Posted in professional development

Guest Post: Why is fluency important to comprehension?

Hi all! I’ve got a guest post today from Alesia, from PrimaryLearning.org, an online education resource for K-5 educators. There are some great, free lesson plans, worksheets, and activities to be found there; I’ll be trying some of these on for size as we increase our self-directed (passive) programming. Without further ado, here’s Alesia’s article on fluency and comprehension.

Why is fluency important to comprehension?

Developing fluency and comprehension significantly helps children become proficient readers. These two skills are connected, with fluency supporting children’s comprehension of the texts they read. When teaching children how to read, a focus on fluency should be part of the program. 

What is Fluency?

Fluency is the ability to read smoothly with automaticity. Fluency makes reading sound like talking. It consists of three components: accuracy, rate, and expression. 

Accuracy is the ability to read words correctly. The more accurate readers are, the fewer mistakes they make. 

Rate is the speed or pace that words are read. Fluent readers have a consistent flow to their reading. Their reading is not filled with stops and starts. 

Expression is related to how a reader’s voice sounds. Expressive readers vary their volume, pause at appropriate places, and attend to punctuation, adding excitement or intonation to their voice. Their reading does not sound robotic or monotone. 

What is Comprehension?

Comprehension is a key component of reading. Without it, children are merely reading words on a page, with no understanding of what they mean. Think of times when you have read a paragraph or page, then had to go back and read it again because you had little understanding of what you had just read. Comprehension was missing. 

Comprehension allows readers to understand, interpret, and interact with texts. It allows readers to understand the vocabulary in books. They also bring their own prior knowledge and experience to the text in order to make connections. They make predictions and confirm or revise them as they read. Children with well-developed comprehension skills can infer while they read. They also ask questions or have “wonderings” as they progress through a book. All of these skills allow children to understand the books they read.    

How Does Fluency Affect Comprehension?

If children are struggling to solve words, their efforts become focused on decoding. Their rate of reading slows down, often becoming word-by-word or robotic-like. Expression is lacking or even absent, as they concentrate almost primarily on word solving. 

When children read fluently, they recognize words more automatically and can shift their focus to what the words mean. They are able to concentrate on what the text is saying and can interact with it, using the comprehension skills described in the section above.      

How Do I Teach Fluency?

To teach fluency, make sure you are modeling what fluent reading sounds like. Demonstrate how you pause, change your voice, and group words together so your reading is not choppy. Provide children with opportunities to demonstrate their own fluency. Beginning readers can start with one sentence that they can read smoothly. Encourage them to make their reading sound like talking. It may be helpful to record their reading so they can hear what they sound like. 

To encourage fluency, it is important that children are reading books appropriate for their level. If a book is too difficult, children will struggle to solve the words and fluency will break down. Choose “just right” books or, if fluency is the main goal of the lesson, consider using a book that is even a bit easy to read. Without the need to tackle unknown words, children can focus all their efforts on reading the book fluently. Re-reading a familiar book is another way to shift the focus to fluency.  

To support fluency, preview books and identify vocabulary that you may need to pre-teach. Anticipating challenging words and reviewing them before children begin reading will help their fluency. Sometimes fluency is even hindered by characters’ names that kids are unfamiliar with. Spotting these problems ahead of time will prevent them from stumbling throughout the book. 

Fluency also improves when children have a well-developed sight word vocabulary. We want children to recognize high-frequency words like “the,” “and,” and “it” automatically. Without a bank of known sight words, children will struggle through texts.

As we teach children to read, it is easy to become focused on word-solving strategies. However, it is important that we don’t neglect fluency, which opens the door to a deeper comprehension of texts.   

 

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Guest Post: Sadie, Courtney Summers

Today, I’ve got a guest post from my colleague, Amber; she’s the teen librarian at my library, and we share a love of Marvel Comics and movies and good YA fiction. She recently read Sadie, by Courtney Summers, and was dying to talk about it. Take it away, Amber!

 

Sadie, by Courtney Summers, (Sept. 2018, Wednesday Books),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-1250105714
Ages 14+

Sadie Hunter, a 19-year-old girl, disappears after her 13-year-old sister is murdered. The girls’ surrogate grandmother contacts West McCray, an NPR-like radio host, to find her. Sadie, by Courtney Summers, flips between the script of McCray’s resulting podcast series and the POV of Sadie herself as she follows clues to track down the person she believes killed Mattie.
This is a dark story with few slivers of light to break the tension. You experience Sadie’s hungry, desperate, furious mindset firsthand. West McCray doesn’t want to get involved. “Girls go missing all the time.” But his producer pushes him, and soon he’s too involved to turn back. Sadie went through heavy things as a little girl. Be prepared for strong mentions of substance abuse (by mom) and parental abandonment. Child molestation is a heavy theme throughout. (Sadie is a survivor, and much of her actions are driven by her anger.)  Sadie intends to murder Mattie’s killer when she finds him. Along the way, her singular focus puts her into dangerous situations, made worse by her constant starving state and lack of sleep that affects her judgment and reactions. A scene when she goes “undercover” as a new teen in a town where she has a lead offers a view of the kind of popular teen she might have been if everything and everyone in her life wasn’t so messed up. In that short moment, she makes friends, but hours later destiny throws her another horrifying curveball.
There are many heartbreaking aspects of this story, but the idea that the sisters could have been saved if only someone had listened to Sadie when she was a young girl and taken her seriously is one that will keep readers up at night.
Sadie is a powerful book that teens who enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why could get into easily. It doesn’t have a pat ending, and discerning readers may notice that some of the conclusions McCray reaches don’t line up with Sadie’s, which leaves the armchair detectives among us to draw their own answers. These moments help alleviate the few times it feels that McCray’s sections are repeating Sadie’s, especially as he gets closer to tracking her down.

Sadie has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. There’s also a chapter excerpt available on Bust Magazine’s website.

Posted in Fantasy, Tween Reads

Adoption Themes in Aleks Mikelson and Zaria Fierce by author Keira Gillett

Today’s guest post from author Keira Gillett takes a look at adoption themes that run through her fantasy novels, the Zaria Fierce trilogy and Aleks Mikelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well. I love the fact that her two main series characters are not only adopted, but come from loving homes where they consider their adoptive families their families, period. And don’t miss the super-awesome giveaway at the end of this post! Thanks again for Keira for her loving, sensitive look at adoptive families.

Adoption Themes in the Zaria Fierce Series

There are many references in literature in which guardians for kids are these terrible people. I feel very strongly that there are ways for kids to have adventures in books without mean, cruel, negligent, or abusive adults. Enter the stargazer – a device I invented that freezes time so Aleks, Zaria and the gang can go on adventures around Norway, saving their friends and the world, and not panic their parents.

In real life and in fiction, there are many reasons why kids are available for adoption, because there are many family backgrounds for both birth families and adopted families, which lead them to the decision to choose adoption. My younger sisters are adopted, and my parents, especially my mom, has always been very open with them and with my older brother and myself.

Knowing all this, I wanted a better reflection of adoption to be portrayed for my sisters, and maybe other adoptees like them, because it was very important to me to show that an adoptive family can be nice, and yet a decision to reunite or a desire to reunite can still be part of the equation. That’s why both Aleks and Zaria have nice parents. They love their parents and can’t see living with their birth families.

As for the birth families being different, as important as it was to show that adoptive families can be nice, it was also important to show a balance in the portrayal of them in as sensitive a manner as possible, as I know adopted children may superimpose a pleasant scenario over a harsher reality, if they knew and remembered their birth parents, or similarly spinning pleasant stories about why they were available for adoption, if they didn’t. Or the pleasant fantasy of what it might mean to be reunited. While these pleasant scenarios may pan out for some adoptees, others may be disillusioned, if they seek out and meet their birth parents.

It was easy to create these two scenarios, because my characters have different motivations and backgrounds. For instance, Zaria’s birth mother gave her up for adoption in order to protect her from cruel and manipulative dragons who, if they knew of her magical ability, would seek to kill her. Zaria can understand it and forgive her birth mother. That said, she feels closer to the woman who raised her and doesn’t want to hurt Merry’s feelings by letting her know she reconnected with Helena, which as a side note, is another feeling adoptees may face and internalize, because they do love their adoptive family. Zaria’s in the happy position that she could tell Merry, and Merry would understand, but Zaria herself isn’t ready. It’s new for her, and she’s still working out her feelings on the matter.

For Aleks, he grew up in a family with another adopted family member, Ava, his Grams. It gets even more complicated, when one considers that Ava and he both come from the same place and the same fey family, a few generations apart. Fey lore has had the idea of changelings for a long time, and it was easy to build upon this, especially taking into consideration the rest of the lore surrounding fairies as being cold and cruel, which holds true in the Zaria Fierce Series. Ava warns Aleks about the terrible dangers he’d face if he ever returned to Niffleheim, where changelings are killed on sight. The fey are very power hungry, and it’d be a bad idea to altruistic behavior. He got very lucky in Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword, because Zaria’s wish on the well granted him protection, and in the end the children won – with Hector’s help – their freedom and a personal escort out of Niffleheim.

To add to all that is the overarching theme of magic. Zaria learns she has magical talent, and as she embraces it, her magic becomes part of her identity. Aleks has always known he had it and that it made him different. To him, being and feeling normal, as well as fitting in, is extremely important, which coincides with another potential desire for adoptees, who may look around at all their friends in traditional family units and feel the same desire to be normal. As revealed in Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well, Aleks has the chance to become human (his idea of normal) on his sixteenth birthday if he stays and celebrates it at home with his adoptive family. It’s a very appealing prospect, but in doing so he will lose his magical fey gifts. It’s not something that concerns him, because he doesn’t feel like he needs them, and he thinks that this is an easy decision for him to make.

And it might be, except for unlike Zaria, Aleks doesn’t have the luxury to choose when and how he interacts with his birth family. Appearing at his window one day is his fey sister Nori, and she’s telling him he has to return to a place filled with unimaginable danger to stop a dragon nobody can remember except her. It takes a huge amount of bravery to go back, and coupled with that decision to return is a choice and opportunity to become human that may be taken out of his control. He risks not only his life, but his identity in going back. His road ahead is filled with many pitfalls, and with his fairy powers on the fritz, it’s going to be harder to navigate than he first thought.

 

Giveaway: To celebrate the release of Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well, I’m hosting a giveaway for interested readers. The winner will receive a dragon scale necklace, that I made, and a Dropcard containing a digital copy of Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest and other goodies. Open internationally. Ends 8/13/2017.

To enter, leave a comment on this blog asking me a question, or sharing with me your favorite Zaria Fierce character, or sharing your favorite book featuring an adopted character. To get a bonus entry share this post on Twitter with the hashtag #zfgiveaway1. For another share your favorite Zaria Fierce book cover on Instagram using the same hashtag #zfgiveaway1. Good luck!

 

Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well (Book 4 in the Zaria Fierce Series)

“It’s time for you to come home.”

First Aleks’ mom loses the car keys, which he finds in the fridge, and then Christoffer forgets how to get to Aleks’ house. On the surface it doesn’t seem so bad, but events become more disturbing as the day progresses. Something strange is happening in Norway, and Aleks Mickelsen is the only one who can stop it. Too bad for us, the last thing he wants is another adventure.

 

 

About the Author: Keira Gillett

When she’s not working or writing, Keira Gillett loves to play tabletop games. Nearly every week Keira gets together with her friends to play. It’s no wonder she invented a game of her own for her Zaria Fierce Series. You can find the rules to this game within the second book and make your own version of it through a tutorial on her website. She’d love to hear from you! Why not send her a picture of you and a friend playing the game?

Find her at http://keiragillett.com/

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, programs

Guest post from Education.com: Pre-K Shapes Activity!

I was so excited when Shannon from Education.com contacted me and asked me if I’d be interested in featuring a guest blog post with an activity! I’m always looking for something fun to do at home with my (graduating) preschooler and my library kids, and this fun shapes/geometry activity is simple, requires few materials, and is fun. Pair it with a fun shape story like Suse MacDonald’s Shape by Shape, or one of my more recent favorites, Mac Barnett’s Triangle, and you’re set. Enjoy the activity, and check out Education.com’s Geometry Resources for tracing, coloring, and game-creating activities!

Create Spectacular Shape Stick Puppets!


Puppets are great resources to help kids act out their own stories or re-enact stories from a favorite book. This activity lets your kid in on the fun by introducing her to a simple puppet-making activity. Large craft sticks can easily be formed into shape puppets of the characters in The Three Little Pigs so that she can act out her own version after watching the Speakaboos video. This is a great opportunity to bring out the performer in your child!

What You Need:
Thick paper, like cardstock
Construction paper
Scissors
Glue
Pencil
Crayons
Large craft sticks
Tape
What You Do:
Help your child trace a large circle onto the cardstock with a pencil. An easy way to create a circle template is to turn a bowl upside down on top of the paper and trace around the rim. Cut the circle out. Cardstock or other sturdy paper may be too thick for your child to cut by herself, so be ready to assist if needed. Cut out a variety of shapes in different sizes from the construction paper with your child. Triangles, rectangles, circles, squares, or even free-form shapes are perfect for the puppets’ features. Have your child decide on a character (animal or person) for the puppet. Ask your child to choose shapes that will make up the various facial features of the chosen subject. Discuss what the different parts of the face are, and how many of each shape she will need. Glue the shapes onto the circle. Allow the glue to dry. Once dry, your child can add small details with crayons. These details may include eyelashes, whiskers, a beard, spots, or stripes. Attach a large craft stick to the back of the circle with tape.

 

What’s Going On:
Your child is now ready to have her own fanciful puppet show! Encourage your preschooler to put on plays and create simple stories with her stick puppets. And to make it more of an event, you can even build a puppet theater for an expressive dramatic play experience.

What’s Going On? Puppet shows and puppet-making inspire artistic creativity, movement, and dramatic play while also enhancing your child’s fine motor skills and her understanding of the visual and dramatic arts. Working with puppets also has the benefit of letting her make creative play with literacy and sequencing skills, both of which are important for reading comprehension later on. The shape stick puppet activity is also a great way to encourage early math skills such as shape recognition and the part-to-whole relationship.

Visit Education.com for more learning resources, searchable by subject and grade! Thanks to Shannon and Education.com for the guest post.