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.)

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Posted in Article Medleys, Finland, Gates, Literacy, read-alouds, reading, reading recovery, Review, vouchers, Walsh

2016 Medley #9

Book Review, Vouchers, Reading Recovery, Reading Instruction, Read-Aloud, Gates, Finland

NOT JUST FOR PARENTS

Russ Walsh’s new book, A Parent’s Guide to Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for My Child, is now available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

Walsh is a literacy expert, Coordinator of College Reading at Rider University, and blogger at Russ on Reading.

A Parent’s Guide to Education in the 21st Century isn’t just for parents. It’s for anyone who wants to understand the “reform” agenda and what it has done to American public education. Call it “reform” 101. Walsh clearly outlines the ways that the “reform” movement has damaged the nation’s public education system and harmed the education of children.

It’s not misnamed, however. He includes chapters for parents (of benefit to teachers as well) on identifying a good school, good instruction, and helping children succeed.

The book begins with his Bill of Rights for School Children…which ought to be posted in every public school in the nation…and includes informative chapters on standardized tests, the privatization of public education, and the Common Core. A must read…

For example, from Chapter 3: Readiness For School

It is not your child’s job to be ready for school; it is the school’s job to be ready for your child, and to meet your child’s needs through rich curriculum, highly trained teachers and a system of learning supports.

…and from Chapter 11: School Choice: Charter Schools and Vouchers

In our society we have come to recognize that choice is a good thing as long as it does not interfere with others’ choices. What if an inner-city parent’s choice is to send a child to a clean, safe, well-resourced, professionally staffed, neighborhood public school? By draining away the limited funds available for public education, charter schools and voucher schemes infringe on that parent’s choice. It would be wise to spend our public tax monies on providing good local public schools. In public education, as with smoking and seatbelts and the military, the government must choose to limit our choice in order to provide for, as the Constitution says, “the common good.” Public education is a common good that privatization in the form of charters and vouchers will destroy.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Less-than-full disclosure

The distribution of public tax money ought to be under the watchful eye of the public. Elected school boards, no matter what their limitations, are held accountable to the public through elections. Every penny in every public school in Indiana is accounted for. Why, then, is money awarded to private schools through vouchers or to SGOs to award “scholarships” to private schools, with no public oversight whatsoever?

What happened to the $116 million that Indiana spent on privatization in 2014-2015 (and even more for the current year)? Was it used for instruction? If so, how did the students perform? Was the money used for building additions, church steeples, or CEO salaries?

For taxpayers, however, there’s a gaping hole in accountability. Reports are available for public schools, including charters; not for voucher schools. The state awarded almost $116 million to private and parochial schools in 2014-15, but the General Assembly does not require posting and publication of voucher school performance reports.

After 10-year fight, Md. lawmakers vote to fund private-school scholarships

The Democrats in Maryland have abandoned public education in favor of vouchers. Which of the two main political parties do public educators turn to now?

After years of resisting, and over the objections of the state teachers union, Maryland lawmakers have agreed to state-funded private-school scholarships.

The decision to create a $5 million grant program was part of the negotiations on the state’s $42 billion operating budget, which received final approval in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly on Tuesday.

TEACHING READING

Robert Slavin on the Success and Promise of Reading Recovery

I was trained in Reading Recovery in 1999 and taught in the program for seven years. I used the techniques and knowledge I gained even after the program was canceled. I still use the skills I learned as a Reading Recovery teacher in my volunteer work with first graders.

Reading Recovery is a one-on-one tutoring program for at-risk first graders. It works, but because it’s a program for individual students, it’s expensive. A Reading Recovery teacher can only work with a few students during the school year. Most school systems in my part of the state have stopped using it because of funding shortages.

Yet, how important is teaching reading to a first grader? How much is it worth? Is it worth the cost of a $2 billion mobile cannon which was never used? Is it worth the tax we ought to be, but aren’t, collecting from GE, CBS, or Mattel? Is it worth the money spent to (over)compensate Wall St. Execs who caused the Great Recession?

Would it be worth it if we could pay the salaries (at @ $90,000 salary and benefits) of more than 2,000 Reading Recovery teachers for the next 10 years with the money we spent on the cannon that was never used? My guess is that the city of Flint, Michigan might need some extra help for the next few years.

Instead we’re spending billions of dollars on standardized tests, vouchers, and charters…as well as cannons, tax write offs, and exorbitant salaries.

Priorities, America. Priorities.

“…in schools throughout the United States and in other countries, there is a well-defined group of struggling readers that can readily be taught to read. The evidence establishes, beyond any doubt, that nothing about these children means they are doomed to fail in reading.”

…“In a country as wealthy as the United States,” he says, “why should every struggling reader not have access to Reading Recovery or a tutoring program with equal evidence of effectiveness? The reading success of first graders is far too important to leave to chance, yet in this as in many other areas of education reform, vulnerable children are left to chance every day. Why can’t educators use what they know to solve the problems they can solve, while working at the same time to expand their knowledge?”

10 Reading Instruction Non-Negotiables

Here’s a second shout-out to Russ Walsh. Along with his Bill of Rights for School Children, this list of non-negotiables for a good reading program ought to be required reading for parents, teachers, and school administrators.

Here he lists components of a true reading program instead of the prepackaged test prep and constant assessment that is strangling the joy of reading in our schools. His list includes things like shared reading, self-selected reading, rereading, and word work, complete with research to back everything up.

Here’s what he says about my favorite part of the teaching day, Reading Aloud…

One of the more disturbing aspects of current trends in literacy education is the reports I keep getting from classroom teachers who tell me that reading aloud is being discouraged because it is not “rigorous” enough or because more time needs to be devoted to test prep. So, let me state this as clearly as I possibly can, read aloud is a central part of effective literacy instruction and should be happening daily in every classroom. This is not open for debate. Don’t take my word for it, here is a list of 13 scientifically based reasons for reading aloud to children. Among these well researched benefits are exposing students to a greater variety of literature, encouraging students to view reading as a part of their daily life, building background knowledge, providing a model of fluent reading, encouraging student talk about text, increasing vocabulary and helping students view reading as a pleasurable activity. Here is another resource on the importance of reading aloud.

When choosing a read aloud, I would encourage teachers to choose the very best that literature and informational text has to offer, whether that be picture books, novels, histories or scientific texts. When reading aloud, we can aim high because kids listening comprehension outpaces their reading comprehension by about two years and because we can easily scaffold their understanding by “thinking aloud” about the text as we read. Read aloud also provides a great opportunity for teachers to model important comprehension strategies. Just do it.

Need more resources for reading aloud?

BILLIONAIRES ARE NOT EDUCATION EXPERTS

Hillsborough schools to dismantle Gates-funded system that cost millions to develop

When are we going to stop taking education advice from Bill Gates? When are we going to quit letting him experiment with America’s students?

Just because Bill Gates is rich doesn’t mean he knows anything about the education of children.

[Superintendent] Eakins said he envisions a new program featuring less judgmental “non-evaluative feedback” from colleagues and more “job-embedded professional development,” which is training undertaken in the classroom during the teacher work day rather than in special sessions requiring time away from school. He said in his letter that these elements were supported by “the latest research.”

PROTECT CHILDREN

Why Finnish school students lead the world on Life Matters

Here’s an Australian radio interview with Fulbright Scholar William Doyle about Finnish education. He talks about the strong teaching profession, and the focus on how to help children learn, rather than how to be #1 in educational assessment.

A Finnish teacher quoted by William Doyle

Our job is to protect children from politicians.

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Posted in Alfie Kohn, Article Medleys, Charters, Duncan, Evaluations, Literacy, NCLB, Public Ed

2014 Medley #19

Good Teachers, Bad Teachers, Blackmail, Democracy, Charters, Literacy

DEFINE ‘GOOD TEACHER’

A Dozen Essential Guidelines for Educators

For the last several years Alfie Kohn has been blogging for Psychology Today under the title of The Homework Myth: How to Fix Schools so Kids Really Learn. Last October he wrote a list of “core principles” which he said would help give our children the schools they deserve. Read these two before you read the next article…

11. All learning can be assessed, but the most important kinds of learning are very difficult to measure—and the quality of that learning may diminish if we try to reduce it to numbers.

12. Standardized tests assess the proficiencies that matter least. Such tests serve mostly to make unimpressive forms of instruction appear successful.

Other Data: 20 Signs You’re Actually Making A Difference As A Teacher

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” — Attributed to Albert Einstein (See here)

What do students remember about their teachers?

When I meet students I have had in class over the last 4 decades they invariably bring up one thing — the books I read to them. No one has ever mentioned spelling words, or math problems, or even recess. No one brings up standardized tests, reading vocabulary or subjects and predicates.

Several of my students who have become teachers have written to tell me that they are reading one of the same books I read to their class.

Of course teachers must teach content, how to read and how to add and subtract. But students learn because of who the teacher is…not just because the teacher presents material. How do you know that you’re doing something right as a teacher? Here are a few ways…

1. Your students are asking questions, not just giving answers…
3. You have listened as often as you have lectured. Another lesson in authority…
4. Your shy students start participating more often without being prompted…
5. A student you’ve encouraged creates something new with her talents…
6. You’ve been told by a student that, because of something you showed them, they enjoy learning outside of class…
12. You’ve let your passions show through in your lessons…
16. One of your students becomes an educator…

DEFINE ‘BAD TEACHER’

Ten Reform Claims That Teachers Should Know How to Challenge

What constitutes a “bad teacher?” Arne Duncan, and his host of “reformers” claim that it’s student test scores.

Claim 4: It should be easier to fire bad teachers. Tenure is a problem.

Response: Lots of teachers agree with you. But can you describe your plan for firing bad teachers and not good ones? How will you separate the two groups? How will you make sure that only the bad teachers are impacted by this?

…Claim 10: Teachers only work nine months a year.

Response: Can you tell me how many hours you work in a year? Can you guess how many hours I work in a year? Can you guess three things that I might be doing in the summer to get ready for September?

Harper’s Index

Average number of hours per week U.S. public-school teachers are required to work to receive base pay : 38

Average number they actually work : 52

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (Washington)

DUNCAN BLACKMAILS STATES

Superintendents forced to tell parents their schools are failing, even though they aren’t

Arne Duncan has blackmailed states into accepting his idea of school “reform” — more charter schools and teachers evaluations based on test scores. If states don’t do what he demands they they are thrown back into the pit of No Child Left Behind where everyone fails.

Twenty-eight superintendents from the State of Washington added a cover letter to the required NCLB letter. The NCLB letter tells the parents that their child’s school is a “failure.” The superintendents’ cover letter let’s them know that it’s NCLB and the U.S. DOE which has failed, not their child’s school.

The label of “failing” schools is regressive and punitive, as nearly every Washington school will not meet the NCLB Requirements. Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled “failing” by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working.

Even Duncan’s own Department of Education understands that NCLB is a punitive, damaging law. That’s why they allowed the waivers in the first place. But, your state can only be excused from the stupidity of NCLB by adopting equally damaging “reforms.” Since the state of Washington hasn’t followed his rules he is forcing them back to the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Duncan’s petulance will punish schools, teachers, and students. Education doesn’t matter. Learning doesn’t matter.

… instead of giving strings-free waivers, the department designed a list of school-reform hoops that states had to promise to jump through in order to receive one. Those included the establishment of assessment systems that link teacher evaluations to student standardized-test scores, a highly controversial practice…

There is a consequence to having an NCLB waiver pulled. It means that the state has to revert back to meeting all of the requirements of the law —even those requirements that Education Secretary Arne Duncan himself had said repeatedly were unattainable.

“We’ve got 60 languages, we’ve got high mobility, we’ve got high poverty,” Frank Hewins, superintendent of the Franklin Pierce School District, said Wednesday. “When you have students with those challenges, the metrics established by this law are nonsensical.”

28 superintendents to parents: Schools are not failing

The additional letter tells parents that nearly every school in Washington won’t meet the No Child Left Behind requirements this year, and that the 28 superintendents are “proud of the significant academic progress our students are making.”

“Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials – as well as the U.S. Department of Education – acknowledges isn’t working,” the superintendents’ letter says.

EDUCATION IN A DEMOCRACY

The founding fathers understood the importance of an educated populace.

Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” and “[T]he tax which will be paid for this purpose [education] is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

Madison wrote, “Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.”

Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

And John Adams plainly agreed that public education was so important that the people ought to pay for it. “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

The government, then, has a vested interest in making sure that everyone has the opportunity to be educated to the extent that they are able (and not, as Mitt Romney said, just to the extent they can afford). It’s the government’s responsibility to see that…

  • all children are afforded an equitable education
  • students are prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship
  • students can grow to be economically self-sufficient
  • tax money used for public education is used responsibly

Home School Upheaval: Texas Court Rules Against Religious Freedom Right To Unregulated Home Education

There’s also a well-established legal right to home school. But that right, like all rights, is subject to certain restrictions. Parents do have the right to home school, but they don’t have the right to provide their children with a substandard education or, like the McIntyres, deny their children an education altogether. The law is clear: You can believe Jesus is coming back at midnight if you want. You can even tell your children that it’s a fact.

But you still have to teach them how to read.

CHARTERS

Charter schools claim to be public schools when they want public money, but then they claim they are private entities when they are expected to be responsible with the money.

Lawsuit: Virtual charter school owes $600K for services

Indiana Cyber Charter School, a virtual charter with locations in Fort Wayne and Avon, is accused of not paying Pennsylvania-based National Network of Digital Schools for contracted services and not following through with an additional repayment plan agreement. National Network filed the lawsuit July 25 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.. . . The school listed 200 students enrolled for 2013-14 academic year, according to state data. Passage rate for this spring’s ISTEP exam was 54.4 percent — 20 percentage points lower than the state average.

NJEA decries ‘massive corporate takeover’ of Camden schools

The NJEA supported the original law, passed in 2012, but said the amended bill would allow charter-school expansion that ran counter to the original intent of the legislation.

California state auditor probing LA’s Magnolia charter schools

After sampling transactions from Magnolia campuses in 2012, L.A. Unified found over $43,000 in duplicate payments to vendors, flagging those as potential misuse of funds.

The Los Angeles Unified school board ordered a second audit in 2014, voting to close two of the schools if any fiscal problems arose.

IMPROVE LITERACY

COLUMN: Boosting children’s literacy skills in four easy ways

This is a good list of things everyone should do to increase literacy. I would also add (among other things)…

Parental education is essential…

Challenge yourself to devote 20 to 30 minutes a day to boosting a child’s literacy skills. It could not only change the way that child starts the school year, but it could also change his or her life. 

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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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