Posted in Jim Trelease, Parents, read-alouds, reading

A Father’s Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father’s Day post…with changes.

READING ALOUD

I read aloud to my students from my very first day as an elementary school teacher beginning in 1976. I had caught the read-aloud bug from the late Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors. I had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I’ve referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because reading aloud is simply one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

My collection of Read-Aloud Handbook editions,
several of which have been signed by the author, Jim Trelease.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.

Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains…it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains…and, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:

  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the latest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What’s the score?

In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.

  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.

(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads….Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America’s “male” culture has been dominated by politics, sports and television, and boys watch their role models carefully. Among those men in important cultural and political positions in America are abusers, racists, and misogynists. It’s more important than ever that fathers exert role-model influence over their sons.

The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.

“Is there a connection,” he asks, between the “decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?”

Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.

The question is…do they? Do fathers take part in their children’s, and specifically their sons’, intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.

Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father’s Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.

📕📙📘
Posted in Jim Trelease, Literacy, read-alouds

Teacher Appreciation Day: Read Aloud

Charlotte’s Web has been a favorite read aloud of third grade teachers for decades…probably since 1952, the year it was published.

I first heard the book when my third grade teacher, Mrs. Gilbert (Philip Rogers School in Chicago) read it out loud during the 1956-57 school year. It was the first novel I remember hearing a teacher read aloud in school, and it had a significant effect on me and my future.

  • I remembered it when I was a student in the education department at IPFW.
  • I remembered it when I became a father and began reading aloud to my children.
  • I remembered it once I started teaching and began reading aloud to my own classes.
  • I remembered it when I discovered the Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.
  • I still remember it as I read aloud to a friend’s third grade class when I volunteer.

For Teacher Appreciation Day, 2017, I’m reposting an entry, with some minor changes, from 2013 about reading aloud.

In appreciation of three of my favorite teachers, and the three who most influenced my growth as a teacher – Mrs. Gilbert, Dr. Lowell Madden, and Jim Trelease – who taught me that reading aloud is still the most important part of reading instruction…

July 1, 2013

JIM TRELEASE

In 2008 I wrote that Jim Trelease was going to retire. This year, just about a week ago in fact, he released the seventh and final edition of The Read Aloud Handbook. The first Penguin edition of his book was published in 1982, but I was already familiar with The Read Aloud Handbook three years before it was published by Penguin.

In 1979 I ordered a pamphlet on reading aloud from the Weekly Reader Book Club. I had earned my teaching certificate before the 1976-77 school year and had been reading to my third graders every day…just like Dr. Madden (Lowell E. Madden, education professor at Indiana/Purdue Fort Wayne) taught me to do.

Dr. Madden impressed upon us the importance of reading aloud…and for the 19 years (out of 35) I spent in a general education classroom it was my favorite part of the day. I read to all my classes…kindergarten through 6th grade…Where the Wild Things Are and Junie B. Jones through The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I can’t remember ever missing a day. It was my belief — and it still is — that reading aloud to children is the most important thing that a teacher (or parent) can do to help their child(ren) succeed in reading.

The Read Aloud Handbook, Weekly Reader edition, was my first introduction to Jim Trelease and from that point on, reading aloud, which was already an important part of my reading instruction time, became even more important.

The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades. [emphasis added]

That quote from Becoming a Nation of Readers published some years later (1985) reinforced my desire and my determination to read aloud to my students every day.

As new editions of The Read Aloud Handbook were published I would buy them. When friends and family members had new babies, I would give copies of the book as gifts. When Jim Trelease visited Fort Wayne, which he did several times, I’d go hear him speak. I even started gathering a few autographs from the author.

[I took the Weekly Reader edition of the Read Aloud Handbook to one of his lectures. I stood in line for an autograph after the presentation and was delighted at his response. He acted like he just had a visit from a long lost friend.]

WHY READ ALOUD

According to the newest edition reading aloud helps a person become proficient at reading in two ways…

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the smarter you grow. [citation here]

Why does it work? Because having someone read to you is fun…humans like fun…they want that fun to continue so they are motivated to learn to do it on their own.

Trelease talks about reading achievement in the US compared to the rest of the world. We have, he says, some of the best nine-year old readers in the world, second only to Finland. By the time American kids are 14 however, they drop to eighth place. Would reading aloud to older students help?

READING ALOUD TO OLDER STUDENTS

Most primary teachers read to their students every or almost every day. As the children get older, however, the frequency of teacher read aloud diminishes. Part of this is because the curriculum is so much heavier in upper grades, and part of it is, of course, the pervasive and time consuming influence of testing and test-prep. By the time students are 14, barely half of their reading/English/literature teachers read to them…and almost no teachers of other subjects do.

An article titled Why Reading Aloud to Older Children Is Valuable argues that reading aloud to older students is still valuable.

“Research indicates that motivation, interest, and engagement are often enhanced when teachers read aloud to middle school students,” wrote research authors Lettie K. Albright and Mary Ariail. Teachers surveyed for the study cited modeling as their number-one reason for reading aloud.

The article also refers to Jim Trelease…

For Trelease, the power of shared words is a big reason to keep on reading aloud after children are able to read for themselves. Students might interject questions, comfortably wading into complicated or difficult subjects because they are happening to the characters in the story, and not to themselves. “Why do you think so many children’s stories have orphans as characters? Because every child either worries or fantasizes about being orphaned.”

While Trelease maintained that read-alouds can happen through any device (“Look at all the truckers listening to books on CD,” he said), and Lahey reads from a physical paper book, dogeared and scrawled with all her notes in the margins, both emphasized how students recall read-alouds with fond memories. Trelease recently received a letter from a retired teacher who reconnected online with former students some 30 years later. She wanted to know the one thing her former students remembered about her class.

“Without fail, it was the books she read to them.”

THEY REMEMBER

A few years before I retired I met a couple of my former third graders at a school function. They were in their early 20s, out of college, starting on their own careers. I asked them if they remembered being in third grade. They said the same thing that most of us say when we return to our elementary schools after becoming adults…”The school looks a lot smaller now.” Then one of them added…

I remember you were the one who read all those books to us…

…and he proceeded to name off half a dozen of his favorites. Over the years I’ve gotten notes from former students telling me that they were reading a book to their children or their class which I had read to them when they were in my class. Reading aloud makes an impression…a positive one.

Wouldn’t it be nice if teachers at all grades could eliminate some of the test prep and spend more time reading to their students?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents read aloud to their children? (Parent hint: Start when your baby is an infant…day one. Don’t stop till they leave home for good.)

📚📚📚
Posted in Jim Trelease, Parents, read-alouds, reading

A Father’s Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father’s Day post…with changes.

READING ALOUD

I started teaching elementary school in 1976 and from my very first day as a teacher I read aloud to my students. I had caught the read aloud bug from Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors and had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I’ve referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because I’m convinced that reading aloud is one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us that  [Emphasis added]

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” 

In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.

Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains…it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains…but, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:

  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the newest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What’s the score?

In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.

  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.

(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads….Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America’s “male” culture has been dominated by sports and television — ESPN (and ESPN2, ESPN Classic, etc.), Monday Night Football, and others — and boys watch their role models carefully.

The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.

“Is there a connection,” he asks, between the “decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?”

Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.

The question is…do they? Do fathers take part in their children’s, and specifically their sons’, intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.

Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father’s Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.

###
Posted in Jim Trelease, Parents, read-alouds, reading

A Father’s Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children

I posted this last year on Father’s Day…here it is again with slight modifications.

READING ALOUD

I started teaching elementary school in 1976 and from my very first day as a teacher I read aloud to my students. I had caught the read aloud bug from Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors and had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I’ve referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because I’m convinced that reading aloud is one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us that

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” [Emphasis added]

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” 

In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.

Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains…it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains…but, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:

  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their children become better readers.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the newest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What’s the score?

In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.

  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.

(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads….Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America’s “male” culture has been dominated by sports and television — ESPN (and ESPN2, ESPN Classic, etc.), Monday Night Football, and others — and boys watch their role models carefully.

The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.

“Is there a connection,” he asks, between the “decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?”

Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.

The question is…do they? Do fathers take part in their children’s, and specifically their sons’, intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.

Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father’s Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.

~~~

The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
~~~
~~~

~~~
Posted in Common Core, Gates, Jim Trelease, read-alouds, reading

Read Aloud…Just Because

READ-ALOUD

Sometime after 1979, while teaching third grade in Monroeville, Indiana, I ordered a book from the Weekly Reader Book Club titled Read-Aloud Handbook for Parents and Teachers. I had been reading to my classes since I started teaching…but I bought the book because it included a “Detailed guide to more than 150 read-alouds” and I welcomed the list of more books to read.

The Read-Aloud Handbook for Parents and Teachers started me on a career-long fanship of Jim Trelease and Read-Aloud. I not only read to my students, I became an active advocate of Read-Aloud. I gave presentations on Reading Aloud, I talked to teachers and parents about Read-Aloud, and I began the tradition of giving a copy of the Read-Aloud Handbook for Parents and Teachers (which has since been expanded and gone through 7 printings) to colleagues when they (or their spouse) gave birth to their first child.

RESEARCH BASED

Reading aloud to children helps improve reading.

In 1985 the report of the Commission on Reading, Becoming a Nation of Readers, had this to say about reading aloud (p. 23)…

The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.

Teachers know that motivation to read is self-perpetuating. Once you get someone hooked on reading, they teach themselves.

And how exactly does a person become proficient at reading?…

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.

Better readers learn better, do better in school, and yes, even get better scores on tests. Reading aloud to students motivates students to read more, and it’s corollary, SSR (Sustained Silent Reading)  gives them the opportunity to read just for fun, with no strings attached, no consequences, no book reports, no tests…just to read for pleasure. Both, in combination, contribute to improved reading and increased learning.

Is it ok to teach while you read aloud? to ask questions? to have students predict what will happen next? to do all the things that teachers do to help students become better and more efficient readers (or in the case of read-aloud, listeners)? Of course.

However, reading aloud doesn’t always have to be connected to the curriculum or for some academic “purpose.” Trelease makes a point to mention this in Ch 4 of the Read-Aloud Handbook, The Dos and Don’ts of Read Aloud.

  • If you are a teacher, don’t feel you have to tie every book to class work. Don’t confine the broad spectrum of literature to the narrow limits of the curriculum…
  • Don’t impose interpretations of a story upon your audience. A story can be just plain enjoyable, no reason necessary, and still give you plenty to talk about. The highest literacy gains occur with children who have access to discussions following a story…

Discuss a book after it’s finished…but don’t interrupt the flow of the reading to ask questions. Let the students ask questions during reading if they want to…the teacher’s job in reading aloud is to…Read. Aloud.

IS THIS A “MAJOR SHIFT” BROUGHT ABOUT BY CCSS?

Reading aloud for pleasure is important so I understand why Nancy Bailey is outraged at an article in Education Week about reading aloud. In Stealing the Joy of Reading—How Common Core Destroys Reading Pleasure she comes down on the side of research-based reading for pleasure.

Education Week is having a webinar on new approaches to reading aloud in K-2nd grade (New Strategies for Reading Aloud to K-2 Students, Thurs. June 18, 2-3 p.m ET). The underwriting for the webinar is through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and with Common Core the idea is that you must move away from the “cozy” reading gatherings to “crafting questions that guide children back to the text to build vocabulary, content knowledge, and evidence-based understanding of the text.”

What a complete lack of trust in children! To manipulate this sacrosanct process in honor of Common Core programming is nothing less than heresy!

As a parent and teacher I am here to tell you the most important thing anyone can do with a young child (and even an older one) is read aloud to them. It’s so simple—so pure in its intent and approach! Teachers, parents and librarians have been thrilling children for years by simply reading aloud. Questions flow naturally. It needs no fine tuning!

To make educators and parents feel like they must subscribe to constructing questions, and emphasizing vocabulary and content knowledge as they read, is harmful. To imply you require evidence the child obtained knowledge from the book destroys the sheer beauty of reading for pleasure.

There is a time and place for analyzing text—especially as children get older—but not during story hour. No way!

Sometimes teachers read aloud to their students for a purpose — to introduce a theme, or to support curricular areas like science and social studies. But the true value of reading aloud is that it motivates students which encourages them to read more. That is what the research shows.

The article in Education Week, written by Catherine Gewertz, says this…

New Read-Aloud Strategies Transform Story Time

What’s happening in Ms. Landahl’s classroom at Ruby Duncan Elementary School reflects a major shift in reading instruction brought about by the Common Core State Standards. In place in more than 40 states, the standards expect children to read text carefully and be able to cite evidence from it to back up their interpretations. That approach requires teachers to pose “text-dependent” questions—those that can be answered only with a detailed understanding of the material, rather than from students’ own experience. And it’s not just for complex high school books; it’s increasingly being used in reading stories aloud to young children…

Reading aloud to children has a long history as a powerful classroom technique to build foundational literacy skills. It exposes children to different kinds of text structures and language, builds awareness of how sounds are connected to words, and demonstrates phrasing and fluency. Most importantly, in the eyes of many educators, it can foster a loving—and they hope lifetime—relationship with reading.

Increasingly, K-2 teachers are using new questioning techniques as they read aloud to their students. They’re designed to focus children on the meaning of the text, rather than their personal reactions to it.

Some experts worry, however, that an approach like RAP’s can undermine the joy of the read-aloud.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t turn them off more than we turn them on,” said Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook. It’s important to prepare children for a challenging book by acquainting them with its new vocabulary, he said. But “breaking up the story constantly with, ‘Let’s talk about this,’ and ‘What about that?,’ Well, gee, how about the plot? All that stopping and starting can become an impediment.”

Is this a “major shift in reading instruction brought about by the Common Core State Standards?”

No. Absolutely not. Unless you call taking credit for something that teachers have been doing for years a “major shift.”

Others noticed this, too. Take a look at a couple of the comments after this article…

“Early childhood teachers have been doing interactive read-alouds, with lots of time for discussion and deep comprehension, for years. Why this is being presented as a new and innovative thing is curious. It has nothing to do with Common Core, and everything to do with good teaching.”

and

“Teachers have been using these strategies for years; the Common Core may have caused some school systems to focus on them, but they are hardly new or innovative.”

The Common Core didn’t introduce “‘text-dependent’ questions” or a quest for “detailed understanding of the material.” Fact-based questions have been part of reading instruction and reading tests since I was a student in the 50s and 60s…and most likely earlier.

There is, however, something in the Education Week article that I object to…

…”text-dependent” questions—those that can be answered only with a detailed understanding of the material, rather than from students’ own experience. [emphasis added]

and

They’re designed to focus children on the meaning of the text, rather than their personal reactions to it. [emphasis added]

I find this to be very disturbing, and perhaps this is what angered Nancy Bailey, as well. “Bringing personal reactions to [text]” is important. A “student’s own experience” (aka prior knowledge), which Education Week seems to denigrate as not necessary, is vitally important to an individual’s understanding of text. It’s possible just to regurgitate facts from text — answering “text-dependent” questions if one reads the text carefully — but for a deep understanding one must react to the text.

I like to think that a good book is more a conversation with the author, rather than a lecture. In a conversation both parties participate. If you just want to learn facts to vomit back on some standardized test (pun intended) then participation is irrelevant. If you want to understand, then you need to be involved in the text, and that means you bring your own experience and reactions with you into the story [This also means that teachers when reading aloud, ought to bring their own experiences and reactions with them into the story as they read]. What Education Week appears to be suggesting is that the focus should only be on learning facts — answers to “‘text-dependent’ questions.” Higher level thinking through inferring, evaluating, comparing, etc., is not necessary.

My hunch is that this article in Education Week and the webinar that accompanies it are mostly about providing positive press about the Common Core to teachers. The webinar is, after all, underwritten by Bill Gates who has almost single handedly underwritten the Common Core itself (see HERE, HERE, and HERE).

Unfortunately, the Common Core is flawed...

Two committees made up of 135 people wrote the standards – and not one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood education professional. When the CCSS were first released, more than 500 early childhood professionals signed a Joint Statement opposing the standards on the grounds that they would lead to long hours of direct instruction; more standardized testing; and would crowd out highly important active, play-based learning. All of this has come to pass.

JUST BECAUSE

Teachers (and parents) ought to read aloud to their students.

They ought to discuss the books after they finish. They can use books in different ways to benefit their students. They ought to also activate prior knowledge before they start reading. They ought to encourage their students to bring their own feelings and experiences with them when they listen. They ought to — and they have been — for a long time.

Sometimes, however, it’s nice just to read a good book together.

Just because.

~~~

The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

~~~
Stop the Testing Insanity!
~~~
~~~
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Posted in Article Medleys, David Berliner, Gerald Bracey, Jim Trelease, John Kuhn, Jonathan Kozol, KenRobinson, Public Ed, Quotes, Ravitch, Teaching Career

2013 in Quotes

This is the 151st and last post of 2013 for this blog. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it’s pages during the past year. The quotes are my words, unless otherwise (and often) noted. Go to the links provided for the original context of the quotes.

JANUARY

2013 Medley #2

“I’ll say it until the day I die: I am proud to be an American public school teacher. I am proud of the great kids of this country. I am proud to be a part of a system that produces such fine young men and women.” — Jersey Jazzman

FEBRUARY

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – Feb.2013

If we privatize public schools now, then the public oversight will be lost and our descendents will have a hard time recovering it. Public schools don’t belong to the parents of children attending them today. They belong to us all…everyone who has ever attended…everyone who has ever paid taxes…everyone who has ever been a part of the community.

Teachers’ Low Job Satisfaction – Let the Bashing Continue

“The American teacher stands on the front lines of poverty and inequity that our fellow Americans refuse to acknowledge, on the front lines of the real social condition of our nation–not the advertised one–and we stand together. When we look over our shoulders, there’s no one there backing us up. The rest of the army is off pretending there is no fight to be had here, no excuses to be made, no hardships to decry, no supply lines to worry about, that things in American society are just hunky-dory outside of the fact that the teachers just don’t care enough…” — John Kuhn, Superintendent of superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, Perrin, Texas

MARCH

A Superintendent’s Voice

“…History will recognize that the epithets they applied to your schools said more about leaders who refused to confront child poverty than the teachers who tried valiantly to overcome it. History will recognize that teachers in these bleak years stood in desperate need of public policy help that never came. Advocacy for hurting children was ripped from our lips with a shush of “no excuses.” These hateful labels should be hung around the necks of those who have allowed inequitable school funding to persist for decades, those who refuse to tend to the basic needs of our poorest children so that they may come to school ready to learn.” — John Kuhn

APRIL

Can You Buy Your Way to a Better Education?

“People agree with everything I say,” Kozol continued. “They say, ‘Yes, it is unfair they don’t get as much per pupil as our children.’ Then they say, ‘Tell me one thing. Can you really solve this kind of problem by throwing money at it?’ And I say, ‘You mean, can you really buy your way to a better education? It seems to work for your children.'” — Jonathan Kozol

MAY

Myths Taken as Reality

When something is repeated often enough it becomes “common knowledge” even if it’s not completely true. “Reformers” and others who have the destruction of America’s public education system as part of their agenda, repeat the myth that “American schools are failing” over and over again. They have done that so often that it’s accepted as truth. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.

Thank a Teacher

“Bail out the bankers and bankrupt the school teachers — we will still teach…I will never follow the lead of those who exclude the kids who need education the most so that my precious scores will rise. I will never line up with those whose idea of reform is the subtle segregation of the poor and desperate. I want no part of the American caste system.” — John Kuhn

JUNE

This Just In: New Data Confirms Old Data

“When people have said ‘poverty is no excuse,’ my response has been, ‘Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.'” — Gerald Bracey

An Open Reply to President Obama

…even though you, Mr. President, have said that we have too much testing, your Race to the Top program requires teachers to be evaluated using student test scores. Standardized tests used to evaluate student achievement were not made to evaluated teaching and learning. I don’t know if you learned anything about tests and measurements when you were in law school, but if you did you would know that tests should only be used for that for which they were developed. If you develop a test for use as a measure of student achievement, then that’s what it should be used for…and only that.

JULY

Reading Aloud: Still the Most Important Part of Reading Instruction

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” — from Becoming a Nation of Readers, quoted in The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease

The Schools America’s Children Deserve

Money doesn’t solve all the problems by itself. It must be spent wisely. One of the things about the “increase” in school funding in a lot of places, or the “huge amount of the state budget directed at public education” in some states is that the money is being spent on testing and test prep materials. The students don’t get the full benefits of increased revenues…but the testing industry does.

Talking Education: Educate Yourself

Our teachers are drowning in a sea of standards and testing, scripted curricula and increasing class sizes, accusations and blame. Is it any wonder that many of them have neither the time nor the energy to fight back against the billions of dollars worth of insults and abuse hurled against them as a profession?

AUGUST

Make a Positive Impact on Students

Teachers touch the future by relating to their students. Our students will learn from us and remember us for the kind of people we are, not for the homework we assign, the lectures we give, or the standardized tests we administer. Content knowledge, pedagogy and assessment are important, of course, but in order to make a positive impact on students’ lives, which is after all the main reason we are in this profession, teachers must build positive relationships with them.

Fighting Myths with Facts

Myth #4) Poverty is just an excuse.

False: Poverty matters.

“Thousands of studies have linked poverty to academic achievement. The relationship is every bit as strong as the connection between cigarettes and cancer.” —- David Berliner, Our Impoverished View of Ed. Reform, Aug. 2005

Test Scores: Punishing Teachers

The myth of the bad teacher resonates with the general public in part because nearly everyone has been to school and has seen teachers teach. Everyone remembers a “bad” teacher — often defined as “a teacher my parents or I didn’t like” (This is not to deny that “bad” teachers exist, but many, if not most, are weeded out in the first 5 years of their career where nearly 50% quit or are “counseled” out). The memories of their childhood and/or young adulthood in school leads people to believe that teaching is simply providing information and being nice to children. The problem with this is that the memories are distorted by the fact that they are childhood memories complete with the lack of judgment and experience that comes with childhood.

SEPTEMBER

Share the Responsibility

You can’t make children learn just by raising or changing “standards,” increasing test cut scores, belittling and de-professionalizing teachers, while at the same time ignoring out-of-school factors. Spending millions on test-prep, test administration, and test result analysis is not investing in education. No amount of testing, and union bashing is going to help students who come to school hungry, sick, cold, terrified, and/or homeless.

Retention: Punishing Children

The fact is that as a nation, we don’t really care about student achievement. We care about test scores. If we really cared about student achievement we wouldn’t be closing schools whose students are struggling. We wouldn’t be evaluating teachers using test scores and punishing those teachers who work with the most difficult to educate students. We wouldn’t be rewarding “successful” schools with more funding, and we wouldn’t be replacing experienced educators with trainees.

OCTOBER

Duncan Shows His Ignorance – Again

Arne Duncan, remember, has no experience in educating children. His stint as CEO of Chicago Public Schools was focused on closing public schools and opening privately operated charters. Duncan’s college degree is in Sociology, the study of human social behavior, not education. His college and previous professional experience is in basketball. His closest brush with actual teaching was watching his mother tutor students. He never taught in a public school. He never even attended a public school.

It’s therefore understandable that he knows nothing — absolutely nothing — about the process of teaching and about what goes on in the classrooms of America’s public schools. He apparently doesn’t know that teachers are constantly evaluating their students. Standardized tests are, of course, not the only way that student evaluation occurs (and by this statement I am making an unfounded assumption that standardized tests do, indeed, evaluate student learning). Teachers give tests, quizzes and homework, lead discussions and observe student behavior and work…and in doing so, gain an understanding of a student’s progress.

Growing Poverty Affects Schools

“Every dollar that fattens the educational industrial complex–not only the testing industry and the inexperienced, ill-trained Teach for America but the corporations now collecting hundreds of millions of dollars to tell schools what to do–is a dollar diverted from what should be done now to address directly the pressing needs of our nation’s most vulnerable children, whose numbers continue to escalate, demonstrating the utter futility and self-serving nature of what is currently and deceptively called ‘reform.’” — Diane Ravitch

NOVEMBER

2013 Medley #23

“The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.” — Eduardo Porter, New York Times

Ken Robinson Nails it!

“Education doesn’t go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools. And the people who do it are the teachers and the students and if you remove their discretion it stops working…” — Sir Ken Robinson

Yet Another National Shame

“I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read ‘exemplary’ in the suburbs and ‘unacceptable’ in the slums?” — John Kuhn

DECEMBER

2013 Medley #27

Politicians, policy makers and pundits claim that it’s the schools and teachers who are to blame for low achievement. They do this in order to redirect the blame away from themselves and the inadequate safety nets provided for people living in poverty, the loss of jobs, and the inability of our leaders to deal with the effects of poverty.

The facts that nearly 25% of the nation’s children live in poverty and that approximately 50% of all school children are poor, are ignored when talking about academic achievement even though the correlation is clear.

President Bush II referred to the “soft bigotry of low expectations” when he was pushing for passage of No Child Left Behind. What we have now is the “hard bigotry of neglect and denial” towards our children who live in poverty.

2013 Medley #28

The failure of policy makers to deal with the side-effects of poverty (low birthweight of infants, drug and alcohol abuse, toxicity in cities, lack of health care, food insecurity, violence, lack of mental health services, mobility and absenteeism of children in school, lack of high quality preschools, lack of summer programs for children) is the number one problem affecting education in America.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Posted in Jim Trelease, read-alouds

Reading Aloud: Still the Most Important Part of Reading Instruction

JIM TRELEASE

Five years ago I wrote that Jim Trelease was going to retire. This year, just about a week ago in fact, he released the seventh and final edition of The Read Aloud Handbook. The first Penguin edition of his book was published in 1982, but I was already familiar with The Read Aloud Handbook three years before it was published by Penguin.

In 1979 I ordered a pamphlet on reading aloud from the Weekly Reader Book Club. I had earned my teaching certificate before the 1976-77 school year and had been reading to my third graders every day…just like Dr. Madden (Lowell E. Madden, education professor at Indiana/Purdue Fort Wayne) taught me to do.

Dr. Madden impressed upon us the importance of reading aloud…and for the 19 years (out of 35) I spent in a general education classroom it was my favorite part of the day. I read to all my classes…kindergarten through 6th grade…Where the Wild Things Are and Junie B. Jones through The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I can’t remember ever missing a day. It was my belief — and it still is — that reading aloud to children is the most important thing that a teacher (or parent) can do to help their child(ren) succeed in reading.

The Read Aloud Handbook, Weekly Reader edition, was my first introduction to Jim Trelease and from that point on, reading aloud, which was already an important part of my reading instruction time, became even more important.

The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades. [emphasis added]

That quote from Becoming a Nation of Readers published some years later (1985) reinforced my desire and my determination to read aloud to my students every day.

As new editions of The Read Aloud Handbook were published I would buy them. When friends and family members had new babies, I would give copies of the book as gifts. When Jim Trelease visited Fort Wayne, which he did several times, I’d go hear him speak. I even started gathering a few autographs from the author.

[I took the Weekly Reader edition of the Read Aloud Handbook to one of his lectures. I stood in line for an autograph after the presentation and was delighted at his response. He acted like he just had a visit from a long lost friend.]

WHY READ ALOUD

According to the newest edition reading aloud helps a person become proficient at reading in two ways…

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the smarter you grow. [citation here]

Why does it work? Because having someone read to you is fun…humans like fun…they want that fun to continue so they are motivated to learn to do it on their own.

Trelease talks about reading achievement in the US compared to the rest of the world. We have, he says, some of the best nine-year old readers in the world, second only to Finland. By the time American kids are 14 however, they drop to eighth place. Would reading aloud to older students help?

READING ALOUD TO OLDER STUDENTS

Most primary teachers read to their students every or almost every day. As the children get older, however, the frequency of teacher read aloud diminishes. Part of this is because the curriculum is so much heavier in upper grades, and part of it is, of course, the pervasive and time consuming influence of testing and test-prep. By the time students are 14, barely half of their reading/English/literature teachers read to them…and almost no teachers of other subjects do.

An article titled Why Reading Aloud to Older Children Is Valuable argues that reading aloud to older students is still valuable.

“Research indicates that motivation, interest, and engagement are often enhanced when teachers read aloud to middle school students,” wrote research authors Lettie K. Albright and Mary Ariail. Teachers surveyed for the study cited modeling as their number-one reason for reading aloud.

The article also refers to Jim Trelease…

For Trelease, the power of shared words is a big reason to keep on reading aloud after children are able to read for themselves. Students might interject questions, comfortably wading into complicated or difficult subjects because they are happening to the characters in the story, and not to themselves. “Why do you think so many children’s stories have orphans as characters? Because every child either worries or fantasizes about being orphaned.”

While Trelease maintained that read-alouds can happen through any device (“Look at all the truckers listening to books on CD,” he said), and Lahey reads from a physical paper book, dogeared and scrawled with all her notes in the margins, both emphasized how students recall read-alouds with fond memories. Trelease recently received a letter from a retired teacher who reconnected online with former students some 30 years later. She wanted to know the one thing her former students remembered about her class.

“Without fail, it was the books she read to them.”

A few years before I retired I met a couple of my former third graders at a school function. They were in their early 20s, out of college, starting on their own careers. I asked them if they remembered being in third grade. They said the same thing that most of us say when we return to our elementary schools after becoming adults…”The school looks a lot smaller now.” Then one of them added…

I remember you were the one who read all those books to us…

…and he proceeded to name off half a dozen of his favorites. Over the years I’ve gotten notes from former students telling me that they were reading a book to their children or their class which I had read to them when they were in my class. Reading aloud makes an impression…a positive one.

Wouldn’t it be nice if teachers at all grades could eliminate some of the test prep and spend more time reading to their students?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents read aloud to their children? (Parent hint: Start when your baby is an infant…day 1. Don’t stop till they leave home for good.)

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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