Monthly Archives: December 2009

>Spelling Skills

>Grade 5: A Spelling Program That Works: Spelling Through Morphographs

OK … so I am the very first to admit that when this spelling program came across my desk I hated the look of it … well, I hated the idea of it.
It’s totally, utterly & completely teacher directed, dry, came with workbooks and a script (that you weren’t allowed to deviate from) etc., etc.

But what the heck … it’s my job & it was handed to me by someone I trust in completely(!), and so …. I gave it a shot …

& guess what happened? Yup, that’s right! I found that I loved it! More importantly, my students did too!

It’s still pretty dry (it helps if you can be a little silly during the delivery) but the kids love it. They love it because they feel successful …. because it works!

So here is the deal (it’s called “Spelling Through Morphographs”.) &
here’s the drill:

1) All words are made up of morphographs.
2) A morphograph is the smallest part of a word that has meaning.
3) Morphographs are base words, prefixes and suffixes.
4) All morphographs have meaning.

Throughout the program students are taught to spell morphographs and the rules for combining them.
Students use these rules and strategies to spell thousands of words!

To spell “repacking”:
– You know that “re-” means “again”
– You know that “-ing” means when you are doing something
– Therefore “repacking” is the act of packing again (and that’s how you spell it).

To spell “misspelling”:
– You know that “mis-” means “wrong”
– You know that “-ing” means when you are doing something
– Therefore “Misspelling” is the act of spelling a word wrong (and that’s how you spell it).

Four a more complete outline check out the following site.

Anyway, you get the idea.

My Grade 5 boys also take the rules/skills they learn in this program and apply them to their reading; to decode words and figure out word meanings.

(As an aside: When reading it can be really hard to sound out words by breaking them into syllables if you can’t read the words. When my boys are really stumped I will sometimes tell them to break the words down into morphographs.)

Like any appropriate classroom approach this isn’t the only spelling instruction we’re engaged in. I use personal dictionaries, a word study approach, a multi-sensory teaching approach, phonics, games, etc.

I do however present a morphographs lesson 4 out of 5 days a week on average.

It’s just that good!
Who knew!!!!!

>My’hood … Come on over to play!!!

>My’hood …
I love where I “rest my hat” …

I have cut & copied the intro. from the site above … read & then explore the site! There’s a ton to see and do!

“As one of Toronto’s most dynamic and progressive neighbourhoods, the West Queen West Art + Design District is an eclectic cultural Mecca boasting over 300 of the city’s most creative businesses and attractions including art galleries, designers, unique clothing and furniture stores, restaurants, nightlife spots and boutique hotels. Located on the 2 kilometer strip of Queen Street that runs between Bathurst Street and Gladstone Avenue, West Queen West is a hub of activity from morning till night and is the destination of choice for creative Torontonians and tourists of all ages and backgrounds.”


>Math Skills Development: Dyscalculia

>Math Skills Development & Dyscalculia

Ok, so we are all at least somewhat familiar with the concept of dislexia … & now (to be fair to our children!) let’s explore the concept of dyscalculia.

Step I: Let’s consider two general questions:
1. Does you child experience “math anxiety” and frustration?
2. Is he a happy, bright child, and yet no matter how hard he works on a math concept(s) he just doesn’t seem “get it”, grasp it, be able to apply it?

If you have answered “Yes” to the above then your child may have “dyscalculia”.

Discalaula is defined as, “a broad term for severe difficulties in math. It includes all types of math problems ranging from inability to understand the meaning of numbers to inability to apply math principles to solve problems. Dyscalculia is one type of learning disability that can be served in special education programs.” from:

Step II:
Review the checklist
below … Does any of what follows apply to your child and his “Math Experience”?

(A) Does he experience difficulty:
… understanding our base ten number system
… with number concepts
… following directions, sequencing, organization
… recognizing & extending patterns
… counting
… remembering number facts
… with mental math (e.g. working it out in his head)
… processing information / speed
… estimating (& he has been exposed to estimating strategies)
… with sequential memory
… explaining math concepts; how he arrived at an answer
… time & measurement

(B) Does he often:
… transpose/reverse numbers
… confuse number signs (e.g. + – x /)
… confuse: plus, minus, add, take away, altogether, in total, find the difference, add on, borrow, etc..

(C) Does he experience:
… math anxiety
… frustration

Step III: Where do you go from here?
… talk to your child.
… talk to your child’s teacher.
… be clear about his strengths and needs – build on strengths and address needs.
… find additional support for your child
refer to the articles below.
(Have a read, & let me know what you think!)

All the best,

Building Success in Reading & The Matthew Effect

Success in Reading

Simply put: Reading is a gift. … & to love to read is even better 😉

Parents often ask why some children are better readers than others … and of course to this there is no simple answer.

Recently, however a colleague came to me with the following article about something called “The Matthew Effect” (

“The “Matthew Effect” is a term coined by Keith Stanovich, a psychologist who has done extensive research on reading and language disabilities. The “Matthew Effect” refers to the idea that in reading (as in other areas of life), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” (source:

Simply put, this theory states that children who are successful in reading (acquiring skills) early on often move steadily ahead, while those who struggle fall further and further behind. Children who are successful enjoy reading more. They read more, practice more, learn more, love it more. Those who struggle, dislike the experience more and more, and end up reading less and less. These children fall further and further behind.

Ok, so now what? What if your child is not enjoying or achieving the success in reading that you would like to see? Where do you go from here?

Well, here are just a few steps along the road to encouraging successful, life-long readers:

1. Read to/with your child all the time: at home, in the car, at the grocery store, etc.
2. Sing songs, read poems … expose her the the rhythm and rhyme of language.
3. Be a role model! Read! Read! Read!
4. Write little, lovely notes for your child to read. Leave them everywhere: Under his pillow, in his drawer, under his shoe or in his lunchbox.
5. What are your child’s interests? Once you know this, provide lots of reading materials base on this theme(s) e.g. books, magazines, comics, posters, etc. Whatever gets him looking at, and engaged in print.
6. Engage in activities that require reading together, e.g. games, cooking, reading maps, following the directions for a model, etc.
7. Buy your child a subscription to her favourite magazine.
8. Keep the lines of communication pen between you and your child’s teacher.
9. Early (sensible) diagnostic assessment.
10. Whenever and whenever possible: Individualized instruction. Know your child’s strengths and needs.
11. Have fun reading and let it show!!! Laugh, learn new things, be amazed!

Reading is a gift.

Read all about “The Matthew Effect”:

>Books My Grade 5 Boys Love Right NOW!

>What my students LOVE reading (right now!):

1. DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, by Jeff Kinney

2.Guinness Book of World Records

3.THE IRON MAN: A Children’s Story In Five nights by Ted Hughes

4.THE BONE SERIES by Jeff Smith
sites: ;

5. Graphic Novels
e.g. The Cartoon History of the Universe II (Gonick, 1994)




>Communication is the Key!

>Communication is key! I can’t stress enough my belief in “The Importance of Home and School Working Together”. We need to do this to ensure that the needs of all children are met …

Let’s work together – learn from one another … I mean, no one knows a child better than you, the parent ….

… Having said that: You see the behaviour at home and I see the behaviour in the classroom … sometimes they match … and sometimes they don’t … I look forward to meeting you somewhere in the middle! See you there!!!!!

>How to Build Confidence in Your Child

>How to Build Confidence in Your Child

So here’s a common question asked during parent/teacher interviews:

“How can I build my child’s confidence?”

What a great question. I mean who doesn’t want a happy, healthy, confident child?!???!?! …. it seems to me that confidence is 3/4 of any “battle”.

Anyway, I was thinking about all of the things that I have told parents over the years… and guess what? It’s all just common sense … nothing that those very same parents could and would not have told me themselves had the tables been turned … which, when you think about it, makes good sense.

(Aside: Common sense is probably another one of those terribly underrated concepts ….)

So, once I started to compile the list below I couldn’t seem to stop … YEESH!!! Good thing it’s cocktail hour in my home! Time to relax with friends and a Candy Cane Martini (P.’s fab recipe!). (Hey! Teachers party too! …. or didn’t you know??? tee-hee …)

P.S. I just re-read this post … & PHEW …. I’m exhausted ... this is an awful lot to tackle! Really … read, enjoy, agree, disagree, consider the


Love them.
Praise them.
Encourage independence.
Encourage a strong, “contained” sense of self-worth & confidence.
Get to know them: Their friends, games, music, TV shows … who they are, what they do, what they love …
Set the stage for a great life … Be firm, be realistic & then : Laugh. Smile. Play.

Provide structure. Set boundaries.
Be consistent.
Keep promises.
Discuss your values, set your rules – state/explain your expectations – review them often.
Provide rewards & consequences when necessary.
Be yourself.
Be a role model for your child.

Teach independence.
Teach responsibility.
Teach “stick with-ed-ness” e.g. When first you don’t succeed that’s OK, just try, try again.”
Teach self-control.
Teach right from wrong.
Teach respect (personal & for others).
Teach problem-solving skills and decision-making skills.
Teach and model good conversations skills and active listening skills.
Teach them (& this is an important one!) that there are things in life that they have control over and can change, and there are those things that they
simply must accept. (This can be a tough pill to swallow … goodness knows I need to review this one myself every once in a while!!!)

… opportunities to see new things, meet new people, try new foods, etc.
… a safe, secure environment (emotionally, physically … you know the drill 😉
… opportunities to take risks.
… opportunities to learn new skills.
… opportunities to practice new skills.
… push a little when appropriate … be never too much.
… opportunities for success.
… opportunities to learn from mistakes … and to be OK with that.
… choices for your child – but never too many. Always remember that you are “the boss”.

Be warm. Be firm. Be silly.
Be serious. Be honest. Be realistic.
Be empathetic. Be patient.
Be an explorer.
Live, laugh, love, learn ….
Be yourself!
They are great, and so are you!