Making Reading Real!

Avid readers realize how a great book can transport you to another world. Elementary age students can gain approximately 3,000 new words per year. Unfortunately struggling readers do not make those same gains and are faced with the ongoing struggle of catching up to their peers.

We have all asked the same question. What can I do as a teacher to make a difference? Research based strategies are the first step. Students must be exposed to daily interventions which include: word building, sight words, encoding, decoding and fluency. In addition, students should be afforded opportunities to read leveled books that are engaging, high-interest and on their independent reading level. I have found the following  to be helpful:

1. Listen to the experts. Making Sense of Phonics by Isabel Beck is a wonderful resource for all. The book offers insight as to the research behind reading and links teachers to prepared activities.

2. Build a leveled library. Pioneer Valley Books has many collections that include a variety of genres and themes.

3. Offer students activities they perceive as breaks, but are cleverly incorporating reading skills within the instructional time. A few rewards I have found to be purposeful are Education City, Starfall and ABC Mouse.

4. Be Consistent, Keep lessons structured and predictable. The routine helps students to focus their attention on the reading.

5. Don’t be afraid to challenge your struggling readers. Picture books are a favorite of most students because of the colorful pictures that support their reading. Emerging readers feel safe when presented with a picture book, but it is our job to strategically nudge students outside of their comfort zone. Novels allow students to dig deeper into their comprehension. With appropriate support, students can read grade level novels that challenge their abilities in a safe setting. These opportunities allow students to feel a sense of accomplishment and realize how much fun it is to be a part of a “book club”. 

6. Keep Parents Informed! Using technology such as Remind allows teachers to share messages with parents throughout the day or on a scheduled basis. Good news notices can be sent to congratulate a child on extra effort. A free and interesting site is Wonderopolis! http://wonderopolis.org/ Children can explore wonders and submit their wonders to the site to be answered too. 

7. Connect with the world. Through the use of Skype technology students can connect with other classrooms around the world. Renowned teacher, Pernille Ripp created the Global Read Aloud in 2010 and her 6 week project continues to be a motivation to teachers all over the world. Sign-up for the 2016 project at:  http://theglobalreadaloud.com/category/2016/

Maintaining effective practices for struggling readers is a necessary component, but motivation to read is also key in making a change. Make books readily accessible, high-interest and connect reading to the real-world when possible.

Back to School Basics: Gooooooaaaaaaaallllllll!

With the gusto of soccer announcer Andrés Cantor, you need to celebrate your goals. Well, maybe before we start dancing in the streets, let’s back up a second and think about your goals. Sure, you can come up with all sorts of lofty goals as to why you’re a teacher: I want to impact the future. I want to be the reason a child becomes great. I want to create lifelong learners. That fluff-stuff is for your Philosophy of Education that you have to submit with your resume to get the job. But, now you’re hired, here, and ready to start off a new school year that may include new faces or new places.

In Teach, Reflect, Learn, Hall and Simeral (2015, ASCD) argue, “With so many professional responsibilities determined for us in education […], it is essential to our continued growth – not to mention our sanity – to have some semblance of ownership over our own development.” Do you even know what you want to do beyond pure survival? Setting goals outside of curriculum maps and mastery levels can keep you focused on your mission to, as Ghandi so eloquently put it, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” or whatever quote you pulled into your philosophy statement back in college.

Set one attainable goal in each of these areas outside of academics: student social-emotional well-being, professional practice, and personal balance. Here are some reflection questions to get you through goal setting:

Student Social-Emotional Well-Being

  • How will I make time to get to know my students?
  • How will I establish my room as a safe place for students both physically and emotionally?
  • What can I do to show students that I care?
  • What normative beliefs can I promote for respect, integrity, and kindness?
  • Research shows that one caring adult makes a big difference in the success of a child. How will I be that adult for a child who needs me?

Professional Practice

  • What topics do I want to attend training on?
  • Do I want to further my education and seek another degree or certification?
  • What new skill do I want to try? How will I learn the skill, observe the skill, or try the skill?
  • What professional books do I want to read?
  • Can I access a peer coach, instructional partner, or mentoring teacher?
  • What Professional Learning Communities do I have access to within my school or district?
  • How can I connect with other education professionals on social media?

Personal Balance

  • What projects around the house do I want to complete?
  • Do I have any fitness goals that I can work towards?
  • Is there a vacation that I am longing for?
  • How will I make time for my family and friends?
  • What limits will I set to not overwhelm myself with work while I am at home?

Remember, set goals that you can reach. They can small goals, such as, “Paint the bathroom over Fall Break” or tall goals, “Enroll in a Master’s program at a local university.”  Either way, you have to have a plan for reaching them. You can download many goal templates (I’m a fan of the SMART plan: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound) or simply write your goal on a sticky note. Choose what you are working for, and then go out there and get it. Pick a reward that you will celebrate with – even if it’s just jumping up and down in your classroom and screaming at the top of your lungs, “GOOOOOoooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!”

Back to School Basics: Create a Classroom Tour Video

Lights, camera, action! Once you’re done preparing your room, it’s time get out a camera or your smartphone and create a guided video tour of your classroom. When you’re done, upload this video to YouTube, and share the link on a classroom homepage or social media site. If you have availability to student or parent email addresses before the school year begins, send the link out. You could also send this during the first week of school, but sending it before the school year begins helps students feel a little more comfortable and relieve the first day jitters because they know exactly what to expect when they walk in the door. This also introduces you to parents so they can put a face to your name – it is especially helpful with parents at the middle / high school level who may never come into contact with their child’s teacher.

Here are a few things you may want to cover:

  • The basic layout of your classroom. Show the student desks, your desk. Where are student accessible materials? Where do they turn in homework? Do students store coats, lunch boxes, etc in the classroom or in lockers in the hallway? Is there a restroom in your classroom? Cover all of these areas and any other relevant information you can think of.
  • Is there a place within your classroom, or in the hallway where you post information such as field trips, conference sign ups, or other important information? Be sure to highlight this area so that parents can find it easily!
  • Have someone record you sitting in a comfortable place within your classroom (or, be really hip and use a selfie-stick). Behind your desk may come off as a little too sterile or intimidating. Introduce yourself and convey your excitement for the school year. Share your goals for the year. Remind parents where they can locate your contact information (don’t share your contact info in the video unless you are keeping the link private.)

Creating this virtual tour should set the tone for your classroom. Let students and parents alike see your passion for teaching, and how you take pride in this space. Be confident and speak clearly.

Other information videos you can create for your own classroom vlog (video blog) series can include:

  • An overview of your homework / classwork / grading policies.
  • If you have a self-contained classroom, or your entire homeroom follows the same schedule, overview this schedule. If you’re tech savvy, you can overlay pictures over the different areas within the school that the children will visit or even walk the school as you explain where you are going.
  • A walking video of how to get to your classroom from the front door of the school. For students coming into a large, new school this can really alleviate some anxiety.
  • Explain personal electronics policy / computer usage within the school.
  • Video screen navigation of how to access student grades online, locate information on the class website, or social media links for the class.

Post in the comments what other ideas you have for “How to” or informational videos teachers can create!

Citing Social Media Sources

Recently I read an article on Teach Thought about the proper way to use social media as a source when conducting research. I was intrigued to see that there was actually a format setup for both APA and MLA style formats for how to reference social media.

The chart for this:

how-to-cite-social-media

The display of these sources seems to work in line with the associated format and publication style mentioned. The article details how APA has setup a style guide associated with using social media sources and offers it to the public for a small fee, but MLA hasn’t expressly released a style guide associated with social media sources.

I wanted to take a look at whether or not individuals who are writing scholarly articles should be considering the usage of social media within their research. I’m to understand there is no differentiation with respect to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, etc. and that all social media could in theory be used for research purposes, only if a few are mentioned in the chart.

I wanted to take a look at the pros and cons of using social media sources from the perspective of scholarly journal writing.

Pros:

  • Social media offers the most recent resources you can find. Often when conducting research this is one of the primary concerns of publications, that an article features more recent references than a collection of older literature.
  • Social media is always on. You always have access to social media, as long as you have an internet connection through your phone or computer. You don’t have to worry about a database being down for maintenance in the way you might in other search situations.
  • Social media offers more content than any other search tool. Every second on social media thousands of posts are being created and published. Journals on the other hand will be published, at best, once a month and only feature a handful of articles.
  • Social media offers a wide range of opinions. In the internet age individuals are more able to express themselves. If you are studying a certain topic you may find a more wide array of opinions on social media than you would through journals, textbooks and more traditional norms.

Cons:

  • Anyone can get on social media. I know a friend’s daughter who is two and knows how to use YouTube quite well. There is nothing to stop her from publishing a comment on YouTube if her mother is logged in. What this boils down to is that the sources on social media may not be vetted as they would be through a review of a publication.
  • Accuracy may not exist on social media. Since everyone is able to produce content on social media you may find that there are multiple opinions on the same topic all claiming to be factual.
  • Social media offers more content than any other search tool. While this is a pro, it is also a con. It will take a keen eye and a lot of time to sift through the extensive content published on social media. Your search terms have to be perfect for everything to work for you. Too broad a search results in too many results, but too specific a search results in no results.
  • Using social media as a source for research has not been studied, so it is difficult to determine how successful using social media sources might be or if there is any adverse impacts from using social media as resource when conducting research.

Overall, my view point at this time is that it may be far more productive to use social media to promote your research than it would be to conduct it.

Originally posted on FAAET Blog.