edited: Friday, August 12, 2005
By Elaine Olelo Masters
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, October 10, 2003
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In Hawaii, we have a new set of achievement tests, Hawaii Content and Performance Standards. Here are reading and writing suggestions to prepare.
BUILDING READING AND WRITING SKILLS
ONE FUN PROJECT AT A TIME
Note: Elaine Masters is a contributing writer for the HCPS II achievement test and is a former classroom teacher.
Language Development: LISTENING>READING>WRITING
All of us are concerned with test scores, especially the HCPS II. Right or wrong, we’re under the gun to get those scores up. The HCPS test questions require more writing and thinking than the SAT, and so preparation for that test should involve much reading with comprehension and much experience with getting thoughts down on paper. Fortunately, these skills will be useful in adult life for recreational reading of newspapers and books, taking college courses and writing papers, and pursuing better-paying jobs. How do we help our keiki?
In his book, THE READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK, Jim Trelease tells of the findings of the Commission on Reading in 1985. He states that, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”
In Hawaii, where a large percentage of our students come from non-English-speaking homes, reading aloud in school is tremendously helpful. Students love it. It takes almost no preparation by the teacher. It’s measurably beneficial. So…why not do it every day?
While young children enjoy most picture books, those with a Hawaii setting are especially loved. Go to the Hawaiiana section of your bookstore to find several dozen currently available. Of the ones I have written, you can use MOMI THE HAWAIIAN MERMAID IN THE LAND OF DELIGHT for pre-school through second grade. Use the two FOOTLOOSE THE MONGOOSE books in K-adult (art students and English students in high school also benefit from picture books). And LULLABY MOON delights all ages: the basic story pleases youngsters, while the scientific information under the lift-the-flaps keeps older keiki mesmerized for weeks. The most recently published, THE ROYAL WAKER-UPPER, is fictionalized history with a pop-up of Iolani Palace, sure to fascinate all keiki.
As children grow into chapter books, they express their delight over my three historical fiction books: YUMI AND HER BEST-FOREVER FRIEND (Japanese plantation life in 1896), THE THIEF IN CHINATOWN (Chinese and Japanese life in Chinatown, Honolulu), and KALANI AND THE NIGHT MARCHERS (Hawaiian culture, 1896 and, through time travel, a century before that). While each book has a complete exciting story, the characters overlap, so they form a trilogy. Many teachers are using the books in connection with the immigration and Hawaiian studies units. At the back of each book, there’s extra information and a game or two from that era.
Proficiency in a language begins with listening, progresses to reading, and culminates in writing. One key to sparking excitement and a desire to finish a writing assignment is to have a purpose beyond the writing. Here are some classroom-tested ideas. You and your fellow teachers can add to this list:
I Make an illustrated book
A. Cut and staple or slit-and-fold to make a book of several small pages. Divide pages into word and picture areas.
B. Use construction paper for covers of full page stories. Punch holes and use brads or yarn or simply staple. Decorate/illustrate cover.
C. Purchase covers or binders for stories, essays or science project summaries.
D. Make an “I Appreciate You” book to give to an adult such as a grandparent, soccer coach, kumu hula, etc. Include pages about the favorite things the person does. (Valentine’s Day project?)
E. Collect stories from the whole class, number pages, make a Table of Contents, cover and display the book in the school library. Can be spiral bound at a copy place for about $3.
F. Collect stories from groups of five students, duplicate five times, and make a book for each of the five students containing all their group’s stories (small-scale publishing!)
A. Write plays based on a book such as THE ROYAL WAKER-UPPER. Act them out.
B. Write original stories and record them on an audio cassette
C. Write plays and videotape them while students act them out. (perhaps a parent can help with this.)
D. Write plays and act them out for another class.
III Enter contests
Go to a search engine such as www.google.com and enter the search words: children writing contests. You’ll come up with a whole page of websites with contests for student writing. Also:
A. Byline Magazine—a different topic for student writing every month, September to June. Best ones are published. See www.bylinemag.com to subscribe to magazine.
B. Scholastic contests—different ones, ongoing. See www.scholastic.com and http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/instructor/poetry_contest.htm
IV Write letters
A. Letter to the Editor in local newspapers on a topic which interests the child. Include child’s age for greater chance of being published.
B. Letter to their favorite author. Tell why they liked her/his book. Ask a question. Addresses are on www.kidsreads.com in the “Write Your Favorite Author” category.
C. Letter of appreciation to parents, soccer, coach, principal, ukulele teacher, etc. Why do they appreciate the person? What is special about them? Provide envelopes and teach them how to properly address them.
D. Thank-you letter for Christmas gifts. Provide envelopes and teach how to properly address them.
V Review books
Book reports per se can kill interest in reading. Make them useful. Instead of a full-blown report, have students fill out 3X5 cards for a file box. Put book title, author, and a sentence or two about the plot. Say whether they liked the book or not, and whether they recommend it to their friends. Students sign their own names. Classmates can access the file box for recommendations of good books and consult the reviewer for more info.
A journal (from the French word jour meaning “day”) is like a diary. It is not meant to be read or graded. Try having the class spend the last fifteen minutes of the school day gathering their thoughts and recollections. At the top of the page, they write, “Today, I…” and they can write the good, the bad, and the curious of their day, what went right, what went wrong, and what they hope to do the next day. It’s a great way to help students be reflective, open and honest (no one is supposed to read it), and to BECOME COMFORTABLY FLUENT IN WRITING! What’s more, this is another extremely useful activity that requires no preparation nor grading by the teacher. Try it for a month. See if you want to continue.
So there you have it! Fifteen minutes of reading aloud and fifteen minutes of journaling every day, some goal-oriented writing projects—then watch your class leap forward!