Blogs about Reading
Sound It Out
Dr. Joanne Meier
Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.
Words are so cool! I was reminded of that last night as I helped my daughter study for her word study test. Her word study for the week involved three Latin roots (pater, mater, dicta) and, for each one, related words used in our everyday lives (for example: patriarch, matrimony, contradiction). Anna doesn't really appreciate how much she's learning about words through this study, but I sure do!
I recently came across another fun way to expand what students know about words. Over on the Teaching Channel, I watched a high school teacher talk about a strategy she uses called Vocabulary Paint Chips. The strategy involves using large paint strips or chips from the hardware store. Teachers write a vocabulary word on one color of the strip, then write different "versions" of the word on the other colors, and finally, put synonyms on one of the colors. For example, one paint chip may include illuminate, illumination, illuminating, and the synonyms enlighten and brighten. In this teacher's class, every time a student uses one of the paint chip words in their writing, they can add a sticker to a chart. (Who knew high schoolers were still motivated by stickers?!)
A related vocabulary strategy I had the joy to watch in action is called Semantic Gradients. Semantic gradients are a way to broaden and deepen students' understanding of related words. When engaged with the strategy, students consider a continuum of words by order of degree or by shades of meaning. Semantic gradients often begin with antonyms (or opposites) at each end of the continuum, and students work to fit a group of related words into their place on the continuum. During the lesson I observed, Cathy Doyle had students work with a list of words all related to the word "large." The students worked in pairs to arrange their words, ranging from microscopic to average to gigantic, into a meaningful continuum. If you'd like to try the Semantic Gradient strategy, we've got a helpful handout on the site to get you started with lists of related words.
Have fun with words!
Sometimes a new twist on an old assignment can change everything! Take a look at a birthday card for Copernicus, the mathematician and astronomer, written by a 10 year old.
The assignment: Research three facts about a historical figure. Incorporate those facts into a birthday card written by someone they knew.
The result: Searching for sources of information. Reading and discerning good facts to use. Choosing the "voice" for the speaker. Integrating facts in a meaningful way into a birthday card message.
Verdict? Tons of fun! Kids asking if they could do more! More reading and writing, you say? Of course!
We recently wrapped up our 5-webinar series on Parent Engagement. We developed the series to support charter members of the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, a key community-based effort of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. We've archived the entire Parent Engagement Webinar Series so now it's a free, permanent resource for all.
The final webinar focused on using technology to support parents. We had three terrific presenters: Lisa Guernsey from the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers, and Ana Blagojevic, Migrant Education Coordinator and Advocate at at Mano en Mano | Hand in Hand and director of the Comienza en Casa Program. Each presenter shared their thoughts and experiences with using technology to support parents.
The webinar was full of good information, and I want to highlight two of the tech resources that Lisa Guernsey shared. Hopefully at least one will be new to you!
Ele, from the Fred Rogers Center Early Learning Environment. Ele is a site full of activities designed to build skills in several important areas: listening and talking, reading, writing, arts, and more. Activities can be sorted by media type (books, videos, games, interactive tools, songs, and mobile) and age (from birth to 5 years), making it easy to find just what you're looking for.
Wonderopolis is created by the National Center for Family Literacy. Every day brings a new "wonder" on the site. Today's was all about puzzles, yesterday's sought to answer the question, "Why are brick houses so strong?" For each wonder, more information is provided through Did you know? Try it out! Wonder Words, Still Wondering? Wonder What's Next? And Photos/Videos. I've seen it used in classrooms where kids come in to see the day's wonder on the Smart Board. What a great way to stimulate morning conversation!
There are lots of questions out there about implementing the Common Core State Standards. Over at Shanahan on Literacy, Professor Tim Shanahan has posted the questions and answers from a recent webinar he did on the Common Core. I recommend hopping over there to scroll through the whole post — I suspect many of you are asking the same questions as these webinar participants!
Among the topics covered:
- How can teachers scaffold difficult text for second language learners? (More vocab and grammar support, with a recommendation to visit Understanding Language from Stanford)
- Does reading harder text mean reading less text? (Maybe. But still read hard and easy texts.)
- Is there a set accuracy level for frustration level reading with more difficult text? (No set level, but maybe mid-80's).
- Should all kids — even K-1 kids receiving intervention services — be reading more difficult text? No! Thankfully Shanahan and colleagues recognize that young readers, especially those who struggle, have a lot to work on, so the recommendation here is to give those kids the time they need to develop the skills they'll need in later grades.
Professor Shanahan provides more thorough information within his answers, and there are other topics discussed as well, so I encourage you to take a look!
Flipped classrooms are a hot topic right now. In case it's a new term for you, here's a brief description. A flipped classroom flips, or reverses, traditional teaching methods. Traditionally, the teacher talks about a topic at school and assigns homework that reinforces that day's material. In a flipped classroom, the instruction is delivered online, outside of class. Video lectures may be online or may be provided on a DVD or a thumb drive. Some flipped models include communicating with classmates and the teacher via online discussions. The recorded lecture can be paused, rewound, re-watched and forwarded through as needed. Then, class time is spent doing what ordinarily may have been assigned as homework. Class time may also be spent doing exercises, projects, discussions, or other interactive activities that illustrate the concept.
At the heart of the flipped classroom model is the desire to have classrooms be more active and engaging, and to give teachers more time to interact directly with students in small group or individual settings.
At this point, most flipped classrooms are in high schools and colleges. This makes sense when you consider the amount of lecture that takes place in upper-level classrooms. However, the concept is finding its way into elementary classrooms too. In my opinion, at the elementary level, the "flip" has less to do with replacing lecture material and more to do with providing background knowledge on a topic before it's taught.
For example, when I taught second grade, we always did a big unit on Explorers. If I were using a flipped classroom model, I could have assigned homework that included watching one or more of the explorers videos from National Geographic Kids or some of the famous explorers videos from Biography.com. The kids could come in that first day with some understanding of their explorer and we could start our classwork from there — jumping right in with our information-gathering matrix or more reading about an individual.
If you'd like to know more about this topic, here are some resources to get you started:
Flipping the Elementary Classroom A good blog post on the topic by Jon Bergmann, one of the pioneers in the Flipped Classroom Movement
Pros and Cons of the Flipped Classroom from Edutopia
A popular infographic on the topic
As I think about the Common Core State Standards and the recommendations for increased nonfiction reading, I must confess that my own reading choices (for pleasure reading) are quite narrow. I read fiction, and that's pretty much it. Sometimes an occasional piece of historical fiction creeps in, but by and large, my Kindle is full of regular 'ol fiction.
It's a different story during the day. Then, my reading is almost exclusively nonfiction. Newspaper articles, journal studies, press releases, and reports fill my screen. I know how to read each one with skill, and do so strategically. (Thank goodness for the grad school prof that taught me to read research studies from end to beginning to charts and then middle!)
It's important for kids to read widely — from lots of different genre — in order for them to gain experience and practice reading different types of text. Think about your students or your children. If given the choice, would they read the same type of book over and over and over again? If your answer is yes, maybe some sort of genre tracking chart would be helpful to encourage more variation in what they're reading. Something quick and easy to use, on which a child keeps track of the different types of books he's read that month.
I gathered a few examples on our Genre Pinterest Board. Check it out, and please comment in if you use one we should add!
Our hearts are heavy during this time for our neighbors in Connecticut. During tough times, I find comfort in returning to simple pleasures and traditions. This is our third year for "a book on every bed," and it's a tradition that I love, and one part of my shopping that I actually look forward to!
Two years ago, the Family Reading Partnership and Ask Amy from the Chicago Tribune launched a homegrown, grassroots literacy campaign with a goal to raise a generation of readers. The idea was inspired by the author David McCullough, who says he woke to a wrapped book at the foot of his bed every Christmas morning during his childhood.
Here's how it works:
Take a book.
Place it on a child's bed so it's the first thing the child sees on Christmas morning (or the morning of the holiday you celebrate).
"A Book on Every Bed" is an appeal to spread the love of reading from parents to children. It also encourages families to share books by reading aloud.
As I wrote last year, one of my favorite parts of this tradition is that the book can be new, or it can be a beloved copy of a childhood favorite. In the past, we've given our girls copies of The Giving Tree, and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Those were familiar stories, but now they are the proud owners of their own worn and loved copies. I hope one morning they'll be wrapping up those books for their own growing readers.
While those choices were highly sentimental for me, last year's were just for fun: Are You "Normal"?: More Than 100 Questions That Will Test Your Weirdness (National Geographic Kids) and The Encyclopedia of Immaturity: Volume 2.
This year, Molly will open Thirteen Gifts by Wendy Mass (her favorite author) and Anna will get a Garfield Fat Cat 3-Pack. Anna's taken to reading some heavy historical novels lately, and often needs a light diversion before bed. Garfield never lets us down!
Every year I hope the book on the bed will keep them in bed Christmas morning! So far it hasn't worked, but it's been nice to have a book to curl up with once the bustle of Christmas morning has passed.
Happy holidays to you and your family. I'll see you again in 2013!
I came across a great website, Mapping Media to the Curriculum, that could help teachers and students demonstrate what they have learned using digital media. By asking the simple question, "What do you want to CREATE today?" teachers can choose from a graphic menu of options, including Interactive Writing, Puppet Video, Simulation, Geo-Map, and others. Within each choice, teachers can read a definition, get a sense of the workflow required to create the product, and a list of tools (both free and for purchase) that can be used. Finally, and perhaps most helpfully to teachers new to a technology, finished examples of projects real kids have done.
Mapping Media to the Curriculum could be of great help to teachers working within the Common Core State Standards, especially the standards related to developing students who "use technology and digital media strategically and capably."
Some of my teacher friends are nervous about the call within the Common Core State Standards for more informational texts in the classroom. Couple informational texts with recommendations to have students read widely and deeply from increasingly challenging texts, and I've got a couple of worried friends!
There's nothing quite like working with a group of students with a text that is (1) hard for them to read, and (2) doesn't immediately grab their attention. Thanks to Emily Stewart, our new blogger who will share about implementing the CCSS into her classroom, we'll get an insider's look at how one teacher navigates the challenges.
One resource that can help teachers think about text complexity is 7 Actions that Teachers Can Take Right Now: Text Complexity from TextProject. Today I'll share about creating connections, one of the actions described by Dr. Hiebert, and encourage you to read the rest of the article to learn the other actions.
We all remember learning about schema theory, and the value of helping kids make connections between something they know and something new. These are the cognitive "hooks" that we have children "hang" new knowledge on. With the CCSS, teachers are encouraged to emphasize the text as the source of knowledge. While this is true, there is still value in helping students make the connection between a text and something they already know.
Dr. Hiebert recommends using the acronym KNOWS as a way to guide students in making connections:
K: Did I draw on students' existing knowledge and experience?
N: Did I identify what new knowledge can be gained from this text and guide students in gaining it?
O: Did I support students in organizing their new knowledge with their existing knowledge/experiences?
W: Did I show students ways to widen their knowledge?
S: Did I support students in sharing their knowledge?
Of these, I find the "widen" element the most compelling. I hope to write more about that later. I've shared this article and talked about KNOWS with my friends. How about you? Does this framework for thinking about making connections with new knowledge seem useful to you?
This November, I'm thankful for the teachers who work tirelessly day after day with our kids. Teachers are very special people. I'm thankful for principals and school specialists who recognize that good teaching is sometimes loud and messy, and it's rarely easy. I'm thankful for parents who do their part in raising curious and prepared students. And I'm thankful to those who find their way to my blog in their search for information about struggling readers.