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Curriculum & instruction

Unlearning learning styles

I read with interest this list of 10 things teachers should unlearn from What Ed Said. The post generated lots of conversation, especially on the "Technology integration is optional" and "Students are obliged to respect teachers" points.

You had a lot to say about...

Happy New Year! January is a great time to look ahead, but I also like to revisit the past to remember some highlights. Several blog topics seemed to resonate with readers (using comments as a barometer), and for me that provides guidance about other topics I should write about in the coming year.

Managing instruction when kids are sick

Molly went back to school Monday morning after being out sick all last week. She had the double whammy of H1N1 and strep throat. It was a loooong week for her and me! She was miserable, feverish, and missed five days of school.

Flu-related absences present a real instructional challenge for teachers. After all, it's hard to run a reading group with half the group out sick. And what about that new science unit, or the concept in math you planned to teach? Should you hold off new content, or go ahead and teach it and plan to teach it again when the sick kids are back?

Accelerated Reader is not a reading program

My friend B called yesterday to talk about her second grader. A former teacher herself, B was worried because she hasn't seen any language-arts related papers come home. When she asks her daughter about reading groups at school, her daughter simply says, "We don't do reading groups. I take tests on a computer."

Could've, should've, would've taught these contractions?

My friend's third grader came home with her word study list this week. On the list were the contractions could've, should've, would've and might've. My friend brought the list over to talk about it, and had real concerns about those contractions being taught. "I challenged [her daughter] to find any of those words in print. I know we use them when we talk, but I don't think of them as being real words that should be used in writing."

Ranting about RAN

Lots of kids with reading difficulties have trouble on measures of rapid automatized naming (RAN). RAN tasks measure the time taken for a child to name alphabet letters, digits, colors or common objects presented in a random order. Poorer readers consistently perform more slowly on automatized naming tasks.

How running a reading program is like running a campaign

As I write this blog on Wednesday morning after our historic presidential election, I'm struck by an article I read on msnbc.com. Howard Fineman summarized what he saw as Obama's seven-prong approach to his campaign that served him well.

It was easy for me to see how well these same seven prongs could serve schools and districts well as they consider how they teach reading.

Below are the seven prongs as described by Fineman, with each prong's relationship to reading summarized. See what you think!

Are word searches a waste of instructional time?

A question came to me via the Ask the Expert service that Reading Rockets provides. With the teacher's permission, I'm including it here to get your opinion.

Nonsense, as in nonsense words

Mog.
Fim.
Phum.
Sote.
Pagbo.

Just a few examples of the types of words students are asked to read on a Nonsense Word assessment. Some assessments are timed (how many nonsense words can you read in one minute?), and some assessments use a ceiling (stop when the student incorrectly reads 5 in a row).

Putting fluency in its place

For six years I trained and observed preservice elementary education students. I vividly remember one lesson, observing a student teacher whose lesson plan included using timed repeated readings to increase her students' reading speed.

Everything started off well until I saw the text she planned to use: A POEM. For timed repeated readings! I watched as she worked with students one-on-one using some of her favorite Shel Silverstein poems and a bar graph.

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"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx