way to expose students, of all ages,  to a wide variety of social history as seen in film and the costumes the characters wear.  The exhibit is like a massive social history timeline. Tickets are $10 for students with ID and youth ages 7-17, and children 6 and under are free.  Further, if one has a student ID, an annual membership may be purchased for $10 which makes this exhibit free for a VMFA member as well as all other special exhibits free during the membership  year.  This is a rare chance here in Richmond to see costumes from films like My Fairy Lady, Cleopatra, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, The Wizard of Oz, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Titanic, Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, Indiana Jones and the Temple of... read more

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

I feel hopeful about President Obama's remarks at the State of the Union address earlier this week concerning early education, and how money spent on Head Start is money well invested preventing later expenses down the road for these same students.  Head Start teachers create the opportunity to give students larger vocabularies and greater background general knowledge before kindergarten.  Head Start programs can create the schema students need to inform what they will read and study in school and life.  When we learn, we connect the dots from one piece of information that we know to the new information.  If we do not have a certain baseline of information or knowledge, then learning the new information becomes difficult.  This is why I believe that tutoring in kindergarten and the lower grades is also cost effective.  Better to fix a reading problem in first grade than try to play catch up in 7th grade when a student is also faced with much... read more

Many Reading SOL questions ask about a reading passage's main idea.  Normally, the very first sentence of the passage will state the main idea.  These highlighted words are frequently found in SOL reading questions.  Thoroughly understanding these words and how they signal that the reader ought to look for the key points or main idea, wil help the student understand the question and what he or she needs to find: Significant-important, often main idea or theme Best-clearest most accurate answer or example, there may be two answers that are good, but one is better or best Main idea-the most important thing, general theme, usually said in first sentence Theme- main or general idea/focus Best Heading-clearest, most important information, best title, best headline Most clearly-best answer, best evidence, clearest Main Focus- focus is what the passage is talking about or looking at; focus means to see,... read more

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

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

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