Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Superheroes Help Students Read with Fluency..... What's Your Hook?

            In this charming article in The Reading Teacher, Illinois elementary teachers Barclay Marcell and Christine Ferraro describe a second-grade girl who “reads 100 words per minute with a flat voice and a mind that’s focused on what’s for lunch,” a boy who reads 120 words a minute and cares more about his reading-rate graph than the content of the story, and students who ask, “Are you timing me?” and “Did I beat my last score?” Most upsetting of all are students who can’t provide an accurate retelling of what they read.
Marcell and Ferraro recall how fluency became an obsession in elementary classrooms after the National Reading Panel’s 2000 report and RTI’s focus on measurable data. Somehow the emphasis on reading fast and saying words accurately eclipsed expression and comprehension. Why? “It seems that, amid the well-intentioned use of timers, graphs, and programs devoted to repeated readings, fluency practice was being distilled to ‘race reading,’” they say. Authentic fluency should be “reading with and for meaning,” but it was lost in many classrooms. “Although we believe that automaticity is indeed a hallmark of reading fluency,” they say, “we needed our students to grasp fluency’s multifaceted features and related strategies – to adjust pace, to add expression, to connect and summarize. We also wanted to make fluency instruction more engaging for kids.”
To accomplish this, Marcell and Ferraro created a series of evil characters that personified bad reading habits, made character cards of each one, and pasted them to the back of popsicle sticks:
-   Robot Reader, who wants you to read like an automaton and keeps you from understanding;
-   Choppy Boy, who wants you to chop words;
-   Alien Dude, who wants you to read like a Martian without understanding the words (“Hmmm, what did I just read?”)
-   Flat Man, who makes sure your voice doesn’t go up or down.
Who would deal with these characters? “It’s time for Poetry Power Man and his superhero friends – Super Scooper, Expression Man, and Captain Comprehension – to enter our reading blocks,” say Marcell and Ferraro. “Their mission? To fight for fluency and all its facets – rate, expression, accuracy, and learning…”
Why poetry? Because reading poems enlists all the skills students need to read fluently – rate, expression, accuracy, and learning – as well as phrasing, metaphors, similes, personifications, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and, of course, comprehension. Marcell and Ferraro created a fluency development sequence that stretched through each week and had these components:
-   Introducing a short passage (usually a poem)
-   Reading it aloud
-   Discussing the content
-   Choral reading
-   Paired reading
-   Word study
-   Home practice
-   Performance
-   Final re-reading
During each week, students did Practice #1 with Super Scooper fighting Choppy Boy for good phrasing, Practice #2 with Expression Man fighting Flat Man for lively voice inflection (as measured by the Expression-O-Meter), and Practice #3 with Captain Comprehension fighting Alien Dude for summarizing and connecting to deeper understanding. The final day included performances.
            The results? Over four years of implementation, all dimensions of students’ fluency have improved markedly, as has their enjoyment of poetry and reading.

“So Long, Robot Reader! A Superhero Intervention Plan for Improving Fluency” by Barclay Marcell and Christine Ferraro in The Reading Teacher, May 2013 (Vol. 66, #8, p. 607-614),


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bubbles! Bubbles! Bubbles!

This Monday I posted the following message;

"Bubbles bring wonderment, they are inspiring and simply down right fun. Please accept this bubble wand as symbol of my appreciation. You are all responsible for tapping the creativity in all of our students. I challenge all staff to try and incorporate “Bubbles” into one lesson this week. Friday’s blog will ask you to share how you were able to incorporate them.

Lets always remember to not get to serious about numbers…… Unless of course you’re counting bubbles!"

SOOOOOOOOOOOO????? How did you do it? I'm incredibly interested in how you all tried to incorporate your bubble wands into your teaching this week. Please post your experience and student reactions.

and......... remember to keep having fun!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Common Core .... There's an App for That!

I recently discovered a great app that can bring the Common Core to your fingertips! Paging through all of the grade level sections of the state released document can be tedious. Any barrier, like not being user friendly, often discourages us from breaching new ground. This app entitled Common Core (Not very original) serves to remove many of these time consuming barriers.

As we know the Common Core is an inevitable part of our profession and we have to develop the mindset of using it as our map.

The app featured here is FREE! and very easy to use. It breaks down the Common Core buy subject, grade level and standard. When planning a lesson you can easily reference the standard you are addressing and find easy wording to include in your lesson plans and to use with your class.

Now you have access from wherever you are! I for one will be paging through each standard while on the beach this summer! Enjoy!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Do You Remember Caine?

In September I showed the staff a video entitled "Caine's Arcade." The story was of a little 10 year old boy who inspired the world through his development of a cardboard arcade. We all sat in awe of this young child whose ingenuity over came his academic deficits. Well .... dreams really do come true!

Read the 2 follow up articles linked below.

No More Card Board Boxes

10-Year-Old Caine's Arcade Founder Signs With World's Largest Talent Agency

I would love to hear your follow up reactions to this story. Feel free to post your comment below.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Can Student Surveys Measure Teaching Quality?

Many of you may remember Ron Ferguson. He was the keynote speaker at our last opening convocations in Montclair. Dr. Ferguson is has developed a student survey that was utilized in national study called the Measures of Effective Teaching Project or MET Project. This 3 year study was designed to determine how to best identify and promote great teaching. Nearly 3,000 teachers participated from 7 U.S. public schools.

The linked article is a must read! Ron Ferguson's 7 C's, which are Care, Control, Clarify, Challenge, Captivate, Confer, and Consolidate were discussed at our first faculty meeting as a great way to self-assess your teaching. Theses 7 indicators are now identified as being predictors of effective teaching through the MET Project. Our new superintendent plans to pilot the student survey this year in Montclair (You probably want to be familiar with it).

I would love your feedback......

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Unleash Creativity

Below is a summary of an article that I received in the December 4th addition of the "Marshall Memo." As I described in the past the "Marshall Memo" is a great source for educators to grab some of the most important information being shared in our field. Sometimes these snapshots keep us in the loop. 

I have always tried to encourage and foster risk taking. Unfortunately, some of the mandates in our profession (and lack of training in this area) doesn't always allow us to "unleash creativity." Please read the ideas below. I welcome your comments.

“Most people are born creative,” say Tom Kelley (University of California/Berkeley and University of Tokyo) and David Kelley (Stanford University) in this thoughtful Harvard Business Review article. “As children, we revel in imaginary play, ask outlandish questions, draw blobs and call them dinosaurs.” But as the years pass, formal education takes its toll and many people no longer see themselves as creative.
Kelley and Kelley believe creativity is vital to getting results, and they’re in the business of helping people rediscover their creative confidence, defined as their “natural ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.” They use “guided mastery” to help people get past fears that inhibit creativity:
            Fear of the messy unknown – One’s office is cozy and predictable, say Kelley and Kelley: “Out in the world, it’s more chaotic. You have to deal with unexpected findings, with uncertainty, and with irrational people who say things you don’t want to hear. But that is where you find insights – and creative breakthroughs.” Venturing out of one’s comfort zone and treating it like an anthropological expedition is a sure way to fire up creativity.
            Fear of being judged – “If the scribbling, singing, dancing kindergartner symbolizes unfettered creative expression,” say Kelley and Kelley, “the awkward teenager represents the opposite: someone who cares – deeply – about what other people think. It takes only a few years to develop that fear of judgment, but it stays with us throughout our adult lives, often constraining our careers.” People self-censor ideas for fear they won’t be acceptable to peers or superiors, constantly undermining the creative process. Kelley and Kelley recommend keeping an idea notebook or whiteboard and scribbling ideas – good, bad, indifferent – with abandon. It’s amazing how much good stuff is written down by the end of each week. They also suggest scheduling “white space” time when the only task is to think and daydream – perhaps while taking a walk. It’s also important to reach an agreement with colleagues to use more supportive language in response to wild and crazy ideas, shifting from “That will never work” to “I wish…” or “This is just my opinion and I want to help.”
            Fear of the first step – “Creative efforts are hardest at the beginning,” say Kelley and Kelley. “The writer faces the blank page; the teacher, the start of school; businesspeople, the first day of a new project… To overcome this inertia, good ideas are not enough. You need to stop planning and just get started – and the best way to do that is to stop focusing on the huge overall task and find a small piece you can tackle right away.” A boy who procrastinated on a school report on birds till the night before it was due was on the verge of a panic attack, but he got some great advice from his father: “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
            Fear of losing control – Many people think they have to solve problems or come up with answers by themselves. Kelley and Kelley say that when we’re stuck, we need to let go and reach out for help. “Confidence doesn’t simply mean believing your ideas are good,” they write. “It means having the humility to let go of ideas that aren’t working and to accept good ideas from other people.” Call a meeting of people who are fresh to the topic and brainstorm. Let the most junior person in the room lead the meeting. Look for opportunities to let go and leverage different perspectives.

“Reclaim Your Creative Confidence” by Tom Kelley and David Kelley in Harvard Business Review, December 2012 (Vol. 90, #12, p. 115-118), no e-link available

Friday, November 30, 2012

What Should Children Read?

Over the Thanksgiving break I received a flurry of emails regarding this article, which was posted in the New York Times. We have been having this conversation internally. I found the article to be very stimulating. Educators are on the brink of a major shift in reading and writing. The battle between fiction and nonfiction is on. 

With the adoption of the Common Core Standards we seem to have little choice of what to assign our students. So, how do we deal with this shift .....even when philosophically one might disagree?

This article has even motivated me to look at additional resources for our school. On Monday Kristen and I will be meeting with a representative for an online newspaper app for the iPad. 

Your thoughts are welcomed.