Category Archives: tutoring

Have you ever come to the end of reading something and realize that you have no idea what you just read?  Now imagine that happening every time that you read something!  How frustrated would you feel?  You would probably hate reading and soon give it up.

All too often this is what happens to children who are able to read words but are unable to retrieve any meaning from what they have read.

I just completed a class online called, “Response to Intervention (RTI): Reading Strategies That Work”, presented by Wendell Christensen.  According to Christensen’s class, RTI “is a systematic, research-based, and data-driven (tool) for instruction and intervention for struggling readers.” (Lesson 1)  The wonderful thing about this approach is that it can be applied to any age group.

The tool that I would like to focus on is used to help students increase their comprehension.  It is called hide and seek.

Read:  First, give your child a short passage to read, preferably a topic that interests them.  The passage should be no longer then what they can cover with their hand.

Hide:  Next, cover the words that your child has just read.  Sometimes I use a sticky note or I ask my student to cover it with their own hand.

Seek:  Lastly, ask your child to tell you about what they just read.  If they are uncertain, ask simple questions to see if you can prompt recall.  Encourage your child as they remember details.  If they continue to struggle with recall, reassure them that it’s okay and that they can read it again.

The whole point of hide and seek is for your child to build their comprehension muscles.  It will take time and practice but the payoff is understanding what is being read.  And, hopefully, in time, a love of reading.


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03/17/2013 · 12:39 pm

Teacher’s Websites are a Treasure of Resources

Teacher’s websites are a great source of information to assist your child academically.  Most teachers have websites that inform you about what is going on in the classroom, the weekly schedule for specials, assignments that are due, etc.  Often you can find spelling lists for the week or even the year.  This is great for when your child says that they left their homework at school or that they can’t remember when something is due.
What do you do if your child’s teacher doesn’t have a website or it isn’t up to date?  Check for another teacher in your child’s school that is at the same grade level.  Teachers often, though not always,  work together so the students are reading the same stories or working on the same math lessons.  If I am working with a student and I’m not finding information on the teacher’s website, I look at a different school within the district, find the grade level and see if they have resources that will help me.
If your child’s teacher has a tab for links on it, make sure to take the time to visit it.  Many textbooks now have links that allow you to go in the book and review lessons.  The link will have any passwords that you need.  If not, ask your child or your child’s teacher.  There are also educational game links that will help to reinforce concepts in a fun way.  
Thanks to the time that teachers have taken to find and list resources for you, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.  Take advantage of these free resources to enrich your child’s education.

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Filed under addition, comprehension, education, elementary reading, math, reading, school, teacher communication, tutoring

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book yet.”

I was recently substituting in a 6th grade language arts class and this quote was on the door.

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book yet.”

 This is so true for all readers.  Trudging through a book takes all the pleasure out of reading and discourages you, especially if reading is a struggle in the first place.  Finding that book that transports you to a different realm is magical.  Just like finding the shoe that fits, so it is finding the right author or book.  I sometimes pick books based on the title or the jacket description.  Once I start reading the book, I get a feel for the author’s style of writing.  If the story doesn’t hook me in the first couple chapters, I put it aside and find another book to read.  Life is too short to spend time on something I don’t enjoy.  In the end, isn’t that the reason for pleasure reading.

In order to grow a reader, allow them to explore the many genres and writers out there.  Don’t get discouraged if they have a hard time finding a book they love.  Keep offering a different selection.  Share information from books that you enjoy.  Check to see if the library has a monthly email  newsletter announcing the new releases.  Talk to friends and see what their children are enjoying.   Read together!  Help your children to enjoy this journey and they will never be bored or lonely.

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Filed under reading, tutoring

Colored Candy to Advance Number Sense

In my last post, I discussed the importance of number sense, which is the ability to use and understand the meaning of numbers.  In this post I will talk about a fun activity that your child will enjoy as they learn the properties of numbers.

The manipulative that we will use is any small bag of colored candies that you can pick up at the checkout counter such as M & M’s™,  Skittles™, jelly beans, etc.  If you buy more than 2 ounces, split the candy up into a sandwich bag with a total of about 50.


Have your child separate the candies by color.  On a piece of paper, have them write the total number of each color.  Then you can ask questions comparing the colors such as:  

  1. Which color has the most?
  2. Which color has the least?
  3. How many red candies do you have?
You can then ask greater than, less than or equal to questions such as:
  1. Are there more than, less than or the same number of blue and green candy?
Change up this question to compare the different colors.
Using colored candies is also a great way to learn about fractions.   Have your child count the total number of candies and explain that this is the whole or total number of candies.  You can also introduce the mathematical term of denominator, depending on the age.  Then have your child separate the candies by color.  Just as before, you ask how many red there are.  This time, though, explain that this a part of the whole.  Again, you can give the mathematical name of numerator if it is age appropriate.
How many total candies do you have?
I have 50 candies.
How many candies are red?
14 candies.
So 14 of the 50 candies are red.  I could write it 14/50 .  This tells me that of the total number of candies, 14 are red.    Lets do this with the rest of the candies.
After all the candies have been divided into fractional groups, you can then do comparisons as described in the first part.
Have fun!

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Filed under math, number sense, tutoring, Uncategorized

The Importance of Number Sense

What is number sense?  “Number sense is the ability to use and understand numbers” ( In the article by Russell Gersten and David J. Chard, “Number Sense: Rethinking Arithmetic Instruction for Students with Mathematical Disabilities” , (2001) the authors compare number sense to phonemic awareness.  In order to understand how to read, a child needs to understand how sounds work together to make words.  In math, students have to understand the attributes of numbers in order to become proficient problem solvers.

Here are some of the characteristics of number sense:

Fluidity-It is important for students to learn that numbers are flexible.  10 can be broken up to 8+2 or 14-4.   This concept is used in Singapore Math to demonstrate how numbers can be broken apart in order to solve more complicated problems.

Meaning-Just as words have meaning so do numbers.  Students, especially during early elementary school, need to be able to express numeric meaning through representation.  This can be shown through manipulatives (dried beans, cubes, candy, etc.).  The student should be able to show the meaning of 10 by counting out 10 cubes or drawing 10 circles.

Mental Math-Students who develop fluidity in math can begin to picture and manipulate numbers in their head.  By conserving energy on math facts, the brain is able to spend more time on problem solving.

Strategies-The beauty of math is there is more than one way to solve a problem.  As a student becomes more proficient in understanding the properties of numbers, they can spend more time on figuring ways to solve a problem.  For example, a multiplication problem can be represented with pictures, through repeated addition, broken down into a smaller multiplication problem and added together, using a known to find an unknown, etc.  What is important is for the student to see that math is pliable and there is not just one way to find an answer.

Recognizing Patterns-Math patterns occur everywhere in nature, such as the pattern on the outside of a pineapple or the nautilus shell.  Finding patterns in math  increases a students ability to solve problems more quickly and accurately.  One example of a pattern in multiplication is the products of 9.  The digits in the product, when added together, equal 9.  For instance, 9×9=81.  8+1=9.

Recognizing Errors-A person with good number sense is able to recognize errors in problems.  They understand that if the answer for a subtraction problem is greater than the number they started with then there is something wrong.  The student is able to understand that 8 is greater than 6.

These skills can be incorporated in everyday activities.  Whether it is cooking, shopping or playing a game, these concepts can be part of an informal home program that will make math learning fun.  In my next post, I will go into some specific ideas that you can use.

If you would like to read the article cited in this blog, this link will take you there:

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Filed under math, tutoring, Uncategorized

Context for Reading Comprehension

It’s hard for today’s student, due to their age and life experience, to understand a world without cell phones, computers, and game systems, let alone all the modern amenities that make our world run. However, without understanding the big picture, comprehending what is being read can and will suffer.


When reading a story with your child, it is important to discuss when the story takes place. Is it in the past, present or future? If the story is in the past, it is essential that your child understand what was going on in history at that time. Some questions to discuss (adjusting for age) are:

  • What kind of technology did the people have?
  • How did they travel? • How did they get what they needed to eat?
  • What were living conditions like?

A 5th grade student that I was working with read a passage about castles in the Middle Ages. When it came time to show her comprehension of the story, she had to draw a picture of life on each level of the castle tower. In the lowest level, she included a refrigerator.  We talked about the fact that there was no electricity, a concept that is hard to relate to if you don’t know life without such conveniences.

It is also important to understand that if a story takes place in the future, that the author has more flexibility with what is allowed in the story.


Understanding where the story takes place is just as important as the time period.  For someone who has grown up in a warm, sunny climate, relating to a cold, barren place like Antarctica can be difficult without making it real.  Since a trip to Antarctica is out of the question, here are some ways that you can make learning about the setting more fun:

  • Ask your child what they know about where the story takes place.
  • Explore maps.  Compare where the story is set to where you live.
  • Use the internet to search the place that your child is reading about.  Pictures of a location make it come alive.

With a little time investment, every story can have deeper meaning for your child.

The story will make more sense with the knowledge foundation that you help build.

Create an adventure together!

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Filed under reading, tutoring

What to Read

Reading should be a pleasurable time when you can take a mini vacation and travel the world in your mind.  There is nothing more wonderful than finding a book, series or author that you want to share with others.   In order for this to take place, it is important that you choose a book that interests you.  The same is true for your child.

In school there are going to be required books and stories to read.  Some will catch your child’s imagination and others they will have to just get through.  However, in order to encourage your child to read for pleasure, allow them to choose books that appeal to their interests.  Any book that hooks a child will keep them engrossed.

Series books are wonderful for elementary readers because they become attached to the characters and want the adventure to continue.  A few series that have really caught on, besides Harry Potter, are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Junie B. Jones, Cam Jansen, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Magic Tree House, to name just a few.

Nonfiction books are another wonderful way for children to explore the world around them.  See what fascinates your child–animals, history, biographies, etc.–and find books that satisfy their craving.  Take a trip to the local library and see what strikes your child’s fancy.  The books are free to borrow and allow for a variety of choice.

To show that you value reading, make a time when you can read together.  You can read a book while your child reads their book.  Another wonderful way to share reading is to have your child read to you.  It’s nice listening to someone else read but it also helps you be aware of any struggles that your child may be having.  Discussing the book together allows you to see if they comprehend what they read.

Reading, whether it’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not or War and Peace, is a wonderful way to expand your mind as well as share quality time with your child.

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Filed under reading, tutoring