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Thursday, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law making Juneteenth the first federal holiday established since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Marking the date when General Gordon Granger arrived with the Union Army to enforce that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were free – June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth is a celebration of Black liberation that has been held in some communities for generations. Around the nation, people will honor Juneteenth this weekend with talks, dance performances, movies, parades, barbecue and strawberry pop and more. Want to help kids understand what it’s about? We are thrilled to have this powerful post by our friend, Torrey Maldonado, who shares why the holiday matters to him and features quotes by a wonderful collection of outstanding Black creators. Happy Juneteenth!
Books can provide a mirror for kids to understand themselves and a window into the world around them. Yet for many generations, Black characters were almost nonexistent in children’s books. Very often, the few that did appear were limited, with one kind of hair and one skin tone. “Thinking about the books that were popular during my childhood, not many of them featured characters that looked like me. My parents had to search hard to find them,” says Keneisha Sinclair-McBride, psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Happily, children’s literature has changed in recent years. These days, families can choose from an ever-growing selection of children’s books by and about people of a variety of races. Here, Sinclair-McBride discusses why diversity in children’s books is great for kids and recommends some of her favorite children’s books about Black families.
School districts across the country are turning to summer programs to combat the educational impact of the pandemic. SLJ’s May survey of 427 school librarians showed 61 percent of the respondents’ districts were planning summer programs specifically designed to overcome student learning loss during this time. Under the federal pandemic relief package, states are required to use some of the money for summer programs. The state of Tennessee made it mandatory for all schools to offer six weeks of programming. In Philadelphia, summer programs have been expanded to district-wide eligibility and, by partnering with community organizations, offer in-person options for every grade level. More than 14,500 students had enrolled so far, according to one report, which said there were 9,300 students in last summer’s all-virtual summer sessions. New York City, which has the country’s largest public school system, and San Diego are also offering summer school for all students not just those struggling academically.
Sarah Kamya saw a lot of Little Free Libraries in her neighborhood: She found five of the cute wooden boxes that look like oversize birdhouses but are filled with books within two miles of her parents’ house. Little Free Libraries are maintained by a host and serve as trading posts where neighbors can leave books to share or take home books they want. But when Kamya took a look at the books inside the boxes, she found them to be homogeneous uninspiring—and white.Thus was born Little Free Diverse Libraries, a project Kamya never expected to start that has now been featured on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan and other media and has raised about $20,000. Kamya has used that money to send diverse books purchased from Black-owned bookstores to Little Free Libraries around the country. Her latest initiative is donating fully stocked Little Free Diverse Libraries to schools with diverse populations in Massachusetts and New York
More and more American students are falling significantly behind in reading, and the widespread academic disruptions during the pandemic are likely to create a critical mass of struggling readers in the nation’s schools, new analyses of federal data show. There’s been no improvement in overall reading performance at any grade level in the national tests called the Nation’s Report Card for the past decade or more, with declines for lower grades happening since 2017 and for 12th graders since 2015. That stagnation has been driven largely by a growing share of students failing to meet even the most basic level of reading proficiency, and by steadily falling scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress for the 10 percent to 25 percent of students who struggle the most with reading.
After a year filled with disruptions, many parents are worried about how to prevent the “summer slide”—a significant decrease in reading and math skills over summer break, a phenomenon that hits poor kids particularly hard. The summer slide is a real problem, and we don’t want to diminish it, but particularly after the year that we’ve all just been through, kids deserve a chance to have fun, run around outside with friends, and relax. Now is the time, as much as is feasible, to let kids feel as little anxiety as possible. Fun should be the priority, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid academic reinforcement entirely. Carve out some time for literacy and math, making both a regular part of your daily routine.
Depending on where you live, “school” is almost “out.” Whether you’re trying to figure out how to entertain your kids in the wake of a stressful and disjointed year or attempting to infuse your own life with a renewed sense of childlike wonder, we have some reading suggestions that might be able to help. Journey from America’s national parks to the insides of the human body to, yes, the world of Minecraft. Solve alien mysteries and fall in love. Our favorite new young adult and kids' releases promise to breathe life into these slow, sticky dog days.
For the first time since the pandemic began, the majority of 4th graders nationwide have finally made it back to classes in person full time, according to the latest federal data. But there are still big racial and socioeconomic differences in who has access to full-time in-person instruction. In the fourth of five monthly federal surveys this spring, tracking how schools have been reopening and instructing students during the pandemic, the National Center for Education Statistics finds that by April, nearly all K-8 schools offered at least some in-person instruction, and 56 percent of them provided full-time instruction on campus.
Colorado soon will require prospective elementary, early childhood, and special education teachers to take a more in-depth exam on reading instruction to earn their state teaching licenses. The State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the new exam, called the Praxis 5205. The requirement will take effect Sept. 1 for all teacher candidates who are taking licensure tests for the first time on or after that date. The shift to a test that demands prospective teachers have more knowledge about reading instruction aligns with the state’s ongoing push to boost reading proficiency rates among Colorado students.
Reading is arguably the most foundational skill you learn in school, and more than half of Colorado fourth graders are not reading on grade level. It is more urgent than ever for teachers, administrators, and university faculty to “know better” by becoming students of the science of reading. This is why I am energized that the State Board of Education on Wednesday is scheduled to consider a recommendation to help ensure future educators are prepared to teach reading using scientifically based approaches, through an additional licensure test that more specifically assesses a candidate’s knowledge of the five key areas of reading development.
In “community KWL,” students ask their families what they know, wonder, and have learned about a topic to spark more questions to investigate.
As physicians who study infectious disease and epidemiology, we believe that the best way to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in schools is to vaccinate the adults — teachers, staff and parents — throughout the school. When more people in a community are protected against the coronavirus, unprotected people, such as the children who aren’t yet able to get vaccinated, are less likely to be exposed. Children ages 12 and older should be encouraged to get immunized, and vaccines are likely to be available for younger children this fall. The coronavirus will likely still be circulating at low levels this fall, so schools cannot simply operate as they did before the pandemic. school districts should focus on the tactics that work against transmitting the virus. This op-ed suggests an approach to sanitizing routines, COVID-19 testing, quarantining, masks, and social distancing.
Despite the difficulties of offering support remotely, resource specialist Vikram Nahal found that virtual learning allowed him to experiment with new technologies that supported his students with learning disabilities. Speech-to-text technology allowed them to more easily transfer their ideas onto the page. This especially helped his students with ADHD and processing-related disabilities, such as auditory processing disorder or working memory deficits. Speech-to-text tools also saved time, which is helpful for students who might forget their ideas once they try to write or students who struggle with getting any words on the page at all, feeling unable to transfer their thoughts. For some, this was because of the intimidation of writing academically, with spelling and grammar anxieties prohibiting them from starting. For others, the time taken to write out initial thoughts caused them to forget later conclusions and analyses, given the lack of immediacy in writing.
A new review of one of the top 10 most popular reading programs claims that the curriculum has gaps in its alignment to reading research, and doesn’t offer enough supports for teachers. The analysis comes from Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit educational consulting group that started tapping teams of researchers to evaluate popular reading programs last year. The curriculum in question is Wonders, a basal reading program published by McGraw Hill. According to a recent Education Week Research Center survey: 15 percent of early reading teachers surveyed used Wonders in their classrooms. Reviewers found many positives: foundational skills components, lots of English-language learner support, complex texts, and some evidence of knowledge building. But the reviewers also said the program was “overwhelming” and bulky, “a significant issue that dilutes its many strengths.” There’s more content than teachers could reasonably get through, they wrote, allowing for teacher choice in designing units—but the reviewers cautioned that this design puts a lot of onus on teachers.
Though most in-person events have been canceled or put on hold over the past year, nothing could stop the Eisner nominations (selected for creative achievement in American comic books). This year, veteran artist Gene Luen Yang is honored (twice, actually), but newcomers are spotlighted, too, like debut graphic novelists Kiku Hughes for Displacement, a dynamic blend of fact and fiction centering on the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and Kat Leyh for Snapdragon, a tale of a snarky teenager coming into her own magical powers. See below for a full list of the Eisner nominations of books for children and teens, with links to our reviews and coverage—11 of the 18 nominated books received SLJ stars, and seven were named Best Books.
I wanted to explore what goes into being a high-performing and improving district that serves children of color and children from low-income backgrounds. In my new book, I profile five such districts. There’s tiny Lane and Cottonwood in southeastern Oklahoma; Valley Stream 30 in suburban New York; rural Seaford in lower Delaware; small, urban Steubenville, Ohio; and gargantuan Chicago, Illinois. Different locales, different demographics, different assessments, different funding, different governance structures — in other words, they all had very different contexts. And yet, at the heart of these districts are educators who believe in the capacity of all kids to learn, grow, and achieve — and in the responsibility of adults to help them do so.
As schools let out for summer, there are undoubtedly aspects of the past year that teachers and parents alike are ready to leave behind. But then there are the benefits that some are hoping stick around. Among them: better communication strategies and tools that make it easier for special education parents and teachers to interact. Those are lessons that should stay in place long after our current era of remote learning, says research analyst Lane McKittrick, who focuses on special education and families at the Center on Reinventing Public Education. She recently co-authored a report on how charter schools effectively supported students with disabilities during the pandemic.
At least 29 states and Washington, D.C., allow or require schools to hold back struggling 3rd graders who don’t pass state standardized reading tests, the result of ongoing attempts to close the nation’s achievement gap. But as families wrestle with online learning, a pandemic economy, and mental health difficulties, some states are revisiting that approach. Two states, Florida and Mississippi, decided this year that pupils who fail reading assessments won’t be held back. Lawmakers in a third state, Michigan, are debating the same policy. Proponents of letting students pass despite failed assessments say states should focus resources on strengthening classroom instruction and literacy intervention efforts. Critics counter that students who aren’t retained will continue to struggle academically.
As San Antonio school officials turn their attention toward the 2021-22 academic year and recovery efforts to catch kids up, they hope to convince still-hesitant teachers to believe in the practicality and facility of the science of reading method. To make their case, science of reading proponents point to its effectiveness and success during the pandemic: At a time when children could not learn to read by being exposed to a word-rich environment in classrooms with overflowing libraries and word walls, the science of reading still worked, converting more easily to Zoom. While neither the state nor local school districts seem ready to mandate exclusive use of the science of reading, researchers, politicians and school officials have been moving Texas in that direction for years, arguing that balanced literacy is inadequate to make the gains the state needs to see.
A fleet of mobile immersive labs gives students in rural and low-income communities hands-on STEM experiences. When science teacher Kathryn Spivey told her students at Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville, Maryland that they were going to take off and visit planet Mars for a day on a Magic School Bus of their own, they didn’t know what to expect. Inside, a long bench runs along one end of the bus’ gleaming white interior, with tablets stationed in the middle. The bus is also decked out with high-definition video and special effects panels, which take students on a five-minute, 360-degree immersive trip across the entire solar system. Students learn about each of the planets before they land on planet Mars, how to solve problems that astronauts could face on a journey into space, and get to work on designing a rover and completing activities that help them think like engineers.
Independent reading is one way to help students build fluency, but we all know that they’re not necessarily going to focus if you simply hand them a book and tell them to read it. I’ve found that if I combine repeat reading, paired reading, and fluency trackers, students are more motivated to do that crucial work that builds fluency.
Scholastic’s Chairman and CEO M. Richard Robinson died unexpectedly over the weekend, the company announced. Robinson, who was 84, had been in excellent health and had been overseeing Scholastic’s long-term strategic direction and day-to-day operations for the better part of five decades, according to the announcement. "Teachers, a heartbreaking day for me and our Scholastic family," wrote Scholastic author Lauren Tarshis. "Our CEO Dick Robinson died unexpectedly. He's the son of the founder (his dad). He led with heart, kindness, wisdom & unwavering focus on YOU and your kids. I'm so lucky to have known and learned from him."
Schools looking to shore up students’ skills after pandemic-related shutdowns turn to summer school and enrichment programs — but there’s no guarantee kids will attend or that gains will last into fall and beyond.
If your district isn’t having an “uh oh” moment around reading instruction, it probably should be. Educators across the country are experiencing a collective awakening about literacy instruction, thanks to a recent tsunami of national media attention. Alarm bells are ringing—as they should be—because we’ve gotten some big things wrong: Research has documented what works to get kids to read, yet those evidence-based reading practices appear to be missing from most classrooms. Systemic failures have left educators overwhelmingly unaware of the research on how kids learn to read. Many teacher-preparation programs lack effective reading training, something educators rightly lament once they get to the classroom. On personal blogs and social media, teachers often write of learning essential reading research years into their careers, with powerful expressions of dismay and betrayal that they weren’t taught sooner. Others express anger. The lack of knowledge about the science of reading doesn’t just affect teachers. It’s perfectly possible to become a principal or even a district curriculum leader without first learning the key research. In fact, this was true for us.
The colors, the collages, the seminal work. Eric Carle's impact on children's literature is immeasurable, and his death this week left readers and colleagues mourning the loss while celebrating the life of The Very Hungry Caterpillar creator. "Heaven just got more colorful," children's book author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds tweeted. "Eric Carle, 91, made his mark, splashing bravely & inspiring those around him to do the same." Carle died Sunday, May 23, surrounded by his family at his summer studio in Northampton, MA. The Carle family announced his death on ericcarle.art, writing: “In the light of the moon, holding on to a good star, a painter of rainbows is now traveling across the night sky.”
Principal Margot Zahner’s vision for summer enrichment at Waterman Elementary School in Harrisonburg, Virginia, grows clearer every week. She imagines students reading underneath the two silver maple trees that flank the entrance of the building, while another group studies the life cycle of plants and insects in a nearby community garden and a third prepares a play to be performed before their parents on a soon-to-be-built stage. “We have been doing a lot of work on screens for such a long time,” Zahner said. “We want to counterbalance that with joy and discovery in our garden through hands-on science and exploration outside. We learn so much by being active and engaged in play.” But, she noted, this year’s summer school program will focus on more than just fun. Zahner and other administrators in her district hope it will chip away at the isolation children have experienced as well as the learning loss they suffered during the shutdowns: Harrisonburg City Public Schools were closed to most students for nearly a year before opening up, at least in part, in late March.
In Tulsa, Okla., 100 years ago this month, 35 square blocks of homes, churches and schools — along with a storied business district known as Black Wall Street — had been systematically torched and reduced to ash. By creating “Opal’s Greenwood Oasis” and “Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre” for young people, the authors of two new picture books have reminded us that many who survived the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 were children at the time. In “Unspeakable,” the acclaimed children’s author Carole Boston Weatherford continues the exploration of African-American history. Her forebears lived through the period of white supremacist terrorism of which Tulsa was but one example. Weatherford deals directly with the racist tenets of segregation. The award-winning illustrator Floyd Cooper was born and raised in Tulsa, where none of his teachers ever mentioned the massacre. He learned of it at a grandfather’s knee.
Eric Carle's picture books were often about insects. Spiders, lady bugs, crickets and of course, that famous caterpillar, all as colorful and friendly as Carle himself. The Very Hungry Caterpillar — probably Carle's best-known work — came out in 1969 and became one of the bestselling children's books of all time. Over the course of his career, Carle illustrated more than 70 books for kids. He didn't get started on that path until he was nearly 40, but he found great inspiration in his own childhood. Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Carle remembered an early life filled with art, light and walking through nature holding his father's hand. Carle, who first illustrated the 1967 children's book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by his friend Bill Martin Jr., wanted The Very Hungry Caterpillar to serve as a literary cocoon for children getting ready for kindergarten. As little kids prepare to leave the warmth and safety of home for school, they're meant to identify with beautiful, soaring butterflies. "I think it is a book of hope," Carle said in a commemorative video released by Penguin Random House in 2019. Then 89 and retired at his Florida home, he was wearing black suspenders and a blue shirt matching his lively eyes. "Children need hope. You, little insignificant caterpillar, can grow up into a beautiful butterfly and fly into the world with your talent. Will I ever be able to do that? Yes, you will. I think that is the appeal of that book.
When a fictional caterpillar chomps through one apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, five oranges, one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake and one slice of watermelon, it might get a stomach ache. But it might also become the star of one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. Eric Carle, the artist and author who created that creature in his book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” a tale that has charmed generations of children and parents alike, died on Sunday at his summer studio in Northampton, Mass. He was 91. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” Mr. Carle’s best-known book, has sold more than 55 million copies around the world since it was first published in 1969, its mere 224 words translated into more than 70 languages. It is one of more than 70 books that Mr. Carle published over his career. Mr. Carle’s career as a children’s book author took off in his late 30s, and he made his name tapping into his inner child. Describing himself as a “picture writer,” Mr. Carle detailed much of his artistic process on his website.
Lois Ehlert, whose cut-and-paste shapes and vibrant hues in books including "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" put her among the most popular illustrators of books for preschoolers of the late 20th century, has died. She was 86. In 1989's "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," Ehlert created the hyper-simple brown-and-green coconut tree and the multicolored capital letters who try to gather at the top of it, threatening to bring it tumbling to the ground as the text repeats, "Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room?" The book sold more than 12 million copies. She worked primarily by cutting out shapes and pasting them into collages, much like the preschoolers who were her primary audience. In 1990, she was given a Caldecott Honor as the author and illustrator of "Color Zoo," which uses basic triangles, rectangles, squares and circles to create images of animals in oversaturated oranges, purples and greens. Its only words are the names of the shapes and creatures themselves.
Students' understanding of a story is partially dependent on their ability to understand and picture the moment. Pairing primary sources with literature can help students explore a story using a unique, real-world perspective that they may not otherwise have. Compelling primary sources help students contextualize elements of a story to better understand and relate to it. A photograph of an event can help students visualize a setting. Listening to a song only referenced in the text might immerse a reader in a scene. Words written by those in a movement may give voice to a character. There may also be learning moments where the children’s literature leads to greater understanding of primary sources. A story, fictional or true, can humanize a topic that feels more distant when interacting with an item from long ago. In these cases, beginning with the story to build contextual knowledge may increase student engagement in analyzing primary sources.
The Tulsa Race Massacre—one of the worst acts of racist violence in American history—has long been written out of history. In advance of the 100th anniversary, here are books and teaching resources that shed light on the event.
Fewer than 1 in 4 high school seniors and a little more than a third of 4th and 8th graders performed proficiently in science in 2019, according to national test results out this week. The results are the latest from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in science. Since the assessment, known as “the nation’s report card,” was last given in science in 2015, 4th graders’ performance has declined overall, while average scores have been flat for students in grades 8 and 12. Only a little more than a third of 4th graders could consistently explain concepts such as how forces change motion, how environmental changes can affect the growth and survival of animals or plants, and how temperature affects the state of matter. And more than 40 percent of high school seniors could not consistently describe and explain things like the structure of atoms and molecules or design and critique scientific experiments and observational studies.
Self-regulated learning, or SRL, is much more than just learning strategies to regulate emotions. It also taps into the often-missing component of teaching and learning, the metacognitive aspects of learning, or learning how to learn for different contexts. SRL is knowing how to learn and being aware of your progression of learning toward specific goals. In the classroom, explicit direct instruction of SRL means the students are aware that they are learning study strategies and how to learn. They learn which strategies are best for different contexts and the reasoning for those benefits. Two quick tips for explicit direct teaching of SRL: explain the usefulness and importance of self-regulated learning skills to students; and support students to identify when and where they can use self-regulated learning skills.
Imagine, if you will, the inner life of a student who’s just returned to the classroom after a year of remote learning. The pandemic has made physical isolation routine, and while being back in school is a welcome change, it’s also disorienting. These challenges, whether related to racial injustice, family struggles, difficulty accessing online learning, or simply the sadness of being separated from peers, weigh heavily on students and educators as they reintegrate into the school environment. For schools, it’s a critically important time to adopt strategies that consider students’ emotional well-being and help them achieve social connectedness and belonging. At the same time, however, schools also need to mitigate pandemic-related interruptions in learning and continue to demonstrate academic growth. School leaders may feel they’re in a bind: Do they focus on social emotional learning or academic rigor? We feel that this is a false choice. It’s not an either/or proposition—it’s both/and. We can’t uncouple social and emotional learning from academics, because they are deeply intertwined.
Outdoor classrooms brought me hope this year—hope that for many of us was very difficult to find. As a first-grade teacher who lives in a rural community, I’ve seen firsthand how transformative teaching in the outdoors can be: It can help build community and breathe new life into instruction, all while keeping teachers and students safe. The school where I teach serves 125 students in grades K–6. Before Covid-19 struck, outdoor learning in my classroom was confined to a few walks outdoors to visit the local pond and the stream running in the woods behind our school. Now, it’s not only an integrated part of our day but also the most engaging part of our instruction—and I’ll continue to rely on it after the pandemic is over. Here’s the path I took to making outdoor learning a key and permanent component of my teaching.
With schools across the nation increasingly eyeing a return to normalcy, federal education officials are further clarifying what that should mean for students with disabilities. In a 23-page question-and-answer document, the U.S. Department of Education is laying out how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and other civil rights laws apply as schools return to in-person learning. The guidance addresses schools’ responsibilities to students with disabilities in remote, hybrid and in-person situations, touching on everything from the right to a free appropriate public education to handling children who are unable to wear masks or maintain social distance.
“Oh, that’s one of your students, isn’t it”? Even typing that sentence out, I cringe a little—but I cringe even more when I hear it. As a special education teacher, whose students tend to need more support and supervision, I understand the struggle that comes with working with students who have learning disabilities. Yet when I hear that question from a colleague, it makes me wonder, “Why are we treating them like my students or your students? Why do we not work as a team when the success of all students is ultimately our responsibility?” At the start of this year, I decided to change a few things with one of my co-teachers, and we came up with a few simple ideas that have created very positive impacts in our classroom.
Two-thirds of Philly third graders are behind in reading. Will a new program the District is launching in September change that? The answer may lie in Bethlehem, PA. In the fall of 2016, Bethlehem implemented the Science of Reading, known as Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS), a comprehensive program developed by two veteran literacy experts, Louisa Moats and Carol Tolman. And the change was dramatic. By the following June, 88 percent of the district’s kindergarteners were reading at grade level, up from 46 percent when school started in September, and up from 71 percent the prior year. That progress continued over the next several years.
New work from Satoshi Kitamura, Lynne Rae Perkins, Shawn Harris, Bruce Handy, Hyewon Yum, Nikki Grimes, Elizabeth Zunon, Micha Archer, Julie Flett and Vera Brosgol. In the Museum of Everything, when the world feels too big and busy, a girl thinks up imaginary museums where she can look at “little pieces of it, one at a time”: museums of islands, hiding places, shadows. Perkins — a Newbery Medal-winning novelist as well as acclaimed picture book creator — alternates her familiar watercolor art with photographed miniatures made from materials such as sand, stones, twigs, moss, modeling clay and lights. Near the end of the book, the girl notices “the Sky Museum,” which is “already there”: It’s “open all the time” and “different every day”; “usually there are birds, and sometimes airplanes.”
Don’t call it summer school. That has a stigma. It’s not really summer camp either, since math and English will be taught every day. The Cleveland Municipal School District’s “Summer Learning Experience,” an eight-week program launching next month, instead uses a strategy districts across the country are testing to help students rebound after a year of COVID disrupting their education and lives. Schools are avoiding strict academics, betting instead on getting students back to class after a year away with a mix of fun activities and learning. The hope is that a softer tone will rekindle students’ joy for learning not just this summer, but for years to come, helping them recover socially and emotionally, not just academically. In Cleveland, academics and a menu of fun afternoon activities like music, sports, art or neighborhood improvement projects will be braided together.
“Independent reading is not about a number of minutes or the level of the book. It is not a program,” write literacy experts and middle and high school teachers, Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst in Literacy Today. “It is about creating independent thinkers who think with compassion, logic, and curiosity, and without manipulation from others. They think—and from those thoughts, they become more than they were. They become independent.” Paired with regular guided reading instruction, independent reading should provide students with the opportunity to read widely, exploring high-interest and diverse texts across genres, bringing to the reading their own unique “perceptions, values, and thoughts,” write Beers and Probst. Here are a few ways to help promote what Beers and Probst describe as the sometimes messy, noisy process of independent reading in the classroom.
While teaching during a pandemic has presented extraordinary challenges for all teachers, educators working with the visually impaired have had the especially difficult task of adapting a curriculum based largely on physical interactions—like teaching a student how to read braille by touch or how to walk with a cane—to the two-dimensional environment of online learning. Although technology plays a significant role in many special education programs for the blind and deaf, there’s little precedent for a completely virtual education for the visually impaired, and certainly no rule book.
A new study conducted by researchers at Georgia State University and Istanbul Bilgi University suggests that twins undergo language acquisition at a slightly different rate from their single-birth counterparts. The team of psychologists and linguists found that twins tend to use fewer physical gestures and lag behind single children in terms of language development, findings which could expand our understanding of early language acquisition as we currently know it.
According to the National Institute For Early Childhood Research, nearly half of all 3-year-olds and a third of all 4-year-olds in the United States were not enrolled in preschool in 2019. That's in large part because many parents can't afford it. Imagine a future where we changed that. A future where every American child had access to two years of preschool during a critical period of their mental development. How would their lives change? How would society change? If President Biden gets his way, and Congress agrees to spend $200 billion on his proposal for universal preschool, then we may begin to find out. But it turns out, we kind of already know. In fact, a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research gives us a glimpse of what that world could look like. It adds to a burgeoning amount of high-quality research that shows just how valuable preschool is — and maybe not for the reasons you might think.
The crucial process of learning to read was made even more complicated this year by remote learning and wide-ranging inconsistency in how Chicago schools teach reading. To address some of the gaps in reading and other subjects under remote learning, the district suggested curricular areas that teachers should prioritize, held training on teaching remotely, and told families about the district’s virtual library book system. To assess students, the district pointed teachers to an online tool called Amplify Reading literacy, which relies on teachers listening to students read. They also introduced a district-run assessment system that allows teachers to create their own tests. But those efforts ran up against a decentralized reading education system rooted in an approach that experts criticize and the vastly varied learning environments of students during the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, eighth graders’ reading comprehension declined substantially. Since then, scholars have been trying to figure out why their scores dropped so much between 2017 and 2019 on a highly regarded national test known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP. Researchers at the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit research organization, are digging into whether kids are reading less — perhaps distracted by their digital devices. The emerging answer is that yes, young teens seem to be reading less and enjoying reading less. But the decline in book reading might not be the main culprit in our national comprehension problem. And separate international studies of 15-year-olds and fourth graders indicate that eighth grade reading habits aren’t telling the whole story.
In order to respond to the intense challenges facing MLLs, schools across the nation, including teachers, deans, principals, and librarians, have implemented targeted intervention, innovative tech approaches, and social-emotional support, while enlisting parental cooperation. For starters, making sure students know how to log on remotely has been vital. For many MLLs’ families, parents may not possess the lingual or digital literacy to follow school instructions, log children on to platforms, fill out forms, or perform other administrative functions, like converting a document to a PDF for a homework submission. To reach out to families, the New York City Department of Education has partnered with the Child Mind Institute to run family workshops on social-emotional topics. Origins will be participating with workshops in English, Russian, and Arabic. The school also paired each student with an older student fluent in their language, as well as a teacher, to help them log on to the weekly virtual meetings via Google Meet.
It's been a year since teachers were handed an unprecedented request: educate students in entirely new ways amid the backdrop of a pandemic. In this comic series, we'll illustrate one educator's story each week from now until the end of the school year. Episode 8: Daven Oglesby, a special education teacher for kindergartners to fourth-graders in Nashville, Tenn., explains what a typical day in the pandemic is like for his atypical classroom.
In a year when the usual summer slide in learning has stretched into a school-year slide, librarians say it is more important than ever to make reading a part of every child’s summer, especially underserved children and teens. For many libraries developing summer programming, addressing reading deficits is top of mind. Others are looking hard at inequities in their services laid bare by the pandemic and adjusting programming to remove barriers to participation.
When it comes to summer—particularly a summer that follows a year of pandemic-induced isolation—parents have three priorities for what they want summer programming to address for their children: their social and emotional health, providing them with physical outdoor activities and helping them discover their passion and purpose. A new, national survey by Arlington, VA-based market research firm Edge Research, in conjunction with Learning Heroes, a nonprofit dedicated to elevating the voice of parents in education, was commissioned by Wallace to explore the unique, differentiated role out-of-school time (OST) programs play in youth development compared with home and school, how parents assess quality in OST programs and the impact of COVID-19 for summer 2021—and beyond.
Before coronavirus vaccines, and before spring weather, many families across the country opted to keep students in remote learning for fear of the pandemic’s spread. But now their reasons have changed. Jobs, language barriers and hard-won coronavirus pandemic routines are just some of the reasons that children aren’t going back to classrooms in districts that have reopened.
The other week, Rick Hess shared Tom Loveless’ take that perhaps, after more than a decade, the large-scale federal implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has amounted to little more than, in Hess’s words, “a big nothingburger.” The flaw in this line of thinking is that Common Core was never intended to be a burger at all, or any fully cooked meal that is immediately ready to academically nourish every child in America. Common Core, I would instead suggest, is a meal kit that provides beautiful nutrient-rich ingredients for a teacher to cook up—although, with this meal kit, it takes years to build the collective expertise to turn these new ingredients into Michelin-star teaching in every classroom.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's book “Stamped from the Beginning” has since been remixed as “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” a version of the book that was re-written for teens by best-selling author Jason Reynolds. Now, we have “Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You,” an adaptation aimed at 7- to 12-year-olds. These youth-centered books about race do the research for teachers so they don't have to spend huge amounts of time figuring out how to tackle units about American history and race in the classroom, explains author Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul. She is an educator and researcher who wrote “Stamped (For Kids)” as an adaptation of Kendi’s original book. She's applying her 20 years of experience in middle school classrooms helping schools “shatter any kind of silence around race and racism.”
The International Literacy Association (ILA) announced the 2021 winners of its Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards this week, highlighting both fiction and nonfiction works that exemplify the very best from rising stars in the literary field. The winning authors and titles were unveiled during the ILA Children’s Literature Intensive: Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom Through Books on May 11. ILA’s annual book awards program recognizes newly published authors who exhibit exceptional promise in the children’s and young adults’ book fields. This year’s honorees offer a range of topics—from overcoming adversity and trauma to celebrating the skin we’re in, from the beginning of the universe to a seahorse’s anatomy, and more.
More than two years after a scathing review by state officials over its approach to covering reading instruction, the University of Northern Colorado won kudos Wednesday for making changes to two majors within its teacher preparation program. The State Board of Education granted full approval to the university’s elementary education and early childhood education majors, an upgrade from the partial approval given to the majors previously. State officials detailed the university’s turnaround, noting the creation of a literacy committee and major revisions to several literacy courses to focus more on the science of reading. An accompanying report said university literacy faculty have taken trainings offered by the Colorado Department of Education, Reading Rockets, and North Carolina State University.
For those who have long sought to give students more “voice and choice” inside the country’s K-12 classrooms, the devastating coronavirus pandemic appears to have had a silver lining. More than half of teachers now offer students more flexibility in how they choose to complete assignments, more opportunities to revise and re-submit their work, and more ways to participate non-verbally in class discussions, according to a nationally representative survey of teachers administered by the EdWeek Research Center. The idea that students now have more ways to show what they know is a good thing, they said—especially for students who are still learning English or have special needs or have struggled in traditional school. Also encouraging is that educators appear to be focusing less on seat time and more on whether students have actually mastered classroom material.
The largest and longest study of its kind on summer learning programs reveals short- and long-term benefits among students who consistently attended voluntary, five- to six-week summer learning programs. The findings suggest that these programs can be an important component of how school districts support learning and skill development among children in low-income communities. The study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, followed nearly 6,000 students in five urban school districts from the end of 3rd grade through the spring of 7th grade.
As school districts and states scramble to use federal COVID relief aid to help students recover academically this summer, they’ll need to address a core challenge of summer learning: Too often, students don’t show up. So how should school districts design programs to ensure that students show up, making meaningful learning gains possible? A first step is to move away from the traditional summer school model, with teachers and students stuck inside classrooms. Instead, districts would be smart to work with YMCAs, recreation centers, Boys & Girls Clubs and other community organizations to add substantive academic content to the organizations’ existing sports and enrichment activities.
How can we encourage students to develop their own questions? And, once they create them, what’s next? Questioning is an essential part of any classroom. Oftentimes, however, it’s the teacher asking them or students asking fairly simple informative ones. What can educators do to help students develop the skills, appetite, and confidence to develop and ask questions that are deeper and more higher-order ones?