Posts filed under 'Uncategorized'

Art, Race, and Lifelong Learning

“Nearly all students—non-readers, striving readers, and beginning readers—can decode visual texts, such as illustrations and paintings, effectively.”
Trevor Bryan, author of The Art of Comprehension 

Looking Closely at Literacy

In the Mood for Art?
“Most artworks are crafted around moods,” says Trevor Bryan, author of forthcoming The Art of Comprehension: Exploring Visual Texts to Foster Comprehension, Conversation, and Confidence. Watch this short video on how he helps students engage with art through his original “access lenses.” Preview and order here.

 

 

Rethinking Guided Reading
“Guided reading is a temporary scaffold to assist students to become self-regulating, self-reliant readers,” writes Regie Routman, author of Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners. Read her MiddleWeb blog and explore her four “crucial considerations” for being fair and equitable to all students.

Working with Older Spellers
Mark Weakland, author of the upcoming Super Spellers Starter Sets, has lots of ideas for reaching older spellers, especially 4th through 6th graders. Check out his blog for suggestions, including “jaw drop;” “I say, we say, you say, you write;” deep and rich word lists; and more.

Math Tools for the Classroom

Stenhouse Math Author “Has Our Backs”
In a review of Number Sense Routines: Building Mathematical Understanding Every Day in Grades 3-5 by Jessica Shumway, math teacher Rebecca Crockett says Shumway has “given me all the tools… to commit to using number sense routines.”

Leading Robust Math Conversations

 

Watch this short video from Lucy West, author of the new, video-rich edition of Adding Talk to the Equation, about how teachers can help facilitate a discussion and increase student engagement in rich, robust conversations around math.

 

 

Lifelong Learning

On Talking About Race in Class
“It takes almost as much effort to not talk about race as it does to talk about it,” says Matthew Kay, author of Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom. Hear his reflections, dos and don’ts, and helpful hints on this teacher’s podcast.

Close Up: Mentoring a New Teacher
As a first-year teacher, having a mentor can make the difference between feeling overwhelmed or exhilarated. Shawna Coppola, author of Renew! Become a Better—and More Authentic—Writing Teacher, reflects on her six-episode podcast about mentoring a first-year kindergarten teacher.

“Insatiable Appetite” for Learning
Paula Bourque, author of the forthcoming Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms, reveals her hunger for learning and how she takes charge of her own professional development in her latest blog post “nErDs Unite!”

Teach More, Manage Less
Explore these one and two-day workshops presented by Gail Boushey and Allison Behne of The 2 Sisters: Daily 5 literacy block framework, behavior strategies for keeping all your students on-task, and the CAFE Literacy protocol for individual assessment and teaching. Learn about Detroit, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, and Orange County live workshops.

Add comment October 11th, 2018

Close Up: Mentoring a New Teacher

By Shawna Coppola

Author of Renew! Become a Better—and More Authentic—Writing Teacher

As a first-year teacher, having a mentor can make the difference between feeling overwhelmed and feeling exhilarated. We invited Stenhouse author and experienced educator Shawna Coppola to document her experience with mentoring Laura during her first year as a kindergarten teacher. Please join us and follow their six-episode podcast (links below) as they experience Laura’s first year in her classroom.

When Stenhouse asked me if I wanted to mentor a new teacher through her first year and record the experience for posterity, I barely took a breath before saying yes. As someone who has taught for nearly two decades, I still feel the desire to be mentored, to surround myself with supportive individuals who understand the joyful, yet challenging, life of an educator and who can occasionally offer a sage piece of advice, a thought-provoking question, a listening ear, or a much-needed laugh.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway, and loudly, for those sitting in the back) that teachers are engaged in some of the most complex work imaginable: making hundreds of important decisions (often on the fly), masterfully integrating a seemingly endless variety of skills, and cultivating a near-superhuman capacity for empathy and grace.

When I met Laura, an educator in her first year, I was so impressed with her thoughtful, reflective approach to teaching. A kindergarten teacher in a K-6 public school serving approximately 300 students, Laura told me during our very first conversation that she knew from early on that she wanted to work with children. That first year, she taught 22 children largely independently, with only occasional access to a classroom aide. She described her students as kind, motivated to learn, and, for the most part, happy to be in school.

As we got to know each other, investigating together some of the challenges of that first year, we covered a lot of territory. Laura and I discussed social-emotional learning, managing a large group of children, a variety of literacy practices, how to balance short- and long-term demands, and the value of using mentors to teach writing. It was such an enriching, pleasurable experience for both of us!

Like many teachers, Laura found it difficult to balance building positive, healthy relationships with her students alongside managing them as a whole group. Her biggest challenges were related to planning and making decisions both ahead of time and in the moment. She worried about how to fit in valuable instruction around skills that many perceive as “non-academic” or “soft” along with more traditionally-recognized academic skills.

The first time we met, we discussed the enormous, all-too-familiar challenge of “fitting it all in”–particularly with regard to literacy–and how to maintain a daily schedule for her students that is meaningful, engaging, and developmentally appropriate. I advised her to keep a close eye on the big picture when it came to her students’ literacy experiences and to try to identify the experiences that gave both her and her students the “best bang for [their] buck”—a difficult, yet important, task.

[Listen to Episode 1]

As Laura continued to experiment with how to incorporate literacy instruction into her students’ day in a way that felt more integrated and less piecemeal, she reported that she was beginning to feel challenged by the social/emotional demands of her kindergartners. Like many classroom teachers, Laura was forced to juggle a wide variety of student needs with very little sustained guidance. She felt as though she was “drowning in behavior charts,” which ran counter to her desire to co-construct a healthy classroom community with her students. We agreed that social-emotional learning is at the heart of all good teaching.

[Listen to Episode 2]

As we worked together, Laura reported that she was seeing marked improvements. Her students were adjusting to the routines they’d established around their classroom literacy centers. Frequent check-ins were helping students develop their ability to reflect on their work in peer partnerships. With literacy centers running more smoothly, Laura decided she wanted to broaden literacy activities. Facilitated guided reading groups could help her support her students as they read connected text within their zone of proximal development. I offered Laura some advice for how to begin the challenging work of facilitating effective guided reading groups without becoming too overwhelmed.

[Listen to Episode 3]

By mid-year, assessment results indicated that Laura needed to invest more time in helping her kindergarten students practice decoding and encoding words. We discussed how she could modify some of what she already does with her students. We brainstormed ways she could incorporate additional multisensory work with letters and sounds to help students create even more neural pathways in the brain. I shared with her the many missteps that I and other teachers have made when helping students become more independent readers and writers.

[Listen to Episode 4]

So many options exist to elicit creativity from young students. Mentors—both professional mentors and student mentors—can inspire students to write while also opening up a world of possibilities for how they might make decisions as composers of text. Laura said her students benefited greatly from two things: noticing the different and varied craft moves of such beloved authors as Kevin Henkes and Mo Willems and trying them out in their own compositions. She said their excitement over the realization that they, too, could use these moves in their writing was palpable!

[Listen to Episode 5]

As we came to the end of our mentoring sessions, we talked about how to incorporate strategies to help students learn and retain sight words. As many teachers who work with our youngest students know, it can be enormously difficult to balance phonics work and word play with opportunities to listen to and read connected text—not to mention everything else that teachers must juggle within what often seems like a few short hours! Laura and I also reflected on this unique experience we shared and the many ways in which it has impacted our work as educators.

[Listen to Episode 6]

Add comment October 5th, 2018

Newslinks: Spirited Classrooms

“Can we make sure kids are comfortable with making mistakes first and then fixing them second?”
–Brett Eberly, Teachers’ Corner Podcast

 

New! Teachers’ Corner Podcast
Our first Teachers’ Corner podcast—best practices for teachers by teachers—is now posted! Hear from authors Paula Bourque, Brett Eberly, and Matthew R. Kay as they talk about how teachers can prepare themselves and their classrooms for success. Tune in now.

 

Teaching Math

Ways to Revel—Not Struggle—in Math
Math author and coach Tracy Zager, author of Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had, shares her vision of math class moving from “confusing and compliant” to “creative and spirited” during “Class in Session.” Listen on Cincinnati radio. (Program starts at 2:04.)

How to Facilitate Rather than Deliver
Mike Flynn, author of Beyond Answers, knows that a lot of students are hesitant when it comes to talking about math. In this two-minute video, he explains how to flip the “I do, you do, we do” approach.

Literacy and More

Three Tips for Classroom Libraries
A robust classroom library is a key way to build students’ lifelong love of learning. As the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) notes, “research demonstrates that equitable access to books promotes reading achievement and motivation.” Read the Council’s tips on how to build your own.

Adding Diverse Texts to Your Library for Reading AND Writing
Ruth Culham, author of Teach Writing Well, has some tips about how to be “really, really smart” about book choice. “When you intentionally include books with diversity in mind, you step it upbig time,” she writes.

The Case for Redos and Retakes
One of the most controversial issues in grading today: redos and retakes. Watch an interview with Rick Wormeli, author of Fair Isn’t Always Equal, where he posits that “schools are not set up for teaching,” before he takes on some challenging questions.

Review: Literacy Essentials
Read this educator’s take on Regie Routman’s “timely, robust, and relevant” Literacy Essentials. The book “is an excellent reminder that every teacher is a literacy teacher,” the review notes, adding that the “bulleted, succinct, common-sense lists [are] perfect to use as a resource.”

Creative Calendars for Kindergartners
A conversation between two Stenhouse authors, Katie Keier, co-author of Catching Readers Before They Fall, and Kassia Omohundro Wedekind, author of Math Exchanges, produced some fun ideas for working with kindergartners on the passage of time.

Add comment September 27th, 2018

Mentoring New Teachers, Episode 4

In the last episode of our Mentoring New Teachers podcast, Laura and I talked about how to begin the (often overwhelming) task of facilitating guided reading groups with young students. I explained to her how the original intention of guided reading has become somewhat lost due to the nature of many of today’s existing guided reading programs, and I offered some advice for how to begin this challenging,  but often necessary, work.

In our fourth episode, Laura shares with me how her mid-year literacy assessments led her to conclude that she needs to invest more time in helping her kindergarten students to practice decoding and encoding words. We discuss how to do this by modifying some of what she already does with her students, and I also suggest some ways to incorporate additional multisensory work with letters and sounds to help students create even more neural pathways in the brain than they’ve already created over the past several months. Finally, I share with Laura some common missteps that many teachers make–myself included!–when working to help students become more independent readers and writers. A tip: you may want to listen to this episode in small chunks–there’s a lot to absorb!

 

 

RESOURCES & INSPIRATION:

 

Cleaveland, Lisa. (2016). More About the Authors: Authors and Illustrators Mentor Our Youngest Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

 

Dehaene, Stanislas. (2010). Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read. New York, NY: Penguin Publishers.

 

Add comment September 20th, 2018

Regroup and Refresh

 

“Cultivating personal creativity is one of the best uses of time and money for professional growth and our students’ learning.”         —Rick Wormeli

Becoming a “Reflective Practitioner”

Is there something you can unlearn this year—and rather than feel diminished, feel refreshed and rejuvenated? In this video, Rick Wormeli, author of Fair Isn’t Always Equal, Second Edition, shares some thought-provoking ideas on grading, teaching, and leadership.

The Science of Reading

 

Find out more about “two underused powerful tools for teaching beginning reading successfully” from J. Richard Gentry, co-author with Gene P. Ouellette of the forthcoming BrainWords: How the Science of Reading Informs Teaching. See his blog in Psychology Today.

 

 

Matt Kay: Teachers as Communicators

Matt Kay, author of Not Light, but Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom weighs in on ways teachers can dive into personal self-reflection in this interview in Education Week.

Other Stenhouse authors are reading Not Light, but Fire, including Kelly Gallagher, author of In the Best Interest of Students and Readicide, who calls it “thoughtful, timely, and beautifully written.”

Kay will be speaking at “Teacher Research and Knowledge: A Celebration of Writing and Literacy,” at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, on Saturday, Oct. 7, 8-4 p.m. It’s not too late to register.

What Makes a Book a Stenhouse Book?

Stenhouse books stand out. Learn more about how we discover gems for our library in this installment of our 25th Anniversary series on our blog.

Brighten Up Your Math Classroom

 

Use posters featuring images from Christopher Danielson’s book How Many? to brighten up your classroom. Find them here.

 

Add comment September 12th, 2018

What Makes a Book a Stenhouse Book?

 

This is the fourth in a series of six posts that we are featuring this year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Stenhouse Publishers.

Stenhouse has a specific approach to editing and publishing that is guided by the question, “Does this book add value to the body of thought?” That kind of book doesn’t come along every day.

Stenhouse is committed to working with teacher-authors. This means editors are deeply engaged in the world of education and are looking for books that will contribute to that world. Whatever an author’s particular working style, Stenhouse espouses a respect for the creative process that seems almost old-fashioned in a world where quickly produced and freely consumed copy abounds.

Stenhouse publishes author-driven, original books. These are not curriculum packages or series in which volumes are stamped out according to a standard format, but books that present the author’s own perspectives on teaching, in a distinctive voice.

Stenhouse believes that every book counts and should be put out with care. That means quality paper, beautiful graphic design, attentive copyediting and proofreading, efficient warehouse processing, and committed marketing.

Stenhouse aims to stay small and focused with an eye toward long-term value. The company began in 1993 with the idea of publishing no more than 20 volumes a year, and that hasn’t substantially changed. This allows for the selectivity that gives the Stenhouse list definition, and it permits Stenhouse to give each book the sustained attention it deserves.

“Education is full of bandwagons,” said co-founder Tom Seavey. “Some of them crash and burn, some go off into the sunset and then show up again. In the course of all this fluctuation there is a substantial population of teachers who find some value in the kinds of books that Stenhouse publishes.”

Stenhouse’s profitability depends on a combination of top-selling new books and a strong backlist of titles that sell year after year. Very few books go out of print. The Stenhouse Library is one we are proud of, and that helps ensure that like-minded teachers will keep coming back as both authors and readers.

Coming next: Stenhouse into the Future

Add comment September 9th, 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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