By Julie Diamond
Does your child understand the book they’re reading? Here are some ways to check:
1. Answer questions: Read the back of the book or skim a few pages then ask your child questions.
2. Make connections: “This character reminds me of…”, “When _________it was the same as this other book I read when they did ___________” or “When the family was stuck in their house it’s similar to us being stuck inside now.” If your child is able to put themselves in the character’s shoes and compare it to things, events and people they know, they understand.
3. See what you read: Get your child to describe what they see when they read. Encourage them to make a movie in their mind and use their senses to experience the story.
4. Be curious and ask questions: Good readers are curious and ask questions which help make predictions. “I wonder…”, “Why did that happen?” or “Maybe the character felt this way because…”
5. Make inferences together: An inference is when you predict what will happen based on what is implied in the story. Look for hints. “I think _______ will happen because the author wrote _______.” For example, if your child read about a character who has a diaper in her hand, spit-up on her shirt, and a bottle warming on the counter you could infer the character is a mother.
Some readers don't know what to do when they are confused so they continue reading. However, there are things you can teach your child to do when they don't understand a book. For example, they could:
1. Go back and start at the beginning of the page or chapter.
2. Stop reading and use a reading strategy listed above.
3. Ask for guidance from an adult and/or someone who has read the book. They can see how much they have understood so far.
4. If none of the above seem to help, they may want to decide whether or not this book is above their reading level. Do they understand the vocabulary? Are they familiar/comfortable with this author's writing style? If not, then they might want to choose another book.
The best way to introduce these strategies to your child is to model them yourself. Start with one strategy at a time while you’re reading a book together and build from there.
Guest Post by: Afraz Syed (PhD in Artificial Intelligence) who is a computer science professor at Mohawk College. She is the founder of LET’S Create Academy (https://www.letscreateacademy.com/), which offers STEM based programs.
As we are moving forward towards a more digitally dependent and automated society, our kids’ learning characteristics and needs are changing accordingly. They are using technology in all aspects of life from socializing to playing and schooling.
They understand what technology options they have and how these options work, even sometimes better than us, adults. The next step is to involve them in creating this technology. Coding is one of the pivot aspects to develop tools, apps and technology.
Teaching how to code at an early age can truly set up the young minds for a lifetime of achievement. Even if they don’t pursue an exact computer science-related field, it gives them an advantage in almost every modern industry.
Fortunately, there are several easy ways to learn coding languages. Some of them are discussed below:
Scratch: Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is available for free as a coding tool and an online community at https://scratch.mit.edu/.
It is a visual programming language with a block-based, drag and drop interface. Kids can make their games, animations and interactive stories, and share with others in the online community. They can start scratch coding as early as 7 years of age.
Alice: Alice programming tool is a research project of Carnegie Mellon University, the latest version; Alice 3 is free to download from https://www.alice.org/.
Alice uses block-based, drag and drop interface, which makes it easy to create interactive narratives, animations and simple games in 3D. Kids can start developing their skills in object-oriented programming using Alice. The recommended age to start Alce is 7-8 years. One great advantage of learning Alice is its gradually incremented complexity for different ages and finally transformation to an advanced and rather difficult programming language “Java”.
Python: Python can be a good choice for pre-teen to teen coders. This is a high level, general-purpose programming language. The popularity of python programming is growing because of its simple syntax yet suitability for powerful applications. The latest version of python is free to download from the official website https://www.python.org/.
HTML and CSS: HTML and CSS is a great combo for developing websites. HTML is a markup language used to define the structure of the webpages, whereas CSS is used to style those pages. Both are pretty easy to learn for ages 11 and up. There are several source code editors and tools for HTML and CSS. One of the most popular is Notepad++. It is free to download from https://notepad-plus-plus.org/.
By Julie Diamond
Being well into the second month of quarantine, it can be challenging to keep track of the days. May is upon us which means Mother’s Day is approaching quickly (May 10th). Since the kids are not in school, Mother’s Day art or poetry will not be coming home this week. Here are some ideas to make thoughtful gifts with the kids at home (and also creative ways to teach them art, math, and literacy too):
1. Painted Print: Commemorate your year with a footprint or handprint painted art. Be sure to list your child’s age and year.
2. Popcorn: Make a batch of this caramel or cheesy popcorn then put it in a nicely decorated gift bag: http://www.designsponge.com/2016/10/in-the-kitchen-with-butter-scotchs-dark-stormy-caramel-corn.html
3. Letter with Picture: Get your child to write Mom a personal letter including stories and words about why they think she is special. For a finishing touch, add a picture of your child to the letter.
4. Homemade Sweets & Handwritten Note: Make a cake using cake mix from a box if you are not comfortable with baking. Or try your hand at these amazing cookies and use some math with your child and double the recipe. Trust me you will want extras!
Then have your child write a sweet note or poem to pair with the baked good.
5. Crochet/Knit a Scarf: Teaching your child and/or yourself how to crochet or knit is a great lesson about patience, making mistakes and persistence.
6. Colourful Bobby Pins: Have your child use nail polish to paint a few booby pins and use glitter to make it even fancier.
7. Painted Jar & Flowers: With a mason jar, some paint and flowers from the backyard or home garden centres (which open today in many cities) you can have a beautiful gift for spring. You can create an ombre look with spray paint or do a checkered pattern.
As an extension, buy a plant (instead of cut flowers) and record the growth over the month. You can keep a journal and make it a special project you and work on together as a family.
8. Ten Things I Love About You Book: Show Mom all the reasons why you love her! Make a book of coupons to show your affection or make a book with each page listing something you love about her. This idea is sure to be a keepsake Mom will keep for a long time.
Note: If Mother’s Day is a tough day for your family because of the absence of a mother or grandmother, you can plan the day doing something special together and/or make many of these gifts for each other.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant/social media co-ordinator at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.
Fun Fact: Her and Julie (see above) are also sisters :)