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Curriculum & instruction

Unbalanced Comments on Balanced Literacy

Want to win an argument about literacy? Just claim your approach is “balanced.”

Balanced is a affirmative term. That’s why Fox-News claims to be “fair and balanced.” It not only makes your position sound reasonable, but implies your opponents may be a bit off, you know, imbalanced.

So it is not too surprising that school principals and district literacy leaders often tout their reading programs as balanced. “Balanced literacy” sounds great, but what does it mean? What is being balanced?

Final Notes on Complex Text Requirements

Last week I replied to some of the remarks about text complexity that were made on the Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post column. Here are a couple more.

Snappy Responses on Challenging Text Debate

Last week, Valerie Strauss devoted her Washington Post space to an article challenging the idea of teaching with challenging text, including my articles. The posting got lots of response showing fundamental misunderstandings of the issues on this. I am reprinting some of those responses along with my rejoinders to those.

Talk it up!

One of the goals the writers of The Common Core Standards had in mind was to build natural collaboration and discussion strategies within students, helping to prepare them for higher levels of education and collaboration in the workforce. In our Common Core classrooms today, students are being asked to incorporate multiple strategies, complex texts, and evidence-based responses. When faced with this overwhelming task, we must put many building blocks in place for our kiddos to be successful.

Grounded in evidence. Part 1: Fiction

It's funny to be a teacher! When everyone else thinks of the "New Year" starting January 1st, teachers are getting ready to start their "third quarter."" Usually about our "half-time" (aka: Winter Vacation) I enjoy reflecting on our year so far, and how I can tweak my instruction to streamline our focus. So after the presents have been opened, traditions enjoyed, and champagne and poppers cleaned up, it's always a good opportunity to sit back, and begin deciding where instruction needs to be strengthened.

Complex text ... oh, my!

I don't know about you, but implementing the Common Core has become an exciting new challenge! I am having to think about text in a whole new way.

Making the bridge: instruction after state testing

Testing is over … so does that mean I don't have to teach anymore?!?!?

When the mints have been munched, and those newly sharpened testing pencils (as opposed to the nubs we usually find lying around) are now part of your classroom pencil collection, we know state testing has come and gone. We have spent the last eight months pulling our hair out to help each of our students master each standard, and now there's a silence in the air, begging the question … what do we teach for the next month and a half? Well, let's not kid ourselves, there's NEVER silence in a classroom!

Up the ante! High achieving students and the Common Core

Someone once said, "a rising tide lifts all ships." For so many years, the U.S. has been in the middle for reading on the PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment) — and lower in science and math. The PISA scores countries on the number of critical thinking questions their students can persevere through at various levels. One of the goals of the Common Core is to raise the bar on critical thinking, which in turn will affect our scores on the PISA … fingers crossed!

Is childhood being hijacked?

How do the realities of our contemporary life mesh with childhood? Have expectations of what a young child should know changed so much that they're not able to be young? What are — or might be — the consequences?

Kate DiCamillo's characters could possibly change the world!

When I think back to the positively LOVABLE characters that I truly adore discovering with my kiddos each year, here are the names that come to mind: Winn-Dixie. Edward Tulane. Despereaux. Mercy Watson. The true loves of our classroom life! That's the funny thing about teaching character analysis, our kids have already come to love these characters that they hold so dear to their hearts.

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"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald