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Reposted from Readers and Book Lovers by The Book Bear
Diane Corcoran Nielsen
"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

I'll always remember my years of teaching K-8 computer literacy and computer-aided instruction. There was something about the small time I spent with kindergarteners each day that made me learn more about teaching thanm perhaps any other experience.

For years teachers have seen students who were promising readers in the primary grades begin to experience challenges in third and fourth grades as reading materials became more difficult. University of Kansas researchers conducted a study with the goal of identifying how to better predict in kindergarten who might have reading difficulties in the future and to determine what extra instruction should include in order to help ensure their later success as readers.
The researchers worked with more than 350 Lawrence kindergartners to see whether they could predict which studedianenielsen100nts might have future reading difficulties. They also provided reading interventions focused on both aspects of learning to read words (phonics and letter identification) and comprehension (vocabulary and story understanding) with a group of students that showed some difficulties with language and reading-related assessments in kindergarten.
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Reposted from Readers and Book Lovers by The Book Bear
Selecting books for young children can not only be a fun and rewarding experience but also a little daunting, considering the number of books available. Frequent collaboration between myself and a public librarian has produced valuable insights about how to begin reading with very young children.

In an article I wrote for The Reading Teacher in November of 2011, with Nampa, Idaho Children's Services Librarian Laura Abbott, suggestions are offered for how parents and educators can choose books that will encourage and motivate lifelong readers.

Six research-based areas defined by the Every Child Ready to Read @ your library program provide the framework: vocabulary, narrative connections, print motivation, print awareness, letter knowledge, and phonological awareness. Parents and teachers can evaluate various books based on this model. Our article offers several descriptions of books, and strategies for instruction and engagement are included with each.

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Reposted from The Book Bear by The Book Bear

This has always been one of my favorite educator and writer gatherings.

I hope to see you there:

I invite you to the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication Annual Convention in Tampa, Florida, for a different kind of R&R: Risk and Reward. This theme acknowledges that risk is critical for innovation and action, two key outcomes I hope we can all foster at the 2015 CCCC Convention. When you join us in Tampa, you’ll see that many of our members are transforming the work of writing and composition. - Joyce Locke Carter Program Chair 2015 CCCC Annual Convention
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Reposted from The Book Bear by The Book Bear Editor's Note: Do you teach the Constitution? Here are some thoughts to explore with your students. -- The Book Bear
by Michael Strickland

Constitutional interpretation claims to be faithful to neutral legal principles. However, a definitive original meaning is nonetheless saddled by contemporary politics and views of morality.

“David Waldstreicher’s intriguing book brilliantly shows the founding fathers’ republican constitution to be, in important part, central to their many evasions of slavery’s antirepublican nature.” —William W. Freehling
Black History month and Martin Luther King celebrations will soon be sprouting up, once again, around the country. With race already at the forefront of the dialogue with heated debates about profiling and police brutality, it is a good time to revisit some vital discussions about how our nation took shape.
Famously, the Constitution never mentions slavery. And yet, of its eighty-four clauses, six were directly concerned with slaves and the interests of their owners. Five other clauses had implications for slavery that were considered and debated by the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the citizens of the states during ratification.
Some scholars, such as Waldstreicher, place slavery slavery’s place at the heart of the U.S. Constitution.

This “peculiar institution” was not a moral blind spot for America’s otherwise enlightened framers, nor was it the expression of a mere economic interest. Slavery was as important to the making of the Constitution as the Constitution was to the survival of slavery.

By tracing slavery from before the revolution, through the Constitution’s framing, and into the public debate that followed, Waldstreicher rigorously shows that slavery was not only actively discussed behind the closed and locked doors of the Constitutional Convention, but that it was also deftly woven into the Constitution itself. For one thing, slavery was central to the American economy, and since the document set the stage for a national economy, the Constitution could not avoid having implications for slavery. Even more, since the government defined sovereignty over individuals, as well as property in them, discussion of sovereignty led directly to debate over slavery’s place in the new republic.

Finding meaning in silences that have long been ignored, Slavery’s Constitution is a vital and sorely needed contribution to the conversation about the origins, impact, and meaning of our nation’s founding document.While the compromise on representation was a critical turning point at the Constitutional Convention, the issue of slavery was just as important. By the 1830s, slaveowners told opponents of slavery that the Constitution protected slavery, representatives from the slave states would never have signed it otherwise, and everyone at the Constitutional Convention knew it. The discussion of the international slave trade at that convention underscores this reality.

Some historians maintain that Southerners at the convention never really contemplated a separate nation. Indeed, the three South Carolina delegates who voice such threats in this extract supported a strong national government. Nevertheless, the belief that their threats were serious had become dogma by the 1850s. Thus the debate began a pattern of threats by slaveowners that eventually resulted in secession.


Slavery was

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Reposted from The Book Bear by The Book Bear
by Michael Strickland

This is an update of my April 29 diary: Police Called on Student Passing Out Free Copies of Sherman Alexie Book.

From the Boise State University Updates:

Michael Strickland, adjunct instructor of literacy, was interviewed by Channel 6 about his efforts to raise money to buy copies of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie. The book recently was removed from the Meridian School District curriculum and Strickland wants to make sure the book is accessible to students because he believes the book addresses subjects teens are already talking about. See the report here.
From April 29, 2014:
Parents in Idaho called the cops last week on junior-high student Brady Kissel when she had the nerve to help distribute a book they’d succeeded in banning from the school curriculum.
Read about how that move predictably backfired.

We need your help here in Idaho.

Now Sherman Alexie is coming to Boise.



Sherman Alexie March 11, 2015 Winner of the PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN Malamud Award for Short Fiction, a PEN Hemingway Citation for Best First Fiction, and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, Sherman Alexie is a poet, short story writer, novelist, and performer. He has published 24 books including What I've Stolen, What I've Earned, poetry and the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Smoke Signals, the movie he wrote and co-produced, won the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He now lives in Seattle.

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Reposted from The Book Bear by The Book Bear
Houston class led by Teach For America corps member;
UPDATE: 12/23/14 8:00 MST

At the same time I was writing this diary yesterday, Judy Ferro was publishing a column in the Idaho Press Tribune called: Concerns over charter schools, Teach for America.

An excerpt from her article offers a brilliant analysis of the fake teacher shortage and how this game is rigged:

The argument that our teacher shortage justifies hiring teachers with little training rankles. The state of Idaho created our teacher shortage by heavy-handed anti-teacher measures. During the downturn we made heavier cuts in teacher numbers than any other state, cuts which forced teachers to carry heavier work loads and heavier guilt for the kids they couldn’t reach. Our state government followed that up with insults to their professionalism and attacks on their rights. This teacher “shortage” was artificially and purposely created.

Ironically, TFA attracts college graduates into teaching by pointing out the professional skills that teaching requires. Their website implies that teaching for two years will give you the leadership ability to conquer the world. Certainly a different view than our Legislature’s, which seems to be that teachers are natural malingerers who must be hounded and controlled.

My original diary is below:
Teach for America takes Ivy League graduates, among others, trains them for five weeks in the summer, then sends them out into schools for two-year stints as “teachers.” Add water, mix and stir — voila — instateacher! - Travis Manning, Is it Teach for America or Teach For A While?
Nampa, Idaho Superintendent David Peterson, and Caldwell, Idaho Superintendent Tim Rosandick called this is one way to address an ongoing issue.

“There is a teacher shortage in Idaho, and for us to not take advantage of this opportunity to consider people that are interested in entering the teaching field would seem contrary to meeting the challenges of a teacher shortage,” Rosandick said.


Teach For America is one of the most controversial school reform organizations operating today. TFA recruits new college graduates, gives them five weeks of summer training and then places them in some of America’s neediest classrooms, presuming that just a little over a month of training is sufficient to do the job. Critics point out that high-needs students, who are the ones who get TFA teachers, are the children who most need veteran teachers. In fact, some veterans are now losing their jobs to TFA corps members, because TFAers are less expensive to hire, and some school teaching communities are becoming less cohesive because TFA members promise only to stay for two years and leave teaching at a greater rate than traditionally trained teachers. - Valerie Strauss, It’s time for Teach For America to fold — former TFAer

Teach For America Is ...

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Reposted from Seeking Clarity & Fairness by The Book Bear

Washington D.C. — our capital — is a place known for its revolving door of political influence. It is a place where behind-closed-doors deals are the norm. It is the perfect place for an “education reform” coalition rendezvous.

Every wonder who the big "thinkers" are that get invited to the table? How are they chosen? Why are they chosen? And what can we do when they choose the wrong course of action for our schools?

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Reposted from Readers and Book Lovers by The Book Bear
I've always loved Jerry Harste's work.
I often repeat the adage that we have spent a lot of time teaching our children to read, but not enough time teaching them to learn to love to read. As I watched my girls pour over some great books today, and experienced their delight, it got me thinking about what type of classroom situation is best

Linda Gambrell identified six characteristics of classroom cultures that foster reading motivation for most students.

1) The teacher as an explicit reading model

2) A book-rich classroom environment

3) Opportunities for choice

4) Opportunities to interact socially with others

5) Opportunities to become familiar with lots of books

6) Appropriate reading-related incentives.

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Reposted from The Book Bear by The Book Bear

The need to “raise standards” and insist on “high expectations” for all schools and students is clear and obvious. But unfortunately, in practice, these fine ideas are often reduced to crude slogans: “Test scores are too low. Make them go up.” As Alfie Kohn said in his Boston Globe column: Poor Teaching for Poor Students:

“The implications are ominous for all students because standardized tests tend to measure the temporary acquisition of facts and skills, including the skill of test-taking itself, rather than meaningful understanding.”
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Reposted from The Book Bear by The Book Bear
Jacqueline Woodson has won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

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Reposted from teacherken by teacherken

If so, you have a chance to honor them.  NPR is running a "contest" to name 50 great teachers.   Quoting from this website:

As my NPR Ed colleague Cory Turner puts it, "Teachers shape lives. And great teachers shape lives that shape the world."

So we'll set out to find 50 of them and tell their stories. This won't be some kind of contest to name the best teachers in America. Or a ranking that says this teacher is better than that one.

Instead we'll use it to celebrate teachers past and present (mostly present), famous or not. We'll be looking for personal stories about how a teacher can change the lives of students. Or just one student.

At the same time, we'll use this project as an opportunity to do some reporting on what makes a great teacher, and how teaching can and should be be taught. And, we'll take a hard look at the big question of What, exactly, is great teaching?

As we go forward, tell us about the great teachers you've known, the ones you think ought to make our list. Or send your own story about a great teacher in your life. We'll read them over and pull some out and share them.

At a time when too many are attacking teachers, this is your chance to push back.

Think of someone.

Honor them.

All of us who teach will thank you.

Reposted from Readers and Book Lovers by The Book Bear
A child reading in Brookline Booksmith, an independent bookstore in Boston, Massachusetts.
A child reading in Brookline Booksmith

Notes from my ED-LTCY 346 class this semester, Fall 2014 at Boise State University.

Children's literature is the foundation for a rich and effective language arts program. Children's literature motivates readers, provides them with invaluable language experience and offers them opportunities to learn about themselves and the world. Effective teachers create classroom libraries that support their whole curriculum.


With a firm  understanding of  a child’s abilities, needs, and interests, future teachers are better prepared to engage individual children and help them develop literary skills. This is the best way for  teachers to foster a lifelong love of reading.

This discussion describes the benefits of a literature-based language arts program, how to build a literature collection, structuring the language arts program by reading aloud, guided reading, independent reading, shared reading and literacy study. As children explore literature through studying the author's craft, studying a particular author or exploring themes, they continue to have powerful language experiences that help them develop as readers, writers and critical thinkers.

Reading, talking, writing, and drawing about books are the ways in which students learn about literature. Earlier, we presented ideas about looking closely at an author's works, exploring themes found in literature, and studying the art of writing as examples of ways in which teachers help students learn about literature. Here we add to those ideas by introducing genre study, to which we will return to when we discuss writing across the genres.

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