What is useful homework?
This question is one that we revisit often in schools. There are different beliefs about the role of homework and much research has been done on whether or not homework is effective. In a nutshell the amount of homework a child is doing should be reasonable (the 10 minutes per grade rule is common) and it should be used for one of 3 purposes.
One area that is a go-to for reinforcing students skills at home is home reading. There are many ways students can engage with books and online reading and all of them benefit their overall reading proficiency. Here are 3 suggestions:
Just right reading - Children are taught in class to choose books that are interesting to them and an appropriate level. We call these iPick books. If your child has a book that they are reading themselves it is helpful for them to have support as they read. Try some of the following:
Read Alouds: Often we think that read alouds are only for younger children but older children enjoy them too. One of the biggest benefit of reading aloud is that it gives you and your child quality time together. Another benefit is that it provides modeling of reading behaviors that a child can emulate in their own reading. It also helps them to start to experience more complex language, plots, vocabulary and ideas than they would be able to explore on their own. When you are reading to your child consider these suggestions:
Raz Kids - Our fundraising council has generously paid for licences for our students to use this online reading program. This platform offers many leveled texts that your child can choose from, and provides supports with new vocabulary as well. Children can check their comprehension at the end of each reading by taking a quiz. For students who are not quite independent yet there is an option for books to be read to them. This builds their awareness of story and auditory comprehension skills.
This week we are hosting a coffee talk about how to read with your child at home. It is geared to helping parents read with their early readers. Join us Friday at 9 am in the learning commons.
Reflections from December 2nd, Professional Development Day
Parents today was a very thoughtful and learning filled day for our teachers at Belfast. We started our day talking about Literacy in a broad sense. The CBE has been developing its literacy strategy for Calgary Schools and through this work we have connected to our own beliefs about what Literacy is. We explored the statement: All students come to us literate. This statement challenged deeply. If this is true, what does it mean?
We have come to understand that literacy is much more than reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing and representing -- the strands we develop through our language arts curriculum. Literacy encompasses our personal experiences (physical, emotional, cultural and individual) that help us to create and make meaning of our world. Our belief that all children can learn is the based on the fact that all children come to us having already mastered many very complex tasks. Learning to walk and to talk, learning to navigate social situations and to understand their own cultural traditions are all learning contexts that our children have already shown us that they are capable and highly able to learn. We discussed how having broader view of literacy can help create more integrated and interconnected learning. It can also promote deeper meaning making than task that focus on reading or writing in isolation.
We looked to our environment for clues. If we believe students are capapble of lifelong learning, and that literacy is far more than reading and writing, what is the evidence that we can find in our school, and how are we communicating this to our community. As we looked at our classrooms and hallways with a renewed perspective we started to question whether what we choose to include in our learning environment is truly reflective of our beliefs. Comparing our gathered evidence to the CBE's Literacy Strategy we looked for correlation and areas that we could grow together.
Our school development plan is written around improvement of student literacy, focussed on a thin sliver of literacy - non-fiction writing. What we have come to understand as a staff is that even though this is the piece that we articulate in our School Development Plan, there is so much more that we are learning about and imlementing for our students. In the months to come we will challenge each other to approach literacy more broadly and to build on the huge capacity each of our students have to learn.
All students come to us literate.
This week we welcomed Eric Walters to our school. Mr. Walters is a Canadian author who has written over 100 novels and picture books. Many thanks to Mrs. Ayer for arranging this visit for our school. During the visit Mr. Walters, who is also a former teacher, talked about the need for strong reading role models. In particular he spoke about the need for boys to have strong male reading role models.
We know that many of our dads are at spending more time with their families than in years gone by. We also know that studies show that fathers are generally less likely to take part in traditional reading and writing activities than mothers. What dad's may not have thought about is the positive effect they can have when they grab a book and read during their time with their kids, especially their boys. Reading is a great thing to do together!
During the presentation, Mr. Walters poled the grade 3-6 group and asked how many of them think that they will become professional athletes. A large number of hands went up. He went on to explain to teachers that this perception can be a problem since an alarming number of students with this belief will decide (around grade 4 and 5) that they don't need to do well in school, that they don't need literacy and numeracy. The reality is that less than 1% of children play competitive sports in college. And of that 1% less than 2 % actually become professional athletes. As a mom of a very competitive high school student athlete I can say that I have lived this experience, and encourage parents to make sure that we have real conversations with their kids about the necessity of academics, even if students are passionate about sports.
As you can see this presentation got me thinking. I am so grateful for the parent involvement at Belfast. We have parents who care, who are involved and who want the best for their children. As many of you know I am a parent myself. Even as a teacher, I I know if I had heard this message earlier I may have encouraged the male role models in my son's life to be involved in promoting a love of literacy.