The great Cynthia Rylant, author of Every Living Thing, When I Was Young in the Mountains, Poppleton, and so many more, has said this about reading aloud to children: “Read to them. Take their breath away. Read with the same feeling in your throat as when you first see the ocean after driving hours and hours to get there. Close the final page of the book with the same reverence you feel when you kiss your sleeping child at night. Be quiet. Don’t talk the experience to death. Shut up and let those kids think and feel. Teach your children to be moved."
Those who teach in balanced literacy classrooms can attest: there is no time in the day quite like read aloud time. This is a special time, in which a teacher gathers the entire class, reads aloud to them, and leads them in thinking and talking about the text. It is a time in which teachers invite children into the world of real, grown-up reading and model the multitude of reactions, thoughts, and feelings that reading evokes. A good read aloud can bring a group together like nothing else, can provide a foundation of camaraderie, trust, and respect in a classroom.
One of the most beautiful aspects of workshop instruction is the way in which it truly lends itself to flexible, differentiated instruction. Rather than leading students lock-step through a static, prescriptive curriculum, teachers in a workshop classroom guide students in an individualized way toward shared goals. As such, a workshop classroom is a safe place in which English language learners (ELLs) can be supported in their burgeoning English skills inside of the general flow of the teaching and learning. A workshop classroom, then, is not a place where ELLs need to be pulled out during reading and writing time to work on basic language. Quite the contrary! A workshop classroom is a place where all are included and all are valued.
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) recently released the results of a fascinating survey on technology trends in education. For the past four years, CoSN has surveyed IT leaders in K–12 schools across the United States in an attempt to better understand the growing and crucial field that is school information technology. The survey posed questions on topics such as challenges, budgets, and priorities.
In classrooms across the country, a sense of celebration is building. The feelings of joy and pride that come at the culmination of an entire year of daily hard work and dedication are unmistakable. This is is a time for a slight loosening of the reins, a time to reflect upon how far you and your students have come. It’s a time to enjoy the ease of routines you worked so hard to put into place, to watch students putting into practice the skills you’ve helped them to hone over and over.
There has been much buzz about the findings of a Stanford University study on vocabulary development that suggests that the number of words that children have acquired by the age of two is a crucial indicator of their future language success. The study findings suggest that children’s socio-economic status is a key indicator of the number of words they acquire. Children from wealthier families acquire on average 30% more words between eighteen and twenty-four months of age than children in lower socio-economic households. This gap has cascading effects throughout children’s school, careers, and beyond.
The blooming flowers, longer days, and sunnier skies tell us that summer, with its promise of more time for rest and play is nearly here. The summer months are a chance for students and teachers alike to change their pace, to dig in to projects of personal interest, and to just…breathe. But for many kids, summer is also a time when learning grinds to a halt. Students in lower socio-economic households in particular have little opportunity to practice the academic skills that begin to take root by the end of the year. One particular area of well-documented summer decline is in reading. When students don’t read during the summer, the effects on their academic progress are disastrous.