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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Here is some useful information for literacy teachers K-12. Courtesy of Mind/Shift.

What Types of Sound Experiences Enable Children to Learn Best?

Girl with headphones
Nina Kraus, a biologist at Northwestern University, has spent the better part of her professional career researching how sound affects the brain. What she's found has important implications for how adults and children manage the sounds that envelop them. "Sound is invisible, but it's a tremendously powerful force," said Kraus. "For better or worse, it shapes your brain and how you learn." And according to Kraus, some sound environments are better than others at promoting learning. She offers several practical suggestions for creating that kind of space, whether at home or in school:

Reduce noise
Chronic background noise is associated with several auditory and learning problems. It contributes to "neural noise," wherein brain neurons fire spontaneously in the absence of sound; it reduces the brain's sensitivity to sound; and it slows auditory growth.

A study of two different third grade classrooms — one overlooking a highway and the other beside a quiet field — found substantially better learning outcomes for kids in the quieter room. Because income and noise exposure are correlated — the lower the income, often, the louder the environment — finding pockets of quiet are that much more important for disadvantaged children. In school, this means building a quiet classroom, with acoustics in mind.

Read aloud
Hearing stories told by others develops vocabulary and builds working memory; to understand how a story unfolds, listeners, need to remember what was said before.

Listen to audiobooks and podcasts
Well-told stories can draw kids in and build attention skills and working memory. The number and quality of these recordings have exploded in recent years, making it that much easier to find a good fit for individuals and classes. In Kraus's course on the biological foundations of speech and music, for example, she assigns a podcast from the WNYC program "RadioLab" The Walls of Jericho, to help students better understand decibels.

Use the spread of technology to your advantage
Technologies that shrink the globalized world enable second-language learning. Online videos allow aspiring musicians to listen and learn from others who are playing the same piece. The ease of travel invites opportunities to hear other types of sounds that might not be typical in a local environment. Assistive listening devices can help offset hearing loss and language disorders. Judicious use of technological progress can be used to build effective sound-to-meaning connections.

Encourage children to play a musical instrument
"There is an explicit link between making music and strengthening language skills, so that keeping music education at the center of curricula can pay big dividends for children's cognitive, emotional, and educational health," according to Kraus.
Learn more
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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Every teacher who works with middle school or high school students knows how much the kids love their phones. Here is a great article for how to use their phones to increase their engagement. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Tips for boosting class interaction via devices
Tips for boosting class interaction via devices
Media specialist Kelli Whiteside uses pivotEd, from Capstone, to interact with students in real time through their devices. In this blog post, she shares how she uses the platform to foster discussions among students, plus view and grade their work.
SmartBrief/Education (11/29)  Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 5, 2016

Here is a great article that deals with keeping older students motivated to read. Well worth the read. Courtesy of Mind/Shift.

How to Help Students Love Reading

Getting kids to enjoy reading can be a challenge for teachers and parents. A 2015 study by Scholastic showed that reading for pleasure drops off after age eight. Of the students surveyed, 51 percent of said reading is something they like or love to do; five years earlier, that number was 60 percent.

How can we support young readers? Daniel Willingham, author of "Raising Kids Who Read," has several suggestions, including re-imagining the act of reading as having less to do with school and more with a life well-lived. Instead of telling kids that reading books will help them get good grades or find a good career, he said, make reading part of a larger family value: loving to learn.

Willingham's Tips for Raising Older Readers:

  • Make sure kids have access to books. Drop by the library often. If it's affordable, leave books lying around the house, in the car, even in the bathroom.
  • Don't control kids' reading. The temptation to "put the hammer down" for a page count may only result in a reaction and pushback. Comic books, graphic novels, and books below reading level all count.
  • Get kids involved in a peer network of readers. For example, teen author John Green has created an incredible network of readers and fans that connect online.
  • Offer reading material that draws on something they're already interested in. If there's a movie they already love, get the novelization of the movie, or a book about backstage gossip on set.
  • Don't forget that as the parent, you are the cheerleader, not the literature judge. Don't worry if it's not Shakespeare, the point is to show kids that "interesting things are found when you read print."
Learn more
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Report analyzes students' reading habits - Study shows kids need to practice what they learn about reading. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

About 54% of students read for less than 15 minutes per day, according to the ninth annual "What Kids Are Reading" report, which includes data from 9.9 million K-12 students at 30,863 schools. The report shows that boys, on average, read about 23% less than girls.
T.H.E. Journal (11/17) 

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Can audiobooks, podcasts improve literacy? - Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

Listening to stories can help improve literacy skills among students who dislike or struggle with reading,according to the educators and experts mentioned in this blog post. They offer a list of recommended audiobooks and podcasts.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Another great post from Choice Literacy on blogging. It is just the right time of the year to get blogs up and running and sharing with other students. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
November 5, 2016 - Issue #526
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.
What's for Sale

While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.
                                                                             Angela Schwindt

My phone rings, an unknown number but a Michigan area code, where I have lots of family and friends. So I answer it and find myself chatting with Cassie -- a stranger who is a student at my alma mater. She is hesitant and bubbly at the same time -- this job of calling alums and asking them to open their wallets is not for the faint of heart. Cassie tells me how she changed her major three times, and now as a junior has finally settled on a business degree. After a few minutes of pleasant chatter, I make a donation. Maybe I am remembering my own undeclared days in those first months decades ago on campus. Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of my young nephews who are having the time of their lives at basketball camp right at this moment on that same campus.  Maybe it’s because I remember not having much money as a college student, and having to take jobs that leave you calling strangers on a Friday night in the summer.
Youth sells. It’s why we can’t resist buying Girl Scout cookies when a gap-toothed kid is sitting outside the shopping center at a table crowded with cartoons, although truth be told they aren’t very tasty. Except for the Thin Mints. And maybe the Savannahs. Okay, on a bad day a Do-si-do will do. But I digress . . .
I was on the board for our local K-8 school, and not once in three years did children present anything to us. They should have. We were mired almost every meeting in numbers from financial spreadsheets, and it would have been great to get a face-to-face reminder once in a while about what it was all for.

Let the students tell more of the stories of your classroom this year, on whatever vehicle works best -- the class Facebook page, blog, through daily email blasts. Better yet, find ways to video bits and pieces of their stories to share throughout the year.  Keeping students front and center is a continuous reminder to families that your classroom and school have the right priorities.
The truth is that public education is always in financial peril. Schools are living, breathing, growing things, and we build a bulwark against cuts of indifference one student-told story at a time.
This week we look at student blogging. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy

Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: or Pinterest:]    

Katherine Sokolowski presents some strategies from her fifth-grade classroom for launching student blogs:

Shared reading and shared writing are essential instructional techniques in the primary grades. How about shared blogging for teaching children basic blogging skills? Cathy Mere describes how it works:

Pernille Ripp has suggestions for getting started with student blogging:

Join Jennifer Schwanke for the online course The Principal's Role in Evaluating and Supporting Literacy Instruction (November 28 - December 2). You'll get personal responses to all your questions, view webcasts, and receive a DVD and online resources to enhance the learning. Click on the link for details:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

4 approaches to making content kinesthetic - I am posting this here, because it is important information for all teachers to have. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

New research shows that the part of the brain typically associated with muscular activity and motor
control also plays a role in language functions and with visual-spatial, executive and working memory processes. By combining physical activity and higher-order thinking, teachers can capitalize on the brain-body connection and help students grow this area of their brain. Here are four ways to increase engagement and academic achievement by adding movement to learning. Read now.
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Sunday, October 16, 2016

This week during a visit to the Vinalhaven school district, we focused on writing. We are using the Calkins framework. One issue that came up at all grade levels, was students' lack of stamina. Here are some great articles on building stamina - a challenge in days filled to the brim with many mandated goals. It is well worth the read. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
October 15, 2016 - Issue #523
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.
Family Run
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, "I’m Possible"!

                                                                                   Audrey Hepburn
My four kids and I are preparing to run a 5K. They’re almost always grouchy when we head out the door, and it all comes down to one thing: Running is hard.
Hannah is in the best condition of all of us. She runs fall cross country, winter running club, and summer running club. She doesn’t like to push herself, though, so I made this rule: If I pass Hannah, then she is on laundry duty for the day.
Stephanie is built like a power forward for the basketball court. She is not built like a runner. Running hurts her toes, ankles, knees . . . and all the other 2,000 parts of her. She had a hard time breathing, too. I took her to the doctor, and they said she has asthma. An inhaler has made the running go better. Breathing makes a big difference in the enjoyment of a run.
Jay is a tank. He’s running to be better on the football field. He’s mentally tough and just keeps going. The problem is he doesn’t run a straight line. He weaves. When he weaves, he cuts people off, and it is likely the person behind him will trip. Usually it’s Stephanie behind him. Usually she falls flat. Then lies there for too long, yelling at Jay’s back that he should run straight.
Sam is built like a runner, but is still developing the mental toughness to be a runner. When he’s feeling strong, he flies like a bullet train. (That’s his analogy, not mine.) When the running is hard, it is likely he’ll sit down on the edge of the road and wait for the return trip.
I hope I never quit running because, man, it’s not fun becoming a runner. I keep telling myself it’s going to get easier, but I’m gasping for air and I’m wondering if maybe it's so hard because I’m not in my twenties anymore.
Meanwhile, I remember I’m a fellow runner and a mom. It wouldn’t be a very good example to collapse, so I encourage instead.
Stephanie says, “I’m going to fall over.”
I say, “I know.”
Sam says, “My legs are going to fall off.”
I say, “I know.”
Hannah says, “I have to slow down.”
I say, “I know” and, “Have fun doing the laundry.”
Jay doesn’t say anything because tanks don’t talk. They just keep going.
Sometimes the best encouragement is affirmation that this thing we’re doing is really hard. I call out the remaining time, and we keep plodding alongside the endless cornfields. At the end of the run, we are all still upright. No one has quit breathing. No legs have fallen off. The kids aren’t arguing any more. They smile and laugh. They encourage one another and say thanks for the help. They go again the next time, because the feeling of impossible becoming possible always sticks with a person.
It reminds me of facing hard tasks in the classroom. Kids face many challenges that seem impossible. There’s stress when we face tasks that we may fail at doing. It’s not fun to keep going in the midst of hard. Sometimes all that’s needed is affirmation that things feel impossible, but when we keep trying, impossible turns to possible.

This week we look at building stamina in young learners. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Ruth Ayres
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: or Pinterest:]    

"Why do you always say 'Happy reading!' to us?" This question from a first grader leads Katrina Edwards to develop visual support tools for building stamina during reading workshops in her first-grade classroom:

Stamina is a term we use often in literacy instruction, but it can be tricky for students and teachers to define in classroom contexts.  Heather Rader looks at the specific attributes of writing stamina, as well as how to model it for students:

Kate Umstatter has tips for helping students stay focused:

Join us in November for two online courses focused on leadership skills. Jennifer Allen leads Better Meetings (November 2 - 13) and Jennifer Schwanke is the instructor for The Principal's Role in Evaluating and Supporting Literacy Instruction (November 28 - December 2). You'll get personal responses to all your questions, view webcasts, and receive books, DVDs, and online resources to enhance the learning. Click on the link for details:
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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Here are some great ideas that could easily be adapted by other communities. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Educational community spaces could help narrow "word gap"
Research shows community-based learning resources could help narrow the "word gap" among children from low-income families. One such project included posting signs in a grocery store, and now the Urban Thinkscape plans to create learning exhibits next to a public bus stop in Philadelphia.
National Public Radio (10/3)  Bookmark and Share

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Conventions are a concern of all teachers - regardless of content. Here are some great resources for teachers and students alike. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
October 1, 2016 - Issue #521
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.
It's Personnel

If there are spelling and grammatical errors, assume that the same level of attention to detail probably went into the gathering and reporting of the "facts" given on the site.

                                                                              Randolph Hock

My husband and I love reading the Sunday newspaper the old-fashioned way: slowly, working through each section, and spread out throughout the morning.  In winter, we sprawl on the carpeted floor; in the summer, we settle into our designated chairs on our patio.  We sip our coffee and read quietly, occasionally interrupting the silent camaraderie by discussing interesting stories and features. It’s my favorite time of the week, hands down. 
And yet.
At some point, every Sunday, I can count on my husband to let out an irritated, frustrated lament:  “Doesn’t anyone proofread this stuff before it goes to print?” He’ll snap the paper shut and march off to warm his coffee, shaking his head.
He’s talking about simple, silly things. Grammatical errors. Spelling missteps. Inaccurate word substitutions. They seem to happen a lot. They are the kind that should be caught by someone before press time. 
This week there was a big one, right on the front page, just a few paragraphs into a story about potential unrest at a political event in Cleveland. Discussing fears about the potential for violence, the newspaper quoted an attendee:  “Thoughts are with are law-enforcement personal.”
I’ve never worked in a newsroom, so I certainly should not judge. Maybe these kinds of errors are inevitable. There may be a hundred different reasons that they are not caught and fixed.  But even as I try not to be critical, the English teacher in me can’t help but wonder why these errors occur so frequently.
My husband will come back into the room and continue his tirade. “Think about the communication I send out at work. I don’t make these kinds of mistakes, right?”  He’s asking because I frequently see his written communications.
I tell him I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen him make a mistake.
“Because I have someone else read them first,” he says slowly, as if speaking to a child.
The benefits of having others read our communication before we send it out into the world can’t be overemphasized. Errors stop our readers mid-stride. They muddle our intended meaning. They make us seem hurried, careless, and flawed in our message. All of which discounts what we are trying to say.
We expect better from our students; when we teach them to write, we spend a lot of time insisting that they think about grammar, mechanics, spelling, and word choice.  We ask them to use self-editing and peer editors.  We, ourselves, point out errors and ask that they make the appropriate changes.
Let’s face it:  if one of our students turned in a formal, final paper and substituted “are” for “our” and “personal” for “personnel” (in the same sentence) we would be pretty disappointed.
The errors in my Sunday newspaper probably won’t go away anytime soon.  But for myself, I strive to meet a higher standard.  I only want my best work to be out in the universe of readers.  It’s something we can all aspire to, right?  One writer at a time, we should set a standard for accuracy and error-free writing.  Our writing won't be perfect, but we sure can try.
This week we look at teaching conventions. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jennifer Schwanke
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Jennifer Schwanke taught middle school language arts for six years before moving into administration at both the middle school and elementary level. She enjoys thinking of more effective ways to present literacy to students at these vulnerable ages. You can follow her latest thinking on literacy and leadership on her blog.
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: or Pinterest:]    

Heather Rader works with a team of intermediate teachers to ferret out what does and doesn't work in teaching conventions, based on research and experience:

Jeff Anderson helps students name and use conventions in explanatory texts through close reading of a mentor text:

Learn this simple strategy for deciding between using who and whom in a sentence and you'll never confuse the two again:

Join us in October for two online courses. Jennifer Allen leads Literacy Coach Jumpstart (October 5 - 16) and Ruth Ayres is the instructor for Back to Writing Workshop Basics (October 7 - 18). You'll get personal responses from Jen and Ruth to all your questions, view three webcasts, and receive books, DVDs, and online resources to enhance the learning. Click on the link for details:
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Here is a great article on how to teach traditional Shakespeare in a nontraditional manner. Courtesy of ASCD Smart/Brief.

How Hip-Hop Can Bring Shakespeare to Life

"You learn Shakespeare by doing Shakespeare," says Michael Kelly, artistic director of Toronto's Shakespeare in Action. Two years ago, Kelly began to incorporate music — specifically hip-hop — into his workshops. "Shakespeare Meets Hip-Hop" became a big success, as students explored the rhythm, poetry and thematic similarities of both forms. UK rapper Akala, who founded The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company in London, says that melding these mediums can help students expand their understanding of and connection to Shakespeare. As he reminds students, these plays were not considered "high art" by Elizabethans, but rather as "a little bit risky, a little bit naughty and dangerous." Learn More
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Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Stenhouse Blog

Today I am featuring a great resource for teachers, the Stenhouse Blog.  Stenhouse is a publishing company for educators.  By using the link below, you can access the blog.  They feature educators as writers. 

The link below takes you to a page on the blog that focuses on action research for teachers.   With the start up of school, now is the time to think about how to use all of the data you will be collecting to inform your instruction.  Here are some great ideas.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Here are some great resources for using mentor texts in the classroom - as early as first grade. Well worth the read! Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
August 20, 2016 - Issue #515
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.
Armchair Experts
When we are judging everything, we are learning nothing.

                                                                                       Steve Maraboli

My husband and I are watching the Olympic diving competition. It isn’t long before we are yelling out scores as soon as each diver hits the water. “He was a little over – can’t be more than a 7.5.” “That’s a 9 for sure – look how tight that flip was.” Sometimes the scores we guess are right, and sometimes they are way off. After a few minutes of this, we are laughing about how absurd the whole thing is. This is a sport we watch once (maybe) every four years, and within minutes we have deemed ourselves experts, thinking we can instantly judge something that has precise rules and standards. Of course we can’t, but that doesn’t stop us from piping up with judgments.  The problem is that it looks so easy to score, based on either a clean entry or something resembling a splat when the diver hits the water. The truth is that the real experts are looking at far more than one thing at a time.

You know where I’m going with this – everyone’s an armchair expert when it comes to education. The problem is that most of us only get to see the scores, and not all the work or even the materials used to produce those scores. But it’s the people behind the scores who give you the truth about whether there’s any learning going on or not, or whether a good score was even possible on a test with a lousy design or in a school where there are extreme issues of poverty and migration. No one would watch the Olympics if we only got to see the scores, with no performances. And the people who pay billions for the rights to broadcast the Olympics have learned that the ratings success formula isn’t to show performance + score. It’s life story + performance + score. Once you know the person behind the performance, you’re sometimes not even worried if they make it to the podium or not. You’re just thrilled to be watching someone on the world stage who beat all the odds to even get there.

Knowing this, it still won’t stop me from yelling out scores before they are posted. But at least I can laugh at the absurdity of it. I wish the same was true for everyone who thinks they know how to fix schools based on some numbers on a page.
This week we look at mentors and mentor texts. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy

Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: or Pinterest:]    

One goal of many primary teachers is to help students finish their drafts with an ending other than "The End" (or "they lived happily ever after"). Katie DiCesare shows her first graders many alternative examples, and she begins early in the year with powerful mentor texts:

Mandy Robek shares a delightful list of mentor texts that help students reflect upon and monitor their behavior in the classroom:

In this video, Ruth Ayres opens up her writer's notebook and mentors students on the many possibilities for filling the pages in their own notebooks:

Join Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan for the online course Making Assessments Work for You starting September 23. This course includes the book Assessment in Perspective, a DVD, three webcasts, and personal responses from Clare and Tammy to all your questions:

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

I rarely post advertisements. However, this is FREE and one of the new buzz phrases is "visible learning." Enjoy. It is after school on Monday, September 12, 2017.

Making Literacy Visible FREE Webinar
This webinar introduces key concepts from the book on which literacy strategies work and when they work. Fisher and Frey explain the importance of effect size in determining one's impact on student learning, and explore how best to take students from surface, to deep to transfer learning. Register Now

Saturday, August 13, 2016

This report takes a look at some important data with a clear, new perspective ... and confirms what many teachers have known for a while. Courtesy of SmartBrief.

Is the bar too high for Common Core literacy?
The Common Core State Standards have changed expectations and practices for teaching reading and writing. Some educators and experts are debating how best to teach -- and test student understanding -- wondering, in some cases, if the bar has been raised too high.
The Hechinger Report (8/2)  Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 8, 2016

This is an excellent selection of insightful observations about reading and how it impacts readers. I think it is well worth the read. Mr. Gaiman is a new author to me. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment. You can order the book on - kindle or hard cover.

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 31, 2016

Neil Gaiman, from 'Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming', and how the act of reading changes us: "Once in New York, I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons—a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth — how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, fifteen years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based about asking what percentage of ten- and eleven-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure."

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016