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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Revised IRA and NCTE Web Site!

I received an e-mail earlier this week to notify me of the revisions that had been made readwritethink the literacy website produced jointly by the International Reading Association and the National Council of English Teachers.

I have always enjoyed this site and was eager to explore it.  The invitation announced:

With dynamic new features and improved navigation, delivers research-based instruction and powerful, proven tools for teaching in and out of the classroom.

Innovative, high-quality lesson plans written and reviewed by experienced literacy professionals, sorted by grade level, and aligned to state and national standards.

Classroom-ready, easy-to-use resources for experienced and new teachers alike, including interactive tools, calendar activities, and classroom printouts.

NEW! A dedicated professional development section with strategy guides on effective teaching practices and access to a wealth of professional development resources.

NEW! Parent and afterschool resources to help extend students’ learning after the bell, including activities and projects, online games, podcasts, and more.

Opportunities to interact with our community of dedicated literacy professionals through shared stories, commentary, and social networking sites.

A partnership of the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Verizon Foundation, will help you turn reading and language arts theory into best classroom practices. Visit today and you’ll find everything you need for tomorrow’s lesson plan—

International Reading Association • 800 Barksdale Rd. • PO Box 8139 • Newark, DE 19714-8139

So I dove in. 

I have always believed teachers are intelligent, dedicated individuals who can grasp and apply theory.  The staff development I provide meshes theory and practice - the practice I share is the starting point.  I assume teachers will combine the theory and practice in response to individual classrooms, resulting in best practices. 

So, I was eager to see if the site would provide relevant theory for teachers - not just a how to do approach.  

In my experience, the how to approach is deadly.  The teacher follows the directions, does the deed, but does not move forward in understanding - does not develop a self-extending system built on an understanding of student learning and instructional strategies.

This is a key element for me and a major sticking point on many of the sites I visit.  In order for teaching to become a craft, theory must be understood and applied artfully in the teacher's classroom - while the teacher observes student behavior and further crafts the instruction. 

This is a tall order.  But I was hopeful.  

I began with Classroom Resources.  Bingo!

Lesson Plans - under the preview tab - included a theory to practice section.  The purpose of the theory clearly stated what learning behavior the teacher would look for and what research this backed up. 

This layout is similar to the layout used in Janet Allen's books, Tools for Teaching Content Literacy and More Tools for Teaching Content Literacy.  The teachers I work with love this format and find it very helpful.  

Professional Development offered a large variety.  

I decided to look at the Strategy Guides, thinking the teachers in EDU 590 and 591 might find this helpful.  Again - the link between theory and practice was clear - the writing was practical and to the point.
A few minutes in Professional Library, gave me a sense
of the content - articles and books to deal with 
challenges from the classroom and again 
balanced with theory.  YES!  

Next, I scanned the Learning Objective section.  Again, the format was the same.  TADAA!   

Theme was another pleasant surprise!  Here was a bank information and resources for content areas!

By clicking on Teacher Resources by Grade in the navigation guide, you have access to all of this information focused on specific topics.  This section of the site is organized by featured, most viewed, and most shared.       
Here are two other points to consider.

  1. Every section includes resources for lessons - web based and printable. 
  2. The lessons, activities are tied to state standards by the third party in this collaboration:  "Lesson plans on ReadWriteThink are also aligned to individual state standards, courtesy of a collaborative project between Verizon Thinkfinity and Syracuse University's Center for Natural Language Processing. These alignments are revised on a regular basis as new or updated standards become available.
    You can search for lessons that align to standards in your state by going to the Lessons area and using the Search Resources tool on the left-hand side to select your state. Or you can browse lessons and upon finding one that meets your classroom needs, select the Standards tab to see to which of your state’s standards it aligns."

This is a brief overview.  I encourage you to visit it on your own.  I know I will.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

EXPLORE for Students Who Benefit from Assistance in Literacy - Jay High School

     On January 6, 2010 I visited Karina E. at Jay High School.  Karina had decided to use Janet Allen's EXPLORE Writing with this small group of students in order to help them learn to look at texts from different perspectives.  
     Karina had chosen a article from ASCD that dealt with re-envisioning high schools.  Obviously this topic engaged these students.  Karina passed out copies of the article and then gave the students an overview of the process.  She explained the process and used the graphic organizer posted at the front of the room.

Ex= Example:This is an example of what genre/author/style?

P=Purpose: What was the author's purpose for writing?  Why am I reading the text

L=Language:  What are the key words/names/places/lines worth remembering/?

O=Organizational Features:  What organizational features or supports helped me read this text?

R=Relate: How can I relate to what I just read?

E=Evaluate: What are my ah-has?  What questions do I have?

     Next Karina read a short portion to the students outloud and then broke them into groups to read assigned sections of the texts, creating a jigsaw.

When the students had finished, each group was assigned to a separate station - Example, Purpose, Language, Organizational Features, Relate, Evaluate - and asked to write about their part of the article from that particular point of view.  Every group used a different color marker.  Students were then rotated through the various stations, analyzing their piece of the article through the lens assigned at each station.
     Students were engaged and on task.
     The lesson was concluded with 1. a reminder from Karina regarding the process they had participated in and how it can be applied in other reading situations and 2. a discussion of the connections students made during their time at the Evaluate station.
     Great way to build community and bump students up to higher level thinking.  
Allen has a reproducible template at the back of her text titled, More Tools for Teaching Content Literacy, - one for fiction and one for nonfiction. Bravo!