SmartBlog on Education recently interviewed Todd Brekhus, a leader in technology-enhanced literacy solutions for more than two decades, about challenges in literacy education, personalized literacy and future trends in the field. Brekhus spent eight years in the classroom as a teacher, department chair and technology director and now serves as president and creator of myON, a business unit of Capstone. Here are some of his insights, based on his work with educators and school administrators.
As someone who has worked as a classroom teacher and a school administrator and also spent many years designing digital literacy solutions, what do you see as the top three literacy challenges facing students today?
My experiences as an educator and working within the education industry have shown repeatedly that the top three literacy challenges facing students today are access, interest and engagement. There are still so many classroom libraries or even school-wide and community libraries that have just one or possibly a few copies of any given book. (read more…)
English language learners comprise the most rapidly growing segment of students in K-12. More than 10% of students are now identified as foreign language learners of English. Many states, including Alabama, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana have seen the number of ELL students increase three times or more over the past 10 years.
Historically, there are stark achievement gaps between ELLs and their peers. For example, in the latest NAEP results, in 2013 for fourth graders, the reading proficiency gap was 6% (ELL) versus 29% (non-ELL) and in math, it was 13% (ELL) versus 36% (non-ELL).
However, as schools and districts across the country prepare all students to be college and career ready, there is a tremendous opportunity to look at how we can best support ELL students and help them reach their maximum potential.
The need to learn academic English and not just social English
There are two types of English that all students learn — social English and academic English. (read more…)
Students will be better students if they are equipped with spelling and handwriting skills, which are critical for reading and writing success and act as stepping stones to higher test scores. While the Common Core State Standards focus on higher-level learning, they do not make the case for every foundational skill, leaving schools with the option of choosing whether to teach essential skills, such as handwriting and spelling.
Here are five evidence-based reasons for teaching spelling and handwriting explicitly and for carving out about 15 minutes a day during the reading and language arts block for each of these foundational skills:
- Neuroscience and brain scanning reveal that retrieving spelling patterns in a special word-form area of the left hemisphere activates reading and writing circuitry.
The first standard in the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading under the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts says, in part, that students should “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.”
There has been a national push to get “close reading” into the curriculum in a variety of ways, and much of the new offerings from almost all of the vendors focus on close reading as an essential instructional skill.
Let’s take a few steps back and look at this from a more aerial standpoint. We are interpreting this in a slightly biased way, I think, dependent upon the resources we are using and how adherent those resources are to what “close reading” should be. Consider this: the anchor standard is the ONLY place that the phrase “reading closely” is mentioned; it is not used again in any grade-specific reading standards. (read more…)
Start reading a novel. Then ask:
- What has happened so far?
- What details help you understand the characters?
- What is this story beginning to be about?
- What in the story makes you think that?
These are a few of the questions associated with practice of close reading, a practice advocated by the common core in the English/Language Arts Literacy Standards. Good readers internalize these questions. Newly developing readers use them to scaffold understanding.
However, I have growing concerns that some efforts to adhere to CCSS close reading questions may directly interfere with an author’s narrative. The use of a steady stream of questions to assess a reader’s understanding in a work of fiction is little insulting to an author as the practice infers a reader cannot understand a narrative without repeated questioning. Hearing these questions, I imagine an author responding, “Why didn’t you think I was clear enough?” or “Have faith. (read more…)