A Little Spot Learns Online: A Story about Virtual Classroom Expectations Book Review

Right now many parents, students and teachers are making the leap into online learning. While it can be very overwhelming in the beginning, there are tools and resources to help ease this change.

A Little Spot Learns Online: A Story about Virtual Classrooms Expectations by Diana Alber, is a creative picture book that prepares students for online learning.

The illustrations in this book are absolutely fantastic. The use of Spot really draws readers eye to the main character, especially because all other characters are humans. The pictures are also super accurate about the different parts of online learning, adding just the right of humor (the potty page gets me every time).

The writing style is concise and the sentence structure varies, giving the reading a nice flow. Part of me expected this book to rhyme, but I really like that it doesn’t because it matches the focus of the book.

I have spent hours and hours in Zoom meetings with students, and it’s important for learners to be aware of Zoom etiquette, like this picture book includes.

  1. Dress for success. While it is very easy for us to stay in pajamas all day, it’s important that students attend online classes in their regular school clothes. As the book points out, this gets students ready to learn.
  2. Make sure your area is clean. In full honesty, I always use a virtual background when I’m in a Zoom meeting. However, kids and parents should be aware of what other classmates and teachers will see once the camera is on.

The advice given in this picture book is exactly what I would give any families making the transition to online learning for students in grades K-6. This would be a fantastic read aloud activity for teachers to do on the first day of school or at the start of a new semester.

To purchase this book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

eNinja Book Review

One of my favorite aspects about being an English teacher is using books to teach my students life lessons. I believe that picture books can teach kids at all ages how to handle life situations, even high school students. I’ve been teaching virtually with EdOptions Academy by Edmentum for three years, and now more than ever, students need guidance in making the transition to online learning.

eNinja, written by Mary Nhin and illustrated by Jelena Stupar, is a relatable picture book that shows readers how to be successful with online learning.

It’s no secret I’m a HUGE Mary Nhin fan (How to Win the World Cup in Your Pajamas Book Review, Arial the Youtube Book Review, Arial the Chef Book Review, and Arial the Secret Santa Book Review) and her Ninja series is just as fabulous as her other works.

eNinja follows Ninja on the journey of transitioning to online learning. This can be a very big change for students, and Ninja isn’t so sure about this way of learning. With the help of a friend, Ninja learns the secret to this transition: the 3 P’s (polite, positive and prepared). I LOVE that readers have an easy way to remember how to handle online learning.

Prepared. Being prepared means more than just showing up to class in an online environment. As the text mentions, students should charge their devices, have a quiet spot in the house to work, and all of the necessary supplies within arms reach. Staying organized is really the key. Even as a virtual teacher, I take these steps to make sure I am ready to go for all of classes.

Polite. For me, this one is a biggie. Since I use Zoom constantly for student interaction, it’s important to follow the advice given in this part of the book. Some of the suggestions include: don’t be on another device, have loud background noises, and wait for the teacher to listen to questions or raise my hand. There is a fantastic illustration to show students online etiquette, which I would suggest putting next to a student’s learning area as a reminder.

Positive. Is online learning a big change? Yes. Can be hard and scary? Absolutely. The fact that Ninja expresses these feelings allows readers to connect with the character, because chances are readers feel the same way. I LOVE that Nhin doesn’t just have Ninja talk about his feelings, but also explains ways to help alleviate them. Students should use checklists and schedules to keep them on track. The book literally ends on a positive note :).

But, wait! As always with a Mary Nhin book, she thinks of some extras. At the end of eNinja, readers are given advanced learning tips (which are AMAZING ones to use) a virtual meeting success cheat sheet that includes being prepared, polite and positive.

Even though this is a picture book, I would recommend it for students in grades K-12. It is a quick read that offers solutions to some problems that students can face making the transition to an online classroom.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Lizzie Loftus and the Messy Mums Book Review : A Science Method Mystery

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

A few months ago I connected with a new children’s book author, Dr. Ruth Propper, through Facebook and I shared a review for her first book, Lizzie Loftus and the Missing Peanut Butter Cookies. Just as I was hoping, the second book is finally available!

Lizzie Loftus and the Messy Mums: A Science Method Mystery, written by Ruth E. Propper, Ph.D., and illustrated by Tanja Vacelija, is a great easy to read science chapter book that enforces the importance of experiments to young scientists.

Our fantastic trio is back (Lizzie, Joule and Robert) and they have another mystery that needs to be solved. Robert’s mom accuses him of playing basketball in the front yard and ruining the mums that were just planted. Unless Robert can come up with an alternate hypothesis before dinner he will be unable to go to the big basketball game.

Joule guides Lizzie and Robert through the scientific method to create Robert’s alternate hypothesis. She really makes it a point to follow the process in order and readers see first hand why Joule is right. The situation gets even more complicated when Daniel, the 7th grade neighbor, stops by and gives his own thoughts, which Joule believes instantly.

One new aspect of the this story that really stuck out to me was the underlying theme of seeing is believing. The theme first emerges during a conversation between Joule and her mom. Joule is trying to convince her mom that wind, moles, and sticks had a hand in the messy mums, but her mom points out many holes in the story.

“Just because someone older, or more mature, or even someone you respect, tells you something, it doesn’t make it true. When in doubt, believe what you see, not what someone says. You have to think critically, kids. That means trying to figure out why something might not be true” (46).

Mom’s words can be applied to so many situations involving peer pressure, science experiments, etc. I LOVE this quote and the point that mom is trying to make to the three scientists.

As with the first book, the characterization in this story is spot on. The attitude that Joule has is just enough sass to make readers roll their eyes, but not dislike her. Robert is truly an eight year old boy in how he acts and speaks. Propper really captures the essence of little boys with Robert in the very beginning of the story. Lizzie is still a sweetheart that truly wants to help her friends.

As a reader, I am always looking for clues and moments of foreshadowing. There was a smidge of foreshadowing in the book, but the plot events did surprise me, which I enjoyed. The creativity of what really happened is realistic and will make readers smile.

And in true Lizzie Loftus books fashion, there are bonus sections! The author includes a glossary of terms with reading comprehension questions to help readers explore the scientific concepts in more detail using the text. There is also a hands-on activity that includes a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. The teachermom gets excited that readers can go beyond the text in fun and educational ways.

I recommend this book for readers/scientists ages 5-12 for a home or classroom library. It is also a great text for a science teacher or homeschool parent to use when teaching the scientific method or looking for STEM activities.

To purchase the book click here.

 

 

 

 

What Parents Should Know About Virtual Learning

Over the last month I have seen countless parents express their concerns for the 2020-2021 school year. Should students go back to school? Should students stay home? Should parents start to homeschool? For those parents trying to figure it out, I wanted to give you my honest thoughts as a virtual teacher and tutor in the hopes that I can shed some light on virtual learning.

  1. Virtual learning can be effective for special education students. In my opinion, this has been a hot topic over the last few months. I have worked incredibly close with schools, students and families with students with IEPs to ensure that all accommodations are met and supports provided (where I can). Just because a student is classified does not mean that he or she will not thrive in an online learning environment. With the proper guidance from teachers, case managers, tutors and parents, students can still fulfill all requirements needed to pass a course. It may take a little bit of time to figure out what works best, but virtual learning can be effective.
  2. Virtual learning requires organization. When students are in a brick and mortar school, they have a teacher in front of the class outlining the plan. With virtual learning, the information is all there too, but students may need to look at a handful of Google classrooms or web pages to find it. Some students prefer to keep an electronic planner (Google calendar, phone calendar) to record when assignments are due, while others may still prefer a paper planner. To make virtual learning effective, students need to be on top of their assignments, live lessons, teacher meetings, read alouds, etc., so keeping a calendar and being organized is imperative.
  3. Virtual learning requires discipline. Depending on the virtual program a student is enrolled in, he or she may heave to be online from 7-3 every day, or they may need to log 6 hours a day, etc. That’s a lot of time spent working on assignments, watching videos, participating in live lessons and more. It can get frustrating and overwhelming, but the work still needs to get done. Teachers are amazing at breaking down assignments for kids into manageable chunks, but kids still need to have the discipline to sit at home and get it done. This can be challenging for students of all ages. Just because the work is done online doesn’t mean it’s not time consuming.
  4. Virtual learning requires communication. This is the biggest component to virtual learning. In the classroom, I could always look at my students and know who may need a little help or clarification by the looks on their faces or interactions. This doesn’t happen in the virtual world. Even with live lessons, it may not always be easy for a teacher to see that a child needs help, which is why kids  and parents need to communicate with teachers. Depending on the school/program, kids can message their teacher in their course, send a quick text, shoot an email, meet virtually, or even call their teacher. Normally I have kids email or text me with questions because that’s what they feel most comfortable doing. Without this communication virtual learning can be difficult.
  5. Virtual learning requires screen time. In an online learning environment, kids will have everything delivered electronically. The books they read may be in PDF form or lessons may be delivered through online modules. In some cases parents can print out materials, but sometimes that’s not an option or it would be an insane amount of paper and ink. I have had parents purchase paper copies of novels, but it’s important to realize that there will be A LOT of screen time and reading on a device.
  6. Virtual learning requires a lot of reading. Most of the time, students are responsible for reading posts, lessons, directions, comments, etc. from teachers and classmates. Depending on the program or teacher, there may be audio support, but there is still quite a bit of reading that students are required to do in order to complete assignments.
  7. Virtual learning can give students more choices. This is one of my favorite aspects of virtual learning. Kids love having a say in their education, especially when it comes to the classes they take. Virtual learning allows kids to explore new classes, languages, hobbies, and topics that they may not have been able to pursue in a brick and mortar school. For instance, as a virtual teacher I have taught an elective course on Social Media, which was not offered in many high schools.
  8. Virtual learning classes are taught by passionate teachers. I have taught in public, charter, and private schools, and just like in a brick and mortar, virtual teachers have such passion for their work.  Teachers will go out of their way to create incredible supplemental activities, projects and assignments for their students at all grade levels. They are constantly communicating with parents about student progress, providing intervention services, and participating in professional development opportunities.

For more information also check out E-Learning: Setting Kids Up for Success

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Questions for Parents to Ask Their Readers in Grades 3-8

For some, getting kids to read is a battle. Last week I shared 5 Effective Tips to Help Kids Read More. But, once we start to get kids reading, what should parents do next?

One of the easiest and most effective ways to help readers of all ages understand and engage with a text is to talk about it with them. Depending on the child, this is easier said than done.

For those students who may need some prompting, asking questions is a great strategy for parents to use. “What did you learn?” ” What was your favorite part?” These are examples of great starter questions, but in order to engage in meaningful dialogue about the text, try to ask more specific questions.

Little Reading Coach has created a FREE resource with different types of fiction reading questions for readers in grades 3-8. The questions are broken into categories (general, reading comprehension, character, setting, conflict, and higher order thinking questions). Click here to access the free resource.

Parents can pick and choose which questions to ask their reading, depending on age, type of text being read, etc. They can just be discussed verbally, or students can write or type responses.

To check out more products from Little Reading Coach, click here

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Distance Learning Parts of Speech Series for Grades 3-8

In today’s world of emails, text messages, and social media postings, writing is truly a life skill. However, in order to write clear and effective sentences and paragraphs, it’s imperative that kids know the parts of speech.

Little Reading Coach has created products to help students in grades 3-8 define and practice using the parts of speech correctly.

The Parts of Speech Series include:

  1. Parts of Speech (overview)
  2. Nouns 
  3. Possessive Nouns
  4. Pronouns
  5. Verbs 
  6. Principal Parts of Verbs
  7. Adjectives
  8. Adverbs 
  9. Adverbs & Adjectives
  10. Prepositions
  11. Conjunctions
  12. Interjections 
  13. Ultimate Parts of Speech Bundle 

Each distance learning bundle was created by a certified Teacher of English (K-12) Reading Specialist (P-12), and includes a video lesson, PowerPoint Presentation, guided note sheet (fill in the blank notes) for the PowerPoint, and questions based on the lesson. These bundles can be used for distance and/or blended learning.

To check out more products from Little Reading Coach, click here

 

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

 

 

 

ABC Mouse Review: Early Literacy Skills for Preschool

Lockdown has completely changed our lives the last few months and will forever leave its mark on the education world. Like so many other parents, I have had to adjust to working with a child at home 24/7. In the beginning, I was all about creating a routine for her that mimicked her school schedule, but in reality this was impossible for me with work. I realized I needed to find a way to provide my three year old with a quality education at home without much prep work on my end.

For years I had seen the commercials for ABC Mouse and read testimonials on the company’s website. In full disclosure, I was skeptical. It’s very easy for a company to make a product look good and hire actors to portray parents and educators. However, I needed a program that Molly could work on while I worked with students and ABC Mouse seemed like the best option, so I purchased a subscription. I have no affiliation with ABC Mouse, and the following are all of my personal and professional opinions as a teachermom.

As a Reading Specialist, I’m very picky with what I look for in a literacy curriculum. I believe in phonics, multi-sensory learning, and reading quality texts. As a parent, I know my child’s strengths and weaknesses and worry about her early literacy skills.

Being a virtual teacher and tutor has made me quite tech savvy in navigating online programs. I can say that ABC Mouse is one of the most user-friendly apps I have used. It has a great balance of games, puzzles, art and music and academics. The concept of the classroom is fantastic for familiarizing little ones with a classroom environment.

Since Molly is a technically a preschooler, that is the level I have her profile set as. When I want her to work on different skills I have her continue her progress through the white board. One activity could involve counting, and the next could focus on practicing colors. The constant change in topics keeps her engaged, and the clear directions allow her to figure out the activities on her own, which is super important as a working mom.

When I want Molly to really focus on specific skills, I have her access the different options at the top of the classroom (reading, math, world around us, art, songs, library, puzzles, and games). I will admit, I do have her spend lots of time in reading and the library.

In the reading section, kids have a few different options for practicing their reading skills. Since Molly is at the preschool level, the activities revolve around the alphabet, letters and sounds. Molly can choose to listen to a library of books about letters, short stories, nursery rhymes and more. They program reads everything to her in a loud, clear voice and really emphasizes individual sounds when necessary. This is a fantastic option for learning phonics. Molly can also play games with letters and the alphabet. They even focus on ideas like capital letters. I LOVE that they have a tracing game for Molly to physically practice writing her letters, making this a great multi-sensory option. The puzzles section allows Molly to click and drag pieces with letters and pictures. The arts and music category offers “painting” activities with letters and songs about each letter to reinforce phonics skills. Everything in the app is very visual, with pictures used to support whatever the letter is, which also supports multi-sensory learning. Molly ABC Mouse

And my absolute favorite feature is the library. This digital library is jam packed with some great characters that kids will recognize. There are tons of options including Curious George, Disney princesses, Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic and more. There is a good balance between fiction and nonfiction texts that are engaging for young readers. Molly is a huge fan of the princesses, so she usually chooses one of those titles. Parents and kids can search using the categories button to filter all of the different choices. Since Molly can’t read on her own yet, I usually have her pick a text from the ‘Read to Me’ category. When she clicks on one of these, the text will read the story to her automatically, just like I would during a read aloud. But wait, it gets better! While the story is being read to Molly, it highlights the word as the voice reads it!! This is by far my most favorite feature in the entire app because it helps her practicing “reading”.

While I was very hesitant at first about using an app to continue Molly’s education during this time, I am truly so glad I took the chance. She has become more independent with learning and wants to do ABC Mouse. She usually works in the app for an hour a day and I have seen a growth in her skills since she started. The app is a good supplement for supporting early literacy skills at home and I would highly recommend it for all learners.

For more information about ABC Mouse click here.

For more information about Little Reading Coach’s online tutoring services click here. 

Free At Home Activities for Ages 2-11 (General and Special Education)

Last week was by far the craziest week.

As parents and children adjusted to the new “normal”, I’ve seen many parents looking for activities to do at home with their children.

As a Reading Specialist, I wanted to help create educational activities for all types of learners so students could continue to practice their skills while at home. A few months ago, I collaborated with Eventech Corp and children’s book author, Christopher Gordon, for dyslexia awareness by creating a video (click here to see it). We enjoyed working together so much that we decided to put our thinking caps on again to help parents.

Together, we have created FREE fun and educational activities for general and special education children ages 2-11.

Once an individual signs up, he or she will receive a daily email for 14 days with the following:

*daily themed reading passage

*toddler/preschooler activity (alphabet, numbers, shapes)

*list of stay at home activities for toddlers/preschoolers

*educational activities for lower elementary (K-2)

*educational activities for upper elementary (3-6)

*fun activities for all ages

*accommodations sheet for the educational activities

Don’t wait! Sign up here to start getting these FREE emails .

 

E-Learning: Setting Kids Up for Success

I spent five years in middle school classrooms and one year as a literacy coach before making the transition to being a virtual teacher. I’m currently in my third year as an online English teacher with EdOptions Academy by Edmentum, and also an online tutor with Little Reading Coach.

Making the transition from a brick and mortar classroom to a virtual one can be overwhelming in the beginning, but once a student gets the hang of things life gets much easier.

Below are ways for helping kids of all ages make the transition to e-learning environments.

Know what platforms are being used. Kids use multiple learning sites, platforms and textbooks every day in a brick and mortar school, and the same applies to the online environment. For each class, make a list of all websites, textbooks, etc. with log in information (usually a username and password). This will automatically turn into a handy cheat sheet so you can avoid the stress of looking for important information (like trying to remember 600 different passwords). Feel free to use my version here.

Make a schedule. Learning at home means a very different routine for some kids, which in itself can be stressful. If your school doesn’t have a specific schedule for your child to follow, create your own. Here are some suggestions I have given my virtual families over the last few years:

Focus on one subject a day. This works well for kids who feel very overwhelmed or struggle to work well independently without a teacher standing in front of them.

Spend 1 hour on each subject. This schedule works for kids who just need a routine in place. It helps to keep the schedule the same every day. Have it written down on a white board or piece of paper so it’s within sight while a student is working. I also suggest having the student set an alarm on their phone or computer to let them know when 1 hour is up. (I say 1 hour because it will take kids longer to do work at home depending on the subject).

Have an alternating schedule. I like this one best for elementary and early middle school kids. Mondays and Wednesdays could be Language Arts and Social Studies, Tuesdays and Thursdays could be Math and Science and Friday’s could be specials/electives.

Have a learning area. Designate a place where a student will be doing their work. This could be at a kitchen table, desk, etc. Make sure all materials are in this area (chargers, paper, pencils, books, etc.).

Make a to do list. This is by far my favorite piece of advice. Before your student starts working every day, have him or her make a to do list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished. Make it as specific as you can and encourage your learner to check things off as they go. For instance, if your student needs to watch 2 videos, answer questions and write a response, write the title of each video on the to do list. This breaks down the tasks for kids and even though it may seem like a lot, encourage them to take their time.

Communicate with teachers. Star this. Write it on the schedule you create. This is by far the the number 1 best way to be successful with online learning. If your learner has a question, email the teacher. If your student is confused about instructions, email the teacher. If your learner is falling behind on the work, email the teacher. Communication is the ultimate tool to help kids. Don’t be afraid to be the annoying parent/guardian because once your student gets into the groove they will feel more confident and capable of learning from home and the emails will lessen.

Take breaks. If you’re creating your own schedule factor in break times. Staring at a screen is physically and mentally draining. Make sure your learner is walking away from the screen frequently. Take a bathroom, drink or snack break. 

Be an actively engaged in your learner’s education. As a parent/guardian, you may need to be a more involved in the day to day assignments, depending on the age of the learner. Be in the know about what is going on with expectations from the school. I strongly suggest joining local Facebook groups, or creating a group text with other class moms to help one another stay up to date.

Breathe. The first few days are always the hardest. As an online educator, I promise things do get easier. Just remember you can always reach out to the teacher or school for any help.

 

Little Reading Coach offers online reading and writing tutoring for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

 

Top 3 Resources for Dyslexia

The internet is an amazing place. We can instantly find information with just a few taps on a keyboard. However, with this simplicity comes an overwhelming amount of information, which can be hard to sift through. The majority of my pins are from these three websites.

Below are some of my personal favorite resources for dyslexia. I often use Pinterest to save specific topics I want to use in the future.

  1. Understood.org. Holy moly! This website is ah-mazing!! They are all about providing resources and information to families of students with learning and attention issues. Parents can chat with experts on specific topics (make sure you RSVP), join discussions, use personalized tools, and check out a tonnnn of resources. One of my favorite current resource is “8 Reasons Kids Might Read Slowly”.
  2. LearningAlly.org. I recently discovered this website after a parent mentioned it during a tutoring session. Learning Ally provides audio books for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities (for a fee). One of my favorite aspects of this site is the app that they have to make life easier for readers. Students can simply pop on headphones and enjoy a book without struggling to decode.
  3. The Literacy Nest. I shared my love for The Literacy Nest Blog last week (check it out here). For parents that homeschool, teachers, and tutors, this website provides incredible resources. There is a ton of information on dyslexia, tips for parents, spelling, etc. There is information on Orton-Gillingham (OG) and on the multi-sensory approach to reading. Emily Gibbons (the creator of The Literacy Nest) also has a Teachers Pay Teachers store where educators and parents can purchase worksheets and activities to help students. There is also a newsletter that viewers can subscribe to in order to stay up to date.

Each site offers unique information/resources for families and educators about working with dyslexic students.