FOCUS Newsletter Spring 2023
Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates (GALA)
In this ISSUE of the GALA FOCUS NEWSLETTER:
2. UPDATES from GALA , Local Reading Councils, & ILA
- Attention Georgia Educators! Call for Mini-Grant Applications Sponsored by GALA
- GALA's 2022-2023 Literacy Learning Series #1 - 4 UPDATE!
- Henry Heritage Reading Council Still Going Strong! Update provided by Anita Beasley
- Just Released! 2023 Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS)
- Georgia Literacies for Georgia Learners: Advocating for Community Literacies by Leah Panther, Andrea Crenshaw, Hannah Edber, and Rachael VanDonkelaar
- Connecting with Special Interest Groups by Danielle Hartsfield
- The Role of Children’s Literature in Social-Emotional Learning by Forrest R. Parker III
- Collaborating with School-Based Occupational Therapists to Support Literacy by Sharon D. Swift, Kim Barker, and Occupational Therapy Students of Augusta University
- Can You Understand It?: The Importance of Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary Instruction for Struggling Learners by Rita Bates
- The Power of Collective Efficacy: Writing Across the Curriculum by Suzan E. Harris, Kendra Jenkins, and Alison Williams
4. Georgia Journal of Literacy Call for Submissions for the FALL/WINTER 2023 ISSUE!
5. K-12 Book Reviews
- A Whole New Ballgame (Bildner, 2016); Reviewed by Raelyn Walls
- The Word Collector (Reynolds, 2018); Reviewed by Jasmyn Monette
- Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie's Place, the Nation's First Shelter for Women (McDonnell, 2022); Reviewed by Bethany L. Scullin
6. Professional Development Resource Review
- The Writing Rope: A Framework for Explicit Writing Instruction in All Subjects (Sedita, 2023); Reviewed by Jessica Morris
- Uncovering the Logic of English: A Tool to Support Striving Readers (Eide, 2012); Reviewed by Robert A. Griffin
- Using Understanding by Design in the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classroom (Heineke & McTighe, 2018); Reviewed by Melissa H. Williams
- Ditch That Textbook (website created and authored by Matt Miller); Reviewed by Heather Epley
7. Author's Chair!
- I Don’t Understand Why It Is So Hard by Brittany Farmer (Personal Narrative)
- I Can See You by Alisa Nepp (Poem)
8. Relevant (& Free!) Resources
- Teachers Talk Podcast, A new Podcast hosted by Dr. Forrest Parker III at Valdosta State University Dewar College of Education
- Deal Center 2023 Virtual Learning Series - Professional Learning Community: Emergent Literacy, A Virtual Professional Development Series for Early Childhood Educators - Module 1 Print Knowledge (Sessions 1-3)
1. CALL FOR GALA MEMBERSHIP & VOLUNTEERS!
The Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates is a State Association Affiliated with the International Literacy Association (ILA)
Our Mission Statement:
The mission of the Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates (GALA) is to promote literacy and equity in Georgia by providing resources and empowering advocates to improve access to reading and writing for all.
- Receive biannual issues of the Georgia Journal of Literacy, the official academic publication of GALA
- Receive biannual issues of the FOCUS Newsletter, the official newsletter of Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates, which features Georgia literacy news, relevant literacy information for educators, and professional development resources
- Qualify to apply for Awards, Grants, Scholarships sponsored by GALA
- Network across local, state, national, international literacy communities
- Leadership opportunities within the organization
- Publish, read, and share valuable information with colleagues
We are also seeking VOLUNTEERS who are interested in contributing their time and talent for a more literate society. We are looking for individuals to help with:
- The GALA Reader of the Year Award,
- Grants and scholarships offered by GALA,
- Biannual FOCUS Newsletter, and
- Other GALA committees.
2. UPDATES FROM GALA, LOCAL READING COUNCILS, & ILA
Attention Georgia Educators! Call for Mini-Grant Applications Sponsored by GALA
The Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates (GALA) is proud to announce the availability of TWO $500.00 grants for the 2023-2024 school year.
These grants are designed to support school and community literacy and equity initiatives that align with GALA's mission to promote access to reading and writing for all. To be considered, applicants must be members of GALA and submit their application by May 1, 2023. Don't miss out on this incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on literacy in your schools and community. Complete the short application posted below today!
GALA's 2022-2023 Literacy Learning Series #1-4 UPDATE!
Literacy Learning Series #1 with Katrina D. Smith-Paggett
For GALA’s first Literacy Learning Series in September, we invited national professional learning facilitator, Katrina D. Smith-Paggett, to speak to us on the Science of Reading and to discuss with attendees what Georgia State Bill 48 includes and how it will affect teachers on the topic of dyslexia. Ms. Paggett started with an explanation of what the “Science of Reading '' refers to. The Science of Reading (SoR) helps us to understand the cognitive processes that are essential for reading proficiency. It describes the development of reading skills for both typical and atypical readers based on reading research.
Our speaker also related the ways dyslexia might interfere with a student’s learning and how State Bill 48 is being implemented in Georgia to detect students with dyslexia at earlier ages so instructional needs for that child could be met. Ms. Paggett followed up this explanation with a wonderful list of resources to support the understanding of Science of Reading and Georgia Senate Bill 48. The resource list was welcomed by all attendees.
Literacy Learning Series #2 with Dr. Jan Burkins
Dr. Jan Burkins, author of the book Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom, recently presented a virtual professional learning session to the Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates. During the session, she engaged in a question-and-answer format, offering insights and practical advice for educators looking to integrate the latest research in reading instruction into their practices. Dr. Burkins shared her expertise and passion for the topic, emphasizing the importance of a science-based approach to reading instruction that supports all students in developing the skills they need to become successful readers.
The attendees were actively engaged and asked a variety of questions, seeking further guidance on how to implement the shifts in their own classrooms. Dr. Burkins provided practical and actionable advice, drawing on real-world examples and experiences to help the attendees understand the concepts and strategies outlined in her book. Overall, the session was highly informative and well-received by the attendees. Dr. Burkins’ knowledge and passion for the topic inspired and encouraged the educators in attendance to continue their efforts to improve reading instruction for their students.
Literacy Learning Series #3 with Dr. Valerie Harrison
For our third Learning Literacy Series in January, founder and CEO of Educationally Yours, Dr. Valarie Harrison, joined us to discuss Ten Important Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers. Dr. Harrison presented teachers with ten research-based strategies that can be utilized to increase academic success in reading. These essential strategies equipped participants with the knowledge to support their students’ growth in reading at any age and ability. There was also a discussion on struggling readers and how a more hands-on approach is often needed to address the learner’s individual needs. The ten strategies that Dr. Harrison discussed with further explanation and examples were:
- Know the Components of Reading
- Know the Levels of Reading
- Read Aloud Daily
- Use Guided Reading
- Build Reading Muscle with Practice
- Teach in the ZONE
- Know the Stages of Reading Development
- Build Background
- Teach Comprehension Strategies and Skills - On Purpose
- Think - What do GOOD Readers Do?
Dr. Harrison opened the discussion to questions following her presentation. The practical ideas from Dr. Harrison's presentation could be implemented immediately in any classroom and were well received by all attending.
Literacy Learning Series #4 with Lola M. Schaefer
Lola M. Schaefer, award-winning children’s literature author, recently presented a virtual professional learning session, Writing for Thinking and Learning, to the Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates. During the session, Mrs. Schaefer shared her passion, insights, and firsthand accounts of the impact setting purpose have on students.
The conversational nature of Mrs. Schaefer’s presentation was engaging and created space for real-time questions and dialogue. She highlighted the importance of setting a purpose for writing-going deeper into what purpose is and is not. She challenged and encouraged educators to think beyond graphic organizers and sentence stems and to instead provide students choice, a particular audience, and authentic specific feedback. Mrs. Schaefer discussed how revising is more than fixing grammatical or spelling errors and is a time in the writing process when text should be strengthened and enhanced. Attendees were given practical examples that they could implement the next day, as well as author and book suggestions, specifically Jeff Anderson’s Everyday Editing. This professional learning session was informative, and all in attendance expressed their appreciation for her time, knowledge, and expertise.
Henry Heritage Reading Council Still Going Strong!
Update provided by Anita Beasely
Henry Heritage Reading Council hosted two in-person meetings this year on our way back to pre-Covid times. Our first meeting in the fall focused on the county media center specialists and how they could help spread the word that we would again host a county-wide Reader of the Year competition. This competition has been our council’s most prominent yearly event, with approximately 75 or more students entering each year and over a hundred attending our award ceremony at Salem Baptist Church.
Our second meeting had to be cut short due to a tornado warning, a power outage at our meeting place, and several members' homes. We quickly switched to a Zoom meeting and welcomed several new members that night, even under a stormy situation! We are in the process of selecting our category winners for the Reader of the Year competition. We will host our ceremony on March 23rd at Salem Baptist Church to honor all nominees and winners. Everyone is welcome to come out!
In May, we will end our school year with a Summer Reading Celebration at a local restaurant off the square in McDonough. Each year we meet and share our favorite recent book reads with our attendees so everyone can go away with a reading list for pleasant summer reading.
Just Released! 2023 Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS)
The Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group announced its annual list of Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS).
The Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS), formed by the Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) of the International Literacy Association (ILA), releases a select list of 25 books (grades K-12) every January that promote understanding and appreciation for diverse cultures and ethnic and racial groups throughout the world. Bethany Scullin, a member of GALA's Leadership Team, was selected to serve a 3-year term on the NBGS Committee and played an instrumental role in curating the final 2023 list.
A more in-depth review of selected titles are detailed on the CL/R SIG's Blog.
- To view the complete 2023 list, please click on the collage below to view the list for the 2023 Notable Books for a Global Society!
- All yearly Notable Books for a Global Society book lists, from 1996-2023, are open to the public. Make sure to check them out!
3. FEATURE ARTICLES
Georgia Literacies for Georgia Learners: Advocating for Community Literacies
Leah Panther, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Mercer University
Andrea Crenshaw, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, University of West Georgia
Hannah Edber, Doctoral Student, Mercer University
Rachael VanDonkelaar, ELA Teacher, Wren Middle School, South Carolina
As literacy teacher educators invested in the state of Georgia, we prepare future and current classroom educators to value and sustain the cultural and linguistic diversity of Georgia’s youth through literacy instruction. This is an expansive job since literacy is, “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context” (Literacy Glossary, 2021). More than that, literacy is a “fundamental human right” (Dollear, 2020) tied to “joy, love, and aesthetic fulfillment” that is “focused on how to reclaim the power of authority in language” as part of lifelong identity work (Muhammad, 2020, p. 33-35). The immensity of our work has led to a reoccurring conversation around whose literacies are most valued in the literacy classroom.
*Select button below to continue reading.
Connecting with Special Interest Groups
Danielle Hartsfield, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of North Georgia
If you are reading this, you already know the value of professional organizations like GALA. Through newsletters, journals, conferences, and online events, they offer the latest research, innovative approaches to literacy learning, and opportunities to network with our colleagues. But did you know that more opportunities for professional growth exist within the International Literacy Association (ILA)? In addition to state affiliates like GALA, the ILA is home to multiple special interest groups, or SIGs.
SIGs are smaller organizations within ILA that specialize in specific areas of literacy instruction. Current SIGs include Technology in Literacy Education, Literacy and Social Responsibility, and the Organization of Teacher Educators in Literacy. To illustrate the value of joining a SIG, I focus on the Children’s Literature and Reading SIG (CL/R SIG)*, one of ILA’s most active affiliate groups.
*Select button below to continue reading.
The Role of Children’s Literature in Social-Emotional Learning
Forrest R. Parker III, Ph.D., Lecturer, Valdosta State University
Children's literature plays a crucial role in promoting social-emotional learning by providing relatable and age-appropriate narratives that help children understand and navigate their own emotions and relationships with others. There are an incredible amount of children’s books that can be used as resources for social-emotional learning in the elementary classroom. The role of children's literature in promoting social-emotional learning (SEL) has been well-documented in a variety of studies. SEL refers to the process by which children and adults learn to recognize and manage emotions, build relationships, make responsible decisions, and set and achieve positive goals.
Heath (2017) recommended the use of bibliotherapy as one tool to help foster SEL in school-age children. They suggest that when teachers use children's literature to teach SEL skills, such as empathy, perspective-taking, and emotional regulation, students show significant improvement in these areas. The article also reported that the use of literature should be used by classroom teachers as a strategy to strengthen children's resilience against trauma through the use of robust adaptive skills.
*Select button below to continue reading.
Collaborating with School-Based Occupational Therapists to Support Literacy
Sharon D. Swift, Ed.D., OTR/L ATP, Associate Professor, Augusta University
Kim Barker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Augusta University
Kealie Bennett, Occupational Therapy Student, Augusta University
Olivia Clements, Occupational Therapy Student, Augusta University
Cassidy Clifford, Occupational Therapy Student, Augusta University
Genna Cooper, Occupational Therapy Student, Augusta University
Lauren Floyd, Occupational Therapy Student, Augusta University
Caroline Mitchell, Occupational Therapy Student, Augusta University
Rachel Thompson, Occupational Therapy Student, Augusta University
Traditionally, literacy programs in schools have been implemented by teachers. However, emerging research has found that occupational therapists (OTs) can impact student literacy rates and academic participation, especially for students who are reading below grade level or who have been unsuccessful in traditional reading programs (Grajo & Candler, 2016; Grajo et al., 2020). OTs are trained to help others perform occupations, and literacy is a crucial occupation involved in a child’s academic success (American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), 2020). Therefore, through the perspective of literacy as an occupation, OTs have the skills and training needed to improve childhood literacy rates.
OTs can be valuable members of the educational team to support both curricular and extracurricular activities. OTs work with children on fine and gross motor skills and sensory regulation to maximize access to and participation in occupations (a.k.a. activities). School OTs support “non-academic outcomes, including social skills, math, reading and writing (i.e., literacy), behavior management, recess, participation in sports, self-help skills, prevocational/vocational participation, transportation, and more” (AOTA, 2016). Although OTs role in schools has mostly been limited to a related service under IDEA, school OTs can provide a continuum of services ranging from prevention, promotion, and interventions and serve individual students, groups of students, whole classrooms, and whole school initiatives (AOTA, 2016). OT practitioners can focus on helping students achieve their academic and behavioral outcomes, improving school districts’ ability to meet state and national achievement standards (i.e., Common Core State Standards) (AOTA, 2017).
*Select button below to continue reading.
Can You Understand It?: The Importance of Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary Instruction for Struggling Learners
Rita Bates, Special Education Department, Peachcrest Elementary School, Dekalb County School District
Did you know that there are definitive approaches to helping struggling learners become more proficient in reading comprehension and vocabulary skills? Absolutely so! Bobby Womack, the well-known R&B artist, once recorded a popular song entitled “I Can Understand It.” An excerpt of the lyrics goes like this…
Jack and Jill (I can understand it)
Going up the hill (baby, I can understand it)
Storybooks and fairytales (Oh, I)
I know you can understand it (I can understand it)
Womack bemoans a lost love, but we certainly should not allow kids to “lose” a love of reading. We need to equip them with the necessary skills to enjoy reading for pleasure and understanding.
*Select button below to continue reading.
The Power of Collective Efficacy: Writing Across the Curriculum
Suzan E. Harris, Ph.D., Principal, Henderson Middle School
Kendra Jenkins, Assistant Principal, Henderson Middle School
Alison Williams, Media Specialist, Henderson Middle School
The importance of literacy in education has heightened since COVID-19. The learning gaps that have resulted from the pandemic have left teachers at the secondary level feeling less prepared to address the needs of their students in reading and writing. If our students are not reading, writing, listening, and speaking at the appropriate levels, the impact will be felt across all content areas. In order to have a positive impact on literacy within our school, we had to ensure collective efficacy. This meant that improvements in literacy were not an ELA teacher’s problem to fix but rather a schoolwide problem that needed to be addressed by all teachers on a daily basis.
Changing Teacher Mindset Towards Literacy
To ensure we were reaching all of our students, we needed to establish a path for teacher buy-in. Math, science, and social studies teachers did not accept the role of teaching reading and writing. They viewed themselves as content experts and nothing more. As leaders, it was our responsibility to show all content teachers that they have a responsibility to positively impact reading and writing just as much as ELA teachers. We empowered our teacher leaders to deliver professional learning sessions on reading and writing strategies that were content-based. To reach our content teachers, we had to appeal to their individual needs and wants within their subject. We had to entice them with a toolbox allowing them to reach their students on a different level.
*Select button below to continue reading.
4. GEORGIA JOURNAL OF LITERACY CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS for FALL/WINTER 2023 ISSUE!
GJL Call for Submissions
Fall 2023 Issue Submission Deadline: July 9, 2023 Georgia Journal of Literacy is the peer-reviewed, open-access publication of the Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates (GALA), an affiliate of the International Literacy Association (ILA). We publish research- and practitioner-based art...
5. K-12 BOOK REVIEWS!
A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner (2016)
Reviewed by Raelyn Walls
Undergraduate Education Student
University of West Georgia
As an educator with autism, I have made it a point to find children's literature that includes topics of neurodiversity, which are variations in the human brain and cognition, for instance, in sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions. As the world of children’s literature is getting more diverse, it is still rare to find a book that has a main character with Autism that also has a personality outside of their autistic traits.
It is important that children have the understanding that people are more than their disabilities. This is important as many young children can start to see themselves as only their disabilities and fail to see that they have personalities and traits outside of their disability. In the case of A Whole New Ballgame, the author created a character, Red, who has a sense of humor and a personality rather than just focusing on his autistic traits. There are plenty of times in the book where Rip describes some of Red's autistic traits, like how he enjoys routines and doesn't like to be touched, which is important for kids to understand about autism. However, he also describes how Red loves basketball, and playing video games with him, which shows that there is more to Red than his autism. It is crucial for authors to make characters more than their autism, and I believe Phil Bildner did a wonderful job at this. The book shines a positive light on Red's struggles with autism without shaming or infantilizing him. For example, Rip talks about how Red has an extra teacher that helps him with his work, but Rip doesn’t shame him for this; he just says that Red learns differently.
I can say firsthand that I relate a lot to Red. While his special interest was basketball, mine was cheerleading, and it’s encouraging to see an autistic character with a special interest that isn’t academic (as they are often perceived in the media). I feel that the author did an admirable job explaining some struggles people with autism experience without making it too complicated for children to understand. For example, there is a part of the book where Red uses headphones because the basketball game is too loud for him, and it makes him stressed. The author wrote this excerpt in a kid-friendly way rather than saying, “Red gets overstimulated when there are loud noises.”
The overall diversity within the story was incredible. The book included details of what life can be like with physical and mental disabilities, as well as highlighting different cultures and races in positive ways. I loved that Rip, the main character, was able to describe Red's struggles without being negative. While he didn’t understand the why behind Red's quirks, he accepted them and remained best friends with him no matter what. Another main character, Avery, was in a wheelchair. She went through quite a bit of character development throughout the book, and it was heartwarming to see how she connected to her peers by the end. Overall, I think this book would be the perfect addition to any classroom for teachers and students alike.
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds (2018)
Reviewed by Jasmyn Monette
Professional Learning Facilitator/Lexia
The Word Collector (2018) by Peter Reynolds is an inspiring children’s picture book that celebrates the power and beauty of language through the lens of vocabulary. In this story, we meet Jerome, a young boy who collects words - not just any words, but words that he loves the sound and feel of, words that evoke emotions and inspire imagination.
As the story transpires, Jerome's collection of words grows and grows. One day by accident, his organized categories of terms become jumbled, and as a result, Jerome begins to see his collection as more than just words. He begins to use his words to write poems, stories, and songs, and eventually, he shares his collection with his community, inspiring others to appreciate the magic of language.
With beautiful illustrations that are simplistic but captivating, this book uses images to depict that joy and wonder are evoked when discovering and using new words. Though the story is simplistic enough for our youngest readers, its message is profound. It reminds us all that words are powerful tools that can be used to connect, create, and change the world, all one word at a time.
Ultimately, The Word Collector is a book that encourages us all- parents, educators, children, and readers of all ages to cultivate a love of language through vocabulary. This story celebrates the simplicities, complexities, and diversity of words all around us. It shines a light on how the simple acts of one individual can create a ripple effect, sending out waves of positivity and promise. Add this book to your must-read list and discover how you can begin a vocabulary explosion in your world, in and outside the classroom.
Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie's Place, the Nation's First Shelter for Women by Christine McDonnell (2022)
Reviewed by Bethany L. Scullin, Ph.D.
University of West Georgia
Associate Professor of Literacy
Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie's Place, the Nation's First Shelter for Women (2022) is a captivating picture book biography that tells the remarkable story of a woman who dedicated her life to helping women who truly needed help. Beautifully illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov and written by Christine McDonnell, this vivid and inspiring story captures the warmth, generosity, and tenacity of Kip Tiernan.
As a child growing up during the Great Depression, Kip learned the importance of giving back from her grandmother, who would feed the hungry people that came to their door. As she grew older and worked in Boston, Kip noticed that women were also homeless and struggling to find shelter. Determined to help, she opened Rosie's Place in 1974, the first shelter for women in the United States. Her vision and compassion impacted the lives of countless women, providing them with a safe haven, a warm bed, and a hot meal.
Overall, Sanctuary is a wonderful tribute to Kip Tiernan and her vision of justice and compassion for all. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about social justice, equality, and helping those in need. Highly recommended for school and public libraries as well as personal collections.
6. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT RESOURCE REVIEW
The Writing Rope: A Framework for Explicit Writing Instruction in All Subjects (Sedita, 2023)
Reviewed by Jessica Morris, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Teacher Preparation (Reading and Literacy Specialization)
College of Coastal Georgia
As an educator with experience in 4-8th grade education, the opportunities to learn to help “struggling readers” in professional learning communities have been countless. However, what about the reciprocal process of writing? At least in my experience, the opportunity to explore how to explicitly develop the skills of “struggling writers” was lacking (much less with the support of the Science of Reading research).
Reading and Writing
The Science of Reading Research and the emphasis on Hollis Scarborough’s Rope Reading Rope (2001) have given great depth to teachers and our understanding of explicit reading instruction.
Have no fear, the Writing Rope is here!
The Writing Rope (Joan Sedita, 2023) brings a complimentary component to reading instruction by detailing five components necessary for teaching students to be skilled writers: critical thinking, syntax, text structure, writing craft, and transcription. It also serves as a resource for all disciplines!
The Writing Rope is a teacher-friendly resource that provides all of the following (and more) for teachers:
- Multi-disciplinary writing instruction prompts
- PRINTABLES and downloadable resources
- Teacher check-lists for writing instruction
- Practical examples for your classroom
The text is an easy-read with a plethora of diagrams, examples, and language consistent with the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE). As someone who has taught in various content areas, this resource would have been so useful for my time in middle grades education! Some of my favorite additions in this text include: how to annotate an informational text, guiding questions for responding to informational texts, and how to summarize (with key details) an informational text.
The biggest benefit to utilizing this text with an entire faculty is the multi-disciplinary formatting. For example, critical thinking is a skill that is overall lacking in 4-8th grade student populations. This text gives specific ways that content-area teachers can incorporate the writing process, text structure, and craft to enhance students' critical thinking abilities (in their content area) through writing instruction.
Uncovering the Logic of English: A Tool to Support Striving Readers (Eide, 2012)
Reviewed by Robert A. Griffin, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor of Literacy and TESOL
University of West Georgia
As a literacy professor, I’m always looking for tools and resources to support my students in becoming better reading teachers. While over a decade old, Denise Eide’s (2012) Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common-Sense Solution to America's Literacy Crisis is a book I recently discovered that I believe will be beneficial to teachers at all levels. The book offers a refreshing and enlightening perspective on the science of teaching reading. It delves deep into the complexities of the English language and offers clear and concise strategies for teaching the foundational skills students need to become confident and proficient readers.
Eide’s book offers a comprehensive approach to teaching reading and spelling, focusing on the fundamental building blocks of English: sounds (phonemes), their corresponding written expressions (graphemes), and spelling (orthography). The author presents a compelling case for English’s complexity as a tool rather than a barrier, and she offers clear and systematic strategies for teaching phonics, decoding, and spelling.
The way the author integrates theory and practice is one of the book’s main strengths. Eide not only discusses the core concepts of the English language but also gives teachers practical strategies and activities to utilize in the classroom. She presents the concept of phonograms, which are letter combinations that indicate one or more sounds. Eide explains how learning all of the sounds represented by each phonogram may help students solve the enigmas of English spelling. She goes on to present a complete list of 75 basic phonograms, as well as detailed explanations and examples of how to teach them.
What I appreciate most about this book is its dedication to providing a comprehensive, systematic, and logical approach to reading instruction. Eide acknowledges the shortcomings of previous approaches, such as whole language, and offers a clear alternative in her structured approach. She emphasizes the importance of systematic and early phonics instruction and demonstrates how sight words alone are insufficient for understanding the complexities of English spelling. Eide’s method is demanding yet empathetic, acknowledging the frustration and struggle many novice readers experience when learning to read.
I strongly recommend Uncovering the Logic of English to educators at all levels, from elementary to post-secondary. The book is well-written, enjoyable, and useful, with concise justifications and examples, as well as a strong focus on higher-order reasoning and logic. It provides an alternative to less-than-successful techniques from the past. When its principles are understood and implemented, it has the potential to impact the achievement of striving readers.
This book’s emphasis on understanding the English language logically and methodically is another strength. Eide demonstrates how educating readers to think about English systematically not only improves their English language skills but can also improve their aptitude for learning other languages. She shows, for example, how 31 spelling rules interact with the 75 basic phonograms to provide order to the chaos of English spelling. Eide delivers a clear and brief discussion of each rule, followed by examples of words that follow the norm, assisting readers in understanding the reasoning behind spelling patterns.
Using Understanding by Design in the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classroom (Heineke & McTighe, 2018)
Reviewed by Dr. Melissa H. Williams
Assistant Professor of Teacher Education
College of Coastal Georgia
I highly recommend the book, Using Understanding by Design in the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classroom, for those experiencing a demographic shift in student population…and a vast difference in teacher vs. student demographics. If your teacher demographics are not representative of the student demographics, your school would benefit from strategies and techniques discussed in the book. Additionally, as a nation, we continue to focus on literacy and language development with an ever-changing student population.
How do we prepare teachers to plan for diverse student populations? In our program at the College of Coastal Georgia, an area of improvement for this year has been to assist our candidates in facilitating learning for the EL populations in our partner school districts. This improvement goal was set by our department and noted as an area of need for our candidates by our Advisory Council.
In the elementary and middle grades curriculum courses, professors chose the Heineke and McTighe text, Using Understanding by Design in the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classroom. Not only did we focus on the UbD lesson planning format, but also we were able to incorporate activities for the diverse student populations in our surrounding counties.
The book has three parts and eight chapters. Chapter 1 focuses on the Understanding by Design Framework. Chapter 2 highlights the role of language in learning and instruction. Chapter 3 concludes Part I with discussions on student diversity, cultural diversity, and responsive pedagogy.
Part II of the book delves into the three stages of UbD as aligned to language development. Each chapter in this section is devoted to one stage of the UbD Framework. Each chapter includes discussions and strategies as well as a classroom application. Additionally, an instructional scenario is provided in the classroom snapshot for numerous chapters. Rich discussions can be facilitated with the classroom models.
Part III of the text has two chapters: differentiation and school-wide capacity. Chapter 7 explores differentiation in planning daily lessons for language development. Classroom applications and snapshots are included with techniques for disciplinary learning and language development. The final chapter broadens to maintaining a language lens at the school level. The chapter discusses curriculum design and instruction for the culturally and linguistically diverse students as well as using the UbD framework with a language development focus.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of non-white students in public schools in the United States has increased from 48% (2010) to 54% (2020). On average, approximately 10-15% of students are English language learners. With the shift in student populations across the nation, culturally responsive pedagogy is being implemented to align instructional practices to learners’ cultural backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences. Linguistically responsive teaching narrows the cultural lens to focus on language development and the asset of a student’s home/native language. This textbook combines linguistic and cultural approaches and aligns well with our literacy and diversity courses.
InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards notes personalized learning for diverse learners with a range of individual differences. These differences are defined as more than disabilities and at-risk learners. Cultural and linguistic diversity are included, as well as the specific needs of ELL students. Standard 7 addresses the “knowledge of learners and the community context,” while Standard 8 discusses instructional strategies that “encourage learners to develop a deep understanding of content areas and their connections.” By leveraging the students’ cultural funds of knowledge and background experiences, teachers (and teacher candidates) assist students in making connections and applying academic skills in meaningful ways.
By combining the UbD Framework with a cultural and a linguistic lens, this text promotes asset-based strategies rather than a deficit-oriented instructional method. Instead of language and culture being viewed as obstacles to one’s learning, both are considered assets to be leveraged for the individual student’s education. In order to value one’s culture, their native language must be included.
The text can be purchased from Amazon for $30 and has been a valuable resource for our teacher candidates.
Heineke, A.J., & McTighe, J. (2018). Using understanding by design in the culturally and linguistically diverse classroom. ASCD.
Ditch That Textbook Website Review
Reviewed by Heather Epley
Professional Learning Coordinator/Coach-ELA
Lowndes County Schools
Busy? Overwhelmed? Need 3,983,084 more hours in your day? What if you were guided towards a resource that showcased oodles of ready-to-use templates, a bank of blogs riddled with instant implementation, or a plethora of “remote resources” to increase engagement…all for free??! What if Brian Aspinall’s thought that, “sometimes the best PD is the teacher down the hall,” included just being across the interwebs?
Matt MIller, Mr. Ditch that Textbook himself, spent over a decade educating other people’s children and is currently creating a space to pour back into educators across the globe. It stands to be repeated again…a space created for teachers with the whopping price tag of free dollars!!
With negative fifteen free hours in your schedule, one of the biggest gold mines of this website is the template bank. Whether you are in search of feedback templates, communication tools, or an exit ticket builder, Matt Miller offers almost a dozen categories of planning simplified. Each category holds multiple templates with most options offering Google Slides, Powerpoint, Jamboard, and/or Canva...to name a few. (click on image to the upper-left)
You get a blog. And you get a blog. Everyone gets a blog. This gem of a resource contains 88 pages of pure blog goodness. Not only do these blogs have guest writers, they also include tried and true experiences that can be implemented without 394 hours of prep. These authors attempt to create and offer ideas, include links, add videos…all to help YOU! Whether you need an instructional strategies playlist (click on image to the right) or small group task card ideas, the blog life is where it’s at.
Another perk to Ditch that Textbook includes landing upon even more resources in his “Remote Learning” section, While remote learning can be considered a “swear jar” phrase, teachers across the world pulled from all levels of creativity to survive the unimaginable…to reach and teach children across a screen. Would we even know the full potential technology can add to a classroom had this time in history not surfaced? Matt and his team have managed to provide even more resources that can be utilized. Need Jamboard templates? How about fun slides? Interactive websites? Maybe even online whiteboard options? Hyperdocs? Choice Boards? All can be found in this section. (click on image to the left). Please note that while internet connection issues might not be a resource needed from this area of the website, it still houses buckets of useful tools.
The final nugget to highlight is Matt’s “Teachflix.” While buried in his blog section, this is noteworthy to have as a standalone example. This living document of video compilation continues to show off as a growing resource. Need elementary read aloud videos? “Teachflix” has you covered. Need middle school math videos? “Teachflix” has you covered. Need high school book trailers? “Teachflix” has you covered. (click on image to the right)
Stumbling upon Ditch that Textbook has been a game changer when more options were desired. Ignore the hours you’ve lost over the years searching for just the right resource and think of the precious hours you will gain with a website like this at your fingertips. Happy scrolling, friends!
6. AUTHOR'S CHAIR!
Please take a minute to read...
I Don’t Understand Why It Is So Hard
By Brittany Farmer (Personal Narrative)
- Brittany Farmer is an undergraduate education student at the University of North Georgia.
By Alisa Nepp (Poem)
- Alisa Nepp is a STEAM teacher for 3rd through 5th grade at Ringgold Elementary School in Ringgold, GA.
8. RELEVANT (& FREE!) RESOURCES
Teachers Talk Podcast, Hosted at Valdosta State University
Moderated by Dr. Forrest R. Parker III
Teacher Talks is a Podcast for teachers, by teachers. This is a new Podcast hosted by the Valdosta State University Dewar College of Education. Listen in to hear from education experts on a wide variety of topics related to the education field. We host award-winning teachers from across the state, education faculty, counselors, and youth mental health professionals. Be sure to subscribe to be notified when new episodes are published. Our newest episodes will focus on ChatGPT (the AI writing program) and mental health tips for educators.
2023 Virtual Learning Series, Professional Learning Communities: Emergent Literacy
Deal Center 2023 Virtual Learning Series
Professional Learning Community: Emergent Literacy, A Virtual Professional Development Series for Early Childhood Educators - Module 1 Print Knowledge (Sessions 1-3) Register HERE
FOCUS: A Newsletter of the Georgia Association of Literacy Advocates (GALA)
Dr. Helena R. Foster, FOCUS Newsletter Co-editor
FOCUS Editorial Reviewers
Dr. Jennifer K. Allen
Dr. Robert A. Griffin
Dr. Tamra W. Ogletree