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Novel Motivation

February 22, 2009 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

As a tutor, a big part of my job is engaging students’ minds and getting them in gear for learning.  It flies in the face of standard wisdom, but one way to do this is through novelty.  My office is jammed with unusual trinkets and oddities, like dice within dice, two-foot pencils, and light-up pens.  My clock runs backwards, and I often use a timer shaped like a whistling tea kettle. 

My novel toys serve larger purposes.  The students that I see are often uncomfortable, especially at first.  The novelties help me to break the ice with new students.  The kids become intrigued, and I’ve got a foothold in the door to conversation with them.  In tutoring, it’s really important to build a relationship with students in order to see the greatest success. 

The oddities are also great rewards.  A surprising number of students will work to earn the privilege of using a two-foot long pencil or a pen shaped like a fingerbone.  I use the promise of simple pleasures like these to coax many reluctant students into time on task to assist remediation. 

Finally, yes, I have to admit that sometimes the trinkets are a bit too distracting.  That’s OK, though, because many of my students are struggling with most of their academic experience.  They come to see me because it’s fun to be here, even though we work on difficult skills.  Part of the fun is being distracted occasionally by a pen with popping dice on top or by dice that are only a quarter of an inch across.  They are amused, even for a few moments, by that clock that runs backwards.  And when those barriers of stress are broken down, I can often reach the minds that are trapped by feelings of failure and inadequacy. 

So, yeah, if a parent comes into my office (which I discourage!), they are often taken aback by the array of weird stuff they see laying around.  They sometimes wonder how in the world students actually get work done here.  But my track record speaks for itself.  Students that I work with succeed.  Kids who couldn’t read before learn to read.  Children who were once reluctant writers gain skills to frame paragraphs.  Youngsters who were afraid to try math skills become comfortable.  Novelty helps!


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(c) 2009 Sandra Fleming

Great Game for Spelling

February 2, 2009 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

Have fun and practice spelling at the same time!~  Try Bookworm right on your browser or do a free download. 

Bookworm plays much like the commercial game of Boggle-a grid of letters to search for words with consecutive letters that spell words.  The longer words that you can make, the higher your score will go.  It’s great practice with phonics because you can look for spelling patterns like -ought and -ight, as well as sensible blends and digraphs like ’sh’ and ‘cr.’  Give it a try!


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File Folder Study Guides

January 26, 2009 · Filed Under Study Skills · Comment 

Here’s a really neat idea to help your student learn organizational skills to improve study habits.  All you need is a blank file folder, some fine-point pens, scissors and some glue.  Optionally, you can punch holes in the spine of the folder to fit into a loose-leaf notebook. 

Help your student make note of important information for each chapter or section in a study folder.  Write the information right on the folder or cut out charts, graphs, etc. and glue them in place.  Other ideas to jot on the folder include answers to study questions, outlines of text, references from the internet or other books, and questions that should be answerable after studying this information. 

Label the tab of the folder and hole-punch it to fit into a notebook if you wish.  Now, when it comes time to study for the next big test, all of the  information is right at your fingertips!  Just grab the folder and everything important that has been covered in class is right there.  Save the folders, and you’ll have a great resource for studying for those cumulative midterms and final exams.  Keep them even longer, and you’ll have a handy set of notes for later classes that build on the information that  you’ve just learned. 

This activity will help students learn to outline, summarize and prioritize information.  They will need to uncover ways to discern the important from the trivial, and that will help later with highlighting college texts. 

Why not give it a try?


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(c) 2009 Sandra Fleming

Strategies to Help Your ADHD Student

January 18, 2009 · Filed Under Academic Areas, Behavior, Parents' Corner · Comment 

I just spent one of the longer hours of tutoring that I’ve had in quite a while with a new student who is pretty severely ADHD.  He’s a middle schooler who’s totally overwhelmed right now, and failing three classes.  Of course it is the end of the semester, and his parents are looking for a quick fix.  I wish I had it for them.  What I do have, however, are some practical suggestions that might help some other family keep it from getting this bad.  Let me know if you try any and how they work out for you.

  • Stay in Close Contact with the Teachers.  You’re all in the same boat and you all have the same goal.  You want the kid to succeed.  If you stay in close touch with the school personnel, you can find out about problems before they become insurmountable.  Be proactive here.  Some teachers will give a shout out if they get worried about your kid, but many are struggling to keep up themselves.  Don’t expect the school to let you know there’s trouble until it’s way too late to do anything about it.
  • Get a List of Assignments.  Your child has ADHD.  That means that he or she is simply not going to grow into academic responsibility as quickly as peers.  YOU need to help him or her get organized and stay that way.  See if your school has a homework hotline system or other means of communicating what assignments are due and when.  Use it. 
  • Buy Your Child Organizational Tools.  Get those notebooks with lots of sections.  My girls always preferred a five-subject theme book with pockets on the pages between the sections.  At least one manufacturer makes a version with plastic dividers instead of the usual lightweight cardboard.  Teach your child to keep everything of the subject: notes, papers, assignments, in the correct pocket.  Don’t tolerate loose papers anywhere.
  • Find out the policy about late work and extra credit.  You’ll need to know details about what can and cannot be turned in late.  Don’t take your student’s word for it; check with the teacher to confirm.  And find out if there are extra credit options.  Frustrated students often skip over these opportunities, thinking their grade is just fine, then discover that they need every point they can get.

It takes a lot of practice to go to school with ADHD.  Show your child that you are on his or her side.  Be proactive and see what you can do to help.  There’s time to remove these supports when grades are under control and stable.


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Check out the January Preschool Calendar!

December 26, 2008 · Filed Under Holidays · Comment 

Parents and care givers who have young children will want to visit the January Preschool Calendar.  This free download offers quick and easy daily activities to keep preschoolers learning and growing all month long!  There are things to do that will build fine motor skills, reading and math readiness, and social/emotional growth.  Give it a try! 

Click here to download the free activity calendar today!


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(c) 2008 Sandy Fleming


FREE Reading Class!

December 22, 2008 · Filed Under Readiness, Reading · Comment 

Anyone who has a young child in their home will want to check out the FREE reading class.  Nurturing Your Young Reader will help everyone who works with young chidlren to raise a reader.  There are twelve lessons and over 40 activities to use with kids that will help build the skills needed for literacy development.  And it’s all FREE!  So pop on over to the All Info About Reading Workshops and sign up for the Free Nurturing Your Young Reader class today!

A Great Social Studies Review Game

November 16, 2008 · Filed Under Study Skills · Comment 

Try this next time you want to help kids study social studies concepts. The game is called “Post Office” (and no, not THAT kind of Post Office!). You’ll need one large paper grocery sack for each category that you wish to use. Put names, concepts, places, or dates onto index cards. These are the “letters.” Label the bags with their categories, such as people, countries, cities, branches of government, or whatever is being studied. Now, try to sort the cards with the specifics into the correct bags. It’s a great way to master vocabulary and a wonderful study help for upcoming tests.

Have fun!

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You’ll Want to Check This Out….

November 10, 2008 · Filed Under Reading · Comment 

Here’s a link to a great blog that every homeschooling parent will want to check out:

Splish’s Blog. This reading-related resource is from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, and right now (Nov. 11-16, 2008) is offering a free book give-away in honor of National Young Readers Week. Head on over there today to get in on the drawings!

And even if you miss out on this particular week’s goodies, it looks like Splish the Frog is a pretty active character. He organizes many literacy events throughout the year.

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Build Halloween Vocabulary with Word Games

October 15, 2008 · Filed Under Holidays, Reading, Writing · Comment 

Holidays are wonderful motivators for learning and one of the best is Halloween.  A lot of natural excitement surrounds the celebration, and you can tap into this by trying some descriptive writing and word games.  Here are related activity ideas for a variety of age groups.


Young Students (K-2)


Try some seasonal alliterations.  See how long of phrases or sentences your students can build, orally or in writing, that are related to Halloween.  Alliterative phrases and sentences have the same beginning sound on most or even all of the words.  Hold a contest with awards for longest, most syllables, most creative, and so forth.  Need an example to get you started?  Six spooky spirits sip sassparilla!


Play a memory game.  Start the group off with a simple subject-verb sentence like “The cat sat.”  Now, have players take turns adding a word or phrase and saying the entire sentence.  In our example, steps might include:

            The black cat sat.

            The skinny black cat sat.

            The skinny black cat sat on the fence.

            The witch’s skinny black cat sat on the fence.

How long will it get?


Middle Elementary Students (gr. 3-4)


Do a seasonal fill-in game.  Choose a Halloween story and underline every third to tenth word.  Make a list of the parts of speech (noun, verb, etc.) and any inflective endings (-ed, -ing, -es, etc.).  Have players choose fill in words based on the parts of speech guide without knowing the story.  Substitute their answers for the original underlined words.


Create some holiday riddles.  Have your students choose a common Halloween item and write four to six clues to help someone else guess it.  Arrange the clues from toughest to easiest, then have a friend try the puzzle.  Here’s an example: I am long and thin.  I am wooden.  I have a prickly end.  I belong to the witch.  I fly.  (a broom).  For an extra challenge, see if the clues can rhyme, like a poem.


Upper Elementary Students (gr. 5-6)


Finish a Halloween story.  Have each student write a seasonal story starter with at least ten sentences.  Trade with a partner, then finish the story with at least twenty more sentences.


Make a Halloween dictionary.  Generate at least fifty words related to the season.  Alphabetize them and write definitions.  Illustrate at least twenty of the entries.


Middle and High School (gr. 7-12)


Make a Halloween crossword puzzle.  Think of at least 25 Halloween words.  Come up with a unique clue for each one.  Use graph paper to place the words into interlocking positions.  Number each box containing the first letter of a word.  Number the clues to match the box number where the word begins.  Trace the boxes onto blank graph paper and write the numbers and clues.


Write a description for Halloween.  You can use a Halloween scene as a prompt or have students create from scratch.  Challenge them to write a descriptive essay with at least five paragraphs.  Remind them to appeal to all five senses, helping the reader see, hear, touch, taste and smell the scene.


Halloween can be controversial.  Have your students write a persuasive essay politely expressing their opinion about the holiday and its practices.  Insist that statements of opinion be supported by factual reasons, and that personal opinions be clearly identified as such.



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October Holiday Fun

October 2, 2008 · Filed Under Holidays · Comment 

October is so much more than Halloween!  It’s also:

Children’s Magazine Month

Dyslexia Awareness Month

Global Diversity Awareness Month

National Bake and Decorate Month

National Reading Group Month

Positive Attitude Month

Squirrel Awareness Month

Vegetarian Month. 


You can participate in

The Magic of Differences Week, Mystery Series Week, or National Metric Week (all the first full week of the month),  and Kids’ Goal Setting Week during the second week of the month.


National School Lunch Week and Teen Read Week are during the third week of the month, Freedom of Speech Week and World Rain Forest Week are also during the third week of the month, and the fourth week of the month brings Kids Care Week, National Character Counts Week, and International Magic Week. 


Here are some daily celebrations to liven up learning and tickle your funny bone:


October 1…………………Balloons around the World

October 2…………………Phileas Fogg’s Wager Day

                …………………National Custodial Workers Day

                …………………Name Your Car Day

October 3…………………World Smile Day

October 4…………………World Card Making Day

October 5…………………Intergeneration Day

               ………………….World Teachers Day

               ………………….National Storytelling Festival

October 6…………………Mad Hatter Day

                …………………World Habitat Day

October 7…………………National Frappe Day

October 8…………………Bring Your Teddy Bear to School Day

               ………………….Yom Kippur

October 9…………………Leif Erickson Day

               …………………World Sight Day

October 10……………….National Cake Decorating Day

                 ………………..National Angel Food Cake Day

October 11……………….Reptile Awareness Day

October 13……………….Columbus Day

October 14……………….National Dessert Day

October 15……………….White Cane Safety Day

October 16……………….Dictionary Day

                 ………………..World Food Day

October 17……………….Gaudy Day

October 18……………….World Toy Camera Day

October 19……………….Evaluate Your Life Day

October 21……………….Babbling Day

October 22……………….National Nut Day

October 23……………….National Mole Day

October 24……………….International Banana Day

                 ……………….National Bologna Day

October 25………………Make a Difference Day

October 26………………Mule Day

October 28………………National Chocolates Day

                 ……………….Plush Animal Lovers’ Day

October 29………………Internet Day

October 30………………National Candy Corn Day

                  ………………Haunted Refrigerator Night

October 31………………National Magic Day



As always, check back often to see links to activity and lesson ideas for specific days.


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