This APM Reports documentary by Emily Hanford Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? is a really thought provoking piece about how children read and how kids and families land in the middle of the tug of war over how kids read – phonics vs. whole language still at it. We can all agree that everyone needs to learn how to read. When we examine prison populations and reading literacy rates we starkly see why. Better readers do better. Is reading natural? If we just give kids lots of books, is that enough? Where does phonics fit in? For how long? The education community does not agree. I am a scientist at heart. I must follow the science of reading to formulate my bottom line.
Reading instruction must be dynamic and include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Reading is natural for some but not others especially if you have a processing difference like dyslexia or are coping with trauma. Kids need support with phonics blending AND they need to learn whole words. Real tasks that use real texts across content areas to build background knowledge is essential for ongoing vocabulary development and reading comprehension.
1. Phonics is ESSENTIAL through at least 1st grade and should continue as needed through strategic grouping.
2. Spelling instruction is important but should never hold students back from new learning or be overdone.
3. Word study or morphology with roots, prefixes and suffixes teaches kids to crack the code as they develop as readers starting in 3rd grade especially when gamified.
4. Leveled, “just right books” can limit access to and practice with complex language so beware.
5. Science, social studies, art and music build students general content knowledge and develop and even accelerate reading comprehension skills.
Need help developing your reading approach based on reading science? Let me know. I can help.
The end of the school year is often a frenzy of activities and we all can’t wait for the summer to begin. We make a huge energetic push to get the kids and ourselves to the finish line so and the lure of sleeping in a little later and the summer adventure we have planned are naturally on the forefronts of our minds. But are we missing out if we don’t make time for some reflection on our year? Time flies and the school year ramps up and we think, “what was that system improvement I wanted to make?,” or “I know I wanted to tweak this unit but I can’t remember what I wanted to do and now I don’t have time to do it,” or “I really was never able to reach that student and I really need to do better for kids but how?” We often don’t have the opportunity to innovate or iterate because as soon as the year starts up again, the madness begins and we start our race to the finish line once again.
Taking the time to do a written reflection at the end of the school year is a powerful ritual that can go a long way to moving the needle for teachers and principals but also for the students we serve. Teachers who engage in reflection rituals often end up sharing this reflective practice with students. Same goes for school and district leaders. Self knowledge of accomplishments and areas for improvement helps our brains and the systems we create grow. Reflective mindsets are more open to collaborative inquiry and can more easily adapt and be responsive to challenges and changes and interrupt the status quo that continues to marginalize way too many students and families. The more reflective rituals are honored, the more they take root and flourish.
Here is a process for reflection that helps us be systems thinkers as we “go wide” to assess our current reality and lift that which we want to celebrate and replicate and that which we need to tweak or stop doing altogether.
An After Action Review is a high level set of reflective prompts that foster reflection in a short period of time.
Try this set of prompts:
Based on your goals for the year, what was supposed to happen?
What actually happened?
What do you think accounts for the difference?
Think of student who you had great success with. What actions did you take do you attribute to this success? What other factors in the system were at play?
Now think of a student who you did not reach. What actions did you take do you attribute to this challenge? What other factors in the system were at play?
What will you do with what you have learned from this reflection? Write out a list to act on.
What are some of the ways you reflect? Feel free to leave a comment.
And after some purposeful reflection…go to the beach! For real. Recharge those batteries. You so deserve it and in case not enough people said it – THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO FOR KDIS EVERYDAY!
The University of California’s annual “a-g” course submission period is February 1 – September 15 and the May 31st Phase 1 deadline is fast approaching.
In order for students to accomplish their a-g requirements to be eligible for UC, high schools must submit course descriptions for approval in order for the course offering to “count” so timely submission and approval is imperative for our students. A-g Course Descriptions are essential to robust Programs of Study and also can be opportunities for teachers to collaborate on curriculum development and can support instructional coherence. The AG Course Management Portal has an extensive list of already approved Course Descriptions that schools can adopt and provides anytime access to:
Draft and submit new “a-g” course
Check the status of course submissions
Search and view “a-g” approved courses
Update your institution’s demographic information
Another amazing resource for a-g approved Course Descriptions is University of California Curriculum Integration (UCCI). UCCI Course Descriptions have the distinction of being “integrated” with Core Content + CTE industry themes. While these course were mainly designed to be used in College & Career Pathways, any CA high school can adopt them.
I have had the opportunity to write approved descriptions and also to build out the approved courses into fleshed out units and have found the work so rewarding. Here is a link to some of the work I coordinated: tinyurl.com/UCCICourses2015
Teachers collaborating on Curriculum development is the best professional development in my view! #learningbydoing
I had a fantastic time at the Linked Learning Convention! So many educators from all over came together to learn about how to make the high school experience engaging for students while preparing them for college and careers through industry themed Pathways. I even got to meet an inspiring young chef who is a senior at an alternative school in Oakland who came to present at the conference about work based learning.
Integrated curriculum is an approach to curriculum development where multiple content areas are “integrated” into a coherent learning throughway creating an engaging, relevant program of study for students.
Integrated curriculum also fosters collaboration because interdisciplinary team’s can come together to design.
College and Career Pathways lend themselves to Integrated Curriculum design because the conditions for industry themed course work are part of a day’s work! Teachers need support to design in this way and Administrators have an opportunity to leverage Integrated Curriculum Design as Professional Learning for teachers. Teachers thrive when they learn while they build curriculum in collaborative teams!
I will be presenting an Integrated Design Studio at the Linked Learning Convention next week in Anaheim if you want to learn more.
“If you don’t understand the source of the problem, how can you solve it?” – Ibrahima Seck, Director of Research, Whitney Plantation in Louisiana
We all need to try and visit this museum called the Whitney Plantation or at least revisit and be intimate with this part of our history regularly. John Cummings, the Whitney Plantation’s owner talks abut how we as white people need to “own” this part of our history to better understand our current reality. He discusses how building the museum opened his eyes about why, “they can’t just get over it” referring to Black Americans and draws important connections to our current reality. We forget that this just wasn’t so long ago.
He discusses how he better understands how looking up a statues of Confederate “heroes” is painful for Black Americans and how slaves need a voice, how these brave Americans who came here naked and confused built our country with their bare hands. We have not even begun to do enough to thank them for their sacrifice and acknowledge the horrors they endured at the hands of our white ancestors.
So when we have the urge to say we all know what it is like to be discriminated against, or say all lives matter, or why can’t they get over it, or why are they so mad, or we whitewash feminism becaue we are so fragile – watch this video or pick up a history book, visit the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s website or Facing History and Ourselves and reflect and think before you speak.