Do Teachers Have to Be Readers?

Warning: This post is going to be about reading, and it is going to encourage you to read. You may need to go grab your spectacles. 

While mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed, I recently saw this infographic by @grantdraws:

It not only had a great Quentin Blake-like look and style (compare it to the amazing “The Rights of the Reader” poster below), but it made me think about the important role that we have as teachers in fostering a reading culture in our classrooms and developing in our young ones a lifelong love of reading.

b6ac65977ab617ce01e977a0dc75aabe

This is so good. . .

Most reading programs I’ve worked with are in agreement with the principle that kids have to love reading to want to do it often – although I did take a class in my teaching program that preached otherwise. The more kids read, the better they tend to achieve. The below infographic, which I found shared on usd343.net, is quite convincing for teachers, parents, and students alike:

 

image8108966346613792902

As I am an elementary school classroom teacher that prescribes to a transdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, I am charged with delivering instruction in all of the disciplines. The PYP model itself gives me the responsibility of teaching language, math, science, and social studies at a minimum, and it is very clear that all teachers in a PYP school are considered language teachers.

Back to the “Stages of the Reader” . . .

I personally have gone through all of the stages of this infographic, but I have stopped hoarding books due to the transient nature of international teaching. It comes down to the simple but sad fact that the more books I bring along, the more my shipping costs will be to schlep them all to my next country. Otherwise, I see myself and my reading journey in most of the other 8 stages, and I feel like I have a strong identity as a reader. I really hope that my love of reading and writing rubs off on my students – and if it doesn’t for some, usually offering the chance for them to build a reading fort if they read enough does the trick! 😜

Do teachers have to be readers? 

Who am I to say who should be a teacher and who shouldn’t, but it might not be so controversial to say that you might not be made for teaching – especially if you are a reading teacher – if you don’t have a strong identity as a reader. This crosses over into the other disciplines as well. Should one be responsible for the future of our young mathematicians if one abhors math? Is it appropriate for a teacher to dive into a writer’s workshop with kids if he/she has never felt the urge to put pen to paper?

3742069

your vs. you’re

This post doesn’t mean to be provocative, but I would like your feedback. If a teacher is not a reader, can they truly succeed as a reading teacher by just faking it? Are there certain age levels that can “survive” a non-reading teacher, or certain disciplines where a strong reader’s identity is not necessary?

Let us know in the comments below, and keep on coming back to educationrickshaw.com for posts about teaching and education today, including a recent series called Why would anyone want to become a teacher? 

And remember, it is never too late to start at Stage 1 of @grantdraws’s “Stages of the Reader”!

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 1.37.17 PM

Podcasts are Great Way to Develop Speaking and Listening

If you’ve ever checked out our Friends of Educationrickshaw.com page, you may have seen mention of my best friend Jim Stewart Allen’s ongoing podcast project, Historiography!. While the content is geared towards adults, we were able to collaborate on an episode that made it into my classroom:

 

 

In the episode, Jim makes a call out to all of my kids in Sudan, which immediately blew their minds when I showed it to them in class. He then goes into his typical dissection of a media piece, this time being the Phases of Matter episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which my students had just watched in preparation for this surprise event. The listen not only led to a lot of laughs and conversation about the science, but it intrigued my Year 5’s  to the point that they wanted to record their own podcasts!

Recording the Podcasts

Like a piece of writing, there are both linear and non-linear ways of arriving at a published podcast. For brainstorming, the kids and I love Inspiration, and I made sure to have students practice with partners or small audiences before they launched into the publishing stage. For the actual recording, I had students create a cover photo and then record their voice over it using Seesaw.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 6.40.58 PM

Thanks @MrsGadtke for the poster!

See Also: 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Seesaw, which has been retweeted a few times by Seesaw themselves

Learning Potential

Almost all of the students felt that they needed a few shots to actually get it right, and it was wonderful to watch students struggle to produce the exact words they needed to convey meaning. One of the biggest hurdles that some students had to jump was filling airtime with entertaining banter and commentary. Many at first experienced a sort of podcast stage fright that forced them to scrap their recording and start over again. In one outlying case, a student had to switch over to recording in iMovie so that they could edit out the long pauses that kept making it into his final recording.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 7.13.56 PM

The more that I think about the potential learning that can occur from planning and recording podcasts, the more I want to get going on another unit that includes them as a learning engagement. As you can see from the below photo, most of my kids’ podcasts would be considered “segments”, but I am sure there is room for the other two methods  as well. Interviews especially sound cool.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 6.55.05 PM

Photo: https://coschedule.com/blog/how-to-start-a-podcast/

As we connected our Seesaw blogs to a class outside of Sudan, the students also can learn how to promote their podcasts to reach a larger audience, how to provoke and stimulate thinking from others, and how to keep the conversation going in the comments. The parents in my classes have been very engaged with all of our online tools, so their podcasts could be the source of discussion at the dinner table, thereby extending the learning into the home. If you’re looking for ways to meet speaking and listening standards, podcasts might be the way to go.


What do you think? We at educationrickshaw.com appreciate the feedback that you leave in the comments area below, and we always respond.

Thanks for visiting!

 

3 Old School Elementary Events That Still Have Value (but Need to Change)

In a never-ending quest to innovate in the classroom, it can be easy to shun the traditional elements of Western education in favor of those that feel more trendy. Try posting a photo of a Science Fair on Twitter and you’ll get far fewer likes than if you post about students coding video games for a cardboard arcade (👈🏻 as I did). While I totally agree that there are some practices that are as dusty as an old chalkboard, this article is about three old school elementary events that may not be fashionable, but should still be a part of the curriculum.

#1 Science Fair

One of the downsides to putting on a traditional science fair is that it largely can come down to a competition between parents, rather than a good learning experience for the kids. In order to avoid this common problem, I had students bring in materials from home, but complete the experiments and boards in class. It may have taken more class time, but it gave me plenty of information to use to develop lessons that catered to the unique needs of this particular group.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.02.58 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.03.54 PM

Another common problem with traditional science fairs is that the whole shebang is kicked off with little to no instructions or parameters, i.e. Prepare a science experiment, make a board and show it. 

This type of setup inevitably leads to very little understanding of the scientific method, or of basic scientific skills and concepts. Typically students end up creating cool projects like a potato clock or a volcano, but understand nothing about the science behind it. In my class’s science fair, we focused entirely on our UOI’s central idea, which was on the three states of matter. This way, students shared and built knowledge on the same topics. Students were only allowed to choose experiments that contributed to their collective understanding of the central idea, and we spent a lot of time reading texts, watching videos, and compiling information into online resources (Check out how to use Moodle in an elementary classroom).

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.03.43 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.04.19 PM

Finally, this science fair was not a competition trying to pit parents and students against their community members. It was a Year 5-only event that brought parents and students together to talk about the understandings that we had gained over the course of a six week unit. Did some students succeed more than others? Yes. Did anyone lose? Of course not!

#2 Spelling Bee

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.04.03 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.03.31 PM

Now that I just knocked turning elementary science fairs into competitions, let’s talk about the most notorious of all of the elementary academic competitions: The Spelling Bee. Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with competitions that promote learning. I have a problem with competitions that only exist for competition’s sake (aka for the benefit of parents and teachers). When teachers set up a spelling bee in a way that promotes the learning of year-level spelling patterns, commonly misspelled year-level words, and develops a love of language, I am all for it.

My class’s spelling bee was a culmination of all of the work that we had put into spelling that year, and only included words that students had been tested on in weeks prior. There was home study time built into their homework schedules, but I structured it so that students would not exceed the required 15 minutes that they’d had all year anyway. I made sure to communicate my concerns to parents about turning this friendly competition into something that stressed students out to the point of disliking spelling, and they seemed to be on board. In the end, we were all proud of what the students had achieved, and they consequently did very well on the spelling portion of our end-of-year standardized assessments.

#3 End of Year Awards

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 1.17.39 PM

Much debate has surrounded how awarding students for every little achievement is turning the next generation (my generation?) into one that is thanklessly entitled and overprivileged. And if we’re giving students awards for something that they don’t earn, I guess I have to agree. At my school, we reward students for achievement in a variety of ways, but only those that deserve an award get one at the end of the year Prize Giving ceremony. We show a particular emphasis on progress, growth and development so that those students that deserve recognition for effort are recognized alongside students that are academically inclined. It may be old school, but it it an indispensable part of setting goals and achieving them in an academic setting.


 

What do you think? Would you scrap all of these in favor for alternative events? Am I wrong, and all of these need to go the way of the dinosaur? Comment below and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com and check out our Teachers Pay Teachers.

 

 

Kids should read a book and build a freaking fort

Motivating kids to become lifelong readers is every teacher’s goal, but I’ll be the first to admit to having to resort to crummy prizes and rewards, including candy and toys, to get kids to read a book. In this short post, I want to offer a fun alternative: The blanket fort.


Set a goal with your readers to read a certain amount, and if they do, they can build a freaking fort.

The blanket fort is an incentive that links closely to reading (when they build it, they will read in it), and it costs you no money. Just send home a letter and collect blankets and sheets for a week. Once they design it and build it, have them read in it.

If your maintenance team is cool, have them string up some wires or ropes or something to hang the blankets and sheets. Push the desks together and make tunnels. During breaks, invite other classes in for a tour and read them a story. Who cares? It’s a fort!

At the end of the day, what students need from their teacher is someone that models their love of reading. Don’t take reading so seriously in elementary that you disenfranchise your base. Inject a shot of adrenaline into your reading program and let kids build a freaking fort.

The CODA Perspective on Teaching and Learning

I am the child of a Deaf mother, emphasis on the capital D. CODA has been a term used by some to refer to a “Child Of a Deaf Adult”, aka me. American Sign Language is one of my two home languages – and the one that I spend restless night practicing to the ceiling.

13920688_1405890992759800_6942152237260989263_n

My mom’s classroom of Deaf and hard-of-hearing preschoolers

It wasn’t until recently that I started to see my mother’s identity as a Deaf woman and a teacher of the Deaf as having a profound influence on my teaching practice. Let me explain.

For us CODAs. . .

Differentiation Comes More Naturally

My mom has to live in a world where many people prefer to communicate by speaking and hearing. While it’s easy to assume that most people have the decency to write their words on a piece of paper to explain something to my mom at a Jiffy Lube, I grew up seeing example after example of poor communication and a lack of differentiation from hearing people of all walks of life.

Maybe that’s why it always seemed like a no-brainer to me that teachers provide a variety of visual and audio cues for students, and to provide opportunities for students to produce work in the formats that suit them. Sometimes a whole class discussion can be intimidating; Use an online forum once in awhile. Some kids like to read by themselves; Create a balanced reading program in your classroom so that kids have the opportunity to read in multiple ways. There are many, many ways to get that “snapshot of learning”, and they don’t all have to be teacher directed or written by hand on a piece of paper.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-3-21-19-pm

Check out this wikihow on How to Communicate with Deaf People

Which brings us to. . .

Technology is Ubiquitous

If you just started reading here, my mom is Deaf, meaning that she cannot hear out of both ears and uses American Sign Language and English to communicate with people. The technology that I grew up watching my mother use has improved dramatically. I have to admit that I am a bit nostalgic right now thinking back at the old days of the TTY and the phone operators, and how that has now been replaced by the iPhone in my mom’s pocket.

timeline

Things have changed so fast, but let’s be clear: We were using that 1980’s device (TTY) throughout the nineties and well into the 2000’s.

While my mom would be first to admit that she is not the most tech-savvy teacher, I wonder if somewhere between the vibrating mattress alarm clock and the flashing doorbell did I start to conceptualize technology differently than if I had been brought up in a hearing household.

In my view, technology should be completely ubiquitous during the learning process. Why some teachers still see technology as a completely separate entity and subject that has no connection to learning is beyond me. In a 21st Century-minded classroom, a student’s device is as ubiquitous as a wall clock, and a teacher plans for ways to maximize learning without focusing on any one tool or device.

Noisy is Overrated

There’s definitely been a trend in recent years to focus on aesthetics more than on evidence of student learning. My Twitter Feed is always full of teachers and administrators professing a “new” messy and noisy style of learning. Now, while my classroom can get that way when the task fits the learning, you can also find my entire class sitting around with headphones while diligently completing a project.

img_0484

They’re not flopping under tables with exercise balls and wearing beanbag hats, so they must not be learning!!

My mom’s classroom (which was also my classroom when I was in preschool) is an entirely silent place, but with a lot of language going on. Students are signing, sharing, playing and fighting in the quietest preschool you’ve ever seen. Whether or not you’re a control freak or a laissez-faire style teacher, a classroom shouldn’t always be noisy, and it should definitely never be deafening. Take a page out of a Deaf teacher’s classroom and have a silent day or hour to celebrate the inaudible sounds of learning.

Respect for Home Language and Language Minorities

Raised during a time when sign language has become increasingly threatened by the hearing folks that prefer an implant-only approach for their Deaf children, rather than learning a bit of sign language, I see home language as an important part of my students’ identities.

images

Loss of home language is especially an important issue in the international teaching circuit, where many students’ school language is interfering with the students’ retention of their home language. When a child loses their home language to the point that they are no longer comfortable speaking or signing it, it’s nearly impossible to see the transfer of home language to the next generation. It gets even worse for language minorities without a sizable population or community in a child’s host country that can help support home language acquisition.

thank-you-sign-language

Deafness is such a part of my life that it may have even found its way into my teaching. I hope you enjoyed this and other articles you have read at educationrickshaw.com, and I promise that I will keep on signing all of my ideas for blog posts to the ceiling on restless nights.

First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com