Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond
My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake

Language Experience Approach: Engaging New & Reluctant Readers

Susan Kawell

Guest post written by W.O.R.D. Ink team member, Dr. Susan Kawell

 

“Let’s start with my newest story,” suggests Tasha. “The second one I wrote.”

So I begin to read her story –-

“No, no, I’ll read it.” And she does – perfectly. Why?

Because it is her story, and Tasha is becoming a better reader by learning to read her own words. That’s what LEA does – LEA, Language Experience Approach, teaches young children or reluctant readers, whatever their age, to read.

How LEA Works

Part 1: Dictating and Reading

In the LEA, the child dictates a story to the tutor, teacher, or parent, and he writes the story word for word, saying each word as it is written. Slang or inappropriate grammar is also recorded as dictated. After the story is complete, the adult reads it to the child and asks if it sounds correct. Then, they read the story together, out loud. The child alone completes the third oral reading. By this time, the story has been memorized, and effortlessly so, since it was the child’s original creation.

Writing and reading the story can be completed in one session.

mom and daughter

Part 2: Isolating words

Depending on the amount of time available, the next step can be added to the first session. The tutor isolates three to five words for a lower elementary student and up to ten words for an upper elementary student. The isolated words are listed under or beside the story in the order they appear. The student is asked to find the words in the story and read them, an easy task, having already memorized the piece.  Thus, in future readings, they will both readily recognize and fluently read through these language-building words.

 

Part 3: Extended Learning

Several follow-up activities can extend the student’s learning.

  1. List the same words beside or under the story, but in a different order. Again, the child must find the isolated words within the story.
  2. Now provide the student with a copy of the story, but with blanks included to replace the isolated words, so that the student may fill in the blanks with the correct words.
  3. Another strategy is to cut the story into sentences and have the child arrange the sentences in correct story order.

 

Once a child has worked through various repetitive activities, she has not only learned the words from her list, but has also added other words from the story into her reading and writing vocabulary. What’s more, she is proud of the story that she’s created. 

boys reading

LEA: Engaging the Reluctant Reader

Because the LEA is so interactive, a child will engage in reading, even when they rarely seek out opportunities to do so on their own. In the reading clinic where I work, a fourth grader could not read and had given up trying. Instead, he’d become the class clown, and he was assessed at a kindergarten reading level. By the end of nine months in the clinic, with the tutor using the LEA as one of her main strategies, the struggling fourth grader was reading at the second grade level – a 200% improvement!

Before progressing in our reading clinic, the same fourth grader had resigned himself to the role of class clown. Generally, when children refuse to learn or read or misbehave, they either are bored or lack confidence. Sometimes they become defiant or act out, since negative attention is better than no attention. Usually tutors using the LEA see little of this unproductive conduct, because the strategy requires participation where the child is the star.

When children exhibit dysfunctional behavior, the first rule is to not take it personally. Often it is best to appear not to notice the child, and only notice them the minute they exhibit behavior that’s close to compliant. If you’re working one-on-one with a child, begin the activity planned and engage by yourself, enjoying the process. Whenever I use this approach, the student will involve himself. They want attention, so they will attempt to join you, since refusing to be involved only earned them “not noticed” status earlier on.

If a child is high energy, always moving and/or talking, play the stillness game. Frame the act of stillness as a game in itself and explain that once the game begins, they are only allowed to breathe and must not move any part of their body. If there is more than one child, challenge them to a contest to see who can be the “stillest”. With only one child, casually mention that you know they cannot possibly sit still for a minute. Does it work…?

After playing the stillness game with my own fourth grade class several times, a school bus driver asked me if I had invented the game. He remarked that the children on his bus had asked his permission to play and that the ride that afternoon was the calmest, most peaceful of his career.

When teaching children to read, use the LEA.

It holds their attention, is highly participatory, and utilizes their individual vocabulary.

To keep that same student attentive and cooperative, use activities that the child least expects.

For more information, visit Education.com

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