Summer Learning: Developing Your Child's Communication Skills

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Have you ever thought of scheduling a weekly family meeting during the summer months? It really is a great way to boost communication skills at home! Kids of all ages, when given the chance, can participate in structured discussions to recap the previous week and plan for the next one. Routine meetings can allow everyone to contribute personal thoughts, feelings, ideas, choices, etc., so that everyone has an opportunity to be heard.  Topic possibilities are endless, yet providing this type of platform can build family connections and help children develop their personal communication skills.

Here’s how it works:

1. Pick a time which you set aside to conduct the weekly family meetings this summer.  It can be some time on the weekend or whatever works with your family’s schedule.  The point is to plan the time into your schedule so your children can look forward to having a special time to express themselves.

2. Work together to name the time set apart to meet. (Example:  The Johnson Council)  Create an official sign using the chosen name, and display it during family meetings!

3. Assign an office to each contributing family member.  Making the meeting time more formal can be fun for your children and also introduce them to the structure of a public meeting forum.  Here’s an example:

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4. Create an agenda for your meeting time.  Include a recap of the last meeting, a budget discussion by the treasurer, weekly stars, and weekly wishes that are ideas for the upcoming week.  (A “star” would be something that is working well in your schedule; a “wish” would be something that will continually change.)  Example:

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Providing your children with an opportunity to participate in a weekly family meeting during the summer months can sharpen their communication skills.  Meetings can coax reluctant speakers with a venue to express themselves as well as supply more vocal children with a vehicle to communicate in a safe, controlled environment.  Everyone can have a chance to contribute, and you might be surprised by what you will learn during these discussions. 


True Story:  (If I may share a short story with you from my own childhood, it might help you think about your own communication habits within your family.)

While I was in grade school, my mother used to braid my tremendously long hair in two braids every single day. Unbeknownst to her, the other kids would tease me about my braids, which of course mortified me.  I was embarrassed and would have preferred not wearing my hair that way, but in my shy obedience to my mom, I never said a word about it to her.

Imagine my surprise years later when I mentioned this period of my growing up years to her.  I will never forget her saying, “All you had to do was tell me. You didn’t have to wear your hair that way.”  …Wait! …All I had to do was tell her?! Ugh! 

My mother’s words opened a window in my mind to the value of communication.

Is there a shy, obedient child in your family that might benefit from a weekly time to express what is on his or her mind?  Do you have a more expressive child that needs structure and guidance to speak in an orderly way? Perhaps a weekly family meeting this summer could be just the tool your family needs to build communication skills.


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Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.

Back-to-School Planning: Creating Shurley English Centers

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As you relax into your summer break and feel the freedom of each day, consider thinking about those learning centers you wanted to create during the school year but never had the time to do.  With a clear mind and more time to tap into your right brain, creating Shurley English Learning Centers might just be a fun little project to work on.  My two-part series called, "Shurley English Centers for Your ELA Classroom," will teach you how to create them step-by-step.   Here’s a quick review:



1.     Select the subject materials you would like to develop.

2.     Decide how many learning centers to create. (Computer stations can count as one.)

3.     Plan where each center will be located.

4.     Determine the student objectives for each activity.

5.     Calculate the amount of time to allow at each center.  Decide if learning centers will be open on a weekly basis or a specific day of the week.  How long will the learning center be used?

6.    Name each learning center.  On a sheet of paper, write a description of the center.  Then, write the step-by-step explanatory instructions to complete each task.

7.     Be sure to review the expectations with your class before the centers officially open and close your learning centers with a "Wrap-up Session" or "Take-Away Time."




M.E.A.P.S. is the acronym used to explain the characteristics included in effective learning centers. The letters stand for:

Multisensory: Activities should appeal to all learning styles!  Students will
"See It, Hear It, Say It, Do It!"

Engaging: Strive for 100% student participation!

Aligned: Content must support your current classroom instruction.

Purposeful: Centers should serve a purpose to support learning. Watch students in action and assess what you need to assess!

Student directed: Students should be able to follow directions without teacher help. They should be responsible and accountable for their own learning.



Here are some ideas for learning centers that will support Shurley English curriculum:

1.  Listening/Video/Jingles

2.  Question & Answer Flow Practice

3.  Practice & Revised Sentences/Sentence Blueprints

4.  Writing

5.  Silent Station

6.  Teacher Station/Float


Remember to come back next week to see even more information about creating classroom learning centers.  The most important thing is for you to develop centers that will support your curriculum in a fun and creative way.  Your students will thank you!


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Kimberly Crady

Kimberly Crady is an adventurous woman with an immense love for life, learning, and teaching. After teaching in upper elementary classrooms for nearly 10 years, she joined the Shurley Team in 2005.  Kimberly has had the unique experience of teaching Shurley English lessons in all levels, Kindergarten-8th grade and training teachers across the United States.  Kimberly is a National Consultant and SEDA Teacher for Shurley Instructional Materials.


Kimberly’s passion for helping people and living a healthy lifestyle has led her to continue her education in the area of Health and Wellness.  She enjoys numerous outdoor activities from hiking and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains to paddle boarding in the ocean; although, these days you can find her practicing hot yoga in a Bikram Yoga studio. She also enjoys traveling abroad, live music, reading, and spending time with her favorite mutt, Lu.  Kimberly’s experience as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Teen Life Coach helps support her firm belief in teaching the whole person, especially in the classroom.


What is cyclical spelling?

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Here’s an idea to kick your kids’ spelling prowess into high gear. While it’s true that some kids are just naturally good spellers, my experience has been that most are not. They need a sure-fire way to lock in accurate spelling, especially when summer time rolls around and school is out.

Cyclical spelling might just be for you and your kids. Here’s how it works:

1. Start small.

Choose a source from which you will draw out vocabulary. It might be the word list your kid(s) used during the school year. Words can be drawn out of a book that you are reading aloud this summer, from a book your child is reading, from the newspaper, or even from video games with text narration.

Now, here’s the “start small” part…only pick one word a day! You pick it, or your child picks it—but pick only one. You will pick one word a day, but make it a fun competition between you and the whole family.

For that one word that is picked, have your players write it down somewhere fun. You can write words in sand in the sandbox, in sugar scattered on the table, or on paper with liquid jello. This is the time to get creative! The goal is for the word to be practiced at least six times throughout the day…and it MUST involve actually writing it down.

At the end of the day, at a designated time, the word should be spelled aloud and then written on lined paper. Everyone who is participating needs to have their own sheet of paper so that the list can grow.


2. Add a word-a-day.

When day two comes, pick another word and follow the same procedure for the new word. But, now enters the “cyclical spelling” approach. At the end of day two, both the first word AND the new word should be recited and then spelled correctly on the developing list.

Now that you will have two words for the spellers to spell, it’s time to pick the Teacher of the Day (TOD), who will be in charge of administering the cyclical spelling test. So, at the end of day two, someone needs to be in charge of gathering all spellers to take the Two-Word Test. The TOD will also be in charge of grading. Keep it light. You could implement M&M rewards…one M&M per correctly spelled word.

Remember, it's all about spelling AND having fun! At the end of day three, there will be three words on the quiz. At the end of day four…four words. You get the idea.


3. Keep the cycle going!

Continue to add the Word-a-Day and quizzing through all the words each day until you have five words on the list (skip weekends). Then, you will begin to drop off the very first word you started with, and it will now be omitted from the daily quiz. The next new word is added to the bottom of the list, which will, for now and until the end of the contest, contain five words to be quizzed daily.


The beauty of spelling like this over the summer is its cyclical nature. Too often, kids learn a group of words for the Wednesday Pre-Test and the Friday Final Test—and that’s it. When the next list of fifteen or so words is introduced, the first group becomes a mere acquaintance, soon forgotten. With cyclical spelling, spellers accumulate words that they have spelled (correctly!) and get the chance to work with them daily for five days in a row. This, my friends, is intensity without the tension.

Why not give cyclical spelling a try this summer…it may be a real hit with your kids—maybe even the whole family. Remember, the energy you put in is the energy you will get back out of it!


If you are using Shurley English, you engage in cyclical spelling in grades 1 and 2 all school year long. For more information about Shurley English and cyclical spelling in the primary levels, go to



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David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.


He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.