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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in improving reading

Posted by on in Literacy


Reading is fundamental, that’s true, but somehow this idea gets lost in the translation. Re-stated, it means, in today’s education system, that reading is fundamental when we make Johnny read and read and read until the words come out of his eyes and ears. At that point, it becomes a habit, so deeply ingrained in him, that it is only natural for him to pick up a book in his leisure time.

Imagine that: In a world of constant distractions and events flying by at high speeds, Johnny will read at a pace much slower than reality, where digressions and inner-space journeys intervene frequently. In order to prevent these diversions from happening, we bombard the child with a barrage—sometimes called a list—of thirty books to read on his own.

By reading, on average, three books per month, along with the summer bonus of ten more books, Johnny might become, for us, but unbeknownst to him, a reader, booklover, lifelong learner, in a naturally unnatural way. This is the fundamental way to impact the reading process, or the magic of reading, so he can sit engaged and bored simultaneously, and constantly thinking and asking questions about his future days, for example:  

What are the easiest books to read and respond to?

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Posted by on in Education Policy
Ginn's Dick and Jane Big Book 1948
What should Kindergartners be expected to know? Ginn's Dick and Jane Big Book, 1948

What should kindergarteners know about reading?

Dick and Jane taught a lot of kids how to read, even though not every yard had a pony. We've come a long way with rich literature and real life writing. But there is a chasm between what kindergarteners know and Common Core 'K' Standard, which may surprise you with its rigorous expectations. There are four major standards in this "strand: "Print Concepts, Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Word Recognition and Fluency". Phew, a lot for kindergarten.

Kindergarten children are my favorite little learners. First they figure out how the classroom works and how to get along with each other, then learning begins. Kindergarten teachers are unsung heroes and sheroes. Spend a day in kindergarten and you'll know what I mean. Not all kids coming into kindergarten are ready for challenges above their developmental level and that's what's happening. I worry about teachers as much as the kids.

As principal I once told a.m. and p.m. 'k' team I would take their classes so they could do extra planning. At that time, kindergarten teachers lived in a very isolated world. Well, that was brave of me- 64 squirrelly kids playing store, with fake food and shopping carts flying around. Since I am a firm believer in learning through play, my plans were shattered and my ego took a trouncing. BUT those two teachers got time together to plan and that's what it was all about. We are now all in the middle of a different, important collegial conversation, involving many stakeholders.

Children are not cookie cutter kids. One size does not fit all, and class size matters. Of the CSSS 'K'standards, it makes sense to teach print concepts, of course. Also phonological awareness (sounds of the language). In my opinion, most of the next two levels belong in first grade. Children who didn't go to preschool may not know how to hold a book or which way the print goes. It may take awhile to teach that sounds make letters, letters make words, etc. That's why Language Experience still works for these kids. Kindergarten is a time to look for patterns in language and savor the beauty. Policy makers must listen to kindergarten teachers who know best and say good-bye to data driven instruction. Kids drive instruction.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


The summer slide is not the latest dance fad among teens, but a term teachers use to describe how students tend to lose information during the summer months. Students are out of the classroom and “free” from the constraints of learning, yet if the goal of education of education is creating life-long learners, summer is not a time to mentally check out. If anything, it’s a time to let  minds run free and focus on areas of interest; something that does not happen during the school year very often.

While parents may be conjuring up pictures of kids sitting at the kitchen table working through SAT practice books or reading Crime and Punishment, I propose a different approach to summer work which I like to call free-range learning. The emphasis here is to let students control what and how they want to learn over the summer and have a more relaxed approach to learning. My own three kids were never the type to grab a book and disappear into their room for hours on end, so I had to come up with way to “trick” them into keeping their minds engaged during the summer. Here are a few suggestions:

Travel or explore your city. Going new places and experiencing new things keeps minds active and fresh. Science shows that exposure to new places is good for your brain, so provide some of these experiences for students over the summer. Attend a local festival, try different ethnic restaurants, spend an afternoon in a new neighborhood, or visit a historical site.

Take up a new hobby. Interested in music? Art? Hiking? Summer is the perfect time to learn how to play the guitar or piano or go to art camp. If you can’t afford lessons, try some online learning forums to see if the hobby is something your child would like to pursue.

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