How do we tie it all together? What does this all mean for diverse learners?
Let's address how we tie it all together. Keene and Zimmermann write this week on synthesis and relate this to their book's title when they write, "Synthesis is the mind constructing beautiful mosaics of meanings" (p 228). Just as Keene and Zimmerman paint us a picture of synthesis as a mosaic, I started to think that this whole journey of learning comprehension strategies is like a mosaic. There are so many little but important parts to teaching the strategies including the strategies themselves that I can picture them as one big painting. But when you get close up you see each individual detail that contributes to the success of the student in comprehension. Each piece is important individually but you need each piece, to build upon each other and to see the big picture.
Harvey and Goudvis tie it all together for us as well. In this chapter, about the Genre of Test Reading, they reflect that we don't teach to the test rather we should teach them how to read a test. "Taking a test requires some skills and strategies that are quite distinct from the ongoing reading we do every day" (p 240). They continue with a suggestion of how they teach reading for test taking, "We do not teach test prep all year. We begin to prepare kids to take the test two to three weeks ahead of the test date" ( p 240).
But what's really interesting is that they emphasize that we have already been doing our job to get our students ready to this point. We have been building the foundation needed to succeed in test taking if we have been following their strategies. If we have built time for students to read every day, then we have been building their stamina. They need this stamina for test taking. If they are reading diverse context, fiction and non fiction, lengthy and short text, and challenging text then they have received a great deal of exposure that they need for background knowledge. If the students have been reading outside of school that is just as important as to what they have read in school. Again, the students continue to build background knowledge, build stamina, and expand their vocabulary. This is what our students need to be successful in comprehension but also in assessment.
I love their suggestion to devote 25 min daily, a few weeks prior to assessment, devoted to teaching how to read the assessment. Let's not waste a whole day either, they suggest to keep moving along with regular instruction. This alone should help drive the children's anxiety about the test down. If we are just devoting a small part of our day to get ready because we are confident of what we have taught them and we communicate that to our students; then they should also have more confidence and a good attitude towards the assessment.
To answer our second question of, What does this all mean for diverse learners?, we can look at the articles by Danielle V. Dennis (2009) and the ELL article by Kathleen A. J. Mohr (2004). I was able to identify at two different levels with these articles. Having taught at the high school level in Tennessee I am familiar with Dennis' write up on the TCAP. With Mohr's write up I can identify with it on a personal student level.
Mohr's article resonated with me because I was thrown into the Kinder class of Mrs. Alvarez in 1975. Yes, thank goodness she spoke Spanish, because I only spoke Spanish. I could have been identified as an ELL child. I don't know if our school offered services for ELL back in 1975 or why I was not identified as an ESL or ELL student. I literally knew the word bathroom, please and thank you. I was first generation born in the United States. I lived with my grandparents and mother and they only spoke Spanish to me. North Beach Elementary was a small public school in Miami Beach. I had just a few friends who were like me, children of Cuban exiles, from K-3rd grade. But I was not given any materials to work with in my native language. I wasn't given different materials. There was no special assistance or special class. I just assimilated into my environment. I did everything my classmates did. I remember as I moved to first grade and started to learn to read I was not in the high group. Yes, I think I was in yellow and I so wanted to be in blue. I may have struggled a bit as I was learning to read but I was an avid reader. I loved reading as a child. I organized my "library" in my bedroom by authors and titles. If we went to a book store I walked out with a tower of books. If we went to the library I walked out with another tower of books. I always had fines because I would keep the books and read them over and over. I can't begin to imagine if I had been limited to what I could access and read. I am so grateful that no one fell for the "pobrecita" syndrome. Thank goodness. I can't imagine if I had fallen to pitty or if my teachers had accepted marginal work because English was not my native language. I love when Mohr states: "Rather, students need challenge and engagement - the opportunity to participate and the support to make sense and meaning of their academic lives" (p 19). I am forever grateful for Mrs. Alvarez, Ms. Reager, and Ms. Sams.
Mohr and Dennis both write about the importance of meeting your student where they are academically. Mohr quotes "Diaz and Flores (2001) referred to the effective teachers as a mediator who abandons deficit beliefs and "habitudes" and organizes instruction to teach to a student's potential" (p 19). Meet your students where they are. Dennis writes, "When students are not taught according to their individual abilities and needs, but instead are taught based on the premise of a one-size-fits-all instructional program, we are not providing them with opportunities to climb the literacy ladder" (p 288). Meet your students where they are.
Assessments drive me crazy. But when we put all of our eggs in one basket of assessment, that drives me mad. My goodness, I knew students who were taking AP Lit (and passing it with an A) in high school but had to take Intensive Reading because they could not pass the FCAT. That is such an oxymoron.
As I read Dennis' article, I realize I say these same things in my own head when I am looking at standardized data. I wrote a big YES in my margin when she writes: "Keep in mind that not all students who earn below-proficient scores on the state reading assessment require intervention" (p 288). It's so important to look at all of the data on the child including what you as the teacher knows they know. I love her suggestion to conduct a series of reading assessments to determine the students individual needs. And, "Continually assess students throughout the year and alter instruction to match demonstrated growth and abilities. Revise groups purposefully and often" (p 288).
Mohr and Dennis hit it right on in teaching diverse learners, meet your student where they are but also challenge them in the areas where they need it.
This concludes my last learning log for this summer semester. I love that so many of you (parents, colleagues and family) have enjoyed learning along side of me. I have learned so much, stretched myself, and refreshed my teaching tool box and I can not wait to share this with my students in just a few weeks.
I hear it every year.
Traditionally, as our first grade year gets on its way the tears start rolling because it is the first time the students are experiencing homework. Now we all know there are those who have younger siblings who are excited about the homework because they know it's a rite of passage. However, those firsties and onlies STRUGGLE! Although I am talking about the students, I know many parents who struggle with the first grade homework as well.
We know that circulating all through social media as of late has been the debate about wether or not homework is of help or hinder to our children. Many people have been sharing 'articles' or blogs concerning this. Let's begin by defining articles, most of these that are shared are not scholarly articles that share the years of research but the opinion of parents or even dare I say teachers. And yes my friends the years of the research goes way back before many of us with children were born. The research has continued for decades, approximately 70 years of research. And in the end the majority of research actually supports homework. There are about 3 researchers/authors who have concurred differently than the other many more experts who have been at their homework. With the most popular and most quoted in these articles/blogs being Alfie Kohn's (2006) book.
Honestly, I am tired of the debate. So tired, that I spent the last few days reading research upon research from the last 70 years. After all, I land on the side of the picket line where "quality" homework is good homework. As a teacher I believe that homework establishes and teaches study skills and time management in the younger years. I also believe that homework is a good extension of the skills we were working on. Finally, I believe that homework provides the extra practice that some of my learners need. BUT, I had to read the research so I could find out if my beliefs were accurate and of course if I can support my argument for homework.
And guess what?
The research overall states that homework is a useful tool when it is employed effectively, (Marzano and Pickering, 2007).
Let's look at the argument against homework. The three main researchers and authors that have written against homework actually were not focused on getting rid of homework altogether.
Kralovec and Buell focused on the harm of homework to those students who were from economically disadvantaged students. Basically saying that these students were penalized because they cannot complete the assignments at home because of their home environment. The authors suggested instead of homework we should extend the school day. Yikes! We can barely keep their attention after lunch now we want to add more time to the day. I guess all those sports practices will have to be even later still.
The next duo to really take on homework were Bennet and Kalish in 2006. These guys claimed that too much homework harms a student's health and family time. They suggested that teachers reduce the amount of homework given, make the assignments valuable, and avoid homework during breaks and holidays. By valuable they mean we should assign homework that was purposeful, like do an experiment at home with your parents.
Finally, our third expert against homework was Kohn, also in 2006. Kohn was the one to take an attack on the years of research, specifically against Cooper who was the leading researcher and expert in many studies. Kohn takes the approach that homework should not be expected. He also agrees with Bennet and Kalish that homework should be "beneficial" and involve activities that are appropriate for the home. The list of actives included performing an experiment, cooking, doing crossword puzzles, reading, or watching good tv shows. By the way I am happy to assign those types of homework assignments from time to time, especially, the experiment and cooking activities, especially, the experiment and cooking activities.
Now let's look at the argument for homework.
Marzano and Pickering did a great job in their article on this debate. And I for one agree with them, we cannot ignore decades of well done and quality research. The research shows that homework is predominately effective for grades 4 and up. And the research shows (Cooper and colleagues 2006) that the average student in a class in which appropriate homework was assigned would score 23 percentile points higher than the average student in a class where homework was not assigned. TWENTY-THREE Percentile Points! That can make a huge difference. Think about the student who scores in the 50th percentile… now add 23 points to that. Tell me you don't want your child scoring better? In a society that has become so hyper focused on assessment, whether you like it or not, these scores are dictating your child's class schedules. These class schedules will dictate GPA (GPA is weighted by the classification of class). GPA plus SAT/ACT ='s college admissions. Yes, thank you, I will take an extra 23 points and the homework to get to it.
So, now what about those kids in the younger grades of K-3rd? Marzano and Pickering agree with Cooper, homework in the younger grades serves the purpose of establishing good study habits and time management. After all, Janine Bempechat states it best, …"Skills such as these (talking about study habits) develop neither overnight, or in a vacuum. Rather, they are fostered over years through daily interactions with parents and teachers…" (2004). She goes on to write: "If our goal is to prepare children for the demands of secondary schooling and beyond, we need to pay as much attention to the development of skills that help children take initiative in their learning and maintain or regain their motivation when it wanes."
My eyes are blurry now from all the reading. But somewhere in there I read an analogy of homework research to medical research. It went something like this…if you take too much medication it can make you sick, if you take too little it won't make a difference, but if you take the right amount you will get better. The same goes for the quality of the homework.
So, I agree too much homework is ridiculous, too little homework may be a waste, but the right amount will help your child extend their learning, expand their knowledge, and prepare them for further education.
Ever feel like pulling your hair out?
Ever feel like screaming out of frustration at the top of your lungs?
Yep, that's how I am feeling right now. And I am not even in the classroom today.
Here is my frustration, which I believe many of you also have, people who have no idea about education telling me what I need to do to be an effective teacher.
This includes renewing my license. Now stay with me, especially those of you not in education and tell me this is not crazy.
Every 5 years teachers have to renew their teaching certificate. I have no problem here.
To renew your certificate you have to have 6 semester credit hours of a college class OR the equivalent in professional development hours. To see the specifics visit the site: http://www.fldoe.org/teaching/certification/fl-educator-certification-renewal-requ.stml
Again I have no problem with professional development or continuing education. My goodness I'm in school right now deciding between the added endorsement or the doctoral degree.
Here is my problem. New rules as of July 2014 a new requirement was put into place. One of my 6 credit hours needs to be in Special Education. Again, I think this is great.
I already have a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree in Special Education. I attend numerous conferences and ongoing education. I spent what the equivalent of 1 graduate class was last summer learning Orton-Gillingham, a method of teaching that was originally designed for students who were learning disabled and has been proven to be effective for all. Well, guess what? None of the above satisfies the 1 hour class requirement I need to re-certify next year. WHY? Well, the OG training was to help all students. Are you serious? I can't use what I learned to help all because it was for all not just one population? Mind you my certificates are in Special Education K-12 and Regular Education Pre-K-3rd. And I am now working on my Reading Endorsement certificate.
BUT not good enough. So what do I need to do to satisfy this 1 hour credit class… the state is offering Foundations of Exceptional Education. Yes,! The intro class to Special Education I took in 1990. Now if you are a doctor you're not having to go back and take Intro to Bio. If you are a lawyer you are not having to go back and take an Intro to Courts class. My accountant friends are not taking Macro or Microeconomics again.
I understand that the state was trying to get all teachers to have a background in special education because chances are you will have a student with special needs in your class. You need to be prepared to teach and identify this student. BUT why in the world are we requiring the special education teachers to have to have this 1 credit hour. The regular classroom teachers are not taking Intro to Education.
I taught Special Education students for years. I continuously identify and work with students with special needs within my own "regular" classroom.
Now, I don't have to take Foundations of Exceptional Education. I could find another class to take that meets the Special Ed requirement. Fantastic, please provide me with options then and don't penalize me for taking course work that not only helps regular students but helps all students. I have searched and searched and honestly, I am not interested in any of these intro classes for identifying certain disabilities. If I am going to sit through a PD or a college class I better be learning something new that I CAN ACTUALLY USE!
Blowing steam on the blog today!
Why is comprehension strategy instruction important?
This blog is the second part in the series for Theme 4. There was a lot of important information I wanted to share with my followers regarding comprehension strategy instruction. In this specific post I will address a few strategies that you may find helpful in your classroom, or as a parent you might find helpful in helping your child with understanding what they are reading/learning.
One of the most useful and easiest strategies that can help all students in your class is to introduce them to synthesizing through interactive read-alouds. Cummins explains to us in her book, Close Reading of Informational Texts, that through read-alouds we can help our students by coaching them and "ease the cognitive load they must bear. Students can then focus on thinking more deeply about the content being presented without having to worry about reading the text themselves." (p. 49).
Not only does Cummins express that this would be a good teaching experience but also a learning experience. She explains how students can engage in writing exercises to "help deepen students' understanding of the text and their ability to articulate their thinking."(p 49). One of her suggestions is having the students write letters in response to the text. This chapter gives the reader an actual lesson, timeline and follow up lesson. In my own classroom I could picture this as an interactive reading and writing journal where the students can address their letters to me and I can respond to them. I can also visualize this where the students can interchange journals with their peers and respond to their peers. Imagine the possibilities.
In all of the readings this past week regarding the introduction of comprehension strategies, the theme was the same, you must assess where your students are and keep in mind what your end goals for your students are as well. You need to be able to meet your students where they are. It may require at times going backwards to go forwards. Harvey and Goudvis lay this out beautifully in each chapter they dedicate to strategies.
Another strategy to teach in comprehension is visualizing and inferring. This strategy is perfect for the younger students who have large imaginations, and if taught what inferring is, they will be able to make inferences as early as pre-k. "Inferring is about reading faces, reading body language, reading expressions and reading tone as well as reading text," (Harvey & Goudvis, p 139).
Harvey and Goudvis have a terrific strategy lesson for inferring with Kindergartners. It is one that could be used with all ages as well and with those students needing more support with this strategy. The strategy is simple, one student is unaware of what the feeling is he has to guess. And the audience of other students provide clues to the student to help them guess what the feeling is. After a series of clues the teacher asks, "Can you infer what the feeling is?" When the child answers he is probed again..."How did you know?".
This same strategy, but in a varied lesson, is very versatile and can be applied to 5th grade science or 4th grade history. Inferring is reading between the lines. Visualizing is using our senses to create a picture. With 5th graders, Harvey and Goudvis show us how to have your student use all their senses to comprehend the text they are reading. In their example, a teacher reads a National Geographic article on Sea Turtles. She then has the students re-read the article and look at the descriptive words within the article. Now she asks the students to imagine being there and write what he would see, smell, hear, taste and feel. Harvey and Goudvis provide us with student samples for each strategy and from this one we can see a student who clearly was engaged in the response to text and clearly achieved a deepen understanding of the what he read and can show a level of interaction with it.
Harvey and Goudvis provide what seems like endless ideas on how to teach the comprehension strategies, and they provide endless student samples to prove their ideas work. They are careful to address all ages and reading across content areas.
Here are some strategy lessons the authors from this weeks reading share with us...I can not possibly share all of them with you. This blog would be endless. But as I begin to work these into my 1st grade classrooms and hopefully as you the reader do we can come together here and share our ideas. I have listed the books at the end of this blog if you would like to read more about these lessons.
Finally, we need to stop identifying ourselves as a teacher of a subject area alone. We are no longer just a science teacher or civics teacher. We don't just teach Math, Every single one of us is a reading teacher. Every single one of us wants our students to comprehend our material. To do so we must teach our students in our classrooms how to comprehend what we are teaching. If you teach Physical Science you have a responsibility to make sure your students can understand the concepts and texts they are reading. This is not the ELA teachers sole responsibility. If you teach Government then you must also teach comprehension. We are all teachers of reading.
Why is comprehension strategy instruction important?
Comprehension is important for understanding and engaging in what we are reading. Comprehension
strategy instruction itself is important for those same reasons. However, what we have learned about comprehension instruction is that it needs to be explicit. It can not be expected to be caught it must be taught. Just as we are explicit in phonics instruction or math instruction we must also teach
the multiple comprehension strategies explicitly.
As teachers we are taught to teach with the end in mind. Each comprehension strategy has its own goal. The end goal of teaching comprehension strategies is "to enable children to read with deeper, longer-lasting understanding." (Keene and Zimmerman, p33).
Because there are multiple strategies for comprehension instruction, we need to make sure we are taking the time needed on each strategy, Often we are given basal readers to teach from. There are some good learning tools that come from basal readers. However, as teachers we need to not rely solely on these basals. We need to use them as tools, guides and as a resource but they can not be the only source.
Keene and Zimmerman explained early on, "Traditional practices in which comprehension instruction was really comprehension assessment - asking students an endless string of comprehension questions or asking them to retell what they read instead of to share their thinking - often failed to teach children how to better understand what they read." (p 27).
The experts agree (Keene &Zimmerman, Harvey & Goudvis, and Cummins) we need to be
spending extended time in teaching one strategy at a time. They also agree that these strategies should be taught over a few weeks while also providing scaffolding of instruction to gradually release the students into independence. There is an understanding that the "strategies interweave," (Harvey and Goudvis, p 131). Very often the students need to be able to understand text clues and background knowledge in order to be able to make an inference. However, the repeated theme is explicit instruction in the individual strategies, interweaving them as the students become more proficient in using them.
The interesting thing here though is that most basals actually have us bouncing from one strategy to the next. It is common for the basal scope and sequence to show the skill of 'Cause and Effect' this week and 'Main Idea and Details' next week. As teachers we need to be cautious about doing this, as this does not allow our students to really grasp a comprehension strategy. Our best shot at teaching our students comprehension strategies is to teach them one at a time and revisit them through out our teaching. Interweaving each of the strategies as recommended above. We also should remember that comprehension can be taught along side decoding. A student does not need to be a proficient reader to be able to learn comprehension. There are strategies also to address our early readers. (See Learning Log part 2 for more information.).
The truly wonderful thing here is we don't need to reinvent the reading comprehension wheel. All of these authors do a wonderful job of not only explaining the various strategies but also providing many examples of lessons supporting the teaching of the strategies. They also have extensive references for books and ideas.
To answer this week's essential question of 'Why is comprehension strategy instruction important?' , we should really ask ourselves why wouldn't we want to teach our students strategies that would develop them into far more critical thinkers and become more active readers. As Keene and Zimmerman write, "Main idea isn't found in nature - only on standardized tests." (p 211). They also mention, "Often there is more than one important idea, especially in complex material. Because of this we do children a disservice by teaching them to identify the main idea." (p211).
Harvey and Goudvis tell us that we are all teachers of reading comprehension. It doesn't matter what content area we are teaching, we all want our children to have a deeper understanding of what we are teaching and to be engaged in learning and reading, Therefore we must teach our students explicit comprehension strategies.
To read more on specific strategy lessons see 'Learning Log 2 for Theme 4'.
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner