Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Reading Programs

Summer can be a great time to encourage children to read for fun and to improve reading skills. Many local libraries offer free programs in conjunction with other programs to bring kids into the library during the summer. Book stores often offer programs for children. The Internet has also opened new doors to summer reading programs. A visit to your local library can generally provide you with all the schedules of programs. Many libraries have started posting information on their websites so you can start the search their to see if they have posted any information. If there is a great program going on in another town, find out if they accept outside students. Not all libraries do, but it is worth checking.

I have been trying to find resources for parents who wish to locate summer reading programs for their children. I will list the ones I find. If anyone has any additional programs to suggest or can give me feedback about the ones I have listed I will add that information here.

Reading Programs:

Barnes and Noble Passport to Summer Reading requires students to read eight books, fill out the Passport form, return it to the store and choose one book from their free book selection.

Book Adventureis a Free Program offered through Sylvan Learning. It provides leveled book lists and computer tests that are not unlike programs many kids already use in school to track independent reading comprehension. Parents and students must register in order to access the full benefits of the program using the same e-mail address.

Bookworm Wednesdays Children who write a book report can attend a 10 AM Children's movie at select Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas or Cinema de Lux box office for six weeks starting July 7th. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report.

Borders Double Dog Dare is a challenge program. Children 12 or under can participate. A form needs to be downloaded and filled out. Children read 10 books, list them on the form and return it to the store for a free book. The offer is good until August 26 and children can only pick from selected free books.

Pizza Hut Book It Summer Program

Reading Warriors

Scholastic Summer Challenge offered through Scholastic Books.

Super Why PBS Read-A-Thon July and August program sponsored by PBS.

TD Savings Summer Reading Program Students can earn $10 for new or existing young savers account by reading 10 books, filling out the form and returning it to the bank.

Reading Lists:

Top Ten Summer Reading Lists

Picture Credit:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fairy Tale Engineering

Studying Engineering Before They Can Spell It NY Times Article

I read this article in the NY Times about children studying engineering in conjunction with fairy tale stories and was surprised to find people had written this was a new idea. It is just not done enough. I think it is great to see teachers taking a story children have a natural interest in, like The Three Little Pigs, mentioned in this story and then finding a way to use the story to teach material from a different subject area. Examining the engineering behind the pigs’ house structures and the damage the homes could withstand is great teaching and learning. One criticism in the article is that it could not be “real” engineering. Well how do students get to real engineering? They arrive there by learning proper science exploration skills. How do we get them there? We engage them in cross-curricular projects that build on interest generated during one class period to explore new skills during another lesson. Instead of spending time generating interest in studying the science lesson of the day, the interest is already present. Kids want to know more about what happened in the story.

Those concerned about proper engineering and science skills taught in these lessons should volunteer with their local schools to help maintain the science principles written into these programs. Most schools could benefit from professional mentors from the science and engineering worlds. However, I am always encouraged to see schools taking on more science and combining it with other curriculum areas rather than avoiding it. The goal should be outcomes and when schools can demonstrate student achievement of curriculum goals, alternative curriculum approaches should not be an issue.

Instead of criticizing the program, one would think critics would be looking for ways to make the program stronger. We have long seen the benefits of engaging students in cross-curricular fairy tale projects in math and social studies. When kids want to know the answer, they are more motivated to look for one. People have used fairy tales to teach upper elementary students about our court systems and engage in math explorations. It seems logical to harvest fairy tales for science exploration.

Picture Credit: ewen and donabel

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Common Core Standards

As part of Race to the Top, the federal government has been pushing states to agree to a core set of standards that all states would be in compliance with and be held accountable to by the federal government.

Standards are a fine thing, but state governments can and should be in control of their own educational systems. Massachusetts has set high standards and should have the right to adjust and change its standards as it chooses, regardless of how this suits the rest of the country.

This is hailed as a state based initiative because the states' Governors approved of the standards, not the Congress or a federal panel imposing this on Massachusetts and the rest of the states. However, there are consequences when Massachusetts says no. The federal government stops sending us our own money back. Yes, contrary to popular belief federal funding is our own taxpayer money. It does not belong to a gracious and benevolent Congress to be given to us when we behave as requested and denied when we disagree.

Massachusetts taxpayers should stand firm against Common Core standards and support local control of education.

The Common Core Standards can be found here.

Picture Credit: dbking