Four Days A Week: Enough?

I am sure you have all been noticing the four day week discussions popping up in various education articles and I am trying to decide where I stand on this issue. New Hampshire's recent decision to alter the final two years of high school was an easy one for me as I have been preaching European vs. agrarian arguments on both year-round school and early graduation for years, but any fiscal argument for cutting the school week to four days will not wash with me.

Fluency: The Missing Link

One of my soapbox reading education topics is the decline in reading fluency due to the shortage of students hearing words read correctly. Mom & Dad are busier than ever and -gasp- perhaps they might not be the best oral readers themselves. Some students sit in a classroom where correct modeling might happen twice a day, the rest of the time they have to listen to Suzy struggling, haltingly through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe until they nod off at their desk.

I am here today to sing the praises of recorded stories. You can get almost any book in electronic or CD form. Load up those iPods! Play Diary of a Wimpy Kid from the car stereo! Let them HEAR good words told smoothly, with inflection, with panache, with proper grammatical pausing! Soapbox end :-)

For a more structured look at recorded reading, here are a few tips:

*Make sure your young reader has a copy of the recording. It is important to make a connection with the text and the sounds. The struggling reader might start to daydream, but re-center them on the page when necessary.

*Pause frequently to discuss the story. Ask what is happening. See if they caught little hints and funny spots. Ask them how they know what they know (what in the text gave it away). Make predictions about what will happen next.

*Have the reader reread the last section aloud. Do not stop them if they fumble, but assist if they get stuck. Never ever criticize the reader. EVER. If they struggle, ask what was hard for them and would they like to listen to that section again?

*For younger students, read aloud along with them in a chanting sort of manner. This works especially well with poetry/rhymes and song lyrics.

Although NCLB covers repeated readings and silent reading as ways to improve fluency, I feel that just listening to positive models is one of the easiest ways to improve fluency. I have met a ton of kids who tell me that their parent never reads to them and that they have never, really, heard the way reading should sound (not enough to feel comfortable, anyway).

So next time you are trying to entertain them as you drive about, instead of popping in a DVD, pop a CD in the stereo :-)
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for:

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Coraline Movie Trailer

I'm usually miffed when one of my favorite stories gets made into a movie, but Neil Gaiman's Coraline always seemed like it'd be a great Nightmare Before Christmas/ Tim Burton style adaptation on the screen. It looks like my thoughts are confirmed...

Also check out this Fantastic Website To Explore!
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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Amadi's Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot with illustrations by Dimitrea Tokunbo - Mini Book Review

Amadi, a confident Igbo boy who is good with numbers, has decided that he will be a businessman. He doesn’t understand his mother’s insistence that he learn to read. One day, while strolling the marketplace in his village, he spies a picture he cannot comprehend. If he could only read the words under the picture perhaps he could understand..... Thus is the tale of Amadi's Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot with illustrations by Dimitrea Tokunbo.

Though the central message of Amadi's Snowman is one of the joys of reading, I was especially thoughtful of a personal experience as I read this colorful tale: In 1994, I moved from the Midwestern United States to sunny South Florida. I was still in the good ole U.S.A. so I underestimated the cultural differences. I have many stories of diversity, but one that stands out was the first day the thermometer plummeted below 60 degrees. My students showed up for class in parkas and mittens while I was still in a dress with a light sweater. I laughed and asked, “How many of you have ever been in the snow?” Out of 33 third graders, only 4 raised their hand. So, to me, Amadi's Snowman is more than just a reading-is-a-wonder send up; it’s a multicultural look at how others view the same world.

With colorful illustrations that serve the setting well, Amadi's Snowman is recommended for elementary classrooms and libraries, as well as for inclusion with units on diversity, the powers & joys of reading and African studies.

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Genre: Picture Book. Age: 4-8. Pages: 32.

Themes: Multicultural, Determination, Family.
Publisher: Tilbury House. Date: May 2008.
ISBN-10: 0884482987 / ISBN-13: 978-0884482987

Buy Amadi's Snowman Here
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for:

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Excellent Education News !!!

Finally a progressive minded education initiative!
A state with their act together!
Look at my exclamation points!
I have been screaming about this for YEARS!

Arthur of Albion by John Matthews and illustrated by Pavel Tatarnikov - Mini Book Review

The back cover of Arthur of Albion says that the publisher, Barefoot Books, celebrates art & story. This couldn’t be truer. Arthur of Albion by John Matthews and illustrated by Pavel Tatarnikov is lavish and gilded, putting one in the perfect mood to travel back to Arthurian times. Though it is the size of a picture book, it’s really filled with stories of quests and magic, chivalry and wonder.

The author has condensed the traditional Arthurian legends into smaller snippets for a quick introduction to Arthur Pendragon. The stories are short enough to hold student interest, yet long enough to provide the essentials. Though Arthur of Albion would work well as an elementary read aloud, I feel its best audience is the middle school set. The vocabulary is just challenging enough for reading enhancement, the stories just long enough to pique interest. It would also work well as a supplemental material for various units of study (ie: medieval histories and romances, ancient British history, folklore & Arthur himself).

Recommended to enhance unit supplementals, for read-alouds and for those with an interest in knights or the Arthurian legends.
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Genre: Short Story, Folklore & Legend. Age: 9-12. Pages: 96.

Themes: Hero Quest, Romance, Strength of Character
Publisher: Date: September 2008.
ISBN-10: 1846860490 / ISBN-13: 978-1846860492

Buy Arthur of Albion Here
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for:

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