Tag Archives: reading

Reading Help

So I had a bit of a breakthrough with my 1st grader. I notice when I review vocabulary words with him, if the word is a longer word like cardinal, he just guesses the word if he doesn’t immediately recognize it.  But if I say to him “come on, you know what c-a-r-d-i-n-a-l spells, he would almost immediately recognize the word. So I got him in the habit of saying each letter when he doesn’t know a word and it seems to really help. When I went through a list of 25 words with him initially, he got 18 of 25. When we went over it a 2nd time, and I had him say each letter, he got 24 out of 25.

I’ve tried to give Max little routines for math, spelling and writing. Try to get him in the habit of doing things the same way each time. This is a challenge, because he seems to do it when I am looking over his shoulder, but as soon as I step away, or when he does work in school, he seems to do what comes easiest instead of the “routine” I tried to teach him. I’m sure if I keep stressing it, it will become part of his routine.

I guess we will see how he does on the next couple of tests and on the worksheets he does in class. Sometimes, you have to think outside of the box a bit, and listen to your child and find what works best for them. Teachers generally have one way of teaching things, and that doesn’t always work for everyone. And teachers are so swamped and overextended, that it’s really up to us as parents to work one on one with our kids.

His teacher this year doesn’t really communicate with the parents very well. So I’ve taken the initiative and e-mail her on a regular basis so I can be more aware of the things Max should be doing.

His last report card was really good, but things seem to be getting more difficult in the 3rd grading period. So I want to make sure we stay on top of things. Luckily math comes really easy for Max, and we don’t have to go over math very much, but the writing and reading definitely requires additional work at home.

1st Grade

1st grade

Max finishes his 3rd week of 1st grade today. The year started off pretty crazy. Two of the four kindergarten teachers left. Luckily Max was assigned to one of the classes with a teacher who has been at the school for several years.  Apparently one of the teachers decided to leave a few days before classes started, so it was pretty chaotic for the kids that were supposed to be in her class. However our initial impressions of her are not good. She isn’t really good at communicating what is being taught. Each class has a webpage, and checking the other 1st grade pages, there is a lot of detailed information. Lists of words they are learning, a daily schedule of what subjects will be covered, and things of that nature. When we checked Max’s class page, there was none of that. Just a list of the “encore” classes that are scheduled each day (art, music, gym, library and computer lab).


Last night when I was putting Max to bed, he asked me to read a book he got from the school library. It’s a book titled “Hooray for Fly Guy”. Fly Guy is one of Max’s favorite book series. Well a funny thing happened. As I opened the book, Max started reading. In the past he had read a few words on the page, but tonight he read the entire first page. So I pointed to each word on page 2, and he read those too. I turned the page, and he read the next two pages, and the next two. All I did was move my finger from word to word. Before I knew it, he had completed the first chapter (about 10 pages). I was so excited and amazed.

He struggled with a few words. Last year, he would get frustrated and just start guessing the word. Last night he actually sounded out the words. He didn’t get everyone right, but he got most of them right, which very encouraging. And text was a little more varied then some of the other stuff he has read before. He was never able or willing to read a whole chapter on his own.

So maybe this new teacher isn’t so bad. We have back to school night coming up in a few weeks, so we will finally get to meet with her. The first month of school is usually used to assess each student so they know which areas to work on with them. So perhaps she will start doing more regimented work starting in October.

After Max was asleep, I remembered that his book order form for Scholastic was due. I ordered him a few more books around the same reading level. Hopefully with some new reading material, he will be encouraged to read more. After reading him books for the past 6 years, it was nice having him read one back to me.

With fall baseball in full swing, and many nights after school spent outside ride bikes, scooters and playing with his friends, Max is a tired little boy. He used to wake up before 7AM most days. This past week, I had to wake him once at 8AM so he wouldn’t be late for school. The rest of the week he didn’t wake up before 7:45. Max had a baseball game last night and all the kids looked like they were a bit drained and tired. They didn’t have that usual pep in their step. Hopefully sleeping in till after 8AM this weekend is in his plans. He definitely needs it.
Even when he is super tired, he fights it. It’s especially hard now since he knows how to tell time. Before, we could tell him it was bedtime, and he wouldn’t argue. Now if we tell him it’s time for bed, and it’s not exactly 8:30, he squawks hehe. Time to start messing with the clocks in the house :-).

Six Year Check Up

Even though Max’s 6th birthday was back in November, we finally got around to getting him into the pediatrician for his 6 year checkup. Between his birthday falling right around Thanksgiving, then running around for Christmas, and the crazy winter we’ve had, it was hard to find the time. Luckily he is healthy and there was nothing urgent that we had to get checked.

Up to this point, Max has always seen female doctors. Lately Max has gotten shy about taking his shirt off in front of strangers, especially women, so we switched him over to a male doctor. The new doctor seemed very nice.

After all the usual stuff, like checking his BP, height, weight, lungs and heart, we asked the doctor about the dry spots around Max’s eyes. He tends to get this scaly white patches around his eyelids and under his eyes. The dryness comes around during the winter months, and seems to go away once summer rolls around. We had asked his old doctor about it, and she said not to worry unless the spots became red and inflamed. She said it was just a mild case of eczema. I suffer from that and so does my oldest sister, so not a surprise. Seemed to be a little worse than usual this year. Never got to the point where it was red and inflamed, but I think because it was so cold and we spent a lot more time indoors in the dry heated air, we noticed it more. Dr looked and said not to worry. Recommended using a baby toothbrush to brush the scaliness away before Max went in the shower, then apply cream (we use Eucerin) right after he gets out. Did that last night and holy crap, it worked. He woke up this morning and his eyes looked pretty good. Not completely scale free, but much better than it’s been all winter. Will continue to do that before his showers and Im sure it will clear up.

We were surprised to hear that based on his growth pattern, they estimate Max will be between 5 foot 9 and 5 foot 10 by the time he is 16. With Rachel and I both being so short, it came as a pleasant surprise. Rachel’s Dad and oldest brother are around 5 foot 10, and her youngest brother is about 6 feet tall; and Max’s grandfather on Rachel’s Mom’s side of the family was quite tall at around 6 foot 4. So luckily he seemed to have gotten some of that height from Rachel’s side of the family. While being short isn’t the worst thing in the world, being average height sure makes things easier. Lets hope Max’a also inherited the hair gene from Rachel’s side of the family. Rachel’s dad is in his 60’s and has a beautiful thick head of hair, and Rachel’s brothers both have nice heads of hair. Anyway, the height is just an estimate based on the percentile he has fallen in since he was born. It could skew either way by a couple of inches. Either way, he should be taller than his Mom and Dad.

Max weighed in at 50 pounds, and was 47 inches tall. 64th percentile for weight and 46th percentile for height. Luckily he was up to date on all his vaccinations, so no shots were needed; and no blood needed to be drawn like last year when he went in for his Kindergarten physical.

Max had an ear infection back in January, and it cleared up, but he complained from time to time that his one ear hurt. He’s getting his 6 year molars, so I kind of thought it could be related to that. So we asked the doctor to take a look, and turns out he had a wax impaction in both ears. Doctor sent the nurse in, and they used a spray bottle with a special nozzle on it to loosen up the wax. And sure enough, after a few sprays, the little ball of wax came rolling out. Doctor told us to occasionally use a mixture of peroxide and water and to place a few drops in his ears before he takes a shower, and that combined with the warm steam of the shower should loosen the wax up and prevent another impaction.

Max also received his report card on Tuesday. Hard to believe the school year is 3/4 of the way through. Max did pretty well. He continues to be really strong in math, and his teacher said he has made nice improvements with his reading and writing. We’ve noticed it at home as well. Used to take him 10 minutes to make it through a 10 page book. Now he reads each page in about 10-15 seconds. It’s becoming much more fluid. Same with his writing. Occasionally he still mixes up his lower case b’s and d’s, but the size of his letters is much more consistent now, and he is able to write his letters much more neatly and quickly.

I was concerned about his reading and writing back in January. A few of the kids in his class were already reading at a 2nd grade level, so we felt like Max was way behind. When we were waiting outside the classroom for our parent teacher conference, one of the kids in Max’s class was reading a book while we all waited and he breezed through it like it was nothing. He just happens to be a very skilled reader. But at the time, we were freaked out that Max was way behind, because at that point he only knew maybe 2 dozen sight words. But since January, things have really started to “click” and his reading and writing have improved a lot. Conversely we noticed that some kids are still not familiar with all the letters of alphabet, some had trouble counting, and others were still having trouble with some of the fine motor skills exercises.

There were 6 things listed on the report card that they were required to master by the end of the school year. Max mastered all 6, so we were very pleased. Now he just has his state standards test to take in May, and the school year will start to wind down.

Max’s school was chosen as a school of excellence in the state, and one of the 1st grade teachers was teacher of the year in the county. We are posturing to get Max in her class next year, but I’m sure all the other parents are trying to do the same. There is another young teacher who uses a lot of technology in her teachings, so she would be a good match for Max as well. Max loves when they get to go to the computer lab, so I think either teacher would be a good fit.

Handwriting Progress

I’m amazed that after about 30 days of Kindergarden, Max is so much more willing to practice writing and seems to enjoy drawing and coloring a lot more. I always loved coloring and drawing as a kid. I was never great at drawing, but seeing my dad paint and create works of art using charcoal pencils, always gave me incentive to try. Sadly Max was never big on coloring or drawing. My niece Samantha loved to color when she was a kid, and I loved coloring with her. My sister always buys coloring books for Max, and sadly after coloring for a minute or two, he usually gets bored and puts the book and crayons away.

This seems to have changed dramatically the past few weeks since he started school. He sits at his little desk and practices writing his letters and drawing pictures. To encourage him to keep doing this, I bought him a new box of crayons, markers, colored pencils, construction paper and a writing note pad. He would get frustrated that his pencils, crayons and markers were in separate boxes, so I bought a plastic bin and just dumped all his new crayons, pencils and markers in there. This way he just opens one little bin and has access to all he needs.

I talked to my sister a few weeks back and told her how frustrated I was with getting Max to practice writing his letters. She said her youngest was the same way, and that after she was in school a while, her handwriting improved a lot and she was more interested in practicing. She was spot on. The same seems to have happened with Max.

This past weekends weather was gross, it rained just about the entire time, so we spent a lot of time inside. I read in a magazine that kids often enjoy writing their names in the dirt or in sand. I remember digging and writing with a stick in the dirt in front of my parents house when I was a kid. So on Saturday, after Max had been coloring for a while, I got out a cookie sheet, sprinkled some sugar in it and drew his name in it. He was instantly drawn to it, and started drawing little pictures and started spelling out short words he knew. Kept him occupied for well over an hour. I went upstairs to shower and came back down and was amazed to find him and Rachel still at the kitchen table playing in the sugar. The neatest part is, if you make a mistake, all you have to do is give a little shake and the sugar settles and you have a fresh workspace.


And one final note, Max’s teacher sent home his interim report last week. Max got all CD’s which stands for consistently demonstrates. And his teacher noted that he was making friends, and he was very helpful to them and was good at working by himself when they were doing one on one time with individual students. Rachel and I were both very pleased. His classroom is divided into different activity centers. There is one for math,  reading, writing, science and one for art. Max seems to like exploring the activities they have each day at the different tables. Seems like a very effective way of keeping kids engaged. So glad he likes it at his new school.


So last Thursday night was back to school night at Max’s new school. Max has been talking about playing with a girl named Emily, and two boys named Christian and Eddie. I remembered Christian and Eddie from orientation, but didn’t remember there being a girl named Emily. So Rachel and I both wondered if Max had made up an imaginary friend to help him adjust to the new school.

So when we went to back to school night, I was anxious to meet Emily and her parents. When we arrived, Max ran up to his friend Ryan who sits next to him. I said hi to Ryan’s dad and he seemed like a nice guy. He asked how Max liked school and I asked how Ryan was adjusting. On the day of orientation, Ryan’s Mom mentioned that Ryan was really shy. We mentioned that Max could be shy sometimes too, but he was friendly when he got to know you. Ryan and Max seemed to get a long well, and talked as we walked into the building.

We made our way down the hall to Max’s classroom. I began scanning the room, and didn’t see anyone who matched Emily’s description, so I asked Max if Emily was here. He looked around and said he didn’t see her either. Hmmmm, ok. Then Max walked me around the classroom to show me some of the things he had been working on. We came across a photo of his class, and Max said “hey look there’s Emily!”. Ahhh finally, a face to go with the name. She was real!

The rest of the evening went well. It was a little overwhelming. They threw a lot of facts, names and acronyms at us. I tried not to freak out, and took solace in knowing that Max seems to be able to do the homework he is given without much trouble. So I guess he is keeping up. One of the things that scared me a bit was when the teacher mentioned sight words. I thought they would work on those later on in the school year, but from what his teacher said, they were already learning about them.

When we got home, I wrote down a few sight words from the list that was given to us, down on a piece of paper, and asked Max is he recognized any of them. He scanned the page and started pointing and was able to identify, up, me, on, off, down, in, out, he and she. I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been reading about sights words and found some good recourses online for different tricks and tips on getting the words to “click”.

One of the exercises uses both site and touch, which is supposed to be more effective since it engages two senses. You print out a sheet with sight words on them, and then you put plastic letters on the table and you tell your child to spell the word using the plastic letters. We only had upper case magnetic numbers, so I went on Amazon and sure enough they had lower case letters. Those should be in today, so I look forward to trying that out. Here is a link to some of the sight word templates that can be used for this activity http://blog.maketaketeach.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/5-Building-Sight-Words-Templates.pdf

We’ve also been trying to read easy reader books to him each night before bed. Books that have short sentences and repeat a lot of the same words over and over. I also found some cool apps for the iPad that he seems to find interesting. It seems like they continue to use sight words into the 1st and 2nd grade, so it’s an important concept to master.

It’s been fascinating watching all the building blocks that are being put into place each week to prepare Max and his classmates to learn more complex subjects. I like the methodical approach and so far, Max seems to be adapting to it as well.