Monday, May 21, 2012

Post for the week of May 21, 2012

It's graduation season, so I've been thinking about College and Career Readiness lately.  Having taught seniors for the past five years or so, I am in touch with many college-aged students and hear about their struggles.  College, in many ways, is the perfect storm for literacy.  A college student is assigned hundreds of pages of independent reading per week and is rarely told explicitly what the reading "means."  College reading is full of discipline-specific academic vocabulary and allusions/references the student may have never encountered.  College students can write in their books, but they might never do it because they have never done it before and don't know how.  They may never have taken notes from readings before.  Fed a steady stream of novels in high school, college may be the students' first encounter with difficult textbooks and massive amounts of non-fiction.  They have to write papers that are longer than the five-paragraph essay, and they have to synthesize multiple sources and cite them correctly.  If they mess up a Works Cited page, they may be expelled for plagiarism.  Used to helicopter-ing parents and teachers, students may not know they can attend professors' office hours and writing centers for extra help. 

In short, these issues are why the Common Core was developed, approved, and implemented.  Read the standards closely.  If we teach the CCSS, students should be able to head to college with more confidence and less anxiety.  College still won't be stress free (or less expensive!), but it will be more manageable . . .

Awesome Teacher Web Site
If you're looking for some quick inspiration, check out the "Eye on Education" channel on YouTube.  They have very short videos from experts on relevant educational topics.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Post for the Week of May 14, 2012

How well do you know the new Frameworks book (a.k.a. "the Green Monster")?  In the back is a helpful glossary of terms.  This glossary could serve many purposes.  Maybe sit down during vertical teaming and divvy the words up?  Some might only need to be addressed once or twice, but others need to be taught at every grade level with increasing complexity.  For example, a 12th grader's knowledge of point of view and how to analyze it should be much more sophisticated than that of a 6th grader.  Take some time to look through the glossary; you might be surprised by what you find!

Did you know that some research suggests that "nearly 80% of the achievement difference between high-income and low-income students may be attributable to summer reading loss"?  Before thinking of your own beach reading, take some time to decide what your school's plan for summer reading will be.  Here are some great summer reading resources!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Post for the Week of May 7, 2012

Post for the Week of May 7, 2012 is an excellent Web site for teachers and students!  While it makes simple flash cards, it also creates games for students (such as matching words and definitions by drag and drop).  I've seen kids get hooked on studying for their vocabulary this way.  Multiple exposures!

One major CCC (Common Core Concern--I'm inventing acronyms now!  There aren't enough!) is finding quality non-fiction and informational texts to use with students.  People don't want to buy new textbooks and resources.  I would argue that non-fiction resources are FREE and OMNIPRESENT!  Newspaper articles, speeches (both contemporary and historical) from online, magazine ads, cereal boxes, restaurant menus--ALL are opportunities to study audience, tone, rhetorical strategies, and other text structures.  An English teacher can Google any topic from his/her current literature and find informational texts to support the work.  For example, if you're teaching Lyddie by Katherine Paterson, Google "memoirs lowell mills" and find primary source documents and diaries.  It really is that easy.  You might have to sort through some sources to find the right text complexity for the level you teach, but it's worth it!  I hope we don't use cost as an excuse not to explore the amazing world of informational texts.  This Common Core shift is a challenge, but it will help us build students' literacy skills.

Lastly, the DESE is collecting student work as part of a project to show the Writing Standards in Action.  Please see the two paragraphs below.  If you're interested, please email me at for more information, or email David Buchanan, the Program Coordinator, at  This project is an awesome opportunity for teachers as they organize their final portfolios at the end of the school year.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) is offering Professional Development Points (PDPs) to teachers who contribute high quality student writing to the Writing Standards in Action Project. When the material is published along with commentary on the ESE website, it will offer samples of a greater spectrum of types of writing than is currently available. The material will define standards for writing through actual student work itself, and it will offer guidance for teachers, students and parents about the elements of quality written work. Please consider sending work from any content area that demonstrates a high level of engagement with the content material and has remained open for revision.

Teachers will receive 10 PDPs for the submission of 10 or more samples of student writing and related background information. The project is also seeking candidates with expertise in writing to serve on a committee to review and select student samples