The Illusion of Change

By Guest blogger, Dr. Anthony Muhammad, Author and Leadership Consultant.  He will be speaking at a VIP Leadership Summit event sponsored by the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative. This event is being held May 15, 2017 at the DoubleTree in Westborough, MA. It is an invitation only event designed to offer an opportunity for school leadership to discuss transforming school culture to build teacher leadership and improve student outcomes. Please contact literacy@lesley.edu for more information.

 

Anthony MuhammedChange is a very difficult process, but it is the catalyst to continuous improvement.  It tests our ability as professionals at many different levels.  Sometimes, when things get too challenging, we tend to look for short-cuts or we quietly surrender.  We live in a political climate that demands that we change, whether we choose to or not, but I have found that some organizations are good at creating the illusion of change, rather than being fully involved in the process of change.  There are a three key phrases which clearly indicate that an organization is not fully committed to the change process.

Phrase #1: “We are having conversations”

This phrase is a code for; “we have a lot of opposition to this idea and we are afraid to make people too uncomfortable and release an onslaught of political and social opposition.”  I recently worked with a school that has been involved with the implementation of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) process for three years.  They have created collaborative teams and they have designated time for those collaborative teams to meet.  They have created district-wide formative assessments that are administered four times per year.  These milestones were reached in the first year of the process.  So, I asked about PLC Questions #3 and #4 which address systems of student intervention and enrichment, and the room got very quiet.  When people finally began to speak, each answer began with the phrase “we are having conversations.”  If your district is “having conversations,” the change process has stalled.

Phrase #2: “We are in different places”

This phrase is code for; “we don’t have a universal system of accountability, and people who understand the intrinsic value of what we propose have embraced it, and those that are averse are allowed to disregard it until they ‘buy-in’.” Schools and systems that use this phrase are engaged in what I call “accountability light.” This is a diet version of universal professional accountability where group expectations and coherence are the norm.  Healthy school cultures make collaborative decisions and they hold each other mutually accountable for full participation.  When shared commitment is not achieved, a tiered-system of commitment emerges where implementation is based upon personal preference.  Partial commitment is the same as no commitment.

Phrase #3: “District initiatives”

This phrase is code for; “there is a huge philosophical divide between school practitioners and central office which has led to a stalemate.”  I have had the pleasure to work with thousands of schools on the change process and whenever practitioners refer to the change process as a “district initiative,” it is never good.  In essence what they are expressing is a feeling of imposition.  In the mind of the school practitioner, they are confronting real world issues and they have their fingers on the pulse of the needs of the school; and central office lives a world disconnected from reality and their priorities are unreasonable and unnecessary.   This is a clear indication of poor communication and professional disconnection.  If your district has a lot of “initiatives,” effective change is probably not on the horizon.

A First Timer’s Guide to Registering for the Literacy for All Conference

We’re excited to announce we’ve opened registration for the 28th Annual Literacy for All Conference, co-hosted with The University of Maine, and the University of Connecticut. This year the conference will be held October 22–24, 2017 in Providence, Rhode Island. While we know many of you are veteran LFA attendees, each year we have more and more new faces joining us in Providence. Welcome to all first timers!

We have made it even easier to register for the Literacy for All Conference! Simply visit www.regonline.com/lfa2017 and enter your email address to begin your registration process. We’ve put together a little guide to our online registration system to help make the process as quick and painless as possible.

An Important Note

We have created an online registration process that seamlessly guides you through the steps of registration. Please do not use your Internet browser’s “back” button if you want to go back and make a change, as it will cause errors and you will not be able to complete your registration. Instead, if you need to change something, complete your registration and then email us at literacy@lesley.edu, and we will make the changes for you.

Before You Register

First, you should make a list of all the sessions you want to attend. You can find the full list on our website. Each time block is listed with a letter, ie: LCA, LCB, etc. Then, each session within that time block is numbered. So, the full session code will read something like LCA-1 or LCC-4. You can only choose one session per time block, so you should have one LCA, one LCB, and so on.  Please note, that on our online registration system, RegOnline, the sessions are listed with only the code and the presenter name, not the session title, as shown below.

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The only variation is in the In-Depth sessions, which occur either in the C or F blocks. In-Depth sessions are three hours long, not the normal 90 minutes, so if you choose an In-Depth session for your C or F, you will not be able to choose a D or G, respectively, as the In-Depth session will run through that time.

If a session doesn’t appear on the drop-down menu that means it is sold out and you will have to choose another session. Sessions do sell out, so we recommend registering as early as possible to ensure you get all your first choices.

Second, know your method of payment. If your district will be paying for you with a purchase order, you don’t need to know the purchase order number to register. If your district will be paying for you with a credit card, you can still register yourself. When you get to the checkout screen, simply choose “Pay with Purchase Order” and then have your district call us with the credit card number, or fax or email us the PO within ten business days of registering.  Please note, if you are paying with a purchase order (PO), we require that you submit a copy of your PO to secure your registration.  If your PO has not been received by the opening of the institute, you will be required to provide a credit card in order to attend the institute.

We recommend that all attendees register themselves. The process begins with an email validation– you’ll receive an email with a secure link, which you’ll need to click on in order to continue your registration. Forwarding these emails can sometimes be tricky, so we recommend you register yourself to avoid confusion.

If someone else has to register for you, we recommend that you choose your sessions ahead of time and give the list of sessions, including session code and presenter name to the person registering you.

When entering in your personal information, please note that there are separate spaces to enter your school district and your school name, as shown below. When entering your district, please don’t use abbreviations like RSD or UFSD– if the district has a separate name (ie: Oxford Hills School District) please use that; alternately, please spell out the words Regional School District. This will help us keep uniformity in printing name badges, and help match up registrants to purchase orders when we receive them.

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Confirmation

When you’re done registering, you will see a screen confirming that your registration is complete. If you don’t see that screen, you haven’t finished registering yet! Once you get to that screen, be sure to read it thoroughly, as it contains details about which sessions have required readings and materials, a list of conference policies, your own detailed agenda based on the sessions you selected, and other helpful links.

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In addition to the confirmation page, a confirmation email will be automatically sent to the email address you provided. If it doesn’t appear within an hour of you registering, check your spam and junk folders, as some email providers mark emails from RegOnline as spam by mistake. In the past, many were not able to receive RegOnline emails, because many schools block emails from RegOnline, so if you have a personal email address, we encourage you to use it, instead of your school email, when registering.  If you don’t receive your confirmation email at all, please email literacy@lesley.edu and we will re-send it to you.

Please help us be environmentally conscious! Do not print out your confirmation message to mail in with your check or PO. Instead, just make sure your full name and district are written on the PO or in the item line of the check. That’s all we need to match up your payment with your record in the system.

Conference Events, Exhibit Fair, and Other Information

The conference registration desk hours are as follows:

  • Sunday, October 22, 2017: 10:00 am–6:00 pm
  • Monday, October 23, 2017: 7:00 am–5:00 pm
  • Tuesday, October 24, 2017: 7:30 am–9:00 am

The conference help desk will be open 7:00 am – 6:00 pm each day.

Literacy for All also includes an exhibit fair with booths showcasing classroom services and products for all grade levels and subjects. Exhibit hours are 4:00-6:00 on Sunday, 10:00–6:00 on Monday, with the Exhibit Fair from 5:00–6:00; and 7:30–3:30 on Tuesday. During the Exhibit Fair on Monday, you can enter to win something from our prize raffle, and get books signed by some of our featured and keynote speakers.

Please visit the conference website, www.lesley.edu/literacyforall, for information on hotels, parking, attendance policy and certificates of attendance, and sessions with required readings/handouts/materials.

Have questions? You can contact us anytime at literacy@lesley.edu or by phone at 617.349.8402.

Looking forward to seeing you all in October!

Elevating the Profile of Literacy Improvement

By Wendy Vaulton, Assistant Director of Research, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

wendy-vaulton“So, what do you do?” For years I envied people with job titles that were easy to convey in casual conversation—nurses, spy novelists, dog groomers.  My stock answer involved so much detail that by the time I finished, any sane person would have nodded off or fled for the bean dip. Enter the elevator speech.

Used in the corporate world to promote good and services for years, the elevator speech (or elevator pitch) can also promote your school’s literacy efforts. The elevator speech is intended to be brief (imagine the length of time it takes to ride up a couple of floors), and the primary goal is to interest someone in learning more, rather than deluging them with information.

Developing an elevator speech is not easy.  You want your speech to be simple but not simplistic, and rehearsed but not canned.  Start with a “hook” to peak the listener’s interest and motivate them to continue the conversation. Your hook might change depending on who you’re talking to, but two of the most memorable hooks shared by Literacy Coaches during trainings were:

  • “I help teachers make better decisions in the classroom”
  • “I’m the literacy quarterback at my school”

Follow your hook with that which is most difficult of all…a pause. Give that school board member a moment to ask a question or respond. Then, be prepared to answer those questions simply. You have already learned something valuable about that stakeholder’s point of view just by the nature of his or her question. It helps if you have a few “headlines” in your back pocket about results or needs that are relevant to different interest groups (parents, school board members, central administrators).  It takes practice and a lot of thought to get there, but when you can explain your literacy improvement efforts in 30 seconds, you’ve got it.

Assuring a Standardized Comprehension Conversation with the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System

By Irene Fountas, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative Director/Author/Professor

irene_fountas_2.JPGAs you use the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, do you and your colleagues have common understandings so you will have accurate information on your students? Think about how you are providing a standardized comprehension conversation and scoring it in a standardized way. The following suggestions may be helpful:

Before the Assessment:
* Be sure you have read and thought about the information in the book. When you know the text well, it will be easier to facilitate the conversation.

* Read the key understandings and prompts prior to the assessment so you are familiar with them.

* Explain to children beforehand that you are going to meet with each of them to listen to them read so you will be able to help them as readers. Explain that you will ask them to read a short book and then you will ask them to share their thinking about what they read.

During the Assessment
* Use an encouraging tone when inviting the student to talk more.

* Avoid repeating what the student says.

* Give wait time instead of jumping in to ask the question again.

* Be concise in the language of your prompts.

* Don’t ask leading questions.

* When the student has indicated some knowledge of an answer but uses only one or two words in a superficial way, you must respond with “Say more about that.” or “Talk more about that.”

* If a student is simply pasting sentences from the text together, or reading them, it shows the student knows where to find evidence; however, the student needs to be able to articulate, understanding independently. You might say, “Can you say that in your own words?”

* Try not to repeat a question or prompt unless it is necessary. Repeating a question several times can make a child confused or become “a lead” to an answer.

* Paraphrase a prompt only once. Doing so multiple times may lead the student to an answer.

* Avoid asking a question in a way that “gives” the answer. A leading question might be, “And how do these adaptations help this animal?”

* Be careful not to change the intentions of a prompt or question. For example, “What is the writer’s message?” is different from “What is the writer’s message about extinction?”

* Do not direct the student to a particular part of the book unless the prompt requires it.

* Allow the student to look back in the book if they initiate it. If the student starts to read from the book, you should say “Can you say that in your own words?”

As you become very well versed with the books and the prompts, your comprehension conversation at the lower levels will only take about 2-3 minutes and the upper levels about 4-5 minutes. Remember, an assessment conference is the time for you to gather good information, so resist the urge to teach! Discuss these points with your colleagues so your team can assure that each student is engaged in a standardized comprehension conversation that gives good data to inform teaching and document profiles through time.

Learning Places: Shifting from School Change to Fostering a Culture of Growth

By Irene Fountas, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative Director/Author/Professor

As we contemplate the improvement of our craft to benefit the children we teach, it can be useful to reflect on the language we use to describe the journey. Recently, I began to notice how often I read the term or use the term “school change” and began to think about a needed shift in language.

irene_fountas_2In a culture where all professionals are committed to the learning of their students, every teacher uses the knowledge they have to provide the most effective teaching they can. Every teacher is doing what he understands. So I began to think, the goal is not to change, but to grow. Nothing we do as teachers is wrong. Our teaching actions represent our best understandings at a particular point in time. Instead of spending time feeling badly, we need to focus our efforts on growing and supporting the growth of all members of the school community.

In their book Learning Places, Fullan and St. Germain describe schools as “learning places” or places where learning thrives.

  • Educators recognize that school improvement is complex.
  • Teachers are supported to engage in ongoing critical inquiry.
  • Educators have a shared purpose, a common base of knowledge and develop a common language.
  • Working as a team to recognize problems and plan actions, educators engage in a variety of collaborative activities.
  • Educators take shared responsibility for student learning.
  • All members seek to expand their knowledge through professional reading, study groups, conferences, research, affiliation with universities, professional organizations, coaching sessions and professional development sessions.
  • All members of the school community are invited to pool their knowledge and experiences to make informed decisions that best serve the school.

These critical elements should resonate with you as you think about your schools’ journey of growth.  As you think about the culture of your particular school, contemplate the factors that will support a culture of teacher growth – one that honors everyone’s efforts, but also brings energy and passion to the goal of continued learning. In the words of Fullan and St. Germain, think about whether your school is a “learning place.”

Fullan, Michael and St. Germain, Clif. (2006). Learning Places: A Field Guide for Improving the Context of Schooling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Why Literacy Educators Need to be Advocates for Science and Social Studies Education

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by Guest Blogger Nell Duke, Professor at the University of Michigan, Author, and 2016 Literacy for All Conference Keynote Speaker

Time devoted to science and social studies in elementary schools has been on the decline for some time (e.g., Blank, 2013; Center on Education Policy, 2008; Heafner & Fitchett, 2012). As citizens, there is little doubt that we should be concerned about this, but in this post, I argue that we should also be concerned about it as literacy educators.

Consider the following passage (Tierney & Pearson, 1981):

The batsmen were merciless against the bowlers. The bowlers placed their men in slips and covers. But to no avail. The batsmen hit one four after another with an occasional six. Not once did a ball look like it would hit their stumps or be caught.

Many readers, including myself, find this passage difficult to comprehend. But if you know the game of cricket, I’m told it is quite easy to understand. This example illustrates the important role that knowledge plays in reading comprehension. In a classic study, Recht and Leslie (1988) studied seventh and eighth graders who were either good or poor readers as determined by a standardized test of comprehension achievement. Some of the students in each group were knowledgeable about the game of baseball; others were not. All students were asked to read a passage that described a half inning of a baseball game and then to reenact and describe what they read. The researchers found that poor readers with high knowledge of baseball actually displayed better comprehension than good readers with low knowledge of baseball—such was the power of relevant prior knowledge.

Having knowledge related to a text seems to support text comprehension in a number of ways, such as through facilitating recognition of words, processing of known vocabulary, handling of existing vocabulary, and generation of inferences (e.g., Elleman, Lindo, Morphy, & Compton, 2009; Fincher-Kiefer, 1992; Kaefer, Neuman, & Pinkham, 2015; Priebe, Keenan, & Miller, 2011). As probably does not surprise you, general knowledge is a strong predictor of later comprehension achievement (e.g., Grissmer, Grimm, Aiyer, Murrah, & Steele, 2010). One study even found that students learned a new comprehension strategy better when it was taught in the context of texts for which they had a lot of relevant content knowledge (Gaultney, 1995).

As literacy educators, one of our major goals is to support comprehension development—and content knowledge supports comprehension development. Therefore, we should be advocates for considerable attention to content area education. We should resist the temptation to think that more time on literacy is always better. That may be true in the short term, but in the long term it could backfire. Students’ comprehension may suffer from a lack of content knowledge relevant to the texts they are reading. The problem may be particularly acute for students who rely heavily on school to develop content knowledge relevant to the texts they encounter in school.

Fortunately, we do not have to choose between attention to literacy and attention to content area education. Through content-rich approaches to literacy education and integrating literacy in science and social studies, we can support development of literacy both directly and through content knowledge-building (e.g., Guthrie, McRae, & Klauda, 2007; Strachan, 2015). In other words, by advocating for science and social studies, we can have our cake and eat it too. Let’s eat up!


Nell Duke is speaking at the Literacy for All Conference on:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.- Emphasizing Engagement: Why Literacy Engagement is More Important Than Ever and What We Can Do About It (Grades K-8)

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.- Projects for the Primary Grades (Grades K-2)


References

Blank, R. K. (2013), Science instructional time is declining in elementary schools: What are the implications for student achievement and closing the gap? Science Education, 97, 830–847. doi:10.1002/sce.21078

Center on Education Policy. (2008). Instructional time in elementary schools: A closer look at changes for specific subjects. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.cep-dc.org/publications/index.cfm?selectedYear=2008.

Elleman, A. M., Lindo, E. J., Morphy, P., & Compton, D. L. (2009). The impact of vocabulary instruction on passage-level comprehension of school-age children: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2(1), 1–44. http://doi.org/10.1080/19345740802539200

Fincher-Kiefer, R. (1992). The role of prior knowledge in inferential processing. Journal of Research in Reading, 15(1), 12–27. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9817.1992.tb00018.x

Gaultney, J. F. (1995). The effect of prior knowledge and metacognition on the acquisition of a reading comprehension strategy. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 59, 142–163. http://doi.org/10.1006/jecp.1995.1006

Guthrie, J. T., McRae, A., & Klauda, S. L. (2007). Contributions of Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction to knowledge about interventions for motivations in reading. Educational Psychologist, 42, 237–250.

Grissmer, D., Grimm, K. J., Aiyer, S. M., Murrah, W. M., & Steele, J. S. (2010). Fine motor skills and early comprehension of the world: Two new school readiness indicators. Developmental Psychology, 46(5), 1008–1017. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0020104

Heafner, T. L., & Fitchett, P. G. (2012). Tipping the scales: National trends of declining social studies instructional time in elementary schools. Journal of Social Studies Research, 36(2), 190-215.

Kaefer, T., Neuman, S. B., & Pinkham, A. M. (2015). Pre-existing background knowledge influences socioeconomic differences in preschoolers’ word learning and comprehension. Reading Psychology, 36, 203–231.

Priebe, S. J., Keenan, J. M., & Miller, A. C. (2012). How prior knowledge affects word identification and comprehension. Reading and Writing, 25, 131-149. doi:10.1007/s11145-010-9260-0

Recht, D. R., & Leslie, L. (1988). Effect of prior knowledge on good and poor readers’ memory of text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 16–20. http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.80.1.16

Strachan, S. L. (2015). Kindergarten students’ social studies and content literacy learning from interactive read-alouds. The Journal of Social Studies Research, 39, 207–223.

Tierney, R. J., & Pearson, P. D. (1981). Learning to learn from text: A framework for improving classroom practice (No. 30). In E. K. Dishner, J. Readance, & T. Bean (Eds.), Reading in the content areas: Improving classroom practice (pp. 1–38). Dubuque IA: Kendall Hunt.

For a number of additional resources related to advocating for science, social studies, and arts education, see http://knowledgematterscampaign.org/.

Setting the Stage for ­­­­Joy and Independence in Reading

by Irene Fountas, Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative, Author, and Featured Speaker at the 2016 Literacy for All Conference

A classroom is a place where children can thrive in a language-rich, print-rich, social environment every day of the school year. When you support continuous inquiry, children’s fascination with people and the world, and multi-text based learning, you engage the hearts and minds of your students. They learn how to learn and develop a sense of agency that will propel their literacy learning across the year.

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The foundation of growing up literate in our schools lies in authentic literacy learning that brings together children’s language and background experiences with the world of print and media. It begins with getting wonderful books in every child’s hands and selecting high quality complex texts that capture children’s attention with the language, craft and ideas of fiction and nonfiction texts. And it continues when the fabric of the classroom is reading, thinking, talking and writing about books.

The early milestones for developing students’ views of themselves as readers and writers include setting up an organized classroom library in a range of relevant and appealing categories, providing a variety of enticing book talks and teaching your students to do the same, teaching students how to select books that interest them and they can enjoy, teaching students how to talk to each other about books, and introducing the reader’s notebook as a place to reflect on reading through writing.

When students spend their time reading books, thinking about books, talking about books, and writing about them, they build the stamina and independence that places books at the center and promotes a lifetime of joy in reading.


Irene Fountas will be speaking at the upcoming Literacy for All conference, October 23-25, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island. Her sessions include:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Celebrating the Twentieth Anniversary of Guided Reading: Elevating Teacher Expertise in Differentiated Instruction (Grades K-5) 

Irene Fountas, Author/Director, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative, Lesley University, MA
Gay Su Pinnell, Author/Professor Emerita, The Ohio State University, OH

 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Digging Deep: Teaching for Reading Power in Guided Reading Lessons (Grades K-5)

Irene Fountas, Author/Director, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative, Lesley University, MA
Gay Su Pinnell, Author/Professor Emerita, The Ohio State University, OH