Thursday, July 16, 2015

Teachers as Readers 5

The Road to Character by David Brooks


In this section Brooks writes about George Catlett Marshall and there are a few points that stuck. One, he was not a stand out at a young age. He struggled to find his way both socially and in school. Marshall figured out how to work and what it meant at VMI (Virginia Military Institute). It was a place of mediocre education but hero's were revered and Marshall was taught the habits of service and institutionalization. He learned to control the smallest details of his behaviors through reflection and desire. 

I found this to be really interesting because we live in a time where service and self-control are not pervasive. In the land of Facebook and instagram I see more of friends (and strangers) than I would care to see or know. This is a quote by Marshall "The truly great leader overcomes all difficulties, and campaigns and battles are nothing but a long series of difficulties to be overcome." He embraced the daily grind as part of the responsibility of being a leader.  I have worked for many leaders and there have been few that take on the drudgery of the job without complaint.

This chapter analyzed the role of institutions and I found myself "noodling" for quite some time on this particular thought.

As the editor Tina Brown has put it, "if everybody is told to think outside the box, you've got to expect that the boxes themselves will begin to deteriorate." I kept thinking to myself how I finally feel vindicated!! I don't like to take risks and although as a teacher I solve problems on a daily basis I always felt as though I was missing something because I wasn't more radical. This thought helped me to celebrate my own steadiness and small yet consistent contributions.

Brooks continues his journey focusing on people throughout history and drawing parallels to common problems and situations. This ebb and flow allow the reader to learn more about incredible people from the past as well as, analyze the present. A good read that I will keep on my bookshelf.

How do we tie everything together? What does it mean for diverse learners?


Creating a mosaic...

Ordering, combining and recreating over and over and over again making sense of the material and becoming aware of their own ideas  and drawing conclusions.

We are accountable not to our curriculum but to our students! Teaching reading in a high stakes testing environment is challenging. We want our students to gain confidence but they are usually sent to us because they have failed a state test (not a confidence booster by any means). Purchased phonic packages and quick fix curricular measures is not the best strategy to use.

Understanding your students' strengths and weaknesses as well as listening to their feedback and studying past tests will supply a better picture and starting point. Each author from Keene & Zimmerman to Harvey & Goudvis impart the importance monitoring comprehension and creating a framework of strategies. 

Although high stakes testing is important we want to build strong test takers and confident learners. The strategies that have been reviewed in these posts target the best ways to encourage indolence, build confidence and instill a love of reading throughout various grade levels and across the curriculum.

Creating a framework for diverse learners is even more crucial. Explicitly teaching various text structures will enable these learners to gain background knowledge, build vocabulary and eventually understand the information presented. 

Build Confidence, Explicitly teach, model think aloud, model everything, monitor comprehension, discuss thoughts with students and create opportunities. Books and programs don't mean a great deal if you don't know your students. Work together with other teachers to create a consistent program and methodology when it comes to reading, especially challenging texts. Teachers have the ability to change perspectives and lives. Working with parents and community partners to build communities will create a living framework for students to build success upon. We have a responsibility to help teach our students to read and think!!

Works Cited

Dreher, M. J., & Gray, J. L. (2009). Compare, Contrast, Comprehend: Using Compare-Contrast Text Structures with ELLs in K-3 Classrooms. The Reading Teacher , 132-141.
Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that Work. Portland, MA: Stenhouse Publisher.
Keene, E. O., & Zimmermann, S. (2007). Mosaic of Thought. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann.
Ogle, D., & Correa-Kovtun, A. (2010). Supporting English-Language Learners and Struggling Readers in Content Literacy with the "partner Reading and Content, Too" Routine. The Reading Teacher , 532-542.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Why is comprehension strategy instruction important?

Comprehension strategy instruction is important because it creates the framework for understanding. We want our students to be problem solvers, critical thinkers and creative learners these strategies provide the foundation for all learning, not just literature and poetry but instructional texts too.

Notes, discussions, written responses show evidence of understanding. This strategy is a benchmark for comprehension it allows a teacher to see the footprints of learning and allow deeper discussions or interventions to take place.

Questioning and responding is a way to activate thinking. This strategy involves the listener and makes the student more engaged with the text. This strategy also allows teachers a glimpse into a students mindset/understanding.

Explicit Instruction and Guided Reading are part of the framework for creating good strategies for comprehension.

The process is basically the same and can be done across all disciplines so that students are given the tools to succeed in every class; ultimately allowing them to engage in a meaningful way in school and become a life-long learner.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Is Comprehension Instruction in the Content Areas Different?

The simple answer is NO!

The research in the field of comprehension is clear. Students must activate their inner voice, build from schema and model an array of strategies in order to become creative and thoughtful learners. These strategies apply across content areas and should be taught in every discipline. The amount of strategies and tools that a student masters will only serve to heighten their adaptability and flexibility as an active learner.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Teachers as Readers 4

The Road to Character by David Brooks

July 17, 2015

As you read my post you will find bold words, these are presented to show the lenses Brooks uses when defining different aspects of character or behaviors that shaped particular character traits. All the bold words in this post are sub-headings and names of chapters from the book.

Brooks is fascinated by people and their choices, how they became who they were and what were the mitigating factors involved. He breaks down the most minute pieces of character and expands them into mini-thesises. He wants the reader to gain perspective and reflect on their own choices and upbringing. How can we do better? What is really important?

Brooks is traveling through time and a series of people and experiences beginning with Ida Eisenhower, Dwight Eisenhower's mother, and her mission towards self-conquest. We read about the history of Ida and her family, she lived by very strict rules such as: no drinking, dancing, card playing or demonstrations of love.

He diverges for a brief few pages into the meaning of sin and how it has changed over the years. "Sin is a necessary piece of our mental furniture because it reminds us that life is a moral affair." He wrestles with the notion of errors (individual)vs. sins (communal) and how rarely people commit big sins out of the blue because they usually reflect a pattern of behavior. Sin, Brooks argues, is necessary for character building.

Back to Ida, character was developed through self-control therefore she believed temptation must be minimized. She was tender and seemed to have a bottomless supply of love for her children because she knew that love could build character as well. Brooks is creating a framework for how he wants us to see Dwight, the factors that helped define his character. This is the lens from which we will view, judge and better understand the people presented in this book.

Dwight was unlike his mother in that he was rambunctious and not explicitly religious. He was disciplined throughout his young life for misbehavior and having a terrible temper. He became almost convulsive in controlling his behavior. He made decisions and devised strategies that demanded a certain protocol from which he never ventured. A quote from Eisenhower "Always take your job seriously, never yourself." shows how he has grown and defined how the world will see him.

Ultimately Eisenhower was very different person publicly than personally. He maintained such self-control that his diaries suggest his true feelings and thoughts on both people and political matters. His final trait was that of moderation. Towards the end of his presidency he spoke of balance in many letters "making mistakes slowly"

Finally the conclusion reached is that Eisenhower, through the regulation of his mother and the strict upbringing along with his ability to eventually adhere to a system of behaviors, keeping his impulses in check became a successful prominent man and a strong leader.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Lake Season

A small departure from the Road to Character by David Brooks... As a teacher I try to always immerse myself in varied types of literature and when my best friend Hannah's book the Lake Season was released I was compelled to read it, clearly neglecting my other responsibilities!! t I wrote the following review for Amazon.

This review is from: The Lake Season: A Novel (Paperback)
A summer classic! Hannah McKinnon has not only captured the delicate dynamics between two sisters living very different lives but that of the summer lake season in New England. Her colorful descriptions and careful character development transported me to New Hampshire with each page, secretly enjoying the sibling rivalry and inner family dynamics that remind me of my own crazy family. McKinnon opens a door into the world of sisters and mothers where we find nooks and crannies filled with jealousy, resentment and of course, love. I loved it and already sent a copy to my sister.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review of Research in Media Literacies

A Review of Research in Media Literacies

The internet has the capacity to alter the nature of literacy itself. Digital Literacy as defined by Wikipedia, I know that the most reliable source, but since we are breaking down barriers and defining new "definitions" I offer this definition as a starting point.
Digital literacy is the knowledge, skills, and behaviors used in a broad range of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs, all of which are seen as network rather than computing devices. Digital literacy initially focused on digital skills and stand-alone computers, but the focus has moved from stand-alone to network devices. 

1. Overview- What did I learn?

There is a great deal of flexibility and interpretation when it comes to defining or explaining a new literacy. I hadn’t thought of social sites,  likes blogs and twitter as new forms of literacy but it is clear they are beginning to break barriers and contain their own set of rules. It is clear that the area of "new literacy" will continue to grow as new programs, apps and sites are created. We don't even know the potential, ramifications or rules to navigate this new frontier. I found that research papers from 2012 were in conflict with reports and research produced in 2014 a sign to suggest how quickly the landscape of literacy is changing. Flexibility and open-mindedness will be the most important aspects of education. 

2. Perceptions of strengths and weaknesses- Judging the quality of the research

 The connections that are made through new literacies are boundless. Forums, blogs, internet and social gaming allow people to connect in meaningful ways despite physical location, status, educational levels or traditional barriers. This has the potential to create incredible synergies for a merging of ideas, research and connectedness in a way that hasn’t been possible before. Most of the research I found suggested that technology and forms of new literacy will strengthen students performance. According to Knobel & Lankshear 2014 the challenge comes preparing students in a world in which very few constant footholds exist. This leads me to believe the landscape of literacy is changing so quickly the reports and research done is quickly outdated or rendered useless because of the inherent nature of the subject. Researchers like Shaw 2014 suggest such a powerful connection between the visual arts and writing that technology presents a method for breaking down barriers including those of language for ESL students.

These students in which Shaw refers are caught in the midst of the digital divide. I have included a TED talk video regarding the digital divide and the implications of technology among communities.

Aleph Molinari- Speaks about empowering the digitally excluded to conquer the digital divide. By creating this model of creating content, designing training, analyzing user patterns and ultimately improving content he and his team have developed an effective way of closing the gap.

According to Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2010 new literacies will continue to challenge law makers and policy makers. They site that states are accountable for raising reading achievement, using tests as a measure of accountability. Common Core is a nationwide initiative to secure higher achievement levels for all students but these tests do not account for online comprehension or a students ability to navigate the digital world. They found that there is a difference between a students ability to read and understand information on the internet and digitally verses that of traditional texts. I agree that 

The Digital Divide

3. Implications- Suggestions for future research or classroom use

How can we incorporate research studies into a classroom in which the rules of engagement are constantly changing? How do we teach new and experienced teachers to embrace technology without sacrificing rigor and methodology?  Allowing students to define their roles and giving opportunities to share knowledge, ideas, creative thoughts will bring teachers into a new territory. There are dangers that lurk in the recesses of the black hole we call the net. How can we balance the new literacies with the old? How do we get students to think and create and share in meaningful ways utilizing technology? Research has shown a great deal of opportunity for using technology but I have found it difficult to get my students to control themselves. Self-regulation and willpower are shrinking in a fast paced, let me look up the answer on my phone world. 

According to Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2010 new literacies will continue to challenge law makers and policy makers. They site that states are accountable for raising reading achievement, using tests as a measure of accountability. Common Core is a nationwide initiative to secure higher achievement levels for all students but these tests do not account for online comprehension or a students ability to navigate the digital world. They found that there is a difference between a students ability to read and understand information on the internet and digitally verses that of traditional texts. 

We are bearing witness to new cultures, languages, rules and communities that are created virtually. Research is beginning to show that blogs, closed Facebook groups, online gaming communities and Twitter and connecting people that may not have been connected in a real life situation, meaning the breaking down of social constraints and barriers. These "new literacies" are communes creating an alternative to the regular work spaces or play spaces we have seen in the past. 
New languages are emerging and, as a woman over 40 years of age,I can honestly admit that I am challenged by the lack of syntax and phonetic structure that many of these "new literacies" incorporates. I want my students to feel comfortable and share ideas effectively utilizing technology, not just for technology sake, but to enhance their message or ideas. 

Works Cited

Coiro, J., Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., & Leu, D. J. (2010). Central Issues in New Literacies and New Literacies Research. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. J. Leu, Handbook of Research on New Literacies (pp. 1-21). New York, New York: Taylor & Francis.
Costley, K. C. (2014). The Positive Effects of Technology on Teaching and Student Learning. Arkansas Tech University.
(2008). Vision for Learning: History, Theory, and Affirmation. In S. B. Heath, & R. Wollach, Handbook of Research on Teaching literacy through the communicative and visual arts (pp. 3-11). New York, New York: International Reading Association.
Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2014, October). Studying New Literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy , 98-104.
Shaw, L. J. (2014). Breaking with Tradition: Multimodal Literacy Learning. New England Reading Association , 19-26.