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Grounded in evidence. Part 3: Constructed responses based on evidence

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes construction as: "The art of construing, interpreting, or explaining." I believe the key word is interpreting. Before students delve into text, we first must teach them how to break it apart and look for evidence. It's just as critical to teach our students what to do once they have collected the evidence. The art of interpretation is hard to teach, but if we begin with the basics, and model, model, model — then students can begin to understand the thinking process behind the interpretation they are expected to achieve.

Flipping the elementary classroom

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.

Fit for a President

It happens every four years. There's an increase in visitors, heightened activity, lots of temporary structures being built in the nation's capital. Regardless of the weather, regardless of the political chatter, there's a Presidential Inauguration to prepare for.

A reader's confession (AKA the need to read widely)

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.

Grounded in evidence. Part 2: Informational text

Thoughtful. Careful. Precise. These are the words that should define our students as they provide evidence that supports text-dependent questions. Part 2 of our focus on evidence-based questions takes us into the world of informational text. It tends to be easier for students to find evidence to support their answers within informational text. However, where we sometimes fall short, is in the level of difficulty of the questions we are asking our kiddos.

Text complexity: create connections

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!

Strong, vivid narratives inspire, in nonfiction, too!

Sid Fleischman was best known for his novels. His fiction often demonstrates a sense of humor and always provides insight into human nature. Fleischman brought his writing skills to several longer biographies (and a memoir).

Point of view in nonfiction picture books

In a recent article, Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews points out there's a battle brewing over the use of fiction or nonfiction in the Common Core standards. He calls it the fiction vs. nonfiction smackdown.

Why a smackdown? The literature of both fact and fiction can engage and educate.

Learning outcomes versus teaching tools

Over at Shanahan on Literacy, Dr. Shanahan wrote an interesting post We Zigged When We Should Have Zagged about the lack of comprehension strategies in the Common Core State Standards.

Fun with science and math IS possible

All too often, children hear the word math and they freeze. It just can't have pleasure associated with it nor can it possibly have anything to do real life.

Math really is everywhere but like the narrator in Jon Scieszka's funny and slightly offbeat Math Curse (Viking), fear of it can be a serious affliction. It can even impact how children perceive and school success — and eventually their career choices.

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"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox