Tuesday Tales: Technology to Assist Young Readers

#VZWBuzz Disclosure

Reading for pleasure and reading at school can be two very different beasts. As a certified reading teacher, I adore watching young children begin to decode words and tackle their first books. Seeing their faces light up at this accomplishment is amazing. As kids continue to grow academically, they hit other literacy benchmarks within elementary school. This summer, my youngest son started to read chapter books without me. Now you never find him without his nose in a book when we are on the go.

Using Audiobooks with Middle School Students

If you think that this is where it stops, you are not correct. When kids enter middle school, the world changes for them as they begin to dive further into literature. Now it is not simply about reading a story and summarizing it. They begin to analyze more and more about the characters, plots, and connections to real world people, places, and things.

When I was teaching sixth grade Language Arts, I decided to try something different with my class while reading Ella Enchanted. I brought the audio discs of the book to allow my classes to listen and read along. What I witnessed was eye opening. Students that may have struggled reading independently were doing fantastic. They were able to actively engage more in class discussions, they absorbed more of the fine details of the story, and they appeared to really enjoy the experience as a whole.

Fast Forward to my oldest son starting middle school this fall. It was something we were quite worried about since he is autistic, but it seemed to be just what he needed. When he read his first novel, I listened to the audiobook on my smartphone. I knew that the change in Language Arts would be big and I may need to step in and assist him with abstract concepts. The audiobook was a great for me to multitask. Thanks to listening to the book, I was able to discuss topics with him. When he had homework, I was able to listen to his ideas to make sure he understood what the question was really asking. Often times, autistic individuals are very literal and this can make learning to analyze literature more of a challenge.

When NHL started his second novel at the beginning of third marking period, I wanted to try another approach. I thought back to when I was teaching in my own classroom and what I experienced with my students. I immediately went to my OverDrive media app, signed into my local library and looked for the MP3 Audiobook I needed. Once I found it and saw that it was available, I checked the book out and it downloaded onto my smartphone.

OverDrive media player to help with school reading

When NHL came home with his first reading assignment, I was ready. We sat down together in a quiet location. I used my BOSE SoundLink Mini speakers so we could both listen clearly together. I handed NHL his copy of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and clicked on the app to listen to the first chapter. So far this approach seems to be helping my son. He is a lot more confident about the experience and is able to delve more into the abstract content within the homework questions. It is still a challenge at times because he is very literal, but I see a major difference over the previous novel he read.

Audiobook and paper book reading together

Will this help your child? Every reader is different, so consider your child’s learning style and try different approaches to see what works best for them. Some may do well with simply the paper book, while others may enjoy a digital read using the Kindle app. Other kids are better auditory learners and audiobooks are an invaluable asset that may be all they need. Then some children, like my son, respond with two styles combined. Yes, reading along in a paper book while listening to a narrator is not simply for new readers. Using two senses helps my son to focus more on the words and what they mean. The benefits are something that have been studied and I will share more about that in another post

While I have written about OverDrive media app in the past, I think it is a wonderful resource that students, parents, and teachers may want to utilize more. It is an app that can be put onto a smartphone or tablet and utilized with students of varying ability levels to increase their confidence within class.

Has your child ever used an audiobook for school reading? I would love to know about their experience. As always, Tuesday Tales is all about sharing our love of books. Please let me know what you have read recently. Be sure to link up to your book posts in the comments below. Include something you read on your own, with a child, or someone else.

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Droid Turbo to test out and share ways that I use it in my life. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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Winter and Elsa Be Gone

When you live in the northeast, you know that Mother Nature can dish out many different scenarios in the winter. As someone that has lived in New York State for her entire life, I have to say this winter has been brutal. Elsa needs to back off and STOP!

Let it go, stop the snow

It is not simply cold, it is freezing in a dangerous way. Snow may not be to the levels people are seeing in New England (poor Boston and areas of Maine), but traveling around here is getting tricky. Roads have snow mounds all over which makes it hard to see when it is time to pull out into a street or make a turn.  Cars are parked so far from curbs that they are blocking traffic patterns. Crosswalks are not cleared and people have to climb over snow to go across a road.

Homeowners are running out of places to pile snow up near their homes. Yes, we have given up dreaming of a clean driveway. At this point we are simply making paths to get from here to there.

While they look beautiful, icicles on homes are a sign of ice dams. This year they are horrid and I live on fear of dripping noises. Yes, knee highs once again are out on parts of my roof. I am hoping that once the temperature increases a bit, the calcium chloride will help us to avoid water backing into our house.

Winter Woes in the Northeast

Sometimes you just need to vent for a few moments. After that, you go back and curl under three or more blankets dreaming of visible pavement and temperatures that do not harm people, places, and things. I also tend to dream of Disney and hope that Hakuna Matata will make this pass without too much damage.

Hakuna Matata with Lion King

Do you live where winter has over stayed and needs to go far far away?  Let me know what you are looking forward to in the months ahead.

It's Me

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Tuesday Tales: The Notebook of Doom Series

If you had asked me a year ago if my youngest son liked to read, my answer would have been very different. He enjoyed reading picture books and spending time having chapter books read to him. Over the summer, something clicked with JSL and he fell in love with reading chapter books on his own. He always travels with a book in his hand.

The Notebook of Doom book series for kids

JSL has devoured many series of books over the months. There was one that his best buddy told him about while they were at camp that he was eager to read. For Chanukah, I was able to get the first five books of The Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings.

I watched as JSL started the series and kept reading one book after the other. I would hear him laughing and he would complain when he had to get out of the car and stop reading. These Scholastic books are part of their Branches series for children. They are illustrated chapter books for young readers. The books are geared towards kids in first to third grade and written on a second grade level.

One afternoon while the boys were at school, I grabbed Book 1 Rise of the Balloon Goons to read. I immediately understood the appeal of the books. You meet Alexander Bopp and follow along as he gets to know Stermont. Something in this new town isn’t quite right and Alexander finds a notebook that may have some answers.

The illustrations add a fun touch to the story to help readers to bring the charters and monsters to life. We keep turning the pages because we want to know more and find out what these balloon goons are about.

Inside The Notebook of Doom book

I applaud Scholastic for publishing more books to capture the hearts of young elementary readers. These books will not only appeal to young boys, but girls alike. The books by Troy Cummings will make children want to continue along with Alexander to figure out what truly is going on with the notebook filled with drawings. I highly recommend these books to children that may be getting ready to read on their own or reluctant readers. JSL definitely wants to check out more of the Branches books because he loves The Notebook of Doom and Eerie Elementary.

What books do you recommend for young elementary children breaking into more independent chapter book reading? As always, Tuesday Tales is all about sharing our love of books. Please let me know what you have read recently. Be sure to link up to your book posts in the comments below. Include something you read on your own, with a child, or someone else.

It's Me

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Retiring Favorites will be Going, Going, Gone

It’s funny how you can become attached to certain things in your life. Jamberry nail wraps most definitely fit into this category for many people, including me. Some of the wraps are favorites that I can’t imagine not being able to see on my hands again. Of course, sometimes you have to say goodbye to items that you are fond of and nail wraps are not immune. Jamberry has officially announced the Going, Going, Gone wraps for February 2015.

Going, Going, Gone

The moment I saw the list, I knew that I had to make a list. There were definitely wraps that I wanted to get before they were done. A few were favorites, while others were some that I had on my list to get next time. Well, next time has to be soon since all of the wraps in the Going, Going, Gone group will be no more on February 28.

A few of the retiring class of 2015 include the following.

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There are many others that you can view here under the Going, Going, Gone section on my Jamberry website. As always the designs that are about to retire are included in the Buy 3 get 1 free package, so be sure to take advantage.

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So which three Going, Going, Gone wraps are you going to miss most? Be sure to let me know in the comments. Let me know if you are interested in an order or having a Going, Going, Gone online party. My last host received amazing rewards (photo coming soon)!

It's Me

Disclosure: I am a Jamberry Independent Consultant and paid for my own starter kit to sell these products. If people purchase items from me, I will earn money for my business.

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Fighting for Public School Students

I am the parent of two children in public schools.

I am an educator.

I am a graduate of public schools.

It is because of the first three lines of this post that I add on that I am also a public school advocate.

 Public School Parent Advocacy

For too many years I have watched as money hungry individuals with NO educational background rip the public education system to shreds. Let’s be honest, they don’t care about your children, my children, or anyone else. Their reform movement is backed by companies and individuals that are seeking to tap into the educational market for PROFIT. In the process of doing this they are pointing fingers at teachers.

The losers in this game are all of the children in not only New York State, but the entire country. The politicians want you to believe that if you don’t stand up for educational reform you don’t care about children. Who would want to disagree with that statement and be called out? Many don’t and have sat back and watched everything crumble before our eyes.

I have been vocal on my blog and within advocacy groups in New York State. In doing this, I may never teach again. I have learned to accept that because my children and their right to a proper public education are worth more to me. My kids and every other child deserve the kind of amazing public school education that I had as a child.

Sure, we had standardized testing when I was in school. The difference then and now is that it was not the focus. It was not what everyone eats, sleeps, and breathes day in and day out. I was more than a score and a data point to my district and state. My teachers were able to think outside of the box and be authentic. They were able to use their years of experience to give us the information that we needed to be successful in the world. They taught us in a variety of ways how to problem solve, be creative, and so much more. Now teachers often have scripted lesson plans written by individuals with no teaching experience from modules that are not developmentally appropriate. These modules have sucked the life out of learning, especially in English Language Arts.

As a students I was able to focus on my love for science, take amazing art classes, and complete college courses while in high school. Now budget cuts from the state and unfunded mandates are killing schools. Classrooms are filled with students in tears, teachers that are powerless, and dreams being dashed.

We must stop this insanity now. We owe it to our children to support their teachers and get the focus back on teaching and learning in the classrooms. In recent days teachers are stepping up and risking their jobs to stand up for their students. A teacher in Long Island has refused to administer the NYS exams to her students. Then last night an amazing local teacher made this statement to her board of education. The video is ten minutes long, but I beg you to sit and watch it. It will move you and haunt you. Once you see what the New York State Department of Education is doing to our children you will be angry.

Now I ask you to join me in REFUSING the NYS exams in grades 3-8. My child is more than a score and so if yours.

It's Me

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