Thursday, May 20, 2010

Teachers - Light Your Spark with Families for the Summer Months

Let's Keep Them "In the Pool"

We all know how important the summer months can be for students.  With little stimulation or opportunity, they can lose more than 3 months' progress during the time they are away from school.  Today's post will share resources and information on how you can use these last few weeks to impact summer learning.

I'll begin with a wonderful list of articles, websites, and research from the the State Library of Alaska.  You will find familiar names like Dr. Richard Allington and Steve Kreshan and a few new ones there. 

Here are a few more tools for supporting and encouraging students to read during the summer:

Connect with your local library and other organizations that may be promoting reading with school aged children in your community (booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Nobles are on board).  Find out what they are doing and publicize those activities and resources with students and families.   My own local library, Huntsville/Madison County Public Library (AL), is offering an End of the Year Summer Reading Party!

Make reading a social event.  Give your students a few extra minutes every day to talk about what they are reading.  Use colorful, florescent index cards or post its and create a cool "What's HOT?" bulletin board. 

Blog or text with your students about what you and they are reading (and viewing) this summer.  You'll need parent permission, but even a core group can make a difference.  I know that you want to be "away" for a while just like the students do but a small investment can yield big dividends.  Set a few guidelines such as how often to post and encourage the online conversation to weave between story lines and characters and what your students are doing during their summer vacation.  You might even see some text to self and text to world connections and squeeze in a bit of authentic writing practice!

Get Families Involved

Families may not understand what can be lost during the summer without reading and writing.  Be sure you share with them a few bits of information and some encouraging resources.  Check out Summer Reading to help moms and dads, grandparents, and caregivers tap into the joy, exploration and fun of reading.

Explore the Internet as a Source for Engaged Reading

Hook reading to the Internet!  PBS, Scholastic, and The Collaborative Summer Library Program (an initiative in Minnesota) have all provided online resources and fun stuff to connect to reading. 

ALERT!  Our Voices Need to Be Heard Now

Finally, I 'm asking families to support educators through my blog for parents this week   I'd encourage you to visit and see how you can communicate to your congressmen and representatives in your state about an important amendment being added to the current jobs bill.  It affects your directly!  Letters and sharing need to happen before Tuesday, May 25, as that is the day the amendment will be voted on.  Visit my parent blog and you'll find out more.  While you are there, share the link with families through your classroom newsletter.  They'll be a part of an important "voice of the people" AND find lots of family-friendly resources and ideas for encouraging reading with kids of all ages.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reading Aloud: More Than An "Old Fashioned Event, If I Have Time" Event

Do you read aloud regularly with your students? 

It doesn't matter how old or young they are, reading aloud with students can have more impact than any other instructional event in your day.  It can be used to grow both reading skills and writing skills (i.e., I'm reading to my 7-8th grade writing class in the photo to the right).  The best part about reading aloud to students; they don't see it as instruction.  The trouble may be that your administrators may not see it as such either.  Here are solutions:

Plan read alouds carefully but deliver them with the instruction element hidden in a cloak of enthusiasm, drama and theatrics.

Pick books that hook, that connect to the experiences and the imagination of the students you will be reading to.  Plan a quick "lesson" document for each book so that you have that ready to draw out when your principal visits and says, "I don't see any teaching going on here."  Here are a few benefits to reading aloud that you can highlight in that lesson plan and connect directly with the instructional pieces you are teaching:

  • Reading aloud exposes and highlights new, rich vocabulary (or may even reinforce vocabulary you have taught in social studies or science if you select carefully), thus expanding the number of words a child knows.

  • Reading aloud gives students opportunity to practice comprehension strategies such as visualization, prediction and questioning, and recognizing a gap in understanding (especially when the teacher is modeling that strongly through a technique like Engaged Interactive Read Aloud).
  • Reading aloud builds background knowledge and strengthens mental schemata (the ability to take what they know and bring to a new experience or idea). 

Reading aloud also impacts fluency, phonological awareness, phonics instruction so you get a focus on all of the five key components identified by the National Reading Panel as the cornerstone of reading instruction today.

It also grows writing skills as you share writing together and then discuss whether it is great writing and why or why not.  I love to do this at the start of every writing class or event I conduct.  It turns the brain juices on!

Reading Aloud is an RTI Strategy

Did you realize that reading aloud is a strategy for the popular "response to intervention" approach to addressing the needs of every student?

R. David Freeman, Ed.S. says that "In order to read fluently, students must first hear and understand what fluent reading sounds like. From there, they will be more likely to transfer those experiences into their own reading. The most powerful way for you to help your students is to read aloud to them, often and with great expression."'

LIFT (Literacy Instruction Framework for Teaching) states:  "  that a teacher may choose a read aloud based on a specific teaching purpose, then give explicit instruction on that strategy, and models the strategy during the read aloud.  This is an opportunity for students to hear the teacher’s thinking.  This element offers the highest level of teacher support in the gradual release of responsibility and is the teacher’s opportunity to model.

Education friends Fountas and Pinnell in their book, Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency, Grades K-8,  write extensively about the role of the interactive read aloud.

You can learn more about effective ways to share  read alouds with students and still meet your instructional goals at TLA, Inc  If you are a teacher in preK or Kindergarten, you'll want to check out a more specific description of the Engaged Interactive Read Aloud technique in my new book, Before They Read..


While I was researching this topic, I found an incredible statement from these incredible researchers that I want to immediately share with you.  I hope you will share this with your colleagues, administration and media specialist (the latter of whom I believe will greatly relieved to hear this clarification of many of their "gut feelings" that over-labeling restricts reading growth.
"We recommend that you do not level or label the books in the school library or the classroom library. (You can find this recommendation in the text mentioned above and in Leveled Books, K-8: Matching Texts to Readers for Effective Teaching.) We would not want students to self-select books by level or to think of themselves as a 'level T reader,'for example. They need to be taught to choose books using many different criteria."

As always, I'd love to hear your comments and encourage you to share this blog with your fellow teachers.  We can grow the numbers of visitors and followers but only with your help!