Every single day we are tasked with ensuring that our students are entering into our building safely, that they are to learn wholeheartedly, and that they get to experience a wide variety of knowledge along the way. In doing this, as educators one of the pivotal roles we play is to promote classroom conversations. These discussions, these special moments of discourse, are necessary to allow students the time to pull apart their own ideas, formulate their own opinions, and better understand others. We have seen the world swiftly change in the past year, more than we ever thought it would. We want to be sure to do our part to provide a forum of opportunity for our students to speak about real-world events. In doing this effectively, there are three main approaches that should be taken into account across grade and content levels:
Classroom rules and norms are a regularly occurrence, but we want to be sure we revisit them before conversations. Our students need safe community spaces to process information, so having set expectations for when students can speak, how they can address each other respectfully and mindfully, and how it can foster a positive classroom culture are all critical.
Role as a Facilitator
The classroom teacher needs to take ownership of the facilitator role. No matter what age your students are, it is easy to want to jump in and help a student clarify their own thought. But as a facilitator, as furthering this classroom conversation, it involves taking a big step back and not influencing or exerting an opinion or stance. Allow your young people to take the mic, to process their thoughts, and use their own words to inform you. This should be a big moment as they work through their own pieces of information, their own views, and find their footing.
As you wrap up these conversations, we want to be sure to tie back to those classroom norms and expectations. We are all growing, we are all learning, we are all evolving, from students to adults. Reassure them that while differences exist, it is the power of understanding one another and having respectful conversations that allows us to make change.
These necessary conversations establish and support the classroom community. They allow for relationships to thrive, for inspiration to occur, and for student engagement to be accelerated. It shows students that we know they are aware of what is going on in the world today, and we want to be there for them in any capacity that we can. It shows students we care.
A University of Wisconsin-Madison study has found that the Kids Read Now program decreases or eliminates the reading losses associated with summer break
(TROY, Ohio) Sept. 10, 2019 — According to a new study of the program’s efficacy, Kids Read Now (KRN), a leading supplemental reading program designed to combat summer slide, completely negates summer reading losses for low-income students when fully implemented. Estimated at two months of learning each summer, those losses accumulate over time.
Designed for K–3 students, Kids Read Now allows students to create a list of nine books they want to read over the summer from a vast library of educator-approved titles. In the spring, participating schools host a Family Reading Night to encourage parental involvement. Each student receives three books from their list, with a new book to be delivered to their home throughout the summer each time they report completing a previous title. Each book comes with a set of questions to assist students with comprehension and help parents connect with their child’s reading. Students who complete all nine books receive a certificate of completion, a reward, and a celebration in the fall.
The new study, led by Geoffrey D. Borman, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that “when students and parents take advantage of the full complement of 9 books delivered by KRN, the results are…equivalent to approximately 2.5 months of learning, or nearly 28% of the learning that takes place over a typical school year.”
“Our results indicate that the impact of Kids Read Now can more than eradicate the entire two months of summer learning loss experienced by low-income students,” said Borman.
Other key findings of the report include the following:
- The average impact of KRN among all participating students is equivalent to 1.7 months of learning, or almost 20% of a full school year;
- With full implementation [reporting 9 books read] outcomes showing an impact of 0.18 standard deviations, KRN has “essentially the same” impact as more intensive and expensive school-based programs, which have an average impact of 0.19 standard deviations.
“At a cost of 50 cents per day, which can be fully reimbursable with title funds, KRN is 98% as effective as summer school reading programs,” said Leib Lurie, the CEO of Kids Read Now, “making it an economical and effective supplement to summer learning initiatives that is available to all students, augmenting targeted summer programs where significant RTI is required, and where transportation challenges impact those who cannot attend traditional summer programs.”
To read the full report, visit KidsReadNow.org. To attend a webinar on the results of the study, visit https://www.kidsreadnow.org/study.
About Kids Read Now
Kids Read Now (KRN) is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization on a mission to help all students become proficient readers as they enter fourth grade. KRN’s in-home summer reading program was pedagogically designed to prevent summer learning loss, which is responsible for 65% of the learning gap between economically disadvantaged students and their peers. The program has provided more than 800,000 books to 60,000 students in grades K–3 across the United States at no cost to the students or their families. To learn more, visit KidsReadNow.org.
When your children get their first books in their hands, it is a good bet they are going to end up in their mouths. Exposing infants to books is an important step on their journey to becoming lifelong readers. They become familiar with the books, exploring them by turning pages, looking at the bright pictures and, yes, even biting them.
At each age, there are certain milestones in reading they should be hitting. These include starting by interacting with the book as a physical object to discussing the broader themes and details of the story they just read. Paying attention to their growth as readers keep them on track to hit that third-grade goal of going from learning to read to reading to learn.
Here is a basic outline of what to expect at each age and grade level:
Up to twelve months:
- Learn to communicate through gestures
- Understand over fifty (50) words
- Respond to books when read to
- Enjoy the tactile aspects of books, like turning the pages and holding the books
One to three years:
- Answer basic questions
- Identify images of simple vocabulary words (cow, green, girl, etc.)
- Encourage them to talk and listen during reading time
- Learn vocabulary and language concepts through repetition of their favorite stories
Preschool (three to four years old):
- Name and recognize most of the letters of the alphabet (up to 18 of them)
- Recognize the sounds associated with individual letters
- Understand how print is read (left to right, top to bottom)
- Explore books independently
- Know the difference between pictures and letters
- Imitate reading a book aloud
- Start to recognize logos and other symbols
- Acknowledge their own names in writing, as well as other commonly seen words
- Start to match spoken and written words
- Recognize basic grammar structures
- Read basic words and understand how they work in a sentence
- Write out letters, numbers, and basic words
- Use pictures and other clues to understand basic words they do not know
- Understand basic story structures (who, what, where, when, why, and how) as well as story organization
- Create basic stories on their own
First and Second Grade:
- Take big leaps in reading starting in first grade
- Read their favorite stories for pleasure
- Recognize an increasing number of sight words
- Start to recognize when they make reading errors and can self-correct
- Figure out unfamiliar words using context and images
- A good time to listen to them read and start correcting them as they do
Second and Third Grade:
- Understand how pronunciation and emphasis affects the story
- Use correct punctuation
- Use correct spelling
- Learn new words through story context
- Organize their writing into paragraphs
- Apply new vocabulary and phrases appropriately
- Read more complex books independently
- Recognize deeper themes and engage reading as a learning tool
- Hold discussions about the stories they are reading
One thing to remember about these milestones in reading: all children learn at their speed. These are all basic guidelines as to what can be expected, but by no means carved in stone. Your child may be more advanced in some stages while behind in others. Teachers and parents working together establish the best way to help each student. The most important part is to stay engaged with students’ efforts and keep encouraging them to read!
Educators can be incredibly creative when it comes to learning activities. The ideas that flow from passionate teachers can have some significant impacts on education. The KIPP program is one of those ideas, as is 826 National out of California. The Freedom Writers Foundation is another group that developed from one teacher’s desire to make her students better readers and writers. Other than driven by passionate educators, these programs have one other thing in common – their initial funding came from the teachers themselves.
It may be shocking for some to hear this, but it is not uncommon. In a recent study, it was discovered that over 94% of teachers dip into their own funds for school supplies. Schools have been hit hard in recent years by budget cuts, making it even more difficult for school districts to fund programs to help students. Fortunately other sources exist, offered by government entities and non-profits.
Grants are available to help schools fill the gaps in their budgets, allowing them to maintain existing programs or establish new ones. They are widely available to fund an array of programs, but they are not easy to obtain. As money dries up from state and federal governments, there is more and more competition for grants. With competition being as high as it is, there are a few things you should consider:
- Give yourself time to write the grant: The entity giving the grant requires an application. Every application is different. Ensure you do not miss anything on the form by giving yourself ample time to fill out everything.
- Search at every level: Educational grants are available at the community level, right up to the federal level. Many grants go unclaimed from year to year because no one applies for them. There are grants from businesses and non-profits as well. Doing a deep search on the internet can turn up a variety of resources.
- Know the requirements: The resources distributed by a grant typically are required to be used for a specific goal. Having a plan in place to achieve that goal is just as important as filling out the application properly. Sometimes the grant requires the details of the plan as part of the application.
- State your case: Details matter when you are making your case for funding. The more data you have that can support your case, the better the chances you have at winning the resources you need. Gather as many relevant statistics as you can. One reason Kids Read Now can help so many schools is the data we provide the district. That data includes books read and growth of readers over time.
- Do some homework: There are many resources out there that will help you fill out grants. You can find examples of well-written grants online, take classes in grant writing, or even hire a professional to write a grant for you. All of these avenues are available to help you get the extra money you need for new programs.
Winning grants is something that will take time and energy to achieve. It takes practice to write grants and a certain level of skill to win them know. But they are worth looking into as a way to bring programs to the school that will help your students. They can jumpstart a program that can improve the education of students through the district. Teachers spend a great deal of their own time and money helping students. By bringing more grant money into the school district, these efforts can be amplified into a lasting piece of your educational endeavors.
There are, on average, 180 days in an elementary school year in the United States. Each day is roughly seven hours. That time does not include weekends for students. Months of school and hours of homework are not always enough to cover every topic. Fortunately, there are many more hours in the day that can be utilized for a wide range of lessons. This trend of “expanded learning” has become popular with parents and teachers alike in many school districts.
Expanded learning gives parents the chance to supplement what students are learning in the classroom. It can be more information about subjects they are learning in school, or about topics that they find interesting and want to explore on their own. It can also be a way to keep their minds active over a long break, like winter or summer.
To assist with educational growth, as well as personal growth, here are some resources and suggestions that can help:
Community Partnerships: Schools and parents can partner with community organizations to help students. These partnerships can support the students’ education, as well as help with their other needs such as clothing, meals, or medical services. While the schools themselves may not offer such additional services, they may have lists of organizations that do.
Family Engagement: Parents are a wealth of knowledge! A growing amount of research shows that the single biggest factor in determining student success is parental engagement. Working at home can be facilitated by community partners and schools. Supporting students outside of school is an important part of a child’s education.
A Disparate Team of Educators: To stretch the learning experience as far as it can go, multiple perspectives should be taken into account. The more people that can offer input on educational activities, the better the end results for the students. With a group of teachers, parents, community leaders, and professionals that communicate well, student experiences can greatly enhance lessons.
Here are some things to consider when involving students in these activities:
Programming Supporting Lessons: Any activities outside of school hours should reinforce what is going on in class. These do not have to be lessons that come from a lesson plan. They could be social skills, playing games, or anything else that would be a benefit in class. These offer possibilities to reinforce soft skills that help social interaction and emotional intelligence.
Voluntary Participation: Self-selected lessons are the best lessons, because the students are more engaged. Their natural curiosity takes over when presented with something they want to know. This is an excellent opportunity to engage them in topics they want to know that are not part of their school lessons. It can be a chance for them to dive into topics they showed interest in during class, but ones that did not fully fit into their schedules.
Assessing the Results: Every time you work with another organization, you want to make the experience better the next time. After you have completed an expanded lesson, take time to review the experience. Were your children engaged or distracted? Did they jump into certain parts of the lesson and avoid others? How did they react when they came home?
Programs like Kids Read Now provide ways to support and encourage student learning outside the class. To find more programs like ours, start by asking your school what activities they offer for expanded learning. If they do not have what you need, they can often recommend organizations you can contact. Your local library is a great place to start looking for after-school activities for students as well. It often has programs geared to many interests or can point you to places that offer them.
When you bring learning outside of the classroom, it enhances and reinforces what is going on in the classroom. Creating lifelong learners means teaching them early that discovering new information can happen anywhere, at any time…even outside of a class.
The beginning of the school year is a busy time. There is work to be done, from getting the classroom and lessons ready to welcome in the new students. Though the first few weeks are hectic, reaching out to parents is an act that can have a major impact during the school year. Parents can provide insights into the best ways to reach certain students in the class. They have the ability to extend your lessons, showing students the work done in the classroom has applications in other places. Parents are also going to be the ones that have the most investment in their children’s success!
Building relationships with parents does not have to require an enormous time commitment. There are small actions that can be done at the beginning of the school year to start building your rapport with them:
- Establish connections early in the year – Parents will always be anxious at the beginning of the year, whether it is the first day of kindergarten or the first day of senior year. Hearing from their children’s teachers early opens the channels of communication on a positive note. These initial contacts establish that you are interested in helping them educate their children.
- Introduce yourself to them… – As part of this early connection, give parents of your students some insight into who you are as a person. Tell them about some of your favorite vacations, books, and things to watch. Give them a rundown of what you have planned for the year, so they know what to expect and when.
- And ask questions about their children – Getting to know your students is another step in building trust with parents. They value your interest, and the knowledge you gain in the classroom helps tailor parts of lessons to what the students like. To learn more about the children, you can send home short surveys or develop online versions through tools like Survey Monkey or Google Forms. The questions should be easy to fill out.
- Communicate with parents often – The only time they hear from you should not be when their children are struggling, either socially or in their education. Let them know some of their children’s activities or what the class does together. Give them a window into a day in your children’s classrooms.
- Invite them to participate – There are many ways parents can help you in their children’s classrooms. They may have specific skills that would demonstrate lessons. They may be able to help with parties or events, or they may have some ideas on improving the classrooms or communicating with students. Listening to what they have to say is important for communication, even if it is not implemented.
- Offer resources to help – Many parents are very eager to help their children succeed. They are simply unsure of how to help or where to find the resources to do so. Share the resources you have with them, whether they are digital ones or something they can find at the library.
Parents are excellent partners when it comes to providing extra help to students. They invest in their children’s success, providing the ability to reinforce the lessons you give in the classroom at home.
Opening lines of communication and developing partnerships with parents benefit teachers for the school year. However, they benefit the students through their educational careers. Building such relationships is worth the investment.
When children first begin to explore reading, it is not a solitary activity. Parents spend time with their children teaching them to read.
The lessons can be as straightforward as sitting down and reading with your children or as subtle as getting them to read recipes or books about characters in other media. It can even be modeling the behavior, like reading after dinner or while on vacation.
Children absorb the actions of the people that are close to them. The more activities a parent or other family member can model for them, the better off they are when they begin school.
The involvement of parents in education is critical and often underestimated. The more involved parents are in the education of their children, the better their outcomes as students. When parents get involved, it lowers the barriers to where learning happens. Children start to see that discovering new information is an activity that can occur anywhere, from watching a teacher at a chalkboard to a parent reading with them at the kitchen table.
Lowering barriers is not only something to do for children. Encouraging parental interaction is essential. Many parents, especially ones from low-income families, do not have the best memories of their time at school. That makes them very reluctant to engage with teachers, even if it is in the best interest of their children. Teachers will always be intimidating to some parents, so building relationships with them are crucial.
Even parents that enjoyed their time at school may be hesitant to approach teachers. They want to make a good impression on their children’s teachers as well. Making sure they know the goals of any meetings or interactions allows them to prepare, putting them at greater ease.
Interactions between parents and teachers, like open houses or parent-teacher meetings, are occasional opportunities to exchange information. Offering a weekly email, Facebook page, or website where parents can see what their children are doing provides a much more constant stream of feedback. This open communications channel keeps parents informed about what their children do in school. This channel becomes an open invitation to interact. Information about classroom events, whether positive ones or warnings, school activities, and homework students bring home becomes part of the communication. Sharing events happening with the family, providing the teacher with the ability to prepare for possible behavioral issues or acting out.
Research consistently shows that two of the greatest indicators of student success involves the socioeconomic status of the parents and parental involvement with their education. Parents who offer support at home for students give them a better chance to succeed later in life. Teachers support this effort by helping parents understand what they can do at home to reinforce their lessons. Anything from showing how the lessons apply to the real world to go over the assigned homework. Involving the parents in education creates another layer that brings students that much closer to becoming lifelong learners.
The school year is over. The paperwork is complete, grades are processed and submitted, and your classroom is clean and ready for next year. Time for a well-deserved break!
Spending long hours in the classroom grading and carrying out all of the extra activities that are part of a teacher’s daily routine can make the school year a challenge. There are times to take breaks during the year, but summer offers the unique opportunity to unwind. Summer offers a chance to take care of yourself. Spend some time on hobbies and interests that were neglected during the school year.
There are roughly two months from the time the final grades are turned in to the time you come back to the classroom to start planning for the new school year and to get your classroom ready. There is a strong temptation to spend time getting ahead in planning and assignments, but resist that urge!
Spend time during the summer preparing in a different way: relaxing!
- Limit the Amount of Work You Do – Getting to summer break, with all of the finals and grading and end-of-the-year festivities, requires a certain level of destressing. Being an excellent educator and knowing that the next semester is coming, you want to start to get ready for it. Put some limits on how much time you will spend over the break preparing for the fall. Spend a few hours a week on school-related functions, and then head out into the sunshine.
- Turn Off the Alarm – Unless you need to be up to get to the pool or an excursion on a cruise, there is no need to wake up early. Indulge in a little extra sleep each day to recharge.
- Read…for Yourself – There is a stack of books, either on the bookshelf or in the e-reader, that you have meant to read for months. Now that you have the time, turn off the phone and lose yourself in as many books as you can over the break. It is a great way to relax, and you may even find some inspiration for the coming semester.
- Spend Time With Family and Friends – They may be missing you as you were working on lesson plans, grading, and sleeping since the beginning of the year. Make some dates with the people that are closest to you and give yourself time to enjoy them. It may not be until spring break when they see you again.
- Reconnect With Hobbies – Whether you make artisanal home goods for your Etsy shop or binge-watch Netflix and Amazon Originals, the hobbies you love may have been collecting dust over the last few months. Reconnecting with them recharges the creative batteries and get inspired for the upcoming year.
- Have New Experiences – Go for a walk in the woods. Have a night out at the theater. Take the family on a trip to a place you have meant to head to for a while. And take the long route to get there. In a world where we emphasize things, it is the experience we have that we will treasure.
We know that teachers are hard workers and committed to the success of their students. But even high-performance machinery needs some downtime for recharging and repairing. Take this time to have some adventures and prepare for the new year. Your students will appreciate the energy and new ideas you will bring back to the classroom.
Information, once something that trickled into our lives through newspapers, radio, television, and encyclopedias, now pours into our lives at a staggering rate. We have generated as much information in the last two years as we have in the rest of human history. In one month in 2011 alone, the Library of Congress gathered 235 terabytes of data. That is enough data to hold approximately 79 million copies of War and Peace.
All of that information needs a filter. Fortunately, schools and communities have an incredible one: the library. Many people think that libraries are antiquated. They carry something called “books” that people can borrow. Some of the better ones may have a row of computers that still dial into the internet. In a pinch, you can even print there. If you need help, there is always a librarian there to help you work your way through the card catalog.
That is until you realize that over 250 libraries in the United States offer 3D printing services to their patrons. And have done so for several years now. Libraries are much more than storage spaces for information. They are dynamic spaces where groups of people come to learn, access resources, and build a life. Librarians are more than keepers of that information. Their wisdom can bring you to the right books, websites, and other materials that you could spend hours discovering on your own. They are informational tour guides.
Communities are built around and through libraries.
All of this is true for a school library as well. They could be even more important to this small, but diverse, population. With the increasing importance of test scores, investing in a school librarian is a no-brainer. Test scores in elementary schools with trained librarians increased by 35% in a Michigan study. Studies in other states, like Iowa, showed that an adequately funded and staffed library aided test scores as well.
Libraries provide another space for children to learn. They can help students navigate the internet, offer a quiet area for students to study, and encourage students to read. The staff, knowing what books a student enjoys, can help them choose books that are similar to their interests. Sometimes they are not even books the student knew they would like. Providing students books that interest them is another way to encourage students to read more. They dig into a new book they started to read in the library and end up not putting it down until they must. More reading, and reading books they choose, create better learners.
In some schools, the term “media center” has replaced “library” to describe this communal space. This shift reflects the ever-changing role of what the library can do within a school. Especially as learning becomes virtual, and students can access learning media anywhere they have an internet connection. Librarians show the students how to safely access and use school resources from home, or another space that has an internet connection.
While students are typically the ones utilizing the resources the library has to offer, they can be a pillar of support to teachers. Well-trained librarians are expert researchers. They can provide teachers with research tools and educational resources they would otherwise miss. Librarians that work with teachers offer a way to complement lessons in the classroom with displays and other resources in the library. They can also provide curious students with more in-depth knowledge of the subject through school materials.
The school library, like any library, can be a hub of communal activity for the school. A well-trained library staff with the right resources can do everything from improving test scores to inspire students to take learning beyond the classroom. It is an often overlooked resource that can be a critical component of student success. Head to the library soon and have a conversation with the librarians there. They are the ones that can will, within the deluge of new information the internet offers, show you how to surf through it with confidence.
Ah, Valentine’s Day!
A day in which we show the people who are important to us just how much we care for them. Much of that affection is shown through red and pink gifts of candy, cards, and maybe a trinket or two to play with, but the best gift you can give a child is time.
From birth through the time children go to college (age 18), there are 936 weekends. That sounds like a lot of time until you consider that when they start hitting middle school years, they will have activities, sports, friends, and all manner of other entertainments to occupy their time. Those weekends can go quickly, and when you think about how fast that time can fly, it’s easy to see the value of sharing time with your child whenever possible.
The gift of time relies on the quality of the time and much as it does the quantity. Being in the same room together doing different activities is not the best gift you can give; focusing on the child is the real gift. The importance of time spent focusing on children holds true in school as much as it does at home.
Countries like Finland, considered the gold standard in education by many, spend roughly 700 hours in front of students, while in the United States we spend nearly double that. Spending time does not have to be hours on end. It can be playing a tabletop game or cooking a meal together. Reading is a fantastic way to spend a little time together.
Selecting the right books can be a springboard for other activities through the year; as your child asks questions, you can plan events to help them answer them. As a teacher, you can develop lessons in the future that address student questions while still fulfilling state requirements.
What other gifts can spending time with books provide?
- Building a love of books – Young children will mirror the activities of the people around them that they love. If they see their favorite teacher, or parent, enjoying the time they spend reading, they are more likely to pick up a book for pleasure.
- Expanded vocabulary – The more children read, the more they are going to have to learn the meaning of the words in their favorite books. Instead of sitting down and teaching them words, they organically build their vocabulary. This will also lead to…
- A curiosity about the world around them – It is a big world out there, full of dinosaurs and families and stories about raining food! One way to get to explore it is through books. Journeys can be started at the library and continued at museums, stores, and even in the kitchen.
- Improving social skills – Being quiet while a parent or teacher is reading is a polite way to enjoy a book. Waiting until someone else is done talking to speak is an important skill to develop. And the only way to enjoy a book read by an adult is to listen intently. While children become engrossed by tales of cats in hats, they are also learning valuable social skills.
- Better behavior – Children do not always know how to ask for what they want. If they feel they are being neglected, or are frustrated, they may act out to get the attention they crave. By giving that attention without asking, it will keep them better behaved at home and in the classroom.
Sitting down with a child to read a book shows you love them in a variety of ways. You are spending quality time with them (which they love!) while teaching them skills that are going to help them in school. It provides benefits they may not appreciate when they are young, but they will as they grow older. Along with the card and some sweets, plan on giving them a book and spending some time with them. It is a Valentine’s Day gift they will treasure forever.