Tag Archives: Education

Why library cards are still exciting

Getting a library card is still exciting

Today my mom sent a photo of my two nephews who got their first library card. When I was younger, getting a card meant that you had access to a world of books. You were allowed to get lost in a book, and most importantly, you can hang out wherever you wanted in the building away from your parents. Having a library card meant having power. Let’s be serious, you don’t have much power, but in the hands of children like my nephews, it was the best moment of their lives.
In a world of tablets and e-readers it is a little difficult for your emerging reader to know the Amazingness of print concepts (how the words are supposed to go on the page), smelling the new pages (an intoxicating smell all people should encounter, or most importantly how many books by an author they’re really are). Having a library card heading to the (now endangered) bookstore is probably the most magical experience for any emerging reader. Physical books and being in libraries give students mastery in ways that teachers and e-readers can not.
Today’s professional development focused heavily on the shift of our network to the Common Core State Standards. As a reading specialist, I AMA shocked at how even thought they were written in 2010, how outdated an somewhat unattainable some of these standards are to master considering our information and technological age. For example, how beneficial is it for a student to know how to look up a word in a dictionary when my e-reader, smartphone or other gadget gives me an attainable definition just by my clicking on the word as I read? Skills that helped you and I through college, are no longer a factor in my nephews’ world. It is the equivalent of you and I having as a standard to manipulate a microfiche machine.

As a person who has seen the coming of age of technology, I think, but what if they become an awesome researcher and the only sources are in print, or even worse there is no wifi connection. Those skills are still relevant. In order for them to stay current out children still have to go to the library and peruse through the print. Dictionaries and guide words are still important in their development. I mean if you think about it, it is still less expensive for a school to buy 100 books than 100 e-readers. Practicing what is like to pick out a book. To be engrossed in the the pages. And smell the places its been (when they are not smells that cause nausea) will support your child in their adaptation of the rigor that is coming from their classrooms this year.

As an educator, I am excited for the direction of my instruction. As an aunt, I worry about my balance between technology and print resources. It is easier to download the book on my iPad, than to buy the book, which closely aligns with their classroom experiences. Please don’t think I am against e-readers, (I carry my kindle as if it were my wallet) I just would love it if we can preserve the innocence of print resources until, like microfiche, it is no longer relevant to the world of research and achievement. We also preserve the innocence of childhood as I saw today with my 5year old nephews with their new library cards.

Reading and Speaking really matter

Reading and Speaking really matter

In my post Yes Reading Matters I wrote that it was important for newborns to be read to as it helps their vocabulary and brain function.  I recently found a NYT article on the importance of reading to newborns for the same reason.  So if you haven’t read Proust and the Squid, this NYT article has almost a Reader’s Digest version of some of the research.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/us/pediatrics-group-to-recommend-reading-aloud-to-children-from-birth.html?ref=education&_r=0

Proper Grammar

As a Language and Literacy student at Harvard, I learned that there was a such thing as African American Vernacular English (AAVE).  In a nutshell, the research stated that African Americans especially those who are from the south combine the Southern dialect and African dialect carried from slavery time that translates into everyday speech.  Growing up, my mother would call it speaking improper English (or ebonics) and academia would classify it as a colloquial language.  It is not language that you would use to write a formal letter or paper, in short this dialect should only be a dialect among peers and familiar friends.

My concern is that this research has given a pass to some educators to not correct this dialect because they dear that they are being insensitive to the African American culture.  By not requiring students to enunciate and use the correct verb tenses, they are being more sensitive to how students speak at home and respecting the student and their family.  Personally I think by not requiring students to speak with proper verb tenses and enunciation, we are actually doing them a disservice.  If at a young age  they do not hear the correct verb tenses and correct pronunciation of words, they run the risk of sounding uneducated as they get older because it is no longer cute to not know.

As a reading specialist it is a problem because this improper grammar ultimately affects a child’s ability to read  and comprehend.  The better the grammar or the knowledge of the correct way to speak, the better students are able to understand lectures and books way above their levels.

I do agree that students should be able to express themselves in anyway they choose when they are not in an academic setting, however we must draw the line during presentation and speaking to adults in school.  This is the same idea as using emoticons and texting abbreviations while writing a formal paper.

How do we draw the line between sensitivity and academia? Should grammar just be a lesson in code switching as Delpit asserts?

Leave your thoughts.

 

~Say

Candy is good sometimes…

Read all of it before you come with pitchforks!!!!

As a self proclaimed bibliophile, I have bookshelves upon bookshelves of books from my early childhood well into my various college and graduate courses.  My parents were amazing and even have the box of all of my papers from kindergarten and first grade.  Some may say it may border on being a hoarder, but it really pains me when I think of families who throw out outgrown books like old clothing.

Imagine that first book that you loved so much when you were a child.  It got you interested into reading. It is timeless, it was your gateway book.  For some people, you don’t know what book that is until you get much older.  You know what book that is because you have read it so much that you need tape and other mediums to keep it together.  During my presentation, one of my families stated that they would throw out the Junie B. Jones books that his daughter reads so much that she doesn’t read anything else.  The teacher in me says sure, “Go ahead put the book away,” but the bibliophile in me says “NO!!!! PLEASE DON’T!!!”

When a child finds the book that gets them into reading, it is always good to keep the book around.  It reminds students of where they came from as a reader and should be kept as a memento for when they are reading five million text books.  Books are a part of her childhood.  By throwing the book away instead of just putting it away you are forcing them to lose a piece of their innocence.

The early chapter books and comic books are like candy to reading children.  It may not be helpful to their reading levels, but it will help sustain their love of reading.  They revisit those books when times get hard or need a familiar adventure.

Should they be reading  these books every night?  Probably not.  It is okay for them to indulge in these books once in a while.  You would never feed your child McDonalds or Chick-fil-a for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you could give it to them once in a while as a treat.  It is a reward.  Reading a comic book or other book is like candy or McDonalds (Chick-fil-a), they are a reward, however you don’t have to do away with them completely.

 

So please, don’t throw out books just because your child has outgrown them. Let them decide which books are timeless and make them excited to read.  Ultimately it will help them to keep their childhood.

 

Happy Reading

~Say

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Balanced Diet

This weekend I had the pleasure to present to families about the habits of great readers.  I love doing these developments because I am able to really talk in depth to a family about their child and their work especially as it relates to reading.  We started by talking about how we would eat properly and have a balanced diet of food.  I took the idea of the now defunct food pyramid and related it to reading.  Something told me that this would make this sticky for our families.  They loved it.  Here is the graphic.  This week I will unpack what this all means.  Let me know about your thoughts.

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Enjoy

~Say

What is fair?

I used to tell my babies that fair isn’t getting what you want, but getting what you need. I think what makes teachers these extraordinary people is that they can never really say this is the one thing that is fair. This is what they need. You’re job is mostly trial and error and more times than not you have to throw the plan out of the window. What is interesting to me is when we realize something is not working and we continue to do it. Einstein said, “doing the same thing and expecting different results is called insanity.” Are we just a bunch of insane people hoping that one day things will change? The conflict in discourse says that it take 66 days to break a habit. Considering that there are only 180 days in a school year we waste many days trying to evoke change. How do you know when something is working? How can we really evoke change? Is it really worth it? What is fair is it doing the same thing for all or just giving everyone what they need so that we can all be successful?

Rules of the Game

If you create the game, you create the rules. And if you are just do you, there’s no way you can lose!

–India Arie

I was excited this weekend when I found out (rather late) that India.Arie released a new album Songversation recently.  True to form, Arie uses true life to influence her music in an eloquently poetic way.  They lyrics that really stuck with me made me think about life and how there are many rules this game called life.

I just finished Catch-22 this weekend.  I was intrigued how these young men, who were somewhere around my age had no control over their lives and when they tried to there were rules that inhibited them from doing what they wanted.  Don’t get me wrong, they did this comically and interestingly, but it was a little sad.  The rules of their game was simple, do a certain amount of missions and you can go home.  The rules change when they up the amount of missions, it drives people to unexplainable extremes to get what they want.

So what does that mean for education?  My professor once told me how states tend to change the test, when they find that too many students are reaching the advanced or proficient mark. This was the explanation as to why 60 percent on most standardized tests is considered proficient.  I really like that the playing field is a bit leveled with new standardized tests and standards.  I thin the standards encourage teachers to push their students to the highest levels of critical thinking and creativity.  What I hope it doesn’t become, let’s figure out what’s on the test so that we can teach the content and then hope that our kids pass.   I think in order for this to work, the test should be used as a way to gauge gaps in college readiness, not only proficiency in the grade.  How will we (educators) use this data?  Will we use it to empower or punish?

The flip side is that the new standardized tests, require schools to also teach their students from a young age to be computer literate.  Now of course , this is necessary and most 3-year olds know how to use an iPad, however if teachers are just looking at the standards for their grades, they may neglect the fact that there are technology standards and that developmentally students should be proficient in using the mouse and the home keys on a keyboard by the end of second grade.  The new test, the PARCC  (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers)will completely be on the computer, but what happens when schools are unable to satisfy the technological needs to take said test?  I ran across this in the blog section of Education Weekly this past week:

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2013/07/tech_challenges_lead_oklahoma_.html

SO…everything happens for a reason.  It’s no coincidence that I finished reading Catch-22 listened to this awesome album, and finally paid attention to the alerts that crowd my inbox every week.  I think it is really important  that as we think through the changes that we make in our instruction.  I think that if we set the the bar high enough that our kids can be successful.  If we only aim for the bare minimum then we will only get the bare minimum.  MY hope is that when we look at the PARCC in the next two years, that schools will not look at the test and say “Man, we suck” but rather rejoice in knowing that their children are almost college and career ready.   There is a game: a game of ensuring that we get all children regardless of ability college and career ready.  As educators, we created the rules, now it’s time to face up to them.  In fact, if we were to do what we know to be the best, irrespective of the technologies or the income, all of our children will in fact succeed.

Marva Collins is one of America’s great educators, proving that with love and dedication and high stakes, that all students can succeed no matter what their background.  She  said in her book Marva Collins’ Way

Trust yourself. Think for yourself. Act for yourself. Speak for yourself. Be yourself. Imitation is suicide.

That is how we can change the world and make sure the rules work in our favor.

Be yourself!

–Say

Find the Fire–Motivation

So a friend of mine asked me about what motivates my students, and then another friend calls me to tell me that they aren’t sure why they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in a graduate program–he is unmotivated.  So, actually, really nothing happens by coincidence.  In that spirit, I spent my waking moments wondering about motivation.  What motivates me to want to go to the gym even after I’ve missed my appointment, what motivates my students to want to read for pleasure and love learning, what made graduate school so frustrating for my high school friend that he is now unmotivated to actively pursue and finish his graduate degree? What is it about motivation that makes the most challenging tasks uncomplicated  and the most uncomplicated tasks challenging?  How does that relate to success: personal success, financial success, romantic success, just plain life success?

One my grad school professors introduced me to the 7 building blocks of reading comprehension, and though I only remember 5 of them on a given day (don’t say anything ot her, she would have my head) the one that made the most clout in my success this year is motivation.  So you are probably thinking, yes, you teach a child the letters, their sounds, word solving techniques, give them some background knowledge and they are just going to become these amazing readers. It’s as if you have all the ingredients to make the best meal in the world and you forget that you need a stove cook it all.  Motivation is the fire, literally and figuratively that makes your meal cohesive.  You may need a lot of motivation to do something, or not that much, but without it, you may just have really awesome potential.  Okay so maybe the analogy is all off, but I hope you get the point.

Motivation also works in the opposite direction also, if you have a pot of water to make your famous mashed potatoes, but you forget the knowledge the potatoes, you may burn all of your water away. Then you are left with a fire and a burned pot (which honestly so not fun to actually clean).  It really is a combination of tools, knowledge and motivation  that make people successful because if you have the motivation to find the knowledge then you’ll have the knowledge and therefore fuel your motivation.

So how does this relate back to my students?  SO today my student says to me that she doesn’t like to read because it takes too long and the words are a lot and she can’t find her place.  So she really likes the books but then looses motivation when it is time to read for a while.  Most teachers would tell her to try harder and give her a highlighter ruler (which i fully intend to give her) and then sort of send her on her way.  I actually think it has to do with the fact that the books themselves don’t interest her.  She wants to be chef, but hasn’t read many books about food.  So sitting at the dining room table today we chose three books that we will use to study food.  The chemistry of it, where they come from and the best ways to prepare them.  We sat and read only the reviews and the synopses online and I saw her eyes light up.  It was a spark and it was the best thing ever! Maybe we will have a project on all the knowledge she acquired.  The sky is the limit.

As far as my friend from high school, the jury is still out.  I think with adults the motivation actually comes from purpose.  When a person has purpose then motivation is a by product.  I am not saying by any means that this person lacks purpose, but i will say that they have to spend sometime rekindling the spark.  It is harder with adults because we get really set in our ways, and rekindling becomes harder and a little more difficult.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink talks about what motivates people and it isn’t always monetary.  It is doing something that matters: something that matters to them, to others, to anyone.  Knowing that what you do matters helps to make that rekindling less challenging.  I think that that’s what it is for my student, so reading and knowing that what she is doing will help advance in her career long after the fourth grade will impact her the most.  I know that what motivated me to spend seven years in school in undergrad and both graduate degrees, was that the work I did in undergrad made me a better person and the work in grad school made me a better teacher, professional and has helped me to impact people like my students and my friends surprisingly enough.

When the going gets tough, I would say find what matters and play around with it.  And if you can’t find what matters soul search until you do.  Ask your kids what matters to them when you find that they don’t want to do what you want them to do (or they said they wanted to do yesterday, but then realized that they really don’t want that anymore).  Find out what really makes you tick intrinsically and the extrinsic reward will happen.  I think that is why we have so many awesome teachers running around.

I’ll leave with this talk from Daniel Pink where he talks about extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation.  It really made me think the first time I listened and I still find new insights each time.

Remember that there are no coincidences, just wonderful acts to make you amazing.

Don’t forget the stove on your next big meal.

–Say

For the love of reading

This morning, I saw a Tedx talk on why it is important to read more.  The speaker Kelly Corrigan, stated that 33% of people who graduate high school never pick up another book and if a person goes to college, only 42% of them would pick up a book for pleasure after school is over. I’m not sure where she got that statistic, but it seems just about right.  I must admit that if I didn’t truly love books and taking that adventure through the pages, I am not ever really required to sit and just read a book for pleasure.

The teacher in me wonders: how can I instill a love of books with my elementary aged students now so that they are apart of the 33 and 42 percent rather than the other 65-75% of the population?  I spoke with a parent of one of my children this morning and she asked me how she could motivate her daughter to read more and not make it a chore.  I volunteered to spend some time with her daughter in the hopes that it will help her to become more enthusiastic about reading and school in general.  I don’t know how successful I will be, but hopefully I can do something positive in her life this summer.

My hope for her is that she develops a love of information so that she can become successful in life.  That will really help her to be successful in life and especially college.  College was difficult for me, but what made me successful was my love of learning and reading.  If I only read because I had to, I don’t think I would be able to make the connections I did while writing papers or communicate with people later in life.  This love actually makes me a better teacher.

After watching this 8 minute clip, I realized that though the speaker was talking and imploring adults to read more, it is more important to spread this message to our children.  They have to understand that the love of reading and the choice to read books years after they are required actually happens way before high school graduation.  It starts now.  We are in the information age, so perhaps imploring everyone to stop using Google is not the best idea, but maybe what I could suggest is asking parents, teachers, aunts and uncles to join a book club with their youngster.  Read the book together (Actually read the book again if you’ve already done so) and then talk about it.  Find out what they are interested in reading and introduce them to new authors or related genres.  I’m not promising that they will become bookworms, but perhaps they will remember this when they graduate high school and college and they go to the beach with their e-reader filled with novels instead of Candy Crush.  I am sure that their future selves will thank you for helping to expand their vocabulary and their world view.

The future starts today!

–Say

Here is the link to the talk if you are interested