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Another Professional Development Opportunity

The ILA 2019 Conference emphasized how literacy could (and should) be embedded into every aspect of the school day and students’ lives. Among the aims: to create a culture of literacy and learning that extended beyond school walls into communities and homes, with all stakeholders—families and caregivers included—taking an active role.

That mission is more relevant now than ever before.

As educators turn to virtual channels to bring learning to their students, we want to provide digital opportunities to educators in return. [Click here to learn more]

Fodder for Discussion

The February issue of the Journal of Educational Leadership–titled “Rooted in Reading”–delves into a number of reading related topics. One of the articles–“Drawing on Reading Science Without Starting a War”–is of interest to our learning community given the emphasis our department of education has chosen to place on the “science” of reading. To be clear, I’m not endorsing the article or the author’s arguments. Rather, I thought it might be something we could talk about if you’re interested. The article is open access, so if you have time, give it a read and let me know what you think. If it is something we do want to talk about, I’m happy to build time into our schedule. Have a good weekend fellow English teachers!

First Dispatch From the Field

The readings we’ve completed for class thus far this semester, along with my own experience reading Mark Seidenberg’s Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’’t, and What Can Be Done About It, have left me thinking–a lot–about reading, how we learn to read, and what it means to teach and promote reading to secondary students. In Strategies for Reading Assessment and Instruction, Reutzel and Cooter cite research which suggests that “[m]ost children…acquire a vocabulary of over 10,000 words during the first 5 years of their lives.” Beyond that, we know that “[most] schoolchildren learn between 2,000 and 3,600 words per year,” though Reutzel and Cooter acknowledge that these estimates can “vary from 1,500 to more than 8,000” (p. 214). We also know that reading is the single most effective way to build one’s vocabulary, and therein lies the rub: as teachers, we work with students who don’t necessarily regard reading as a pleasurable activity, and who aren’t necessarily motivated to read. If a student lacks the vocabulary to comprehend challenging texts they’re assigned to read, they’re likely to become frustrated and give up on reading with the result that their vocabulary remains static while their reading counterparts’ vocabularies continue to grow and expand. It’s a classic case of the rich getting richer and the poor…well, if not getting poorer, at least staying stuck where they are. As teachers, how can we help students build rich vocabularies? In the first of what I hope will be a series of “dispatches from the field,” Jimena shared how she’s choosing to approach this problem.

As evidenced by the photograph above, Jimena is working with students to build a word wall, an instructional strategy known to support students’ learning Tier 2 words (fairly high frequency words in adult language that are encountered across a range of knowledge domains) and Tier 3 words (low frequency words oftentimes associated with specific knowledge domains–for example, science, English, or math). To make a cross-curricular connection, word walls represent a powerful tool for supporting students’ disciplinary literacy learning, as they help students enter a discipline by exposing them to discipline-specific jargon needed to access and comprehend texts in that discipline. Think, for example, of how the vocabulary knowledge needed to read and comprehend a sentence from a chemistry textbook (e.g., “The symbolic domain contains the specialized language used to represent components of the macroscopic and microscopic domains” varies from the vocabulary knowledge needed to comprehend a history textbook (e.g., “In the early 19th century, American society witnessed a radical transformation, including the spread of evangelical revivalism; the rise of the nation’s first labor and reform movements; and deepening sectional conflicts that would bring the country to the verge of civil war.”). Posing an additional challenge, we know that words take on different meanings across different disciplines.

Something to notice about the word wall that Jimena and her students are building: it incorporates words and images: each vocabulary word is written in print and accompanied by a picture illustrating its meaning. (I’m personally partial to the use of a turtle as a proxy for “amble”!) As we’ve talked about in class, this duel coding approach increases the likelihood that students will remember new words they learn.

That’s it for now, as a full day of faculty meetings awaits me! A special thanks to Jimena for sharing an example of how she’s experimenting with what we’re learning in class. Again, I hope  this post will be the first in a series of “dispatches from the field.” If you do something related to what we’re studying in class which you think is worth sharing with the group, by all means take a picture and send it along. Even better, write a short blog post (like I’ve done) for our web site. (It doesn’t have to be this long!) I’d love to feature your voices on this web site and make it an interactive space where we can share (and steal) ideas.

See you next Wednesday!

10 Steps that Don’t Involve Points, Pizza, or Prizes to Create a School Wide Culture of Reading

“I was recently approached by a school that I partner with in consultancy and asked for advice about how I might lead for developing a school culture of independent reading. Let’s start with the elephant in the room. When I talk about a school wide culture of reading, what I’m NOT talking about are reading programs that require students to read leveled books, take computerized tests for points, and get rewarded with pizza, parties, or prizes. . .” [Continue reading]

Debating the “Science of Reading”

In class tonight Dr. Eilers referenced an  intellectual argument that recently took place between Lucy Calkins, who published an essay titled “No One Gets to Own the Science of Reading,” and Mark Seidenberg, who responded in a piece titled “This is why we don’t have better readers.” It’s not required reading, but in the spirit of helping you stay informed as educators, I’ve linked you to both pieces. If you do read them, I’d love to hear your thoughts about Calkins’s and Seidenberg’s respective arguments.


IMG_0849Welcome to CIED 5213. Please take a few minutes to explore this site, as we’ll be using it extensively over the course of the next few months. You’ll notice that it contains links to important materials, including the syllabus and course readings, as well as resources that might interest you. Consider the site a work in progress. I’ll update it after each class meeting, adding materials that I use in class and directing you to resources that I think you might find helpful.  In the event that you come across materials that you feel are relevant to our work, feel free to share them with me and I’ll add them to our site.

Again, I look forward to working with you as we embark on our study of how to teach reading and literature in the secondary school.