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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There’s been heated debate over reading instruction within the education world lately—and some confusion. Now that the coronavirus has closed most schools, parents may be experiencing confusion too. Here’s some help. “This is the remote reading lesson I taught to my kindergartner yesterday,” a New York City parent named Michael LaForgia recently tweeted. “I am a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and I could not correctly identify the ‘main idea’ in this passage—though the instructions assured us it was in there.” The passage, sent home by the teacher, wasn’t an excerpt from Kierkegaard. It was a paragraph briefly mentioning sharks, whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures. The teacher eventually revealed, via a recording, that the main idea was “ocean animals”—which also happened to be the title.
Picking the best bedtime story to read for your child is an incredibly daunting task. And reading the same story over and over again isn’t always fun. Luckily, you can find your newest bedtime hit in the digitized archives of a few academic libraries scattered around the United States. As you and/or your child travel through the world’s complex social history in these books, you might see just how connected the past and the present really are. The Library of Congress’s collection of children’s books is smaller than some repositories, but it has a wide variety of titles for parents to choose from.
Members of the Senate worked through the weekend on a bipartisan, nearly $2 trillion “economic rescue” bill that passed the Senate, and is expected to quickly pass the House of Representatives and be signed into law. Education, from early education on up through higher education and workforce training, has been drastically affected by the coronavirus crisis, and it has a big part in the emergency spending bill, including some funding for education technology. However, the bill includes relatively smaller amounts of funding to address the needs of households with little to no access to high-speed Internet, even though students in schools and colleges around the country are expected to learn online from home. We’ve teamed up across New America’s Education Policy Program to explain what’s included -- and what’s next for the field.
Every morning in Berkeley, a video conference call platform designed for white-collar workers is taken over by a group of antsy 6-year-olds. Welcome to the Zoom version of Alicia Traister’s kindergarten class. Traister has been offering the daily lessons completely voluntarily. After COVID-19 forced schools to close for at least three weeks, starting March 16, Berkeley Unified Superintendent Brent Stephens said the district was unable to come up with a “distance learning” program that could equitably serve all students — those with disabilities, those without computers and English learners. Under federal law, a school district must provide a “free and appropriate” education to all students or none at all. So BUSD opted instead to post a set of optional “home learning” resources on its website, launched a free meal program, and began distributing Chromebooks to students in need. But the decision around academics runs the risk of exacerbating disparities itself. With only some parents able to craft elaborate homeschooling plans, and only some teachers deciding to contact their classes, existing gaps could grow. And, while BUSD was struggling to figure out how to get technology to students, some small private schools in the city were able to launch comprehensive learning plans on day one, creating a larger divide within Berkeley.
School leaders are grappling with how to deliver special education services — and stay compliant with state and federal civil rights law — as governors shut down school buildings to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. A handful of districts announced in recent weeks that they won’t yet require distance learning because they haven’t figured out a way to serve all students, including students with disabilities, English Language Learners and students who don’t have internet access at home. The U.S. Department of Education told schools Saturday that they should not let concerns over how to reach students with disabilities stop them from offering distance learning, and that they don’t have to reach all students the same way.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education released today a webinar on ensuring web accessibility for students with disabilities for schools utilizing online learning during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In addition, OCR published a fact sheet for education leaders on how to protect students' civil rights as school leaders take steps to keep students safe and secure. These resources will assist education leaders in making distance learning accessible to students with disabilities and in preventing discrimination during this Administration-wide response effort.
The superheroes—and comics creators—are here to save the day. Today, DC launched DC Kids Camp, an at-home program for kids home from schools that are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fans can watch videos by DC's roster of middle grade authors and illustrators, including Meg Cabot, Agnes Garbowska, Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Minh Lê, Michael Northrop, Ridley Pearson, Kirk Scroggs, and Gene Luen Yang, who will teach them how to make their own Green Lantern ring, do superman origami, create a comic superhero, and more.
With schools and libraries closed, children's programming cancelled, and even playgrounds and playdates discouraged for now, parents and caregivers have a lot of hours to fill while spending time with small children. These suggestions and resources for engaging children ages two to seven will help. Start with a schedule -- children thrive on routine and predictability.
Every summer for over a decade, I have hosted a #bookaday challenge—a public commitment to read or share a book for every day of the long summer school break. Over the years, #bookaday has become a community of readers sharing and celebrating books. Whether you read a book every day or not doesn’t matter, really. The folks posting book recommendations and reading experiences using the #bookaday hashtag provide a network of readers to interact with if you wish. Asking folks on Twitter and Facebook last week, there’s interest in holding a Coronavirus social distancing #bookaday challenge, so that readers who miss talking with other readers can gather and share. Here are the “official” #bookaday guidelines.
Schools and libraries closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak may extend their E-rate supported Wi-Fi networks for use by the general public while on school or library property. That’s according to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), which clarified yesterday that offering this service to their communities would not jeopardize these institutions’ federal E-rate funding. Specifically, libraries may offer access to E-rate funded services on their premises as well as services that are “integral, immediate and proximate to the provision of library services to library patrons.” And because the mission to serve the public is ongoing, libraries are permitted to allow the public to access E-rate funded services even when they are closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the FCC announcement. Similarly, closed schools may allow access to E-rate funded services “to community members who access the Internet while on a school’s campus” so long as they do not charge for the use of the service.
According to the most recent federal data, about 14 percent of households with school-age children do not have internet access. Most of those are in households that make less than $50,000 a year, and many live in rural areas. Among those who do have access, not all have a broadband connection. That can make it tough to move to a digital workflow even when classes are meeting as scheduled. As recently as 2018, nearly one in five students said they had trouble completing homework because of internet access. These access issues make it a formidable challenge for districts to move instruction online in a pinch, even if enough computers could be distributed. But across the country, districts, service providers and even the federal government are easing the burden for unconnected families in an attempt to bridge internet access gaps at breakneck speeds.
Here at WY Lit, we have experience tutoring our own struggling readers. It can be hard. We wanted to share some of our experiences and our favorite resources with you. We learned how to do this and so can you. Simply doing homework with your child can be emotionally taxing. Throw in full-time homeschooling, an unexpected difficulty learning to read, your child’s anxiety, your own insecurity about teaching them to read and then what is going on in the world right now, and you have the perfect storm for a most unpleasant homeschooling experience. The best thing you can do for a struggling reader is to read to them or listen to books with them. This teaches them to love escaping into books, and continues to expose them to the structure of written language, vocabulary and background knowledge at their comprehension level while they become proficient readers.
On the second day of her school’s COVID-19 related closure, sixth-grade teacher Elizabeth Raff sent her students a video through Google Classroom. In it, she talked about what she had been up to, including celebrating her son’s second birthday at home, and she told her students that she missed them and wanted to hear how they were doing. She invited them to send her an email, and she promised to reply. Within a few hours, her inbox was flooded. In a survey conducted by Education Week, 41 percent of school leaders said they could not make remote learning accessible to every student for even one day. Though educators in such districts cannot teach classes or give assignments, they can still play a valuable role in their students’ lives by staying connected in this time of uncertainty and heightened anxiety. “We know that strong, secure bonds with our teachers are really important in social-emotional development. To suddenly lose out on that under such strange and unprecedented circumstances can be really hard on kids,” said Jamie Howard, a senior clinical psychologist in the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute and the director of the Center’s Trauma and Resilience Service.
South Carolina education officials on Monday were to start placing hundreds of school buses equipped with Wi-Fi in low-income neighborhoods around the state to serve as mobile hotspots for students. The idea of delivering internet connectivity to students via buses is not new—the Austin Independent School District in Texas, for example, is putting Wi-Fi on hundeds of its buses to smooth the way for remote learning. But South Carolina is widening its focus statewide in seeking to use Wi-Fi-enabled buses during extended closures caused by the coronavirus. "We're going to place the buses in high-poverty and rural areas," said state Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown. "They'll be in areas where they can be accessed easily. Parents can drive up or students can ride their bikes and access the internet within a certain range."
As the nation shifts to online learning during the novel coronavirus outbreak, language and access barriers may shut many of the nation's nearly English-learner students out of the learning process. A December 2019 report from the U.S. Department of Education found that few teachers reported assigning English-learners to use digital learning resources outside of class, in part because of concerns about students' lack of access to technology at home. The same report also revealed that teachers who work with English-language learners are more apt to use general digital resources rather than tools designed specifically for English-learners and that English-learner educators reported fewer hours of professional development with digital learning resources than did mainstream teachers.
It's an old-fashioned skill, but it's still relevant in today's world. Several weeks ago, my family took a four-hour road trip to visit the grandparents. Before long, the kids were asking where we were and how much longer it would take to get there. I tried explaining, but then pulled an old Ontario road map out of the glove box and passed it to the back seat. The kids unfolded it and I showed them exactly where we were, where Grandma and Grandpa live, and the route we were going to travel that day. They were fascinated, never having seen the province of Ontario laid out like that before. They pored over the map for a long time, asking about all the towns, provincial parks, and other landmarks we've visited recently, and I pointed them out on the map. It made me realize that I take for granted the mental map of my home province and that, unless my own kids become familiar with reading paper maps too, they won't possess a similar mental version and are likely to have a poorer sense of direction.
First Book, a national nonprofit that gets books, education materials, and other life essentials to children in need has a new, immediate mission—get seven million books to kids whose schools are closed but don't have books at home or internet access. The organization that serves a network of more than 450,000 educators who serve low-income communities is asking for help, as well as offering educators to sign up and share their funding needs. First Book has also created a new and constantly updated resource for educators, parents, and students looking for help with remote learning or just getting through this unprecedented situation.
Every elementary school student in Glastonbury was sent home with an iPad on the day Connecticut’s governor declared a “public health emergency” to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. On it were all the learning platforms students would need to resume learning online. Students without internet access at home were provided a connection by the district. A few days later classes for this suburban town’s nearly 6,000 students went virtual. That morning, Molly Willsey’s first graders logged onto their iPads just after 9 a.m. and started their school day. In one of Connecticut’s poorest cities, however, the transition hasn’t been nearly as seamless. In Bridgeport, where one out of every 26 public school students in the state attend school, some children were sent home with with worksheets and assignments, but this was an effort by individual teachers and not a coordinated approach by the district. Many of Bridgeport’s students went home empty-handed.
As publishers adjust to the school closures and needs of educators and public librarians, Audible has stepped up with a new offering, Stories.Audible.com. The site will be "a place where anyone, in any country, can enjoy unlimited streaming of hundreds of titles for kids and families for free," according to the company's announcement. The books were selected by Audible editors and are a mix of education, entertainment, and general-interest titles. "As long as schools are closed, we will be open," the announcement said.
While major technology investments have consistently failed to deliver on big promises in the past (interactive white boards, personalized learning etc.), we find ourselves in a new era where a “quarantine back-up plan” must seemingly always be a ready option when it comes to teaching. That means no matter how we feel about technology in education, we need to get better at this distance-learning thing – and preferably fast. Some version of this could be the new normal for quite some time. And so, what are some effective principles of instruction that might be of use in a distance learning environment? And, what are some ways technology might even be used to hone aspects of instruction given these circumstances?
You can’t recreate a whole school experience instantaneously. But despite becoming a homeschool teacher overnight, you can more easily manage the process with some clear guidelines. We offer a series of tips that we hope can serve as realistic expectations for a self-quarantined family with work obligations and also kids across a wide spectrum of ages and grades. 1. Create an environment conducive to learning. 2. Routines and a schedule are crucial. 3. Academics should take the front seat. 4. Find a balance.
Due to the coronavirus, homeschooling is becoming the new normal. It’s stressful, but an abundance of resources can help caregivers provide a rich and engaging educational experience while schools are closed—and beyond. The current enforced school vacation provides families with an opportunity to give kids what they want and need—and may not be getting at school. One of the best things parents can do, if they have time, is to read aloud and engage in open-ended discussions. Fiction is fine, but delving into books on history and science is a powerful way to build kids’ knowledge. And it’s almost never too early to start. Consider reading a cluster of books on the same general topic—the American Revolution or sea mammals—to give kids a chance to absorb and retain information and the vocabulary that goes with it.
Children’s books can serve as a powerful catalyst for addressing serious issues and helping students cope with childhood trauma, says NC State College of Education Associate Professor of Literacy Education Angela Wiseman, Ph.D. She has curated a list of children’s literature that can help teachers and parents address serious issues such as parental incarceration, addiction and parental loss with young readers. She also highlights several online resources that can help educators connect students who have experienced trauma with appropriate support.
Any parent balancing work, homeschool and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to have their limits tested by sheltering in place with kids who haven't seen their friends or participated in sports. Lisa Damour, a clinical psychologist and author of Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, knows well about the stress families face in ordinary times. In these extraordinary times, she has the following advice for families to help get through the crisis.
With a pandemic pressing tens of thousands of the nation's school districts into extended closures, special education administrators across the nation are wrestling with a weighty dilemma: how to provide services to students with disabilities. Federal law mandates that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in everything schools provide—including online learning. But a mix of factors—lack of clarity in state laws, unclear guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, and a reluctance to run afoul of federal law—has left some school districts struggling to get their online learning programs off the ground.
As educators across the United States grapple with the new reality facing them and their students as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, many are being advised to implement digital learning—some for the first time. Whether teachers have done this before or not, it’s new territory for everyone. An e-learning day or two during a snowstorm last winter does not amount to what the education field is facing right now: prolonged, indefinite school closures enforced with hardly a moment’s notice. Even Stacey Schmidt, superintendent of Porter Township School Corporation in Indiana, which has been holding e-learning days every year for over 10 years, said her district is trying to figure out what this will look like over a longer time period. She stressed that educators be forgiving of themselves and their students, and offered some key priorities for decision-making.
With schools closing to stop the spread of coronavirus, you may find yourself working from home with a new side-gig: teacher. If you're new to homeschooling, you're probably wondering how you can help your kids learn and keep them occupied while you work. Is it possible to avoid a screen time free-for-all and keep your sanity? With everything from free lessons from Scholastic to a daily doodle with Mo Willems, these free homeschool resources will help.
Many preschool classrooms include learning centers (for example, a writing center, a science center, a water table) where children use hands-on materials to explore, play, and learn about specific topics. Bring the spirit of learning centers into your home with prop boxes—plastic bins or cardboard shoe boxes you fill with materials and props related to one topic, such as math or writing. Here are 10 ideas.
With schools closed in the majority of states due to the coronavirus and the length of those closures looking increasingly long, millions of parents are now finding themselves juggling full-time jobs and full-time parenting. In many districts, students are following online learning programs. In other cases, students are learning from their parents who have become unofficial teachers and launched homeschool programs. But for parents and caregivers of young children who can’t learn online, have shorter attention spans and need much more attention, the prospect of working and caring for children can seem daunting, if not impossible. Here’s a look at some research and advice from experts that may help parents navigate the next few weeks (or longer) with their young children.
As schools across the country have closed their doors in response to COVID-19, the needs of English learner students are top of mind. English learners (ELs) represent a growing share of the U.S. student population and federal law mandates that they receive specialized instruction to support their English language development. Given how rapidly school closures have happened, there remain many unknowns about how distance learning will play out for these students. To be sure, the move to online learning will be challenging for all students, but these challenges will be exacerbated for ELs and other students who receive specialized support and instruction.