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Content Area Teaching and Learning

Job One: Build Knowledge. ESSA Creates an Opportunity— and an Obligation — to Help Every Child Become a Strong Reader

Hansel, L., Pondiscio, R. (May 2016) Job One: Build Knowledge. ESSA Creates an Opportunity— and an Obligation — to Help Every Child Become a Strong Reader. Knowledge Matters, Issue Brief #4.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), policymakers have the flexibility to incentivize districts and schools to make long-term investments in building students’ knowledge and vocabulary. This brief offers seven flexible, adaptable recommendations that will lead to better reading comprehension. With ESSA, states have the flexibility to rethink how reading test results are used, and to support schools in developing children with both strong word-reading skills (e.g., decoding) and a substantial foundation of academic knowledge and vocabulary. Given the large knowledge and vocabulary gaps that already exist when children enter school, systematically building skills, knowledge, and vocabulary throughout the elementary grades is our best hope for closing the reading achievement gap.

Knowledge and Practice: The Real Keys to Critical Thinking

Willingham, D. (May 2016). Knowledge and Practice: The Real Keys to Critical Thinking. Knowledge Matters, Issue Brief #1.

A strong body of evidence shows that analysis requires deep knowledge of the topic, and therefore critical thinking can’t be reduced to a set of skills and strategies. In short, to “think like a scientist,” a student must know the facts, concepts, and procedures that a scientist knows. Background knowledge is absolutely integral to effectively deploying important cognitive processes. What this means for teachers: (1) facts should be meaningful; (2) knowledge acquisition can be incedental; and (3) knowledge learning should start early.

 

Fact or Fiction? Children’s Preferences for Real Versus Make-Believe Stories

Barnes, J.L., Bernstein, E., and Bloom, P. Fact or Fiction? Children’s Preferences for Real Versus Make-Believe Stories, Imagination, Cognition and Personality March 2015, vol. 34 no. 3, 243-258.

Some children and adults are more drawn to the imaginary than others. In this study, researchers examined whether developmental differences also play a role in the degree to which individuals are drawn to make-believe stories over real ones (or vice versa). Experiment 1 explored the influence of the factuality of stories — whether or not stories reflect events that had actually happened — on children’s story preferences. Experiment 2 explored the effect of magical versus realistic content on participants’ story preferences. The results suggest that despite the surplus of imaginary activity associated with childhood, young children are not more prone to liking “un-real” stories than adults and may in fact like them less.

Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts

Adams, M.J. (2011). Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.

The language of today's twelfth-grade English texts is simpler than that of seventh-grade texts published prior to 1963. No wonder students' reading comprehension has declined sharply.

Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade, But We Need To

Hirsch, E.D., Jr. (2011). Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade — But We Need To. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.

Most of today's reading programs rest on faulty ideas about reading comprehension. Comprehension is not a general skill; it relies on having relevant vocabulary and knowledge.

Getting a Head Start on the Common Core

Summer Matters (November 2013), Getting a Head Start on the Common Core, Oakland, CA: Partnership for Children and Youth.

This report describes how education leaders can use summer programs to stop summer learning loss, and build student and staff capacity to succeed in the new Common Core environment. Part of the "Putting Summer to Work" series developed by the Partnership for Children and Youth.

Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children's Learning and Health

Thai, M.T., Lowenstein, D., Ching, D., Rejeski, D. (2009). Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children's Learning and Health. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop

Younger and younger children are becoming immersed in the new gaming culture. If you think this is an unhealthy trend, you are not alone. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center addresses this concern in this policy brief. The report proposes that a national investment in research-based digital games can help children learn healthy behaviors, core skills like reading and math, and 21st-century strengths such as critical thinking, global learning, and programming design.

3.6 Minutes Per Day: The Scarcity of Informational Texts in First Grade

Duke, N.K. (2000). 3.6 minutes per day: The scarcity of informational texts in first grade. Reading Research Quarterly, 35, 202-224.

This study provides basic, descriptive information about informational text experiences offered to children in 20 first-grade classrooms selected from very low- and very high-SES school districts. Results show a scarcity of informational texts in these classroom print environments and activities – there were relatively few informational texts included in classroom libraries, little informational text on classroom walls and other surfaces, and a mean of only 3.6 minutes per day spent with informational texts during classroom written language activities. This scarcity was particularly acute for children in the low-SES school districts, where informational texts comprised a much smaller proportion of already-smaller classroom libraries, where informational texts were even less likely to be found on classroom walls and other surfaces, and where the mean time per day spent with informational texts was 1.9 minutes, with half the low-SES classrooms spending no time at all with informational texts during any of the four days each was observed. Strategies for increasing attention to informational texts in the early grades are presented.

Questioning the Author: A Yearlong Classroom Implementation to Engage Students with Text

Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., Sandora, C., Kucan, L., & Worthy, J. (1996). Questioning the author: A yearlong classroom implementation to engage students with text. Elementary School Journal, 96, 385-414.

This article describes the development and implementation of Questioning the Author, an instructional intervention that focuses on having students grapple with and reflect on what an author is trying to say in order to build a representation from it. The implementation involved a social studies teacher, a reading/language arts teacher, and their 23 inner city fourth-grade students in a small parochial school. Analyses of transcripts of videotaped lessons and classroom observations revealed that teacher talk decreased in quantity and increased in quality with more emphasis on questions focused on constructing and extending meaning and more skill in refining and using students' comments in discussion. Changes in the content of student talk were also documented. These included an increase in the number and complexity of student-initiated questions and evidence of the development of student collaboration. Teachers' journal entries and students' responses in interviews provided insights about their views of the implementation.

K-W-L: A Teaching Model That Develops Active Reading of Expository Text

Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.

This simple procedure helps teachers become more responsive to students' knowledge and interests when reading expository material, and it models for students the active thinking involved in reading for information.

Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners

Institute of Museum and Library Services (2012). Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners. Developed in partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

This report calls upon policymakers, practitioners, and parents to make full use of libraries and museums, and the skills and talents of those who work in them, to close knowledge and opportunity gaps and give all children a strong start in learning. The type of learning that occurs in these institutions — self-directed, experiential, content-rich — promotes executive function skills that can shape a child’s success in school and life.

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