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    Tips for Increasing Rapid Naming Ability in Struggling Readers

    By Jenny Nordman
     | Sep 13, 2017

    Rapid Naming AbilityWhile rapid naming ability may not be the first thing one thinks of when listing the characteristics of an effective reader, the impact of this cognitive skill should not be underestimated. In fact, children with reading issues often demonstrate significant difficulty when asked to quickly name familiar objects or symbols. Conversely, more advanced readers tend to perform strongly on rapid naming tasks.

    Rapid naming involves processing information and responding swiftly. Within the context of reading, it is needed for word retrieval, sound–symbol correspondence, automaticity, and oral reading fluency. For a student to be able to respond and integrate information, a variety of neural systems must work together quickly and seamlessly. However, when instructing struggling readers or those with documented reading disabilities, achieving rapid naming may require additional practice.

    Here are some practical tips that can be used to increase rapid naming ability when working with readers who have difficulty with this important cognitive skill:

    • Play “Search and Say” with the classroom word wall and a flashlight. The teacher (or a selected student) points to words on the word wall using a flashlight, and the students must quickly respond. This activity builds rapid sight word recall.
    • Have the student complete timed, repeated readings of a passage in order to build automaticity. It is recommended that the passage be no more than 100 words. The student can make a game of it by trying to beat their time, and this activity can be used as a literacy center with premade, leveled passages and stopwatches.
    • Play games that require quick word retrieval, such as Pictionary, Scattergories, or charades. Connect these activities to a text selection by incorporating vocabulary words or scenes from a story.
    • Use flash cards for letters, sight words, sounds, phonograms, etc. Flash card activities require fast processing, but they should not be competitive if being used for remediation.
    • Sing short songs or recite poems and quicken the pace as you repeat. This activity gradually increases the demand on processing speed, and is especially enjoyable for young children. Please note that those with speech issues may find this activity difficult.

    With these practical activities, you can help to build rapid naming ability in your students. Be sure to also send a few of these suggestions home to parents for even more practice. 

    Jenny NordmanDr. Jenny Nordman is an assistant professor of reading and literacy at Regis University in Denver, where she coordinates of the Master of Education in Reading program. Her areas of expertise include reading assessment and intervention, cognitive skills associated with reading success, neurocognition, and evidence-based best practices.

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    Back to School After a Natural Disaster: Teaching Hurricane Harvey

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 05, 2017

    Harvey Library DamageThis week, many Houston-area teachers will finally return to school after delays caused by Hurricane Harvey, a disaster that—beyond broken windows, power outages, and destroyed classroom supplies—could impact students’ emotional and academic well-being for years to come.

    More than just places to learn, studies show that schools and teachers help children cope with disasters by providing stability, support, and routine as well as a space to process their trauma.

    To prepare for the long, arduous road to normalcy ahead, we’ve compiled a list of learning tools and resources to help educators respond to the storm and its aftermath with students.

    Lessons and activities

    NASA’s Hurricane Educational Links: NASA-developed educational tools including posters, visualizations and graphics, lesson plans, and classroom activities on hurricanes. 

    Education World’s Hurricane Watch: Lessons and classroom activities to help students understand hurricanes and their consequences. 

    Hurricane Season, Grades 6-8: The National Education Association’s recommended resources including lesson plans, classroom activities, printables, animations, and videos.

    Lesson Plans for Teachers: Compiled by the Teachers Pay Teachers group, this site includes free and inexpensive lesson plans, videos, writing prompts, and more.

    Helping After Harvey: Ideas for hosting school-wide volunteer initiatives such as fundraisers, social media campaigns, blood drives, and more. This site also includes a list of inclusive disaster strategies.

    Media literacy tools

    How Media Literacy Helps You Talk About Hurricane Harvey With Your Students”: PBS lesson to help educators discuss the effects of extreme weather events and helpful media literacy tools when it comes to media coverage of the hurricane.

    Harvey in Pictures: A collection of powerful photographs depicting the hurricane and its aftermath.

    "Teaching Hurricane Harvey: Ideas and Resources:” The New York Times guide explains how teachers can round up storm-related news and images from social media for students to analyze and provides discussion questions.

    Books

    Hurricane Harvey Book Club: Started by a second-grade teacher, this Facebook group (which now has more than 50,000 members) is a “literary oasis” where people can share videos of themselves reading aloud with those who have no books available.

    8 Books to Help Children Understand Natural Disasters and Cope With Anxiety”: Published by Forbes, this list offers books recommendations for helping children understand the disaster and cope with the feelings they may have now and later on.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily. 

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    Disruption in the Classroom

    By Rusul Alrubail
     | Aug 24, 2017

    Rusul AlrubailGoogle defines disruption as a “disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process.” However, we need to look at disruption as a concept to use and implement in education not as a problem, but as a strategy to formulate solutions to current problems.

    Like many other trends in education, we also need to avoid viewing the term disruption as a mere buzzword and instead embrace it in a way that moves us toward creating tangible, positive solutions.

    Disruption as a concept seems heavily lofty and often unapproachable. There are many reasons that stop educators from disrupting the status quo in education, which is why we need to look at disruption from an individual’s perspective rather than from a grandeur one.

    What can you do today in the classroom to disrupt the status quo?

    Creating positive change

    In a recent article by Melinda D. Anderson of The Atlantic titled “How Teachers Learn to Discuss Racism,” she covers how recent urban education programs are preparing to have “imperative contemporary conversations with students.”

    What are these conversations like? The article focuses on racism in urban education and what teachers can do in their classroom to address and confront their own biases. Melissa Katz, an urban education student at The College of New Jersey in Ewing quoted in the article, is constantly “unlearning and relearning what it means to be a white teacher in an urban school district.”

    Katz encourages white educators to “think critically about race, justice, and our own privilege, and most importantly—how these play out in the classroom as teachers.” Her advocacy, writing, and her ability to reflect on her own biases and privilege is disrupting the status quo and impacting students, teachers, and their communities.

    For many educators, disruption is a necessary act to move things forward. Jose Vilson, a New York math teacher and EduColor founder, states on his blog that “people need to get more real about the conditions within schools and disrupt for the sake of progress, not for the sake of disruption.”

    In other words, disruption shouldn’t be seen as a trend or a buzzword, but it should be done because it’s what is necessary to create positive change in the classroom.

    Revitalizing teaching and learning

    Jessica Liftshitz, a fifth-grade teacher from the suburbs of Chicago, is slowly shifting and disrupting the status quo with subtle actions that make an immense difference in the lives of her students. She works directly with her students to “better understand where our biases and stereotypes come from in regards to different races, genders, and family structures.”

    Liftshitz is doing this work through analyzing the diversity of their classroom books. In her blog, Crawling Out of the Classroom, she writes about the importance of exposing children to diverse books, stating, “I truly believe that books, of all kind, play a large role in shaping how our students see the world. So often, children have little choice in what kinds of books surround them.”

    And it is with this mind-set that Liftshitz is disrupting the classroom status quo and is truly advocating for change in her world. Believing that students need to have a choice in the books that surround them and, more important, that students need to see themselves, their families, and their culture represented in the diversity of choices of books they read, is truly a shift and a disruption in education, teaching, and learning that we need to see.

    Eric Sheninger, a senior fellow at Rigor Relevance, in an article titled “Education Is Ripe for Disruption,” argues that “disruptive innovation compels educators to go against the flow, challenge the status quo, take on the resistance, and shift our thinking in a more growth-oriented way.” An important aspect of disruption in education is to disrupt traditional ways of thinking and old processes that no longer meet the needs of all students. This does not mean that everything that’s traditional is outdated and can no longer be used. However, it’s vital for educators to look outside of education for new learning processes and paradigms that are relevant and will help to revitalize teaching and learning in the classroom.

    Developing your own framework

    Mustefa Jo’shen is partner and principal at Ci. Strategy+Design, which offers professional development for organizations and workshops for learners to help them understand and adopt an entrepreneurial and design thinker’s mind-set. Students learn about a framework developed through Ci. called “Applied Design Thinking.” Jo’shen explains that “Applied Design Thinking creates a framework for learners to own their own critical approach to create ideas that have impact.”

    New learning processes in education such as Applied Design Thinking work to disrupt education in a way that advances learners’ ability to take control of their own learning. Jo’shen believes that “empowering students to create their own frameworks helps them consciously identify and put to paper the way they think and work.” This gives students a chance to visualize and iterate their thinking processes.

    The education system requires a change for us to enable students to learn to work and work to learn. Disruption is happening right now in the real world and it's happening in our industries, our businesses, our communities, and our governments. It’s time for us to empower students by disrupting education so that they can make a greater impact on the issues that are changing their lives.

    We must also remember that an important aspect of disruption in education is resistance. Educators, parents, administrators, and students must work together to resist the status quo. As disruption doesn’t happen easily, resistance also requires us to work together to identify the problems that are directly impacting our students and to find solutions “by any means necessary.”

    Rusul Alrubail, an ILA member since 2016, is a writer on education, teaching, and learning. Her work focuses on teacher development and training, English learners, and pedagogical practices in and out of the classroom.

    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    Reading Should Be Hard

    By Carla Kessler
     | Aug 23, 2017

    Reading Should Be HardWhile browsing Facebook the other day, I came across an online article that was fascinating, but difficult to read. I had to repeatedly reread sentences, or refer back to the beginning of the paragraph. I stumbled over familiar words used in unfamiliar contexts.

    This was not a poorly written piece; on the contrary, it was fluid and full of great ideas. But I had only made it through two-thirds of the piece when I felt discouraged and gave up.

    I don’t often run into challenging content on Facebook, and I guess I had forgotten what it's like to have to work hard at reading.

    Then it dawned on me—I wonder if this is how my struggling readers feel about reading, all the time.

    Coincidentally, I had just read a MindShift article on discussing how to promote a growth mindset in readers. In other words, how to help struggling readers persevere.

    Their message? Reading is a “complicated experience.” It is hard! And nothing is more discouraging to a struggling reader than thinking reading is supposed to be easy.

    I already know how to read, so I can get away with ignoring an occasional Facebook-related challenge. But struggling readers—how can they learn if they give up? 

    The article provides ideas to help teachers guide students in overcoming their reading challenges. As a vocabulary specialist, here’s how I apply these ideas to help students decipher unknown words on their own.  

    Recognize the source of the challenge

    Provide high-interest reading with challenging words and ask comprehension questions that test their understanding of those words. If they struggle to answer, ask them to explain why. Then, replace those challenging words with easy synonyms, and ask the questions again. This will help them identify the specific words that are at the root of the challenge.

    Remind them that strong readers struggle too

    Show students that you also struggle with comprehension when you encounter unfamiliar words. Model what you do:

    • Reread the sentence
    • Use context clues to define the word (talk them through this process)
    • Look up the word in a dictionary
    • Use a technique for remembering the meaning of the word

    Provide tools

    • Prove to them that most people don’t remember a word after one introduction, by playing the Hot Leads! memory strategy game. This activity only needs to be done once to get the point across.
    • Help them keep track of new words using a journal. On each page create three columns with three headings: word, meaning, and picture/example. The students can fill out the columns out as they read.
    • Provide an easy-to-use digital search tool such as a tablet or phone (they do not need to be connected) with a downloaded dictionary.

    Let them struggle and succeed, review, and question—then celebrate the learning!

    Carla Kessler is the director of learning at LogixLab LLC and along with her husband, Richard, co-creator of Word Lab Web. She was formerly a Title I coordinator and learning specialist, and has been recognized as an Outstanding Educator by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

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    Writing Workshop vs. Writers' Workshop

    by Brian Kissel
     | Aug 22, 2017

    Workshop: A physical place where a craftsperson creates something.

    Writer: A person who informs, entertains, persuades, remembers, reminds, and expresses using a combination of words.

    The Writer's WorkshopWhat’s the difference between a writing workshop and a writers' workshop? Educators tend to use the two terms interchangeably, but I believe there’s a difference. In a writing workshop the focus is on the writing. Teachers hone in on what’s present on the page, what’s missing, and how the writing needs to change to meet a set of standards. In a writers' workshop, the focus is on the writer. Teachers focus on the person crafting the text—helping writers choose topics, purposes, and audiences for their writing and offering suggestions to guide the writer's decision-making process. A writing workshop provides a physical space for writers to work, while a writers' workshop provides both a physical and psychological space for writers to grow. I believe we teachers need to work towards building a writers' workshop within our classrooms.  

    In the past two decades, as laws have ushered in more standardized assessments, our writing classrooms have started to reflect a trend towards sameness. A simple stroll down many school hallways reveals this. Student writing, posted side-by-side, often follows the same five paragraph structure—stories that all begin with dialogue leads, or persuasive pieces that have the same exact transitional words threaded throughout the text. One piece sounds exactly like the next—each one as voiceless as the one before. It seems to me that we have started to embrace compliance rather than honoring the uniqueness of the stories our children might tell.

    I think we’d be wise to consider our reading lives as we determine what’s important when helping writers develop their writing lives. As a reader, I seek texts that are thought-provoking, emotional, meaningful, interesting, unpredictable, moving, honest, funny, and powerful. Over the past two months I’ve read high fantasy (A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin), humor (Best State Ever by Dave Barry), memoir (Just Kids by Patti Smith), historical nonfiction (Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann), and YA fiction (The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas). Each book informed me, made me laugh, provoked thought, appealed to my emotions. And each author kept me turning pages. If we value these qualities above all others as readers, shouldn’t we work to hone these qualities within our young writers?

    As writing teachers, how often do we begin lessons asking:

    • What kind of (story, informational text, persuasive essay, poem, digital text) do you want to explore?
    • What tone (humorous, sad, thought-provoking, ethereal) do you want to convey?
    • How do you want your audience to react?
    • What do you need to know how to do as a writer to achieve those results?

    In a writers' workshop we work to foster the habits young writers need to form so writing is a routine. And through this daily routine, we work to help writers obtain the cumulative knowledge they need to continuously develop and hone their craft. The focus is entirely on the writer. We help writers develop the skills that will sustain them across multiple pieces of writing.

    Here are some of my tips for creating a more writer-focused writers' workshop:

    • Know your students: Spend the first several weeks of school engaging in conversations with students about their lives outside the classroom. Use these conversations to match them to writing topics throughout the year.
    • Delay genre studies: Resist going into genre studies too early in the school year. Give students the first 6–8 weeks to explore genres on their own. As you learn about your students’ lives, you’ll also learn about their preferred genres.
    • Confer: Confer with students for a week before planning an entire genre study. Our mini-lessons should be responsive to what our students create as writers. We don’t know what to teach until we’ve had a chance to study our writers
    • Offer an author’s chair: Give children opportunities to share their writing with the class and ask them to direct feedback from their peers.
    • Leave time for reflection: Ask students to reflect daily on their learning. Reserve some time (2–3 minutes) at the end of your workshop and ask students to name something they learned. Their replies give you a snippet of authentic assessment that you can use when planning lessons.

    I’ve taught writing in some capacity for over 20 years now—from teaching our youngest writers in pre-K to working with adult writers at the college level. When I first started teaching writing, I followed a guide handed to me by the district—I was teaching writing, but I wasn’t teaching writers. Now, I know better. I follow the writer. And my instruction is much more meaningful because I allow them to lead the way.

    Brian Kissel

    Dr. Brian Kissel is an associate professor of literacy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. A former elementary school teacher and literacy coach, Brian teaches courses, conducts research, and provides professional development in writing instruction. He has a new book, published by Stenhouse, titled When Writers Drive the Workshop: Honoring Young Voices and Bold Choices. You can follow Dr. Kissel on Twitter.

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