Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Top 5 Ways to Improve your Child's Spelling

1. Read. A lot.

There's just no substitute for reading when it comes to learning new words or to spelling familiar ones. The more practice your child has sounding words out and seeing them in context, the faster they will memorize the spelling of those words. As your child beings to read more fluently, memorization-- not phonics-- is the way they get through the text. The more words they memorize, the more they will be able to read and spell with accuracy. 

2. Learn cursive.

A lot of schools are cutting cursive from their curriculum, but there are many benefits to teaching your child cursive at home. For many students, cursive is the answer to spelling woes. Cursive activates different parts of the brain than writing by print. This combined use of fine motor skills and reading skills helps some students learn to spell words with fewer mistakes. The children are no longer thinking about the words letter by letter, but as a whole. They are not "drawing" disjointed letters, but  smoothly flowing complete words onto the lines. The fluid, forward-movement of cursive writing also helps prevent letter reversals and encourages proper spacing between words.

3. Do Crossword Puzzles.

When your child answers the riddle to a crossword puzzle, they need to fit the answer into the space provided. They must assess the number of spaces, and check to see if their word fits. They must spell the word one letter at a time, making sure that there is one character for every available block. There is also a built-in spell checker, because future answers will not fit correctly if they make a spelling error! This is a fun, interactive way for your child to practice spelling without even realizing it. You can buy a book of crossword puzzles, or make a custom puzzle using their spelling lists from school using one of the many websites that generate puzzles for free!

4. Learn mnemonics.

"There is a rat in separate." "An island is land surrounded by water." Little sayings like these come in handy when a word doesn't follow traditional phonics rules. They're easy to remember, and they give all the clues you need to spell tricky words. Your child might even remember the mnemonic better if they make up their own!

5. Write often, and with confidence.

It is important that children pair reading with writing. The combination helps to build both skills. try asking your child to respond in a journal after their daily reading. You could even make up a simple essay question for them to answer. Children should learn when to use their texts as a reference when writing, going back to the book to look up the spelling of a unique and unfamiliar name. Try giving your child a list of words to use in their response. When they are able to reference some of the words they are writing, they will feel confident knowing that those words are correct. Gaining the confidence to try is half the battle!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons Your Child Should Write A Letter

Top 5 Reasons You and Your Child Should Write a Letter

1. You are practicing and encouraging proper etiquette.

One of the most common letter types is the thank you letter. You write this type of letter to express your gratitude for a gift, a service, or a friendly gesture. As you begin teaching your child good manners from a very early age, letter writing helps to reinforce those good behaviors. When an action or gift warrants more than a verbal thank you, sending a well-written card in a timely fashion is an excellent example of good manners that your child can learn and model throughout their life. Even when a letter is not being written with the intention of saying thank you, it is important to remember to always be polite by using using respectful tone and language.

2. Letter writing teaches several writing styles.

In regards to writing, there are a number of styles that are appropriately implemented for specific purposes. Letter writing is no different. Writing a letter not only gives you the opportunity to use both formal and informal styles of writing, but letters can also be written for a wide range of reasons-all of which require varying styles. You can pen a letter to say thank you or to extend an invitation. A letter can be written to send praise or address a complaint. Writing letters can be used to inquire about a topic or to provide information. The possibilities are endless! Practicing these styles with your children, and encouraging them to explore the various letter writing options in letters to their family, friends, and teachers will create excitement for writing, as well as a valuable skill set.

3. A handwritten note provides excellent handwriting practice.

Despite increasing access to technology, it is important that your child maintains their ability to write clearly, as this skill stimulates the brain and encourages self-editing. Writing letters is a fun way for your child to practice these skills! It will also help to improve the legibility of their writing, as well as develop a consistent letter size and spacing within their sentences.

4. Provide your child with an opportunity to learn something new.

Letters can be so much more than just expressing our gratitude toward someone or writing our concerns to a newspaper or business. You can use letters of inquiry to learn about a person. A phrase you rarely hear anymore is “pen pal”. Your child's pen pal doesn't need to be a stranger. Perhaps try a long distance cousin or a friend from a previous neighborhood. Writing letters to someone outside of their familiar surroundings will help your child expand their horizons and continue to learn about different people, places, and things without ever leaving their own neighborhood!

5. Create or maintain a personal connection to someone.

It is always such a wonderful experience to open your mailbox and see something other than junk mail. Sending a handwritten card or letter in the mail lets the recipient know that they are worth a little extra moment of your time. So often, we jump right to texting or emails because finding an appropriate card or a nice piece of stationary takes time- not to mention the careful planning of your words that is needed before putting your thoughts on paper. After all, a letter doesn't have spell check or backspace options! Let someone know that you really care by spending a little time and effort to send them something special. Sharing with your child that writing a letter can brighten someone's day, put a smile on their face, or lift them out of a slump will help show them that letter writing is a unique tool that lets someone close to them know that they care.

*** Ask your local SpiderSmart about their specialized “Art of Letter Writing” workshops today!**

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Top 5 Test-Taking Tips for the New SAT Reading Section

For the first time in 11 years, in March 2016, CollegeBoard released an all-new SAT. The revised SAT has a completely new structure, scoring system, and objectives. 

At SpiderSmart, we want you to be ready to face the SAT with confidence and preparedness. Here are 5 test-taking tips for the new reading section:

1. Read for comprehension, then for identification. 

Before attempting to answer any questions, read the corresponding passage thoroughly in order to comprehend the material. Next, immediately go back and skim the passage for any key elements such as main ideas, statistics, thesis statements, etc. and annotate these elements. Annotation of significant information is key to success when taking the new SAT.

2. Identify key words in each question. 

Circle or underline key words that indicate the focus of the question being asked. Here are some commonly used key words:  “most nearly means”, “best describes”, “main purpose”, etc. This technique will help you zone in on exactly what the question is asking, and identify the correct answer choice. Keep in mind that more than one answer choice may be true, but not the correct answer for that question.

3. Annotate line numbers. 

In each question, underline any line numbers referenced. Then, refer back to the passage, and re-read and annotate the word(s), phrase(s) or sentence(s) within those line numbers. Careful consideration of the text provided in the framework within the line numbers is a crucial step in determining an accurate answer choice.

4. Eliminate any obvious wrong answer choices.  

If you know an answer is clearly incorrect, cross it out. Using the process of elimination will help you narrow down your options in order to choose the best answer choice. Remember that some answer choices may be true, but not answering the question at hand-therefore, they will be incorrect choices. 

5. If you get stuck on a question, don’t panic! 

Circle the question you are stuck on, and come back to it after answering the other questions that pertain to that specific passage. This tactic will help you clear your mind and allow you to renew your focus. There is no penalty for incorrect answers, therefore it is important that you consider the choices carefully and answer all test questions. If you get completely stuck on a question, then making an educated guess is better than not answering the question at all.

At SpiderSmart, we offer proctored exams, one-to-one tailored test preparation, and customized practice with official CollegeBoard sample materials.

Get in touch to start preparing for the new SAT today!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Top 5 Ways to Build Your Child's Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the building block to communication and success in all avenues of life!

Here are the top 5 ways to build your child's vocabulary and see them succeed in their endeavors:

1. Read to your child regularly.

Reading to your child is a great way to add vocabulary to their knowledge base, especially those words that you may not find yourself using on a daily basis. Characters may experience a range of emotions or adventures, so reading regularly will introduce your child to a variety of descriptive language.

2. Use adult talk around your children and allow them to listen.

When your child hears words in context, it helps them define the word themselves. We see this concept in the Standards of Learning tests. In the SOL, each student is required to read key words in a passage and determine their meaning by using context clues provided in the rest of the sentence. Therefore, it is crucial for your child to hear conversations between adults in order for them to develop critical thinking and listening skills. These skills will build vocabulary that is instrumental for all forms of their communication. 

3.  Expand your child's vocabulary base by avoiding "child speak".

Every time you use "child speak", you are neglecting the opportunity to expand your learner's vocabulary. By maintaining your typical patterns of speech when conversing with your child, they will then begin to recognize advanced words and patterns within your speech. Your child's use of your vocabulary may first be a result of mimicking you, but it will soon transform into a working knowledge of new words and subjects.

4. Elaborate by using more nouns, verbs, and adjectives in your speech.

In our busy lives, we sometimes choose the simplest ways to respond to those around us. When we do this, we lose a valuable teaching moment. For example, instead of simply saying, "I think it's going to rain," you can say, "Look at that ominous dark cloud." Also, in addition to adding more to your responses, try using more specific speech. For example, great news isn't just exciting - you're elated by the news! By using new words in everyday situations, your child will begin to associate their meanings with common concepts.

5. Use words in new ways.

Show your child that a word can have different meanings by using words in a less than usual way. For example, tendril is a word we associate with hanging vines. However, what if your child's long hair doesn't just have curls? Instead, the tendrils sweep down her back.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Top 5 Signs that Your Child May Have a Learning Difference

Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, and many other issues can affect your child's learning from an early age but may go undetected until adulthood. Here are the top 5 signs that your child may have a learning difference:

  1. Avoidance
    If your child claims to hate school or homework, puts off work until the last minute, or flat out refuses to complete tasks, then this can be a sign that a learning issue is involved. Often times children will try to talk their way out of doing work, attempt to distract you with stories or conversations, or even lie about whether or not they have work to do. If your child goes to great lengths to avoid completing academic work, then consider observing their other habits to see why this may be happening. 

  2. Self-criticism or Anxiety
    Even seemingly insignificant tasks can be intimidating to a child with a learning difference. If they sense that they won't be able to focus long enough to finish an assignment, or that they won't be able to remember the directions, then they may begin to voice negative opinions about themselves and become restless or fidgety. Your child may also shy away from games or activities that require speed or critical thinking, even if it seems like something they might enjoy.

  3. Inconsistency
    Do you ever observe your child struggling with homework and think to yourself, “I KNOW you can do this. I've seen you do this before!”? They can't seem to complete a task they've done repeatedly in the past. One day they can add and subtract with ease, and the next day they don't even know where to begin. In the same sitting, they might sound a word out independently but then simply guess when they see the same word later on down the page. These events can be frustrating and puzzling, but they're also a major red flag that there might be a learning issue with your child.

  4. Oppositional Behavior
    Acting out, talking back, and a lack of respect for personal space are all warning signs that your child may be struggling with a learning difference. It can affect their relationship not only with you, but also with teachers and friends. Have you been made aware that your child has recently become disruptive during class or other activities, or seen their behavior negatively impacting their relationships? Think about the context of these events, and if there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary that could be putting stress on your child, then this might be another key warning.

  5. Family History
    Just because you have ADHD does not mean that your child will, but there is still the likelihood—especially if you're seeing the other warning signs! Don't wait to find out if there's something going on. There are plenty of great resources that can get your child help right now, before things spiral out of control socially and academically.

Thanks to Dr. Erika Madison at MindWell Psychology for providing these tips and for training SpiderSmart teachers to identify the initial signs of learning differences in students. If you have concerns about your child's behavior or attention span, call your local SpiderSmart center and get a referral to a trusted child psychologist today!