What Grade Are You In?
Thursday, 13 November 2008 16:32
When an adult meets a child, it is very likely that the first question asked will be, “What grade are you in?”
For our homeschool students, the answer might be, “I’m in first grade reading, fourth grade math, and everything else is second grade” or “I get to go at my own pace, and we don’t worry about what grade I’m in.” Sometimes the real answer might even be, “It depends on the day – my mom teaches us all together, and sometimes the lessons are for my grade level and sometimes they’re for my sisters’ grade levels.”
Is this a problem? It doesn’t have to be.
When we plan lessons, we need to consider where our children are developmentally as well as what they’ve mastered in the subject. Sometimes a precocious homeschool student could move ahead and study subjects usually considered appropriate for older students. If we choose to do this, we need to make sure that the method used for presenting the subject matter fits the student’s developmental stage, even if the topic is more advanced. The same is true when our student needs to review concepts from an earlier grade level. When our expectations are out of sync with our child’s developmental stage, we’re asking for frustration, for ourselves and our children.
So a young child can understand, learn, and enjoy algebraic thinking concepts using toy animals to manipulate, but not using an algebra workbook. An older student who needs more work on basic reading can get good practice by using magazines and other materials written at a basic level, but might be embarrassed at being asked to read a book labeled “easy reader.”
Equally, when we want our children of different ages to study a subject together, we have to be ready to adapt the lesson to the different developmental needs of the different ages. A group of children may listen to the same online lecture or piece of music together. The youngest children might color while they listen, since it is hard for them to sit still and pay attention as long as the older ones. The older students might take notes in order to help organize their thoughts and develop this useful study technique. In this way, all the students can gain what they need from the shared experience.
What if your student is advanced in some areas and not in others? There’s a temptation to spend more time on the areas where the child has trouble, in hopes of catching up. Yet it is often true that the area in which the child excels is a source of pleasure for him. If he is forced to work extra on math in order to catch up with the reading that he loves, he may resent math and find it even harder, while losing some of his strength in reading through lack of practice.
In our own lives, we know and accept that there are some things we’re better at and enjoy more. We don’t expect ourselves to be equally good at everything. Yet we often do expect this of our kids.
Instead, let your student use her strengths to shore up her weaknesses. For example, if she loves science and struggles with writing, let her write lab reports about experiments, or keep a nature observation journal. If music is his pleasure and history is a chore, study history through music.
We can also recognize that our children may need more support for some subjects than others. That’s one of the advantages of homeschooling: that we can let our children work at the pace they need.
Christ gave His apostles what they were ready for, and didn’t insist that they learn and understand everything at once. This is a good example for us as eduators.
Mimi Rothschild is the Founder of LearningByGrace.org the nation’s leading provider of online PreK-12 online Christian educational programs for homeschoolers.
Questions Before, During, and After Reading: Part 2 of 2
Thursday, 15 November 2007 10:18
By Mimi Rothschild
Here’s part two of “Questions Before, During, and After Reading.” I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!
How Can You Stretch Students’ Thinking?
The best way to stretch students’ thinking about a text is to help them ask increasingly challenging questions. Some of the most challenging questions are “Why?” questions about the author’s intentions and the design of the text. For example:
“Why do you think the author chose this particular setting?”
“Why do you think the author ended the story in this way?”
“Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from the point of view of the daughter?”
“What does the author seem to be assuming about the reader’s political beliefs?”
Another way to challenge readers is to ask them open-ended question that require evidence from the text to answer. For example:
“What does Huck think about girls? What is your evidence?”
“Which character in the story is most unlike Anna? Explain your reasons, based on evidence from the novel?”
“What is the author’s opinion about affirmative action in higher education? How do you know?”
Be sure to explicitly model your own challenging questions while reading aloud a variety of texts, including novels, subject-area textbooks, articles, and nonfiction. Help students see that answering challenging questions can help them understand text at a deeper level, ultimately making reading a more enjoyable and valuable experience.
As students become proficient in generating challenging questions, have them group the questions the time they were asked (before, during or after reading). Students can determine their own categories, justify their reasons for placing questions into the categories, and determine how this can help their reading comprehension.
When Can You Use It?
Students who have similar interests can read the same text and meet to discuss their thoughts in a book club. Members can be given a set of sticky notes to mark questions they have before, during, and after reading the text. Members can then share their question with one another to clarify understanding within their group. Since students’ reading level may not necessarily determine which book club they choose to join, accommodations may need to be made, including buddy reading, audio recordings of the text, or the use of computer-aided reading systems.
Good writers anticipate their readers’ questions. Have students jot down the questions they will attempt to answer in an essay or short story before they write it, in the order that they plan to answer them. Stress that this should not be a mechanical process – as students write they probably will think of additional questions to ask and answer. The key point is to have students think of themselves as having a conversation with the reader – and a big part of this is knowing what questions the reader is likely to ask.
Students can ask questions before, during, and after solving a math problem. Have students think aloud or write in groups to generate questions to complete performance tasks related to mathematics.
Use before, during, and after questions when beginning a new chapter or unit of study in any social studies topic. Select a piece of text, and have students generate questions related to the topic. At the end of the unit of study, refer back to the questions and discuss how the questions helped students to understand the content.
Use before, during, and after questions to review an article or science text. You can discuss articles related to a recent scientific discovery with students and then generate questions that would help them to focus their attention on important information.
Lesson Plan: Questioning, The Mitten
This lesson is designed to introduce primary students to the importance of asking questions before, during, and after listening to a story. In this lesson, using the story The Mitten by Jan Brett, students learn how to become good readers by asking questions. This is the first lesson in a set of questioning lessons designed for primary grades.
Lesson Plan: Questioning, Grandfather’s Journey
This lesson is for intermediate students using the strategy with the book, Grandfather’s Journey, by Allen Say.
Lesson Plan: Questioning, Koko’s Kitten
This lesson is designed to establish primary students’ skills in asking questions before, during, and after they listen to a story. You can help students learn to become better readers by modeling how and when you ask questions while reading aloud the true story, Koko’s Kitten, by Dr. Francine Patterson. This is the second lesson in a set of questioning lessons designed for primary grades.
Lesson Plan: Asking Pre-Reading Questions
This is a language arts lesson for students in grades 3-5. Students will learn about asking questions before reading and will make predictions based on the discussion of the questions.
Lesson Plan: Asking Questions When Reading
In this lesson, the teacher will read The Wall by Eve Bunting with the purpose of focusing on asking important questions. The students and the teacher will then categorize the questions according to the criteria for each.
Questions Before, During, and After Reading: Part 1 of 2
Wednesday, 14 November 2007 12:09
By Mimi Rothschild
There’s the old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The same sort of philosophy can be applied to asking questions while reading. Homeschool students who ask questions before, during, and after reading will have a much higher level of comprehension than those students who don’t ask any questions at all. Learn about how asking questions will improve your homeschooler’s level of reading comprehension in this article below.
What Is It?
To aid their comprehension, skillful readers ask themselves questions before, during, and after they read. You can help students become more proficient by modeling this process for them and encouraging them to use it when they read independently.
Why Is It Important?
Dolores Durkin’s research in 1979 showed that most teachers asked students questions after they had read, as opposed to questioning to improve comprehension before or while they read. In the late 1990s, further research (Pressley, et al. 1998) revealed that despite the abundance of research supporting questioning before, during, and after reading to help comprehension, teachers still favored post-reading comprehension questions.
Researchers have also found that when adult readers are asked to “think aloud” as they read, they employ a wide variety of comprehension strategies, including asking and answering questions before, during, and after reading (Pressley and Afflerbach 1995). Proficient adult readers:
- Are aware of why they are reading the text
- Preview and make predictions
- Read selectively
- Make connections and associations with the text based on what they already know
- Refine predictions and expectations
- Use context to identify unfamiliar words
- Reread and make notes
- Evaluate the quality of the text
- Review important points in the text
- Consider how the information might be used in the future
Successful reading is not simply the mechanical process of “decoding” text. Rather, it is a process of active inquiry. Good readers approach a text with questions and develop new questions as they read, for example:
“What is this story about?”
“What does the main character want?”
“Will she get it?” “If so, how?”
Even after reading, engaged readers still ask questions:
“What is the meaning of what I have read?”
“Why did the author end the paragraph (or chapter, or book) in this way?”
“What was the author’s purpose in writing this?”
Good authors anticipate the reader’s questions and plant questions in the reader’s mind (think of a title such as, Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman). In this way, reading becomes a collaboration between the reader and the author. The author’s job is to raise questions and then answer them – or provide several possible answers. Readers cooperate by asking the right questions, paying careful attention to the author’s answers, and asking questions of their own.
How Can You Make It Happen?
To help readers learn to ask questions before, during, and after reading, think aloud the next time you are reading a book, article, or set of directions. Write each question on a post-it note and stick it on the text you have the question about. You may be surprised at how many typically unspoken questions you ponder, ask, and answer as you read. You may wonder as you read or after you read at the author’s choice of title, at a vocabulary word, or about how you will use this information in the future.
You should begin to model these kinds of questions in the primary grades during read-aloud times, when you can say out loud what you are thinking and asking. Read a book or text to the class, and model your thinking and questioning. Emphasize that even though you are an adult reader, questions before, during, and after reading continue to help you gain an understanding of the text you are reading. Ask questions such as:
“What clues does the title give me about the story?”
“Is this a real or imaginary story?”
“Why am I reading this?”
“What do I already know about___?”
“What predictions can I make?”
Pre-select several stopping points within the text to ask and answer reading questions. Stopping points should not be so frequent that they hinder comprehension or fluid reading of a text. This is also an excellent time to model “repair strategies” to correct miscomprehension. Start reading the text, and ask yourself questions while reading:
“What do I understand from what I just read?”
“What is the main idea?”
“What picture is the author painting in my head?”
“Do I need to reread so that I understand?”
Then reread the text, asking the following questions when you are finished:
“Which of my predictions were right? What information from the text tells me that I am correct?”
“What were the main ideas?”
“What connections can I make to the text? How do I feel about it?”
Encourage students to ask their own questions after you have modeled this strategy, and write all their questions on chart paper. Students can be grouped to answer one another’s questions and generate new ones based on discussions. Be sure the focus is not on finding the correct answers, because many questions may be subjective, but on curiosity, wondering, and asking thoughtful questions.
After students become aware of the best times to ask questions during the reading process, be sure to ask them a variety of questions that:
- Can be used to gain a deeper understanding of the text
- Have answers that might be different for everyone
- Have answers that can be found in the text
- Clarify the author’s intent
- Can help clarify meaning
- Help them make inferences
- Help them make predictions
- Help them make connections to other texts or prior knowledge
As students begin to read text independently, you should continue to model the questioning process and encourage students to use it often. In the upper elementary and middle school grades, a framework for questions to ask before, during, and after reading can serve as a guide as students work with more challenging texts and begin to internalize comprehension strategies. You can use an overhead projector to jot notes on the framework as you “think aloud” while reading a text. As students become comfortable with the questioning strategy, they may use the guide independently while reading, with the goal of generating questions before, during, and after reading to increase comprehension.
Journaling Strategies For Homeschooling Students
Friday, 2 November 2007 09:14
By Mimi Rothschild
Homeschooling parents know that learning comes in a variety of ways. One way students can increase their knowledge of a subject is through journaling. Journaling is a learning tool that can be used in any class; it allows students to improve their writing skills, process information, and better understand a subject. Read more in this helpful article I found online.
Use these journaling strategies in your classroom to expand the learning capabilities of your students. Included are articles to teach you about each concept and lesson plans with which you can implement the strategies.
Learn how to incorporate journaling in your classroom. Teachers can use journaling as a kind of window into how students are thinking about what they are learning.
Use a double-entry journal, a graphic organizer included with this article, to encourage students to organize their thoughts on a specific subject in a new way.
This lesson, to be completed after reading The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain, has students practice their journaling skills.
Learn how to incorporate journaling in while teaching Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Teachers can use journaling as a window into how students are thinking about what they are learning.
Reflective journals are notebooks that students use when writing about their own thoughts. This encourages the development of metacognitive skills by helping students sort what they know from what they don’t know.
A dialogue journal is an informal written conversation between two or more people (student-student or student-teacher) about topics of mutual interest.
Students will demonstrate a beginning understanding of how to use dialogue journals or written conversations to express themselves in a written format by identifying previous experiences and relating them to the story.
Writing about mathematics helps students articulate their thinking, and provides useful information for teachers about learning difficulties, incorrect assumptions, and student’s progress in communicating about mathematics.
This lesson is an introduction to comparing fractions with like denominators and unlike numerators, for students with a basic understanding of fractions as part of a whole, numerators, and denominators. Students use math journals to complete the lesson.
This is an introduction to comparing fractions with unlike denominators. Students will compare fractions represented by drawings or models with unlike denominators.
ADHD and Home Schooling Children Who Are Gifted
Monday, 22 October 2007 14:46
By Mimi Rothschild
Have you ever wondered if your child has ADHD? Have you ever considered the idea that he is just extremely gifted? Learn more about children with ADHD and children who are gifted in this thorough article I read this past weekend. Let me know what you think, I appreciate your thoughts! Thanks!
ERIC EC Digest #E522, Authors: James T. Webb and Diane Latimer, 1993
Howard’s teachers say he just isn’t working up to his ability. He doesn’t finish his assignments, or just puts down answers without showing his work; his handwriting and spelling are poor. He sits and fidgets in class, talks to others, and often disrupts class by interrupting others. He used to shout out the answers to the teachers’ questions (they were usually right), but now he daydreams a lot and seems distracted. Does Howard have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is he gifted, or both?
Frequently, bright children have been referred to psychologists or pediatricians because they exhibited certain behaviors (e.g., restlessness, inattention, impulsivity, high activity level, daydreaming) commonly associated with a diagnosis of ADHD. Formally, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-III-R (American Psychiatric Association) lists 14 characteristics that may be found in children diagnosed as having ADHD. At least eight of these characteristics must be present, the onset must be before age seven, and they must be present for at least six months.
DSM-III-R Diagnostic Criteria for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder*
Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat (in adolescents may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness).
Has difficulty remaining seated when required to.
Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
Has difficulty awaiting turns in games or group situations.
Often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed.
Has difficulty following through on instructions from others (not due to oppositional behavior or failure of comprehension).
Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
Often shifts from one uncompleted activity to another.
Has difficulty playing quietly.
Often talks excessively.
Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into other people’s games).
Often does not seem to listen to what is being said to him or her.
Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities at school or at home (e.g., toys, pencils, books).
Often engages in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences (not for the purpose of thrill-seeking); e.g., runs into street without looking.
Almost all of these behaviors, however, might be found in bright, talented, creative, gifted children. Until now, little attention has been given to the similarities and differences between the two groups, thus raising the potential for misidentification in both areas – giftedness and ADHD.
Sometimes, professionals have diagnosed ADHD by simply listening to parent or teacher descriptions of the child’s behaviors along with a brief observation of the child. Other times, brief screening questionnaires are used, although these questionnaires only quantify the parents’ or teachers’ descriptions of the behaviors (Parker, 1992). Children who are fortunate enough to have a thorough physical evaluation (which includes screening for allergies and other metabolic disorders) and extensive psychological evaluations, which include assessment of intelligence, achievement, and emotional status, have a better chance of being accurately identified. A child may be gifted and have ADHD. Without a thorough professional evaluation, it is difficult to tell.
How Can Parents or Teachers Distinguish Between ADHD and Giftedness?
Seeing the difference between behaviors that are sometimes associated with giftedness but also characteristic of ADHD is not easy, as the following parallel lists show.
Behaviors Associated with ADHD (Barkley, 1990)
Poorly sustained attention in almost all situations.
Diminished persistence on tasks not having immediate consequences.
Impulsivity, poor delay of gratification.
Impaired adherence to commands to regulate or inhibit behavior in social contexts.
More active and restless than normal children.
Difficulty adhering to rules and regulations.
Behaviors Associated with Giftedness (Webb, 1993)
Poor attention, boredom, daydreaming in specific situations.
Low tolerance for persistence on tasks that seem irrelevant.
Judgment lags behind development of intellect.
Intensity may lead to power struggles with authorities.
High activity level; may need less sleep.
Questions rules, customs, and traditions.
Consider the Situation and Setting
It is important to examine the situations in which a child’s behaviors are problematic. Gifted children typically do not exhibit problems in all situations. For example, they may be seen as ADHD-like by one classroom teacher, but not by another; or they may be seen as ADHD at school, but not by the scout leader or music teacher. Close examination of the troublesome situation generally reveals other factors that are prompting the problem behaviors. By contrast, children with ADHD typically exhibit the problem behaviors in virtually all settings including at home and at school, though the extent of their problem behaviors may fluctuate significantly from setting to setting (Barkley, 1990), depending largely on the structure of that situation. That is, the behaviors exist in all settings, but are more of a problem in some settings than in others.
In the classroom, a gifted child’s perceived inability to stay on task is likely to be related to boredom, curriculum, mismatched learning style, or other environmental factors. Gifted children may spend from one-fourth to one-half of their regular classroom time waiting for others to catch up – even more if they are in a heterogeneously grouped class. Their specific level of academic achievement is often two to four grade levels above their actual grade placement. Such children often respond to nonchallenging or slow-moving classroom situations by “off-task” behavior, disruptions, or other attempts at self-amusement. This use of extra time is often the cause of the referral for an ADHD evaluation.
“Hyperactive” is a word often used to describe gifted children as well as children with ADHD. As with attention span, children with ADHD have a high activity level, but this activity level is often found across situations (Barkley, 1990). A large proportion of gifted children are highly active, too. As many as one-fourth may require less sleep; however, their activity is generally focused and directed (Clark, 1992; Webb, Meckstroth, & Tolan, 1982), in contrast to the behavior of children with ADHD. The intensity of gifted children’s concentration often permits them to spend long periods of time and much energy focusing on whatever truly interests them. Their specific interests may not coincide, however, with the desires and expectations of teachers or parents.
While the child who is hyperactive has a very brief attention span in virtually every situation (usually except for television or computer games), children who are gifted can concentrate comfortably for long periods on tasks that interest them, and do not require immediate completion of those tasks or immediate consequences. The activities of children with ADHD tend to be both continual and random; the gifted child’s activity usually is episodic and directed to specific goals.
While difficulty with adherence to rules and regulations has only begun to be accepted as a sign of ADHD (Barkley, 1990), gifted children may actively question rules, customs, and traditions, sometimes creating complex rules that they expect others to respect or obey. Some engage in power struggles. These behaviors can cause discomfort for parents, teachers, and peers.
One characteristic of ADHD that does not have a counterpart in children who are gifted is variability of task performance. In almost every setting, children with ADHD tend to be highly inconsistent in the quality of their performance (i.e., grades, chores) and the amount of time used to accomplish tasks (Barkley, 1990). Children who are gifted routinely maintain consistent efforts and high grades in classes when they like the teacher and are intellectually challenged, although they may resist some aspects of the work, particularly repetition of tasks perceived as dull. Some gifted children may become intensely focused and determined (an aspect of their intensity) to produce a product that meets their self-imposed standards.
What Teachers and Parents Can Do
Determining whether a child has ADHD can be particularly difficult when that child is also gifted. The use of many instruments, including intelligence tests administered by qualified professionals, achievement and personality tests, and parent and teacher rating scales, can help the professional determine the subtle differences between ADHD and giftedness. Individual evaluation allows the professional to establish maximum rapport with the child to get the best effort on the tests. Since the test situation is constant, it is possible to make better comparisons among children. Portions of the intellectual and achievement tests will reveal attention problems or learning disabilities, whereas personality tests are designed to show whether emotional problems (e.g., depression or anxiety) could be causing the problem behaviors. Evaluation should be followed by appropriate curricular and instructional modifications that account for advanced knowledge, diverse learning styles, and various types of intelligence.
Careful consideration and appropriate professional evaluation are necessary before concluding that bright, creative, intense youngsters like Howard have ADHD. Consider the characteristics of the gifted/talented child and the child’s situation. Do not hesitate to raise the possibility of giftedness with any professional who is evaluating the child for ADHD; however, do not be surprised if the professional has had little training in recognizing the characteristics of gifted/talented children (Webb, 1993). It is important to make the correct diagnosis, and parents and teachers may need to provide information to others since giftedness is often neglected in professional development programs.
*Note: “DSM-III-R Diagnostic Criteria for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” is reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1987.
American Psychiatric Association (1987). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third edition, revised. Washington, DC: Author.
Barkley, R. A. (1990). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment. Guilford Press: New York.
Clark, B. (1992). Growing up Gifted. New York: Macmillan.
Parker, H. C. (1992). The ADD Hyperactivity Handbook for Schools. Plantation, FL: Impact Publications.
Webb, J. T. (1993). “Nurturing social-emotional development of gifted children.” In K. A. Heller, F. J. Monks, and A. H. Passow (Eds.), International Handbook for Research on Giftedness and Talent, pp. 525-538. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Webb, J. T.; Meckstroth, E. A.; and Tolan, S. S. (1982). Guiding the Gifted Child: A Practical Source for Parents and Teachers. Dayton: Ohio Psychology Press.
This ERIC Digest was developed in 1993 by James T. Webb, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean, and Diane Latimer, M.A., School of Professional Psychology, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education