Reading, writing, speaking, listening are critical skills to build students’ school and beyond success. In this podcast Tina Pletan, a school literacy developer, shares strategies for parents of preschoolers through middle grades and suggests some reading time for yourself.
Get in touch with Tina: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Steve [Intro]: 00:41 Hello and welcome to the Parent Wellbeing and Student Learning During School Closures Edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. With the extended closing of schools, we as parents have entered into a new territory regarding what we have known as “school learning.” With this and future podcasts, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner.
Steve: 01:13 Continuing a literacy focus. Today, I am excited to be joined by Tina Pletan, the elementary literacy staff developer at Bismark Schools in North Dakota. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Tina for several years as we were doing coaching training with teachers in her district. And as I was working on these parent podcast, I thought she would be a great person to call upon her expertise to assist us in looking at how we’re supporting our learners during this time of schools being closed. So, Tina, welcome.
Tina: 01:52 Thanks for having me, Steve. It’ll be great to visit with you today.
Steve: 01:55 I’m wondering, for starters, if you could just kind of give us a nutshell picture of why building student reading is so, so critical and important?
Tina: 02:08 Well, I think it’s so important because literacy is really the foundation for everything, for all subject areas. So I think that’s just especially important in this time of distance learning, that we keep that strong literacy focus because that’s going to help students at all ages in science, social studies, and even math.
Steve: 02:31 So label the word literacy for us as to what that means to you.
Tina: 02:38 Well, I think so often we may think of literacy, especially if you’re outside of the educational world, you may think of literacy is just reading, but literacy really encompasses reading, writing and speaking and listening as well too. So that’s my definition of literacy. It’s all those pieces fitting together, no matter if you’re working with a two year old or you’re working with an 18 year old.
Steve: 03:06 So it’s everything tied around language and the expression and interpretation of that language?
Tina: 03:14 And we live in a world now where, you know, it’s not just the written word, but we think about visual literacy and how we interpret those things, how we analyze those things. So we’re just broadening our definition of literacy.
Steve: 03:31 Well Tina, this timing is great because I have a call later this afternoon with a group of early childhood teachers from a school and looking at how they’re working with parents during this time. What what are some of the thoughts and suggestions you have for folks at home with preschoolers?
Tina: 03:49 Well, you know, I think with all ages, I would just encourage parents to do some form of reading and writing every day. Now that’s going to look much different for preschoolers than it does for say a nine year old or a third grader. But I think in with young kids with those preschoolers, just always making it fun and engaging. So you know, just those things. If you’ve got those magnetic letters on the fridge or if you don’t have those, you can, you know, put letters on sticky notes or pieces of paper. You know, if they’re working to identify letters, they can do some matching and maybe if they do it once, maybe they can do it again, go a little faster. They might be able to build their name and build the names of brothers and sisters or other loved ones. So I think just working with and manipulating those letters with young kids, you might be working on that identification process, but then also thinking about the other types of language and other pieces that play into language with phonemic awareness and phonlogical awareness, which is just that ability to hear the sounds of language.
Tina: 05:06 So you know, doing some letter, sound association. If their name starts with the letter P, can they come up with some other words that maybe start with that letter P that makes that “P” sound. Different, fun things like that. Nursery rhymes, letting kids hear that rhythm and sound of language and just reading and rereading books. Kids love to have their favorite stories re-read. Sometimes that’s not, you know, a parent’s favorite thing because they get a little tired of reading it over and over. But that re-reading can be one of those most important foundational pieces for them.
Steve: 05:47 Sounds like you’ve given quite a few examples there that I could be doing with that preschooler while I’m still doing something else that I have to be doing.
Tina: 06:00 Exactly.
Steve: 06:00 The game or the song or the repetition pieces.
Tina: 06:05 And it’s really most important to build that oral language development with our young preschoolers. And even just having that conversation with them, a lot of times our young students need to learn that serve in return. You know, if the parents or caretakers said something, the child responds and kind of keeping that conversation going. So that’s a really important developmental phase for that oral language to continue to develop.
Steve: 06:36 How about if we took a look more towards the beginning reader? I’m thinking that a kindergartner, first grader who you know, coming into the spring break here would be at a spot that they’re starting to feel some confidence in their own reading. What’s good for parents to be looking at to support them?
Tina: 06:58 Well, I think some of the same things. It may be working with those magnetic letters or it may be, you know, if you have a Scrabble game at home or some other game with some letter tiles, now students might be more in the phase of being able to build some words. So even just giving them some high frequency words that they might be working on, you know, words like “the,” or “said” the classroom teachers might be giving parents some ideas on what some of those words might be. So I think building those – working with those letterr, sound relationships, you know, building words that have spelling patterns that the students might be working on in kindergarten or first grade. And I think really even with preschoolers or elementary students, writing. With our young young kids that might be just drawing a picture and talking about their picture and maybe the parents at that stage is going to do some labeling or write the sentence for the child and then they can re-read it.
Tina: 08:01 Once you get to that kindergarten, first grade stage, I think letting the students do some of that writing or even if it’s drawing a picture and having them label it. And at this stage we want the students to start gaining some independence. So letting them write the sounds that they hear, they might be making some approximations or some spelling patterns that they haven’t learned yet or they’re not ready for in their developmental stage. But at this point you want them to really be listening for those sounds so that they can hear and record them. And I think even writing activities that are very purposeful. So it may be writing a letter to that grandparent or a neighbor or a relative and you know, the parent can go back and do some editing with the child. Letting the students ideas and language flow is important rather than focusing on the correct spelling, right as they’re doing it. If a child has trouble spelling a word, they can always underline it or circle it. And then if it’s a hard to spell word, the parent can go back and help them with that. But I think just, kids need to know that their writing has a purpose and it’s going somewhere and then there’s so much more engaged in the writing.
Steve: 09:22 So let’s move on to that fourth, fifth grade and into the middle realm there. At that point, we get some kids who are all excited and pumped to read and all the parents have to do is stay out of their way. But I’m I’m wondering about the other students, the ones who aren’t going off and picking up a book by themselves. What’s a way parents might encourage those readers?
Tina: 09:51 Well, I think choice is always a motivator. So, you know, it might be asking them about what they want to read and this is where we may need to reach out to our teachers and teachers are so willing to help. And especially if you have a student who isn’t motivated to read, I would definitely encourage parents to reach out to that teacher to see maybe what kinds of books that child was picking during school and if there would be any way for the parent to find something like that or the teacher may be able to provide some shorter passages of different things. But also to remember that, you know, it might be just a short article or something like that and maybe it’s the parent reading it to the child and just having that discussion to draw that child into that discussion about a motivating topic as well too.
Steve: 10:46 I think you hit an important note there. I know that the teachers are really hard at work to be everything that they can be at this time. And I’m guessing some specific questions coming from parents for something that would be helpful to them can make it easier on the teacher to be reaching out and meeting parents’ needs.
Tina: 11:10 Right, exactly. I think our teachers really want to help and you know, right now they’re trying to figure out what distance learning
and virtual learning looks like. But if parents have specific questions about a child or a struggle that their child is having teachers are more than happy to reach out and give some supports and ideas to parents. And I think with those students too, when you think of those older elementary students, just the writing as well too. And if you can find a purposeful way for them to write, and it might even be for them if they’ve got younger siblings in the home, maybe they want to write a play for their younger siblings, just engaging them in that reading or writing process somehow.
Steve: 11:59 The last thought that was in my mind there is, I’ve often heard people talk about the importance of modeling reading as a enjoyment, as well as empowering. And I’m thinking this is a chance that parents might have to do that, that we normally don’t have. Normally trying to make a baseball practice and cheerleader practice and and four H club all happen after we got home from school, kinda robs that time. But maybe there is a time here for a family of everybody reading at the same time.
Tina: 12:37 Exactly. And even family activities like cooking, you know, again, reading doesn’t always have to be sitting down and reading a chapter book. It might be a recipe and engaging the child in reading that recipe and cooking and talking about it. And again, broadening our view of literacy and, you know, talking about things going on in the world and those pieces and having that conversation are important as well too.
Steve: 13:07 Well, Tina, thank you very much. And I’m sure parents will appreciate listening through here and finding at least one thing that
they can build into their repertoire.
Tina: 13:18 Yes, exactly. And I think like you said, just reading, writing and talking, those are all things that are going to help continue that literacy development for children of all ages.
Steve: 13:32 Yeah, and you’re triggering for me, listening. Because the child is more likely to do it if somebody has got the time to listen and they know it’s being listened to.
Tina: 13:43 Exactly.
Steve: 13:44 Take care. Thank you.
Tina: 13:46 Thanks, Steve!
Steve [Outro]: 13:48 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.