The Key to Success with Reading Noodle

Some may think this post is going to be a secret key to teaching the curriculum provided in your monthly boxes. I’ll be honest, it’s all laid out for you in the box. There is no key. It’s at your pace and leisure. I won’t be there to nitpick your method of helping your child. You know your child best, trust yourself to teach them well (but of course reach out to me if you ever need anything).

No, the key to success with this program is having clear expectations with your child.

Let’s get the whining out of the way: “I can never get her to sit and do homework.”

“He doesn’t want to do his homework.”

“He gets distracted so easily.”

“She won’t listen to me.”

I have heard it all before. I know that comes off as kind of harsh, I guess that’s just the no nonsense teacher in me.

I don’t have a school age child yet, BUT, please don’t discredit my 4 year bachelor degree specific to working with young children, or my Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Please don’t discredit the fact that on a daily basis I kept 25 students engaged (mostly) in the learning process. Please don’t discredit the fact that among those 25 students I had at least 10 behavior problems, with at least 3 or 4 of those behaviors severe enough to require extra assistance from behavior assistants. Please don’t discredit that I taught those 25 students, including students with special education needs, ESL needs, and behavioral needs 5 days a week, 7 hours a day.

Did I teach them perfectly? Of course not! However I am trained in behavior management, and would like to think that was a strength I had while teaching. Behavior management was the key to having a successful day. Behavior management can sound intense, when in reality it truly just means setting boundaries, having expectations, and following through with consequences.

During my time teaching I heard SO many excuses from parents. Each one seemed to start with the pronoun “he” or “she”. I remember the first time I heard a parent say, “Well she doesn’t want to do her homework” and I about lost it. My inner teacher yelled, “Excuse me? What?!” with as much sass and hand on the hip action that I could imagine. Who is in charge, the parent or the child? While the calm and collected outer teacher politely smiled and continued to repeat the importance of homework.

All you homework haters stop yourself and check yourself right now. Homework is CRUCIAL. It does not, however, have to take more than 20-30 minutes to help your child be successful. There was a STARK difference between my students that did the homework (and actually did it) and the ones that did not. Their test scores were higher, their confidence during school was tangible, and their parents were engaged in their learning.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe children should be kids and play after a long day at school, but I also believe they thrive off of routine and repetition. Scheduling homework into your after school routine is good for them, and the repetition really does helps them make connections to the learning they did in school.

Teaching rant aside, when you prepare to teach or do a Reading Noodle activity follow these steps:

1. Select a space in your home that is just for Reading Noodle.

It should be a place free from distractions. Put your distraction (aka your phone) away. Show your child you are present during this time, it will only aid in the bonding process. Try and keep your lessons in the same place every time, although I’m always a fan of utilizing transitions because children need movement to stay focused. For example if an activity looks like it could be played on the floor (dominoes or cards) move to the floor. Try and start in the same place, but be open to movement throughout the lesson.

2. Set a time limit

Set a timer so you don’t go too long. I don’t want Reading Noodle to become a burden or a chore. Listen to your child, if they seem antsy, need a break, or a shorter lesson that’s totally fine! You know your child best! The time limit will help keep both of you accountable and on pace.

3. BEFORE you begin teaching, talk to your child about your expectations when its Reading Noodle time.

This is CRITICAL. The first week of school is typically just practicing desired behaviors. It is a lot of explain, practice, repeat. The first day is literally breaking down every possible scenario and having them practice your expectations. They learn how to stand up, how to sit down, how to sit in their chairs, how to get a pencil from the box, how to get a drink, etc. Sound ridiculous? Trust me its not. Once those expectations are in place my year goes much smoother. I have to reteach expectations here and there, but for the most part they have practiced it so much it becomes second nature.

4. Make a plan with your child

A great way to set expectations (see #3) is to ask your child specific questions about how they should behave during teaching time:

  1. What should our body look like during Reading Noodle time? (sitting on my pockets, hands on table)
  2. Where should our eyes be? (on mom, dad, etc)
  3. What should we talk about? (stay on topic)
  4. What do I do if I don’t want to do an activity? (create a signal with your child or a special word that lets you both know its time to move onto something new, take a break, etc).
  5. Where should my eyes be when mom is talking? (looking at mom)

This may seem way over the top, and you are welcome to take it or leave it! However, if you are struggling to have your child focus I highly recommend setting expectations, making a plan about those expectations with your child. A good idea is to write down your plan where your child can see it. Here is an example plan:

Mom and Janie’s Reading Noodle Plan:

  1. Be happy!
  2. Stay on Task by keeping my body calm and my eyes focused
  3. Be respectful by listening to mom (or whoever is teaching)
  4. Follow directions the 1st time!
  5. HAVE FUN!