• How Should You Teach Exceptions to Phonics Rules?

    How Should You Teach Exceptions to Phonics Rules?

    One of the most difficult things about teaching the English language to beginning readers, struggling readers, and ESL students is that there are exceptions to many of the rules that you teach. It's difficult to teach exceptions because the very nature of exceptions is confusing. And when students don't understand something, they start feeling the one emotion you never want them to feel in class: confused.

    How can you teach something as confusing as exceptions - and not confuse your students while doing so? ...

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    May 16 2012
  • 6 Best Practices for Mainstreaming Students With Special Needs

    6 Best Practices for Mainstreaming Students With Special Needs

    “I just did a major research study here in Massachusetts that verified this - that in general, most kids with disabilities do better in inclusive settings, particularly if they get the supports that they need, significantly better.

    So the move towards integration or inclusion or mainstreaming - clearly has some support in the data."

    - Thomas Hehir, former director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and current professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education

    This quote is from a recent NPR interview about mainstreaming special needs students. Here is the complete interview:

    As pointed out by Thomas Hehir, mainstreaming is beneficial for special needs students. Of course, like any practice, it is only beneficial if it is done effectively.

    Thus, here is what Thomas Hehir’s research has found to be the best practices for inclusion classrooms: ...

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    May 10 2012
  • The Importance of Reading Aloud to Students of All Grades and Levels

    The Importance of Reading Aloud to Students of All Grades and Levels

    “If we are always reading aloud something that is more difficult than children can read themselves then when they come to that book later, or books like that, they will be able to read them – which is why even a fifth grade teacher, even a tenth grade teacher, should still be reading to children aloud. There is always something that is too intractable for kids to read on their own.” – Mem Fox

    In a recent Reading Horizons webinar, Author Sarah Collinge, discussed the importance of reading aloud to students of all reading levels and the impact this simple practice can have on increasing students’ reading levels. Regardless of how many times I learn that little things can make a difference, the impact of many simple practices never ceases to amaze me.

    As the above quote points out: reading aloud is beneficial for students of all ages. During the webinar, Sarah discussed how this simple classroom practice builds students' reading levels by ...

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    May 04 2012
  • Classroom Practices That Accelerate Language Acquisition for ESL Students

    Classroom Practices That Accelerate Language Acquisition for ESL Students

    Guest Post by Dr. Eugenia Krimmel

    Coming from an era in which English Language Learners (ELLs) were mainstreamed into regular education with the assumption they will linguistically “sink or swim,” researcher Stephen Krashen wrote why this theoretical practice was ineffective. He refuted the “sink or swim” ideology in his Comprehensible Input Hypothesis described in his book, Foreign Language Education the Easy Way:

    “We acquire language in only one way, when we understand messages, that is when we obtain 'comprehensible input.'  Thus, we acquire when we understand what people tell us or what we read, when we are absorbed in the message.” 

    Krashen’s research and writing highlighted the need for teachers to create comprehensible input in their classrooms. To that end, comprehensible input practices can be categorized into three types: visual, graphic and linguistic. Use one, two or all three types per lesson, and your ELLs English acquisition will accelerate as well as their content knowledge learning.

    Visual Supports

    Visual supports include meaningful, relevant pictures, icons, symbols, videos, skits, and realia. What is realia you ask? ...

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    May 02 2012
  • The Teachers Guide to Summer Break: Tips for Fun, Relaxation, & Professional Development

    The Teachers Guide to Summer Break: Tips for Fun, Relaxation, & Professional Development

    Students often think of school as a marathon, and even the slightest utterance of the word “summer” calls forth images of a beautiful bright banner that marks the finish line. For teachers, this is not the case. Even though summer does also provide a break for teachers, they don’t get to experience the same sense of freedom as their students.

    Being a teacher means keeping your body of knowledge in tip-top shape. Summer break equals a lot of preparation for the coming marathon, especially since teachers have to stay a few steps ahead of their students in order to guide the race over the course of the next school year.

    Here are some ideas and guidelines that are aimed at helping teachers keep up with their summer-training schedules: ...

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    Apr 27 2012
  • What Should High School Students Be Doing Over the Summer?

    What Should High School Students Be Doing Over the Summer?

    Lately I’ve been talking a lot with my little sister – a junior in high school – about her preparation for entering college.  Just listening to the classes she is taking next year (lots of Advanced Placement and Concurrent Enrollment) and what goals she has for her senior year (scholarship and college applications), I realized that even more than when I was walking the halls of our hometown’s high school, kids are feeling the pressure to become “college ready.” 

    I remember being in high school and worrying so much about my future life.  I was afraid that one bad grade would ruin me for good, and so I pushed myself very hard and achieved a lot.  I often felt overstressed, tired, and hopeless.

    Now, having actually experienced the rigors of college, I have had plenty of time to reflect on what I could have done to be more prepared for college while in high school.  My school counselor and teachers saw me as “college ready,” but I definitely was not – ...

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    Apr 25 2012
  • The Secret to Helping Students Improve Reading Skills During the Summer Break

    The Secret to Helping Students Improve Reading Skills During the Summer Break

    Let’s compare a classroom to a ship.  There are about 20 passengers (the students) and usually only 1 captain (the teacher).  The ship is small and modestly equipped, often requiring the captain to be creative with problem solving in order to keep the ship afloat.  It sets sail in late August and arrives at its destination early next June with only a few short stops to provide breaks from the sea.

    As the teacher and captain of the classroom, it is your job to make sure that over the course of this journey you are steering your students (or your passengers) through experiences that will help them master the right level of skills and techniques they need to survive their life of learning…their life on a sea of knowledge.  The problem that many teachers face is that their students often forget some important skills they learned throughout the school year during the summer break.  As this research states, math and reading are two of the subjects where skill-loss is greatest, along with spelling.  Children from low socioeconomic status families are impacted the greatest, often suffering 1-3 months of learning loss. 

    “For disadvantaged students, reading scores were disproportionately affected and the achievement gap between rich and poor widened.”  -- Professor Harris Cooper, Duke University Professor

    So what is the secret to skill retention during the summer slump? ...

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    Apr 24 2012
  • Is Writing Practice The Key To Helping Struggling Readers?

    Is Writing Practice The Key To Helping Struggling Readers?

    I’m intrigued by passion. It’s one of those weird emotions that people can never seem to decide is good or bad. There are valid arguments for both, but I tend to think it’s good (bad if taken too far). So, when a passionate conversation started over a link to our recent Orton Gillingham webinar in a LinkedIn Group, I couldn’t help but pay attention.

    As I watched the discussion progress I noticed several strong comments coming from one person: Bob Rose. And even though passion can be taken too far, I couldn’t help but wonder what was fueling his strong opinion that writing practice was the ultimate reading solution for every child. So, I contacted Bob Rose, and asked him to write a guest post explaining what he has learned about the importance of writing in regards to teaching children how to read.

    The following explains his teaching experiences and research. ...

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    Apr 24 2012
  • Motivating Readers: Collaboration, Challenge, Competence, and Choice – Webinar Q&A

    Motivating Readers: Collaboration, Challenge, Competence, and Choice – Webinar Q&A

    We recently had an excellent webinar presented by Sarah Collinge, M.S.Ed and author of: “Raising the Standards Through Chapter Books: The C.I.A. Approach.” Sarah’s presentation was on motivating students to read and she had tons of helpful tips!

    Here are some of the questions Sarah answered following her presentation:

    How can you get students to collaborate with each other about what they are reading when they are using programs such as Accelerated Reader OR if they are at different reading levels? ...

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    Apr 23 2012
  • Summer Learning Ideas that Help Narrow the Achievement Gap

    Summer Learning Ideas that Help Narrow the Achievement Gap

    Summer typically evokes images of vacations and fun, but what many people don’t realize is that this fun-filled break is responsible for more than half of the achievement gaps between middle-income and lower-income children. I repeat: summer is responsible for more than half of all learning discrepancies among students. One 3 month “happy-times” break is what makes all the difference for students of different economic classes. ...

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    Apr 18 2012

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