Most Amazing Weekend Ever!!!

Most Amazing Weekend Ever!!!

As an online reading tutor I often don’t get to meet the students that I work with.  However, this past weekend I had the opportunity to meet with an astounding student I have been helping since June of 2014.  She lives about 2 hours away from San Jose, California.  This past weekend I happened to be traveling to San Jose for a business function and they were visiting San Jose for a Christmas party.  We decided to meet up at the hotel I was staying at since I didn’t have a car and my conference started at 9:00.  We met for breakfast at 8:00 and honestly we could have gone on talking for hours.

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Joanne Kaminski and Piper in San Jose, California

People used to ask me if tutoring online was not personal enough for kids.  I used to laugh inside my head at that question because it is absolutely personal.  Just because I can’t touch you physically doesn’t mean that I can’t touch your heart.  As you can see from this lovely picture of the two of us, it looks like we have known each other forever.  I love this girl and the progress she has made and it gave me the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with the entire family.

The entire day I was at my conference I was ecstatic because I was able to connect with this amazing child.  All of my students have something special to offer the world and Piper has a shining personality and a never give up attitude that is going to take her very far in life.  She has improved so much in her reading that she no longer needs to go to a reading specialist at her school for additional interventions.  We are continuing to close her non-fiction reading gap, but that will easily come with a little bit more time.

I love that I am able to travel the world, tutor online, and make a difference in kids lives.  After talking with this wonderful family over breakfast, we really got to know each other on a deeper level.  They expressed their gratitude for the work that I have been doing and they shared a special story with me about how Piper does her tutoring.

Piper has her tutoring session at 6:30 am in the morning before school because she is so active after school.  This is perfect for me because of the 2 hour time difference.  I am able to drop off my kids at school a little early and make it home in time to tutor Piper.  Piper sets her alarm on her side to wake up at 6:00 so that she can tutor with me.  Piper’s mom doesn’t have to ever remind her and she is always at her sessions on time.  Her mom let me know that this is because she is so excited to work with me.  These kind of stories are so touching to me.  They let me know that I am making a difference in another’s life and that what I do is valued.  I love that Piper’s mom allows Piper to be self-sufficient and gives her the responsibility to do what she needs to do.  This is a mom that really cares about giving her child what she needs and allowing her to be responsible for her own education.

Who knew?  Tutoring online can be fun, personable, and rewarding.  Well, I guess I knew all along since I started this business.  Just not all people believed it could be possible when I first started out.  I am so grateful that I didn’t listen to the nay sayers and I followed my dream of teaching struggling readers to become better readers via online tutoring.

What are your thoughts about online tutoring?

 

 

Helpful tips for Preparing for a Child’s Conference

Helpful tips for Preparing for a Child’s Conference

parent conferencesConference time can be an anxious time of the year.  Especially if your child has been
struggling in a certain area.  As a parent I have had both positive and negative conferences.  The positive conferences were usually the ones where they told me everything that was going well and asked if I had any questions.

The negative conferences dealt with some pretty tough topics like my child not handing in her homework or not being able to focus on her work like the other students.  It is really easy for me to hear good things about my child, but it can be difficult to listen to areas that she needs to work on.  Especially when the list is big.  So, here are some tips to make sure you leave the conference feeling good about the information that was shared.

1.  Don’t become defensive.  This conference is about your child and not about you.

(I have noticed that once I start becoming defensive that is really hard to hear what the teacher is saying.)

2.  Be open to suggestions that the teacher offers.  For example, a teacher may discuss the need for a reading tutor.  This is because they are aware that more time than is offered in school is needed in order for your child to be successful.

3.  Ask for the areas that your child is doing well in.  Most teachers will find something positive to report about your child, but not all of them will.  Be prepared to ask them if much of the feedback is negative.

4.  Remember that this teacher has most likely worked an entire day with students and is meeting with you when it is usually their time to relax a little.  They may not come off as chippy as you would like, but they have your child’s best interest at heart.

5.  Ask what you can do to support your child at home.  Are there some resources that you should be using or additional activities that you should be doing?

6.  If you don’t understand something, always ask questions.  Teachers hear questions all day long and the only way they can help you is if you ask them yours.

7.  Try to include your child in the conference.  This conference is all about them.  Whether the information is positive or negative, they should be taking an active role in his/her education.

8.  Don’t try to compare your child to the other kids in the class.  Your child is unique with special talents and may do well or not as well as the other kids.  The most important thing is that your child is working at his/her level.

9.  Be consistent with what you plan on doing after the conference.  It is really easy to start off strong and then allow our hectic lifestyles to take over.

10.  Thank the teacher for the work that they do with your child.  You would be amazed at how rare it is for a parent to be grateful for the work that a teacher does with their child.  They are doing amazing things for our children and deserve a huge pat on the back.

Hope this helps as you are preparing for your next set of parent teacher conferences.  The more you engage in the conversation the more you will learn what you can do to support your child.

Summer Reading Program that Truly Motivates Kids to Read

As some of you know, my daughter who was in first grade this year really struggled with learning to read.  She was in an intervention at school and each night her teacher would send home the same six books for her to read night after night after night.  It was frustrating for us and it was frustrating for her.  But needless to say, my daughter is now reading at the level she should be.  She didn’t enjoy the process of having to do her reading each night for homework, but we got through it.  Yes, there was resistance and tears, and everything else that parents who have a struggling reader have to go through.

But recently, now that she has a choice about what she has to read, the game has changed.  She is excited to read and begs me to sit with her while she does her reading.  What changed?  Well, two things.  First, she gets to choose the books that she can read.  Second, I signed her up for two summer reading programs at the local libraries.  She is so excited to earn her own prizes that she keeps reading and reading.  In fact in just one week, without any resistance, tears, or heartache Mikayla has read 6  1/2 hours.  Yes, the child that was resistant really did this without me asking her to do it.  She committed to the program and cares about earning her prizes.

This excites me beyond anything in the world.  When you take a child who has struggled and hated reading for an entire year, give her some choice, and see these kinds of results, then you just want to share them with everyone and anyone who will listen.  If you are having doubts about signing up your child for the free program at the library, think about what kind of results that you want for your child.

During the summer, kids that don’t read suffer from summer reading loss.  They get more behind their peers and require more one on one help in the school, which decreases as the years go on.  By taking the opportunity to motivate your child to read now, you can save yourself thousands of dollars down the road.  It is priceless to hear your child ask you to read to you while you take a shower or while you are in the car together.  It is also priceless to sit down and read with them.  It is bonding time and they will only be the size that they are now once.  Take advantage of every opportunity you get to be your child’s cheerleader when it comes to their reading.  When you see the results that happen as a direct result you will be forever grateful.

8 Great Ways to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary

8 Great Ways to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary

If you want a surefire way to enhance your child’s educational success, then you will want to expand your child’s vocabulary.  Research has shown that children who
have large vocabularies are the most academically successful people.  Who wouldn’t want that for their children?  Right?

We are going to take a look at the most successful vocabulary strategies that will skyrocket your child to success.  Before we do that, let’s take a look at how children learn new words.

1.  Incidental learning

2.  Direct Instruction

3.  Multiple exposures through experience

The first way that children learn vocabulary is through incidental learning.  Just through being a human being on this earth we are learning new vocabulary words on a daily basis.  These are words that we just pick up by accident.  We don’t need to be taught these words.

The second way that we learn vocabulary is through direct instruction.  This is where people take the time to explain a word, talk about words that have similar meanings, and sometimes we are then tested to see if learning of these words occurred.

The last way we learn new words are through multiple exposures through our experiences.  The likelihood of us learning these words without the experiences would most likely not happen, so the experiences themselves help aid in learning the new words.

If learning new vocabulary is to happen, it is important that we use the words that we are learning.  It takes between 7-10 exposures before we can actually learn a new word.  As soon as the child begins using that word in their own conversations, they will be transferring that word from their short term memory to their long term memory.

Here is a list of some of the things that you can do with your child to improve her vocabulary.

8 Great Ways to increase vocabulary

1.  Travel

2.  Talk at the dinner table

3.  Involve your children in your hobbies

4.  Read books with your child

5.  Sign your child up for a new class in your community

6.  Involve your kids in sports

7.  Turn off devices in your car once a week and read or talk

8.  Get your child involved at your local library

To learn more about each of these different strategies watch the video of a Hangout I conducted below.  We learn new vocabulary through conversations with others, so begin using some of these vocabulary strategies with your child to improve his/her vocabulary.

9 Great Apps for Teaching Kids to Read

9 Great Apps for Teaching Kids to Read

Nothing excites me more than seeing kids reading books and teaching kids to read.  There are many reading websites for kids and now there are a ton of apps out there as well.  One of my favorite ones is Raz kids reading.  Here is a list of some of my favorite apps out there for the ipad.  Click on the video below to see more information about each of these apps.

1.  Kindle

2.  Raz Kids

3.  Kids Reading Logs

4.  News – O – Matic

5.  Reading Rainbow

6.  Story Botsstorybots

7.  Tick Tack Pippi Kids Speed Reading Game

8.  Epic Books

9.  World’s Worst Pet Vocabulary

10 Signs of a Struggling Reader and What You Can do About it

10 Signs of a Struggling Reader and What You Can do About it

You may be one of those people that wonders if your child is struggling with reading.  All kids develop at different rates and each grade level has different
expectations.  Here you are going to learn what signs to look for and identify if your child fits in that category.  You will also have the opportunity to take a look to see what you can do for your child if she is struggling with that area.  At the end of this post there is a video of a call that I did teaching parents what they can do to determine if their child is struggling.  So here are the 10 signs to look for to determine if you indeed have a struggling reader.

1.  They ask you to read something for them.Young man fallen asleep after long reading

2.  They ask you how to spell a word.

3.  They come up with excuses not to read.

4. They read word by word.

5.  They can’t answer questions about what they just read.

6.  They don’t make comments when they are reading.

7.  They skip words.

8.  They slur words when reading and hope that you don’t notice.

9.  They keep asking you the meaning of words.

10.  They read as fast and they can.

We are going to take a look at each of these specifically and figure out what the real problem is and what some solutions are to the problem.

They ask you to read something for them

Now asking you to read something is not a problem unless it seems like they are constantly asking you to do it.  The problem is, they are suffering from a lack of self confidence about their reading.  They don’t see themselves as being able to accurately read what is before them.  So you will want to find out specifically why they are asking you to read it for them.

Ask your child why they need you to read it for them.  Is it because they don’t know how to read certain words or because they need help understanding a concept?  You will want to delve more into it to determine that.

Another thing you can do is ask your child to read it to you.  That way you can listen to see what the problem seems to be.  You will be able to listen to whether they are struggling with a word or they have a blank look like they aren’t understanding a concept.

They ask you how to spell a word

Kids that struggle with reading also struggle with spelling.  Spelling is actually a harder task than reading because it requires you to have mastered the phonics rules, which don’t always make sense.  The problem here is also a lack of self confidence.  They don’t trust that they can write the word correctly, so they ask you because surely you know how to do it.  Why risk being wrong, when you have the answer.  The thing is, you don’t want to be their solution.  You can’t travel around with them all day long to help them with their spelling.

So, give your child an opportunity to try it on their own first.  If your child spells it correctly, then you can congratulate her and build up her self confidence.  If it is wrong, then you can write the word the correct way next to it.  Then your child can look for the errors that she made and then write it the correct way.  To give some added practice you can have your child write the word an additional 5 to 10 times to begin to lock in how to spell the word correctly.

They come up with excuses not to read

One of the problems here is motivation.  Your child would rather be doing anything else in the world than reading and the thought of having to read sounds like pure torture.  Find out why your child doesn’t want to read, by asking her.  Sometimes it is because they just haven’t found the right books yet.  To find books that your child will love, you can go to www.goodreads.com and type in the search bar “3rd grade books”.  Insert your child’s grade level or reading level and find some books that other kids their age are enjoying.

Many kids love spending time with their parents.  Some like to snuggle, some like to be close by.  Whatever the situation is for you and your child, next time do it with a book.  You can simply read to your child or switch off from page to page.  This way you can model great reading habits and motivate them more to want to read.

They read word by word

Nothing can sound more monotonous than a child that reads word by word.  The biggest problem here is fluency.  We want reading to sound like we are talking and not to sound robotic.

Repeated readings of the same text can be a way for kids to break this word by word reading pattern.  There are some fun poems on www.gigglepoetry.com that you can check out.  There are also some poetry theater readings that you can do with your child that can help them with practicing a text for meaning.  Have your child perform the poems to other family members or call grandma and grandpa to listen to it.  The poems will be entertaining for your child, and everyone will laugh.  Making reading fun is a sure way to break that word by word reading.

They can’t answer questions about what they just read

The problem here is comprehension.  A child can sound like he or she is a good reader, but not actually be reading to understand.  Being able to sound out words and read them correctly is only part of the reading process.  We want kids to be able to think about what they are reading and make meaning out of it.  A comprehension problem can be based off of not thinking about the words, but it can also be based on not knowing the meaning of words.  Pay attention to what the situation could be for your child.

As you are listening to your child read, have her summarize at the end of a page periodically.  This will give you an opportunity to see if she is processing what she is reading.  If she doesn’t know how to do that, then you can model with her when you are reading books to her at night.  After you are done reading a page, then you can summarize what is happening.

They don’t make comments when they are reading

As we are reading, we are thinking about what we are reading.  However a child that has no thinking going on during their reading is purely just reading the words and not comprehending the text.  As we are reading many different kinds of thoughts run through our head.  We make statements, such as, “Hmmm…I didn’t know that.”  We also make predictions about what is going to happen next.  We ask different kinds of questions, and we monitor our reading for understanding.  Lastly, we make connections.  We can make connections between the book and our life, other books, and the world.

This is where reading aloud to your child can help.  It gives you the opportunity to be able to model the thoughts that go through your head when you are reading, so that they can begin to understand what kinds of thoughts could be going through their head when they are reading.

They skip words

The problem here could be phonics or a lack of sight words in their long term memory.  Sometimes kids skip words because they don’t want to take the time to figure them out.  Sometimes they are focusing on the next big word that they see.  If you notice that your child is doing this you can have her go back and read it.  If the word is too difficult, then you can help her break it up.

Sometimes though a word cannot be read phonetically, and it just has to be memorized.  To help your child memorize the word, you can collect difficult words on index cards.  On one side write the word.  On the other side you can write a sentence that your child comes up with.  Then you can practice the words that your child has difficulty with and increase her ability to read sight words.

They slur words when they are reading and hope that you don’t notice

This is usually a phonics problem.  The child doesn’t know the word, so they slur it to try to skip under the radar.  Talk to your child about the importance of reading the sounds distinctly.  This will help her be able to retain the meaning of what she is reading.  Also, make her go back to the word and read it again.  You can try to help her break up the word to read it, or add it to the sight word index cards to practice.

They keep asking the meaning of words

When this happens, the problem is vocabulary.  Your child needs to increase her vocabulary.  An easy way to do this is to speak to your child more.  As adults our vocabularies are much larger than our children, so the more they hear us talk, the more they pick up words and the meanings of words.  It has been proven that children who have parents that talk to them for longer periods during the day have a much larger vocabulary than children who do not.

Make sure to eat dinner together and talk about your days as a family.  Also, the more that you read to your child, the more words that he or she will pick up accidentally.  The more opportunities that you provide for your child to hear new words the better.  There has been no research that shows kids learn new vocabulary words from watching t.v., so limit tube time and exchange it for you time.

They read as fast as they can

Again, this is a fluency problem.  The child has gotten in their head that the faster they read, the better reader they are, and this just isn’t true.  There are different times when reading fast is necessary.  For example, when you need to quickly skim and scan to find an answer.  However, to read as fast as you can just so that you can be done quicker has never proven to help out with overall comprehension, so have her slow down and really take in what she is reading.

Motivation could be another factor here as well.  So whenever you have the opportunity to provide choices for your child, you will want to do so.  Kids choosing what they want to read has always been a huge motivator to slow down and understand what they are reading.

For more tips on each of these signs you can watch the video below.  Is there a sign that you have noticed from your child, and you are wondering if they have a problem?  Let me know, and we can brainstorm some solutions that might help.

 

Take a Picture of your Child Reading Photo Contest

Take a Picture of your Child Reading Photo Contest

I love seeing kids read.  Seriously, my heart beats a little quicker, and the joy in my heart raises.  When the parents of my students tell me that their child now readschild reading books at night in their bed, when they never used to before, I feel this sense of accomplishment.  That is when I know that I have done my job. I want to motivate kids to read, that’s why I teach kids to read, and that’s why I write books.

I know that other people feel the same way.  So I started a new contest that features your children reading.  Not only will you inspire other people by your pictures, but you also have the opportunity to win more books for you or your kids.  Everyone that submits a picture of their child reading qualifies for a $20 book spree to Amazon.  Not only does the top voted picture win, but so do the next two.  The top three entries that receive the most votes win the top prize.

So how do you enter?  All you need to do is go to this link.

Show us Your Best Picture of your Child Reading
http://bit.ly/1bOZsWV

Then submit your picture by Friday, February 28th.  Voting will take place between March 1st and March 5th.  Tell your friends and family to vote for your picture and you could be the winner.  Regardless if you win, you are a winner in my eyes because you are inspiring your children to read.

So what do yo have to lose.  Check out the page, submit a picture, and vote.  See what happens.  You just may be the next lucky winner to win a $20 book spree to Amazon.

The Secret to Reading Success: Featuring Rachel

The Secret to Reading Success: Featuring Rachel

I love connecting with my students and their parents on facebook.  I get to connect with them on a little bit more of a personal basis and find out what is going on inRachel cake their lives.  This week, one of my students, who is homeschooled made a cake for her dad.  The cool part is that she read the recipe all by herself and created this amazing dessert for her dad’s birthday.  Now this is a girl that has a mom that is constantly finding books that her daughter will want to read.  Since the library ran out of cat books that her daughter wanted to check out, they decided to try a cook book, and Rachel loved it.

She read all of the instructions herself and is super proud of her creation.  This is the secret behind motivating kids to read.  Finding what they will love, will be the key.  Her mother said that when her son was her daughter’s age she would let him check out comic books.  It didn’t matter that comic books are not conventional reading material, she knew that her son loved them and they kept him reading.

Let’s think about our own reading.  Do you like to sit down to read something that is boring and going to be hard?  Heck no.  We all like to sit down and relax with some fun reading.  Something that is interesting though is that as adults we don’t always sit down with fiction books.  Most of our time is spend reading non-fiction text.  I read books about how to improve things in my tutoring business, online marketing strategies, and self help books.  I read spiritual material and books that will improve my life.  I do occasionally sit down and read a fiction book, but certainly not as often as other material.

Rachel has keyed into something that other children are missing.  You need to read about things that you enjoy.  If you have a child that enjoys cooking, then you can check out the fun cook books at the library.  If your child wants a new pet, then have them check out a book about how to take care of that pet.  If your child enjoys comics, check out some of the great graphic novels at your library.

The biggest thing to take into consideration is your child’s interests.  When kids have a choice about what they are reading, they will be more committed to the reading process from the get go.  You won’t have to constantly nag your child to read, but you do have to consistently make it a part of your daily habits.  The more you personally read as a parent, the more that your children will read.  The more that you sit down with them at night and read to them, the less they will complain about reading.  Reading is fun!  Reading is cool!  Let’s all be great role models for our kids.  Read what you enjoy reading and allow them to read what they enjoy to read.

Here’s to the freedom of reading!  May you learn something new or be swept away to a whole new world.  The excitement and adventure await you in your next book.

 

 

What Every Kid Wants to Be When They Grow Up

I know, I know…. Your thinking, how in the world can all kids want to be the same thing when they grow up.  Well, it is true.  Sometimes kids want to think about careers, but most of the time they just want to enjoy being a kid.  They are really good at experiencing the present and at the end of the day they all want the same thing.

All kids want to be happy.  The traditional method of doing well in school, going to college, getting a job, and getting married is not always the solution.  However it is usually the path that we choose for our children.  No matter what my kids do in life, I hope that they are happy doing it.  This Ted X video below goes over one kids aspirations in life and how his mom helped him with creating it.  His mom pulled him out of the school system when he was 9 years old to homeschool him and give him the best education that she could.  Wow, did she do it.  You will see from this video how well articulated this young man is and how passionate he is about spreading his message.

This boy is one of the reasons that I love doing what I love doing.  I get to experience the creativity and imagination that kids have.  I don’t force kids to learn in a typical classroom situation.  In fact they can come in their P.J.’s and learn with their favorite stuffed animal if they like.  I have one boy that brings his dog to class everyday.  When kids are tutoring online, I get to see them genuinely happy with learning to read in the comfort of their home.  Some do it on their ipad, and others on their laptop.  It is pretty amazing to watch.

When I started tutoring online I had so many people tell me that it was so impersonal to tutor online.  I didn’t let that stop me, and I am so glad.  Everyday I get to see amazing smiles from these kids when they read.  I allow them choices instead of forcing them to read books they could care less about.  I allow them to learn at their pace and am able to skyrocket their success in a short amount of time.  I am truly happy “hacking” online tutoring.  That’s a word this young 13 year old boy named Logan LaPlante used in his Ted speech.  Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Newest Book Release: A Spectacular Natural Wonder

Newest Book Release: A Spectacular Natural Wonder

Today is a super awesome day.  As many of you know, I love writing as much as I love reading.  Today my newest book called A Spectacular Natural Wonder: A_Spectacular_Natura_Cover_for_KindleNiagara Falls hits the Amazon shelves.  I was inspired to write this book after visiting the Falls myself.  Last year after visiting  with my family I wrote part of this poem.  I wanted to teach about Niagara Falls in a fun way, so I began writing it in poetry style.  This is one of those things that got put on the back shelf since I have been working vigorously on my Tutorpreneur program to teach other tutors how to run their own tutoring business.  This year, as we were travelling, I was reminded about it.  I begin revising my poem and then started searching for the best photographers that could help tell my story.  It was easy to do, but much more time consuming than I thought.  I worked and worked and worked on it to get it just right.  I am really pleased with the final product and would love for you to open the pages of it and enjoy it.  You will feel like you are right there in the falls experiencing it throughout all times of the year.

As I have been tutoring children in reading online, I have found that one of the areas that they struggle with is non-fiction reading.  Many children have a gap in their fiction and non-fiction reading levels.  Specifically girls find reading non-fiction as boring.  However, the more non-fiction books that a child reads, the higher their success rate in all of their other classes.  It is important that children are exposed to as much non-fiction books as possible.  This was one of the inspirations for writing this book.  I used easy to read language so that the earliest of readers could enjoy it over and over again.  It can even be read to younger children before bed, without boring them to pieces.

If you are interested in checking out the book, you can find it on Amazon.  A Spectacular Natural Wonder: Niagara Falls.

What is the most spectacular place that you have visited?

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