By Andrea Weigand | Categories All | Authors | Blog | Challenges | Choices | Educators | Engagement | Literacy | Reading | Reading instruction | August 27, 2021

It’s all about the hook. Find what is inspiring to the youth and you find the hook into reading. Take baby steps even if needed. Not interested in reading a book? Start with a graphic novel. Even the old school Baby Sitters Club books are coming back with a vengeance in graphic novel form! Boys! Who doesn’t love adventures about a dog!? Try Dog Man! The goal isn’t to read MacBeth in first grade. The goal is to simply love reading.

Why? Well, let’s start with imagination. We tend to quickly lose the essence of imagination as we grow older. Those dreams you used to have as a kid, gone. Now you dream you are at work, even when you aren’t at work!

Second, you gather information. Yes, you in fact can learn from reading. Try the Who was/Who is/Where is collection. Going out of town? Find out if an inventor came from the area you are traveling. Going to the Grand Canyon? Yes, there is a great Where is the Grand Canyon book full of facts geared towards kids, but in fact, adults can learn a great deal too!

Third, reading is an escape from the real world. I don’t know about you, but TV shows just aren’t the same these days. However, Wild Kratts is pretty phenomenal. Books can take us on some pretty outstanding adventures.

What’s next for you? Maybe take your book to the park, sit on a swinging bench and enjoy nature at its finest. Have a hammock? What better way to spend the afternoon far off in your imagination swaying away in your backyard.

Try it sometime. Your kids might even want to join in on the fun when they notice your joy!


By Kristin Patrick | Categories All | Authors | Blog | Curriculum | Early Childhood | Educators | Engagement | Events | Literacy | Parental Engagement | Parents | Reading | August 20, 2021

August and September traditionally serve as the months for Meet the Teacher nights. Families file into school buildings to check out classrooms, admire bulletin boards, and inquire about policies and procedures. I am suggesting that parents make a detour on their way to classrooms this school year. Visit the school library. Yes, it’s true. School libraries often don’t receive many visitors on Meet the Teacher nights, and they need our support more than ever in 2021. Here are three ways that we can show our appreciation for school libraries and school librarians this upcoming school year.

Volunteer

Many school libraries operate with a certified professional and without a dedicated assistant or with an assistant and without a certified professional. Either way, those books don’t shelve themselves! An indicator of a healthy, happy library is high circulation numbers. Checking in books and getting them back on shelves can feel like an endless task, and most libraries welcome volunteers to assist with this work. Volunteering to shelve books is a great opportunity to see what kids are reading, interact with young readers, and unplug for an hour or two.

Donate

Since school libraries don’t have supply lists, they often run low on tissues, table wipes, and pencils. Ask what they need. Maybe the librarian organizes Birthday Books or Friends of the Library fundraising programs. With a cash donation, kids can select a book to insert a bookplate with their name. As a former school librarian, I can verify the joy kids experience when opening the inside front cover of a book to spy a friend’s name. It’s also likely that at some point your kids’ school will host a book fair. Some libraries rely entirely on book fair profits to acquire new materials. Debating whether to add the light-up pen or an eraser shaped like a smartphone to your stack? Go for it! Your shopping very likely helps fund new books for the library.

Advocate

Despite the compelling evidence pointing to the correlation between strong school library programs and student achievement, we still see school library budgets and school librarian positions being cut nationwide. Is this happening in your community? Write an email or a letter to the School Board and Superintendent voicing your concerns. They need to hear from families about the positive outcomes associated with thriving school libraries. A school library can and should be the heart of the school. That’s not possible without the support of all stakeholders, including families.

 

Many parents won’t be able to volunteer time or donate resources, and that’s fine. Next time you’re in the building for a Meet the Teacher Night or another event, pop in the library. Meet the school librarian. A warm hello that says “I see you” is often more than enough.


By Sarah Cordes | Categories All | Authors | Blog | Challenges | Choices | critical thinking | Curriculum | Educators | Listening | Literacy | Reading | Reading instruction | July 30, 2021

Something that I’ve learned in my time as an educator is the power in providing students with choice. Choice to explore their learning, choice to figure things out on their own, choice to learn new things in a variety of ways. Literacy skills are the foundation of learning, and something that educators should get excited about, because there are so many ways to create and mold literacy instruction in the classroom.

 

The formative years for a child, let’s say ages 2-6, are critical for literacy development. Reading, rhyming, talking and singing are all ways in which children interact with both written and spoken language. When they are provided with experiences in literacy during those formative years, they are developing the foundation for their relationship with reading and writing that will continue throughout their lives. Healthy development of the brain requires children to have these experiences.

 

So, how do we give children in the classroom these rich, meaningful experiences that will shape their relationship with literacy?

 

Choice!

 

Research and studies have shown time and time again that children learn best through exploration and problem solving, opportunities to work things out in a way that makes sense to them. So, what does this look like and how can educators incorporate choice into their literacy programs? One way to do this is designing structured, engaging centers that provide students with multimodal learning opportunities. While students may have specific “work with teacher” time, other time can be spent exploring other centers. One center could focus on consonants, having students use a stamp, sticker or other tool to indicate which consonant letter a picture starts with. Another center might have students create a pretend grocery list and find items that start with certain letters. A third center might be a letter-sounds listening game, where students listen to a word, and decide which sound they hear at the beginning of the word. Another center might be working with syllable cards, where the students look at a picture (ex. dog, banana, etc.) and match it to the number of dots – or syllables – on a card (ex. 1 dot for dog, 3 dots for banana). A final center could be a simple picture rhyming match.

 

That’s 5 interactive, differentiated center ideas! The point? Choice. Allow students to choose which center interests them. Create structured, timed rounds for students to explore each center, before going to a new center. Giving students the power of choice and the opportunity to explore a variety of ways to learn a concept is key to building a child’s relationship with literacy and promoting lifelong learning.


By Shannon Anderson | Categories All | Authors | Blog | Choices | Educators | Engagement | Games | Literacy | Reading | Reading instruction | July 15, 2021

How do you get kids excited about books? Over my 25 years of teaching, I’ve discovered many ways to spark excitement. Here are 10 to get you started:

  1. Start an After-School Book Club

Invite a guest reader from the community to kick off the meetings. After the read-aloud, the kids spread out to read independently or with a friend. You can also invite a high school sport team or club to buddy read with the kids.

  1. Be a “Book Fairy”

Use your points from Scholastic book clubs or grants to gift books to kids. Try to give every student a book by the end of the year. Kids love the surprise and owning their own book is more special than borrowing, so they treasure it.

  1. Invite Guest Leaders as Readers

Leaders in schools and the community love to be a part of this and your students will be inspired to see what some of their role models read. Invite the football coach, the mayor, chief of police, a local veterinarian, and others to share a favorite book.

  1. Encourage Kid-Created Contagious Book Reviews

When a student reads a book they love, have them create a book review to share with the class. You can do these live, or have kids create a video. You can even take the videos, create a QR code for them, and adhere the QR code inside the cover of the books!

  1. Hold a Reading Marathon

The day of the “marathon,” have kids wear running gear, create paper running bibs, allow healthy snacks and water bottles, and read all day! Have kids read independently, in pairs, Zoom in guest readers and authors, and YOU should read aloud to them too.

  1. Kick off the Year with a Book Tasting Event

Use tablecloths and place settings and serve a pile of books on plates. Provide wish lists for your students to jot down the books they are interested in reading that year. This is a great way to get kids familiar with your classroom library and excited about what they get to read! (Use their lists to get ideas for book fairy visits too!)

  1. Host Book-Bartering Days

Kids bring in a book that they’re willing to part with in exchange for another book from someone in the classroom. Students give a 30 second pitch on what they loved about the book they’re offering. Arrange the books on tables and allow students to make their selections.

  1. Get Your Own Little Free Library

As a class, write a grant for a Little Free Library for your school. Your class will love this service project and visit it often! To fill the library, send home a request for gently used books as a donation to the Little Free Library. You will be surprised at how many books come in!

  1. Host Chat and Chews

Choose a book you have multiple copies of. You can make book marks with the dates for each meeting and what chapters need to be read each time. On assigned dates, enjoy your lunch and discuss the chapters of the book together!

  1. Have an Author Visit!

I may be biased, since I’m a children’s book author who LOVES to do author visits, but I truly believe in their power. Kids love to meet authors in person and have a renewed passion for reading and writing afterward. From hearing the story behind the stories, or special secrets the author shares, it is a memorable experience.

 

When kids see you make reading a priority and a treat to be enjoyed, they are on their way to becoming life-long readers.


By Anthony J. Butler | Categories All | Authors | Blog | critical thinking | Educators | Engagement | Games | Listening | Literacy | Reading | Reading instruction | Speaking | Writing | June 25, 2021

The young students frantically waved their hands high in the air. They couldn’t wait to run to the front of the gym and participate in a game I call, “5 in Ten!”. I recently spoke with hundreds of students in different settings (urban, rural, and suburban) and they all enjoyed “5 in 10’!”. The gist of this interactive game is to name 5______ in ten seconds.

The catch is that the students do not know what I will ask them until I say, “go!”. For example, I will call someone up to the front of the class, gym, auditorium, etc. and immediately say, “Name 5 dances in ten seconds…go!”. I typically will have the audience be my shot clock and provide a whisper countdown…10…9…8….7…6…..5…4….3…2..1…Short Buzzer sound! The choices one can use are endless. I can ask participants to name 5 dogs, 5 birds, 5 pizza toppings, 5 songs, 5 movies, 5 shoes, 5 cars, 5 words that start with the letter “A”, etc.

I use “5 in 10” as an ice breaker for students, staff, parents, and families of all ages when I present. Similarly to “5 in 10”, I also use “3 in 5” and “1 in 3.” These are variations of the same “5 in 10” game with the exception that you have to name 3____ in 5 seconds and 1_____ in 3 seconds. Even in virtual environments, students. staff, and parents are excited to play these games!

It was a breath of fresh air to many who were struggling with the remote learning options that were very rigid at times. These fun games get students to speak in front of others. I use it to enhance listening. I use it to help with the correlation between listening, speaking, writing, and reading as well. Before I tackle reading, I typically get students to listen. Historically, stories were told orally (speaking) and the hearer had to “listen well” to pass the story on. Many of these stories were written and these words were read from papers and books. The correlation between listening, speaking, writing, and reading must be leveraged more.

 

Below are a few ways you can leverage the fun to get some reading gains!

 

So here is my call to action for you! At the very least, please try “5 in 10”, “3 in 5”, and “1 in 3” with your students, colleagues, and families. Let me know how they enjoyed it! Remember to leverage the fun as you learn!


By Stacey Montgomery | Categories All | Blog | critical thinking | Journaling | Literacy | Self Awareness | June 11, 2021

Journaling is a common way to encourage young learners to express themselves while also supporting the academic skills of reading and writing. As a reflective tool, journaling is popular among therapists as the therapeutic benefits of journaling are well-established. It’s not surprising that journaling can also be an effective way to help children enhance self-awareness, one of the 5 core competencies of social emotional learning as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to assess one’s own strengths and limitations.  It includes identifying and understanding the different aspects of oneself, such as emotions, traits, behaviors, and achievements.   Self-awareness is important for children because it sets the stage for greater academic and social success. Children who have a better understanding of themselves tend to make better choices to help them be successful in and out of school.

To attain increased self-awareness, it is necessary to focus attention on oneself.  While we are born with a rudimentary sense of self-awareness that continues to develop as we mature, it is a competency that children can improve even more through purposeful reflection and introspection. Journaling, specifically guided journaling, is an effective strategy for this.

What is guided journaling?

Guided journaling involves providing meaningful writing prompts to which the child responds. The prompts give the child a specific starting point that guides them to a particular place and help the child explore their feelings. In some instances the prompts necessitate a full page response, while other prompts may require just a few words.

The goal is to provide young learners a unique opportunity to reflect about themselves and their experiences in order to achieve gains in self-awareness. While the same information can be shared verbally, the physical act of writing deepens the reflection and enhances the learning. The addition of prompts helps guide the student to look inward to examine and understand the many aspects of themselves.

When should guided journaling be used?

The starting point for social emotional growth is an understanding of self. That requires looking inward. Students are not often asked to proactively look inward in a meaningful, consistent way. They are more likely to be asked to examine their emotions and identify their personal qualities and achievements in response to a problem. Integrating guided journaling into the curriculum as a weekly practice can help support the social emotional development that every child needs.

A good place to start are prompts that ask students to recognize personal qualities.  I typically ask students to journal about their hobbies or subjects they enjoy at school. I sometimes ask them to describe an achievement and how they feel about it.

After spending time reflecting and responding to these types of prompts, students are likely to discover that they have many positive qualities, including qualities they may not have given much thought to in the past. Examples of comments from students after this type of journaling experience include, “I’ve done a lot!” and “I’m not boring!”

To a child, this process is empowering.

Other journaling prompt ideas that support self-awareness include:

 

As a result of the simple yet powerful practice of guided journaling, students will realize gains in confidence which is a sign of increased self-awareness.  When guided journaling for self-awareness is practiced regularly, the social emotional learning gains are more likely to be lasting.


By Sonja Bloetner | Categories All | Blog | Curriculum | Educators | Literacy | News | May 28, 2021

Is everyone really ready for all of the faces hiding behind the computers to return to the brick-and-mortar classroom?

 

Jose’s alarm rang. He rolled over and turned off the alarm on his cell phone. He was used to his new routine of rolling out of bed and opening his computer, as he sat up in bed. Who needed breakfast?

 

He rubbed his eyes as his day got started and he stared at 16 other black boxes with letters inside of them. It was the usual math lesson with his teacher doing most of the talking as she flipped through her Nearpod slides. Jose toyed with the idea: Do I stay in this class or roll over and drift back off to sleep?

 

Then his teacher shared that all students would need to return back to school next week. All Jose could think was: What? Am I ready?

 

The landscape of public education has undergone a seismic shift, as school systems scrambled to reinvent public education after Maryland schools closed on March 16, 2020. Some systems provided their first wave of support via paper copies that were shipped or picked up by families for about two months. No one believed that it would last beyond two months, and then it did.

 

The second wave lasted for the remainder of the school year and into the summer with the central office curriculum teams working around the clock to create online resources for students who were attending four synchronous instructional blocks with one asynchronous day, with four classes each day. Every Sunday, these curriculum resources were delivered (from the central office team) to teachers so that they could provide instruction as they figured out how to master their Google classrooms or Canvas online instructional platform.

 

The third wave lasted from the beginning of the school year, in September 2020 and lasted through March 2021. Many Maryland teachers struggled to develop daily lessons using all of the technology tools that were needed to make their lessons come alive for students. Tools like Nearpod, Pear Deck, Zoom, Screencastify, and Kahoot. Regardless, many teachers watched so many students become disengaged in instruction and there were so many phone calls home. Eventually, some parents stopped taking their calls.

 

When schools began to open again in March 2021, we moved students back into schools in phases with some grade levels beginning first: elementary school students and students in Special Education programs first and secondary students later. Even when students began to come back, schools had to figure out how to balance their classrooms to comply with social distancing guidelines and maintain buses at 50% capacity. It all worked out because over 60% of the students were kept home by their parents and continued to attend virtual school.

 

Over a year and a half later, the next leg of the journey will be all about how parents and schools will be able to navigate the learning journey to make sure that students can be accelerated towards grade level expectations in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, and other curricular areas. Many districts are exploring various intervention programs. However, they are also exploring something new: expanding tutoring support for students to individualize instruction to get back on track.

 

Some of the recent research by Brown University emphasizes the benefits of establishing effective tutoring supports for students, emphasizing the importance of small groups (3-4 students), frequency (at least three times a week), focus (aligned to the grade level curriculum resources), and scheduling (tutoring during the day has been found to be more effective). Time will tell as school leaders, teachers, parents, and students figure out how to navigate the shifting world of teaching and learning, as more people are vaccinated and the learning space shifts back to a normal brick and mortar setting. Who knew that schooling could be reinvented after doing school, basically the same, for over 200 years!


By Dr. Karla Manning | Categories All | Authors | Blog | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Childhood | Educators | Equity | Inclusion | Literacy | Parental Engagement | Parents | May 21, 2021

Early Childhood Education is a vital foundation for children of tender age. Not only are they introduced to various experiences, but they are also taught how to form and maintain positive social relationships, a sense of belonging, and developing specific skills to reach their full potential.

We see regular acts of racism, sexism, and prejudice being displayed among people of all ages in society. The need for greater diversity, inclusion, and equity is becoming more evident, from videos we see on social media to news headlines.

Raising a tolerant, accepting, fair and empathetic child should start from an early age. Incorporating equity and inclusion into the early childhood curriculum is one of the best ways to do this.

Equity is simply displaying the quality of being fair and impartial. On the other hand, inclusion is incorporating people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.

Educators incorporating equity and inclusion in the classroom will help them to combat prejudice and racial discord by supporting positive behaviors among students, fostering a sense of belonging for all students and their families, and teaching respect for everyone.

How Do Children Benefit from Incorporating Inclusion and Equity in Early Childhood Curriculum?

The benefits of inclusion and equity are numerous for all children. Schools including these vital lessons into their curriculum can help children to reach their developmental potential. We have compiled a list of some of the many benefits of successfully incorporating inclusion and equity.

 

How Can your School Incorporate Inclusion and Equity in Early Childhood Curriculums?

It is no secret that children are more comfortable, grounded, and able to learn more when their school, classmates, and instructors respect their diversity.

Strategies that schools can use to successfully incorporate and promote inclusion and equity in early childhood curriculums include:

Use a multi-tiered system of support

Using this strategy involves Collaborating with early childhood special educators and other allied education and health professionals when needed. Facilitate each professional establishing a relationship with each child to maximize potential.

Provide high-quality early childhood learning resources that demonstrate a commitment to equitable outcomes for all children.

Schools can arrange budgets within their means to equitably meet the needs of children and staff. Recognize that high-quality programs will positively reflect the values, beliefs, and practices of specific children, families, and communities.

Develop opportunities for multiple voices with different perspectives to participate in decision-making.

Recognize that unspoken biases have often resulted in limited opportunities for members of marginalized groups.

Prepare current and prospective early childhood educators to provide equitable learning opportunities to all children.

Schools can ensure that educators understand the historical and systemic issues that have created structural inequities in society, including in early childhood education.

Involve children, families, and the community in the design and implementation of learning activities.

Involving children, families, and the community in learning activities will help children to embrace the idea of inclusion and equity. This will also help to build a sense of belonging with those involved.

Introducing and incorporating equity and inclusion into early childhood curriculums will benefit children and the instructors, family, and the wider community. This strategy will also help build a better future where people will practice more accepting and respectful lifestyles.


By Dr. Corey Hall | Categories All | Blog | Challenges | Common Core | Curriculum | Educators | Literacy | STEM | May 14, 2021

When it comes to STEM and literacy, one can’t exist without the other. STEM teachers emphasize the Engineering Design Process and computational thinking, as well as technology tools. But the work of engineers and scientists goes much further than the traditional STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math. They are also communicators, collaborators, writers, readers, and global citizens.

“The work of engineers also involves collaboration, communication, global citizenship, and literacy skills.” – Jorge Valenzuela, education coach and author.

STEM initiatives abound, from the Department of Education to the National Science Foundation. And for good reason; recent studies show a correlation between early STEM experiences and success in school in later grades [1]. Also, exposure to STEM relates to more students pursuing careers in STEM fields (an important factor in global competitiveness). Probably most importantly, STEM comes naturally to most children. Experimentation, problem-solving, and creativity are traits we see when we watch kids at play.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics put out a joint statement detailing the importance of STEM in elementary, and even pre-school education [2]. The American Association of School Librarians and the International Society for Technology in Education both integrate information literacy standards that include STEM learning.

 

Standard #3, ISTE Standards for Students

 

 

 

Explore Foundation, AASL Standards Framework

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Integrate Literacy and STEM

The  Common Core State Standards (CCSS) indicate for K-5 students, there should be a 50-50 balance between nonfiction information texts and fiction. STEM and English Language Arts teachers can communicate and collaborate so that the standards are implemented across the curriculum. Interdisciplinary units can be developed and co-taught so that skills are reinforced in multiple ways.

Fiction + STEM

Work with your English Language Arts teacher or school librarian to find a high-interest novel that connects to your content. You can also find recommendations on the School Library Journal Website. Here are a few ideas:

 

Nonfiction + STEM

Whether you are reading them aloud or providing independent reading time, nonfiction texts are a great way to integrate literacy into your STEM classroom.

 

Speaking + Presenting

Speaking and listening are Common Core Standards and are also life skills needed in all occupations, including STEM careers. Here are a few ideas:

 

Regardless of which strategies you choose, integrating literacy and STEM will strengthen your curriculum and improve teaching and learning.

References

[1] McClure et. al; https://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/jgcc_stemstartsearly_final.pdf

[2] NAEYC https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/psmath.pdf