The Book Fort
Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation
Welcome to The Book Fort! Vol. 1 Issue 7
Missed previous issues? Find them below:
Week Seven: Return to Best Practice
This week, I returned to the work of Harvey Daniels, Best Practice: Today's Standards for Teaching and Learning in America's Schools, 3rd edition (2005). It was published pre-Common Core Standards Initiative, but reading it reminded me that best practice transcends. Reading it reminded me that the school experience should be student-centered (12) because our only clients are students and their guardians. It reminded me that experiential learning is key (13) because students learn by doing. It reminded me that subjects should be taught holistically (13) because students must understand the "why" and the "how", not just the "what". It reminded me that instructional activities should be authentic and challenging (14) because the world is complex and we need students to be prepared for that world beyond the classroom. Lastly, it reminded me that powerful learning comes from cognitive processes (15) and if we don't engage students in learning that activates these processes, we won't make positives strides in academic achievement.
The following applications originate from this text. I hope you find them useful.
Daniels, Harvey, et al. Best practice: todays standards for teaching and learning in Americas schools. Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann, 2005.
Reading Strategy: Engage Adults
So, involve the entire school in your efforts. Daniels provides a great list of things principals and other administrative staff can do to support the building and maintenance of a community of readers in Chapter 2 of the text, but the suggestions work for engaging all stake-holders (61). Here are some of the practical tips that are easy to implement with maximum effect:
- All adults should be readers and writers themselves; post signs outside the doors of adults in the building that show what they're reading or what their favorite books are. Add "What I'm reading" to email signatures. Invite adults to come in to do book talks.
- Be an audience for students; invite students to share their work with adults other than their English teachers and be present in classrooms, not just for discipline.
- Celebrate literacy in your school with a literacy fair, by inviting authors in to speak and share, with book clubs, and on the announcements and bulletin boards.
- Publish a regular parent & community newsletter that highlights literacy instruction and invites adult stakeholders into the learning.
Check out what Marion C. Moore School (grades 6 - 12) is doing to promote a culture of literacy on social media by following @MooreMustangs and the hashtags #knowMoore and #read Moore. Adults in the building, including the principal Mr. Fulk, are sharing their love of reading through book talks, modeling for students as they also begin this process. The librarian has also invested her budget in getting books into the hands of students. They have seen positive gains in reading achievement in one year of a concerted effort; I can only imagine what will happen as the culture evolves!
Writing Strategy: Mini-Lessons
Providing embedded opportunities for students to engage in various types of writing routinely, creating a culture of editing and revision through frequent sharing of writing, and allowing freedom to authentically create, even with prompt-based writing can transform your students' writing. The text suggests (88-93):
- Write with your students, share your work, and edit/revise with them and student buy-in will follow.
- Find real audiences for publishing and real issues about which to write and authentic voice will shine.
- Students need ownership and responsibility with deadlines and various types of conferencing; this will scaffold and encourage eventual self-sufficiency.
- Students must see the complete writing process more than once a year.
- Grammar and mechanics are best learned in context of routine writing.
Want to get started but not sure how? Check out the National Writing Project Argument Mini-Units. These are ready to download and vetted extensively by students and teachers across the country. Need more support? Pair up with a Writing Project Fellow near you and be on the lookout for development opportunities through your local chapters. Still not enough? Contact me and I will be happy to help.
Speaking Strategy: Student Interviews
This took a lot of planning and coordination but was one of the most rewarding, practically useful experiences the seniors and senior teachers had. It hit many of the best practices for writing and allowed us to formally assess speaking skills in authentic ways. Students were allowed to re-do interviews if they did not go well, but the added component of dressing professionally and speaking formally with community business owners forced them to engage in productive stress -- eustress if you will -- in a relatively low-risk environment. Authentic, practical learning experiences are the most impactful and this was my favorite!
For more information on this process, contact me and I will put you in touch with schools that use this technique.
Serial Podcast: Episode One
Episode One has garnered much attention because it is a podcast based on a real murder case that landed a then teenage Baltimore boy in jail for life. Students are left to form their own opinions based on the facts of the case and this one lends itself to potentially heated debates.
Ear Hustle brings you the stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it. The podcast is a partnership between several prisoners and a San Francisco Bay Area artist. Students immediately engage when listening and the podcast can be the basis for narrative, personal, and argument writing, as well as the impetus for authentic research and speech projects.
The Princeton Review Vocab Minute
This is an oldie but goody! If you are looking for a fun, engaging way to examine roots, prefixes, and suffixes, this is it. The songs are silly and catchy, which helps students remember and use the words on their own.
Serial Podcast: Episode One
The Princeton Review Vocab Minute
What Kids are Reading
Goosebumps by R.L. Stine
The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz
Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah