We had an amazing time with all of you Wednesday night, chatting on Twitter with Steven Layne about read-aloud. It was clear that there was so much passion and appreciation for the art of read-aloud and for preserving this practice in all classrooms and in all grades. Here are some Tweet highlights, and you can see the — almost — full chat on Storify. It’s definitely worth a browse for all of the great book recommendations and for the warm memories everyone shared about what read-aloud meant for them.
A4: #readaloud is the perfect time to talk about authors craft. Use the opportunity to expose students to future skills, and reteach.
Tune in Wednesday, March 11, at 8 p.m. EST to talk about read aloud with Steven Layne! He will be on Twitter to answer your questions. The chat, hosted by Colby Sharp (@colbysharp), will build on the following questions:
Share some of what you remember about being read aloud to as a kid.
What makes a great read aloud?
How do you know a read aloud is effective?
What makes a read aloud flop?
What are some things you think about as you plan for a read aloud?
Please share some of your favorite books to read aloud.
Follow #readaloud to keep track of the conversation and join in with your own questions! We will raffle off 5 copies of Steve’s new book In Defense of Read-Aloud during the chat. Follow @stenhousepub to win! You can still order the book with code TWEET and receive 20% off plus free shipping!
Prescriptive worksheets can often cheat children out of real thinking and understanding. Read how Tracy Zager encourages her own children to explore and communicate their mathematical thinking through writing—on simple blank paper. And then hop over to her blog to read how she continually makes math a natural, fun, and important part of her family’s conversation.
A Brief Ode to Blank Paper
Maya (7) brought home a folder full of completed math worksheets yesterday, which put me in a funk. First, there was the bugs problem.
I couldn’t decide which part of this problem bothered me most. Was it the ridiculous premise? I mean, come on. Was it that the problem was, yet again, a multiple-choice question? Was it the stubborn insistence on drawing bugs with the wrong number of legs? Was it that students have no room to work, but the publisher took plenty of room for cutesie drawings? Harumph.
As awful as the bugs problem was, the page that really upset me was this one:
Sigh. A few issues:
The strategies are named wrong, and made to look more complicated than they are.
There are better and other ways to solve this problem.
Students are left with 2″ to do math on this entire page, which is barely enough room to do the standard algorithm. There’s no chance they’ll try out one of the other strategies with no space to work.
Once again, we’re turning useful, general computation strategies into prescriptive algorithms. Breaking the numbers up by place value and adding the partial sums becomes: Step 1) Add hundreds…
I’m not the first math teacher to notice that prescriptive worksheets are a problem. Kamii, the CGI group, and others have all written about it. Yesterday, though, I was upset as a parent because Maya has stellar, flexible mental math skills, and her instinct to think is being undermined by this curriculum. I asked her why she’d opted for the standard algorithm on all the problems, and she said, “Those other strategies are too confusing.” I covered up her solution to 597 + 122 and asked her to solve it mentally.
“Well, I’d give 3 to the 597 to make it 600. Then 600 + 122 is 722. I’d take the 3 back, so it’s 719.”
I did the same thing for 209 + 376:
“200 + 300 is 500. 500 + 70 is 570. 9 + 6 is 15. 570 + 15 is 585.”
I pointed to the top of the page and said, “You just used this strategy. You broke the numbers up into place value parts, and then added each part together, starting with the biggest part.”
Her jaw dropped.
And my mind clicked. She has made NO connection between the mental math strategies she uses with fluency and all this junk on the worksheets. The reason? She’s never been given the chance to record her own thinking at school.
I think I’ve decided what one of my bigger problems with this curriculum is: they never use blank paper. They never write 209 + 376 at the top of a big piece of paper and let kids have at it. The kids never get a chance to wrestle with keeping track of their thinking or figure out organizational strategies. All math problems are either on worksheets or educational technology. The kids just don’t write enough.
So now I know what to do with Maya at home. We’re going to spend some time with blank paper, where she has to work out how to write down what she does in her head. She needs to make mistakes, lose track, not be able to follow her own thinking, and then ultimately figure out ways that make sense. She needs to be able to write down her thinking so that she and her mathematical community can follow it. I’m on it.
Two hours later, after dinner, Daphne (5) got us started. Our dining room chairs have decorative nailheads, and the kids are forever running their fingers over them and counting them. Daphne said, “Someday, I’m going to get out a math journal and count all these nailheads and write it down so I know how many there are.” Before I knew it, she was off! Someday turned out to be right then. Both kids got in the game.
Daphne was incredibly excited to count AND write down her results. Check them out:
If you want to understand her notation, take a peek at the short videos:
The power of blank paper, baby.
Perhaps inspired by all of this discussion and my venting, Maya asked if she could get a piece of blank paper when she did her homework, which is truly a counter-cultural act with this curriculum. “Of course!” I nearly sang.
She created this number line and used it to solve the final problem.
When I asked her about it, I pointed out that she didn’t just answer the question by saying, “The red one.” She wrote about the problem more generally: “I used a number line and found that anything less than 350 would fit and 270 is less so red paint is less than 350!”
She said, “Well, when I wrote it myself I thought about it more.”
Makes a powerful case for the teaching of rhetoric as an essential thread in the fabric of every child’s education…will resonate for every English teacher.
—Carol Jago, from the Foreword to Teaching Arguments
One of the most essential skills we can teach students is how to comprehend, analyze, and respond to arguments, taking into account the audience, occasion, and purpose. These skills open the door for all students—not just Advanced Placement—to rigorous academic texts, and will help them succeed in college and career.
In Teaching Arguments, Jennifer Fletcher gives you a firm grounding in rhetorical concepts, practical writing prompts, and engaging activities—such as the rhetorical précis, descriptive outlining, and the doubting and believing game—that will speed your students’ understanding of rhetorical skills and strategies.
Using an approach based on situational awareness and responsiveness instead of rules and formulas, Teaching Arguments helps you move your students beyond superficial responses to texts as they become better critical thinkers and communicators. The book is available now, and you can access the full-text preview online.
This March will be the eighth time that the Two Writing Teachers blog will host its annual Slice of Life writing challenge. Blog founder and Stenhouse author Stacey Shubitz invites all teachers — and students — to make writing a priority and write every day for 31 days. In this guest post, Stacey talks about why it is important for teachers to also be writers and how the month-long challenge can help you overcome your fear of writing.
Become a teacher who writes By Stacey Shubitz
I spent 2006 – 2007 doing action research in my fifth grade classroom. One of my greatest takeaways was that in order to teach writing well, one must be a teacher who is also a Writer.
Some teachers I’ve consulted with don’t think they’re good writers. They’re paralyzed with fear because somewhere along the way they were made to feel afraid of writing. When I hear this, I often tell teachers how I overcame my fear of driving since it is similar, in many ways, to the fear some teachers feel about writing.
I was a confident driver in high school. I got my license at 17 and drove 32 miles round trip to school each day of senior year. I went to college in Washington, DC, where it was impractical to keep a car. My driving was limited to school vacations only. Things were going along fine whenever I came home from college and needed to drive until I was in a car accident in 1998. I was the seat-belted front passenger and sustained a neck injury that still affects me today. As a result, I stopped wanting to drive. I would defer to someone else to drive or I would take mass transit, even if the schedule was inconvenient. Upon graduation from college, I moved to Manhattan where I figured I’d live until I was old and gray. But then I fell in love a guy who got a job offer in Providence, RI. He proposed marriage. A little over a year later, I relocated from New York to Rhode Island. For the first time since high school, I had to drive a car again.
The guy I just referred to is Marc and he’s been my husband since 2007. When I moved to Rhode Island in July of that year, Marc bought me a present. It was a GPS and its sole purpose was to help me navigate so I could focus on safety and get over my fear of driving. When I set up the GPS, I selected the British male voice, who the company named Daniel. I chose Daniel because his voice soothing, which helped me every time I tensed up merging on to a highway. Initially, I pushed a button to avoid highways, which almost always sent me on a circuitous route. After realizing there were no shortcuts around the State of Rhode Island, I came to realize I’d have to dare to be the best driver I could possibly be. I’d have to be fierce, but cautious. I’d have to balance defensive driving with aggressiveness so I wouldn’t be run off of the road. If I was going to be independent, I’d have to overcome my fear of driving.
I once heard Mary Ehrenworth say “with risk comes beauty.” Sitting in the driver’s seat felt risky to me until driving took me to new places. Thanks to Daniel’s navigational prowess, I became a confident highway driver. Over time, I took myself on day trips to Narragansett, Newport, and Boston. Nearly eight years later, I drive long distances by myself. I split the driving with my husband on road trips. And even though there are still some things that scare me about driving (e.g., rush hour traffic in Manhattan), I am now confident enough to drive on I-81 next to all of the trucks every single day. Overcoming my fear of driving was essential to my independence.
If I could get over my fear of driving and become a driver, then you can overcome any discomfort you may have about writing to become a Writer. The only thing standing in your way of you becoming a Writer is you. If you tell yourself it will take time to get comfortable putting words on the page, you can be a Writer. If you tell yourself you can positively impact the lives of your students by writing regularly, you can be a Writer. If you tell yourself you will shut down the voices in your head that tell you you’re not talented enough, you can be a Writer. It takes time and practice, but everyone can become a great Writer.
Once you come to believe the world will be a better place if your voice is part of it, then the next thing you must do in order to become a Writer is to make writing daily a priority. I know it’s hard to fit yet another thing into an already jam-packed schedule. I have blogged about ways to create a writing life that is both consistent and meaningful.
If you’re still unsure about whether you can envision yourself as a Writer, I encourage you to try out slice of life writing. Slice of life stories are anecdotal pieces of writing about a small part of one’s day. It’s usually written in the first person.
The Slice of Life Story Challenge began on Two Writing Teachers in 2008. The online challenge’s mission is to support teachers who wanted to write daily. Over the years, the Challenge created a community of teacher-writers who are better able to support the students they serve in writing workshops daily. Teachers are invited to write a slice of life story on their own blog and then share the link to their story on our blog’s call for slice of life stories. Then, each person who leaves a link to their blog visits at least three other people’s blogs to comment on their slice of life writing.
I’m always amazed by the enthusiasm in classrooms where students and teachers are writing alongside each other. Recently I asked our blog readers how their instruction has been impacted by being a Writer. Here’s a sampling of what they said:
Like these teachers, I believe being a Writer is the single most important gift I ever gave my students. Being a teacher and a Writer means you can confer with your students and feel a special kind of camaraderie. Being a teacher and a Writer means you understand the struggles and frustrations as well as the triumphs and the beauty. Being a teacher and a Writer means you will transform your students’ lives because you believe in the power of words. It is my hope all children who take part in writing workshops will have teachers who are also Writers.
I hope you’ll join us for the 8th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge this March. Click here for more information.
We are happy to have Sarah Cooper back on our blog with a post about those pesky citations at the end of a research paper. Are they important? Why are they important? She breaks it down for us with some useful tools and advice. Sarah is the author of Making History Mine.
Citation as Fashion: Do You Really Need Those Page Numbers?
By Sarah Cooper
I like to be able to justify to myself and my students why I’m teaching what we’re learning.
Usually in history it’s easy: relate past to present, analyze a relevant ethical issue, tell a story that makes people pop to life.
But last week it wasn’t easy. The eighth graders were spending two days in the library to find sources and write a Works Cited list.
The assignment: to write a paragraph about an issue related to their service projects in science, such as strategies for teaching children with Down syndrome or the environmental value of biking over driving.
The topics were meaningful and the sources strong. I had no problem rationalizing the assignment until the third day, when I helped students with their paragraphs and also checked their Works Cited lists.
The eighth graders had used NoodleTools, a research program I love, to create their bibliographies. As with EasyBib, BibMe, and other citation sites, NoodleTools asks for all the relevant information and then creates a bibliographic citation in the right format. The program also goes one step beyond to alphabetize, double-space and indent.
Walking around in the computer lab, looking over students’ shoulders, I compiled a list of common fixes for their Works Cited pages.
See if you can figure out which one was hard to justify for me:
1. Include the article title as well as the publication title.
This is necessary information to find the source again, and students definitely need to list it.
2. Indicate that an electronic source was found on a database rather than in print.
This makes sense because I’d like students to appreciate the plethora of online sources available.
3. List the volume and issue numbers for scholarly journals.
This is a little more esoteric but okay. I would like students to understand that journals are almost like books in how seriously they organize themselves and how closely they track their topics.
4. Include the page numbers for newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals found in online databases such as ProQuest Research Library.
What the heck?!
After asking at least half the students to go back and add the page numbers from the original database source – not the page numbers of the their printed-out pages, but those from the actual journal or magazine, as listed in the citation on the database – I started to feel sheepish.
Why am I asking students to cite page numbers for print publications that they will never see, that 99% of the people citing their articles will never see, and that almost didn’t exist to begin with since the publication is almost always accessed online?
After sleeping on and wrestling with this page numbers issue (you can see I really don’t like having my students do work that doesn’t make sense!), I came to this conclusion:
Including the page numbers in your MLA citation of an online source is like ironing your shirt before you go to a job interview. It’s like putting on earrings to match your necklace. It’s like knotting your tie tightly.
Citation as fashion.
Citation as window-dressing.
Citation as dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s so that no one faults you for not knowing the rules – so that they can be impressed by your unwrinkled collar and pay attention to what you are saying instead of what you’re not wearing.
Helping my students make the right impression on future teachers, professors and employers by sweating the details – this I can justify.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook relegates page numbers to the same dustbin where the now-optional URLs lie.
Which citation details do you care about? Why do you care?
In the midst of a cold, snowy spell in New England, word spread last week that beloved author, teacher, and colleague Bernice (Bee) Cullinan had died on February 5. Saddened by this news, I was catapulted back to 1992 – 1994 when we served together on the Standards Project for English Language Arts (SPELA), a joint venture between the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) to write standards for K-12 students in partnership with the Center for the Teaching of Reading at the University of Illinois. I was a middle school teacher at the time, well acquainted with Bee’s books, especially Literature and the Child, co-edited with Lee Galda and Laurence Sipe, and Weaving Charlotte’s Web, coedited with Janet Hickman, so I was honored to encounter her at our week-long meetings in Chicago, Utah, and Washington, D.C. These sessions were long, fascinating, and often difficult, but it was the time after hours that made us friends. In restaurants and pubs, in museums, and on meandering walks, it became evident that we shared a love of teaching and a passion for poetry. Before long, we were sending each other newly discovered poems via email between meetings.
Bee grew up in Ohio and taught primary students there for fifteen years. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at The Ohio State University before moving to NYU, where she taught reading and children’s literature for three decades, influencing countless students at the Steinhardt School for Culture, Education, and Human Development. Working there for several years myself, I loved running into her on campus, at poetry readings, or on the streets of the city. She always had a smile on her face, a story ready to share, and a new project in the works.
Professor Gordon Pradl remembers Bee with affection: “She was a gracious lady of the old school. . . with a dogged advocacy and support of people in the field. One could not wish for a warmer or more generous colleague than Bee.”
Bee believed that reading should be, more than anything else, a joyful experience. All 40 of her books promote love of reading and support both parents and teachers in the quest to help all children embrace words, poems, and stories. She was a past president of IRA and won NCTE’s 2003 Outstanding Educator Award, and her influence on literacy education was boundless.
Her comprehensive study, “Independent Reading and School Achievement,” funded by the United States Department of Education (1998-2000) offers compelling evidence that students who select their own books show remarkable growth as readers. “Bee was the one who compiled all that research, and I was grateful to her,” says Nancie Atwell, whose students have been selecting their own books to read more than 30 years. “Choice is the wellspring of literacy and literacy appreciation,” she writes.
Shelley Harwayne remembers Bee’s kindness when Manhattan New School opened in 1994. “We went out to her house on Long Island,” says Shelley, “And Bee put box after box of children’s books into the car. Those books became the heart of our new school.”
Professor Emeritus Bee Cullinan, writer, scholar, and lover of poems, shared her passion with everyone she met. She helped children find surprise, solace, and joy in reading. She loved a good meal and a good poem. I am going to miss her.
Atwell, Nancie 2014 In the Middle, Third Edition: A Lifetime of Learning about Writing, Reading, and Adolescents Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
Join us for a free online webinar with Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, “The 2 Sisters” on Wednesday, February 25, at 3:30 p.m. EST.
Whether you’re new to the Daily 5 literacy classroom management structure or have been using it for years, this informative webinar will give you practical ideas that you can use immediately to build student independence and success.
Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (“The 2 Sisters”), authors of the Daily 5, will present live on-camera, and the webinar will feature an exclusive clip from their new video, Up & Running with the Daily 5. At the end of the presentation, Gail & Joan will answer questions from attendees submitted in advance or during the webinar. You’ll get tips on introducing Daily 5 tasks, teaching behaviors, building student independence, and more. Space for this free webinar is limited, so register now! @StenhousePub will be live tweeting the event using #Daily5Tips.
We sat down with Kelly Gallagher recently to talk about his new book, In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom. In this clip Kelly talks about the book and cites the potential overemphasis on close reading as an example of where application of CCSS can go awry.
The issues swirling around the adoption of the newest set of standards, much like the issues generated by the NCLB era, have again diverted our focus from the best practices of literacy instruction.
In his new book, In the Best Interest of Students, Kelly Gallagher takes stock of how recent educational reforms have driven changes in classroom instruction that are counter to what we know works. He invites fellow educators to pause in the midst of the tumult and remind themselves to do right by their students—to ensure that their reading, writing, speaking, and listening are grounded in deep thinking—and to foster a lifelong desire to read.
Kelly helps you navigate standards and the realities that accompany them while not neglecting proven literacy practices. You’ll get concrete examples of where the Common Core and other state standards provide a target for good instruction, and where they fall short. And you’ll get dozens of practical lessons and instructional strategies that Kelly successfully employs in his own classroom.
In the Best Interest of Students will leave you ready to respond to the pressures you encounter during this time of rapid change, keeping your focus on the best interest of your students. You’ll gain a clearer understanding of when to embrace the standards, and when to take a different course.
Preview Chapter 1 online, and when you preorder the print version of the book with code BESTEBOOK by February 16th you’ll get the e-book for free, and we’ll waive the shipping charge.