Feb 022013

by Esther Jantzen, guest poster

Think-aloud is a simple yet powerful activity you can do while reading a book to a child. It is just stopping occasionally to tell thoughts and feelings about what you read, or to ask about the child’s reactions.

It is good for children to hear adults do this because it shows them that talking about stories helps to understand them, and that it is fun to interact with a book. But don’t stop so often that it destroys the flow of the story!

Here are some ways to do this:

1) When you are reading a story aloud and come to a part that reminds you of an experience, stop and briefly share about it. Make a connection between what happened to you and what happened in the book. 

2) When you are reading a story and come to a part that puzzles you, stop and ask questions like, “I wonder why that character just did that?” or “Wow, I’d better read it again. It doesn’t make sense to me!” or “What do you think that’s about?”

3) When you notice a story reminds you of another book, stop and say something such as, “Oh, this is like another story we read. Here’s another character who wants to have a big adventure! I sure wonder whether he’s going to get caught in a bind somewhere.”

Before you go back to reading aloud, see if your child wants to say something. Listen and encourage your child to talk about what you have read together. When grown-ups share their thoughts and reactions to a story, children learn to do that, too. It is a good way to encourage understanding. 


Esther Jantzen, Ed.D, is a mother, an educator and the author of Plus It! How to Easily Turn Everyday Activities into Learning Adventures for Kids and the Way to Go! Family Learning Journal, both available through www.jantzenbooks.com

Feb 012013

By Esther Jantzen, guest poster 

A great thing to teach children is how to get something done. Often kids want to accomplish something, but they don’t know how to start or where to get supplies or what to do next. Yet reaching a goal is a satisfying adventure! The first step is to imagine it completed just the way you want it to be in your mind. Once you clearly know what you want, it’s easier to take the next action steps.

Here are steps to teach your children:

 1) Ask your children to tell you about something they really want. It could be a small or large goal, a skill they want to develop, an interest they want to expand, or something they want to own. For example, a child may want to build a tree house, be on a sports team, make a birthday card, have a special costume for Halloween, learn to ride a bike, dig a hole to China in the backyard, become a bird-watcher, own a pet, etc.

2) Ask your children, ‘What could that look like and feel like?” Let them pretend seeing it in their mind’s eye. Ask appropriate questions: Does it have a color? How big is it? How do you feel when you imagine having it? How would you use it? Would you share it with anybody? Would you need a place for it? What would happen if you had it or could do it? (It’s possible they may start by telling you what their goal is NOT like. That’s fine, as it may be part of the process of getting things clear.) Let them enjoy their imaginations, for the human imagination is creative, powerful, and useful.

3) Next, invite your children to talk about all the things or experiences they would need to reach this goal. Write down these ideas or steps on a sheet of paper.

4) Then ask your children, “What’s the very first thing you need to do to achieve this?” Guide them to identify one single next step. It might be getting a phone number, asking for help, gathering supplies, making space in a room, or starting to save money. Help them take that first step. And then identify the next one… and the one after that….

5) Support your children over time to stick with their goals by consistently encouraging them to take the next action step. Assisting kids to create a plan to go for what they want is a hugely valuable gift! 

Reach for the Goal! supports the English-Language Arts Content Standards related to organizing information and sequencing ideas.

Esther Jantzen, Ed.D, is a mother, an educator and the author of Plus It! How to Easily Turn Everyday Activities into Learning Adventures for Kids available at www.plusitbook.com and the Way to Go! Family Learning Journal available through www.jantzenbooks.com

Feb 012013
School desk

(School desk Photo credit: net_efekt)


Here’s something from my inbox.  A friend sent it.  I have not tracked down the original source… mostly because I really do not want to believe that it is true.  I haven’t been able to throw it away.  There’s part of me that’s not surprised – after all,  some Moms will do anything for their kids!

A young teen gets into enough trouble at school to earn a detention.  When Mom learns about it, she offers to serve her child’s detention as she feels that this would be less damaging to her child than it would be for the child to miss any after school activities.

OK, aside from undermining the school’s disciplinary structure, what is wrong with this picture?

I believe that this Mom has absolutely the best of intentions on behalf of her child.  Clearly, she wants her child to have a variety of enriching extra-curricular experiences.  Unfortunately, Mom may be teaching some lessons that nobody should be learning:

  • Rules do not apply to me, but….
  • If I DO get in trouble, someone else will pay the price.
  • Dessert (extra curricular) is more valuable than dinner.

No parent wants a child to suffer, but it is still hard for me to understand the rationale behind this type of decision.  The sad thing is that lots of parents don’t stop and ask which hurts more – missing some afterschool activities or failing to learn that actions have consequences?  Perhaps even worse, teaching our kids to expect that they live in an impenetrable bubble where nothing ‘bad’ or ‘sad’ will ever touch hem.  Which is more damaging?  You tell me.



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