Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Literacy and Technology

Yesterday I had the opportunity to collaborate with two Digital Learning Consultants and Colleagues from Green Hills AEA (Southwest Iowa),  MaryAnn Farrell and Judy Griffin.   We developed a webinar/podcast discussing the K-5 Literacy Standards and the technology embedded within those standards.

Judy shared a post in the GHAEA's Digital Learning Consultants blog  called "Case for Tech".  In the blog, she provides a great slide show about each standard and gives examples of tech tools to hep meet those standards.   In addition, Judy's blog contains the links for the tools we discuss in the webinar.

I hope you enjoy the webinar and the tools listed in "Case for Tech".

Integrating Tech and Literacy

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Importance of a Strong Core

Greetings!  On this warm, windy day, while working outside, I found myself thinking about the importance of a strong core.   A strong core is certainly necessary to hold oneself upright when the wind is pushing you from all directions.  It's also important for many every day tasks--balancing while holding a child, carrying a brief case and a cup of coffee, lifting a foot to put on a shoe...you get the idea.    Strengthening your core is certainly important if you want to be strong and avoid injuries that can happen if you are overcompensating for a weak core and "tweak something".  In fact, the first thing my Chiropractor asks me when I go to see him for a mild ailment, is "How's your core exercising coming along?"   Hmmm...I generally say, "Probably not doing as much as I should".  He gently reminds me of the importance and I get back to doing the basics again.

Ironically, the same thing is true with a strong Core in Literacy.   It is literally the foundation upon which everything else is built.   A strong and effective Core keeps the system of the school (just like the body system) balanced and in line so that you don't overtax other systems that are in place.  Just as I can't exercise effectively without strengthening my Core muscles, a school system can't operate efficiently and effectively without a strong Core.   We simply cannot become stronger as an educational system unless we have a strong Core in place.  

So, what does that mean for us as teachers?   We must ensure that we have at least 90 minutes every school day of scientific, research-based reading instruction that includes: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.   If we have a strong Core in Literacy, we will have 80% of our students who are proficient or meeting benchmark on an outcome based measure such as FAST CBM.  

If we find ourselves in the situation where we don't have a strong Core...what can we do?  Well-the simple answer is "make it stronger".   Sounds simple, just likely strengthening my core sounds simple.  In fact, what we know is strengthening a Core, whether it be in our bodies through doing crunches and other exercises, or in Literacy, it is hard work.  Sometimes it is not only hard work--it is down right painful!   It takes a team---a dedicated team to make a strong Core in Literacy.    It takes self-examination---What am I doing as a teacher?    It takes knowledge---What does an effective Core look like, feel like, sound like?

Fortunately, there are many tools to help schools and teachers.  Your AEA Literacy Consultants and External Coaches are a great place to start.   I urge you to consider following the blog posts from the Iowa Reading Research Council and to bookmark their site.   The materials and information posted here will greatly assist you as you begin your quest for a stronger Core.  The Iowa Department of Education is another great resource.  Here is the link to their home page-another great one to bookmark.

Finally today-Check out this resource from the RTI Network--"Selecting a Scientifically Based Reading Core Curriculum".

Now is the perfect time to plan for the future!  We can grow stronger-one "crunch" at a time.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Learning Opportunities at GHAEA

Quick Post today.  There are a number of learning opportunities coming up in the next few weeks that I would like to highlight.

Next week REWARDS Writing will be offered at the Halverson Center.  Registration deadline for REWARDS Writing is Feb. 17th.   REWARDS and REWARDS PLUS will be offered in March at the Halverson Center.  To sign up, please access the links accessed in this flyer. 

March 2nd, Dr. Susan Hall will be presenting at the Avoca Regional Office.  The title of her presentation is "How does an unfamiliar word become a familiar sight word?"  To sign up, please access the link in this flyer.    If you can not attend in person but can attend an online presentation, please email me.   This session will NOT be recorded.  

Please consider signing up for these amazing learning opportunities!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Upcoming Learning Opportunity

I am excited to share a great learning opportunity with you!

Dr. Susan Hall, author and co-founder of 95 Percent Group  will be presenting How Does an Unfamiliar Word Become a Familiar Sight Word? by discussing the importance of going beyond segmenting and blending and teaching students to manipulate sounds at a more complex level in order to recognize words in print.

Dr. Hall will be at the Avoca Regional Office on March 2, 2016. Her presentation will be from 9-11 a.m. and participation is limited to 70 people.   

For more information and to register up for this event, please go to this link.

Until next time--stay warm and keep smiling!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Finding My Voice Again

For those of you follow me, you might have notice that I have been "off Blogger land" for awhile.   For a variety of reasons, I have been struggling to find my voice for blogging.  I'm not sure why because as those of you who have met me know-I rarely struggle to find something to say!

I returned to some of my favorite routines at the beginning of 2016,( like getting up early to exercise) and this week I started thinking about my routine of "blogging".  So, this morning on the treadmill, I said to myself, "Girl, get with it.." and 12 hours later, here I am trying to find my voice.  

Since Voice is on my mind, let's talk a bit about the Voice of Evidence In Teaching Reading.   (I'm sure you are thinking to yourself---now that's an exciting topic!)   There was a point in my life where I might have thought the same thing, but NOT NOW!   Learning about evidenced based and researched based practices in Reading truly excites me.  I love learning about what will give me the "best possible opportunity" to make a difference in the teaching of Reading, especially to those who struggle the most.   In fact, whenever I look at teaching materials or teaching strategies, my first question is..."What's the evidence base behind this?"   That question is often followed by "Who were these materials designed for?"  

Effect size goes hand in hand with these questions.   Effect size refers to the size or magnitude of an effect.   An effect size of .8  is very large, whereas an effect size of .2 is considered small.  It should be noted that even a small effect size can make a difference.   An effect size of .4 or more is generally a good indicator of a positive impact on student achievement.   When looking at researched based practices we owe it to our students to look at the effect size before choosing to engage in the practice.

Professor John Hattie's book "Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning" identifies practices that help us answer the question "What has the Greatest Impact on Student Learning?"  His work involved meta-analysis of research and it provides us with guidance on practices in which to engage students.  

   You can get a small snippet of this work from this link.     It's worth a look.   Next time, I'll share some of my favorite sites for finding those evidenced based practices talked about in Hattie's Research.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Great Fluency Resource for Extending Learning-Don't miss this reduced price!

I have mentioned this app a few times before- the RAAC Tutor app is a great tool for students who need additional Fluency and Comprehension practice.  This app will be on sale from Oct.9-12th for 99 cents!  It's a great bargain!   Here is some information to help you think about whether or not the app is right for a student you may be working with: "The Reread-Adapt and Answer-Comprehend, or RAAC, intervention is designed to help improve students’ reading fluency and reading comprehension. The RAAC combines two common reading interventions, repeated reading and question generation, into one supplemental intervention. Although the RAAC app provides materials for first through sixth grade, the intervention is most helpful for students who are reading on a first, second, or third grade reading level. 
The RAAC intervention was developed in 2004 by Dr. William J. Therrien and has been featured in several peer-reviewed journal articles. The RAAC app was created to make this proven and reliable reading intervention available to anyone interested in helping their student improve their reading fluency and reading comprehension. The app breaks down this intervention into simple steps and will walk you through the entire process. You will be able to view a graph of your students’ progress."   From the website R.A.A.C (accessed Oct. 6, 2015)

Dr. Therrien will be joining me electronically during my presentation entitled "Extending Learning Through RAAC tutor" at the GHAEA 21st Century Conference on Friday, Oct.9th.   If you would like more information about this presentation, please email me.   

I hope you will consider taking advantage of this great opportunity!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Been Golfing lately?

Last week I had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful weather and go golfing with my husband.  I am very much a "novice" golfer and I do not often take time to go play.  I had some great swings that day and I had one hole where I actually got a "bogey".  Not a double or triple bogey, but a bogey!  I was so excited!    Then as often is the case, I had a series of very bad shots.   It became very clear to me that I was really not automatic with the game of golf.   I still have many, many sub-skills of the game of golf that I need to gain automaticity in so that I can maybe have more "bogey" holes.    It's still a great game and I will keep at it, but I will need a great deal of practice to get better.  

It dawned on me today that golf is just like reading in many ways.   Professional golfers are automatic in their swing.  They make it look really, really easy.   Proficient readers are the same.  You listen to a proficient reader and you think, "Wow, listen to their expression.  Listen to the way they make reading sound like talking.  Reading must be really easy!  

In both golf and reading, this is obviously not true.   Professional golfers have spent countless hours honing their golf skills.  They spend hours working on nothing but accuracy in chipping, putting and driving the ball. They must be accurate in their ability to strike the ball without looking up--trust me that is harder than it seems.  They work with coaches who analyze their swing and help them with everything from their stance to the way they hold the ball to the way they swing the club.  

Just as golfers need automaticity in many smaller skills to become proficient, so do readers need automaticity in smaller skills to become fluent, proficient readers.  Proficient readers must be accurate first and foremost.   They must be accurate in the underlying and very important skills of reading like phonemic awareness and phonics.  They must be accurate and automatic in the ability to associate letters with sounds, to blend the sounds together to make parts of words, and then to read individual words.  Once those skills are automatic, then a reader can move on to read phrases and sentences and then text in paragraphs.  All the while they are working on these sub-skills, novice readers are also trying to comprehend and to learn vocabulary.  Wow--there's a lot going on there!

The reason I think this is on my mind comes back to my post several weeks ago about screening and the data from screening.    In that post I talked about the reason for screening and how it helps us as educators.    I encourage you to look at your screening data carefully.   When you see students who are not at benchmark for fluency, please look at their accuracy data as well.   If the student does not have at least 95% accuracy, please consider looking at the sub-skills of reading.
Perhaps the child needs work with becoming an accurate reader at the sound, sub-word, word or phrase level.
If so, you might find this link to  fluency information in Reading Rockets helpful.     I would love to talk with you more about this, but right now it's time to call it a week...More to follow I promise.

And if any of you know of a good golfing tip for helping me to become more accurate, I'd love it if you would share!