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 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.
On a beautiful Spring evening I walked up to a warehouse in a light industrial section of Richmond, CA. I heard music playing and community members socializing and celebrating. Bright eyed youth dressed in formal serving wear with aprons were expertly serving hot appetizers and engaging with party goers about each choices’ ingredients
and flavors. These students were finishing their final project for a program called Plant to Plate organized by West County Digs, a local non-profit that works with school gardens in West Contra Costa Unified School District. 16 High school students learned how to grow food by reclaiming an abandoned garden plot and teaming up with local chefs to expertly prepare what they grew. The event culminated in a presentation of gratitude to the parents from their teens in the form of flower bouquets invases that the students had also created and a graduation ceremony where the students received a professional chef apron and a personalized trowel to commemorate there experience.
This Plant to Plate program exemplifies what our teens need most: motivating career themed experiences. Teens naturally are curious and driven. This teen energy is amazing to behold but can also not mix well with traditional sit and get modes of content delivery. For a lot of students, this antiquated mode is ineffective and becomes frustrating for both students and their teachers. The confines of a classroom with textbooks and a sage on the stage teacher has left so many students behind. Work Based Learning (WBL) opportunities, especially those that are thematically integrated into high school course work, offer a promising shift in how students value their education. If students value their education and know in their bones that what they are experiencing will help them find a real career, they will perform.
Students experiencing success, even if small, is key to motivation. Motivation is the key to learning!
What is your district or school doing to provide more Work Based Learning opportunities for students? I’d love to hear your comments.