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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California Department of Education (CDE) has released the much-anticipated “California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities.” The guide will help with identifying, assessing, supporting, and reclassifying English learners with disabilities. Developed to meet the needs of California, the 464-page guide was produced with the assistance of a broad coalition of organizations and individuals with decades of professional experience, so it should be relevant to educators nationwide.
In the beginning of La La La, a little girl wanders around the pages of the book singing to herself. She's alone — and lonely — until she finds an unlikely friend: the moon. It's illustrated by Jaime Kim and authored by Kate DiCamillo, who has written dozens of children's books, including The Tale of Despereaux and the Mercy Watson series about an adventurous piglet. This summer we're asking authors and illustrators how they work together — or separately — to translate words into pictures. Or in this case, word singular, because for La La La DiCamillo gave illustrator Jaime Kim: A challenge a manuscript with exactly one word. "The only word in this is 'la,' and I don't even know if that counts as a word," DiCamillo says.
Andrea Ramos, eighth grade student at Kelly Elementary School: My favorite hobby has become reading and writing. English is not my best subject, but I do pretty well in it. The first time I got hooked on a book was the summer before seventh grade. Jessica Bibbs-Fox, teacher at Kelly Elementary School: My parents, from the sharecropping Jim Crow era, birthed my siblings in the segregated South and worked their way out of the fields to become middle-class Angelenos. They instilled in me a passion for reading through an understanding of the struggle to attain that privilege and respecting the power it holds. So I read, and I read a lot! I recognize the importance of teaching students the impact of reading on one’s life and history. Oftentimes students, much like my own school peers, are not excited to read because they haven’t been taught our history and taught to respect the power of reading.
A social entrepreneur, drawing on his background as an immigrant, believes he has found an untapped resource to help more struggling students succeed in reading. The secret? Families. Saphira is going into the fourth grade at Girls Prep in the fall, and she's been falling behind in reading. So this summer, for five weeks, she's making the hour-and-a-half trek each way from her home in the Bronx to try to catch up. And what makes this summer reading program different for many others is that once a week, her father Gerren, who works as a private driver, attends with her, through a program called Springboard. Springboard now runs summer and afterschool programs in 12 cities. They give away free books and backpacks full of school supplies and tablets as incentives to the families. In just five weeks, on average, 3 out of 4 students get to the next reading level or even further. Plus, when Springboard follows up six months later, they find families are still reading together more often than before.
If there’s one victim of the testing and accountability era that policymakers and school system leaders haven’t mourned, it’s the field trip. After all, field trips have long been dismissed in some quarters as wasteful, distracting, unserious exercises. But many teachers have consistently seen things differently. As a new school year looms, it’s worth asking whether it’s time to reconsider the value of the humble field trip. Enter University of Arkansas professor Jay Greene, who has done creative, pioneering research on civic values, school choice, high school graduation rates and even the selection of names for schools. Throughout the past decade, though, Greene has been breaking new ground in tackling a scarcely-studied question—the educational value of field trips.
While English-language learners generally lag behind their peers in academic achievement, lumping the students into one group can limit schools' ability to identify their individual strengths and struggles. Whether they're a newcomer to the United States, a longterm ELL struggling with academic English, or a student who is somewhere in-between, English-learners have diverse academic and linguistic needs—and a new study argues that there are vast differences in what they need and how they perform in school. Using longitudinal data from a large, urban California school district, the research found that newcomer English-learners and reclassified English-learners take just as many, if not more, advanced academic courses than their native English-speaking peers.
Parents considering making a commitment to music instruction may find that kids benefit from being involved with music in many ways, some of which may be surprising. The New England Board of Higher Education says several studies show that consistent music education improves vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Emerging evidence points to an area of the brain that controls both musical ability and language comprehension as being more closely related than previously thought. Music education may help young children learn words and how to pronounce them, as learning to play music enables them to process the many new sounds they hear from others. Researchers have discovered a strong relationship between participating in school arts and academic success as demonstrated by students’ grade point averages, according to the National Association for Music Education.
AASL released its new, downloadable Developing Inclusive Learners and Citizens Activity Guide. Designed to support school librarians in nurturing inclusive learning communities, the Guide offers reflection activities, scenarios, and resources based on the six Shared Foundations and the four Domains of our National School Library Standards. The goal of the Activity Guide is to help learners and school librarians alike seek balanced perspectives, global learning, empathy, tolerance, and equity to support inclusive environments within and beyond the four walls of the school library.
M.T. Anderson, recipient of the 2019 Margaret A. Edwards Award, delivered these words upon his acceptance of the honor at the annual conference of the American Library Association, which was held in Washington D.C. The annual Edwards Award (MAE), administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and sponsored by School Library Journal, recognizes an author as well as specific titles that have stood the test of time and made a “significant and lasting” contribution to young adult literature. Today, I’m going to talk about hope. On YA lit panels throughout my career, I’ve heard many answers to the question “What distinguishes YA books from books for adults?” The answer from other writers is often a single word, stark and moving: hope. They answer that leaving the reader with hope for tomorrow is the essential ingredient.
Social-emotional learning generally refers to the processes, activities or programs designed to help individuals cultivate and advance a wide range of non-academic competences or capabilities, often called SEL skills. School-based SEL typically takes place within classroom settings either during regular classes or after school. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, an organization that specializes in evaluating SEL efficacy, has identified five core competencies in social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. Research has found notable connections among SEL skills and academic success, behavioral health as well as social-emotional development in school and later in life.
Schools that prioritize literacy as a central mission of the school have greater retention, more proficient readers, and higher levels of overall academic achievement. But what does that mission look like in practice, and how can we get there? As we count down to the International Literacy Association 2019 Conference with its theme of Creating a Culture of Literacy, we asked our Twitter community, “What is something often overlooked when working to create a culture of literacy in learning environments?” Their responses remind us that there’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint; the exact formula is unique to each school and classroom.
During the summer, Education Week's Larry Ferlazzo shares thematic posts bringing together responses on similar topics from the past eight years. Today's set focuses on reading. Contributors include Daniel Willingham, Kylene Beers, Donalyn Miller, and Nancy Frey.
Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney are literally the couple that met at the copy machine. They attended business events, went out to lunch, and from there, "we started sharing about our lives," Brian says. He was an illustrator, she was a writer, and "We thought, wow, we could really do some amazing things together." The Pinkneys have now been together for 30 years, and in that time, they've collaborated on nearly 20 children books. Their latest is Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, a series of documentary poems chronicling the final days of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life — written by Andrea and illustrated by Brian. Andrea and Brian are coworkers for the long haul. They've collaborated on baby board books, biography picture books, and narrative non-fiction books for older kids.
Lee Bennett Hopkins, who in scores of anthologies he edited as well as in his own writings used poetry as a tool to teach and fire the imaginations of young readers, died on Thursday Aug. 8 in Cape Coral, Fla. Beginning in the late 1960s he published more than 100 anthologies over a half-century. There were volumes on particular subjects, about animals, space, inventions, art, punctuation, the different people youngsters were likely to encounter when they began attending school. He drew on writers known mostly within the children’s literature universe and on household names like Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes and E. E. Cummings. And he wrote poetry himself, often slipping one of his works into the anthologies he edited. Whether somber or silly, poetry could reach children in a particularly powerful way, Mr. Hopkins believed.
A student’s ability to comprehend a text will vary depending on his familiarity with the subject; no degree of “skill” will help if he lacks the knowledge to understand it. In the United States, where schools are all teaching different things, test designers try to assess general reading ability by presenting students with passages on a range of subjects and asking multiple-choice questions. Many of these questions mirror the American approach to literacy instruction: What’s the main idea? What’s the author’s purpose? What inferences can you make? Test designers also attempt to compensate for the inevitable variation in students’ background knowledge. But kids with less overall knowledge and vocabulary are always at a disadvantage. While the tests purport to measure skills, it’s impossible for students to demonstrate those skills if they haven’t understood the text in the first place. The bottom line is that the test-score gap is, at its heart, a knowledge gap.
When I was a high school English teacher, I prided myself on my work ethic. But I was too bogged down to, let's say, pick up The Handbook of Reading Research and read the information-rich but dense 30-page research articles on best practices. Instead, my approach to instruction was based on what I learned in college, professional development, and trial and error. I was a good teacher, but I could have been better. After beginning my doctorate in educational leadership with a specialization in literacy, I was forced to read those long, complicated articles. I was astounded by how much I didn't already know. I was on the front line; why hadn't anyone told me about, for example, Self-Regulated Strategy Development, which I now use as the backbone of my instruction? Why was all of this research being conducted if it wasn't disseminated to the people who could use it the most: teachers? Research should inform what's actually happening in the classroom to make maximum use of what's being discovered. While there's a great need to bridge the gap at the system level, it's possible to bring more evidence-based practice into your classroom.
Evan Hempler clambers up the treehouse in his backyard to check his "weather station." "I use this yo-yo to catch moist air to make a prediction, like how much moisture is in the air," he explains. A colorful pinwheel monitors the wind. Evan has a high IQ and excels at building things, his mother Ronda says, but from the time he was a toddler, he struggled with speech and later reading and writing. A diagnosis of dyslexia didn't come until Evan was in third grade. Now, he wants to tell everyone about people like himself who have the condition. Evan and his brother David, 7, hosted a booth at Port Orchard's Festival by the Bay to raise awareness of dyslexia. "Dyslexia is a reading difference, not a disability," Evan said, showing off his booth under construction. "This board will say, 'Dyslexia is my super-power.' I like it because it makes me better at engineering. ... But reading and spelling is harder for me because I have dyslexia, sometimes math."
Navigating new places and spaces, meeting teachers, and making friends—it's all part the school experience. Here you'll find a selection of 2019 picture books that can ease the way.
If you were to visit any preschool or kindergarten classroom, you’d surely find that shared book reading is a common activity used to facilitate discussions and support a young child’s language and literacy development. A new study, published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, examined the extent to which preschool teachers use different types of questions during classroom-based shared book reading. Researchers found that only 24 per cent of what teachers said during the shared book reading were questions, and the kids answered the questions accurately 85 per cent of the time. In today’s episode, I’m joined by one of the study’s authors, Dr Tricia Zucker, who is an Associate Professor with the Children’s Learning Institute at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston. We chat about what the main findings were to come from the research, whether the questions teachers were asking were too simple for students, and how teachers could improve their questioning practices to ensure children are given the appropriate level of challenge.
Every kid imagines their favorite storybook coming to life. And one urban planner is making those childhood dreams come true for kids in Ohio. Kauser Razvi founded Literary Lots, which creates temporary, real-life children’s book scenes in Cleveland. Past installments include scenes from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This year, the Literary Lots team turned a vacant lot in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood into a scene straight out of The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, Razvi says.
“Put the world on pause,” author Jason Reynolds tweeted on Tuesday, seeming to sum up the feeling of the literary community as it mourned the death of author Toni Morrison. The Nobel Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and creator of the seminal works Beloved and The Bluest Eye, among others, was 88. Heartfelt reaction from admirers and authors she influenced flooded social media. Reynolds, the Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist, wrote about Morrison’s impact on him. “You taught me boundlessness. No Boxes. That I get to fight for freedom, and make my own simultaneously. Thank you, Mother Morrison.” He continued, “I had to grow into Toni’s work like growing into a suit meant for me, when it was time. When I was ready. But the suit had always been meant for me. Had always been waiting for me.”
Foldable paper microscopes? A tabletop card game about killer snails? Interactive design games for kids? They're all great end-of-summer activities to get kids thinking again about science, technology, engineering, and math, according to the National Science Foundation. "It's about that everyday learning around the dinner table or walking down the street, with things we encounter and have the opportunity to explore and understand," said program director Julie Johnson, the NSF's lead on efforts to advance informal STEM learning in contexts other than school. The NSF published a blog post highlighting a range of tools, games, activities and public television shows it has supported, all of which Johnson said can be considered "informal learning resources" that "promise self-exploration and choice." While each is different in how it aims to promote learning, all share a focus on helping all children build the belief that they can become effective scientists.
As Alabama students return to school this week, the youngest among them is heading toward a new hurdle never before attempted in this state. This year’s first-graders, come two years from now, will have to read on grade level. If not, they will not advance from third to fourth grade. That's according to a new law passed by the Alabama Legislature this spring. The Alabama Literacy Act was designed with the goal of improving academic achievement across the state by ensuring early learners get a solid foundation in reading. Assistant State Superintendent Elisabeth Davis is heading up the state's efforts to implement the new law, which covers everything from requiring teachers to be trained in the science of reading to regular assessments of how well young students are reading to working with parents to help their children read. Even though there are still decisions to be made about the tests and materials that will be used, one of the most important parts---teacher training---is already underway.
How do students best learn to read? Equally important, how do students learn to love reading? The Common Core emphasizes reading comprehension skills, like identifying the main idea of a text. Yet in her new book, “The Knowledge Gap,” Natalie Wexler argues that teaching those skills in a vacuum, rather than centering instruction around interesting and rigorous content knowledge, hurts both student achievement and engagement. In the excerpt here, Wexler observes two elementary school classrooms, each one taking a different approach to teaching reading. When young children are introduced to history and science in concrete and understandable ways, chances are they’ll be far better equipped to reengage with those topics with more nuance later on. At the same time, teaching disconnected comprehension skills boosts neither comprehension nor reading scores. It’s just empty calories. In effect, kids are clamoring for broccoli and spinach while adults insist on a steady diet of donuts.
The most important point raised in Natalie Wexler’s new book The Knowledge Gap is nearly an afterthought. It’s in the book’s epilogue. After a compelling, book-length argument in favor of offering a knowledge-rich education to every child and documenting our frustrating lack of progress in doing so—to raise reading achievement, promote justice, even, she suggests, to end school segregation—the author makes a surprising observation. “I’d love to point to a school district, or even a single school, and say: This is how it should be done,” Wexler writes. “Unfortunately, I have yet to see an American school that consistently combines a focus on content with an instructional method that fully exploits the potential of writing to build knowledge and critical thinking abilities for every child.”
Students with learning disabilities can struggle with reading comprehension, written expression and problem solving. Children who display learning deficits could have a disorder such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, auditory processing disorder, nonverbal learning, or visual perceptual/visual motor deficit. What's being done to identify and accommodate students living with these kinds of disabilities? What do parents need to know to be a good advocate for their child? What resources are available to educators? Are learning deficits harder to identify in biligual students?
Over the last several decades, psychologists have unearthed a wealth of evidence on how children learn. But for three basic reasons, it’s proven hard to translate that evidence into classroom practice. There’s overwhelming evidence that, especially when students don’t know much about a topic, it’s best to provide information explicitly. But the prevailing theory in the education world has long been that it’s better for even novice learners to “discover” or “construct” knowledge for themselves, often in largely self-directed groups. Consistent with that theory, teacher-training programs encourage educators to value imparting skills over information—including supposed skills in reading comprehension and critical thinking. The reasons for the disjunction between the worlds of education and science are complex. But the obstacles to getting the findings of cognitive psychology into classroom practice fall into three basic categories.
More than 30 studies point to better reading comprehension from printed material. The benefit for reading on paper was rather small, after averaging the studies together. But 29 of the 33 laboratory studies found that readers learned more on paper. Genre is also important. In the studies that had students read narrative fiction, there was no benefit for paper over screens. But for nonfiction information texts, the advantage for paper stands out. The mounting research evidence against screens is important because it clashes with textbook publishers’ long-term plans to emphasize digital texts.
For the past three years, Greenwood Community Schools has seen early detection as the biggest key in helping children who suffer from dyslexia, and now all public schools are required to identify and assist those students. The law now requires every school district to have at least one reading specialist trained in assisting students with dyslexia. The law also requires schools to screen students for reading-based disabilities, and provide help through intervention for students who are or may be at risk of being identified as dyslexic. Greenwood schools has been using the a method to train its teachers to assist students from kindergarten through second grade, with the intention of making sure they are ready for the IREAD exam in third grade, said Lisa Harkness, the district’s curriculum director and its designated reading specialist. The method helps children develop literacy skills by breaking down why letters and words sound the way they do.
It’s summer break, but 14 rising third-graders spent a recent morning at Denver’s McMeen Elementary learning about proper nouns. Some of the 14 students were learning English as a second language. Others were native English speakers who struggle in reading. For 3½ weeks this summer, they all signed up to spend their mornings practicing literacy and language skills, and their afternoons doing fun activities as part of Denver Public Schools’ “summer academy.” The academy, which is free for families, has several purposes. It started years ago as a way to help English language learners maintain the progress they made during the school year. For nearly 30,000 of Denver’s 93,000 students, English is a second language; the most common first language is Spanish. Recently, the district has extended summer academy invitations to any students in kindergarten through third grade identified as reading “significantly below grade level,” who could use a similar literacy boost. The academy also serves as a training ground for teachers new to the district who must learn the way Denver teaches English language development.