Tag Archives: Teaching and Learning

Read These Books by John Lewis- they are a valuable source of the American experience

 

I recommend that everyone, all moms and dads, gramma’s and grampas, aunt and uncle and caring neighbors go to a library and borrow these three books.  Or go to a bookstore and buy them.

Then read them and talk about them with others.  John Lewis was one of many individuals that intentionally put his life into to the civil rights movement with a deep commitment and clear awareness of the personal cost that may be paid for marching into the challenges of segregation and injustice.

Once you have read, thought and talked about these books – I suggest you reach out to a young person.  Someone in their twenties, teens or younger and ask them to read your copies and to talk with you about the stories. With the younger children, you might share these with – you may want to read them aloud as you sit side by side with your daughter, grandson, niece or neighbor.

The conversation that comes from this sharing could open new learning for all and new opportunities for growing close.  These heartfelt discussions might lead to a thirst for more learning about this and related topics and for more important sharing between the two (it could be more) of you.

Our American journey has not been a straight line.  It has not been without pain.  The journey continues as WE strive to form more perfect unions amongst and between all.

Enjoy these three important books!!!!!

Note: the picture of the three people in this post is of Nate Powell, the illustrator of the books, John Lewis, the author of the books and Andrew Aydin a co-author of the books.

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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.

 

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.

 

Learning is About Enhancing Brain Pathways

living_circuts_Whatever the ability is, it is located in the brain.  So, when we pick up a dime from the table – that is a neural activity.  When we really focus our listening as we experience a beloved concert – we are activating and working our brain.  So for anyone of us to stretch or grow our ability in any way – the brain is a big part of that growth.

Growth means to deepen your knowledge, increase the effectiveness of your performances and/or shape your dispositions.  Personal growth is about you intentionally working at increasing your own growth at your own “edges”.  And, any growth you make becomes portable and it shows up where you are.  Because it is part of you, it is rooted.

In this post I’ll be sharing information form The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown by Daniel Coyle (2009).  This book explains a how ‘talent’ is grown by looking at how our brains work.  Coyle reports”

Useful Brain Science Insight Number 1:

All actions are really the result of electrical impulses sent along chains of nerve fibers.  Basically, our brains are bundles of wires – 100 billion wires called neurons, connected to each other by synapses. Whenever you do something, your brain sends a signal through those chains of nerve fibers to your muscles.  Each time you practice anything – sing a tune, swing a club, read this sentence – a different highly specific circuit lights up in your mind, sort of like a string of Christmas lights.

Useful Brain Science Insight Number 2:

The more we develop a skill circuit, the less we’re aware that we’re using it.   We are built to make skills automatic, to stash them in our unconscious mind.  This process, which is called automaticity, exists for powerful evolutionary reasons. It also creates a powerfully convincing illusion: a skill, once gained, feels utterly natural, as if it’s something we’ve always possessed.

These two insights – skills as brain circuits and automaticity – create a paradoxical combination: we’re forever building vast, intricate circuits, and we’re simultaneously forgetting that we built them.  (Pages 36, 37 and 38)

So, if you want to get better at throwing a baseball, thinking more abstractly, dancing the jig, creating homemade birthday cards or developing your ability to communicate: with individuals, with groups, with subordinates, and/or with those you report to then – find your edge and start trying to throw that ball or dance that jig!  Growing, developing and becoming are not passive or lucky ‘brain events’.

For a person to grow and develop that person needs to go to his or her ‘edge’ of the skill, disposition, knowledge and/or understanding and they will need to work through the disequilibrium that comes from moving beyond the ‘what is’ to ‘what might be’.  So, learning, growing and developing surely is a courageous journey.  Whether it is a song you are learning on your clarinet or a new way of actively listening deeply to the members of your family.

Coyle explains that “struggling in certain targeted ways – operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes – makes you smarter.  Or, put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them – as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go – end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.”  (page 18)

A person has to be willing to “address” his or her “growth edges” if he or she wants to change and grow.  Coyle has reported the science behind this.  And he shares how it is that our brains respond to practice, when we are ‘operating at the edges’: To do that he tells the story of myelin.

You are likely asking: What is myelin? Here is how Coyle explains where myelin fits into learning.

“(1) Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of fibers.  (2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy.  (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.” (page 32) he sums things up this way: “Skill is myelin insulation that wraps neural circuits and that grows according to certain signals.  The story of skill and talent is the story of myelin.” (page 33)

Myelin is “universal: everyone can grow it, most swiftly during childhood but also throughout life. It’s indiscriminate: its growth enables all manner of skills, mental and physical.  It’s imperceptible: we can’t see it or feel it, and we can sense its increase only by its magical-seeming effects.  Most of all, however, myelin is important because it provides us with a vivid new model for understanding skill.  Skill is a cellular insulation that wraps neural circuits and that grows in response to certain signals.” (page 6)

So, learning is about enhancing brain pathways to be open and ready for use.  Learning is about putting in time in ways that stretch us. And as we stretch we need to try to process our way to higher progress. These are the rules.  These rules are not to be ignored.  Working through the challenges at our growth edges is how we progress.

“All skills, all language, all music, all movements, are made of living circuits, and all circuits grow according to certain rules.” ~ Dr. George Bartozokis

Successful Education Systems Make Education A Priority

Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education

Lessons from PISA for the United States

Here is a link to the report.    http://www.oecd.org/pisa/46623978.pdf Warning it is long. It compare the the US to countries across the world.

I find it a very interesting read.

And I have specific idea for you to consider to narrow your focus down from the almost 300 page document.

I am interested in the reading results.  You might want to look at pages 26 through 30 to set the stage for your thinking by viewing some of the comparison information and graphs.

Then focus in on page 30 Figure 2.2 and read the seven levels of proficiency in reading (as defined by this international organization) and try to place yourself among the seven.  And then think about these questions:

  • What value is there to you and your future (or the future of your children) to think deeply about this inter national  reading proficiency description?
  • Think about specific behaviors you can pursue that will likely advance your (or your children’s) level of proficiency in reading.
  • Do you sense that when PISA describes reading they are focusing on comprehension and critical thinking?
  • What kind of thinker are you  when you read?
  • What kinds of thinkers are your children when they read?

PISA_11_with_Attribution_I believe that it is not about Michigan in isolation and that it is about the children Michigan educates and how we educate them.

Do we have a world view?

Do we see the need to be successful in teaching all young people?

Do we want today’s students to be players in a world economy?

I would still be in Third Grade

PISA_With_attribution

I am not happy to report that if the law Michigan is considering passing which would keep third graders in third grade until they learn to read would mean I might still be there.

That is true because I was a non reader in third grade.  And more third grade would have likely just led to me being more unhappy, more full of doubt, more worried and bigger a year later.  In fact, since I wouldn’t have learn by more ‘drilling’ I may have not more on the next year.

The thought pains me to think about.

At sixty-five, with three college degrees, I look back and can see no good that could come from a retention decision like this.

I do agree with PISA that the best thing that could have happened for me would have been to help you learn reading the first time around.

Here is a great 12 minute YouTube video – Measuring student success around the world

Watching this might open our eyes to the big picture of literacy and how the United States is doing and what makes sense and what doesn’t for moving forward.