Brushes with Greatness…

Wow, it has been far too long since I have added to this educators’ blog. Now I know what my New Year’s Resolution will be!

Let’s catch up, shall we?!

I’ve recently presented with the New York State Reading Association (NYSRA), Niagara Frontier Reading Council, and Diocese of Buffalo. I’ve met so many impassioned educators around me, and made some wonderful professional connections. I was also fortunate to have my administrators attend the 2016 NYSRA conference, where I presented to a standing-room only crowd! I had conference attendees listening from the hallway! It was an incredible honor, and so affirming to the work I do in sharing my love for pedagogy, educational technology, and intrinsic motivation as an educator.

One of the highlights of my fall was meeting THE Nell Duke. She was a keynote speaker during the closing luncheon of NYSRA. Luckily, I had a spot up front and was able to hear her approach to usage of text in project-based learning, as it fits across curricula, and supports literacy skills.

After her keynote, she was gracious enough to let me have a moment with her. Here I was, rubbing elbows with a figurehead in education/literacy research… someone I quoted/referenced in many of my graduate school papers! We even managed a selfie and she asked me to tag her so she could retweet it! (And she did!)

Dr. Nell Duke is definitely someone I look up to as a source of knowledge and inspiration. There are two of her articles that particularly speak to me. One is regarding all the USELESS literacy instruction practices we should abandon. The other is in regards to vetting websites as viable informational text resources.

As a literacy specialist, the former particularly resonates with me. Having students look up words in a dictionary and write them out is a skill they should have, but only if the vocabulary is in their zone of proximal development. I use Words their Way (WtW) to fulfill the phonics/word study component of my Readers Workshop, and differentiate word lists and tasks based upon individual students’ needs.

(And I’d like to shout-out my son’s first grade teacher for giving me a treasure trove of WtW resources beyond the commercial materials!)

There is so much high-quality, research-based, accessible and useful information in Duke’s work. I savor it as much as I can! As a person, I found her so authentic, sincere, and dedicated to making sure the time we are spending with our students is being used as efficiently as possible. I know I have been inspired to use as much of my time in the classroom for instruction, discovery, and growth!

Happy Holidays to all of you. Thank you for continuing to read my blog, and I wish all of you a happy, healthy, productive 2017!

– Kirsten

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Motivation to Read in the Age of Common Core

I had the pleasure of attending the Niagara Frontier Reading Council Spring 2015 Brunch on Saturday April 25th. Linda Gambrell from Clemson University spoke.

Here were my take-aways:

  • Spoken language and text language are two different languages
  • There is a second grade slump being observed – a decrease in motivation as students become aware of their proficiency
  • Reading success isn’t necessarily about ability, but opportunities to read. By increasing opportunities to read, we are increasing a student’s chances of reading success.
  • Ybarra et al (Feb 2007): Social interaction and mental exercise both increase cognitive functioning. Intellectual conversation positively affects working memory. What students talk about, they learn best and remember the longest.
  • Have students engage in a conversation about the material you are teaching: “What are the 3 most important things a person ought to know about _____?”
  • In read-alouds, give students a preview of several texts and let them vote on what they’d like to hear. This will increase student interest in the read aloud.
  • When given book choices, there are “flippers” and “wanderers.” This might be due to some readers not knowing how to properly choose a ‘just right’ book.
  • In Self Selected Reading (SSR) – students should have a NOW book, a NEXT book, and a QUICK read in their book boxes/bins. This encourages sustainability and alleviates a student being stuck with a text that doesn’t engage them.
  • The volume/amount of silent reading in schools is directly related to gains in reading and achievement.
  • All good readers know the next book they are going to read.
  • Instead of books labeled easy-medium-hard, have books labeled hard-harder-hardest!
  • Bless the Books: give snippets of books available to get students interested in picking them
  • Have a sign in your classroom the tells what you are currently reading, to ask you about it, what you are going to read next, and an invitation to share what the student is reading
  • Students LOVE hearing “I know a book you would love…”

Overall, the Niagara Frontier Reading Council does a fabulous job providing a community for professionals and educators. The professional development they offer has definitely helped me become the passionate, motivated teacher I feel that I am. Check out their website, and feel free to engage with them on social media: http://www.thenfrc.org/

Here was a poem Linda Gambrell also shared, that I thought was clever:

Confession

BY BRUCE LANSKY

I have a brief confession
that I would like to make.
If I dont get it off my chest
I’m sure my heart will break.
I didn’t do my reading.
I watched TV instead—
while munching cookies, cakes, and chips
and cinnamon raisin bread.
I didn’t wash the dishes.
I didn’t clean the mess.
Now there are roaches eating crumbs—
a million, more or less.
I didn’t turn the TV off.
I didn’t shut the light.
Just think of all the energy
I wasted through the night.
I feel so very guilty.
I did a lousy job.
I hope my students don’t find out
that I am such a slob.

Have a great day!

Kirsten