literacyIn 1965, UNESCO declared September 8 International Literacy Day (ILD) as part of an effort to raise awareness of worldwide literacy needs. UNESCO estimates that even today, 774 million adults — two-thirds of whom are women — still cannot read or write. Furthermore, there are roughly 123 million children who lack these same skills, and who are often denied any access to education.

When faced with such startling statistics, one might assume that illiteracy is a distant issue concentrated primarily in the developing world. However, this is a truly global problem that touches all communities. In fact, there are approximately 32 million adults in the U.S. alone who are considered illiterate. There are countless more who are under-literate, and who because of this, struggle to get and maintain well-paying jobs.

In recognition of these challenges — as well as foundational belief in the hope offered through literacy education — the International Reading Association (IRA) decided to focus on literacy and career readiness for ILD 2013, and throughout the entire month of September. (read more…)

literacyStudent literacy is among the top priorities of all schools and districts, and becomes a particular focus for many educators each September during National Literacy Month. Some 30% of respondents to a recent poll of SmartBrief on EdTech readers reported that special literacy events or projects are underway or are being integrated into the curriculum this month in their school or district.

There are of course many approaches to meeting literacy needs in schools, including the use of tech-based tools from blogs to e-readers. When asked about the use of technology as part of literacy instruction, a majority of respondents — 64.71% — said they believe tech is an important tool for this mission, while 26.47% see it as somewhat beneficial, and 8.82% say it is not important.

Focusing in one aspect of literacy — how students are being taught to understand and use technology resources — more than 97% of respondents say digital literacy is part of the curriculum for their students. (read more…)

textbooksHigh poverty. High performing. These are two phrases that describe Hattie Watts Elementary today — but it wasn’t always that way.

When I became assistant principal in 2006, there were large gaps between the performance of our white students and our black students and economically-disadvantaged students. One reason was a persistent lack of belief in our students. When someone would say our students should be performing at higher levels, some community members, faculty members and even parents would say: “We’re not an affluent community, like so-and-so. Our kids face real challenges at home and at school. They can’t be expected to achieve at the same level as those kids.”

To dispel this negative stereotyping, our leadership team and faculty told our school community it didn’t matter if our students came from an impoverished or affluent community. If you show children you believe in them, they can and will achieve. When I became principal the following year, I set out to instill that belief schoolwide. (read more…)

classroomIt used to be that choosing an appropriate text for a reader or a group of readers meant visiting your classroom, school or community library, depending on your setup and access. It meant scouring the shelves and pulling something that seemed engaging and readable for your target audience. It was an art. This process has changed, and it’s important that we engage in meaningful conversations around it. In the era of accountability, many of us are being asked to provide evidence proving the validity of our text choices.

For many teachers, the Common Core State Standards have brought about an increased level of anxiety around choosing appropriate texts in schools. Appendix A of the new English language standards is a lengthy document which goes into detail about text complexity, which we all know the common core aims to raise. Many teachers and administrators go straight to the Lexile correlation chart. Why? (read more…)


On the first day of kindergarten, we used Skype to connect with one of my student’s parents, explored our iPads and began learning how to take videos and photos. We shared what we were discovering during our first day together via Twitter. We explored our class blog, added a new book to our Shelfari and discovered a map of the world. My students asked why all the yellow triangles were blinking on the map. So we began to connect and experience the beginning steps of what it is like to be a safe, responsible and kind digital citizen as well as experience how to have conversations with others outside of our classroom.

Thinking simply…

1. Focus on a story that you will read.

Our first story was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” After reading the story, I began to model ways they can have face-to-face conversations about what they saw and heard. (read more…)