In a time of continued budget cuts, I would argue that schools should not drop:
1. Spelling – Students need to recognize when spelling is important (as the image above illustrates) and to have the confidence to question the spellchecker:
2. Cursive writing – I get that the Common Core State Standard’s technology-based approach calls for students to use
Internet-based tools to produce and publish writing, but why is that at the expense of cursive writing? The National Archives director of education, Lee Ann Potter, has captured my thinking on the value of teaching cursive writing in her recent Point/Counterpoint piece. Yes, cursive is about handwriting, but it’s also about reading. I treasure a stack of letters my grandmother saved from my grandfather, who died when my father was only five. These primary sources provide a window into events in two small California towns prior to World War I. They also are a direct connection to my heritage and to a grandfather I never met. I can read these time capsules without a translator, and so can my children, who both learned cursive writing in 3rd grade. But I can already see that the “writing is on the wall,” and that, most likely, the teaching of cursive will disappear from Title I schools (but remain part of private school curriculum – as one more dividing line).
3. Librarians – I stand back in awe of the talent, commitment, and impact of my district’s librarians. I’ve been joining their monthly after-school meetings, and each time have left inspired by the powerful ways they help teachers and students extend learning through technology integration (Glogster for a history assignment, Animoto for book trailers, QR codes to provide student-read intros to new books, etc.) My long-time hero Jamie McKenzie sums up my observations in his Why We Still Need Libraries and Librarians article.
Crossing my fingers that January does not bring worse news and realities into California schools!
It’s been a while since I’ve revisited the Library of Congress Teachers website, so I’m attending this session to see what’s new (and as a way to remember my LOC friend and mentor Leni Donlan). Gail Petri is the main presenter and has already uploaded her presentation: Differentiation through the Use of Primary Sources.
Activity – Gail’s starting by asking what kinds of primary sources do you have with you? Pick item – then tell neighbor why you picked it. Point: recognize that what we put together for our students reflects our own biases.
Gail shows bibliographic record when working with students. If you click on the migrant children photograph above (from the Voices of the Dust Bowl collection), that will take you to the bibliographic record for this image. Gail recommends taking advantage of the growing collection of LOC primary sources to engage students, build their critical thinking skills, and help them to construct knowledge. If you open her PowerPoint, you’ll see a sample resources for igniting a conversation around immigration, for instance, via a study of historic newspapers.
Loved the 1916 sheet music piece Don’t Bite the Hand that’s Feeding You, which connects in many ways to 2011 issues. Thanks to the LOC’s National Jukebox, teachers now have access to 10,000 songs, recorded from 1900-1925, for streaming (no downloading). How often do we have our students listen carefully to the words in a song – across 100 years?!
And I think you’re going to want to click on the image below to watch actual 1903 footage, credited to Thomas Edison, of immigrants debarking on Ellis Island. Great window into our past!
Thank you, LOC, for your incredible collections of our nation’s history.
Imagine hearing the peaceful music of the harp drifting across an elementary school campus at the close of a busy school day. This image might bring to mind enrichment programs typical of more affluent school sites. But if 4th grade teacher Teresa Cheung is awarded a Pepsi Grant, students at David Reese Elementary School, a Title 1/Program Improvement site in my district, will have access to an after-school program that could be life changing.
Life changing? One student’s story inspired Teresa to apply for the grant:
Thanks to an EETT grant, over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of spending time in Teresa’s classroom. She is an exceptional teacher, who cares deeply about her students, and continually strives to inspire a love for learning.
Please, please help Teresa fund a set of harps for her after-school program – Harps for Hope. It will take you less than a minute to login to vote – And you can vote every day up to July 31st.
As of today, Harps for Hope is ranked number 125. If we (you, me, and anyone you know who cares about leveling the playing field) can bring her proposal into the top 10, Harps for Hope will be funded!!!!
Are you kidding me… close Oak Ridge Elementary School?! In what is already less than a banner year for education in general, it was painful to start my morning with a local story, the Sac Bee‘s front page story: 3 area schools told: Reform or close.
Oak Ridge Elementary School is part of the Sacramento City Unified School District. It also where my friend Alice Mercer teaches. Many readers of my blog also know Alice. And if you know Alice, you know that students who enter her computer lab have opportunities to connect, create, collaborate, and share – and to experience what 21st century teaching, learning, and citizenship is all about. You also know, through conversations with Alice, how hard the Oak Ridge team works to level the playing field for their students and to provide them with tools and programs that will take them beyond “basic.”
I’m not sure how to interpret Sac City Superintendent Jonathan Raymond’s response: “It’s not a list you want to have a school recognized on. We’re obviously disappointed about that. But looking at the numbers and the data, it’s not a surprise.”
For the sake of the students, parents, teachers, and administrators of Oak Ridge Elementary School, I hope having their school on “the list of the state’s lowest-performing schools” will not lead the site backwards into “the genteel unteaching of America’s poor.”
Hang in there, Oak Ridge Elementary!
How do we bring administrators on board with 21st century possibilities for teaching and learning?
This question has been on my mind since Wednesday, when a colleague shared with me that her principal came to her classroom while she was embarking on a movie making project with her class. In front of the students, he asked her to explain what standards she was addressing and to justify how filmmaking fit into the 4th grade curriculum.
She called me to ask what resources she might share to help him understand the rationale for filmmaking and other forms of digital composing as part of the core curriculum.
Here are my recommendations:
Technology integration in general:
Movie making in particular:
How are you helping administrators bypass all those 20th century bus stops and keep moving forward? I invite you share any resources you think might help this wonderful, wonderful teacher help her principal!
I finally bought a copy of Kelly Gallagher‘s Readicide. I wish I had read it sooner so that I could have joined in the VoiceThread and the English Companion Ning discussions. However, I have it now and want to promote it to anyone working with K-12 students! In less than 150 pages, the author clearly explains “how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it.”
If you are at a site that does not support a minimum of 15 minutes per day of silent sustained reading – read this book.
If you are at a site that mandates a reading anthology exclusively, at the cost of removing novels – read this book.
If you are looking for strategies to engage students in literature and promote a life-long love of reading – read this book.
With so many thought-provoking ideas, powerful strategies, and even links to the supporting research that are applicable to elementary through high school readers, Readicide would make for a great faculty book club read. I’ll leave you with Kelly’s closing words:
If we are to find our way again – if students are to become avid readers again – we, as language arts teachers, must find our courage to recognize the difference between the political worlds and the authentic worlds in which we teacher, to swim against those current educational practices that are killing young readers, and to step up and do what is right for our students.
We need to find this courage. Today. Nothing less than a generation of readers hangs in the balance.”
Ok, this is more a rant than plea, but someone needs to speak up for the many first or second-year, non-tenured teachers, who are obviously not really in a position to register a formal complaint regarding the amount of their valuable time and energy that is being siphoned off by BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) requirements. BTSA is a California thing, but I imagine other states and countries have similar programs. I visited the website, but had trouble getting past the logo, which visually suggests to me that the program is all about assessment, but allows for slipping in a sliver of support.
Fortunately there are BTSA mentors who are absolute heroes to their assignees. Take, for example, Edna Shoemaker, a high school English teacher who mentored…..high school English teachers at her school site. My Area 3 Writing Project colleague Bee Foster described her sessions with Edna as “So worthwhile!” Edna was her thinking partner and number one supporter. During their sessions, Bee could rethink and rework her lesson plans, and walk into class the next day ready to engage her students in powerful, well-crafted literacy activities.
So if you are a BTSA mentor and you suspect that your assignees are less than thrilled with their program, I would like to make a few recommendations:
It is my goal to revisit the BTSA topic throughout the school year and add to the list of mentor heroes. If you know a BTSA hero or would like to add to or discuss items on the suggestions list, I welcome your comments!
I would like to show my support of edublogger Al Upton by pointing readers to Sue Water‘s wiki, which includes a link to Rob Darrow‘s recent post, in which I found Miguel‘s link to Graham Hughes’s badge and a link to Steve Hargadon‘s interview with Al.
I looked through my categories, but couldn’t find one that fit Al and his Minilegends. So I’ve added a new one: In Support of…