At the end of October, I attended and spoke at the annual International Dyslexia Association (IDA) meeting in Dallas. IDA remains the best interdisciplinary conference for all professionals, advocates, and families concerned with reading, writing, and language difficulties. IDA meetings, over the past three decades, are where I’ve obtained my real education.
This meeting was as informative as ever. We heard from neuroscientists, psychologists, directors of interdisciplinary research centers, researchers in language acquisition, experienced clinicians, education advocates, teacher educators, public school literacy leaders, and families affected by learning difficulties. Through diverse perspectives, one theme stood out for me: We will serve students and families better if we are informed by the facts. Romantic ideas, though appealing, will not serve the needs of students or teachers. Let’s examine a few beliefs that we’re better off without.
Here’s the most excellent example of stating the obvious in the history of educational research. When an intervention is implemented with high fidelity, it is more effective than when it is implemented with low fidelity. Really, it’s that simple … and obvious.
So, what is this fidelity of implementation thing? Simply put, fidelity of implementation describes the extent to which delivery of an instructional practice adheres to the protocol on which it was developed or field tested. Or as my father liked to say when I was fiddling with assembling models as a kid, “Do it the way the instructions say.”
I am more than a teacher. I am an activator. I'm tasked with lighting thousands upon thousands of little ‘aha’ moments in little minds each year. Not each spark takes hold, but others explode! Sometimes, I get to see the magic take hold in the most powerful of ways. Part 2 of 2.
Carmen came to me a reading-shy freshman. She was ever so polite, with a smile that melts my heart daily.
She'd forget her glasses. She'd quietly chat with her friend. She'd wait for someone to notice she was lost.
In the past, I would give her a heads up before calling on her and be met with panicked eyes. While another student read aloud, I'd go over to her and softly let her know I'd help her. When she started to shut down, I'd smile and let her know that ladies let people know what they need and move forward. I'd remind her that she was still moving ahead.
I am more than a teacher. I am an activator. I'm tasked with lighting thousands upon thousands of little ‘aha’ moments in little minds each year. Not each spark takes hold, but others explode! Sometimes, I get to see the magic take hold in the most powerful of ways. Part 1 of 2.
Periodically, I stop class for a five-minute life lesson. I teach transferable skills, as many of them as I can, on and off curriculum. As these teachable moments crop up, I seize them. I'm preparing my kiddos for life. I'd be shirking my responsibilities if I didn't teach them the soft skills that subtly support us as we move through the world. My pupils needed to be well read, analytical, adept at critical thinking, and savvy. Most of all, they needed to find their voice. They live in a world that doesn't always tell them their “value.” They are told constantly what they are “worth.”
While many language skills and comprehension strategies are embedded in daily lessons, teachers know that the overall purpose of each lesson sequence is to understand content related to a theme. The reason for reading a text is clear: The text is worthwhile. It is complex and rich. The topic is inherently interesting—or if it isn’t, yet, it will be once the students know something about it. The reader will be rewarded with understanding, insight, ideas, and new information.
For those of us who have been around for a while, Digital Learning Day (or DLDay), happening February 17, has special significance. I fall into the “around for a while” category because I had both a TRS-80 and an Apple II. How cool is that? I also had long, blond hair, but let’s not dwell on the past.
The special significance of DLDay for us is that so many of our dreams are coming true. Blended learning is a great example. For many years, the technology aspect of education was a little standoffish. Because of limitations of hardware and software, it was challenging to use technology in the ways we thought were most effective.
But because of recent software advances, blended learning is making its way into more and more classrooms. And it is paying off. When you combine the expertise and caring of the teacher with technology, you have a learning environment in which students are most likely to benefit.
How One Teacher is Working Her Magic to Help Struggling Students Reclaim Their Education, Part 2 of 2
As is my usual style, my little ideas quickly take on a life of their own and turn into BIG magic!
Since I was already pulling out all the stops for Lham, as described in last week’s blog post, I scoured my roster for others like him. These students were caught up in a political Groundhog Day from which they could not escape. There was a lot of identifying and re-identifying of the problems, without any real plan to remediate the issues.
How One Teacher is Working Her Magic to Help Struggling Students Reclaim Their Education, Part 1 of 2
Things are moving fast these days in this magical universe. It’s been raining pink glitter ever since I published my first blog post. I’ve been moving quickly from dream to idea to plan to action. Recently, I turned my attention to at-risk students on my roster.
Rather than focusing on text reading this month, let’s turn our attention to one of the critical components of language necessary for comprehension: vocabulary.
Educators often point to the importance of expanding students’ vocabularies, but how is verbal learning acquired? A new line of research has confirmed, not surprisingly, that the way the teacher talks and how the teacher uses language directly affect student vocabulary growth.
Year after year, I struggled with students who claimed to hate reading. They didn’t like to read. They told me so, over and over again. I have a stock response: “You know, every time you say that an English teacher cries.”
Handing out reading assignment packets or calling for volunteers to read aloud was consistently met with gut-wrenching groans. I am an unusually peppy person, but I was deflating. Must I hear this every time? We hadn’t even started the reading yet.
I had to end this cycle of abuse on innocent texts. They weren’t to blame. The curriculum, teachers’ interests, accessibility, and availability were all factors in killing reading for our students. Alas, poor little packets of photocopied words take the bulk of the wrath for students being told over and over again “Reading is FUN!” as they gaze down, bracing themselves for one more double-sided, black-and-white chore.