Virtual Tutoring Services

Little Reading Coach was created to offer students and families individualized virtual tutoring. In case you missed the full explanation of my why, check out the post here. I’ve had a bunch of people ask me what virtual tutoring sessions include, so I figured I would take a few minutes to show you all that Little Reading Coach has to offer.

 

Virtual Tutoring for Grades 6-12
Provides tutoring for:
*Reading (comprehension, vocabulary, intervention, summer reading, etc.)
*Writing (paragraphs, essays, research papers, college essays)
*Note-taking, study and organizational skills

Tutoring sessions include:
*50 minutes of customized one-on-one virtual tutoring
*Recording of session and tutor notes (emailed within 24 hours)
*Access to weekly read aloud (live or recorded)

Virtual Reading and Writing Homeschooling for Grades 6-12 
Daily course includes:
*Novel based individualized curriculum created by a Reading Specialist
*50 minutes of customized one-on-one virtual course time
*Recording of session and teacher notes (emailed within 24 hours)
*Homework assigned daily
*Parent teacher conference once a month

 

Virtual Reading Evaluations for Grades 6-12
Assessments used:
CTOPP 2 for phonological aweareness
Qualitative Reading Inventory-6 for reading level and comprehension

Reading assessment/evaluation Includes:
*Conduct reading assessment(s) [2] I Hour Sessions
*Virtual Parent Meeting [1] 1/2 Hour Discussion Session
*Provide list of reading strategies and accommodations based on assessment data
*Suggest books based on assessment data
*Written report with findings from data collected

Virtual Writing Evaluations for Grades 6-12
Each evaluation includes a write up that can be shared with schools and teachers

Quick Write
*on demand writing (paragraph or essay depending on student’s grade level)
*Evaluation of the following skills:
-Content (writing on task, answer the prompt, textual evidence)
-Punctuation
-Spelling
-Sentence Structure

The Basics
*on demand reading (grade level text) and writing (paragraph or essay depending on student’s grade level)
*Evaluation of the following skills:
-Content (writing on task, answer the prompt, textual evidence)
-Punctuation
-Spelling
-Sentence Structure
*1 hour Zoom conference to discuss findings

The Works
*on demand reading (grade level text) and writing (paragraph or essay depending on student’s grade level)
*Evaluation of the following skills:
-Content (writing on task, answer the prompt, textual evidence)
-Punctuation
-Spelling
-Sentence Structure
*Basic grammar diagnostic (knowledge of parts of speech, sentence structure)
*1 hour Zoom conference to discuss findings

Little Reading Coach can conduct reading and assessments, but can not officially diagnose any reading/writing disabilities.

For more information click here.

3 Benefits of Virtual Reading Tutoring

This year marks my 10 year anniversary of tutoring students! I have pretty much tutored in all different types of environments: in a tutoring center, at the library, at a student’s home, in a classroom, and virtually. While there are benefits to in person tutoring, there are also some fantastic positives for virtual tutoring.

  1. Convenient. Each family is incredibly busy. Football practice, swim lessons, boy scouts, etc., fill weekly schedules. One of the great aspects of virtual tutoring is that it can take place anywhere at any time. I use Zoom for my sessions, which can be accessed on any device (computer, tablet, or phone). There is no driving to a center, or rushing home to meet the tutor. Sessions can take place wherever the student is. In the car on the way to a soccer tournament, during study hall every Wednesday, or at home. I like to think of it as having a tutor in your pocket.
  2. Customize. Each child needs individualized instruction to improve their skills. As with teaching in the classroom, sessions can go in a completely different direction. Being virtual, the tutor has access to literally anything on the internet. Need a quick grammar worksheet to practice subject very agreement? The tutor can find one online, share their screen, and work on it with the student. Need to revise an essay? Both parties can look at the screen and discuss what corrections need to be done. Teachers are also known for having their own materials. Instead of trying to print out a copy, a virtual tutor can share their screen with the student instantly, which saves time and aggravation.
  3. Comfort. Having worked with students in grades 6-12 for years, I’ve learned that the most effective tutoring takes place when a student is comfortable. Some don’t like going to a center because they don’t want to see other students, have anxiety, etc. Virtual tutoring allows students to work wherever they feel comfortable. It can be at their desk in their room, outside by the pool, or in the car. Students like privacy, especially when they are working on skills they are not super strong in.

If you’re interested in learning more about virtual reading tutoring and to see what services are offered, click here.

Parent Teacher Conference: How to Have an Effective Conversation about Reading

Back to school season is definitely in full swing. Kids have made the transition, back to school night can be checked off the to do list, and teachers are diving into the curriculum.

I always felt the first unit was an introduction unit. Teachers, students and parents are all figuring out how to communicate and work together. There may be an email sent or a phone call made, but other than back to school night, the most important dialogue happens during the parent teacher conference.

During this ten minute conversation there is a whole lot to discuss in a small amount of time, so it’s important to know how to get the most out of it.

  1. Be familiar with what goes on in the classroom. As a teacher, I would often waste precious minutes discussing housekeeping things with parents. Such as how to log into Google classroom, how to navigate the online textbooks, etc. Many teachers send out emails or post to their teacher websites, so consistently checking these means of communication not only keeps you up to date, but saves time when you sit down face-to-face with the teacher.
  2. Be open and honest with the teacher. Is there a family history of dyslexia? Does your child refuse to read at home? Is there a homework battle every night? These can all be signs of reading struggles that can help the teacher figure out the best course of action. Sometimes that means having a conversation with a student, making special accommodations during class, or reaching out to administration for guidance. Teachers want to help your child. We don’t expect each family to be picture perfect with daily read alouds on the couch, so don’t worry about being judged. The goal is help your child become a stronger reader.
  3. Ask questions. What does a D reading level mean? Is there a major concern with his or her writing? What is a strength my child has in reading? What can I do with my child at home? It’s okay to ask the teacher to explain things he or she says during your conference. There are times when a teacher will throw a bunch of numbers and abbreviations at you and it can be confusing and overwhelming. Ask what abbreviations means. Ask what the numbers, graphs and charts mean.
  4. Look at the data. Teachers are working in a digital age where the majority of their reports are online. Some may show you information from their computer screen, or simply summarize it. If this doesn’t help you wrap your head around the data, ask for paper copies. Ask for copies of writing assignments if the teacher is concerned with your child’s spelling. Ask for a copy of a reading assessment the teacher did if your child struggles with comprehension. You most likely will not get them that moment, but they can be sent home with your child. By being able to see what the teacher is talking about will often times help you as parent realize what to focus on at home.
  5. Make a plan. During the conversation there may be some tasks the teacher needs to do, and there may be some you need to do. Together, make a plan of action. Here is an example of a plan for a student that refuses to read at home. The teacher has a private conversation with your child and it comes up that your child doesn’t know what kind of books to read. The teacher may ask questions to find out what books would be best for your reader. The teacher emails you with a summary of the discussion and book suggestions. You, the parent, take the list to the local library or Amazon, and get one or two for your child to try. After a few days of reading, you email the teacher to let he or she know if the books are a good match. If they are, great, if not then the teacher can make more suggestions.

Depending on how much was discussed in the conference, you may have thoughts swirling around in your head for a few days. Give yourself time to process what the teacher told you. Feel free to research some things and talk to other parents. Hiring a private tutor may be a great way to support your child outside of the classroom. If you have a busy after school schedule, a virtual tutor may be your best option. Click here for more information.

Braced Book Review

As readers, we all have books that speak to us. As I tell my students, we all read the same book differently. Why? Because each reader approaches a text with different life experiences.

I’m going to warn you, this is the most difficult book review I’ve had to do because of my own connection to the text. I read the book in one night and couldn’t stop ugly crying for a solid hour. Never have I read a book that has connected with me on such a personal and intimate level. I have purposely waited a few days to write this post because I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my thoughts out in a way that makes sense.

Braced by Alyson Gerber is a phenomenal story about Rachel Brooks who has to wear a back brace for scoliosis.

Scoliosis is when a person’s spine doesn’t grow straight during puberty. The severity depends on the degree of the spine’s curvature. Most scoliosis patients are fitted with a padded back brace to try and shift the spine. However, in some cases, the brace does not correct the curve enough and surgery is required.

Rachel is an average seventh grader. She has two best friends, plays soccer, and is about to be a big sister. Like her mom, Rachel has scoliosis and is required to wear a back brace for 23 hours a day in the hopes of avoiding spinal surgery.

The story follows Rachel’s journey living with the brace. From the appointment with Dr. Paul where she finds out she needs the brace, to telling her friends and people at school, to learning to play soccer, readers are part of every step.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is how personal and honest Rachel is to readers. Like other middle school girls, Rachel is going through puberty and dealing with so many different emotions. She has a crush on a boy named Tate and wants to play offense on the soccer team. She’s embarrassed when she goes to see Dr. Paul because the is basically naked in front of strangers. She gets super excited when Tate texts her about personal stuff and not just about science class.

Rachel also opens up about the struggles of wearing a back brace. She gets frustrated when she can’t find clothes to fit her. She’s mad at her mom for not listening to her. She’s scared to tell her friends about her brace. She works incredibly hard to play soccer differently so she can make the team. She’s hurt when the popular kids make fun of her brace. It’s challenging enough to go through middle school years without the additional worries of being different.

One of the major conflicts in the novel is Rachel’s relationship with her very pregnant mom. As readers, we learn that Rachel’s mom had scoliosis, wore a brace, and eventually had surgery. Mom is so focused on Rachel wearing her brace for the 23 hours to avoid the surgery that she loses sight of the emotional part of the brace. This disconnect drives a wedge between the two, which intensifies Rachel’s feelings of isolation because if anyone should understand what is happening, it’s her mom. The writing of this conflict is realistic, and is one that all middle school girls can relate to.

As adults, we sometimes forget how important friends can be to kids. As a middle school teacher, I have seen my fair share of middle school social drama. Braced dives into the support system that friends can offer one another. Hazel and Frannie are Rachel’s best friends. While they are both dealing with their own situations, they both help Rachel combat the kids at school, soccer stress, and Rachel’s mom. If it wasn’t for these two young ladies, it’s clear that Rachel would have struggled even more.

I love how Gerber incorporated texting and realistic social situations to appeal and relate to current middle school readers. As adults, we don’t have that first hand experience of texting a boy when we were in seventh grade, so it’s hard to sometimes realize the impact that social media and technology can have on kids. While this book doesn’t focus on social media posts, it does remind us that when the school day is over, the drama/situations don’t just stay at school.

While I loved the characters and plot of this novel, one of the most important components was the theme of isolation. Rachel has no one to talk to about what is happening to her because they are not experiencing it with her. No one understands how insanely hot the brace gets in the summer, or how exciting it is to find clothes that actually fit. Kids at school just see Rachel as “different”, and while she has a great friend support system, they just don’t get it. The story ends with Rachel googling support groups and finding Curvy Girls (a scoliosis support group) and realizing that she is not alone. I loved how Gerber ended with this because it is important for kids to realize there are always others out there with similar experiences.

Lastly, my absolute favorite part of this book was the Author’s Note where Gerber discusses her personal experiences with scoliosis and her brace. “It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, when I started talking about my experience of being treated for scoliosis, that I realized how alone I’d felt.” Never ever has a quote spoken to me as loudly as this one.

I was diagnosed with scoliosis in fifth grade. I had to wear my brace with the Bugs Bunny tattoo for 20 hours a day. I had an “S” curve that was extremely stubborn and did not respond well to the brace.

I was very fortunate to have a supportive team of teachers. If the activity in gym class would make me uncomfortable, I just told the teacher and she let me sit out and watch. I didn’t want to change in front of the other girls in my grade, so I was allowed to use the teacher’s bathroom. I had copies of textbooks at home so I didn’t have to worry about carrying them back and forth to school. I was fortunate that I never dealt with anything hurtful socially. I was always open and honest with kids about my brace, and never had to experience bullying.

On September 11, 2001 I went to go see Dr. Reiger for my usual progress check. I did the usual x-ray and waited in the cold room with my purple socks on. After he came in and asked about my boyfriend (he had a fabulous bedside manner) he told me my curve had progressed to 55 degrees and was heading towards my heart. I would need emergency spinal surgery.

On January 2, 2002 I had my titanium rod fused to my spine. For the next six months I healed a little bit more every day. I was out of school for four months, and slowly transitioned to half days towards the end of the year.

I remember one day I refused to go to school. I had a screaming match with my mom and I kept trying to tell her no one understands what I’m feeling, but she didn’t get it. Back then there was no social media and the only book was Deenie by Judy Blume (lovely book, but a little outdated for even back then). That feeling has never completely gone away for me. As I get older I talk about it more, even to my students, and I amaze myself that I was so strong.

Today, I don’t worry so much about my 18 inch scar showing in bathing suits. I had a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery with Miss Molly, even with the rod. I know what my body can handle and what it can’t (I will NEVER jump on a trampoline again). And one day when Molly is old enough, we will read Braced together and talk.

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. As a teacher and a parent, I’m reminded how important it is for us to listen to kids. Even if we don’t understand or think the same way they do, kids have to talk about their feelings. We need to read books like Braced, and have open and honest discussions. I will admit that I cried writing this book review, and I’m pretty sure I have a tear drop on my glasses. But, that’s just a sign of fantastic writing.

Twisted Games: Pameroy Mystery Series Book 5 Review

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I tend to have a love/hate relationship with social media. Currently, I’m all about the love! Through Facebook, I was able to connect with an amazing author, Brenda Felber, and she is going to do an author visit with my virtual students tomorrow using Zoom!

In preparation for our author visit, I read one of the books in the Pameroy Mystery series. I chose to read the fifth book, Twisted Games, because there was just something about the description that said “read me”.

In the book, Lillia and her Grandaunt Nora take a trip to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and get involved in a 100 year old cold case. Along the way our main character makes new friends (real and imagined).

One of my favorite aspects about the book, and the series, is that it is unlike anything else that I have read. I’ve always been a reader, and I can usually make text to text connections, but for the life of me I can’t think of any other series or novel that is similar to this one. Felber combines mystery, fantasy, and history all into one text that engages all different types of readers. The dialogue between the characters is realistic and captures kid language perfectly. I also LOVE how each book takes place in a different state. I can’t wait to read the Jersey one :).

I was also a huge fan of the way the mystery unfolded. Usually I do a pretty good job at predicting what is going to happen. I tend to sense when a twist is coming. However, the writing of Twisted Games made it so my mind wasn’t focusing on just the mystery. This welcome distraction actually allowed me to go on the adventure with Lillia. The shifting back and forth from Lillia’s imaginings to the mystery held my engagement and prevented me from jumping ahead in the mystery, which was a first for me as a reader.

This is a fabulous book for readers in grades 4-6. I’m so excited for my author visit with Brenda Felber!

For more information about this fabulous author check out her website: https://brendafelber.com/

 

 

Agent 603 Book Review

Like many others, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. This past week has been all love though because I was invited to join a new Facebook group that connects children’s book authors with bloggers. I have about 5 new books on my To Read list so I can write some exciting reviews, which makes my reading heart quite happy.

I’ve spent the last eight years working with middle school students, so I have a soft spot for any texts for this age group. Agent 603 by Tabitha Bell is an ADORABLE story about a teddy bear who is really a secret agent. Based on the writing style, some advanced vocabulary and humor, I would recommend this book for students in grades 4-6.

Our main character is Agent 603, later named Mr. Snuggles, who is a teddy bear fresh out of secret agent training. As readers, we dive into the details of his first mission. The point of view is mostly in first person, and we get to know our cuddly character very well. He is dramatic, clumsy and a foodie, making him relatable to readers. He tends to always have food on his mind, which adds to the humor of the book.

One of my absolute favorite aspects about this novel is the humor. The story is structured like a secret agent case file, but every so often an amendment for the record interjects some realities about the situation. These amendments had me lol’ing for real, which doesn’t happen to me as a reader. I started reading the novel on my phone while I was getting my hair done (love the Kindle app) and I had to use my close reading strategies and highlight some of my favorite parts.

Agent 603 Excerpt

The plot is very imaginative and reflects how children think. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as creative as this one in terms of characterization and plot, which made the novel super engaging to me. There were a few points that I got confused with the plot because of the immense attention to detail, but it wasn’t enough to distract me from reading. This happened once or twice when Mr. Snuggles ventured into the closet and experienced new surroundings every time.

A theme that really struck me while reading this novel was imagination. Without giving anything away, the falling action allowed readers to see what can happen if we aren’t afraid to be creative and use our imaginations. Personally, I think this is a fantastic theme in a book for this age group. Students at this point are in the weird transition period of puberty, and teachers often see this in the behaviors of students. We can tell when some students haven’t hit that stage yet because they tend to have over active imaginations and immaturity. This book highlighted that having an over active imagination is a positive aspect and to embrace it. Having worked with sixth grade students for years, I was very drawn to this because kids often hide their true thoughts to fit in with others.

This is definitely one book that should be in a classroom library. I think it would attract those readers who enjoy adventure and humor types of books. I can’t wait to see the next mission that Mr. Snuggles goes on.

Using Zinnia and the Bees in the Classroom

Last week I posted a book review of Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis. I really enjoyed this book, and while I was reading I had a bunch of different ideas go through my head about incorporating it into the classroom or homeschool curriculum. Today, I want to share my ideas. This post is for educators and homeschool families.

Reading the Text

Depending on your curriculum and classroom structure, this book may fit best as a whole class read aloud. I would try and pair it up with other texts that revolve around friendship, family, environment or nature since those are the biggest themes present.

Pairing Fiction with Nonfiction

Since the introduction of the Common Core, there has been a push for pairing fiction texts with nonfiction texts. Zinnia and the Bees provides a great connection for this with the concept of migratory bees.

After doing a little bit of research, I came across a perfect article to introduce and explain the importance of migratory beekeeping. The Mind-Boogling Math of Migratory Beekeeping is a fantastic article from 2013 that dives into detail about bees and the impacts they have on our food. This text is a little challenging because of all the math included, so I would suggest doing a partner or whole-class read with the article. Kids should also highlight the text for information they find interesting or important. After kids read and highlight, I would suggest having them complete reading questions (click here) to solidify their understanding of the material.

Some other ideas for infusing nonfiction with this text:

-online scavenger hunt about bees

-research project on current situation with migratory bees

-compare and contrast migratory bees in other countries

Discussing the Book

One of my favorite aspects about this book is the diversity of themes that it covers. You can do whole class or small group discussions about the following themes:

-Bullying

-Friendship

-Family

-Environment

-Death

-Trust

-Change

If you use this for a read aloud, try asking a theme related question each day (trust me there is lots of material) to help generate discussions.