Persons of Pinterest

Teachers have established a strong presence on social media site Pinterest, which allows users to virtually “pin” photos to categorized boards. Whether you seek book suggestions, anchor charts, or literacy centers, Pinterest contains a wealth of instructional ideas. Since the beginning of the school year is prime time to get “pinspired,” I've listed a few of my favorite pinners and boards:

Classroom Organization” by Melissa Alonzo-Dillard shares tips for creating systems to label and organize paperwork, supplies, and classroom spaces.

Library Spaces for Kids” by Andrea Knight makes me want to curl up in one of these beautiful spots with a treasured book.

Bulletin Boards and Charts” by Miss Kindergarten shows visually appealing ideas for displaying student work.

Alphabet” by Maria Manore (Kinder-Craze) has creative ideas to promote alphabet knowledge, including letter names, shapes, and sounds. 

Literacy” by Nicole Rios includes resources for reading comprehension, book lists, and anchor charts.

Science” by Jennifer Findley compiles creative and engaging science experiments, projects, activities.

We have our own page here at Scholastic too.

Teachers, are you using Pinterest in your classroom? Feel free to share your ideas or favorite boards in the comments!

Books and resources to help children learn about 9/11

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. For most adults, it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since that terrible day. For some older kids, this day brings back fear and anxiety. However, others may be learning about the attacks for the first time this week if they were born after 2001 or are too young to remember.

Here are some resources for parents and teachers to use with their kids today as the nation remembers.

  1. Today’s Scholastic News top story: Remembering 9/11.
  2. A collection of books for children and resources for parents.
  3. A collection of teacher resources and classroom activities.
  4. A guide to talking with kids about war, violence, and natural disasters.

We welcome any advice or useful links you'd like to share in the comments!

Ditch the distractions and listen up!

Several months ago, I was invited to do a radio interview.

"Why do they want you?" asked my 93-year-old mother.

"They think I'm an expert on the topic," I said.

"God help them."

My sentiments exactly.

These days, it's all about "leaning in" to get ahead. But as educator and editor Rebecca Alber notes, "listening up" is just as important.

"Good listeners are both rare and valued in our culture," Alber writes in this Edutopia post, which offers five ways to cultivate listening skills in the classroom.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) is the latest poster child for distraction. He learned a valuable lesson on Capitol Hil recently: Don't play smartphone poker during speeches about Syria.

"As much as I like to always listen in rapt attention [to] my colleagues over a three-and-a-half-hour period," McCain told The Washington Post, "occasionally I get a little bored."

He has a point. Who among us hangs on Secretary of State John Kerry's every word—or, for that matter, John McCain's? We can all be a bore. Just ask my mother.

But indulging in continual digital distractions, like so many mouthfuls of virtual candy, is unhealthy, says MIT professor Sherry Turkle.

"People are texting in church, they're texting during corporate board meetings, parents are texting during breakfast with their kids," Turkle said today in a radio interview. "We're intolerant of the boring bits in life."

Why not edit out the boring parts? For one thing, our capacity for surprise is quickly diminishing. So is our ability to listen to and learn from those around us.

"We don't know in conversations when the important moments of revelation are going to come," Turkle says. "In normal human interchange, we find ourselves sparked at moments that are unpredictable."

So put down that gadget and listen up. Surprise yourself.

The Funds of Knowledge: An ethnographic approach to family engagement

The Funds of Knowledge, drawn from the seminal work of language researcher Luis Moll, sound like what they are: substantial, essential, hopeful. And I think of them as our best resource for a promising new school year.

I know the value of home visits, having participated in them with my own students’ families, but teacher-family meetings organized around the Funds of Knowledge represent something quite different. Within each household, family members collectively hold a body of knowledge about wide-ranging ways of living that might comprise cultural traditions, herbal knowledge and folk medicine, gardening and animal husbandry, household and automotive repair, construction and masonry, trade, business, and finance.

The idea is simple yet profound: Teachers visit student homes as ethnographers or social anthropologists, eager to learn about the vast reserves of historical and traditional knowledge that all families represent, and then find ways to build on this knowledge at school.

This might entail inviting family members into the classroom to share their particular expertise for managing a backyard chicken coop, crafting bamboo flutes, or growing a successful family business. It also offers rich research opportunities as you make it possible for your students to investigate the classroom’s collective Funds of Knowledge. Every family goes on record with their particular expertise and make themselves available for demonstrations, interviews and presentations.

While traditional home visits tend to focus on teacher as expert authority by reaching out to each family to share the work and mission of the school, a “Funds of Knowledge perspective” recognizes the abundant social and intellectual resources of each family and the school community beyond and embraces the resources as content worthy of deeper exploration at school.

Perhaps most importantly, it helps teachers approach each student from a position of strength. In other words, rather than focusing on perceived deficits in the child’s home experiences because they don’t align with school-sanctioned knowledge, we discover and build on the impressive strengths and resources each child brings to school. Rather than seeing language disadvantages and deficiencies and approaching our diverse students with lowered expectations, we see rich, abundant Funds of Knowledge that can enrich our teaching, strengthen our students’ learning lives, and create a vibrant culture of learning and achievement that binds home, school, and community.

What do you do at the start of a new school year to get to know your students? How do you tap and build on your students’ Funds of Knowledge?

For more on meaningful ways to form respectful, engaging partnerships with your students’ families, see  Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships and Tapping Student Potential: A Strategic Guide to Boosting Student Achievement through Family Involvement.

Three urban legends about today’s students

Merriam-Webster defines an urban legend as, “an often lurid story or anecdote that is based on hearsay and widely circulated as true.” In this era of rapid change and budding technology, it’s easy to latch onto myths about this generation of learners. Paul Kirschner (Open University of the Netherlands) and Jeroen van Merrienboer (Maastricht University) recently published an article in Educational Psychologist busting three common myths in education.

Myth #1: This generation of digital natives are capable of multitasking and creating meaning from information in the technological world. The authors describe today’s students as “butterflies” on the computer, “fluttering across the information on the screen…unconscious to its value and without a plan.” This builds a “very fragile network of knowledge,” which is perpetuated by multitasking. Kirschner and van Merrienboer believe students lose efficiency and effectiveness when performing two or more tasks at a time. It’s been shown that “rapid switching behavior” causes “poorer learning results in students and poorer performance of tasks.”

Myth #2: Good instruction is tailored to individuals’ learning styles. The arguments against this legend relate to how learning styles are determined. Styles exist along a continuum, and it’s unrealistic to give students one label. Learners generally self-assess to determine their learning style, allowing students to choose the method they prefer instead of the one that might be most helpful.

Myth #3: Students can and should self-educate themselves on the Internet. A wealth of information sources are available today, but “one must be able to search, find, evaluate, select, process, organize, and present information.” This generation needs to be aware of what they don’t know when searching for information on the Internet. Educators play a pivotal role in supporting students in this quest, monitoring students’ learning in comparison with the standards. The authors also believe sharing control by limiting, but allowing student choice, will give learners the autonomy they need.

For more on this topic, see Anya Kamenetz’s post on challenging the conventional wisdom of disruption, digital natives, and learning styles.

Quote: The warping effects of repeated failure

This quote is pulled from a thought-provoking article in this month's Harpers (subscription required) about the logic of requiring high school students to take Algebra II -- a subject notorious for frustrating students and turning them off from math for the rest of their lives.

The quote gets to the heart of the helplessness and hopelessness that struggling students often feel -- not just in math, but also in reading and other subjects.

Here are a few thoughts from David Dockterman on how to encourage perseverance in students and motivate students with a history of failure.

(In case you don't subscribe to Harpers, there's plenty of interesting reading out there related to the fear of algebra, including a 2012 NY Times op-ed, and this Washington Monthly post in which this quote was originally posted in the comments.)

Kellogg Foundation announces new investment in ‘family and community engagement’

This week, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced a $5 million investment to identify and promote innovative family engagement initiatives that support children’s educational success from birth to 8 years old.

While we know funding is critical, what I find most exciting about this new effort is the definition and approach to family engagement that the foundation is helping to advance. WKKF defines family engagement as “a shared responsibility of families, schools and communities for student learning and achievement. It is a continuous process from birth to third grade and beyond that occurs across multiple settings where children learn."

As Carla D. Thompson, VP of Program Strategy for WKKF put it, “Our goal is to shift the paradigm for people to see that families – particularly those that have been marginalized by racial inequities – possess numerous skills that must be recognized and supported to help children succeed.”

I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Our strength-based approach to family and community engagement at Scholastic is not only about providing access to books and literacy materials but about comprehensively connecting and empowering homes, schools and communities.

As you think about the new school year ahead, what kinds of innovative and systemic approaches are necessary to help make this paradigm shift?

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