Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Best Summer Practice Advice

I am frequently asked for "summer packets" or ideas on how to keep your child's brain working during the summer. So here is my professional prescription for the school vacation:

1) Read. Of course the obvious, take them to the library or the book store and keep them reading each and every day for at least 20 minutes at or above their reading level. Don't know what level a book is? -- ask the librarian. Don't know which book? -- type in "NY Times Best Seller List" into your search engine and click on "Children's Books." They break it down into the nation's best-selling picture books, chapter books, paperback books, and series for kids. Is your child a picky reader? If there is a book that you or your child really enjoyed (for me it's the book Holes) type it into Amazon.com and look at "Customers who bought this book also bought" (which is usually listed below) to see a list with reviews of other books similar to your favorite book.

2) Write & Type. Have your child keep a journal. I recommend blogs as the new writing method. A blog is an online journal that anyone can set up. Set your child up on a free blog (I like blogger.com or wordpress.org - you can make them private so that only your child and you can view the entries), and make a daily habit out of it. Not only will this expose them to the web but it also will get them practicing on their typing -- an essential 21st century skill. Here are two links for your kids to learn and practice keyboarding skills.

a) For a free typing web-based (no download required) interactive program and games that run in your we browser
go to:

b) For a free typying software application you can download onto your computer go to:

3) Test.
In Michigan, we take the MEAP test (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) every October which assesses the state standards for the previous year's grade level content expectations. For example, 4th graders take a test on everything they were supposed to master in 3rd grade. Do you know you can get access to these state-wide high stakes tests? On the Michigan Department of Education's website they have the actual MEAP Tests that were administered for the last 8 years for all the grades! Here is how to access them:

1.Go to the google.com search engine and type in "Michigan MEAP Released Items." Next, click on the first result that comes up.
Or if that doesn't work try this:

a) Go to the Michigan Department of Education's website at http://www.mi.gov/mde/
b) Click on "School Assessment and Accountability" on the left margin
c) Click on the "Michigan Educational Assessment Program"
on the left margin
d) Click on "Released Items" on the left margin

2.No matter which method you used above, next click on the "Elementary link" (they also have links for the Middle and High School tests).

3. Now you will see a list of tests by grades and year.
Choose the test you want and click on the link to download the pdf file. When you click on the link, Acrobat or Adobe should download and open the file for you -- most computers already have one of these programs installed.

4. Then you can print the file and give to your child to practice. They are long tests so you can have them do just couple sections a day.

So which tests should you use? If my child just completed the 4th grade this year I would do the Math and Language Arts from 2006 (except for the Reading because the stories are not accessible due to copyright laws). This was the exact test they took this past October that assessed everything they learned from 3rd grade. I would make sure they have mastered it all and if they are still are having trouble I would go back to 2005-1998 versions
for 4th grade for some more practice. Then I would have my child take the 2006 5th grade Math, Language Arts, and Science (5th grade is the first year they take the science test and it is a tough one). This will be very similar to the next test they will be taking this October in 5th grade which assesses everything they learned in 4th grade. Again, if they are having trouble go back through 2005-1998 for some other versions from 5th grade for more practice.

I believe that these are some of the best "insider secrets" for empowering parents with technology to give their children an educational advantage at home. Enjoy, good luck, and have a great summer. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.