Guest Post: Please Welcome Marisa Kaplan of

Happy Holidays from the Reading TubThe Reading Tub remains in hibernation – it is almost time for a long winter’s nap, after all!!

But we didn’t want the Solstice to pass without wishing you a Season filled with with lots of cuddling, laughter, good times, great food, and (of course) lots of books!

In the blink after Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa comes 2012, and lots of shiny new goals and ideas. Forget the champagne at midnight … this Bookworm will be awaiting the announcement of the Cybils finalists!! Bookmark this link … subscribe to the blog … and be one of the first to shout “huzzah” when you see the shortlists on January 1, 2012.

And speaking of resolutions … I would like to introduce Marisa Kaplan of We *met* several months ago and have been talking about ideas on ways to help kids become strong readers, and ultimately, successful learners. You will love and especially Marisa’s Dream Library, which she has sorted not only by audience, but by series, great genres, and amazing authors.

We agreed that in the slowness of the last week of the year, it would be a great opportunity to share some ideas that allow us to incorporate our kids’ needs into our goals for the coming year! Please welcome Marisa Kaplan to the Family Bookshelf!

 “Better parents can make every teacher more effective.”
-Thomas Friedman, NY Times

When things don’t go the way we want, we look for someone to blame. Right now, education in our country is not where we would like it to be. I have met some inspiring teachers throughout my career, as well as some who I have found…well, uninspiring. I can say the same of the families I have come across.

There is always a range. Placing blame doesn’t necessarily do anything for the problem – the problem is too large. What we can do in an effort to be proactive on the matter is commit to bridge the gap between home and school. This supports families and teachers in building a partnership rather than working independently.

I am a special education teacher by trade and the bulk of my experiences have been in Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) settings. A CTT class is wonderful for many reasons, but first and foremost because a team works together to provide support to a group of students. A teacher is never alone in regards to decision-making in a CTT class, because there is a team of teachers, related service providers and often paraprofessionals working together. I propose that we approach the parent-teacher relationship as a co-teaching experience.

Let’s take a logical approach to this issue. The hours in a student’s day are split between their home environment and their school environment. If families and teachers are working alone, chances are they are not thinking alike. Consistency is key in the success of a student. Consistency can be in reference to the teachers in a school, the adults in a family, but I’d like to think of the bigger picture…consistency between the home and school environments.

Fact: Working together to support a child has a greater effect than working alone.

That being said, bridging the gap is easier said than done. Creating is my small contribution to the cause but let me put forth some ideas for ways that teachers and families can work together to improve a child’s education:

How Families Can Bridge the Gap

How Teachers Can Bridge the Gap

Put time into reading any notices sent home by your child’s teacher.Support your child with their homework in whatever way you can.

Ask the teacher for feedback on your child’s in-classroom performance.

Ask your child’s teacher how you can support his/her work in the classroom.

Show that you take your role as a parent seriously by using educational resources such as websites for learning.

Assign family reading time as homework to boost family involvementInvite families in for a parent-teacher night and discuss a particular topic.

If a family asks for help, try modeling for them as you would for a student.

Loan materials to your families (ie: books, math games, etc.) so they can practice skills at home.

Send out an invitation for family members to come spend a period in the classroom.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Why is consistency key to a student’s success in learning? Because without consistency, we send mixed messages to the kids in our lives.

Whhen I taught second grade math, there was much confusion in regards to strategies for adding 2 and 3-digit numbers. The school’s curriculum guided students through a variety of strategies, “Stacking” was not one of them. [Stacking is that good, old-fashioned way of vertically aligning numbers many of us learned.]

Families would always come to me and say, “I taught my son/daughter stacking last night because that’s the best way.” It was challenging for me, but even more so for the students. They were learning one strategy at home and then being asked to use the opposite strategy in school. They  heard their parents and their teachers telling them that their way was “the right way.”

The result? Chaos, confusion, and inefficiency for many students. I remember making that topic a “must discuss” during parent-teacher conferences that year. My co-teacher and I modeled the strategies for families so they could walk away understanding how to support their kids at home in math.

I highly recommend choosing a focal point or a strategy to share at teacher conferences. Although it is a short amount of time, it can be valuable when focused. Here are some other situations where a lack of consistency between home and school can be detrimental to a student’s success.

Teacher Says… Parent Says…
“It is so important that you get your homework in on time. If it is late, I will deduct 5 points.” “Don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal if it’s one day late. I’ll talk to your teacher.”
“I don’t care about spelling on your first draft, that’s why we edit.” “You can’t hand in your writing with all of those mistakes.”
“You must always be sure to show your work when adding, even if you already know the sum.” “Why are you wasting time…you already know the sum. Just write it down.”
“Your homework is to complete the worksheet.” “Your teacher must have showed you what to do. What was the strategy your teacher gave you?”
“This is how you multiply two-digit numbers.” “This is how you multiply two-digit numbers.”

With all this swirling in your head each day … if you were a child, whom would you listen to?

Tough choice. Bridge the gap.


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