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.
I feel like I barely go through a week without reading about a school or district adopting e-readers for classrooms. Even at home, e-readers are becoming commonplace. Families are spending more time reading books with e-readers, even with their very young children.
Researchers at the Erickson Institute at Temple University seeking to understand the effect of an e-reader on the amount and types of verbal interaction between child and parent found some startling patterns. From the press release:
"It turned out that reading electronic books became a behaviorally oriented, slightly coercive parent-child interaction as opposed to talking about the story, relating it to the their child's life, or even talking about the book's pictures or text," Parish-Morris said. "Parents were under the impression that when you are sitting down with a book, you are supposed to read it," she added. "But what was happening with the e-books is that reading was not even part of the process, probably because these books literally read the story to the child. So parents are not needed. The book makes commands and tells the child what to do; it encourages them to play games and reads to the child, so parents are essentially replaced by this battery-operated machine."
This is bad news for those of us who know how valuable and irreplaceable parent–child conversations are for young children. As educators, we must recognize the role of e-readers in today's world, but also continue to advocate for traditional book reading experiences filled with language experiences as well.
Some recommendations for those with e-readers:
- Don't let the e-reader drive the whole reading experience. Take the time to stop the reading of the book, to talk about what's happening and to enjoy the pictures.
- Continue traditional book reading, and read together every day! Talk about the content and use interesting words as part of the conversation.
- Regardless of the format, help your child make connections between the book and their own life. Engage in rich conversations and circle back around over and over again to books you both love.
There's a workable balance between traditional and e-books out there. Let's help our families find it!
We started a new tradition in our family last year. We'll do it again this year, and I hope you'll consider adding this tradition to your family holiday too! It's a simple one: put a book on every bed.
Last year, 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.
I particularly like that, within this idea, the books don't have to be new. They can be books parents are handing down to their kids. Last year, I gave our younger daughter my much loved copy of The Giving Tree, and my husband handed down to our older daughter his well-worn copy of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Our girls had already read those books, 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.
Last year's choices were highly sentimental for me. This year, not so much. Our choices were based on books they couldn't seem to get enough of at our school book fair. My older daughter will have Are You "Normal"?: More Than 100 Questions That Will Test Your Weirdness (National Geographic Kids) waiting for her, and our younger daughter will waken to The Encyclopedia of Immaturity: Volume 2.
Who knows? Maybe a book on every bed will keep them in bed Christmas morning! (Doubtful). Happy holidays to you and your family. I'll see you again in 2012!
There seems to be an explosion of infographics these days! If you're not familiar with that term, an infographic is a visual representation of information or data. A lot of information can be displayed visually, both quickly and clearly (at least most times). As someone who has always been drawn to the visual display of information, I love a well done infographic. And I think they have potential value for the elementary classroom too, although most are designed for older students.
For an infographic to be fully appreciated, teachers will have to help students "read" the graphic. Just as they do when they read a nonfiction text, students will first need to pull back and determine what information is presented. Then they'll need to figure out how to navigate the graphic. Some use very simple lines to help the reader understand the flow; others use block structures or flow chart designs.
I created a Reading Rockets Pinterest board full of examples for young kids. Take a look! Which one is your favorite?
If you're interested in reading and learning more about teaching with infographics, this article from the NY Times is a great place to start!
The Common Core Standards are national standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. They've been adopted by over 45 states and six provinces, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. According to the Common Core website the standards "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers."
The Common Core Standards place a new emphasis on informational text. There's specific wording about the craft and structure of texts, the integration of knowledge and ideas across multiple texts, and a range of reading and levels of text difficulty. Reading Hall of Famer Tim Shanahan (see Shanahan on Literacy) posted recently about an IRA Webinar in which he outlines what he sees as some of the challenges the CCS present for teachers. Among the challenges (and there are many, but that's too long a post): (1) students will likely be taught from texts that are more challenging than in the past, and (2) the emphasis will be on stretching students to meet the demands of the text rather than matching the text to the reading level of the student.
That's quite a paradigm shift for teachers who work in a district where the edict has been on matching a reader with a specific leveled book. Sure, there are scaffolding strategies teachers can use with students, but if the foundational skills and the "cognitive hooks" needed for understanding aren't there, I worry that a lot of instructional time will be wasted using text that is too challenging. What are your thoughts?
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that one blog in my RSS feed is written by Lisa Belkin. Belkin's blog, Parentlode, can be found in the Huffington Post. Many of Belkin's posts speak to me on a personal level, and some circle into my professional life as well.
If you have boys, or have boys in your classroom, I recommend reading this post. In it you'll learn about an acronym READ (ritual, environment, access, and dialogue), ways to make reading part of the active lifestyle boys tend to lead, and a slideshow of humorous books boys might like. Enjoy!
We all love picture books, and hopefully a really good one finds its way into your hands at least once a day. What might happen less frequently is that you use a picture book to help you teach science. I've got a great resource (with a free PDF!) that will hopefully encourage you to use more picture books in science.
Picture Perfect Science Lessons describes how a picture book can help guide students through an engaging hands-on inquiry lesson. The lessons are designed for students in grades 3-6, and include reading comprehension strategies. It's a great supplement to your existing science program.
Chapter 1 reminds us why picture books are so great in science class. Reasons include:
- Picture books provide context for the concepts you're exploring. The colorful pictures and graphics help explain abstract ideas.
- A picture book will tend to focus on fewer topics and give more in-depth coverage of a concept.
- Reading a picture book in science gives kids a chance to practice reading a somewhat unfamiliar genre.
- Picture books can help correct science misconceptions.
Chapter 2, on Reading Aloud, provides ten tips for reading aloud, information about reading comprehension strategies, and tools to enhance comprehension.
The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has a free PDF of the first five chapters of the book. To access it, you'll need to establish an account at NSTA and add the PDF to your virtual professional library. It takes an extra few clicks, but I think the free download is worth it.
Looking for ideas for outstanding science trade books for students K-12? Click here to see lists of books by year
Classroom teachers are really busy people. It's often hard enough to keep up with the day to day demands of the classroom, without having to worry about keeping up with the latest research and scientific findings. Any more, it seems as though every product and curriculum out there touts their "research based" foundation. With all the hype about "research based," "scientifically based" and "results driven," is it really worth paying attention to it at all? The answer is yes.
An article from the September 2011 issue of the Reading Teacher, 10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know About Research (the full PDF is available for free!) distills what educators, including coaches, principals, and specialists should know about research. The authors, Nell Duke and Nicole Martin, also hope to guard against the misuse of research in the classroom.
The very first point in the paper (What Research Can Do) describes how sometimes our own experiences and commonsense thinking lead us to wrong conclusions in our teaching. Carefully designed research can help us recognize different approaches that may result in greater learning than the ones we comfortably use. Researchers also have benefits and access that teachers typically don't enjoy — for example, researchers can complete extended studies in homes or libraries, and can distill from those experiences information that couldn't otherwise be gained.
10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know About Research also contains a handy note-taking sheet to use when reading a piece of research. Using the guide can help one understand what is and isn't research. With so much out there to read, it's good to recognize when something may be more of an opinion piece or a summary of lots of different research. Those types of writing are still valuable; they're just different than research writing.
So, food for thought. Enjoy the free PDF and let me know what you think of the article!
Chance favors the connected mind. So says Steven Johnson, best-selling author of books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. Johnson has spent lots of time answering questions such as: what types of spaces lead to creativity and innovation? He describes how many great ideas don't come from a big eureka! Most come from ideas that have percolated or marinated within for quite some time. Johnson believes that good ideas come from the collision of smaller ideas, and only after those smaller ideas have time to incubate. Embedded within his theory about where good ideas come from is the notion that these smaller ideas may exist within other people, and it's only when the smaller ideas have the chance to come together, can they become something bigger than the sum of their parts. Ideas need a space where ideas can mingle, and swap and create new forms.
What does this mean for the classroom? It's a bit of a tough one because in most schools teachers only get to have our students for one year; this doesn't allow much time for incubation and percolation. But I think there are things teachers can do within one year to foster creativity and innovation, even with our youngest learners.
- Allow time to circle back to projects. Looking at something after a few days off does wonders for one's perspective on it.
- Provide a physical meeting place and the time for kids to sit and talk about ideas. Writer's conferences are the closest thing most classrooms have to this, but I think it's a model for other subjects as well.
- Respect that ideas come in all shapes and sizes. What might seem wrong, or too crazy, or too complicated when first heard (or thought) just may turn out to be a piece of something larger. And better.
If you have four minutes, I encourage you to watch and listen as Steven Johnson talks and draws his way through Where Good Ideas Come From. And if you're so inclined, check out Johnson's book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.
- Brain & learning
Many elementary teachers use word walls in the classroom. A word wall is an organized collection of words displayed in a classroom. Word walls provide easy access to words students need. The specific organization of the word wall will match the teacher's purpose: sight words organized by alphabet letter, unit-specific words, new vocabulary words, etc. The most helpful word walls grow and change throughout the year and are used as a learning reference.
We just added word walls to our strategy library, and I wanted to share some ideas for using word walls in math, and also a few suggestions for using children's books to help build word walls (thanks, Maria Salvadore!).
Number sense, concepts, and operations word wall
The purpose of the mathematics word wall is to identify words and phrases that students need to understand and use so as to make good progress in mathematics. Mathematical language is crucial to children's development of thinking. When students have the vocabulary to talk about math concepts and skills, they can make greater progress in their understanding.
This PDF from Broward County Schools shows several visual examples of math words for a word wall. The examples range from even and odd to measurement, algebraic thinking, and data analysis.
More ideas for word walls in math
Many teachers are familiar with basic word wall strategies including the use of a flashlight (to put the light on words) and a fly swatter (to highlight words). Teachers are also familiar with tested favorites like bingo; I Have, Who Has; and Mind Reader, but they really wanted other ideas. This document, by Dr. Deborah Wahlstrom, shares additional ways to use word walls with mathematics content.
Ideas for using children's books to build math word walls from Maria Salvadore
Terms and comparisons to describe numbers are presented in an engaging story from which word wall content could be developed and expanded.
Mummy Math: An Adventure in Geometry by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Bryan Langdo (Ages 6-9)
Basic geometry is introduced in this story about children who accompany their parents on a trip to Egypt. A word wall of geometric shapes and terms would enhance a math study.
One Is a Snail, Ten Is a Crab Big Book: A Counting by Feet Book by April Pulley Sayre & Jeff Sayre, illustrated by Randy Cecil (Ages 3-6, 6-9)
This seeming simple counting book represents a spectrum of math concepts including patterns, addition, computation, and more. Word walls may be made of math functions illuminated or inspired by this book.
I recently stumbled on a site that promises to consume far too much of my time! But I love the possibilities of Pinterest, a virtual pinboard. Pinterest lets you organize and share all the great things you find on the Web in a very visual way. It's free to join, but there's an invitation process you'll see on the site.
People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, share their favorite recipes, and I'm using it this week to share some ideas about reading comprehension. I created this Reading Rockets Pinterest board on comprehension as a way to share some (mostly teacher made) posters for the classroom. The comprehension board also includes a bookmark and a poster that are more of a produced product, but I liked the content.
Good classrooms have good stuff on the walls. When I wrote What does a good classroom look like? back in 2008, I described what I like to see when I go into a classroom. Without question, I like to see student work and posters that reflect the hard work going on in the room. Many of the comprehension pins I've put on our first Reading Rockets Pinterest board reflect my penchant for interactive displays of the work of reading. Most are teacher-made, with students contributing to the content. Hopefully you'll get an idea or two from this board, with more to come! Just click the image to see the full posting that includes the content I like.
I'll be making other Pinterest boards for Reading Rockets in the future. I'll probably organize them by content (front runner topics include fluency, classroom libraries, and management ideas). If you have something you'd like to share with our readers, let me know and I'll figure out how to pin it!