How to Help Your Child Read with Common Reading Strategies

Learning to read can be an exciting time for both parents and children. Bedtime stories not only allow you and your children to explore new worlds, they are also an opportunity to develop lifelong literacy skills. Once your children begin learning to read, they are introduced to a variety of reading strategies at school. We know that it can be overwhelming to understand and to help your children practise these different strategies, so we are here to help with a look at four of the most commonly used ones.

Strategy 1: Skippy the Frog This reading strategy encourages children to skip tricky words, read to the end of the sentence, and then go back and see if they can figure out the tricky word within context. In this example from Just a Little Bit written by Anton Kurtz, we might expect a child to struggle with the word walked, so we would encourage him/her to skip that word, read the sentence, and go back and try and figure it out.

Strategy 2: Flippy Dolphin

This reading strategy is great for children that understand both short and long vowel sounds (a short ‘a’ like in apple’, a long ‘a’ like in ‘ate’). When sounding out a word, children usually try the short vowel sound first, but they often need encouragement to flip the vowel and try the long sound. In this example from Who would win? Hammerhead Vs. Bull Shark written by Jerry Pallotta, the word size has a long ‘i’ sound. If they are confused about what a long vowel is, you can remind them that when a vowel is long, it says it’s name.

Eagle Eye:

This reading strategy teaches children to use the picture to help them figure out a word when they are stuck. In this example from Flashing Fire Engines written by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker, we would expect that an emerging reader might struggle with the words fire engines. Taking a look at the picture would help children figured out out that tricky word.

Chunky Monkey:

This reading strategy encourages children to look for smaller words or parts of a word that they know within larger words. In this example from Little Mouse and the Big Red Apple by A. H. Benjamin and Gwyneth Williamson, the word nearby would be a perfect word to practise the chunky monkey strategy. To do so, you would encourage your children to find a part that they know and then cover that part with your finger and have them sound out the rest of the word. Finally, take your finger off of the word and have them put it altogether.

We hope that you have found these reading strategy tips helpful! Let us know which ones you and your little ones found most useful!

For more information on helping your children with reading,  please contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225 or visit our website.


Appealing to the Visual Learner

I need to see a picture of it.

How many times have you said this when attempting to learn something new?  It is widely known that there are different types of learners including auditory and kinesthetic – but the most prevalent type is visual. That being said, what are some innovative ways that visual learners can best take in new information through their dominant modality of learning?

The internet is, of course, an endless resource of visuals.  As soon as kids know how to “Google”, they know how to use “Google Images.”  Images can enhance written materials and extend understanding in a new way. When researching the “Star-nosed mole,” for instance, a photo of this odd looking creature certainly clarifies its interesting name.

Googe search of a star-nosed mole

3D models can also explain things in new ways.  There are many fantastic learning kits on the market that provide models of everything from anatomical features to various species of insects and animals.  Students can also show their understanding by creating their own 3D models, by sculpting, using recyclable materials or creating dioramas.

Make an animal cell with sweets!

Object-based learning
is a great way to captivate a visual learner’s curiousity. Showing an interesting object, like an artifact from another country or from the animal word can spark a series of questions leading to exciting inquiry-based learning experiences.

Just as images can enhance understanding, illustrations can enhance expression. There are many apps and software programs through which illustrations can be created, and a couple that appeal to elementary-aged children are Story Creator and Toontastic.

Using the iPad app, Story Creator, to write!

Visual learners can best organize their thoughts through graphic organizers.  “Visual brainstorming,” or planning out writing activities by visually mapping out thoughts, is extremely helpful.  One app designed for this is Inspiration.  Checklists are also very helpful along the planning process, reminding students of the multitude of steps in a writing assignment or project.

  Visual learning can also cross over to kinesthetic learning when the mind-body connection enhances understanding. For instance, students can learn the differences between short vowel sounds by looking in a mirror at the shapes their mouth makes when forming short a, e, i, o and u.

 The possibilities are endless for learning and expressing knowledge visually!

A Differentiated Approach to the Writing Process: Balancing Pen/Paper with Technology

Working through the writing process from beginning to end can seem like a very daunting task for a reluctant writer. A common learning profile we see is a student with wonderful ideas, a rich vocabulary, but a reluctance to put pencil to paper, sometimes due to spelling or fine motor challenges. In cases like these, it’s important to make sure students’ written output is not being limited by challenges unrelated to the ideas they generate. So, we have put together an overview of how to provide differentiated support for students as they progress through each step of the writing process, that focuses on developing and organizing ideas rather than the physical process of putting pen to paper. While handwriting and spelling are ultimately both important, there are simple ways to adapt the process so students can showcase their best ideas in written form before completing a handwritten or typed final draft.

Step 1: Brainstorm

In this stage of the writing process we often recommend that a teacher or parent scribe for the student. This allows the students to share all of their ideas effectively. Here at RRLS we like to use our large white boards to do a brainstorming web. 

Step 2: Create an outline

Our favorite app for creating an outline is Inspiration. It allows students to map out their thoughts clearly, add visuals, and use fun, bright colours.

  • Step 3: Create a first draft


In this step we recommend using some sort of assisstive technology such as Read and Write Gold or Dragon Dictation. Read and Write Gold offers many helpful tools such as word prediction and the read back feature, empowering students to work more independently. If your child has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and they attend a public school then you may be entitled to purchase these programs for a reduced rate. A less expensive option is the iRead Write app (the Read and Write Gold app) which is less than $20 to download.


Step 4: Edit and revise 

We recommend that students print out their work and use an editing checklist such as the COPS  or the 5 Star Sentence Checklist, editing directly on the page.
Step 5: Write the good copy


If writing a final draft by hand is still a priority, a student can rewrite their final draft by hand at this stage. Now that students have generated and organized all of their ideas as well as edited them, they can focus solely on the handwriting process. To avoid frustration and hand muscle fatigue, students can write a longer piece of writing in several smaller chunks. Once the final draft is done, be sure to give lots of praise for this accomplishment!

We hope that you find this insight into writing process helpful! For more information on differentiating the writing process for specific learning profiles, please contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225.

Tips for Engaging Your Children in At-Home-Learning!

We know it can be tricky to come up with ways to engage children with learning at home, so we have compiled a list of tips and strategies to help you do just that!

Tip 1: Make it crafty:

FullSizeRender (6)

Are your children trying to consolidate their multiplication facts? Have them create their own flash cards using glitter glue or paint. They will be more engaged and invested in learning them.

Tip 2: Make it competitive:


Turning math fact practice into a game will change your life! Again, it seems so simple, but once you engage your children’s competitive sides, you will see them become more interested in what they are working on. We like the printable board games from this site. Simply print the board game and then make question cards that relate to the learning topic.

Tip 3: Make it colourful!

imagesIt seems so simple, but using your children’s favourite colour paper for printed activities will get a much bigger reaction then plain old white paper. You can also add stickers to your children’s work or have them add stickers once they have finished. Finally, you can suggest that they draw a special picture for you on the page once they are done. Again, these are simple tricks, but believe us, they work WONDERS!

Tip 4: Set a time limit:

Children respond well to knowing how long they are expected to spend on a certain task. Some children have a hard time focusing and then end up spending more time on a task because they keep getting distracted (adults do too!). To help make good use of time, set a timer (counting down to zero) for the amount of time to be spent on a task. Then whenever they are off task, simply press pause on the timer. When they get back on task, resume the timer. Children will quickly see that if they are doing something off task it is coming out of their own time, not their learning time!

Tip 5: Make it interest-based!


Anchor charts that include children’s  interests are a great reference for tricky concepts. For example, if your children are having trouble learning their digraphs (ch, th, wh, sh), spend some time getting crafty and make a poster that they can reference when they are completing work at home. Include images related to their interests to make it more relevant and memorable. For some reason, a Minecraft whale stays in mind longer than a real one!

Let us know which of these tips you used and the strategies that help engage your learners at home!

Transition Words: The Road Map of Essay Writing

Because we all need maps when we travel to new places.

Has a teacher ever commented that you need to ‘link your ideas’ or ‘transition’ better in your writing? An RRLS Learning Specialist and co-creator of The Essay Coach, Catherine, provides the perfect analogy for why this is an important writing skill.

Road Map

Think of reading an essay a little like a roadtrip to a friend’s cottage. You pick up your two best friends in your dad’s 2010 Honda Civic and you start driving, but no one really knows where you’re going. Your other friend, let’s call him Chad, was supposed to give you directions to his cottage, but everything he told you was vague. He didn’t tell you when to change lanes, when to turn left, or when he realized that you needed to make a U-turn. You end up getting lost and start crying when you realize that you’re never going to make it to the cottage before dark, and you’re afraid of the dark, and werewolves, and everything is terrible. In your plight, you can blame Chad. Because he didn’t use transition words.


Iron Man Eye Roll Gif
Ugh. Chad.

Okay so in that brilliant metaphor above, Chad was the author of an essay with poorly chosen or absent transition words. He didn’t tell you when you needed to turn left. You and your friends in the car are the readers and, thanks to Chad’s neglectful use of the English language, you and your friends are lost, don’t understand his argument, and have to sleep in some scuzzy motel because you wouldn’t stop screaming about werewolves.

Okay, lesson learned. Right?

So what are these all-important ‘transition words’ we’re speaking about?

Transition words and phrases are simply what an author uses to: help the reader follow along. 

It’s that simple.

Transition words are an important part of all clear and organized writing. Essays require you to take a large argument and present numerous examples and explanations. There are a lot of ways to ‘lose’ your reader, and that’s where transition words can help. Transition words come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

They can introduce the details (sub-arguments) of a paragraph so that your reader can see the main details supporting your main idea:

  • First of all,
  • To begin with,
  • Furthermore,
  • Also,
  • Initially

They can introduce examples or explanations that prove your argument:

  • For example,
  • For instance,
  • To explain,

They can introduce contrasting ideas, so your reader knows that your argument has changed:

  • On the other hand,
  • However,
  • Yet,
  • Although,

They can introduce similar ideas:

  • Moreover,
  • Likewise,
  • Similarly,
  • In the same way,

They can show the reader you are concluding your ideas:

  • In closing,
  • All in all,
  • To summarize,
  • Ultimately,
  • To sum it up,

We hope that you won’t be a Chad and use these transitions in your next piece of writing — especially if it is an essay. Keep things clear, help your reader ‘drive’ through your essay, and everyone will thank you. Best of luck. Drive safely.

Thumbs up!

Want to know more about how to incorporate transition words into your essays? Check out our fantastic Essay Coach Programs!  We offer programs that focus on opinion, research, and literary essays as well as application essays. 

Primary Halloween Math Resources

Last week we gave you an overview of our Halloween Literacy and Math Pack. Now, we are going to take a closer look at the math pack, all of the fabulous resources included in it, and how to use it in the classroom.


These adorable colour by number worksheets are sure to be a big hit, and are great as ‘early finishers’ or as ‘seat work’. Answers to subtraction and addition questions correspond with a colour, and the activity is  fun way to help kids consolidate grade appropriate addition and subtraction facts with a  colourful twist.

Colour by number

Finding fun word problems that are at your students’ reading level can sometimes be tricky. The word problems in this pack contain only decodable and level appropriate sight words (including Halloween related words), ensuring students do not struggle with the language as they solve the problem. This is a look at one of the grade 2 math word problems.

word prob whitc

Measuring activities include cute critters and spooky spiders. These sheets come in black and white, which means that as a reward for finishing the measurements, students can colour them in!

bat measurement

This fun graphing activity practises data management skills by having students survey and graph each others’ favourite Halloween candy. With trick-or-treating just around the corner, there will be some strong opinions!

candy survey

We hope that you enjoy all of the spookily-terrific resources in this pack!


For more fabulous resources,  please visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225, or visit our website.

Helpful Math Hints for SSAT Prep! Part 2

Studying for the Quantitative Section of the SSATLast week we shared three helpful hints for how to succeed during the Quantitative section of the SSAT. Today we’ll share the rest.

Write out the Calculations and/or Draw a Diagram

Draw a Picture!

Many students think that they can just do everything in their heads, quickly circle the correct answer and move on. However, this is where you can easily make mistakes and not be able to identify them. The right side of the page in the Quantitative section is usually blank, so it’s the perfect space for you to utilize.

Try Substituting

Try Substituting

Sometimes you can use the multiple choice answers in the question to determine the correct answer.

Check all of the Options and All of your Work

Double Check Your Work!

Don’t make the mistake of choosing the answer that simply looks correct. Read each of the options carefully before you choose your ‘final answer.’

Checking your calculations once before choosing an answer is a great way to save yourself from silly mistakes. Sometimes when we’re working quickly we might miss a step or forget the proper way to complete a problem. Often the answers provided are answers that you could have gotten when making a mistake — very tricky!  So just because your calculations lead to you one of the multiple choice options, does not mean it’s correct!

Don’t Guess

I know we’ve said it a million times already, but whatever you do, don’t guess! On some tests guessing on a multiple choice question is a good idea, but not on the SSAT! The SSAT docks you 1/4 of a point for each incorrect answer, and there is no penalty for not answering. There are times when the process of elimination can help you to guess, but never guess blindly.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that the test is might ask you questions about concepts that you haven’t learned yet. DO NOT GUESS! For example, if you have never seen the word, “radius” before, don’t attempt to answer a question that requires you to use the radius in your calculations.

Want to learn more about how to nail the SSAT? Here at Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space we offer SSAT group classes, one-on-one instruction, and we also have a newly created SSAT Preparation Workbook! One of our knowledgeable Learning Specialists will teach you the ins and outs of the SSAT so that you can apply your skills with our tried, tested, and true strategies!