Each weekday, Reading Rockets gathers interesting news headlines about reading and early education. Please note that Reading Rockets does not necessarily endorse these views or any others on these outside websites.
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Helping high school students with only basic English improve their speaking, writing and listening skills requires that language be a focus of every content area. The ENLACE Academy at Lawrence High School in Massachusetts serves students who have been in the country only a few years and are just beginning to learn the language. English and content are the twin goals of every lesson. "Coaching is a big part of what we do here because our mission and our model is really about building language through content," said Allison Balter, principal of ENLACE Academy. "But what we find is that not a lot of teachers come with both of those skill sets." To continually improve their instruction, content area teachers meet once a week to get feedback from one another on upcoming lessons. Then Balter observes the lesson, video-records it, and meets with the teacher afterward to highlight strengths and ideas for improvement. Balter said learning together is part of the teaching culture within the academy, which is especially important since this style of teaching is new to many teachers.
In a new study out of the University of Virginia, The role of elementary school quality in the persistence of preschool effects, the authors find that the quality of the elementary school students matriculate into matters for whether pre-K gains persist. The study’s authors use the data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort of 1998 to estimate the extent to which the academic benefits of pre-K persist as a function of the quality of the elementary school children subsequently experience. They find that academic benefits of pre-K were largely sustained through the end of fifth grade when children subsequently attended a high-quality elementary school while less than one quarter of these benefits persisted when children attended a low-quality elementary school.
Dan Weiss was leafing through his local newspaper when he saw a story about a boy with autism being asked to leave a New Jersey library. “It’s the textbook, exact situation that you don’t want to read about,” says Weiss, director of the Fanwood (NJ) Memorial Library and co-founder of Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected. “When we started Libraries and Autism in 2008, part of the genesis of it was an incident exactly like this. It was the impetus for the need for awareness and customer service training on how to deal with situations involving folks on the spectrum.” Jacqueline Laurita, mother of eight-year-old Nicholas, who has autism, posted on Facebook and Twitter that her son was kicked out of the Franklin Lakes (NJ) Public Library for tapping on DVDs and humming. While April is Autism Awareness Month, this situation is a reminder that that despite greater growing recognition of autism, there is still a need for education and training.
Given the recent rise in podcast popularity, it’s no surprise that audio narratives are making their way into the classroom. They offer an engaging way for teachers to merge project-based learning with digital media analysis and production skills. That’s why we’re announcing our first-ever Student Podcast Contest, in which we invite students to submit original podcasts, five minutes long or less, inspired by one of our 1,000-plus writing prompts. The contest will run from April 26 to May 25, so stay tuned for our official contest announcement next week. In anticipation of that contest, the mini-unit below walks students through the process of analyzing the techniques that make for good storytelling, interviewing and podcasting. The activities culminate in students producing their own original podcasts.
“The American Dream is about equal opportunity for everyone who works hard. If we don’t give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren’t giving everyone an equal chance to succeed.” —Barbara Bush. When former first lady Barbara Bush died on Tuesday, literacy lost a great champion. During her time in the White House, she created the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and also helped push for the National Literacy Act, which was passed by her husband, President George H.W. Bush, in 1991. Her daughter-in-law, former teacher and librarian and first lady Laura Bush, also made literacy one of her public causes.
Reading fluency is the ability to read with sufficient ease, accuracy, and expression, providing a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. To help students become more fluent, many educators assume that reading more is the key, and therefore require students to read silently for several minutes a day. The problem, however, is that silent reading is not proven to help build reading fluency in struggling readers. According to the National Reading Panel, “There is insufficient support from empirical research to suggest that independent, silent reading can be used to help students improve their fluency.” That being said, silent reading does have an important place in students’ lives. Once a student is a fluent reader, they should read anything and everything that is available at their level.
More young children are enrolled in state-funded early-childhood education programs across the country, the National Institute for Early Education Research says in its latest annual report, but only Alabama, Michigan, and Rhode Island meet all of the organization's new benchmarks for quality. This year's "State of Preschool Yearbook," which covers the 2016-17 school year, focuses on what the organization says are growing disparities in early-childhood education between states and even in communities within the same state. The report, released Wednesday, found that 10 states enrolled more than 50 percent of their 4-year-olds in state-funded preschool, while five states enrolled more than 70 percent. On average, states served more than a third of their 4-year-olds in these programs.
Having the confidence to speak in front of others is challenging for most people. For English Language Learners, this anxiety can be heightened because they are also speaking in a new language. We’ve found several benefits to incorporating opportunities for students to present to their peers in a positive and safe classroom environment. It helps them focus on pronunciation and clarity and also boosts their confidence. This type of practice is useful since students will surely have to make presentations in other classes, in college, and/or in their future jobs. However, what may be even more valuable is giving students the chance to take these risks in a collaborative, supportive environment. Presentations also offer students the opportunity to become the teacher—something we welcome and they enjoy!
It starts with a character for Erin Entrada Kelly. One character begets another and a novel is born. The 2018 Newbery Medal winner doesn’t find her creative process particularly inspired. In fact, that initial protagonist tends to come to life in her car. “It’s almost always when I’m driving,” Kelly says. “I wish I could say I had a dream and it was some kind of magic, but it’s not.” Nurturing a love of writing since elementary school, Kelly has been a reporter, magazine editor, and copyeditor while finding her way as a novelist. In 2012, she moved from Louisiana to Pennsylvania. She earned her MFA in creative writing in 2016 from Rosemont College, where she teaches Contemporary Issues in Children’s Literature. She loves writing, a lifelong passion turned profession that has led her here—navigating this new life as a Newbery winner. “It’s been incredible,” she says. “Especially the response from the Filipino community.” For the first time in Newbery history, the winner and all three honor books were written by authors of color.
Over the last two decades, federal grants for educating low-income students have shifted from overwhelmingly being targeted to only the individual low-income students in a building to mostly being used to support schoolwide programs on high-poverty campuses. A new nationwide study of the $15.8 billion Title I program suggests that, while the more holistic approach has allowed school and district leaders to support a broader array of staff and interventions for students in poverty, school leaders often do not receive the training and information needed to make the most of the grant's flexibility.
Students are often attuned to current events and world affairs. Debating topics relevant to the news can be a high-interest way to engage English language learners in academic discourse that matters to them while building language skills. Structured debate also gives students opportunities to disagree politely without attacking individuals for their opinions -- a useful life skill. "Our theme for this whole year is leadership," said Matt Clements, a ninth-grade teacher in the ENLACE Academy at Lawrence High School in Massachusetts. "So as students learn the listening, the reading, the writing and the speaking skills well enough, they transition into my leadership class where they can put all those skills together."
As the director of reading readiness for the Reading Center in Rochester, Jan Hagedorn and her volunteers set up a struggling reader simulation April 12 at Red Wing High School to give teachers, business professionals and the public a chance to learn about their strategies with dealing with dyslexic students. The simulation had four stations that varied on their approach of communicating what it's like to be a struggling reader. The first station dealt with reading a children's story that had words that would turn into a grouping of symbols. The exercise forced the readers to memorize certain words, without looking back, while also being prompted to hurry up or move quickly through the reading.
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Children’s Poetry Award Committee has selected their 2018 Notable Poetry Books list. Each of the 25 chosen works was published in 2017. Read and evaluated by every committee member, these books were deemed notable for their use of language, poetic devices, and their appropriateness for children ages three to 13. The form or structure of the poems was evaluated to ensure that the mood or subject matter was well represented. The selections also includes anthologies and collections. In some cases, these are newly published poems, while other titles include works of a classic or contemporary children’s poet that are newly illustrated or edited into a fresh collection. This year, two outstanding verse novels were selected for recognition.
It’s a truism in child development that the very young learn through relationships and back-and-forth interactions, including the interactions that occur when parents read to their children. A new study provides evidence of just how sustained an impact reading and playing with young children can have, shaping their social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and early literacy skills. The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention, a new study has found. “We think of reading in lots of different ways, but I don’t know that we think of reading this way,” said Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, who is the principal investigator of the study, “Reading Aloud, Play and Social-Emotional Development,” published in the journal Pediatrics.
Last week, scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress—often referred to as the NAEP, or The Nation’s Report Card—revealed that about two-thirds of students across the country scored below the “proficient” level on reading tests administered in 2017. The even worse news is that the figure hasn’t changed since 1998. Education policy wonks have been trying to come up with explanations. Maybe we haven’t been spending enough money on education, or perhaps we’re not holding schools and teachers sufficiently accountable for low scores. Maybe it's deepening levels of poverty. But what if the reason for the flat scores is that by putting so much emphasis on reading tests, we've been undermining our own efforts?
When a grant came to finally renovate the children’s room at the Butterfield Public Library in Cold Spring, NY, the library staff knew immediately who they wanted to honor with its name. Long-time community member and famed children’s author Jean Marzollo was the only choice, says library director Gillian Thorpe. But they had to convince Marzollo. For Marzollo, Thorpe says, the joy was in the words. “She just loved words,” Thorpe says. “She loved to play with them. She loved the rhyme. She talked about the sound of them. So when somebody else got that, I saw her many times get so excited.” Marzollo published more than 100 children’s books, but will always be known best for the “I Spy” series, a collaboration with artist and photographer Walter Wick.
On Tuesday, a panel of experts in Washington, D.C., convened by the federally appointed officials who oversee the NAEP concluded that the root of the problem is the way schools teach reading. The current instructional approach, they agreed, is based on assumptions about how children learn that have been disproven by research over the last several decades—research that the education world has largely failed to heed. The best way to boost students’ reading comprehension is to expand their knowledge and vocabulary by teaching them history, science, literature, and the arts, using curricula that that guide kids through a logical sequence from one year to the next. Panelist Timothy Shanahan, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois and the author or editor of over 200 publications on literacy said, recent research indicates that students actually learn more from reading texts that are considered too difficult for them.
In her TEDx talk, Elise Roy describes how losing her hearing when she was a child forced her to become an excellent problem solver because she was able to identify issues someone else might not have ever noticed. Growing up, she had to design innovative solutions to challenges that arose in her everyday life, picked herself up from failure, tried new strategies and eventually succeeded. She sees her disability as a tremendous strength now that she's a designer. She experiences the world differently from other people, and that unique perspective allows her to design innovative solutions. Roy makes a strong case for designing environments and tools with disabilities in mind from the start. Solutions created this way are not only inclusive -- they're also better for everyone. Her pitch echoes calls for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) within the education community, as the entire field recognizes that children are all different and one size doesn't fit all.
Ramona Quimby was not meant to be a main character, not at first. She first appeared as a minor character in Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins books. "It occurred to me that all the children appeared to be only children," recalls Cleary, who turns 102 on April 12. It was 1950 and Cleary was a school librarian, writing her first book, at the urging of a little boy who marched up to her and demanded, "Where are the books about kids like us?" Henry Huggins and the many books that followed were meant to be an antidote to the sugary, sentimental children’s stories that were fashionable in the 1950s; Cleary was writing about real children. And real children do sometimes have siblings, of course — so Cleary invented Ramona, the pesky younger sister of Henry’s friend and neighbor Beezus. But Ramona, that unstoppable ball of energy and excitement, was not willing to idle on the sidelines as a minor character. She demanded her own stories.
“They certainly had no idea that the risk was the school.” No, they (the Reagan administration) and we (the American people) didn’t. That revelation landed like a nuclear bomb, which, as former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt points out, is what most Americans thought they had to fear 35 years ago when “A Nation at Risk” was released. In this gripping new 74 documentary directed by Jim Fields, Hunt and other key players recall how they went about determining that “the condition of American education K-12 had deteriorated badly in the previous 25 years,” and the essential promise they extracted from President Ronald Reagan beforehand that the report would be published regardless of what it revealed about America’s schools.