let me tell you a little about how I ended up training dogs to teach kids how to learn.
I have always loved dogs.
I have always loved stories.
I didn't always love reading.
When I was a kid, I often hated being in the classroom.
I found school work difficult, boring and often pointless.
I became even more frustrated when I did try to excel, as I would still receive average marks - and was often left wondering
"What was the point of even trying?"
I had no self belief as a learner. I had no clue how to study, how to motivate myself, or how to learn from my mistakes.
After I left high school I scraped into University and studied an Arts degree in History and Politics.
Through failure, persistence, some great tutors and time I started to learn how to learn. I started to learn how to write well. I started getting better marks and developed some self belief. It dawned on me that although learning comes naturally to some kids, others need more help. Some kids need to be taught how to learn.
After I finished my degree I moved to Japan and taught English. This experience allowed me to understand how different cultures approach learning and value education.
When I returned to Australia I went back to University and gained a Masters degree in Teaching. By this stage I understood my own learning style and enjoyed completing the Masters. The experience was fun and exciting because I had far more control of my learning than I ever had before. Throughout this experience I also developed my educational philosophy and love of teaching.
I took a job as Head of Department for the General Studies curriculum at a college in Melbourne. I loved my time developing curriculum and helping students in the classroom, but I was yearning to do something a bit different.
I found something different in dog training. I had been training Minnie and Oscar as a hobby and decided to complete a Professional Dog Trainers course with Alpha Canine Group. I was offered a job with Alpha as a dog trainer. It was fantastic and allowed me to understand the learning process further. Through teaching dogs to learn, and teaching adults how to become their dogs leaders, I got a unique perspective on the learning process - now from the position of a dog and an adult learner.
I also completed a course in Animal Assisted Therapy through Lead the Way. It was through this course that I really saw the possibilities of using dogs to assist in learning in exciting new ways.
I always get excited when I start to explain the huge potential of combining teaching practices with Animal Assisted Therapy.
For those, who, like me hated some of my classes - having a dog in the lesson acts as a silent but positive ray of hope when they are struggling to understand. A dog in the lesson motivates the student by taking the seriousness out of the air and replacing it with a friendly 'can do' attitude.
For those, who, like me had no self belief, a dog brings out unmistakable confidence in the shy child. A dog doesn't judge, they are interested in the individual, despite their shortcomings. Children need to feel they are valued. Dog's value the individual, without question.
For those, who, like me is nervous reading aloud, giving speeches or putting up their hand up in class a dog works as a great sounding board. Sometimes our ideas just need to be spoken aloud before we can gain confidence in them. A dog gives the students a friendly ear when talking through their own ideas, without the judgement of others.
Dogs can also help us understand our own learning process. By teaching a dog to shake hands (for instance), we are starting to understand how the dog goes from the difficult, uncomfortable period of not knowing and making mistakes, to the learner who understands, but is not yet confident, through to the learner who has mastered the task (phases of learning). In this way dogs learn like we do! It is wonderful when a student can identify with the learning phases of a dog and realise that they too need to push through the difficult stages in order to become proficient at something.
Canine Comprehension is a tutoring business consisting of a professional educator (me!) with a passion for youth education. We are excited by the learning potential of students with the help of a passionate tutor and her friendly canine coaches.
Take a look around our website, visit your Facebook page and get to know us.
We would love to get to know you too.
Contact us so we can have a chat about your child's or student's learning potential with the help of a literacy dog.
Can reading for pleasure be taught?
Or is it like vegemite - you developed an opinion early in childhood and you are not going to be swayed now.
If you love it, you love it, end of story. If you hate it, you have no idea why others take so much pleasure in it.
Well The Guardian would have us believe there is hope! and have provided great teaching resources and ideas which will help you to encourage your child to become a lifelong reader.
Here are our TOP FIVE tips from the article 'How to teach… reading for pleasure.'
1. Shared reading between older and younger students, such as siblings is a great idea as it acts as an opportunity to increase confidence and reading skills of older students as well as helping the younger ones to experience the thrills of reading. Try to set it as a routine, the older child reads a bedtime story to the younger sibling every night.
2. Parents, it is vital you read with your child at home! There is no getting away from this fact. And make it interactive. Create a book of reviews and once you and your child have finished a book write up a review. You might want to type it up and post it. There are plenty of children's book review sites such as The Guardian Children's Books and Amazon Children's Books.
3. Get young readers to join book groups. There may be a book club at their school or local library. If not, check out my Blog about starting your own children's book club.
4. Once your child has finished reading the book - if they loved it help them contact the author. They could email or handwrite - but authors love hearing from their young readers. You will be surprised how often authors will write back. This activity makes the people behind to book real to the young reader and they will be more inclined to look for other things that author has written.
5. Move from book to film and back again. If your child loved the film, maybe they would try reading the book. This is especially helpful for students who have a difficult time following complex plot structure or character development - they are able to predict because the story is familiar. Comparing the book to the film is also a great way to get your child talking about the details of the story and thinking about structure and production.
If you have any other ideas to help your child become a lifelong reader please share them in the comments section.
I don't know if you have ever set up or been part of an adult book club - but in my experience it is much the same, although you swap wine with lollies.
Finding kids for such things isn't usually difficult - Offer to run a book club at your child's school or local library or community house. The children in the group become friends quite quickly, and there is a benefit in finding readers from a range of schools nearby as they rarely know each other before joining the book club, and they are now making new friends outside of their school circles. (Check with your local laws when it comes to Working With Children's checks).
Rules can help let children know where they stand, although it is important to make it as 'unschooled like' as possible. I start with:
Book Club should meet once a month to discuss a single book they have all read in advance of the meetings. It is important to let readers choose their own book. Although, to make sure it is appropriate I would get them to run it by you first. Also try to nudge them outside of their comfort zone to read as widely as possible.
You (the adult) could run the session, asking leading questions and facilitating discussion. Or you could have a series of prompt questions and choose a different reader each week to run the session. You are then there as backup - but readers will feel greater ownership if they are able to run the book club as much as possible.
Try to let the readers know the questions that may be discussed before they arrive, so they are prepared. Also remember these questions are just prompts - they may lead you down a very different path - and that's fine! It's all part of the Book Club experience.
In the end Book Club is about providing a scheduled time and place for readers to come together and discuss books. Children may need to be reminded of the purpose every now and then, so guidelines are important - but once a good Book Club gets established readers know the routine and discuss and snack happily.
Let us know your experience with Book Clubs - What has worked, what hasn't. Tell us in the comments section.
For those who struggle with reading comprehension, parents often have inefficient strategies to help their children improve. Both parents and their children are usually unaware of what good comprehension looks like and need to be shown how and when to apply comprehension strategies.
These ideas were found on the NSW Government Education and Training site, it's worth a look here. But for those of your who just want a few quick ideas to help your children with their reading I have provided you with six great reading comprehension strategies.
1.Personal connections from the text.
Activity - Students create two columns with headings Book/Me. Prior to and during reading students add details about the connections between the book and their lives.
2. Predict by using other information.
This can be taken from from graphics, text and experiences to anticipate what will be read/ viewed/ heard and to actively adjust comprehension while reading/ viewing/listening.
Activity - Students list predictions before and during reading. As they read students either confirm or reject their predictions.
3. Question and Answer.
Help learners with description by posing and answering questions that clarify meaning and promote deeper understanding of the text. Questions can be generated by the learner, a peer or the teacher.
Activity - Using post-it notes, students list all the questions they have about the text. As they read students continue to write questions. When an answer is found for the wondering students remove the post-it note.
Stop and think about the text and know what to do when meaning is disrupted.
Activity - As they read students code the text with post-it notes
:) I understand
? I don’t understand
! I fixed it up myself
Create a mental image from a text read/ viewed/ heard. Visualising brings the text to life, engages the imagination and uses all of the senses.
Activity - Sketch to stretch: As a passage/story is read students sketch their visualisation. In groups they share their sketches and discuss reasons for their interpretation.
Get learners to identify the most important ideas and restating them in their own words.
Activity - Students highlight words they believe are key to understanding the passage. These words are written on post-it notes and placed on the page. After reading the students close the book and arrange the key words in an order that supports a cohesive summary.
About the Author
Contact us here.