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Focused Mini Lessons for Homeschoolers

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Friday, 16 November 2007 08:04

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By Mimi Rothschild

Here’s another brilliant article to add to your collection of homeschool resources.  This article examines mini lessons, how they work, and why they’re so important for your homeschool curriculum.



What Is It?


A mini lesson is a short lesson with a narrow focus that provides instruction in a skill or concept that students will then relate to a larger lesson that will follow. A mini lesson typically precedes reading workshop or writing workshop, but it can serve as an introduction to a social studies, science, or math lesson. Mini lessons can be used to teach particular skills, extend previous learning, create interest in a topic and generate questions, or introduce strategies.


Why Is It Important?


As Lucy Calkins explains in The Art of Teaching Writing, the mini lesson allows a teacher to convey a tip or strategy to students that they will use often (Calkins 1986). Sharing tips and strategies in this way allows students to gain valuable, relevant skills on a regular basis without spending too much time on drill and worksheets that might otherwise be used to teach the same skills. The lessons can focus on any number of topics, including reading, writing, problem-solving strategies and skills, or even classroom procedures. Using authentic student work as a springboard, teacher-created mini lessons can serve the needs of students by focusing on a single topic across multiple instructional levels.


When Should It Be Taught?


The mini lesson serves as a lead-in to a larger lesson in just about any subject area and can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 15 minutes.


What Does It Look Like?


The mini lesson may be taught to a whole class, a selected small group, or individual students. The mini lesson should be short and focused on one strategy, skill, or concept. Teachers introduce the topic; demonstrate the strategy, skill, or concept; guide student practice; discuss the topic; volunteer more examples; and talk about what was taught. At the end of the mini lesson, teachers should give directions for the next activity, the literacy centers, or independent assignments.


How Can You Make It Happen?


A great place to find ideas for mini lessons is right in your own classroom. What are your students struggling with? What errors pop up in their work over and over again? Take those errors and turn them into learning opportunities.


1.       Primary


If students are having trouble with bigger words, the strategy of finding little words in the word might help. Take a sentence that contains a big word, such as sentence in the following example, and write it for students to read.


There were many words in the sentence.


Model what would happen if you came across the word and did not know how to read it. Thinking aloud, try to find a little word in the word you don’t know. Are there any words that you know? Show students that you can find the words sent and ten in the big word. You could take the big word and write each letter on an index card to show students clearly how the little words can be found. Then you might ask, “What things have many words in them?” The answer might be dictionaries, books, paragraphs, sentences, and so forth. Tell students that finding little words within a bigger word might help them read a word they don’t know.


2.       Intermediate


A common problem that intermediate students have is how to use the words there, their, and they’re. Searching through student writing is likely to turn up several cases of correct and incorrect usage of these words. Taking a few sentences from student work to analyze with students allows them to think about the words in an authentic context. These words can also be found in books the students are reading.


You might start a mini lesson on the uses of there, their, and they’re by showing four or five sentences from student work that uses these words. Some teachers put sentences on transparencies and use an overhead projector. You might also use a computer to link to a TV monitor to display sentences from student work. Allow students to try to figure out which sentences are correct. From this discussion, guide students toward describing the correct usage of each word.


Ask students to find a passage or two from books they are reading that contain the words. Students can use these passages to confirm their ideas about the correct usage of words that they came up with in their previous discussion.


As a class, create two correct sentences for each word. Post these sentences on the wall of the classroom so that students will be able to refer to them as they write in the future. This mini lesson might lead into writing workshop.


3.       Middle/High School


Teaching students to elaborate on their ideas can help them better support and clarify their ideas and write more commanding essays and papers. Reflecting on and evaluating ideas is a strategy that students can use both in discussions and writing.


Model how to interact with texts in different ways to show students what it looks like to elaborate on an idea. Think aloud as you model how to clarify, speculate, observe, or argue with texts.


Some prompts students can use when clarifying ideas are:
I think ___ because…
I was surprised by ___
This is the same as ___
Now I see ___
One example of ___ is…


After modeling these strategies using the prompts, have students practice using the strategies by discussing texts with a partner.


How Can You Measure Success?


To measure the success of the mini lesson, look at student work to see if it has been affected by the topics addressed in the mini lessons. For example, a week after a mini lesson on there, their, and they’re, look to see if the words are being used correctly more often. What about a month later?


It may be necessary to do more than one mini lesson on a given topic before improvement is seen throughout the class.

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Think Aloud Strategy for Homeschoolers: Part 2 of 2

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Friday, 9 November 2007 10:31

1 Comment

By Mimi Rothschild

Here’s part two of the “Think Aloud Strategy” article I posted earlier this week. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it and also about your homeschooling experience!


How Can You Stretch Students’ Thinking?

Reflective journals and learning logs are a natural extension of thinking out loud. By jotting down what you say, you can model the journaling process as you model thinking out loud. As students start to keep journals or learning logs, review them on an ongoing basis to monitor the students’ metacognition and use of essential strategies.

When Can You Use It?


The process of thinking out loud can be used in K-12 classes during all phases of the reading process. Before reading you may think out loud to demonstrate accessing prior knowledge or to make predictions about the text. During reading, model reading comprehension using fix-up strategies or examining text structure to maintain meaning. After reading, model using the text to support an opinion, or analyze the text from the author’s point of view.


Thinking out loud can be used to model all phases of the writing process. In pre-writing, model the strategies writers use to get the process started; during the drafting process, model creating “sloppy copies”; during revision, model how to ask questions and think about readers’ needs; and during the editing process, model how to use conventions to help readers understand the message. As students engage in reciprocal think-alouds, they dialogue about their texts. This dialoguing helps students to internalize their sense of audience and fine-tune their craftsmanship as writers.


When teaching a new math process or strategy, think aloud to model its use. Ask students to work with a partner to practice thinking aloud to describe how they use the new process or strategy. Listen to students as they think aloud to assess their understanding.

Social Studies

In classroom discussions of difficult social studies topics, such as capital punishment or affirmative action, ask that students not only give their opinions but explain their reasoning by thinking out loud. Model thinking out loud yourself as you read a difficult text or express your own opinion on a complex issue.


Think-alouds can be used to model the inquiry process in science. During instruction, have students continue the inquiry process using reciprocal think-alouds and then reflect upon the process in their journals or learning logs.

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Think Aloud Strategy: Part 1 of 2

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Wednesday, 7 November 2007 08:08

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By Mimi Rothschild

Below is an excellent article about thinking out loud that will benefit both homeschooling parents and their children.  Learning can happen in a variety of ways.  One way to problem solve or better understand a concept is to think out loud.  Read more below. 

What Is It?

The think-aloud strategy asks students to say out loud what they are thinking about when reading, solving math problems, or simply responding to questions posed by teachers or other students. Effective teachers think out loud on a regular basis to model this process for students. In this way, they demonstrate practical ways of approaching difficult problems while bringing to the surface the complex thinking processes that underlie reading comprehension, mathematical problem solving, and other cognitively demanding tasks.

Thinking out loud is an excellent way to teach how to estimate the number of people in a crowd, revise a paper for a specific audience, predict the outcome of a scientific experiment, use a key to decipher a map, access prior knowledge before reading a new passage, monitor comprehension while reading a difficult textbook, and so on.

Getting students into the habit of thinking out loud enriches classroom discourse and gives teachers an important assessment and diagnostic tool.

Why Is It Important?

By verbalizing their inner speech (silent dialogue) as they think their way through a problem, teachers model how expert thinkers solve problems. As teachers reflect on their learning processes, they discuss with students the problems learners face and how learners try to solve them. As students think out loud with teachers and with one another, they gradually internalize this dialogue; it becomes their inner speech, the means by which they direct their own behaviors and problem-solving processes (Tinzmann et al. 1990). Therefore, as students think out loud, they learn how to learn. They learn to think as authors, mathematicians, anthropologists, economists, historians, scientists, and artists. They develop into reflective, metacognitive, independent learners, an invaluable step in helping students understand that learning requires effort and often is difficult (Tinzmann et al. 1990). It lets students know that they are not alone in having to think their way through the problem-solving process.

Think-alouds are used to model comprehension processes such as making predictions, creating images, linking information in text with prior knowledge, monitoring comprehension, and overcoming problems with word recognition or comprehension (Gunning 1996).

By listening in as students think aloud, teachers can diagnose students’ strengths and weakness. “When teachers use assessment techniques such as observations, conversations and interviews with students, or interactive journals, students are likely to learn through the process of articulating their ideas and answering the teacher’s questions” (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 2000).

How Can You Make It Happen?
Modeling Thinking Out Loud

Asking students to use a strategy to solve complex problems and perform sophisticated tasks is not enough. Each strategy must be used analytically and may require trial-and-error reasoning. Thinking out loud allows teachers to model this complex process for students.

For example, suppose during math class you’d like students to estimate the number of pencils in a school. Introduce the strategy by saying, “The strategy I am going to use today is estimation. We use it to . . . It is useful because . . . When we estimate, we . . .”

Next say, “I am going to think aloud as I estimate the number of pencils in our school. I want you to listen and jot down my ideas and actions.” Then, think aloud as you perform the task.

Your think-aloud might go something like this:

“Hmmmmmm. So, let me start by estimating the number of students in the building. Let’s see. There are 5 grades; first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, plus kindergarten. So, that makes 6 grades because 5 plus 1 equals 6. And there are 2 classes at each grade level, right? So, that makes 12 classes in all because 6 times 2 is 12. Okay, now I have to figure out how many students in all. Well, how many in this class? [Counts.] Fifteen, right? Okay, I’m going to assume that 15 is average. So, if there are 12 classes with 15 students in each class, that makes, let’s see, if it were 10 classes it would be 150 because 10 times 15 is 150. Then 2 more classes would be 2 times 15, and 2 times 15 is 30, so I add 30 to 150 and get 180. So, there are about 180 students in the school. I also have to add 12 to 180 because the school has 12 teachers, and teachers use pencils, too. So that is 192 people with pencils.”

Continue in this way.

When reading aloud, you can stop from time to time and orally complete sentences like these:

  • So far, I’ve learned…

  • This made me think of…

  • That didn’t make sense.

  • I think ___ will happen next.

  • I reread that part because…

  • I was confused by…

  • I think the most important part was…

  • That is interesting because…

  • I wonder why…

  • I just thought of…

Another option is to videotape the part of a lesson that models thinking aloud. Students can watch the tape and figure out what the teacher did and why. Stop the tape periodically to discuss what they notice, what strategies were tried, and why, and whether they worked. As students discuss the process, jot down any important observations.

Once students are familiar with the strategy, include them in a think-aloud process. For example:

Teacher: “For science class, we need to figure out how much snow is going to fall this year. How can we do that?”
Student: “We could estimate.”
Teacher: “That sounds like it might work. How do we start? What do we do next? How do we know if our estimate is close? How do we check it?”

In schools where teachers work collaboratively in grade-level teams or learning communities, teachers can plan and rehearse thinking out loud with a partner before introducing the strategy to students. This is especially useful when the whole school is focusing on the same strategy, such as using learning logs or reflective journals in content area classes or applying fix-up strategies when reading informational and story texts.

Reciprocal Think-Alouds

In reciprocal think-alouds, students are paired with a partner. Student take turns thinking aloud as they read a difficult text, form a hypothesis in science, or compare opposing points of view in social studies. While the first student is thinking aloud, the second student listens and records what the first student says. Then students change roles so that each partner has a chance to think aloud and to observe the process. Next, students reflect on the process together, sharing the things they tried and discussing what worked well for them and what didn’t. As they write about their findings, they can start a mutual learning log that they can refer back to.


After students are comfortable with the think-aloud process, use the strategy as an assessment tool. As students think out loud through a problem-solving process, such as reflecting on the steps used to solve a problem in math, write what they say. This allows you to observe which strategies students use. By analyzing the results, you can pinpoint the individual student’s needs and provide appropriate instruction.

Assign a task, such as solving a specific problem or reading a passage of text. Introduce the task to students by saying, “I want you to think aloud as you complete the task: say everything that is going on in your mind.” As students complete the task, listen carefully and write down what students say. It may be helpful to use a tape recorder. If students forget to think aloud, ask open-ended questions: “What are you thinking now?” and “Why do you think that?”

After the think-alouds, informally interview students to clarify any confusion that might have arisen during the think-aloud. For example, “When you were thinking aloud, you said . . . Can you explain what you meant?”

Lastly, use a rubric as an aid to analyze each student’s think-aloud, and use the results to shape instruction.

For state-mandated tests, determine if students need to think aloud during the actual testing situation. When people are asked to solve difficult problems or to perform difficult tasks, inner speech goes external (Tinzmann et al. 1990). When faced with a problem-solving situation, some students need to think aloud. For these students, if the state testing protocol permits it, arrange for testing situations that allow students to use think-alouds. This will give a more complete picture of what these students can do as independent learners.

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Learning Disabilities for Homeschoolers: Glossary of Terms

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Wednesday, 31 October 2007 07:47

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By Mimi Rothschild

In case your not familiar with the different learning disabilities that educators have identified and defined, below is a comprehensive list of definitions related to learning disabilities that Dr. Jean Lokerson has put together.  I highly recommend that you homeschooling parents become familiar with the terms in this list so you can better recognize if your child has a learning disability and/or how to assist your child with their learning disability.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Techniques and materials that allow individuals with LD to complete school or work tasks with greater ease and effectiveness. Examples include spellcheckers, tape recorders, and expanded time for completing assignments.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY: Equipment that enhances the ability of students and employees to be more efficient and successful. For individuals with LD, computer grammar checkers, an overhead projector used by a teacher, or the audio/visual information delivered through a CD-ROM would be typical examples.

ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER (ADD): A severe difficulty in focusing and maintaining attention. Often leads to learning and behavior problems at home, school, and work. Also called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

BRAIN IMAGING TECHNIQUES: Recently developed, noninvasive techniques for studying the activity of living brains. Includes brain electrical activity mapping (BEAM), computerized axial tomography (CAT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

BRAIN INJURY: The physical damage to brain tissue or structure that occurs before, during, or after birth that is verified by EEG, MRI, CAT, or a similar examination, rather than by observation of performance. When caused by an accident, the damage may be called Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

COLLABORATION: A program model in which the LD teacher demonstrates for or team teaches with the general classroom teacher to help a student with LD be successful in a regular classroom.

DEVELOPMENTAL APHASIA: A severe language disorder that is presumed to be due to brain injury rather than because of a developmental delay in the normal acquisition of language.

DIRECT INSTRUCTION: An instructional approach to academic subjects that emphasizes the use of carefully sequenced steps that include demonstration, modeling, guided practice, and independent application.

DYSCALCULIA: A severe difficulty in understanding and using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.

DYSGRAPHIA: A severe difficulty in producing handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed.

DYSLEXIA: A severe difficulty in understanding or using one or more areas of language, including listening, speaking, reading, writing, and spelling.

DYSNOMIA: A marked difficulty in remembering names or recalling words needed for oral or written language.

DYSPRAXIA: A severe difficulty in performing drawing, writing, buttoning, and other tasks requiring fine motor skill, or in sequencing the necessary movements.

LEARNED HELPLESSNESS: A tendency to be a passive learner who depends on others for decisions and guidance. In individuals with LD, continued struggle and failure can heighten this lack of self-confidence.

LEARNING MODALITIES: Approaches to assessment or instruction stressing the auditory, visual, or tactile avenues for learning that are dependent upon the individual.

LEARNING STRATEGY APPROACHES: Instructional approaches that focus on efficient ways to learn, rather than on curriculum. Includes specific techniques for organizing, actively interacting with material, memorizing, and monitoring any content or subject.

LEARNING STYLES: Approaches to assessment or instruction emphasizing the variations in temperament, attitude, and preferred manner of tackling a task. Typically considered are styles along the active/passive, reflective/impulsive, or verbal/spatial dimensions.

LOCUS OF CONTROL: The tendency to attribute success and difficulties either to internal factors such as effort or to external factors such as chance. Individuals with learning disabilities tend to blame failure on themselves and achievement on luck, leading to frustration and passivity.

METACOGNITIVE LEARNING: Instructional approaches emphasizing awareness of the cognitive processes that facilitate one’s own learning and its application to academic and work assignments. Typical metacognitive techniques include systematic rehearsal of steps or conscious selection among strategies for completing a task.

MINIMAL BRAIN DYSFUNCTION (MBD)  A medical and psychological term originally used to refer to the learning difficulties that seemed to result from identified or presumed damage to the brain. Reflects a medical rather than educational or vocational orientation.

MULTISENSORY LEARNING: An instructional approach that combines auditory, visual, and tactile elements into a learning task. Tracing sandpaper numbers while saying a number fact aloud would be a multisensory learning activity.

NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL EXAMINATION: A series of tasks that allow observation of performance that is presumed to be related to the intactness of brain function.

PERCEPTUAL HANDICAP: Difficulty in accurately processing, organizing, and discriminating among visual, auditory, or tactile information. A person with a perceptual handicap may say that “cap/cup” sound the same or that “b” and “d” look the same. However, glasses or hearing aids do not necessarily indicate a perceptual handicap.

PREREFERRAL PROCESS: A procedure in which special and regular teachers develop trial strategies to help a student showing difficulty in learning remain in the regular classroom.

RESOURCE PROGRAM: A program model in which a student with LD is in a regular classroom for most of each day, but also receives regularly scheduled individual services in a specialized LD resource classroom.

SELF-ADVOCACY: The development of specific skills and understandings that enable children and adults to explain their specific learning disabilities to others and cope positively with the attitudes of peers, parents, teachers, and employers.

SPECIFIC LANGUAGE DISABILITY (SLD): A severe difficulty in some aspect of listening, speaking, reading, writing, or spelling, while skills in the other areas are age-appropriate. Also called Specific Language Learning Disability (SLLD).

SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITY (SLD): The official term used in federal legislation to refer to difficulty in certain areas of learning, rather than in all areas of learning. Synonymous with learning disabilities.

SUBTYPE RESEARCH: A recently developed research method that seeks to identify characteristics that are common to specific groups within the larger population of individuals identified as having learning disabilities.

TRANSITION: Commonly used to refer to the change from secondary school to postsecondary programs, work, and independent living typical of young adults. Also used to describe other periods of major change such as from early childhood to school or from more specialized to mainstreamed settings.

Note: The content of this digest was developed by Dr. Jean Lokerson, DLD President, 1991-92; Associate Professor, LD Program, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

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Children’s Books About Disabilities

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Monday, 29 October 2007 13:42

1 Comment

By Mimi Rothschild

Check out the book list below, it’s specifically geared towards students with disabilities.  I only included part of the list, you can click the links to find more great books!  Let me know what you think and what you discovered.  I’d love to hear some of your recommendations!

This list has been sorted by the books’ readability levels. To find what you want, click on a readability grouping below:

AC = Adult Read to Children. For Pre-K to Grade 3, ranging from 10 to 30 pages, with illustrations; typically designed for parents to read to their children.

JE = Juvenile Easy Reader. For children who are beginning to read on their own, such as those in Grades 1-2; ranging from 30 to 80 pages; illustrations are included to break up the text.

JF = Juvenile Fiction. Children’s fiction or chapter books; for children in Grades 2-6; ranging from 60 to 200 pages, the books are generally divided into chapters, contain fewer illustrations, and have more complicated plots or concepts than either AC or JE books.

YA = Young Adult. For young adults in Grades 5-12; more complicated plots and topics of general interest to the young adult population.

A = Adult. Contains language and/or content that may be unsuitable for young adults.

  • Title: Andy and His Yellow Frisbee
    Author: Mary Thompson
    Publisher: Woodbine House, 6510 Bells Mill Road, Bethesda, MD 20817; 1996
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-933149-83-2
    Disability: Autism
    Story Profile: Sarah is a new girl at school who is curious about why Andy spins his yellow frisbee every day by himself on the playground. When Sara tries to talk to Andy, Rosie, Andy’s older sister, watches and worries about how her brother may react. Rosie knows that Andy is in his own world most of the time, and that he has trouble finding the words to express himself.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: A Picture Book of Helen Keller
    Author: David A. Adler
    Publisher: Holiday House
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-8234-0818-3
    Disability: Deaf-Blind
    Story Profile: Some salient details in the life of Helen Keller are described in this pictorial biography; her frustration and untamed behavior and the radical changes effected by Anne Sullivan Macy.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Armann and Gentle
    Author: Kristin Steinsdottir
    Publisher: Stuttering Foundation of America, PO Box 11749, Memphis, TN 38111-0749; 1997
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-933388-36-5
    Disability: Stuttering
    Story Profile: A six-year-old boy, Armann, stutters when he is frustrated.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: A Very Special Friend
    Author: Dorothy Hoffman Levi
    Publisher: Gallaudet University Press, Kendall Green, 800 Florida Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002-3695; 1989
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-9300323-55-6
    Disability: Deafness
    Story Profile: Frannie, a lonely little girl, discovers a new friend when a deaf girl her age moves in next door.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: A Very Special Sister
    Author: Dorothy Hoffman Levi
    Publisher: Gallaudet University Press, Kendall Green, 800 Florida Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002-3695; 1992
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-930323-96-3
    Disability: Deafness
    Story Profile: Mixed feelings are experienced by Laura, a young deaf girl, upon finding out her mother will soon give birth. Her initial excitement is replaced by worries that the new child, if able to hear, would be more lovable.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Be Good to Eddie Lee
    Author: Virginia FilIing
    Publisher: Philomel Books, Putnam & Grosset Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-399-21993-5
    Disability: Down Syndrome
    Story Profile: Eddie Lee, a young boy with Down syndrome, follows the neighborhood children into the woods to find frog eggs. They are resentful and try to make him stay home.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Big Brother Dustin
    Author: Alden R. Carter
    Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co., 6340 Oakton Street, Morton Grove, IL 60053-2723; 1997
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-8075-0715-6
    Disability: Down Syndrome
    Story Profile: Dustin, a young boy with Down syndrome, learns that his parents are expecting a baby.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Cat’s Got Your Tongue?
    Author: Charles E. Schaefer, Ph.D.
    Publisher: Brunner/Mazel, Publishers, 19 Union Square, New York, NY 10003; 1992
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-945354-45-2 hard copy; ISBN-0-945354-46-0 paperback
    Disability: Communication Disorders, Mutism
    Story Profile: Anna, a kindergartner, is diagnosed as an electively mute child.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Eukee: The Jumpy Jumpy Elephant
    Author: Clifford L. Corman and Esther Trevino
    Publisher: Specialty Press; 1995
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-921629-8-1
    Disability: Attention Deficit Disorder
    Story Profile: Eukee is a smart little elephant who likes to chase butterflies,
    blow bubbles, and do cartwheels. He always feels jumpy inside, however, and can never finish the march at school. Unhappy that he doesn’t have any friends, he consents to a visit to the doctor where he learns he has ADD.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Clover’s Secret
    Author: Christine M. Winn and David Walsh, Ph.D.
    Publisher: Fairview Press, 2450 Riverside Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55454; 1996
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-925190-89-6
    Disability: Child Abuse
    Story Profile: Clove attempts to hide family violence. She feels much better when she confides in her teacher and the family receives help.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Danny and the Merry-Go-Round
    Author: Nan Holcomb
    Publisher: Jason and Nordic, Publishers, PO Box 441, Hollidaysburg, PA 16648; 1987
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-944727-00-X
    Disability: Cerebral Palsy
    Story Profile: Danny, who has cerebral palsy, visits the park with his mother and watches other children playing on a playground. He makes friends with a young girl after his mother explains cerebral palsy to her and points out that it is not contagious.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Happy Birthday Jason
    Author: C. Jean Cutbill and Diane Rawsthorn
    Publisher: IPI Publishing Ltd., 50 Prince Arthur Avenue, Suite 306, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1B5 Canada; 1984
    ISBN #: 0-920702-37-6
    Disability: Reading Disability, Dyslexia
    Story Profile: A delightful story that will help children better understand their world by understanding Jason’s. His story reveals that children with learning disabilities are more similar to other children than they are different.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Having a Brother Like David
    Author: Cindy Dolby Nollette and Others
    Publisher: Minneapolis Children’s Medical Center, Early Childhood Center,
    2520 Minnehaha Ave., South, Minneapolis, MN 55404; 1985
    ISBN #: N/A
    Disability: Autism
    Story Profile: Marty’s brother, David, is autistic. Marty explains that David looks a lot like other children but has special needs.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Ian’s Walk: A Story About Autism
    Author: Laurie Lears
    Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company, 6340 Oakton St.,
    Morton Grove, IL 60053-2723; 1998
    ISBN #: 0-8075-3480-3
    Disability: Autism
    Story Profile: Tara feels frustrated while taking a walk with her autistic brother, Ian. After she becomes separated from him, she learns to appreciate the way Ian experiences the world.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title:Keith Edward’s Different Days
    Author: Karen Melberg Schwier
    Publisher: Impact Publishers
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-915166-74-7
    Disability: Down Syndrome; Physical Disabilities
    Story Profile: Keith meets a variety of people with differences, including Down syndrome and physical differences, and learns that being different is okay.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Knots on a Counting Rope
    Author: Bill Martin and John Archambault
    Publisher: Henry Holt
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-8050-0571-4
    Disability: Blindness
    Story Profile: A boy is told a story by his grandfather of a boy born blind.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Lee: The Rabbit with Epilepsy
    Author: Deborah M. Moss
    Publisher: Woodbine House, 5615 Fisher’s Lane, Rockville, MD 20852; 1989
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-933149-32-8
    Disability: Epilepsy
    Story Profile: Lee is a young rabbit who experiences occasional
    blackouts and trances. After Dr. Bob, the wise owl, administers a series
    of neurological tests, Lee is told she has epilepsy.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Leo the Late Bloomer
    Author: Robert Kraus
    Publisher: Harper Collins, 1971
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-87807-042-7
    Disability: Developmental Delays
    Story Profile: Leo is a tiger cub who just can’t keep up with what the other animals are doing. He can’t read, write, or speak, and he is a sloppy eater; he’s a late bloomer.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Luke Has Asthma, Too
    Author: Alison Rogers
    Publisher: Waterfront Books, 98 Brookes Ave., Burlington, VT 05401; 1987
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-914525-06-9
    Disability: Asthma
    Story Profile: Luke has an older cousin who teaches him some aspects of asthma management and serves as a general role model.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: My Brother, Matthew
    Author: Mary Thompson
    Publisher: Woodbine House, 5615 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852; 1992
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-993149-47-6
    Disability: Mental Retardation
    Story Profile: David is a young boy who describes life with his younger
    brother who was born with a mental disability.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: My Mom Is Handicapped: A “Grownup” Children’s Book
    Author: Barbara Turner Brabham
    Publisher: Cornerstone Publishing, PO Box 2896, Virginia Beach, VA 23450; 1994
    ISBN #: ISBN-1-882185-22-6
    Disability: Physical Disabilities
    Story Profile: A six-year-old boy describes life with his mother, a teacher with physical disabilities.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Otto Learns About His Medicine: A Story About Medication for Hyperactive Children
    Author: Matthew Galvin
    Publisher: Magination Press/Brunner Mazel, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003; 1995
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-945354-04-5 hard copy; ISBN-0-945354-03-7
    Disability: Hyperactivity
    Story Profile: Otto, a fidgety young car that has trouble paying attention in school, visits a special mechanic who prescribes a medicine to control his hyperactive behavior.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Russ and the Apple Tree Surprise
    Author: Janet Elizabeth Rickert
    Publisher: Woodbine House, 5615 Fishers Lane,
    Rockville, MD 20852; 1992
    ISBN #: 1-890627-16-x
    Disability: Down Syndrome
    Story Profile: Russ, a five-year old boy with Down syndrome longs for a swing set. All his backyard has to offer is an apple tree. When his grandparents visit, Russ discovers the job of picking apples and making them into apple pie. He decides that his apple tree may be just as good as a swing set.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Russ and the Fire House
    Author: Janet Elizabeth Rickert
    Publisher: Woodbine House, 5615 Fishers Lane,
    Rockville, MD 20852; 1992
    ISBN #: 1-890627-17-8
    Disability: Down Syndrome
    Story Profile: Russ is a young boy with Down syndrome whose everyday life experiences – not his disability – are the subject of books in this series. Russ goes “on-duty” with his Uncle, a fireman. Their shift includes a full inspection of the fire equipment, including keeping it clean. He also encounters Spark, the firehouse dog. At the end of this exciting day, all the firemen thank Russ for his hard work and invite him back for another visit.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Russell Is Extra Special: A Book About Autism for Children
    Author: Charles A. Amenta III, M.D.
    Publisher: Brunner/Mazel, Publishers, 19 Union Square, New York, NY 10003; 1992
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-945354-43-6
    Disability: Autism
    Story Profile: This portrayal of an autistic boy and his family is designed to help children (ages 4 to 8 ) and their parents understand this serious developmental disorder.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Silent Observer
    Author: Christy MacKinnon
    Publisher: Gallaudet University Press, Kendall Green, 800 Florida Ave. NE,
    Washington, DC 20002-3695; 1993
    ISBN #: ISBN-1-56368-022-X
    Disability: Deafness
    Story Profile: Christy MacKinnon is a young girl born in 1889 on a farm on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada who became deaf after having whooping cough. She describes her life in adjusting to deafness, her relationships with family, and her problems trying to understand and be understood by hearing individuals.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Talking to Angels
    Author: Esther Watson
    Publisher: Harcourt Brace, 525 B Street, Suite 1900, San Diego, CA 92101-4495; 1996
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-15-201077-7
    Disability: Autism
    Story Profile: Christa is an autistic girl who is described in this picture book by her sibling. Her behavior is described and illustrated in mixed media, including her favorite sounds and textures, occasional staring and fixation on stimuli, and interactions with others.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: There’s a Little Bit of Me in Jamey
    Author: Diana M. Amadeo
    Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co., 6340 Oakton Street, Morton Grove, IL 60053-2723
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-8075-7854-1
    Disability: Leukemia
    Story Profile: Brian struggles with the fact that his brother Jamey has leukemia and submits to a bone marrow test, which leads to a transplant.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: Thomas Alva Edison: Great Inventor
    Author: David A. Adler
    Publisher: Holiday House
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-8234-0820-5
    Disability: Deafness
    Story Profile: Thomas Edison’s life and his many inventions, despite his deafness, that shape our lives today are explored in this book.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: What Do You Mean I Have a Learning Disability?
    Author: Kathleen M. Dwyer
    Publisher: Walker and Company, 720 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10019; 1991
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-8027-8102-0
    Disability: Learning Disabilities
    Story Profile: Ten-year-old Jimmy is having problems at school and believes he is stupid. After a parent-teacher conference, he is tested and found to have a learning disability.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: What It’s Like to Be Me
    Author: Helen Exley
    Publisher: Friendship Press, 1984
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-377-00144-9
    Disability: Various Disabilities
    Story Profile: Children from all over the world write about themselves and their disabilities. They tell us how they see themselves and how they want to be seen. All of the illustrations are created by the children.
    Reading Level: AC

  • Title: You Can Call Me Willy. A Story for Children About AIDS
    Author: Joan C. Verniero
    Publisher: Brunner/Mazel Publishers, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003; 1995
    ISBN #: ISBN-0-945354-60-6
    Disability: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
    Story Profile: Willy is an eight-year-old girl with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Describing her life, she shares her hobbies, friends, family life, and aspects of her medical care and how it impacts her activities.
    Reading Level: AC

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Summarizing: Part Two

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Thursday, 25 October 2007 11:33


By Mimi Rothschild

Here’s part two!  I’d love to hear your thoughts and also about how your homeschooling experience is going this year!

How Can You Stretch Students’ Thinking?

Here are some general questions for students to consider when summarizing either fiction or nonfiction:

  • What happened?

  • Who was involved?

  • What was the outcome?

  • Is the essential piece of information included?

  • Are interesting but nonessential facts or details eliminated?

  • Would someone who read my summary really understand the main points of the text?

Some students may get paraphrasing and summarizing confused. Explain that summarizing is similar to paraphrasing because both strategies require students to put the main ideas of a story or article into their own words. However, the major difference between the two is that a summary usually recounts an entire article or story whereas a paraphrase recounts specific information within an article or story. For example, you might ask students to paraphrase a passage in a chapter of their textbook and to summarize the entire chapter.

When Can You Use It?


Have students summarize stories, a chapter from a novel, an act from a play, a poem, or an entire short story. Ask students to summarize the life of an author or a piece of science fiction or historical fiction.


Have students use a story map to summarize a work of fiction or nonfiction in a paragraph. Have them write a paragraph that summarizes a style of writing that their favorite author uses.


Have students summarize an important theorem in geometry such as the Pythagorean theorem, the quadratic formula, or how to do long division. Have them summarize the life of an important mathematician such as Pythagoras.

Social Studies

Summarize the events leading up to an historical event such as the Civil War. Have students summarize an interesting case such as the Dred Scott case or the life of an important historical figure such as Martin Luther King, or Abigail Adams.


Have students summarize the process of photosynthesis, a recent science experiment, or the life of an important scientist such as Marie Curie or Thomas Edison.

Lesson Plans
  • These lesson plans are for primary students:

Summarizing, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
This lesson is designed to expand primary students’ summarizing skills using the book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

Summarizing, Nate the Great
This lesson is designed to establish primary students’ skills in summarizing a story using the book, Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat.

Summarizing, Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia
This lesson is designed to introduce primary students to summarizing a story using a part of the book Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia.

  • These lesson plans are for middle or high school students:

Summarizing an O. Henry Short Story (fiction)
During this high school language arts lesson, students will summarize, verbally and in writing, the short story “Confessions of a Humorist” by O. Henry.

Summarizing a John F. Kennedy Speech (nonfiction)
During this high school language arts lesson, students will summarize, verbally and in writing, a speech that John F. Kennedy gave about the need for America to land a man on the moon.

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Teaching Strategies for Home School Students with ADD

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Thursday, 18 October 2007 06:49


 By Mimi Rothschild

More and more homeschooling parents have asked me about Attention Deficit Disorder and the best way to homeschool their children who have ADD or ADHD.  I found this list of ADD/ADHD resources online, I thought I’d share it with everyone.

“Excerpted from Teaching Strategies: Education of Children with Attention Deficit Disorder.

Effective classroom teaching requires knowledge about attention deficit disorder, a solid grounding in behavioral management, skill in instructional design, and an awareness of the disorder’s medical components. This understanding is enhanced when strong relationships are built between professionals and families.

The following articles outline suggestions and strategies to use when working with students with ADD/ADHD:”

Getting Help for Students with ADD/ADHD

Classroom teachers play a key role in identifying students who are ADD/ADHD. The first step in identification is being clear as to what attention deficit disorder is and what it is not.

A brief description of why schools have teams consisting of qualified professionals, on which medical professionals often serve, to identify students with attention deficit disorder.

Suggestions on ways to find useful information on identifying students with ADD/ADHD.

Tips and suggestions for working as a part of a decision-making team to evaluate the assessment data for students with ADD/ADHD.

This article briefly explains formal assessment guidelines when working with a student with ADD/ADHD.

Teaching Students with ADD/ADHD

This article describes the diverse needs of students with ADD and how to meet these needs.

Suggested modifications to make for students with ADD/ADHD.

Strategies and suggestions on managing a classroom with ADD/ADHD students.

This article describes successful ways to communicate with an ADD child’s family.

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Home Schooling Virtual Schools are Meeting the Needs of America’s Students

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Friday, 20 July 2007 14:59

1 Comment

By Mimi Rothschild

Virtual schools, cyber school, online academies. These terms seemed foreign to most Americans ten years ago, but with advancements in technology and the deterioration of the public school system, virtual schools are growing in popularity. The Tucson Citizen documents the growth of virtual schools in Arizona.

Below is what some Arizona students are saying about their virtual school experience:

“I won’t have the distractions of other people in class who don’t want to do their work and who are trying to get me to join them,” said William Huston

“The flexible schedule is great and a lot less stressful,” said Rebekah Devine.

“I’d like to finish high school in three years, so the virtual classes are great. This summer I was able to do what I wanted during the day and do my classes at night,” said Diana Garcia.

Home school combined with Christian online academies is an outstanding way to educate children. Home schooling with online academies has proven to be extremely successful. While virtual schools eliminate the dangers of public schools it does not eliminate students learning about evolution and other fallacies. Instead, Christian home schooling online academies teach home schoolers the truth of the Gospel and allow parents to instill Godly values into their children.

To read Mary Bustamante’s article click here.

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The Benefits of Home Schooling Special Needs Students

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Wednesday, 20 June 2007 10:07


By Mimi Rothschild

One of the most appealing aspects of home schooling is that home schoolers receive all of the teacher’s attention, instead of sharing it with hundreds of students. Home schooling is especially effective when the parent is able to devote the majority of their attention to a home schooler with special needs, like dyslexia. The ability to solely focus on one student or a few students is next to impossible for teachers in traditional schools.

The Houston Independent School District has been in the news recently because of its inability to provide that attention to students who have been identified with dyslexia. Houston is just one example of a much larger problem within the public school system. Texas law requires “districts to identify and tutor students with dyslexia, a learning disability that affects 5 percent to 20 percent of all children” (Jennifer Radcliffe, “Schools fail to meet law on dyslexia”). This school year the Houston Independent School District only gave 256 of its 200,000 dyslexic students extra help. But who pays in end? Taxpayers like you and me. The National Right to Read Foundation estimates the nation spends nearly $225 billion a year on social services and lost income stemming from the problem of dyslexic students who aren’t receiving the proper help.

Crowded classrooms and bureaucratic policies make it hard for dyslexic public school students to receive the sort of attention they need. Home schooling students with special needs can work at their own pace and be given full attention by their home schooling teachers. Home schoolers with dyslexia and other disabilities greatly benefit from home schooling’s environment, flexible schedule, and the fact that their teachers are usually available for them 24/7.

To read more about the crisis in Houston and all around the nation click here.

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