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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“The word of the year is ‘pivot’” our assistant middle school principal told us as we prepared to return to school this fall. At the time, I expected that meant being flexible in my lesson plans, being ready for day-to-day disruptions, and accepting challenges as they come. Turns out, it also means pivoting my head back and forth between my Google Meet screen and the students in my classroom. My school is offering in-person classes for the many parents and students who opt in. We keep these students in two groups, sending half in person Monday and Tuesday and the other half Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is an all-remote day for deep cleaning and community building for teachers and their advisories. We will soon pivot once again and offer more students the chance to come in person for four days instead of two. A handful of families have already elected to keep their children fully remote and will likely continue to do so.
Picture books enable readers to see themselves reflected in the larger world. With increasing Muslim representation in published books, all readers can explore the diversity of Muslim communities, identities, and cultural backgrounds as they intersect to create unique expressions of Islamic cultures and practices. Picture books also offer a visually intimate look into Muslim experiences and places where individual and private family traditions, conversations, and interactions flourish. The books featured in this article were published in 2019–20 (with one from 2018) by mainstream publishing houses.
World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma's award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, today announced Cynthia Leitich Smith as the winner of the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature. The biennial NSK Prize recognizes outstanding achievement in the world of children's and young adult literature. Leitich Smith is a New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling YA author of the Tantalize series and Feral trilogy and won the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Young Adult Books for Hearts Unbroken. She is the author-curator of Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Children's Books, which will launch its first list in winter 2021. Leitich Smith is a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation.
Literature introduces people to worlds they have never set foot in, which is why it is so important for classroom libraries to be full of diverse stories that reflect students’ backgrounds and cultures. Students seeing themselves in the stories they read to foster a sense of belonging, recognition, and most of all, validation, is crucial—representation matters. Students also need to read stories that show experiences other than their own to expand their worldview. Teacher Natalya Gibbs believes that early exposure to diverse literature forms understanding students who can relate to people of all walks of life. Even as learning has shifted online, the ethos of a diverse library can be carried over and adapted to the virtual classroom.
Early reading teachers and researchers are reacting with surprise, frustration, and optimism after the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, the organization that designs one of the most popular reading programs in the country, outlined a new approach to teaching children how to read. A document circulated at the group's professional development events, first reported on by APM Reports on Friday, calls for increased focus on ensuring children can recognize the sounds in spoken words and link those sounds to written letters—the foundational skills of reading. And it emphasizes that sounding out words is the best strategy for kids to use to figure out what those words say. While the document suggests that these ideas about how to teach reading are new and the product of recent studies, they're in fact part of a long-established body of settled science. Decades of cognitive science research has shown that providing children with explicit instruction in speech sounds and their correspondence to written letters is the most effective way to make sure they learn how to read words.
When created well, instructional videos can be a highly effective medium for supporting instruction in remote, hybrid, and flipped or blended learning environments. Effective instructional videos are concise—no more than six minutes if possible, as that is the proven drop-off point for attention—have a clear purpose and focus, and, above all, are interesting and engaging. Fancy equipment or software isn’t necessary to create great instructional videos, although there are free or low-cost apps and programs for enhancing and improving videos to make them more engaging for learners. I’ve found success creating instructional videos that fall into three broad categories: screencasting, explainer videos, and live demos.
Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver have done this Zoom thing before. That’s what it’s like, in the time of COVID, to promote a book — in this case their children’s book “Lights, Camera, Danger!,” the second in their “Alien Superstar” series, which they discussed Sunday at the Times Festival of Books. Though they are 35 books into their collaboration, Winkler and Oliver have a new mission now — to help kids adapt to a radically changed world by helping them escape. “One of the things that’s really important to us in our books is to make sure that they’re entertaining,” says Oliver. “If we can bring a little lightness and a little joy, that’s a nice thing. ... It motivates us more to get our work done because it really has an important place in kids’ lives.”
The author of one of the nation’s most influential and widely used curriculum for teaching reading is beginning to change her views. The group headed by Lucy Calkins, a leading figure in the long-running fight over how best to teach children to read, is admitting that its materials need to be changed to align with scientific research. The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, where Calkins has served as founding director for more than 30 years, says it has been poring over the work of reading researchers and has determined that aspects of its approach need “rebalancing.” Calkins’ changing views could shift the way millions of children are taught to read. Her curriculum is the third most widely used core reading program in the nation, according to a 2019 Education Week survey.
The odds are that, at one point or another, all of us teachers are going to end up teaching in some version of a "hybrid" environment this school year. That could mean teaching some groups of students two days each week in the classroom, while they spend the rest of the time doing asynchronous online work. Worst of all, it could mean teaching students simultaneously online and face to face. This series will share the experiences of educators who have already begun teaching in this kind of situation. In today's post, the teachers stress the importance getting to know your students, benefits of a "flipped" classroom, differentiation, and more.
Classroom libraries should include culturally inclusive texts. More important, though, teachers should be using these texts to affirm and challenge students in real and intentional ways. It starts with read-alouds. Instead of dropping the books in a bin in your classroom library, put them in your daily lineup. We know that students benefit from being read aloud to on a daily basis, so be conscious of the books you’re choosing to read. Think about how texts can be tied into your existing curriculum. Teaching about drawing conclusions? This skill can be applied to many books, and I am sure that one of your diverse texts will fit the bill. Consider using different texts even when introducing math or science concepts. It may take a little more time to prepare the lesson, but it will be worth it to allow students another opportunity to see themselves in literature. Let’s not stop there. Take things a step further by allowing students to really discuss the texts.
From preschool to college, education continues to evolve in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In their own words, people who are living and working through this experience shared their victories, frustrations and strategies.
One-third of schools in Colorado’s second-largest district use a reading program the state has rejected and researchers have panned for promoting strategies that run counter to science. Another 20% of schools in the 84,000-student Jeffco district rely exclusively on a district-created core reading curriculum that some educators and school board members say is hard to navigate and has numerous holes. These problems came to light after Jeffco officials released a school-by-school list of K-3 reading curriculum, meeting a long-standing request by parents, advocacy groups, and media outlets to make the information public. Previously, district leaders didn’t know what each of Jeffco’s 90 district-run elementary and K-8 schools used to teach children how to read. The list of reading curriculums illustrates not only the stark differences between Jeffco schools, but also the large number of district schools that are out of compliance with a 2019 state law requiring them to use K-3 reading curriculum backed by science.
In mere weeks the U.S. will tally votes and a new president will be chosen to serve our country as the leader for the next four years. Helping children understand the election process and the importance of voting can actually be enjoyable with the help of books. Discover children’s books that celebrate and discuss the United State’s representative democracy in this board and picture book list below.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there’s been a lot of discussion about digital equity in U.S. public schools. But the virus has drastically expanded another gap that is key to children’s learning and wellbeing: out-of-school enrichment. Through enrichment, children form bonds with peers and mentors and find sustenance for their passions, interests and social-emotional development. At the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine, we have conducted many studies of out-of-school programs that serve Black/BIPOC and low-income youth. Community-based organizations, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, The Clubhouse Network and YOUmedia Learning Labs, are safe spaces where young people can stop by after school to hang out with friends, get help with homework, take enrichment classes and grab a snack. As we look toward long-term support for online and hybrid learning, it's imperative that public leaders consider critical equity gaps and quickly move to increase funding for enriched and out-of-school time learning.
Reading lessons held via video conference could be just as effective as face-to-face classroom teaching in providing literacy help to struggling children. A pilot study from Macquarie University's reading clinic is among the first to test whether online lessons work for children with reading difficulties, after thousands of students turned to online lesson delivery during the coronavirus pandemic. Lead researcher Saskia Kohnen said the findings could open up learning opportunities for struggling readers in rural and remote areas, who were often isolated from access to professionals providing high quality literacy interventions.
Babies and young children are sponges that soak in practically everything in their environments. It’s true! Even during story time, their minds are at work, taking in all the language they hear and lessons the characters learn. Reading to your child — at any age — will boost their brain development, listening skills, vocabulary, your bond, and so much more. And all it takes is a few books, motivation, and a little time. Here’s how to get started.
With all the talk of remote learning for secondary schools and colleges, one important population is missing from the nationwide conversation about learning during the pandemic: babies and toddlers. Many parents are keeping their little ones away from playgrounds, playgroups and preschool preparatory programs. As a result, the social and learning opportunities for the youngest children have been curtailed, just like everyone else’s. Those who study and work with the youngest children are concerned about the effects on learning and school readiness. “There is going to be a bit of a collective lag in academic skills and in those executive-function skills that allow a child to navigate a classroom more easily,” the developmental psychologist Aliza W. Pressman predicted.
In the 1990s, researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley studied families from different socioeconomic levels and found that their children were exposed to vastly different numbers of words in their formative years—specifically, 32 million more words for higher-income children than for lower-income children. The variability in exposure accounted for significant differences in children’s language skills when they entered kindergarten, the researchers s found, and had a direct impact on how students fared early on in school. But now, the study’s conclusions are contested by recently published research from the psychologists Douglas Sperry and his wife, Linda, which found less straightforward connections between the quantity of words children hear and their family’s socioeconomic background. Their findings have inspired a growing debate around whether biases about race and class influenced the original study’s methodology—and distorted the takeaways.
I had been teaching as an elementary teacher for 17 years when my beliefs on how to teach reading were shattered. Prior to my revelation, I had earned a master’s degree in reading, attended so many conferences and workshops, and read every professional book about reading that I could buy. I was confident that I knew everything about how to teach reading and writing. Yet despite all my efforts, my daughter couldn’t read. My gut told me that she had dyslexia, but at that time, there was very little information about the disability. Since her diagnosis, I have put all of my time and energy into learning. about dyslexia, how the brain learns to read and what science has been telling educators for 40 years. I have attended Orton-Gillingham training sessions all over the state and taken courses on the science of reading. Now, as an educator, I’m driven to help those children who have been left behind – not because their teachers did not try to help them, but because the science is not in the classrooms and not in teachers’ professional-development training.
In New Orleans, even as classes remained remote, a number of schools started catching their special education students up over the summer, evaluating whether they have regressed and strategizing about the best ways to help them bounce back. Now, as students are starting to come back to schools in person, educators are refining those plans and assessing whether their special-needs students need more individual support. Schools credit a push from the state, which prioritized providing assistance aimed at boosting the quality of distance learning, for their swift move to address special education losses. Over the summer, state officials urged schools not to wait for complaints to roll in to begin providing compensatory education.
The essays, stories, poems and letters commissioned by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson for “The Talk” focus on preparing children for a world that can be bewildering and hostile. Written before 2020 began its assault, they only gain relevance as we close in on a heated presidential election. They also make plain that the hard conversations we all need to have about race are part of a broad reckoning with our nation’s history. The book’s black-and-white images project love and support. By contrast, “This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes,” written, illustrated and published by Canadians, seems almost alien in its upbeat perspective. With amiable authority, Tanya Lloyd Kyi explains how natural it is for humans to “sort and label the world around us,” and what dire consequences can occur when we put people into categories that weaken their social standing, as witnessed by the horrors of Nazi Germany.
We know that reading is an act of constructing meaning, so whenever we give students materials to read, we need to provide them with the necessary tools to understand those texts. Distance learning requires us to provide these tools in new ways—and with a greater degree of intentionality—so that we support students as they become increasingly independent. Just as a builder can’t succeed without the correct blueprints, students need to see the blueprint for how they can succeed in our classes. In distance learning, that means we need to carefully communicate the purpose for reading each text before students begin the assignment, and this purpose needs to align directly with any assessment given.
To maximize time with students, the titles we use must meet high standard: They must serve as instructional resources, they must be accurate and authentic, and they must be engaging enough to return to time and again as mentor texts. These featured picture books, board books, and graphic novel are for all ages. These titles showcase beautiful language and a higher vocabulary, and can be used with multiple levels of readers. They also explore prevalent themes and important concepts, which can be used across subject areas. Additionally, these books transcend standards for pre-K–12 learning. They can be used in reading, writing, and language instruction. Some are appropriate for social studies and even science. They can also serve as mentor texts and touchstones, which provide continuity for students while saving instructional time by using familiar books.
TESOL International Association’s 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners provides an intuitive framework, based on well-established guidelines of language teaching and second-language acquisition research; this framework has been vetted by experts and teachers from TESOL’s international community of practice. Taken together, they form a comprehensive approach, which is in no way experimental. The principles and their key practices are universal enough to apply to a broad range of teaching contexts where students are learning English. “The 6 Principles Quick Guide: Remote Teaching of K–12 English Learners” is the application of TESOL’s six principles for a sporadically charted context that has challenged us educators to our limit. My hope is that I provide a clear pathway that will help us regain a true sense of self-efficacy. The guide is a quick read, and when you are finished, you will feel, “This is a lot of work, but I do know how to do this because I can draw on what I already know about teaching K–12 English learners.
As schools wrestle with how to hold classes in the middle of a pandemic, Kelly Mrozik is among the hundreds of teachers and more than 11,000 students back in classrooms at the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District. She teaches at Dena'ina Elementary School, near the city of Wasilla, about an hour north of Anchorage. Mat-Su, as the district is commonly called, is Alaska's largest school system to resume in-person learning this fall. And now, more than a month in, students and adults say school is going surprisingly well.
The successes of those districts that make the leap to in-person schooling are likely to encourage neighboring ones to follow suit, even as some others—most recently the Boston district—flip back into remote learning following increases in local COVID-19 cases. Interviews with leaders in four school districts, all in different phases of in-person learning, elucidate the successes and challenges district leaders face in returning to brick-and-mortar schooling. Enforcing mask-wearing? Much less of a concern than many of them originally feared. Instruction? Still a major challenge, the superintendents said, pointing in particular to the pedagogical burden on teachers who must juggle both in-person and online formats. They also point to the ways in which “normal” schooling, if a vaccine is developed in coming months, will probably look different from the era before COVID-19.
On the Point, we discuss diversity in children’s literature. There is wide agreement amongst educators that children benefit from books portraying diverse characters. Despite this, very few children’s books featuring protagonists of color are published each year. We talk about why diversity in books is important for children, and the efforts of authors, educators and booksellers to bring diversity to bookshelves.
Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming, Harbor Me, and The Day You Begin, has been named a MacArthur Fellow for "redefining children’s and young adult literature to encompass more complex issues and reflect the lives of Black children, teenagers, and families." The MacArthur Foundation announced the 21 members of its MacArthur Fellows Class of 2020 today. On her dedicated page of the MacArthur site, Woodson said, "I don’t want it to be overlooked that for me, it’s been about creating a road where, as a young reader, there wasn’t one. I wanted to see myself in books because I couldn’t believe the audacity of a “canon” of young people’s literature conjuring me invisible. I wanted to say to my young self 'You’re loved. You’re beautiful. You’re complicated. You matter.' I know that by saying this to myself with each book I write, I am saying it to every reader who has ever felt otherwise."
Remote learning has been a struggle for teachers and is expected to set back the learning gains of a generation of students. But a small number of students have done unexpectedly well. In some cases, those students struggled with distractions in the classroom during in-person learning. In others, they had social challenges at school: They were anxious, easily drawn into conflicts with other students, or embarrassed to engage in front of their peers. Some educators are now wondering how the experiences of kids who have done better during remote learning can be applied to improve in-person learning in the future. Takeaways might include having more social and emotional check-ins with students, increased inclusion of students with disabilities in general education class activities, wider use of technology, and accommodating unconventional techniques that individual students have found helpful.
Louis Jansen Jr. is an eighth-grader at Monhagen Middle School; Jordan Jansen is a seventh-grader at Twin Towers Middle School; Leighann Jansen is a fourth-grader at Presidential Park Elementary School; and London Jansen is a second-grader at Maple Hill Elementary School. They all are learning from home five days a week. Antoinette Jansen is a stay-at-home mom who focuses on taking care of Luca (and keeping him out of the way sometimes) and helping each of her kids learn from home amid COVID-19. When the kids go back to in-person learning, she hopes to start a party-planning business. Louis Jansen Jr. is a landscaper, with help from Louis Jr. and Jordan, and bids on abandoned storage units on his off time, which becomes a whole-family activity.
Three prominent Black female authors in science fiction, young adult literature and essay writing are among the 21 winners of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants." N.K. Jemisin, the speculative fiction writer of the "Broken Earth" trilogy; Jacqueline Woodson, the author of children's and young adult books including "Brown Girl Dreaming" and "The Other Side"; and Tressie McMillan Cottom, the author of the essay collection "Thick" were all named as 2020 MacArthur fellows. Woodson, 57, has published nearly 30 works, including picture books, young adult novels and poetry, featuring the experiences of Black people, the foundation said. "I write books that I hope young people can see themselves inside of and see their experiences inside of," Woodson said. "And if they can't, hopefully they'll see other experiences." The MacArthur Foundation said they named her a fellow for "redefining children's and young adult literature to encompass more complex issues and reflect the lives of Black children, teenagers, and families."
When the pandemic has shuttered many school buildings, children are adding dozens of hours of screen time each week as they learn remotely. While some experts urge teachers to pay special attention to creating assignments that take children away from their computer screens, others are urging compassion and flexibility. Active engagement matters, too. Experts urge teachers to choose lively games or discussions rather than lecture, for instance. And in these times of isolation, screen time that lets students make good connections with their teachers and peers is important, too. See all 10 tips.
If schools across the United States return to “normal” in January, the average student will have lost nearly seven months of learning. But the low-income students among them will have lost more than a year. Parents must be part of the solution. But the yawning gap between rich and poor that existed even before the pandemic also affects parental involvement. The conventional wisdom in schools is that low-income parents don’t get involved. Now, they need to be super-involved. Here, we’ll look at two approaches to engaging parents — one used here in the United States by Springboard and one used in Botswana — that can help children learn in a few weeks what normally takes months or years of schooling.
Online education can be daunting. As many of us struggle to find a way to exist safely while returning to a version of working life, many children are learning virtually for the first time.Luckily, there is a lot of quality reading and writing–themed content being created to support families and keep kids interested and engaged. While there are many more options than just these five, most of these are new and my personal top choices.
It’s been more than six months since the coronavirus forced many schools to halt in-person classes. The immediate consequences of that disruption are obvious. Many parents can’t work. The typical social patterns for school kids have gone kaput. But what about long-term consequences? What could six months of disrupted education do to a kid six years from now? How about 16? Experts predict this absence will widen the achievement gap between high- and low-income students. The ripple effects, they warn, could last a lifetime for some children. A skill like reading helps explain how this unprecedented interruption of face-to-face instruction could cascade through the years and decades to come.
Among the many challenges of remote instruction is the lack of access some students have to supports they previously received in school, particularly accessibility tools and features that help them to overcome a variety of barriers. Many commonly used devices and software applications already have built-in features that students can use to mitigate any number of challenges, from dyslexia to hearing impairment—it’s just a matter of knowing which product offers what accessibility feature and how you and your students can make use of them. Note as well that these universal supports aren’t just for students with disabilities and learning differences—they can be helpful to any student as a support in distance learning. The following list includes popular accommodations and the Apple (iOS), Chrome, and Microsoft accessibility features that support them.
The Coalition for English Learner Equity (CELE), a group of national education leaders and organizations, working together to improve educational outcomes for linguistically and culturally diverse students, has launched a new national effort to help address the education disparities faced by English Learners across the nation. The COVID 19 pandemic exposed long-standing inequities and school systems are ill-equipped to meet the needs of EL students. This initiative addresses these challenges by providing guidance to district and state leaders as well as educator
Teaching the foundational skills of reading is often a lively and physical task: students clapping out the syllables in words and practicing letter sounds in chorus and teachers demonstrating the way that the mouth forms different shapes for different sounds. This year, though, it will likely look very different. According to Education Week’s database of more than 900 districts, which is not nationally representative, 48 percent are doing all of their instruction remotely. Young students at these schools as well as those doing a mix of in-person and virtual instruction will be learning to read through screens—in virtual classrooms with their teachers, working on computer programs and apps, or through some combination of the two.
Nell Duke, a professor of literacy, language, and culture at the University of Michigan School of Education, has been examining the literature and developing new instructional practices to meet the ever-shifting challenges of the pandemic and its effect on schools. Education Week asked her how teachers should adjust their practices and recalibrate their priorities to ensure students are gaining fundamental reading skills. "The synchronous context, I have a lot more optimism about. There are a lot of research-tested instructional techniques that can be used through videoconferencing. They need to be modified somewhat to make sense for that context, but versions of them are similar enough that they would still work. You can still do phonics instruction by videoconference. You can still listen to children read and use information from that to plan future instruction. You can still work on more phonological awareness. You can still read to them and do an interactive read-aloud. It’s a little more awkward, it’s a little clunkier [than in-person instruction]."
Even though kids learn to read in school, many hate it. In this TED Talk, Educator Alvin Irby shares insights on inspiring children—especially Black boys—to discover books they enjoy and begin identifying as readers. Alvin Irby is an educator, author, comedian, and the founder of Barbershop Books, a nonprofit organization that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops and provides early literacy training to barbers.
Pen-and-paper pop quizzes are no more: thumbs-up/thumbs-down, hand signals, online polls, discussion boards, and chat boxes have become the new mainstays of formative assessments in virtual classrooms. These quick pulse checks help teachers make sure that students are grasping key concepts—and identify holes in their understanding. Teachers don’t need to completely reinvent their traditional formative assessments, however, according to Mike Anderson, an educational consultant in Durham, New Hampshire. He recommends that teachers modify familiar practices—like exit tickets and think-pair-shares—so they work virtually. “Formative assessments might feel harder now in virtual classrooms—you can’t just walk around class and look over a kid’s shoulders—but I’m not sure they have to be harder.” In fact, many of the popular digital apps and sites like Nearpod, Flipgrid, Padlet, and Seesaw, can actually work in tandem with the tried-and-true assessments that teachers honed in their classes pre-pandemic.
Claudia Margaroli teaches 1st grade English, reading, and social studies to a mix of English-language learners and native speakers at Charlotte East Language Academy, a public bilingual school in Charlotte, N.C. In a typical school year, she will have one group of students one day, and another the next. But this is not a typical school year. All of Margaroli’s classes have moved online, due to COVID-19. Education Week talked to Margaroli about what it is like to teach reading to early-elementary students in a virtual environment.
The pandemic is forcing teachers of all types of students to rethink how they transmit language and the emotion necessary to make meaningful connections, and to create tactics for optimal learning in less-than-ideal conditions. When children are “learning to speak and read, they imitate letters by the sound the mouth makes,” says Cécile Viénot, a Paris-based child psychologist. Being able to see the motions of the mouth is “a learning tool, not just a vector of emotion.” Stacked at the back of Ms. Jarrosson’s classroom are the plexiglass barriers she places between herself and a student if she has to be in close proximity for a lesson. The seven-odd speech therapists on-site also use them during individual sessions to help students process verbal language and improve pronunciation, volume, and pitch. This tool, along with a stronger reliance on visual supplements to lip reading, like printed pictures, have become critical in the age of wearing masks, especially for the school’s youngest students who, at age 3, may not understand sign language yet.
For the first time in the history of America, almost every book being published fails, on some level, to speak to the times in which we live. As a result, back-to-school books are pretty much a bust. All those middle grade novels that culminate in a talent show? Archaic. If the bulk of the books written this year weren’t penned with a pandemic in mind, that doesn’t mean they haven’t anything to say to us. Take, for example, the latest chapter in the “Deckawoo Drive” series of early chapter books by Kate DiCamillo. Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem doesn’t contain even a sniff of distance learning or temperature checks at the schoolhouse door, but it can still help us through trying times. “DiCamillo gives us this endearing tale of learning through coping with a (hilariously) bad day,” says Martha Meyer, a library assistant at Evanston Public Library. “Through this slight story, she’s actually showing us how to have quiet strength, emotional flexibility, growth and friendship while being open to the needs of other human beings—all the things you need internally to make it through the pandemic.”
At least 2,800 structures burned in the Almeda fire, which tore through the small towns of Talent and Phoenix, Ore. in one day. The day before, on what was meant to be the start of class, an estimated 40 percent of students in the Talent-Phoenix school district lost their homes, according to Brent Barry, the district superintendent. At Phoenix Elementary School, which serves the worst hit population, 80 percent of students are now homeless, according to Pam Marsh, the district representative for southern Jackson County. These families are once again preparing for the start of school. On Monday, September 28, students returned to their virtual classrooms, but families and teachers face a new challenge: How can they make distance learning work when students have no place to call home? In the aftermath of a disaster, community support acts like Bubble Wrap, buffering kids from symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as trouble sleeping, flashbacks, jumpiness and anxiety. After a disaster, school is crucial to maintaining social structure, said Ann Masten, a professor of child development at the University of Minnesota.
Ready or not, the nation’s elementary school educators are staring down a daunting new challenge: teach hundreds of thousands of young children to read, without being able to interact with them in person, using instead digital tools and videoconferencing platforms in sweeping new ways that are mostly untested. With thousands of schools reopening virtually or using a mix of online and in-person instruction, even those teachers trying the kind of phonics instruction supported by cognitive science will be forced to do so remotely, in online environments they are still learning to navigate. Many more educators appear likely to try a hodgepodge of early-literacy software programs and digital apps—many of which have shown no evidence of effectiveness, and almost all of which are best suited as supplements to regular classroom teaching—as primary instructional tools.
In a post on the Right to Read Project, Margaret Goldberg points out that a love of reading is not something that can actually be taught, particularly when children are struggling with the most basic aspects of the task; rather, they must be taught to crack the code of reading so that they can begin to experience reading as a source of pleasure. As Goldberg points out, “[e]nthusiasm is a part of good teaching, but communicating a love of books isn’t the same thing as teaching reading.” Essentially, the standard narrative gets things exactly backwards: it is assumed that children must “discover” how to read and be taught to love, whereas in reality children must be taught to read so that they can discover a love of reading on their own. So allow me to make a radical proposition: The point of reading instruction is not to teach children to love reading. The point of reading instruction is to teach children to read. ... although reading can involve great enjoyment, the consequences of knowing how to make sense out of marks on a page extend far beyond the ability to devour, say, Harry Potter. A child who cannot read below a basic level will almost certainly become an adult who struggles to decipher things like the instructions on a medication bottle, or articles in a newspaper written above a tabloid level.
As a result of the pandemic, many schools throughout the country are moving forward with the hybrid learning model, combining face-to-face instruction with both synchronous and asynchronous learning. The tricky part is during synchronous class time when some students are in class and the rest are at home. How can a teacher best manage in-person and at-home learning at once? One of the seven models of blended learning that stands out due to its ease of use is station rotation. To accurately reflect the station rotation model in our era of social distancing, students who are in person are grouped in squares so that all peers are only six feet apart and can easily turn to each other to talk. Students at home should be grouped together to easily shift into asynchronous instruction as the teacher decides how the learners will divide their time among stations. A station rotation setup uses small groups for the purpose of teacher-led instruction, online learning, collaborative activities, and offline learning. Here is a sample lesson plan template for a station rotation; this is a good way to begin to map out your stations. When you are ready to go live, here is a great template to use for planning your rotation and sharing it with students.
Children don't often get to read stories by or about Latinos. The American book publishing industry remains overwhelmingly white, according to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, which found only five percent of books published for young readers are by or about Latinx people. But several new groups of writers, editors and agents are trying to increase Latino representation in children's literature. They're working in different ways, and have their own stories to tell. I spoke to a few of them — and got some reading recommendations, too.
During this school year, thousands of children will begin reading. Despite their best efforts, however, up to a tenth of them will struggle. If we were aware of the early warning signs, we could help these children by using research-based remediation. But dyslexia is poorly understood by the public. Unveiling these misconceptions can help millions of children. It could also help decode the human mind. Before a child learns to read, she needs to recognize that spoken words are composed of sounds (e.g., cat begins with a k sound), or else, the function of letters is mysterious. But for children with dyslexia, phonemic awareness is difficult. Speech perception is likewise atypical. Infants who are at risk for dyslexia (because dyslexia runs in their families) show atypical brain response to speech well before they ever read their first word. And since the reading brain network “recycles” the speech and language network, an atypical speech system begets atypical reading.
Danielle Whittington teaches 40 fourth-grade students each day but she has not met all of them in person. In her hybrid classroom, 15 are at home, and the rest are in school — and, she says, she is worried that the two groups are not getting the same education. For students at home, Whittington gets to school each morning at 6:30 to record 15-minute videos, which walk the remote learners through the day’s online assignments. She said she is certain many of the students at home are alone, doing their work with no help from an adult. “They will be delayed,” she said of the virtual learners. “They’re not going to be as advanced as the kids that are sitting in this class.” Whittington’s students who learn from home must check in by 8 a.m., each sending her a message so she knows they are logged on, but she may not be in touch with them again until students in the classroom leave for the day at 2 p.m. When they get on the bus, she is available to the virtual learners to answer their questions. At night, she responds to parent emails — but she doesn’t have Internet access at home, so she parks her car on the highway where she can get a signal.
When parents drop off their kids at the Guadalupe Community Center on San Antonio’s West Side, program manager Manuel Garcia doesn’t want them to feel like they are making yet another tough choice in the middle of the pandemic. In the last few months as the pandemic has dragged on and jobs either disappear or hours are cut, more families are choosing between groceries and medications. Between paying electric bills or rent. Now that school is in session, remotely, kids need wifi, log-in help, quiet workspaces, and, for younger kids, constant supervision. Providing any of those things will cost money and time that have to come from somewhere else. Garcia wants the program he manages to provide a safe place where the entire family will be given the support and routine they need to thrive during remote learning — an easy choice, and a high quality one.
Aimee Dearmon, Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), says the disruption of routines, schedules, classroom layouts, and necessary social distancing protocols will be very difficult for our most vulnerable students with autism and other developmental disabilities. The biggest challenge with developing classroom action plans is establishing the same level of support while maintaining social distancing. Educators need to craft strategies and processes that meet health guidelines and ensure that students understand and adapt to new routines and behavioral expectations. Dearmon recommends social scripts, video modeling, visual supports, and prompts. Using these ABA reinforcement tools, students with autism and other developmental disabilities can learn simple distancing protocols such as how to wear a mask, walk in the hallway, and remain apart from others in the school setting. Learning new routines establishes a level of comfort for these students to understand and allows them to predict how, what, where, and when learning will happen.
All it takes is a nationwide crisis to underline the most glaring equity issues our society faces. The one that has captured my attention during COVID-19 is the chronic lack of home internet access for people of color, low-income households, and rural residents. That lack of access puts schools in an especially difficult position as they expand their use of technology during the pandemic, and beyond. It's important to remember that this technology challenge has been staring us in the face for decades. It is not just a COVID-19 issue—it is a civil rights issue of the utmost importance.
The dominant view is that the way to improve America’s abysmal elementary reading outcomes is for schools to spend more time on literacy instruction. Many schools provide a “literacy block” that can stretch to more than two hours per day, much of it allocated to efforts to develop reading skills such as “finding the main idea,” and “determining the author’s perspective.” But it doesn’t seem to be working. Yet a small army of cognitive psychologists, analysts, and educators has long cast doubt on the view that reading is a discrete skill that can be mastered independently from acquiring knowledge. To these contrarians, a focus on academic content—not generalized reading skills and strategies—will equip students with the background knowledge they need to comprehend all sorts of texts and make them truly literate. Fordham’s newest report, Social Studies Instruction and Reading Comprehension: Evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, brings forward new evidence to this debate.
From making soup to creating a butterfly garden, everyone can do something. And we can learn how to find common ground among disagreements.
After the news broke of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her most famous quotes filled social media. One speaks volumes to educators, particularly, librarians. "Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life," she said. "Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true." Educators who want to explain her work, impact on the country (specifically women's rights), and legacy can turn to one of the many biographies of her life. Here are SLJ's review for some of the options.
Like many Appalachian Trail hikers, Emily M. Leonard of Lowell had a lot of stories to tell once she returned from hiking the famous footpath from Georgia to Maine. So she decided to write them down in the form of a children’s book. In “Black Bear’s Adventure: An Appalachian Trail Journey,” Leonard offers highlights from her monthslong journey through the wilderness. Released in August, the self-published book was written by Leonard and illustrated by twin sisters Laurie Joy Miller of Old Town and Lisa Joy Jones of Orrington.
Booker Innovative Elementary School learning strategist Juliana Urtubey was named Wednesday as the 2021 Nevada Teacher of the Year. Gov. Steve Sisolak and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert made the announcement during a virtual ceremony, with members of the Booker school community in attendance. Urtubey, who was born in Bogota, Colombia, is a member of Ebert's Teacher Advisory Cabinet. She's passionate about "closing cultural and linguistic gaps that can exist between educators, students, and families" and works with students who face learning, mental, emotional or physical challenges, according to the release.
Sometimes humans struggle to find the words to convey the sheer depth of their love for one another. Leave it to Sam McBratney's Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare in Guess How Much I Love You to show us the way. They love each other as high as they can hop, they love each other across the river and over the hills, and finally, all the way up to the sky. McBratney died at his home in County Antrim, Northern Ireland surrounded by family on September 18, according to his publisher, Walker Books. He was 77. No cause of death was given.