Twitter Chat Recap: #G2Great with Sara Holbrook, Michael Salinger, & Stephanie Harvey

On January 17, award-winning authors and writing experts Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger, with literacy specialist and best-selling author Stephanie Harvey, joined the Literacy Lenses #G2Great Twitter chat to talk about their book, From Striving to Thriving Writers: Strategies That Jump-Start Writing.

Topics covered during the chat include the importance of purposeful writing across genre and discipline, writing frameworks as tools to help jump-start writing while allowing for creativity, ways to motivate students while they are working through multiple drafts of their writing, and more.

To learn more about the 27 easy-to-teach frameworks that scaffold purposeful K–8 student writing and support effective written communication featured in From Striving to Thriving Writers, visit: www.scholastic.com/strivingwriters

You can view the full #G2Great Twitter chat hosted by Fran McVeigh and Dr. Mary Howard, here.

Here are highlights from the night’s discussion:

 

EDU Round-up: Summer Reading

If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that literacy should be a top priority for districts and communities year-round—in the classroom during the school year and at home during the summer.

In the Scholastic Teacher & Principal School Report, we heard that more than six in 10 educators (64%) promote literacy among students by encouraging summer reading—particularly those in elementary schools. Educators also told us that the public library is the number one source of access to books for kids over the summer (77%). 

So what does effective summer learning look like? To help prepare for the end of the school year, we collected EDU posts from the past three years focused on one thing: summer. From the importance of family engagement activities to implementing an ESL summer literacy camp, educators and Scholastic leadership share their experiences and best practices for preparing all students to make a “leap” in their literacy skills while school is out.

Keep an eye out! We’ll be sharing more thematic round-ups of past EDU posts throughout the year.

 

Let's Make Summer Learning Experiences Joyful, Rich and Rewarding

Pam Allyn, Senior Vice President, Innovation & Development at Scholastic Education, points to the need to infuse a powerful sense of joy, fun and learning into every child’s life, transforming them into Super Readers.

4 Easy Ways to Enliven and Inspire the Pleasure and Purpose of Summer Reading

Pam Allyn lists her tips for lifelong readers to encourage and inspire students to think outside the box when it comes to summer reading.

Year-Round (and that includes summer!) Reading Routines

C.C. Bates, Associate Professor Of Literacy Education and Director of the Clemson University Reading Recovery® and Early Literacy Training Center, details the Reading Recovery® early intervention initiative.

Avoiding the Summer Slide: Encouraging and Celebrating Reading

Dr. Mark Benigni and Barbara Haeffner from Meriden Public Schools explain the origin and impact of the district’s MPS Summer Learning Adventure K–3 summer school program.

School's Out! Time to Reflect, Plan, and Enjoy the Summer

Madeline Boskey, a developmental psychologist and literacy consultant, provides tips for reflecting on the academic year, looking ahead to the next one, and facing the present.

Summer Is Right Around the Corner. Is Your School Ready?

Kelli Cedo, Pre-K—Secondary Language Arts Curriculum Lead for Hampton City Schools, outlines the implementation of her school’s summer enrichment program, based on end-of-year and beginning-of-year student reading data.

Let’s Pledge to Make Literacy a Year-Round Priority

Michael Haggen, Chief Academic Officer of Scholastic Education, explores how summer reading is an integral and achievable piece in any district’s comprehensive literacy plan.

Shared Literacy Community Values: Step into ESL LitCamp

Dr. Kenneth Kunz, K–12 Supervisor of Curriculum & Instruction at Middlesex Public Schools, details his district’s experience implementing its first-ever LitCamp for ESL students.

Family Engagement Supports Literacy Achievement

Paul Liabenow, Executive Director of Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, shares the critical need for increased support for students in kindergarten through third grade as they become readers.

Ready, Set, Read: How Hillside Public Schools Got Reading Over the Summer

Dr. Christy Oliver-Hawley, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at Hillside Public Schools, explains how her district’s summer reading kick-off event engaged students and families.

Empowering Students and Families to Address Summer Reading Loss in Greenville, SC and Stoughton, MA

Dr. Andrea A. Rizzo, Director of Research & Validation at Scholastic, shares the impressive results of two summer reading research studies, one in Greenville, SC and one in Stoughton, MA.

A Summer Reading Movement, Emerging from Family Engagement

Dr. Ansel Sanders, President and CEO of Public Education Partners, details Make Summer Count—a summer reading initiative in Greenville, SC designed to target the summer reading slide for the community’s most vulnerable elementary students. 

Striving and Thriving: Supporting All Students in Summer Reading

Eileen Sprague, PK-5 Humanities Curriculum Administrative Supervisor for Stoughton Public School District, discusses the benefits of building students’ home libraries and engaging families in summer reading activities.

10 EDU Educators to Follow on Twitter

This year, we had the opportunity to meet some exceptional educators who shared their schools’ and districts’ stories right here on the EDU blog. From rethinking professional development, to hosting STEM events for students, and even creating a culture of literacy across a school district and community—these educators certainly had a busy year.

You can follow these EDU contributors on Twitter and be sure to read their blog posts to see how they are transforming student learning and supporting fellow educators. Happy reading everyone and thank you to Tamiko, Adam, Myra, Jill, Matthew, Barbara, Kenneth, Art, Evan, and Alisha for sharing your triumphs, challenges, and lessons learned.

Stay tuned for more great posts from educators across the country in 2019!

 

Tamiko Brown (@ booksforkiddos)

Tamiko Brown is a school librarian at Ed White E-STEM Magnet School in El Lago, TX, and she was named 2017 School Librarian of the Year by School Library Journal and Scholastic. In February, she wrote about her advice for creating a mobile classroom makerspace library program. “The more time and experience students have with a resource the more likely they will use it to create and innovate.” Read the full post.

Adam Couturier (@MrAdamCouturier)

Adam is the District Director of Secondary Teaching, Learning and Support at Quabbin Regional School District in Massachusetts. Earlier this year, he shared an experience from his former role at Southbridge Public Schools highlighting the importance of student voice. “Reading about others’ experiences or sharing our own helps us to demystify the world around us and binds us through community.” Read the full post.

Dr. Myra S. Cox (@elkinsupt)

Myra S. Cox, Ed.D, serves as Superintendent of Elkin City Schools in Elkin, North Carolina. Captain Barrington Irving—the youngest person and first black pilot to fly solo around the world and Scholastic STEM Ambassador—flew to North Carolina to host a special STEM event for students and faculty. In her blog post recapping the event, Dr. Cox states, “We were able to provide Elkin City students with a multi-layered experience that would ultimately make a profound connection between what they were learning and their own futures.” Read the full post.

Dr. Jill Culmo (@motivated2read)

Jill Culmo currently works as the Coordinator of Instructional Strategy, Early Learning Department at Dallas Independent School District in Texas. Her district recently began to think differently about how they approach PD for teachers and used Jan Richardson’s The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading as the center of this work. “Teachers were engaged in work that directly connected to their classrooms,” she explains. Read the full post.

Dr. Matthew DeBaene (@debaenem)

Dr. DeBaene is Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning of the Moline-Coal Valley School District, located in Illinois. In October, he shared what happened when his district made literacy a top priority for the school year. “Through this journey, we learned the power of partnership within our community when we engage in a purposeful and powerful endeavor.” Read the full post.

Barbara A. Haeffner (@bhaeffner)

Barbara A. Haeffner is the Director of Curriculum and Instructional Technology in Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut. With her colleague Mark Benigni, Ed.D., she shared how Meriden students avoided the dreaded “summer slide.” In their blog post, Barbara and Mark note, “Seeing the students' excitement when they received their own backpack full of books was proof that our summer program had clearly met its goal of supporting and encouraging reading.” Read the full post.

Dr. Kenneth Kunz (@drkennethkunz)

Dr. Kunz works for the Middlesex Public Schools as a K–12 Supervisor of Curriculum & Instruction and serves as President of the NJ Literacy Association. His district focused on students’ literacy development during the summer by implementing LitCamp for ESL students. He notes, “our team found that the average student enjoyed anywhere from 14–20 books over the course of four weeks and students’ attitudes towards reading showed positive growth.” Read the full post.

Dr. Art McCoy (@drartmccoy)

Art McCoy, Ph.D., is Superintendent of Jennings School District in Missouri, a nationally recognized education consultant, and an author. In a blog post this year, he shared his lessons learned on literacy and leadership, explaining, “We must focus on more than data—a unit of measurement such as student performance and programs. Our unit of measurement must demonstrate more than the capacity of some substance, like a liter.” Read the full post.

Evan Robb (@ERobbPrincipal)

In addition to being an author and speaker, Evan is Principal of Johnson Williams Middle School in Clarke County, VA. This year, he shared about blog post diving into the benefits of faculty book studies and another post exploring how school principals can foster an environment of independent reading. He wrote, “My challenge and the challenge facing all principals is to make sure students experience independent reading of self-selected books at school and home!”

Alisha Wilson (@wilsonforthewin)

Alisha Wilson runs the Innovation Center at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Florida, and she was named Maker Hero by School Library Journal and Scholastic in 2017. She shared how she changed the culture of her school library and provides tips for other librarians, adding, “The changes we made increased our student visits from 9,000 to almost 24,000 in the first year.” Read the full post.

The Top 5 Most-Read EDU Blog Posts of 2018

As 2018 comes to an end, we’re reflecting on the year’s top five most-read stories from the EDU blog. It’s clear that independent reading, libraries and makerspaces were on the minds of our readers this year! Here are the most-read posts of 2018:

How Principals Can Foster Independent Reading by Evan Robb

As part of a series of posts on independent reading, Evan describes his own experience avoiding reading as a child and how support from his family helped him come around. And school is also an important place for students to develop personal reading lives. Evan delves into just how important it is for principals to help teachers feel comfortable setting aside time for independent reading at school, and offers six ways to encourage, promote and inspire independent reading for the entire school community.

Libraries as Learning Centers: Changing the Culture of Your Library by Alisha Wilson

After hearing her student’s negative views of school libraries, Alisha shares how she transformed the library culture at her school by embracing creative inquiry and encouraging students to take charge of their learning. Alisha was named the Maker Hero for the 2017 School Librarian of the Year awards by School Library Journal and Scholastic.

Creating a Mobile Classroom Makerspace Library Program by Tamiko Brown

Tamiko describes how mobile maker spaces provide students with opportunities to create, innovate and strengthen their individual STEM identities. She outlines five things to think about when creating a mobile classroom maker space of your own. Tamiko was named School Librarian of the Year by School Library Journal and Scholastic in the 2017 School Librarian of the Year Awards.

All Children Deserve Access to Authentic Text by Lois Bridges

In this blog post, Lois writes about the importance of giving students access to authentic text. Providing young readers opportunities to read text that inspires and engages them to think and feel deeply about the text on the page, to make connections between the print and their own lives, and to imagine lives beyond their own, is an essential part their literacy journeys.

Empowering Students and Families to Address Summer Reading Loss in Greenville, SC and Stoughton, MA by Dr. Andrea A. Rizzo

The results of two studies conducted by Scholastic Education Research & Validation on summer reading initiatives in Greenville, SC and Stoughton, MA revealed that when children and their families have the resources they need to read all summer long, we see increased volume of reading and confidence in students, overwhelmingly positive sentiments from families, and fewer students experiencing a loss of skills while school is out. This blog post details the biggest takeaways from both studies.

Every Minute in the Classroom is an Opportunity for Literacy

Once you are a reader, it can be easy to forget just how hard it is to learn to read. As adults, we may share some common experiences when it comes to learning to read such as a favorite teacher, a beloved book, even a spelling bee in your journey to increased vocabulary. But there is no one pathway to literacy. Every child has different needs, strengths and paces, and every teacher has to help every child in their classroom.

This leads to much conversation and debate over how to teach literacy and it has gained increased attention in news outlets recently. I’m energized by the interest so many educators, parents and readers have in this dialogue but also hope we use this moment to focus on the nuances of need rather than a debate over what has gone wrong.

In a piece I read by Rachel Gabriel in The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, she noted, “There is a wide divide between political debates about the teaching of reading and the actual instruction students receive in classrooms.”

I’ve spent time in over 1,000 classrooms across the country, and I continually witness this. I am also seeing a dedication to research-based strategies and a comprehensive approach to literacy. With comprehensive literacy, teachers are looking at every minute that a child spends in a classroom as an opportunity to both grow skills while encouraging a love of reading and writing. It is incredibly challenging in the time and resource constraints felt in many classrooms, but there is room for both.  

When authentic mentor text is used in whole class and for read alouds, children are more engaged. This brings them through to small group instruction. Small group then becomes about the reader and the text meets the reader where they are. Here, there is a focus on the skills inspired by the mentor book whether that be a need for phonics, a decodable text or even advanced reading on the same topic. This is when a teacher can individualize instruction by using research-based, inclusive strategies to support learning. This ultimately sets a student up for success during independent learning time and the transference of skills beyond the classroom. 

Scholastic believes in this approach while recognizing the hard work it takes. Thank you to all the teachers actively supporting their students’ growth by embracing their needs and building upon their strengths.

I recently wrote about the importance of taking literacy walks, and I encourage administrators to do so as they consider how to support these teachers and their students and families in the creation of lasting, literacy-rich environments across classrooms and communities. We look forward to continuing to partner with you and bringing you more resources.

Weaving Social-Emotional Learning and Academics Through Powerful Stories

In this ever-changing world with jobs yet undetermined, a greater urgency exists to integrate social-emotional learning and academics to afford each student the opportunity to build the emotional stability and knowledge necessary to grapple with future experiences. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) identifies the most important skills required for 21st century education as: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. However, let’s also consider the addition of character and citizenship.

Intertwining social and emotional learning and academics advances the ability of our students to adapt to change with the essential skills to effectively manage new challenges. The Aspen Institute’s (2017) recent report states, “Social, emotional and cognitive competencies develop throughout our lives and are essential to success in our schools, workplaces, homes, and communities and allow individuals to contribute meaningfully to society.” Yet, how do educators add another program to their already time-constrained day?

Books, yes authentic literature, can serve as the vehicle to promote the seamless integration of social and emotional learning and academics. Authentic trade books written by masterful writers ultimately reveal universal truths of love, loss, joy, curiosity and celebration. They provide us a model for resilience and a way to talk about and reframe adverse circumstances. They help us understand the importance of a narrative arc—and provide a path for our own new beginnings, middles and ends. Thus, masterful teachers help children develop and deepen the five competencies outlined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making; all students benefit.

Teachers can capitalize on powerful narrative works to promote meaningful classroom conversations analyzing characters’ emotions, their reactions and their growth offering opportunities for students to relate to the many facets the characters present. Asking students questions connected to the emotions a character demonstrates offers structured occasions to discuss feelings in a safe environment. Questions such as “What motivated the character to do what he did?” or “Would you have done the same thing this character did?” or “Share with us your thoughts about the emotions the character displayed” help students understand and process both the character’s feelings as well as their own.  

Stories allow students to see difficult issues unfold in a way that draws them into the experience through the character’s eyes. Encountering life’s challenges through a character’s series of events can foster hope, courage, kindness, confidence, friendship curiosity, and/or belonging; what Pam Allyn has identified as the seven strengths for reading success. Whether we use books as read alouds, in shared reading opportunities, interactive reading, or independent reading; discussions that ensue should combine building skills while helping children understand their emotions in order to build strong relationships. Our goal as educators is to ignite a passion within our students that will last them a lifetime. As Aristotle shared, “Educating the mind without education the heart is no education at all.”

Reading is Like Breathing in; Writing is Like Breathing out

Writing is an essential skill for students of all ages. It allows students to make sense of—and communicate about—what they have read and the world around them. It helps students learn to express opinions, make effective arguments, persuade audiences, synthesize information, and so much more. We spoke with Pam Allyn, Founder of LitWorld, literacy advocate and SVP of Innovation and Development for Scholastic Education, to discuss why teachers and administrators should support the daily instruction and practice of writing skills.

Q: Why is writing such an important skill to develop?

Pam Allyn: From the earliest times, when humans drew pictures on walls, to now, as we text message our beloveds and colleagues, writing is what E. M. Forster meant when he said, “Only connect.” Writing is about the way we find each other in this world, in a universe that can be isolating.

Writing helps us be more understood and helps us to understand others and ourselves.

We see from history that those who get to write it down appear the victors. So writing is not just a matter of connecting, it is also a matter of being, and more, becoming powerful. By committing to every child as a writer, we are saying to each child, “You have a voice. You have power. You can be a citizen, a dreamer, a person whose voice and story will never be forgotten.”

And on a day-to-day basis, writing is putting us in touch with the world. We can apply for a job, send a love letter, tell our story, or express an opinion. From the simplest message to the most complex standardized test, writing gives us authority and power to create our own best outcome.

Q: How does writing help students become better readers?

PA: Writing helps students to practice the language of literacy. Absorbing the nuances and understandings of written language through reading, the literacy learners put it all to use when going to the page or screen. Even the very youngest writer, marking the page with her first approximations of a letter or a word, is practicing what she sees that authors have done. The act of practice makes the reading experience different. The young writer says, “I know what this is. I have tried it myself.”

The literacy learner is constantly engaged with the world of words and stories, trying out genres, craft, conventions, and tone, so that when she goes to the page as a reader, she is not the same. She is part of the community of authorship: She knows what goes into it. Her appreciation for great writing is stronger. Her awareness of language use and precision is deeper. Her knowledge of qualities of genre and craft are more pronounced. She writes, and she becomes a reader.

Q: What can administrators do to encourage more writing in the classroom every day? 

PA: One, educational leaders need to make a big commitment to the teaching of writing as a separate subject area, not as something to do on the side. We need to expect that in every classroom, at every age/grade, there will be at least 30 minutes of writing instruction a day. And that time should feel joyful and purposeful for our students, where they get to write about topics that really matter to them.

Two, the writing instruction should be connected to the reading instruction in terms of genre exposure, craft practice, and the use of literature across both experiences. Administrators need to provide teachers with the kinds of authentic texts that will inspire their kids as readers and writers. These types of texts include graphic novels, magazines, blogs, funny picture books, alphabet books, and nonfiction texts about fun and interesting things. Then kids can write in the same vein because they can really see what’s possible.

And three, educational leaders need to create time for celebrating writing and making it public. Have writing celebrations with families, your school community, and even the community at large to share what kids have written. Celebrate, love, and adore the stories children tell.

Q: How can we encourage writing in the content areas?

PA: We need to make sure we are talking about writing in the content areas and giving kids a chance to write more authentically in those areas—not just to answer a series of teacher-driven questions, but writing about topics they care about.

In science and social studies classes, the writing experiences tend to be mostly about reporting on information. Let’s instead put a mini-writing workshop into every content experience, giving kids a chance to read mentor texts that reflect those rich topics of science and history. Let’s then say, “What topic do you want to explore?” and then give them a chance to write in the spirit of those great authors. Writing workshop is not just for ELA time. It’s for all of us, all day long.

 

To find more resources to support the instruction of writing, visit www.scholastic.com/education.  

Creating Opportunities to Reach Families

When families attending the 2018 State Fair arrived at the massive 250-acre site, most did not expect to leave with a free book. Nor did they expect to have the chance to read with the Cat in the Hat, or Indianapolis Colts mascot Blue, or Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) leveraged its presence at the fair to highlight literacy and promote STEM learning through the distribution of 800 Pre-K through-high-school books.

The true reflection of this successful effort seen in the eyes of the children and families visiting IDOE’s interactive booth space during the first and third Saturday’s of the fair. On the first Saturday, Indianapolis Colts mascot Blue and Dr. McCormick read to dozens of children. Afterward, each child was encouraged to take a free Scholastic book. IDOE literacy specialists engaged parents in conversations about appropriate reading levels, the importance of building home libraries, and establishing regular family reading time. According to the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™: 6th Edition, the average home with children between ages 0–17 reports having 104 children’s books, but there are large disparities in the number of books for kids in the home when examining kids’ reading frequency—frequent readers report having 141 children’s books in their homes vs. 65 among infrequent readers’ homes.

A memorable book selection was made by a young couple visiting the State Fair from northern Indiana. Expecting their first child within weeks, and IDOE had the pleasure of providing their child’s first book. As the fair was closing for the day, all 400 books designated for the first Saturday had been distributed.

On the second Saturday, another beautiful Indiana August day greeted a huge crowd attending the State Fair. Once again, the centerpiece of IDOE’s booth presence was the literacy tent. Literacy specialists, along with other IDOE staff, greeted families with children as they passed through the booth area, encouraging children to join in story times, and to choose a free book.

As each child approached the two treasure chests of books, many intently reviewed the variety of choices, searching for that “perfect” book.  IDOE’s literacy team gently helped guide that crucial, final choice. “Look mom, this one is about planes,” “dad, this is all about science,” and, “that lady just said I could take this book home, and we don’t have to return it,” were some of the comments shared by children appreciating the unexpected gift from Scholastic. As the fair closed, the last of the 800 books were on their way home with very happy young readers.

The opportunity to underscore the importance of literacy, STEM education, home libraries, and consistent family reading time met the goals of the Indiana Department of Education. This successful partnership will be used as a model as the Indiana Department of Education expands its impact on students across Indiana.

Creating opportunities to reach families and children with important educational messages like those focused through the IDOE presence at the Indiana State Fair is critical in today’s quickly changing public education landscape. Sharing key messages through partnerships, in places where are constituents might not expect us, and being creative in our approach, is necessary to ensure the Indiana Department of Education is continually working together with all our stakeholders for children’s success.

A Superintendent’s Lessons on Literacy and Leadership

Jennings School District is an amazing urban district in Missouri with a 98% African-American student population, 100% of students receiving free meals, and 100% graduation, career and college placement in 2016, 2017, and 2018.  Recently, we received the National School Board Association’s 2018 CUBE Award for student achievement, equity, and board governance.  As leaders striving for educational excellence in every way, we know that the biggest room in our house is the room for continuous improvement, particularly in reading. 

Districtwide Universal Screening

This school year we decided to administer a universal screener in the fall, winter, and spring, in grades K–6 districtwide to identify student risk in reading and math. As superintendent, I set aside time to witness every first- and second-grader screening in reading. The initial focus was to determine if this was a good investment and see if our educators could quickly implement this assessment as well as it’s associated, targeted intervention techniques.  It was my best literacy lesson in a long time.

Strikingly, my team and I saw and heard the literacy gap in ways we had never experienced collectively. Imagine for a moment seeing a first-grade-emerging-reader try to read sight words like “the,” “before,” “and,” “after,” “there,” as well as “nonsense” words like “siv,” “nymu,” “hofk,” and “frin,” using the arm technique (touching the shoulder, then elbow, and wrist) to cover each syllable. We found that for all “words,” many students, with shrugged shoulders, looked at the test administrator in bewilderment and shut down until the time was up.

It was both enlightening and empowering to partake in this process. In the end, our district had identified about 44% of third to sixth grade students on the college pathway with low-to-no risk in reading, 24% on-watch, and about 32% as high-risk. What a serious reality check. 

Still, having this information in August helped everyone—students, staff, parents, stakeholders, and partners—focus on significantly improving our instruction, student exposure to rich literature, and achievement.

District Literacy Plan

We knew we needed to take more action. District leadership decided to send its largest team yet to participate in the Principals of Literacy Institute. Our dynamic team was inspired and developed a framework of the Jennings School District Literacy Plan. Components of the plan consist of identifying a problem of practice and four core areas to develop opportunities for success in literacy—our vision, instructional leadership practices, professional learning, and school climate and culture. Our Curriculum Planning Committee meets monthly to build on the District Literacy Plan and drive the district and each individual pre-K–12 school in increasing student literacy. Teachers and students then receive laser-focused support to meet the targeted needs of students reading below grade level.  

Our literacy partnerships have also increased. Local and national organizations, including Scholastic and KPMG, have donated books and funding for classroom libraries. We also engage with local professionals and celebrities on an ongoing basis, inviting them to spend one hour in our K–3 classrooms reading aloud to the class. At each event, three to four books selected by students and teachers are read aloud, followed by arts and crafts. Afterward, each book is donated to the school library, plus a personal copy of one book can go home with each student.  Such student choice and access increases kids’ overall engagement and empowerment towards literacy.

A Close Look Into One of Our Schools

At Woodland Elementary School, our teachers were disappointed by the data resulting from the early screener, particularly for their second grade readers, so they were moved to do something about it that was tailored to their classrooms. The team of educators knew constant whole group instruction was not working effectively, so they went to a small group instruction model and they brought literacy across content areas. ELA educators are teaching with a focus on social studies and vocabulary while honing in on skills including phonetic sounds, decoding, word chaining, and syllabication. This has been welcomed by all readers, including those who are striving. As a result, students are feeling more confident and are working harder.

This approach is also allowing educators the time and ability to work closely with their tier 2 and 3 students, as identified by the early screener, on phonetics and decoding while keeping the students in the classroom. There is now the flexibility for individualized instruction and a variety of options to best use independent learning time such as students working in centers making words, writing, practicing individual skills, and utilizing technology.

Teachers are already seeing huge gains from this change in targeted instructional delivery.

A Literacy Lesson: Liter or Leader

This literacy lesson challenged my team and our leadership. It moved me past my own lack of knowledge to see the faces, know the names, and engage and empower students directly as well as staff to close achievement gaps.  In doing so, we moved far beyond just weighing the cost and quality of the assessments as if we were buying a liter of soda versus water to quench the thirst of teachers and students, to seeing the literacy gap up-close, choosing to make it personal, and leading to eliminate illiteracy and ignorance in our district. 

I challenge all superintendents to ask themselves a question that I recently asked myself: “Am I a liter or leader?” We must focus on more than data—a unit of measurement such as student performance and programs. Our unit of measurement must demonstrate more than the capacity of some substance, like a liter. As educators and lifelong learners, we work to increase knowledge. As leaders, we tackle tough things like illiteracy. We aim for continuous improvement, keeping our students at the forefront of our minds. Leaders act. Leaders look for the weakest of areas and lean in lovingly to engage and empower others equitably, according to their needs. It is then that our students become leaders and strong readers.

10 Core Beliefs for Student Success

A lifelong love of learning is an invitation to endless possibilities and unlimited potential. In our shared mission of creating lifelong learners, we take great pride in partnering with educators to develop comprehensive literacy plans that support student success in school and in life. As we partner with schools and districts across the country, core beliefs guide our instructional methodology and approach to comprehensive literacy to ensure the greatest student success.

This framework for student success outlines the key features of a comprehensive plan necessary for supporting our shared goals.

1.    The Importance of Authentic Texts

Central to our mission and philosophy is our conviction that every child should have both the access and the expertise to read complex books that can be found in a library or bookstore. If we only provide children with texts designed, written, and encountered exclusively for instruction in school, we risk children internalizing the idea that real, engaging, and authentic books are not for them. The more we can expose students to authentic texts that provide relevant content and reflect who they are, the more we can help them build their identities as confident and capable independent readers, thinkers, and learners.

2.    Choice and Access to Literature

Providing our children with high-quality literature is an issue of equity. Stephen Krashen’s research (2011) has demonstrated that access to books is as strong of a factor in school success as poverty is a detriment. Choice is another key element to fostering a lifelong love of reading and learning. Allowing students to self-select their books results in more engagement and thus more motivation to read (Sewell 2003; Gallager 2009; Pruzinsky 2014). Furthermore, findings from the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™: 6th Edition revealed that across gender and age, a majority of kids (89%) agree their favorite books are the ones that they have picked out themselves.

3.    Social-Emotional Learning

Students need to experience and think about stories that reflect real-life experiences in order to develop empathy and expand their capacity to recognize the emotions of both the characters and their peers. Children should be routinely encouraged to connect in deep and personal ways with self-selected books from carefully curated lists of authentic literature designed to foster social-emotional learning.

Social-emotional learning allows our students to “understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions” (CASEL 2008). The ability to process one’s own emotions and acknowledge the emotions of others is crucial to a positive classroom environment. “Because relationships and emotional processes affect how and what we learn, schools and families must effectively address these aspects of the educational process for the benefit of all students” (Elias et al. 1997). With a mutual empathy for and an understanding of their peers, students gain the sense of security needed to express themselves and learn.

4.    Critical Thinking

Often students are asked to write down facts rather than question or reflect on their reading. We promote a different approach by prompting students to be active learners who use their abilities to reason, reflect, and make connections. Through the use of quality, authentic literature children have opportunities to engage in deep, open-ended conversations that stimulate and nurture their ability to think critically.  

5.    Standards-Informed Instruction

Every student should have the opportunity to receive instruction of the highest quality. We equip teachers with a deep conceptual understanding of a number of universal literacy skills, the academic language related to these skills, and the tools necessary to help students meet the nuanced expectations of the standards.

6.    Reading and Writing Connections

Reading and writing are mutually supportive language processes. Writing about reading helps readers frame and focus their understanding while allowing teachers to gauge their students’ comprehension (Serravallo 2012, 2013; Graham and Perin 2007; Graham and Hebert 2010). We develop strong readers, writers, and thinkers when we encourage our students to analyze and evaluate what they have read and then make personal connections to the text through their own writing.

7.    Innovative Digital Learning

Digital learning can be truly transformative for many students. For some, it is a powerful motivational tool. For others, it is a safe place to work on specific skills that they maybe struggling with. We believe in using highly adaptive personalized online resources to engage students in purposeful independent reading and phonics, allowing them to receive a personalized path through implicit vocabulary instruction and the opportunity to be immersed in text. These digital resources equip educators with actionable data to inform instruction in whole-class and small-group lessons while giving students the ability to independently apply what they have learned.

8.    Data to Inform and Differentiate Instruction

Digital tools are not only a strong motivator for students—they also provide educators with detailed insights into how students are progressing. Tracking students’ language and literacy development ensures that they are deepening their understanding of their educational trajectory while their teachers can see where they need to target instruction, and where they can celebrate student success!

9.    Professional Learning

It is critically important that professional learning provides rich opportunities for teachers to develop and enhance their professional knowledge and practice. Onsite workshops and personalized coaching can help educators continue their personal growth. In order for students to master challenging content, problem-solving skills, and effective communication, teachers must employ more sophisticated forms of instruction. Effective professional development is key to teachers learning to teach these skills.

10. Family and Community Engagement

More than 50 years of research proves a simple truth: when families are engaged in their children’s learning, students are more successful. But as districts and schools consider how to engage families, they often struggle to determine what types of family engagement have a positive impact on student learning. According to the Scholastic Teacher & Principal School Report, educators agree that family engagement is important, but three-quarters of educators (74%) also say they need help doing so.

We believe in providing educators with information and strategies to empower parents and caregivers of students at all grade levels to become effective stewards of their children’s education.

In addition to these best practices for student success within the comprehensive literacy framework, your school or district may also benefit from additional supports such as programs for striving readers, summer and extended-day programs, early childhood resources, and more.

 

To learn more about comprehensive literacy and Scholastic Education’s approach to literacy instruction, visit www.scholatic.com/literacy.

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