Ellis, Leanne. (2014). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2014/06/opinion/on-common-core/show-dont-tell-a-common-core-tenet-applies-to-our-roles-on-common-core/
Ellis clearly defines the role of the 21st Century librarian. Unfortunately, few people, educators and administrators included, recognize the value of the teacher librarian as a cornerstone in an effective instructional program. As a result, teacher librarians are often the first ones on the chopping block during a budget crisis. This article is a good reminder that teacher librarians must continually evolve and promote their services and worth to the school community.
Amy Jessica McMillan
Gardiner, S. (2005). Chapter 1: Creating lifelong readers. In Building student literacy through sustained silent reading. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/105027/chapters/Creating-Lifelong-Readers.aspx
In the first chapter from his book Building Student Literacy Through Sustained Silent Reading, author Steve Gardiner outlines the various forms of sustained silent reading (SSR) as they currently exist in schools. Variations of SSR include free voluntary reading (FVR), drop everything and read (DEAR), love to read (LTR), independent reading time (IRT), and many others. Gardiner gives a brief history of the origins of SSR and discusses why its popularity has ebbed and flowed over the past few decades. Next, Gardiner outlines some research in support of SSR, most importantly from Steve Krashen and his 1993 book The Power of Reading. In addition, Gardiner cites Caught in the Middle author and educator Nancy Atwell as a strong proponent of SSR, and he details Atwell’s suggestions for what to do and what not to do when running a reading workshop. Finally, Gardiner makes the case for encouraging independent reading because when students build reading stamina and learn to enjoy reading, it becomes a “flow activity”and this is what is necessary to build lifelong readers.
As a classroom English teacher for the past fifteen years I have personally witnessed how the popularity of independent reading as receded over the past decade. In 2000 I taught at a school which mandated twenty-five minutes of independent reading time daily. Fast forward to 2008 and new district administrators actively discouraged independent reading at school, citing “lack of research.” The perceived lack of research for independent reading comes from the National Reading Panel Report (2000) in which report authors claim there isn’t significant evidence to support independent reading as a strategy to improve overall student reading proficiency. However, I am happy to say that this trend seems to be reversing itself. As Gardiner states in the first chapter of his book, there is research supporting independent reading programs. No one is advocating that independent reading is the only type of instruction that should happen in schools. In fact, classroom teachers still have a curriculum to teach. Gardiner is simply arguing that a robust independent reading program is necessary for students to practice the skill, to gain new vocabulary, and to become avid and engaged lifetime readers. I agree with Stephen Krashen, as quoted in Gardiner’s article: “[Independent reading] will not, by itself, produce the highest levels of competence; rather, it provides a foundation so that higher levels of proficiency may be reached. When FVR [free voluntary reading] is missing, these advanced levels are extremely difficult to attain” (“What Researchers Say” section).
Amy Jessica McMillan
Byrne, R. (2013). Two things you can do to increase communication with parents. Free tech for teachers. from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2013/04/two-things-you-can-do-to-increase.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+freetech4teachers%2FcGEY+%28Free+Technology+for+Teachers%29#.VBwzYC5dWQh
Education blogger Richard Byrne gives two technology-related strategies for improving communication with families. One idea is to create a classroom blog and to consistently add important, relevant content. He explains that many teachers quit blogging based on the initial low response, but Byrne argues that parents will start checking classroom blogs frequently once they realize important information is stored there. Another idea is to allow and even encourage text messages from students and parents. He argues that for the “under-30” generation, texting is the easiest way to communicate. If teachers don’t want to provide personal cell phone numbers, services like Google Voice and Remind 101 allow messages to come to the user’s computer, no cell phone number required.
Keeping a consistent, useful, and relevant blog is a challenging task for many teachers. Byrne is probably correct that blogging is the most effective way to communicate with most 21st century parents, but many teachers—if they are telling parents about classwork at all—are still sending out newsletters on paper. For the blogging idea to work, teachers need professional development on how to blog and create websites. They also need to believe it will work before they devote the significant amount of time required by keeping an up-to-date blog. Finally, most parents are online, but not all. How can we communicate with the parents who do not have computer literacy skills and / or do not have an internet connection?
The idea about text messaging is very helpful. Google Voice, in particular, is easier to use than most school voice mail systems. It alerts your email when you have a message and keeps an automatic record of all messages received. Google Voice even transcribes voice mails, saving the teacher time when he or she looks over messages. Remind 101 is another useful app that provides a simple communication path for parents and schools. I prefer Google Voice since it integrates with Gmail, but both apps work well. The only downside to encouraging text messages is that teachers could potentially be overwhelmed by the quantity of messages received. However, the pros outweigh this concern because our overarching goal should be to improve communication and to make it as easy as possible for all stakeholders.
Amy Jessica McMillan
Schwartz, K. What’s your learning disposition? How to foster students’ mindsets. (2014). MindShift. Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/whats-your-learning-disposition-how-to-foster-students-mindsets/ utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+kqed%2FnHAK+%28MindShift%29
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has developed a compelling theory for how students learn. According to Dweck, students who have what she terms a “growth mindset” outperform those who don’t. This article, published in Mindshift, adds to Dweck’s theory by outlining a few other motivational mindsets. According to blog author Karen Scwartz, some important mindsets for students include feeling like they belong to an academic community, the belief that the work is valuable and that they can be successful, and the belief that their intelligence can grow with effort. Finally, Schwartz gives examples of several schools who focus on developing these mindsets with students.
This article gives several practical tips for encouraging students to stay motivated to learn. Most educators have worked with kids who have simply given up because they’ve decided they can’t succeed. Schwartz proposes some tools for reinvigorating those students and for keeping the rest as motivated as possible. I wonder why Schwartz differentiates the mindsets listed in her article from the ones Carol Dweck proposes in her research and in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In another Mindshift article titled “Beyond Talent and Smarts,” blogger Annie Murphy Paul (2012) explains Dweck’s research “has shown that children and adults who believe in the power of effort to overcome challenges [what she calls growth mindset] are more resilient and ultimately more successful than those who are convinced that ability is innate.” Regardless, Schwartz’s ideas about improving student learning outcomes are certainly thoughtful and intuitively compelling. She reminds us that our abilities and intelligences can grow based on the effort we put into our work. We teachers need to have that in the forefront of our minds every time we step in front of our students.