Monthly Archives: May 2014

All Learners Becoming Good at Reading Comprehension is a Tall Order and it is Doable!!!!!

Explaining_ReadingLearning to read opens doors to the future. Learning to read must be about getting meaningful print in to a non-reader’s or developing-reader’s hands and helping the individual to gain the independence to comprehend the material.

Teachers make the difference for many learners as they become more and more proficient as ‘meaning makers’ as they read. Teachers create classrooms and conditions where: Learners want to connect with print, want to grasp massages and meanings from print and are eager to follow and expand their interests by reading.

Comprehension becomes purpose for reading and teachers become those that help the individual to become a reader who comprehends.

For an individual to comprehend he or she will need to amass strategies for approaching print that include being: proactive, tentative, personal, transactive, thoughtful, imagistic, inferential and reflective. Yes, you are correct – that is a tall order! And it is doable!!!!!

Duffy, in the second edition of his book: Explaining Reading: A Resource for Teaching Concepts, Skills and Strategies, describes that reading comprehension is:

► Proactive, because a reader must be actively thinking and constantly monitoring the meaning.
► Tentative, because predictions made in one moment may change in the next moment.
► Personal, in that meaning resides in the reader’s interpretation, which in turn is controlled by his or her prior knowledge.
► Transactive, because the reader’s background interacts with the author’s intention.
► Thoughtful, because you must always analyze the clues the author provides.
► Imagistic, because (in narrative text particularly) you use the author’s descriptive language to create a picture in your mind of what is happening.
► Inferential, because the reader can only make a calculated guess about the author’s meaning since the author was operating from one set of experiences and the reader from another.
► Reflective, in that good readers evaluate what they have read and determine its significance and/or how it can be used after finishing reading.

Strategies are an important part of comprehension. There are only a few strategies readers use in various combinations over and over again, with slight variation from one reading situation to another.
These include:
 Making predictions.
 Monitoring and questioning what is happening.
 Adjusting predictions as you go.
 Creating images in the mind.
 Removing blockages to meaning.
 Reflecting on the essence or the significance or the importance of what has been read.

These strategies can be categorized as:
• Before you begin reading.
• As you begin reading.
• During reading.
• After reading.

Learning to read opens doors to the future. Comprehending print is teachable and learnable!!!! Teach can open these doors. Learners can become independent makers of meaning as they read.

My belief is that as leaders we have to be willing to move beyond the status quo! We have to want and pursue deep change.  For each and every student to become competent in comprehending print serves the common good.

 

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Leading Schools and Even Districts Where All Students Learn to Read and Write Requires Challenging the Status Quo and it Requires Leaders from All Ranks

Schools_that_WorksWhen it comes to specific variables that lead to Schools That Work: Where All Children Read and Write (2007) Allington and Cunningham (pages 44-45) report that ten features emerged that enhanced the academic achievement (e.g., thoughtful literacy) of students. Their comprehensive review of the research on school change shows that schools can make a difference. Allington and Cunningham have also reviewed the research on classrooms and have concluded that teachers, as they follow the research at the classroom level, make the difference for students in developing early literacy. By clicking in this link you can see the features of classrooms where all learn to read and write.

Classrooms can be highly productive and schools can be highly productive in insuring that all students learn to read and write.

Here are the ten features that lead to schools that work:

  • School staff committed to the idea that all children could learn to read and write, and they worked to produce that outcome.
  • Substantial investments were made in professional development – primarily investments to enhance teachers’ instructional skills and to create teaching and learning environments that support high-quality instruction.
  • Planning was reorganized so that classroom teachers were more heavily involved in school decision making. In some schools, parents and community members also joined the school site-based management teams.
  • To implement new instructional approaches, the schools invested in classroom libraries, big books, magazine subscriptions, and student anthologies. Putting books in classrooms and in school libraries makes it more likely that children will have books in their hands.
  • The schools allocated larger amounts of classroom instructional time to actual reading and writing activities while using multiple approaches to literacy instruction. Integration of reading and writing activities and integration of reading and writing with social studies and science lessons are common.
  • Special instructional programs were reorganized. Extra effort was made to connect special-program teachers with classroom instruction and classroom teachers.
  • Expanding instructional time by extending the normal school day for some children is another feature of many of the successful efforts.
  • The assessments of children’s literacy development are tied more heavily to everyday reading and writing than to end-of-year standardized testing.
  • Successful schools worked to involve families.
  • In most of the successful school reform efforts, change started small, not with a wholesale restructuring of the school. It was not unusual to find a multi-year plan for changing current practice. Long-term plans call for long-term commitments to continuous improvement – commitments from the professional staff and from the district leaders who provide the resources that support the change effort.

School districts can change. They can improve. Outcomes for students can improve.

And – don’t expect a “quick fix” or “small tweaks” or “a hidden secret you just have to uncover” to bring about these kinds of improved outcomes. Life in today’s school districts is complex and leadership matters! Allington and Cunningham have gathered the research to shine a light on the direction for that leadership to focus.  They have found that sometimes the needed leadership comes from the staff and sometimes it comes from the administration. Either way, for a whole school to become a place where each and every student can become literate – it takes leadership.

Leadership with a clear vision,

Leadership to navigate change.

Leadership to build and nurture a community with a shared mission.

Leadership to empower teachers to others to learn, grow and influence beyond their classroom.

And leadership that supports all as they explore possibilities, adapt existing practice when appropriate, adopt new paths to serve each and every student and being willing to focus on achieving positive outcomes for each and every student.

We will not have schools or districts where all students learn to read and write if we try to get there by following the path of the status quo. Change must happen. For change to be rooted into the future, it requires leadership.

It is time to consider helping to lead this important change.

Seven Firm Conclusions about Early Literacy Development for Each and Every Young Person: Teachers Make the Difference

Classrooms_that_WorkI think all parents, citizens, educators and kids want our schools to be successful in launching each and every student. I hope we, as a society, want students to be in classrooms where all students can read and write.
It is crucial to the future of a child, and to a democratic and prosperous society, for all (each and every) student to become literate. The rewards of literacy are far reaching. Experts agree that literacy reduces poverty, lowers unemployment, decreases the need for public assistance, creates a competitive labor force and drives economic growth.

Richard Allington and Patricia Cunningham, in their book: Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write (Fifth Edition 2011) have gathered what the research shows about classrooms in which all children read and write. They report that:

  • The Most Effective Classrooms Provide Huge Amounts of Balanced, Comprehensive Instruction
  • Children in the Most Effective Classrooms Do a Lot of Reading and Writing
  • Science and Social studies Are Taught and Integrated with Reading and Writing
  • Meaning Is Central and Teachers Emphasize High-Level Thinking Skills
  • Teachers Use a Variety of Formats to Provide Instruction
  • A Wide Variety of Materials Are Used, and
  • Classrooms Are Well Managed and Have High Levels of Engagement

Supporting teachers as they develop their professional knowledge, skills and dispositions while creating and maintaining classrooms that bring to life the above characteristics is some each of us – who cares about literacy for all – should commit to.

Teachers make a difference!

The critical role of the teacher in determining reading achievement was confirmed by Nye, Konstantopoulos, and Hedges (2004) in a large study that showed that teacher effects were more powerful than any other variable, including class size and socioeconomic status.

 

The Space Between the Logs

Fire

What makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water would.

So building fires

requires attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to pile on the logs,

then we can come to see how

it is fuel, and absence of the fuel

together, that make fire possible

We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire

grows

simply because the space is there,

with openings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.

~ Judy Brown

Fire by Judy Brown appears in each of these three

books she wrote: The Sea Accepts All RiversA Leader’s

Guide to Reflective Practice and The Art and Spirit

of Leadership.

 The concept of the “space between the logs” fascinates me.  Having build hundreds of campfires and and hundreds of fires for our wood burning stoves – I know somethings about the “space between the logs”.

I have been part of or convened thousands of conversations, meetings and/or processes where the “space between ideas, people, thinking  and possibilities” has allowed for more ideas, people, thinking and possibilities. It has allowed for more opportunity.

What does the “space between the logs” get you thinking about?

fire

Water Falling on the Stone

                  From: The Rock Will Wear Away

Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone
Splashing, breaking, disbursing in air
Weaker that the stone by far but be aware
That as time goes by the rock will wear away
And the water comes again
~ Holly Near

In what ways are you the “water” that “comes again”?

For me I am the splashing, breaking, disbursing water when it comes to:

Having equity and dignity for all

Ending war

Bringing an end to poverty

No one is hungry

Education for all

Ensuring that everyone can read and write

Thinking interdependently in service of the common good

In what ways are you the “water” that “comes again”?

Man must Never

 

 

Inquiry Combined With Deep Listening

conversation_002Exploring with others through sincere and effective inquiry combined with deep listening for understanding are great tools to develop for working well with others. Often small or large groups of people are faced with working through what seem like insurmountable challenges.

How we ‘show up’ matters: It is worth considering that reframing the situation into many possibilities and opportunities rather than insurmountable challenges is a potentially more proactive platform to be working from.

I do believe that we are in charge of our own perspectives and that any group of people is in charge of their own perspectives. And that our perspectives influence how we navigate opportunity or, as some may see it – insurmountable challenges.

Further, I believe that the questions we ask can be powerful in setting a ‘frame’ for our thinking and actions. Great questions are valuable for the person who asks them – if that person is ready to listen deeply and consider what is shared. Great questions are valuable to those who take them seriously by pondering and responding to them.

Michael J. Marquardt puts it this way: “Great questions cause the questioner to become more aware of the need for change and to be more open and willing to change. The questions themselves may actually cause the leader to become a change catalyst. The leader who leads with questions will more likely champion new ideas heard and developed in the course of inquiry. New ideas and perspectives enable the leader to make strong arguments for advocating change.” Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, Revised and Updated, 2014, pages 42-43.

Marquardt also states that: “A questioning culture strengthens individual and organizational learning; it improves decision making, problem solving, and teamwork; promotes adaptability and acceptance of change; and helps empower people by strengthening self-awareness and self-confidence.” page 6

These are the kinds of questions that may have the power to help a leader or participant of a group to deepen and improve the culture and quality of thinking and work:

If you were to overhear an honest conversation about this intuitive 30 months from now – what would your highest hopes be for what you would hear? What do you believe you would actually hear, given the current trajectory of the project?

How would describe the way you want this project to turn out?

What resources might we tap into that we haven’t used before or not using currently?

What crucial or vital behaviors can we target that seem to provide the greatest leverage for dramatically advance our goal?

How can this team become more efficient and productive while also supporting its members in the pursuit?

What inspires us about this work?

What happens if . . .?

Have we ever thought of . . .? (This question and the two directly preceding it – may be good ones to go around the group and have everyone add in their ‘. . .’ and then go around again and possibly again to generate new and potentially provocative thinking)

For any of these or other such questions to have value a culture of open shared thinking must be supported and the questions must be asked with sincerity and listened to with a commitment to strive to understand and appreciate the perspective(s) being shared.