"Who can tell me what the strategy of the week is? Big hint, it's right behind me on the board. It is 'Making Inferences.' Has anyone heard the word 'inference' before? I know you have in your classroom. But to refresh your memory, if you are inferring something you are trying to figure it out without the information being in front of you word for word. Before we do a story inference, let's try a picture one first," said Kara Saile, Ring Elementary School reading specialist.
Saile displayed a picture of sunburned feet.
"What can you tell me about this person's feet? Where are they?"
Ring School Reading Specialist Kara Saile works with a small group on the ELA skill, inference.
"They are sunburned and at the beach," said one student.
"Can you make an inference on what type of shoes they might have been wearing and why?"
"Flip-flops because of the lines where the feet aren't sunburned," said another student.
The Ring Elementary School reading specialists suggest ways to encourage reading at home:
Take your child to the library. It is a cost-effective way to obtain books and get children excited over the many reading possibilities. Also, having their first library card is thrilling for children.
Incorporate reading into your everyday lives. If you are at a restaurant, ask, "I can't read the menu. Can you tell me what it says?" Use environmental cues like reading a recipe while making cookies together to develop your child's early letter and word-recognition skills. Also, placing reading, and its importance, in a real-world setting makes it fun for kids.
Have your children make to-do lists and birthday lists. Kids are interested in lists that are beneficial to them. Also, have your children write thank-you or holiday cards.
Have your child re-read their favorite books over and over. The repetition will make them better readers.
Sing songs or recite rhymes or read poems. The rhymes and word play associated with poems are a great way to develop phonemic awareness. If you don't know a poem, try singing songs.
Have your child read the Saturday "Young Readers" page in The Post-Journal. It's a fun way to introduce your child to newspapers.
Don't forget technology. There are lots of kid-friendly material online from books to blogs to websites that explore words and vocabulary.
"Great job. In less than a minute, with no words, you knew that this person's feet were sunburned; they are maybe at the beach or a lake, wearing flip-flops and probably didn't have sunscreen on. All of you made inferences without words. You added the clues in the picture to what you already know to make an inference. Now we are going to practice making inferences in a text."
Saile, is one of four reading specialists including Sue Eklum, Melanie Dolce and Rebekah Sorenson working at Ring Elementary School. The reading specialist's focus is to fill in gaps of any deficient skills a student might have that are needed at that grade level and to build and apply strategies towards reading increasingly complex text.
Particular focus is on the foundational reading skills at the elementary school level. Reading specialists examine data from district and local assessments to identify skills that students need to strengthen and to identify the individual reading level of each student.
They then use small group and one-on-one instruction to fill in that gap.
For example, a foundational skill for third grade might be "read with appropriate rate and expression." The reading specialist would practice these specific skills with the students. Their instruction is totally centered to students' very specific needs. The reading specialists meet with groups of grade-level students once a week for 25 to 30 minutes for specialized instruction. This is in addition to their daily classroom instruction in English Language Arts.
"While we give extra instruction during the day, we cannot stress enough how important reading at home is to a student's success. We always say, 'Parents are the first and most important teacher,'" said the Ring reading specialists. "With the increased standards and the realization that reading is needed in all subject areas, it makes it even more important that students read outside the school day both independently and aloud with an adult. Putting it in sports terms - once you learn the mechanics of making a layup, you must practice the layup over and over before that skill is automatic and fluent. Reading is the same; students must practice all the time to become proficient readers."
A recent study of out-of-school reading habits show that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year.
"We tell parents to have your child read what interests them. It could be a magazine, a nonfiction book or the newspaper - even a comic book. But pick something that will hold their interest. And most importantly make it fun to read," said the reading specialists. "Also, model reading for your child by showing he or she that you love to read. The only way students get better at reading is with practice. We give them as much as we can during the school day, but extra time at home will always benefit a student's reading ability."
The reading specialists are encouraging reading aloud to your child no matter their age.
"Many people think that once a child is old enough to read on his or her own, you don't need to read aloud to him or her anymore. But reading aloud allows you to model good reading behaviors and shows your child that you value reading. You might talk about the pictures in the book and ask questions or read with expression, but try to create a routine of reading everyday with your child."