Friday Focus

September 4, 2015

Learning Through Words

I have been reading an excellent resource lately. It is titled The Art of Slow Reading: Six Time-Honored Practices for Engagement by Thomas Newkirk. He was a college professor, former urban high school teacher, and now the lead editor for Heinemann.

Newkirk believes that education moves way too fast, with the advent of technology plus all the standards and academic expectations set upon us. Classrooms should slow down and be more mindful about what students are learning right now. He speaks about strategies he has found that helps with student engagement and slow reading (p 42-43):

  • Performing (attending to the texts as dramatic, as enacted for an audience, even internally)
  • Memorizing (learning by "heart")
  • Centering (assigning significance to a part of text)
  • Problem finding (interrupting the flow of reading to note a problem or confusion)
  • Reading like a writer (attending to the decisions a writer makes)
  • Elaborating (developing the capacity to comment and expand on texts)

One of the most surprising quotes for me addresses the importance of committing words to memory. On page 77, Newkirk believes that memorizing a piece of text "isn't rote learning. It is claiming a heritage. It is the act of owning language, making it literally a part of our bodies, to be called upon decades later when it fits a situation."

Memorable phrases, such as principles and analogies, make the abstract more concrete.

Consider the following precept, discovered in Wonder by R.J. Palacio: "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." - Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Isn't this so much more accessible for people, young or old, instead of "Make better choices"? Dyer's words seem worth owning. The phrasing and word choice also help to make the precept memorable. It is language that I am committing to memory.

As you and your students explore excellent literature together this year, in what works will you all find phrases and principles to live through, share, and discuss? How might this slow down learning and deepen engagement in your classrooms? I am excited to find out.

Friday Funny

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FreshGrade Receives Important Updates

You probably received the email notifications...there were some substantial updates made to the FreshGrade software over the summer:

  • Teachers can send important reminders to students and/or parents, outside the portfolios. You’ll also be able to see who opened or viewed the announcement.
  • Quickly prepare summary reports, capturing your overall feedback, to accompany the individual student ePortfolios.
  • No more codes. Once invited to join a portfolio, parents will be able to create an account and set a password. Parents can now manage multiple student portfolios through a single log-in.

Four support sessions for FreshGrade have been scheduled for staff, students, and parents from 4-5 P.M. in the lab on September 8, 17, 23, and 28. PD/DEU hours and pay are offered.

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Recommended Read: Making Questions Flow

Click here for an ASCD article that describes how to teach students how to ask their own questions using the Question Formulation Technique. One of the authors, Dan Rothstein, explains the importance of questioning as a skill that should be taught in schools in the video below.
September 2015 EL Interview: Dan Rothstein

FreshGrade Training (Voluntary)

Tuesday, Sep. 8th, 4-5pm

Howe Computer Lab

Can attend for hours or pay