Archive for August, 2018

New Books, Ways to Make Learning Last a Lifetime

1. Hot off the presses!

Teaching Literature Rhetorically: Transferable Literacy Skills for 21st Century Students: Jennifer Fletcher’s new book showcases eight high-utility literacy skills and practices that will stay with your students all their lives. “Literature and rhetoric offer us powerful ways of understanding ourselves and our world,” says Fletcher. Preview and order here.

Choral Counting and Counting Collections: Transforming the PreK–5 Math Classroom by Megan L. Franke, Elham Kazemi, and Angela Chan Turrou inspires preschool and elementary teachers to experience the joys and rewards of regularly using two activities—Choral Counting and Counting Collections—in their classrooms and in their partnerships with families. Preview and order here.

2. Speaking of learning that lasts a lifetime, check out this blog “How to teach so learning sticks” by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, the authors of Who’s Doing The Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More and the Who’s Doing the Work? Lesson Sets.

3. As the school year gets into full swing, here are 13 handy ideas from Kari Yates and Christina Nosek, authors of To Know and Nurture a Reader, on ways to cultivate a community of readers in your classroom.

4. Regie Routman, author of Literacy Essentials, offers five back-to-school tips for making your classroom a welcoming, emotionally and socially safe environment.

5. Math Teachers, Read On!
Math teachers who are reading Tracy Zager’s Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You Had have formed a free collaborative book study that will be led by Mike Flynn and Kaneka Turner. Register here.

“The Main Idea: Current Education Book Summaries” overviews the book and reports that “Zager lifts the dark cloud of mathematics instruction and restores it to the fun that it should be—about wonder, exploration, and challenge.”

6. Reviewers are talking about Stenhouse books
From this review of Christopher Danielson’s How Many? “A lovely package that will interest not just elementary-grade teachers and librarians, but many a parent or homeschooling effort.”

Check out this review of Mark Weakland’s “compelling” Super Spellers,
and his latest blog here.

Add comment August 30th, 2018

Smart Start: Crafting the Opening Days of School

by Regie Routman

“You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.” It turns out that old saying is true. Those first days in our classrooms and school can impact students’ sense of well-being, confidence, and resilience well beyond that first week. So we want to carefully craft those early days to ensure all students feel valued, excited about learning, and eager to participate. Unlocking the potential of every student begins on Day 1.

Here are five ways to create a welcoming, emotionally and socially safe environment, which serves as a foundation for a learning culture that is collaborative, invigorating, equitable, and joyful.

  1. Create a climate of kindness, trust and respect.

Deliberately begin bonding with students by making sure everyone feels welcome—through our choice of words, greetings, body language, eye contact, and inclusive actions. Let students know we will treat them fairly, will support their efforts, and do everything we reasonably can to help them succeed. One crucial first requirement is to pronounce all students’ names correctly, an important sign of respect. Tell students we need their help to ensure we say their names correctly. Two outstanding picture books for reading aloud, honoring students’ names, and helping students come to terms with their names are Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Zeal (Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2018) and Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, with illustrations by Yuyi Morales. (NY and Boston: Little Brown, 2016.)

Connect with families early on. An early, positive comment about the student via a text message, tweet, Facebook post, email, postcard, and so on goes a long way to establishing trust and is more likely to make a parent respond if/when we contact them with a concern. Such a comment could be as simple as “I’m enjoying getting to know your son. . .”

  1. Set the tone of the classroom as “ours” instead of “mine.”

Share the power; demonstrate inclusiveness even on the first day. For example, consider letting students know that at least some bulletin boards and charts will be co-created, that students will have an opportunity to help organize at least a part of the classroom library with your guidance, and that you/they will be honoring and including their favorite authors and genres. Also, if you are comfortable doing so, at least initially, permit students to sit where they like. As well, you might solicit some suggestions for room design.

Encourage students’ voices to be heard and welcome questions. When students believe it’s safe and, in fact, encouraged to ask questions, raise a concern, or voice their opinions and ideas, they feel more relaxed and can put full energies into learning. With that in mind, consider holding off on establishing “rules” for the first couple of days. Instead, you might demonstrate and talk about what it means to learn in a respectful, trusting classroom. After a few days, co-create norms and expectations through a shared writing, perhaps titled “our norms and expectations”, “respectful actions,” “our rules for optimal learning,” or whatever else students might suggest—subject to your final approval.

  1. Tell stories. Let yourself be known.

Tell a riveting story on Day 1. It could be reading aloud a great picture book, one that lends itself to thoughtful discussion for students of all ages. It could be a personal story, a simple and inclusive one. For example, for younger students, I might tell the story of the tiny spider who has joined my husband and me for breakfast the last couple of days and how we’ve been fascinated watching it rapidly escalate up and down an invisible thread above our kitchen table. Then, after many round trips the spider rests for many hours on the ceiling. I would tell how I used to be afraid of spiders but now am fascinated by their ingenuity, energy, and majesty as web weavers. For older students, I might tell the story of how I recently reconnected with a friend with whom I’d had a painful falling out. Stories are the glue that bond people to memories and to each other. Stories humanize us.

As a way of beginning to get to know students better and have them get to know us, sharing and writing about “What are you good at?” is also a surefire way to acknowledge and celebrate students’ strengths—what they can do well and/or are persisting in learning to do well–for example, fixing breakfast, playing basketball, bargain shopping, telling a joke, researching a topic of interest. See two related stories in Literacy Essentials, “What Is He Good At?” (pp. 30-31) about seeking and using the strengths of a fidgety kindergartner to help him become part of the classroom and “Making Fruit Tarts” (pp. 147-148), my personal story of how making a fruit tart is akin to seamless teaching. Students’ stories on what they are good at can be compiled into a favorite class book that becomes part of the classroom library. 

  1. Demonstrate yourself as a reader and writer.

Share a favorite book or two you read over the summer and why you loved it. Discuss your reading habits, for example, how you choose books, why you might stick with a hard book, abandon a book, or reread a favorite book. Let students know they will have sustained time to read books of their choice and to share and discuss those books with their peers and/or you. Especially at the start of school, use stories and writing to get to know each other.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer do consider publicly writing, thinking out loud as you write, and projecting that writing so all students can see and hear your thinking process, revisions, vulnerability, sense of humor, flexibility, and more. One powerful topic for demonstrating yourself as a writer is: “Here’s what I want you to know about me.” Or “Here are the most important things(s) you need to know about me.” Then, after having students talk about what they noticed you did as a writer, have students write privately to you on the same topic, and use those written pieces to enhance how and what you do to reach and teach your students.

Use personal stories to spur students to write their own. For example, my story about spiders might be used to encourage students to tell and/or write about something small they’ve noticed or something they fear. Or, my story about a lost friend reclaimed might also be used to encourage students of any age to write a story about an important friendship and, perhaps, how it went awry and got repaired–or not.

  1. Incite the intellect.

Set up the classroom for curiosity, passion, and taking risks. Strongly consider adding “Genius Hour” to your schedule so students have a weekly or monthly opportunity to explore their interests and burning questions through designing their own learning. It’s all about priorities. The “must-do’s”—such as establishing rules, test prep, and the non-negotiable items—must not crowd out the “would-love-to-do’s,”  which with our support can give students the energy, determination, and equitable opportunity they need to learn and thrive.

Finally, attempt to “see” and begin to know each student, so many of who feel invisible or inadequate in our classrooms and schools. Above all, try to ensure that at the end of the first days and weeks, students feel hopeful and excited about learning. For many students, what matters most to them is that they know they matter to us. A smart start to the school year can make that possible.

For more ideas for the first days of school, see this 6-minute “Heart Start” video.

Regie Routman is the author of Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence and Equity for all Learners (2018).

2 comments August 22nd, 2018

A Back-to-School Frame of Mind

We’re all getting primed for the school year! Check out these resources from Stenhouse:

“No matter how many times the pendulum swings in education, we know that focusing on the whole child makes sense. Focusing on the whole teacher makes sense as well.”—Lisa Lucas, Practicing Presence: Simple Self-Care Strategies for Teachers

Back-to-School Support
Looking for ways to boost learning from the very first day of school? Get tips, take an online refresher course,  and consider live workshops and online seminars.

 Please share your opinions
We want to make Newslinks as useful to you as possible. Please share your opinions and preferences here, in a six-question survey that takes just 2 minutes.

Teachers as Writers
Lynne Dorfman, author of the bestselling Mentor Texts and co-author of the forthcoming Welcome to Writing Workshop, offers dozens of practical tips on how to cultivate your own writing this school year—and inspire and sustain your writer-students.

Wormeli on Rubrics: “Tread Carefully”
“Both denying their use … and declaring them assessment’s Holy Grail are shortsighted,” says Rick Wormeli, on this Middleweb blog post and author of Fair isn’t Always Equal: Assessment and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom, now in its second edition.

The “Crucial Ingredient”: Active Caring
“Individualized acts of kindness and care are as essential as the task at hand—the routine, the lesson, the problem, or project.” Read more from this new blog post from Geoff Krall, author of Necessary Conditions: Teaching Secondary Math with Academic Safety, Quality Tasks, and Effective Facilitation, coming out next month.

2 comments August 17th, 2018

What Stenhouse Stands For

This is the third a in series of six posts that we’ll feature in the coming months commemorating the 25th anniversary of Stenhouse Publishers.

What Stenhouse Stands For

The headwinds that came in the early 2000s affected everyone in the education marketplace. The federal No Child Left Behind, which went into effect in 2002, made test preparation an urgent focus for school districts, defining curricula and consuming teachers’ time and energy. A recession, meanwhile, meant belt-tightening for schools that bit into their professional development spending. And the market for thoughtful books about teaching for teachers, all but untested waters when Stratton and Seavey began working together, had both grown and matured. Stenhouse now had plenty of competitors.

Yet on the strength of its quality publishing and reputation as a curator of ideas in education, Stenhouse continued to do well. Highlights CEO made that clear in a report to the board of directors: “The real star of this show is Stenhouse. Their results continue to astound me.”

Most publishers do not have a coherent and consistent point of view. They put out what the market demands, hitching their wagons to trends that promise to yield mass sales. This isn’t what Stenhouse does. Stenhouse has not and will not put out books of student worksheets or teacher lesson plans stripped of the ideas that inform them. The company has built its brand on a reputation for publishing deeper books about teaching, books educators will continue to value over time and that apply across curricular trends.

Educators—who are both the creators and the consumers of Stenhouse products—also recognize that Stenhouse stands for something. In 2010 the National Council of Teachers of English honored Philippa Stratton as Outstanding Educator in the English Language Arts, the only non-educator ever to receive the award. And more than one educator has told Stratton that the Stenhouse name on a product is tantamount to a kind of Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

So what is the Stenhouse point of view? After a quarter century in operation, the philosophy inheres in just about everything Stenhouse does. And its essence can be spelled out.

Learning is by its nature active. Learners, whether children or adults, are not mere bins into which educators dump whatever material they choose. To learn anything at all, the learner’s mind has to, if you will, pick it up. So children learn best when their minds are active, when they are encouraged to inquire, explore, discuss, arrive at their own discoveries, and build their own meaning. In its books, videos, and other products, Stenhouse strives to present examples that are both creative and pragmatic.

Learning is both individual and social. When a teacher engages each learner (by letting kids choose a topic to write on, for example) learning accelerates. But learning is also fundamentally an act of collaboration between and among people. Stenhouse publishes books that recognize the diversity of experiences in the classroom and that convey a sense of the lively, real-time, real-world drama that unfolds there every day.

Learning, though hardly automatic, is natural. Children learn best when the teaching environment respects and harnesses important innate impulses—the urge to communicate, for example, or to understand the world of their everyday lives. Kids have number sense—an understanding of the concepts of more and less—before they begin to work with digits on a page. They know how to handle a book and turn its pages from left to right before they can read a word.

Teaching is a human process, not a mechanical one. If kids aren’t bins into which curriculum can be dumped, neither are teacher conveyor belts or winches whose function is simply to transfer a standard package of goods from educators to students. The teacher, the most influential person in the classroom, is a professional and an individual. So a “teacher-proof” curriculum is dead on arrival. “You can’t account for the spontaneous interaction that wonderful teachers have with kids, the adjustments they make in the moment,” says Dan Tobin, Publisher of Stenhouse. “A good teacher seizes the opportunity.”

Teaching involves continual learning. Experienced teachers “go to school” in their own classrooms, studying their students and noting their progress. They want to understand not only what their students are learning but also how they’re learning it. Excellent teachers experiment, trying new techniques as well as ones they know have worked in the past. Stenhouse products bring teachers together in a kind of learning community of their own. The books create a voice, and often it’s the voice of a peer who says, “This is what I tried in my classroom. This worked; this didn’t work so well.”

As Lawrence Stenhouse, the British education thinker wrote, “It is the teachers who in the end will change the world of the school by understanding it.”

(End of Part 3)
Next: The Stenhouse Perspective on Editing and Publishing

2 comments August 3rd, 2018


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